Switchblade: An Original Story

Switchblade: An Original Story by Michael Connelly

Book: Switchblade: An Original Story by Michael Connelly Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Connelly
    T he saying goes that hope springs eternal. So too with homicide. At the Los Angeles Police Department, a decade of successes by the Open-Unsolved Unit in closing old and sometimes forgotten murder cases created a steady stream of inquiries from the loved ones of victims. They came from around the world, from any place there was an unquenched desire for justice. Every day came the calls and e-mails and even visits. People asking about cases, hoping to spark the interest of the squad that investigated the past, seeking its hidden killers.
    So high was the tide of hope for justice and closure that the OU Unit could not handle all the inquiries and still dedicate the time needed to the actual investigations. The department dug into the budget and hired a sorter—that is, a civilian employee who worked out of the OCP, the Office of the Chief of Police, and sorted through the dozens of requests that came in each week, sometimes each day.
    The sorter’s name was Emily Robertson and her main tools for dealing with case inquiries were the department’s murder logs. These leather-bound books contained a chronological list of every murder committed in the City of Angels going back to 1896. One page, one murder. There were more than fifty of these somber volumes on the shelves behind Emily’s desk. When an inquiry came to her or was referred to her— whether it was a phone call, an e-mail, or a walk-in—it was Emily’s job to find the reference to the case in the murder logs. By confirming the case and the year of the crime, Emily then knew which detective team in the Open-Unsolved Unit she should refer the inquiry to for follow-up. Each of the eight teams in the unit was assigned specific years of responsibility. Any unsolved cases from its assigned years went to that detective team.
    Sometimes the follow-up took weeks, sometimes months. Every detective in the unit carried a sizable caseload, with investigations under way at varying stages. With more than six thousand unsolved murders on the books, there was no shortage of work. If the referred case proved workable—that is, if there was evidence that bore analysis with contemporary technologies and investigative techniques—then Emily would step out of the picture as the detectives took over. If the review of the case determined that there was no means of proceeding or evidence to analyze, then it was referred back to Emily, who had the difficult task of informing a family or a loved one that the case still remained unsolved and unworkable—a dead end.
    Detective Harry Bosch enjoyed the sight of Emily Robertson when she came into the squad room each Friday morning with the week’s sorting of inquiries. Not only did it mean the possibility of fresh cases for him to work, but he also liked talking with Emily. She was an attractive woman of about forty. She was too young for Bosch, though he could still think about it.
    The main attraction for Bosch, however, was that she spoke with emotional fervor about the cases she had sorted and the people who had come to her. She was the gateway between people whose questions had gone unanswered for so long and the detectives they hoped would bring resolution. The bottom line was that although Emily was not a detective, she understood the mission. That everybody counted or nobody counted. She seemed to take every case to heart, and that was a pitch over the plate to Harry Bosch. Indeed, the word around the squad was that Emily had seen a newspaper story announcing the sorting position and left a successful career as a legal secretary to take the job at a considerable reduction in pay.
    The Billy Ratliff case began for Bosch with Emily. On a Friday morning more than a year ago, she entered the OU squad room with the usual stack of green files she had prepared, one for each case she had sorted. Bosch watched her from his cubicle and waited. His partner that day was on vacation, so Harry waited patiently by himself to see if a file or

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