The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 37

37

After a moment of preparation, Corigan yelled. “There is no Delta station.”

Corigan and Catherine then took cover into the shadows and the shelves.

Even if Mr. X had night vision goggles, they were not X-ray powered.

They hedged all their bets they had Mr. X in with them and locked in this one room. One monstrous junk-filled room loaded with dozens if not hundreds of places to hide, but still one room.

Silence followed.

For a frightening moment, when nothing came from the pitch twilight, Corigan had a sick feeling Mr. X had outsmarted them, using a microphone to dispatch his voice from within, getting them inside and then locking themselves in while he escaped.

But after several drawn out seconds, which when lying in wait with a possible serial killer stalking you down, seconds felt like hours and hours like an eternity.

Then out of the gloom, Corigan heard two hands coming together.

Heavy meaty claps from the darkness, echoing off the acoustically designed walls, deliberate and methodical, leather gloves by the artificial ‘whap-whap’ it made, but clearly created by one man giving applause.

After that, more silence, but only for a second.

The voice of Mr. X slithered forth from all around them, like coils of snakes from every direction, seeking to squeeze them tight while drawing breath from their lungs. “Bravo Detective McAllistor. Bravo.”

Corigan and Catherine did not move from their respective hiding spots.

Mr. X took a breath, realizing the officers were still crouched and laughed. “I gather you locked the door with whatever SPECIAL card it is you have?” Asked as a question, but already knowing the answer. “All I know is mine no longer worked after you three passed them.”

Nothing gave Corigan the creeps more knowing Mr. X had slipped past them to check the locks in the shadows behind them, and worse, failing to escape, slipped past them again to find a new hiding spot elsewhere.

Corigan and Catherine remained stationary.

Catherine kept her smartphone aimed downward to dampen the light, but still allow herself a dim circle of clarity.

Corigan on the other hand, back to a door, a prop from a kids show covered in multi-coloured polka dots, chose to respond. “I assume I don’t need to ask how you acquired a security card?”

Corigan shouted his reply down the corridors, hoping to have his voice bounce off the multitude of objects, thus protecting his location from discovery.

Mr. X shouted back, happy to have a conversation with someone who knew who he really was. “You’d be surprised how quickly one not only provides to me their card, but their PIN as well, especially when it’s their own face flaying their precious flesh.”

Corigan was disgusted with the depravity of Mr. X.

Using one’s own face to terrorize a victim into submission.

Psychologically horrific in itself, but in the hands of Mr. X, absolutely devastating.

Corigan knew their department would be investigating another murder after tonight of whoever this poor soul was.

But hopefully not three more murders, including himself and Catherine.

Corigan and Catherine exchanged a silent conversation with their eyes. ’Corigan goes right and Catherine, left. We have eighteen aisles to search…Might as well be a thousand.’

As they parted, each to ends of the room, using the walls as a guide, their plan was to start their search and find Mr. X. And of course, bring him down fast.

Before Mr. X did it to them.

As Corigan reached a fire emergency unit with extinguisher, he quickly checked to ensure the axe was intact. Not that he wanted to die tonight, but at the end of an axe was his least inviting option.

Mr. X’s voice resonated from the shadows. “Have you ever lost something Detective McAllistor?”

Corigan knew, based on Doctor Lopes’ summary, Mr. X had likely been alone for all the years since his escape. Moving from place to place in constant solitude, taking on identity after identity, staying in abandoned properties or living in cash starved hotels, all in his attempt to procure the ultimate replacement persona for his lost one. Except with his injury, unable to, and when failed, destroyed it and moved on.

The only prize was accepting the meager satisfaction of that person’s destruction.

Mr. X couldn’t even gloat as revealing himself would hamper the act and future ones as well.

So with no audience to perform to, his ego had to be repressed, crushing his aspirations for platitudes and accolades. It was like creating a great movie but no one watches or singing the ultimate song, but no one listens.

As Doctor Lopes explained, a personality like Mr. X likes to perform, wants recognition, yet knowing, in its endeavor, cannot.

So when finding a rare match, a true adversary as Corigan had become, Mr. X would do his best to stretch it out, savoring it, knowing he might never find it again, before finally having to kill him.

Mr. X asked again, impatience lacing his words. “I said, ‘Have you ever lost something Detective McAllistor?’”

Corigan stayed close to the shelves as he moved down aisle one, his back to the racks. “I lost my car keys once. It took me ten minutes of rummaging through all my coats until I found them. By the time I made it to the restaurant, they stopped serving breakfast. I was pissed. Does that count?”

Corigan could almost hear Catherine from wherever she was. ’Great. Taunt the serial killer.”

Mr. X did not seem bothered. He ranted on. “No Detective. I mean…Have you ever lost everything?” Mr. X paused “And as a man who had everything, I can assure you, when it’s lost, it has dire effects on the soul.”

“What soul?” Corigan snapped. He refused to feel pity for this madman. “What happened to you was tragic. I admit that. But what you’ve been doing, what you are doing, to all these innocent lives, is not.” Corigan moved to the end of aisle one. He took the next corner. “You’re the sword that slices through these lives. You’re the enemy, not the victim.”

Nothing. No reply.

Twice he thought he could hear Mr. X nearby, only to approach the spot and find empty space. Then realizing, to a man like Mr. X, throwing his voice would be child’s play.

And for two cops trying to narrow Mr. X’s position, in a room of this size, in the dark, this skill would make it annoyingly impossible to use as a triangulation method.

Mr. X was moving, he could sense it, but Corigan could not tell to or from where.

Catherine was out there too, hopefully still alive, as he had to trust in that.

Mr. X continued with anger lacing his rasp. “Tragic?” His voice shifted into Vertigo’s. “Tragic? My life and the core of who I am is reduced to nothing more than a wisp of fog and you think it’s simply tragic?!” He took a deep furious breath. “Then who are you to say what’s happening to my adversaries is nothing more than tragic?”

Corigan was halfway down corridor two. “Yours was an accident. A drunk driver. Your adversaries…?” Corigan spat the term. “…are victims of your deluded revenge.” Corigan dropped to one knee and peered around corridor three. Green glowing nothingness. “That and these ’adversaries’ don’t even know they have an enemy they can arm themselves against. You attack from the shadows and slink back when you’re done. They’re not adversaries, they’re collateral damage.”

“Really, Detective. I have to respectfully disagree.” Mr. X’s voice came from another corner. “An identity is worth fighting for. I know because mine was stolen.” Mr. X sounded very venomous with his last sentence. “So if my opponents won’t fight to protect it, they don’t deserve it. I refuse to suffer alone.”

‘How do you prepare a defense when you don’t know of the attack?’

Corigan knew arguing with this madman was futile.

“And you know the worse thing? The drunk driver who started this sequence of events died at the scene.” Mr. X commented.

Corigan thought. ’Thank God for small favours.’

“But then again, his family was very much alive.”

Corigan’s shoulders sagged. He knew he would have to investigate what had happened to the family of the drunk driver. If they were not all dead, he suspected, they would be incarcerated, condemned by irrefutable evidence.

Their only crime, having a stupid relative.

Corigan had reached corridor four. Electrical equipment of every type, plywood and two-by-fours were leaned up against one another, somewhat haphazardly, ready to fall at any moment and coils of rope.

Corigan crept cautiously around them.

After a minute, Mr. X continued his rant. “I really have to thank you Detective McAllistor.”

“I like roses.”

Mr. X ignored Corigan’s sarcasm. “You see, I was getting complacent.”

Corigan knew he had to keep Mr. X talking.

His conversation meant he wasn’t running. And by extension of that, distracting him from Catherine, wherever she may be.

‘Keep his focus on me.’ Corigan thought. “Misdirection is the key to the magician.’

Corigan really hoped Mr. X never played an illusionist before.

Corigan replied. “Then come on out and we can shake on it. In fact, I want to give you a thank you gift as well. I brought you a pair of nickel bracelets to try on. I really want to make sure they fit. I don’t have the receipt, so I can’t take them back.”

Mr. X chuckled from the vastness. He was enjoying this.

Corigan pivoted around the next corner, parrying his foot and directing himself down the fifth aisle.

More shelves and clothing racks, all filled to capacity.

’This is impossible.’ Corigan thought.

Mr. X taunted. “Unlike Moriarty, I have no desire to keep this game going. You revealed my flaws and put on exhibition the arrogance of my actions.” He paused. “And yes, arrogance. Thinking I was too smart to be caught. Thanks to you, I’ve evolved.”

‘Great.’ Corigan thought. ‘Big pat on the back for me.’

Corigan tried a different tack. “Don’t you have any memory of when you were Weathers?” He was drawing on some hope that deep within Mr. X, not unlike Luke with his own father, to find any trace remnants of good within him before turning to the dark side.

Silence.

Mr. X spoke softly. “I remember reading a story when I was nine, yet having no memory if I liked it or not.”

More silence.

“I remember eating a hamburger when I was sixteen, tasting the hot cheese and bacon, but no idea the reason I ordered it.”

Corigan sighed.

“So no, Detective.” Mr. X getting angrier, emotion chipping away at his control. “I’ve lost everything I ever was and hoped to be.”

Corigan wanted to feel some form of empathy, but couldn’t.

“And do you know what the worse thing is Detective?”

Corigan reached the end of aisle five. “What’s that?”

“No matter how many identities I took, no matter how many lives I assumed, none could fill the void of my loss. I’m a persona trapped in an empty shell, no more beautiful than a dandelion in an barren field ready to be plucked.”

“And what are your victims?” Corigan snapped.

“Comrades in arms.”

“Comrades?” Corigan felt sickened that Mr. X believed his actions shared his pain. “And what of the ones you murdered?”

Mr. X didn’t even hesitate. “They’re the lucky ones.”

If Corigan found Mr. X right now, he’d shoot him in cold blood.

“Everyone deserves to understand what it’s like to lose everything, and if it’s the last thing I ever do, they will.”

Corigan knew, no matter what, he could not let Mr. X out of this studio. He had to die trying if he must. Corigan hit aisle six. He laid low and peered around the edge.

No one.

“You know…” Mr. X teased. “I still have your gun Detective.”

Corigan felt his nerves go raw. He knew Mr. X had stolen it from his car when he was in Alberta. “So?”

“So….I plan to kill you with it.”

Every cop will tell you, the greatest insult is to have your weapon stripped from you and worse, used upon you. It was the ultimate indignity.

Corigan retorted. “The moment you took it, it was no longer my gun.”

“We’ll see if lead from your own gun feels any different when you die.” Mr. X mocked.

Corigan cleared aisle seven.

One third of the way there.

Still no Mr. X.

“What do you intend to do with me Detective? Even if you successfully ‘catch’ me?”

‘Man, can he talk?’ was all Corigan could think. But if’s he’s still talking, he’s not shooting. “Charge you. I have a list of crimes I’d like to throw your way.”

Laughing aloud, Mr. X shifted his voice into Timothy Albom’s. “Notwithstanding your zeal, most of the crimes you’re suggesting already have a conviction. What would your accusations be but nothing more than circumstantial evidence and theories best left to fiction writers.”

Corigan swept left to right, using the shelf as a shield, his weapon directly before him, scanning cabinets and trunks. Corigan suspected Mr. X was likely holed up within them, not taking any chances. He kicked one for good measure. Nothing. Behind it, a large empty glass closet, which when filled with water was one of the props for the GTNN program, “Secrets Of Great Magicians.’

Corigan replied back. “I can still try. A lot of serial killers have no connection to their victims. It seems they’re considered nuts and don’t need one.” He waited. “I think you fit the bill perfectly.”

“Sticks and stones…” Shifting into Catherine’s voice, Mr. X suddenly sounded like he was in emotional pain. “But I’m a damaged man Detective. Even if you capture me, I’m pretty sure an insanity plea isn’t far outside the cards. Give it a few good years in an institution and I’ll be back on the streets where I left off.”

Corigan got chills thinking of Mr. X using his acting skills to trick the psychiatric community in his rehabilitation. But he had his own ace in the deck. “I already thought about that. “Corigan fired back. “You’d be surprised at how the testimony of one of the world’s leading psychiatrists, combined with his personal history with you, as it relates to your mental clarity, will go a long way to counter such a defense.”

A long drawn out silence this time.

Mr. X snarled a response, his voice now that of Doctor Lopes, but much more menacing. “Then he better pray he succeeds as the next time I come calling, it won’t be his wife’s career I’ll be after.”

That definitely pissed him off.’ Corigan thought.

Corigan moved forward into an alcove of props, which consisted of wooden background with a six-foot muscled man wearing leopard spotted briefs and a hole in the face for people to peer into for comical camera shots. Next to it, a matching fat lady, in a pink tutu, sporting a dainty umbrella in one laced gloved fist and a poodle in the other.

Corigan was about to move out of this hidey-hole when a ’thunk’ emanated from behind him.

Corigan dropped to the ground, using the fat lady as his protector, squeezing his body into a large shelf filled with stationery. Several coils of old thermal fax paper dropped from above, clattering on the cement floor, rolling away into the darkness.

‘A bullet?’

He was being shot at.

Mr. X obviously had a silencer on his weapon. Corigan had only heard the impact, not the explosion of gunfire.

It was then Corigan knew.

Mr. X could see him and was intentionally toying with him.

Corigan turned to the spot where the bullet hit. He paused, looking frantically around, appearing scared, but hiding something Mr. X could not see, regardless of his vantage point.

A grin.

Mr. X had made a very serious mistake.

Any seasoned cop will tell you, from visiting crime scenes, canvassing evidence, or in a gun fight, no matter how many books you read or re-enactments you did, shooting a weapon at someone, regardless of the intention, left a mark.

To the experienced eye, it was more than a puncture as it provided two very vital things to solve a case.

In the eyes of a skilled investigator, especially when an opponent misses intentionally, an officer can look at the indentation of the shot to not only know the weapon, but very approximately determine trajectory and point of origin.

Corigan let his eyes look upward cautiously. Even though his night goggles were shaded, a tilt of his head could reveal what he knew. He continued to look around, weapon aimed in both directions, searching the warehouse floor, even though he was certain, nothing was there.

‘I gotcha you bastard.’ Corigan deduced.

Mr. X was on the walkways above.

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

Catherine had cleared aisles eighteen through fifteen, all the time listening to Corigan keeping Mr. X distracted.

A couple of times, she had to stifle a chuckle.

She was amazed with the room’s set up that Mr. X’s voice resonated as it did, but she also knew he was a seasoned broadcaster and his voice projected, thus making it near impossible to pinpoint.

When she heard her own voice from the shadows, she actually felt a chill. All she could imagine was, ’God Corigan. And to think you took this son of a bitch on without us at first. You’re one brave MoFo.’

She resumed her search.

She suddenly heard a pop.

Though silenced, she knew it was a gunshot, like a cork being pulled from a bottle of wine.

She took cover trying to locate the source.

Hoping and fearing the worst, that the sound was Corigan getting killed.

She felt a flitter on her shoulder. She quickly brushed it off hoping this place was not inundated with spiders.

She looked at the piece of paper that fell off her shoulder.

It was a label, off a high end spotlight, used in stage shows. ‘How the Hell?’

Then it hit her.

She looked skyward. ‘You little prick. You’re on the walkways.’

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

Mr. X looked down at his little ant farm of activity in amusement.

Seventeen rows, filled to capacity with odds and ends, but in his former world, mostly forgotten crap.

And his favourite thing, watching Corigan and Catherine moving through it like rats in a maze.

A couple of times, he set his sights on their foreheads with his finger on the trigger and pulled back.

He couldn’t let it end this easy.

Corigan had proven to be an unprecedented adversary. He had actually tricked and trapped him in this complex.

He knew once the cavalry came in, with all the confusion, especially when they found Catherine and Corigan’s bullet ridden corpses, he would be able to slip out easily.

Mr. X looked down and watched Corigan with amusement.

His generation three night-vision goggles were top of the line. Taking the low ambient light and translating it into his view-screen to give him a perfect picture of everything.

He watched as Corigan took cover in a small space within a bunch of props.

Mr. X aimed and fired, intentionally missing.

Corigan starting looking around him, his face to the floor, seeking his shooter.

Mr. X laughed. ‘How did this detective ever get a badge? He’s still searching the floor for me. Maybe he’s not the adversary I first thought.’

Mr. X chuckled as he watched.

He could kill Corigan anytime he wanted.

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

Corigan looked to the ceiling, crossed his fingers and relied on his mistress Lady Luck right now.

Most cops, military men, and even hit-men, if ever asked if they could choose an opponent, would they seek out the one with the better skills or the better luck?

They would choose skills every time.

Skills can be compensated for, quantified and even balanced.

Luck on the other hand was a random factor, and if in your enemy’s corner, scared more than most to the core.

Corigan knew timing was of the essence.

He knew Mr. X could see right now and he was playing games.

Corigan had once last trump in the deck to pull.

It was time to play it.

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