Two hours and forty eight minutes before “ShowTime.”
South of Queen Street West, in the core of the Toronto Entertainment district, stood the fortress-like structure known as the Global Television News Network.
Canada’s equivalent to CNN.
A broadcasting powerhouse of news and entertainment that rivaled most of its competing conglomerates. And occasionally, not often, even caused Britain’s BBC to pulse rivulets of envy via its fibre optic bloodstream.
GTNN was a three floor castle-like building, with two sub basements, three large entrances, and a mass of radio towers and satellite feeds which was equivalent, if not superior, to that of the CIA.
At least, that’s what GTNN reported.
Not that the CIA ever refuted that claim, due to their secrecy rules.
The enterprise was situated close to its sister networks, but theirs was more aimed at world news than music, comedy or announcing sales pitches to late night listeners.
They did have a small tabloid office, but it tried not to debase itself too much.
In fact, the past seven days reporting the exploits of one former superstar, Jonathon Weathers, scheduled this evening with Annabelle Veracity, for the tell all interview of the year, was the most mud-slinging they had done in a long time.
And unlike its U.S. competitor, GTNN prided itself on its singular Canadian voice they believed was welcomed around the world. It maintained its unique identity by its lack of puff pieces and pundits, who made announcements with guesses for suppositions and lacking the legal knowledge, or research to support it. In the mind of GTNN’s producers, these type of ‘talking heads’ were time-killing theorists whose proposals were better left to soothsayers and tarot card dealers.
The operation was housed over a full city block, surrounded by a well-tended selection of maple trees and cedars carefully monitored by salaried arborists.
The three main entrances were framed by large concrete block housings, devoid of windows, and the ones they did have barely allowed for air to seep in, let alone a person to slip out.
Each entrance was manned by a complement of six Metro Toronto police officers, all from the 14th Division and illuminated by four high-powered halogen lights.
Most of the officers, even at this evening hour, were sporting sunglasses.
Within a few metres of each door was a police utility truck with emergency beacons ablaze, spinning blues and reds throughout the sky.
Catherine stepped out of the John Street entrance and took an expected frost filled breath. She paused as it felt sort of warm. The lights seemed to be heating the air around them.
With the Canadian climate, warmth was never turned down.
Catherine was dressed in a skin-tight black wool sweater, which accented her muscled physique and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her black slacks were well tailored and slightly loose. She wore a pair of high top black runners to match the outfit. Her gun was on her belt in a leather snap held holster and her badge was looped around her neck on a gold chain.
She turned toward the lights and donned her sunglasses, peering around and canvassing the perimeter.
Everything appeared in order.
All debris was cleared, garbage cans removed, benches taken away, and any uncontrolled object one could hide behind, skulk to or seek refuge beneath was moved to a minimum of ten metres from each heavily manned area.
There were six snipers, two at each portal, all at elevated positions within forty-five degrees of one another, with optimal sightlines for clean shots and providing no opportunity for cover.
And in the crosshairs of a trained sniper, ten metres was more than a kill zone, it was ducks in a barrel. The last sound an invader would hear would be the explosive pop of the rifle followed by the splattering sound of their skull hitting the sidewalk.
Gruesome, yes. Effective…equally yes.
Catherine had the roof door bolted and locked, to be on the safe side. It included two officers stationed on the exterior of the roof to watch the only exit. She also installed two more high-powered lights to keep them warm. Not that the five huge air ventilation turbines, HEPA filters and circulation units, which combined sounded like military aircraft taking off in preparation for battle, didn’t generate its own heat for the men.
The problem was, both officers had to wear ear protection to keep from going deaf. They had earpieces within the muffled gear with omnidirectional microphones to take direction from below, but as one of the men described it, it was like trying to have a conversation in the centre of an F-5 tornado.
Catherine highly doubted an assailant would arrive via the roof with grappling gear, tethers or a jet pack, but based on Corigan’s description, ‘If you can think it, so can Mr. X, so err on the side of caution.’
She took stock of her command. All officers reported to her and only her.
And to the Captain of course.
Once prepared, she approached the entrance codenamed, Alpha.
The other two being Beta and Cappa, named by Officer Lakos who was a fan of science fiction and her second in command.
The Alpha team looked poised and ready. Four men and two women, young officers, but experienced and Catherine had handpicked them based on their personnel dossiers and their quarterly evaluations.
None of them knew that, as many assumed they were stuck with this duty because no one else wanted to work on Sunday night and seniority outranked them. Little had they known, these roles were assigned to only the most capable.
A faith she let flow into her teammates with her genuine words of confidence.
As Catherine approached, she called the team leader forward. A young French woman with long light blonde hair, shoulder length, five eleven with a soft face. Sergeant Petriccione.
Catherine sidled up to her, talking slowly, to ensure she inspired both assuredness and a sense of equality. “How’re things going?”
Petriccione was poised. “Excellent sir.” She froze. “I meant, Ma’am.”
Catherine interrupted. “Don’t call me Ma’am”
“Sorry Ma…” Petriccione cut herself off again. “Sorry.”
Catherine wanted to put her at ease. “I picked you based on your record. Your commander gave you gold stars for singling out that child porn ring.”
Petriccione smiled, knowing she had done something really exceptional in that.
“And I trust him. So don’t feel nervous. All I want is a report.”
The sergeant felt instantly at ease. “It’s going beautifully sir.”
Catherine ignored the ‘Sir.’
“But…” Petriccione added.
Catherine was not happy by the inclusion of ‘But.’
Petriccione was reluctant, shuffling her feet and staring at her hands. After a deep breath, she talked. She felt a need for it to be mentioned, even if outside protocols. “Captain Vertigo was out here a few minutes ago, checking the security again.”
Catherine sighed. This was the third time in the past hour. “Did he walk around and re-check everything only?”
He had been doing that since he arrived two hours ago.
Petriccione seemed relieved. “Sort of. When he was done, he went from our entrance to the Beta, wanting to inspect the perimeter. I asked him if that was safe? He replied, ‘It better damn well be.’”
It was funny, but Catherine knew, slightly critical as well. She was also getting annoyed he was doing that. Even though he was under the watchful eye of a platoon of police, he shouldn’t be out here alone.
“I was going to say something, but it’s the Captain.”
“Don’t worry. He likes strong personalities.”
“He used the words, ‘It was his ass on the line.’”
Catherine shrugged her shoulders. “You know the Captain.”
Petriccione chuckled.“Before he left, he looked at me and said I missed a lace in my shoe .”
Catherine looked down.
One loop was empty and another was double-laced.
“Then he went that way.” Petriccione pointed to the right.
Catherine pursed her lips. She knew Vertigo voiced some concerns recently about how one of his best officers going rogue right under his eyes was disheartening. He felt he was getting dull in his old age.
And because he knew how skilled Corigan was, soft and pliable was not acceptable. He wanted the team to stay sharp, and in doing so, stay alive. So these inspections, be it unscheduled, gave him some semblance of control. Also he wanted to know every one of the men on the detail tonight, mostly to ensure no more such lapses in his judgement were made evident.
Catherine casually asked, knowing the answer. “Did he come back or keep going?”
“He never came back here.”
One of the other officers spoke up, slightly eavesdropping. “Cappa reported him coming around a short while ago and making re-entry there.”
Catherine gave them all a small salute. She looked at her watch. She had lots of time. At this point, she decided to check out the perimeter herself.
Can’t be too careful.
Catherine, following her instinct, left the Alpha station, using Vertigo’s trail. She walked parallel to Nelson, via a paved walkway, custom installed for GTNN staff for breaks, lunches and stress reliving walkabouts. She moved underneath several authentic Elizabethan street lamps, flickering like they ran on coal gas.
To her left were some well-placed metal sculptures, a brass edged Egyptian obelisk with hieroglyphics. The second a large painted moose from a past New Year’s city celebration forged out of iron, painted ‘loudly’ and at the end, sputtered a running water fountain constructed of marble with a white alabaster angel flying above it.
As she reached the next corner, she pushed the sunglasses back over her face and found herself at the Beta station.
Team leader was Officer Lakos.
He smiled as Catherine arrived. “How can I help our esteemed leader?” Over his glasses he had outfitted and placed a set of dark tinted lenses.
She returned the smile. “Captain been here?”
Lakos grinned and replied. “Actually several times.”
Catherine paused. “Really?”
“Yep.” Lakos, though infinitely patient, sounded slightly displeased by the lack of trust in his command with Vertigo’s constant interruptions. “He first came from Alpha, complaining about the lack of motion sensors and then Cappa complaining about the sparseness of bear traps.”
She knew the bear traps were a joke.
Catherine turned to look. She had not ordered motion detectors, considering the manpower they possessed. “You didn’t have any brought in did you?”
Lakos chuffed. “You kidding? With as many of us here as we are. They’d be ringing off the hook like a tower of Klaxon bells.”
Catherine agreed. She too declined the inclusion of motion sensors for field use based on team movement expectations around the GTNN headquarters for defence purposes.
In Catherine’s mind, all the gadgets in the world would never replace human intuition which she felt left all technology in the dust.
Lakos gestured to two of his officers. “Regardless, he made repeated mention of the fact his life was on the line and short cuts were not appreciated.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. She knew there were no shortcuts being taken, no corners being cut and definitely, no lack of support by his men and women.
Of course, the fact she was working in secret with the man everyone believed tried to kill the Captain not a week before in hopes of bringing out the real villain and expose him to the rest of the world on national television felt somewhat disconcerting right now.
But she kept that to herself.
Catherine had another thought, regrettably. She was presuming of course, the monster Mr. X really existed, and Corigan had no dark motives in mind. She prayed she was not getting set up for the downfall of the century, and on world news, that would leave a climactic end to her career and start of a new one which included the question, “Would you like me to top up your coffee sir?”
Trust, she maintained in her mind, Trust.
Catherine spent the past two days watching movies of Weathers. She had to admit, he was one damn talented piece of work. Now imagining him, out there, loose, unseen and unknown, using that God given talent to perpetrate the devil’s work seemed horribly ironic, and in a way that sent chills down her spine.
Lakos saw her pondering to herself. He tapped her on the shoulder.
Catherine came out of her reverie.
“The Captain can’t seriously think Corigan would take another shot at him does he? On LIVE television? Corigan hasn’t gone that nuts…has he?”
Catherine turned in Lakos’ direction, as he was almost implying that he felt she may have spoken to him recently.
Lakos could be creepily intuitive in some ways.
Before either of them could speak, one of the other officers in earshot muttered under his breath. “Shooting up the station not good enough to certify him?”
Lakos still considered Corigan a friend. A misunderstood, in seriously deep shit friend, but a friend nonetheless. “That’s ‘Shooting up the station not good enough to certify him?’…. SIR!’” Lakos retorted with some authority.
The officer lowered his head, properly chastened.
Catherine waited until they were alone again. “I doubt that’s concerning him, but then again, the Captain is nothing if not strategic.”
Lakos understood. “Well I can guarantee you this. Our entrance is locked down tighter than a drum. No one’s coming in or out. Not without being seriously searched and vetted.”
Catherine quickly assessed the entrance to be in good hands.
She saluted to Lakos and continued.
She sauntered around to the final entrance, knowing she really had to get back inside and maintain her trust in those on the exterior.
Within a few minutes, she was at Cappa station.
Same tight security, same bright stage of lights and same dedicated team of officers.
The officer in charge of Cappa was Detective Martine Hunter, an older detective, five nine with long sandy blonde hair, hinted by grey. She had a ramrod gait and a deep voice that would do well on the radio. She also enjoyed a love for Pugs which many on the force were amused by. Many were made privy to her collection of puppy calendars, flat faced dog coffee mugs and screensavers that littered her workstation in Vice.
Catherine greeted the seasoned detective with a respectful salute, giving her the same rundown as she had done with the Alpha and Beta stations.
No one comes in or out without a full inspection.
And once they leave, they are out for the night.
Hunter nodded, committing the orders to heart. With her long history on the force, Catherine had no doubt they would be carried out both correctly and likely, better than she could do it herself.
Before Catherine re-entered GTNN, she turned to Hunter and asked. “Has anyone seen Jonathon Weathers as of yet?”
As the Cappa entrance was closest to the main parking structure for arriving dignitaries, guest stars and staff, it was assumed Weathers would be coming in this way.
It was considered the most secure passage, as it was surrounded by brick lined walkways and covered by the most high tech exterior security cameras GTNN had, which led from the parking structure to the station.
Hunter replied. “Not yet.”
‘I hope you’re right Corigan. We’re taking some big risks tonight.’ She kept her reservations to herself.
Two officers at the corner overheard what Catherine asked and one interjected. “If you ask me, that Weathers guy is probably holed up in a bar somewhere, getting juiced up for tonight. Did you not see all the stories? He’s been on and off the wagon like a junkyard mutt chained to a tailgate.”
Another officer snickered aloud. “Maybe blowing some cocaine?
Another could not help but join the fray. “Or blowing some of his gay friends?”
All three officers burst out in chortles and chuckles.
One finally casually mentioned. “Well I’m not patting him down, that’s for damn sure.”
Then all the officers started arguing amongst themselves who was going to get stuck searching Weathers, which based on their arguments, depicted him as a walking Typhoid Mary.
Hunter though had firm command of her station. “Actually boys…All three of you will get your opportunity. Once when he arrives, once when administering the double check and finally when he leaves.”
All the men lowered their heads and muttered something inaudible.
Hunter offered a chagrin. “Got to have some perks being commander.”
“Go girl!” Catherine laughed.
Hunter moved in close, speaking directly to Catherine, under her breath, so no one else could hear. “Special mention. We have an OPP liaison on the third floor of the parking facility watching our detail. I recognized him from an interdepartmental party a month back. Not too bright from what I remember. He’s trying to look inconspicuous, but he stands out like a fire in a dry forest.” She pointed nonchalantly so Catherine could look up and see him.
He was standing at a pilaster, leaning causally and reading a paper.
Unless he was wearing night vision goggles, there was no way he could be reading newsprint at this hour.
“We have him under observation.” Hunter mentioned.
Catherine knew, the OPP were canvassing for Corigan, in hopes of charging him for the murder of their Officer Albom.
The OPP wanted to get Corigan first, but Catherine’s division had precedence over GTNN tonight, so the OPP would be delegated to simply watching.
Catherine remembered what Corigan told her. ’Besides my own team, watch for the OPP. And yes, the RCMP. Everyone wants me now. And like our team, they’re all waiting for ‘ME’ to take a second shot at the Captain.’
Catherine knew better than to ask if the RCMP had been seen. Their skillset made them superior cops. They won’t be seen unless they wanted to.
Catherine thanked Hunter for her report.
Catherine then turned to enter GTNN. She paused when she heard another officer, a young brunette, with a pretty face and a bounce to her step, giggling.
Maybe Catherine was a tad envious of Officer Danica Jeanne. She was both very young, yet considered one of the force’s ’Cop-stars’ as she was nicknamed, a play on Pop-stars. Jeanne was rising fast in the eyes of the higher ups with lots of momentum.
She was chuckling as she listened into her earpiece. When she noticed she was being watched, she spotted Catherine and smiled.
She queried to Catherine, not intimidated by rank. “Have you seen the Captain?”
“You might want to.” Danica snickered. “Man, is he pissed. They’ve so far changed him into five different shirts, two suits and one Christmas sweater with a moose on the front to show he’s Canadian. He actually told the costume guy the next wool cardigan with an animal upon it is going to be shoved up someone’s ass.”
All the cops laughed in unison.
Even Catherine had to grin. It was infectious.
Catherine could actually see the Captain uttering such a directive.
“Well then, I better get back inside.” Catherine turned around and added. “I don’t think shoving clothing up a news decorator’s ass is going to do much for Public Relations.”
One of the cops at Cappa poked the other with his elbow. “Wish I was in there. You know damn well he’d put it deep.”
They all burst out in guffaws.
Catherine sauntered up the steps of Cappa and peered back around one last time, staring into the dark wooded park around them, the dimly lit municipal streets ablaze by artificial halogen sun fire and barren alleyways now monitored by Police portable radar. She shook her head.
‘Damn you Corigan.’ She chastened. ’How the Hell do you plan to implement your trap if neither you nor your Mr. X show up?”
She scratched the back of her head and uttered a little prayer for her partner.
She hated the sound of it.
All she could think before she went back inside was, ‘Corigan. I’ve no idea what you’ve orchestrated, but I sure hope whatever it is, you have it planned from the outside as there’s no way you’re getting in here now.’