The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 25

25

Corigan was utterly speechless.

Sitting at the side of the road, head bent low, his sweaty hand gripped the stick shift with such fury his knuckles were turning white. The blood, once smooth and easy flowing, felt heavy and thick, being force fed into his fluttering heart like a mudslide through a ravine searching for a village to devastate.

Each push of his pulse sent rivulets of oxygenated liquid to his brain, all in hopes of replenishing his freaked out system.

His head felt like it was going to gush out like Ol’ Faithful.

It was giving him a migraine.

His other hand squeezed the rounded frame of the steering wheel to the point of almost bending, as though releasing it would send him tumbling into a crevice of desperation, forever falling, never to find solid ground again.

He was in total shock.

Warm air brushed by the partially opened window, drawing in specks of gravel dust, leaf flakes and hot exhaust, all flushing into the vehicle with total disregard for the occupant inside.

Yet as hot as it was, it was not able to dissolve the icy chill that ebbed throughout.

Corigan replayed the last message probably a dozen times. He lost count at seven. Each time hearing Catherine’s rage filled voice, barely controlled tone, laced by terror, tempered by shock and slathered with total confusion.

His best friend, his partner, his longtime confidante, both relaying the magnitude of the crime and more importantly, asking him to surrender.

Capitulating his freedom to her for the killing of three of their colleagues in cold blood.

Most likely because giving up to her would mean less chance of being shot down like a rabid dog by his vengeance seeking co-workers.

Three police officers. All of whom he worked with every day, now families without parents and desks without bodies, all because one of the most deadly adversaries with whom Corigan crossed, and terribly underestimated, had retaliated.

One no one else believed existed.

And worst of all was out for blood.

And not his own. At least, not yet anyway.

He knows he shouldn’t blame himself, but then, everyone else did.

A triple homicide in the span of a day.

Unthinkable.

What the Hell happened back at the station?

He knew Mr. X was obviously responsible, but the details were not available.

He couldn’t shake the sound of Catherine’s voice on the phone. She sounded like her faith in humanity was shaken to the core.

He listened to the next grouping of messages.

Several television stations looking for a statement, a newspaper reporter, a wrong number looking for a Mr. Chang, and some intelligible sentences filled with venom.

A couple of calls were computer tones, the station’s IT department trying to get a lock on Corigan’s phone, to trace his whereabouts and dispatch the cavalry.

Luckily, with the dampening field around the facility, Corigan was probably off the grid.

But by that same token, it also meant he had no proof where he was.

Even if they could locate his phone, they would be only momentarily confused by it being thousands of kilometres away at the time of the attack. They would simply presume Corigan was using his skills of creativity to throw them off track by couriering his cell west.

That and if they traced his laptop, it was still back in Ontario, at home, with an easy commute to work.

He regretted not bringing it.

There was a message from Annabelle Veracity with GTNN, the one who called his home the other night, asking for an interview. She was the only one who asked. “Did you really do it?” followed by. “If you invite me over…. I’ll fix your cable.”

Corigan finally smiled.

And to top it off, Darrell Dykes left a message with his number asking if Corigan was in need of representation.

‘Bastard.’ Corigan hissed.

In all, Catherine left sixteen messages, each time getting more upset he wasn’t answering.

Did she believe it? That he could do this?

Then he remembered what Doctor Lopes told him. ’People believe their eyes. They want to believe what their senses show them. That’s Mr. X’s greatest weapon. Our capacity to trust in what we see.’

And combined with the fact no one knows Mr. X even exists, who else would they think to blame.

Who else looked like Corigan McAllistor, got suspended, and then dropped by the station like a disgruntled mailman on a rampage.

Corigan’s first thought, ‘Damn, Mailmen get a bad rap.’

Even as he imagined it, Corigan would have believed it himself had he not known for a fact he was in Alberta.

If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck…Then yes people, we have a fucking duck!

Corigan knew, his first priority, get information. He turned to a national radio station.

After several minutes, the news remained agonizingly sparse.

Whatever happened in the past few hours, the police were closing ranks.

A wall of blue. And any reporter will tell you, it is thick and impenetrable.

And it wasn’t like Corigan could call the station and ask. “Hey, I was just in there a few hours ago, shooting up the place… Could you give me some details on what I did? Like what was I wearing and which way did I go?”

Might as well call Doctor Lopes and ask him to prepare a room.

He never anticipated Mr. X would escalate to this level.

His mistake.

Mr. X obviously wanted Corigan’s interference to end, and by God, he accomplished that right quick.

And worst of all, Corigan had no paper trail.

He got a free ride from his best friend and made his purchases in cash to cover an electronic trail. In case Mr. X was able to get access to Corigan’s credit card account and track his movements.

Little did he imagine it would prevent proof of his own innocence and dampen his alibi.

Sure he had lots of friends to vouch for him, but again, each person he dragged into this would be a target for Mr. X.

Corigan had to tread very lightly in this matter. He knew from what he understood of Mr. X, he targeted everyone in his path to destroy an identity.

Mr. X had Corigan in his sights.

And of course, in everyone else’s as well.

Corigan called the institute and reached Doctor Lopes.

Once he got him on the line and explained what happened, Doctor Lopes was stunned.

This was Weathers’ boldest move yet.

Doctor Lopes was more than happy to provide video evidence and DNA proof Corigan was at the institution at the time of the attack. With their advanced surveillance gear, it would be easy.

But Corigan suddenly had an idea.

He asked Doctor Lopes to prepare everything he had to prove his presence here, but asked him not to release it.

At least, not yet anyway.

Corigan wanted to try something. Something unexpected.

As Doctor Lopes surmised, Corigan was thinking outside the box.

Corigan hung up and returned to the institute. After another half hour of grueling inspections, he acquired all the proof he needed to prove his innocence.

He kept one copy.

On the slim chance Mr. X came here and killed everyone.

He saw the movie Face Off and he wasn’t going to be the last man alive knowing who he really was.

Doctor Lopes knew Corigan was not like Mr. X’s former targets.

For one, Corigan knew of the existence of Mr. X, which was a huge advantage none of the other victims had.

But Corigan now had the ‘How’ and the ’Why.”

Vital pieces in a game where there can be only one winner.

Doctor Lopes knew Corigan was planning to use this crime to catch Mr. X, but he had no idea how.

But he trusted Corigan and would do as he asked.

Corigan guessed Mr. X would not assume his identity again, at least not in a city full of cops lusting for his blood, so this crime was likely the only one he was going to frame him for.

Not a full-fledged crime spree.

Sure, he could be wrong in that assumption, but with each passing hour and no more sightings of Corigan shooting up public forums being reported meant Mr. X had gone underground.

Corigan’s next call was to Gary.

Gary already heard the news and was going to call in to the stations and yell, ’”Bullshit.” when Corigan asked him not to. He explained with as few details as possible, to protect his friend, but needed to get back to Ontario without anyone knowing.

Gary said he would fly out personally on his private jet and retrieve him.

Corigan offered to explain everything when he arrived.

Gary was airborne before Corigan could make his next call.

Before Gary hung up, Corigan discovered that the official who towed his car was in fact an OPP officer.

The mechanic had no idea who had jurisdiction to tow a car and who didn’t. All he saw was a cop saying he was towing it, so he let him.

And that’s how Mr. X came into possession of Corigan’s car.

Damn brilliant in execution he had to admit

Corigan paused before his next call, knowing it was going to be the hardest one yet.

The phone rang and in one ring, Catherine answered.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Catherine practically shouted into the phone. She probably planned this call over and over in her head, but ended up going with the, ‘You’re an asshole routine.’

Normally Corigan would throw in a joke, but he knew this was deadly serious. “It wasn’t me.”

Catherine guffawed in to the phone. “Are you fucking serious? I was there Corigan. I saw you.”

Corigan wasn’t there, but seeing how good Mr. X was at his game, he suspected she was looking at a perfect duplicate. “You saw the man I’m after. I can explain, but I need you to listen for a few minutes.” He paused. “With all the years we’ve been together, I need you to trust me.”

Catherine was silent. Her heart and brain were being tested by her memories of what she saw.

Corigan knew she was tracing the call.

He was unsure if others were listening in, but he doubted it. “Catherine. You know me. You know me better than anyone else.”

“I thought I did.”

“You still do. I’m coming in, but it’ll take a few hours. And I promise, I’ll tell you everything.”

“Bet your ass you will.” She snapped. “In an interrogation room.”

Corigan let her vent. She likely had suffered a more trying day than him. It was to be expected. “I’ve no idea what you’ve been through. What you saw. But I can tell you, who you saw wasn’t me.”

Corigan spoke with quiet conviction, not getting angry as this was not the time, nor the place.

“I saw you.” She took a deep cleansing breath. “Everyone saw YOU.”

Corigan kept his control. “It was a disguise. A great disguise, maybe even a perfect disguise, but a disguise nonetheless.”

Silence.

“Remember, you also saw the fake Officer Albom.” Corigan continued. “You know for a fact the man we met in the garage was not the same man in the bar, yet if you recall, they were both identical in every way.”

Catherine remembered.

She was listening.

That was all he could ask for.

Corigan knew her having seen the giftedness of Mr. X’s abilities was a factor in his favour right now. “Now ask yourself, was there anything? Anything at all you found off about what you saw today in me?”

“You mean besides you opening fire and turning all the rookies against us?”

God, Corigan imagined it.

It was a perfect escape.

Using the cops to stop the cops.

Better than a pocket of grenades to prevent pursuit.

Brilliant had it not been him he was framing.

“Look. I know you think you saw me today, but you have to trust me.”

Catherine was calming down. “I want to Corigan. I really do. But it was so real.”

“I can imagine.”

“Can you? You’ve been hiding stuff from me for a week. You have theories you don’t share. You interview suspects without me. You get suspended and before you leave, you still offer me nothing. And now you want my help?”

Corigan could not offer a response.

Catherine waited five seconds. “What do you want?” She asked, demanding in tone, but capitulating.

“It’s what do you want? If you want, I’ll come in right now and surrender.” He paused. “Into your custody. I’ll tell you where I’ll be in a few hours, and you can come get me.”

Another pause.

Corigan continued, “But if I do that, we’ll lose our only chance to save myself and more importantly, to get the bastard who did this. And trust me, he’ll do it again. And again. I need to stop him. And I can’t do this alone”

She snidely replied. “Now you want to include me?”

“I was trying to protect you.” Corigan sighed. “I should’ve known you could protect yourself, but if you knew the man I was up against, you may have paused before putting other people into harm’s way.”

Catherine waited, then asked, “Fine. What guy?”

She was still willing to listen.

“Am I talking to you or others?”

Catherine exhaled lightly. There was some reservation in her voice. “At the moment, just me. But I can’t promise this forever.”

Corigan started from the beginning, from his suspicions at the station to the calls with Detective Patrick to his interview with Doctor Lopes to the moment he made this call.

Catherine was quiet. “So you’re in Alberta right now?”

“Yes. Gary is on his way to get me. I have irrefutable evidence to prove where I was.” Corigan spoke confidently. “I didn’t kill those three officers. Mr. X did.”

“Four.”

“Pardon?”

Catherine added, “You’re also wanted by the OPP for the murder of Officer Albom.”

That had not reached the news.

Corigan couldn’t imagine it getting worse. It just did. “How?”

“Your gun. Your bullets. Ballistics match.”

His gun was locked in his car, the one Mr. X towed. The gun Gary did not want on his aircraft. Yep, this was worse.

Catherine threw in, “You couldn’t just piss off a drug dealer or a bank robber huh? You had to find Lex Luthor’s cousin?”

“What can I say? I aim high.”

She ignored his attempts at a joke. “How could you have not told me? I thought we were partners.”

Nothing Corigan could say would make her feel better, so he told her the truth. “I was trying to protect you. I didn’t want Mr. X coming after you. I never thought he would come after me either, but that’s gone to Hell in a hand basket.”

“This is a huge mother fucking debacle Corigan.”

“Don’t I know it?” Corigan sighed.

“In all my days as a cop, this is truly the biggest ‘Up shits creek without a paddle and a boat laden with four corpses as your anchor.’”

“Thanks.”

“For all intents and purposes, whoever this guy is, even if it is this Mr. X, the entire force, including the Captain, thinks it was you. And let me tell you this, they’re of the mindset, ‘Shoot first, ask questions later.’”

All Corigan could say was, “Great. Just great.”

Looking at his watch, Corigan explained. “I need you to meet me at the Hamilton Airport in a few hours. I have to stay out of sight.”

“For what?”

“I have a plan..”

“What kind of plan?”

For the first time in a while, her confidence was returning, both for Corigan’s return, but also his faith to include her.

“Something…. Off the wall. And timing is of the essence.”

“And you want my trust?”

“Yes.”

She waited, letting him stew. “What do you need to do?”

“I need to draw out Mr. X.”

“And how do you plan to do that?”

“Meet me at the Airport and you’ll find out.”

She trusted Corigan, implicitly.

She hung up the phone, planning to be there.

Plus if there really was a Mr. X out there, she owed him one.

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