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“Besides,” she added, “I’m using different muscles now. Muscles I didn’t use on the sixth floor.”

“I get it,” he said. “All right if I start in behind you now?”

“Be my guest.”

She popped open the rings of the binder and pulled out the two-inch-thick sheaf of documents she had already read through. She handed them across to Bosch, who had sat down at his desk.

“You got an extra pad like that?” he asked. “I just have a little notebook.”

She sighed in an exaggerated way. Bosch knew it was all an act and that she was happy they were working together again. She had spent most of the last two years evaluating policy and troubleshooting for the new chief. It wasn’t the real cop work that she was best at. This was.

She slid a pad across the desk to him.

“You need a pen, too?”

“No, I think I can handle that.”

He put the documents down in front of him and started reading. He was ready to go and he didn’t need the coffee to stay charged.

THE FIRST PAGE of the murder book was a color photograph in a plastic three-hole sleeve. The photo was a yearbook portrait of an exotically attractive young girl with almond-shaped eyes that were startling green against her mocha skin. She had tightly curled brown hair with what looked like natural blonde highlights that caught the flash of the camera. Her eyes were bright and her smile genuine. It was a grin that said she knew things nobody else did. Bosch didn’t think she was beautiful. Not yet. Her features seemed to compete with one another in an uncoordinated way. But he knew that teenage awkwardness often smoothed over and became beauty later.

But for sixteen-year-old Rebecca Verloren there would be no later. Nineteen eighty-eight would be her last year. The cold hit had come from her murder.

Becky, as she was known by family and friends, was the only child of Robert and Muriel Verloren. Muriel was a homemaker. Robert was the chef and owner of a popular Malibu restaurant called the Island House Grill. They lived on Red Mesa Way off of Santa Susana Pass Road in Chatsworth, at the northwest corner of the sprawl that made up Los Angeles. The backyard of their house was the wooded incline of Oat Mountain, which rose above Chatsworth and served as the northwest border of the city. That summer Becky was between her sophomore and junior years at Hillside Preparatory School. It was a private school in nearby Porter Ranch, where she was on the honor roll and her mother volunteered in the cafeteria and often brought jerk chicken and other specialties from her husband’s restaurant for the faculty lunchroom.

On the morning of July 6, 1988, the Verlorens discovered their daughter missing from their home. They found the back door unlocked, though they were sure it had been secured the night before. Thinking the girl might have gone for a walk they waited worriedly for two hours but she did not return. That day she was scheduled to go to the restaurant with her father to work the lunch shift as an assistant hostess and it was well past the time to leave for Malibu. While her mother called her friends hoping to locate her, her father went up the hillside behind the house looking for her. When he came back down the hill without finding a sign of her they decided it was time to call the police.

Patrol officers from the Devonshire Division were called to the home. They found no evidence of a break-in at the house. Citing this and the fact that the girl was in an age group with one of the highest runaway rates, the disappearance was viewed as a possible runaway situation and handled as a routine missing-persons case. This was against the protests of the missing girl’s parents, who did not believe she had run away or left their home of her own volition.

The parents were proved horribly correct two days later when the decomposing body of Becky Verloren was found hidden beside the fallen trunk of an oak tree about ten yards off an equestrian trail on Oat Mountain. A woman riding her Appaloosa had gone off the path to investigate a bad smell and came across the body. The rider might have ignored the odor but had earlier seen signs posted on telephone poles about the missing girl from the area.

Becky Verloren had died less than a quarter mile from her house. It was likely that her father had passed within yards or even feet of her body when he was hiking the hillside and calling out her name. But on that morning there had been no odor yet to draw his attention.

Bosch was the father of a young girl. Though she lived far away from him with her mother, she was never far from his thoughts. He thought now of a father climbing a steep hillside, calling for a daughter who would never come home.

He tried to concentrate on the murder book.

The victim had been shot once in the chest by a high-powered pistol. The weapon, a.45 caliber Colt semiautomatic, was lying in the leaves by her left ankle. As Bosch studied the crime scene photos he saw what appeared to be a burn from a contact shot on the fabric of her light blue nightgown. The bullet hole was located directly above the heart, and Bosch knew by the size of the gun and the entry wound that death was likely immediate. Her heart would have been shattered by the round as it blasted through her body.

For a long time Bosch studied the photographs of the body as it had been found. The victim’s hands were not bound. She was not gagged. Her face was turned in toward the trunk of the fallen tree. There were no indications of defensive wounds of any nature. There was no indication of sexual molestation or any other assault.

The police misinterpretation of the girl’s disappearance was initially compounded by the misinterpretation of the death scene. The assessment at the scene resulted in the death being viewed as a probable suicide. As such the case was kept by the local division’s homicide squad and the two detectives who rolled on the body call, Ron Green and Arturo Garcia. Devonshire Division was at that time and still is the LAPD’s quietest station. Representing a large bedroom community with high property values and mostly upper-middle-class residents, Devonshire always had crime tables that were among the lowest in the city. Inside the department the station was known as Club Dev. It was a highly sought-after posting by officers and detectives who had put in many years and were tired or had simply seen enough action. Devonshire Division also represented the part of the city closest to Simi Valley, a quiet, relatively crime-free community in Ventura County where hundreds of LAPD officers chose to live. A posting at Devonshire made the commute a breeze and the workload the lightest in the department.

The Club Dev pedigree played in the back of Bosch’s mind as he read the reports. He knew part of his task here was to make a judgment on Green and Garcia’s work, to determine if they had been up to the task. He did not know them and had no experience with them. He had no idea what level of skills and dedication they had brought to the case. There was the initial misinterpretation of the death as a suicide. But by the appearance of the records, the two investigators seemed to recover quickly and move on with the case. Their reports seemed to be well written, thorough and complete. They seemed to have taken the extra step wherever possible.

Still, Bosch knew that a murder book could be manipulated to give this impression. The truth would be revealed as he delved deeper and continued his own investigation. He knew there could be a vast difference between what was recorded and what was not.

According to the murder book, Green and Garcia quickly reversed investigative directions when suicide was dismissed after the autopsy was completed and the gun found with the body was analyzed. The case was reclassified as a homicide that had been disguised as a suicide.

Bosch first came to the autopsy findings in the murder book. He had read a thousand autopsy protocols and had attended several hundred of the procedures as well. He knew to skip all the weights and measurements and descriptions of the actual procedure and go right to the summary section and the attendant photographs. Unsurprisingly, he found the cause of death listed as a gunshot wound to the chest. The estimated time of death was between midnight and 2 a.m. on July 6. The summary noted that no witness reported hearing the shot, so the time of death estimate was based solely on measuring loss of body temperature.