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Книга EchoPark. Страница 49

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Rider put her hand on his arm in a calming gesture.

“Let’s just forget about the politics and get this over with,” Rider said. “There’s something more important than all of that. Let’s find Marie and bring her home. That’s what is important.”

Bosch looked down at her hand on his arm, realized she was right and nodded.

“Okay.”

A few minutes later O’Shea and Olivas convened everyone except Waits in a circle in the gravel parking lot. In addition to the lawyers, investigators, and the sheriff’s deputy, there were two body recovery experts from the coroner’s office, along with a forensic archaeologist named Kathy Kohl and an LAPD forensic tech, as well as the videographer from the DA’s office. Bosch had worked with almost all of them before.

O’Shea waited until the videographer had his camera going before he addressed the troops.

“Okay, people, we are here on a grim duty, to find and collect the remains of Marie Gesto,” he said somberly. “Raynard Waits, the man in the car, is going to lead us to the place where he has told us he buried her. Our primary concern here is the security of the suspect and the safety of all of you people at all times. Be careful and be alert. Four of us are armed. Mr. Waits will be manacled and under the watchful eyes of the detectives and Deputy Doolan, with the shotgun. Mr. Waits will lead the way and we all will be watching his every move. I would like the video and the gas probe to go along with us while the rest of you wait here. When we find the location and confirm the body we will back away until we can secure Mr. Waits and then all of you will come to the location, which will, of course, be handled as the crime scene it is. Any questions so far?”

Maury Swann raised his hand.

“I am not staying here,” he said. “I am going to be with my client at all times.”

“That’s fine, Mr. Swann,” O’Shea said. “But I don’t think you are dressed for it.”

It was true. Inexplicably, Swann had worn a suit to a body excavation. Everyone else was dressed for the job. Bosch wore blue jeans, hiking boots, and an old academy sweatshirt with cut-off sleeves. Rider wore similar attire. Olivas was in jeans, a T-shirt, and nylon windbreaker that said LAPD across the back. The others in the troop were dressed the same way.

“I don’t care,” Swann said. “If I ruin my shoes I’ll write them off as a business expense. But I stay with my client. Not negotiable.”

“Fine,” O’Shea said. “Just don’t get too close or get in the way.”

“Not a problem.”

“Okay, then, people, let’s do this.”

Olivas and the deputy went to the car to retrieve Waits. Bosch heard the noise of the circling helicopter getting louder as the news crew came down for a better angle and a closer look with their camera.

After Waits was helped up out of the car, his manacles were checked by Olivas and he was led into the clearing. The deputy stayed six feet behind him at all times with the shotgun up and ready. Olivas kept a grip on Waits’s upper left arm. They stopped when they reached the others in the group.

“Mr. Waits, fair warning,” O’Shea said. “If you make an attempt to run, these officers will shoot you down. Do you understand that?”

“Of course,” Waits said. “And they would do it gladly, I’m sure.”

“Then we understand each other. Lead the way.”

15

WAITS LED THEM TOWARD a dirt path that fed off the lower end of the gravel parking lot. It disappeared beneath a canopy created by a grove of acacia trees, white oaks and heavy brush. He walked without hesitation, like he knew just where he was going. Soon the troop was in shadow and Bosch figured the cameraman in the helicopter wasn’t getting much usable video from above the canopy. The only one who spoke was Waits.

“Not too much farther,” he said, as though he were a nature guide leading them to a secluded waterfall.

The path became narrower as the trees and brush encroached and the trail evolved from the well-trodden to the seldom used. They were in a stretch where few hikers ventured. Olivas had to change position from holding Waits by the arm and walking next to him to following the killer, with a hand grasping the waist chain from behind. It was clear that Olivas was not going to let go of his suspect and this was comforting to Bosch. What wasn’t comforting was that the new position blocked everybody else’s shot at Waits should he try to run.

Bosch had traversed numerous jungles in his life. Most often they were the kind where you kept your eyes and ears on the distance, alert and waiting for ambush, and at the same time watched each step you took, wary of the booby trap. This time he kept his eyes focused on the two men moving in front of him, Waits and Olivas, without waver.

The terrain grew more difficult as the path followed the downslope of the mountain. The soil was soft and moist from the overnight precipitation as well as all the rain in the past year. In some places Bosch felt his hiking boots sink and catch. And at one point, there was the sound of breaking branches behind him and then the thud of a body hitting the mud. Though Olivas and Deputy Doolan stopped and turned to see what the commotion was about, Bosch never moved his eyes from Waits. From behind him he heard Swann curse and the others ask if he was okay as they helped him up.

After Swann stopped swearing and the troop regrouped, they moved farther down the slope. Progress was slow, as Swann’s mishap caused everyone to step even more carefully than before. In another five minutes they stopped at the precipice of a steep drop-off. It was a place where the weight of water that pooled in the ground had caused a small mud slide in recent months. The ground had sheared away next to an oak tree, exposing half of its root system. The drop was almost ten feet down.

“Well, this wasn’t here last time I came,” Waits said in a tone that indicated he was put out by the inconvenience.

“Is that the way?” Olivas asked, pointing to the bottom of the drop-off.

“Yes,” Waits confirmed. “We go down there.”

“All right, wait a minute.”

Olivas turned and looked at Bosch.

“Bosch, why don’t you go down first and then I’ll send him down to you.”

Bosch nodded and moved past them. He grabbed one of the lower branches of the oak for balance as he tested the stability of the soil on the steep slope. It was loose and slippery.

“No good,” he said. “This is going to be like a sliding board going down. And once we get down, how do we get back up?”

Olivas blew out his breath in frustration.

“Then what do-”

“There was a ladder on top of one of the vans,” Waits suggested.

They all looked at him for a long moment.

“He’s right. Forensics has a ladder on top of the truck,” Rider said. “We get it, put it down on the incline and go up and down on it like stairs. Simple.”

Swann broke into the huddle.

“Simple, except my client is not going up and down that slope or up and down a ladder with his hands chained to his waist,” he said.

After a momentary pause everyone looked at O’Shea.

“I think we can work something out,” he said.

“Wait a minute,” Olivas said. “We’re not taking the-”

“Then he’s not going down there,” Swann said. “It’s that simple. I’m not allowing you to endanger him. He’s my client and my responsibility to him is not only in the arena of the law but in all-”

O’Shea held his hands up in a calming manner.

“One of our responsibilities is the safety of the accused,” he said. “Maury makes a point. If Mr. Waits falls going down the ladder without being able to use his hands, then we’re responsible. And then we’ve got a problem. I am sure that with all of you people holding guns and shotguns, we can control this situation for the ten seconds it takes him to go down a ladder.”

“I’ll go get the ladder,” said the forensic tech. “Can you hold this?”

Her name was Carolyn Cafarelli and Bosch knew most people called her Cal. She handed the gas probe, a yellow T-shaped device, to Bosch and started back through the woods.

“I’ll help her with it,” Rider said.

“No,” Bosch said. “Everybody carrying a weapon stays with Waits.”

Rider nodded, realizing he was right.

“I can handle it,” Cafarelli called out. “It’s lightweight aluminum.”

“I just hope she can find her way back,” O’Shea said after she was gone.

For the first few minutes they waited in silence, then Waits spoke to Bosch.

“Anxious, Detective?” he asked. “Now that we’re so close.”

Bosch didn’t respond. He wasn’t going to let Waits get inside his head.

Waits tried again.

“I think about all the cases you have worked. How many are like this one? How many are like Marie? I bet she-”

“Waits, shut the fuck up,” Olivas commanded.

“Ray, please,” Swann said in a soothing voice.

“Just making conversation with the detective.”

“Well, make it with yourself,” Olivas said.

The silence returned until a few minutes later, when they all heard the sound of Cafarelli carrying the ladder through the woods. She banged it a few times on low-level limbs but finally got it to their position. Bosch helped her slide it down the slope and they made sure it was steady on the steep incline. When he stood up and turned back to the group Bosch saw that Olivas was uncuffing one of Waits’s hands from the chain running around the prisoner’s waist. He left the other hand secured.

“The other hand, Detective,” Swann said.

“He can climb with one hand free,” Olivas insisted.

“I am sorry, Detective, but I am not going to allow that. He has to be able to hold on and break a fall if he happens to slip. He needs both hands free.”

“He can do it with one.”

While the posturing and debate continued, Bosch swung himself onto the ladder and went down the slope backwards. The ladder was steady. At the bottom he looked around and realized that there was no discernible path. From this point the trail to Marie Gesto’s body was not as obvious as it had been above. He looked back up at the others and waited.

“Freddy, just do it,” O’Shea instructed in an annoyed tone. “Deputy, you go down first and be ready with that shotgun in case Mr. Waits gets any ideas. Detective Rider, you have my permission to unholster your weapon. You stay up here with Freddy and be ready as well.”

Bosch climbed back up a few steps on the ladder so the deputy could carefully hand him the shotgun. He then stepped back down and the uniformed man came down the ladder. Bosch gave him back the weapon and returned to the ladder.

25

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