"I know the story," Bosch said. "I know it. I just have one question. Why did you snitch to Elias all those years? Was he paying you? Or did you just hate cops so much that you'd do whatever you could to nail them any way you could?"
Again there was no answer from the backseat. At the stop sign Bosch looked to his left and could see the blue lights and the flames again. They had circ.u.mnavigated the police perimeter. The barricades started a block down and he paused with his foot on the brakes and took in the scene. He could see a line of police cruisers behind the barricades. There was a small liquor store on the corner with the windows shattered and jagged pieces of gla.s.s still hanging in the frames. Outside its doors the ground was littered with broken bottles and other debris left by the looters.
"You see that down there, Chastain? All of that? You -"
"- did that. That's -"
"- you didn't go far enough!"
"- all on you."
Picking up on the fear in Chastain's voice, Bosch began turning to his right. In that instant the windshield shattered as a chunk of concrete crashed through it and hit the seat. Through the falling gla.s.s Bosch saw the crowd moving toward the car. Young men with dark angry faces, their individualities lost inside the mob. He saw a bottle in midair coming at the car. He saw it all so clearly and with seemingly so much time that he could even read the label. Southern Comfort. His mind began registering some kind of humor or irony in that.
The bottle came through the opening and exploded on the steering wheel, sending a blast of gla.s.s and liquid into Bosch's face and eyes. His hands involuntarily came up off the wheel to cover himself too late. His eyes began burning from the alcohol. He heard Chastain begin screaming from the backseat.
"GO! GO! GO!"
And then there were two more explosions of gla.s.s as other windows in the car were shattered by missiles of some sort. There was a pounding on the window next to him and the car began to rock violently right to left. He heard someone yanking on the door handle and more gla.s.s being shattered all around him. He heard shouts from outside the car, the angry, unintelligible sounds of the mob. And he heard shouts from the backseat, from Chastain. Hands grabbed at him through the broken windows, pulling at his hair and clothes. Bosch slammed his foot down on the gas pedal and yanked the wheel to the left as the car jerked forward. Fighting against the involuntary instincts of his eyes to stay closed, he managed to open them enough to allow a small slice of blurred and painful vision. The car jumped into the deserted lanes of Normandie and he headed toward the barricades. He knew there was safety at the barricades. He kept his hand on the horn all the way and when he got to the barricades he crashed through and only then did he hit the brakes. The car slid into a tailspin and stopped.
Bosch closed his eyes and didn't move. He heard footsteps and shouts but he knew they were cops coming for him this time. He was safe. He reached forward and put the car into park. He opened his door and quickly there were hands there to help him out and the comforting voices of the blue race.
"Are you okay, man? You need paramedics?"
"Okay, hold still. We'll get somebody here. Just lean here against the car."
Bosch listened as one of the officers barked orders into a rover, announcing he had an injured officer needing medical attention. He demanded that attention right now. Bosch had never felt safer than at that moment. He wanted to thank every one of his rescuers. He felt serene and yet giddy for some reason; like the times he had emerged unscathed from the tunnels in Vietnam. He brought his hands up to his face again and was trying to open one of his eyes. He could feel blood running down the bridge of his nose. He knew he was alive.
"Better leave that alone, man, it doesn't look too good," one voice said.
"What were you doing out there alone?" demanded another.
Bosch got his left eye open and saw a young black patrolman standing in front of him. A white officer was standing to the right.
He ducked and looked into the backseat of the car. It was empty. He checked the front and it was empty, too. Chastain was gone. Bosch's briefcase was gone. He straightened up and looked back down the street at the mob. He reached up and cleared the blood and booze from his eyes so that he could see better. There were fifteen or twenty men down there, all gathered in a tight group, all looking inward at what was at the center of their undulating ma.s.s. Bosch could see sharp, violent movements, legs kicking, fists raised high and then brought down out of sight and into the center.
"Jesus Christ!" the patrolman next to him yelled. "Is that one of us? They got one of us?"
He didn't wait for Bosch's reply. He brought the rover back up and quickly called for all available units for an officer-needs-a.s.sistance call. His voice was frantic, inflected with the horror of what he was seeing a block away. The two officers then ran to their patrol cars and the vehicles stormed down the street toward the crowd.
Bosch just watched. And soon the mob changed its form. The object of its attention was no longer on the ground but was rising, being brought up. Soon Bosch could see Chastain's body raised above their heads and held aloft like a trophy being pa.s.sed by the hands of the victors. His shirt was now badgeless and torn open, his arms were still bound by the handcuffs. One shoe and the accompanying sock were gone and the ivory-white foot stood out like the white bone of a compound fracture through the skin. It was hard to tell from where he stood but Bosch thought Chastain's eyes were open. He could see that his mouth was wide open. Bosch heard the start of a sharp shrieking sound that at first he thought might be the siren of one of the patrol cars racing to the rescue. Then he realized it was Chastain screaming, just before he dropped back into the center of the mob and out of sight.
Bosch watched from the barricades as a platoon of patrol officers flooded the intersection and attempted to chase down members of the mob. The body of John Chastain remained sprawled in the street like a sack of laundry that had fallen off a truck. They had checked him and left the body alone once it was determined that the rescue was too late. Soon the media helicopters were overhead and paramedics came and tended to Bosch. He had lacerations on the bridge of his nose and left eyebrow that needed cleaning and st.i.tches but he refused to go to the hospital. They removed the gla.s.s and closed the wounds with b.u.t.terfly bandages. Then they left him alone.
Bosch spent the next period of time-he wasn't sure how long-wandering behind the barricades until a patrol lieutenant finally came to him and said he would have to return to Seventy-seventh Street Division to be interviewed later by the detectives coming in to handle the investigation. The lieutenant said he would have two officers drive him. Bosch numbly nodded and the lieutenant started issuing orders for a car into his rover. Bosch noticed the looted store across the street and behind the lieutenant. The green neon sign said FORTUNE LIQUORS FORTUNE LIQUORS. Bosch said he would be ready in a minute. He stepped away from the lieutenant and walked across the street and into the store.
The store was long and narrow and prior to that night had had three aisles of merchandise. But the shelves had been cleared and overturned by the looters who had stormed through. The debris on the floor was a foot high in most places and the smell of spilled beer and wine was heavy in the place. Bosch carefully stepped to the counter, which had nothing on it but the plastic rings of a liberated six-pack. He leaned over to look behind the counter and almost let out a scream when he saw the small Asian man sitting on the floor, his knees folded up to his chest and his arms folded across them.
They looked at each other for a long moment. The entire side of the man's face was swelling up and coloring. Bosch guessed it had been a bottle that had hit him. He nodded at the man but there was no response.
The man nodded but didn't look at Bosch.
"You want the paramedics?"
The man shook his head no.
"They take all the cigarettes?"
The man did not respond. Bosch leaned further over and looked under the counter. He saw the cash register-the drawer open-lying on its side on the floor. There were brown bags and matchbooks scattered all over the place. Empty cigarette cartons, too. Placing his body on the counter he was able to reach down and weed through the debris on the floor. But his hunt for a smoke was fruitless.
Bosch raised his eyes to the man sitting on the floor. He was pulling a softpack of Camels out of his pocket. He shook the pack and held it out, the last soldier in it protruding.
"Nah, man, it's your last one. That's okay."
"No, you have."
Bosch took the cigarette and nodded. He reached down to the floor and picked up a pack of matches.
He nodded again to the man and left the store.
Outside, Bosch put the cigarette in his mouth and sucked air through it, tasting it. Savoring it. He opened the matches and lit the cigarette and drew the smoke fully into his lungs and held it there.
"f.u.c.k it," he said.
He exhaled deeply and watched the smoke disappear. He closed the matchbook and looked at it. One side said FORTUNE LIQUORS FORTUNE LIQUORS and the other said and the other said FORTUNE MATCHES FORTUNE MATCHES. He thumbed open the cover again and read the fortune printed on the inside above the red match heads.
HAPPY IS THE MAN WHO FINDS REFUGE IN HIMSELF Bosch closed the matchbook and put it in his pocket. He felt something in there and pulled it out. It was the small bag of rice from his wedding. He threw it up into the air a couple of feet and then caught it. He squeezed it tightly in his fist and then put it back into his pocket.
He looked out across the barricades to the intersection where Chastain's body was now covered with a yellow rain poncho from the trunk of one of the patrol cars. A perimeter had been set up within the larger perimeter and an investigation of the death was just beginning.
Bosch thought about Chastain and the terror he must have felt at the end, when the hands of hate reached in and grabbed him. He understood that terror but felt no sympathy. Those hands had begun reaching for him long ago.
A helicopter came down out of the dark sky and landed on Normandie. Doors opened on either side of the craft and Deputy Chief Irvin Irving and Captain John Garwood climbed out, ready to take control and direct the investigation. They walked briskly toward the clot of officers near the body. The air wash from the helicopter had blown a flap of the poncho off the body. Bosch could see Chastain's face staring up at the sky. An officer stepped over and covered him again.
Irving and Garwood were at least fifty yards away from Bosch but they seemed to know of Bosch's presence and at the same time they both looked toward him. He looked back and didn't flinch in his stare. Garwood, still in his perfect suit, gestured toward Bosch with a hand holding a cigarette. There was a knowing smile on his face. Irving finally looked away and focused his attention on the yellow poncho he was walking toward. Bosch knew the score. The fixer was on the job now. He knew how it would be handled and what the official story would be. Chastain would become a department martyr: pulled out of a patrol car by the mob, bound with his own handcuffs and beaten to death, his murder the justification for whatever else happened at the hands of the police this night. In an unspoken way, he would become the trade-Chastain for Elias. His death-broadcast from the mechanical vultures above-would be used to end the riot before it started. But no one would know outside of a few that it had been Chastain who also started it.
Bosch knew he would be co-opted. Irving could get to him. Because he held the only thing that Bosch had left, that he still cared about. His job. He knew Irving would trade that for his silence. And he knew he would take the deal.
Bosch's thoughts kept returning to that moment in the car when he had been blinded and he felt the hands reaching and grabbing for him. Through the terror a lucid calmness had come over him and he now found himself almost cherishing the moment. For he had been strangely at peace. In that moment he had found an essential truth. He knew somehow that he would be spared, that the righteous man was beyond the grasp of the fallen.
He thought about Chastain and his final scream, a wail so loud and horrible as to be almost inhuman. It was the sound of fallen angels in their flight to h.e.l.l. Bosch knew he could never allow himself to forget it.
By Michael Connelly
The Black Echo
The Black Ice
The Concrete Blonde
The Last Coyote
A Darkness More than Night
The Harry Bosch Novels
City of Bones
Chasing the Dime
The Harry Bosch Novels 2
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»