Authors: Michael Connelly
Tags: #Crime &, #mystery
Turnbull poured more coffee into his cup and then offered the glass pot to Bosch and Gunn but both passed on the refill.
“I just remembered something,” Turnbull said. “Something that goes with her thinking I was following her.”
“What was it?” Bosch asked.
“About ten minutes after she did the swerve, she kind of made an evasive maneuver. At the time I thought maybe she’d fallen asleep and almost missed her exit, but now I see it. She was trying to see if she had a tail.”
“What exactly did she do?”
“We were on the ten going west, right? Well, we were coming up on La Cienega, and at the last moment she all of a sudden cut across two lanes to go down the exit.”
“You mean like she was trying to see if somebody would follow her down the ramp?”
“Yeah, like if I would make the same cut across the freeway as her. It was a good move. It would reveal a tail or lose a tail, either way.”
Bosch nodded and looked at Gunn to see if she had anything to add or ask but she remained silent.
“Did you see her again after that?” Bosch asked.
“No, not after that,” Turnbull said. “She was gone in the night.”
In more ways than one, Bosch thought. He ended the interview. He needed to get away from Turnbull to make a call.
“Mr. Turnbull, we’re sorry to have gotten you up after you worked all night,” he said. “But you’ve helped us and we appreciate it.”
Turnbull raised his hands like his efforts were minimal.
“I’m just glad I’m no longer a suspect,” Turnbull said. “Good luck catching the bad guy.”
Bosch put his empty cup on the counter.
“Thanks for the coffee, too.”
Bosch pulled his phone as soon as they were out of the building and heading back to the car. He called his partner.
“It’s me,” he said. “Are you at the scene yet?”
“Just got here. I’ve got the search warrant for the house.”
“Good. But before you go in, I want you to get with Dussein, the forensics guy.”
“Tell him to pull the interior of the Mustang apart if he has to but I think the missing money is still in it somewhere.”
“You mean it wasn’t a follow home?”
“I don’t know what it was yet but when she was driving home I think she thought she was being followed. I think she hid the money in the car somewhere, somewhere within reach while driving. Maybe just under the seat but I would assume Dussein already looked there.”
“Okay, I’m on it.”
“Call me back if you get something.”
Bosch closed the phone. He didn’t speak until they were back in her car.
“I think we’re back to the husband,” he said. “What Turnbull told us reinforces the theory. If she was scared or thought she might’ve been followed, she wouldn’t have swung the door open until she was ready to make a quick move to the house. She thought it was safe.”
“I forgot to tell you something about the purse,” she said.
“The victim’s purse? What about it?”
“She had a small can of pepper spray in it. She never took it out.”
Bosch thought about this for a moment and saw how it fit with the current theory.
“Again, if she thought she had been followed, and even if she believed she had lost the follower with her maneuver on the freeway, she wouldn’t have opened that door and left the pepper spray in her purse unless she felt safe.”
“Unless someone was there to make her feel safe.”
“Her husband. Maybe he was holding the gun in plain sight and she thought it was for her protection. She opened the door and he turned it on her.”
Gunn nodded like she believed the scenario but then she played devil’s advocate.
“But we can’t prove any of that. We don’t have anything. No gun, no motive. Even if we find the money in the car, it’s not going to matter. It doesn’t preclude a follow home and we won’t be able to charge him.”
“Then it’s an eight-by-eight case.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means it’s going to come down to what happens in that eight-by-eight room at Parker Center. We go talk to him and wait for him to make a mistake.”
“He’s a professional poker player, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
It took them half an hour to get from Hollywood to Parker Center downtown because of the morning rush hour. In the third-floor Robbery-Homicide Division office Bosch watched David Blitzstein through one-way glass for five minutes as he readied himself for the interview. Blitzstein didn’t look like a man mourning the murder of his wife. He reminded Bosch more of a caged tiger. He was pacing. There was little space for this with the table and two chairs taking up most of the interview room but Blitzstein was moving from one wall to the opposite wall, repeatedly going back and forth. Each time his pattern brought him within inches of the one-way glass—mirrored on his side—and each time that he stared into his own eyes he was also unknowingly staring into Bosch’s eyes on the other side.
“Okay,” Bosch finally said. “I’m ready.”
He handed his cell phone to Gunn.
“Keep this. If my partner calls with news, come in and say the captain’s on the phone.”
They went into the detective bureau and Bosch filled two foam cups with coffee. He put four packs of sugar into one and took them both to the interview room. He entered and put the oversweetened coffee down on one side of the table in the center while he sat on the other side with the other.
“Why don’t you sit down, Mr. Blitzstein,” he said. “Have some coffee. It’s going to be a long day for you.”
Blitzstein came over and sat down.
“Thank you,” he said. “Who are you? What’s going on with my wife?”
“My name’s Harry Bosch. I’ve been assigned as lead detective on your wife’s case. I am very sorry for your loss. I am sorry to keep you waiting but hope to get you out of here as soon as possible so that you can be with your family and begin to make arrangements for your wife.”
Blitzstein nodded his thanks. He picked up his coffee cup and sipped from it. His face soured at the taste but he didn’t complain. This was good. Bosch wanted him to keep drinking. He was hoping to push him into a sugar rush. People often mistook a sugar high for clarity of thought. Bosch knew the truth was that the rush made them take chances and they made mistakes.
Blitzstein put the cup down and Bosch noticed he had used his left hand. There was the first mistake.
“I just need to go over things once more before we get you out of here,” Bosch said.
“I told everything I know to that black girl.”
“You mean Detective Gunn? Well, that was sort of preliminary. Before I was assigned. I need to hear some things for myself. Plus we now have the advantage of having studied the crime scene and talked to the witnesses.”
Blitzstein’s eyebrows shot up momentarily and he tried to cover by bringing the cup up and gulping down more coffee. But Bosch now had one of his tells and he registered it accordingly.
“Wow, that’s hot!” he exclaimed. “You mean there are witnesses?”
“We’ll get to the witnesses in a few minutes,” Bosch said. “First I want to hear your version of events again. This way I have it directly from you instead of secondhand through Detective Gunn. This way it’s not colored by anything anybody else has said or claimed to have seen.”
“What do you mean, ‘claimed to have seen’?”
“Just a turn of phrase, Mr. Blitzstein,” Bosch said.
Blitzstein blew out his breath in exasperation and started recounting the same story he had told Gunn four hours earlier. He threw in no new details and left nothing out from his first accounting. This was unusual. True stories evolve as details are remembered and others are forgotten. A false story, one that has been rehearsed in the mind, usually remains constant. Bosch knew all of this and felt his suspicion of Blitzstein was moving onto more solid ground.
“So how soon were you to the car after the shot?”
“I don’t know because I didn’t hear it. But I don’t think it was too long. I had heard her pull in. I waited and when she didn’t come into the house, I went out to see what was wrong.”
“So if somebody said they thought you were already at the car when the shot was fired, would they be wrong?”
“What? Right at the—no way, I wasn’t right there when the shot was fired. I didn’t even see who did it. What are you trying to say?”
Bosch shook his head.
“I’m not trying to say anything. I’m trying to get as clear a picture of what happened as I can. As you can imagine, we get conflicting views. People say different things. I had a partner once who said if you put twenty people in a room and a naked man ran through it, you’d get twelve people who would say he was white, seven who would say he was black and at least one who would claim it was a woman.”
Blitzstein didn’t even smile.
“Tell you what,” Bosch said. “Why don’t you tell me your theory of what happened out there?”
Blitzstein didn’t even have to think about it.
“Simple. She was followed home. She won a lot of money and somebody from that casino followed her home and killed her for it.”
Bosch nodded like it all fit.
“How do you know that she won a lot of money?”
“Because she told me when she called me from the cage to tell me she was coming home.”
“The cash cage. She was cashing in her chips and they let her use the phone because she’s a regular. She forgot her cell phone last night. She called me and said she was driving home.”
“Was she scared carrying all of that cash?”
“Not really. She won more often than she lost and knew to take precautions.”
“Did she carry a weapon?”
“No. Actually—I think she had like a little can of mace in her purse.”
“We found that. But that’s it, just the pepper spray?”
“Far as I know.”
“Okay, then what about you? Did you play down there? Did you ever go with her?”
“I used to. But not in about a year.”
“I’m sort of banned from that casino. There was a misunderstanding last year.”
Bosch drank some more coffee and wondered if he should pursue this or if it was a misdirection Blitzstein was hoping he would pursue. He decided to proceed with caution.
“What was the misunderstanding?”
“It’s got nothing to do with this.”
“If it has to do with that card room in Commerce, then it does have something to do with this. If you want to help me find your wife’s killer, then you have to answer my questions and let me decide what matters and what is important. What was the misunderstanding?”
“All right, I’ll tell you if you have to know. They accused me of cheating and there’s nothing I could do to defend myself. I wasn’t cheating and it’s their interpretation against my word. End of story. They kicked me out and won’t let me back in. Banned for life.”
“But they didn’t have a problem with your wife still coming?”
Blitzstein shook his head angrily.
“Of course not. She’s a draw, man. She brings business in over there. When she’s playing, you get all these guys coming out of the woodwork to play against the girl from the world series and the ESPN commercials. They all want to kick her ass. It’s a guy thing. It’s like marking their turf, coming in her face. It’s the same with all the women on the tour.”
Bosch was silent for a moment. This was no misdirection by Blitzstein. Bosch was beginning to see at least part of the motivation for murder. Blitzstein knew that if the murder of his wife—a well-liked and well-known player—was attributed to a follow home from the casino in Commerce, then the card room would take a major public-relations hit that could impact its business and reputation. As if on cue, Blitzstein’s bile boiled up and added further to Bosch’s understanding of the crime.
“You know what?” he said. “If this thing turns out that somebody followed her home, I am going to sue their asses over there. It will be the biggest goddamn jackpot I ever rake in.”
Bosch simply nodded, hoping Blitzstein would say more. But he may have realized he had already said too much. He turned quiet and Bosch started off in a new direction.
“How would you describe your relationship with your wife?”
“How do you mean?”
“You know, were you happy with each other, was it getting boring, were you upset that she was a poker celebrity and you weren’t?”
Bosch stared pointedly at him while he said the last part. Blitzstein reacted immediately.
“We were fine. We were still in love and I didn’t give a shit about who was a celebrity and who wasn’t. You know what poker comes down to? Twenty percent skill and eighty percent luck. Some people are more skilled than others but luck is always the thing.”
Again Bosch waited a few moments to see if he would say more but he didn’t. Bosch continued.
“All right, so the card room in Commerce is off-limits. Where then do you play? The Hustler or the card room at the Hollywood track?”
“Nope, I don’t play anywhere. They’re all together on this. You get banned one place and they put your picture on the wall everyplace else. It’s fucking unconstitutional but nothing I can do anything about.”
“So you play private games?”
“When I can get them, yeah. Meantime, I was my wife’s manager.”
Bosch thought about his ex-wife and the stories she told about private games, the personal items, car keys and
that would sometimes go into the pots.
“You ever win anything besides money at those private games?”
“What are you talking about?”
“My ex-wife is a player—you might even know her. Eleanor Wish?”
Blitzstein hesitated and then nodded.
“Yeah, I remember her. I think Tracey told me she was in Hong Kong or Macau these days. I was even thinking of heading over there to check out the casinos.”
Bosch saw an opening and went for it.
“When did you start thinking about that?”
“Moving to Hong Kong or Macau.”
“Don’t put words in my mouth, man. I said I was thinking of going over there to check it out, not move there. Why would I think of moving there?”
“Because you were banned here. Did the ban extend to Las Vegas? Maybe you were thinking of pulling up stakes.”