The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch thriller (Harry Bosch 22) (35 page)

BOOK: The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch thriller (Harry Bosch 22)
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“Mr. Haller?” he asked. “He was fine. Seemed pleased to help. Why? Was there something I missed?”

“No, no, I just didn’t know whether he was second-guessing, you know, passing on the case.”

“I don’t think so. He seemed eager to help and messengered over everything he had. Let me see what you have there. I also have a contract and power of attorney for you to sign.”

Bosch handed the file across the desk. It was almost an inch thick and he had padded it with non-pertinent reports from the case in which he had gotten dosed with cesium years before. Manley made a cursory flip through the file, stopping once to look at one of the documents that had randomly caught his attention.

“This is great stuff,” he finally said. “It will be very helpful. We just need to formalize our agreement that I’m representing you on a commission basis and I will take it from here. You’ll have the power and might of this entire firm behind you. We’ll sue the bastards.”

Manley smiled at the final cliché.

“Uh, that’s great,” Bosch said. “But … you can call me paranoid but I don’t want to leave that file here. It’s the only evidence I have of what happened to me. Is there any chance you could make copies and I keep the originals?”

“I don’t see why not,” Manley said without hesitation. “Let me give you the contract to read over and sign and I’ll go get this copied.”

“Sounds good.”

Manley looked around on his desk until he found a thin file. He opened it and handed Bosch a three-page agreement under the
Michaelson & Mitchell
letterhead. He then pulled a pen out of a holder on his desk and put it down in front of Bosch.

“And I’ll be right back,” Manley said.

“I’ll be here,” Bosch said.

“Can I get you something? Water? Soda? Coffee?”

“Uh, no, I’m fine.”

Manley got up from his desk and left the office with Bosch’s file. He left the door to the room open a foot. Bosch quickly got up and went to the door to watch Manley go down the hall to the copy room. He listened while Manley loaded the stack of documents, then cursed when he realized the machine was dead.

Now was the moment. Bosch knew that Manley would either come back to his office, inform Bosch of the copy trouble, and summon a clerk to do the copying, or he would go off further into the office complex in search of another copier.

Bosch saw Manley emerge from the copy room, head down and focused on the documents he was carrying. He quickly went back to his seat in front of the desk. He was holding and reading the contract when Manley stuck his head in the door.

“We’re having trouble with the copier over on this side,” he said. “It will take me a few extra minutes to get this done. You okay?”

“No worries,” Bosch said. “I’m fine.”

“And nothing to drink?”

“Nothing, thanks.”

Bosch held up the contract as if to say it would keep him busy.

“Back soon,” Manley said.

Manley left and Bosch heard his footsteps going down the hall. He quickly got up, quietly closed the door to the office, and went back to the desk, this time going behind it to Manley’s seat. He checked his watch first to time Manley’s absence, then did a quick survey of the top of the desk. Nothing caught his eye, but the computer screen was still active.

He looked at the desktop on the screen and saw a variety of files and documents, including one that said
BOSCH STUFF
. He opened it and found that it contained notes from his first meeting with Manley. He read these quickly and determined it was an accurate accounting of their conversation. He closed the file and looked at the labeling of others on the desktop. He saw nothing that drew his attention.

He checked his watch and then rolled the chair back from the desk so he could get quicker access to the keyed file drawers on either side of the footwell. One of them had the key in the lock. Bosch turned it and opened the drawer. It contained file folders of different colors, most likely color-coded in some way. He walked his fingers through them to the files labeled with
M
names, but found no file on Montgomery.

He checked his watch. Manley had been gone two minutes already. He pulled the key out of the drawer and used it to unlock the other one. He went through the same procedure here and this time found a file marked
MONTGOMERY
. He pulled it quickly and flipped through it. It was as thick as the file he had given Manley to copy. It appeared to be documents from Manley’s ill-fated defamation lawsuit against the judge—the face-saving measure that had been destined to fail from the beginning.

Bosch noticed that the inside flap of the file had several handwritten names, numbers, and e-mails on it. With no time to think about what these might mean, he pulled out his phone and took a photo of the inside flap and the table-of-contents page opposite. He then closed the file and slid it back into the drawer. He closed and locked the drawer and transferred the key back to its original position.

He checked his watch. Three and a half minutes had gone by. Bosch had given Manley over a hundred pages to copy, and had placed in the middle of the package two pages that were stapled together and would cause a delay if they jammed a copier. But Bosch couldn’t count on that. He thought he had two minutes more at the most.

He went back to the computer and pulled up Manley’s e-mail account. Bosch’s eyes ran down the list of senders and then the words in the subject boxes. Nothing was of interest. He did an e-mail search of the name
Montgomery
by subject but no messages came up.

He then closed the e-mail page and went back to the home screen. In the Finder application he searched the name
Montgomery
again, this time coming up with a folder. He quickly opened it and found it contained nine files. He checked his watch. There was no way he could risk looking through them all. Most were simply labeled
MONTGOMERY
plus a date. All the dates were before the date of the defamation suit, so Bosch took these to be prep files. But one file was titled differently: it said simply
TRANSFER
.

Bosch opened
TRANSFER
and it contained only a thirteen-digit number, followed by the initials
G.C.
and nothing else. The mystery of it intrigued him. He took a photo of it as well.

As Bosch closed the folder, he heard the
ding
of a new e-mail from the computer. He opened Manley’s e-mail account and saw that the new message had an address that included the name
Michaelson
and the subject header
Your new “client.”

Bosch knew he was out of time, and that if he opened the e-mail it would be marked as read. It could tip Manley to what he had been doing. But the quote marks around the word
client
got the best of him. He opened the e-mail. It was from Manley’s boss, William Michaelson.

You fool. Your client is working on the Montgomery case. Stop all activity with him. Now.

Bosch was stunned. Without thinking more than a second about it, he deleted the message. He then went to the Trash folder and deleted it from there as well. He closed the e-mail account, moved the desk chair back into place, and crossed to the door to reopen it. Just as he swung the door in a foot, Manley arrived with the file and his copies of the documents.

“Going somewhere?” he asked.

“Yeah, to look for you,” Bosch said.

“Sorry, the machine jammed. Took longer than I thought. Here are your originals.”

He handed Bosch a stack of documents. He held the copies in his other hand and headed toward his desk.

“Did you sign the contract?”

“Just about to.”

“Everything in order?”

“Seems so.”

Bosch came back to the desk but didn’t sit down. He took the pen off the table and scribbled a signature on the contract. It wasn’t his name but it was hard to tell what name it was.

Manley moved around behind his desk and was about to sit down.

“Have a seat,” he said.

“Actually, I have another appointment, so I need to go,” Bosch said. “After you’ve looked at all of that stuff, why don’t you just give me a call and let’s discuss next steps?”

“Oh, I thought we had more time. I wanted to talk about bringing in a video team and going through the story with you.”

“You mean in case I die before we get to court?”

“Actually, it’s just the latest vogue in negotiations: have the victim tell his own story instead of the lawyer. When you have a good story—like you do—it gives them a real taste of what to expect in court. But we’ll set that up for next time. Let me walk you out.”

“No worries,” Bosch said. “I know my way out.”

A few moments later Bosch was headed down the hallway. As he passed the door that said
WILLIAM MICHAELSON
on the frosted glass, it opened and a man was standing there. He looked to be about sixty years old, with a graying fringe of hair and the paunch of a relaxed and successful businessman. He stared at Bosch as he went by. And Bosch stared right back at him.

45

The Musso & Frank Grill had outlasted them all in Hollywood and still packed them in for lunch and dinner every day in its two high-ceilinged rooms. It had an old-world elegance and charm that never changed, and a menu that kept that spirit as well. Most of its waiters were ancient, its martinis were burning cold and came with a sidecar on ice, and its sourdough bread was the best south of San Francisco.

Ballard was already seated in a semicircular booth in the “new room,” which was only seventy-four years old compared with the hundred-year-old “old room.” She had documents from a file spread in front of her and it reminded Bosch of how he had reviewed the Montgomery file. Bosch slid into the booth from her left.

“Hey.”

“Oh, hey. Let me clear some of this stuff out of the way.”

“It’s okay. It’s good to spread a case out, see what you got.”

“I know. I love it. But we’ve got to eat eventually.”

She stacked the reports in a crosshatch pattern so that the distinct piles she had been making wouldn’t get mixed up. She then put it all down next to her on the banquette.

“I thought you wanted to tell me about your case,” Bosch said.

“I do,” Ballard said. “But let’s eat first. I also want to hear about what you’ve been so busy with.”

“Probably not anymore. I think I just blew it.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I have a guy—a Bunker Hill lawyer. I think there’s a chance he had Montgomery hit. His alibi is just too perfect and there are a couple other things that don’t jibe. So I posed as a client and went in to see him, and they figured it out this morning. His boss did. So that’s the end of that angle.”

“What will you do now?”

“Don’t know yet. But just the fact that they got on to me about it makes me think I’m on the right track. I have to come up with something else.”

A waiter in a red half-jacket came over. He put down plates of bread and butter and asked if they were ready to order. Bosch didn’t need a menu and Ballard had one in front of her.

“I wish it was tomorrow,” Bosch said.

“How come?” Ballard asked.

“Thursday is chicken pot pie day.”

“Ooh.”

“I’ll have the sand dabs and an iced tea.”

The waiter wrote it down and then looked at Ballard.

“Are they good, the sand dabs?” Ballard asked Bosch.

“Not really,” Bosch said. “That’s why I ordered them.”

Ballard laughed and ordered the sand dabs and the waiter walked away.

“What are sand dabs?” Ballard asked.

“Really?” Bosch said. “It’s fish. Little ones that they bread and fry. Squeeze some lemon on them. You’ll like them.”

“What’s the lawyer’s motive—on your case?”

“Pride. Montgomery embarrassed him in open court, banned him from his courtroom for incompetence. The
Times
picked up on it and it went from there. He hit the judge with a half-assed defamation suit that got thrown out and made more news, which only put his reputation further down the toilet. His name is
Manley.
People started calling him
UnManley.

“And he’s still at a Bunker Hill law firm?”

“Yeah, his firm stuck with him. I think he’s gotta be related to somebody. He’s probably Michaelson’s son-in-law or something. They have him in a back office down a hallway where the big shots can keep an eye on him.”

“Wait a minute, ‘Michaelson’? Who is that?”

“He’s the one who found out I was working on the Montgomery case. Cofounder of the firm, Michaelson & Mitchell.”

“Holy shit!”

“Yeah, I sort of saw an e-mail where he told my suspect what I was up to.”

“I don’t mean about that. I mean about this.”

She pulled the documents she had been working on back up onto the table and started separating the individual stacks. She leafed through one of the stacks until she found what she was looking for and handed it to Bosch. It was a legal motion with a court date stamp on it. Bosch wasn’t sure what he was looking for until Ballard tapped the top of the page and he saw the law firm letterhead:
Michaelson & Mitchell.

“What is this?” he asked.

“It’s my case,” Ballard said. “My crispy critter from the other night. The coroner identified him and it turned out he was worth a small fortune. But he was a homeless drunk and probably didn’t know it. That was a motion filed by Michaelson & Mitchell last year trying to kick him out of the family trust because he had been MIA for like five years. His brother wanted him out of the money and hired Michaelson & Mitchell to get it done.”

Bosch read the front page of the stapled document.

“This is San Diego,” he said. “Why would the brother hire an L.A. firm?”

“I don’t know,” Ballard said. “Maybe they have an office down there. But it’s Michaelson whose name is on the pleading. It’s all over the case file I got from Olivas.”

“Did the brother get what he wanted?”

“No, that’s the point: he didn’t win. And a year later the missing brother gets melted in his tent with a rigged kerosene heater.”

Ballard spent the next ten minutes walking Bosch through the murder of Edison Banks Jr. All the while, Bosch tried to wrap himself around the fact that the Michaelson & Mitchell law firm was involved in both of their cases. Bosch didn’t believe in coincidences but he knew they happened. And here two detectives working different cases had just found a link between them. If that wasn’t a coincidence, he didn’t know what was.

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