The University of Toronto Library is a public research facility situated north of the city’s main core on the grounds surrounding Queen’s Park. It was founded in 1827 originally as King’s College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada. As a collegiate university, it comprises twelve individual colleges that vary in character, history and views. Also called the John P. Robarts Research Library, it is considered the main humanities and social sciences vestibule and largest individual library in the university, one of North America’s top research facilities.
The library’s imposing appearance earned it the nickname, ‘Fort Book’.
Corigan and Patrick signed in at the front desk through the main sentry glass doors, tinted to protect the periodicals inside, and past numerous security pylons used to detect book theft.
As Corigan watched, Patrick pulled out a University of Toronto student identification card and flashed it to the librarian. White with blue trim, inlayed with gold text. He showed it to the young woman, an attractive blonde girl with deep blue eyes hidden behind a pair of black rimmed glasses. Her hands moved carefully as she took his card, scanned it beneath the reader and passed it back.
Corigan digressed. This was exactly how he pictured a sexy librarian in his fantasies. Except he had always imagined she would be wearing a black corset, sporting a leather whip and…
Patrick snapped in Corigan’s direction, frowning. “Get your head out of the gutter. We’ve work to do.”
Patrick was not a man of tact as he said it in front of the young woman.
She turned in Corigan’s direction, but her face was no longer graced by a pretty smile or the welcoming flutter of complimented eyelashes.
It had transformed into a snarl-like look one would expect on a rabid dog before it lunged.
Corigan felt properly chastised. Both by the insinuation and the fact Patrick had read his face so easily. Getting defensive he shot back. “Hey old man. You brought me here. Not the other way around.”
The young librarian turned away in disgust.
Corigan felt relieved knowing her fire filled eyes were no longer burning into him. Once she was out of earshot, Corigan threw in, “And what’s with you and a student card? I thought you were a private detective?”
“I am.” Patrick shrugged. “My job does not define me. It pays the bills. That and they have some great part time courses here.” Patrick put his pen in his pocket and continued forward. He did not elaborate.
Corigan queried. “Forensics? Hand writing analysis? Blood splatter interpretation?”
Corigan sighed. “DNA and genetic comparisons on a subatomic level using only a tuning fork and a pocket mirror?”
“If you must know…” Patrick shook his head, knowing he had to provide an answer or Corigan would never get focused on the task at hand. “Horticulture.”
Corigan looked at him, not missing a beat. “No, seriously.”
Patrick stopped and turned. “Seriously.” He started forward again, speaking as he walked, loud enough for Corigan to hear. “I used to see so much evil in the world. I honestly felt it was scarring my soul.”
Patrick moved up the stairs in front of him with Corigan in pursuit.
“But you were stopping the evil were you not?” Corigan responded hesitantly.
“Yes. I was.” Patrick paused, but continued upwards. “But by seeing it, it became a part of me, a part of my memories. And I didn’t like it.”
Corigan knew about that.
All cops did.
Patrick was still talking. “Most people live their lives never having to see what we’ve seen. And I think they’re better for it.” Patrick considered his next statement. “Have you ever read a book you hated? A story so bad, the plot sticks in your mind for months after, not realizing you’re wasting more time thinking about it. That’s evil to me. A bad book I wish I’d never read, but always remembering it because I did.”
Corigan knew some day he will have to face the demons created in his mind through the cases he investigated. He always suspected he would confront them in the hours between wakefulness and sleep, living nightmares that would haunt him for years to come, all from having seen the darkness humanity was capable of.
Corigan piped in. “I was hoping for senility by then.”
Patrick started to smile. “Don’t we all.”
Corigan could see Patrick’s upturned grin in the reflection of the glass as they escalated up the building.
Patrick was in his element. “I needed something beautiful. Something filled with life. And I’ve always found myself amazed by the magic a single seed, no bigger than a rain drop, can accomplish if cared for correctly. A blossom, a flower, a forest.” He spoke with enthusiasm and awe.
Corigan knew horticulture was the science, or art for that matter, of cultivating fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants, but picturing this catcher of evil doing it as a hobby was somewhat of a paradox.
Patrick continued on, speaking softly as they approached the upper most floor. “Our professor is a remarkable man. He showed me how to cut, plant and place using the sun and water sources around me. You should see the spices I have growing in my garden. I’ve made some Italian dishes even the mafia guys I caught would envy. I’ll have to invite you for dinner.”
“I accept.” Corigan had to admit, it sounded poetic. He preferred the lyrical and colourful properties of comic books to lose himself in, but escape was escape, and if it made Patrick a better detective, so be it.
They moved into a private area sectioned out on the top floor.
Inside the room to the left was a wooden table, two chairs, piles of books, numerous articles and loads of paperwork.
Patrick had obviously planned this day well and had reserved this space on the premise Corigan would be joining him.
The rest of the floor was filled with plain desks, wooden benches, study lamps installed with eco-friendly bulbs connected to dimmers and shade bars. Sections of grey material-covered panels kept people apart. This was a place for thinking and educating one’s self, a seminary for the brain. Many of the seats were occupied. And the most you could hear was the chattered whispers of close colleagues speaking to one another in low and respectful tones.
Corigan was inspired.
Before they could take a seat, Corigan’s cell phone started blaring, resonating throughout the library floor like a fire alarm in a dormitory at five a.m.
Patrons and staff looked in his direction, anger welling in their eyes.
They obviously felt the technology of this world should remain outside these hallowed halls.
Even Patrick looked annoyed.
Corigan raised his finger. “I am so sorry.” He cupped his hand over the speaker and answered, pulling into a corner to mask the sound of the conversation.
“I’m hungry.” Were the first words from the handset.
Corigan knew it was Catherine.
“I’m a bit busy.” Corigan replied with a lowered whisper.
There was a moment’s silence. “Where the Hell are you?”
Corigan looked around, dirty looks all still aimed in his direction. “University of Toronto Library.”
“Do they make sandwiches there?”
Corigan sighed. “No. I’m with Detective Patrick.”
“Detective? You mean P.I. don’t you? And why are you with him? Is he carrying my sandwich?”
“You know, you have a one track mind?”
Corigan could picture the enjoyment in her eyes at teasing him.
She replied snidely, making sure her tone rose and fell on certain words. “Since you were supposed to be back over half an hour ago and you promised to bring me lunch and I’ve turned down three other offers to pick me up a lunch and now I’m being told my lunch isn’t coming anytime soon… Then, yes, I admit, I have a one track mind... Hunger does that.”
Corigan felt guilty. He had promised. “Look. I have to go. I’ll be there in a few hours. I’m following a lead.”
Catherine was not impressed. “Fine. But when you do get here, you owe me a sandwich.”
Corigan chuffed. “I’ll bring you the biggest sandwich they got. In fact, I’ll even pay for it.”
“Since I gave you twenty dollars to pay for it, from my purse, bring me what I ordered. And my change.” She paused, concern lacing her voice. “And be careful.”
“What could happen? We’re in a library.”
Catherine was still cautious. “Just get back safe and sound. This case is giving me the willies.”
“You and me both.” Corigan thanked her and hung up.
Patrick had displeasure in his eyes. “Finished?”
“Yes.” Corigan took a seat, closing the door behind him so they could speak louder. “My partner. She misses me.”
Patrick ignored the remark and leaned back.
Corigan looked over the huge display of information and groaned. Newspaper articles, biographies, movie ads and old TV guides. He considered it an odd collection of documentation to catch a serial killer. He looked at all the stuff, trying to make sense of it. He didn’t see the connection.
Patrick waved his hand over the pile. “There’s over fifteen years of news here. Most of the important stuff is in the file I gave to you. This is simply the background on the man I’ve dubbed Mr. X.”
“Is that what we’re going to call him?”
Patrick replied. “Call him what you want. I think it fits.”
Since Corigan didn’t have anything better, and Patrick had been searching for him for a lot longer that he had, Patrick had a right to name the villain.
Mr. X it would be.
Patrick pointed to a stack of books. “I’ve read everything I could, watched all his movies, TV shows, even his commercials, including one late night ad for condoms.”
“Well at least he’s promoting safe sex.”
Patrick smirked. He was warming up to Corigan. “He was a remarkable man. This is why he makes a remarkable nemesis.”
Corigan leaned back, rocking his chair. “You have to prove it to me first. All I have so far is one man claiming to be innocent and a cop who may or may not have a twin brother. So before I start moving all my eggs into your basket, I need to see your proof.”
Patrick liked directness. That and intelligence, investigative know how and enough stubbornness to dog a case to conclusion. He felt Corigan had all that.
“Fine.” Patrick began, not looking at any anything in front of him, as the knowledge was ingrained into his mind. “It all started many years back when I was hired by a movie studio to find a missing actor.”
Corigan picked up a movie tome of all the movies released in the past decade as Patrick talked. It was an encyclopedia of films, media credits, studios, actors, production teams and much more. Including the awards and nominations they received. He flipped through it.
“Do you remember an actor by the name of Jonathon Weathers?” Patrick queried.
Corigan put the book down and thought back. He rattled his memories of several years ago. He did love movies, but you’d be surprised how the hottest actors tend to fade from your thoughts when they vanish from the big screen. “I think so. Did he not die in a car accident?”
Patrick replied. “No. I wish he had. Then we wouldn’t be here.”
Corigan connected the subject of all the data in front of him.
All of it, every book, every text, every article was on the man known to the world as Jonathon Weathers.
There were numerous photos of him, all slightly different. Make up and Hollywood had that effect.
“So the killer we’re after is…” Corigan asked.
Patrick finished the sentence. “…was the same actor I was hired to find.”
Corigan was thoroughly interested now. If anything, this was more than he bargained for and even if it didn’t lead anywhere, he really wanted to hear more about this theory.
Patrick continued. “I was still building up my agency at the time, so a plumb job like this was hard to turn down. They wanted discretion. And I guaranteed it. Both by anonymity and the fact I was pretty new. My experience sealed the deal.”
“Now I asked myself, and them, what was I dealing with? A drug addict? A womanizer out for a fling? Or a guy annoyed at the studio, taking a quick trip knowing each day cost the production company money? Actors can be flighty like that, especially rich and talented ones.”
“Such was not the case?” Corigan noted.
“It wasn’t. But I’ll get into that later. They provided to me a short biography, some newspaper clippings, a few photos and the accident report. Not a lot about the injuries, but I never put too much thought into that at the time. I figured he was out on a lark. My first and biggest mistake.”
“I went searching for him. Spent a few weeks doing it. With the information I had, it was going to be a superficial one at best.”
“But I thought…” Corigan looked at Patrick with confusion.
Patrick interrupted. “Thought they wanted to find him? Not really. Sure the studio paid me a lot, but based on the instructions, I honestly don’t think they cared either way. They wanted to look like they made the effort.”
Sounded logical to Corigan.
“I tried following the money, but that lead nowhere. Shortly after he escaped, he made one large withdrawal of two million dollars. He had to come back the next day to pick up the currency as the bank didn’t keep that kind of cash on hand. And with the vast amount of money he had, this was nothing. He’s never touched the balance since.”
Corigan found that odd.
“I tried his credit cards, but he let them expire, unused. I tried family and friends, but sadly, in the world of money and media, close friendships are few and far between. No one had seen him. No one seemed to care.”
“A dead end?”
“I thought so. I tried the paparazzi next. It seemed logical since I was looking for clues and they were looking for dirt. Figured they would love the story of an actor gone missing without a trace and millions of dollars.” Patrick shrugged. “They told me Weathers was old news. I even tried tabloids. Not even enough for ‘fake’ newsworthy. When the spotlight turns away, so does all interest.” Patrick made a gesture like a magician, closing and opening his hands to show they were empty. “Weathers had vanished and after a few weeks, no one wanted to find him anymore.”
“And that was that?”
Patrick leaned back. “I got paid. It was enough for me to run my office for a year. My report read: Weathers was gone with no expectation to return. The studio closed the case.”
Patrick was slightly embarrassed. “I couldn’t close it for some reason. Something was nagging at me. No one was giving me more than I could find on a good internet search and it bothered me. So I went deeper. To learn about him as a person, maybe figure out something more tactile to find him.”
“But the case was closed.”
“I know.” Patrick shrugged. “But they paid me a lot of money. And I mean a lot. And more importantly, my vanity was at stake. I hated to think I failed my first case. So I figured, since no one else was looking, I’d find him on my own. Prove I could do it.” Patrick paused for a quick breath. “And to tell you the truth, it was kind of fun. Not like the dredge work in the force. I had more autonomy and freedom to chase leads I felt were important. But I never realized I would find what I did.”
“What did you find?” Corigan asked, knowing a revelation was coming.
Patrick grinned wickedly. “Until you hear it all, I’m not going to read you the last page. You need to know what I know to play the game with this guy.”
Corigan had his full focus on Patrick, listening. Everything else was simply a blur.
Patrick continued. “So I decided to go all the way back. Learn who Weathers was.” Patrick appeared to be impressed with Weathers, at least his past. “Weathers was a phenomenon. He was born to two middle class parents, his father, a Scottish born man who spent his life as a funeral director, operating a small town enterprise for years and a mother, raised in Belleville Ontario, basically country Canada, who later became a paralegal. They never sought the limelight. They never had any other children. So they catered to Weathers every want and need.”
Corigan at this point had his pad out and was writing what he could. His memory could only go so far. His eyes never left Patrick. He wrote instinctually.
“Weathers started an early career in acting in public school, gracing the stages of his classes in performances for which towns from miles away would come to see him. Even then, his parents, before they passed away years later, knew the natural gift young Weathers had. He was an acting savant. Stage and Weathers went together like iron and magnets. He excelled at everything. Acting schools from around North America, even London England, sought Weathers for their alumni. All aware what money and success would be achieved for appearing to have trained him.”
“How old was he then?”
“Nine. He was offered scholarships, vast pools of money, gifts, presents and so much more. The kind of perks a young middle class family in Canada could not turn down. And they took it. And in return, they gave the world Weathers.”
“I’d say. Sure they remained his parents, but in creation only. As the cheques came in, the more Weathers was pushed out, into the world.”
Corigan shook his head. “Terrible.”
“And yet. Awesome. Weathers was pulled into the system and he blew them all away. The cameras loved him. He played roles of any type. Voices, faces, anything he needed to take on, he could do it. He was trained in the art of makeup, changing his face with the strike of a pen or a touch of epoxy. Nothing was beyond his reach. I have to tell you, I’ve seen some of his movies and by God, had the credits not told me who he was, I’d never have picked him out.” Patrick shivered at that.
Corigan could see the awe was tempered by an underlining fear. He really believed this killer was Weathers.
Patrick explained. “Until that fateful night. The car accident. A stupid drunk driver on a deserted country road. So simple an ending for such a great career. Weathers was found horribly broken. Alive, but unconscious. Later, a coma.”
Corigan spotted the Toronto paper in front him, with the headline reading. “Bad Storm for Jonathon Weathers.”
“The press stayed on it pretty hard. His face was in the papers, lots of gruesome shots of his battered body being moved from hospital to hospital.” Patrick looked down at one of the folded ads, almost in sympathy. “But like time, the story dwindled, fading into the ether from which his fame came. As the months droned on, his coma state remained, and his interest to the world disappeared. In the eyes of the planet, Weathers was dead.”
“But…” Corigan put his hands on the table. “He woke up?”
“Yep. He spent quite some time in rehab, rebuilding his battered body.”
Patrick put his feet up. “Not in the least. He wasn’t a star anymore. Only a patient. From the reports, a normal guy getting better. In one of Canada’s top rated facilities in Alberta, but still segregated from the world.”
“Until the studio called and told you of the escape.”
Patrick rubbed his chin. “And there I was, back where I started. From the point I was hired. I learned all about him, so much, and yet, nothing tangible to find him. Trust me, I was discouraged.”
“What did you do?”
“My last unsearched alley. I approached the Alberta Guido Neuro Clinic in Calgary. Named for a generous resident of Ontario dedicated to the research of the mind. A private medical institution with lots of power and lots of clout. A place a famous resident like Weathers could go for safety, security and presumably, protection. Even if from himself.”
“Since I never put any weight into the injury, I never started there. I should of. It was the last known location where Weathers lived. His sanctuary.” Patrick paused, his face going flush, embarrassed. “I’d recommend if you want to find Weathers aka Mr. X, you should have a more in-depth conversation with Doctor Lopes.” Patrick was getting uncomfortable in his seat as he talked. “He was the doctor treating Weathers before he escaped.”
“His only doctor?”
“Yes. Weathers needed the best. And with his money, the best was Doctor Lopes.” Patrick appeared shaky at this point. “He might be more… cordial with you.”
“Cordial?” Corigan leaned forward, perplexed, “You didn’t talk to him?”
Patrick appeared somewhat deflated. “I did, but he didn’t help me.”
Corigan knew right away what happened. “Good cop, bad cop?”
“I went with bad cop. I tried to pressure him based on having lost him. I was new to being a P.I. and I was frustrated. I took it out on him.”
Corigan could already picture the result.
“Well it blew up in my face. Lopes clammed up as tight as a vice with an army of lawyers circling him and the institution like I had never crossed paths with. All avenues as to the medical history and mindset of Weathers in that institution were lost to me.” Patrick let out a breath. “By my own arrogance. And I bet, it’s the sole reason I’ve never caught him. To this day, I regret never getting the information from the one man who knew Weather’s state of mind best. Doctor Lopes.”
“Didn’t you tell him what you suspected?”
“God no.” Patrick looked at Corigan like he was insane. “In our first interview, I never even connected what Weathers was up to. I was simply trying to find a missing celebrity. At the time, losing Lopes seemed like a minimal loss. My second greatest mistake.”
“Then how did you bridge the gap?”
“Before I departed the hospital, a charge nurse, Daniela, told me how Weathers had escaped. He actually used shoe polish, a clean suit and walked right out the front door, dressed as Doctor Lopes himself. It took a bit of bribing, but I got a hard copy of the tape. It was something to see. Watching him walk out the front door, proud as punch. I watched the tape maybe a hundred times. Even though it looked like Doctor Lopes, I knew for a fact it was Weathers. Amazing.”
“Wow is right. I included a copy of the video on a DVD.”
“And from there?”
“From there, I returned home and started my agency again. I never planned to totally close the case, but I had to eat. I figured I’d always be looking for tidbits on Weathers, feelers if you will. I figured he’d have to show up sometime.”
“It started small. Odd stories in the news. People, months apart, being charged with crimes. Not uncommon in itself, but the vehemence in their denials on the air were unprecedented. They all shouted they were framed. Some got press. Some didn’t. Most didn’t last long because the evidence was there. It was always there. An eye witness. A videotape. Security footage. A camera image. Always something very visual in which whoever was claiming to be framed was doomed by it. Who could deny it? To the footage, it was them.”
Corigan felt an eerie chill.
“Of course, I still never made the connection until that night.”
“I was watching CBC news. They were showing a video footage of a man caught drowning a young woman in a wishing pond. Plain as day. All on tape. The man was later arrested. But when the man finished the murder, he turned to the camera and walked away.” Patrick paused, a cliffhanger in his tone. “And I saw it.”
Corigan was on the edge of his seat. “Saw what?”
“He what?” Corigan could hardly contain his sarcasm when he said it.
“He limped. It was so slight, I nearly missed it. But he limped on his right side.”
“Remember. I watched that Weathers tape as Doctor Lopes escape over a hundred times. Everything about Weathers that day was ingrained into my mind. And most importantly, he had that exact same limp. Same side, same twist of his ankle, same everything.”
Corigan knew, it was always the little things.
“I called CBC and had them courier me a copy of the video. I watched it over and over, side by side to the Lopes escape and there was no mistaking it. The man who drowned that woman was not the man they arrested. It was Jonathon Weathers. There was no denying it. I kept remembering what Daniela had told me that day. He took on Doctor Lopes’ identity and escaped the hospital. And here he was. Doing it again. Taking another identity, but this time, taking a life as well.”
Corigan was fully engrossed. “Amazing.”
“It made some sense. That’s how he disappeared. He had become someone else. Problem was, now I was searching for anybody. It was not a nice feeling. But it was a clue. And a big one. So I started doing research. With my old police contacts with the RCMP, which a federal agency is after all, I had any video image of any crime, since Weather’s escape, where the killer or the accused was caught on tape sent to me. I watched them all. Many were not him, but I discovered seven other cases at the time, all with that telltale limp. All him.”
Corigan was cold. And it was not the temperature.
“The limp faded over time, taking my only clue.” Patrick had annoyance in his face. “I was faced yet again with trying to find people who claimed they were framed in hopes of finding Weathers, who at this point, I was now dubbing Mr. X.”
Corigan could imagine. It was a daunting task.
’“And finding the innocent from the guilty is not an easy chore. I mean, everyone denies their guilt. It’s not like those cop shows where you show the criminal a speck of hair, a drop of blood and they give up their whole motive.” Patrick hesitated. “So I had to look beyond the victims. To their families and friends. Those who were so stunned by these crimes, they adamantly vocalized it. I needed these denials by them to filter down my hunt. But by that time I found the clues to connect what was happening, Mr. X had come and gone. And like always, the evidence was clear, the charges were laid, the investigation stopped and the victim was convicted.”
Corigan was stunned.
“Many of these people are still in jail as we speak. Others are dead. Many by suicide, so I attribute those deaths to Mr. X too.” Patrick was passionate. “It was randomness at its worst. He has no specific target. He seems to pick based on the challenge of it. Wherever lots of people live, and a person can disappear into a crowd easily, a totally innocent person will commit a crime so shocking, no one would believe it, but with the evidence no one can deny.”
Corigan was in awe. He was actually believing.
“Now since Weathers escaped, as I noted, I’ve discovered twenty seven such possible frames, combined with those he killed to do it.” Patrick shrugged his shoulders. “And these are the ones I am sure of. God knows how many other lives he’s ruined.”
Corigan could not wait to get home and read the file.
Patrick took a breath. “But again, I don’t understand his motive. To become all of these people, stealing their identities and then framing them? Only for the purposes of destroying them?”
Corigan remarked. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Patrick snapped his fingers. “Exactly. It lacks the most important clue of all.”
Corigan commented. “The WHY!”
“The Why. Without knowing that, all I have is a theory and an empty chase.” Patrick looked defiant at this point. “I knew it was him. I finally found him, in essence. I solved both my first case and created a bigger one. Weathers was alive, assuming identities, murdering people and destroying anyone he crossed paths with.”
Corigan had to ask. “When you finally discovered the truth, did you tell anyone, besides me.”
“I tried. I went to my old boss at the RCMP, but he’d retired. New management. And the new guy practically threw me from his office. Claiming I was trying to build a career or write a book about a phantom killer no one believed existed. That and I was going to incite a panic. He made it quite clear he could destroy my credibility if I went public with this ’nonsense’” Patrick did quote gestures with his fingers.
Corigan had to admit. It was a hard sell.
“My deputy chief recommended I write fiction books.” Patrick was deflated. “Let’s just say, he effectively shut me down there and then. And that was the end of my use of official channels. I’ve been chasing Mr. X on my own ever since.”
“How far does this go?”
“All over Canada actually. Vancouver, Halifax, Saskatoon and many others… If a man or woman, as Weathers has played both sexes, claimed they were framed for a crime they did not do, I was there to investigate it. In the shadows of course.”
What about your agency?”
“It’s doing great actually. I have lots of income. My agents do most of the work. Lots of cases and their profits help me with this.”
“All the profits?”
“All. Everyone gets paid well. I have no complaints. But I can’t in good conscience live my life knowing a man was out there, destroying people, with no more regard than stepping on a cockroach. An actor with no remorse, skills unchecked, and the only one who knew he existed was me.” Patrick paused. “And now you.”
Patrick relaxed. “And you’re the only one I know who came face to face with him and walked away. Whichever face he used anyway.”
“If he wants to stay anonymous, why did he attack me?”
Patrick leaned forward. “Doctor Lopes may better answer this and I seriously think you need to convince him to talk to you. For whatever reason, Mr. X cannot seem to stop until the person’s life is completely destroyed. It’s like he wants to make sure the crime is pinned on the victim without a doubt. Several times, I have proved Mr. X has assumed the identities of those working the case to guarantee the conviction. And of course, destroying any life in his path to do it. In Kamloops, BC, one of his victims was about to have a mistrial, all because of one juror’s disagreeing with an arrest detail. A hung jury was about to result. However the next day, the swing juror changed his mind and voted guilty. The victim’s fate was sealed.” Patrick let this sink in. ”Sadly, he was found dead two days later by hanging. The coroner had some paperwork issues as he originally claimed the juror had been dead for seventy two hours, but of course, everyone remembered he was voting at the trial only forty eight hours before. The Medical Examiner amended the report, but not before I got a copy of the original. The man’s liver temp and rigor mortis confirmed seventy two hours. So I believe the man who voted on the jury that morning, making the conviction, was our Mr. X.”
Corigan shivered too now. It was all so very logical, methodical and it explained everything. Except the Why. “Alright, now I can say I believe in a Boogeyman.”
Patrick smirked. “I wish that was all he was. Don’t look for future victims. It’s pointless. If you breathe and you cross his paths in some wrong way, Mr. X will come after you. So seeking out what he hasn’t found will cost you unprecedented amounts of time. I know.”
Corigan had to ask. “And you’re absolutely sure it’s him?”
Patrick stared out the library window. “I guess, there’s always the prospect I’m wrong. I can admit that. And I’ve been chasing shadows for years. But I’ll be damned if I’m wrong. I know it’s him. And so will you.”
“How has he survived out there without money?” Corigan queried.
“Remember, he started with two million dollars.”
“Oh yeah.” Corigan had so much information, this slipped his mind.
“I’m sure he has it stashed somewhere, using it as he needs. But even if he wanted, he can’t touch the balance. I had the funds frozen thanks to a friend of mine at the Canada Revenue Agency. When I alleged fraud, two million dollars and no taxes paid on it.. Instant freeze…” Patrick tapped his fingers. “But it seems, when Weathers took his money, he left his old life behind.”
Corigan knew it was all true. The story was so insane, it actually seemed plausible. And based on the past couple of days, everything fit. As to how he was going to convince his partner would be another daunting task.
Corigan and Patrick spent the next couple of hours reading and sorting news articles, printing from microfiches, copying editorials and placing them into the briefcase with the full X-file Patrick already provided Corigan with at the deli.
By about 4 p.m., Patrick rose. “I need to get back to the office. Put in a few hours and close shop.”
Corigan packed everything he needed. He knew he was going to be up all night reading, figuring out a way to present this to his boss and not find himself in the Alberta Guido Institute himself. “Come over tonight for a drink? We’ll watch some of the movies you put on disk of Weathers.”
Patrick smiled. He liked that. Finally a believer. Someone to help him catch his big white whale.
By the time they had cleaned up, and exited the library, the sky was getting dark.
And with the crowds building, they both knew, they were in the midst of rush hour. People, students and professors everywhere, heading home, to work, to the café.
So much in so little time, all standard operating procedure for a large city such as Toronto.
Corigan and Patrick were side by side.
A gun shot echoed across the sky.
Corigan realized within seconds he was standing alone. He dropped to the ground backwards, his body moving on reflex.
Patrick was on the ground holding his stomach.
A second gunshot boomed. The bullet sailed through Corigan’s pant leg, grazing his calf. He felt a hot burning sensation as it missed. Adrenaline was flowing now and pain was not an option. Within seconds, his weapon was drawn, he had ducked behind a metal hot dog cart, pulling Patrick with him, his gun sight aimed forward.
A third gunshot. The sound reverberated off the concrete walls surrounding the facility as chaos ensued. Everyone was scattering. Screams of terror, fear and running people triumphed, all blocking Corigan from ascertaining the origin of the shots.
People diving for cover, others using their friends as shields, some hiding beneath patio umbrellas like it was a force field, all searching for a sniper seeking some malicious revenge for failing grades or expulsion.
Corigan knew better.
Corigan kept his weapon focused, his body shallow as he rolled the wheeling cart backwards, dragging the trailing body of Patrick until they were behind a stone pot holding a tree planted by the ecology department.
Corigan could smell burning flesh and the hint of copper.
After several minutes, when a fourth shot did not follow, the crowds started to calm. Police sirens could be heard closing in.
Corigan looked into the tiring eyes of the fallen Anthony Patrick. He was fighting to maintain consciousness.
Blood trickled from his mouth. He coughed and gasped, the last of his life waning from his body. “Son of a bitch.” Patrick muttered. He grabbed Corigan’s lapel and pulled him down. “Thank you for believing me.”
“Promise me…” Patrick’s eyes forged conviction, giving himself energy in his last moments of life. “Promise me you’ll take down this bastard.”
Corigan pressed the wound down, blood trickling between his fingers, the shot was low, fired directly into Patrick’s liver. Blood was turning dark. Corigan knew there was nothing he could do to save him.
Corigan could offer one thing. “I promise you.”
With that, Patrick’s eyes glazed over and the last flicker of life left him.
Corigan looked up. A large crowd has amassed around them, several people on cells calling for an ambulance.
Three shots, one victim.
All Corigan could do was stare into the hundreds of faces looking back at him.
All strangers, but all possible enemies.
Now he understood how Patrick felt in that deli.
‘My God,’ he thought to himself, ‘Is one of them Mr. X?’
If he’s here. He could be anybody.
Corigan felt ice running through his bloodstream.
He looked down at his fallen comrade.
’And next time, this could be me.’