A/N: Locations, divisions, and procedures depicted here may not accurately reflect those used by the LAPD in real life. Viewer discretion is advised. However, I have not claimed to write realistic police fiction. As always though, do feel free to leave a review or a comment if you think this story is doing well or doing badly. It only takes a few minutes of your time and it allows me to know what you guys think about it. Thank you. - GR
As expected, the media circus around the death of Jake Berenson started as soon as Chief Johnson announced that he would be holding a press conference at the HQ where the media could bombard him and the poor press officers with questions about the murder. In fact, the case had been upgraded by the media from a murder to an assassination before night had even fallen. Of course, it didn't help that our dear mayor of the city made a televised speech right after the LAPD press conference promising that we will catch Jake's assassin as soon as possible. And we all know how the media laps up politicians' promises.
"Can you believe what this guy is saying?" Eli Kristofferson mumbled as we watched the mayor's speech that night. "Classic politico stuff. He goes and promises shit that he knows he can't do and puts everything on the shoulders of those who does know what to do so that when something wrong or big happens, he can put all the blame on us."
"Just relax, guy," I said as I sipped my coffee. "Don't think about him or anyone else too much."
"I mean, how is this guy the mayor of this city?" Eli continued. "Okay, sure, he was born here, but he grew up and was raised in Boston, for crying out loud! How can you like and vote for someone who is a fan of the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Red Sox? It's like he's the very antithesis of a citizen of LA! I just can't believe it."
"Hey, Eli, what about me?" Tom Okamoto called out. "I've been a fan of the 49ers my whole life and I've never heard you say shit about me."
"Well, that's the thing, Tommy. I didn't know you were a Niners fan, but now that I do, expect the worst from me."
"Oh, yeah? Bring it! Fuck the Raiders, and fuck the Raider Nation!"
I just shook my head and kept quiet as both Eli and Tom began roasting each other's favorite football teams. Now don't take this the wrong way, but football has never really been my sport of interest, if you know what I mean. I'm more of a basketball fan myself, although probably not as avid as others would say they are. Still, I can say that I follow the Lakers closely, as closely as my duties would allow me, and I do feel a certain sense of pride and joy at having lived through perhaps one of the greatest times to be a Lakers fan. Shaq and Kobe feud? What Shaq and Kobe feud? I don't know what you're talking about.
Eventually, our little shit-talking session came to an end when the telephone on my desk rang. "Doubleday," I said as I picked up.
"Detective, it's Officer Fernandez. The CCTV tapes from the memorial have just arrived. IT's going over them as we speak."
"Roger, thanks, Ferdie. We'll be down there in a moment." As I put the phone back on its cradle, Eli asked me, "What's up? What did Ferdie say?" I told them about the arrival of the CCTV tapes, something which both Eli and Tom received warmly.
"Thank God for that," Tommy muttered as we went down to the IT Division's office. "Finally got something to do while waiting for the results on the autopsy."
The Information Technology Division's office was located in the basement of the LAPD HQ, mostly because when it had been built, there was no such thing yet as the IT Division. In any case, the IT guys actually preferred being in the basement because it stays cool there even during the peak summer months, and because they say it's the perfect environment to store their machines, tapes, films, CDs and whatnot. When we three detectives arrived there, the IT guys were already poring over the footage from the CCTV cameras from the Yeerk War Memorial. Make that just a single camera because as it turns out, only the area immediately around the guard shack was monitored by the camera. The technology had grown by leaps and bounds, sure, but let's be honest, we're still quite a ways away from television-quality footage that shows like CSI and NCIS like to say we've got, at least when we're talking about cameras on the civilian market.
"We got anything yet on those tapes, guys?" Tommy Okamoto asked as we entered the IT office.
"Oh, come on, Tommy, that's a trick question and you know it," one of the IT guys said. "We've barely gone over these ourselves and you're already asking us to do the job the mayor gave you," he joked as he rewinded (rewound?) one particular segment of the tape that he was watching.
"I take it that that's Berenson we're seeing right now," I said, pointing at the blurry figure in the middle of the screen.
"The one and only," the IT guy nodded. "It lines up with the memorial guard's testimony. The guard said that Jake went to the memorial around 10:30, and the timestamp proves it."
"Yeah, and then he said that there was only one other person who came to the memorial after Jake and before he said he heard gunshots," I added. "Keep playing."
We stared at the screen for the next few minutes, watching for any signs of suspicious activity in and around the memorial guard post. At first, there was nothing at all that could be called that, with the only signs of movement on the footage being cars passing by on the road and the guard himself walking around his post, probably to stretch his legs a little bit. And then, around the 10:40 AM mark, I noticed a figure in a black hood and loose jeans enter the scene from the left. "There, right there," I said, pointing at the figure. "There he is. That has to be him." The IT guy continued playing the footage, this time at the normal framerate, and we all watched as the figure walked past the guard post. Unlike Jake, the figure didn't nod or wave at the guard or even acknowledge that he was there, and then just like that, he was out of the camera's field of view.
"You guys got any other angles of this guy?" Eli Kristofferson asked.
"Nope. This is the only camera in and around the area of the memorial, and traffic cameras hadn't yet been installed in this part of the city yet."
"Well, that's a shame," Eli said, shaking his head. "So all we know about this guy is that he wears a black hoodie and jeans. There are literally a million people in LA alone who fits that description. All right, roll the tape again. Maybe there's something that we're missing."
The IT guys played the tape on fast forward once again, and we kept our eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary that could have happened in between the arrival of the other person in the memorial to the moment that the guard reported gunshots. The tape went on for over an hour, but we were able to skim through it in a matter of minutes. And, as I had dreaded, there was nothing at all that happened in the intervening moments that would help us determine or even get a clue of what had happened. As the timestamp on the video struck 12:30, the guard poked his head out of his shack, most possibly due to the shots being fired, and then he rushed out of his shack in the direction of the memorial. A few minutes later he was back in his shack, radio to his lips, and minutes after that the first black-and-whites were rolling up to the scene.
"Well, that's all she wrote," the IT guy said as we came to the end of the recording. "Don't know what to say, guys. Just that it's a shame that Jake had to go the way he did. You know, I have him to thank for my sister being free of the slugs in her head. If it hadn't been for Jake and his Animorphs, I never would've known my sister was being held captive by those damned aliens inside her own head. Her own head! I just can't imagine the shit that she had gone through because of those damned worms."
"Well, we've all been there, Joaquin," Eli said, patting the other guy's shoulder.
"So," I said. "Thirty minutes in the icebox and all we've got to show for it is the clothes that the possible suspect was wearing. "I'm not going before either the Chief or the mayor with just that."
"Well, maybe we don't have to go to them with just that," Tommy Okamoto said. "Joaquin, both the suspect and the guard were on the film, right?" Joaquin nodded his head."Full body, yeah? And we know how high the guard at the memorial is, right?"
"Yeah, that's right," Eli replied. "I'd say about five-foot-nine, if we're being conservative."
"Okay. So is there a way to, I don't know, maybe compare the heights of the guard and the suspect?" Tommy asked.
"Shit, Tom, I think you're onto something here," Joaquin said, and he immediately slid his chair from one computer to another. "It's gonna take some time because there's a lot of variables to take into account here like the angle of the camera and the depth of field and the exact positioning and placement of both guys in the video, but it can be done."
"How long are we talking about here, Joaquin?" I asked.
"Um, two days, three tops," he replied. "And that's with the others like Reeves, Aguirre, and Colthurst helping me out. And since they are all now back at their homes tonight, I can't do anything else except prep the clips and stuff for tomorrow."
"Oh, not another one of your three-day guarantees, Joaquin," I joked. "Last time you said three days tops, it ended up taking you guys four days to give us what we wanted."
"Well, in our defense, Chandra wasn't expecting to get hit by the flu back then."
"All right, all right, we'll leave you to it, man," I said as me, Tommy, and Eli began walking out of the IT Division office.
"About time you three got out of my hair too!" Joaquin called out to us.
"Dude, you never had hair to begin with," Eli shot back, and as we climbed up the stairs we could hear Joaquin's laughing "Screw you!" echoing and following us.
"So, you guys wanna call it a night?" I asked as we got up to the ground floor.
"I called it a night thirty minutes ago already," Eli replied. "I mean, I'm already ready to leave. Turned off my lamp and my computer and all that. Good night, Gav, Tommy," he said as he tapped my back goodbye.
"I'm just gonna smoke a cig or two and then I'm also turning in for the night," Tommy added. He was most probably going to smoke cigarettes because he had been twirling his pen like mad for the last fifteen minutes, a sure sign that he was jonesing for a puff. "Catch you guys tomorrow," he said.
"Sure," I nodded. "I'm just gonna pick up some papers. You know, my night reading."
"Yeah, man, whatever. Good night, bro."
"Good night, man."
My mind was already preparing ahead for the next two days. As with the majority of murder cases, things don't fall into place for the investigators right on the get-go. Oftentimes we have to really sift through mountains upon mountains of evidence and data that may or may not actually be related to the case at hand. You could say that at this point my mind was already on autopilot as I began thinking ahead to the next few stages of this investigation. But as I woke up the next day and went right back to work, something was going to happen that was going to blow this case wide open. Or so we had all thought.