“The Crooked Man” by Michael Connelly: Exclusive Excerpt

Read “The Crooked Man” by Michael Connelly in its entirety, a short story featuring detective Harry Bosch, excerpted with permission from In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger (available November 11, 2014).

This exclusive excerpt is reprinted by arrangement with Pegasus Books. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

The address was at the top of Doheny beyond a guardhouse and swing gate that protected a community of mansions with price tags of ten million and up. It was where the city’s royalty lived. Movie moguls and captains of industry, sitting on top of the mountain and looking down on all the rest. But sometimes all the gilding and guarding wasn’t enough to protect one from the inside. Harry Bosch held his badge up to the man in the gray uniform at the guardhouse door and said nothing. He was expected.

“You know which one it is?” the guard asked.


“I’ll find it,” Bosch said.


The guardrail opened and Bosch drove on through.


“Going to be hard to miss,” said his partner, Jerry Edgar.


Bosch proceeded past estates that sprawled across the southern ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains. Vast green lawns that had never accepted a weed because they didn’t have to. He had never been in the Doheny Estates but the opulence was even more than he expected. Up here even the guesthouses had guesthouses. They passed one estate with a garage that had a row of eight doors for the owner’s car collection.

They knew only the basics about the call out. A man—a studio man— was dead and a wife—a much younger wife—was on the premises.

Soon they came to a house where there were three patrol cars parked outside the driveway entrance. In front of them was a van from the coroner’s office and in front of that was a car that looked out of place on the street and not the driveway. It was a long, sleek Mercedes coupe the color of onyx. Bosch’s battered black Ford looked like a mule next to a stallion.

Edgar noticed the incongruity as well and came up with an explanation.

“My guess, Harry? She’s already lawyered up.”

?Bosch nodded.

?“That will be just perfect.”

Bosch parked in front of the Mercedes and they got out and headed back to the driveway, where a patrol officer stood next to the yellow tape strung between the stone lions on either side of the gray cobblestone drive. The officer wrote their names down on a crime scene attendance log.

Another officer stood outside the set of twelve-foot-high doors that gave entrance to the house. He opened one side for them.

“The sergeant’s with the coroner’s team in the library room to your right,” the officer said. And then, as if unable to contain himself, he added, “Can you believe this place?”

He looked at Edgar as he asked the question. Both men were black and it was as though the officer thought only a fellow black man could appreciate the over the top wealth that was on display.

“Who actually has a library in their house?” Edgar answered.

He and Bosch moved into the house, stepping into an entry hall that rivaled the square footage of Bosch’s entire house. Bosch looked to his right and saw the patrol sergeant who was in charge of the scene and who would soon transfer that command to Bosch as the lead on the homicide team.

Bosch and Edgar moved through a living room so large that it had two separately designed sections of furniture, each with its own piano and fireplace. An ornate serving table separated the two sides. Displayed on it was a collection of bottles containing amber liquids of various gradations and undoubtedly too high-end for Bosch to identify.

“What is this?” Edgar asked. “One side for daytime and the other for night? This place is over the top.”

Bosch didn’t respond. Sergeant Bob Fitzgerald was waiting by the closed double doors on the other side of the room. The so-called library, Bosch assumed.

“What do you have, Nox?” he asked.

Fitzgerald’s nickname was a study in police brevity. Everything was always reduced to acronyms or the shortest terms possible in the department. That went for nicknames as well. Bob Fitzgerald had originally been branded with the sobriquet Bobnoxious after his decidedly forward personality, especially when it came to female rookies. Over time that got trimmed down to simply Nox.

“We’ve got a James Barclay on the floor in here,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s CEO of Archway Studios. I should say was CEO. He’s not looking so good right now. He’s dead. And we’ve got his wife, a Nancy Devoy, sitting in a study on the other side of the house with her lawyer.”

“What’s she say happened?”

“She’s not saying shit, Harry. Her lawyer ain’t letting her talk. So we don’t know what the hell happened yet. That’s why they pay you the big bucks, right?”

“Right,” Bosch said. “When did the lawyer get here?”

“Was already here when my guys responded to the nine-one-one. The lawyer’s the one who made the call. He called it an accident, by the way. It doesn’t look much like an accident, you ask me.”

Bosch ignored Fitzgerald’s detective work. No one was asking.

“What’s her lawyer’s name?”?

“Klinger—perfect lawyer name, you ask me. I didn’t get the first.”

Bosch could not remember a lawyer named Klinger that he had any previous interaction with. It was likely that he was a family lawyer. People up this high on the hill didn’t usually have criminal defense experts on the payroll.

“Okay, Nox.”?

He turned to his partner.?

“Jerry, you go over there and start with her,” he said. “See if the lawyer’s willing to let her talk to an investigator. I’ll check out the scene first and meet you over there.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Edgar said.

He turned and headed back across the double living rooms. Bosch looked back at Fitzgerald.

“You going to let me go in or do we stand here all day?”

Fitzgerald shrugged, then knocked once on the door and then opened it.

“And they call me Nox,” he said as Bosch passed by.?

Bosch entered the library to find a coroner’s team along with a forensic criminalist and a photographer working around the body of a man sprawled on the floor near a brick fireplace. The dead man was fully clothed in blue jeans, a golf shirt, shoes and socks. Bosch recognized the deputy coroner and was immediately pleased. Art Doyle was one of the more thorough cutters in an office beleaguered by staff cutbacks and low morale. But more important than what he did in the autopsy suite was his work in the field. The guy was a crime scene artist, so good at interpreting the physical nuances of murder that for years he had been known by one name of distinction and respect. It was a sobriquet that could not be abbreviated or reduced in any way.

Equal to Doyle’s interpretive skills was his willingness to share his findings and discuss possibilities with detectives on the scene. This was indeed rare. There were many deputy coroners, fearful of being wrong or talking out of turn or facing the wrath of a defense attorney in court, who wouldn’t dare comment on a possible cause of death at the crime scene—even when looking at a body at the bottom of a swimming pool.

Doyle was manipulating the dead man’s head, turning it right and left, using both of his gloved hands to hold it securely. He then moved his hands lower and palpated the neck. Bosch heard him comment to his investigator that rigor mortis had retreated. The investigator wrote a note on his clipboard.

Before moving in toward the body, Bosch decided to survey the surroundings. All four walls of the library were lined with bookcases floor to ceiling. The dark wood cases were ten feet high and a brass railing ran along the upper shelves with a ladder on wheels that could be slid into position to access books on the upper reaches. The cases were built around two windows on one wall and a set of French doors on an adjoining wall. One of the doors was open and there was glass from the window pane next to the door handle scattered across the dark oak floor. Outside the furthest trajectory of glass was a white stone the size of a potato. It was the instrument used to break through the glass.

Careful not to step on the glass, Bosch stepped out through the door without touching it and moved out into another vast yard that was perfectly manicured and featured a shimmering blue pool. He realized how quiet it was up here so far above the city. It was so silent it was eerie.

After a moment’s reverie Bosch turned to go back inside and noticed the white stones used to create a border between the lawn and the strip of plantings that ran along the side of the house. He saw the gap where one of the stones had been taken to be used to break the glass on the door. Whoever had broken in hadn’t had a plan. Grabbing the stone was improvisational.

Bosch stepped back through the open door and looked to see if Doyle had noticed him yet. He hadn’t. But Bosch knew from experience with the deputy coroner that he should ask permission to approach the body. He pulled a pair of latex gloves out of the left pocket of his suit coat and put them on, snapping the rubber loudly in an effort to draw Doyle’s attention.

It didn’t work. Bosch cleared his throat and spoke up.

“Sherlock?”

Doyle finished his examination of the neck and looked up at Bosch.

“Ah, Harry. Come in to our little circle here. The game is afoot.”?

He smiled at his own conceit. Permission granted, Bosch walked over and squatted next to the body in a baseball catcher’s stance. He placed one hand down on the floor to stop himself from losing balance and lurching forward. Only then did he see the deep gash on the left side of the dead man’s forehand. And what he had thought from distance was possibly a bad toupee was actually the victim’s hair stained black with dried blood from the wound.

“You came in early today,” Doyle said.?

Bosch nodded.?

“Always do,” he said. “I like the squad room when it’s empty. Before everybody starts coming in.”?

Doyle nodded.

?“Must be hard to keep that routine these days,” he said. “I mean, now that you leave a woman behind in your bed.”

Bosch looked up from the dead man to Doyle. He controlled the urge to ask him how the hell he knew about Hannah. He looked back down at the body.

“Okay, so what have we got here, Doc?”

“We are looking at the obvious, Detective. The decedent exhibits only the laceration on the forehead. The wound is deep and examination reveals the weapon penetrated the frontal bone, exposing the brain. Untreated immediately, this would be a fatal event.”

Bosch nodded as he reached into the right side pocket of his coat for his notebook.

“I saw you checking rigor. Anything on time of death yet?”

“We’ve done liver temperature and rigor confirms death last evening. I estimate between ten and midnight. We can try to narrow it down further after we take Mr. Barclay to the autopsy suite.”

Bosch wrote it down.?

“Can you give me an idea about the weapon?” he asked.?

“I can point out to you that the tool set belonging to the fireplace behind me is missing the poker,” Doyle said. “This specific tool is usually a combination of spear and barb so that burning wood can be poked, prodded, hooked and pulled.”

Bosch looked over Doyle’s shoulder at the iron stand next to the stone fireplace. It had individual forks for holding the tools—a spade, a broom and a two-handled vice for gripping firewood. The fourth prong held no tool.

Bosch scanned the room and didn’t see the poker anywhere evident.

“Anything you can tell me that I wouldn’t have found on my own?” he asked.

Doyle frowned and adjusted his own position at the head of the body, revealing his infirmity. Doyle was close to 70 and scoliosis had bent his back over time. It was as curved as the Pacific Coast Highway and required him to walk with forearm crutches to maintain balance. Bosch always thought it must pain Doyle deeply to be betrayed by the very thing he had spent his life studying.

“I can tell you a lot, Detective,” Doyle said. “Only you can determine if you would have made these discoveries on your own.”

“I’m ready when you are.”

“Very well. Something for you to note first.”

Doyle leaned forward with two gloved hands and pressed down on the victim’s chest and stomach area, then continued.

“When we evacuate the decedent’s air passages we emit a distinctively chalky scent of almonds and oak.”

Bosch was immediately confused. Doyle had just reported that the blow to the head was the likely cause of death.

“I don’t follow,” he said. “The scent of almonds? Are you saying he was poisoned, too?”

“No, not at all. I am saying if you retreat to the living room you will notice a collection of cognacs and brandies atop a Louis Fourteen giltwood center table.”

“I saw the bottles, yeah. I wouldn’t know a Louis Fourteen from a Louis CK.”

“Yes, I know this. Anyway, on the table, look for a bottle of tear drop design displayed either in or on an oaken shrine. I believe our victim ingested a quantity of Jenssen Arcana shortly before his death.”

“And Jenssen Arcana is what?”

“It’s a cognac, Detective. One of the finest in the world. One of the most concentrated, too. Aged ninety-eight years in French oak. Five thousand, five hundred dollars a bottle the last I checked.”

Bosch stared at Doyle for a long moment and had to give in.

“So you are saying that you can tell what kind of brandy this guy was drinking by what you just burped out of his dead body?”

“Quite so, Detective.”?“You’ve tasted this stuff at fifty-five hundred dollars a bottle?”

“Actually, no. I am told that a taste of Jenssen Arcana is a life-changing experience but to this date I have not imbibed. On a public servant’s salary I have only had the occasion to sample the aroma of the great cognacs— the Arcana included.”

“So you’ve sniffed it.”

“It is said that the olfactory experience related to cognac is indispensible to the pleasure derived. I should not forget the Arcana. I do have a predilection for fine cognac and I have categorized the scent of those I have been lucky enough to both imbibe and sniff, as you say.”

Bosch looked down at the body for a moment.

“Well, I’m not sure what our knowing what he was drinking gets us, but okay, I’ll take it, I guess.”

“It means a lot, Detective. You savor Louis Fourteen. It’s for very special occasion or—”

“Look at this place, Doc,” Bosch interrupted, raising his arms as if to take in the opulence far beyond the walls of the library. “I don’t think five grand a bottle would bankrupt this guy. Louis Fourteen could’ve been the house juice, for all we know.”

“That could not be the case, Detective. Quantities of the fourteen are extremely limited. You must have wealth to afford a bottle, true, but one bottle may be all you ever get in a lifetime.”

Bosch grudgingly saw his point.

?“Okay, so what do you think it means?”

?“I think it means that before his death, something happened in this house. Something bad.”

?Bosch nodded, even though Doyle’s conclusion did not help him. Usually something bad happens before every murder. A guy getting drunk on five-hundred-buck-a-shot cognac was indicative of nothing.

“I assume you drew blood and you’ll get me an alcohol content,” he said.

“You’ll have it the moment we have it,” Doyle said. “We’ll run it as soon as we get Mr. Barclay to Mission Road.”

He was referring to the location near downtown where the coroner’s office was located.

“Good,” Bosch said. “So then let’s move on. What else you got, Doc?”

“Next, I refer you to the decedent’s extremities,” Doyle said. “First the left hand.”

Doyle lifted the left arm and hand and presented it to Bosch. He immediately noticed a slight discoloration on the points of all four knuckles.

“Bruising?” he asked.

“Correct,” Doyle said. “Ante-mortem. The impact was very close to time of death. The blood vessels are damaged and just beginning to leak blood into the tissue. But the process was almost immediately halted when the heart stopped.”

“So, signs of a struggle. We’re looking for a killer who might have bruises from the punch.”

“Not exactly, Detective.”

Doyle manipulated the hand into a fist and then took a ruler and laid it across the knuckles. Its surface met the bruise point of every knuckle.

“What are you saying?” Bosch asked.

“I am saying that the bruise pattern indicates he punched a flat surface,” Doyle replied. “It is rare that you find uniformity in bruising from a physical altercation. People are not flat surfaces.”

Bosch drummed his pen on his notebook. He wasn’t sure what the bruising report got him.

“Don’t be impatient, Harry. Let’s move to the lower extremities. The underside of the right foot in particular.”

Bosch crab-walked down to the lower extremities of the body and looked at the bottom of the dead man’s shoe. At first he saw nothing but upon leaning down further saw a tiny twinkle of reflection. He leaned down further and looked into the shoe’s treads. He saw it again.

“What is that?”

“It’s glass, Detective. I believe you will be able to match it to the array of glass on the floor by the door.”

Bosch looked over at the French doors and the spread of glass on the floor.

“He walked on the glass . . . ,” he said.?

“He did indeed.” ?Bosch looked at the body for a moment and then stood up. Both of his knees cracked. He took a half step back to steady himself.?

Doyle signaled his assistant and was helped up into a standing position. The assistant handed him his crutches and he slipped his arms through the forearm cuffs and leaned forward on the supports. He looked at Bosch, turning his head slightly as if trying to get a better angle on something.

“What?” Bosch said.?

“I would not dismiss that as a symptom of aging,” Doyle said quietly.

Bosch looked back at him.?

“Dismiss what?”

?“BPPV—you have it, Detective.”

 “Really. And what is BPPV?”

“Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. You needed to balance yourself both when you squatted down and when you got back up. How long has this been going on?”

Bosch was annoyed with the intrusion.?

“I don’t know. Look, I’m sixty years old and my balance isn’t what it—”

“I repeat. It is not a symptom of aging. More often than not it is caused by an infection in the inner ear. My guess, since you listed both times to your right, that the problem is in your right ear. Would you like me to take a look at it? I have an otoscope with me.”

“What, a thing you stick in dead people’s ears? Thanks, but I’ll pass.”

“Then you should see your own doctor and have it checked. Soon.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll do that. Can we get back to the case now?”

?“Of course.”

?Doyle pointed one of his aluminum poles toward the French doors and they moved across the room. They looked down at the glass as if the pieces were like tea leaves waiting to be read.

“So . . . ,” Bosch began. “You’re thinking he’s the guy who came through the door?”

“The bruises on the knuckles suggest impact with a flat surface,” Doyle reminded.

“You’re thinking he was on the outside and he tried to break the glass with his fist at first.”

“Exactly. Then the rock.”?

Doyle pointed his right pole at the rock.?

“So punching plate glass like that, not smart,” Bosch said.?

“If he broke through he would have torn his arm up to the elbow,” Doyle said.

?“He wasn’t thinking clearly,” Bosch said.?

“He wasn’t thinking at all,” Doyle said.?

“The cognac,” Bosch said.

?“He was possibly drunk,” Doyle said.?

“And angry—someone was in here he was angry at,” Bosch said.

“Someone who had locked the doors to get away from him,” Doyle said.

“He couldn’t break the interior door down so he went outside,” Bosch said. “He thought he could break the glass.”

“Impact resistant glass,” Doyle said. “He hurt his hand.”

“So he picked up the rock,” Bosch said.?

“He broke the glass,” Doyle said.?

“He reached in and unlocked the door,” Bosch said.

“And he came in,” Doyle said.

They had spoken quickly, brainstorming and filling in the story as if joined in a single thought process.

Now Bosch moved away from the door and back toward the body. He looked down upon James Barclay. His eyes were open, frozen in surprise.

“Whoever was in here was ready for him,” he said.?

“Quite so,” Doyle said.?

“She probably had the lights out,” Bosch said. “And she hit him with the poker as he moved into the room.”

?“She?” Doyle asked.?

“Percentages,” Bosch said. “Most homicides in the home are the result of domestic disputes.”?

“Elementary,” Doyle said.?

“Don’t start with that shit,” Bosch said.?

He looked around the room. He saw nothing else suspicious.?

“Now we just need to find the poker,” he said. “She left him here all night. She could have driven it out to the Pacific in all of that time.”

“Or it could have never left the house,” Doyle said.?

Bosch looked at him. He knew Doyle knew something, or had surmised something.?

“What?” he said. “Give.”

?With a half smile on his face, Doyle slid the rubber tip of his left crutch across the floor toward the shelves until it reached a line scratched in the floor. It was a perfect quarter of a circle.

“What would make a mark like that?” Doyle asked.

?Bosch moved over and looked down.

?“I don’t know,” he said. “What?”

?Doyle toyed with him for five seconds but knew not to push it further. “A door, perhaps?” he said.

Then Bosch understood. He looked at the shelves. This section was lined with old leather-bound tomes that looked as old as Doyle. Bosch stepped closer and studied the framing of the shelves. He saw nothing of suspicion. From behind him Doyle spoke.

“Doors that are not pulled open are often pushed open.”

Bosch put his hand on the vertical support of the three-foot wide section he stood in front of. He pushed on the seemingly stationary edifice and the section moved in a half inch, engaging a spring-loaded release. He let go and the entire section came out a few inches and Bosch was then able to pull it open like a foot-thick door. As it swung outward, he heard it scrape slightly on the floor. The quarter circle.

A light switched on automatically revealing the secret room beyond. Bosch stepped in, discovering it to be nothing more than a closet. It was a windowless space of dimensions not much larger than an interrogation room or a single-cell accommodation at Men’s Central Jail downtown. The room was crowded with boxes. Some were open, revealing their contents to be books waiting to be shelved or disposed of through donation or other means. There were a couple wooden boxes with wine logos branded on them.

“Well?” Doyle said from behind.?

Bosch moved in. There was a musty smell to the space.?

“It looks like its just storage.”?

Bosch saw a black smear on the white wall above a stack of five boxes. It looked like it might be dried blood. He lifted the top box off the stack so he could get closer to it and he heard something heavy drop down behind the boxes. He leaned in closer and quickly started moving the boxes, creating a new stack in the middle of the space. When he pulled the last box away from the wall he was looking at a fireplace poker lying against the wall trim.

“Got it,” he said.

Bosch backed out of the space and told the photographer to document the poker in its position. Once that was done Bosch went back into the small space to collect the iron tool. He picked it up by its middle, careful not to touch the handle or the pointer and barb, which appeared to be covered in dried blood and hair. He walked it out of the hidden room into the library where the criminalist put plastic evidence bags over both ends and secured them with snap ties.

“So, Detective,” Doyle said, “do you have want you need?”

Bosch thought a moment and then nodded.?

“I think so,” he said.?

“Is it murder?” Doyle asked.

Bosch took a moment before answering.

“I think it’s looking like she could make a case for self-defense,” he said. “But she’s got to lay it out for me. If her attorney is smart he’ll let her talk to me. We might be able to clean this whole thing up right here and now.”

“Then good luck to you,” Doyle said.

?Bosch thanked him and headed toward the door.

?“Remember, Detective Bosch,” Doyle called after him.?

Bosch turned back.?

“Remember what?”?

“Go see your doctor about that ear.”?

Doyle smiled and Bosch returned it.?

“Will do,” he said.?

When Bosch got to the library door he paused as he considered something. He decided his desire to know outweighed his desire not to give Doyle his due. He once again turned back to the deputy coroner.

“Okay, how did you know?” he asked.?

Doyle feigned ignorance.?

“Know what?” he asked.

?“That I left a woman behind in my bed this morning.”?

“Oh, that was easy. When you squatted next to the body, Detective, the cuffs of your pants came up. That revealed one black sock and one blue.”

Bosch resisted the urge to confirm the report by looking at his ankles.

“So?” he said.?

“Elementary,” Doyle said. “It confirmed your early start. You dressed before dawn. It also confirmed that you dressed without turning on the bed lamp. A man would only do that if he wished not to disturb a sleeping partner.”

Bosch nodded but then thought of something and pointed at Doyle. “You said I left a woman in bed. How do you know it wasn’t a man?”

Proud of himself, Bosch smiled. He had him.?

But Doyle was undaunted.

?“Detective, aside from previous knowledge that you are a father and formerly married to a person of the female gender, my olfactory skills are not related to the scent of cognac exclusively. I detected on you from the earliest stage of your arrival the lingering scent of white musk. I knew you had been with a woman. The socks merely confirmed it.”

A glib smile played on Doyle’s face.

“Any other questions, Detective?” he asked. “We need to get Mr. Barclay packed up and off to Mission Road.”

“No, I’m good,” Bosch said. “No more questions.”

“Then good luck with the widow.”

?“Thank you, Sherlock.”?

Bosch turned from Doyle and finally left the room.

Copyright © 2014 by Michael Connelly

 

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Michael Connelly is the author of twenty-six previous novels, including the bestselling Harry Bosch series and Lincoln Lawyer series which have sold more than fifty-eight million copies worldwide. Connelly is a former newspaper reporter who’s won numerous awards for his journalism and his novels and executive produces the series Bosch, now streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video. He spends his time in California and Florida, and can also sometimes be seen on the hit TV show Castle playing poker.

Comments

  1. Drew

    The day I bought Michael Connelly’s latest, “The Burning Room” I noticed the Sherlock Holmes anthology, and after leafing through it, decided I could take it as well, considering with discounts, and a couple of coupons, it was just about buy one get one free.
    What a bargain! I read the Connelly story in the Holmes anthology first. If anyone thinks Mr. Connelly was approached to contribute a short story and he just dashed something off, you couldn’t be more off the mark. Mr. Connelly obviously focused his singular abilities at scene construction, plot development and characterization to this great, fascinating piece of writing all compressed to a single scene. A contemporary setting, yet one that honors Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective. The title, also one of Doyle’s, of course, is perfect.
    I loved this short story.

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