The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch thriller (Harry Bosch 22) (4 page)

“Yes.”

“And who was in charge of properly administering the drug to him in that group home?”

“There is a social worker assigned to the home who administers the prescriptions.”

“So, do you have firsthand knowledge that this drug was properly administered to Mr. Herstadt?”

“I don’t really understand the question. I saw the blood scans after he was arrested and they showed the proper levels of paliperidone, so one can assume he was being given and was taking his dosage.”

“Can you tell this jury for a fact that he did not take his dosage after the murder but before his blood was drawn at the hospital?”

“Well, no, but—”

“Can you tell this jury that he didn’t hoard his pills and take several at once before the murder?”

“Again, no, but you are getting into—”

“No further questions.”

Saldano moved to the prosecution table and sat down. Bosch watched Haller stand up immediately and tell the judge he would be quick with redirect. The judge nodded his approval.

“Doctor, would you like to finish your answer to Ms. Saldano’s last question?” Haller asked.

“I would, yes,” Stein said. “I was just going to say that the blood scan from the hospital showed a proper level of the drug in his bloodstream. Any scenario other than proper administration doesn’t add up. Whether he was hoarding and then overmedicating, or not medicating and took a pill after the crime, it would have been apparent in the levels on the scan.”

“Thank you, Doctor. How long had you been treating Jeffrey before this incident occurred?”

“Four years.”

“When did you put him on paliperidone?”

“Four years ago.”

“Did you ever see him act aggressively toward anyone?”

“No, I did not.”

“Did you ever hear of him acting aggressively toward anyone?”

“Before this … incident, no, I did not.”

“Did you get regular reports on his behavior from the group home where he lived?”

“I did, yes.”

“Was there ever a report from the group home about Jeffrey being violent?”

“No, never.”

“Were you ever concerned that he might be violent toward you or any member of the public?”

“No. If that had been the case, I would have prescribed a different drug therapy.”

“Now, as a psychiatrist you are also a medical doctor, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“And when you reviewed this case did you also look at the autopsy records on Judge Montgomery?”

“I did, yes.”

“You saw that he was stabbed three times in close proximity under the right armpit, correct?”

“Yes, I did.”

Saldano stood and objected.

“Your Honor, where is he going with this?” she asked. “This is beyond the scope of my cross-examination.”

Falcone looked at Haller.

“I was wondering the same thing, Mr. Haller.”

“Judge, it is somewhat new territory but I did reserve the right to recall Dr. Stein. If the prosecution wants, we can go to lunch and I will recall him right afterward, or we can just take care of this right here. I’ll be quick.”

“The objection is overruled,” the judge said. “Proceed, Mr. Haller.”

“Thank you, Judge,” Haller said.

He turned his attention back to the witness.

“Doctor, there are vital blood vessels in the area of the body where Judge Montgomery was stabbed, are there not?”

“Yes, blood vessels leading directly to and from the heart.”

“Do you have Mr. Herstadt’s personal files?”

“I do.”

“Did he ever serve in the military?”

“No, he did not.”

“Any medical training?”

“None that I am aware of.”

“How could he have known to stab the judge in the very specifically vulnerable spot under the judge’s—”

“Objection!”

Saldano was back on her feet.

“Judge, this witness has no expertise that would allow him to hazard even a guess at what counsel was about to ask him.”

The judge agreed.

“If you want to pursue that, Mr. Haller, bring in a wound expert,” Falcone said. “This witness is not that.”

“Your Honor,” Haller said. “You sustained the objection without giving me a chance to argue the point.”

“I did and I’d do it again, Mr. Haller. Do you have any other questions for the witness?”

“I don’t.”

“Ms. Saldano?”

Saldano thought for a moment but then said she had no further questions. Before the judge could tell the jury to take a lunch break, Haller addressed the court.

“Your Honor,” he said, “I expected Ms. Saldano to spend most of the afternoon on cross-examination of Dr. Stein. And I thought I would take up the rest of it on redirect. This is quite a surprise.”

“What are you telling me, Mr. Haller?” the judge asked, his tone already tinged with consternation.

“My next witness is my DNA expert coming in from New York. She doesn’t land until four o’clock.”

“Do you have a witness you can take out of order and bring in after lunch?”

“No, Your Honor, I don’t.”

“Very well.”

The judge was clearly unhappy. He turned and addressed the jury, telling its members they were finished for the day. He told them to go home and avoid any media coverage of the trial and to be back in the morning at nine. Throwing a glare at Haller, the judge explained to the jurors that they would begin hearing testimony before the usual ten o’clock start in order to make up lost time.

Everyone waited until the jurors had filed into the assembly room and then the judge turned more of his frustration on Haller.

“Mr. Haller, I think you know I don’t like working half days when I have scheduled full days of court.”

“Yes, Your Honor. Neither do I.”

“You should have brought your witness in yesterday so that she would be available no matter how things progressed in the case.”

“Yes, Your Honor. But that would have meant paying for another night in a hotel and, as the court knows, my client is indigent and I was appointed to the case by the court at significantly reduced fees. My request to the court administrator to bring my expert in a day earlier was denied for financial reasons.”

“Mr. Haller, that’s all well and good, but there are highly qualified DNA experts right here in Los Angeles. Why is it necessary to fly your expert in from New York?”

That was the first question that had come to Bosch’s mind as well.

“Well, Judge, I don’t really think it would be fair for me to have to reveal defense strategy to the prosecution,” Haller said. “But I can say that my expert is at the top of the game in her specialty field of DNA analysis and that this will become apparent when she testifies tomorrow.”

The judge studied Haller for a long moment, seemingly trying to decide whether to continue the argument. Finally he relented.

“Very well,” he said. “Court is adjourned until nine o’clock tomorrow. Have your witness ready at that time, Mr. Haller, or there will be consequences.”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

The judge got up and left the bench.

6

Where do you want to go?”

They were in the back of Haller’s Lincoln.

“Doesn’t matter,” Bosch said. “Somewhere private. Quiet.”

“You hear that Traxx closed down?” Haller asked. “Really? I loved that place. Loved going to Union Station.”

“I already miss it. It was my go-to place during trial. It was there twenty years—in this town that says something.”

Haller leaned forward and spoke to his driver.

“Stace, take us over to Chinatown,” he said. “The Little Jewel.”

“You got it,” the driver said.

Haller’s driver was a woman and Bosch had never seen that before. Haller had always used former clients to drive the Lincoln. Men paying off their legal fees. He wondered what Stace was paying off. She was mid-forties, black, and looked like a schoolteacher, not someone drawn from the streets, as Haller’s drivers usually were.

“So what did you think?” Haller asked. “About the trial?” Bosch replied. “You scored your points about the confession. Is your DNA expert going to be that good? Her ‘specialty field of DNA analysis’—how much of that was bullshit?”

“None of it. But we’ll see. She’s good but I don’t know if she’s good enough.”

“And she’s really coming in from New York?”

“I told you, none of it was bullshit.”

“So what’s she going to do? Attack the lab? Say they blew it?”

Bosch was tired of that defense. It may have worked for O. J. Simpson but that was a long time ago and there were so many other factors involved in that case. Big factors. The science of DNA was too good. A match was a match. If you wanted to knock it down you needed something other than to attack the science.

“I don’t know what she’s going to say,” Haller said. “That’s our deal. She’ll never shill. She calls them like she sees them.”

“Well, like I told you, I’ve been following the case,” Bosch said. “Knocking down the confession is one thing. But DNA’s another. You need to do something. You have the case file with you?”

“Most of it—all the trial prep. It’s in the trunk. Why?”

“I was thinking I could take a look at it for you. If you want, I mean. No promises. Just that something didn’t seem right in there when I was watching. Something was poking at me.”

“With the testimony? What?”

“I don’t know. Something that doesn’t add up.”

“Well, I’ve got tomorrow and then that’s it. No other witnesses. If you’re going to look, I need it today.”

“No problem. Right after lunch.”

“Fine. Knock yourself out. How’s the knee, by the way?”

“Good. Better every day.”

“Pain?”

“No pain.”

“You didn’t call because you’ve got a malpractice case, did you?”

“No, not that.”

“Then what?”

Bosch looked at the driver’s eyes in the rearview. She couldn’t help overhearing things. He didn’t want to talk in front of her.

“Wait till we sit down,” he said.

“Sure,” Haller said.

The Little Jewel was in Chinatown but it didn’t serve Chinese food. It was pure Cajun. They ordered at the counter and then got a table in a reasonably quiet corner. Bosch had gone with a shrimp po’boy sandwich. Haller had ordered the fried oyster po’boy and paid for both.

“So, new driver?” Bosch asked.

“Been with me three months,” Haller said. “No, four. She’s good.”

“She a client?”

“Actually, the mother of a client. Her son’s in county for a year on possession. We beat an intent-to-sell package, which wasn’t bad at all on my part. Mom said she’d work off the fees driving.”

“You’re all heart.”

“Man’s gotta pay the bills. We’re not all happy-go-lucky pensioners like you.”

“Yeah, that’s me all right.”

Haller smiled. He had successfully represented Bosch a few years earlier when the city tried to pull his pension.

“And this case,” Bosch said. “Herstadt. How’d you end up being appointed? I thought you didn’t handle murder cases anymore.”

“I don’t but the judge assigned it to me,” Haller said. “One day I was in his courtroom minding my own business on another case and he tags me with it. I’m like, ‘I don’t do murder cases, Judge, especially high-profile cases like this,’ and he’s, ‘You do now, Mr. Haller.’ So here I am with a fucking unwinnable case and getting paid hamburger when I usually get steak.”

“How come the PD didn’t take it?”

“Conflict of interest. The victim, Judge Montgomery, was formerly the Public Defender, remember?”

“Right, right. I forgot.”

Their numbers were called and Bosch went up to the counter to get their sandwiches and drinks. After he delivered the food to the table, Haller got down to the business of their meeting.

“So, you call me up in the middle of a trial and say you need to talk. So talk. Are you in some kind of trouble?”

“No, nothing like that.”

Bosch thought a moment before continuing. He had set up the meeting and now he wasn’t sure how to proceed. He decided to start at the beginning.

“About twelve years ago I caught a case,” he said. “A guy up on the overlook above the Mulholland Dam. Two in the back of the head, execution style. Turned out he was a doctor. A medical physicist. He specialized in gynecological cancers. And it turned out that he had gone up to St. Agatha’s in the Valley and cleared out all the cesium they use for treatment from a lead safe. It was missing.”

“I remember something about this,” Haller said. “The FBI jumped all over it, thinking it was a terrorist thing. Maybe a dirty bomb or something.”

“Right. But it wasn’t. It was something else. I worked it and we got the cesium back, but not before I got dosed pretty good with it. I was treated and then had five years of checkups—chest X-rays, the whole thing. I was clean every time and after the five years they said I was in the clear.”

Haller nodded in a way that seemed to indicate he knew which way this was going.

“So, all is well and I go in last month to get my knee done and they take blood,” Bosch said. “Routine stuff, except tests on it come back and I have something called CML—chronic myeloid leukemia.”

“Shit,” Haller said.

“Not as bad as it sounds. I’m being treated but—”

“What treatment?”

“Chemo. The modern kind of chemo. I basically take a pill every day and that’s it. In six months they see where it’s at and if they need to get more serious about treatment.”

“Shit.”

“You said that. There are some side effects but it’s not bad. I just get tired easily. What I wanted to see you about is whether I would have any kind of case here. I’m thinking about my daughter. If this chemo stuff doesn’t work, I want to make sure she’s set up, you know what I mean? Taken care of.”

“Have you talked to her about this?”

“No. You’re the only one I’ve talked to.”

“Shit.”

“You keep saying that. But what do you think? Is there a workman’s comp thing I can go back to the LAPD with? What about the hospital? This guy just waltzed in there in his white doctor’s coat and name tag and then waltzed out with thirty-two pieces of cesium in a lead bucket. The whole incident exposed the lax security in the oncology lab and they made big changes afterward.”

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