“There was nothing wrong with Southern California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn’t cure.”
― Ross Macdonald
ACCESSING GOLDEN STATE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS (GSBI) CASE FOLDER #050520551321
ACCESSING ADDENDUM FILE #090220550025: AUDIO, VISUAL, AND MEMORY INFORMATION AUDIT (MIA) OF DI KIMBERLY MORGAN GATES, BADGE #1988
WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS:
ASA Tompkins: It is currently September 2nd, 2055 at 12:25 AM. Speaking is Assistant State's Attorney Paul Tompkins. Present are myself, GSBI SAC Gilberto Hernandez, and our interview subject. Kim, state your full name and rank for the record, please.
DI Gates: Kimberly Morgan Gates, Inspector Detective with the GSBI.
Tompkins: And you affirm you give this statement to us on your own freewill?
Gates: I do.
Tompkins: And you consent to undergo MIA readings concurrent to your statement?
Gates: Do I have a choice?
SAC Hernandez: *clears throat*
*Five seconds of silence follow*
Gates: Guess that answers that. So, yes I consent to undergo MIA readings concurrent to my statement. Furthermore, I swear the following statement I give is the truth as I believe it to be, as any MIA readings will confirm. There. Everyone’s asses are now covered.
Hernandez: I'll fire up the MIA.
Tompkins: Alright, Kim. Just walk us through the whole case from start to finish.
May 5th, 2055
The chirping of my terminal woke me up. My eyes fluttered in the darkness and I groaned as I rolled over to the screen resting on my nightstand. The display flashed an incoming call from a number I didn’t recognize and one not in my contacts. The area code was a Simi Valley address. Simi Valley was an LAPD stronghold dating back to the days of Darryl Gates. Back in my time in the LAPD I was among the small minority that actually lived in the city I was sworn to protect. The lateness of the call and the area code gave me enough confidence to accept the call.
“This is Gates,” I mumbled.
“Inspector Gates, this is Detective Rick Jackson with LAPD's OCU.”
I was glad that Jackson didn’t opt for video calling me since I rolled my eyes at the mention of the Organized Crime Unit. At least three of four times a week I received requests for further info from half of the OC squads across Golden State. Everyone knew cybercrime was a huge part of how these guys operated these days, but more often than not their requests were just shots in the dark that often lead to little or no information on the suspected criminals they were chasing. Just another way these guys could use me to make it look like they were doing work.
“You realize cybercrime is really a nine to five type job, yes? No need to call in the middle of the night about someone phishing for credit card---”
“It’s about a murder,” said Jackson. I watched the soundwaves of Jackson's voice flow up and down across the terminal as he spoke. “Gangland style execution tonight in Los Feliz. Biometrics list the victim as one Spencer Duckworth. He’s got a rapsheet a mile long.”
The news took me back. It was a name I hadn’t heard in years. That was the real surprise, not the murder part. I knew eventually I'd get a call from some other cop about Duck's incarceration or untimely demise.
“I know Duckworth,” I said softly. “He is -- was, I guess -- my CI.”
“We know. He also had you listed as his next of kin of all things. I figured with you being a fellow cop I don’t actually have to worry about doing the notification in person. Saves me a trip and--”
“Are you still at the crime scene?” I asked. I was already throwing back the covers and wide awake.
“Yeah, and I see where you’re going but that’s not necessary, Inspector. I’ll send you all the information we get from the scene if you want to take a look.”
“I wanna see it with my own two eyes,” I said. I padded across the carpet of my bedroom towards my closet.
“Murder is LAPD business, Inspector.” I could hear the agitation in Jackson’s voice. I half expected him to call me lady instead of inspector. “If we find something related to your field we’ll ask. Not a lot we can gain by having a Statie computer cop take a look at the crime scene.”
“How about a Statie computer cop who was former Robbery Homicide?” I asked with just a hint of humor in my voice. “Now please send me the address of the crime scene or I may be forced to call Captain Bala at home. I know he also works nine to five, wonder how he’d feel about a Statie calling him in the middle of the night requesting access to his crime scene because his detective wouldn’t allow it?”
I used the commandeer function on my app to get a Ryde from my apartment in Crenshaw up to Los Feliz. My status as non-emergency law enforcement meant I had to abide by Executive Order 28 and use ride shares and public transportation wherever I needed to go. But thankfully the state picked up the tab for me.
The car buzzed up Western Avenue in the light early morning traffic. I sat alone in the backseat and absent-mindedly watched the car pilot itself into the right lane before taking a right turn at the next intersection. The monitor mounted to the backseat ran ads and news updates. The commandeer function meant you get the basic package from Ryde. I could have paid out of pocket to have an ad-free trip, but at this point it was all white noise to me. As was the news. More updates on the ongoing Belt famine, Nevada’s formal request of annexation into the GS, and lighter news on some new content coming to YouSee. Everything had happened, but yet nothing had happened.
My thoughts were on Duck and the last time I saw him. One of my first cases with the GSBI. San Francisco PD needed help tracking down a group of Onionheads working for some human traffickers. We’d met at an 80’s themed diner in Silver Lake for breakfast. He’d given me the information I needed to track their routing and I’d given him one get out of jail free card, good to cash in on anything up to a Class C Felony. We chatted a little after the transaction was done. His birthday was coming up at that point. About to be twenty-two and still living on the wrong side of the law.
“You were just a kid when I first busted you,” I said as I put my handheld against the payment terminal on the table.
“Something like that,” he said with a chuckle. “I knew I’d fucked up when I saw that GSBI badge. It wasn’t some LAPD redneck that had busted my ass.”
“A sixteen year old with enough stolen credit card money to ride around South LA in a custom Model 10? You’re lucky I got you before the LAPD did,” I said with a wry smile. “You’d be in LSP until 2100 if anyone other than me had gotten you.”
“Guess you got an eye for talent,” Duck laughed. "Know a good snitch when you see one."
I took a sip of my coffee. Duck, never a coffee drinker, had a glass of retro New Coke with breakfast.
“You know I have connections with a lot of cybersecurity people,” I said after a short silence. “They’re always on the lookout for someone smart they can make into a white hat. There’s a lot of money to be made doing work for these tech companies. And it’s all legal.”
“Then I wouldn’t be your snitch anymore,” he said. “You’d lose one of your best assets.”
I nodded and shrugged. “It’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make.”
He smiled and looked down at the table, settling into something like a deep thought. He looked back up at me after a few long moments.
“What they do is legal,” he said, “but I’m not sure how much more moral it is than what I do. At least I’m honest about my shit. Yes, I scam people out of their information, but I’m not using that for anything other than to make my pockets fat. What do they do? They take all that information -- credit card, bio readings, data history -- and make money off of it. We’re both criminals, Detective, the only difference is nobody’s gonna pass legislation making my shit legal.”
“I respect the principal,” I said before adding. “But you know your luck can’t run forever, right? Eventually you’re going to get arrested for something I can’t help with… or worse.”
“Tell you what,” he said with a smirk. “We’ll make a deal. If I make it to thirty without getting arrested or washed, I’ll hang up my black hat and put on my tie and collared shirt for you. I’ll become some corporate motherfucker at a cubicle all day.”
I stepped out of the Ryde and completed the transaction on my handheld before the automated car disappeared into the night. The address was the site of a public housing zone. Low-rise apartments that stretched out across the entire five block radius. Everyone living here were either on UBI or some form of GSER. Los Feliz had once been a “bad neighborhood” at the end of the 20th century, but gentrification had turned it into a clean, crime-free, and expensive neighborhood in the early 2000’s. But the cycle had revolved back around so that the affluent, wealthier, and by and large whiter citizens of Los Feliz moved on to the next hotspot twenty years ago. What was left behind here were the people who couldn’t afford to move, or simply didn’t want to.
A trio of LAPD squadcars down the block were parked in a semi-circle in an open space that served as the neighborhoods courtyard. The blue LED lights of the cars cast the entire courtyard in a bright blue glow. A drone with LAPD markings flew overhead, hovering slightly to monitor me before moving on. A uniformed officer keeping watch in front of the cars eyeballed me as I approached. I held my badge up in my right hand, my left hand up in the air for a bioscan.
“Who called the Staties?” He asked as he scanned my palm with a handheld.
“Detective Jackson apparently needs some help.”
I walked past the cop and on to the crime scene. Smaller drones hovered over the area, taking photos and video of the activity onsite. A few crime scene techs were directing the drones with their handhelds. A blue tarp rested over something in the middle of it all. I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the tarp. This was far from the first time I’d visited a crime scene where someone I knew was the victim. And like in the past, the body held a strange gravity over me. Maybe it was the old murder cop inside of me yearning to break free?
“You must be Gates,” a gruff voice said from my left.
Rick Jackson looked every bit like the caveman cop I assumed he was. Graying hair with a ruddy face, fat body, and a gun on his hip like the Santos Bill had never existed. He wore a polo shirt with the LAPD logo on the left breast pocket. His khaki pants were too baggy and drooped down around his hips, a side effect of Jackson not realizing his stomach had expanded. He was still buying pants with a smaller waistline, forced to wear them beneath his natural waistline underneath the gut. The heavy gun meant he had to constantly keep pulling up his pants.
“Inspector Gates,” I corrected. “I’d like to see the body.”
Jackson led me towards the tarp. The ground we walked on was muddy. This being LA, I couldn’t remember the last time it had actually rained naturally.
“We think it was a pretty straight forward execution,” said Jackson. “Victim’s listed address was at this apartment complex. Despite his criminal history, he was on UBI.”
“He made his money as a scammer,” I said. “But you can still get UBI with a criminal record. I’m sure people argue they need it more than most.”
Jackson grunted in response, his way of avoiding a political debate in the middle of an active crime scene. He pulled a pair of black vinyl gloves from his back pocket and slipped them on. I stood back and let him pull back the tarp.
Duck’s body was on its stomach, his head turned to the right. I could see the blank, lifeless eyes looking at nothing in particular. Under his left eye was the exit wound, a bloody hole that still had traces of gore and brain matter around the edge. His face was frozen in a look of mild inconvenience, like getting killed was just a bother more than anything.
“Stippling on the entry wound indicates the barrel of the gun was right against his head. We found a .45 casing, but no bullet yet.”
“Check the ground,” I said after looking away from Duck’s body. “The muddy ground? Bullet probably went through Duckworth, into the ground, and nicked an irrigation pipe buried down there.”
Jackson’s face flashed with confusion, until he looked at the mud and something clicked.
“Someone do a scan,” he ordered one of the techs. “Metalurgic, within a ten foot radius of the body and no deeper than two feet.”
“I assume his brain was too shredded for a MIA reading?” I asked Jackson as he stepped away.
“Even if it wasn’t we were too late,” said Jackson. “Patrol didn’t arrive until forty-five minutes after the call. The brain was long dead at that point.”
Jackson continued on about the chain of events after the discovery, the process of how patrol calls the Hollywood Homicide and how homicide, seeing Duck was a figure with organized crime ties, gladly called OCU and their one man on-call tonight, Jackson to handle the case. LAPD is at its most efficient when it comes to passing the buck. While Jackson went on about this, I was barely listening. Instead my eyes looked around the courtyard for some sign of a camera. There were very few places you could go in Golden State that weren’t being surveilled. Something or someone was always watching.
“No cameras?” I asked Jackson.
“Used to be,” he said. “Entire courtyard was wired up by the security company who protects the place. But someone cut the cords about four months ago and the company never fixed them. According to them the courtyard was a low-risk environment. Not worth the extra money to fix it up.”
“Everyone has handhelds, Detective,” I said. “It’s the law. Someone somewhere in the apartment complex has to have some sort of video around the time of the shooting.”
Jackson bristled and hitched his sagging pants up. “Are you telling me how to do my job?”
“No,” I said. “Just suggesting it.”
Jackson whistled at the patrol officer keeping guard at the front of the crime scene.
“Start knocking on doors,” he said. “Get everyone’s device and see what you find. You take the apartments on the top floor, I'll take the ones on the ground.”
I looked back at Duck’s body and thought back to our last conversation a few years ago and his promise to get out by thirty. I knew then it was probably the closest Duck would ever come to retiring from the life voluntarily, and even then it was some half-assed measure to placate me. I’d know plenty of criminals like Duck over the years. Be it hackers, stick-up men, or drug dealers. They never get out of the criminal life until they’re forced.
“Twenty-seven,” I said softly to myself. “You almost made it.”