The Nefarious Mr. X

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Chapter 8

8

Traffic on the short trips was horrendous. Drivers who normally should have been at their desk planning their rotten drives home at the end of the day in rush hour had obviously felt the need to take a lunch and impede as much as they could in the sixty minutes they had available to them.

Corigan had twice reached for his emergency beacon to place atop the car to clear the path, but before he could push it out the window, Catherine hammered his shoulder with a tight fisted punch, combined with a dirty look.

“Patience Obiwan. Patience. We’re less than ten blocks away.”

This only made him put it back under the dash with a scowl. Ten blocks in a downtown Toronto mish mash of bad driving and pushy pedestrians made Corigan think, ’Hey, aren’t we detectives? Isn’t that the reason they gave us a siren?’

Catherine never shared the sentiment.

Within forty five minutes, they arrived at their destination.

They pulled in, parked the grey suburban in the front visitor area, next to two Toronto police vehicles and one black and white Ontario Provincial Police cruiser. They walked up to the entrance.

Surprisingly, there were no reporters, camera crews, media vans anywhere in sight. Security had obviously been kept pretty tight around this facility.

Corigan gave a soft wolf whistle, genuinely impressed with his first impression of the property.

Catherine too was hard pressed to find anything not to like.

The Queens Quay Condominium Complex was a beautiful building, circular in shape, smooth at every angle and massive in size. It took up almost a full city block for its homeowners. Its structure dominated the shores and appeared to press outward, caressing the waterline. The building rose to a height of fifteen floors, surrounded in a dark blue glass, almost giving it the appearance from the outside of being a grand corporate office rather than a residential complex. Though it was not the tallest of the buildings in the area, it was certainly one of the most attractive, sitting on the bank of Lake Ontario, between several other buildings, across from the a newspaper’s main office, looking out onto a small private island airport in the distance.

This was truly the ’place to be.’

As Corigan and Catherine walked up the corridor from the front visitor lot to the entrance, they were greeted by a finely dressed doorman, Hispanic, with chiseled features and sharp brown eyes. Without speaking, he motioned for the officer’s identification. Upon seeing the ID’s, he pressed a remote control cupped in the palm of his hand, unlocking the front double bay glass doors. They opened inwards in a grand display into the front waiting area.

All so very efficient.

Corigan paused, taken aback by the view of the foyer.

Catherine took a quick intake of breath. “We’re in the wrong business.” She whispered over her shoulder to Corigan. She tried, but she could not keep the awe out of her voice.

“You can say that again.” Corigan replied, too thoroughly impressed by the image before him to be as sarcastic as usual.

The lobby itself was far more stunning than that of the outside. Gigantic seemed insufficient to use as an adjective. Two floors were obviously sacrificed to give this room its added height. Everything was Romanesque in design, characterized by semi-circular arches, round curvatures of stone and huge white pilasters which were placed strategically and encircling the entire room. The floor was a white Italian marble, inlayed with black threads of shade for each of the individual tiles. With the glass tinted walls surrounding them about the property, the entryway was saturated with a soft sunlight from every direction which seemed to open and invite visitors in every way imaginable.

It was hard not to feel welcome here.

A gold coloured carpet, three feet wide, perfectly positioned, ran from the front doors to the reception desk.

Corigan and Catherine followed it diligently.

Two seven foot high water fountains were positioned to both the left and the right of the desk, populated by intricately chiseled statues of Greek Gods; Hercules, Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite and several others Corigan did not recognize, all seemingly to be hanging out together in a majestic party, drinks in hand, grapes in the other, surrounded by foot deep azure pools beneath them. The soft sounds of slowly rushing water, soothing and relaxing to most, swirled continuously beneath as waterfalls seemingly to melt out of nowhere, trickling forth from crevices, joints or miniscule holes carved into the background around the immortal deities at play.

Corigan wanted to throw a penny into one of the pools and make a wish, but being how crystal clear the water was, not tainted by coins of any denomination, he knew the gesture would be unwelcome.

Upon entry into the reception area, which seemed more like a hotel lobby than a property management office, Corigan spotted two employees behind the desk.

One was an attractive blond female, hair cut mid neck, glowing with a professional aura about her. The other was a handsome male, tall in stature with black hair, dark Mediterranean skin and an almost empty look behind his persona. He seemed more like eye candy than a figure of authority.

The blond spotted them immediately. With a well-orchestrated movement, she grabbed a leather book off the counter, marched around the desk and directly toward Corigan and Catherine.

Corigan could tell right away, the staunch stride of her step, the speed in her movements, each foot rushing past the other yet not beyond twelve inches apart, she was not a happy camper.

She spoke quietly, with a slight British accent, southern Bristol was Corigan’s guess, with conviction and firmness, directed to both of them. “Detectives McAllistor and McPhail I presume?”

Corigan looked to Catherine in amusement. Since they had not announced to the other officer’s when they left of their planned destination, her having surmised their names was a surprise. “You would presume correctly. May I ask how you made this assumption?”

The pert little blond waved her hand dismissively. “I called your station seven times in the past hour about removing the two officers from the fifteenth floor. They advised they could do nothing about it. You two were handling the case. When I saw two officers arrive in the lobby on the security cameras a minute ago, one male and one female, I made an educated guess.”

“You have us at a disadvantage.” Catherine extended her hand outward. “You are?”

The woman did not respond. “The officers upstairs…”

Catherine cut her off. “Will remain where they are.” They were political and media specialists, not pushovers. “And unless you want me to call down several more to interview the entire building, let’s start again. You are?”

The woman’s face went pale. Guests of her building and of their caliber would find such an intrusion very unwelcome and if they were to discover it was her fault for trying to bully this officer, she would be history as well. She immediately answered, false warmth filling her face. “Lori. Lori King.”

Corigan moved past Lori and towards the elevators.

Catherine fell in stride with Lori as she turned to follow Corigan.

Lori continued from before, almost effortlessly where she left off. “The guests of the fifteenth floor are our most elite clientele.” She gestured to her booklet, not once offering to open the pages and provide their names. “They would find the presence of two officers continually wandering around their homes rather…”

Catherine interrupted Lori again, completing her statement. “Satisfying I hope. Knowing the police were on the case and trying to solve a rather spectacular murder.”

Lori did not look amused with that statement.

Corigan had already gathered the property managers, their public relations and marketing teams were already halfway to burying this incident and the bad press that came with it. This tiny mishap would be forgotten and distanced from their safe little community within hours. He would not be surprised if Mr. Beckham received an eviction notice within the next forty eight to seventy two hours.

“We can probably have the officers gone by this evening.” Corigan announced, deciding to be ‘good’ cop. “Depending if we have gotten all the evidence we can gather and we don’t have any…” Corigan paused to stress this part of his answer, “Stumbling blocks or barriers which would prevent us from doing our jobs.”

Lori smiled from ear to ear, obviously pleased with this prospect. “You’ll have none. I’m available to you all day and night…” She smiled seductively, but with no truth with her facial features. Just enough for whatever it took to get rid of them. “At any time.” She palmed a business card into Corigan’s open hand. “It has my office, home and… cell number. I’ll not leave you on hold for a second. You tell the answering service who you are, what you want and I’ll be available instantly.” She paused for dramatic effect. “We’d like to put this… disappointment behind us quickly…” Another fake smile combined with a sexual flitter of her eyelashes. “And quietly.”

Catherine smiled. “Excellent. We love quickly.” Ignoring the ‘quietly’ remark.

As they reached the elevator, Lori handed Catherine a gold embossed card with the emblem of the Queens Quay Condominium Complex engraved upon it. “This is your security access card. Visitor privileges only. Please return it before you leave.” She sounded superior as she was pointing this out. “I’m assuming you’ll remain together so only the one card is needed.” This was more a statement than a query. “The other officers upstairs have the second guest card. The third is with the OPP Officer.”

Corigan mused. “OPP Officer? Who would that be?”

Corigan did not feel threatened by the provincial police getting involved, as it was a high profile case, but they usually called first. “Officer Timothy Albom. He arrived before your forensics team did. He was in the garage when I last checked.”

Corigan would have to call their office later, if he did not bump into him before they left to trade notes and information. The OPP had some equipment his meager municipal government offices did not offer.

Lori turned to leave Corigan and Catherine to find their way to the Penthouse on their own. She paraded back to the front desk with a soft bounce.

As the elevator doors closed, Catherine flirted falsely with Corigan, speaking with a poorly done British accent, “Any time, day… or night.”

Corigan grinned. “What can I do? I’m irresistible.”

Corigan could hear the swish of air before impact as Catherine punched him again in the arm. That one was going to leave a mark.

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

On the fifteenth floor, the pathway was just as elegant as the front lobby. Royal blue carpet, nearly an inch thick with artfully painted walls adorned with Bateman prints, some appeared to be originals, lining the hall in an orderly fashion.

Corigan exited the elevator with Catherine behind pulling out a pad and pencil.

They walked up to the first officer at the door standing guard.

Officer Steve Lakos stood at attention firm shoulders and staunch muscle structure from many mornings at the gym. He had short curled hair and a pair of round spectacles one would find on the face of Sherlock Holmes during the most intensive of investigations. He smiled to the detectives as they arrived and stood to the side so they could enter.

Corigan quickly asked. “Find anything useful?”

Lakos responded. “The murder weapon.”

Corigan felt like he was punched in the stomach. He tried not to sound disappointed, or understood why he should feel that way, as everything else about this case was falling into perfect position. “Seriously?”

Lakos shrugged his shoulders, never once trying to guess why a detective asked questions they should already have the answer to.

Discovery of the murderer weapon in the prime suspect’s apartment struck him as being a paramount piece of information which should have already found its way to the lead personnel by now.

“Seriously.” Lakos responded, his tone not betraying his annoyance at the breakdown in the departmental communications. “Forensics found the garrote in the bathroom. It was soaking in the sink, which I should point out was filled with bleach.”

Corigan looked amazed. “Right out in the open?”

“Beckham was obviously trying to dissolve the tissue and blood from the wire before we caught him.” Catherine guessed. “Maybe Beckham needed it for later.” Catherine added, “Maybe for someone else on his shit-list perhaps. In for a penny, in for a pound.”

Lakos shook his head from left to right, obviously not sharing that conclusion. “If he was, it’s pretty illogical.’ Lakos held his hands up in front of him, a foot apart, pretending he was holding the murder weapon between his fists. “The garrote Beckham used was nothing more than a piano wire you could buy from any piano supply shop for fifteen dollars a foot. And it was strung up between two wooden dowels you could get from any renovation store for under a dollar. Free if you wait long enough for someone to cut themselves a piece and toss the rest. All cheap stuff which for someone who could afford to live here should have just thrown away. Saving this type of evidence is pretty amateur.”

Corigan had to agree. It was illogical. But then again, a lot was in his perspective.

Lakos put his hands back to his sides. He had offered his opinion and knew it was appreciated.

In Corigan’s mind, Lakos was a fabulous cop. Lakos’ attention to detail was sacrosanct and above reproach. If anyone could find the most microscopic of details, it was Officer Lakos. Corigan suspected Lakos was destined for Captain one day, if for no other reason than he was a pinup for perfectionism.

Catherine grinned to both of them. “Amateur yes, but the most important fact, it was in the apartment.”

Lakos gave her a wink. “Hey. Beckham was recorded killing the guy, coming up to the apartment right after and we found the murder weapon inside. Provides a clear time line to me. I never said it wasn’t true, just amateurish.” He described in a non-committing manner, but it was pretty clear by his tone he was sure of himself and in his depiction of the events.

Catherine tried not to say, ‘I told you so.’ to Corigan, but it sounded that way nonetheless. “According to the best criminal analysts, when someone commits what they think is a perfect murder, after they finish, they always discover at least twenty five mistakes in trying to cover it up.”

Corigan didn’t respond to that. He just had one thought, ’If Beckham was trying to cover it up, why not next time, do it OFF camera. That and throw away the murder weapon instead of bringing it back to the apartment.’ But he had more important clues to find. He knew, even on a hunch, disproving what was already proving to be the most perfect ‘case closed’ he had ever dealt with, was turning out to be next to impossible.

But an investigation is what you make it, so investigate is what he planned to do.

Corigan and Catherine entered.

Corigan quickly paused and turned back to Lakos. “Do we need to rubber glove it?” Meaning if fingerprints or leaving trace evidence was still an issue.

Lakos gave a toss of his head. “Nope. Forensics is long done. You can touch what you want now.”

“Thanks.” Corigan replied.

Upon entry, Corigan could tell right away, it was a writer’s living quarters. It just reeked of solitude.

The apartment was eccentric in appearance. Large and open with huge windows facing out onto the lake. No curtains as the deep tint in the outer glass prevented the outside from viewing in. The floors also had marble tiles, but they were black and grey in colour with only trace hints of white, unlike the lobby. The furniture was all boxy, black and leather clad with walnut wood for frames.

Within a moment, Corigan could see the room and its decorations were seemingly out of place. Not in the ‘wrong’ spots, but in odd positions, with the angles aimed irregularly. Some facing away from walls as opposed to towards it, others arced adversely with differential spacing that seemed to inspire an earthquake had quivered through causing everything to shift.

Corigan doubted forensics caused this. They tended to move things to examine a scene, but they always put it back the way they found it.

They never redecorated.

For strange locations, the 60” big screen plasma TV was facing away from the wall by a few degrees, giving it more space than needed. Huge shelves of books, screenplays, encyclopedias and other reference materials layered the cabinets, but they were assigned either away from the bookends or leaned in relation to the openings as opposed to closed back against the rear.

Catherine could see Corigan’s confusion. “It’s Feng Shui.”

Corigan turned to her. “Who?”

“Not who. What.” Catherine motioned to the apartment, “The décor. It appears our Mr. Beckham is a Feng Shui enthusiast. It’s an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics believed to use the laws of both Heaven and Earth to help one improve life by receiving positive Gi.”

“You lost me at Feng.”

Catherine moved deeper into the apartment. The kitchen to the left was beautifully and tastefully filled with stainless steel appliances, top of the line pots and pans and more tools than an automotive shop. “The Chinese believe if you decorate your home in the proper manner, it will allow positive energies to flow through it and grant you greater success. You have to, an absolute must, place furniture and decorations in a manner to allow energy to flow freely and in the proper direction.”

Examining the side table where the mail had arrived that morning, Corigan moved a few pens aside. Nothing. The analysts had already opened most of the envelopes, photographed it and replaced it. Black fingerprint powder still dusted the tops of the stamps.

“Feng Shui huh?” Corigan’s voice was layered with sarcasm. “Not much help huh? Unless Beckham had placed the couch wrong and all the negative powers leaked in and he gets convicted for a crime he did not commit.”

Catherine smiled. “Or he placed it right and the energy found you to believe him.”

Corigan smirked. “Evil protected by ignorance?”

“It does not protect evil.” Catherine added. “It just offers positive energy. Not defense. Feng Shui is just a means to ensure positive Karma flows your way. If you deserve it and YOU feel Beckham still deserves it, so it still flows. It’s just energy.”

Corigan was always pleased by how Catherine could find the best in a situation. She was a great partner and he never wanted to lose her. Before Corigan could respond, the room was filled by the sound of a person clearing her throat, intentionally trying to get their attention.

Corigan and Catherine turned to the rear of the apartment.

Looking up, standing near the back window was another officer. Officer Susan Padgam. She was a petite officer with brown hair, soft freckles, hazel eyes and a cute little smile. She was carrying a digital camera and a small bag of sealed evidence envelopes.

“Hi Cath.” She said with a smile. “You guys opted to come out huh?”

Catherine gestured to Corigan. “We’re just checking for ourselves.”

Susan took a quick shot of the dining room before they could move. Nothing was disturbed, but she took it anyway.

The station took photos of everything, before and after forensics was in.

Many a time, to take the focus off the criminal case, a suspect or their desperate lawyers would shout the force had stolen something, pocketed some treasure, money or so forth during an investigation, or worse, planted evidence to try and misdirect the jury. Most times it was futile, but some tried. So the police always had lots of photos to prove nothing but a search was done.

“I’m almost done here.” Susan replied, moving towards the couch where her duffel bag was resting. She dropped all the evidence bags in, red tape sealing them, to ensure the chain of custody remained firmly in place.

Corigan saw what appeared to be a face cloth stained with trace remnants of makeup in one of the bags. Not surprising considering Beckham was at his show’s opening the night previous. He probably hugged and kissed a lot of his cast at the production’s finale. He also saw a pair of socks and a disposable razor.

Susan spotted Corigan’s interest. “Tech and Forensics got most of the good stuff. I’m just grabbing the odds and ends.” She zipped up her bag. “We’ll have a full inventory on your desk by five o’clock.”

Corigan nodded his thanks. He had to admit, of what he saw so far, everything was in order. The job was well done, everything documented and inventoried. Nothing was left to chance.

Except Corigan’s feeling he was missing something.

Something only he felt and saw.

Which he knew, was not enough in a court of law.

Corigan gestured to Catherine. “Want to check the garage? This place seems pretty clean.”

Catherine gave the room one last look and agreed. Giving a quick thumbs up in Susan’s direction, “Sure. Finish what we started.”

Corigan and Catherine met Lakos at their return to the front door.

Lakos stood guard with enthusiasm and conviction. “Anything jump out at you?” He asked with sincerity.

Corigan turned to face him. “Did you get any statements from the other residents?”

“We offered to.” Lakos pointed to the other doors on the floor, “But the little blonde who came up with us seemed very reluctant to allow us to do that. She offered to have them all call in individually with information if they had it, but not for us to proactively seek it out.”

Corigan suspected as much. “As you leave, please let the manager know, her name is Lori by the way, that we would like to speak to the neighbours of Mr. Beckham as to what they heard or may have seen if they were home at the time of the murder.”

“Will do.”

Corigan braced himself for the next question, knowing it was likely to have a negative effect. But he wanted to ask it, needed to and the only ones to ask were the first responders on the scene. “Any witness’s claim to see anyone else, other than Beckham, committing the crime?”

Lakos raised his eyebrow. The question was certainly out of the ordinary with the evidence they had. “No?” Lakos replied, looking to Catherine for support. “And why would we solicit that type of information? A defense lawyer would love to have witnesses in court stating that the cops were asking specifically about another killer when the video showed there was only the one.”

Corigan responded a bit too quickly. “Just covering all my bases.” He knew his answer was weak. He could tell by Lakos’ look.

Catherine on the other hand was looking at Corigan with shock in her eyes. She understood why he was asking, because of his crazy theory of a doppelganger committing the murder, but this insane concept was between her and Corigan. That and she was working on dissuading Corigan of this notion, not have it shared with the rest of the world, allowing him to build an army of support to this wacked out conspiracy. And with the thread bare evidence they had, actually none if you exclude the prime suspect’s denials, the same suspect who was caught on video perpetrating the crime in the first place, she was not ready to make her support of Corigan’s idea public knowledge.

Corigan tried to ignore Catherine’s icy stare.

That and biggest fact Corigan had neglected to consider, Catherine knew, one in which she felt he blatantly missed when he asked the question, was if it was indeed this phantom double, which she doubted, who looked just like Beckham, of course everyone else would have still seen Beckham committing the crime as this is why the double could get away with it in the first place.

“Corigan?” Catherine queried her voice layered with controlled fury.

Corigan did not look her way knowing Catherine was feeling her faith in him was not wisely placed. “Fine.” Corigan let out a breath as though giving into some hidden confidence. “I have a bet down at the station between me and a lab rat.” Corigan did not offer the name knowing it could be pursued. “He’s a big movie and Sci-Fi channel buff, and he suggested the crime could have been staged, especially by an F/X master like Beckham as a publicity stunt.” Corigan smirked guiltily. “I thought the guy was nuts, so I wanted to make a fool of him when I got back. In case anyone else was around, maybe a camera man, another actor or something.”

Lakos grinned. He always understood the rivalry between the tech teams and the investigators. This sounded more like a real reason to ask such an odd question. He appeared visibly relieved.

Corigan could see Catherine was sedated as well by the manner he had directed the question into the realm of science fiction as opposed to their investigation.

Lakos, now suspecting it was a bet or a challenge, not a real investigative query, could offer a different viewpoint. Lakos was a huge fiction reader and ideas were his creative mainstay. “Well. We have a victim, a real one, and he is definitely dead. We also have a video which made it to the press within an hour of it happening. That and the gear that recorded it, even if expensive, is not all that advanced. It records, saves and sends. Nothing else. So I doubt there was any time, yet alone special effects, in which to play with the image or the recording. What we see is what occurred. And to be honest, if Beckham had been behind it, why frame himself? Publicity is only good when it has a positive spin or can be undone. This has very little possibility of that.”

Corigan sighed. “I have to agree.” He was not going to push this any further. He was acting suspicious enough as it is.

Corigan was able to successfully misdirect his ‘double’ idea to the back burner.

His theory remained a theory. And a weak one at that.

“Thanks.” Corigan replied.

Corigan was about to leave the apartment, Catherine still pissed at him, on their way to the garage, when something caught his attention.

Corigan felt the blood start to flow in his veins. Trickles of adrenaline releasing into his circulatory system. He felt energized.

Corigan stopped and knelt down, pointing to the lock on the door on Beckham’s apartment. “What about that?”

Lakos and Catherine looked, trying to see what Corigan saw.

Corigan gestured to the keyhole. The mechanism was a quality spring lock with deeply engraved carvings around the exterior, designs in the form of a fox for decoration, framing a double cylinder bolt.

Corigan was elated, but he knew he had to contain himself so as to not redraw attention back to his ‘crazy’ theory.

“The lock is scratched.” Corigan was not touching anything with his fingertips, but he did wave his middle finger around the edges. “There are metal shavings on the lock and a few on the door where they fell out. Like someone had deliberately opened this lock with a tool other than a key.”

Lakos knelt down and examined what Corigan was alluding to. “I don’t see anything special.” Lakos was still wearing rubber gloves so he rubbed his fingers gently along the outer edge of the door frame. “Again, if it was a publicity stunt,” Lakos was still under the assumption Corigan was trying to disprove the lab technician’s idea. “Why bother to do anything up here anyway, away from prying eyes or security cameras?”

Corigan did not offer an answer, as it was not going to fit the true direction of his question.

Corigan still wanted their opinion so he directed Catherine and Lakos to gaze closer to the apartment lock. Within seconds, if one looked closely enough, one could see there was thin filaments of brass on the keyhole.

It did appear that it might have been picked.

Corigan took on a superior look. “If Beckham came up here to change clothes, why did he need to break into his own apartment?”

Catherine pulled out her own keys and held them up to the door handle. Within seconds, she started shaking her hand uncontrollably. “Or he was nervous. Maybe because… he‘d just killed someone?” Stated with heavy sarcasm. “Beckham knows the police will be coming. He knows he has the murder weapon in his hot little hands. So, due to fear, topped with testosterone, he simply shook his key as he inserted it. Voilà, scratches and metal shavings.”

Corigan had to admit. It was plausible.

Not sure where Corigan was going with this, but Lakos added, “Or, if he had forgotten his keys, again AND he had a bloody weapon in his hand AND time was of the essence, maybe he had no choice but to break in to try and dispose of the evidence quickly.”

It too was plausible.

More plausible than a phantom double from out of nowhere, coming up here after killing someone, a stranger to the double and the victim, breaking in for no other reason than to plant evidence. And with the video downstairs having clearly recorded everything, breaking into the apartment to stage more evidence seemed to be, no pun intended, overkill.

Unless the double needed to do it, having to be absolutely certain the real Beckham was convicted of the crime.

But this made absolutely no sense? There appeared to be no monetary gain, no life to take over, no relationship to destroy, so no ‘why.’

It was more logical that Beckham had simply killed the critic out of revenge.

It fit perfectly. Pure and simple.

And with all the evidence they needed to back it all up, combined with motive and opportunity, made it easy for Corigan to lean back, forget this little idea of his, grab a coffee and wish Beckham a fond farewell for a life of prison.

Within a day, Corigan would have a new red file and all would be well.

But then again, there was still that little thing that dug at Corigan’s conscience.

That niggle of ‘it’s not quite right’ which bothered him, made him want to hold on.

Beckham had seemed so utterly shocked by the video this morning, it was almost impossible to deny there might be a shred of truth to his innocence.

A possibility, no matter how remote, that existed.

No one could be that good an actor Corigan surmised.

Even the fantastical characters of Penn, the dark personas of Bale or the thunderously real creations of Pitt still had that sliver of ‘acting.’ in the roles. People, fans or movie goers alike could always tell, when they saw their favourite celebrities at work, it was still just that, a character and a job.

Beckham’s response was not acting. He was genuinely horrified by what he had seen himself do.

Corigan had never seen anyone so totally overtaken by surprise in his entire career and it really bothered him.

And it was this one thing, this one tiny belief that prevented him from just washing his hands and sending Beckham up river.

Corigan could only hope someone would do the same for him one day, not that he would ever be in that position.

Corigan stood up.

Lakos had one more possibility to share, possibly to help Corigan feel better about his suspicions. “Also remember, I had the property manager open the apartment this morning. They likely had a copy of the key, rarely used, cut for just this purpose. The shavings are more likely from the new key than the lock.”

Catherine turned to Corigan. “It’s more likely.”

Corigan did not feel any better.

Susan, having listened from the apartment, came out with a smile and nodded to Corigan. “Let me take a quick swab before I go. I can confirm right away if the shavings are from the lock, a new key or a tool used to penetrate and influence the tumblers.”

Corigan knew Susan had a small crush on him. He hated to think she was doing it for that purpose. However he knew, she had more professionalism than that.

Susan withdrew a cotton swab, ran it over the metal bits and gently placed it into a sealed plastic bottle for the lab. “If it means something to Corigan, and it takes a few minutes to check, what can it hurt?” She dropped it into her bag and left.

Corigan had to admit, Lakos theory of a manager’s duplicate key, one having been cut years ago, had more likelihood of being the source of the shavings than a mysterious break-in without a theft, on the same morning of the murder, which all seemed too coincidental.

Corigan and Catherine said their goodbyes and left the apartment, heading in the direction of the elevator.

They still had a garage to search before giving up entirely.

Corigan had one final thought as he pressed the down button on the panel.

A thought he kept solely to himself.

If there was a phantom double out there of Beckham, a murderer who went out of his way to plant more evidence than was necessary because of some deep seated need to seal the deal against Beckham. Then what would this phantom double think when he discovered one officer was preventing this highly desired conviction from taking place?

And more importantly, how far would he go to finish the job he started?

Corigan shivered thinking about it.

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