Authors: Michael Connelly
Tags: #Crime &, #mystery
“I’m lead on the case. I’ve been the one talking to the reporters.”
McCaleb nodded again.
“Okay,” I said. “All this is good in terms of understanding what a nut this guy is. But what do you have that will help point us to the right guy?”
“You know how the Realtors say, location, location, location? It’s the same with me. The place he chose to leave her is significant in that it plays into his exhibitionistic tendencies. You have the Hollywood Hills here. You have Mulholland Drive and the view of the city. This girl was not dropped here randomly. This place was chosen, perhaps just as carefully as she was chosen as a victim. The conclusion is that the drop site is a place our killer may be familiar with because of the routines of his life, but nonetheless was not chosen because of reasons of convenience. He chose this spot, he wanted this spot, because it was the best spot to announce his work to the world. It was part of the canvas. It means he could have come from a long distance to leave her there. He could have come a few blocks.”
I noticed the use of
I knew if Frankie had come with me he would’ve blown a gasket by now. I let it go.
“Did you look at the list I gave you of the forty-six names?”
“Yes, I looked at everything. And I think your instincts are good. The two potential suspects you highlighted both fit the profile I constructed for this killing. Late twenties with a history of crimes of escalating nature.”
“The Woodland Hills janitor has routine access to industrial cleaners—we could match something to the cleaning agent used on the body. He’s the one we like best.”
McCaleb nodded but didn’t say anything. He seemed to be studying the photographs, which were now spread across the desk.
“You like the other guy, don’t you? The stage builder from Burbank.”
McCaleb turned and looked directly at me.
“Yeah, I like him better. His crimes, though minor, fall more into line with the sexual predator maturation models we have seen. I think when we talk to him we have to make sure we do it in his home. We’ll get a better feel for him. We’ll know.”
“Yes. And we need to do it soon.”
He nodded to the photos covering his desk.
“This wasn’t a one-shot deal. Whoever he is, he’s going to do it again… if he hasn’t already.”
I had been responsible for many men going to San Quentin but I had never been there myself before. At the gate I showed ID and was given a printout with instructions that directed me to a fenced lot for law enforcement vehicles. At a nearby door marked L
I was ushered through the great wall of the prison and my weapon was taken and locked in a gun vault. I was given a red plastic chit with the number 7 printed on it.
After my name was put into the computer and the prearranged clearances were noted, a guard who didn’t bother introducing himself walked me through an empty rec yard to a brick building that had darkened over time to a fireplace black. It was the death house, the place where Seguin would get the juice in one week’s time.
We moved through a mantrap and a metal detector and I was passed off to a new guard. He opened a solid steel door and pointed me down a hall.
“Last one on the right,” he said. “When you want out wave at one of the cameras. We’ll be watching.”
He left me there, closing the steel door with a thunderous bang that seemed to reverberate through my marrow.
Frankie Sheehan wasn’t happy about it but I was the lead and I made the call. I allowed McCaleb to come with us on the interviews. We started with Victor Seguin. He was first on McCaleb’s list, second on mine. But there was something about the intensity in McCaleb’s eyes and words that made me defer and go with Seguin first.
Seguin was a stage builder who lived on Screenland Drive in Burbank. It was a small house with a lot of woodwork you might expect to find in a carpenter’s house. It looked as though when Seguin wasn’t finding movie work he was home building handsome window boxes and planters for the house.
The Ford Taurus with the license plate number 1JK2LL4 was parked in the driveway. I put my hand on the hood as we walked up the driveway to the door. It was cold.
, just as the light was leaving the sky, I knocked on the front door. Seguin answered in blue jeans and a T-shirt. No shoes. I saw his eyes go wide when he looked at me. He knew who I was before I held up the badge and said my name. I felt the cold finger of adrenaline slide down my backbone. I remembered what McCaleb had said about the killer tracking the police while they tracked him. I had been on TV talking about the case. I had been in the papers.
Giving nothing away, I calmly said, “Mr. Seguin, that’s your car in the driveway, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s mine. What about it? What’s going on?”
“We need to ask you about it, if you don’t mind. Can we come in for a few minutes?”
“Well, no, I’d first like to know what—”
I moved across the threshold, forcing him to step back. The others followed me in.
“Hey, wait a minute, what is this?”
We had worked it out before we’d arrived. The interview was mine to conduct. Frankie was second seat. McCaleb said he just wanted to observe. The living room was carpenter overkill. Built-in bookshelves on three walls. A wooden mantel that was too big for the room had been built around the small brick fireplace. A floor-to-ceiling television cabinet was built in place as a divider between the sitting area and what looked like a little office nook.
I nodded approvingly.
“Nice work. You get a lot of downtime with your work?”
Seguin reluctantly nodded.
“Did most of this when we had the strike a couple years ago.”
“What do you do?”
“Stage builder. Look, what is this about my car? You can’t just push your way in here like this. I have rights.”
“Why don’t you sit down, Mr. Seguin. We believe your car was possibly used in the commission of a serious crime.”
Seguin dropped into a soft chair positioned for best viewing of the television. I noticed that McCaleb was moving about the outer edges of the room, studying the books on the shelves and the various knickknacks displayed on the mantel and other surfaces. Sheehan sat down on the couch to Seguin’s left. He stared at him coldly, wordlessly.
I let that sink in. But it appeared to me that Seguin had recovered from his initial shock and was hardening. I had seen this before. He was going to try to ride it out.
“Does anyone drive your car besides you, Mr. Seguin?”
“Sometimes. If I loan it to somebody.”
“What about three weeks ago, August fifteenth, did you lend it to anybody?”
“I don’t know. I’d have to check. I don’t think I want to answer any more questions and I think I want you people to leave now.”
McCaleb slid into the seat to Seguin’s right. I remained standing. I looked at McCaleb and he nodded slightly and only once. But I knew what he was telling me: he’s the guy.
I looked at my partner. Frankie had missed the sign from McCaleb because he had not taken his eyes off Seguin. I had to make a call. Go with McCaleb’s signal or back out. I looked at McCaleb again. He looked up at me, his eyes as intense as any I had ever seen.
I signaled Seguin to stand up.
“Mr. Seguin, I need you to stand up for me. I am placing you under arrest on suspicion of murder.”
Seguin slowly came to his feet and then made a sudden move toward the door. But Sheehan was ready for it and was all over him and had his face down in the carpet before he had gotten three feet. Frankie pulled his arms behind his back and cuffed them. I then helped him pull Seguin to his feet and we walked him out to the car, leaving McCaleb behind.
Frankie stayed with the suspect. As soon as I could, I came back inside. I found McCaleb still sitting in the chair.
“What was it?”
McCaleb reached out his arm to the nearest bookshelf.
“This is his reading chair,” he said.
He pulled a book off the shelf.
“And this is his favorite book.”
The book was badly worn, its spine cracked and its pages weathered by repeated readings. As McCaleb thumbed the pages, I could see paragraphs and sentences had been underlined by hand. I reached over and closed the book so I could read the cover. It was called
“Ever read it?” McCaleb asked.
“No. What is it?”
“It’s about a guy who abducts women. He collects them. Keeps them in his house, in the basement.”
“Terry, we need to back out of here and get a search warrant. I want to do this right.”
“So do I.”
Seguin was sitting on the bed in his cell, staring at a chessboard set up on the toilet. He didn’t look up when I came to the bars, though I could tell my shadow had fallen across the game board.
“Who are you playing?” I asked.
“Somebody who died sixty-five years ago. They put his best moment—this game—in a book. And he lives on. He’s eternal.”
He looked up at me then, his eyes still the same—cold, green killer’s eyes—in a body turned pasty and weak from ten years in small, windowless rooms.
“Detective Bosch. I wasn’t expecting you until next week.”
I shook my head.
“I’m not coming next week.”
“You don’t want to see the show? To see the glory of the righteous?”
“Doesn’t do it for me. Back when they used the gas, maybe that’d be worth seeing. But watching some asshole on a massage table get the needle and then drift off to never-never land? Nah. I’m going to go see the Dodgers play the Giants.”
Seguin stood up and approached the bars. I remembered the hours we had spent in the interrogation room, close like this. The body was worn but not the eyes. They were unchanged. Those eyes were the signature of all the evil I had ever known.
“Then, what is it that brings you to me here today, Detective?”
He smiled at me, his teeth yellowed, his gums as gray as the walls. I knew then that the trip had been a mistake. I knew then that he would not give me what I wanted.
Two hours after we put Seguin in the car, two other detectives from RHD arrived with a signed search warrant for the house and car. Because we were in the city of Burbank, I had routinely notified the local authorities of our presence and a Burbank detective team and two patrol officers arrived on scene. While the patrol officers kept a vigil on Seguin, the rest of us began the search.
We spread out. The house had no basement. McCaleb and I took the master bedroom and Terry immediately noticed wheels had been attached to the legs of the bed. He dropped to his knees, pushed the bed aside and there was a trapdoor in the wood floor. There was a padlock on it.
While McCaleb left the room to look for the key, I took my picks out of my wallet and worked the lock. I was alone in the room. As I fumbled with the lock, I banged it against the metal hasp and I thought I heard a noise from beyond the door in response. It was far away and muffled but to me it was the sound of terror in someone’s voice. My insides seized with my own terror and hope.
I worked the lock with all my skill and in another thirty seconds it came open.
“Got it! Terry, I got it!”
McCaleb came rushing back into the room and we pulled open the door, revealing a sheet of plywood below with finger latches at the four corners. We raised this next, and there beneath the floor was a young girl. She was blindfolded and gagged and her hands were shackled behind her back. She was naked beneath a dirty pink blanket.
But she was alive. She turned and pushed herself into the soundproofing padding that lined the coffinlike box. It was as if she were trying to get away. I realized then that she thought the opening of the door meant he was coming back to her. Seguin.
“It’s okay,” McCaleb said. “We’re here to help.”
McCaleb reached down into the box and gently touched her shoulder. She startled like an animal but then calmed. McCaleb then lay down flat on the floor and reached into the box to start removing the blindfold and gag.
“Harry, get an ambulance.”
I stood up and stepped back from the scene. I felt my chest growing tight, a clarity of thought coming over me. In all my years I had spoken for the dead many times. I had avenged the dead. I was at home with the dead. But I had never so clearly had a part in pulling someone away from the outstretched hands of death. And in that moment I knew we had done just that. And I knew that whatever happened afterward and wherever my life took me, I would always have this moment, that it would be a light that could lead me out of the darkest of tunnels.
“Harry, what are you doing? Get an ambulance.”
I looked at him.
“Yeah, right away.”
I stepped closer to the bars and looked in at him.
“You’re running out of time. You’ve exhausted your appeals, you’ve got a governor who needs to show he’s tough on crime. This is it, Victor. A week from today you take the needle.”
I waited for a reaction but there was nothing. He just looked at me and waited for what he knew I would ask.
“Time to come clean. Tell me who she was. Tell me where you took her from.”
He moved closer to the bars, close enough for me to smell the decay in his breath. I didn’t back away.
“All these years, Bosch. All these years and you still need to know. Why is that?”
“I just need to.”
“You and McCaleb.”
“What about him?”
“Oh, he came to see me, too.”
I knew McCaleb was out of the life. The job had taken his heart. He got a transplant and last I’d heard he lived on a boat with a fishing line in the water.
“When did he come?”
“A few months ago. Dropped by for a chat. Said he was in the neighborhood. He wanted to know the same thing. Who was the girl, where did she come from? He told me you even gave her a name back then, during the trial.
. That’s really very pretty, Detective Bosch.”