I'm going to tell you a story
I've actually been told that my life may be in danger. Wow.
It's because I've been talking to people about something that might make my potential killers very angry, very scared, or both. And now, I'm going to do the only thing I can do to protect my ass. I'm going to tell you a story.
I'm going to do what the Robert Redford character did in the 1975 movie "Three Days of the Condor." Redford plays a bookish CIA researcher — code name "Condor" — whose job was to analyze books and manuscripts for secret codes and possible covert information. When Condor figures out that there seems to be a secret CIA operating within the regular CIA, things get hinky. This secret CIA orders a hit on Redford's division, and everybody gets offed by a cool, gentlemanly assassin played by Max Von Sydow. Thing is, Condor was out to lunch, literally. They got everybody but him.
The rest of the movie centers on Condor's efforts to keep his skull relatively free of bullets and simultaneously figure out why they're trying to kill him. Turns out the CIA was planning an invasion of the Middle East, and Condor was jeopardizing their plans.
Near the end of the movie, in a nifty twist, Sydow is hired by the regular CIA to clean up some loose ends, but he ends up befriending Condor who, by this time, has also been targeted by the regular CIA. Sydow doesn't kill him, though, because he feels some admiration for Condor's resilience. He tells Condor, in a scene that was later satirized in a "Seinfeld" episode, to be careful, to grow eyes in the back of his head:
"It will happen this way. You may be walking. It may be the first sunny day in spring and a car will slow beside you and a door will open and someone you know, maybe even trust, will get out of the car, and he will smile, a becoming smile. But he will leave open the door of the car and offer to give you a lift..."
Assassin Sydow then hands him a gun and says, with a solemnity that's chilling:
"...for that day."
Condor does the only thing he can to preserve his skin. He goes to the New York Times and tells them the whole thing in the hopes that they'll publish it. After all, if you tell people that you're about to be killed, the killers will think twice about actually doing it. Killers hate publicity.
It turns out that I'm living my own "Three Days of the Condor." I've been told that my life may be in danger because I might have been talking to investigators about something that happened on December 23 of last year. Well, you people are my New York Times, my safety valve.
Now, a lot of you don't know this, but I spend part of the year in La Jolla, California, an ocean-side suburb of San Diego. Since we're living in the age of the Internet, I can practically work anywhere in the world. And let's face it, Colorado Springs ain't the warmest place to be in the winter. I much prefer Southern California climes. Anyhow, on the early morning of December 23, 1998, an alarm rang in Fire Station No. 9 in La Jolla. A call had come in that there was a car on fire on a secluded road only a few blocks from my house. In it was the body of David Allen Stevens. Stevens had been shot twice in the head, gangland style. The bullets had entered his skull from right to left, perforating his brain. The 1995 Chrysler LeBaron had then been set on fire. Nothing was left save for charred metal, a few pieces of twisted plastic, and Steven's severely charred body.
According to a quote by Mike Merriken of the San Diego Metro Arson Strike Team that appeared in the San Diego Reader:
"...The vehicle fire was an arson fire, and most likely an ignitable liquid accelerant such as gasoline was used in this fire. It's quite possible that whoever committed this crime siphoned the gasoline out of the fuel tank and then poured it on the inside of the vehicle."
Toxicology reports revealed no trace of alcohol or drugs in Steven's blood, nor was there any sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. No doubt about it, Stevens was murdered.
What's this got to do with me? Well, Stevens was a bodybuilder and had moved to Southern California from Nebraska on the recommendation of one of Testosterone's contributors to work for a supplement company. This supplement company publishes a bodybuilding magazine, and I'm acquainted with the guys. (I'm not going to get more specific for legal reasons.)
Now, what I'm going to tell you about Stevens is widely accepted as true, and it's been published in some form in various publications in the San Diego area.
Stevens was apparently doing good work in their telemarketing division. But months later, he was asked to leave telemarketing and work in the field to beef up retail sales. He felt that it was a demotion, so he quit and started working for the telemarketing department of Perfect Match, a San Diego dating service.
Stevens was regarded by nearly all as a simple guy, a Nebraska farm boy who didn't have an enemy in the world. It turns out that he wasn't as simple as folks thought him to be, though. Some ten years earlier, Stevens had apprenticed as a private investigator for John Stevens (no relation) in Portland, Oregon. David had learned everything there was to know about executive protection, bodyguard work, and corporate investigation. He was also quite computer savvy, and if he wanted to access a company's records, he probably could have done it easily.
Soon after, Stevens was found dead in his Chrysler, and the autopsy report indicated that his arm had been bound in cotton, as if he were wearing a sling or he had been tied up with it.
San Diego police investigated briefly, failing to even talk to people in the neighborhood where the charred remains were found, but some of them reportedly believed it to be "juicer" related, a steroid deal gone bad.
Only trouble is, there was no evidence that Stevens was involved in that sort of thing. His apartment looked, for all the world, as if a grown-up Boy Scout had inhabited it. His closet — or, for that matter, his drawers, shelves, and boxes — contained no skeletons. The investigation sputtered out and stalled.
David Stevens' father wasn't going to accept that, though. He took matters into his own hands and hired John Stevens, the former PI who had served as David's tutor years ago, to work on the case. Stevens is now a freelance investigative reporter for Oregon TV, but he' s practically been living in San Diego since the murder of his former prot?g?. Gumshoe Stevens has been pounding on the doors of anybody who'll talk to him, and it's his belief that the murder points back to bodybuilding, but not steroids. I've also been led to believe, by other sources, that the FBI agrees with his assessment, too.
PI Stevens, through his efforts, was able to get the television show "America's Most Wanted" to air a segment on David's case. But according to Sergeant L.D. Martin of the San Diego police homicide department, the show didn't generate any fruitful leads. So PI Stevens is pretty much doing it on his own. Only trouble is, very few people involved with the supplement company in question will talk to him. According to Stevens, "they're afraid of dying." Still, the one thing he heard over and over again, unfortunately, was "you gotta' talk to TC."
So Stevens left his business card at my house in La Jolla, in full view of any eyes that might have been watching. I called him and agreed to meet him at a local Starbucks just yesterday. Stevens and his burly sidekick/bonebreaker "Auggie" grilled me about the supplement business and bodybuilding in general. They also asked me about the guys that I had worked with who figured prominently in their investigation. I didn't know the victim, but I knew just about everybody else that knew Stevens and who might be involved in the case.
I told them about how the industry worked, about the steroid business, about the supplement business, about the good guys and the bad guys, who had prison records and who didn't — nothing they couldn't have found on their own. But there's one thing I might have given them that seemed to get them excited. I gave them an idea to what, according to them, might have been a killer's possible motive. I told them about something that was precious to every supplement company and that was accessible through a company's computer system by someone who was a little savvy about how computers worked and who might have a little expertise in information gathering. I told them about mailing lists. Now, ask any marketing guy, and he'll tell you that a company's mailing list is literally worth its weight in gold. If someone else got that information, it would be equivalent, corporately speaking, to China getting a hold of the United States' nuclear secrets (which, of course, already happened).
The company in question allegedly had the best, the most coveted mailing list in the business which they, in turn, had supposedly gotten from another company.
Still, despite his previous life as an investigator and his expertise with computers, it doesn't seem likely that Stevens would stab his former employer in the back, unless they were bad guys. Whether that's the case remains to be seen. It's even more unlikely that Stevens would get killed over something like that, but sometimes the world's a scary place.
I don't want to compromise the investigation any further, so I'll shut up now. But what they told me afterward was kind of freaky, almost melodramatic. They told me to be careful, to watch my back. As they did so, I couldn't help but hear Max Von Sydow again:
"It will happen this way. You may be walking. It may be the first sunny day in spring..."
Anyhow, was Stevens killed because he had stolen some information from the supplement company? Or had he unearthed some information that might have proven to be damaging to other people in the bodybuilding business? Have I inadvertently targeted my own ass for some sort of retribution?
More importantly, do I think someone I know might have had something to do with Stevens' death? No, but when millions of dollars are at stake, anything can happen.
Regardless, the SDPD — or Investigator John Stevens — needs your help in solving this case. This guy was one of us and, in addition to getting offed, he's getting a bum rap because people seem to think that he was somehow dirty. If anyone has any information related to David Stevens' murder, contact either Sergeant Martin at 619-531-2259 or Investigator John Stevens at 800-933-3351.
And, if something happens to me, something that looks a little suspicious, do me a favor and remember this article, okay?
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