"Yo, Gav, have you seen this?" Elijah Kristofferson asked me as soon as I walked into the office the next day. He was sitting in front of his computer and chewing some gum.
"Look, man, I just clocked in right now, literally," I replied as I took off my suit jacket and hung it on the back of my office chair. "I literally have no idea what you're talking about. And unless it has something to do with the Berenson investigation then I don't think I wanna see that or know about that."
"It's got everything to do with the Berenson case, man," Eli said, rolling his own office chair towards my desk. "And I do mean everything. I think it's the break that we need to solve this case once and for all."
"And how in the world did you come across that information?" I asked disbelievingly. Not that I had doubts about Eli's investigative abilities; in fact, he had proven quite a good detective in a great many number of cases. I just really did not believe that we could have come across evidence about the killer and their motivations this quickly and this early into the investigation.
"Email, would you believe it?" Eli replied. "It actually came to me by way of some chain mail spam. In fact, I was actually about to delete it from in inbox, and then my stupid mouse decided to click on the link in the spam instead of the delete button, and it led me to this website full of videos, man. Some place called YouTube or something like it, I think. Anyway, the link in the email led me to this video where this guy straight up confesses to killing Berenson. Come on, Gav, just take a look at it."
"All right, man," I muttered even though I have to admit that I was still in a bit of a shock about it. Someone posted a video confessing to the murder of Jake Berenson? Did this person seek attention? Truth be told, people have actually killed, or tried to kill people, just so they could see their name on the papers. Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr., comes to mind. He wanted to assassinate Reagan so that he could become a celebrity (or whatever his twisted version of it was) to attract the attention of Jodie Foster. Not really sure if the same could be said of this person whom Eli claims to have confessed to Jake Berenson's murder, but then again, some people will stop at nothing just to get famous. This is Hollywood after all; the home of celebrity.
"I'm telling you, man, this thing is really making waves, and I do mean making waves," Eli said as he went back to his desk and I rolled my own chair beside him. "The first time I saw this video, I saw that it had been seen at least ten thousand times as well. Now, look at this. More than a hundred thousand views! Actually, make that almost two hundred thousand views because I think this guy just clocked past 150,000. Anyway, Gav, just watch it and see for yourself, and then tell me that this isn't it." Eli then put the video up on fullscreen, and then he hit play.
The first thing that appeared on the screen was a man who appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties. He was standing, or sitting, in front of a green, olive, or khaki wall. An incandescent lamp behind the camera was shining at him, the shadows accenting the lines on his forehead and the bags underneath his eyes. He was staring at something to this right (my left) behind the camera, and then he suddenly turned his gaze right at the camera. Then, without introduction or a preamble, he said, "Hello, world. My name is John Harvey Chapman Jr. And I killed Jake Berenson."
My eyebrows went up, and Eli would tell me later on that they almost melded with my hairline on that day. "Well, he certainly got to his point, I'll tell you that much," I told Eli. And then I shut up as I watched the rest of the video.
"I don't see why I have to explain myself, to tell people why I did what I did," John Harvey Chapman Jr. said. "But if you must know, Jake Berenson deserved to die. Many, many people died because of him. And I'm not talking about just the seventeen thousand Yeerks in the Pool ship that he vented into space, but they are among those that have died by his hand. No, I am talking about the human lives lost because of Jake Berenson's actions. The soldiers and morphers who died assaulting the Pool ship as a distraction for his own attack. The infested humans who were killed by the Vissers because of the Animorphs' attacks. Heck, he even ordered the death of his own brother. Jake Berenson should have been sentenced to death at The Hague alongside the Yeerk Esplin, but he wasn't. So I have decided to take matters into my own hands. If you are watching this, then this means that I have succeeded. The world is now less one mass murderer. All I have done is kill one person. The person I killed has killed lots of people himself, and more others have been killed on his orders."
And just like that, the video was over. "That's it? That's all of it?" I asked Eli.
"Yup," Eli nodded. "Short and sweet, am I right?"
"Well, he didn't waste a lot of time faffing about, that's for sure," I muttered.
"Tell me about it," Eli said. "This thing has practically exploded the Internet. It's spreading all over the place, like a virus. Everyone's talking about it. Just it and nothing else. I wouldn't be surprised if the news starts picking up on it sooner or later because it's basically a video of someone confessing to killing the savior of mankind. God, what a mess," he muttered, shaking his head.
"I hear you, man, I hear you," I said. "Now the question is, is this actionable? Can we do anything about this? I mean, I know that this is enough to get an arrest warrant on this Chapman guy, but what else do we know about him? His address, his status, his Social Security number?"
"Not sure about the address, you know, but I'm sure that we don't really need to know his Social Security number," Eli replied. "I feel like that's for the FBI or the CIA. I don't know. But I've already got people working on finding Chapman, and I've also got the IT guys working their magic on the video. You know, tracking the source, finding where it was made, that kind of stuff."
"Yeah, I never really understood how they do that," I shook my head. "Just like you said, for me it's magic what they do. Maybe that's why I'm out on the street with you and Tommy instead of down at the basement with the computers and stuff."
"Wassup, bitches?" Tommy Okamoto said as he swept into the office in his beige trench coat. "What's happening?"
"Right on time, Tommy," I called out to him. "We were just talking about you. Something's just come up on the Berenson case. Eli, wanna show him the video?"
"Yep. Over here, Tommy," Eli said, waving Okamoto over to his desk to watch the video while I returned to mine. I already knew that sooner or later, we were going to get the call to bring in Mr. John Harvey Chapman Jr. for questioning; it was just going to be a matter of when it was going to happen. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow. But it was definitely going to happen. So I might as well get a little housekeeping done on my desk before I was called away to perform my duties.
The call came in at around five in the afternoon. I don't know how or why it happened so quickly. Maybe the other detectives found Chapman's address so soon after Eli put them on the case and the warrant was also processed quickly. Or maybe the PD wanted to move this quickly because of the victim in the case and the manner in which he was killed. There are always reasons why the bureaucracy suddenly speeds up from its usual snail's pace. But the outcome was the same: the warrant for John Harvey Chapman Jr. had been issued, and it was now our duty to see that it was served.
In any case, usually the warrant would be served to the suspect by one detective (sometimes two) supported by at least a pair of uniformed officers. Usually, that was more than enough to convince the suspect that any sort of resistance was futile (to overuse an old sci-fi quote) and surrender meekly to the authorities. But today was different. Not only were three detectives assigned to deliver Chapman his warrant (me, Eli, and Tommy, in case you were wondering) but our backup also consisted of over a dozen SWAT officers and at least twice that many police officers. We all knew what was going on: the PD wanted to show the people of Los Angeles and the United States that we were doing everything in our power to bring the killer of the leader of the Animorphs to justice.
According to the information that we had been given, John Harvey Chapman was currently in a motel over in South Central. A part of me wondered why our perps almost always had to be found inside seedy motels in the shadier parts of town, but the rational part of me told that other part that this all made sense. These guys were hiding from the law, and these lower-end motels usually accepted cash from their customers without questions, so of course they were going to hide out here. Except they never learned from the fact that a lot of their fellow suspects and criminals have also been caught hiding out in the very same motels that they were using.
Chapman's room was on the second floor of the motel. It was one of those motels where all the doors were facing the parking lot, which meant that despite our orders to run silent (no sirens, no horns, as little noise as possible) we all knew that our suspect surely must have seen us approaching. We went up the stairs to the second floor in single file with me at the head, followed by a couple of SWAT officers, and Eli and Tommy bringing up the rear. We flattened ourselves against the wall as we got closer to the room, and then I stopped just before I crossed the door to Chapman's room. I waited for a few seconds as I caught my breath, and then I banged my fist on the door. "John Harvey Chapman, this is the LAPD!" I called out. "Open the door!"
But there was no response from inside. I waited another few seconds to give him a chance to respond, and then I knocked on the door once again. "John Harvey Chapman, LAPD! Open the door or we will come in by force!" I shouted. But still the room remained silent. I turned back to the SWAT guys and gestured with my head at them and the door. The team leader nodded and he and two other SWAT guys moved past me and towards the wall on the other side of the door. The leader counted down from three with his fingers, and then one of the other SWATs behind him stepped up to the door and kicked his right foot at the door near the knob. The wood splintered but held. The SWAT man kicked once again, and this time the door swung open. The SWAT who had kicked open the door brought his weapon up to his shoulder and went inside, followed by his teammates. I went inside behind the third SWAT man, but I had not yet even put two feet inside the room before the SWAT called out, "Clear!"
The room was small, even by no-star motel hell standards. It was basically a bedroom with an attached kitchen and bathroom, both just barely big enough to be worthy of the names. Empty boxes of takeout food were strewn all over the place, and scattered newspapers practically covered the floor. And the suspect himself was lying flat on his stomach on the bed, snoring and sleeping without a care in the world. I thought I could even see the drool dripping out of his mouth and onto the pillow. I wouldn't say that I had a weak stomach but I have to say that I was grossed out by the sight before my eyes at that moment. At least he was wearing clothes, even if it was just a wifebeater and boxer shorts. I've seen my fair share of naked and half-naked perps trying to run away from the law. Some stick in my mind more than others. And that was perhaps not the best choice of words.
I shook my head and cleared my throat. "Mr. Chapman," I called out. "Mr. Chapman!" I waited until the man had opened his eyes, and when they did, they immediately went wide in both surprise and recognition. "I'm Detective Doubleday of the LAPD, and you are under arrest for the murder of Jake Berenson. Now take your hands out from under your pillow and place them above your head."
Slowly, Chapman did as I had told him, taking his hands out from under the pillow and raising them over his head. Not that he had any other choice in the matter. Well, he didn't have another choice that would have resulted in him keeping his life. He had two MP5s and a shotgun pointed at him, and I also had my service Glock in my hand. Not pointed at anybody or anywhere but ready to be used at a moment's notice. But on this day I didn't have to use my gun, and instead it was my handcuffs which went to work as I secured Chapman and brought him out of the motel. It looked to the world as if the murder of Jake Berenson was finally solved. But, as we were to find out later, it was just only the beginning of the whole investigation.