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The surprises were in the other findings. Rebecca Verloren had long, thick hair. At the right side of the base of her neck, beneath the fall of her hair, the medical examiner found a small circular burn mark that was about the size of a button off an oxford shirt. Two inches from this mark was another burn mark, much smaller than the first. High white cell counts in the blood surrounding these wounds indicated that both had been sustained close to but not at the time of death.

The report concluded that the burns were caused by a stun gun, a handheld device that emits a powerful electric charge and renders its victims unconscious or incapacitated for several minutes or longer, depending on the charge. Normally, a charge from a stun gun would leave two small and almost unnoticeable marks on the skin indicating the location of the twin contacts. But if the contact points of the device were held unevenly against the skin, the electric charge would arc and often burn the skin in the manner seen on Becky Verloren’s neck.

The autopsy summary also noted that an examination of the victim’s bare feet found no soil deposits or cuts or bruises, which would be evident had the girl walked barefoot up the mountainside in the dark.

Bosch drummed his pen on the report and thought about this. He knew this was a mistake made by Green and Garcia. The victim’s feet should have been examined at the scene and they should have made the jump right then to the idea that the suicide was a setup. Instead they missed it and they lost two days waiting for the autopsy on a weekend. Those days plus the two days lost when patrol wrote the parents’ call off as a runaway case added up to a bad number in a murder investigation. There was no doubt that the case was slow out of the blocks. Bosch was beginning to see how badly the department had let Rebecca Verloren down.

The autopsy report also contained the results of a gunshot residue test conducted on the victim’s hands. While GSR was found on Becky Verloren’s right hand, there was no indication of it on her left. Even though Verloren was right-handed Bosch knew that the GSR test was an indicator that she had not actually fired the gun that killed her. Experience-no matter how limited-and common sense would have told the investigators that the girl would have needed to use both hands to properly hold the heavy gun pointed against her own chest and to pull the trigger. The result would have been GSR on both her hands.

There was one more notable point in the autopsy summary. The examination of the body determined that the victim had been sexually active, and scarring on the walls of the uterus was indicative of a recent gynecological dilation and curettage procedure to eliminate a pregnancy. The deputy coroner who conducted the autopsy estimated that this had occurred four to six weeks prior to her death.

Bosch read the first Investigator’s Summary report, which was written and added to the book after the autopsy. Green and Garcia had now classified the death as a murder and established the theory that someone had entered the girl’s bedroom while she was sleeping, incapacitated her with a stun gun and then carried her from the room and the house. She was carried up the mountainside to the location by the fallen oak tree, where the murder was committed and clumsily disguised as a suicide in what was possibly a spur-of-the-moment decision by her killer. The report was filed Monday, July 11-five days after Rebecca Verloren had been left dead on the hillside.

Bosch moved on to the firearm analysis report. Though the autopsy had produced more than convincing evidence of staged suicide, the study of the gun and the attendant ballistics further confirmed the investigative theory.

The gun was found to be devoid of fingerprints except for those from Becky Verloren’s right hand. The fact that there were no prints from her left hand or smudges of any kind on the pistol indicated to the investigators that the weapon had been carefully wiped clean of prints before being placed and held in Becky’s hand, then turned toward her chest and fired. It was likely that the victim was unconscious-from the stun gun assault-at the time this manipulation occurred.

The bullet casing ejected from the pistol when the fatal shot was fired was recovered six feet from the body. There were no fingerprints or smudges on it, an indication that the weapon had been loaded with gloved hands.

The investigation’s single most important piece of evidence was recovered during the analysis of the gun itself. It was actually found inside the gun. The weapon was the Mark IV Series 80 model manufactured by Colt in 1986, two years before the murder. It featured a long hammer spur, which was notable because the gun had a reputation for leaving a “tattoo” injury on the shooter if the weapon was not handled properly while firing. This usually occurred when a two-handed grip on the weapon pushed the primary shooting hand up high on the grip and too close to the hammer spur. The primary hand could then receive a painful stamp when the trigger was pulled, the weapon fired and the slide automatically came backward to eject the bullet casing. As the slide returned to firing position, it would pinch the skin of the shooter’s hand-usually the webbing between the thumb and forefinger, often taking a piece of skin back with it inside the gun. All of this occurred in a fraction of a second, the novice shooter often not even knowing what had “bitten” him.

That was exactly what had happened with the gun used to kill Becky Verloren. When a firearms expert broke open the weapon he found a small piece of skin tissue and dried blood on the underside of the slide. It would not have been noticeable to someone examining the exterior of the gun or wiping it clean of blood and fingerprints.

Green and Garcia added this to their investigative theory. In the second Investigator’s Summary report they wrote that evidence indicated that the killer wrapped Becky Verloren’s hand around the gun and then pressed the muzzle to her chest. The killer used one or both of his own hands to steady the weapon and push or pull her finger over the trigger. The gun fired and the slide “tattooed” the killer, taking a piece of his skin with it inside the gun.

Bosch noted to himself that Green and Garcia made no mention of another possibility in their investigative theory. That being that the tissue and the blood found inside the weapon was already there on the night of the murder, that the weapon had tattooed someone other than the killer when it was fired at some point before the killing.

Regardless of that potential oversight, the blood and tissue was collected from the weapon and, while it was already known from the autopsy that Becky Verloren had no wounds on her hands, a routine blood comparison test was conducted. The blood collected from the gun was type O. Becky Verloren’s blood was type AB positive. The investigators concluded they had the killer’s blood on the weapon. The killer was blood type O.

But in 1988 the use of DNA comparison in criminal investigation was still years away from common and, more important, court-accepted practice in California. Databases containing the DNA profiles of criminal offenders were only on the verge of being funded and created. During the course of the 1988 investigation the detectives were left to compare blood type only to potential suspects as they arose. And no one emerged as a primary suspect in the Verloren killing. The case was worked hard and long but ultimately without an arrest ever being made. And it went cold.

“Until now,” Bosch said out loud without realizing it.

“What?” Rider asked.

“Nothing. Just thinking out loud.”

“You want to start talking about it?”