Detective Warren Gallagher arrived at the Santa Monica pier a little after eight that morning. He was feeling rather lively because last night his girlfriend Amanda had agreed to become his fiance, and because the barista at Cultivar Coffee Bar had given him an extra shot of espresso on the house. It’s wasn’t every day that he got to report to his job as a crime scene detective looking forward to the day that lay ahead of him. As he stepped out of his Subaru and began to walk up the boardwalk his partner Detective Nix joined him at his side.
Nix was a tall and buff guy – the type of guy that you’d see ver on Venice at Muscle Beach showing off their biceps to the tourists. His bald head looked shinier and shiner each day Warren saw him. One year at the office Halloween party, Nix had shown up in a white muscle tee shirt with a mop at his side dressed up as Mr. Clean. Nix had been with LAPD for few years longer than Warren, and when they were partnered together Nix took him on as if he were his little brother. “So?? Anything you have to tell me? ” Nix asked “Such as? Looking for something in particular? ” “Don’t play with me man!
What’d she say?! ” “She.. she said… ” Warren stopped walking, and held his head ow and began to shake it. “Aww, man… Warren buddy, I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.. ” “Yeah, ya should be, because l expect you to be at the wedding giving a corny toast to my wife and I! She said yes! ” Nix cocked his head to the side and let out a puff of air and began to smile. “C’mon man! You’re bad! You know that right? I was about to go all soft on you and give you my tickets to the Dodgers game this weekend and everything! You’re bad”! Nix turned to Warren and looked him the eyes and gave him a soft smile.
He pulled Warren in for a quick hug and patted him on the back. Congratulations man. I’m happy for you, seriously. You and Amanda are perfect together and you guys will be so happy together”. “Thanks Nix, thanks a lot brother,” said Warren. The detectives started back up the boardwalk again and Warren couldn’t help but think how lucky he was and how great his life was going. He had a great girl who he was going to marry, a partner like Nix and a steady job. Sure, being a crime scene detective wasn’t simplest of jobs; it took a lot out of Warren, but at least it was work, and it paid the bills.
As Warren and Nix reached the end of the boardwalk, they imboed underneath the yellow “DO NOT CROSS” police tape. A man’s body waited face down on the ground for them and the seagulls in the sky beckoned for the detectives to find the poor soul’s killer. “What we got? ” Nix asked the investigator on the scene. “44 year old male. Identification in his wallet says that the name was Harvey Steadman. One single gunshot wound to the back of the head. Looks like Harvey was taken out execution style. Estimated time of death: around 6:30 this morning,” the investigator said.
Warren lifted the aviator sunglasses off the bridge of his nose nd rested them onto the top of his head, he squatted down to get a closer look at Harvey whose face was tilted to the side against the boardwalk. Harvey didn’t look good, he still had his eyes opened and his lips were parted every so slightly. This was the part of his job that Warren hated the most. Warren wanted so badly to reach over and close Harvey’s eyelids and gently press his lips back together, but his job was not to take care of the victim, it was to find out who did it.
Warren stood up and looked out past the end of the pier and gazed out into the horizon of the Pacific ocean. Each day was a struggle for Warren o see the bodies of people who were killed so brutally and mercilessly but his reward came from putting away stone hearted killers. “Any substantial evidence found? ” Warren asked the investigator. “Not much on him. 12 dollars, a couple credit cards and a work identification; looks like he was a beverage supp company called BSG,” The investigator reached for Harvey’s wallet and pulled out a photograph and handed it to Warren. He had a family, a wife and two boys. ”
Warren always wondered what it would be like to be the person with the job of notifying a family that their loved one had been killed. He felt guilty that he was thankful that he didn’t for a have to do that. “Why would anyone want to murder a beverage supply guy? Doesn’t make sense,” said Nix. “Sweep the businesses on this end of the boardwalk, check out if they have any cameras facing this direction. See if we can get a closer look at the perps face. I’ll head back to the station and wait for forensics,” Nix told Warren.
Warren nodded as he made his way back underneath the tape. Nix made his way back up the boardwalk and Warren watched as he walked away. Warren envied his partner for always being the one who got to make all the decisions. It seemed that no matter the situation, Nix was always going back to the station in the city sitting at his desk eating a hoagie from the vendor up the street “waiting for forensics”. Warren knew that he was the underdog at the station and he dreamt of the day when his time of paying his dues would come to an end.
Warren crawled back under the tape and made his way into a boardwalk souvenir shop where an annoyed teenager stood behind the counter. She chomped on her gum with her hands on her hips and gave Warren the most exasperated of looks. “Hello? Sir? We’re opening late today. Didn’t you see the sign? Some dude was shot or whatever, we have to wait until everything is cleaned up. ” Warren sighed. “Yes. He was shot.. or whatever,” said Warren as he flashed his badge at the girl.
The teenagers eyebrows scrunched up and she started to open her mouth, but nothing came out. Look… my name is Detective Gallagher and l’m working this case” Warren motioned his hand to her name tag “Mandy, a man was murdered right outside this morning and if this business has a security camera, I’m going to need to review the film on it,” he said. Mandy stood still, frozen as if she were a statue briefly before he shook her head up and down. “Of course. I’m sorry,” Mandy started, “the security room is in the back, I’ll take you there. ” Mandy walked from behind the counter and led Warren to the back of the shop.
She opened a door that revealed a room the size of a janitors closet where there was an orange plastic chair and a small end table pushed against the beige cinderblock wall with a small television on top of it. Warren walked into the room and thanked Mandy as he closed the door behind him. He walked around the table and pulled out the chair and took a seat. He looked at the television, and watched as the camera ilmed the coroner hauling away Harvey’s body. Warren pressed the rewind button on the television, and took himself back in time to earlier that morning to 5:30, one hour before Harvey was killed. And now we wait,” thought Warren. Warren bored himself as he watched the tape of an empty boardwalk.
At 5:42, a few seagulls flew by, and at 5:59 a large man bumbled down the boardwalk in what Warren assumed was an attempt at jogging. But at 6:12, two men strode down the boardwalk. One of the men was tall and lanky, the other was short and heavyset – Harvey. Warren watched as the tall man and Harvey argued. The tall man threw his hands in the air and lowered them into clenched fists. The tall man reached into his back pocket and pulled out a gun and waved it around in front of Harvey’s face.
Harvey fell to his knees and plead for his life but the tall man did not respond; he walked behind Harvey and raised the gun and fired. Warren watched as Harvey fell forward to the ground motionless, paralyzed by death. The tall man stared down at Harvey for few seconds with his hands down to his side, then turned back towards the security camera up and strode back up the boardwalk with complete composure. Warren tilted his head at the screen and leaned in closer. He rewound the film a couple minutes and pressed play again. Something about the tall man made Warren feel like he knew him somehow.
He watched again as the tall man stood over top of Harvey’s body, but this time Warren quickly paused the tape as the tall man turned around before he walked away. The tall man’s face was grainy and pixelated, but the way he stood and the way walked all seemed so familiar – too familiar. Just then, Warren’s heart dropped to the pits of his stomach, he stopped breathing and brought his hand over his mouth to eep it from dropping. Warren’s gut intuition was right; he did know the tall man. He was the tall man. The tall lanky man on the screen resembled Warren to a tee.
The more Warren stared into the face of the man, the more the pixels cleared up and the more he could see his face in the tall mans. Only it wasn’t him. Warren lowered his head into his hands. “Keep it together. This isn’t what it looks like” he thought. “It’s not me. It’s gotta be some type of freaky doppelganger or something. I didn’t do this”. He rewound the tape a few more times and each time it left him with the same effect. Warren stood up from the chair and paced around the small closet. “I can’t be here,” he thought as walked back to the television and ejected the tape from it.
He walked away and reached for the door handle. He was startled to find Mandy standing outside the door in the hallway leaning against the wall. He tried to look as collected as possible but he was very aware of how jittery he was acting. “Anything I can get you? ” Mandy asked. “That’ll be it, thank you” he said as he walked away from Mandy. Mandy followed Warren just a few steps behind him “Well, did you see anything? ” she asked. Oh he saw something all right; something that made the hair on his arms stand up and goosebumps rise.
Warren kept walking with his back turned to Mandy “Nothing for now. I’m going to take this tape back to the station” he waved it above his head as he walked out the door of the shop. “I’ll be in contact if there’s anything else that we need from you”. Warren let out a puff of air as he stepped back out onto the boardwalk. He walked back to his car and slammed the door shut and threw the tape on the passenger seat beside him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone to send a text message to Nix.
He wrote: “NO SURVEILLANCE VIDEO AVAILABLE WITHIN VIEWING DISTANCE OF HARVEY’S DEATH. NOT COMING TO THE STATION TODAY, FEELING SICK. ” Before he hit send, he thought about the trouble he was getting himself into by lying to Nix, but he had to figure things out first before he told anyone. He lay his head against the steering wheel and clenched his eye lids tightly. Warren pulled out into traffic wanting to get home as quickly as possible. “I need some sleep… I can reevaluate things when I wake up,” he thought; although what he really wanted was a drink. “Do I have an insane twin out there somewhere? hough he was quite sure that it was a very unlikely possibility.
It only took Warren 12 minutes to get home from the pier instead of the usual 16. He pulled into the driveway and grabbed the tape off the seat next to him. He walked into his house and went to the pantry. He pulled out a bottle of bourbon and poured it into a shot glass. It was barely 10:00 in the morning but he needed something to calm him down. He brought the bottle and shot glass into his bedroom with him and sat them on the floor before he collapsed onto the bed. “Just a quick nap. Then I’ll rethink things.
Warren woke up at 3:00 in the afternoon hoping that all the occurrences of that morning had just been some bad dream or that someone was playing a joke on him. As he stumbled out into the living room of his home and saw the tape sitting on his coffee table he knew everything was still true. He paced around his entryway and noticed an envelope had been stuffed through his mail slot on his door. Warren walked over to the envelope and bent down to pick it up. The envelope had no return address nor sender address on it, just a red seal on the back of it with the initials HWC.
He broke the seal and pulled out a letter written on yellow card stock paper. The letter had been written on a typewriter and there was smudged ink on the edges of the paper as if it had just been written. “To our valued assassin: We congratulate you on your hundredth kill and invite you to join us next Saturday, June the 11th at How We Crime: A Trade Expo. We value all you do and would like to show our appreciation. An all expense paid trip to beautiful San Francisco awaits! Enclosed are directions to the event along with the confirmation to a hotel room.
All that we ask of you is that you bring an identification card and come ready to meet with those who share the same activities as you. We look forward to seeing you! Sincerely, How We Crime, USA” “How We Crime? ” Warren chuckled under his breath. “Could this day get any worse? ” he asked himself. This is some kind of joke right? This whole day is ridiculous. Me? An assassin? ” Warren snorted at the thought of him killing someone, let alone the spiders that crawled into the corners of the walls in his bathroom. “This has to be a joke. This is all Nix messing with me. He always was a prankster” Warren thought to himself.
Warren stared down at the letter trying to gather his thoughts. “Getting into a crime expo could be pretty interesting though. I’m sure there’d be so many people there that haven’t been caught yet. ” He scratched the top of his head, astonished that he was even considering showing up to an event with a society of criminals. “I have to figure out who this person is on that tape though… ” Warren re-read the last part of the letter; “all that we ask of you is that you bring an identification card… ” Warren scoffed, “I wonder how long it would be until I’d have to validate my parking… “