The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 10

10

Sitting at his desk, pen in his mouth, photos scattered about, the Beckham file laid to rest wide open on the blotter, his feet resting comfortably on the edge at a forty five degree angle, Corigan muttered under his breath.

He was still very annoyed at Officer Albom and his attitude. Even an hour later, it left him with an acid aftertaste in his mouth and he was finding it difficult to concentrate. He visualized Albom and Dykes together in a barrel going over Niagara Falls, plunging the rocks below and shattering into splinters and bones…

But Corigan felt sentimental about the wasting of good wood.

Riding back, Catherine had angrily told Corigan, twice, to stop cutting off drivers as it would not solve anything if they were killed in an accident.

On the return to the police station, Catherine had opted to take an hour in the shooting range, both to keep her aim sharp and to blow off a little steam.

Before she left, Corigan suggested she write ‘ALBOM’ on the targets and shoot them a few times for him.

Catherine promised to do so.

Corigan pivoted around and looked at his collage of photographs taped to his wall.

Were it a mosaic, one would be impressed with the artistic nature of the photographic entourage. One which included several new photos and observational points from Beckham’s apartment, the crime scene combined with a few of the lobby and the elevator. Corigan had added several Post-It notes, some with “Location of murder weapon”, “Suspicious OPP officer”, and finally, “Access can only be granted by electronic keycard.”

There were also other phrases, arrows and dots written on his board with a red dry erase marker. Each in shorthand police hieroglyphics, commonly used by the department, either elaborating some areas while giving less attention to others.

But since Corigan could not derive from it any psychic insight or any whispers which provided him a name or a place, all it gave him was a headache.

Popping two acetaminophen, crunching for faster results, he chugged them down with a gulp of hot coffee. He grimaced quickly at the vanilla aftertaste.

Corigan needed more information.

The evidence team would bring him back the report in an about an hour, so all he could do was wait. He re-arranged his pens, shuffled papers from one side of the desk to the other, and finally, he put Catherine’s frames back on the wall.

He would have moved onto another case, but it did not eliminate the nagging feeling that would force him to push those mundane murders to the side for this one.

As if murder could ever be mundane, but in comparison to the little mystery that was going on here… Maybe.

Corigan had an idea. Very off the wall and admittedly, unlikely to achieve any success, but he considered it anyway.

Picking up his handset, he dialed the extension for prisoner holding.

************

Corigan was sitting in interrogation room 4C when Deryl Beckham was escorted in.

Beckham was now wearing a blue jumpsuit, a one piece denim pant-and-jacket outfit with two large pockets and tough stitching. Underneath that was a white T-Shirt. On his feet he wore a pair of black slip-ons over a pair of white dress socks. His hair was slightly askew and his arrogance appeared to have dampened a great deal since the morning. His face was sullen as he shuffled his feet along the floor, like a petulant child grounded for having eaten the family’s entire celebratory cake.

Behind Beckham was his escort, Officer Derek Slate. A hulk of a man, whose massive frame and bald head made him stand out in any crowd. Standing at six feet, a body like a walking refrigerator, Slate was like a granite monument of a human being, all muscle and power.

Slate escorted Beckham into the room, sat him down and was about to handcuff him to the table when Corigan waved his hand dismissively. ’Once you unlock them, leave them off.’

Slate shrugged. He put his cuffs back on his belt and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Within seconds, Corigan could hear the electronic locks slamming into place.

Beckham was calm as opposed to his interview that morning. He had the time to think, relax and consider his options.

Before Beckham could speak, Corigan did. “First of all, thank you for coming to see me. I know your lawyer would have forbidden it.”

Beckham smiled. It made Corigan feel a little better knowing the man had not broken on his first day in jail. Then again, it was only prisoner holding, nothing like the real thing. But some men, braver and stronger, were blubbering at this point, seeking absolution. Not Beckham.

“Honestly Detective McAllistor.” Beckham began, relaxing his body into the most comfortable position one could achieve in a stainless steel chair bolted to the floor. “I was intrigued. You asked to speak to me… Alone. How could I resist?”

Corigan leaned forward a bit too quickly, slipping, appearing to be caught off guard by Beckham’s response.

Beckham, a long time homosexual, deduced Corigan’s reaction immediately and tried to put Corigan at ease. “Relax Detective McAllistor. You’re not my type.”

Corigan, annoyed at himself for acting as he did, responded with, “I apologize if…”

Beckham cut him off. “Don’t be. I live in a world of bigots, hate mongers and religious nutcases who all hate who I am and how I live my life. I don’t expect people to agree with me. I only expect they leave me alone to make my own decisions.”

Corigan reached his hand across the table in a gesture of approval.

Beckham accepted it.

The men leaned back in their respective seats.

Cop and prisoner, even some people can make peace.

Beckham spotted the two Grande Lattes on the table in front of him.

Corigan’s smelled like African coffee beans with steamed milk and hint of nutmeg.

Beckham’s smelled of Jamaican roasted coffee beans, known for their light taste and lack of bitterness. Not the uncommon and expensive Blue Mountain beans but something in the same family. His cup was steaming smoothly, wisps of flavour propagating a delicate fog that spiraled up, dispersing in the air with its welcoming aroma. The cinnamon sprinkles atop the foam moisturized warmly letting its nutty smell blossom.

“For me?” Beckham asked.

Corigan shrugged. It was the least he could do to thank him for this interview without Dykes. “Think nothing of it. We’re civilized people.”

Beckham picked up the paper cup, it’s invigorating odour filling his nostrils, making his nerve endings prance around like dates at a teenage prom, lots of energy and little control. Beckham drank his first gulp slowly, wonder overtaking his face. He asked. “How did you know which flavour I liked?”

Corigan felt guilty, his skin flushing red with embarrassment. He was about to answer, when Beckham cut him off.

“Of course.” Beckham sighed to himself. “You searched my suite.” It was a statement, not a question. “Please know, I try to recycle, but the bin you saw in the kitchen is not one of my finer moments of saving the planet.”

Corigan smiled back. “No worries. The iron barrel in my backyard where I burn all my Styrofoam causes the neighborhood to glare at me as well.”

Beckham almost spit some of his coffee out. He coughed for a second and smirked, swallowing his precious beverage without loss. “I do appreciate your humour. I really do. It makes me feel like a person again.” He looked at his hazy face in the reflection of the steel table. “And in here, you’d be surprised how quickly the feeling of humanity leaves you.”

Corigan started in, pointing out. “Just so you know, none of this meeting is being recorded, saved or will ever find its way into your courtroom. It is for my investigation only, nothing more.”

“That’s nice to know.”

Corigan put his red folder on the table, this time, not showing the label of ‘Beckham, Deryl’ to intimidate him. He opened in a way for Beckham to see the contents, the information and the evidence they had collected.

Corigan paused. “As you surmised, we were at your apartment.”

Beckham replied, “Yes?”

“It’s a nice place.” Corigan commented. “My partner found the Feng Shoe very befitting.”

“Feng Shui.”

“Sorry?”

“Feng Shui is how it’s pronounced, not shoe.” Beckham seemed to lecture. His personality made listening to him very easy. “The art form would lose its magic if people put it in the same league as the foot pieces you find at any local bowling alley, sprayed with alcohol by unhappy teenagers before the next customer.”

Corigan admitted, he did not understand the field of décor nor share the knowledge of its use. But again, this was a criminal investigation after all, not interior design.

“None the less.” Corigan inserted. “In your apartment, we found the murder weapon.”

Beckham appeared to wilt in his chair, like a flower getting too much sun or rain. He caught himself before he melted out of it and to the floor below. His face was flush with emotion. “Fuck. I’m screwed.”

Corigan had to admit, the man was likely screwed.

Corigan had to ask. “Did you know it was there?”

”No. I was out having coffee. How could I?” He looked at his cup and froze before offering another loud tirade of innocence. He took a sharp intake of breath and turned to Corigan. “You believe me don’t you? You must believe me, or why would you be here?”

Corigan remained stoic, trying not to appear overly generous, yet feeling some kinship for this writer. But by the same token, he also did not want to give the man false hope. Finality means people could move on at some point. Hope is like an acid, especially if no possibility of success was forthcoming. It burnt through the soul.

“I’ll not say I believe you.” Corigan paused, making sure to sound in control. “But I’m not saying I don’t either.”

Beckham loosened up, letting his inner self out. “And to think, a total stranger believes me more that this whole damn city. When I do get out, I’ll write a play defining the hypocrisy of this city and its police detectives. Not you of course, Detective McAllistor. You’ll always be safe from me.”

Corigan tried to suppress his sarcasm. “Thanks.” He put his hands on the table. “So. Do you have any enemies Mr. Beckham?”

“I prefer Deryl.”

Corigan remained professional. “I don’t.”

Beckham seemed to shrug this off as he paused to weigh his answer. “The only enemies I have are those who I consider competitors. But they beat me as many times as I beat them. Networks, publishers and theatres only want creativity. Producers, directors and studios only want good ideas. They’re not picky. If it’s new, they’ll buy it. None of my truly talented equals had reason to compete as their ideas could kill mine. Why try to frame the competition when being brilliant will beat me faster than to perpetrate this.”

Corigan queried to confirm his answer. “Did you kill Mr. Vails?”

Beckham did not even pause. “Of course not.”

The answer was fast and direct. Not the act of a killer.

But then again, he was a former actor. “But you can understand our problem. We have a killer on the loose that looks like you.”

“That I understand.” Beckham moaned. “Based on what I saw today, I would have arrested me too. It’s like an episode of the Twilight Zone, but I’m the star. I’m waiting for the stewardess to come in and I’ll have to shout. “It’s on the wing!’”

Corigan was amazed at the man’s reserves for the melodramatic.

Corigan described the apartment as they found it, the parking garage and the evidence they had thus far. “Basically, we have everything we need to convict you and yet, something is not kosher.”

Beckham placed his coffee on the table. The stainless steel whitened as the hot cup steamed edges around it. “Would it be of any assistance if I mentioned I felt I was being followed all week?”

Corigan’s interest perked up. “By who?”

“That’s just it.” Beckham began, his hands quivering slightly. “No one I noticed specifically. Everyone on the street seemed like ordinary people. Yet, every time I turned around, someone new was there. Mostly just people walking about, minding their own business; some hanging out while others were window shopping and some just people watching. No one showed any undue interest that I could tell… Yet I always felt eyes were upon me.”

“I see.” Corigan had felt that in the parking garage.

“You have to understand.” Beckham noted. “I’ve always noticed people around me. Fans, inspiring writers, or even the press. I’m paid to observe. It’s my skill. But this was different. More menacing. All last week, I felt like a rabbit being hunted by a hawk. I could never see the hawk, but I always felt it was there.” He paused. “Call me paranoid, but some creatures can sense danger, on an instinctual level. I think we can all sense trouble or if we’re being watched in an abnormal way. And last week, I felt it.”

Corigan knew that sense. Whenever he entered a building, an unknown situation, or a crime in progress, that sense had saved his life many a time. All cops had it, from minuscule to blaring. For Corigan, when in danger, it buzzed in his ears like a hive of bees. Sometimes it made him duck, dodge, approach slower than normal, or just have his weapon at ready. And each time, he survived.

It was real to him, believe it or not.

And obviously, it was real for Beckham.

Corigan leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “Yet this time, you saw no one?”

Beckham re-considered his answer. He wasn’t lying, but then again, he couldn’t be absolutely certain.

Corigan considered using a technique with Beckham, something he had learned when he minored in psychology, walking Beckham back slowly in his thoughts, trying to visualize everything with each moment as he lived it.

Visual past rethinking or retroactive memory reclamation. It required moving slowly. Since most people don’t describe their work day as having breakfast, eating dinner and then sleeping, one had to allow the viewer to move at their own pace. They usually picked a point in time to start, one they found significant.

“You’re on the street, leaving the theatre.” Corigan explained. “And…”

Beckham leaned back, closing his eyes and reminisced “I was going for lunch. A nice pizza place on the Danforth. I always take the subway, then a streetcar to the strip.”

“Pick one time and describe it.”

Beckham indicated. “I tend to notice handsome men. It’s just a fact.”

“Nothing wrong with that in your case.”

“Well...” Beckham paused. His face strained. “I can’t seem to see the days individually. I see them all as one.”

“Then go with what you remember.” Corigan sipped at his coffee. “Let that take precedence.”

Beckham relaxed. “There were a couple of men that sort of stood out. They all had the same approximate build, but one seemed heavier now that I recall. Like he ate a lot, but his cheeks did not support his body structure. Sure, it could be a body defect, but it appeared to me like he padded his stomach. Hard to tell with those loose sweat tops.”

“Padding?” Corigan queried.

“Like a fat suit for portraying heavier characters on stage. You see, most people can’t sense props and costumes, but as a director, I can.”

Corigan thought this was taking an odd twist. “Are you certain?”

“No. Wait, yes. It was odd to me.”

“Odd is good. Odd makes memories.”

“Anyway, all these men seemed to have appeared around me over the past week. Something about them. Unusual, distinctive and yet different. Yet, the same. One wore a green sweater and had black hair while another was dressed in a blue turtleneck and matching blazer. His eyes, so bright, they seemed artificial.”

“Were they someone you know?”

“No” Beckham remarked. “And I never saw the same man twice. But again, there was something familiar about all their eyes, which made me link them all together. All the men had an emptiness in them. Like nothingness or death.”

Beckham continued on for half an hour in his rendition of events.

Nothing coalesced.

Beckham let out a deep sigh, opened his eyes and chugged a final gulp of cold coffee. “Can I go now?” He appeared to be all reclaimed out.

Corigan doubted from all the depictions, Death had taken human form and sought out a semi-rich critic as his target and framing someone else for amusement.

A human being was behind this. But Corigan had to figure out who.

But if Beckham was followed, that opened a new avenue of investigation. And being how easily this case was coming to a close, this was not likely information Catherine would want to pursue.

Especially when the men were different people, seen over the course of a week by a would-be murderer at different times and locations.

If the city was a population of one male, this witness story would seem less suspicious. But seeing a bunch of men over five days on public transportation did not warrant much deeper investigation.

Yet, Beckham saw something in them they all shared.

A Cult? Corigan pondered. But then again, it would have to be one of the luckiest cults in the world to find a double for a person they hated and now the man was in jail.

And cults liked press. If they had done this, they would have left some clue by now.

What Corigan had, based on his witness’s conclusions, was either an evil double was on the loose framing Beckham for having committed the crime and vanished or a cult of handsome men had taken up their goal by following Beckham until they found a chance to frame him using their evil duplicate member.

Since both ideas involved an evil double, it lacked merit.

But Sherlock Holmes once stated. ‘Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’

The double is difficult to swallow, but possible.

Maybe the double following Beckham all week, killing Vails was possible, even if slim.

But a cult of good looking men following Beckham around for reasons unknown and then framing him?

That was more a Beckham wet dream than a reality to Corigan.

But it was odd and of all the weeks for Beckham to notice it.

Corigan shuddered. He hated coincidences.

At this moment, either the guilty man was sitting before him or his evil twin was out there and no one had seen him.

Corigan and Beckham talked for a few more minutes.

At the end of the meeting, Corigan got up from the table as Officer Slate opened the door.

Slate paused, standing at attention ready to escort Beckham back to holding, waiting until signaled.

Corigan gave the signal.

As the handcuffs were locked around Beckham’s wrist, he smiled to Corigan and said. “A wrongly accused man is always vilified by the ignorant masses. Such a man should fire at will. He’s bound to hit something.”

Corigan liked the feel of that quote.

It meant, ‘Never give up.’

But in less than thirty six hours, he wouldn’t have to.

At that point, the case would be taken from him and Beckham’s freedom would be lost.

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