Authors: R.D. Zimmerman
Tags: #Mystery, #detective, #Edgar Award, #Gay, #gay mystery, #Lambda Award, #transgender
Returning to the screen, Todd read on about the murder in Los Angeles. Sergeant Dave Ravell had been recently divorced—and what, Todd mused, was the story there?—and was survived only by his mother, Roseanne, who was struck so hard by the news that she was immediately put on medication, and by his younger brother, Ron, who was described as “shattered.” Hoping they wouldn't be too hard to reach and that they would agree to talk to him, Todd jotted down their names, then continued. By the afternoon of the following day, Kenney had hired an attorney, Joan Ryan, who came forward, insisting absolutely and completely that Christopher Louis Kenney was innocent.
“There was a struggle involving the weapon, but Christopher most definitely did not pull the trigger. Clearly this is not a case of murder but suicide,” she was quoted in the
Los Angeles Times.
“I've met at length with my client, and I intend to prove his innocence in a court of law.”
Todd next came to an article in the
reporting that one of northern Minnesota's native sons had been arrested in California for killing a cop. Again there was mention both of young Christopher's sexuality and that he was presumed by all in Los Angeles to be a woman, leaving readers to cast their own stones. The damage to the Kenney family reputation, though, surely had to have been significant, for his parents, Marie and Joseph, were identified, specifically that Joseph had served with the Duluth police for over twenty-five years. It was a fact that jumped out at Todd, definitely suggesting another avenue to explore. On his pad of paper Todd jotted: What is Kenney's relationship with father? Was there any physical abuse? What does father think of gays?
As surely and easily as the case had been built against Christopher Louis Kenney, however, it unraveled just as quickly. A mere four days after the murder and just three days after the medical examiner's report, the medical examiner himself was stopped for driving under the influence. It was a scandal that swept across the front pages of the papers, and it was more than enough ammo for attorney Joan Ryan—“For God's sake,” she was quoted, “what kind of butchering has he been doing? How many autopsies has this man done while drunk?”—to call for a prosecuting attorney and medical examiner from another city to reevaluate the case. Which was exactly what took place. Not even twenty-four hours after Sergeant Dave Ravell was laid to rest with great mourning from thousands of the L.A.P.D., his body was exhumed from the dark and placed again in the scrutiny of light.
And the findings of the second report couldn't have been more shocking.
Much to the chagrin of the police and the horror of the Ravell family, the second medical examiner supported Christopher Louis Kenney's claims. Both men were right-handed—indeed, only the prints of Christopher's right hand were found on the gun—yet the bullet wound was not on the left side of Ravell's head, but on the right. Furthermore, the powder burns, the angle of the bullet, and the immense damage to the skull, which was horribly shattered, confirmed that the weapon had been fired point-blank. This raised considerable doubt on Kenney's ability to move around to Ravells right side and fire the gun, then sit down opposite him. And while Kenney was splattered with blood, he'd definitely not been smeared nor had he left any bloody tracks, as would have been the case had he physically traversed the scene. Furthermore, Sergeant Dave Ravell's personal medical files confirmed that he was distraught over his divorce and that he was not only taking Prozac for depression but had been identified as suicidal. And finally, someone looked up and spoke with Ravell's former wife, who admitted that she and her husband had divorced over issues of his sexuality, specifically his homosexuality. In no uncerain terms she told the investigators that she dumped her husband when she found him in bed with a FedEx man.
“What we have here,” pronounced Joan Ryan in an interview to all the press, “is clearly a case of a confused cop who could not come to terms with his being gay. He and my client, who cared deeply for him, were beginning a relationship, but unfortunately Mr. Ravell felt it easier to take his own life than to face the truth. Sadly, this is all about homophobia and self-hate.”
That afternoon the judge tossed out the case, feeling that guilt beyond a reasonable doubt could not be established, and Christopher Louis Kenney was released.
The second-to-the-last article was again from the
, a short piece that reported that the charges against Kenney had been dropped. When asked how he felt about all this, Kenney's father, Officer Joseph Kenney, simply said, “As far as I'm concerned, my son is dead.”
Moving on, Todd came to the final article in the data base, which was dated the very next day:
9TH STORY of Level 1
Printed in FULL format
Copyright Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
Metro; Part B, Page 24
More Difficulties for Policeman's Family
Roseanne Ravell, age 63, mother of Sergeant Dave Ravell, who died last week of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, suffered a debilitating stroke Friday afternoon at her home in Los Angeles. Her only surviving relative, her son, Ron, was at her side when she collapsed in her living room. Thanks in large part to her son's efforts and those of an emergency medical team who were summoned, Mrs. Ravell was quickly stabilized and rushed to a nearby hospital.
Since the death of her son Sergeant Ravell, in what at first was widely believed to be a homicide, Mrs. Ravell had been on medication and under the supervision of her doctor. Friday afternoon, however, reporters descended upon her house, telling her that the charges against Christopher Louis Kenney, the young man dressed as a woman who had been arrested for Sergeant Ravell's murder, were dismissed and he was being released. When asked if she thought her son was gay and that he had killed himself, Mrs. Ravell burst into tears and retreated into her house. Approximately one hour later Mrs. Ravell suffered her stroke.
The story went on to recapitulate the strange events of the prior week, noting that Christopher Kenney's release was prompted when the initial report from the medical examiner was found to be faulty. The reporter went into detail about the drunk medical examiner, who had been relieved of his duties without pay pending an investigation, and added a quote from Kenney's attorney, Joan Ryan, who regretted the entire tragedy. The story concluded with a few words about and from Ron Ravell.
This leaves Ron Ravell, age 28, just sixteen months younger than his brother Dave, to deal with the family tragedy. Nine years earlier his father, Thomas Ravell, was killed in an automobile accident.
“As far as I'm concerned,” said Ron Ravell, “Chris Kenney killed not only my brother, but also robbed my mother of her life. Her stroke was massive and she will only partially recover. The doctors say she will need fulltime care from now on, the cost of which, hopefully, will be covered by the settlement from Dave's life insurance. As far as my brother, I know he didn't kill himself over questions of sexuality. I'm gay, and Dave had virtually no issues with that. Besides, this is California, these are the nineties. Being gay is just not enough of a reason to blow your brains out. And now my mother's life is ruined all because of this. It's horrible, senseless.”
And that, thought Todd, reading and rereading the last few sentences, was an extremely valid point. Not only was Sergeant Dave Ravell apparently close to his brother, who was openly gay, but surely he knew numerous gay people. Undoubtedly he came across them on a daily basis. After all, he lived in L.A. There were millions of queers out there. Hollywood was swarming with them. All you had to do was drive down Santa Monica Boulevard at night to see scores of gay men strolling along holding hands. So what could possibly have been the big deal? What could he have been so upset about?
The sad truth was that perhaps now there would never be any knowing.
While right then and there it seemed impossible to Todd that a California man could commit suicide over sexuality issues, Todd could in fact empathize. Not so very long ago there had been a time in his own life when it seemed as if the world hinged on Todd's sexuality. His own homophobia had led him down some path into a dark cave where his fears had grown to nightmarish proportions. He'd been terrified what his friends and family would think if they knew the truth about him, how they would react, how they would reject him, how hurt and supposedly disappointed his father would have been. Later he'd been fearful not only of losing his job but ending his career in broadcast. And he'd been upset that if he didn't marry and have kids the family would die out. It had all seemed so monumental, so insurmountable.
Yet now all that was gone, disappeared as if it had been that and only that, a hideous nightmare, vanquished by some kind of light.
So, Dave Ravell, who were you? And what were you doing there with Christopher Louis Kenney?
Staring at this, the last article, Todd knew there was only one place to dig and that he had in fact found it: the younger brother who not only knew Sergeant Dave Ravell better than anyone else, but who was also quite sure of Kenney's guilt.
And maybe, just maybe, Ron Ravell would finally prove to be right.
Just as he did
nearly every morning on his way to work, Douglas Simms stopped for breakfast at a small skyway deli overlooking Third Avenue. It was just past eight.
“A glazed doughnut,” he requested as he pushed his glasses up.
“Yes, yes, of course,” said the short, gray-haired woman behind the counter. “And a Coke.”
“Sure, just like always. That'll be—”
“I know,” interrupted Simms, slapping down the exact amount.
He carried his doughnut and towering drink to a white Formica booth by the window, glanced down at the street, and sat down. Forgoing a straw as he always did, he took a long gulp of the soda, letting the cool beverage twirl down to his gut. Work was going to be a madhouse this morning, and Judge Hawkins was sure to be on a tirade, probably the worst one yet. But then again, the good judge should be scared as hell, shouldn't he?
Simms took a bite of the doughnut, which was fresh and sweet and sticky, and shook his head. He knew what to expect. He knew how the litany would go. Do this. Get that. Look that up. Call so-and-so. Make sure I have this. Write that up by noon. And change the fucking world, goddamn it all! Hawkins was always the worst in the morning, the crabbiest and bossiest. On top of that, for the past few days everyone had been so uptight over the cop-killing.
But—a small grin on Simms's lips—they'd already caught some guy, hadn't they? Well? Yes, he'd seen it last night on the late news, and then it was the cover story in this morning's paper. Thank God. Life was going to be ever so much easier now.
He took another long slug of Coke, closing his eyes as he sucked on the rim of the paper cup. Putting the beverage down, he quickly gobbled up the rest of the doughnut, then licked the sugary glaze off his fingertips. At the next table two corporate types drinking coffee got up, leaving behind the paper, which Simms quickly snatched. He'd read the paper at home, stared and stared at it with immense amusement, but still he couldn't get enough.
Now spreading the wrinkled pages on the Formica before him, Simms burst into a grin. There, staring up at him from the front page, was a police photo of the accused, the guy who'd been picked up for the murder of Officer Mark Forrest. It was a thin, young face, the hair blond and disheveled. A face Simms most surely knew. And then there was the clincher, the caption that read:
Disguised as woman, suspect arrested in cop-killing.
Oh, Christ, laughed Simms out loud. This really was too perfect. Too fucking perfect. Could things possibly be working out any better?
Todd was at the
station by eight-thirty that morning. Grabbing a cup of coffee, he disappeared into his office and closed the mini blinds on the glass wall, then sat in his chair and yawned. He'd slept alone and slept horribly, for Rawlins had reverted to Lieutenant Holbrook's orders and had stayed at his duplex last night.
But now, presuming that the threat against Rawlins was allayed by the arrest of Kenney, Todd had to focus on his story and just where it was going. No doubt about it, he needed more for tonight. More precisely, he needed something different and fresh. And so naturally he turned to what he had been working on yesterday evening.
It never happened this easily though.
When you were backgrounding someone you weren't supposed to just call up directory information and get his phone number in a flash. Usually you had to refer to the Department of Motor Vehicles or, if the person lived in another city, one of the on-line data bases like Autotrak that listed all the public information on a person, from phone number to street address, social-security number to neighbors. And it was supposed to take one of WLAK's researchers days to accomplish.
Instead, Todd simply dialed Los Angeles information, asked for and got the telephone number for the only Ronald Ravell listed. Wasting not a moment, Todd dialed that number; Ron Ravell's phone rang four times before his Voice Mail picked up. It was only then that Todd realized how early it was in Los Angeles, just after six-thirty.