The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 11

11

That night, Corigan headed home in a foul mood. His blood, though cooler, was still fired up from the dressing down from his partner.

Corigan pulled off the highway. He stopped at a coffee shop for a beverage to settle his nerves.

He hated angering Catherine. She was not only his co-worker, but his friend.

Catherine had been furious about him doing the interview with Beckham alone. She returned to the office, fire in her eyes where she proceeded to yell at Corigan for half an hour. Twice she looked tempted to pick up a mug or stapler to throw, but she held it in check.

Several officers left the floor to find peace and quiet in the firing range over the volume of yelling from the Special Investigations office.

Captain Vertigo came by once to intervene, but when he saw the look in Catherine’s eyes, he too chose to keep walking, past the office and to the second floor, leaving Corigan to defend himself, alone.

‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’

Catherine’s main point centered on what Dykes could do knowing Corigan had arranged for an interview with his client without his attorney present. Even if, as Corigan said, Beckham had accepted the interview, the press would not be so ready to believe a man in jail with the prospect of imprisonment not feeling slightly coerced when his investigating officer asked for a private meeting, one on one. It created the impression if he didn’t do it, it would not be in his best interests.

Corigan tried to explain his reasoning, but all he got was the cold shoulder.

Catherine left the station early as she couldn’t face Corigan anymore, especially after betraying her trust.

But Corigan did not feel he had betrayed her. He was following his gut, on an avenue Catherine did not share. If he hadn’t talked to Beckham, he would have still pursued his suspicions down an alternate route. But he felt it best not to add that to an already raging fire.

Catherine was of the mindset, if you like doing things on your own, do it ALL.

Corigan knew he would have to buy her a huge coffee tomorrow as he needed her help on this case. Badly.

And that was not even the oddest thing that had happened that day.

After Catherine stormed from the station, Corigan decided to make a call to the Ontario Provincial Police in regards to Officer Timothy Albom and his ‘rude’ presence at the complex that morning.

What a strange call that was.

Taking another sip of his coffee, resting comfortably in his booth at the coffee house, watching the cars pull on and off the highway, he re-envisioned the call he made that afternoon to the OPP.

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

Corigan was passed through two receptionists in three departments when he called the OPP Station. Once having the line picked up by drug enforcement, another by a young intern assuming his girlfriend was still on the line, until he reached his friend and colleague Dawna Manon, staff sergeant of Station # 457.

There was an audible click as Dawna lifted her receiver. Corigan half expected to get her voicemail, but one of the other officers’s alerted her to the caller’s identity and she picked up immediately.

“Good morning handsome.” Dawna answered seductively. “What did I do good today to get a call from you?” Her voice though sharp and firm, was always weighed lightly by a touch of sexual tension from a long past relationship, which was mostly sex, dinners and more sex.

Corigan felt a great deal better having reached his ex-lover on the line. It didn’t wash the pain away from his argument with Catherine, but it sure covered it up nicely.

“Now why can’t a guy just call a girl and want to talk?” Corigan asked with amusement in his voice, “You make me feel when I call, I need a reason.”

Dawna laughed softly under her breath. “Because you DO want something. When you wanted something...” She let the word something sound deeply personal when she said it, “You always called me on my cell. A number I‘ve never changed. So if you are calling me at the office, you still want something, and chances are, it isn’t me.”

Corigan mused. “So we start off this right, I always want you.”

Dawna let out a breath. “First. I have a boyfriend now. But since I know you already knew that, quit the bullshit and let’s get down to brass tacks.”

Corigan bellowed a laugh. “My Dawna.” He always found himself feeling at ease with her. “I have a question about one of our crime scenes today and an officer you had on site.”

Dawna immediately shifted into her professional mode. “Want to be a bit more specific?”

“Queens Quay Condominium Complex.”

Corigan could hear Dawna shuffling paperwork on her desk through the microphone. After he asked, “Are you busy? Did you want me to call back?”

Dawna laughed lightly. Her laugh was warm and filled with life. “Yes and No. Yes I’m busy, but no, no need to call back. We have a bit of a conundrum today, and at the moment, it’s got several departments in an uproar.”

“What happened?” Corigan asked, genuinely interested.

“We had a cruiser stolen today.” Dawna answered nonchalantly. Because she was talking to both a friend and a fellow officer, she felt she could be open about a mistake having occurred on her watch. “Right out of the field office.”

Corigan was impressed. Not with the theft itself, but the balls it took to do it. “How does one steal a cruiser from the OPP?”

“That’s a question I’ve been asking myself all day. It was signed into the station yesterday, but this morning, the parking garage found it gone.”

“Wow.” Corigan was genuinely surprised. “I remember reading about serial killers pulling people over, pretending to be cops, then killing their unsuspecting victims. Imagine with an actual cruiser.”

“Thanks dumbass!” Dawna snapped with sarcasm. “That’s just what I needed to hear. Anything else you want to suggest? How about the thief being a mental patient? Maybe dreaming of using the cruiser to mow down a bunch of kids in a schoolyard?”

Corigan chided himself for his narrative. “Sorry.”

Dawna let out a breath and resumed her shuffling. “But that isn’t the really weird part.” She paused. “At four o’clock, the cruiser was returned, back to its assigned parking spot, none the worse for wear.”

Even Corigan found himself caught off guard by that. “Someone stole a cruiser, from inside a secure OPP parking facilities, took it out for a joy ride, and returned it safe and sound back to the same lot? That’s bold in my estimate.”

“No shit Sherlock.” Catherine wasn’t the only one who called Corigan Sherlock. “And yet, no one saw a thing. “

”Nothing? Nada? Zilch?”

“You moonlighting as a thesaurus now?” Dawna spat out, a bit more sarcastically than she had intended, but she felt comfortable with Corigan. “I just requisitioned purchasing to have video cameras outfitted around the three entrances in and outside the garage. I assumed no one would ‘jack’ a car from an OPP station in broad daylight. Guess I have a new level of crazy to add to my record books.”

“At least you got the vehicle back.” Corigan added, “Could have been a lot worse.”

“You mean worse than our division losing a provincially funded police vehicle for a few hours, in the middle of the day, or worse because after it was stolen and returned, no one saw anything?”

‘Ouch’, Corigan thought.

Dawna added. “And parking it back in its original spot? Who does that? Most thieves steal it and drop their prize anywhere they can. This thief took it out, drove it back and made absolutely sure it was returned from where they took it.”

“Maybe they wanted to ensure no one knew it was missing.”

“Right? Then why take it in the first place? You’ve got to admit, there’s a lot of easier cars to steal and a lot of better places to take it from.”

“Unless they needed an OPP cruiser?”

“I’m trying not to think about that.”

“Then how did you discover it had been taken at all?”

“Oddly enough, our GPS tracking. We use a new tracking system for all our vehicles. Each vehicle is outfitted with an online GPS surveillance module. From the point the vehicle leaves the station, to its return, we can follow it exactly, using our history logs and online maps to follow the vehicle over the course of the entire day or night using a satellite imaging grid. We’ll know which officer drove where, what coffee shops they stopped at and for how long. And if you make it from Point A to Point B in less time than the city speed limits allow for, as all driving is time coded, and there was no emergency to justify the speed, Internal Affairs can consider issuing a speeding violation.“

“Pretty heavy duty. No one minds Big Brother in the cruiser with them?

“No complaints yet.” Dawna lectured slightly. “Besides the tracking, it also helps in the case of an officer down and they couldn’t call for back up. If one of the officers fail to report in on time, the tracking team can locate the vehicle and dispatch another officer to investigate. You’d be surprised how many times an officer is taken unaware. Thanks to the system, we have at least one failsafe.”

“Pretty awesome.” Corigan was impressed. “We have all the vehicles in our division outfitted with low jacks, but nothing as complicated as a mapping system.”

“Provincial taxpayers.” Dawna mused, “You gotta love them.” Corigan could hear her taking a sip of her coffee. Always a tall Cappuccino laced with maple syrup and a touch of cream. “So when the tracking team discovered a cruiser had fulfilled a route today and no one was assigned to the vehicle, red flags went up. They’re currently using the history to trace the route. May help us ascertain the use and hopefully the why. Plus with the route, we can contact local businesses along the path and ask for their security camera footage. May even get the who.”

“Couldn’t have someone used it and forgot to sign it out?”

“They did.” Dawna snapped. She apologized. “But none of the on-duty officers claimed to have done it. In fact, I had the steering wheel printed. There were no prints at all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.”

Corigan mused, knowing she was trying to be funny, even with the seriousness of the situation.

Dawna continued. “Either someone was wearing gloves, or they wiped down the vehicle. And since most officers even borrowing a cruiser to pick up coffee or grab a lunch rarely need to go this far. Someone went to a whole lot of work to hide it was taken.”

Corigan agreed.

“But enough about me and my complaints. What scene were you calling about?”

Corigan described the building, the address and the bare minimal information she needed about the case, as it was still an open case. Corigan still had to keep some information until it was closed. He knew full well she was very likely aware it was the media inspired Beckham case, as this is Corigan’s bread and butter, but she didn’t pry.

Corigan could hear Dawna flipping pages on the duty roster.

After a few minutes, as Corigan waited patiently, Dawna finally spoke up. “I don’t have anyone assigned to that location. No cases open or closed. As a double check, I reviewed our cold case assignment log and no one is investigating anything to do with that building. But being the complex is only a few years old, we don’t have a lot of cold files dealing with them... yet.”

Corigan was quiet for a few seconds. “No one should have been there?”

Dawna replied firmly. “No one. And if one of my officers was gawking or using their credentials to visit an active crime scene as a ‘Lookee-Loo’ you can bet your ass there will be some Hell to pay.”

Dawna said it with such conviction, Corigan knew someone would be needing some asbestos clothes to survive this firestorm.

“What about Timothy Albom?”

There was a long pause. For a moment, Corigan thought the line had been cut off.

“What about him?” Dawna finally asked, her voice laced by suspicion, almost like she had put a spoonful of arsenic into her mouth and she was having a hard time swallowing.

“You don’t like him?” Corigan asked, not surprised.

“You can say that.” Dawna affirmed. “He’s a drunk and a bully. How he got to be an OPP officer is beyond me. But once I get a good reason to send him packing, I will. The city dump could use a new security guard.”

“Yikes.” Corigan felt elated at that, being how much distain he had for the man. He might pass on this little tidbit of information to Catherine tomorrow as an olive branch.

“No love lost there I suspect?” Corigan threw in, flipping the red file closed on his desk. “Well, he was the officer on my crime scene today and I had to ask.”

“Come again?” Dawna queried, her expression icy cold.

There was a much longer pause now. For a few seconds, Corigan could actually feel the phantom skeletal fingers gripping his wrist through the phone, making his blood run cold through the line.

“Are you certain of this?” Dawna queried.

Corigan knew something was happening, and he knew well enough from his experience with Dawna, she was a driven woman, brilliant in many ways, but thoroughly vindictive to those under her command who failed to do their job to the best of their ability, or worse, used deceit or lies in deference to the laws she worshiped and served.

“Yes. When we arrived on scene, we saw the cruiser in the lot.”

Dawna cut him off, something new and ominous filling her next question. “There was a cruiser? Officer Albom was at your crime scene and he was driving a cruiser? You wouldn’t have perchance seen the vehicle number or the plate would you?”

Corigan knew right away, he may have solved their missing OPP cruiser mystery, and at the expense of someone he had truly disliked. His day was perking up. Maybe he could sell Dykes down the river before bedtime and all will be well with the universe. “I’m afraid not.”

Dawna could be heard writing something down. Then he could hear the clickty-clack of her keyboard as she was obviously sending someone an email or an instant message. “No worries. My tracking team can verify quite quickly if it was the missing cruiser on your scene today.”

Corigan allowed her to finish.

“I guess that answers my question about him. It still doesn’t explain why he was there in the first place.” She gasped. “He wasn’t in uniform and acting in an official capacity was he?”

Corigan knew it was getting worse and worse for his unfriendly opponent, but even he was starting to pity the fire Corigan was lighting under his ass. “Albom was in the underground parking lot, looking for something when we confronted him. He was carrying a security card, which gave him almost unfettered access to the building. Security is still supposed to be sending me the access logs so I can ascertain which part of the building he was in and when.”

“Can you send me a copy of those logs?”

“Sure.” Corigan answered. “May I ask why?”

Dawna gave a moment to consider how to respond. Then figuring she was talking to a friend, she explained, “Officer Albom is currently on suspension. Suspended with pay, but not without trying to make it without. But I couldn’t get the union to concede on that.”

“Sounds pretty bad. What did he do? Excessive force?”

“I would have preferred that. Less embarrassment if you ask me.” Dawna took another drink of her coffee, sipping loudly. “Albom came to work drunk.”

“Not shocking. The man smelled of whiskey when I saw him this morning.”

“Great.” He could almost hear her shaking her head. “And when I say drunk. I want you to understand, serious drunk. Jaw dropping, staggering on his feet and mean as a rattlesnake drunk. He’d been assigned to traffic duty all evening, out of the way as it were. A female called in with a household disturbance, possible spousal abuse. Albom took the call.”

“Not too bright.”

“He really couldn’t ignore us. He was the closest to the scene.”

Corigan was listening attentively, “And?”

“From what I was told, he’d been in his cruiser for over three hours, drinking steadily when he got the call.”

“How do you know it was three hours?”

“Let’s just say, I’m hoping it was three hours.” Dawna sounded sincere in that assessment. “Considering his blood alcohol level when he was brought in, I can’t believe a human being could drink that much in under three hours without drowning first.”

“Wow and double wow.”

“That and according to the logs, that was the time frame he was stationary before responding to the call. If was he drinking before that, he was driving as well.”

“A man of the people.” Corigan commented.

“He tried ignoring the call, but after calling him by name, four times, you better be shot if not answering.” She winced. “He finally responded. And being his voice sounded slurry, and our radio communications officer knew Albom’s history, she dispatched a second officer to the scene.”

“Good call.”

“Yes indeed.”

“What happened when he arrived?”

Dawna did not answer right away.

“I assume by the suspense, Albom showed up first.” Corigan finally spoke up.

“He showed up alright. And based on the report, he drew his weapon before the other officer could arrive.”

Corigan had a sudden intake of breath. “And…”

“He was so drunk, he dropped his firearm.” Dawna was a great staff sergeant in Corigan’s estimate, so hearing her describe such a sad situation under her leadership made Corigan feel sympathetic for her. “Luckily, once the weapon was dropped, he passed out.”

“Yikes again.”

“But that’s not the best part.”

“It gets worse?”

“Oh yeah. The boyfriend got the dropped gun and fled.” Dawna was reliving the story as though she was there. More likely because this officer was under her command and she cherished the protection it accorded to those people in her jurisdiction, a violation of duty was something she personally felt. “Luckily, the boyfriend never got a chance to use the gun on anyone. Two officers apprehended him a few hours later. The press never got wind of it. Albom has been on suspension ever since.”

“And that’s not sufficient for termination?”

“Nope.” Dawna sounded discouraged by her answer. “Can’t fire an officer without providing an opportunity for medical intervention first. The board assumed it was job stress. I know for a fact it was just a stupid alcoholic, pure and simple.”

“I see.”

“And since no one was harmed, the union felt therapy was the first and best option.”

“How long has he been off?”

“Now going on three weeks. Eight more weeks to go and mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous for the next year. This doesn’t include the next three years of booze related counseling he’s mandated to take. But if he did this today, he’s getting more than suspended without pay, his ass is grass and I’m the power mower.”

Corigan knew Albom was a few days away from the unemployment line. Maybe there was some company out there who had a shortage of alcoholic, mean spirited booze hounds, but the OPP was not one of them.

“Well, I hope I didn’t ruin your night?” Corigan stated, genuinely displeased to be the bearer of bad news. “But I really do thank you for the information.”

Dawna chuckled, which surprised Corigan based on the information he had relayed. “Ruined? Seriously? You made my night. Not only may you have solved my stolen cruiser problem, but you may have solved my Albom problem too. You should call more often.”

They both laughed.

“Funny thing though.” Dawna threw in. “It’s not like him. He usually avoids work, let alone comes in off the books. Weird.”

They talked for a few more minutes, reliving past adventures and a trip to Niagara Falls they had taken.

After saying their farewells, Corigan hung up and decided it was time to head home.

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

Finishing his coffee, leaving a generous tip on the table for the pretty young waitress, Taylor, for allowing him the solace to sit in his booth and nurse a cold beverage, he departed the restaurant

Once back in Waterdown, he parked in the driveway.

Getting out, Corigan could see the driveway asphalt was still an inch lower than the city sidewalk. The builder had promised to level it this week. He had assumed today. Corigan knew all new driveways tended to sink when first installed, so he did not complain right away, but after two years, the builder’s excuses was getting stale. He wanted, and needed, the second layer to level the driveway so he was not continually worried he would lose his muffler each time he bounced over them when he left for work.

Corigan walked to the door, briefcase in hand, laptop in the other and paused.

A chill ran down his spine. The hairs on the back of his neck quivered.

He cautiously turned around.

It was nightfall. The sky was laden with a twilight shade of purple which enveloped the starry filled atmosphere gently and all encompassing. The street was peaceful. No dog walkers arguing, no teenagers in search of mischief and no raccoons, squirrels or invaders of the animal kingdom making this road their domain.

But the feeling was still there.

Standing alone, Corigan expertly scanned the street, windows, doors and alleyways between homes. Long corridors, built between townhouses where one model accessed the rear yards. All were dark and ominous. The paths appeared open and inviting, yet equally filled with shadows and gloom.

But all dark shrouded areas seemed like that if you really imagined.

He continued examining his eye line.

No one.

Unless they were hiding behind a car, under a SUV or out of sight.

Corigan knew he could be there all night if he wanted, looking for nonexistent trouble, but he had reports to read and a show to catch up on.

He wasn’t going to waste too much time giving substance to his imagination.

Corigan stepped up to the porch and the chill overtook him again. It was a creepy sensation, like a snake made of mist had slid down the back of his shirt collar and slithered its way down his spine until it reached his feet and dissipated.

The same feeling Beckham described when he felt he was being followed.

Corigan looked again.

Nothing. The street was barren and abandoned. Everyone was in for the night, basking in warm glows, drinking cold glasses of wine or cuddling up to loved ones.

Yet, Corigan could not shake that eerie feeling of being watched.

Maybe he would feel better once he was behind locked doors and his security system.

Corigan inserted his key into the lock. He saw it at the corner of his eye.

A flash of black. A shadowy silhouette coalesced in the reflection of his front window, moving toward him from behind with blinding speed.

Corigan dropped his briefcase, but not in time.

The figure grabbed Corigan from the back of his head and forced him into his front door window.

Corigan was able to tilt forward to ensure the impact was at the top of his scalp, one of the hardest points of the skull. He could see tiny pieces of glass scattering around him, dropping to his tiled floor inside as his head exploded through his home’s entrance.

Corigan fell forward, shoving the front door with him as he slid into his foyer, the door hinges holding his weight. A small and remaining shard of glass cut deep into the front of his jacket.

The figure maintained his relentless attack.

Corigan snapped back his right leg, in a back karate kick, spinning his foot to ensure his heel struck first, using as much force as he could muster without the support of both legs in a ‘ready stance.’ Corigan felt it connect, followed by the satisfying burst of air from the mouth of his assailant.

In those precious seconds, Corigan rolled over, his body still halfway in the frame of his door windowpane. The pieces of remaining glass tore lines along his coat, piercing his skin underneath. He lifted his foot and lashed outward again, using his hands to support his weight, essential in hand to hand combat training when at a disadvantage.

Use everything and anything at your disposal.

The force of the second kick, though not as gratifying, grazed the figure at chest level, enough to cause him to dodge and reconsider his next move.

But the figure had the upper hand by way of surprise and position.

Corigan felt blood trickling into his eyes, blurring his vision. Tints of red clouded his sight.

The figure was already in motion. He crossed underneath Corigan’s third empty kick, pivoting left and then right like a boxer, and fired a painful blow upward from knee to shoulder, delivering a sharp blow to Corigan’s kidney.

Corigan felt his legs turning to rubber. Fighting on, a flush of adrenaline coursed within him. Corigan pushed his feet off the step of his door frame to somersault backwards into the house through the window he was stuck in.

He landed flat on his back, knocking wind from his lungs. But on instinct, he thrust his feet forward, catching the base of the door and shoving it outward with a thunderous force.

The figure took the full blow of the door, sending him backwards.

In that moment of peace, Corigan could hear his internal security system counting down. What seemed like an eternity had only lasted a few seconds. The countdown signaling the alarm’s pending activation. But he was not at the goal line yet.

The figure sprang forward again like a pouncing lion lunging for an African eland. He struck the door with the force of a battering ram, sending the fortified door back at Corigan.

Corigan was down, but not out.

Corigan thrust his foot up, knowing, even when down, use your feet, legs, arms, elbows, hands… everything. Anything to win. Corigan’s heel hit the figure in the shoulder.

The figure grunted as he fell backwards off the front veranda and into the grass.

Corigan was attempting to rise when he spotted his laptop strap, carefully hung over his shoulder to prevent his computer from falling, was also coiled around the doorknob and his wrist. Corigan quickly struggled to free himself.

‘As of tomorrow, the strap is history.’ He was going to carry his laptop by the handle from now on.

Amazing what goes through one’s mind in a fight.

The security alarm screamed.

Finally.

The WHUP-WHUP-WHUP-WHUP low baritone, high volume security system echoed along the street.

During the brief seconds of delay, the figure had gotten up and resumed his attack. He reached the door and swung it inward with all his weight, hitting Corigan mid-forehead, as he feebly tried to free his hand from the laptop strap.

The figure pivoted and struck Corigan under the chin with a well-placed karate kick. Obviously hand to hand training was in this man’s arsenal.

Corigan slipped free from the strap and found himself crashing into his pine bench at the front.

When Corigan’s head bounced off the armrest all he saw was stars. Red hinted stars from all the blood, but stars nonetheless.

Corigan started to rise, his head filled with the scream of his alarm, his brain foggy from the loss of blood or a possible concussion and now, a twisted ankle.

The figure shoved his knee into Corigan’s abdomen, as he lunged forward and pinned Corigan to the bench.

Corigan felt his hair pulled back until he was staring at his ceiling. His throat was exposed as the figure opened his palm to lay what appeared to be a deathblow to Corigan’s esophagus.

The figure smiled.

Even through the haze of pinks and red, with the darkness of his hallway, Corigan could see those pearly whites expanding and curving upward.

They seemed almost, recognizable.

Like he had seen that smile before.

So dark. So dreadful. So arrogant.

He hated to think it, but he did, so evil.

It almost seemed like the same smile Beckham gave in the underground garage after he killed Vails. But that was impossible.

As recognizable as this smile was, it was on a different face.

It was unbelievably terrifying.

The figure spoke, with a voice as unshakable as a mountain, filled with malice, the kind only replicated in movies or by the criminally insane. What he said surprised Corigan as he waivered in and out of consciousness. “Beckham is guilty. Tried and true. You have all the evidence you need. His identity is gone. Close this fucking case.”

‘Identity is gone?’ is all Corigan could muster to his mind. He sputtered out the words. “Who are you?”

“No one.”

Corigan felt tired and drained. He was about to ask, when the figure moved in, his face as clear as day.

Officer Timothy Albom. Albom said. “Beckham’s identity is gone. As far as the world is concerned, he’s dead and if you keep up this investigation, you’ll join him.”

Corigan was confused. ‘Beckham wasn’t dead? Identity?’

Before Corigan could imagine anything else, Albom struck him under the temple, with what felt like the force of a tidal wave.

The last thing Corigan remembered as the dark wave overtook him was the sound of his alarm blissfully singing as he fell into unconsciousness.

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