My name is Gavin Doubleday.
No, I'm not related to Abner Doubleday, the Civil War officer often (wrongly, I might add) credited with inventing baseball, the national pastime. That's a myth that has been thorougly and consistently debunked by experts despite what some might say to be the valiant but futile efforts of Major League Baseball. However, I am related to a certain Army officer named Doubleday, a Doubleday that you might be somewhat more familiar with if you've been following recent developments in the US. Yes, that's right. I am the son of General Sam Doubleday.
Now I'm sure you're asking, "Who the hell is Sam Doubleday?" And I wouldn't blame you for not knowing him. Surely he's not the most well-known Army general in the present day, even though he may have belonged in the same "batch" as them, if you will. Colin Powell, David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal; America's war generals, forged in the jungles of Vietnam, sharpened by the sands of Kuwait, and then subsequently blunted in the mountains of Afghanistan and the cities of Iraq. Samson Doubleday was one of them, and yet he is not remembered by the American people as well as the others. And for the few people who do remember him, he most probably isn't remembered very fondly, since it was under Doubleday's command that over three thousand American soldiers died trying to board the Yeerk Pool ship. It was an absolute massacre, a massacre that many historians today have claimed was completely unnecessary and should not have happened. However, because the Yeerk forces defending the Pool were so busy slaughtering the ground forces, they failed to notice that the Animorphs and a number of their own alien allies had managed to infiltrate the Pool ship, and we all know what happened after that. So was my father's ground assault actually vital to the human victory over the Yeerks? Well, I'm not writing this story to answer that question. Leave that to the others, the "armchair generals" and the ones who have actually had a taste of command.
No, I am writing this story because it is quite possibly one of the weirdest stories in the history of mankind. It's certainly the weirdest and even the craziest story in my life. And after all the controversies, the cover-ups, and the conspiracy theories, I think that it's time that I finally set the record straight. After all, I was there when it happened. Of course I don't mean the exact event itself, but I was there investigating what had happened and trying to figure out why it had happened. And to this day I still have trouble coming to terms with the discoveries that me and my investigative team have made. I am also well aware that there will be many people out there who will read my story and call me a bald-faced liar, a corrupt and two-faced slimeball willing to accept whatever price the government had paid me to come up with a story that agrees with their "approved" version of events. And I say to them that they can believe whatever they want, but what follows from this is an accounting of events which I have seen with my two eyes.
As stated in my very brief autobiography at the back, I am presently a detective of the Los Angeles Police Department. There aren't a lot of us out there, and therefore we are a tightly-knit group who will stand for each other through thick and thin and even take a bullet for the other if it has to come to that. But I had come to the police by way of the Army, for just like my father I had gone to West Point to serve my country. And I did my service; two tours in Iraq, and I even had a Purple Heart (and scars on my abdomen where a bullet had clean through and almost ruptured my appendix) to show for it. After I had been shot, I came to realize that I actually didn't like the Army life so I took an honorable discharge and decided to go into the police force instead. I first became a cop in Annapolis of all places before eventually reaching the rank of detective with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police. And then when my father contracted tuberculosis, I moved to Los Angeles so that I could both take care and keep an eye on him, and once he had recovered (barely) I joined the LAPD's Detective Force.
I should tell you beforehand that being a detective is almost nothing like what shows like CSI would have you believe. People don't die or get killed in weird and creative ways every week, and even if they did, it's not like we get to solve the case and say that the butler slipped on the pool tiles and dropped the garden hose on the heiress's head which startled the Siamese cat and made it run away with the hose, somehow inadvertently strangling said heiress just in time for next week's episode. We consider ourselves lucky that we only get probably one case that could serve as an inspiration for a CSI episode every year, and if in a given season there is nothing at all that could be said to have come from some shit that had happened in the City of Angels, we're really proud of ourselves. We even pat ourselves on the back for a job well done in keeping the craziness out of our case files. Oh, and just to make it clear, I am not going to talk about that "strangled by her own cat" case, much as I would have wanted to. But the case I am going to discuss; well, it's one that certainly needs to be discussed, if only to make as much of the facts as absolutely clear as possible.
I still remember the day when I got the call. It was Valentine's Day, and I was in the office poring over some active case files where our progress had not been as quick as I would have liked because I have decided to remain single for the rest of the year after my girlfriend of three years broke up with me right on New Year's Eve. But that's yet another story. I was at my desk, sifting through some case files for clues that me or my fellow detectives had missed when I received a call on my cellphone. "Doubleday," I answered.
"Yo Gav, it's Eli," Elijah Kristofferson, a fellow detective and a good friend of mine, said from the other end. Listen, something big just went down at the Yeerk War Memorial. You won't believe who just got shot here."
"Dude, I got all day," I replied. "I'm all ears."
"It's Jake. Jake Berenson. Leader of the Animorphs. He's our DB."
"What? Really?" I gasped as I pushed myself away from my desk in surprise. "Jake Berenson is dead?"
"Yep, Gav. No joke. Your dad worked with him, right? Right before the end of the war?"
"Yeah, he did." I can't say that I know the story of how my father and Jake Berenson worked on the plan to take the Yeerk Pool ship; I was only in my first year at West Point back then, and Dad had never really talked about it afterwards. I can't say that I blame him, not after what had happened on the ground during that attack.
"So Jake Berenson is dead," I said. "Was it self-inflicted?" I can't claim to know the guy well, but for the very few public appearances that he had made since the end of the Yeerk War, I had always had the impression that Jake Berenson was a man living on borrowed time. It wasn't because he was sick; it was because the weights of his actions and responsibilities were weighing heavily upon him, exacting a toll on his mental health. He had done a lot of things fighting for the freedom of humanity against the Yeerk Empire, things that were certainly not acceptable in peacetime. And he had gotten into the fight in the first place because of his brother Tom, whom if I remember correctly was one of the humans that had been captured by the Yeerks and turned into their hosts, Controllers as they were called. But, according to the "official" Animorphs memoirs, Jake had given his cousin Rachel the order to kill Tom during the final battle that eventually led to the defeat of the Yeerk invasion. That surely must have been weighing on his mind ever since. And I had always said to myself that I wouldn't be surprised if one day Jake was found dead, having killed himself by whatever means he had deemed necessary to take his own life.
And yet here I was, surprised to hear the news that Jake had indeed died. And as I asked that question to Eli, I was already bracing myself for the inevitable "yes" that would come from the other end.
"No, actually, I don't think so, man," Eli replied. "Unless you can shoot yourself three times in the chest without flinching."
Now that came completely out of the blue. That was not how I had expected the leader of the Animorphs to bite the dust. "You're saying that he got shot three times?"
"You heard me right, Gav. Now, the Chief doesn't want word of this to get out until we have, and I quote, 'looked at all the facts', but if you ask me, Gav, I think we're looking at an assassination here. And if it is what I think it is, the whole department's going to be balls deep in this stuff."
"I gotcha, Eli. I'll be there in... an hour, traffic permitting," I said after I had looked at my watch.
"Yeah, right. As if traffic's gonna miraculously clear up for you, man," Eli said to me before he hung up.
I arrived at the Yeerk War Memorial after ninety minutes, just as Eli Kristofferson had said I would miss the deadline that I had set for myself. There was already a small crowd forming around the cordon of yellow police tape that was there to separate the crime scene from the rest of the world. I flashed my detective badge at the LAPD officers standing guard at the tape keeping the crowd at bay, and they lifted up the tape for me to duck under.
"Oh, look who finally decided to show up," a man with tanned skin and Asian features and wearing a beige trench coat over his suit said as he heard my footsteps.
"They called you down here too, Tommy?" I asked in reply. "What did the wife say to you about that?"
"Ah, she understands. She knew what she was getting into when she married me," replied Tomoyuki Okamoto, another friend of mine in the Detective Force. Tommy, as we called him in the force, was a third-generation Japanese-American who came to LA by way of San Francisco. He was a good guy to hang out with; pleasant, funny, and cool enough to shoot the breeze with. Out of all the people in the force, Tommy Okamoto was one of the few people whom I could definitely call my best friend.
"Nice to see you, man," I said as I shook hands with Tommy, and then we both got into a bro hug.
"I could say the same to you," Tommy told me. "Still drowning yourself in work, huh?"
"About the only thing that I can do to keep myself occupied," I admitted. "And you being here means that we really are going all hands on deck for this one. All right, man, walk me through this. What do we know?"
"Not a lot, Gav," Tommy replied. "There was only one guard on duty so not a lot of witnesses there. But we might just have a lead on that, because the guard said that there was only one other person who went to the memorial before he heard gunshots."
"Maybe that's our shooter right there," I said, referring to the person that the guard had said had come to the memorial after Jake. "Then again, maybe our shooter has been camping out in or near the memorial and waited for Mr. Berenson to come."
"Could be, could be," Tommy nodded. "But we gotta ignore all that until the evidence comes in. Like the Chief said, this is going to be the biggest case that we are going to have on our hands. We can't leave no stone unturned and all that sort of stuff."
Tommy and I finally arrived at the place where Jake Berenson had fallen for the last time. Eli Kristofferson was sitting on his haunches beside the body, staring off into the distance somberly. "Well, here he is, guys," he said as we approached him. "Prince Jake. Oh Fearless Leader, in the flesh. Or at least what's left of it."
I squatted down to the other side of Berenson's body, examining it as closely as possible without actually touching it. He was wearing a black coat over a white T-shirt and rough and thick blue jeans that, if he were wearing them in the present day and age, would be called "dad jeans". A pair of basketball-style sneakers were on his feet. His arms were spread out at right angles to his body, and his face was tilted to the right. Truth be told, as I was looking at him at that moment, Jake Berenson looked like he had just fallen asleep. His face had this serene and peaceful quality about it, as if he had seen what was going to happen and had accepted it without a fight. The look of peace on Jake's face in his final moments was a memory that was going to remain in my mind for a very long time. But then my gaze went down to his chest and the three bullet holes on it, which formed a ragged chevron-shaped wound whose bloodstained edges soaked a large part of his white shirt, and I remembered why I had been called down here in the first place. "Has someone tested him for GSR?" I asked, referring to gunshot residue, trace amounts of gunpowder which stuck on a person's clothes and even skin if a gun was fired in close proximity.
"Not yet, but if I had to guess, the coroner would probably find some," Kristofferson replied. "I've got three casings just a few paces away from him." He turned around and pointed his pen at the spot where the bullets casings had been found. "He was probably looking right at his killer as it happened."
".45 ACP, according to the CSI people," Okamoto replied. "Jeez, whoever did him in really wanted to make sure that he was gonna stay dead. I mean, three .45 rounds to the chest? If that didn't literally tear his heart apart, I don't know what will."
I nodded silently. Of course, it was all well and good coming up with theories based on the evidence, but right now we didn't have anything other than the fact that Jake Berenson's killer had used a very powerful round to do the deed. And I had to say that there was something peculiar about the way that the rounds had been grouped on his chest...
"Everybody, please stand back!" the officers guarding the police tape line said as a black Chevy Tahoe with blue and red lights in the grille and the front of the rearview mirrors turned into the road leading to the memorial. "Chief of Police coming through!"
"Oh, great," Kristofferson muttered. "Just what we needed right now. The brass breathing down our necks. This is gonna be good."
Rudolf "Rudy" Johnson, Chief of Police of the Los Angeles Police Department, stepped out of his Tahoe once it had made its way past the growing crowd gathering around the crime scene. He was a grizzled man who looked to be in his early sixties, a fact not helped by the bags around his eyes. He had this perpetually disdainful look upon him which had earned him a reputation for being a hard-hearted perfectionist who wanted every single police procedure in the entire department done by the book. And now he was here at the site of probably the biggest murder to happen in Los Angeles for decades.
Eli and I stood up and, along with Tommy, saluted the Chief as he approached us. "Gentlemen," the Chief said. "I trust that the investigation into the death of Mr. Berenson is happening according to procedure."
"We've barely even begun, sir," I replied for the three of us. "But rest assured that we are doing the best we can to make sure that justice will be served for this murder."
"You better damn well make sure that that happens, Doubleday," the Chief said softly. "I hope you realize the gravity of the situation that you, we are now in. This isn't a simple act of murder anymore, you three. This is an assassination. The evidence might not say that it is but the media damn sure will. We are talking about the leader of the goddamned Animorphs here. The saviors of mankind, vanquishers of the slugs. The people are gonna want answers, and they're gonna want the truth. I already promised the mayor that we were gonna get to the bottom of this, so you better make sure that I get to hold up my end of the deal. Understood?"
"Crystal clear, sir," I replied.
"Good. Now can someone please get the coroner here so that we can get this body moving and the circus out of here?" Chief Johnson asked, and Eli Kristofferson nodded and walked over to the waiting paramedics to give them the go-ahead to move Jake's body from the crime scene. At the same time, one of the Chief's assistants walked up to him and whispered, "The press wants a statement from you, sir. What shall I tell them?"
"Oh, I'll give them a statement all right," the Chief replied. "I'm gonna tell them that there will be a press conference at the HQ later this evening so I can tell them what they need to know." And then before leaving to meet with the press, the Chief turned to me and Tommy Okamoto and pointed a finger at us. "And I expect you two to get on with your jobs and get it over with."
"This is not gonna be easy for us, is it, Tommy?" I asked Okamoto once the Chief was out of earshot.
"No, Gav, it's not," he replied with a shake of the head.
Those turned out to be very prophetic words in the end, but in the days immediately after Jake Berenson's death, something would happen that would make the vast majority of us think that this case would be solved in a matter of days.
A/N: So I finally did it. I finally wrote a sequel to Valentine's Day. It got really dark, I'll tell you that much. Especially with the fact that I just killed off Jake! But as I have it in my mind right now, it's going to be more than about just the matter of Jake being killed. And that's all that I'm going to say before I spoil too much of my own work. Oh, and if you've managed to read all the way down to here, I would like to say that I would really appreciate it if you could drop a review or a comment for this story. As always, I say that I really want to know what you guys really think about my works, and it only takes up a few minutes of your time. And as always, thanks for the support and feedback. It really means everything to me. - GR