The Crossing Excerpt
They ate at Traxx in Union Station. It was a nice place that was courthouse close and favored at lunchtime by judges and lawyers. The waiter knew Haller and she didn’t bother giving him a menu. He simply ordered the usual. Bosch took a quick look and ordered a hamburger and French fries, which seemed to disappoint Haller.
On the walk over they had talked about family matters. Bosch and Haller were half brothers and had daughters the same age. In fact, the girls were planning to room together in September at Chapman University down in Orange County. Both had applied to the school without knowing the other’s intention until they celebrated their acceptance letters on the same day on Facebook. From there their plan to be roommates quickly formed. The fathers were happy about this because they knew they would be able to pool their efforts to monitor the girls’ well-being and adjustment to college life.
Now as they sat at the table with a window that looked out on the train station’s cavernous waiting room, it was time to get down to business. Bosch was expecting an update on the case Haller was handling for him. The previous year Bosch had been suspended from the LAPD on a trumped-up beef when he had picked the lock on a captain’s office door so he could look at old police records connected to a murder investigation he was actively working. It was a Sunday and Bosch didn’t want to have to wait for the captain to come in the next day. The infraction was minor but could have been the first step in the firing process. It forced Bosch to retire early so he could protect his pension and the payout from the Deferred Retirement Option Plan in which he had been enrolled. He then hired Haller to file a lawsuit against the city, charging that the police department was engaged in unlawful tactics to force veteran officers and detectives out. They were arguing that the cops were looking to put the reins on the DROP program, which threatened to bankrupt the city pension fund.
Because Haller had requested a meeting in person, Bosch expected that the news would not be good. Previously Haller had given him updates on the case by phone. Bosch knew something was up.
He decided to put off the news by going back to the hearing that had just ended.
“So I guess you’re pretty proud of yourself, getting that drug dealer off,” he said.
“You know as well as I do that he’s not going anywhere,” Haller responded. “The judge had no choice. Now the DA will deal it down and my guy will still do some time.”
“But the cash in the trunk,” he said. “I bet that goes back to him. What’s your piece on that? If you don’t mind my asking.”
“Fifty K, plus I get the car,” Haller said. “He won’t need it in jail. I got a guy handles that stuff. A liquidator. I’ll get another couple grand out of the car.”
“Not bad if I can get it. Need to pay the bills. Hennegan hired me because he knew my name from a bus bench right there at Florence and Normandie. He saw it from the backseat of the cruiser they put him in and he memorized the phone number. I’ve got sixty of those benches around town and that costs money. Gotta keep gas in the tank, Harry.”
Bosch had insisted on paying Haller for his work on the lawsuit, but it wasn’t anything as stratospheric as the potential Hennegan payday. Haller had even been able to keep costs down on the lawsuit by having an associate handle most of the non-courtroom work. He called it his law enforcement discount.
“Speaking of cash, you see how much Chapman is going to cost us?” Haller asked.
“It’s steep,” he said. “I made less than that the first ten years I was a cop. But Maddie’s got a couple scholarships. How’d Hayley do on those?”
“She did all right. It certainly helps.”
Bosch nodded and it seemed as though they had covered everything but the thing the meeting was about.
“So, I guess you can give me the bad news now,” he said. “Before the food gets here.”
“What bad news?” Haller asked.
“I don’t know. But this is the first time you called me in for an update on things. I figure it’s not looking good.”
Haller shook his head.
“Oh, I’m not going to even talk about the LAPD thing. That case is chugging along and we still have them in the corner. I wanted to talk about something else. I want to hire you, Harry.”
“Hire me. What do you mean?”
“You know I have the Lexi Parks case, right? I’m defending Da’Quan Foster?”
Bosch was thrown by the unexpected turn in the conversation.
“Uh, yeah, you’ve got Foster. What’s it have to do—”
“Well, Harry, I’ve got the trial coming up in six weeks and I don’t have jack shit for a defense. He didn’t do it, man, and he is in the process of being totally fucked by our wonderful legal system. He’s going to go down for her murder if I don’t do something. I want to hire you to work it for me.”
Haller leaned across the table with urgency. Bosch involuntarily leaned back from him. He still felt as though he were the only guy in the restaurant who didn’t know what was going on. Since his retirement he had pretty much dropped out of having day-to-day knowledge of things going on in the city. The names Lexi Parks and Da’Quan Foster were on the periphery of his awareness. He knew it was a case and he knew it was big. But for the past six months he had tried to stay away from newspaper stories and TV reports that might remind him of the mission he had carried for nearly thirty years—catching killers. He had gone so far as to start a long-planned-but-never-realized restoration project on an old Harley-Davidson motorcycle that had been gathering dust and rust in his carport shed for almost twenty years.
“But you’ve already got an investigator,” he said. “That big guy with the big arms. The ex-biker.”
“Yeah, Cisco, except Cisco’s on the DL and he’s not up to handling a case like this,” Haller said. “I catch a murder case maybe once every other year. I only took this one because Foster’s a longtime client. I need you on this, Harry.”
“The DL? What happened to him?”
Haller shook his head like he was in pain.
“The guy rides a Harley out there every day, lane-splitting whenever he wants, wearing one of those half helmets that is total bullshit when it comes to protecting your neck. I told him it was only a matter of time. I asked him for dibs on his liver. There is a reason they call them cycles. And it doesn’t matter how good a rider you are, it’s always the other guy.”
“So what happened?”
“He was cruising down Ventura one night a while back and some yahoo comes up, sideswipes him, and pushes him into head-on traffic. He dodges one car and then has to lay the bike down—it’s an old one, no front brakes—and he skids through an entire intersection on his hip. Luckily he was wearing leathers, so the road rash wasn’t too hideous, but he fucked up his ACL. He’s down for the count right now and they’re talking about a total knee replacement. But it doesn’t matter. My point is, Cisco’s a great defense investigator and he already took a swing at this. What I need is an experienced homicide detective. Harry, I’m not going to be able to live with it if my guy goes down for this. Innocent clients leave scars, if you know what I mean.”
Bosch stared at him blankly for a long moment.
“I’ve already got a project,” he finally said.
“What do you mean, a case?” Haller asked.
“No, a motorcycle. A restoration. A ’fifty-one Harley like the one Lee Marvin rode in I inherited it from a guy I knew in the service way back. Twenty years ago he wrote it into his will that I get the bike and then he jumped off a cliff up in Oregon. I’ve had the bike in storage since I got it.”
Haller waved a hand dismissively.
“So it’s waited all that time. It can wait longer. I’m talking about an innocent man and I don’t know what I can do. I’m desperate. Nobody’s listening and—”
“It’ll undo everything.”
“I work a case for you—not just you, any defense lawyer—and it’ll undo everything I did with the badge.”
Haller looked incredulous.
“Come on. It’s a case. It’s not—”
“Everything. You know what they call a guy who switches sides in homicide? They call him a Jane Fonda, as in hanging with the North Vietnamese. You get it? It’s crossing to the dark side.”
Haller looked off through the window into the waiting room. It was crowded with people coming down from the Metro Line tracks on the roof.
Before Haller said anything the waiter brought their food. He stared across the table at Bosch the whole time the woman was placing the plates down and refilling their glasses with iced tea. When she was gone, Bosch spoke first.
“Look, it’s nothing personal—if I did it for anybody, it would probably be you.”
It was true. They were the sons of a fabled L.A. defense attorney but had grown up miles and generations apart. They had only come to know each other in recent years. Despite the fact that Haller was across the aisle from Bosch, so to speak, Harry liked and respected him.
“I’m sorry, man,” he continued. “That’s how it is. It’s not like I haven’t thought about this. But there’s a line I can’t bring myself to cross. And you’re not the first one to ask.”
“I get that. But what I am offering is something different. I got this guy I’m convinced was somehow set up for murder and there’s DNA I can’t shake and he’s going to go down for it unless I get someone like you to help me—”
“Come on, Haller, don’t embarrass yourself. Every defense lawyer in every courthouse says the same thing every day of the week. Every client is innocent. Every client is getting railroaded, set up. I heard it for thirty years, every time I sat in a courtroom. But you know what? I don’t have a second thought about anybody I ever put in the penitentiary. And at some point or other every one of them said they didn’t do it.”
Haller didn’t respond and Bosch took the time to take his first bite of food. It was good but the conversation had soured the taste in his mouth. Haller started moving his salad around with his fork but he didn’t eat anything.
“Look, all I’m saying is look at the case, see for yourself. Go talk to him and you’ll be convinced.”
“I’m not going to talk to anybody.”
Bosch wiped his mouth with his napkin and put it down on the table next to his plate.
“You want to talk about something else here, Mick? Or should I just take this to go?”
Haller didn’t respond. He looked down at his own uneaten food. Bosch could see the fear in his eyes. Fear of failure, fear of having to live with something bad.
Haller put his fork down.
“I’ll make a deal with you,” he said. “You work the case and if you find evidence against my guy, you take it to the D.A. Anything you find, no matter how it cuts, we share with the D.A. Wide-open discovery—anything that doesn’t fall directly under attorney-client privilege.”
“Yeah, what will your client say about that?”
“He’ll sign off on it because he’s innocent.”
“Look, just think about it. Then let me know.”
Bosch pushed his plate away. He’d taken only one bite but lunch was over. He started wiping his hands on the cloth napkin.
“I don’t have to think about it,” he said. “And I can let you know right now. I can’t help you.”
Bosch stood up and dropped the napkin on his food. He reached into his pocket, peeled off enough cash to pay for both sides of the check, and put the money down under the saltshaker. All this time Haller just stared out into the waiting room.
“That’s it,” Bosch said. “I’m going to go.”
Bosch knew that the task in front of him would be the most vital part of the restoration. He had dismantled the motorcycle’s carburetor, cleaned all the parts, and laid them out on a spread of old newspapers on the dining room table. He had bought a rebuild kit at Glendale Harley and now it was time to put the carburetor back together. It was the beating heart of the bike. If he misseated a gasket, left the pilot jet dirty, or mishandled any of a dozen things during the reassembly, then the whole restoration would be for naught.
Phillips head screwdriver in hand, he studied the pages in the Clymer manual one more time before starting the assembly by reversing the steps he had followed when he took the carburetor apart a few days before. The John Handy Quintet was on the stereo and the song was “Naima,” Handy’s 1967 ode to John Coltrane. Bosch thought it was up there with the best live saxophone performances ever captured.
With Bosch following Clymer’s step-by-step, the carburetor quickly began to take shape. When he reached for the pilot jet, he noticed that it had been lying on top of a newspaper photo of the state’s former governor, cigar clenched in his teeth, a broad smile on his face as he threw his arm around another man, whom Bosch identified as a former state assemblyman from East L.A.
Bosch realized that the edition of the that he had spread out was an old one that he had wanted to keep. It had contained a classic report on politics. A few years earlier, in his last hour in office, the governor had used his authority under executive clemency to reduce the sentence of a man convicted of murder. He happened to be the son of his pal the assemblyman. The son had been involved with others in a fight and fatal stabbing, had made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty, but then was unhappy when the judge handed him a prison sentence of fifteen to thirty years. On his way out the door at the end of his term of office, the governor knocked it down to six years.
If the governor thought nobody would notice his last official act in office, then he was wrong. The shit hit the fan with charges of cronyism, favoritism, politics of the worst kind. The cranked up an extensive two-part report on the whole sordid chapter. It sickened Bosch to read it but not so that he recycled the paper. He kept it to read again and again to be reminded of the politics of the justice system. Before running for office the governor had been a movie star specializing in playing larger-than-life heroes—men willing to sacrifice everything to do the right thing. He was now back in Hollywood, trying to be a movie star once again. But Bosch was resolved that he would never watch another one of his films—even on free TV.
Thoughts of injustice prompted by the newspaper article made Bosch wander from the carburetor project. He got up from the table and wiped his hands on the shop cloth he kept with his tools. He then threw it down, remembering that he used to spread murder books out on this table, not motorcycle parts. He opened the sliding glass door in the living room and walked out onto the deck to look at the city. His house was cantilevered on the west side of the Cahuenga Pass, offering him a view across the 101 freeway to Hollywood Heights and Universal City.
It was the end of the workday and already dark. The 101 freeway was a ribbon of white and red lights, choked with traffic moving both ways through the pass. Since his retirement Bosch had reveled in not being a part of it anymore. The traffic, the workday, the tension, and responsibility of it all.
But he also thought of it as a false sense of revelry. He knew that, no matter how stressful it was being down there in that slow-moving river of steel and light, he belonged there. That in some way he was needed down there.
Mickey Haller had appealed to him at lunch on the grounds that his client was an innocent man. That of course would have to be proved. But Haller had missed the other half of that equation. If his client was truly innocent, then there was a killer out there whom no one was even looking for. A killer devious enough to set up an innocent man. Despite his protestations at the restaurant, that fact bothered Bosch. It was something he had trouble leaving alone.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and hit a number on the favorites list. The call was answered after five rings by the urgent voice of Virginia Skinner.
“Harry, I’m on deadline, what is it?”
Bosch had forgotten about her deadline schedule. She wrote a city politics column that ran on Tuesdays.
“Sorry. I’ll call you after.”
“No, I’ll call you.”
He disconnected the call and went back inside the house to grab a beer out of the refrigerator and to check its stores. He determined that he had nothing he could tempt Virginia with to come up the mountain. Besides, Bosch’s daughter would be coming home from her Police Explorer’s shift at about ten and it could get awkward with Virginia in the house. She and Maddie were still in the early stages of getting to know each other’s boundaries.
Bosch decided that when Skinner called back, he would offer to meet her somewhere for dinner instead.
He had just opened a bottle and switched the CD to a Ron Carter import recorded at the Blue Note Tokyo when his phone buzzed.
“Hey, that was fast.”
“I just turned in my column. Richie Bed-wetter will call me in ten or fifteen minutes to go over the edit. Is that enough time to talk?”
Richie Bed-wetter was her editor, Richard Ledbetter. She called him that because he was inexperienced and young—more than twenty years her junior—but insisted on trying to tell her how to handle her beat and write her column, which he wanted to call a blog. Things would be coming to a head between them soon, and Bosch was worried that Virginia was the vulnerable one, since her experience translated into a higher paycheck and therefore a more appealing target to management.
“Yeah, sure, I just wanted to see if you were up for dinner. If I head out now I’d get down there just about the time you clear.”
“Where do you want to go? Somewhere downtown?”
“Or near your place. Your call. But not Indian.”
“Of course, no Indian. Let me think on it and I’ll have a plan when you’re close. Call me before you reach Echo Park. In case.”
“Okay. But listen, can you do me a favor and pull up some stories on a case?”
“Sure, what case?”
“There’s a guy that got arrested for murder. LAPD case, I think. His name is Da’Quan Foster. I want to see—”
“Yeah, DQ Foster. The guy who killed Lexi Parks.”
“Harry, that’s a big case.”
“You don’t need me to pull stories. Just go on the paper’s website and punch in her name. There are a lot of stories about her because of who she was and because he didn’t get arrested until like a month after it happened. And it’s not an LAPD case. It’s Sheriff’s. Happened in West Hollywood. Look, I gotta go. Just got the signal from Richie.”
She was gone. Bosch put the phone in his pocket and went back to the dining room table. Holding the corners of the newspaper, he pulled the carburetor project to the side. He then took his laptop down off a shelf and turned it on. While he waited for it to boot, he looked at the carburetor sitting on the newspaper. He realized he had been wrong to think it could be the heart of anything.
On the stereo Ron Carter was accompanied by two guitars and playing a Milt Jackson song called “Bags’ Groove.” It got Bosch thinking about his own groove and what he was missing.
When the computer was ready he pulled up the website and searched the name Lexi Parks. There were 333 stories in which Lexi Parks was mentioned going back six years, long before her murder. Bosch narrowed it to the current year and found twenty-six stories listed by date and headline. The first was dated February 9, 2015:
Bosch scanned the entries until he came to a headline dated March 19, 2015:
Bosch went back and clicked on the first story, figuring he could at least read the first story on the murder and the first on the arrest before heading to his car for the drive downtown.
The initial report on the murder of Lexi Parks was more about the victim than the crime because the Sheriff’s Department was revealing few details about the actual murder. In fact, all the details contained in the report could be summarized in one sentence: Parks had been beaten to death in her bed and was found by her husband when he returned home from working the midnight shift as a sheriff’s deputy in Malibu.
Bosch cursed out loud when he read the part about the victim’s husband being a deputy. That would make Bosch’s possible involvement in the case for the defense an even greater offense to those in law enforcement. Haller had conveniently left that detail out when he urged Bosch to look into the case.
Still, he continued to read, and learned that Lexi Parks was one of four assistant city managers for West Hollywood. Among her responsibilities were the departments of Public Safety, Consumer Protection, and Media Relations. It was her position as the chief spokesperson for the city and the front-line media interface that accounted for the “well-liked” description in the headline. She was thirty-eight years old at the time of her death and had worked for the city for twelve years, starting as a code inspector and rising steadily through promotions.
Parks had met her husband, Deputy Vincent Harrick, while both were on the job. West Hollywood contracted with the Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement services and Harrick was assigned to the station on San Vicente Boulevard. Once Parks and Harrick got engaged, Harrick asked for a transfer out of the West Hollywood station to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest with both of them working for the city. He worked at first in the south county out of the Lynwood station and then transferred out to Malibu.
Bosch decided to read the next story in the digital queue in hopes of getting more detail about the case. The headline promised he would: The story, published one day after the first, reported that sheriff’s homicide investigators were looking at the murder as a home invasion in which Parks was attacked in her bed as she slept, sexually assaulted, and then brutally beaten with a blunt object. The story did not say what the object was or whether it was recovered. It made no mention of any evidence that had been collected at the scene. After these scant few details of the investigation were revealed, the story transitioned into a report on the reaction to the crime among those who knew Parks and her husband, as well as the horror the crime had invoked in the community. It was reported that Vincent Harrick had taken a leave of absence to deal with the grief arising from his wife’s murder.
After reading the second story, Bosch looked back at the list of stories and scanned the headlines. The next dozen or so didn’t sound promising. The case remained in the news on a daily and then weekly basis but the headlines carried a lot of negatives. Bosch knew that going out with a reward was in effect announcing that you had nothing and were grasping at straws.
And then they got lucky. The fifteenth story in the queue, published forty days after the murder, announced the arrest of forty-one-year-old Da’Quan Foster for the murder of Lexi Parks. Bosch opened the story and learned that the connection to Foster seemingly came out of the blue, a match made on DNA evidence collected at the scene of the crime. Foster was arrested with the help of a team of LAPD officers at the Leimert Park artists’ studio, where he was teaching a painting class as part of an after-school program for children.
That last piece of information gave Bosch pause. It didn’t fit with his idea of what a gang shot caller was all about. He wondered if Foster was booking community-service hours as part of a criminal sentence. He kept reading. The story said that DNA collected at the Parks crime scene had been entered into the state’s data bank and was matched to a sample taken from Foster following his arrest in 1996 on suspicion of rape. No charge was ever filed against him in that case but his DNA remained on file in the state Department of Justice data bank.
Bosch wanted to read more of the stories in the coverage but was running out of time if he wanted to meet Virginia Skinner. He saw one headline that came a few days after Foster’s arrest: He opened the story and quickly scanned it. It was a community-generated story that held that Da’Quan Foster was a reformed Rollin’ 40s Crips member who had straightened his life out and was giving back to his community. He was a self-taught painter who had work hanging in a Washington, DC, museum. He ran a studio on Degnan Boulevard where he offered after-school and weekend programs for area children. He was married and had two young children of his own.
The story included statements from many locals who expressed either disbelief at the charges or outright suspicion that Foster had somehow been set up. No one quoted in the article believed he had killed Lexi Parks or been anywhere near West Hollywood on the night in question. In an attempt to balance the article, the reporter went to the sheriff’s investigators who chose to provide little more information than had been put out with the announcement of the arrest.
From what he had read, it was unclear to Bosch whether Foster even knew the victim in the case or why he had targeted her.
Harry closed the laptop. He would read all of the stories later, but he didn’t want to leave Virginia Skinner waiting for him—wherever it was she would choose to meet. He got up from the table and went back to his bedroom to put on a fresh shirt and nicer shoes. Ten minutes later he was driving down the hill to the freeway. Once he joined the steel river and cleared the pass he pulled out his phone and hooked up the earpiece so he’d be legal. When he carried a badge, he used to not care about such minor things, but now he could be ticketed for talking on a cell while driving.
From the background sound, he guessed he had caught Haller in the backseat of the Lincoln. They were both on the road, going somewhere.
“I’ve got questions about Foster,” Bosch said.
“Shoot,” Haller said.
“What was the DNA—blood, saliva, semen?”
“Semen. A deposit on the victim.”
“ or in?”
“Both. In the vagina. On the skin, upper thigh on the right.”
Bosch drove in silence for a few moments. The freeway was elevated as it cut through Hollywood. He was passing by the Capitol Records Building. It was built to look like a stack of records but that was a different time. Not many people listened to records anymore.
“What else?” Haller asked. “I’m glad you’re thinking about the case.”
“How long have you known this guy?” Bosch asked.
“Almost twenty years. He was my client. He was no angel but there was something soft about him. He wasn’t a killer. He was too smart for that. Anyway, he turned things around and got out. That’s why I know.”
“That he didn’t do this.”
“I read some of the stories online. Where are you in discovery? Did you get the murder book yet?”
“I got it. But if you are getting interested in this I think you need to talk to my client. You read the book, and you’re going to get the other side’s case. You’re not going to—”
“I don’t care. It’s all about the book. It begins and ends with the book. When can I get a copy?”
“I can get it put together by tomorrow.”
“Good. Call me and I’ll come get it.”
“So then you’re in?”
“Just call me when you have the book ready.”
Bosch clicked off the call. He thought about the conversation and what he was feeling after reading the newspaper stories. He had made no commitment yet. He had crossed no line. But he couldn’t deny that he was getting close to the line. He also could not deny the growing feeling that he was about to get back on the mission.