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Книга EchoPark. Страница 52

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“Toss me the cuffs,” Bosch called up to Olivas.

Bosch caught the cuffs and then took a position two rungs up on the ladder. Waits began to go down while the videographer stood at the edge and recorded his descent. When Waits was three rungs from the bottom Bosch reached up and grabbed the waist chain to guide him the rest of the way to the lower ground.

“This is it, Ray,” he whispered in his ear from behind. “Your only chance. You sure you don’t want to make a run for it?”

Safely at the bottom, Waits stepped off the ladder and turned to Bosch, holding his hands up for the cuffs. His eyes held on Bosch’s.

“No, Detective, I think I like living too much.”

“I thought so.”

Bosch cuffed his hands to the waist chain and looked back up the slope at the others.

“Okay, we’re secure.”

One by one the others came down the ladder. Once they had regrouped at the bottom O’Shea looked around and saw that there was no longer a path. They could go in any direction.

“Okay, which way?” he said to Waits.

Waits turned in a half circle as if seeing the area for the first time.

“Ummmm…”

Olivas almost lost it.

“You better not be pulling-”

“That way,” Waits said coyly as he nodded to the right of the slope. “Lost my bearings there for a second.”

“No bullshit, Waits,” Olivas said. “You take us to the body right now or we go back, go to trial and you get the hot shot of Jesus juice you’ve got coming. You got that?”

“I got it. And like I said, this way.”

The group moved off through the brush with Waits leading the way, Olivas clinging to the chain at the small of his back and the shotgun never more than five feet behind.

The ground on this level was softer and more muddy. Bosch knew that runoff from last spring’s rains had likely gone down the slope and collected here. He felt his thigh muscles begin to tighten as every step was a labor to pull his work boots from the sucking mud.

In five minutes they came to a small clearing shaded by a tall, fully mature oak. Bosch saw Waits looking up and followed his eyes. A yellowish-white hair band hung limply from an overhead branch.

“It’s funny,” Waits said. “It used to be blue.”

Bosch knew that at the time of Marie Gesto’s disappearance she was believed to have had her hair tied back with a blue hair band known as a scrunchy. A friend who had seen her earlier on that last day had provided a description of what she was wearing. The scrunchy was not with the clothing found neatly folded in her car at the High Tower Apartments.

Bosch looked up at the hair band. Thirteen years of rain and exposure had taken its color.

Bosch lowered his eyes to Waits, and the killer was waiting for him with a smile.

“We’re here, Detective. You’ve finally found Marie.”

“Where?”

Waits’s smile broadened.

“You’re standing on her.”

Bosch abruptly stepped back a pace and Waits laughed.

“Don’t worry, Detective Bosch, I don’t think she minds. What was it the great man wrote about sleeping the big sleep? About not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell?”

Bosch looked at him for a long moment, wondering once again about the literary airs of the window washer. Waits seemed to read him.

“I’ve been in jail since May, Detective. I’ve done a lot of reading.”

“Step back,” Bosch said.

Waits opened his cuffed hands in a surrender move and stepped toward the trunk of the oak. Bosch looked at Olivas.

“You got him?”

“I got him.”

Bosch looked down at the ground. He had left footprints in the muddy earth but it also looked like there was another, recent disturbance in the soil. It looked as though an animal had made a small dig in the ground, either foraging or burying its own dead. Bosch signaled the forensics tech over to the center of the clearing. Cafarelli stepped forward with the gas probe and Bosch pointed to the spot directly below the colorless hair band. The tech pushed the point of the probe into the soft soil and easily sank it a foot into the earth. She clicked on the reader and began studying the electronic display. Bosch stepped toward her to look over her shoulder. He knew that the probe measured the level of methane in the soil. A buried body releases methane gas as it decomposes. Even a body wrapped in plastic.

“We’re getting a read,” Cafarelli said. “We’re above normal levels.”

Bosch nodded. He felt strange inside. Out of sorts. He had been with the case for more than a decade and a part of him liked holding on to the mystery of Marie Gesto. But, while he didn’t believe in something called closure, he did believe in the need to know the truth. He felt that the truth was about to reveal itself, and yet it was disconcerting. He needed to know the truth to move on, but how could he move on once he no longer needed to find and avenge Marie Gesto?

He looked at Waits.

“How far down is she?”

“Not too far,” Waits replied matter-of-factly. “Back in ’ninety-three we were in drought, remember? The ground was hard and, man, I wore my ass out digging a hole for her. I was lucky she was just a little thing. But, anyway, that’s why I changed it up. No more digging big holes for me after that.”

Bosch looked away from him and back at Cafarelli. She was taking another probe reading. She would be able to delineate the grave site by charting the highest methane readings.

They all watched the grim work silently. After taking several readings in a grid pattern Cafarelli finally moved her hand in a north-south sweep to indicate how the body was likely positioned. She then marked the limits of the grave site by dragging the point of the probe in the dirt. When she was finished she had marked out a rectangle about six feet by two feet. It was a small grave for a small victim.

“Okay,” O’Shea said. “Let’s get Mr. Waits back and secured in the car and then bring in the excavation group.”

The prosecutor told Cafarelli that she should stay at the site so there would be no crime scene integrity issues. The rest of the group headed back toward the ladder. Bosch was last in the single-file line, his mind deep in thought about the ground they were traversing. There was something sacred about it. It was hallowed ground. He hoped that Waits had not lied to them. He hoped that Marie Gesto had not been forced to make the walk to her grave while alive.

At the ladder Rider and Olivas went up first. Bosch then walked Waits to the ladder, uncuffed him and started him up.

As the killer climbed, the deputy trained the shotgun, finger on the trigger, on his back. In that moment, Bosch realized he could slip on the muddy soil, fall into the deputy and possibly cause the shotgun to discharge and hit Waits with the deadly fusillade. He looked away from the temptation and up at the top of the sheer facing. His partner was looking down at him with eyes that told him she had just read his thoughts. Bosch tried to put an innocent look on his face. He spread his hands while mouthing the word What?

Rider shook her head with disapproval and moved back from the edge. Bosch noticed that she was holding her weapon at her side. As Waits got to the top of the ladder, he was welcomed by Olivas with opened arms.

“Hands,” Olivas said.

“Certainly, Detective.”

From Bosch’s angle below he could only see Waits’s back. He could tell by his posture that he had brought his hands together at his front for recuffing to the waist chain.

But then there was a sudden movement. A quick twist in the prisoner’s posture as he leaned too far into Olivas. Bosch instinctively knew something was wrong. Waits was going for the gun holstered on Olivas’s hip under the windbreaker.

“Hey!” Olivas shouted in panic. “Hey!”

But before Bosch or anyone else could react, Waits used his hold and leverage on Olivas to spin their bodies so that the detective’s back was now at the top of the ladder. The deputy had no angle for a shot. Neither did Bosch. With a pistonlike move, Waits raised his knee and drove it twice into Olivas’s crotch. Olivas started to collapse, and there were two quick gunshots, muffled by his body. Waits pushed the detective off the edge and Olivas came crashing down the ladder onto Bosch.

Waits then disappeared from view.

Olivas’s weight took Bosch down hard into the mud. As he struggled to pull his weapon Bosch heard two more shots from above and shouts of panic from those on the lower ground. Behind him he heard the sound of running. With Olivas still on top of him, he looked up but could not see Waits or Rider. Then the prisoner appeared at the edge of the precipice, calmly holding a gun. He fired down at them and Bosch felt two impacts on Olivas’s body. He had become Bosch’s shield.

The blast of the deputy’s shotgun split the air but the slug thwacked into the trunk of an oak tree to the left of Waits. Waits returned fire at the same moment and Bosch heard the deputy go down like a dropped suitcase.

“Run, you coward!” Waits yelled. “How’s your bullshit deal looking now?”

He fired twice more indiscriminately into the woods below. Bosch managed to free his gun and fire up the ladder at Waits.

Waits ducked back out of sight as he used his free hand to grab the ladder by the top rung and yank it up to the top of the embankment. Bosch pushed Olivas’s body off and got up, his gun aimed and ready for Waits to show again.

But then he heard the sound of running from above and he knew Waits was gone.

“Kiz!” Bosch yelled.

There was no reply. Bosch quickly checked both Olivas and the deputy but saw they were both dead. He holstered his weapon and scrambled up the incline, using exposed roots as handholds. The ground gave way as he dug his feet into it. A root snapped in his hand and he slid back down.

“Kiz, talk to me!”

Again no response. He tried again, this time going at an angle across the steep incline instead of by a straight-up assault. Grabbing roots and kicking his feet into the soft facing, he finally made it to the top and crawled over the edge. As he pulled himself up, he saw Waits moving off through the trees in the direction of the clearing, where the others waited. He pulled his gun again and fired five more shots but Waits never slowed.

Bosch got up, ready to give chase. But then he saw his partner’s body lying crumpled and bloody in the nearby brush.

16

KIZ RIDER WAS FACEUP, clutching her neck with one hand while the other lay limp at her side. Her eyes were wide and searching but not focusing. It was as if she were blind. Her limp arm was so bloody it took a moment for Bosch to spot the bullet entrance in the palm of her hand, just below the thumb. It was a through-and-through shot and he knew it wasn’t as serious as the neck wound. Blood was steadily seeping from between her fingers. The bullet must have hit the carotid artery, and Bosch knew that blood loss or depletion of oxygen in the brain could kill his partner in minutes, if not seconds.

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