The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 27

27

Getting into Hamilton Airport was easy.

By the time the plane landed, cleared the runway and pulled into Gary’s private hanger, closing the fifty-foot aluminum security gate, the weather had mellowed.

Departing the airport was even easier. Made smoother by the fact the most challenging impediment Corigan crossed paths with was a middle-aged Muslim man, sporting a grey uniform and holding a penlight to read the novel he was holding, waving his hand dismissively when Corigan passed, signaling him not to litter.

That or the gesture was asking him not to urinate on the fence because it was electrified. Corigan couldn’t tell.

As Gary put it, the cocaine trade routes through Edmonton were surprising sparse, so the police put little effort into securing it. Much of the national cargo was inspected by private security firms, ones whose only criteria for employees in Gary’s mind was, ‘Could you count to five?’ and ‘Can you offer a stern look?’ Then welcome aboard.’

Once settled in, Gary offered to drive Corigan to his destination followed by all his remaining stops, hinting he needed a wing man as a result of Catherine having cancelled coming to the airport as Internal Affairs had a tail on her.

Corigan thanked him, but made it very clear, he had done enough.

He did not want to make his friend an accessory.

Gary laughed with a huge guffaw, proclaiming aloud. “The moment I let your ass on my plane, I was an accessory. Next time, you’re paying for a ticket.”

Corigan’s left eyebrow rose. “Do you know how many crates I delivered?”

“Seven. Two were dropped, one was leaking, and three smelled like chickens. I don’t even want to know.”

Both men laughed.

Corigan knew Gary was trying to lighten the mood.

Corigan thanked him for his support, but told him he had to do the next phase alone. It was far too dangerous for civilians.

Most cops prefer to protect those around them, regardless of need, and especially their friends. It was ingrained into their genes.

Before Corigan could leave, Gary casually mentioned, with one phone call, he could have Corigan in a non-extradition country with enough money to never look back.

Gary suggested Corigan could change his name to Emmanuel and live the rest of his life mopping floors for a sweet Jamaican princess in need of constant foot washes and back rubs.

Controlling his laughter, Corigan hugged his friend. “I’d never live with myself knowing I left a villain like Mr. X on the loose, especially if I had a plan on stopping him.”

Gary hugged him back. “Remember. If you do get caught, I’m a damn good jail breaker. We could both be on that beach in under a day. First beer is on me.”

Both men bellowed deep belly laughs, holding it a second longer than needed.

They knew, friendship was forever, and theirs was tempered in the forges of Olympus, handcrafted by Zeus himself.

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

Three hours later, in a seedy part of Toronto, on the outskirts of the Harbourfront, resided a small bar called The Gallows.

An Irish pub, with a love for Gaelic music, low and subtle as to not interrupt, but loud enough to prevent even the best of bugs, detectors or portable microphones from piercing.

The smell of dying fish, construction fuel and woodworking was a constant odour in that area, yet it amazingly never seeped inside the pub.

Corigan entered with quiet anonymity.

Many cops suspected the walls of the place were lined with high grade sound dampeners and other unique technologies, but they could never prove it.

As the owner, Christopher O’Macks, a bald headed former IRA man with a sharp tongue, an evil eye and a cold laugh that made even the bravest of men shiver, never gave reason to the police to present a search warrant.

But Corigan also knew, it was one of the best places a man could get a damn good Irish stew and a cold lager.

Damn those brilliant Irish.

Corigan moved slowly, sidled out of sight, slithering along the rear wall, nearest the double-paned beveled glass, frosted perfectly to create little prism-formed rainbows that glittered on tables in the streetlight luminescence.

As Corigan skulked forward, no one looked up, paused for too long or pointed with shouts of, “Hey, why is that guy hiding?”

It seemed, this was not an uncommon occurrence.

If anyone recognized him, no one was fazed, rose to make a call or ran out to seek the police. But, then again, this was not a place clientele considered such things and expected to return.

Corigan found a booth near to the back, close to the kitchen, but far enough away from the swinging waiter doors to avoid, when opened, the burst of the chef’s lights putting a spotlight on him.

In under a minute, without ordering, Corigan was served with a cold draft, a bowl of hot stew, with huge chunks of potatoes floating at the top and morsels of steak at the edges, and a piece of garlic bread for dipping, glistening with butter.

The waiter never looked at his face, never asked him for an order, or even considered asking.

Orders were provided, without a menu, unless queried. Most didn’t. So eat your chow, pay and leave.

Corigan did not complain.

Solitude was a given.

Your problems were your own and kept to yourself.

Corigan remembered hearing a story once, where a guy sidled up to the bar to cry into his beer. Within seconds, that man was met with a meaty slap to the face by Chris himself, followed shortly by, “Be a man!” yelled into his face. Seconds later, he was given a free beer and a bowl of Irish stew.

That man was now a regular.

Corigan enjoyed his huge helping of stew, which he savoured with warm beef taste and lightly boiled vegetables. He washed it down with swig of beer as he waited for his date.

After ten minutes, and a refreshed bowl of meaty broth, Corigan spotted Annabelle as she arrived at the entrance.

She was easy to spot as women rarely took much interest in The Gallows, so when a woman did attend, they stood out.

Especially ones like Annabelle.

As she entered, she was absolutely radiant. Even in her attempts to hide her identity, her beauty oozed off her like a lava flow down a volcano, sending villagers screaming into the jungle.

Her long bleach blonde hair was pulled back tight and into a bun. She wore a pair of square rimmed glasses, attempting to look like a computer geek, but a hot one. Her face, appeared chiseled by the hands of Michelangelo himself, lightly touched by makeup, her fine lines and perfect facial structure made it impossible not to see her natural attractiveness. The only detraction, her long legs, likely stunning, were hidden beneath blue jeans and combat boots.

Even with the clunky footwear, she swept through the bar like an ice skater holding high hopes for a medal, moving with the fluidity of a symphony.

Even the men long hardened to mind their own business, casually turned in her direction and looked away.

They wanted to maintain their privacy, but she warranted the violation of the standard bar rules, for at least one look.

Even Chris O’Macks himself, the dictator of the first commandment, ‘Keep-it-to-yourself’ gave a raise of his evil eye in her direction. At this moment, it did not seem all that evil. He resumed his glass polishing.

Annabelle was confident, strong willed and in seconds, crossed the pub without delay and sat in front of Corigan.

Corigan had told her in advance where he would be seated.

And like Corigan, in under a second, she had a beer, a stew and a bread piece before her.

The waiter shuffled off, but not before giving a second look to Annabelle.

Corigan raised his hand, reached up and spun the light bulb above them until it extinguished.

Annabelle heard a small hiss from Corigan’s fingertips followed by a slight hint of scorched ham.

Corigan never flinched and no one in the bar paused at the light going out.

Annabelle looked around and smiled.

She spoke. Her voice was melodious and high pitched, as expected for a woman, but strengthened by years of broadcasting. Her tone was controlled and direct, yet low for quiet conversations. Even as she whispered, she still sounded sultry. “Nice place you picked here Detective. Glad you like to show a girl what a high class act you are.”

Corigan staggered for a witty response. None came. He seemed lost for words as Annabelle turned out to be a Venus.

The moment she arrived, he knew, she was far out of his league.

After a few seconds, words emerged from him. “You can call me Corigan.”

“Co-r-igan.” She demurred, rolling the ‘r’ of his name softly. Her repetition of it sounded better than when Corigan’s mother gave it to him at birth.

But he also knew, she was an interview artist. Skilled with words, nuances, tones and responses, so he had to be extremely careful not to let her take control.

She wanted a story, and in this, she was out of his league.

For now.

Corigan kept his voice low. “I felt discretion was in order.”

“You sure found that.” Annabelle grinned. “And may I ask, how do you know about a place like this? You on the take?”

Corigan glared at her. “If I was, would I have attacked my base of operations?”

She shook her shoulders. “Good point.”

Both of them leaned back.

Corigan began. “Let’s just say, I was undercover long before I did Special Investigations. And this was a great place for clandestine meetings.”

Annabelle took a spoonful of her stew and grimaced. “You eat this crap?”

Corigan looked around quickly. “Be careful. In Ireland, insulting steak and potatoes is a paramount to a capital crime. You’d be hanging at the end of a rope if you were in Belfast.”

Annabelle tilted her head. “Ha Ha.”

Corigan did look again to ensure no one heard her.

Annabelle shook her head. “So…Brass tacks. Why did you call me?” She went right for the throat. She was a woman who did not enjoy wasting time or energy.

Corigan took a second. “Because of all the calls I received, and I received a lot, you’re the only one who asked, “Did I do it?”

“And this is important how?”

Corigan took a chug of beer. “Because you didn’t make the presumption I did it. And that gave me the feeling I could trust you.”

“How about that? My skepticism made me your trusted confidante.”

Corigan grinned. “I’m still a cop. I won’t trust you for long.”

The tragedy of being a reporter. Cops and reporters rarely mixed. The union was not unlike a Shakespearean tragedy, with one always trying to take from the other.

Annabelle drank her beer.

It went down with relative ease.

Corigan found himself momentarily turned on by this.

She was trying very hard, and very effectively, to get his confidence.

Corigan quickly remembered a documentary, about how primitive pitcher plants of the Heliamphora chimantensis family, whose prey-trapping mechanism featured a deep cavity filled with liquid known as a pitfall trap, which baited its venomous acid sack with honey and sugar smells.

Corigan suspected, Annabelle was one of those.

Annabelle winked.

She knew the rules, he knew the game.

Annabelle put her beer down. “You never answered the question. Did you do it?”

Corigan frowned. “It wasn’t me.”

Annabelle tipped her head and locked eyes with Corigan. “I have a lot of witnesses who dispute otherwise. And with the archaic technology at your station…” Annabelle stated sarcastically. “I mean who uses a century old train depot to retrofit a police station? We can’t be that short on tax dollars? You have fewer cameras than a video store guarding its porn. Even I could break into the place unnoticed.”

Corigan doubted that. “Are we here to discuss how to build police stations or how to help me clear my name?”

Annabelle was clear and concise. “How do we do that? Everyone says it was you!”

Corigan was equally as firm. “I was framed.”

“Do you know how many prison interviews I do in a week? With my looks…” Not spoken arrogantly, but factually, “My producers hope I can elicit new information, solve cases and maybe even get confessions. And in most of those interviews, know what they all say?”

He knew. “I’m innocent.” Corigan replied, deadpanned and monotone. He was speaking with surreal definitiveness, knowing it was the claim of almost all convicted criminals. ‘I was framed. A victim of the system. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

She grinned. “You’d be surprised how many announce, ‘It wasn’t me.’ It was Colonel Mustard in the library with the pipe. Yes, I was carrying the pipe, but I was fixing the sink upstairs and thought the blood was sealant.”

Corigan heard it before and like Annabelle, he rarely believed it.

Hard to believe how far his view of the world had come in a day or two, thanks to the elusive Mr. X.

But Corigan admitted, if in jail, he would be making the same claims and likely getting the same suspicious looks.

Luckily, he was not in prison and best of all, his claims had more weight as he had the evidence to support them.

But had he been guilty, he would talk for hours with Annabelle, if only to simply convince her to stay, keeping her there as long as possible, knowing his next conversation would primarily be an overall-wearing hair-covered man asking him to pass him some toilet paper.

Some men would confess the Kennedy assassination if it meant five more minutes with Annabelle.

‘Thank God!’ Corigan thought, he was not at that stage.

At least, not yet.

Corigan leveled at her, with as much force and confidence he could muster. “True. But I have proof.”

Annabelle sipped her beer. She knew she was dealing with the second half of Toronto’s Special Investigation’s team, so he was not a man easily played. She respected that. “And why have you not provided it?”

Corigan leaned back. “I have my reasons.”

For Corigan, it was matter of timing and presentation. Like any good poker game, having the best hand early does not mean you take the pot. You have to build it up slowly. Show only what you need to inspire more plays, increase riskier moves and bigger bets, and bluffing when needed. Victory is in the final blow, not the overpowering at the onset.

Annabelle liked the chase and the game. “Just so I understand you, you’re innocent, you have the proof, but you aren’t providing it?”

“Yes.” Corigan replied, leaving the answer in the air.

Annabelle was now enjoying her stew. She took a hearty mouthful and swallowed. She needed the energy to keep up with Corigan. “I can respect that. Keeping cards close to the vest.”

A poker player too. Corigan liked that.

Annabelle paused. “But why do you need me if you have the proof you need?”

Corigan knew it was time to offer his first card. Trust. As offering nothing would mean none in return. He needed Annabelle for his plan. “The man who framed me is still out there. And he’ll do it again. And I want to draw him out. And I need you to do it.”

Annabelle was thrilled. She tried to hide it, but no matter how many years in the news you have, when a golden goose lays an egg, you want to lunge for it. She shrugged, trying to look only a little interested, but it failed. “ME?”

Corigan was emphatic. “You.”.

“Can I air it?” Career first.

“Yes and no.”

“Cryptic.” She smiled, taking another deeper slug of her beer, this time looking pleasantly at it. “I like it.”

“It’s microbrew. O’Mack has barrels of it in the basement. Chilling for months.”

“Any bodies?”

Corigan gestured to the owner situated at the bar. “Why not go ask him?”

Annabelle politely declined with some reluctance.

Corigan was confident with that. “So, do I have your help?”

“Do I have your story?”

“Let’s say, I’ll give you one.”

Annabelle was excited. She either had a suspected spree killer, one of the highest ranking officers of the Toronto Police and sought by his own department or an innocent man offering her the story of a lifetime to help catch a killer who framed him for the crime and will do it again. “You have my attention. Make me believe.”

Corigan knew any information given to her now could find its way to her research department, even if inadvertently. On-Air reporters, though intelligent, were only the face of the news, not the backbone. And with multiple expansive searches, done by effective and capable analysts, or dedicated interns pining for that future position, so too would it attract the investigative reporters. And such deep penetrating hunts into Jonathon Weathers now would only elicit Mr. X’s attention. Which would drive him so far underground, the next time he resurfaced, Corigan would be either an old man in prison, and dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent lives would be ruined.

He could not risk it.

Not yet anyway.

“I have a plan.” Corigan locked eyes with Annabelle, something she seemed to respect. Or like a spider, waiting with patience. “One where I clear my name, catch a serial killer and save lots of future victims in the process.”

Annabelle shrugged, maintaining his stare. “What does this do for me?”

Pride and greed are two of the deadly sins, and still very popular.

“I thought the truth would set you free.”

“Ever use Truth to pay for a cup of coffee?” She retorted.

“Cynical.”

“Welcome to the world of news.”

Corigan was ready. “All I want is simple. I need you to set up a television interview.”

“With you?” No hesitation. “Done.”

Corigan could not contain his sarcasm. “Ha Ha. No. With someone else.”

At this, even Annabelle appeared confused. “Then with who?”

“I want you to set up an exclusive interview, one on one, with Jonathon Weathers.”

She paused for a few seconds, her mind hard at work, searching her memories for information, like a file sorter looking through a cabinet, flipping tabs, moving paperwork, trying to find the label for the one she needed. Within a minute, it came to her. “You mean the dead actor?”

Corigan was visibly impressed. “He’s not dead.”

She looked quizzical. “Excuse my confusion, but how the Hell does that relate to you?”

“You’d be surprised.”

Annabelle grinned like the Cheshire Cat. But best of all, she was totally hooked and accepted intertwining her fate with Corigan’s. “Then more importantly, how does this help me?”

“Trust me. It will.”

Annabelle believed him. “Alright.” Reporters will tell you, most stories are mundane. So when a good one comes their way, and they can sense it, they do their very best to hold onto it. To be the fisherman with the best hook, the tightest net and having the strongest bay to hold their prize until they can cash in on it. “What do you need?”

Corigan had been planning this for hours, on his entire flight into Hamilton and the drive into Toronto in Gary’s luxury sedan. He explained. “I want you, on-air, to schedule a week from tonight, an interview with the late and great Jonathon Weathers.”

Annabelle was losing her interest. “That’s all?”

Corigan continued. “I want everything, the works. Give it the full force of your station’s marketing. I want dozens of public service announcements on your entire sister stations. Interview advertisements should include such taglines as: ‘Weathers back from the brink, his years in rehab.’ ’Weathers, his underground gay experimentations.’ ’His drug addled months lost in a haze of delight.’ And ‘’His wrestling with pedophilia and more.’”

Annabelle was shocked. “Wow.”

Corigan took a breath. “And I’ll text you more over the next week. Give it all the bells and whistles and of course, the force of you. Do this and I’ll guarantee a train wreck of epic proportions.”

Annabelle was ecstatic. “This guy sounds like a piece of work.” She looked on with some distain. “And why would I want to interview a guy like this?” She took a second. “And more importantly, did he really do all this?”

“Absolutely not. It’s all bullshit!” He said it with conviction.

Annabelle let amusement flicker in her eyes. “And I’m doing this why?”

Corigan could see a grin forming in her face.

She liked it.

“Because, I’m asking you to.” Corigan answered.

Annabelle liked the prospect of inciting a fire like this. “Any particular reason you’re trying to destroy this man’s reputation?”

Corigan smiled back, in a way even Annabelle felt a chill. “Call it ’Turnabout is fair play.’”

She understood revenge. “You’re going to owe me big for this. What if he sues for defamation?”

“Then I’ll give you a letter that I asked you to do it.”

Her annoyance was thick as she replied. “Wow. A letter from a former detective accused of attacking his own precinct and killing several colleagues? It sounds solid to me. My legal department will sign off on that right away.”

Allegedly attacked his own precinct?”

Annabelle nodded. “Of course.”

“If you’re worried about a lawsuit, don’t. It’s not his style. Let’s just say courts aren’t his playing field.”

Annabelle looked firmly into Corigan’s direction. “And what do you hope to accomplish by this?”

“You, my Queen, are going to help me catch a monster.”

Annabelle was so excited, she shivered. “And if he doesn’t show?”

Corigan had to offer a fair trade for her assistance. “Then I’ll surrender publicly on the air. I’ll admit I attacked the station and did so because of the vanilla flavouring in our coffee. It won’t matter the reason. You just need a confession and you’ll have it. My capture will long erase the no-show of Weathers.”

Annabelle found his proposal odd, but accepted his offer. “And if Weathers does show up?”

Corigan smiled menacingly. “Then you’ll get something beyond your wildest imagination.”

Annabelle was so pumped with energy, her voice raised an octave. “I like it.” After a few seconds, she raised her semi-empty glass and tapped it against Corigan’s. “Either way, I win.”

“When I’m done, you might get both.”

Corigan waited before asking his next favour. “I forgot to mention. I need you to set up another interview.”

Annabelle could not believe her luck. “With who? Jimmy Hoffa?” She figured, ‘How could he top his last offer?’

Corigan told her.

She looked a bit skeptical. “He won’t come on-air with me.”

Corigan raised his eyebrow. “Invite him in person. I promise, I know the man. He’ll be there with bells on. Literally.”

She nodded and smiled. “What the Hell.”

Some days, she loved being a reporter.

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