The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 39

39

Catherine had moved as gracefully as she could until she had reached the wall, gun in her hand, crouched behind a metal awning and beneath a stack of unused drywall planks forming a barrier.

A perfect cover.

She started moving up the ladder very slowly, being as silent as a church mouse.

Praying she would not be spotted.

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

Corigan hid under a large wooden structure from a television show obviously sentenced to die here in the warehouse.

Its gravestone marker being a red and white checkered pleated curtain attached to a wooden background poorly painted with a sunset.

Corigan pulled from his pocket the ‘insurance’ Catherine had given him in the studio.

Originally, he had planned for its use on stage, but now trapped alone in the dark with Mr. X directly above him, perched like a hawk, he had to improvise.

Staying out of sight, he pulled the pin. He waited for several seconds, trying to time it perfectly, giving as little opportunity for it to be spotted as possible...

Then he dropped forward, using his shifting body as momentum, not unlike a catapult, launching it straight up and into the air.

He crossed his fingers.

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

Mr. X saw a shuffle of movement.

Corigan had moved from his hidey hole to one of the corners by the unassembled shelving, under a roof trellis of some sort, but next to a series of half-used carpet rolls.

‘Nothing to worry about.’

Corigan still seemed unable to locate his target.

Mr. X was starting to doubt his original assessment that Corigan had been such a great nemesis. ’Maybe he was simply lucky.’

Mr. X locked his weapon on the edge of the shelf closest to Corigan’s feet. Maybe a ricochet would give him a good scare. Make him dance around some more. It was only one bullet. He still had plenty left. That and Corigan’s weapon was in his waistband behind his back for the coup de grace.

Taking aim at the cement floor, Mr. X hoped to nick Corigan for good measure.

He then saw Corigan pop out for a second, twisting in mid-air, his right arm snapping outward like he was pitching a baseball. He dropped back out of sight behind another selection of stage spacers.

Did he toss something?

Mr. X increased the resolution on his eyewear.

No one was going to surprise him.

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

Once the object reached optimal height, it detonated.

A flash-bang.

A stun grenade used for non-lethal combat. These devices were used to temporally neutralize the combat effectiveness of enemies by disorienting their senses. It included a flash of light which momentarily activated all light sensitive cells in the eye, making vision impossible for five to ten seconds, at least until the eye could restore itself to normal. It included a loud blast which adds to its incapacitating properties by disturbing the fluid in the ear and causing imbalance.

But for Mr. X, wearing a pair of top of the line night vision goggles, whose sole design was to pull in all ambient light, giving the wearer a superior visible spectrum by increasing the visual brightness by thousands of levels, it was something far different to see.

In those few seconds, with the technology outfitted over his face, he saw a thousand suns exploding into violent supernovas, like observing the Big Bang as the universe was created and directly into his precious orbs.

Mr. X’s scream probably sent every animal within two miles scurrying away in fear, hoping whatever created it, died with its cries.

All Corigan heard from above after that blood curdling wail was the venomous discharge of Mr. X.

“YOU SON OF A WHORE!”

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

Catherine had not yet reached the top when the flash bang detonated.

Though she was fast, she was not fast enough to turn her head from the bright blast.

Even using the smartphone for light, her eyes had somewhat adjusted to the dark, a natural occurrence all eyes do.

But when suddenly hit with a high energy chemical light burst, even at a distance, was shocking.

Combined with an explosion in an acoustically designed room, built to bounce and elevate sound, it shook her eardrums to the core.

Because she did not know why Corigan used it, she chastised him. ‘Next time, I’m not bringing you anything you ask for!’

Rubbing her eyes and seeing stars, she took a moment to pause halfway up the metal ladder.

Until she heard the scream.

Followed by the angry shout.

Now she knew why Corigan did it.

Time was of the essence.

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

Corigan was in motion. He raced across the floor directly to one of the emergency ladders leading to the light technician areas above.

He knew once he heard Mr. X’s scream, he was right on target.

His ears rang slightly. Even if he had been on floor level, the room still accentuated the sound of the grenade. Corigan paused a moment to stick his fingers in his ears to pop them.

The now fired device clattered on the floor and rolled under a cabinet.

He hit the ladder to the walkway above with force.

His left knee struck the step hard, but adrenaline was flowing, so he barely felt it.

What he did not know was how close he had gotten to Mr. X, so he was not taking any chances.

Time was of the essence.

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

Mr. X had ripped off the goggles, tears pouring from his eyes. He did not drop them as he knew, without them, he would be utterly defenseless in the dark.

Luckily, Corigan had not known exactly where he was, as the roar of the detonation only rattled his eardrums.

His eyes though were on fire. He had not planned to be wearing the goggles this long, least of all long enough for a light emitting explosive device to be thrown in his face.

All he could think was, “I should have killed the motherfucker when I had the chance.’

But time for regret was over.

Corigan knew where he was.

And likely, so did Detective McPhail.

He had spent the previous hour filling the walkways with objects, blockades and anything to deter speed and motion to get to him.

But being blinded was not a consideration.

‘Fuck!’ was all Mr. X could think. ‘How could I have underestimated this one man so many times?’

‘Maybe fate or Karma had caught up with him.’

He gripped his weapon and hissed. “Fuck Fate. Fuck Karma. I’m Mr. X!”

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

Catherine reached the walkway.

Her ears were still ringing, but not by much.

She was moving forward slowly, rubbing her eyes and seeing circular rainbows of light at the edges of her vision.

Her phone had died.

She was relying on the last vestiges of her natural night vision.

She bumped into a large block on the walkway. It was wedged between the railings and not in a way a professional technician had stored it.

It was a barricade.

Before she could step over it, about eight feet away, she saw it.

A silhouette.

A man, standing straight up, weapon in his right hand, raising it.

Due to the explosion, she could only make out a shadow.

She aimed at him and yelled. “Freeze. Metro Police. You’re under arrest!”

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

Corigan reached the walkway, his kids version night vision goggles planted firmly on his face, the warm green glow showing him a maze of steel paths, all with waist high railings, but something seemed wrong.

Lights were shoved into rails like they had been jammed in. A lot of the paths were inhibited by cords, near their base, pulled taut between each of the metal braces, but low enough that if in a rush and not having spotted them, they would have easily tripped the runner and sent them hurtling twenty feet to the floor below.

’Crafty little bastard.’ Corigan thought.

Once his feet were flat on the walkway, his stance stationary, he looked directly ahead.

Mr X. was right there, dead centre of the room, about fifty feet away, third walkway from him, hunched over and rubbing his eyes.

His gun was in his right hand and his night vision goggles in the left.

Corigan took a step, kicking a box of nails hidden adjacent to one of the reinforcing pins. They clattered to the floor below in a torrent of metal rain pellets ringing and jangling all the way down.

Mr. X suddenly stood up, leveled his weapon in Corigan’s direction, holding his hand to the rails and wiping his eyes maniacally.

Mr. X obviously had memorized the route.

Corigan knew immediately by the way he moved, he could not see.

He was relying on his ears.

The flash bang was farther away from Mr. X than Corigan guesstimated.

Corigan was raising his weapon until he heard Catherine’s voice.

“Freeze. Metro Police. You’re under arrest!”

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

Mr. X turned in Catherine’s direction.

He lowered his weapon. He had no idea what she could see and what she could not, but as he was practically blind, he wasn’t taking chances.

His weapon was fully loaded, silencer ready, and all he needed was one shot.

He simply needed her to keep talking so he could lock on her position.

He yelled out to her in Corigan’s voice. “For God’s sake Catherine. It’s me. Corigan.”

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

Corigan turned and saw Catherine.

She had figured out where Mr. X was as well.

He always knew she was a smart girl.

She climbed the ladder on the other side to take him out.

Then suddenly Corigan heard his own voice coming from Mr. X. “For God’s sake Catherine. It’s me. Corigan.”

His blood ran cold as he saw her lowering her weapon, trusting the voice.

Corigan screamed back. “Catherine. No. That’s Mr. X. I’m over here. Do not, I repeat, do not lower your weapon!”

A second later, she raised her weapon again, moving left and right.

He then heard Catherine mutter something.

Under her breath, but loud enough for both of them to hear.

“Not fucking again.”

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

Mr. X turned in Corigan’s direction, his world nothing more than a hazed expanse of fiery reds and yellows, spinning in circles around his retinas, all caused by the device Corigan so jauntily tossed up and into his face.

He was still effectively blinded, but a real actor never depended on one sense.

He had four more.

He could not see clearly, but his vision was returning and he could hear perfectly.

So he focused on listening.

Once he heard Corigan yell out, he knew Corigan was on the adjacent walkway.

Catherine was opposite.

Mr. X continued, unencumbered, backing toward the furthermost exit, the one with the least impediments.

And as there were only the two of them, that left two ladders unguarded.

Mr. X yelled back to Catherine in Corigan’s voice. “Catherine. He’s going to kill us both. Take him out!”

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

Corigan kept his weapon locked on Mr. X.

If he died tonight, he truly hoped it was not at the end of his partner’s gun.

Or his own for that matter.

Catherine would never forgive herself.

And no matter how much Corigan tried to mock it, being shot by his own gun would be a humiliation he would not want to take to the Pearly Gates.

Corigan leaped over a roll of coiled electrical wiring, using his one hand to steady the jump and the other to keep his sight trained on his target.

Mr. X was coming with him, come Hell or high water.

Corigan yelled out. “Catherine. Mr. X is the one moving away from us. I’m moving toward him.”

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

Catherine could now see two silhouettes in the darkness.

The flash bang still inhibited her ability to differentiate.

Both sounded like Corigan.

Combined with her limited vision, she was frozen in fear.

She could see the two figures, but no details to separate the two. The flash bang’s power combined with the pitch blackness and her natural night vision being lost when it exploded kept her totally mystified.

She targeted the first figure closest to her.

She pivoted and aimed at the second.

She knew based on their distance apart she would be able to hit one at best, but not before the other locked on her and returned fire.

If she killed her partner, she would never forgive herself.

But then again, Mr. X would probably ensure she did not spend much time grieving when he shot her.

She yelled to the two shadows. “I don’t care which of you is which, I’m telling you both right now to stop!”

They did.

For a few seconds, she prayed.

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

Corigan stopped his forward motion.

He could tell the way Catherine was moving, she too had been adversely affected by the flash bang.

He had obviously miscalculated how quickly she ascertained Mr. X’s position.

She might have been up here at the same time when it went off.

God, he hoped not.

But the way her weapon was moving left to right, back and forth, she had limited vision. She could see both of them, but could not determine who was who.

And in the dark, needing to know who was the ultimate target, was paramount.

And since Corigan knew she was a crack shot, when she gave the order to stop, he went motionless.

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

Mr. X stopped when Catherine yelled.

He could see Corigan had done the same.

He had to mimic Corigan’s actions.

As long as he did exactly as Corigan did, speaking as Corigan does, Detective McPhail would remain in the unenviable position of having to take a shot without knowing who was who.

A gamble, but right now, it was all he had.

He could not see exactly where Catherine was yet, but his vision was returning.

He heard her, but his ears were still ringing, even if lightly, thus his focus was diminished.

The second he got a lock on her position, he was going to kill her.

Then Corigan.

Mr. X yelled again in Corigan’s voice. “Catherine. For God’s sake. He’s coming toward you. Shoot him.”

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

Terrified, Catherine moved forward.

She had never faced anything like this in her life, and she knew, there was no training for it.

Corigan yelled again to her. “Catherine. For God’s sake. He’s coming toward you. Shoot him.”

She stepped back, both to get a better footing, but in case her vision was truly deceiving her and one of the shadows was actually moving in her direction.

Her foot caught a cord of some sort, something she missed by stepping over it originally, but catching it as she backed up. She shifted her weight, pivoting her body, to make herself fall forward, so she did not lose her targets.

Her shin rammed hard into the metal grating of the walkway, drawing blood and releasing a sharp stab of pain. She still had her weapon aimed before her, moving back and forth between the two men.

She stifled a cry of pain as it dug deep in her skin.

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

Mr. X pivoted.

He heard a muffled cry.

Female.

McPhail.

He started to turn, keeping his weapon low, to ensure she could not tell what he was planning.

It wasn’t like Corigan could see any better. He brought no light device with him and seemed to be searching the place on natural night vision alone.

His loss and soon, his last bad decision.

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

Corigan could see Mr. X had located Catherine’s position.

He was turning toward her. He had his hand down, weapon out of sight, but ready to raise it and fire quickly.

Corigan could fire, but he did not have a clear shot.

He had only seconds to save his partner.

What could he do?

Mr. X was duplicating his voice perfectly.

And then it came to him. He grinned and hoped with all his might.

Corigan yelled as loud as he could. “Catherine. I still owe you ten dollars. I got blood on your sandwich.”

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

Catherine was getting back up, her hand gripping the railing, her knee and lower leg sizzling in fiery pain.

She watched as both shadows were looking in her direction now.

The one on the left was turning towards her.

She couldn’t see a weapon.

The other one was standing still. She could not tell if he already had his weapon trained on her.

She knew in seconds her life was about to end.

So many things she wanted to do, places to go, people to see.

When suddenly the one on the right shouted, “Catherine. I still owe you ten dollars. I got blood on your sandwich.”

It hit her like a bolt of lightning.

A conversation she had and only with Corigan.

The real Corigan.

The second shadow had snapped in the direction of the other.

Catherine could almost feel the icy stare between them.

But she knew now, the one on the left was Mr. X.

He was raising his hand now and she could see the weapon.

When Catherine was in action, she moved with speeds most criminals could never fathom. Her blood warmed and her muscles charged as she was transformed into energy personified, moving with the fluidity and power of a tsunami.

She was her weapon and her weapon was her.

Within those seconds, Mr. X was locking on Catherine’s forehead.

But Catherine was faster. Much faster.

She needed no time to target, relying solely on her instincts as a cop, using her years of practice, and fired one round, tried and true.

The bullet burst from the casing as the firing pin was struck, rocketing down the chamber, riding the concussive wave along the barrel, chased by a spark of Hellfire. It ejected from the snout, carried forth across the walkway, and tearing through the right shoulder of Mr. X, ripping muscles and tendons, splicing veins and blood cells, fracturing his shoulder blade under the clavicle in its destructive path.

Exactly as she was trained to do.

A non-lethal shot designed to prevent an assailant from using their weapon.

Mr. X pulled the trigger as well, but his weapon was already in a downward spiral from his now useless arm, his bullet hitting props below.

Corigan could be seen moving forward.

Everything seemed to slow down, time, space, the universe, with all actions flowing like tar instead of air.

The weapon dropped from Mr. X’s fingers.

Catherine was lowering her weapon knowing she had hit her mark.

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

As the gun fell, Mr. X twisted, letting his left hand catch the weapon as it dropped, taking a smooth grip of the handle and stock with grace, fighting through the pain, his finger slipping into the trigger guard.

Corigan, in the span of a heartbeat, his mind running like a computer, thousands of computations firing through the neurons of his brain as it watched Mr. X catch the weapon deftly with his other hand.

‘Ambidextrous? Are you kidding me?!!’ But even as Corigan thought it, his body had responded, pure instinct, weapon rising up and on target.

Corigan pulled the trigger three times, so fast the shots sounded almost simultaneous.

The first shot hit Mr. X in the left shoulder, making him drop the weapon one last time, letting it clatter to the darkness below.

Mr. X with his now crippled arms looked like a walking scarecrow with no post to rest upon, but more importantly, preventing him from trying again.

Unless he can fire with his feet, which Corigan hoped to God he could not.

But Corigan was far less merciful that Catherine, having seen what Mr. X is, what he has done and imagining what he would do, thus the next two shots hit Mr. X centre mass in the chest at point blank range.

The force of each shot pushed Mr. X back into the railing behind him. He wavered, gasping for air, pain overriding his senses, unable to grip the cylindrical shaft of the walkway behind his waist with his useless appendages. He tottered, cursed and rolled over the side, falling head over heels from the walkway, into the blackness, twenty feet to the floor below.

Corigan and Catherine heard the crushing of wooden crates, breaking glass and bending metal as Mr. X dropped.

Followed by more silence.

Corigan and Catherine raced for the edge, still looking for booby traps, until they reached the spot where Mr. X went over.

Having stepped over numerous other impediments Mr. X had wedged into their paths, they felt like champions.

Corigan looked down and could see the broken figure of Mr. X in a pile of debris, a metal shaft torn through his left calf.

Catherine, still rubbing her eyes, unable to see the actual body, did see the broken shelf pieces left in his wake.

As she stared over, she took a deep breath, thankful it was over.

She grinned. “In retrospect, I think the next time we choose a battleground with an insane master of disguise, my recommendation is not a news studio and definitely not one with less than three backup generators.”

Corigan sighed, slapping her on the back. “Next time. I’ll let you dress up like our homicidal mastermind and you can pick where we draw him out. Deal?”

“Deal.”

They trekked toward the ladders, weapons holstered.

Catherine casually mentioned when she reached the drop off for the ladder. “By the way, you owe me twenty dollars, not ten.”

Corigan chuffed in dismay. “Excuse me. I thought you said you were buying me lunch.”

She scowled. “I would have, had you actually brought me lunch.”

They both went down the ladder.

Corigan talking under his breath. “You can’t take back a lunch. Plus, you never put a deadline when I could bring you that lunch. I could still get it you know?”

Catherine laughed loudly as she listened to him complain.

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

When they reached the floor, the emergency lighting had activated.

Not terribly bright, but enough for Corigan to remove his SPYwear.

Corigan and Catherine found Mr. X where he dropped, a pool of blood beneath him, his arms at angles no human body was ever meant to pivot to.

Mr. X’s one leg was under his back, the other, twisted away with a metal signpost driven through it.

Corigan knelt down to the fallen Mr. X and finally sympathized.

Not with him as a person, but at how all that had happened had led to this.

Corigan was hard pressed to imagine the sequence of events which turned such greatness into such evil.

Corigan pressed his fingers to Mr. X’s throat.

There was a small pulse. Be it minor, it was there.

But based on its slowing, not for long.

Mr. X was shot, broken and bleeding with a trickle of crimson running down his lips.

Mr. X opened his eyes and stared into Catherine’s as she stood next to Corigan.

She felt somewhat saddened at the fall of Jonathon Weathers.

Not Mr. X. She still hated him and understood the difference. He was Weathers now, not the infamous Mr. X. She never liked to see someone hurt, regardless of how evil they were. Some say it was weakness. To her, it was strength.

And even as she stared, she could only see emptiness in his eyes.

Mr. X gasped a liquid filled breath as blood started filling his lungs. He spoke directly to Catherine. “Catherine.”

She replied, kneeling down to him. “Yes.”

“Arrest him.” It was his own voice.

Catherine looked to Corigan in confusion and then back to Mr. X. “Arrest who?”

Mr. X let his eyes roll, subtly gesturing to Corigan. “Him…He’s Mr. X.”

Catherine had to ask, fearing the answer. “And who are you?”

Mr. X let out a tired gasp. His lungs deflating and his life coming to an end. “I’m… Corigan McAllistor.”

And with that, whatever remaining light in the black holes of his eyes went out.

Corigan and Catherine stood there in silence for several seconds.

After nothing for a few minutes, Corigan finally spoke. “I don’t know what’s sadder. That he couldn’t die with an identity of his own or that he wanted to steal mine before he moved on.”

“Who cares.” Catherine replied. “It’s still sad.”

Corigan leaned down and closed Mr. X’s eyelids, giving him peace.

They had a long wait before the doors would be unlocked.

So they didn’t want Mr. X watching over them the entire time, dead or not.

It still felt creepy.

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