The old lady had changed her mind about dying but by then it was
too late. She had dug her fingers into the paint and plaster of the
nearby wall until most of her fingernails had broken off. Then she
had gone for the neck, scrabbling to push the bloodied fingertips
up and under the cord. She broke four toes kicking at the walls.
She had tried so hard, shown such a desperate will to live, that it
made Harry Bosch wonder what had happened before. Where was that
determination and will and why had it deserted her until after she
had put the extension cord noose around her neck and kicked over
the chair? Why had it hidden from her?
These were not official questions that would be raised in his death
report. But they were the things Bosch couldn't avoid thinking
about as he sat in his car outside the Splendid Age Retirement Home
on Sunset Boulevard east of the Hollywood Freeway. It was 4:20 p.m.
on the first day of the year. Bosch had drawn holiday call-out
The day more than half over and that duty consisted of two suicide
runs —one a gunshot, the other the hanging. Both victims were
women. In both cases there was evidence of depression and
desperation. Isolation. New Year's Day was always a big day for
suicides. While most people greeted the day with a sense of hope
and renewal, there were those who saw it as a good day to die, some
—like the old lady —not realizing their mistake until
it was too late.
Bosch looked up through the windshield and watched as the latest
victim's body, on a wheeled stretcher and covered in a green
blanket, was loaded into the coroner's blue van. He saw there was
one other occupied stretcher in the van and knew it was from the
first suicide —a thirty-four-year-old actress who had shot
herself while parked at a Hollywood overlook on Mulholland Drive.
Bosch and the body crew had followed one case to the other.
Bosch's cell phone chirped and he welcomed the intrusion into his
thoughts on small deaths. It was Mankiewicz, the watch sergeant at
the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.
"You finished with that yet?"
"I'm about to clear."
"A changed-my-mind suicide. You got something else?"
"Yeah. And I didn't think I should go out on the radio with it.
Must be a slow day for the media —getting more
what's-happening calls from reporters than I am getting service
calls from citizens. They all want to do something on the first
one, the actress on Mulholland. You know, a
death-of-a-Hollywood-dream story. And they'd probably jump all over
this latest call, too."
"Yeah, what is it?"
"A citizen up in Laurel Canyon. On Wonderland. He just called up
and said his dog came back from a run in the woods with a bone in
its mouth. The guy says it's human —an arm bone from a
Bosch almost groaned. There were four or five call outs like this a
year. Hysteria always followed by simple explanation: animal bones.
Through the windshield he saluted the two body movers from the
coroner's office as they headed to the front doors of the
"I know what you're thinking, Harry. Not another bone run. You've
done it a hundred times and it's always the same thing. Coyote,
deer, whatever. But listen, this guy with the dog, he's an MD. And
he says there's no doubt. It's a humerus. That's the upper arm
bone. He says it's a child, Harry. And then, get this. He said . .
There was silence while Mankiewicz apparently looked for his notes.
Bosch watched the coroner's blue van pull off into traffic. When
Mankiewicz came back he was obviously reading.
"The bone's got a fracture clearly visible just above the medial
epicondyle, whatever that is."
Bosch's jaw tightened. He felt a slight tickle of electric current
go down the back of his neck.
"That's off my notes, I don't know if I am saying it right. The
point is, this doctor says it was just a kid, Harry. So could you
humor us and go check out this humerus?"
Bosch didn't respond.
"Sorry, had to get that in."
"Yeah, that was funny, Mank. What's the address?"
Mankiewicz gave it to him and told him he had already dispatched a
"You were right to keep it off the air. Let's try to keep it that
Mankiewicz said he would. Bosch closed his phone and started the
car. He glanced over at the entrance to the retirement home before
pulling away from the curb. There was nothing about it that looked
splendid to him. The woman who had hung herself in the closet of
her tiny bedroom had no next of kin, according to the operators of
the home. In death, she would be treated the way she had been in
life, left alone and forgotten.
Bosch pulled away from the curb and headed toward Laurel
Excerpted from CITY OF BONES © Copyright © 2002 by
Hieronymus, Inc. Reprinted with permission by Little, Brown and
Company. All rights reserved.