Authors: Michael Connelly
Ballard didn’t respond for a moment. She took out another business card and put it down on a small table near the door.
“Good,” she said. “There are my numbers if you need me or think of anything else.”
“Okay,” Carpenter said.
“We’re going to get these guys. I’m sure of it.”
“I hope so.”
“Can you do something for me and then maybe we talk tomorrow?”
“I’m going to send you a questionnaire. It’s called a Lambkin survey. It’s basically questions about your recent history of movements and interactions — both in person and on social media. There is a calendar to track your whereabouts that you will be asked to fill out as best as you can. I think it goes back sixty days but what you really want to focus on are the last two to three weeks. Every place that you can remember. These guys saw you at some point and some place. Maybe it was the coffee shop but maybe it was somewhere else.”
“God, I hope it wasn’t the shop. That’s awful.”
“I’m not saying it was. But we have to consider everything. Do you have a printer here?”
“Yes. It’s in a closet.”
“Well, if you could print out the survey and fill it in by hand, that would be best.”
“Why is it called a lamb-whatever-you-said?”
“It’s the name of the guy who put it together. He was the LAPD’s sex crime expert until he retired. It’s been updated with the social media aspects. Okay?”
“Send it to me.”
“As soon as I can. And I can come by tomorrow and go over it with you if you want. Or just pick it up once you’re finished.”
“I have to open tomorrow and probably will be there all day. But I’ll take it with me and fill it out when I can.”
“Are you sure you want to go in tomorrow?”
“Yes. It will help take my mind off things.”
“Okay. And I’m going to be in the neighborhood a little while longer. Just so you know, my car will be out front.”
“Are you telling the neighbors what happened to me?”
“No, I’m not. Actually, under California law I can’t anyway. I’m just saying there was a break-in in the neighborhood. That’s it.”
“They’ll probably know. They’ll figure it out.”
“Maybe not. But we want to catch these monsters, Cindy. I have to do my job, and maybe one of your neighbors saw something that can help.”
“I know, I know. Did anybody tell you they saw something?”
“So far, no. But I still have this end of the street to go.”
She pointed west.
“Good luck,” Carpenter said.
Ballard thanked her and left. She walked to the house next door. An old man answered, who proved to be no help, even revealing that he took out his hearing aids at night to sleep better. Ballard then crossed the street and talked to another man, who said he saw nothing but provided a helpful piece of information when asked what he heard.
“You being directly across from the garage across the street, do you ever hear when that goes up or down?” Ballard asked.
“All the F-ing time,” the man said. “I wish she’d oil those springs. They squawk like a parrot every time the door goes up.”
“And do you remember whether you heard it last night?”
“Yeah, I heard it.”
“Do you remember what time, by any chance?”
“Uh, not exactly, but it was sort of late.”
“Were you in bed?”
“No, not yet. But about to hit the sack. I never watch any of that New Year’s stuff. It’s not my thing. I just go to bed and it’s one year and then I wake up and it’s the next. That’s how I do it.”
“So, before midnight. Do you remember what you were doing or watching on TV? I’m trying to narrow in on a time.”
“Hold on, I got it for you.”
He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and opened up the text app. He started scrolling through messages.
“I got an ex-wife in Phoenix,” he said. “We couldn’t live together but now we’re friends because we don’t. Funny how that works. Anyway, she watches the ball drop in New York so she can go to bed early. So I texted her happy new year on New York time. That was when I heard the garage.”
He held the phone’s screen out to Ballard.
“There you go.”
Ballard leaned in to look. She saw a “Happy New Year” text sent to someone named Gladys that went out at 8:55 the night before.
“And this is the same time you heard the garage?”
“Did you hear it open and close, or just open?”
“Open and close. Not as loud going down as it is going up, but I hear it.”
Ballard asked the neighbor his name for her records and thanked him. She didn’t tell him that he had just helped her drop a piece of the puzzle into place. She was sure that he had heard the Midnight Men entering Cindy Carpenter’s house. Cindy had worked till 9 p.m. and didn’t park in the garage anyway.
Ballard could think of no other explanation. One of the rapists had entered the garage, used the screwdriver to easily open the kitchen door, and then waited in the guest room closet for Cindy to come home.
But adding a piece of the puzzle pushed another one out. If Cindy Carpenter was still at work and her car was with her, then how did the Midnight Men open the garage?
Harry Bosch’s house was in a neighborhood just across the freeway from the Dell. She called him once she started heading his way.
“I’m nearby,” she said. “Did you find that book?”
“I did,” he said. “You’re coming now?”
“I’ll be there in five. I need to borrow your Wi-Fi too.”
She hung up. She knew that she should be going to Hollywood Division to sit in on the roll call for the start of her watch, but she wanted to keep moving. She instead called the watch office to see which sergeant would be handling roll call and then asked to speak to him. It was Rodney Spellman.
“Whaddaya got, Ballard?” he said by way of a greeting.
“We had a third hit by the Midnight Men last night,” she said. “Up in the Dell.”
“Heard about it.”
“I’m out running with it and won’t make roll call. But can you bring it up and ask about last night? Especially, the fifteen and thirty-one cars? I want to know if they saw anything, jammed anybody, anything at all.”
“I can do that, yes.”
“Thanks, Sarge, I’ll check back later.”
“That’s a roger.”
She disconnected. She crossed the 101 on the Pilgrimage Bridge and soon was on Woodrow Wilson, heading up to Bosch’s place. Before she got there, she got a call from Lisa Moore.
“What’s happening, sister Ballard?” she asked.
Ballard guessed she was already hitting the wine, and her salutation rang false and annoying. Still, Ballard needed to talk to somebody about her findings.
“I’m still working it,” Ballard said. “But I think we need to rethink this. The third case is different from the first two and we might be looking the wrong way.”
“Whoa,” Moore said. “I was hoping to hear I’m okay to stay up here till Sunday.”
Ballard’s patience with Moore ran out.
“Jesus, Lisa, do you even care about this?” she said. “I mean, these two guys are out there and — ”
“Of course I care,” Moore shot back. “It’s my job. But right now it’s fucking up my life. Fine, I’m coming back. I’ll be in tomorrow at nine. I’ll meet you at the station.”
Ballard immediately felt bad about her outburst. She was now sitting in the car outside Bosch’s house.
“No, don’t bother,” she said. “I’ll cover it tomorrow.”
“You sure?” Moore said.
She said it a little too quickly and hopefully for Ballard.
“Yes, whatever,” Ballard said. “But you’re taking my shift, no questions asked, next time I need it.”
“Let me ask you something. How did you do the cross-referencing of the first two victims? Interview, or did you have them fill out a Lambkin survey?”
“That thing’s eight pages long now with the updates. I wasn’t going to ask them to do that. I interviewed them and so did Ronin.”
Ronin Clarke was a detective with the Sexual Assault Unit. He and Moore weren’t partners in the traditional sense. They each carried their own caseload but backed each other up when needed.
“I think we should give them the survey,” Ballard said. “Things are different now. I think we had the victim acquisition wrong.”
There was silence from Moore. Ballard took this as disagreement, but Moore probably felt she could not voice an objection after having split town, leaving Ballard working the new case solo.
“Anyway, I’ll handle it,” Ballard said. “And I should go now. Got a lot to do and I have my shift tonight.”
“I’ll check in tomorrow,” Moore said helpfully. “And thank you so much, Renée. I will pay you back. You name the day, I’ll take your shift.”
Ballard disconnected and put on her mask. She got out with her briefcase. Bosch’s front door opened before she got to it.
“Saw you sitting out there,” Bosch said.
He stood back against the door so she could enter.
“I was just being a fool,” Ballard said.
“About what?” Bosch asked.
“My partner on the rapes. Allowing her to run off for the weekend with her boyfriend while I’m working two cases. I’m being stupid.”
“Where’d she go?”
“Are places open up there?”
“I don’t think they plan on leaving the room much.”
“Oh. Well, like I said, I’m here and I can help. Wherever you need me.”
“I know. I appreciate it, Harry. It’s just the principle of it. She’s totally burned out. No empathy left. She should ask for a transfer from sex crimes.”
Bosch gestured toward the table in the dining room, where he already had his laptop open. They sat down facing each other. There was no music playing. Also on the table was a hardcover book with yellowed pages. It was
Two of a Kind,
by Darcy O’Brien.
“It does hollow you out, sex crimes,” Bosch said. “What’s happening since we talked?”
“It’s going upside down,” Ballard said. “Like I told you, three cases definitely linked, but this third one — it’s different from the first two. It changes things.”
Ballard put her briefcase on the floor next to her chair and slid out her laptop.
“You want to run it by me, since your partner is gone?” Bosch asked.
“What, are you like my favorite uncle that I never had?” Ballard asked. “Are you going to give me a dollar bill for candy when I leave?”
“I’m sorry, Harry. I don’t mean — I’m just out of sorts with Lisa. I’m mad at myself for letting her skate like that.”
“That’s okay. I get it.”
“Can I still use your Wi-Fi?”
She opened her laptop and Bosch walked her through connecting to the Internet. His password to the Wi-Fi account was his old badge number, 2997. Ballard pulled up a blank copy of the Lambkin survey and sent it to Cindy Carpenter, getting her email off the report Black had sent her. She hoped Carpenter wouldn’t ignore it.
“You know what will teach your partner a lesson?” Bosch said. “Bagging these assholes before she gets back.”
“That’s highly unlikely. These guys … they’re good. And they just changed the game.”
“Tell me how.”
Ballard spent the next twenty minutes updating Bosch on the case, all the while thinking she should be updating Lisa Moore in such detail. When she was finished, Bosch had the same conclusion and opinion as Ballard. The investigation needed to shift. They had been wrong about the Midnight Men and how they acquired their victims. It was not the neighborhood that was chosen first. It was the victims. They were picked and then followed to their neighborhoods and homes. All three women had crossed the perpetrators’ radar somewhere else.
Ballard now had to find that crossing point.
“I just sent the latest victim a Lambkin questionnaire,” Ballard said. “I hope to get it back tomorrow or Sunday. I have to talk the first two victims into doing it, because Lisa thought it was too much to ask of them at the time. The first rape was back at Thanksgiving and I doubt the victim will have as good a memory now as she would’ve if she’d been asked to do it in the first place.”
“Now I’m getting annoyed with this Lisa,” Bosch said. “That was lazy. Are you going to send it to the other two now?”
“No, I want to call and talk to them first. I’ll do that after I leave here. Did you know Lambkin when he was in the department?”
“Yeah, we worked some cases. He knew what he was doing when it came to assaults like this.”
“Is he still in town?”
“No, I heard he retired out of state and has never come back. Somewhere up north.”
“Well, we still use the cross-referencing survey with his name on it. I guess that’s some kind of legacy. You want what I’ve got on Javier Raffa?”
“If you’re willing to share.”
“You have a printer?”
Bosch reached down to one of the bottom shelves of the bookcase behind his chair. He brought up a boxlike printer that looked like it might have been put into service in the previous century.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Ballard said.
“What — this?” Bosch responded. “I don’t do a lot of printing. But it works.”
“Yeah, probably five pages a minute. Luckily I don’t have much to share. Give me the connector thing and plug it in. You have paper?”
“Yes, I have paper.”
He handed her the connector to her laptop. While he plugged the printer in and loaded paper, she pulled up the case file on her screen and started sending the documents she had put together on her last shift into the print queue. She wasn’t wrong. The printer was slow.
“See, I told you it works,” Bosch said. “Why do I need a fancy-ass printer?”
He seemed proud of his techno-stubbornness.
“Maybe because I’d like to get to work sometime tonight,” Ballard said. “I still haven’t even looked at the stuff from your case.”
Bosch ignored her and took the first two pages — the only two pages so far — out of the printer’s tray. Ballard had sent him the two-page incident report first, followed by the Investigative Chronology, witness statements, and the crime scene map. She
wasn’t sure what he could do with it all but the chrono was most important because it contained step-by-step summaries of the moves Ballard had made through the night. Though she didn’t hold out any hope of being able to keep the case much longer, she knew that if Bosch could come up with a line of investigation that led from the Raffa case back to his old case, the killing of Albert Lee, then she might have something to bargain with when the powers that be came to take Raffa from her.
She waited patiently for the pages to print but she was feeling anxious about not getting to the station and showing her face, let alone tackling the work that was waiting for her on the Midnight Men cases.
“You want something to drink? I could brew some coffee,” Bosch said. “This could take a while.”
“Will the coffee be faster than this printer?” Ballard asked.
“Sure. I could use some caffeine.”
Bosch got up from the table and went into the kitchen. Ballard stared at the decrepit printer and shook her head.
“After you came by here this morning, you didn’t get any sleep, did you?” Bosch called from the kitchen.
The printer was not only old, it was loud.
“Nope,” Ballard called back.
“Then I’ll use the heavy-duty stuff,” Bosch said.
Ballard got up and went to the slider leading to the deck.
“Can I go on the deck?”
She opened the door and stepped out. She removed her mask so she could breathe freely. At the railing she saw sparse traffic down on the 101, and it was clear that the multilevel parking garage at Universal City was empty. The amusement park was closed due to the pandemic.
She heard the printer stop. Putting her mask back on, she went inside again. After making sure everything had printed, she disconnected her laptop and shut it down. She stood up and was about to tell Bosch never mind the coffee, when he came out of the kitchen with a steaming cup for her.
“Black, right?” he asked.
“Thanks,” Ballard said, accepting the cup.
She pulled her mask down and turned away from Bosch to sip the hot liquid. It was scorching and strong. She imagined she could already feel the caffeine coursing through her body while it was still going down.
“That’s good,” she said. “Thanks.”
“It’ll keep you going,” Bosch said.
Ballard’s phone started to buzz. She unclipped it and checked the screen. It was a 323 number but no name came up.
“I think I should take this,” she said.
“Sure,” Bosch said.
“This is Detective Ballard.”
“Detective, it’s Cindy Carpenter. I got the survey thing you sent and I’ll work on it. But I just remembered something.”
Ballard knew that often a crime victim had details of the event emerge hours and sometimes days after the experience. This was a natural part of processing the trauma, even though in court defense lawyers often had a field day accusing victims of conveniently manufacturing memories to fit the evidence against the defendant.
“What did you remember?” Ballard asked.
“I must’ve blocked this out at first,” Carpenter said. “But I think they took my picture.”
“Which picture are we talking about?”
“No, I mean a photo. They took my photo … you know, when they were raping me.”
“Why do you think this, Cindy?”
“Because when, you know, they were making me do oral, one of them grabbed my hair and tilted my head back for a few seconds and sort of held it. It was like he was posing me. Like some kind of a sick selfie.”
Ballard shook her head, though Carpenter could not see this. She felt it was likely that Carpenter had accurately guessed what the rapists were doing. She thought maybe this was the reason behind the masking of the victims as well as the ski masks. They didn’t want the victims to know the attacks were photographed or possibly recorded. This opened a new set of questions as to why the rapists were doing this but it still advanced Ballard’s thinking on their MO.
And it renewed her resolve to catch these two men, no matter what help she got or did not get from Lisa Moore.
“Are you there, Renée?” Carpenter said. “Can I call you Renée?”
“Sorry, I’m here — and yes, please call me Renée,” Ballard said. “I was just writing that down. I think you’re right and it’s a good detail to know. It helps us a lot. We find that photo on their phone or computer, then they go away. It’s ironclad evidence, Cindy.”
“Well, then good, I guess.”
“I know it’s another painful thing but I’m glad you remembered it. I’ll be writing up a crime summary that I’ll want you to review and I’ll put it in.”
“Now, on the survey I just sent you. There’s a section where it asks you to make a list of anybody you know who might want to hurt you for whatever reason. That’s very important, Cindy.
Think hard about that. Both people you know and people you don’t really know. An angry customer at the coffee shop, someone who thinks you offended them in some way. That list is important.”
“You mean, I should do that first?”
“Not necessarily. But I want you to be thinking about it. There is something vindictive about this. With the photo and the cutting of your hair. All of that.”