The Drop - Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly - The Drop
Christmas came once a month in the Open-Unsolved Unit. That was when the lieutenant made her way around the squad room like Santa Claus, parceling out the assignments like presents to the squad’s six detective teams. The cold hits were the lifeblood of the unit. The teams didn’t wait for callouts and fresh kills in Open-Unsolved. They waited for cold hits.
The Open-Unsolved Unit investigated unsolved murders going back fifty years in Los Angeles. There were twelve detectives, a secretary, a squad room supervisor, known as the whip, and the lieutenant. And there were ten thousand cases. The first five detective teams split up the fifty years, each pair taking ten randomly chosen years. Their task was to pull all the unsolved homicide cases from their assigned years out of archives, evaluate them and submit long-stored and forgotten evidence for reanalysis with contemporary technology. All DNA submissions were handled by the new regional lab out at Cal State. When DNA from an old case was matched to an individual whose genetic profile was carried in any of the nation’s DNA databases, it was called a cold hit. The lab put cold hit notices in the mail at the end of every month. They would arrive a day or two later at the Police Administration Building in downtown Los Angeles. Usually by 8 A.M. that day, the lieutenant would open the door of her private office and enter the squad room. She carried the envelopes in her hand. Each hit sheet was mailed individually in a yellow business envelope. Generally, the envelopes were handed to the same detectives who had submitted the DNA evidence to the lab. But sometimes there were too many cold hits for one team to handle at once. Sometimes detectives were in court or on vacation or on leave. And sometimes the cold hits revealed circumstances that required the utmost finesse and experience. That was where the sixth team came in. Detectives Harry Bosch and David Chu were the sixth team. They were floaters. They handled overflow cases and special investigations.
On Monday morning, October 3, Lieutenant Gail Duvall stepped out of her office and into the squad room, carrying only three yellow envelopes. Harry Bosch almost sighed at the sight of such a paltry return on the squad’s DNA submissions. He knew that with so few envelopes he would not be getting a new case to work.
Bosch had been back in the unit for almost a year following a two-year reassignment to Homicide Special. But coming back for his second tour of duty in Open-Unsolved, he had quickly fallen into the rhythm of the squad. It wasn’t a fly squad. There was no dashing out the door to get to a crime scene. In fact, there were no crime scenes. There were only files and archive boxes. It was primarily an eight-to-four gig with an asterisk, that asterisk meaning that there was more travel than with other detective squads. People who got away with murder, or at least thought they had, tended not to stick around. They moved elsewhere and often the OU detectives had to travel to retrieve them.
A big part of the rhythm was the monthly cycle of waiting for the yellow envelopes to come out. Sometimes Bosch found it hard to sleep during the nights leading up to Christmas. He never took time off during the first week of the month and never came to work late if there was a chance that the yellow envelopes were in. Even his teenage daughter noticed his monthly cycle of anticipation and agitation, and had likened it to a menstrual cycle. Bosch didn’t see the humor in this and was embarrassed whenever she brought it up.
Now his disappointment at the sight of so few envelopes in the lieutenant’s hand was something palpable in his throat. He wanted a new case. He needed a new case. He needed to see the look on the killer’s face when he knocked on the door and showed his badge, the embodiment of unexpected justice come calling after so many years. It was addictive and Bosch was craving it now.
The lieutenant handed the first envelope to Rick Jackson. He and his partner, Rich Bengtson, were solid investigators who had been with the unit since its inception. Bosch had no complaint there. The next envelope was placed on an empty desk belonging to Teddy Baker. She and her partner, Greg Kehoe, were on their way back from a pickup in Tampa—an