Switchblade(3)
Author:Michael Connelly


    “I got good news for you, Detective,” he said. “We found DNA in the handle.”

    “That’s great. Is there enough for comparison?”

    “We think so. We’re going to put together a package for the DOJ.”

    Bosch knew that all DNA analysis in criminal matters was handled by the California Department of Justice lab in Sacramento. The wait for results could be interminable.

    “How long before we hear back?” he asked, even though he suspected he would not receive an encouraging response.

    “Six months,” Hardy said. “Three if we’re lucky.”

    “The guy who I think did this comes up on his first parole hearing on another murder in five months. He’s up at San Quentin. The way they let people out these days, I’d hate to see this guy get out before we can hit him with this.”

    “I hear you. I’ll see what I can do to speed things along.”

    The regional lab in L.A. had to be one of the DOJ lab’s biggest and most important customers. People knew people between the facilities and sometimes favors could be done. Bosch hoped for the best, but that was all he could do. He had taken the Ratliff case as far as he could take it. Now it was time to wait on it while he worked other cases. This was the routine in the Open-Unsolved Unit. A lot of irons in the fire at all times. Bosch waited for the science to deliver while he moved on to a different case.

    The next time Emily Robertson came through the squad room with that week’s sorting, Bosch updated her on where things stood with the case. He said it was a long shot but at least they had a shot.

    She seemed pleased. She even called him Harry after he gave her the update.





    It took the DOJ lab four months to return a verdict. DNA from the switchblade had been matched to two people: William Ratliff and Patrick Sewell.

    Bosch could not have asked for a better result. Blood from both the victim and the suspect were found on the murder weapon. It looked like a slam dunk. Bosch took what he had to the District Attorney’s Office to request that a murder charge be lodged against Sewell. He spoke with a deputy DA named Lionel Dupree, who was in the pool of prosecutors assigned to cold cases because of the unique challenges they posed at trial. The Lion, as Dupree was called by the cops in OU, did not call it a slam dunk.

    “It’s not even a layup,” he told Bosch. “Science can be challenged—how was that switchblade stored? how many people had access to it over twenty years? what about the deterioration of the specimen while it was in the sink?—and don’t get me started on test contamination up at DOJ. You get a good lawyer and there could be a hundred challenges to this, Harry. And believe me, when it comes to murder cases with death-penalty risk, they’re all good lawyers.”

    “So you’re not going to file?” Bosch said incredulously. “I thought you were ‘the Lion’—not afraid of any case.”

    “No, I didn’t say I won’t file. And I’m not afraid of this or any other case. I just want to be bulletproof when we go into court. I want more than DNA.”

    “So what do I do? The case is old. This is what I’ve got.”

    “First of all, you go up to the Q and see this guy, see if you can get an admission. And second—and this is the big one—find the witness.”

    “What witness?”

    “Whoever it was who called in and put this guy’s name on this. They have to have seen or heard something. They gave Sewell’s name and they were right. Find me that caller and then we probably have a slam dunk here.”

    Bosch nodded reluctantly. He knew the Lion was right when it came to making cases but sometimes you had what you had and you needed to roll the dice. He left the DA’s Office disappointed and knowing the case might stall out. For Dupree, as long as Sewell was in prison on the other killing, it didn’t make sense to move ahead with a risky prosecution.





    One week after Bosch met with Lionel Dupree he was sitting in a visiting room in the Adjustment Center at the California State Prison at San Quentin. The AC was so named in the nineteenth century because it was the building where new inmates were oriented to the prison’s rules and routines, and it was now also where law enforcement interviews took place. Patrick Sewell was taken from his job in the prison’s mattress factory and brought to Bosch for the interview. Bosch had had a long time to consider how he would play the inmate and had even written out a script which he’d edited and then committed to memory.

    Sewell was surprisingly small for a killer of men. Bosch had his file on the table in front of him and knew he was exactly five foot six and 130 pounds. He had brown hair and glasses and had a thin smile on his face. It was a phony sort of smile designed to cloak true intentions. He wore a baggy blue shirt and pants, the color status meaning he had achieved a level of trust inside the prison that allowed him certain freedoms within its twenty-five-foot stone walls. It also meant that he was on a pathway toward parole. Bosch’s script would play on that.

    “Patrick, I’m Detective Harry Bosch from the Los Angeles Police Department. How are you doing today?”

    Sewell paused before speaking. He presumably had no idea what Bosch was there for.

    “I’m doing okay,” he finally said.

    “Good. How are you set for your parole hearing next month?”

    Sewell shrugged.

    “I’m ready, I guess.”

    “The captain tells me you’ve been a model prisoner. You must want to get out very badly.”

    “I don’t think there’s anybody who wants to be here.”

    Bosch nodded.

    “That’s true, Patrick. You know if they turn you down, you don’t get another shot for two years. Then if they turn you down again, it’s four years. Best chance is the first shot.”

    “What do you want, Mr. LAPD?”

    “What I want is to ask you about some years and some specific dates and to see if you can remember where you were and what you might’ve seen during those times.”

    “What if I don’t want to answer?”

    “You don’t have to. But here’s the trick. If you don’t answer me, that’s called being uncooperative. And that’s going to go in your jacket, and those three parole board members next month are going to know it. Not sure you want that, since I see you got fifteen years in already.”

    “Sixteen.”

    “My mistake. Sixteen.”

    “What dates are you talking about?”

    “Well, first let’s do this right.”

    Bosch reached into his suit pocket to retrieve his mini voice recorder. He put it down on the table between them and turned it on. He then identified himself and Sewell as well as their location and the date of the recording. Then, reading from a card he had also pulled from a pocket, he gave Sewell the Miranda warning, notifying him of his right to an attorney during the questioning that was to follow. Sewell, wanting to be cooperative, waived his rights and agreed to answer questions. Bosch went right to the script he had committed to memory.

    “Mr. Sewell, have you ever been in Los Angeles?”

    “Of course. Many times.”

    “Did you ever live there?”

    “Not really. I stayed with friends every now and then but I never paid rent or anything like that.”

    “When were the times you stayed with friends?”

    “Oh, I don’t know. It’s hard to remember after so many years. It was on and off.”

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