The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 14

14

Corigan was surfing channels. He flipped through his digital directory for five minutes, banging the remote twice on the armrest as though this would infuse the TV with good programming. He skipped over several court programs with long winded judiciary officials and morons for litigants, two annoying cooking shows creating meals a monkey could produce and four pitiful docudramas. One called, ‘The world’s deadliest fisherman.’

Like this was a void we needed filled.

Corigan leaned back on his full length couch, a dark brown faux leather set with huge pillows, large armrests and cushions now laden with deep butt impressions from use. The perfect fit as Corigan liked to call it. He had his feet up on his two piece jigsaw coffee table, shaped like two “L’s”, carved with beveled glass and riding on four wheels, both which merged to form a rectangle.

Laptop closed on the table, files open and pens were scattered with post notes and scribbles showing ideas and possibilities. Though everything was in plain view, the curtains were closed, to prevent prying eyes.

Not that anyone cared.

The one thing Corigan was amazed at was how little interest people had in his life as a detective. A date came in one night, moved the files off the table so she could put her drink down. When he told her it was an open investigation, she replied, ’It was open to where she needed her drink to go, unless he preferred to hold it all night.’

He let her put the files on the floor. She never even glanced at them.

He never worried about it since.

The front door was repaired, the windows were new and the price was only enough to have cost him a new Blu-Ray player and three video games he wanted.

Corigan would still buy the games, but it helped to feel the pain of what was lost when price compared.

The phone rang and he checked the display.

GTNN. He doubted they were calling to survey him for future TV ideas.

He picked up anyway. He was bored.

Corigan hadn’t even said hello before the female started in.

“Good evening. I assume I’m speaking to Detective Corigan McAllistor.”

“You assumed correctly.” Corigan leaned back, lowering the television volume.

“This is Annabelle Mason Veracity with GTNN.” She said it loudly as though saying it would make it more important.

Corigan could tell immediately by her self-important arrogance and rudeness, she was one of those reporters hoping to bully him into a statement.

Female reporters were either one of two types in his opinion. Overly seductive and insincere, trying to coax a comment out of him using their attractiveness or rude and pushy hoping to force him into a corner where he would have no choice but to answer her questions. This was the latter.

This was good as he was having a really crappy day so far. “Finally.”

Annabelle paused. “I beg your pardon.”

“I said finally. Do you know how long I’ve been sitting here, staring at a screen of snow, waiting for the television company to call and fix my cable?”

She snorted. Not a laugh. More shocked. “No, I’m not with the cable company Detective McAllistor.” She sounded insulted he was not aware of her media status.

Corigan took a sip of his wine. “You said you were with GTNN right?”

’Yes.”

“GTNN is on cable correct?”

“Sir, I’m ON TV.” Lots of emphasis there.

“Not right now you’re not. My cable is out.”

She waited a few seconds. “Sir…”

He cut her off. “Well if you can’t fix my cable, who can?”

“I’ve no idea.”

“Can you find out? You’re a reporter.” He leaned back, staring at the ceiling. “Don’t worry. I’ll hold.” Corigan nearly burst out laughing.

After a few seconds, when Annabelle realized he was still holding, “Sir. I think you’re confused. I’m calling AS a reporter.”

“Oh?”

Annabelle sounded relieved. “I was going to…”

Corigan cut her off again. “I’d like to report my cable is out.”

He could hear her breathing heavily into the phone. She was restraining herself from saying something irrational and cost her this potential interview.

“Look Detective…”

“No, you look. You know the rules. You don’t call outside of work.”

Annabelle was about to say something but thought better of it. It was more a courtesy than a rule, but it did exist. An unwritten code which cops and reporters understood. If something really dire or interesting was going to the media, most cops were pretty good about giving it out. And usually to the good reporters who didn’t make nuisances of themselves. “I was hoping to see if anything new had come of the Beckham case? The station says Special Investigations hadn’t closed the matter.”

Corigan was annoyed the station told the press that. He would be talking to public relations tomorrow for sure. They hated when non-PR staff gave information to the press without approval. He sat up. “I’ve made it clear to all the stations. Don’t call me at home. I have a schedule, an office phone and I make plenty of time for reporters.”

Annabelle didn’t respond. She didn’t apologize either.

Corigan felt he had to be firm. “Call again, and I’ll make a lot less time for GTNN. Ask your producer what would happen if the Toronto District Police Department cut off ALL access and YOU were the reason.”

Annabelle remained silent.

“As the second head of Special Investigations, I can make it happen.”

Annabelle sighed, readying to respond. She coughed instead. As a crime reporter, cut off from all police access would be a career killer. She finally said, “I presume I can call tomorrow… During office hours?”

Corigan answered with sincerity. “Absolutely.”

“Good night Detective.”

“Goodnight Annabelle Veracity.” Corigan repeated her name so she knew, he knew, which reporter he had been speaking with.

Corigan hung up the receiver, returning to the kitchen to refill his glass. He enjoyed a nice white wine, dry with a hint of oak, poured from a cardboard box in his fridge. He never represented himself as a connoisseur. Besides, large boxes lasted him a long time.

He made a quick check on the front entrance, confirming the security system was up and running and returned to the living room.

Corigan was feeling a touch paranoid after his recent interaction with the second Officer Albom and the conspiracy theory which included a team of good looking pursuers who followed him and supposedly Beckham.

He raised the television volume. On screen was a kitchen program with a brutal British chef and his foolhardy protégés being screamed at for every action they took.

The phone rang again.

Corigan sighed.

The digital display read, UNKNOWN CALLER.

Brave, Corigan thought.

He answered. “Good evening. House of Sin.”

Silence on the end of the line.

Corigan grinned. “Massages are twenty, happy endings are thirty.”

A male could be heard clearing his throat.

Corigan hesitated.

The man spoke, deep and resonant, tempered by age, with an Irish accent. “Did I call the residence of Detective McAllistor?”

“Yes?” Corigan realized it was not a reporter. “Sorry about that. I had annoying reporters calling and I was trying to dissuade more.”

“Ahhh.” The man relaxed. “In my day, they showed up at the station. Rarely called and never at home. I guess they got past that courtesy some time ago.”

Corigan felt some kinship with that statement. This was a man of the force. He replied, “I’m trying to help them learn the error of their ways.”

The man laughed. “Good luck to you.”

After a few seconds, Corigan took a sip of his wine. “How can I help you? I assume you’re not calling me to recommend a TV show because someone stole your program guide. Because if you are, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.”

The man chuckled, sounding amused. “My name is Anthony Patrick. I’m a Private Investigator.” The man could be heard taking a drink as well. “I was once a police detective, not unlike yourself.”

“I‘d never have guessed.” Corigan would have.

“With the RCMP. Retired now.”

Corigan sat up straighter. He placed his glass of wine on the table and turned off the TV. He was intrigued. A retired RCMP officer calling him, after hours was not a common occurrence. “And how can I help you Detective?”

“No need to call me that.” He sounded complimented nonetheless. “I’ve been retired far longer than you know.”

“Really? Would I have read about anything from you?” Referring to closed cases or successful collars.

The man took a deep satisfying breath, obviously proud of what he was about to proclaim. “Do you remember the ’Red Ribbon Killer?”

Corigan took a few seconds to think about it. He couldn’t remember that one and he thought he had a good memory in these matters. And as Canada had very few serial killers, the name escaping him was discouraging. “Can’t say that I have. Red Ribbon Killer?”

The man chuckled dryly. “Actually, you might remember him as ‘The Pretty Pink Rapist.’”

Bells went off immediately. The story was from years ago, reaching national status.

Corigan commented. “Yes. In the eighties. The RCMP caught him. They always get their man.”

“We try.” Patrick replied, in a present tense as though he still performed this duty.

Corigan got a quizzical look as he remembered the case. He took another sip of his wine, warming him to the conversation. He could hear the man taking another drink as well. Very unlikely it was coffee. Most retired detectives from Metro had a taste for a fine single malt Scotch, aged well and barreled for a minimum of twenty years.

Detectives knew a good drink. Sometimes a stiff Scotch helped offset the evils they encountered in a busy day.

Patrick continued. “Normally, it would have been a provincial case, but for some reason, it struck some chords with me so I requisitioned it.”

Corigan knew some cases just spoke to you. No further explanation was needed.

Corigan responded. “He was a murderer as I remember it, but hardly a serial killer? Didn’t he only rape two women and wrap a pink bow around their necks?”

“That’s him alright.”

“Then why did you call him the Red Ribbon Killer?”

“It’s a private joke.”

“Hey. You called me. I could use a good joke right now. Believe me.”

The retired Detective could be heard leaning back in what sounded like an old leather chair. Likely a recliner.

Corigan loved old war stories. Most Detectives did.

“That was the name he originally wanted. His immortality if you will.”

Corigan waited a few seconds. “And?”

“Well. Of course, it wasn’t the name the press gave him.”

“Damn reporters.”

Patrick chortled loudly. “Oddly enough, it was that name which led me to catching him.”

Corigan was all ears.

“His real name was Cameron Pacey. A brash young man of twenty seven.” Patrick took another sip. “Smart too, academically. He had two degrees and working on another.”

“What a waste.” Corigan shook his head. Smart people using their intelligence to commit crimes always disheartened him.

“And a planner too. He spent two years preparing his spree. Setting up a sequence of twelve rapes and murders to take place over a year. Once a month, every month, on the cusp of the astrological signs. Not unlike the Zodiac killer, but no affiliation.”

Corigan was amazed at the detail and planning serial killers would go to for their sick fantasies.

“We discovered all this after we caught him.” Patrick paused. “And he was a careful son of a bitch. And I mean damn careful. He spent over a year buying all the things he needed for his kit.”

A crime kit was a standard collection of tools and devices repeat offenders kept with them. Products they would use to attack and restrain their victims for their vicious pleasures.

Patrick lectured on. “Pacey shopped several stores on business trips and vacations to divide up his purchases and avoid suspicion. Handcuffs from BC, duct tape from Ontario, surgical gloves from the US and so on. He even acquired some torture tools from sex exhibitions throughout the year. His final item was a generic printer from a garage sale to print off his business cards, the ones he was going to leave at the scene of his crimes with his ’Nom De Plume.’ All paid with cash and always in stores with poor video surveillance.”

“Wow.” Corigan was both impressed and disgusted.

Patrick continued. “In all my years, he was the most meticulous sociopath I’d ever encountered.”

“Sounds like it.”

“Then he started his spree. Planned for January to end in December. I’m sure had he succeeded, he would’ve repeated the cycle, but this was his initial plan.”

Patrick let out a sigh. Stories of catching the bad guy always had one flaw.

There was always a victim.

“Well that January, he started with Caitlen Drobena, the sixteen year old aspiring model from Scarborough.”

Corigan recalled the case. It had been tragic. She was caught unaware in her home, raped and murdered. She was working on her modeling portfolio when the monster broke in through her bedroom window. The rest was a bit hazy, but he was never a part of the investigation to know the specifics.

“Well, Pacey took her life, but only after torturing her for hours.” Patrick’s tone was low and baritone. He did not like reliving this part of his story. “He tied the ribbon around her throat as planned, left his business card on her, just under the bow. It read, ’There will be more. TRRK.”

Corigan had never read about that in the papers.

Not the calling card anyway.

“T-R-R-K?” Corigan queried.

“He signed it with the initials of ’The Red Ribbon Killer.” At this point, Patrick laughed lightly. ”Problem was, for all his planning, he never knew, he was slightly colour blind.”

Corigan burst out with a gasp. “You’ve got to be kidding me?”

“Nope. A rare disorder of the eyes that caused him to see pink as a deep scarlet red. His biggest and greatest blunder. And not once did he think to ask the girls at the fabric store to confirm the colour. Remember, he spent all that time not wanting to be remembered.” Patrick was amused. “I always thought this was God’s ways of sticking it to him I guess.”

Corigan was humoured by the irony.

“Anyway, he tied her with the pink ribbon and left his card.”

“Which the RCMP suppressed.”

“We had to keep something back to discern the true killer from the confessors.”

‘Confessors’ were the annoying people who called the police and professed to committing the crimes, even though they were innocent. For whatever twisted reason most cops never understood. It impeded investigations and pissed off the detectives constantly.

Patrick continued. “Anyway. He had another problem. Due to the poor printer cartridge, what you get when you shop your electronics at yard sales, combined with the ice and snow coming in through the broken window he entered, the ink on the card smudged and it read “T-P-P-R.”

“Wow. Loser.”

“You can say that again. No one figured out the acronym at the time, so we logged it in, worked the evidence and waited regrettably for the next crime.”

If you didn’t catch the killer in time, this was the only option.

“Well come next month, Pacey repeated his performance on Amber Evans, the seventeen year old dancer from Mississauga. Same MO, same pink ribbon, but with a new signature, T-R-R-K. And since we didn’t know about the first card being smeared, we assumed the second one was an accomplice.”

“Logical. Two different names on two almost identical cards.”

“So to warn the city of the pair, we called the press to get out a statement.”

Corigan could see it coming now.

“But one of the crime reporters presumed since the initials T-P-P-R signed the first attack, he was obviously the dominant of the pair. So his paper warned the world to be on the lookout for ‘The Pretty Pink Rapist.’”

Corigan grinned from ear to ear. “Let me guess….”

“Oh yeah. Pacey was furious. He started calling the papers, the police, from payphones, from restaurants, from anywhere to get this corrected. Never from the same phones of course, to cover his tracks, but man, did he call. Over and over. Never heard of a guy so dedicated to protecting his legacy.”

“I can imagine his face.”

“I wanted to. I even spoke to him twice. I’ve never heard anyone so mad. I couldn’t believe how superficial he was. He was killing and torturing innocent girls and his only concern was his name.”

“What happened?”

“He demanded we correct his name or he’d kill another girl right away.”

“What did you do?”

“I told him to use red ribbon next time and not pink.”

“Really?”

“Yep. He was thunderstruck. He hung up without another word.”

“Dumbass.”

“You said it. But I knew now to save his name, he needed red ribbon.”

Corigan understood. “Ingenious.”

“With all the calls he made, we narrowed down his primary area in the city. From there, we called all, and I mean all the fabric stores to be on the lookout for a guy coming in for red ribbon. And we knew he had to ask this time as he couldn’t discern the colour for himself due to his condition. By eleven o’clock the next day, we got the call and we were at the store in three minutes.”

“Excellent timing.”

“You can say that again. He was still in line when we arrived. We caught him ‘red’ handed as it were.”

Both Detectives laughed.

Patrick took a few deep breaths and threw in. “In the cruiser, all Pacey went on about was us correcting the name. How he couldn’t wait to get to the press conference and fixing all the blunders us cops made in regards to his signature.”

“What a lowlife.”

“Only thing was, the Captain was with us. Well after about five minutes of Pacey complaining about his signature, the Captain went back into the fabric store and bought the brightest pink ribbon he could find, with frilly white edges and flowers sewn into the lace.”

“I like your Captain already.”

“Pacey didn’t. He was mortified. He swore and screamed all the way back to the station. Come our arrival, reporters waiting, the Captain brought the coil of ribbon with him to the press conference. During the question and answer period, he just stood there, holding it in his hand as he explained how they caught Pacey, on MY hunch, at the fabric shop buying more ribbon. He never told the press the ribbon he was holding was the one purchased, they assumed it was. I mean, why else would he be holding it.”

“Nice touch.”

“Pacey hung himself in prison a few weeks later.”

Both detectives thought, “Justice served.”

After trading a few more jibes about the case, both men were feeling relaxed, some by camaraderie and some by the alcohol they were consuming, Corigan finally asked, “So what can I do you for Detective? Can’t imagine you called about that old case.”

“Nope. I called you because I think I can help you with yours.”

Old cops loved helping on cases and sometimes, with the press, it brought back the need to offer their expertise.

It was not always welcome, but Corigan respected him enough to listen.

“When I read the paper this week, I almost missed it. But after looking over the fact, I’m pretty sure it is him.”

Him? Corigan thought to himself.

“Anyway, once I realized Beckham was the target, I started doing some more digging.”

Corigan kept thinking. ’This detective was looking for something specific. Some marker that attracted his attention and brought him to me.’ Corigan was impressed by his tenacity.

“I called and talked to a friend of mine at the station and he told me you and Detective McPhail were handling the case and for some unknown reason, YOU hadn’t closed it.”

Corigan rarely justified himself to anyone. “I hate to think I’d left anything unfinished.”

“I share the sentiment.” Patrick waited. “Let me guess. The guy you have, the writer, is claiming he’s innocent?”

“Don’t they all?”

“True. But I bet you have all the evidence you need. Irrefutable evidence like a video recording, a photograph or an eye witness of impeccable creditability. Yet, the guy still claims it wasn’t him.”

Corigan was intrigued. “You’d be right.” The detective had done his homework.

“All the pieces fit together perfectly. Beautifully, like a Monet. Crisp sharp lines blended with confidence like the Flowering Garden at Sainte-Adresse. A perfect portrait.”

Corigan was quite the art historian as well. “I would say this scene was more delicate and detailed, like a Women in a Garden. Lots of strokes and differing flows giving a broad view, but disguising a hidden muse.

Patrick was impressed with Corigan.

Not all detectives were as well read and knowledgeable in observation arts, even though it was their trade, viewing tableaus of crime and seeking irregularities.

“But let me guess, for you, something, whatever it is, isn’t quite right. Like it’s too neat.”

Corigan felt they were sharing the same brain. “That’s exactly it. I can’t put my finger on it, but something is missing.”

“Monet always had that emptiness in his paintings. Something there, but not seen. Something implied that only a true observer could recognize and enjoy.”

Like great paintings, both men were subtly implying, masterpieces were also always framed.

Patrick let a pause grow between them.

Corigan interjected. “I can’t just close it. I don’t want to put an innocent man in jail without at least checking.”

“I thought so.” Patrick seemed to agree. “I need to meet with you… tomorrow.” He made it sound urgent.

“When?” Corigan wanted to meet with him as well. Couldn’t hurt to have a different and unique perspective on the matter, from a seasoned professional. Especially one who seemed to share the same suspicions Corigan had.

“There’s a deli on Queens Street West, across from the television studio. Meet me there at 11:30. Wear a blue jacket and have a red ribbon in your hand. That way I’ll know you’re the same man I just shared this story with…”

Same Man? Corigan was suddenly having second thoughts.

Then Patrick added…“You’ll understand more when we meet. But I have to be sure it’s really you.’

Corigan froze.

After the protests of Beckham and the doppelganger theory combined with the attack by Albom’s double, Corigan knew that Detective Patrick had something vital to offer.

Corigan knew he had to meet the man, but he was also impatient. “Why can’t you tell me now?”

Patrick hesitated. Even though both men had talked and bonded over the past forty-five minutes, he remained quiet. “I need to meet with you. In person. Face to face. Eye to eye. I want to see you for who you are before I tell you anymore.”

Corigan hated waiting. Why would this detective call and not offer more information when prompted.

It was all so very cryptic.

At this point, Patrick took a deep intake of breath. It sounded like he was having difficulty breathing, but moreover, building up the courage to say the next thing. “I’m putting my faith in you Detective.”

“That’s a good sign.” Corigan replied.

“But I don’t want you to be offended by what I’m about to say.”

Corigan seemed to think about this. He answered with a bit of trepidation. “I won’t hold it against you.”

“Good.” Patrick took a few seconds. “If you’re Detective Corigan McAllistor, you‘ll understand tomorrow when I share with you what I know. I’ll give you a copy of all my files and hopefully you can do what I couldn’t.”

If I am Detective Corigan McAllistor? Corigan sounded confused. What was that supposed to mean? And do what that he couldn’t?

Patrick continued, not pausing to breathe as he had given himself the confidence to finish. “But if this isn’t you McAllistor and Goddamn you for it, don’t you show up tomorrow or by God I’ll kill you before you reach the table.”

Corigan found himself silenced into submission.

Patrick took a long swallow on his drink. “Again, if it is you McAllistor, bring your wallet. You’re treating. And I promise you this, you’ll not be disappointed. Your world is about to be turned upside down. Mine still is.”

With that, Patrick terminated the call.

Corigan held the phone to the air, looking at it like it was some form of alien artifact, dropped from the sky by a passing UFO, having bounced off the back porch, through the window and landing in the living room in his hands while its ship continued on its merry way to the farthest nebula.

He stared at the display for several seconds and proclaimed, loudly. “What the Hell is going on with the world? Is everyone going crazy?”

Corigan grabbed his wine, still half full, and swallowed the entire contents in one gulp. That was his cue to call it a night.

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