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The Last Coyote Lost Chapter: 1961

The Last Coyote Lost Chapter: 1961

Published here for the first time is a chapter from The Last Coyote that never made it into the final published book. It is a glimpse into Harry Bosch’s past. It was originally written as the prologue to the book. It takes place at the youth hall where an 11-year-old Harry was placed after he was removed from his mother’s custody because she was deemed an unfit mother.

Michael was asked why he, initially at least, wanted to start the book with this scene at the youth hall? Here is his answer:

“It doesn’t specifically say it, but this scene was the last time he ever saw his mother. Obviously, that would be a significant moment in his life. So initially I just wanted to create that scene and to show two things; that his mother was working hard to get him back and that despite the sad situation he and she were in, he loved her no matter what. I thought that showing this would help the reader understand why her unsolved murder would haunt Harry until he finally blew the dust off it and investigated it. However, pieces of this scene were mentioned or thought about by Harry in later sections of the book and it was thought that removing the prologue got the reader into the present day story more quickly and smoothly while the sentiment was expressed later on.”

1961

All the picnic tables were already taken by mothers and sons when they got outside so the boy led his visitor to the grass along the fence. The fence served as both the right field limit of the softball field and the barrier to the outside world. Few of the boys ever hit to the fence. And it seemed as though fewer ever got beyond it to the outside world.

They didn’t speak until they got there and then both stood looking out through the fence. The San Gabriel Mountains were distant in the smog. It smelled like rain to the boy but it had been weeks since there had been any and he had had false premonitions of rain before. The Public Social Services lady who had followed them stood about twenty feet away. Watching everybody, but not watching anybody.

The visitor broke the silence.

“Is it any better for you now?”

“It’s okay” the boy replied. “Don’t worry.”

“I have to worry about you, you’re my baby.”

“I’m not a baby.”

“I know. You know what I mean.”

They didn’t speak for a while after that but that was okay. He just liked being with her and there was an easy comfort whether they spoke or not. She never missed a visit. He knew that was so she could show the Court, but he thought that she’d come every time even if it only mattered to them and the Court had nothing to do with it.

The Court was something he didn’t really understand yet. He’d actually never been there, but he had heard awful stories in the Hall from some of the other boys. What he found most baffling was that he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. Why had the Court put him here? Why couldn’t he leave?

He turned and leaned his back against the fence. A couple of the kids were trying to get a game going on the diamond. He knew they wouldn’t ask him. The PSS lady saw the game starting and walked to the side of the field, a safe enough distance from home plate so that she wouldn’t get hit with anything. The boy guessed that she knew they would intentionally try to hit one at her or maybe send an errant throw her way during the warm up between innings.

The woman with the boy also saw the game starting.

“You know, next season the Dodgers will be in the new stadium in downtown. Chavez Ravine. Won’t that be fun? We’ll go see Koufax.  Opening day. I promise. Would you like that?”

He nodded and tried to smile.

“Did you read the books?”

“One of them. I’m not finished with the other one yet.”

“I’ll have to take them back when you’re done. They’re from the library.”

“I know.”

That was why he had hidden them between his pillow and the slip case. He protected the books like they were gold. He thought that if they were stolen and she got blamed for not taking them back to the library, the Court would find out. This was a major fear he had, but he never wanted to tell her not to bring the books. He knew it meant a lot to her and so he read them. And he liked them. Of the two brothers, he thought he liked Joe Hardy the best. But he usually guessed the endings to the mysteries before either of them.

He noticed she was wearing the belt he had given her for her birthday. He knew she liked it because she wore it every time. He’d had help picking it out. And paying for it. That reminded him.

“How is Aunt Meredith?”

“She’s great. She was going to come .. .”

She didn’t finish but that was all right. He could guess the rest.  Meredith had a job.

“I talked to the attorney,” she said. “He said the appeal hasn’t been put on the court’s calendar yet but we’re almost there, baby. When it gets — I’m sorry, I’ll try to stop calling you that. Anyway, when it gets close to being on calendar I’m going to get a job at the coffee shop on Ivar. I already talked to Mr. Sinkowski about it. Me having a regular job will help. The attorney said that if I — Hey, what happened to your new Keds?”

The boy shrank back against the fence and wished the grass was tall enough so that he could hide his feet. He looked down at them as if they were somebody else’s, not his. He had hoped she wouldn’t notice. That was why he had wanted to get one of the picnic tables. She wouldn’t have noticed the missing Keds then.

“Nothing happened to them,” he tried. “I’m just wearing these today.”

“There’s holes in those. Don’t the new ones fit right?”

“They fit fine. I just …”

He looked away, toward the mountains. He hated lying to her. But he hated to hurt her or make her feel bad. He suddenly felt like crying but knew it would then make her cry. She stepped closer and turned his face with her hands. She leaned down a few inches to put her forehead against his. She always did this when she wanted him to tell her something that hurt to tell. She spoke very low and sweetly the way mothers do.

“What happened to your shoes, darling?”

He hesitated only long enough to swallow.

“One of the older kids in the dorm took them.”

“How old?”

“I think he’s thirteen.”

“Thirteen? Why would he take them? They wouldn’t fit him.”

He didn’t answer.

“Hieronymus, tell me.”

Her use of his formal name was always the trick that destroyed all his resistance. She was the only one who ever called him that and so it had taken on a special meaning when she used it.

“He took them because he could.”

She straightened up and the boy could see her anger. It was a mother’s protective anger. She looked around for the PSS lady.

“Come’on, we’re going to talk to Mrs. Matthews and get your shoes back.”

She grabbed his hand and started toward the PSS lady. He pulled back, stopping her.

“No. That would only make it worse.”

“Why?”

“Because. Look, I don’t need the shoes. I can’t go anywhere anyway. It doesn’t matter what shoes I have.”

He realized that with those words he had done what he most of all wanted not to do. He had brought the pain they both shared out into the open. He could see it work its way into her eyes. And he knew that before long she would start to cry.

All the mothers cried when they came here on visiting day. And so did the sons. And none of the boys ever made fun of each other afterward. Even the older ones. Now if a boy cried when hurt on the ballfield or in the dorm when the bigger boys took his shoes away, then that was fair cause for childhood taunting and his demotion to crybaby status. But the unspoken rule was that a boy could cry with his mother on visiting day and not have to pay a price in boyhood pride. That was the way it was.

She pulled him close and hugged him, his head against her cheek. He raised his arms and put them around her. After a while he could feel her tears in his short hair. Then she whispered in his ear.

“I’m going to get you out of here.  I promise, baby.  I don’t care what I have to do, but I’m going to get you back with me.”

“I’m not worried,” he said in a strangled voice.  It was all he could manage to get out.