The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 34

34

Lakos was on the first floor again.

He had no idea how he got here.

He could have sworn he was on the second floor.

He hated television stations.

A second later, he lifted his finger to his earpiece.

His mind was doing summersaults.

‘Vertigo was on stage? Armed? In front of all of Ontario? Arresting Jonathon Weathers? What the Hell was going on?’

The only thing he did know, ‘I’m going to have to start coming in earlier for staff meetings. I’m obviously missing the boat.’

*********

Catherine was thunderstruck.

’Had Corigan gone behind her back and told the Captain who Weathers was? Explained to him as he had explained to her? Playing the ends against the middle?

As she watched her Captain, obviously Vertigo had more faith in Corigan than she had given, which would explain what he was doing.

Did Corigan figure if he could not get in tonight, he had to find someone else to make the arrest?

She felt kind of hurt Corigan had not trusted her to do it.

But then again, it did not explain why Vertigo was trying to arrest Weathers on live television?

‘He could have done this after the show without the spectacle.’

This was insane.

For a P.R. department, this was a Hell of lot of crap to clean up.

Catherine figured she would have to back up her Captain.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

But before she was able to get on the stage, she heard a loud commotion from the foreground.

The lights were still dim around the working teams, so only the stage stood out.

Everyone in the background was shrouded in shadows.

One of the make-up girls screamed as someone had pushed her aside.

The floor director swore aloud, but this was followed by several gasps of astonishment.

Several, “Oh My Gods.” and one “Holy fucking shit!”

And in a television studio, such utterances were entirely unwelcome, but in the next few seconds, such dalliances were quickly forgotten.

As from stage left, a second man appeared.

Catherine’s world went completely upside down, inside and out in the matter of a few seconds, as though she had stepped through a magical doorway, got lost in the vortex of reality and everything she felt she understood was swept away into a void of impossibility.

The second person, now on stage, gun drawn, his hands steady, but this time, his target was on stage right, on Captain Vertigo Creel.

Catherine would have normally acted on instinct, jumping into the fray to take action, not even hesitated with what to do, to defend her boss, her superior, preparing to shoot the evident threat in cold blood…

But this was no ordinary circumstance.

Nothing remotely ordinary.

Not by any stretch of the imagination.

As the second gunman from stage left was also Captain Vertigo Creel.

All she could think was a line from a movie from years past.

‘There can be only one.’

‘Damn you Corigan. Where the Hell are you?’

*********

Lakos ran with fury, his feet pounding the floor, as though a fire had ignited under the soles and by placing them down guaranteed a pain-filled scorching.

All he could think, if he was thinking at all and not having auditory hallucinations, was what Catherine announced into his earpiece.

‘There were now TWO Captain Creels on stage?’

Not one, but two?

That and the mystery of Jonathon Weathers getting in past security was still prominent in his mind.

‘How the Hell do I find my way to the Goddamn studio?’

*********

Annabelle was looking back and forth with speed and confusion.

She was expecting something tonight, but certainly not this.

Both Vertigos were staring each other down, pure venom in their eyes, the one on stage right with his weapon trained on Weathers and the second one, stage left had his weapon amply locked on the other Vertigo.

Stage Left Vertigo spoke first. “Who the Hell are you?”

Stage Right Vertigo replied with some annoyance. “I could ask you the same question.”

“And I would answer the same way. I’m Captain Vertigo Creel.”

The Stage Right Vertigo snarled. “I have no idea what this station is trying to pull here, but I’m Captain Vertigo Creel.”

Annabelle jumped in. “Let me assure you gentleman, whatever is going on here, GTNN has no part in it.”

Stage Right Vertigo looked to Annabelle, not taking his weapon off Weathers. “And yet you let this crazy man come out on stage?” Pointing to Weathers.

Weathers provided a face of genuine incredulity.

Stage Left Vertigo spoke, ignoring Weathers. “The only ’crazy’ man I see on this stage is ME!”

“I would agree.”

Stage Left Vertigo snapped. “Only by extension, I’m seeing myself holding a gun on an innocent man.”

“Innocent?” Stage Right Vertigo was insulted. “This man is far from innocent.”

“Whatever you think he’s done, I want you to lower your weapon right now…”

Stage Right Vertigo held his ground. “You first. A cop never drops his weapon. I’m taking this man into custody and by God, I’ll do it over your dead body if I must.”

“That I assure you is not going to happen.” Stage Left Vertigo retorted.

Stage Right Vertigo threw back. “Then I guess no matter what, Captain Vertigo Creel is going to die tonight. The question is, ‘Will it be you or will it be me?’”

*********

This conversation was going nowhere.

They both looked exactly like the Captain.

They both sounded exactly like the Captain.

Their stance, their gait, their tone, their facial expressions, all Vertigo.

Catherine tried to figure out if one was wearing make-up or a mask, but the problem was, both were.

The real one was getting ready backstage before the program thus he had make-up on too.

She knew one had to be the Captain.

At least she hoped so.

If they were both fakes, she really was up shit’s creek without a paddle, especially if a third Vertigo were to appear.

Knock on wood.

Catherine moved around to the centre of the stage.

She needed the best angle to keep all three targets in her sights.

Vertigo One, Weathers and Vertigo Two.

She was a good shot, but there was no way she would be able to take them all down before getting herself killed. Or worse, a bystander could be hit in the crossfire.

Then again, she had no desire to take out the real Captain Creel, at least until she knew which one was him.

Remembering she was the commander of this event, Catherine moved forward, pushing the floor director out of the way, his frantic face now even more filled with rage, saying something nasty under his breath, something she could not discern as she was concentrating on the spectacle before her.

Both Vertigos turned as she approached, her gun moving back and forth between them, pausing a second on each of the three people on stage, with the exception of Annabelle, but definitely on both Vertigos.

She figured, what was the worst that could happen?

Captain Creel could fire her.

She jokingly theorized, maybe the other one would hire her back.

‘Damn you Corigan. Where the Hell are you?’

*********

Annabelle was out of her chair and leaned against the back wall.

Her smile was ear to ear. She was loving it.

Sure her life was on the line with all this firepower, but the ratings that will come from this will last days, if not a good week.

She looked up in the direction of the production room and could see Stewart was trying to catch her attention.

Annabelle casually put her hand to her throat and gently massaged her collar, making it seem she was nervous or fearful, of which she was neither.

Instead, her actions allowed her to activate the intercom beacon in her microphone, which communicated directly to the production room.

The room went silent as they heard the tell-tale whistle of an incoming message from the stage.

Annabelle offered only one sentence.

“If even one of you turn off any of these cameras, you’ll be editing clips for the Eskimo public access channel in Nunavut.”

Stewart pivoted his head, speaking to his team as he rarely did. “You heard the lady. The show must go on.”

*********

Catherine was on stage, gun in hand and the barrel moving back and forth between all three targets.

Weathers was on his feet now, but he remained passive, not causing any trouble.

Stage Left Vertigo turned and spoke to Catherine. Soft, yet strong. “Detective McPhail. I’m the real Creel. I need you to turn your weapon on the fake one right now.” He spoke in calm tones, gently nudging her to follow his orders.

The second Vertigo was not so calm. He quickly interjected. “Don’t you do a damn thing Catherine. If you turn to put your weapon on me, he’s going to shoot you in the back of the head.”

Stage Left Vertigo looked flabbergasted. “Catherine, you have to trust me. I have no idea who this man is, but he’s an imposter.”

Stage Right Vertigo retaliated. “You sir are the imposter.”

Catherine was genuinely frightened. Not in a terror stricken way but scared of being caught between a rock and a hard place, with no way to escape as they closed in.

They both looked and sounded exactly like Vertigo.

They both had the same face, same hair and same stance.

But the one on the right was correct in one assumption, whoever the fake was, if she turned her back on him, for even a second, she would likely end up dead.

As all three gun bearers stared at one another, the floor director was at his boiling point. Using his five-five frame, bald head and chubby arms, he stormed onto the stage, his clipboard clapping against his love handles, as crumpled papers he picked up from the floor were under his arm, crinkling as he walked. He screamed to all of them. “You’re ruining my fucking show!”

Annabelle raised both her eyebrows and shook her head. ‘He said that on the air? Yep, there’ll be a fine.’

But in those three seconds all three gun bearers turned in the floor director’s direction, Weathers had smoothly and deftly reached behind his back and came up with a weapon. A 9mm gun with fifteen round capacity, sporting an enlarged and ambidextrous release mechanism for fast reloads.

Vertigo, Vertigo and Catherine sensing the change in the threat level all turned to Weathers.

They all yelled, in unison. “Drop your weapon!”

Weathers grinned. In those seconds he had taken a target. His target was the Vertigo on Stage Left.

Annabelle was on cloud nine.

Four gunman, on her show, and live on the air.

Can it get any better than this? Too bad it’s not Sweep’s week.

*********

Up in the production room, one of the board operators was staring at the television screen. “Didn’t see that coming.”

A second one threw in. “I don’t know. He was the only one without a gun. I figured he’d have to pull one out sometime.”

The first man noted. “Poor Art. First earning a fine for the station for blurting out ‘Fuck’ and now having distracted the cops long enough for the actor to pull out a gun.”

A third technician piped up. “And why the Hell would he pull out a gun anyway? And how the Hell did he get it inside? Do the cops outside make sure all guests are packing heat before they come in?”

The first one laughed. “Are you kidding? Haven’t you seen all the stories about Weathers this week? Shit. The only reason he brought a gun tonight was probably to shoot himself on the air.”

Stewart squinted, in a way that made it known. ‘Is there not a job you should be doing?’

All three men resumed work on their consoles, pulling down switches and monitoring levels.

Stewart turned back around and maintained his vigil.

He bit his lip, seriously considering cutting the broadcast, taking the fifteen minutes these cops and actor were getting.

But his computer operator, looking to Stewart’s face, sensing the idea bouncing around in his boss’s head spoke up. “Sir. You should know, the spectatorship is increasing, at this very second. Our website has taken over a hundred thousand hits in the last ten minutes alone. And it’s rising. It appears we have fans online streaming the show.”

‘Hmmm’ was all Stewart could respond with.

The technician quickly threw in the phrase to his boss, a term either all media stars loved to hear or were terrified by. “Sir. We’re going viral.”

Meaning their program, their news and their clips were being pulled in every direction on the Internet, this way and that by bloggers, news hounds and websites.

Word of mouth was bringing in viewers, fast and furious, and those around the world who didn’t get the channel were tuning in on the web.

Stewart looked down and reviewed the server capacity gauge being overrun by new consumers and he did something he also rarely did.

He smiled.

Followed by the statement. “Then I guess we stay on the air. Can’t let GTNN disappoint when we have their attention.”

*********

The stage floor was a mass of commotion.

All four shooters were holding guns on one another.

With the exception of Catherine as no one seemed threatened by her.

But she did not feel left out.

But clearly, no one was ready to relent.

Seconds later, Lakos’ voice blared loudly over the radio. “I think I’ve gotten lost in here.”

It might have been comical had there not been four guns pointed in every direction.

No one reached for the radio to respond.

Finally, after several agonizing minutes, it was Weathers who finally spoke up, surprising everyone, his weapon still trained on Stage Left Vertigo.

As he moved, he turned to stare in Catherine’s direction.

When he spoke, Catherine recognized his voice immediately. “Catherine. It’s me. Corigan.”

Catherine thought she had all the surprises she could expect tonight.

‘What’s one more?’

“Corigan?” is all she could stutter. “Seriously?”

Before anyone else could speak, Corigan, as Weathers, felt a coffee cup bang off his arm. Remnants of beverage soaked his shirt sleeve. It was warm, not hot. Whoever drank it liked their coffee saturated with cream.

Weapon still steady, Corigan, as Weathers, turned in Annabelle’s direction, who looked pissed.

“You changed wardrobe you jerk.” Annabelle spoke loudly. “I really thought it was Weathers on stage with me.” Relief oozing through the annoyance of her tone.

Corigan replied. “I had to have you think it could be him. So your responses were authentic.”

Annabelle let a grin slip through. “If I knew you were orchestrating this for my show, I would have let you order Iranian Beluga caviar.”

Corigan grinned at that.

Catherine wasn’t as amused.

Corigan resumed his position to stare at the two Vertigos.

Then realizing the façade was over, in one smooth pull, Corigan reached his free hand under a flap of rubber skin and pulled upward. In one quick and vicious stroke, he ripped the polymorphic mask of Jonathon Weathers from his face, revealing the real Corigan McAllistor beneath.

Corigan closed his eyes for a second as he knew the situation he was in. His face was bright red, both from sweating and from the way he pulled the mask off. After a second, he winced and said rather high pitched. “That really hurt.”

Annabelle stared at him, like a mother staring at her child having a temper tantrum in a busy mall with all the other shoppers looking. “That mask was held on with spirit gum. In all my years, I can honestly say, I’ve never seen anyone pull it off that fast. You’re going to be feeling that for days.”

Corigan rubbed his now red skin with his free hand. “Thanks for the warning.”

Catherine on the other hand was not entirely taken in by the magic of Corigan’s appearance.

She now pivoted her weapon back and forth between the Vertigo’s and Corigan.

Corigan looked up at her with annoyance. “Come on now! Seriously? Me?”

Catherine shrugged her shoulders. “The last time I saw your face, you were shooting up our Police station.”

Corigan gestured to both Vertigo’s. “If this isn’t proof enough someone can impersonate me, then what is?” Using his gun as the pointer, moving it back and forth. “It wasn’t me. It was one of them.”

Catherine looked to both Vertigos knowing one was definitely a fake.

Corigan added. “That and if I really wanted to clear my name, on national television, do you really think I would have taken my mask off first before I decided to shoot everyone?”

Annabelle threw in from the background. “He’s got you there.”

Catherine shook her head in frustration and resumed her motion back onto the two Vertigos. “Point taken.”

Everyone was still calm, knowing the first shot taken was going to insight the others into a firefight. And with no places to hide, no shields to grab, it meant a lot of bullets were going to hit their marks. Maybe not Catherine as no one was targeting her, but nonetheless, all of them remaining tense and holding position.

Stage Right Vertigo stared ominously at the Stage Left Vertigo, but not taking his weapon off Corigan. Both men looked equally angry at one another, neither moving, with steel-eyed glares, fists opening and closing. The one on the right appeared to have his upper lip quivering a touch.

Corigan thought to himself, ‘Could a mask do that? Or only a real lip?’

The Vertigo on the right turned to Corigan, his weapon still trained on him. “So… This was all your master plan was it?” Spoken with some acid in his tone.

The Vertigo on the left was not being left out. “Well McAllistor, If you’re responsible for this, where do we go from here?”

Corigan shrugged. “It’s only a matter of time. Eventually we’ll determine which one of you is not who they claim to be.” Looking back and forth. “So why bother with all the theatrics? Is one of you finally going to reveal you’re not Captain Creel?”

Stage Left Vertigo snapped back. “I already confirmed who I am.”

“As did I.” From Vertigo Right.

Corigan sighed. This was going nowhere fast. “Then let me touch your face….”

Both Vertigos spoke together, sounding as one. “No!”

One not wanting the man who tried to gun him down in the station the other day to get closer while the other, to prevent his mask from being removed.

Annabelle piped up. “So you know, this show is only an hour long.”

All gun bearers glared at her with a stern look.

She politely backed up, knowing that was definitely the signal to ’Shut up.

The Vertigo on the right took a step back, which prompted the one on the left to move forward. “Where the Hell are you going?”

Vertigo Right answered quickly. “To alert my men. One of them will help if these two traitors will not.” Referring to Corigan and Catherine.

“Traitors?” Corigan replied with some shock. “I find that’s kind of harsh.”

“Not from my viewpoint.” Vertigo Right added.

Corigan spoke to both Vertigos, his eyes on Catherine. “Well, as annoying as this is, I expected this. I figured by having a police presence for the past few days at the station, in plain sight, there was only one identity Mr. X could take to get in and out without being hindered.” He turned to both Vertigos again, but keeping his gun trained on the left. “And guess what, one of you took it… Captain.”

Catherine suddenly understood why Corigan had her place two officers on site for the past two days at GTNN.

He was not doing it to keep Weathers out.

He wanted the officers to be seen.

To force Weathers to improvise.

To seek out the only identity he could use which would allow him to enter GTNN and still escape past a platoon of officers.

The Captain.

Which is why he invited Vertigo to the show tonight and why he publicized it. So Weathers would see it, know his options and who’s identity to assume.

And Weathers took the bait.

‘God, Corigan was good.’ Catherine wouldn’t tell him that as she would never hear the end of it.

She stepped back and leaned against the middle camera, giving her arm some steadiness were a shot needing to be fired.

The two Vertigos turned in her direction.

Corigan and Catherine switched targets, him Vertigo Right, her left.

Stage Right Vertigo nodded a gentle understanding to Catherine, even though her weapon was trained on him. Using a calm and relaxed voice, he said. “Catherine. Ask me a question. One only I would know.”

Vertigo Left snapped. “Catherine. Don’t fall for that. I’m your Captain. Don’t you recognize me? Ask me the question. Only one of us will know the answer.”

Catherine felt her confidence waning. Her fears were flooding back like the first time she was on patrol. Dressed in uniform, standing before that drunk on Sheppard Avenue and hoping whatever authority her badge gave her to command him to stop would work. And the drunk not responding to her. Her frustration and nervousness taking over, like a child alone at the park looking for their mother when a bully shows up and forced to resort to violence. Then a much younger ‘Detective’ Vertigo Creel coming to her defense, stepping in, telling her what to do. Not taking over, not making her feel inferior, but instructing her how to prove she was the one with the authority to act. She was the boss and an officer of the law. After that, the drunk was in custody. No fight required.

Corigan too was watching Catherine, empathy in his eyes. He knew she was being pulled in two different directions, by her history and by her feelings, and both by the same man, and yet, not.

Catherine looked to both Vertigos and weighed out the prospect of what would happen if she shot the wrong one.

Then it came to her. A flash she could not believe she did not notice.

From her years of working with him, talking to him, laughing with him, but most of all, making fun of him.

The corners of Catherine’s lips raised in a confident smile. She pivoted and locked her weapon on Vertigo Stage Right. She gave her head a little nod and said with solid conviction. “By the way, nice tie.”

Corigan quickly turned his gaze to Vertigo Stage Left and still holding his gun on the right.

Vertigo on the left was wearing a black silk tie, silver stripes and of course, handcuffs. Not prints of handcuffs or embroidered ones but several individual nickel plated thumb cuffs dangling by miniature hooks, drooping down and dragging the end of the tie to his belt.

Corigan turned to look to the other.

Vertigo Right was wearing an attractive blue and red paisley tie with soft but gentle prints which accented the shirt behind it. Attractive, fashionable and almost perfect.

Something the real Captain Vertigo Creel would never wear. Even if he was shot in the line of duty, and in the casket for the wake, for all viewers to see, and such a tie was on his body, his living dead hand, defying rigor mortis, would reach up and pull it off, before moving on to the next world, to ensure he was buried without such an encumbrance.

Corigan remembered what Doctor Lopes had told him. “You need time to learn to be someone else. It’s not just their face, their voice and their appearance you have to assume, it’s the little nuances, eccentricities or quirks that make each person an individual. If you force Mr. X to take on an identity without enough research, he will make a mistake.”

And he did.

Corigan, Catherine and Vertigo all had their weapons trained on Vertigo Stage Right.

Vertigo Stage Left spoke first. “Drop your weapon.” Even though Vertigo Stage Right was still targeting Corigan, he wasn’t going to take the shot knowing it would be followed by three, if not more shots to him.

Annabelle was in her element, clapping hands excitedly. “This is bloody awesome.”

Corigan smiled broadly. “Captain…. Catherine. May I introduce you to the real Jonathan Weathers.”

Mr. X’s eyes tightened, not lowering his weapon, but holding steady. “Don’t call me that. Weathers is long dead.”

Vertigo turned to Corigan, but not taking his eyes off Mr. X. “Is he serious?”

Corigan answered. “Yes. He really believes he’s no longer Weathers.”

Mr. X responded with some finality to his voice. “In fact, I’ve grown rather fond of Detective Patrick’s ’Nom du plumb.’”

Vertigo had to ask. “And that would be?”

Catherine and Corigan spoke in unison. “Mr. X.”

Vertigo shook his head, responding with sarcasm. “Of course.”

Corigan took a step forward. “Listen Weathers.”

For the first time, true fury melted out of Mr. X’s lips, his calm façade slipping. “I said don’t call me that!”

For a second, Corigan actually thought Mr. X was about to fire.

Corigan lowered his weapon, as Vertigo and Catherine were still locked on him. “It’s over.”

Mr. X sneered. “It’s not over.” His eyes hovered over them all. “Not by a longshot.”

Corigan, being who he was, ignored the veiled threat. “Look. No one is here to point fingers, lay blame or label you an asshole.” Corigan continued. “Admittedly, it’s already happened, but let’s try to move forward.”

Catherine shook her head.

Annabelle looked to her news director, mouthing the word. “Another fine.”

But Mr. X was not being baited anymore. He had fallen for the first trap, not the second so easily. “Sticks and stones, Detective McAllistor. Sticks and stones.”

Vertigo took another step forward as well, his weapon trained right on Mr. X’s forehead. “Why don’t we shoot him?”

Annabelle raised her hand, pointing off stage to the camera and to the crew. “Because we’re still rolling.”

Vertigo turned to the floor director, whose face was puffed red and holding his breath. “Ahhh. I guess shooting a man in cold blood, even an armed and insane one with an officer in his sights, on live television, may ruin whatever PR we could salvage from tonight.”

Catherine added. “That’s for sure.”

Everyone waited for a few seconds. More dead air.

Mr. X asked innocently. “So Detectives, what is it you’re planning to charge me with?”

Corigan replied. “How about impersonating a cop for one?”

Vertigo threw in. “And a police Captain.”

Mr. X chuckled, taking another step backwards, his gun leveled calmly on Corigan. His stride soft and mellow, like a man who didn’t have a care in the world. “Is that the best you’ve got?”

Corigan had his focus locked on his enemy. “Try murder. And that’s just for starters.”

Mr. X laughed. “Really?” He tried to sound offended. “If I’m not correct, you already have verdicts for many of these ‘supposed’ crimes. Criminals already caught and incarcerated.”

“Wrongly.” Corigan argued back.

“So you plan to re-open all these closed cases in an attempt to charge me with the crimes? And based on what? Circumstantial evidence at best and a theory that defense lawyers will tear apart?”

Mr. X’s following laugh annoyed Corigan. “I welcome the challenge.”

Vertigo was moving left, and forwards, in an attempt to try and box Mr. X in.

Mr. X was focussed on Corigan.

Corigan stayed on Mr. X, keeping him distracted. “Once the world knows what you are and what you’ve been up to…”

Mr. X cut him off. “Up to? It’s your word against mine.” He changed voices and was now speaking with Corigan’s perfectly. “So honestly. What are you going to do? Parade me in front of the world as the mastermind behind a dozen, a hundred, maybe even a thousand frames?”

Catherine was chilled with how easily he shifted into Corigan’s voice.

Mr. X laughed manically. “My God. You’ll make me more famous than I ever was. I’ll become the crutch all real criminals use, defense attorneys will allude to, judges will have to consider before making a ruling.” He held his one hand out. “Hell, they’ll have to write a chapter about me in the law books. They’ll have to call it the Mr. X defense. When every criminal declares, ’My God, I was framed by Mr. X.”

As arrogant as it was, Corigan knew, it had a semblance of truth to it.

His existence meant a whole new parameter of law defenses.

Corigan thought about his legal nemesis Dykes. ‘Let the lawyers worry about that.’

Mr. X took another casual step back and turned to the only non-moving person on the stage, Annabelle. With a flick, he was speaking at her with her own voice.

Annabelle was rarely frightened. She was now.

Mr. X stated. “And you my dear. Being the voice of my former life’s destruction and the scythe of my past.” Mr. X showed true anger. “Let me assure you with all my soul, I’m not done with you.”

Annabelle was staring at Mr. X like a doe in the headlights, as the transport was bearing down on her, the driver asleep at the wheel.

Mr. X hissed. “I wonder what the world would think if you were caught on camera shooting up crack? Imagine if the competing stations found the burnt spoon in your car, an empty needle in your purse and the footage emailed to them. How would that help your blossoming career?”

Annabelle, seeing how easily he had assumed Vertigo’s form, and now speaking in her voice perfectly, turned to Corigan, fright in her eyes, and even with all her controls on the air, the threat he presented scared her to the core. “You better make sure you take down this son of a bitch.” ‘Screw the fine.’

Corigan had re-aimed his weapon on Mr. X. “I plan to.”

Vertigo was almost stage right when Mr. X dropped his weapon and pounced to the edge of the stage, out of reach of the officers. He smiled and raised both his fists into the air. “You’re right. You have me. I give up.”

Corigan could not believe it.

Mr. X released his only weapon, his single advantage in this situation, and for no visible reason at all.

Did he really want to surrender? Be arrested before the entire world?’

It just didn’t fit.

Vertigo on the other hand wasn’t hesitating. He had his gun in his one hand, a pair of hand cuffs in the other and was reaching towards Mr. X.

Catherine held her position, out of Mr. X’s reach in case he tried anything while Vertigo cuffed him.

It was then Corigan saw it, but like Vertigo’s tie, he wasn’t looking for it at first.

A thin wire running up Mr. X’s sleeve to his hand, hidden in the palm of his fist.

The first thought that came to him. ‘A trigger? A bomb?’ In all his conversations with Doctor Lopes, it was never mentioned Weathers was suicidal.

Vertigo was about to grab him when Corigan quickly interjected. “Sir. I need you to back away from him… slowly.”

Vertigo felt the driving force of concern in Corigan’s voice. He immediately froze and backed away.

Mr. X realized Corigan had seen it. So hiding it was no longer required. He opened his hands, revealing the small little box inside, with two switches, one to each side, both pressed in tightly.

Corigan felt his hopes dampening. “Catherine. It’s a dead man’s switch.”

A specifically designed triggering device which the assailant pressed first to activate and held it tight, knowing that only by letting it go would whatever it was connected to be initialized.

And all three officers knew, if they took Mr. X out right now, he would release the switch and whatever it did, would go off.

Mr. X smiled. “What now Detective?”

Corigan felt his eyes tighten. “I’m still not letting you leave here.”

Mr. X reminded him. “I don’t think that’ll be up to you.”

Vertigo was standing back, his weapon still locked on Mr. X’s head. “Is it a bomb?”

Corigan was weighing out the risk of finding out.

Then it came to Corigan like a bolt of lightning.

He remembered what Doctor Lopes had told him. ’Weathers was a master of disguise, skilled at mimicry, and a perfectionist when it came to illusion….”

Staring at the tiny little switch, Corigan understood.

Mr. X was also a skilled pyro-technician, and of course, an unparalleled engineer of …. Special Effects.

Corigan launched forward before anyone moved.

Mr. X knowing what was happening opened his hand and released the switch.

Instantaneously and simultaneously, the studio was filled by the bursts of small explosions, going off from every possible angle, and throughout the building, small but powerful, loud but controlled, shaking floors, walls and furniture, denoting this was not the only room affected.

And though it was all at once and sounded like one single detonation, it was likely dozens.

Just as quickly as the mini explosions had occurred, they ended.

In those seconds, Corigan had dived to drag Annabelle out of the line of whatever was happening, under her desk to safety, as did Vertigo with Catherine to the crew floor.

But in those same few seconds; all the lights, electricity and any source of power went off within GTNN.

The entire property was enveloped in darkness.

Due to the professionally controlled environment, with no uncontrolled light allowed in, the blackness took over with such thoroughness, it felt like the walls were pressing down on your very soul from every direction.

Even over the explosion, Corigan knew he could hear the scuffling of feet and the action of motion.

Corigan rose within moments culminating the aftermath, crossing the stage in an instant, which felt like eons.

In those precious seconds it took to reach the position where Mr. X was once standing, he knew…

Mr. X had vanished.

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