Catherine stopped for a coffee on the second floor in the communal kitchen. She could see the machine percolating a batch and the room emanated of roasted Columbian beans. This was offset by a sink of unwashed dishes. Not the best part of waking up. She could also detect a light scent of vanilla over the coffee aroma. It appeared someone had put vanilla extract into the filter.
Catherine was not impressed.
Catherine knew right away it had to be Officer Monika Halton from weapons and firearm control. Monika had just returned from Cancun with her husband, Gordon, sporting a nice tan, a large bottle of blue agave tequila and a jumbo sized jug of pure vanilla. Jumbo being two litres. Assuredly a lifetime supply. Each morning, Monika brought in a small jar of the flavouring to the office, some for dipping her breakfast bagel, but mainly for her coffee. Sometimes for expedience’s sake, Monika would, in Catherine’s estimate, taint the cauldron.
Catherine knew she would be giving Monika a quick reminder, she could mix all the vanilla she wanted into her own mug, but not the station’s precious source.
As nice as it was to smell, vanilla was quite virulent.
Catherine noticed another pot, half drank, put to rest atop the rear burner smelling toasty.
Not wanting overcooked coffee, but since Catherine was in too much of a hurry to race down two floors and stand in line, she lifted the newly brewing pot and started filling her cup.
After filling to two thirds of the mug, she quickly returned the pot to its rightful place, scooping three heaping tablespoons of crystallized brown sugar from a bowl followed by cream.
Twice Catherine had to stop and sip her hot drink, quickly followed by her face pursing tightly as though she just sucked on a sour apple. Within seconds, she resumed thinning the coffee with more cream hoping to drown out the taste of the vanilla with a milky blanket of thirty percent dairy.
When she was finished, the presence of white was so prevalent, the colour of dark brown had vanished beneath a light tan froth.
No one had knowledge of how truly poor police station coffee was until forced to drink it on a daily, if not worse, hourly basis, but at the price of coffee today, if one needed their fix, officers suffered through with each bitter gulp.
Arriving back at their office, Catherine found Corigan tilted back in his chair, the eight wheels screaming in defiance as he leaned back so far it nearly tumbled over. Had there not been a wall behind him, where he bounced off several times, leaving a small groove, he would have found himself flat on his back.
Catherine leaned into the office, looked at the wall behind her desk and scowled.
Corigan had taken her university degree in psychology, nicely mounted in a custom designed maple wood frame, a gift from her father on graduation day, off the wall. He had placed the award gently to the side of her desk, next to her filing cabinet, on the floor, facing inward to protect the glass, but essentially out of sight.
Where the degree once hung, there was now a rectangular spot of what appeared to be clean paint, which was nothing more than old paint protected from the elements and untouched by the sun.
The blank spot where her crowning achievement was once prominently displayed, before Corigan’s interference, in the centre of the rectangle, where the bright azure blue paint on the wall seemed to glisten, was a small dark brown spot, a circular pattern of dirt and grime deeply ingrained and pounded into the wall with a continual and constant force. If one looked closely, they could see a small indentation in the plaster in the shape of a crescent moon.
Before Catherine could turn away, as this soiled spot was on her side of the office, a red tennis ball, worn down from use, bounced perfectly off the circle and back to its pitcher, Corigan.
Catherine slinked into the office, her head down, hunched over like a linebacker preparing to make a charge. Glaring in Corigan’s direction, she calmly queried. “Why do you have to throw that thing at my wall every single time?”
“It helps me think.” Corigan replied. “Don’t worry. I’ll put your certificate back up when I’m done. I always do.”
“It’s a degree. Not a certificate.”
“Tom-AY-to. Tom-AH-To.” Corigan chanted, his head bobbing up and down in a non-committing manner. He smirked at her. “Plus, of my four choices, only yours is far enough away to make it worthwhile. If I bounced it off the sides, I would have to angle the shot off two walls instead of one and then I’ll end up staining two areas.”
Catherine put her coffee down, “If you have to pull anyone’s degree down, why not one of your own?” She gestured to Corigan’s Toronto degree in literary English behind him and his masters in literature to the left of that.
Canadian police departments don’t always concern themselves with the subject of your degree. They are more impressed by your capacity to learn.
Corigan spun around, too lazy to get up from his seat, and stared at the wall. He put both feet up on the drywall for leverage, bracing himself. He pressed back and bounced the ball off his top frame and back. He paused for a second, considering his shot. “Not enough distance.” He gave his chair another pirouette, back to Catherine. “And if I switched them so mine were on your side, and yours on mine, everyone who came in would get confused, likely asking me for psychiatric advice. Could you live with that on your conscience?”
Catherine doubted it. To her, it was the blind leading the blind. She took another chug of her coffee. She was not going to dignify that response with an answer.
Corigan was yanking her chain.
The ball sailed over her head and bounced back again.
Within seconds, Corigan seemed to zone out, gripping the ball tightly.
Catherine knew Corigan was thinking about the Beckham case.
When on a particularly puzzling case, Corigan always placed himself into the lost region of his thoughts. A vast universe between his ears, mapped by a limitless zone of creative energies, powered by flashing neurons and firing continually. In this state, she knew Corigan toyed with ideas, problems and possibilities. He would envision individual concepts, using his imagination as guidelines, blending them to coincide with the evidence while investigating.
Catherine knew, Corigan had a special skill. One very few cops had. The ability to jump trains of thought.
Most mathematicians knew, according to Pythagorean theorem, A2 + B2 must equal C2. It is a geometric constant in standard geometry. Thus, you need to find both the A + B variables first, to ascertain the C and vice versa.
Corigan was one of those few people who could skip the A and the B and imagine C. It was awe-inspiring to some. Intimidating to others. Especially the perpetrators he pursued.
Catherine was always impressed by the unlikely scenarios he could fantasize, yet make fit reality but more importantly, he solved cases with a continued success.
Corigan had a natural intuition she coveted in a partner and a gut feeling which the department respected by making him part of this Special Investigations team.
Catherine was a perfect match for Corigan. With her honest skepticism, it helped him to focus tighter, using all factors of evidence to better conclude these crimes in a positive way.
And as Corigan loved puzzles and any challenge presented to him, it made for great investigations. As a team, they were perfectly matched and beautifully elegant in their execution of crime solving. So she understood, if he felt something was wrong, it probably was.
However she also knew, there was always a small chance, no matter how minuscule, for error, which is why she disputed some of his theories.
“Penny for your thoughts.”Catherine asked, spreading her red folder on the desk, trying to bring Corigan out of his daze.
Corigan phased back in. He looked to the working officers outside their office door. With a forceful throw, the ball bounced off the corner of the wall behind Catherine, at a perfect forty five degree angle, hitting the door at the outer edge.
The door, properly oiled and lightweight for easier entry and departure, swung closed with a thunderous smack.
Two officers, one female and one male, standing outside their door and chatting animatedly, lurched suddenly, startled by the door slamming. The female officer began wiping trickles of coffee off the front of her shirt, spilt by the other officer’s kneejerk reaction to the door ramming into the frame. She glared nastily into Corigan’s side of the office through the glass.
Corigan pretended not to notice the furious fusion of the officer’s nasty stare and the mumbled phrase she sputtered under her breath. At that moment, he was happy not to have had the ability to read lips.
The ball bounced back off the same corners to Corigan’s waiting hand.
Catherine knew, Corigan was looking for privacy.
“I don’t like it.” Corigan began, his head moving back and forth instinctively. “Something’s not right. And I can’t let it go.”
Catherine had her notes in front of her which consisted of several line items and additional scribbles she was able to scrawl on her pad on the walk up from the subbasement.
The record, or the written script of the interview, had yet to arrive.
While organizing, she commented, “What’s not to like? We have him ‘Dead to rights.’ Motive, opportunity and most of all, a full eighty-seven second clip of him killing Vails. You can’t ask for anything better.”
“What about Beckham’s conviction?”
Catherine looked into Corigan’s face and with deadpanned tone she stated. “We’ll have that in a few months.”
“Not his criminal conviction.” Corigan sighed. “I meant his belief in his own innocence. I almost felt for a few seconds, we had the wrong guy.”
“Then you saw the tape and all was right again in the world.” Catherine mocked, her arms swinging open like a ringmaster in the circus introducing the next act.
“What about the look on his face?” Corigan interjected.
“When? Before or after he murdered Vails?” Catherine motioned extravagantly. “He seemed more cheerful on the tape AFTER he killed Vails.”
Corigan charged back. “If you keep blowing smoke up my ass, you’ll find yourself choking on your own hot air.”
Catherine rallied. “If you keep shouting fire when there isn’t one, you find yourself like the lost boy who cried wolf.”
Corigan smiled. “Eventually in that story, there was a wolf.”
“Yes.” Catherine retaliated. “But by the time the real wolf did appear, the boy wasn’t believed and eaten.”
Corigan knew this was slippery slope. The evidence was overwhelming. The facts were clear. He knew, if he wanted to, he could sign off on the case right now, hand it to the ambitious Crown attorney, Yves Young, a political shark who was always looking for media opportunities and the occasional press conference, and Beckham would in prison by the end of the month.
The MP could put all the pressure he wanted on the station to help his ‘friend’, but the tape said it all.
In fact, in Corigan’s estimate, once the MP saw it, if he had not seen it already, he and his staff would be backpedalling from this case like greased lightning, working damage control to shift the shadow of this murder off their own doorstep and back to their now former friend.
No one likes to back the losing team.
Especially media savvy political figures seeking re-election.
But then again, there it was.
Beckham had seemed so very convincing.
The look in Beckham’s eyes when he watched Vail’s murder…. It was like watching a candle blow out. The light of his personality seemed to extinguish instantaneously, leaving nothing more than an empty wick of a man.
And Beckham seemed well aware, the moment the video hit the airways, the court of public opinion would make its ruling and the verdict would be on the side of the victim.
And as police investigations were paid by tax dollars, the city’s citizens would never allow the force to throw good money after bad by trying to find ‘the one-armed man’ when the tape clearly showed, the murderer had two.
The case was nicely wrapped with a clear motive, beautifully presented by the murderer’s capture and tied together with an insurmountable chunk of irrefutable evidence.
And yet, here Corigan was, refuting it.
Corigan’s gut knew something was definitely wrong. And he learned a long time ago to trust his instinct. It was screaming at him. ‘You’re missing something. YOU’RE MISSING SOMETHING’ Something terribly vital.
Corigan had his red folder opened on his side of the desk. Included with that was a series of black and white photos, eight inch by ten inch glossies, on photo quality printer paper, scattered around his blotter, having been dropped off moments before Catherine had arrived with her coffee.
The photos were crisply printed by their Investigation and Administration team, well known for their speed.
Fourteen of the photos were still-shots from the video camera recorded in the Queens Quay condo garage that morning and of the murder itself. These fourteen photos only showed the best angles, the clearest views and the people within the frames with the utmost clarity.
Beckham and Vails stood out like models at a magazine shoot.
The remaining ones were from the interrogation room during the course of their first interview.
Corigan quickly sorted through them. He angled and taped several of them up on the board behind him, affixing some of the photos edge to edge to compare them side by side. Others were separated and on their own, divided by location.
Catherine watched the whole process with interest, twice gesturing for Corigan to alter and reposition others.
When all was said and done, Corigan reached behind, without looking, and plucked his red laser pointer from his pen holder.
While Corigan fiddled with his photo arrangements, Catherine has reached under her desk and slid out her laptop.
Both she and Corigan’s state of the art computers were portable and hidden out of sight. They were resting on sliding baseboards beneath the desks. Both included finger touch plasma technology and bright backlighting encased with a high density acrylic shielding. Their assets were a terabyte of memory, dual processors and a 1024 gigabyte video card for resolution.
Further amenities installed were HD-DVD drives with crystal-clear playback, for work they brought home with them. Each housed a wireless modem to connect to the police station via a secured intranet network from any WiFi Zone.
All of this was helpful for research, background checks, access to the Department of Motor Vehicles, ViCap and much more.
Since they were the Special Investigations Team and Public Relations, Corigan and Catherine needed to be seen on the street with top of the line technology. The department felt it looked more intimidating to ‘would-be’ criminals if they saw their officers carrying laptops like these all the time. The fact that only a few officers had limited use of computers of this caliber, Corigan always felt was discouraging internally.
The Information Technology team had offered Corigan and Catherine both laptops AND desktops for their use approved by purchasing but Corigan found the syncing up of the laptops every morning when he arrived at work to be too time consuming.
No one argued. It lowered their operations budget for other things.
Catherine booted up her computer and carefully typed in her password, connecting to the network.
Any delays or errors and her access would have been de-activated pending management re-approval. It could take hours, and access to information was a necessity in police work.
“Do you want me to scan the photos in?” Catherine asked.
“Not yet.” Corigan replied. “I just want to see the photos without flipping screen to screen for the moment. That and I don’t feel like ordering a projector from supplies and waiting for it to be set up.” He paused. “But if you want to scan it and email it to my home, I can view the slideshow later tonight.”
Catherine made a note to herself to send the email once she finished all her scanning.
“Let’s start with the obvious one.” Corigan gestured to the picture from the morning news of Beckham’s arrest. “Imagine, you’ve just killed someone. Is the first thought in your mind going to be, ’Man, I could sure use a coffee right now?’”
“Seriously. Is this some sort of new protocol?” Corigan chided. “I must have missed the commercial. “Kill someone? Then you need a ‘Double Double.’’”
“I’ve never read the required procedures for after a murder.” Catherine joked. “Plus, the guy just killed someone on camera and thanked the audience for tuning in. ‘Nuts’ might be his menu.”
Corigan frowned, his lower lip tilting on his left side in an almost satirical crease. A small dimple was made evident just under his left eye as a result of this facial change. He bounced the ball again off the edge of the board and back to his waiting hands.
Catherine pulled out her blue laser pen from her left desk drawer.
Corigan’s was red.
Corigan gestured to one of the garage photos. His red dot came to rest on the shot of Beckham walking up to the camera and smiling. His face was clearly evident and the malevolence in his eyes was unmistakable.
Catherine aimed her blue dot on the same photo and proclaimed, “Bingo.”
Corigan held his breath for a few seconds and turned to Catherine.
Their eyes locked. Silence.
“Yes?” Catherine asked innocently.
After a long pause, Corigan spoke up. “This is going to sound out there.”
“From you? Catherine mused, “Say it isn’t so?”
Catherine sounded like she taunting, but there was no sarcasm. She only did this as her little way to keep Corigan thinking. “Alright. Let’s say for the sake of argument, this is Beckham.”
Catherine nodded. “Not a big stretch.”
“Why do you think it’s Beckham?”
Catherine appeared sympathetic, giving Corigan a look you would give your six month old puppy after it wet on the new carpet. “You mean why can I accept its Beckham so easily?” She paused for dramatic effect. “Because it’s him staring back at us.”
“Try to ignore the photo or the video footage.”
“That’ll be hard.” Catherine replied. “Well, for us maybe, not the jury.”
Corigan re-positioned the red dot to the middle of Beckham’s face. His eyes were wide, his nose flaring slightly and his teeth, perfectly straight, grinning back at them maliciously, almost seeming to peer through to the lens and beyond, giving them a shiver.
The red light bounced along, past two others photos until coming to rest upon the furthest photo to the right, this one of Beckham in the interrogation room. Then right back to the garage one. “Look at Beckham’s collar.”
Catherine looked at it. “I don’t see anything.”
“Right there.” Corigan gestured to a dark spot on Beckham’s collar. “That’s blood on his shirt. It must have spattered when he was strangling Vails.”
Catherine squinted, moving her face closer, leaning over her laptop to see what Corigan was focusing on. She coughed into her hand with annoyance. “The photo is black and white Corigan. It could be syrup for all we know from a pancake breakfast he might have had that morning.”
Corigan was not convinced. “Did you not remember him this morning. His hands were properly placed, his actions carefully considered and his gestures were smooth and graceful. I doubt he could spill anything on his clothes without an earthquake shaking under him at the time with a score of 7.2 on the Richter Scale.”
Catherine raised and lowered her shoulders. She was neither agreeing nor disagreeing either which for Corigan, was comforting.
Corigan fumbled through some of the remaining photos on his desk. He slipped one out. It was another shot of Beckham in the garage, before the murder. Corigan circled a spot on the upper right hand of Beckham’s collar. No spot.
“And your point is?”
Corigan was on a roll. He pointed back to the wall-mounted shot of interrogation room 4B. His dot came to rest on the same spot, but no dark droplet was evident.
“So?” Catherine looked on with amusement, “All it proves is he can clean his shirt.”
“Blood? Fresh blood? On his shirt. Cleaned?” Corigan held the second garage photo up on the wall so it was side by side with the one from the interrogation room.
Corigan had to keep his one foot on the chair armrest and the other under his desk for leverage to prevent falling.
Both shots were very sharp in contrast. In both photos, Beckham was interviewed.
The only exception, the one in the garage had a tiny patch of black on the collar, no bigger than a dime, the other, did not.
Catherine shrugged. “So he changed clothes.”
“Into the same shirt. Exactly?” Corigan returned the sad look to Catherine at her reluctance to see the small flaws in the evidence.
Catherine added. “According to the security tapes in the elevator, Beckham went from the garage to his suite right after the murder. At least to his floor anyway as there are no cameras in the halls or in the suites. Internal security saw Beckham enter the elevator, rise to the fifteenth floor, exit and return. The angle is pretty bad in the elevator, so all you saw was the top of his head. You can’t see the shirt collar there either.”
Corigan gave her that, but it was strange.
Catherine had seen the footage and knew it well. “I watched the elevator ride. He got off, exited and returned to the elevator six minutes later. Plenty of time to change his shirt.”
Corigan twirled the pointer between his fingers, the red dot spinning round and round, floor, wall, ceiling, wall and repeat. “Unless he’s a total psychopath, his first inclination should not have been to change his shirt followed by a coffee. Especially after killing a guy in broad daylight and in front of a security camera?”
Catherine smiled. “I never said it was logical. He’s a murderer after all.”
“I’m not disputing the crime. I’m just curious about the killer. Had the man not seemed so confident, so convinced of his innocence in our meeting this morning before viewing the video, I would have signed off on it by now and shipped him down to cell block three for transition to Milton by lunch.” Corigan put his two fingers under his chin in contemplation. After a second, he continued, “But when Beckham saw that footage, seeing himself committing the murder, he seemed so utterly shocked, so completely taken aback, to the point of terrified, I thought he was going to confess right there.”
“Dykes would never have allowed it.”
Corigan knew that. Each reminder of Dykes had him imagining him under a bus, beneath a falling grand piano or tied to the train tracks in Toronto at rush hour. Maybe a little blend of all three. “Fine. Here is the kicker, why would he kill Vails?”
“Why?” Catherine asked hesitantly “Revenge? Vails trashed Beckham’s show. Thus, Beckham decided to trash Vails.”
Corigan started throwing the ball again. He looked at Catherine, his laser pen dangling from his fingers. “As a psych graduate, that is a rather bold and blanketing statement for justifying murder.”
“I never said the reason was justified. I am merely explaining a possibility. ”
Corigan looked down a recent personality file completed by investigations. “Beckham is rich. Not Bill Gates rich, but fairly well off.”
Catherine pointed her blue dot at the focused photo of Beckham in the interrogation room. “So. Rich people kill people. Remember Baron Claus Von Bulow. He killed his wife with insulin.” She paused. “Allegedly anyway.”
Corigan was not satisfied. “But he was rich enough to be living in the Queens Quay penthouse. Same building as Vails. The man could have hired someone to kill him.”
“Beckham was overtaken by rage, he needed to kill Vails for himself. Pure revenge and pure satisfaction.”
“Over a show that had an opening of just over thirty people? A show that was viewed by an audience of artistic fans, all who understand the poison of a critic’s pen and likely would not have listened to Vails if they already had their heart set on seeing the Beckham showcase.”
“Okay.” Catherine leaned back now. “Say it was not for revenge. Maybe Beckham had a psychotic break?” She picked up her coffee, took a deep pull on it, swallowing her mouthful in a satisfying gulp.
“What?” Corigan’s head snapped back and forth involuntarily. “Are you working for Dykes now?”
“No. I am trying to be logical.”
“So am I.” Corigan said. “So am I.” He stared into the face of the photo from the garage, Beckham’s leering face still staring out at him, his cold dead eyes appearing more menacing by the fact they had no colour. The retinas seemed to calmly dare the police to try and stop him. Corigan took a deep breath and finally stated, “Let’s say for the sake of argument, that is NOT Beckham.”
“You want me to believe, the man we caught on the video, with a clear picture of him, a picture any prosecutor would masturbate over, is NOT Beckham.”
“Fine.” Catherine tried to look supportive, but it was difficult. She was truly surprised by Corigan’s tenacity on this. “Let’s say he’s NOT Beckham. Then how did he get into the garage? All entrances are locked by an electronic key card system. Say it was some fantastically perfect double. He wasn’t a resident of this building, as others would have seen him by now and mentioned it. And based on their tight security, this is not a building one just scampers into. He would have needed a security card.”
“Unless someone let him in.”
“Why would they do that?” Catherine queried, her blue dot circling the second shot of Beckham in the garage, his silhouette showing him as sneaking up on Vails, his outstretched arms frozen in time, his hands a foot apart with what appeared to be a fine metallic filament, held tightly in his fingers. She would know for sure what it was once forensics faxed up the death certificate. “With the amount of money they paid for a place like this, I’m betting minimally six thousand a month, these people are not just going to let just anyone in.”
Corigan bounced his ball on the wall.
“Not anyone… Beckham.” Corigan corrected emphatically. He shuffled a few papers around his desk until he found the biography he was looking for. “Beckham has been a resident of this building for six years. People had to know who he was. If Beckham showed up, told someone who knew him he lost his keycard, they would definitely let him in.”
“But it wouldn’t be Beckham based on our scenario now.”
“True. But that’s the point.” Corigan concluded. “If you lived in a building with a guy you see all the time, even if only once a month, your eyes would tell you it was okay to let him in. He’s obviously is a resident. He just lost his keys. He will have it next time. The double would be preying on the resident’s trust.”
“So it’s a double now.”
“For this scenario.”
Catherine nodded acceptance. It was believable. “But it does not explain the murder itself. The Why? Even if you looked exactly like someone else, a perfect clone, why do this? Boredom?”
“Maybe this double wanted to take over Beckham’s life.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “Let’s say I accept this implausible scenario.” Catherine mused. “To what end. If this double wanted to take over Beckham’s’ life, would it not be easier to kill him? I mean, it sure sounds like a lot of effort to elaborately frame him for murder to get him out of the way. And more importantly, once the double puts into play the arrest, Beckham is convicted and sentenced to prison. The life he was hoping to take over would be lost. Ruined by the taint of murder. He could never introduce himself to the world as the new and improved Deryl Beckham without an immediate arrest. This would be followed by a new investigation and the old Beckham being vindicated. I can still hear the public’s cries now, ’It’s true. Beckham did have an evil twin. Get him.’”
Corigan could not argue that. Framing your discovered double for murder to take on his life seemed the most illogical course of action. You could not possess what you had already destroyed. This fact alone decimated the possibility of a double.
Doubles don’t just show up, frame you for a crime and disappear.
This was the conclusion of a madman.
Corigan’s theory of a double was fading and fast.
His instinct was wrong.
It was a very disconcerting feeling for Corigan.
Maybe Beckham’s acting skills were better that Corigan had first assessed? Maybe Beckham had pulled the wool over Corigan’s eyes? Maybe Beckham did have a psychotic break from reality, and in that fugue, murdered Vails, changed clothes and was totally oblivious to the whole thing?
Catherine could see her partner was having difficulties with his failing ’Gut.’ She banged her knuckles on the desk, hard, getting Corigan’s attention.
Corigan looked up.
“I said I would give you forty eight hours to investigate this and I meant it.” She offered, “But sand is in the hourglass Corigan. Pouring fast. If we really want to give it our all, our next logical step would be the Queen’s Quay Condominium Complex and its main garage, the murder site, followed by Beckham’s suite.” She hated to say it. “I say let’s have at it. If we have to waste our time, I would rather do it trying to prove you right than to sit here and make you wrong without even checking.”
Corigan’s eyebrows perked up. He could feel the gusts blowing back into his balloon. Corigan grabbed his lucky black marker pen, a gift from his sister, got up, and tossed his tennis ball into a box atop his filing cabinet.
Without words, he thanked Catherine with a nod.
She understood and accepted it graciously.
They were investigators after all. And friends.
Time for some professional friends to do some investigating.
Catherine checked her watch. “Forensics should be cleaning up by now. We’ll have the whole place to ourselves.”
Corigan opened the door to their office. “Either we find some more clues of our mysteriously disappearing double or more dirt to throw on Beckham’s grave. Either way, I’ll feel better for trying.”
Catherine smiled brightly, “Let’s get my shovel cause I’m guessing, we’re going to be doing some digging.”