The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch thriller (Harry Bosch 22) (33 page)

BOOK: The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch thriller (Harry Bosch 22)
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Ballard knew what was happening. The command staff of the department was known to watch out for their own. Olivas was angling for one more promotion before he pulled the pin on his career.

“You want to make deputy chief, don’t you?” she said. “Going out on a DC’s pension, that would be sweet. Add a corporate security job to that and you’ll be rolling in the green, huh? Living on the beach.”

City pensions were based on salary at the time of retirement. There was a long history in the department of promotions within command ranks just prior to retirement—with city taxpayers footing the bill. There was also a history of punitive demotions among rank-and-file members that lowered their pensions and payouts. Ballard suddenly flashed on the legal fight Harry Bosch had engaged in after his retirement. She didn’t know all the details, but she knew the department had tried to fuck him over.

“My business is my business,” Olivas said. “All we need right now is to agree on a course of action.”

“How do I know you won’t try to fuck me over in the end?” Ballard said.

“I thought you would ask that. So this is what we do: once the smoke clears here, we go back to L.A. and hold a press conference—you and me—and we tell the story. That’s your edge. Once it’s public record, it would look bad for me to turn around and do something against you before I leave. Understand?”

Ballard found the idea of being part of a press conference with her oppressor and nemesis revolting.

“I’ll pass on the press conference,” she said. “But I’ll share credit with you and keep my badge. And I don’t need an edge. If you do try to come back on me in any way before you quit, I’ll tell the world about this dirty little deal and you’ll go out as a lieutenant instead of a deputy chief. Understand?”

Ballard reached down to her thigh and picked up her phone. She brought it up and put it down on the table. The recording app was open on the screen. The elapsed time on the file being recorded was over thirty-one minutes.

“Rule number one,” she said. “If IA or FID records an interview with you, you record it yourself. To be safe. I just sort of forgot to turn it off.”

Ballard watched the skin around Olivas’s eyes tighten as anger charged his blood.

“Relax, Captain,” she said. “It makes us both look bad. I can’t hurt you without you hurting me. That’s the point, you see?”

“Ballard,” Olivas said, “I always knew there was something I liked about you besides your looks. You’re a devious bitch and I like that. Always have.”

She knew that he thought the words would hurt and distract her. He made a swipe at the phone but she was ready and grabbed it off the table, his hand brushing over hers. She stood up, her chair falling back against the aluminum wall.

“You want to fight me for it?” she asked. “I’ve gotten strong since you did what you did to me. I will kick your fucking ass.”

Olivas remained seated. He held his hands up, palms out.

“Easy, Ballard,” he said. “Easy. This is crazy. I’m good with what we said. The deal.”

The door to the CIV opened and Teresa Hohman looked in, drawn by the clattering of the chair against the vehicle’s thin wall.

“Everything okay in here?” she asked.

“We’re fine,” Olivas said.

Hohman looked at Ballard. She wasn’t taking Olivas’s word for it. Ballard nodded, and only then did Hohman step back and close the door.

Ballard looked back at Olivas.

“So we have a deal?” she asked.

“I said yes,” he said.

Ballard turned off the recording app and put her phone in her pocket.

“Except now I want something else,” she said. “A couple of things, actually.”

“Jesus Christ,” Olivas said. “What?”

“If Elvin Kidd decides to talk, I do the interview.”

“Not a problem—but he’ll never give it up. That’ll get him killed inside. I already heard he told FID to pound fucking sand when they tried to question him about his own wife getting killed. No interview. He wants a lawyer.”

“I’m just saying: my case, my interview—if there is one.”

“Fine. What’s the other thing?”

“The arson case. Put me back on it.”

“I can’t just—”

“It was a midnight crime, you need a midnight detective. That’s what you say and what you do. You tell the others on the case that there’s a briefing tomorrow at eight to bring me up to date.”

“Okay, fine. But it’s still run out of RHD and my guys are lead.”

“Fine. Then I think we’re done here.”

“And I want the summary report on this on my desk before that meeting.”

“Not a problem.”

She turned toward the door. Olivas spoke to her as she was stepping out.

“You watch yourself, Ballard.”

She looked back in at him. It was an impotent threat. She smiled at him without humor.

“You do that too, Captain,” she said.

43

It took Ballard most of her shift after roll call that night to write up the final summary report on the Hilton case. It had to be complete but carefully worded on three fronts. One was to keep Harry Bosch in the clear, and the second was to include Olivas in a way that would be acceptable under lines of command and protocol. The third front was actually the most difficult. She had left her direct supervisor, Lieutenant McAdams, in the dark through the entire investigation. Her saying in the report that she had been operating under the direction of Captain Olivas covered a lot of things but did nothing to lessen the damage that her actions would do to her relationship with McAdams. She knew that she was going to have to sit down with him sooner rather than later and try to smooth things over. It would not be a pleasant conversation.

Her only break came when she got up from the computer to change her focus and relax her eyes. She took her cruiser and went over to the taco truck to pick up some food to go.

Digoberto was once again working alone. But at the moment at least he was busy with a line of nightingales—three young women and two men—fresh out of a club that had just closed at four a.m. Ballard waited her turn and listened to their insipid chatter about the scene they had just left. Ballard hoped there would be some fresh shrimp left by the time she ordered.

When one of the men noticed the badge peeking through her coat on her belt, their talk dropped to whispers, and then by group consent they offered Ballard the front of the line, since she was obviously working and they weren’t sure what to order. She took them up on the kind offer and got her shrimp tacos, answering routine questions from the group as she waited for Digoberto to put her order together.

“Are you on a case or something?” one of the women asked.

“Always,” Ballard said. “I work graveyard—what they call the late show because there’s always something going on in Hollywood.”

“Wow, like what is the case you’re on right now?”

“Uh, it’s about a young guy—about your age. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He got shot in an alley where they sell drugs.”

“Shot dead?”

“Yeah, dead.”

“That’s crazy!”

“A lot of crazy stuff happens around here. You all should be careful. Bad things happen to good people. So stick together, get home safe.”

“Yes, Officer.”

“It’s Detective, actually.”

She brought the food back to the station in a take-out box, passing a shirtless and fully tattooed man cuffed to the lockdown bench in the back hallway. At her borrowed work space she continued writing her report while eating, careful not to drop crumbs into the keyboard and draw a complaint from the desk’s daytime owner. The foil wrapping had kept everything warm and the shrimp ceviche tacos had not lost their flavor on the ride back.

At dawn she printed out three copies of her report: one for Lieutenant McAdams, which she put in his inbox along with a note asking for a private meeting; one for herself, which went into her backpack; and the third for Captain Olivas. She put it into a fresh file folder and carried it with her as she headed across the parking lot to her cruiser.

Her phone buzzed almost as soon as she pulled out of the Hollywood Division parking lot to head downtown. It was Bosch.

“So I have to read about the Kidd case in the
L.A. Times
?”

“I’m so sorry. I’ve just been running crazy and then I wasn’t going to call you in the middle of the night. I just left the station and was about to try you.”

“I’m sure of that.”

“I was.”

“So they killed his wife.”

“Awful. I know. But it was her or us. Truly.”

“They going to get dinged for that? Are you?”

“I don’t know. They fucked up. Nobody was watching the door. Then she came out and it went sideways. I think I’m in the clear because I was just a ride-along, but those guys are probably all getting letters.”

Bosch would know she meant a letter of reprimand in their personnel files.

“At least you’re all right,” he said.

“Harry, I think she was about to shoot me,” Ballard said. “Then she got hit.”

“Well, then they had the right man in the OP.”

“Still. We had locked eyes. When it happened, she was looking at me, I was looking at her. Then …”

“You can’t dwell on it. She made a choice. It was the wrong one. Is Kidd talking?”

“He lawyered up and isn’t talking. I think he thinks he can sue the city for his wife and get enough money for a big-time lawyer—maybe your boy, Haller.”

“I doubt that. He doesn’t voluntarily take murder cases anymore.”

“Got it.”

“So, should I expect a call about my involvement in the Hilton case?”

“I don’t think so. I just finished the report and left you out of it. I said the widow found the murder book after her husband’s death and contacted a friend to turn it in. Your name is nowhere in the report. You shouldn’t have any problem at all.”

“Good to know.”

Ballard drove down the ramp off Sunset onto the 101. The freeway was crowded and moving slow.

“I’m taking it down to Olivas right now,” she said. “I have a meeting at PAB anyway.”

“Meeting on what?” Bosch asked.

“That arson-murder I worked the other night. I’m back on it. They need a midnight detective to help work it. And that’s me.”

“Sounds like they’re finally getting smart down there.”

“We can only hope.”

“That’s Olivas, right? One of his cases.”

“He’s the captain, yes, but I’ll be working with a couple detectives and the LAFD arson guys. So, what are you doing?”

“Montgomery. I have something in play. We’ll see how it—hey, I almost forgot, that guy down in Orange I told you about that was creeping the houses where female students lived? They bagged him.”

“Fantastic! How?”

“He creeped a house Saturday night but didn’t know a boyfriend was staying over. He caught the guy, trimmed him up a little bit, then called the police.”

“Good deal.”

“Last night I called one of the OPD guys on it—the guy I gave the heads-up to about me watching over Maddie’s place. He said the guy had a camera with an infrared lens. He had photos of the girls sleeping in their beds.”

“That’s fucked up. That guy should go away and the key should get lost. He’s on a path, you know what I mean?”

“And that’s the issue. No matter how twisted this is, right now they have him for burglary of an occupied dwelling. That’s it until the DNA comes back on the other hot prowls. But meantime, their worry is he’ll bail out and disappear.”

“Shit. Well, who is he? A student?”

“Yeah, he goes to the school. They think he followed girls from the campus to their houses and then came back to creep the places and take his pictures.”

“I hope they put a rush on the DNA.”

“They did. And my guy’s going to let me know if he makes bail. The arraignment’s this morning and they have a D.A. who’s going to ask the judge to go high on the bail.”

“Did your daughter ever know that you were going down there on Saturday nights and watching her house?”

“Not exactly. It only would have worried her more.”

“Yeah, I get that.”

They ended the conversation after that. Ballard bailed from the freeway at Alvarado and took First Street the rest of the way into downtown. She was early for her meeting and early for most of the staff at the PAB. She had her pick of parking in the garage beneath the police headquarters.

She ended up on the Robbery-Homicide Division floor twenty minutes before the meeting time set by Olivas. Rather than go into the squad room and have to endure small talk with people she knew were predisposed not to like her, she walked up and down the hallway outside, looking at the framed posters that charted the history of the division. When she had worked for RHD, she had never taken the time to do so. The division was started fifty years earlier after the investigation into the assassination of Robert Kennedy revealed the need for an elite team of investigators to handle the most complex, serious, and sensitive cases—politically or media-wise—that came up.

She walked by posters displaying photos and narratives on cases ranging from the Manson murders to the Hillside Stranglers to the Night Stalker and the Grim Sleeper—cases that became known around the world and that helped cement the reputation of the LAPD. They also established the city as a place where anything could happen—anything bad.

There was no doubt an esprit de corps that came with an assignment to the RHD, but Ballard, being a woman, never felt fully a part of it, and that had always bothered her. Now it was a plus, because she didn’t miss what she’d never had.

She heard talking from the elevator alcove and looked down the hallway to see Nuccio and Spellman, the arson guys from the Fire Department, cross the hall and go through the main door to RHD. They, too, were early—unless Olivas had given them a different start time for the meeting.

Ballard stepped through another door, which led into the opposite end of the squad room. She headed down the main aisle, passing more historical posters and some movie posters until she reached the Homicide Special unit and the War Room. She entered, hoping that Nuccio and Spellman were the first to arrive and that she could talk to them before Olivas and his men got there.

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