The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch thriller (Harry Bosch 22) (39 page)

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

“Right. Orlando just told me all about your lady hitter. That’s a good one.”

“Then why are you here, Gustafson? Since when does RHD roll on suicides?”

“This guy takes a dive, his name comes up in our case, we get the call. A waste of my fucking time.”

Gustafson walked by him and headed toward the scene in the plaza. Reyes dutifully followed and didn’t say a word to Bosch.

Bosch watched them go and then surveyed the area. There was a crowd at the far end of the building, where Bosch could see men in security uniforms creating a perimeter around a blue canvas tarp that had been used to cover the body of Clayton Manley. The EMTs from the rescue ambulance were heading that way, and Gustafson and Reyes weren’t far behind them. Even from a distance Bosch could see that the blue tarp was just a few feet from the building.

There was nothing routine about suicides, but Bosch knew from his years on the job that jumpers usually propelled themselves away from the structure they dropped from. There were always the “step-offs,” but that method was not as precise or as final as the jump-off. Buildings often had architectural parapets, window-washing scaffolds, awnings, and other features that could interfere with a straight drop. The last thing a suicidal individual wanted was to have a fall broken and to bounce down the side of a building, possibly being left at the bottom alive.

Bosch deviated from the path the others were taking and headed toward the building’s entrance. As he went, he surveyed California Plaza. It was surrounded on three sides by office towers. The one he was heading toward was the tallest but Bosch assumed that cameras somewhere in the plaza would have captured Manley’s fall. From them it might be possible to determine whether he had been conscious when he fell.

He reached into his pocket as he approached the revolving glass doors at the lobby entrance, pulled out his old ID, and clipped it to the breast pocket of his jacket. He knew that the plan now was to keep moving and not stop long enough for anyone to read the date on it.

Once he passed through the door, he saw the round security desk with a sign saying that visitors must show ID before being allowed to go up. Bosch strode toward it confidently. A man and a woman sat behind the counter, both wearing blue blazers with name tags.

“Detective Bosch, LAPD,” he said. “Have any of my colleagues asked about visitors today to Michaelson & Mitchell on the sixteenth floor?”

“Not yet,” the woman said. Her name tag said

Bosch leaned over the counter as if to look down at the screen in front of Rachel. He put his elbow on the marble top and drew his hand up to his chin as if contemplating her answer. This allowed him to block her view of his ID tag with his forearm.

“Can we take a look, then?” he said. “All visitors to the firm.”

Rachel started typing. The angle Bosch had on her screen was too sharp and he could not see what she was doing.

“I can only tell you who was put on the visitor list this morning,” Rachel said.

“That’s fine,” Bosch said. “Would it say which lawyer in the firm they were visiting?”

“Yes, I can provide that if needed.”

“Thank you.”

“This is about the suicide?”

“We’re not calling it a suicide yet. We need to investigate it and that’s why we want to see who came up to the firm today.”

Bosch turned and looked through the glass walls of the lobby. He did not have a view of the death scene but felt he was only a few moves ahead of Gustafson and Reyes. One of them would be going up to the firm soon.

“Okay, I have it here,” Rachel said.

“Is that something you can print out for me?” Bosch asked.

“Not a problem.”


Rachel moved down the counter to a printer and took two pages out of the tray. She handed them to Bosch, who took them as he walked around the counter toward the elevators.

“I’m going up to sixteen,” he said.

“Wait,” Rachel said.

Bosch froze.

“What?” he asked.

“You need a visitor card to get to the elevators,” Rachel said.

Bosch had forgotten that the elevator lobby was protected by electronic turnstiles. Rachel programmed a card and handed it to him.

“Here you go, Detective. Just put it into the slot at the turnstile.”

“Thank you. How do I get access to the roof?”

“You can get to thirty-two, but from there you have to take the maintenance stairwell up. It’s supposed to be locked but I guess today it wasn’t.”

“How do employees get up to their offices?”

“They enter the underground parking on Hill Street, take an elevator to this level, then everybody goes through the turnstiles. Employees get permanent cards.”

“Okay, thanks.”

“Be careful up there.”

Bosch decided to go to the roof first. As he rode the elevator up, he tried to think in terms of how the Black Widow did it. She had somehow lured Manley to the roof and then pushed him off, or incapacitated him and pushed him off. The question was how she got him up there. Forcing him at gunpoint to walk through the law firm and take an elevator up would have been too risky. Just the chance that someone could be on the elevator would seem to scratch that as a possibility. But somehow, she had gotten Manley up there.

As the elevator ascended, he looked for the first time at the printout he had received at the security desk. He knew, of course, that the Black Widow could have arrived as an employee or with an employee, but nevertheless he studied the names of the seventeen visitors on the list. None of them was Laurie Lee Wells. That would have been too easy. But only four were women, none were visiting Manley, and only one was visiting either Michaelson or Mitchell. That name was Sonja Soquin, who had arrived at 2:55 p.m. for a three o’clock appointment with Michaelson. Calculating from the time Reyes got the call while sitting with Bosch, he estimated that Manley had fallen from the building to his death sometime between 3:50 and 4:00 p.m.

The elevator opened and Bosch stepped out. He looked up and down the hall and saw a uniformed officer standing in front of an open door Bosch assumed was the maintenance entrance to the roof. He walked that way.

“Anybody gone up yet?” he asked.

“Not yet,” the officer said. “It might be a crime scene.”

As Bosch got closer he saw that the officer’s name tag said

“I’m going up,” Bosch said.

The officer hesitated while eyeing Bosch’s ID tag. But Bosch turned as if to look back down the hallway.

“This is the only way up?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Ohlman said. “The door was open when I got up here.”

“Okay, let me take a look. My partner, Reyes, will be up soon. Tell him I’m up top.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ohlman stepped aside and Bosch entered a large maintenance room that had an iron staircase going up to the roof.

Bosch took the stairs slowly, favoring his surgically repaired knee. It was at least thirty steps. When he got to the top he leaned against a steel railing to catch his breath for a moment and then pushed through a door.

A murder of crows flew into the air as the metal door was taken by the wind and banged sharply against the wall. Bosch stepped out. The view was magnificent. To the west he could see the sun beginning to dip toward the Pacific, the orange ball reflecting on a blue-black surface at least twenty miles away.

He walked toward the far edge, where the building curved and which he judged was the point Manley had dropped from. He walked slowly and scanned the ground, moving first across a helicopter pad and then an expanse of gravel on tar. An LAPD helicopter was circling above. Heavy wind buffeted his body, a reminder not to get too near the edge.

Under his feet he could feel that the tar had softened in the direct sunlight of the day.

The door slammed behind him and he whirled around, his hand going to his hip.

There was no one.

The wind.

A two-foot-high parapet ran along the edge of the building. It had a metal endcap containing the lighting strip that outlined the edges of the building in blue at night. The mirrored tower looked generic by day but was a standout on the downtown skyline after sundown.

Near the edge he saw a disturbance in the gravel—a three-foot-long deviation where gravel had been raked off the tar. He lowered himself, bracing his new knee with his hand as he dropped into a baseball catcher’s stance. He studied the marking and decided it could have been a drag mark or a slide mark that occurred during a struggle. But it appeared to have occurred recently: the tar had not been grayed by exposure to the sun and smog, as it had been in other places.

A helicopter made a loud pass overhead. Bosch did not look up. He studied what he was sure was a mark left by Clayton Manley before he went over the edge and down to the hard ground like a broken crow.


There was another police officer standing guard in the reception area on the sixteenth floor. His name tag said

“Any of my guys up here yet?” Bosch asked.

“Not yet,” the officer said.

“You’re keeping people from leaving?”

“That’s right.”

“When did you get here?”

“We were code seven at the food court across the street. We got here pretty quick after the call. Maybe twenty-five minutes ago.”


“My partner’s upstairs. The firm has elevators on the second level too.”

“Okay, I need to go back to the victim’s office.”

“Yes, sir.”

Bosch walked past the suede couch and started around the staircase but then thought of something and returned to the officer.

“Officer French, did anybody try to leave while you’ve been here?”

“Just a couple people, sir.”


“I didn’t get names. I wasn’t told to do that.”

“Male or female?”

“Two guys, they said they had to go to court. I told them we’d get them cleared as soon as possible. They said they’d call the courtroom to notify them.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Bosch headed around the stairway again. He was convinced that the Black Widow had come and gone. He moved quietly down the hall. The door to Michaelson’s office was closed but the door to Mitchell’s office was open, and as Bosch passed he saw an older man with graying hair standing at the floor-to-ceiling window looking down into the plaza.

The door to Clayton Manley’s office was closed as well. Bosch leaned his ear against it and listened for conversation but heard nothing. He pulled his jacket sleeve over his palm and pushed the handle down to open the door.

The office was empty. He walked in and closed the door, then stepped to the side of the door and took in the room as a whole. He checked the floor first and saw no indentations in the carpet or anything else that drew suspicion or interest. Scanning the rest of the room, he saw no signs that a struggle had taken place.

He got up and moved behind the desk, using the cuff of his coat again to hit the space bar on the computer. The screen came alive but was password protected. Continuing with the cuff over his hand, he opened drawers in the desk, finding nothing of note until he got to the first of the bottom file drawers. The key was still in the lock. He managed to turn it with his sleeve and there on top of several files were the documents Bosch had given Manley that morning. Bosch saw that there were several notes written in the margins of the top sheet.

Just as he lifted the documents out of the drawer, the door to the office swung open and the man Bosch had seen at the window in Mitchell’s office was standing there. He was taller than Bosch had realized from the previous glimpse. Sharp shoulders, thick in the middle but not fat. Forty years before, he could have been an offensive lineman.

“Who are you?” he said. “Are you the police? You have no right to be going through an attorney’s documents, dead or alive. This is outrageous behavior.”

Bosch knew there was no good answer or bluff to the questions. He was in a jam. The only thing he apparently had going for him was that Mitchell—if it was Mitchell—didn’t recognize him. This made Bosch jump to the possibility that Mitchell was unaware and isolated from the nefarious actions of his own law firm.

“I said, who the hell do you think you are, coming in here and going through privileged information?” the man demanded.

Bosch decided his only defense was offense.

He pulled the ID tag off his jacket, held it out, then shoved it into his jacket pocket.

“I was a cop but not anymore,” he said. “And I’m not randomly going through Manley’s files. I came for my own files. He’s dead and I want my stuff back.”

“Then what you do is hire a new attorney and he requests the files as your representative,” the man said. “You don’t break and enter an office and steal documents out of a drawer.”

“I didn’t break in. I walked in. And I’m not stealing what is already mine.”

“What is your name?”


The name made no discernible impact on the man in the doorway, further supporting Bosch’s assumption.

“I had an appointment with Manley,” Bosch said. “I came in to sign papers and I find out he’s splattered all over the plaza down there. I want my file and I want the documents I gave him and I want to be out of here.”

“I told you, it doesn’t work that way,” the man said. “You take nothing from this room. Do you understand?”

Bosch decided on a different tack.

“You’re Mitchell, right?”

“Samuel Mitchell. I cofounded this firm twenty-four years ago. I am chairman and managing partner.”

“Managing partner. That means you collect the money but aren’t involved in the cases, right?”

“Sir, I am not going to talk to you about my job or this firm.”

“And so you probably didn’t know what Manley and your partner Michaelson were up to. You didn’t know about the woman?”

“The woman? What woman? Who are you talking about?”

“Sonja Soquin. Laurie Lee Wells. The Black Widow—whatever they called her. The woman they used to get things done when there was no other way—legally—to do it.”

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