The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 23

23

Four hours earlier…

Calgary, Alberta.

Corigan woke up with a headache. His mouth was dry, his skin felt clammy and his eyes were bloodshot.

So much for assuming his friend would invest in a wine suitable to his station in life.

And worse, he only drank two glasses.

After a hot shower, he crunched down four acetaminophen, collected the X-File from the tabletop, locked the apartment on his way out and dumped the three quarters of remaining wine down the closest sewer grate to protect future drinkers of ingesting the swill. Then for good measure, he tossed the box in a garbage bin miles from the apartment to ensure if his friend did not remember the brand, the box would not remind him.

Traffic was sparse, so he was only delayed twice, once by an elderly driver with delusions of grandeur taking up two lanes and a family of six in a small SUV who appeared to be fighting over the channel on the backseat DVD player the kids were watching.

Corigan accelerated away when the father spun in his seat to reach for the machine causing the car to swerve across three lanes of traffic and back again, completely scaring the crap out of passing cars. Yet oddly enough, the family in the car appeared undisturbed by any of this, as though this was a common occurrence.

At least Corigan understood how Canadians were getting the reputation of being bad drivers across the border.

On his right, he saw a bright green sign with white letters, Devon Road.

He pulled off and continued for another half hour into the green filled countryside.

In the distance, he could see a vast complex which he presumed was the facility.

There appeared to be no signage, but based on the internet rumours of the cost of attending here and the upscale clientele, they likely did not go out of their way to advertise how to find them.

You were either invited or placed there, you were not a tourist.

Corigan turned left and down a long winding road. It was smoothly paved with a thin concrete lip along the edges running from the top of the road and leading all the way to the end. As he drove, he could see video cameras atop tall posts, outfitted with long telescopic lenses and what appeared to be motion sensors.

What the Hell kind a place is this? Corigan asked himself.

He continued along until he came side by side with a brick wall which Corigan thought would make China envious. It was a seven foot solid red stone structure with barbed wire and a double ringed trim along the top laced by a fine thin thread of metal, which Corigan surmised was electrified. As he drove, the fence seemed to go on for miles, encircling and surrounding the entire property, not unlike a gulag or detention camp.

By the time Corigan reached the front gate, he was starting to wonder if the only way in was by helicopter.

When he pulled up, there were three guards, a bit of overkill in Corigan’s mind, but again, he did not run the place. They inspected the vehicle from top to bottom, once having Corigan get out of the vehicle while they checked the glove compartment, cup holders and ashtrays.

Corigan had to admit, this was more thorough than crossing the US border.

After they took his photograph, confirmed his identification and had him press his finger to a handheld print analyzer, they let him in. He waved to them as he pulled forward and towards the main building where they said Doctor Lopes was waiting for him.

Corigan hoped it was going to be easier getting out.

He reached into his pocket and deactivated his cell phone. But not before he spotted a passing sign which read, ‘The property is blanketed by a communications dampening shield which will block any and all hand held, portable or cellular devices. Please keep them off.’

Corigan shook his head.

As Corigan drove, he observed the awe-inspiring splendor. He always knew Alberta was like that, but this place seemed to accentuate the beauty in more ways than provincial tourism could ever do.

The trees had the beautiful hints of reds and yellow, even without fall temperatures. The ponds were a vibrant green with tints of hazel and blues swimming together in what would be considered a portrait. It was so surreal, Corigan had to pinch himself to see if he was still awake.

He could see the roads were recently paved and painted with freshly pressed sidewalks on the sides. There were no handprints or slogans such as “Suck This!” or “D.F. + T.Y.” scratched into them before they dried.

There was also no litter, branches, leaves or any form of debris anywhere to be seen. And yet, he saw no garbage cans to show where it was put. This was a well maintained facility.

He passed four buildings, all the same red brick structures, not unlike the encompassing wall around the property, each with large glass windows and laced metal trim.

In front of every building was a decorative sculpture. Each one appeared to be a different region of the human brain, situated in front of the main doors, one carved out of iron, one of marble, one of a black stone of some sort, likely Dolomite, the stone used in most Inuit art carvings, and one out of what appeared to be solid quartz.

No expense was spared.

From the signage, these were administration facilities and recreation areas.

Corigan also passed two more offices, a storage house for property staff and an equipment shack for gardeners, sanitation and maintenance crews.

Along the way he saw numerous employees in white lab coats, sporting name tags and carrying charts under their armpits. Most had either a pen over their ear or one in their hand. No opportunity missed to take notes. Corigan also noticed there were no nurses anywhere on the grounds, like the outside was for doctors only.

What a strange little world he had drifted into.

He finally reached the main hospital. Like the front gate, guards manned the entrance to the parking area. One actually walked Corigan to his designated visitor’s spot.

As the guard slowly sauntered in front of him, leading the way down the lot, Corigan offered him a ride, to speed up the process, but the guard declined saying it was not protocol.

Corigan finally parked, locked the van, left the keys with the escorting guard and made a beeline for the front door.

The main facility and head office was a large six floor building, lots of grey and red stones comprising a full castle shaped structure. It was a fortified building with gothic architecture undertones and modern construction to give it uniqueness. Corigan paused to look for a moat. There was none. There was though newly grown ivy strewn up and down the walls to give the illusion of a long standing institution, with the exception of the large steel plated corners which chipped away at the fantasy.

The front door was not just a swinging entrance. It was an actual gate which swiveled inward on its axis to allow only one way entry. There obviously had to be a departing exit on another side of the building as it certainly wasn’t here Corigan observed. And like the front entrance, it had three different redundancies for security.

First a retina scanner, another a finger print device, likely connected to the one Corigan used at the entrance, and finally, one that pricked his finger when he touched it. If Corigan didn’t know any better, he would swear it took his blood for a DNA analysis.

The retina scanner seemed more a means to confirm he was ‘not’ someone as opposed to confirming his identity since Corigan knew he had never surrendered to an eye scan any time before or after entering.

Once inside, he was escorted by two orderlies, one a huge mountain of a man who introduced himself as Charles, which Corigan warmed to right away based on his optimistic demeanor and politeness, and a thin fellow with pasty skin who said only two words during the elevator ride up to Doctor Lopes’ office.

The first was “Careful.” and the second was, “Out.”

Corigan was abandoned before a large oak door leading into a huge corner office. He entered.

Seated before it, at a fully set up computer desk, was a white haired elderly woman, blue eyes, a smile and a look of seriousness on her face. She was typing away on a form, her fingers flying over the keys like lightening. She smiled when she saw Corigan, stopped her typing when she saw the pizza he was carrying.

He placed it on the desk and she motioned for him to enter the office.

She mouthed the word, “Thank you.” But did not vocalize it.

Once inside, Corigan, for the first time in a long while, felt intimidated.

The office was illustrious. Besides a huge bay window behind the desk, showing a full view of the clinic, there was a complete bar with almost all the beverages Corigan knew and some he never heard of. That and from his vantage point, only the best ones. The rest of the room was decorated with a selection of vintage pieces. One beautiful Victorian leather couch for lying down, two large matching wingback chairs, one in front of and one in behind a gigantic redwood desk stationed front and centre. Both chairs were identical in every way to prevent guests from possibly feeling inferior. The final touch was end tables next to each seat.

The walls were littered with awards, degrees, certifications and accolades, two PHD’s and a medical degree being the most prominent. The remaining space was filled with matching wood shelves, each one loaded with books, starting from the American Psychiatric Glossary to Gray’s Anatomy, Pharmacology texts to biographies on Freud, Nietzsche and Jung, tomes of neural-surgical procedures and psychoanalytical encyclopedias to medical laws as they pertain to psychiatry.

Finally, strewn about the office, mostly before a large leather sofa at the back of the room behind a coffee table, for group sessions or staff meetings, was a series of recent medical journals and magazines. Each which showed cover articles and stories authored by the man he came to see, Doctor Simon Lopes.

The secretary entered and provided Corigan a hot coffee. She seated him in the chair before the desk noting the doctor would be right in.

Within seconds the rear door to the office opened and in entered Doctor Lopes.

Corigan could almost feel intelligence flowing from the man. He emanated it like a typhoon force of an intellectual nature, one not to be reckoned with. He had a stiff upper posture and clean shaven head. His skin was deep ebony brown. He wore a pair of small brass coloured bi-focals on his face and a red jeweled class ring on his finger. Everything about him was immaculate, with time having layered a selection of wrinkles, not savagely, to his skin and face, which lightly accentuated his age. His suit was perfectly pressed beneath the white coat he wore.

He smiled to Corigan as he entered, extending his hand in a genuine greeting of friendship. “Detective McAllistor I presume?” he asked, speaking eloquently, refined by education and civility. “I’m glad you could come. I hope the ride was uneventful.”

Corigan felt like a homeless man in a church asking the priest for a sandwich in comparison to Doctor Lopes.

Corigan was neat, but nowhere near as pristine as his host. He was dressed in a white turtleneck, black double-breasted blazer with a superhero pin on the lapel and a pair of black pressed slacks. Under his pant legs extended a pair of high quality cowboy boots. He stood and took the doctor’s hand, giving it a firm grip. “You’d presume correctly. I apologize about yesterday.”

Doctor Lopes smiled. “Yes. Margaret informed me. Deliveries if I’m correct?”

Corigan shrugged. “Couldn’t turn down a free airline ticket could I?”

“I gather not.” Doctor Lopes nodded as moved around his desk to his bar. He poured himself a scotch on the rocks, plucking crushed ice from a tiny basin beneath the station.

All Corigan saw was a blue label on the bottle. “You have a nice office.”

“Thank you. Perks of the position.” Lopes turned. “I used to keep a smaller office on the patient’s floor, but a break-in some years back made me reconsider that location.”

Corigan could not imagine anyone breaking into this facility easily.

“Can I offer you one?” Doctor Lopes asked with genuine interest as he finished pouring himself two fingers deep from the bottle.

Corigan politely declined. “No thanks. I have the tolerance of a guppy. Can’t come all this way and wake up tomorrow with no memory of what we discussed.”

Doctor Lopes smiled and took his seat.

As he leaned back, Doctor Lopes gestured for Corigan to sit.

Corigan did.

“Thank you by the way for bringing the pizza to Margaret. I did lose a twenty dollar bet, but losing to one’s graciousness is money well spent.”

Corigan grinned. He was warming up to Doctor Lopes. “You’re welcome. I felt it deserved. She did allow me a second appointment with you.”

“Think nothing of it.” He paused. “I have to admit, it’s far overdue.”

Corigan leaned back and took a sip of his coffee. “That sounds like as good an introduction as any… May I ask why now? Why me?”

Doctor Lopes considered his answer carefully.

From what Corigan could surmise, whatever Doctor Lopes was going to tell him was a burden upon him.

Time did not heal all wounds.

Doctor Lopes took a sip from his glass. “Years ago, when Detective Patrick first came here, he was a fresh new investigator with a new agency. Added to that, he had the backing of the Federal government. Regardless of his private business, he had contacts from his previous employment. I diagnosed right away, he was looking for a scapegoat. Something I had no intention of giving him in the form of myself or this institution.”

Corigan found it funny the Doctor described the conversation he had with Patrick years ago as more an intervention than a meeting, having diagnosed him like he considered Patrick a patient as opposed to an investigator.

But Corigan remembered what Patrick had told him. Patrick had acted like an asshole and thus, cut his nose off to spite his face.

“Yes. Detective Patrick informed me of his… shall we say… choice of positions, one that he looked back at as having been an error.”

Doctor Lopes seemed to share in this assessment. “I too was a proud man at the time, still am mind you, and stubborn. I admit, some of the obstacles I built to prevent Detective Patrick pursuing leads into this institution may have prevented the chance of stopping all this tragedy that’s happened over the years.” He paused. “One can only hope my actions did not cost him his life. I’d hate to think my pride may have contributed in any small part to his downfall.”

Corigan did not want to argue semantics as Mr. X was the enemy here, not anyone else. “Be assured, the past is the past and I’m a man who believes in the future. All I want to do is get everything you have to offer to help me catch a monster.”

“Jonathon Weathers.” Doctor Lopes said it, with such finality and conviction, there was no question as to who Corigan had come here for.

Corigan interrupted. “We call him Mr. X.”

Doctor Lopes looked intrigued. “I’m always fascinated with the police establishment and their intuitiveness in naming their killers. Mr. X you say? I have to admit, in hindsight, the name is quite appropriate.”

Corigan liked the direction this discussion was going. He knew he was going to finally learn about his adversary.

Doctor Lopes took a short pull on his scotch. “I assume you know what happened on the night of the accident?”

“Only what I read in the papers.”

“There was that, but there was more.”

Corigan already suspected. There always is.

Doctor Lopes swallowed his amber fluid, warming his palate. “It was tragic. A drunk driver struck Weathers head on, sending them both off the road into a tangled mess.”

Corigan pulled out his pad and was writing furiously.

“The driver of the truck died at the scene. From most of the reports, he wasn’t someone society would miss.”

Doctor Lopes had an effective way of depersonalizing a story.

“As for Mr. Weathers, he’d not gotten off quite so lucky.” Doctor Lopes almost implied the sweet release of death would have been preferable. “He’d taken a severe blow to the head. By the time the paramedics arrived, he was bleeding with a small part of his brain exposed.”

Corigan shuddered.

“They rushed him to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, as neither Joseph Brant nor Oakville General were qualified to deal with an injury of this nature. And trust me, they did so with as much urgency as possible.” Doctor Lopes paused. “But when it was discovered there was no neurosurgeon available, they moved him again, not recommended, but necessary and they transported him to Toronto General. Again, no doctor wanted to touch him. His wounds were too dire.”

Unbelievable! Corigan thought. “But he obviously survived.”

“As you know, he was a man of great wealth and means. His acting accolades and filmography ensured he’d never be without. By the time he reached the second hospital, his marketing team had arrived and started using their influence. According to the nurses, they were like a plague of locusts, protecting the source of their incomes.”

“Couldn’t let the golden goose die could they?”

“Absolutely not.” Doctor Lopes tone was cold, the implication the management were more there to protect their own pockets than Weathers’ life was implicitly clear. “Regardless, once they were informed of the severity of the wounds and the type of specialist needed, they had me airlifted via helicopter to a private port in Edmonton and rushed to Toronto in a small business jet owned by one of the production companies.”

“Wow!” was all Corigan could say. The last time he was in the hospital for a broken bone, he had to wait for two hours.

Weathers’ team obviously had ways to circumvent the system.

“Anyway, upon my arrival, I was able to drain the blood from the skull cap, reseal the wound, stitch the scalp, and use a prototype bone graft for the skull.”

Doctor Lopes face said it all, the repair work was extensive.

“Swelling was quite prominent, but I was able to bring that down, but not before permanent damage had been done.” Doctor Lopes lowered his voice when using the word permanent.

Corigan could tell this was the core to his mystery, the origin of Mr. X.

“Physically, he had lacerations and cuts all over his face, but surprisingly minor. Something any plastic surgeon could fix. And did, while Weathers was in a coma. He was a star after all.”

Corigan wrote continually, getting every detail, occasionally writing shorthand to decipher later.

“Weathers also had several broken bones, which would heal over time, and a definitive limp upon his final awakening. When he escaped, it was still present.”

Corigan knew, it was gone now.

“How long was he in a coma?” Corigan looked up from his two pages of notes. “I thought if you repaired the damage, comas could be avoided.”

“Absolute nonsense.” Doctor Lopes said with a bit of edge as though the statement was an accusation. “There’s no explanation as to why most people go into a coma or why they come out. My personal feeling is the body receives such a shock, it needs time to emotionally and physically mend, thus it puts the body into a hibernation state, coma, until it is prepared to face the world again.”

Corigan offered bitterly. “I think he should have stayed in it a bit longer.”

“I’d agree.” Doctor Lopes savoured his drink. “After patching his skull, he remained in a coma for several years. I did the best work I could and not to brag, I’m the best.”

From all the awards and degrees on the wall, Corigan agreed.

“But there was nothing we could do as long as he was unconscious.”

“Doesn’t the body atrophy when stationary for a long period of time?”

“You’re an intelligent man, Detective. I think you’d have made a fine doctor.” Doctor Lopes stated with admiration. “And yes, it would have normally in some hospitals, but not this one. One of the daily regimes for coma patients here is to have their body stretched, into numerous positions, moved constantly, keeping muscles in use to prevent the atrophying of healthy tissue. Maintain the body, save the person we always say.” Doctor Lopes frowned. “I wouldn’t be surprised if thousands of years from now, scientists will look back at my work and call me a barbarian.”

Corigan doubted it. “How did he come to be assigned here?”

“Well after the surgery, the insurance company and the production studio wanted Weathers under constant care until he could start making money for them again. He was an investment, one they had no intention of losing unless they felt there was nothing left to salvage. Thus, with my institution’s reputation, and because I performed the lifesaving surgery, he was transferred here, under my care.”

“Until he escaped?

“Yes.” Doctor Lopes took another small sip. “I had no inclination whatsoever of his proclivities or plans. I have to admit, in this regard, he fooled me. I should have known how dangerous he could be if unleashed upon the world, but all I saw were the cheques from the insurance company coming in, in large sums, which made my work on healing him more a priority than learning his new sense of purpose.”

“Then you know what he has been up to since his escape.”

“Yes.” Doctor Lopes replied, sadness in his tone. “Every once in a while, I’d receive an anonymous package in the mail, with photographs and paperwork showing me people who had been suspected as having been framed by your Mr. X.”

Corigan was puzzled. “In the mail?”

“I theorized it was our Detective Patrick showing me what was happening, hoping to guilt me into helping him.” Doctor Lopes looked chastened. “This went on far longer than it should and too many people were hurt by both mine and Detective Patrick’s ego.”

Corigan had no comments to offer. He agreed Doctor Lopes should have come forward sooner, but he shared in the understanding it would have been difficult to undo the damage already done. But stopping it was a whole other matter. That and Detective Patrick could have apologized a long time ago and bridged the gap of their dispute.

Corigan mentioned. “Let’s not dwell on the past. Let’s try to save those in the future.”

Doctor Lopes pulled on his scotch. “Actually, some of his victims have Detective Patrick to thank for sending me those files.”

“Why’s that?” Corigan was genuinely curious.

“Based on them, I petitioned the prisons to have the victims transferred to this facility.”

Corigan found this unexpected. “Really? How did you accomplish that?”

“Well, we did have to update this property. We began by financing a massive wall, one I’m sure you observed on your way in that surrounds the complex, topped by that hideous sharpened wire.”

Corigan had. This did explain the need for all this security if Doctor Lopes was housing criminals here, at least in the eyes of the justice system. The costs alone of such an upheaval had to be astronomical, thus obviously Doctor Lopes’ guilt ran far deeper than he had original surmised.

“I felt they were far safer under my care than that of the penitentiary system.”

Corigan agreed.

“Combined with their protection, once I can diagnose them as safe to be released into society, they’d be given their freedom back. I’m required to give a certain amount of time for them to serve, but because I know they’re truly innocent, it’s an easy call.” Doctor Lopes gazed out his window. “With the help of the doctors, former professors, we help train these people in medical careers, mostly as assistants or technicians. This ensures they can get good employment when they leave. As of last year, we’re considered a fully accredited learning facility, thus the victims can leave with actual certifications.” He sighed. “It’s the least I could do.”

Corigan was dumbfounded at the orchestrations, and genius, of Doctor Lopes’ plan to give people back their lives after having crossed paths with Mr. X. “But how do you convince the government to let you have these citizens? A lot of them did not rely on the insanity defense.”

Doctor Lopes could not help but smile. “You’d be surprised how easy it was. When a victim, or convicted inmate in this case, proclaims he or she had visions of themselves committing the crime they knew they didn’t do, for which they are convicted, their denials and observations make it quite simple to convince the world they need psychiatric care.”

Corigan felt the corners of his mouth rise into an infectious grin. “Touché Doctor. Touché.”

“I wish I could have relayed this to Detective Patrick. I doubt it would have caused any hesitancy in his pursuit, but it might have given him some solace knowing his victims weren’t abandoned.”

Corigan admitted to himself, it would have given Patrick hope.

Doctor Lopes weighed what he was going to say next. “I’ve read several articles about you on the internet. They are unique. Your style of actions, thinking outside the box as it were, makes me believe you have what it takes to catch this Mr. X.”

“Thank you.” Corigan found the remark unexpected and appreciated the sentiment, but thus far, the score was Mr. X: Two, Corigan McAllistor: Zero.

Returning to the discussion, Corigan asked. “You said the damage to his brain was permanent. In what way?”

Corigan could see the educator in Doctor Lopes emerging.

“First you have to understand, the human brain is, in my estimate, the universe’s most complicated and mysterious biological computer.” Doctor Lopes picked up a model of a human brain and placed it at the end of the desk. “It’s the center of the human nervous system. Enclosed within the cranium is the cerebral cortex, a layer of neural tissue that covers the surface of the forebrain, followed by the cerebral hemispheres, four lobes; frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal. Within that is housed over a billion cells and neurons, each operating in a unique and different way, specific to each and every individual on Earth.”

Corigan did comprehend, but only the explanation, not the biology. “I can understand most of it, until you start getting into the technical manual.”

Doctor Lopes nodded. “Suffice it to say, Weathers was struck so severely, the first symptom was aWeatersmnesia. Not uncommon in a situation such as this.”

“Understood.”

“But this is the part I find most fascinating.” Doctor Lopes tried to hide his enthusiasm, but the subject was near and dear to him. “Weathers appeared to have lost all sense of his identity as well.”

Corigan looked up. “His identity?” Remembering what Mr. X had said that night outside his home, ‘Beckham’s identity is no more.’ Mr. X was after Beckham’s identity that night, luckily not Corigan’s life. Isn’t that normal with amnesia?”

“Absolutely not. You see, with amnesia, you lose memories, ideas, traits or essences that make you recognizable to others, or to yourself. But when you awaken, you still have a sense of your soul, and though deeply buried within the confines of your brain, your identity still exists.”

“And Weathers?”

“Weathers’ damage was at the core of frontal lobe and cortical midline structures. Near the medial temporal region.”

“There won’t be a test afterward right?”

“No.” Doctor Lopes smiled again. “Now most researchers, and my colleagues, feel there is no one specific spot in the brain which houses ones’ identity. We feel it’s blended throughout several different regions of the brain, each working together in tandem to create the person we strive and learn to be.”

“So Weathers lost that.”

“Essentially yes. The damage appears to be the bridge that bonds this foundation together. Creating delusions of identity as it were.”

“Delusions of identity?”

“His sense of self. You see, he lost everything that made him… him. And worse, any ability to create a new identity was also lost.”

“What do you mean by ’create a new identity?’’

Doctor Lopes turned to examine the spines of some of his books, great thinkers and minds of his age and before, all who had ideas about the human brain and the ego. He turned and locked eyes with Corigan. “Some patients after such a traumatic shock, suffering from amnesia, have to rebuild a new identity for themselves to continue on in their lives. Building a new foundation from scratch as it were and instilling it into their new formula of existence.”

“I see. They’re still alive, so they have to go on living.”

“Precisely. Weathers on the other hand seemed to have also damaged the chemical bonding ability to recreate a new identity and hold onto it, making it his own. He can create an identity, but it’s only temporary. A week at most. Then it will fade away like a cloud of smoke, thick at first, dissipating into nothing and leaving him an empty shell, clueless as to who he was and seeking a new identity to fabricate.”

To Corigan, it sounded like torture.

“Imagine building your house on quicksand, and coming home the next night and finding it gone. It has to be unbearably frustrating. Now imagine this is the only property you have, so no matter what, you have to keep building it there knowing it’ll be gone the next week.”

Corigan for the first time felt a shred of empathy for Weathers.

Doctor Lopes deciphered Corigan’s expression. “Be under no illusion Detective. Your Mr. X is a psychopath, either through upbringing or the accident, but don’t pity him for a second as he’s completely without remorse.”

Corigan resumed his vigilance.

Doctor Lopes continued. “Combined with his new psychopathic tendencies, part of the damage also took any semblance of controlling his temper. He can maintain his focus, but his rage gnaws at his psyche like termites on wood, until inevitably, it consumes him. We used strong medications, but even then, it was a challenge.”

“So the accident turned him into a serial killer.”

“Categorically, yes and no.” Doctor Lopes was uncomfortable with the label. Anyone who kills the amount of people he’s rumoured to have is considered a serial killer. But you have to understand, his motivations are not the murder itself.” He contemplated. “Most serial killers kill for sadistic pleasure or a need for power. For Weathers, it’s a means to an end. The destruction of the identity is his ultimate goal. Essentially, when he commits a crime, there will be two victims and if one’s dead, it’s simply happenstance.”

Corigan did not like the prospect the murder victim was simply a pawn to be sacrificed for the ultimate checkmate. “But why does he do it?”

At this, Doctor Lopes paused. “When he broke into my office years ago, all he had was his medical file with a number, as I never recorded his name. So when he escaped, his first mission was to find out who he was.” He took a sip. “ Wouldn’t be too hard, as he was still a brilliant and once famous man. All he needed would be one person to look at him and ask, “Hey, aren’t you that actor, Jonathon Weathers?’”

“Sure.”

“It obviously did as the next thing he did was to assume his old life. It started with a massive withdrawal from his accounts.”

“How did you learn about the money?”

“His business manager called to ask me. More like accuse, but the bank tape said it all. It was Weathers and him alone. She dropped the matter quickly.” Doctor Lopes rubbed his nose. “But having a name does not make a personality. And with the brain damage he suffered, regaining it would forever be out of his reach.”

Corigan listened intently.

“So now you have a man learning everything about who he used to be. His stardom, his successes, his wealth, his friends, his colleagues and then realizing it was all stolen from him in a random and terrible act of fate.”

Corigan was starting to understand.

Doctor Lopes brought up his closed fist and opened it palm flat like a magician showing everything vanishing. “Now knowing what he lost and unable to resume his old identity, I suspect the rage overwhelmed him. So he started planning to do onto others as was done onto him. A terrible act of fate. And using his natural skills of deception, he knew he could create untold havoc. Combined with the ability to assume any identity, even if temporary, he’d be impossible to find.”

“Because how do you profile a killer whose profile changes with the setting of the sun?”

“Precisely.” Doctor Lopes looked proud, like a father mentoring his son. “You’re a man of unique intelligence. I wouldn’t want to make an opponent out of you.”

“Thank you Doctor.” Corigan understood.

He had the motive.

Mr. X wanted revenge.

Revenge on everyone who had what he did not, an identity. And he was going to take it making himself the judge, jury and executioner, using a skillset no one could even imagine coming to bear against them.

“This will help immensely.”

Doctor Lopes did not surrender the floor just yet. He had more to offer. “But knowing the motive is only half the battle. Would you like to know how he achieves these incredibly successful frames? Remember, I watched him grow into this being before my very eyes.”

“Will this assist in catching him?”

“You can’t determine the army you’ll face by examining the destruction in their wake. You have to observe them in training, seeing how they become the war machine they will later be.”

Corigan smiled with pleasure. “Absolutely.”

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