The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 19

19

Corigan was driving North, up Centennial Parkway through Stoney Creek towards the Hamilton International Airport.

Corigan spent the majority of the morning shopping at electronic stores where he purchased three disposable cellphones. Paying in cash, withdrawn using monetary advances at local grocery establishments, he was able to procure three phones from three different providers.

From there, once activated, he called three news stations and advised them, anonymously, that Beckham had been framed. He offered just enough information to make his explanation believable, but not enough to implicate him as the source. He made intangible connections the police were attempting to cover up the frame due to internal issues of unknown financial motivations.

All completely false and eventually provable as such, but definitely enough to start a media storm.

Which would delay any case closing for a good couple of days while the press and Internal Affairs tried to sort out the allegations.

Corigan knew Vertigo would have another fit if he ever found out what he had just done.

But one advantage of being head of Special Investigations was that you had a lot of direct reporter and station phone numbers when leaving tips to ignite a fire.

Corigan knew one thing from his short time with Detective Patrick, whatever compulsion drove Mr. X, it was absolute. He needed to have Beckham destroyed, completely and utterly, and this little foray of discord would definitely put that prospect on hiatus for at least as long as it would take for Corigan to learn more about his adversary.

Corigan knew as long as Beckham had hope, no matter how faint, Mr. X would stay in the proximity of Toronto to decimate it.

No matter how minuscule, it was a thread by which to hold Mr. X.

Corigan’s only fear, what or who would Mr. X use to keep Beckham’s fate focused on straight down.

It was next to impossible to figure out how to stop a man who could literally become anyone he wanted and was using that skill to destroy every life he intercepted.

Driving past a few country intersections, Corigan mused as to the reasoning for having an airport this far in the boondocks of Hamilton. Then again, he was headed there.

His cellphone, his standard one, started ringing. Originally he had it on vibrate when the reporters started calling his office that morning and when unable to reach him, started calling his cell. Knowing he was the officer in charge of the Beckham case, not knowing he also made the tips, they wanted a statement and they wanted it now.

But as his voicemail said, he was out of the office with no specific date of return. He knew when he was coming back, but not saying it left unanswered questions.

This only enticed reporters more, as once the leak was out there about a frame, followed by the head of Special Investigations being put on suspension, paid vacation as Vertigo called it, and someone would reveal this little tidbit to them, Corigan could not have asked for a better bee’s nest of suspicion.

It only gave credibility to a potential cover up and reporters loved that.

He looked at the display as it rang for a third time.

It was Catherine. He had avoided her calls most of last night as he spent the evening reviewing the X-File Patrick provided him. It was very comprehensive. He had barely skimmed the surface of its contents and even then, he was paranoid. He had actually looked at his neighbours twice that morning for no other reason than to confirm it was them.

What Patrick had said in the diner came back at him. ‘When I explain, you’ll understand. And when I’m done, I damn well bet you that you’ll start doing the same thing.’

Corigan originally doubted it.

Not anymore.

Corigan almost wished Patrick was still alive and could work with him on this. He knew Mr. X better than anyone because he was the only one who believed he existed until yesterday.

It suddenly occurred to Corigan.

Corigan was already calling his nemesis Mr. X.

Amazing how things change in twenty-four hours.

Corigan pressed the earpiece on his Bluetooth to take Catherine’s call.

There was a touch of static and then a connection.

“Where the Hell are you?!” She screamed into the phone. “And why the Hell have you been avoiding me?!” Corigan almost pulled the device off his ear to save his eardrum.

She was never one for patience.

“I’m at a great strip club in Burlington. It’s really a good one you know. I just got myself a burger. And get this, there’s a girl here who looks just like you. Nice rack.”

A pause. He could almost envision the look of scorn she was giving the phone. “First, you’re a moron. Second, even if you were at such a place, you’d never order the food. And third, you could only wish there was a stripper as hot as me.”

Corigan had to laugh.

“You pissed off?” Catherine asked with genuine concern.

Corigan chuckled. “Of course not.” He never got mad.

“Vertigo is having a shit fit.” Catherine continued, “The press is on him like a plague. Seems you’re not the only one who thinks Beckham was framed.” She waited several more seconds before making her next statement. “You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”

Corigan knew she understood him well and sometimes how his devious mind worked, but lying was his only option. “Did the Captain just discover that with me gone the whole place is falling to pieces?”

Catherine nearly choked with laughter. She tapped the phone with her finger hard, several times. It sounded like a judge’s gavel on the desk inside his speaker. “Not likely. But we do suddenly have the press swarming the station like locusts. All wanting to talk to Beckham. Dykes is having a field day.”

‘Damn.’ Corigan thought, he would have preferred to give Dykes a heap of shit instead of a pound of glory, but that was the repercussions of media storms, someone always benefited.

Catherine finished. “Dykes scheduled a news conference. He wants the public to see his innocent client and to see his treatment at the hands of the uncooperative Toronto Police Force.”

Corigan squeezed the steering wheel wishing it was Dykes scrawny little neck.

“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.” Corigan snapped, turning right at the next intersection for the airport. “Plus, I genuinely don’t care. I’m on vacation. I got a pocketful of Twoonies and ten days of strippers ahead of me. My schedule is booked. Call me tomorrow if you want, but not too early as I’ll be seriously hung over.”

Catherine muttered to herself, not friendly words. “Look. I know you care. The real question is… What the Hell are you up to? There’s no Goddamn way you let this drop. I saw the look in your eyes when you started into this investigation. You have a plan and a mission.”

Corigan replied snidely. “That was yesterday.”

“Bullshit.” Catherine spat back. She took a deep cleansing breath. “Come on Corigan. You left last night without a complaint and without a fight…And that isn’t you!”

Corigan already knew where this was leading.

“So my conclusion… It means you‘re up to something and I haven’t figured out what… yet.” She paused. “We’re partners. I thought you trusted me?”

Corigan did trust Catherine. Heart and soul. “I do.”

“Then do you have an idea on what’s going on here?”

Corigan feared bringing her into this too early would put her in danger. Mr. X already came after him, so he might make a go for Catherine.

As Patrick said, man or woman, Mr. X can portray anyone. No one is safe.

But Corigan also wanted her to know he had not let this go.

“Look. I have a theory. But not one I’m ready to share.”

Catherine was curious, but like Corigan, she trusted her partner. “I can live with that... For now.” She could be heard clicking her tongue. “At least give me something, even if not specific. I want to help.”

Corigan considered her request. “Fine. I can tell you this. The man who killed Patrick…” Corigan waited to gauge her reaction. “I think is the same man who framed Beckham.”

If Catherine did not believe him, she didn’t voice it. “One man? Is this what the Detective told you?”

“Up and until he was shot anyway.”

She betrayed herself. “Are you shitting me?” She rarely swore. “One guy did all this?”

“Believe me when I tell you, I was skeptical as well. But I’ve seen the light and I’m now a believer.”

Catherine knew Corigan was a man of deep convictions and she was willing to put her faith in him. “What do you want me to do?”

Corigan was sharp with his answer. “Absolutely nothing. I want you to field the office for the next week as you normally would when I’m on vacation. I need time. This is very important. Time to seek out more background on the man I’m after. Anything you can do to delay it would be great, but don’t under any circumstance stand out doing it.”

“Why?”

“I have my reasons.”

Catherine could not help herself, speaking with a touch of trepidation. “Who the Hell are you after Corigan?”

Corigan weighed his answer out. What could he tell her to keep her trust yet protect her in the same breath?

Very little he knew.

“All I can tell you is that Patrick told me the man I’m after is still out there and I have to stop him.” Corigan inserted one piece of clarity. “And this guy scares the living shit out of me.”

Before Catherine could respond, Corigan disconnected. Given time, she was a shrewd interrogator and she might get the information out of him and he was not ready for that yet.

In time, he would be.

He tossed his Bluetooth to the floor to prevent any desire to answer the phone.

In the distance, he could see planes rising and descending the tarmac.

The smell of spent jet fuel filled his nostrils.

Catherine was right.

He was a man on a mission.

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

Arriving at the airport, Corigan parked in front of a stale white building near the rear of the landing strips.

Corigan stepped out and stared in the direction of the little known international airport of Hamilton, Ontario.

The John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport was designed for use by large airplanes on overseas flights. The airport was classified as an airport of entry by NAV CANADA and is currently staffed by the Canada Border Services Agency. CBSA officers at this airport currently handle aircraft with no more than 250 passengers. However, they can handle up to 450 if the aircraft is unloaded in stages.

Though a major commercial airport, with passengers leaving from some terminals at the outer edges of the property, the facility was used mostly by cargo planes, courier services and commercial traffic intended for materials transport more than people.

And as such, security was a lot lighter than Pearson International in Toronto.

Corigan locked the car, grabbed his packsack and moved toward the outer bay doors of the third warehouse.

As he approached, he could see the walls of the building were chipped slightly revealing concrete beneath. Windows were tinted dark to filter the ultraviolet rays and protect the inside from the bleaching effects of the sun.

The text, “Black Phoenix Courier Services” was embossed on a large red framed sign with a huge eagle engulfed in flames atop the door. Not exactly the most welcoming vision on an aircraft Corigan always thought, but his friend, CEO and owner, Captain Gary Cunningham, was not your normal kind of guy.

Ducking under the half raised bay doors, walking over the oil stained walkway, and toward the administrative offices, Corigan could see several planes in the garage, two being loaded and one being worked on by an attractive blonde female mechanic.

She was focused on her work, never once looking up.

Standing in front of the office, a messy room of scattered flight charts, plane manuals, aircraft books, training devices, a lone PC on a chipped oak desk and a cork board with a pin up from the recent sports bikini magazine, Corigan smiled. Also pinned to the board was a scratched brass compass dangling from a push pin. Out of place, yet oddly fitting.

Within seconds, as his eyes scoped the room, Corigan found, seated at the helm, his friend and comrade, Gary.

Gary was a smaller man in stature, no more than 5’5” with sharp green eyes, but with a full complement of muscles that were evident when he moved, like a jungle cat prowling a forest in search of prey. He had short dark black hair, almost crew cut, freckles and a pair of wire rim glasses that sat on the bridge of his nose which slipped occasionally as he spoke and required him to constantly be pushing them back up. He was writing furiously on a notepad.

Corigan knocked on the outer door frame.

“Morning sunshine.”

Gary spoke without looking up. “I thought I said no vagrants. But if you’re really hungry, I left a half-eaten sandwich on the floor in the cargo bay.”

Corigan knew his friend was fully aware who was there. “You leave a half-eaten anything and I’d be shocked to Hell and back. Unless it was a Polar bear sandwich.”

Gary stopped working, shook his head, looked up and grinned. “Never gonna live that down huh?” he laughed.

Corigan always reminded Gary of how they met. It was almost an International incident in Nunavut when one of the men under Gary’s command shot a Polar bear. It would have been considered an accident had they not elected to cut out a piece and fry it up for dinner. The next thing they knew they had two wildlife preservation societies, one charity and an angry sheriff woken at two in the morning by the local Inuit tribe in an uproar.

Luckily Corigan had been visiting a girlfriend and intervened. Using his normal charm, he sweet-talked the police to forget the matter. The bear pelt was returned to the tribe with a sincere apology and the Canadian military made a handsome donation to the charity to not advertise the dalliance.

It cost Gary his promotion but it made him and Corigan friends for life.

The fact Corigan got a date with the Inuit Chief’s daughter made Gary suspect it might not have all been all for his men’s benefit, but karma was karma.

Gary never did ask about what happened to the first girlfriend he had been up to visit.

Gary moved from around his desk. “So what are you doing up here? Aren’t you supposed to be working?” Walking around his workspace, he grasped Corigan’s hand with a firm handshake, pulling him forward and downward in a genuine hug. “If you’re looking for drugs, I told you before, I smoke it long before I get back here.”

Corigan returned the gesture. “I’m only after the criminal masterminds. Not their shoe polisher.”

Gary punched his friend hard in the shoulder. “And you’re my friend why?”

“I’m not picky.” Corigan shrugged. “Plus I got some time off and I figured I could go out West for a few days for some R & R. I was wondering if any of your planes are going that way.”

Gary moved directly into Corigan’s personal space, a huge smirk from ear to ear. “You would’ve called first.” He stared Corigan right in the eyes. “You’re investigating something aren’t you? And it’s got to be off the books cause the force isn’t paying for it or you’d be on a commercial flight right now.“

Good friends could sometimes read you like a book.

And Gary was nothing if not a damn smart strategist.

Corigan grinned back. “Fine. I need to get to the West coast and I was hoping you could help get me there.”

“Damn straight I could. Follow me.”

The two men left the office and moved into the conference room. In there were several more computers, lots more modern maps and charts, but it also included numerous digital read outs, radars, mapping stations and two internet terminals with flight data displayed.

Corigan always marveled at his friend’s enterprise.

Gary had been CEO of Black Phoenix Courier Services for seven years, operating out of Hamilton exclusively. When he retired from the Canadian Air Force, he needed to be airborne, but under his own command. What started as one small biplane carrying crates of fish food to the Hudson Bay area turned into an international courier service carrying cargo across the world. That was then. Now it was mostly medical supplies, but he funneled down his focus to national shipping since 9-11. He explained he never wanted one of his planes shot down as it almost occurred that tragic day. Many air officials denied it, but Gary trusted his pilots. When they radioed him that morning and told him they had a US Air Force jet on their tail with a missile lock, Gary had them land and from that day forward, he brought all his services and aircraft back to Canada to fly.

Waiving his hands over several invoices and shipping orders, Gary slid them aside to find his tablet computer. Picking it up, resting it gently in the crook of his elbow, his fingers scurried over the touch-screen. Moving graphs this way and that, altering schedules with a rub and a tap, all for his friend. He held his chin and used his index finger to push his glasses back up on his face. “I have two planes going west. One to Edmonton and one to Victoria. How far are we talking?”

“The Alberta Guido Neuro Clinic in Calgary to be exact.”

“Finally figure out that brain of yours is messed up.” Gary paused for good measure. “You should know, you’re beyond science’s help.”

“I figure it’s the company I keep.” Corigan replied.

Gary laughed. He moved into his office again and examined his shipping manifests. “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll let you deadhead on the Edmonton flight if you help stock it up here. Then when you get there, you deliver some of my crates to Calgary. You can keep the van for the afternoon to visit this brain clinic of yours.”

Corigan was impressed. It was far more than he was expecting. “Thanks.”

Gary threw in as he read over his screen. “The courier is coming back tomorrow afternoon. I have a Hemostat to bring back for Toronto General. So you can use my layover apartment if you need.”

“What are friends for?”

“Put a tie on the doorknob in case I drop by for a beer and you have… “ Gary did quotation gestures with his fingers. “A guest?”

“If I have a guest, I won’t take her to your soiled pad. I bet if I flashed a black light over the place it would look like a crime scene.”

“Just in front of the computer.”

Corigan groaned. “Nice visual. Thanks.”

“Hey. Free is free.”

“I’m not complaining. Just giving you the facts.”

Gary put his tablet down and looked at his friend seriously. “I’d hate to get on the bad side of you bro. You’re like a pit-bull with a scent of blood in your snout. Whoever you’re after better look out.”

Corigan got deadly serious. “If you knew half of who I was after, you’d give ME the same warning.”

Gary rarely saw fear in Corigan, but he sensed it now. Gary nodded knowing his friend was in deep with something and come Hell and high water, Gary would support him through it. “I got your back. You know that.”

Corigan slapped his friend on the shoulder. “Thanks. I always cherish it.”

Gary pointed him in the direction of the aircraft and they walked toward it. “Ed will be flying. You can find him in the bay loading as well.” Gary was a man who felt his pilots should do manual labour like the shippers. Hard hands make for hard workers he always surmised. “You already know him. Just tell him what you’re doing and he’ll take care of you.”

Corigan pulled his bag over his shoulder, the one containing the X-File, and replied. “I’ll have your plane loaded in no time.”

“Just don’t drop anything. I might let you have a free ride, but I ain’t paying for your clumsiness.”

Corigan gave Gary a salute.

Corigan was almost out of earshot when Gary yelled back.

“By the way, where’s your car?” Gary queried.

“Parked outside.”

Gary looked at him with his head tilted in a knowing way, as that was not the reason for his question. “More importantly, where’s your gun?”

Corigan knew Gary was very reluctant about weapons, especially on his aircraft. “In my car. Locked away. I promised you, I’d never bring it on your planes.”

Gary smiled, returning the salute. “I may love you man, but I hate that cannon of yours.”

“I thought all military guys carried guns.”

Gary’s reply was deadpan. “Any monkey can fire a gun. Real men know how to win a fight with their hands and their brains. When I left the service, I left my piece behind for just that reason. When I am ready to devolve, I’ll get a gun.”

Corigan shook his head with amusement and headed for the plane.

Over the next few hours, Corigan helped load the aircraft, a small cargo plane with a 2.5 metric ton capacity.

As the aircraft left the ground, Corigan leaned back and closed his eyes, rubbing his sore muscles. More lifting than he had done in a year. He respected aircraft loaders more now. Next time he took a commercial flight, he was going to leave all that shampoo at home.

Looking at his watch, he knew he was still on schedule for his meeting with Doctor Lopes.

That morning, during his break, he’d called ahead to the hospital and Doctor Lopes’ receptionist said he would be pleased to meet with him. In fact, he had been expecting the call.

Obviously the news of Patrick’s death had reached the good doctor.

‘Would there be an army of lawyers waiting for him?’ was the real question Corigan wanted to ask, but after talking to Ms. McCormick, his secretary, he got a feeling from the receptionist of genuine warmth and concern. She seemed to convey to Corigan that Doctor Lopes needed to talk to someone and urgently. She even proactively mentioned there would be no lawyers present, Doctor Lopes inferred, time was of the essence.

And as a final note, she made it very understood in her invitation the importance of the meeting. She eloquently stated, “Doctor Lopes is clearing his entire schedule for you this afternoon.” She repeated this. “His entire schedule.”

She obviously wanted Corigan to know, this was very uncommon and he should appreciate it.

And he made very clear, he did.

Corigan removed the X-File from his bag and resumed reading it on his path across the Canadian skies. He had spent most of the night before watching all the DVD footage, the killings, Weathers initial escape and even a few of his movies. Most of it was edited so only the clips Corigan needed were readily available. Made for faster watching. Thank you, Patrick.

The man who escaped the Guido Neuro Clinic several years ago appeared to be the same man who killed and framed numerous people in and around Canada.

Jonathon Weathers aka Mr. X.

The question remained. Why? To what end? What does he accomplish by doing this?

Corigan had absolutely no idea.

And more importantly, the question of all questions, how does he catch a man like this?

At least for a little while, with just himself and the pilot on the plane, he knew Mr. X is not with him.

Corigan did catch himself checking Ed out when the pilot had closed the door, checked the safety bolts and the airlocks, closely examining Ed’s facial line to confirm it was skin and not a prosthetic mask.

The pilot sweated.

From what Corigan knew, masks don’t sweat. He was the real pilot.

‘When I explain, you’ll understand. And when I’m done, I damn well bet you that you’ll start doing the same thing.’

Corigan leaned back, file in hand and rubbed his eyes.

Even if the pilot was real, the spectre of Mr. X’s existence brought chills to his blood and in his estimate, actually slowed a touch, his own beating heart.

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