Annabelle was not the only one shocked by Weather’s sudden arrival.
Detective Catherine McPhail was dumbstruck.
And to make matters worse, she had no idea where Corigan was.
Standing behind the cameras, outside of everyone’s way, nearest to a large blue velvet curtain, tethered to a fifteen foot ceiling joist, dragging on the concrete floor marked with numerous pieces of coloured tape, for what purpose she could not imagine, Catherine was also furious.
She raised her wrist microphone to her mouth and nearly screamed into the intake. “Lakos!”
He replied in seconds. “Yes Detective.” Shocked by her tone. He still sounded upbeat, but wary, as he had not yet been made aware of what was happening inside.
“How the Hell did Weathers get in here without ME being notified?”
She made it very clear, to each of the stations, individually, when Weathers arrived, no matter what, she was to be paged. If she was having a heart attack, she wanted the emergency paramedic to pause, hand to her the radio with the announcement of Weather’s arrival, right before they applied the electric paddles.
Lakos snapped back, surprise lacing his tone. “What the Hell are you talking about?” He sounded annoyed, mostly at himself and his teams, giving way to puzzlement. “I’ve been manning the Beta station since this morning and in constant communications with Alpha and Cappa. Weathers hasn’t arrived. At least not past us.”
“But there’s no other way into this station is there?” Catherine knew there was not, having examined and memorized the blueprints. But knowing Weathers was here, past the guards, she had to ask.
“Absolutely not.” Lakos replied with conviction.
“Well, I can tell you this, I’m looking right at him, centre stage, seated beside Annabelle Veracity.” Catherine paused to squint. “Trust me, it’s him.”
Lakos was flabbergasted, but he believed what she was seeing. “It’s impossible” He paused. “I’ve no idea how he got past us? Maybe he came yesterday?” He chided himself for that. “But why would he sleep overnight here without telling anyone?” His last statement was more of a defense than a question.
The only thing Lakos could not take into consideration was that Catherine had information on Weathers he did not have.
Data which would explain why Weathers did it, but most of all, the how.
Catherine continued her pacing, maintaining her maneuvers as she stalked around the stage.
She did not know what to do. Weathers was not being threatening or trying to kill anyone. He was acting odd, melodramatic, eccentric in how he arrived, but aren’t all actors? He was seated, waiting patiently, without uttering a word. Stable and easy to snatch if anything went wrong.
Catherine couldn’t simply walk onto the stage, on the air, before a live audience and arrest him without cause.
As long as he was not committing any crimes, yet anyway, he could remain where he was.
Hoping he didn’t do anything and make her regret her inaction.
But that did not mean she had to sit on the sidelines with her hand up her ass waiting for other tasks to do. She was the commander of this operation after all.
Catherine took quick control. “Lakos. I want you, and only you, in here right now. I want you to find all thirty-two employees who should be here tonight and confirm which one is missing?”
Lakos was confused. “Missing? What’s that got to do with Weathers getting in?”
“Trust me. It does.” Catherine knew the only way Weathers had gotten inside GTNN tonight, past the police barricades was AS one of these thirty-two people. And whoever the poor son-of-a-bitch was, they were likely dead.
Catherine continued without interruption. “Once you find out who it is, dispatch a cruiser to their home to find out what happened to them.”
Lakos did not understand, but she knew, he followed orders, regardless of their oddness.
“Catherine?” Not waiting for her to answer. “When are you going to tell me what’s really going on here?”
“Not right now.”
“Can you at least give me a clue?”
Catherine could only offer one answer. “Madness.”
Annabelle regained her composure in seconds.
She had many guests do all sorts of unexpected things before, so she learned very early on, go with the flow.
Annabelle leaned back, retaking the position of authority.
No one, serial killer or not, is going to dominate on my turf.
She smiled, like a shark in deep waters ready to frenzy. “Wow. I guess you wanted to get on right away.” More as a statement than a question. “Deal with all the rumors milling about? I guess there’s no need for an introduction?”
Weathers turned in her direction and simply smiled.
It felt cold and chilly to Annabelle.
The hairs on the back of her neck bristled.
He kept his grin wide and gestured nonchalantly for her to continue in her monologue, not saying a word.
After a second of dead air, something never welcomed by the media, but on television, was not as prominent as on the radio when silence meant nothing coming out of the speakers.
At least with no conversation, the audience still had the visual appearance of a guest ignoring the host. It was considered rude but they could see it. In this case, it was clearly evident, and not really dead air, but to Annabelle, the space was filled by the icy winds of emptiness.
Annabelle turned to her floor director for a cue.
The floor director turned to look up at Mike in the media booth.
The news director remained stoic, watching from his perch. He raised his eyebrow a touch, giving the signal, ‘Let this play out.’
Lakos was running down the hall. His gun at ready, but he was lost in the maze of the building. He never bothered to read the internal blueprints for GTNN, only the exterior landscape maps, being the original plan involved him not going inside.
Next time he would be better prepared.
As he traversed down the hall, he could see all the doors had grey numeric panels on them with security keycard slots.
They were even on the restrooms.
He kept thinking to himself, ‘What did this place used to be before it was GTNN? A prison?’
Whatever it used to be, it was damn high tech security for a television station.
He knew the news was a competitive field, but this much seemed exaggerated, to the point of ridiculous.
But then again, Weathers had gotten past the police blockades without suspicion, so maybe this station was better prepared than they were.
Regardless, as he turned the next corner and found himself at a dead end, he knew he wasn’t going to make it to the studio fast enough to help Catherine.
She was on her own.
Catherine was pacing now, moving back and forth behind the cameras.
The floor director had turned to her once to say something, but when he saw the wrath flowing from her eyes, he quickly closed his lips, turned around and maintained his focus on the show.
Catherine scurried around the stage, watching from the sidelines.
Annabelle had decided to move forward with her monologue, letting Weathers stay seated beside her until it was time for his interview. She talked about the world news, a sinking cruise ship in Italy, the US and an upcoming Republican convention and a dog saving a cat from being run over.
Weathers appeared to be in his own little world, resting comfortably in his chair, watching Annabelle as she spoke, like a lion watching a gazelle before it lunged and ripped it apart with its bare teeth.
Luckily, camera two had his viewfinder on Annabelle only and Weathers was not in any of the frames staring at her.
It was creepy and GTNN did not want to give credence to these type of antics.
But Catherine had to give Annabelle credit.
Annabelle was doing her job without error.
A professional to the end.
But Catherine could tell, Annabelle was unnerved, and in the depths of her eyes, she was exhibiting trace elements of fear.
Catherine felt helpless. “Goddamn you Corigan.”
Corigan was supposed to be here, to clear his name and implicate Weathers in whatever the Hell else he had planned.
Instead, Weathers was on stage, next to his likely target, seated before the world like a witness on the stand waiting for the defense to ask the questions.
Catherine looked to Annabelle again, reading her teleprompter, her eyes occasionally flickering to her right to see what Weathers was doing.
Annabelle was doing her best to remain calm, but cracks were forming at the edges.
Catherine got as close as possible to the stage and as near to Weathers as she could without being caught on camera, in case he did something maniacal and she needed to launch herself across the desk and tackle him.
She kept thinking, ’What else can I do? Go on stage and arrest him? He’s obviously intimidating her, but that’s not a crime. But if he was as dangerous as Corigan implied, she couldn’t leave him alone with her either.”
Not that Annabelle was alone. She had at least a million eyes on her right now. But then again, witnesses were only needed AFTER the crime occurred.
None of them would be needed if he attacked her on the air.
The footage would tell the story.
But isn’t that what Weathers liked to do?
‘But would he do that?’ Catherine asked herself. ‘As himself? Unlikely if he came to defend his reputation.’
Corigan did explain Weathers loved the thrill of the game and the drama of the challenge.
All she kept thinking was, ‘Where the Hell are you Corigan? And why aren’t you here like you promised?’
Catherine was about to reach for her cell phone to dial Corigan, wherever he was, to tell him what was happening when her entire world starting closing in on her.
Her body went ice cold, her hand frozen over the phone pad, unable to dial as she stared towards the stage.
Another guest had walked out from stage right, calmly and smoothly, moving forward with a confident gait, stepping in stride with an almost military precision, very carefully and very slowly and holding before him his weapon, a .40 double-action handgun with a de-cocking lever and eleven round magazine.
The guest had his weapon trained on Jonathon Weathers.
The cameraman at position three looked up in shock, but understanding his job, immediately locked focus on the arriving party.
The floor director saw the cameraman direct his viewfinder to the right with the arrival of the gun toting assailant. He turned and looked to the production room above.
The news director pursed his lips. Still standing in the same spot with a perfect view of the studio, he raised his eyebrow again and gestured very specifically. “We’re the news. This is news. Keep rolling.”
Annabelle had paused mid-sentence when she sensed the commotion. She looked in the direction of stage right to see the slowly stalking figure, weapon aimed at her now unwelcome guest, and watched in fascination.
All she could think to herself was, ‘Now this is what I’m talking about! Thank you Corigan McAllistor.’
Catherine on the other hand was lost for words. She was missing the lynchpins which held her reality together.
As the man who walked onto the stage, weapon in hand, aimed directly at Jonathon Weathers, was her Captain, Vertigo Creel.
Weathers turned in his direction, neither concerned nor even slightly surprised.
Vertigo spoke, his voice powerful, resonating throughout the room, sounding like her Captain when he was at his most pissed. He had his eyes locked on Weathers, his finger on the trigger and he declared for the audience. “You sir are under arrest.”