The concrete blonde

This is for Susan, Paul and Jamie,

Bob and Marlen, Ellen, Jane and Damian

The house in Silverlake was dark, its windows as empty as a dead man's eyes. It was an old California Craftsman with a full front porch and two dormer windows set on the long slope of the roof. But no light shone behind the glass, not even from above the doorway. Instead, the house cast a foreboding darkness about it that not even the glow from the streetlight could penetrate. A man could be standing there on the porch and Bosch knew he probably wouldn't be able to see him.

“You sure this is it?” he asked her.

“Not the house,” she said. “Behind it. The garage. Pull up so you can see down the drive.”

Bosch tapped the gas pedal and the Caprice moved forward and crossed the entrance to the driveway.

“There,” she said.

Bosch stopped the car. There was a garage behind the house with an apartment above it. Wooden staircase up the side, light over the door. Two windows, lights on inside.

“Okay,” Bosch said.

They stared at the garage for several moments. Bosch didn't know what he expected to see. Maybe nothing. The whore's perfume was filling the car and he rolled his window down. He didn't know whether to trust her claim or not. The one thing he knew he couldn't do was call for backup. He hadn't brought a rover with him and the car was not equipped with a phone.

“What are you going to—there he goes!” she said urgently.

Bosch had seen it, the shadow of a figure crossing behind the smaller window. The bathroom, he guessed.

“He's in the bathroom,” she said. “That's where I saw all the stuff.”

Bosch looked away from the window and at her.

“What stuff?”

“I, uh, checked the cabinet. You know, when I was in there. Just looking to see what he had. A girl has to be careful. And I saw all the stuff. Makeup shit. You know, mascara, lipsticks, compacts and stuff. That's how I figured it was him. He used all that stuff to paint 'em when he was done, you know, killing them.”

“Why didn't you tell me that on the phone?”

“You didn't ask.”

He saw the figure pass behind the curtains of the other window. Bosch's mind was racing now, his heart jacking up into its overdrive mode.

“How long ago was this that you ran out of there?”

“Shit, I don't know. I hadda walk down to Franklin just to find a fucking ride over to the Boulevard. I was with the ride 'bout ten minutes. So I don't know.”

“Guess. It's important.”

“I don't know. It's been more than an hour.”

Shit, Bosch thought. She stopped to turn a trick before she called the task force number. Showed a lot of genuine concern there. Now there could be a replacement up there and I'm sitting out here watching.

He gunned the car up the street and found a space in front of a hydrant. He turned off the engine but left the keys in the ignition. After he jumped out he stuck his head back in through the open window.

“Listen, I'm going up there. You stay here. If you hear shots, or if I'm not back here in ten minutes, you start knocking on doors and get some cops out here. Tell them an officer needs assistance. There's a clock on the dash. Ten minutes.”

“Ten minutes, baby. You go be the hero now. But I'm getting that reward.”

Bosch pulled his gun as he hurried down the driveway. The stairs up the side of the garage were old and warped. He took them three at a time, as