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read an excerpt from two kinds of truth

Two Kinds of Truth

Bosch was in cell 3 of the old San Fernando jail, looking through files from one of the Esme Tavares boxes, when a heads-up text came in from Bella Lourdes over in the detective bureau.

LAPD and DA heading your way. Trevino told them where you are.

Bosch was sitting at the makeshift desk, a wooden door he had borrowed from the Public Works yard and placed across two stacks of file boxes. After sending Lourdes a thank-you text, he opened the memo app on his phone and turned on the recorder. He put the phone screen-down on the desk and partially covered it with a file from the Tavares box. It was a just-in-case move. He had no idea why people from the District Attorney’s Office and his old police department were coming to see him. They had not called ahead, and he knew that could be a tactical move on their part. Bosch’s relationship with the LAPD since his forced retirement two years earlier had been strained at best and his attorney had urged him to protect himself by documenting all interactions with the department.

While he waited for them, he went back to the file at hand. He was looking through statements taken in the weeks after Tavares had disappeared. He had read them before but he believed that the case files often contained the secret to cracking a cold case. It was all there if you could find it. A logic discrepancy, a hidden clue, a contradicting statement, an investigator’s handwritten note in the margin of a report — all of these things had helped Bosch clear cases in a career four decades long and counting.

There were three file boxes on the Tavares case. Officially it was a missing-persons case but it had gathered three feet of stacked files over fifteen years because it was classified as such only because a body had never been found.

When Bosch came to the San Fernando Police Department two years before to volunteer his skills looking at cold case files, he had asked Chief Anthony Valdez where to start. The chief, who had been with the department twenty-five years, told him to start with Esmerelda Tavares. It was the case that haunted Valdez as an investigator, but as police chief he could not give adequate time to it.

In two years working in San Fernando part-time, Bosch had reopened several cases and closed nearly a dozen — multiple rapes and murders among them. But he came back to Esme Tavares whenever he had an hour here and there to look through the file boxes. She was beginning to haunt him too. A young mother who vanished, leaving a sleeping baby in a crib. It might be classified as a missing-persons case but Bosch didn’t have to read through even the first box to know what the chief and every investigator before him knew. Esme Tavares was more than missing. She was dead.

Bosch heard the metal door to the jail wing open and then footsteps on the concrete floor that ran in front of the three group cells. He looked up through the iron bars and was surprised by who he saw.

"Hello, Harry."

It was his former partner, Lucia Soto, along with two men in suits whom Bosch didn’t recognize. The fact that Soto had not let him know they were coming put Bosch on alert. It was a forty-minute drive from both the LAPD’s headquarters and the D.A.’s office downtown to San Fernando. That left plenty of time to type out a text or call him up and say, "Harry, we are heading your way." But that hadn’t happened, so he knew that the two men he didn’t know had put the clamps on Soto.

"Lucia, long time," Bosch said. "How are you, partner?"

He stood up, deftly grabbing his phone from beneath the files on the desk and transferring it to his shirt pocket, placing the screen against his chest. He walked to the bars and stuck his hand through. He squeezed Soto’s hand rather than shaking it. Her grip was tight and he took that as a message: be careful here.

It was easy for Bosch to figure out who was who between the two men. Both were in their early forties and dressed in suits that most likely came off the rack at Men’s Wearhouse. But the man on the left’s pinstripes were showing wear from the inside out. Bosch knew that meant he was wearing a shoulder rig beneath the jacket and the hard edge of his weapon’s slide was wearing through the fabric. Bosch guessed that the silk lining had already been chewed up. In six months the suit would be toast.

"Bob Tapscott," he said. "Lucky Lucy’s partner now."

Bosch wondered if he was related to Horace Tapscott, the late South L.A. musician who had been vital in preserving the community’s jazz identity.

"And I’m Alex Kennedy, deputy district attorney," said the second man. "We’d like to talk to you if you have a few minutes."

"Uh, sure," Bosch said. "Step into my office."

He gestured toward the confines of the former cell now fitted with steel shelves containing case files. There was a long communal bench left over from the cell’s previous existence as a drunk tank. Bosch had files from different cases lined up to review on the bench. He started stacking them to make room for his visitors to sit.

"Actually, we talked to Captain Trevino, and he says we can use the war room over in the detective bureau," Tapscott said. "It will be more comfortable. Do you mind?"

"I don’t mind if the captain doesn’t mind," Bosch said. "What’s this about anyway?"

"Preston Borders," Soto said.

Bosch was walking toward the open door of the cell. The name put a slight pause in his step.

"Let’s wait until we’re in the war room," Kennedy said quickly. "Then we can talk."

Soto gave Bosch a look that seemed to impart the message that she was under the D.A.’s thumb on this case. He stepped out of the cell, closed the metal door, and locked it with a long jail guard’s key that he put in his pocket.

They left the old jail and walked through the Public Works equipment yard out to First Street. While waiting for traffic to pass, Soto spoke again, but not about the case that had brought them up to San Fernando.

"Is that really your office, Harry?" she asked. "I mean, really, a jail cell?"

"Yep," Bosch said. "That was the drunk tank and sometimes I think I can still smell the puke when I open it up in the morning. But it’s where they keep the cold case files, so it’s where I do my work.They store the old evidence boxes in the other two cells. Easy access all around. And usually nobody to bother me."

He hoped the implication of the last line was clear to his visitors.

"So they have no jail?" Soto asked. "They have to run bodies down to Van Nuys?"

"No, we’ve got a jail," Bosch said. "It’s part of the station. State-of-the-art, single-man cells. I’ve even stayed over a few times. Beats the bunk room at the PAB, with everybody snoring."

She threw him a look as if to say he had changed if he was willing to sleep in a jail cell. He winked at her.

"I can sleep anywhere," he said.

When the traffic cleared, they crossed over to the police station and entered through the side door. The detective bureau was through the first door on the right. Bosch opened it with a key card and held the door as the others stepped in.

The bureau was no bigger than a single-car garage. At center were three workstations tightly positioned in a single module. These belonged to the unit’s three full-time detectives, Danny Sisto, a recently promoted detective named Oscar Luzon, and Bella Lourdes, just a month back from a lengthy injury leave. The walls of the unit were lined with file cabinets, radio chargers, and a coffee-and-printing station below bulletin boards covered in Wanted posters, work schedules, and departmental bulletins. Up high on one wall was a poster depicting the iconic Disney ducks Huey, Dewey, and Louie, which were the proud nicknames of the three detectives who worked in the module below. Captain Trevino’s office was to the right and the war room was on the left. A third room was subleased to the Medical Examiner’s Office and used by two coroner’s investigators who covered the entire San Fernando Valley.

Bosch saw Lourdes peeking over a partition from her desk. He gave her a nod of thanks for the heads-up. It was also a sign that so far things were okay. He then led the visitors into the war room. It was a soundproof room with walls lined with white boards and flat-screen monitors. At center was a boardroom-style table with eight leather chairs around it. The room was designed to be the command post for major crime investigations, task force operations, and coordinating responses to public emergencies such as earthquakes and riots. The reality was that such incidents were rare and the room was used primarily as a lunchroom, the broad table and comfortable chairs perfect for group lunches. The room carried the distinct odor of Mexican food. The owner of Magaly’s Tamales up on Maclay Avenue routinely dropped off free food for the troops and it was usually devoured in the war room.

"Have a seat," Bosch said.

Tapscott and Soto sat on one side of the table, while Kennedy went around and sat across from them. Bosch took a chair at one end of the table so he would have angles on all three visitors.

"So, what’s going on?" he said.

"Well, let’s introduce ourselves," Kennedy began. "You, of course, know Detective Soto from your work together in the Open-Unsolved Unit. And now you’ve met Detective Tapscott. They have been working with me on a review of a homicide case you handled almost thirty years ago."

"Preston Borders," Bosch said. "How is Preston? Still on death row at Q last time I checked."

"He’s still there."

"So why are you looking at the case?"

Kennedy had pulled his chair close and had his arms folded and his elbows on the table. He drum-rolled the fingers of his left hand as if deciding how to answer Bosch’s question, even though it was clear that everything about this surprise visit was rehearsed.

"I am assigned to the Conviction Integrity Unit," Kennedy said. "I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I have used Detectives Tapscott and Soto on some of the cases I’ve handled because of their skill in working cold cases."

Bosch knew that the CIU was new and had been put into place after he had left the LAPD. Its formation was the fulfillment of a campaign promise made during a heated election in which the policing of the police was a hot-ticket debate issue. The newly elected D.A. — Tak Kobayashi — had promised to create a unit that would respond to the seeming groundswell of cases where new forensic technologies had led to hundreds of exonerations of people imprisoned across the country. Not only was new science leading the way, but old science once thought to be unassailable as evidence was being debunked and swinging open prison doors for the innocent.

As soon as Kennedy mentioned his assignment, Bosch put everything together and knew what was going on. Borders, the man thought to have killed three women but convicted of only one murder, was making a final grab at freedom after thirty years on death row.

"You’ve gotta be kidding me," Bosch said. "Borders? Really? You are seriously looking at that case?"

He looked from Kennedy to his old partner Soto.

He felt totally betrayed.

"Lucia?" he said

"Harry," she said. "You need to listen."


Bosch felt like the walls of the war room were closing in on him. In his mind and in reality, he had put Borders away for good. He didn’t count on the sadistic sex murderer ever getting the needle, but death row was its own particular hell, one that was still harsher than any sentence that put a man in general population. The isolation of it was what Borders deserved. He went up to San Quentin as a twenty-six-year-old man. That meant fifty-plus years of solitary confinement. Less if he got lucky. More inmates died of suicide than the needle on death row in California.

"It’s not as simple as you think," Kennedy said.

"Really?" Bosch said. "Tell me why."

"The obligation of the Conviction Integrity Unit is to consider all legitimate petitions that come to it. Our review process is the first stage, and that happens in-house before they go to the LAPD or other law enforcement. When a case meets a certain threshold of concern, we go to the next step and call in law enforcement to carry out a due diligence investigation."

"And of course everyone is sworn to secrecy at that point."

Bosch looked at Soto as he said it. She looked away.

"Absolutely," Kennedy said.

"I don’t know what evidence Borders or his lawyer brought to you, but it’s bullshit," Bosch said. "He murdered Danielle Skyler and everything else is a scam."

Kennedy didn’t respond but from his look Bosch could tell he was surprised he still remembered the victim’s name.

"Yeah, thirty years later I remember her name," Bosch said. "I also remember Donna Timmons and Vicki Novotney, the two victims we couldn’t make cases on. Were they part of this due diligence you conducted?"

"Harry," Soto said, trying to calm him.

"Borders didn’t bring any new evidence," Kennedy said. "It was already there."

That hit Bosch like a punch. He knew Kennedy was talking about the physical evidence from the case. The implication was that there was evidence from the crime scene or that had been collected elsewhere by Bosch that cleared Borders of the crime. The greater implication was incompetence or, worse, malfeasance — that he had missed the evidence or intentionally withheld it.

"What are we talking about here?" he asked.

"DNA," Kennedy said. "It wasn’t part of the original case in ’eighty-eight. The case was prosecuted before DNA was allowed into use in criminal cases in California. It wasn’t introduced and accepted by a court up in Ventura for another year. In L.A. County it was a year after that."

Kennedy nodded to Soto.

"We went to property and pulled the box," she said. "You know the routine. We took clothing collected from the victim to the lab and they put it through the serology protocol."

"They did a protocol twenty-nine years ago," Bosch said. "But back then, they looked for ABO markers instead of DNA. And they found nothing. You’re going to tell me that — "

"They found semen," Kennedy said. "It was a minute amount, but this time they found it. The process has obviously gotten more sophisticated in thirty years. And it didn’t come from Borders."

Bosch shook his head.

"Okay, I’ll bite," he said. "Whose was it?"

"A rapist named Lucas John Olmer," Soto said.

Bosch had never heard of Olmer. His mind went to work, looking for the scam, the fix, but not considering that he had been wrong when he closed the cuffs around Borders’s wrists.

"Olmer’s in San Quentin, right?" he said. "This whole thing is a — "

"No, he’s not," Tapscott said. "He’s dead."

"Give us a little credit, Harry," Soto added. "It’s not like we went looking for it to be this way. Olmer was never in San Quentin. He died in Corcoran four years ago and he never knew Borders."

"Big surprise there," Tapscott said. "Those prisons are only three hundred miles apart."

His misplaced sarcasm gave Bosch the urge to backhand him across the mouth. Soto knew her old partner’s triggers and reached over to put a hand on Bosch’s arm.

"Harry, this is not your fault," she said. "This is on the lab. The reports are all there. You are right — they found nothing. They missed it back then."

Bosch looked at her and pulled his arm back.

"You really believe that?" he said. "Because I don’t. This is Borders. He’s behind this — somehow. I know it."

"How, Harry? We’ve looked for the fix in this."

"Who’s been in the box since then?"

"The last person to pull the box was you. Eleven years ago, when you were working with Allingwood on Borders’s final appeal. Show him the video."

She nodded to Tapscott, who pulled his phone and opened up a video. He turned the screen to Bosch.

"This is at Piper Tech," he said.

Piper Tech was where the LAPD’s records and evidence property archives were located, along with the fingerprint unit. The aero squadron had the roof. Bosch knew that the integrity protocol in the archival unit was high. Sworn officers had to provide departmental ID and fingerprints to pull a case. The boxes were opened in an examination area under twenty-four-hour video surveillance. But this was Tapscott’s own video, recorded on his phone.

"This was not our first go-round with CIU, so we have our own protocol," Tapscott said. "This is us opening the box. We video the whole thing. Doesn’t matter that they have their own cameras down there. And as you can see, no seal is broken, no tampering."

The video showed Soto displaying the box to the camera, turning it over so that all sides and seams could be seen as intact, as well as the red tape that sealed it and was wrapped twice around it for good measure — a habit Bosch had employed for decades when archiving evidence. Soto manipulated the box in a bored manner and Bosch read that as her thinking they were wasting their time on this one. At least up until that point, Bosch still had her in his court.

Soto then used a box cutter attached by a wire to an examination table to slice through the evidence tape and open the box. As she started removing items from the box, including the victim’s clothing and an envelope containing her fingernail clippings, she called each piece of property out so it would be duly recorded.

Before the video was over, Tapscott pulled the phone back and killed the playback. He then put the phone away.

"On and on like that," he said. "Nobody fucked with the box. What was in it had been there from day one."

Bosch was silent for a long moment as he considered for the first time that his thirty-year belief that he had put a sadistic killer away for good was bogus.

"Where’d they find it?" he finally asked.

"Find what?" Kennedy asked.

"The DNA," Bosch said.

"One microdot on the victim’s underwear," Kennedy said. "Easy to have missed back in ’eighty-eight," Soto said. "They were probably just using black lights then."

Bosch nodded.

"So what happens now?" he asked.

Soto looked at Kennedy. The question was his to answer.

"There’s a hearing scheduled in department one-sixteen next Wednesday," the prosecutor said. "We’ll be asking Judge Houghton to vacate the sentence and release Borders from death row."

"Jesus Christ," Bosch said.

"He has a lawyer and he’ll be filing a claim against the city," Kennedy continued. "We’ve been in contact with the City Attorney’s Office. We’re probably talking about a settlement well into seven figures."

Bosch looked down at the table. He couldn’t hold anyone’s eyes.

"And I have to warn you," Kennedy said. "If a settlement is not reached and he files a claim in federal court, he can go after you personally."

Bosch nodded. He knew that already. A civil rights claim filed by Borders would leave Bosch personally responsible for damages if the city chose not to cover him. Since two years ago Bosch had sued the city to reinstate his full pension, it was unlikely that he would find a single soul in the City Attorney’s Office interested in indemnifying him against damages collected by Borders. The one thought that pushed through this reality to him was of his daughter. He could have nothing but an insurance policy to leave her.

"I’m sorry," Soto said. "If there were any other... "

She didn’t finish and he slowly brought his eyes up to hers.

"Nine days," he said.

"What do you mean?" she said.

"The hearing’s in nine days. I have until then to figure out how he did it."

"Harry, we’ve been working this for five weeks. There’s nothing. This was before Olmer was on anybody’s radar. All we know is he wasn’t in jail at the time and he was in L.A. — we found work records. But the DNA is the DNA. On her clothing, DNA from a man later convicted of multiple abduction-rapes. Similar to Skyler without the death. I mean, no D.A. in the world would touch this or go any other way with it."

Kennedy cleared his throat.

"We came here today out of respect for you, Detective, and all the cases you’ve cleared over time. We don’t want to get into an adversarial position on this."

"And you don’t think those cases are affected by this?" Bosch said. "You open the door to this guy and you might as well open it for every one of the people I sent away. If you put it on the lab — same thing. It taints everything."

Bosch leaned back and stared at his old partner. He had at one time been her mentor. She had to know what this was doing to him.

"It is what it is," Kennedy said. "We have an obligation. ‘Better that one hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man be imprisoned.’ "

"Spare me your bastardized Ben Franklin bullshit," Bosch said. "I put Borders in the vicinity of all three of those women’s disappearances and your office passed on two of them, some snot-nosed prosecutor saying there was not enough. This doesn’t fucking make sense. I want the nine days and I want access to everything you have and everything you’ve done."

He looked at Soto as he said it but Kennedy responded.

"Not going to happen, Detective," he said.

"As I said, we’re here as a courtesy. But you’re not on this case anymore."

Before Bosch could counter, there was a sharp knock on the door and it was cracked open. Bella Lourdes stood there. She waved him out.

"Harry," she said. "We need to talk right now."

There was an urgency in her voice that Bosch could not ignore. He looked back at the others seated at the table and started to get up.

"Hold on a second," he said. "We’re not done."

He stood up and went to the door. Lourdes signaled him all the way out with her fingers. She closed the door behind him. He noticed that the squad room was empty — no one in the module, the captain’s door open and his desk chair empty.

"Harry, we’ve got two down in a robbery at a farmacia on the mall."

"Two what? Officers?"

"No, people there. Behind the counter. Two one-eighty-sevens. The chief wants all hands on this. Are you okay? You want to ride with me?"

The California Penal Code designation for murder was 187. Bosch looked back at the closed door of the war room and thought about what had been said in there. What was he going to do about it? How was he going to handle it?

"Harry, come on, I gotta go. You in or out?"

Bosch looked at her.

"Okay, let’s go."

They moved quickly toward the door to the lobby and the side entrance of the station. He pulled his phone out of his shirt pocket and turned off the recording app.

"What about them?" Lourdes said.

"Fuck them," Bosch said. "They’ll figure it out."


San Fernando was a municipality barely two and a half square miles and surrounded on all sides by the city of Los Angeles. To Harry Bosch it was the proverbial needle in the haystack, the tiny place he had found when his time with the LAPD ended with him still believing he had more to give and a mission unfulfilled. Racked by budgetary shortfalls in the years that followed the 2008 recession, and having laid off a quarter of its forty officers, the Police Department actively pursued the creation of a voluntary corps of retired law officers to work in every section of the department, from patrol to communications to detectives.

When Chief Valdez reached out to Bosch and said he had an old jail cell full of cold cases and no one to work them, it was like a lifeline had been thrown to a drowning man. Bosch was alone and certainly adrift, having unceremoniously left the department he had served for almost forty years at the same time that his daughter left home for college. Most of all, the offer came at a time he felt unfinished. After all the years he had put in, he never expected to walk out the door one day at the LAPD and not be allowed back in.

At a period in their lives when most men took up golf or bought a boat, Bosch felt resolutely incomplete. He was a closer. He needed to work cases, and setting up shop as a private eye or a defense investigator wasn’t going to suit him. He took the offer from the chief and soon was proving he was a closer at the SFPD. And he quickly went from part-time hours working cold cases to mentoring the entire detective bureau. Huey, Dewey, and Louie were dedicated investigators but together they had a total of less than ten years’ experience as detectives. Captain Trevino was only part-time in the unit himself, responsible for supervising both the communications unit and the jail. It fell to Bosch to teach Lourdes, Sisto, and Luzon the mission.

The mall was a two-block stretch of San Fernando Road that went through the middle of town and was lined with small shops, businesses, bars, and restaurants. It was in a historic part of town and was anchored on one end by a large department store that had been closed and vacant for several years, the JC Penney sign still on the front facade. Most of the other signs were in Spanish and the businesses catered to the city’s Latino majority.

It was a three-minute drive from the police station to the scene of the shooting. Lourdes drove her unmarked city car. Bosch tried his best to put the Borders case and what had been discussed in the war room behind him so that he could concentrate on the task at hand.

"So what do we know?" he asked.

"Two dead at La Farmacia Familia," Lourdes said. "Called in by a customer who went in and saw one of the victims. Patrol found the second in the back. Both employees. Looks like a father and son."

"The son an adult?"


"Gang affiliation?"

"No word."

"What else?"

"That’s it. Gooden and Sanders headed out when we got the call. Sheriff’s forensics have been called."

Gooden and Sanders were the two coroner’s investigators who worked out of the sub-leased office in the detective bureau. It was a lucky break having them so close, since they would have to examine the bodies before the detectives and forensics techs could take over the scene. While Bosch had solved three cold case murders since coming to work for San Fernando, this would be the first live murder investigation, so to speak, since his arrival. The protocol and pace would be quite different.

As Lourdes turned in to the mall, Bosch looked ahead and saw that the investigation was already starting off wrong. Three patrol cars were parked directly in front of the farmacia, and that was too close. Traffic through the two-lane mall had not been stopped and drivers were going slowly by the business, hoping to catch a glimpse of the horrors that were inside.

"Pull in here," he said. "Those cars are too close and I’m going to move them back and shut down the street."

Lourdes did as he instructed and parked the car in front of a bar called the Tres Reyes and well behind a growing crowd of onlookers gathering near the drugstore.

Bosch and Lourdes were soon out of the car and weaving through the crowd. Yellow crime scene tape had been strung between the patrol cars, and two officers stood conferring by the trunk of one car while another stood with his hands on his belt buckle, watching the front door of the farmacia.

Bosch saw Chief Valdez standing near the open front door of the store with Sisto and Luzon. It appeared that they were waiting for the all-clear from the coroner’s investigators before entering the crime scene. That was the only good thing Bosch had seen so far. He gave a short, low whistle that drew their attention and then spun a finger in the air to signal he wanted to group everybody into a meeting.

Everyone gathered between two of the patrol cars. Bosch looked at Valdez and waited for the chief to give him the nod to take charge.

"Okay, we need to protect the crime scene a lot better than this," he began. "Patrol, I want you guys to move your cars out and to shut down this block on either end. Tape it up. Nobody comes in without authorization. I then want clipboards on either end, and you write down the name of every cop or lab rat that comes into the crime scene. You write down the license plate number of every car you let out too."

Nobody moved.

"You heard him," Valdez said. "Let’s move it, people. We’ve got two citizens on the floor in there. We need to do right by them."

The patrol officers moved quickly to their cars to carry out Bosch’s orders. That left him with the chief and the three detectives as the black-and-whites backed out on either side of them. Bosch once more looked at Valdez for confirmation of his authority, because he didn’t expect his next moves to go over well.

"I still have this, Chief?" he asked.

"All yours, Harry," Valdez said. "How do you want to do it?"

"Okay, we want to limit people inside," Bosch said. "That’s going to be Lourdes and me. Sisto and Luzon, I want you going down the street in both directions. We’re looking for witnesses and cameras. We — "

"We got here first," Luzon said. "It should be our case."

At about forty, Luzon was the oldest of the three investigators, but he had the least experience as a detective. He was moved into the unit six months ago after twelve years in patrol. He had gotten the promotion to fill the void left by Lourdes’s leave of absence and then Valdez found the money in the budget to keep him on board at a time when there was a spike in property crimes attributed to a local gang called the SanFers.

"That’s not how it works," Bosch said. "Lourdes is going to be lead. I need you two to go two blocks in both directions. We’re looking for the getaway vehicle. We need video and I need you guys to go find it."

Bosch could see Luzon fighting back the urge to again argue Bosch’s orders. But he looked at the chief and saw no indication that the man ultimately in charge disagreed with Bosch.

"You got it," he said.

He headed in one direction while Sisto headed off in the other. Sisto did not complain.

"Take down plates and phone numbers," Bosch called to them.

"Harry," Valdez said. "Let’s talk for a second."

He stepped away from Lourdes and Bosch followed. The chief spoke quietly.

"Look, I get what you’re doing with those two. But I want you on lead. Bella’s good but this is what you do."

"I get that, Chief. But you don’t want me. We have to think about when this gets into court. You don’t want a part-timer on lead. You want Bella. They try character assassination on her, and she’ll eat their lunch after what happened last year and then her coming back to the job. On top of that, she’s good and she’s ready for this. And besides, I may have some problems coming up soon from downtown. You don’t want me on lead."

Valdez looked at him. He knew that "downtown" meant from outside the SFPD, from Bosch’s past.

"We’ll have to talk about that later," he said. "So where do you want me?"/p>

"Media relations," Bosch said. "They’ll get wind of this soon enough and will start showing up. ‘The little town with a murder problem’ — it’ll be a story. You need to set up a command post and corral them. That and see if you can get more bodies from patrol to come in and help with the canvass. There were people in all of these shops. Somebody saw something."

"You got it. What if I can get Penney’s to open up and we use that as the CP? I know the guy who owns the building."

Bosch looked across the street and down half a block at the facade of the long-closed department store.

"If you can get lights on in there, go for it. What about Captain Trevino? Is he around?"

"I have him covering the shop while I was here. You need him?"

"No, I can fill him in on things later."

The chief headed off and Lourdes came up to Bosch.

"Let me guess, he didn’t want me as lead," she said.

"He wanted me," Bosch said. "But it was no reflection on you. I said no. I said it was your case."

"Does that have something to do with the three visitors you had this morning?"

"Maybe. Why don’t you stick your head inside and see how Gooden and Sanders are doing? I want to know when we’re going to get in there. I’ll call the sheriff’s lab and get an ETA."

"Roger that."

Lourdes headed toward the door of the farmacia and Bosch pulled his phone. The SFPD was so small, it did not have its own forensics team. It used the Sheriff’s Department unit and that often put it in second position for services. Bosch called the liaison at the lab and was told a team was on the road to San Fernando as they spoke. Bosch reminded the liaison that they were working a double murder and asked for a second team, but he was denied that request. He was told there wasn’t a second team to spare.

As he hung up, he noticed one of the patrol officers he had given orders to earlier standing at the new crime scene perimeter at the end of the block. Yellow tape had been strung completely across, closing the road through the mall. The patrol officer had his hands on his belt buckle and was watching Bosch.

Bosch put his phone away and walked up the street to the yellow tape and the officer manning it.

"Don’t look in," Bosch said. "Look out."

"What?" the officer asked.

"You’re watching the detectives. You should be watching the street."

Bosch put his hand on the officer’s shoulder and turned him toward the tape.

"Look outward from a crime scene. Look for people watching, people who don’t fit. You’d be surprised how many times the doer comes back to watch the investigation. Anyway, you’re protecting the crime scene, not watching like one of these looky-loos. Got it?"

"Got it."


The forensic team of two evidence technicians arrived shortly after that, and it was another thirty minutes before Bosch, Lourdes, and the team entered the farmacia to go to work. They wore gloves and paper booties. As he entered behind Lourdes, Bosch leaned forward and whispered.

"Make sure you take time just to observe."


When Bosch was a young homicide detective, he worked with a partner named Frankie Sheehan, who always kept an old milk crate in the trunk of their unmarked car. He’d carry it into every scene, find a good vantage point, and put the crate down. Then he’d sit on it and just observe the scene, studying its nuances and trying to take the measure and motive of the violence that had occurred there. Sheehan had worked the Danielle Skyler case with Bosch and had sat on his crate in the corner of the room where the body was strewn nude and viciously violated on the floor. But Sheehan was long dead now and would not be taking the free fall awaiting Bosch.


La Farmacia Familia was a small operation that appeared to Bosch to rely mostly on the business of filling prescriptions. In the front section of the store, there were three short aisles of shelved retail items relating to home remedies and care, almost all of it in Spanish-language boxes imported from Mexico. There were no racks of greeting cards or point-of-purchase candy displays. There was no cold case stocked with sodas and water. The business was nothing like the chain pharmacies scattered across the city.

The entire back wall of the store was the actual pharmacy, where there was a counter that fronted the storage area of medicines and a work area for filling prescriptions. The front section of the store seemed completely untouched by the crime that had occurred here. Bosch moved down an aisle to the left, which brought him to a half door leading to the rear of the pharmacy counter. Immediately he saw blood spatter on the white plastic drawers behind the counter. He then saw Gooden squatting behind the counter next to the first body. It was a man on his back, his hands up and palms out by his shoulders. He was wearing a white pharmacist’s jacket with a name embroidered on it.

"Harry, meet José," Gooden said. "At least he’s José until we confirm it with fingerprints. Through and through gunshot to the chest."

He formed a gun with his thumb and finger as he gave the report and pointed the barrel against his chest.

"We’re talking point-blank," he added. "Maybe six to twelve inches. Guy probably had his hands up and they still shot him."

Bosch didn’t say anything. He was in observation mode. He would form his own impressions about the scene and determine if the victim’s hands were up or down when he was shot. He didn’t need that information from Gooden.

He moved into a hallway to the left and came up behind Lourdes. The passageway led to the work and storage areas and a restroom. There was a door marked Exit that presumably led to a back alley. In the hallway, Sanders, the second coroner’s tech, was on his knees next to a second body, also a male. He wore a pale blue pharmacist’s coat. He was facedown, one arm reaching out toward the door. There were blood smears on the floor, leading to the body. Lourdes walked down the side edge of the hallway, careful not to step in the blood.

"And here we have José Jr.," Sanders said. "We have three points of impact: the back, the rectum, the head — most likely in that order."

Bosch stepped away from Lourdes and crossed over the blood smears to the other side of the hallway so he could get an unobstructed view of the body. José Jr. was lying with his right cheek against the floor. He looked like he was in his midtwenties, a meager growth of whiskers on his chin.

The blood and bullet wounds told the tale. At the first sign of trouble, José Jr. had made a break for the rear door, running for his life down the hallway. He was knocked down with the first shot to the upper back. On the floor, he turned to look behind him, spilling his blood on the floor. He saw the shooter coming and turned to try to crawl toward the door. The shooter had come up and shot him again, this time in the rectum, then stepped up and ended it with the shot to the back of the head.

Bosch had seen the rectum shot in prior cases, and it drew his attention.

"The shot up the pipe — how close?" he asked.

Sanders reached over and used one gloved hand to pull the seat of the victim’s pants out and taut so the bullet entry could be clearly seen. With the other hand he pointed to where the cloth had been burned.

"He got up in there," Sanders said. "Point-blank."

Bosch nodded. His eyes tracked up to the wounds on the back and head. It appeared to him that the two entrance wounds he could see were neater and smaller than the one shot to José Sr.’s chest.

"You thinking two different weapons?" he asked.

Sanders nodded.

"If I were betting," he said.

Bosch nodded in reply.

"Okay, do what you have to do," he said.

He carefully stepped back down the hallway and moved into the pharmacy’s work and drug-storage area. He started by looking up and immediately saw the camera mounted in the corner of the ceiling over the door.

Lourdes entered the room behind him. He pointed up and she saw the camera.

"Need the feed," he said. "Hopefully off-site or to a website."

"I can check that," she said.

Bosch surveyed the room. Several of the drawers where stores of pills were kept were pulled out and dropped to the floor, and loose pills were scattered across it. He knew the difficult task of inventorying what had been in the pharmacy and what was taken lay ahead. Some of the drawers on the floor were larger than others and he guessed that they had contained more commonly prescribed drugs.

On the worktable, there was a computer. There were also tools for measuring out and bottling pills in plastic vials as well as a label printer.

"Let’s get the photographer in here before we start stepping on pills and crunching them," he said.

"I’ll go get him," Lourdes said.

After Lourdes went out, Bosch moved into the hallway again. He knew they would be here until late into the night. The whole place needed to be photographed and videoed, and then the forensics team would gather and document every pill and piece of evidence in the place. A homicide case moved slowly from the center out.

In the old days he would have stepped out at this point to smoke a cigarette and contemplate things. This time he went out through the front door to just think. Almost immediately his phone vibrated in his pocket. The caller ID was blocked.

"That wasn’t cool, Harry," Lucia Soto said when he answered.

"Sorry, we had an emergency," he said. "Had to go."

"You could have told us. I’m not your enemy on this. I’m trying to run interference for you."

"Are they with you right now?"

"No, of course not. This is just you and me."

"Can you get me a copy of the report you turned in to Kennedy?"

"Harry... "

"I thought so. Lucia, don’t say you’re on my side, running interference for me if you’re not. You know what I mean?"

"That’s not fair and you know it."

"Look, I’m in the middle of things here. Give me a call back if you change your mind. I remember there was a case that meant a lot to you once. We were partners and I was right there for you. I guess things are different now."

He disconnected. He felt a pang of guilt. He was being heavy-handed with Soto but felt he needed to push her toward giving him what he needed. He dropped the thought when he saw Lourdes walking up with a troubled look on her face.

"What’s wrong?"

"I came out and Garrison signaled me over to the tape. He had the wife and mother there and she was hysterical. I just put her in a car and they’re taking her to the station."

Bosch nodded. It was a good move.

"You up for talking with her?" he asked. "We can’t leave her over there too long."

"I don’t know," Lourdes said. "I just ruined her life. Everything that’s important to her is suddenly gone."

"I know, but you have to establish rapport. You never know, this case could go on for years. She’s going to need to trust the person carrying it and it shouldn’t be me."

"Okay, I can do it."

"Focus on the son. His friends, what he did when he wasn’t working, enemies, all of that stuff. Find out where he lived, whether he had a girlfriend. And ask her if José Sr. was having any problems with him at work. The son is going to be the key to this."

"You get all that from a shot up the ass?"

Bosch nodded.

"I’ve seen it before. On a case where we talked to a profiler. It’s an angry shot. It has payback written all over it."

"He knew the shooters?"

"No doubt. Either he knew them or they knew him."


Bosch didn’t get home until after midnight. He was beat from a long day working the crime scene and coordinating the efforts of the other detectives as well as the patrol division. The new day had arrived without any arrests being made in the farmacia murders. There were no suspects or even persons of interest yet. The murders and subsequent looting of the store’s supplies of prescription drugs had indeed been captured on three cameras inside the drugstore. But the two gunmen who cut down José Esquivel Sr. and his namesake had pulled black ski masks down over their heads before entering the premises. There was nothing on the initial viewings of the video that was a usable identifier of either shooter.

After parking in the carport, Bosch skipped the side-door entrance to the house and walked out front so he could check his mailbox. He saw that the top of the box attached to the house was held open by a thick manila envelope. He pulled it out and held it under the porch light to see where it had come from.

There was no return address and no postage on the envelope. Even his own address was missing. It had only his name written on it. Bosch unlocked the door and carried the envelope inside. He put it and the mail he had received down on the kitchen counter while he opened the refrigerator to grab a beer.

After his first draw on the amber bottle, he put it to the side and tore open the package. He slid out a one-inch-thick sheaf of documents. He recognized the top report right away. It was a copy of the initial incident report relating to Danielle Skyler’s murder in 1988. Bosch riffled through the stack of documents and quickly determined that he had a copy of the current investigative file.

Lucia Soto had come through.

Bosch was dead tired but he knew that he would not be going to sleep anytime soon. He dumped the rest of the beer down the drain, grabbed the stack of documents, and went to work.

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