'Any thoughts that you'd like to start with?'
'Thoughts on what?' 'Well, on anything. On the incident.' 'On the incident? Yes, I have some thoughts.' She waited but he didn't continue. He had decided before he even got to Chinatown that this would be the way he would be. He'd make her have to pull every single word out of him.
'Could you share them with me, Detective Bosch?' she finally asked. 'That is the purpose of-'
'My thoughts are that this is bullshit. Total bullshit. That's the purpose. That's all.'
'No, wait. How do you mean, bullshit?'
'I mean, okay, I pushed the guy. I guess I hit him. I'm not sure exactly what happened but I'm not denying anything. So, fine, suspend me, transfer me, take it to a Board of Rights, whatever. But going this way is bullshit. ISL is bullshit. I mean, why do I have to come here three times a week to talk to you like I'm some kind of— you don't even know me, you don't know anything about me. Why do I have to talk to you? Why do you have to sign off on this?'
'Well, the technical answer is right there in your own statement. Rather than discipline you the department wants to treat you. You've been placed on involuntary stress leave, which means -'
'I know what it means and that's what's bullshit. Somebody arbitrarily decides I'm under stress and that gives the department the power to keep me off the job indefinitely, or at least until I jump through enough hoops for you.'
'Nothing about this was arbitrary. It was predicated on your actions, which I think clearly show -'
'What happened had nothing to do with stress. What it was about was ... never mind. Like I said, it's bullshit. So why don't we just cut through it and get to the point. What do I have to do to get back to my job?'
He could see the anger flare behind her eyes. His total disavowal of her science and skill cut to her pride. Quickly the anger was gone, though. Dealing with cops all the time, she had to be used to it.
'Can't you see that all of this is for your own welfare? I have to assume the top managers of this department clearly see you as a valued asset or you wouldn't be here. They'd have put you on a disciplinary track and you'd be on your way out. Instead, they are doing what they can to preserve your career and its incumbent value to the department.'
'Valued asset? I'm a cop, not an asset. And when you're out there on the street nobody's thinking about incumbent value. What does that mean, anyway? Am I going to have to listen to words like that in here?'
She cleared her throat before speaking sternly.
'You have a problem, Detective Bosch. And it goes far beyond the incident that resulted in your being placed on leave. That's what these sessions are going to be all about. Do you understand? This incident is not unique. You have had problems before. What I am trying to do, what I have to do before I can sign off on your return to duty in any capacity, is get you to take a look at yourself. What are you doing? What are you about? Why do these problems happen to you? I want these sessions to be an open dialogue where I ask a few questions and you speak your mind, but with a purpose. Not to harass me and my profession or the leadership of the department. But to talk about you. This is about you in here, no one else.'
Harry Bosch just looked at her silently. He wanted a cigarette but would never ask her if he could smoke. He would never acknowledge in front of her that he had the habit. If he did, she might start talking about oral fixations or nicotine crutches. He took a deep breath instead and looked at the woman on the other side of the desk. Carmen Hinojos was a small woman with a friendly face and manner. Bosch knew she wasn't a bad person. He'd actually heard good things about her from others who had been sent to Chinatown. She was just doing her job here and his anger was not really directed at her. He knew she was probably smart enough to know that, too.
'Look, I'm sorry,' she said. 'I should not have started with that kind of open question. I know that this is an emotional subject with you. Let's try to start again. By the way, you can smoke if you'd like.'
'Is that in the file, too?'
'It's not in the file. It didn't need to be. It's your hand, the way you keep bringing it up to your mouth. Have you been trying to quit?'
'No. But it's a city office. You know the rules.'
It was a thin excuse. He violated that law every day at the Hollywood Station.
'That's not the rule in here. I don't want you to think of this as being part of Parker Center or part of the city. That's the chief reason these offices are away from that. There are no rules like that here.'
'Doesn't matter where we are. You're still working for the LAPD.'
'Try to believe that you are away from the Los Angeles Police Department. When you are in here, try to believe
that you're just coming to see a friend. To talk. You can say anything here.'
But he knew she could not be seen as a friend. Never. There was too much at stake here. Just the same, he nodded once to please her.
'That's not very convincing.'
He hiked his shoulders as if to say it was the best he could do, and it was.
'By the way, if you want I could hypnotize you, get rid of your dependency on nicotine.'
'If I wanted to quit, I could do it. People are either smokers or they're not. I am.'
'Yes. It's perhaps the most obvious symptom of a self-destructive nature.'
'Excuse me, am I on leave because I smoke? Is that what this is about?'
'I think you know what it's about.'
He said nothing else, remembering his decision to say as little as possible.
'Well, let's continue then,' she said. 'You've been on leave ... let's see, Tuesday a week?'
'What have you been doing with your time?'
'Filling out FEMA forms mostly.'
'My house was red-tagged.'
'The earthquake was three months ago. Why have you waited?'
'I've been busy. I've been working.'
'I see. Did you have insurance?'
'Don't say 'I see,' because you don't. You couldn't possibly see things the way I do. The answer is no, no insurance. Like most everybody else, I was living in denial. Isn't that what you people call it? I bet you had insurance.'
'Yes. How bad was your house hit?'
'Depends on who you ask. The city inspectors say it's totaled and I can't even go inside. I think it's fine. Just needs some work. They know me by name at Home Depot now. And I've had contractors do some of it. It'll be done soon and I'll appeal the red tag. I've got a lawyer.'
'You're living there still?'
'Now that's denial, Detective Bosch. I don't think you should be doing that.'
'I don't think you have any say about what I do outside my job with the department.'
She raised her hands in a hands-off manner.
'Well, while I don't condone it, I suppose it serves its purpose. I think it's good that you have something to keep you occupied. Though I'd much rather it be a sport or a hobby or maybe plans for a trip out of town, I think it's important to keep busy, to keep your mind off the incident.'
'I don't know. Everybody keeps calling it the incident. It kind've reminds me of how people called it the Vietnam conflict, not the war.'
'Then what would you call what happened?'
'I don't know. But incident ... it sounds like ... I don't know. Antiseptic. Listen, Doctor, let's go back a minute. I don't want to take a trip out of town, okay? My job is in homicide. It's what I do. And I'd really like to get back to it. I might be able to do some good, you know.'
'If the department lets you.'
'If you do. You know it's going to be up to you.'
'Perhaps. Do you notice that you speak of your job as if mission of some sort?'
'That's about right. Like the Holy Grail.'
He said it with sarcasm. This was getting intolerable and it was only the first session.
'Is it? Do you believe your mission in life is to solve murders, to put bad people in jail?'
He used the shoulder hike to say he didn't know. He stood up and walked to the window and looked down on Hill Street. The sidewalks were crowded with pedestrians. Every time he had been down here they were crowded. He noticed a couple of Caucasian women walking along. They stood out in the sea of Asian faces like raisins in rice. They passed the window of a Chinese butcher shop and Bosch saw a row of smoked ducks hanging whole, by their necks.
Farther up the road he saw the Hollywood Freeway overpass, the dark windows of the old sheriffs jail and the Criminal Courts building behind it. To the left of that he could see the City Hall tower. Black construction tarps hung around the top floors. It looked like some kind of mourning gesture but he knew the tarps were to hold debris from falling while earthquake repairs were made. Looking past City Hall, Bosch could see the Glass House. Parker Center, police headquarters.
'Tell me what your mission is,' Hinojos said quietly from behind him. 'I'd like to hear you put it in words.'
He sat back down and tried to think of a way to explain himself but finally just shook his head.
'Well, I want you to think about that. Your mission. What is it really? Think about that.'
'What's your mission, Doctor?'
'That's not our concern here.'
'Of course it is.'
'Look, Detective, this is the only personal question I will answer. These dialogues are not to be about me. They are about you. My mission, I believe, is to help the men