It was only when I’d parked myself in front of my Mac that I realised I had nothing to go on. I don’t think a person’s first name would count as a lead. Typing the phrase ‘Danny. LA.’ into Google would also be hopeless - I could imagine the countless results pages and the masses of unrecognisable faces and it only made me want to slump to the floor. I had to think. I didn’t know his last name, or his appearance, or in fact how he was related to Lizzie; it was a dead end.
So I thought harder. He knew Lizzie and seemingly all of Lizzie’s acquaintances were related to the business so I had a crowding suspicion this Danny guy was a criminal of some sort. So I formed an assault on my keyboard and came up with the search ‘Criminal. Danny. LA.’ - ok, so it wasn’t genius but Google could do that for me. Instantly, my page was flooded with a total one and a half thousand search results, of which the top had the tagline: Dead Danny Stratton identified as LAFCU robber. I clicked on it.
There, an article for the Los Angeles Times. The suspicious heading underlined by the solidifying subtitle: boy responsible for the robbery of Los Angeles Federal Credit Union identified by police today as Danny Stratton, who was shot dead at scene and is believed to have not been working alone. The article then continued on to explain the outline of the heist, which failed when robbers began to lay open fire on bank employees and so police were alerted. However when police arrived at scene they could only find Danny, who didn’t appear to be making any sort of attempt to flee the area, so an officer shot him. Apparently, they found him to be carrying a gun but he kept it limp at his side as officers stormed the complex.
All I could focus on was Danny’s link to Lizzie. By now, the article had made the fact pretty obvious that he was a criminal, with separate crimes listed along the bottom of the page as events Danny was responsible for. Stephen had said that Danny was the only thing Lizzie had ever wanted, but he warned me to never mention it to her. He made no real threat, didn’t need to. If Danny was that important to Lizzie I had to assume they’d known each other for a while, most likely grown up together. She had no family apart from Stephen; Stephen didn’t have kids, so no cousins, either. He was a friend. Danny Stratton was Lizzie’s friend. Had to be. His picture at the top of the page confirmed him to be around sixteen at the time of his death, which was - I scrolled up further for the article’s date - March twelfth twenty-thirteen; only a year and nine months ago. Almost two years ago Lizzie would have been thirteen, so if the two knew each other they’d have to have been working in the same social circles to meet.
I read the report again, just to see if I’d missed anything. Blah blah blah same old stuff, but a picture I’d skimmed before caught my eye. It was a young man, black and twenty-something driving a muscle car with another man seated beside him, balaclavas pulled over both their mouths. A pedestrian had taken the picture, the tagline stated and was taken the day of the robbery just a few blocks down from the LAFCU. Of course, the photo wouldn’t always seem significant - suspicious, yes - had it not been for the fact the two men in the car were known members of a criminal gang. The photo linked to another article that speculated Danny Stratton was involved in a gang known as ‘The Anarchists’ - dubbed so after their first major robbery of an art exhibition downtown. The gallery manager was interviewed on TV the next day and he went crazy, bawling on about how they caused anarchy and anarchists and whatever. The name stuck.
The names of the men pictured were unknown, as were all members of The Anarchists and the article urged anyone with further information to come forward. I looked at the picture, blew it up big screen. Danny knew Lizzie; they worked in the same areas. I zoomed in. I didn’t recognise the driver, but the passenger seemed familiar. The wrinkles, the fading hair: Stephen! Stephen was in the passenger seat with a man who was a member of The Anarchists. No, the column said they were both members of a gang Danny was supposedly a part of. An infamous gang, known west coast over - no - all over America for their tricks and activities. Lizzie and Danny worked in the same areas. Lizzie was a member of The Anarchists. Oh shit, I had been involved with The Anarchists, the most wanted criminal organisation in America. I wanted to be sick.
After taking a few minutes to regain my composure I looked The Anarchists up too. I was presented with a master list of every crime they had committed (well, been blamed for committing) and potential members, none of which, from my knowledge, were correct. Although, it was known there was a young teenage girl working with the group and there were hundreds of comments on the post presenting just who they thought it was. The girl on their street; the girl working at the beach-side cafe; one woman even believed it was her own daughter. It was crazy. Lizzie had no clue just how well-known she was. Some had even deemed her a celebrity in her own right.
I scrolled down the list, some crimes more interesting than others. There was an odd one about someone hijacking an ice cream truck down Venice Beach during summer, but one particular claim stood out. Four men were found dead, traces of cocaine on the road at the scene, in a car park behind a nightclub. They were all badly beaten and, after tests, it was concluded none had recently participated in any drug taking. This one was most likely the thirteen year old, according to the list. After Lizzie had helped me I vaguely remember her bringing the cocaine bags with us. I remembered her stuffing them into the Ferrari’s glove compartment but I was too shaken up to question her actions. If I hadn’t been I figured I would have supposed she stole them for her own use, but now I know she would’ve taken them back to Stephen to sell on. I had no clue how the article knew this but it got me worried. Maybe someone had seen Lizzie, so had they seen me too? There was no evidence of any suspicion of my involvement on this site but I was sufficiently freaked out. I closed the tab, printed off the two newspaper articles and spent the rest of my evening wondering how the hell I ever got into this mess.