Authors: Michael Connelly
Tags: #Crime &, #mystery
“I don’t know. I don’t spy on my tenants. The Orchidia offers privacy. I don’t intrude.”
“What about girlfriends?”
“Same answer, Detective. I don’t—”
“Mr. Wojciechowski, when did you come into the apartment and find her?”
The landlord seemed a little confused by the way the questions jumped around.
“It would have been about ten fifteen. I had watched the beginning of the news on channel five—Hal Fishman. Her coach called again and I finally said I would check on her just so they would stop calling.”
“When you came in, were the lights on?”
Wojciechowski didn’t answer as he contemplated the question.
“Think about when you entered. What did you see? Could you see anything or did you have to put on the lights?”
“I could see the light at the end of the hall. Her bedroom. The light was on.”
“Okay, Mr. Wojciechowski, that will be enough for now. We may have to talk later.”
He watched the little man walk out of the apartment. Edgar came up close to him then so that they could speak quietly.
“I don’t like that look in your eyes, Harry. I’ve seen it before.”
“It tells me you’re in love. You want this to be something it’s not.”
“The chain wasn’t on the door.”
“So what? She was being considerate. She knew she was going to check out and she didn’t want anybody to have to break down the door. We’ve seen that a hundred times before, easy.”
“The lights in the bedroom were left on.”
“People don’t leave the lights on. They want it to be like they’re going to sleep at night. They want to go easy.”
Edgar nodded his head.
“All right, I’ll give you that. But it’s not enough. It’s an anomaly. You know what that is? Something that deviates from the norm. What we have here is a deviation within the norm. It’s not something we—”
There was a sudden flash. Bosch turned to see Baron coming from the hallway into the living room. He had fired off a shot at Bosch and Edgar.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “Misfire. You guys want me to shoot anything else? I’m done with Marilyn Monroe in there.”
“No,” Edgar said. “You’re clear, Mark.”
Baron, a short man with a widening middle, threw a mock salute and walked out the open front door of the apartment. Bosch looked at Edgar sharply. He didn’t like the junior member of the team making the call to break up the crime scene. Edgar read him correctly.
“Look, Harry, it is what it is. We’re done here. Let’s sign off and wait on the toxicology.”
“We’re not done. We’re just beginning. Go out there and bring Baron back. I want him to shoot everything in this place.”
Edgar blew out his breath impatiently.
“Look, partner, you may have convinced yourself of something but you haven’t convinced me or anybody else here that—”
“There’s no pencil.”
“On the bed table. There’s no pencil to go with the note. If she wrote the note and took the pills, then where’s the pencil?”
“I don’t know, Harry. Maybe it’s in a drawer in the kitchen. What’s it matter?”
“You’re saying she writes a suicide note and gets up naked to put the pencil away in a kitchen drawer? Listen to yourself, Jerry. This scene doesn’t work and you know it. So what do you want to do about it?”
Edgar stared at Bosch for a moment and then nodded as if conceding something.
“I’ll go get the photographer back,” he said.
Bosch stared at Lizbeth Grayson on the television screen. She was tearful, beautiful and in character.
“I’ve tried with him every way I know how,” she said. “There’s no use anymore. I give up.”
“Stop it right there,” Bosch said.
Gloria Palovich paused the video. Bosch looked at her. She had been Lizbeth Grayson’s acting coach.
“When was this recorded?” he asked.
“Last week. It was for yesterday’s reading. That’s why I was concerned. She worked for almost two weeks to prepare for that audition. She got fresh headshots. She was putting everything into it. When she didn’t show up… I just knew something was wrong.”
“Did she take notes during your sessions?”
“All the time. She was a wonderful student.”
“What sort of notes?”
“Mostly on accent and delivery. How to best use dialogue to convey the inner emotions.”
Bosch nodded. He realized that Lizbeth Grayson’s suicide note was anything but a farewell. It was the opposite. It was part of a young woman’s efforts to thrive and succeed.
He looked around the acting studio. He felt uneasy, like he had missed something in the conversation. Then he remembered. The headshots he had seen in the bureau drawer in Lizbeth Grayson’s apartment were not new. He had studied the dead woman on the bed and none of the photos in the drawer showed her with the same hairstyle. They were old.
Bosch looked at the acting coach.
“You said she got new photos. Are you sure?”
Palovich nodded emphatically and pointed over Bosch’s head.
“Absolutely. She felt so good about this job that she held nothing back. She was going after it on every level.”
Bosch turned and looked at the bulletin board that ran the length of the wall behind him. It was covered with a blizzard of headshots. All of Palovich’s students, he assumed. He found the shot of Lizbeth Grayson and it was indeed a recent shot. Her blond hair curved under her chin and the easy smile.
Bosch felt himself getting angry. Someone had picked this flower just as it had been about to bloom.
He stepped over and pulled the tack holding the photo to the board. He studied the shot in his hand. There had been no copies of this photo in the apartment. He was sure of it.
“When did she get this taken, do you know?” he asked.
“Last week, I think,” Palovich replied. “She brought in the stack and gave me the first one off the top for the board.”
“There was a stack?”
“Yes, usually they come in hundred-copy stacks. You can never have too many photos. You have to have your headshots out there or you don’t get the calls.”
Bosch nodded. He had worked in Hollywood long enough to know how it worked. He turned the photo over. There was a listing of Lizbeth Grayson’s acting credits on the back. Also listed were her contact numbers through an agent named Mason Rich.
He turned it back over to look at the photo again.
“Why are the headshots you see always in black and white but everything they make these days is in color?” he asked.
“I think it’s because the black and white better shows the contrast the movie camera will pick up,” Palovich responded.
Bosch nodded, even though he didn’t understand her answer and knew nothing about contrast and photography.
The picture cut off across Grayson’s sternum. She was wearing an open-collar blouse and Bosch could see the chain around her neck. The photo cut off before showing the teardrop pendant he remembered from the night before.
He turned back to check the screen. The picture remained paused and his eyes were immediately drawn to the chain around Lizbeth Grayson’s neck. She was wearing an open shirt over a simple white tank top that said CRUNCH across it. But the pendant, which was clearly visible at the bottom of the chain, was not a diamond. It was a single pearl.
Bosch pointed to the screen.
“You see the pearl?”
“Yes, she always wore that.”
“Yes, it had been her grandmother’s. She believed it brought her good luck. Once in class we did some biographical sketches. She told us all about it then. In our classes we all have alter egos with alternate names. Her name was Pearl. When I called on her, if I used the name Pearl, she would respond as that alter ego. Do you understand?”
“I think so. Do you have any tapes of her as Pearl?”
“I think so. I could look.”
“I don’t know if it is significant or not. I’ll let you know. Did you ever see Lizbeth wearing a pendant with a diamond in it?”
Palovich thought for a moment and then shook her head.
Bosch nodded and thanked her for her time. He asked if he could take the headshot and she said that was fine. At the door to the studio she stopped him with a question.
“You don’t think she did this to herself, do you, Detective Bosch?”
Bosch looked at her a long moment before answering. He knew he should keep his assumptions and theories to himself. But he could tell she needed the answer.
“No, I don’t.”
She shook her head. The alternate to suicide was somehow more horrible to contemplate.
“Who would do this?” she asked. “Who
“I don’t know,” he said. “But I’m going to find out.”
In the crime analysis office Bosch sat with an officer named Kizmin Rider. He had worked with her before and knew she was one of the quickest cops on a computer he had ever seen. She was clearly going places in the department and he knew she was being fast-tracked for administration. But the last time they had worked together she had confided that she really wanted to be a detective.
When she was ready Bosch told her what he wanted.
“I’m looking for suicides in the last five years,” Bosch said. “Young females.”
“That’s going to be a lot.”
She worked the keyboard and went into the department’s database. In less than a minute she had it.
“Eighty-nine suicides of females between twenty and thirty.”
Bosch nodded, trying to think of ways to narrow the search.
“Do you have it by method?” he asked.
“Yes. What are you looking for?”
“That would be overdose.”
She typed it in and had the answer in seconds. “Fifty-six.”
“What about by profession? I think I’m looking at actresses only.”
“That would be a catchall: entertainer.”
She typed and had the answer before Bosch took his next breath.
Bosch nodded. He could think of nothing else to narrow it down to cases similar to Lizbeth Grayson’s phony suicide.
“Can you print out the names and case numbers for me?”
Thirty seconds later Bosch had the list and was ready to go down to archives to pull the files.
“You need any help with that, Harry?” Rider asked.
“You mean like you might want to do some detective work?”
“I wouldn’t mind,” she said. “It gets kind of boring up here looking at the computer all day.”
Bosch checked his watch. It was almost lunchtime.
“Tell you what. I’ll go pull the twenty-three files and then meet you in the cafeteria for lunch. We can look through them then. I could probably use the help because my partner thinks this is the wildest goose chase I’ve ever been on. He’s working on our backlog while I do this. And he’s losing his patience.”
She kept her smile.
“I’ll get a table and see you down there.”
Bosch opened his briefcase and pulled out the Grayson file.
“Start with this.”
In the cafeteria, Bosch put the stack of files down on a table Rider had commandeered. She had half of a tuna fish sandwich on a plate and was looking through the last few documents in the Grayson file.
“Are you sure you can do this?” he asked her.
“No problem. What are we looking for?”
“I don’t know yet. But if you read that file, you know there are inconsistencies in the Grayson case. The suicide note was a plant and a piece of jewelry is missing. A silver-chain necklace with a single pearl on it.”
“What about the autopsy?”
“That was yesterday. We’re waiting on the tox.”
“Was she raped?”
“No abrasions. No DNA recovered.”
“What do you think happened, Harry?”
“What do I
happened? I think somebody drugged her and had his way with her when she couldn’t resist. And then he let her OD. Now ask me what I can prove.”
“What can you prove?”
“Nothing. That’s why I pulled these files.”
“Looking for what?”
“Sometimes you don’t know what you are looking for until you find it,” he explained. “But I’m convinced Lizbeth Grayson was murdered with such careful planning that it wasn’t the only time this happened.”
“The guy hit before.”
Rider nodded at the stack of thin files.
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Bosch said. “So I am looking for anything that is a commonality between her and any of these other suicides.”
“And we’ll know it when we see it,” she said.
They got to work. Bosch split the stack in two and they both began working through the files. When one of them finished with a file they put it on the stack for the other to read. This way they each looked at every file. Because the cases were suicides the files were thin and filled largely with autopsy and toxicological reports. All contained photos of the victims in death and most contained a photo of the victim in life as well.
Hollywood has always ground up a good share of the young women who come with their hopes and dreams. Ever since actress Peg Entwistle gave up her celluloid dreams and jumped off the H on the Hollywood sign, many others have followed suit—but in less attention-getting ways. It is the dark secret of the industry. It grinds many of the fragile ones to powder. The powder blows away.
The files contained tragically similar stories. Young women whose lives collapsed when they didn’t get the part and realized they never would get the part. Young women taken advantage of by those who could. Men mostly, but not always. Young women who were clearly fragile before even getting to Hollywood, who had come like moths to the flame, seeking to fill the empty spaces inside with long-shot fame and fortune.
But there were also files that contained only questions. Suicides without explanation, involving women who had growing credits and reason to be hopeful about their lives and careers. A few left one- or two-line notes but Bosch could not tell if these were actual suicide notes or possibly lines from auditions or parts they were playing.