“MOTHER OF SWEET MERCIFUL GOD CORIGAN!” Captain Vertigo shouted. The windows in his office seemed to rattle in the frames with each enunciated word, his face red with fury, his eyes wide, the blood cells in his cheeks blossoming with oxygen, seeming to burst spontaneously. “For a department responsible for keeping the press out of our station, you seem to attract a lot of GODDAMN PRESS!”
Trickles of spittle flecked from Vertigo’s lips in Corigan’s direction.
One droplet landed on his jacket.
Corigan thought it wise not to mention nor wipe it off at that specific moment.
“And guess who’s been taking all the Goddamn calls!!” Vertigo continued, annoyance filling every syllable. “Not one of the people I hired to do that duty because he’s at the eye of that media-shit-storm! So I’ve been taking them myself!”
Corigan had nothing to offer.
Officers on the floor had either left, moved or found a safer place to do their paperwork.
Though it is difficult not to turn away from an accident’s aftermath, rarely do they enjoy watching the chaos as it occurs.
Vertigo swallowed hard, taking a few seconds to compose himself. This had obviously been building up since he got the first series of calls and many thereafter.
Corigan had been brought in with two other officers as the primary witness.
Vertigo rubbed his eyes and pinched his nose, putting deep pressure on his sinuses, almost forcing his fingers into his skull.
Corigan could not help but wince.
Vertigo let his shoulders sag for a second and rise again as though powered by some unseen force of pure energy. He continued, no longer shouting. “You were on your lunch I was told. And yet, I now have a university in chaos, a dead RCMP detective and best of all, I have the media demanding how we could’ve let this happen!”
Vertigo snapped in Corigan’s direction. “Do you have an answer Detective?!” Vertigo made sure to string out the word ‘Detective’ as though his position on the force could have prevented today. “I mean, you were there. How did we let it happen?!”
When Vertigo said ’We’, he clearly meant Corigan.
Corigan tried not to squirm under Vertigo’s glare, but it felt like it had weight to it. It pressed on him, pushing down on his spine and forcing him to lean back like it had physical strength. Corigan replied carefully but defensively. “All I saw was a lot of scared people running for cover. I had my weapon drawn, but I was protecting Detective Patrick.”
“Did you fire at anything?”
“I didn’t see anyone. Would you have preferred I started firing blindly back and hope I didn’t hit anyone else but the shooter?” Corigan said it snidely as he too was at the mercy of the gunman for a period of time and did not appreciate criticism of his protocol.
Vertigo was not impressed. “Don’t presume to lecture me Detective. I’m asking a question, not making an accusation. If I was, it wouldn’t be this room we’d be discussing it in.”
Corigan acquiesced as he knew Vertigo was also following protocol. “I didn’t see anyone. If I had, trust me, they’d be dead right now.”
Vertigo paused, smiled and replied. “Good.”
In the career of being a cop, sometimes emotion got the better of you. Saying things you didn’t mean or in a tone not appropriate to the situation was happenstance. Luckily Vertigo was a seasoned veteran and Corigan knew it. His insubordination would not be held against him anymore than he would be angry at Vertigo for screaming at him as he had. Vertigo had probably spent the last few hours being screamed at by everyone above him.
Vertigo always said it to his team, ’When shit rolls downhill, he was a Captain who shared.”
Corigan adjusted his seat. He was sore, pissed and upset. Not only had he lost a lead, but he lost a friend. No matter how short a time they spent together, Corigan had bonded with Patrick. And now he was gone.
Vertigo paced the office. He held his wrist once, checked his pulse and seemed to be counting to himself. He didn’t have a heart condition, but he didn’t want one either.
Corigan was still in the same clothes he was wearing at the university. His sleeves were scuffed from having dropped to the concrete, torn on one elbow and dirt layering the other. Speckles of mustard and ketchup had splattered on him when he pulled the ’Street Meat’ cart into the line of fire to protect him and Patrick. His pants were soaked with Patrick’s blood as he remained kneeling at his side, holding his hand, long after he died, in some vain hope he could return life to him.
When someone dies in front of you, most people can’t help but hold them, strangers or not, knowing the value of the loss.
The police who arrived cordoned off the streets, secured buildings, stopped and questioned witnesses while the entire time, searching for the shooter. They came up empty.
Whoever had shot into the crowd was after fear, not glory.
Corigan suspected different.
The shooter was there to stop one man from imbuing another with his mission.
Luckily, the shooter failed.
Corigan gripped the armrests of his chair, one of two found before Vertigo’s desk. A plain leather piece of furniture, with four legs and no wheels to push yourself away from him when he was aiming his lectures at you.
Vertigo took another deep breath, now calmer than before. “Do you know I got called by Internal Affairs?”
Corigan was not surprised.
Vertigo wasn’t done. “And not just ours. But the IA for the OPP and the RCMP. One for your accusation against Officer Albom and one for our lost Detective Patrick. Even though he’s retired, they felt a need to call. They want to set up an interview. Talk to you and to me, your commanding officer.” Vertigo frowned. “They want to blow smoke up both our asses and to conserve time, they want us together.”
Corigan did not relish the prospect of that. He hadn’t done anything wrong. All he did was attend the library with an informant. The fact he was also a highly decorated RCMP officer was coincidence.
“Did you forget CSIS?” Vertigo threw in with sarcasm, Canada’s version of the CIA for which its acronym was the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service. “I’m sure that they have an Internal Affairs department you could probably piss off.”
Corigan knew Vertigo was simply overwhelmed. He supported his officers, but he hated politics.
Vertigo dropped into his chair, a deep blue leather, heavy on the lumbar support with pillow-like comfort for long hours of working. It rested comfortably behind a huge ornate desk, once having been a three hundred year old Maple tree. He received a lot of crap from several conversationalists who felt a Canadian police chief should not have their sacred country tree cut down to make an ornamental desk blotter holder, and frankly, he didn’t care. It was stunning.
On it was a high end computer with no filing cabinets or printers anywhere in the room. Vertigo used his office for work, meetings, conversations and throw downs, not paper conservation.
The walls behind him were laden with photos, certificates, honours and pictures with celebrities, politicians and more. It was a regular montage and proof he was a force to be reckoned with.
Vertigo let out a deep long breath, his chest sagging with relief. “I guess I got that out of my system.” Vertigo looked to his officer, knowing Corigan had gone through a lot today. “The RCMP can go fuck themselves.”
Corigan looked up with a bit of surprise.
Vertigo was not. “I doubt if I called them with a complaint about of one of their detectives, I’d get any better treatment.”
Corigan smiled, in spite of today. He asked. “Did they find any clues about the shooter?”
The likelihood someone else was gunning down people at the university at the same time Patrick was telling Corigan about an elusive serial killer was as much a possibility as a lightning bolt striking the station right this second.
“Nothing.” Vertigo replied. “Whoever did this vanished. We’ve assigned a detail to run twenty-four hour security on the campus, at least until people feel safe again. It’ll probably take a few weeks, but it will pass.”
Corigan knew that would not be necessary. The killer had gotten who he was after and wasn’t coming back.
Not for Patrick anyway.
“I’ll fill out a complete report.” Corigan added. “I’ll have it in by tomorrow.”
Vertigo sighed. “No big issue. We have your statement. You were pretty concise.” Vertigo stretched. “The Mayor already called to explain my need to step up this investigation. Like the man could find a sandwich in a lunch bag if he fell into it.”
Corigan knew the Mayor and Vertigo did not see eye to eye.
“I can’t very well give you the case. You were the one shot at and your friend died as a result. Conflict of interest don’t you think?” Vertigo noted.
Corigan wish he didn’t agree, but he did.
“Catherine?” Corigan suggested.
“I’ve already given it to Danvers and King. Catherine can check in on it, but they‘re good officers.”
Corigan agreed. They were.
Vertigo put his hands behind his head. “Any other plans for the next couple of days? I figure I can arrange for SWAT to get there ahead of you to secure the place before you arrive?”
The last sentence had a touch of humour as it was poking fun at the fact wherever Corigan was going, trouble followed.
Vertigo rose and stood before his bay window. The vista of Toronto stood before him, the CN Tower, the Skydome, the Metro Convention Centre and much more. He kept his hands behind his back. ”I like you Corigan. I really do.”
Corigan couldn’t help himself. “I like roses. But don’t expect to get anywhere on a first date. I’m not that easy.”
Vertigo snuffed a chuckle down, maintaining his composure. He waited a few seconds. “I’m closing the Beckham case.”
Corigan felt the wind pulled from his sails. He could not hide his shock. “But I thought I had twenty-four hours.”
“You did. But that expired the moment you got shot at today.” Vertigo looked at him. “This matter takes precedence.”
Corigan snapped back. “But wouldn’t this mean it should stay open?”
Vertigo shook his head with a quizzical look. “You think this is connected? A man arrested for killing the critic who trashed his show is now somehow in cahoots with a sniper shooting into a crowd of university students?”
Corigan wanted to explain the connection, but no matter how he thought to bring it up, he had no proof, no witnesses and now, no one to back him up. To Vertigo it would seem ridiculous at best, if not outright insane. Corigan truly understood the shoes Patrick was wearing in trying to convince others of his theory.
Vertigo was trying to sound compassionate, but it was not effective. “I need you to work cases as they come in, get the evidence and close it. When we get heat, I need you to cool it off, but then, close the case.” He waited. “When we have another matter, I need you to pass off the situation and close the case.”
They all had a familiar ring to it. Closing the case.
Vertigo lectured on. “What I don’t need is for you to drag a case on for days, nitpicking details, looking under stones for problems when we have everything we need to close the case.”
Corigan had reached an impasse and Vertigo was right.
“It’s stuff like this that has reporters asking, ‘What is it we’re not being told.’” Vertigo pointed out.
Corigan knew the answer.
“And since we’re telling them everything…” Vertigo turned to Corigan. “We are telling them everything right?”
Corigan replied with a sunken expression. He had no choice. “Yes.”
“Then we need to close the case and move on.”
Corigan had other cases taken from him before and it always felt the same.
But this time, he knew he was right. The other times, he was being stubborn.
But his boss couldn’t see the difference right now without all the information Corigan had. Corigan had the X-File and until he read it, he very well couldn’t use it as a means to wedge the Beckham case open when all the evidence pointed to them having caught their killer.
Vertigo stared at Corigan, firmness in his tone and warmth in his eyes. “You’re single. You’re intelligent. And yes, you’re eccentric, which is why I think you’re great at your job. But let’s be honest, you also have a screw loose.”
Corigan was unsure if that was an insult or a compliment. “I presume that’s not a clinical term?”
“No. But it’s also what makes you great.” Vertigo laughed. Then making a comparison, he added, “For example. Lakos is a machine. He sees the evidence and he systematically pieces out the problem perfectly, as long as he has all the clues before him. You on the other hand can see the unseen. You can imagine a clue that does not appear to the eye, but does exist, and make the connection.” Vertigo let the comment sink in. “But it also means, sometimes, your imagination creates a clue that’s not really there. You go too far. You may see beyond us all, yet, you miss the road getting there. This is one of those times.”
Corigan could not disagree more. “But…”
“No buts. You’ve been working this case on overload. You’ve been attacked, shot at by some nut and you’ve had to watch a good cop die.” Vertigo summoned his military tone for his next statement. “You need some time off and now you have it.”
Corigan tried to argue. “I disagree…”
Vertigo raised his hand, cutting Corigan off. He picked up his nameplate, turned it over and looked at it. “Does this say Captain?”
Corigan leaned back and glowered.
“And being Captain means I make the rules.”
Vertigo cut him off again. “Unless your opinion outranks Captain, your opinion is noted and dismissed. You have the rest of the week and next week off. I’ll see you next Monday. Now go home and get some rest.” He sat back down, energy in his veins.
Corigan rose with authority, nearly knocking the chair over. “And if I don’t?”
Vertigo shrugged his shoulders. “Why don’t you hit Human Resources on your way out? See how far a complaint about your supervisor giving you two weeks off with full pay is going to be handled. I’m sure this is one of their biggest problems.”
Corigan knew he was between a rock and a hard place.
The Captain was a good man, but a hard one.
Vertigo rose from his desk and turned to face the setting sun. He did not turn to face Corigan. He wanted him to leave.
Corigan got up, not looking in his Captain’s direction and left the office.
Not saying goodbye.
Corigan left the station, driving home on the QEW.
He was annoyed, but not angry.
He was deflated his case was pulled from him and pained by the fact Beckham was going to be pushed into the justice system defenseless. And with all the evidence against him, likely false, Beckham’s life was about to be over as he knew it.
Unless Corigan could do something about it.
Corigan then felt a slight tingle.
A bit of elation.
He had not considered this before.
Patrick had been very clear about this. Weathers would not stop until Beckham was convicted.
He can’t, for whatever reason, let the matter lie until the destruction is complete.
Beckham was charged, prepared and being sent to the Crown attorney.
But more importantly, he was not convicted yet.
Corigan still had time.
That, and thanks to his Captain, he had almost two weeks off.
Two weeks to start his hunt for Weathers… Scratch that… Mr. X.
No restrictions, no supervisors, no rules.
Corigan knew Patrick spent years chasing Mr. X without any success, but Corigan had something Patrick did not.
Corigan knew what he had to do.
He had to stop Mr. X.
Whatever it took.
It was a dying man’s wish.
So no matter what, he made that promise and by God, he was going to keep it.
“Look out Mr. X.” Corigan spoke to himself as he drove past Oakville and towards Waterdown, then louder, only to himself, directed to the empty seats of the car. “I’m coming for you. Wherever and whoever you may be.”