The Night Fire (Renée Ballard, #3)
Bosch arrived late and had to park on a cemetery lane far from the grave site. Careful not to step on anybody’s grave, he limped through two memorial sections, his cane sinking into the soft ground, until he saw the gathering for John Jack Thompson. It was standing room only around the old detective’s grave site and Bosch knew that wouldn’t work with his knee six weeks post-op. He retreated to the nearby Garden of Legends section and sat on a concrete bench that was part of Tyrone Power’s tomb. He assumed it was okay since it was clearly a bench. He remembered his mother taking him to see Power in the movies when he was a kid. Old stuff they would run in the revival theaters on Beverly. He remembered the handsome actor as Zorro and as the accused American in Witness for the Prosecution. He had died on the job, suffering a heart attack while filming a dueling scene in Spain. Bosch had always thought it wasn’t a bad way to go—doing what you loved.
The service for Thompson lasted a half hour. Bosch was too far away to hear what was said but he could guess. John Jack—he was always called that—was a good man who gave forty years of service to the Los Angeles Police Department in uniform and as a detective. He put many bad people away and taught generations of detectives how to do the same.
One of them was Bosch—paired with the legend as a newly minted homicide detective in Hollywood Division more than three decades earlier. Among other things, John Jack had taught Bosch how to read the tells of a liar in an interrogation room. John Jack always knew when somebody was lying. He once told Bosch it took a liar to know a liar but never explained how he had come by that piece of wisdom.
Their pairing had lasted only two years because Bosch trained well and John Jack was needed to break in the next new homicide man, but the mentor and student had stayed in touch through the years. Bosch spoke at Thompson’s retirement party, recounting the time they were working a murder case and John Jack pulled over a bakery delivery truck when he saw it turn right at a red light without first coming to a complete stop. Bosch questioned why they had interrupted their search for a murder suspect for a minor traffic infraction and John Jack said it was because he and his wife, Margaret, were having company for dinner that night and he needed to bring home a dessert. He got out of their city-ride, approached the truck, and badged the driver. He told him he had just committed a two-pie traffic offense. But being a fair man, John Jack cut a deal for one cherry pie and came back to the city car with that night’s dessert.
Those kinds of stories and the legend of John Jack Thompson had dimmed in the twenty years since his retirement, but the gathering around his grave was thick and Bosch recognized many of the men and women he had worked with during his own time with an LAPD badge. He suspected the reception at John Jack’s house after the service was going to be equally crowded and might last into the night.
Bosch had been to too many funerals of retired detectives to count. His generation was losing the war of attrition. This one was highend, though. It featured the official LAPD honor guard and pipers. That was a nod to John Jack’s former standing in the department. “Amazing Grace” echoed mournfully across the cemetery and over the wall that divided it from Paramount Studios.
After the casket was lowered and people started heading back to their cars, Bosch made his way across the lawn to where Margaret remained seated, a folded flag in her lap. She smiled at Bosch as he approached.
“Harry, you got my message,” she said. “I’m glad you came.”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Bosch said.
He leaned down, kissed her cheek, and squeezed her hand.
“He was a good man, Margaret,” he said. “I learned a lot from him.”
“He was,” she said. “And you were one of his favorites. He took great pride in all of the cases you closed.”
Bosch turned and looked down into the grave. John Jack’s box appeared to have been made of stainless steel.
“He picked it,” Margaret said. “He said it looked like a bullet.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t get over to see him,” he said. “Before the end.”
“It’s okay, Harry,” she said. “You had your knee. How is it doing?”
“Better every day. I won’t need this cane much longer.”
“When John Jack had his knees done he said it was a new lease on life. That was fifteen years ago.”
Bosch just nodded. He thought a new lease on life was a little optimistic.
“Are you coming back to the house?” Margaret asked. “There is something there for you. From him.”
Bosch looked at her.
“You’ll see. Something I would give only to you.”
Bosch saw members of the family gathered by a couple of stretch limos in the parking lane. It looked like two generations of children.
“Can I walk you over to the limo?” Bosch asked.
“That would be nice, Harry,” Margaret said.