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Книга EchoPark. Страница 105

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Bosch thought this new theory through again and it held up. He found no air in the brake lines, no sand in the gas tank. It was a car that could drive. The only thing missing was motive. Why would a guy who banked twenty-five years with the department and was looking at retiring at fifty risk it all on a scheme like this? How could a guy who had spent twenty-five years chasing bad guys let a killer go free?

Bosch knew from working a thousand murders that motive was often the most elusive component of crime. Obviously, money could motivate, and the disintegration of a marriage could play a part. But those were unfortunate common denominators in many people’s lives. They could not readily explain why Abel Pratt had broken across the line.

Bosch banged the palm of his hand hard on the steering wheel. The question of motive aside, he was embarrassed and angry with himself. Pratt had played him perfectly and the betrayal was deep and painful. Pratt was his boss. They had eaten together, worked cases together, told jokes and talked about their kids together. Pratt was heading toward a retirement that no one in the department believed was anything other than well-earned and well-deserved. It was time to double-dip, collect a department pension and grab a lucrative security job in the islands where the pay was high and the hours low. Everybody was shooting for that and no one would begrudge it. It was blue heaven, the policeman’s dream.

But now Bosch saw through all of that.

“It’s all bullshit,” he said out loud in the car.

33

THIRTY MINUTES INTO THE DRIVE Pratt exited the freeway in the Cahuenga Pass. He took Barham Boulevard northeast into Burbank. The traffic was still thick and Bosch had no trouble following and maintaining his distance and cover. Pratt drove past the back entrance to Universal and the front entrance to Warner Bros. He then made a few quick turns and pulled to the curb in front of a row of town houses on Catalina near Verdugo. Bosch drove on by quickly, took his first right and then another and then another. He killed his lights before taking one more right and coming up on the town houses again. He pulled to the curb a half block behind Pratt’s SUV and slid down in his seat.

Almost immediately Bosch saw Pratt standing in the street, looking both ways before crossing. But he was taking too long to do it. The street was clear but Pratt kept looking back and forth. He was looking for someone or checking to see if he had been followed. Bosch knew that the hardest thing in the world to do was to follow a cop who was looking for it. He slouched down lower in the car.

Finally, Pratt started across the street, still looking back and forth continuously, and when he got to the other curb he turned and stepped up onto it backwards. He took a few steps back, surveying the area in both directions. When his scan came to Bosch’s car his eyes held on it for a long moment.

Bosch froze. He didn’t think Pratt had seen him-he was slouched too far down-but he might have recognized the car as either an unmarked police cruiser or one of the cars specifically assigned to the Open-Unsolved Unit. If he walked down the street to check it out Bosch knew he would be caught without much of an explanation. And without a gun. Randolph had routinely confiscated his backup weapon for a ballistics analysis in regard to the shooting of Robert Foxworth.

Pratt started walking toward Bosch’s car. Bosch grabbed the door handle. If he needed to, he would bail out of the car and run toward Verdugo, where there would be traffic and people.

But suddenly Pratt stopped, his attention drawn to something behind him. He turned around and looked up the steps of the town house he had been standing in front of. Bosch tracked his eyes and saw the front door of the town house was partially open and a woman was looking out and calling to Pratt while smiling. She was hiding behind the door but one of her bare shoulders was exposed. Her expression changed as Pratt said something and signaled her back inside. She put a pout on her face and stuck her tongue out at him. She disappeared from the door, leaving it open six inches.

Bosch wished he had his camera but it was back in his car in Echo Park. However, he didn’t need photographic evidence to know that he recognized the woman in the doorway and that she was not Pratt’s wife-Bosch had met his wife at the recent squad room party when he had announced his retirement.

Pratt looked toward Bosch’s car again, hesitated but then turned back to the town house. He strode up the stairs, went through the open door and shut it behind him. Bosch waited and, as he expected, saw Pratt pull back a curtain and look out at the street. Bosch stayed down as Pratt’s eyes lingered on the Crown Vic. There was no doubt that the car had drawn Pratt’s suspicion but Bosch guessed that the lure of illicit sex had overpowered his instinct to check the car out.

There was a commotion as Pratt was grabbed from behind and he turned away from the window, and the curtain fell back into place.

Bosch immediately sat up, started the car and made a U-turn away from the curb. He took a right on Verdugo and headed toward Hollywood Way. No doubt the Crown Vic had been blown. Pratt would be actively looking for it when he came back out of the town house. But the Burbank Airport was close. Bosch figured he could dump the Crown Vic at the airport, pick up a rental car and be back to the town house in less than a half hour.

As he drove he tried to place the woman he had seen looking out the door of the town house. He used a few mind-relaxation drills he had employed back when hypnotizing witnesses was accepted by the courts. Soon he was keying in on the woman’s nose and mouth, the parts of her that had triggered his recognition center. And soon after that he had it. She was an attractive, young civilian employee of the department who worked in the office down the hall from Open-Unsolved. It was a personnel office, known by the rank and file as Hiring amp; Firing because it was the place where both things happened.

Pratt was fishing off the company dock, waiting out the rush hour in a Burbank shack-up spot. Not bad work if you could get it and get away with it. Bosch wondered if Mrs. Pratt knew of her husband’s extracurricular activities.

He pulled into the airport and entered the valet parking lanes, thinking that that would be fastest. The man in the red coat who took the Crown Vic from him asked when he would be returning.

“I don’t know,” Bosch said, not having considered it.

“I need to write something on the ticket,” the man said.

“Tomorrow,” Bosch said. “If I’m lucky.”

34

BOSCH GOT BACK to Catalina Street in thirty-five minutes. He drove his rented Taurus past the row of town houses and spotted Pratt’s Jeep still at the curb. This time he found a spot on the north side of the town house and parked there. While he slouched down in the car and watched for activity, he turned on the cell phone he had rented with the car. He called Rachel Walling’s cell number but got her voice mail. He ended the call without leaving a message.

Pratt didn’t come out until it was full-on dark outside. He stood in front of the complex beneath a streetlight and Bosch noticed he was wearing different clothes now. He had on blue jeans and a dark, long-sleeved pullover shirt. The change of attire told Bosch that the liaison with the woman from Hiring amp; Firing was probably more than a casual shack-up. Pratt kept clothes at her place.

Pratt once again looked up and down the street, his eyes lingering longest on the south side where earlier the Crown Vic had drawn his attention. Apparently satisfied that the car was gone and he wasn’t being watched, Pratt went to his Commander and soon pulled away from the curb. He made a U-turn and headed south to Verdugo. He then turned right.

Bosch knew that if Pratt was looking for a tail he would slow on Verdugo and watch his rearview mirror for any vehicle turning off Catalina in his direction. So he U-turned from the curb and went north a block to Clark Avenue. He turned left and gunned the car’s weak engine. He drove five blocks to California Street and took a quick left. At the end of the block he would come to Verdugo. It was a risky move. Pratt could be long gone but Bosch was playing a hunch. Seeing the Crown Vic had spooked his boss. He would be on full alert.

Bosch had called it right. Just as he got to Verdugo he saw Pratt’s silver Commander go by in front of him. He had obviously delayed on Verdugo, watching for a follower. Bosch let him get some distance and then turned right to follow.

Pratt made no evasive moves after that first effort to smoke out a tail. He stayed on Verdugo into North Hollywood and then turned south on Cahuenga. Bosch almost lost him at the turn but he went through the light on red. It was clear to him now that Pratt was not going home-Bosch knew that he lived in the opposite direction in the northern valley.

Pratt was heading toward Hollywood, and Bosch guessed that he was simply planning to join the other members of the squad at Nat’s. But halfway through the Cahuenga Pass he turned right onto Woodrow Wilson Drive and Bosch felt his pulse kick up a notch. Pratt was now heading toward Bosch’s own house.

Woodrow Wilson wound up the side of the Santa Monica Mountains, one deep curve after another. It was a lonely street and the only way to follow a vehicle was to do it without headlights and to keep at least one curve behind the brake lights of the lead car.

Bosch knew the curves intimately. He had lived on Woodrow Wilson for more than fifteen years and could make the drive half asleep-which he had done on occasion. But following Pratt, a police officer wary of a tail, was a unique difficulty. Bosch tried to stay two curves back. This meant he lost sight of the lights on Pratt’s car from time to time but never for very long.

When he was two curves away from his house, Bosch started to coast and the rental car eventually came to a stop before the final bend. Bosch got out, quietly closed the door and trotted up the curve. He stayed close to the hedge that guarded the home and studio of a famous painter who lived on the block. He edged around it until he could see Pratt’s SUV up ahead. He had pulled to the curb two houses before Bosch’s house. Pratt’s lights were now off and he seemed to be just sitting there and watching the house.

Bosch looked up at his house and saw lights on behind the kitchen and dining room windows. He could see the tail end of a car protruding from his carport. He recognized the Lexus and knew that Rachel Walling was in his home. Even as he was buoyed by the prospect of her being there waiting for him, Bosch was concerned about what Pratt was up to.

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