The Night Fire: A Ballard and Bosch thriller (Harry Bosch 22) (9 page)

“I can’t hardly remember that far back. I done a lotta drugs myself, you know.”

“If you ‘hardly’ remember, that means you remember something. Tell me what you remember.”

“Look, all I know is we was told to get away from that location. Like we thought we had a tip that a bust was coming down or something. So I wudn’t there, man, like I tol’ Sloan back then and tell you now. I didn’t see nothin’, I don’t know nothin’, ’cause I wudn’t there. Period. Now rip up that paper like you said.”

“Is that what you told Sloan, that you were told to clear out?”

“I don’t know. I tol’ him I wudn’t there that day and it was no lie.”

“Okay, who told you to clear out of that alley?”

“I don’t know. I can’t remember.”

“Had to have been a boss, right?”

“I guess maybe. It was a long time ago.”

“Which boss, Dennard? Work with me. We’re almost there.”

“I ain’t working with you. You get me outta here, then I tell you who it was.”

Ballard was not happy that Dorsey was now trying to write the rules of the deal.

“Nah, that isn’t how it works,” she said. “You help me, then I help you.”

“I
am
helping you,” Dorsey protested.

“No, you’re not. You’re just bullshitting. Tell me who gave the clear-out order and then I talk to your PO. That’s the deal, Dennard. You want it or not? I’m just about out of here. I hate being in jail.”

Dorsey sat quietly for a moment, then nodded his head as though he had convinced himself internally to make the deal.

“I think he dead now anyway,” he said.

“Then giving him up won’t be a problem, will it?” Ballard said. “Who was it?”

“An OG name a Kidd.”

“I want a real name.”

“That was his name.”

“What was his first name?”

“Elvin. Almost like
Elvis.
Elvin Kidd. He had that alley and he was the boss.”

“Did he tell you to clear out for the day or what?”

“No, he just said like take the day off. We were like already out there and he came up and said you all scram outta here.”

“Who is ‘we’? You and who else were already out there?”

“Me and V-Dog—but that motherfucker dead too. He not going to help you.”

“Okay, well, what was V-Dog’s real name?”

“Vincent. But I don’t know his last name.”

“Vincent Pilkey?”

“I just tol’ you I don’t know. We just work together back then. I don’t know no names.”

Ballard nodded. Her mind was already going back to that alley twenty-nine years ago. A picture was forming of Dorsey and Pilkey running dope in the alley and Elvin Kidd driving in and telling them to clear out.

It made her think Elvin Kidd knew what was going to happen in that alley to John Hilton before it happened.

“Okay, Dennard,” Ballard said. “I’ll call your PO.”

“Talk to him good.”

“That’s the plan.”

BOSCH
12

Bosch parked his Jeep Cherokee on the north side of Fremont close enough to walk without his cane to Station 3 of the Los Angeles Fire Department. The station was of modern design and sat in the shadow of the towering Department of Water and Power Building. It was also less than six blocks from the Starbucks where Jeffrey Herstadt had suffered a seizure and had been treated by Rescue 3 EMTs on the day of the Judge Montgomery murder.

As he approached, Bosch saw that both of the double-wide garage doors were open and all of the station’s vehicles were in place. This meant nobody should be out on a call. The garage was two rows deep. A ladder truck took up one whole slot while the other three contained double rows of two fire engines and an EMT wagon. There was a man in a blue fireman’s uniform holding a clipboard as he inspected the ladder truck. Bosch interrupted his work.

“I’m looking for a paramedic named Albert Morales. Is he here today?”

Bosch noticed that the name over the man’s shirt pocket was
SEVILLE
.

“He’s here. Who should I tell him wants to see him?”

“He doesn’t know me. I’m just passing on a thank-you from someone he took care of on a call. I have…”

From an inside coat pocket Bosch produced a small square pink envelope with Morales’s name written on it. Bosch had bought it at the CVS in the underground mall by the federal building.

“You want me to give it to him?” Seville asked.

“No, it sort of comes with a story I need to tell him,” Bosch said.

“Okay, let me see if I can find him.”

“Thanks. I’ll wait here.”

Seville disappeared around the front of the ladder truck and went into the station house. Bosch turned and looked out from the station. There was an embankment supporting the 110 freeway and Bosch could hear the sound of traffic from above. He guessed that it was not moving very quickly up there. It was right in the middle of rush hour.

He raised his foot and bent his knee a few times. It was feeling stiff. “You wanted to see me?”

Bosch turned and saw a man in the blue LAFD uniform, the name
MORALES
above his shirt pocket.

“Yes, sir,” Bosch said. “You’re Albert Morales, Rescue Three?”

“That’s right,” Morales said. “What is—”

“Then this is for you.”

Bosch reached into an inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He handed it to Morales. The paramedic opened and looked at it. He seemed confused.

“What the hell is this?” he asked. “Seville said it was a thank-you note or something.”

“That’s a subpoena signed by a judge,” Bosch said. “You need to be in court tomorrow morning at nine sharp. Jeffrey Herstadt thanks you in advance.”

He offered the pink envelope to Morales, but he didn’t take it.

“Wait, these are supposed to be served at headquarters, across the street from City Hall,” Morales said. “Then they come to me. So take it over there.”

Morales held the subpoena out to Bosch.

“There was no time for that,” Bosch said. “Judge Falcone signed it today and he wants you there first thing tomorrow. You don’t show, he’ll issue a warrant.”

“This is bullshit,” Morales said. “I’m off tomorrow and going up to Arrowhead. I’ve got three days.”

“I think you’ll be in and out. You’ll still get to Arrowhead.”

“What case is this? You said Herstat?”

“Jeffrey Herstadt. Spelled H-E-R-S-T-A-D-T. You treated him for seizure at the Starbucks by Grand Park seven months ago.”

“That’s the guy who killed the judge.”

“Allegedly.”

Bosch pointed to the subpoena, still clutched in Morales’s hand.

“It says you need to bring any documentation of the call you have. And your rescue kit.”

“My kit? What the fuck for?”

“I guess you’ll find out tomorrow. Anyway, that’s all I know. You’ve been served and we’ll see you at nine a.m. tomorrow.”

Bosch turned and walked away, heading back toward his car and trying not to limp. Morales threw one more “This is bullshit” at his back. Bosch didn’t turn around when he responded.

“See you tomorrow.”

Bosch got back in his car and immediately called Mickey Haller.

“You get the subpoena?” Haller said.

“Yep,” Bosch replied. “In and out—thanks for greasing it.”

“Now tell me you served Morales.”

“Just did. He’s not too happy about it but I think he’ll be there.”

“He better or my ass will be in a sling with Falcone. You tell him the subpoena includes his kit?”

“I did, and it’s on the subpoena. Are you going to be able to get him on the stand?”

“The prosecutor is going to carp about it, but I’m not counting on any pushback from the judge.”

Bosch unlocked the Jeep and got in. He decided not to attempt the freeway at this hour. He would turn on First and take it to Beverly and ride that all the way into Hollywood.

“Your DNA lady get in?” he asked.

“Just got the word,” Haller said. “She says she’s in the car with Stace and heading to the hotel. She’ll be good to go tomorrow.”

“You talked to her about this? She knows the plan?”

“Ran it all by her. We’re good. It’s funny—today I was semi-bullshitting about her having a specialty and it turns out this
is
her specialty. She’s been doing transfer cases for five years. It’s like the gods of guilt are smiling on me today.”

“That’s great. But you’ve got nothing to smile about yet. Morales has to answer the way we think he’ll answer. If he doesn’t, we’re cooked.”

“I’ve got a good feeling. This is going to be fun.”

“Just remember, Morales has to go first, then your DNA lady.”

“Oh, I got it.”

Bosch turned on the Jeep’s engine and pulled away from the curb. He turned right on First Street and headed under the freeway. He changed the subject matter slightly.

“You told me that when you were prepping the case you had Cisco look into third-party culpability,” Bosch said.

Cisco Wojciechowski was Haller’s investigator. He had helped prep the Herstadt case but had to stop when he had an emergency appendectomy. He wasn’t due back on the job until the following week. Third-party culpability was a standard defense strategy: someone else did it.

“We took a look at it,” Haller said. “But to get it into court for the defense you need proof and we didn’t have any proof. You know that.”

“You focus on one subject?” Bosch asked.

“Shit, no. Judge Montgomery had lots of enemies out there. We didn’t know where to start. We came up with a list of names—mostly out of the murder book—and went from there but never got to where we could point a finger in court. Just wasn’t there.”

“I didn’t see any list in the material you gave me. And did you get a copy of the murder book?”

“Cisco had the copy we got in discovery. But if this thing goes down the way we think it will tomorrow, we won’t need to prove third-party culpability. We won’t even need it. We’ll have big-time reasonable doubt already.”

“You might not need it, but I will. See if you can get it from Cisco. I want to look at other avenues of investigation. The LAPD has to have looked at other persons of interest. I want to know who.”

“You got it, Broheim. I’ll get it. And thanks for today.”

Bosch disconnected. He felt uncomfortable being thanked for a ploy that might set an accused murderer free. He felt just as uncomfortable being an investigator for the defense, even if the defendant in this case was possibly an innocent man.

13

Bosch parked right in front of Margaret Thompson’s house. He thought about making the short walk to the house without his cane but he looked at the six steps leading up to the porch. His knee was aching from a full day of movement, with and without the cane. He decided not to push it, grabbed the cane off the passenger seat, and used it to amble up the front walk and stairs. It was getting dark now but there were no lights on that he could see. He knocked on the door but was thinking that he should have called ahead and avoided wasting time. Then the porch lights came on and Margaret opened the door.

“Harry?”

“Hello, Margaret. How are you doing?”

“I’m fine. What brings you here?”

“Well, I wanted to see how you were doing and I wanted to also ask about the case—the murder book you gave me. I was hoping I could get a look at John Jack’s office, see if there were any notes relating to his investigation.”

“Well, you’re welcome to look but I don’t think there is anything there.”

She led him into the house and turned on lights as they went. It made Bosch wonder whether she had been sitting in the dark when he had knocked on the door.

In the office Margaret signaled toward the desk. Bosch paused and studied the whole room.

“The murder book was sitting on top of the desk when I retrieved it,” he said. “Is that where it was, or did you find it somewhere?”

“It was in the bottom right side drawer,” Margaret said. “I found it when I was looking for the cemetery papers.”

“Cemetery papers?”

“He bought that plot at Hollywood Forever many years ago. He liked the name of it.”

Bosch moved around the desk and sat down. He opened the bottom right drawer. It was now empty.

“Did you clean this out?”

“No, I haven’t looked in there since the day I found the book.”

“So there was nothing else in the drawer? Just the murder book?”

“That was all.”

“Did John Jack spend a lot of time in here?”

“A day or two a week. When he did the bills and the taxes. Things like that.”

“Did he have a computer or a laptop?”

“No, he never got one. He said he hated using computers when he worked.”

Bosch nodded. He opened another drawer while talking.

“Had you ever seen the murder book before you found it in the drawer?”

“No, Harry, I hadn’t. What’s going on with it?”

The drawer had two checkbooks and rubber-banded stacks of envelopes from DWP and the Dish Network. It was all household billing records.

“Well, I gave it to a detective and she started checking into it. She said there was nothing added to it by John Jack. So we thought maybe he kept notes separate from it.”

He opened the top drawer and found it full of pens, paper clips, and Post-it pads. There was a pair of scissors, a roll of packing tape, a mini-light, and a magnifying glass with a bone handle with an inscription carved in it.

To my Sherlock
Love, Margaret

“It’s like he took the book with him when he retired but never worked it.”

From the desk Bosch saw a door on the opposite wall.

“You mind if I look in the closet?”

“No, go ahead.”

Bosch got up and walked over. The closet was for long-term storage of clothes. There was a set of golf clubs that looked like they had barely been used and Bosch remembered that they had been presented to John Jack at his retirement party.

On the shelf above the hanging bar Bosch saw a cardboard file box next to a stack of old LPs and a bobby’s helmet that had probably been given to John Jack by a visiting police officer from England.

“What’s in the file box?”

“I don’t know. This was his room, Harry.”

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