The garage did not have the same feel as the upper areas, from the elegant lobby to the attractive hallway spreads, from the richly decorated condominium suites to the oak paneling in the elevators inlaid with brass banisters and mirror covered ceilings, riding up and down like a limousine that went from lobby to penthouses and back again.
Nope. The garage was just that, a drab concrete environment where you parked your gas guzzler and nothing more.
Even though the building was estimated to be seven years old, the lines painted on the asphalt to guide your automobile were bright yellow with a hint of glaze. Obviously redone in the last thirty days.
The area was centrally heated, but not by much. The lower sections felt cold and dry, even by Canadian standards.
Catherine wrapped her arms around her waist, pulling her jacket tight, as cold permeated through her.
As the detectives examined, one thing was very evident, the garage was never empty.
Empty for people maybe, but there were cars of every variety.
From a classic red and white 1955 hardtop, defined by beautiful fine lines and round edges to a maroon and modern import laced by small scratches on the left panel and a chip missing from the brake light. There were several large SUV’s, two luxury sedans, four European sports cars, two very new and two fairly worn in, three different styles of motorbikes and a black and neon yellow bicycle.
P-1 was the first parking area, which appeared to be designed more for homeowners or those who preferred to drive themselves.
P-2 reached via a long circular ramp leading down and around, was the valet parking area, larger in size but busier. There was an auto detailing section and a car wash station with huge steel drainage grates, long high-powered foam brushes and a central vacuum cleaner for cleaning the vehicles left in the care of the staff.
There were no visitor spots in the underground garages whatsoever.
Like the building upstairs, one did not enter this building without security or being helped by someone with access, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Corigian was going on the premise, unintentionally.
There was also no storage area, no fence lined section for gardening equipment, a building maintenance supply shed or even a trunk with a few tools if needed.
Everything was brought in by contractors, on twenty four hour call, to fix, enhance or update.
The building and its management wanted it to appear self-sustaining.
And as Corigan had deduced, there were no doors specifically designated for workers. So there was no way to enter the garage except by security or guest keys provided by management.
And as the locks were electronic, with ultra-security encryption, it was something not easily fabricated to bypass. Someone had access, or was given it.
Corigan and Catherine had already explored most of the lower garage and the only thing they discovered was more cars, a padlock key, a handful of pennies and a road map for Indiana, USA.
They did find two valets, both oriental gentlemen who spoke very little English but could grunt out the phrases, “We saw nothing.” “We are very busy.” And “Go away.” The men offered no clues, insight or information to move their case further forward, least of all, in another direction.
Forensics had marked off the place where the killing had occurred. It was not necessary as with all the foot treads, chalk dust, blood splatter from the victim, with directionality evident, disturbed dirt from the scuffle, and the video clip, the detectives knew exactly where to go.
Corigan easily found the security camera which had recorded the entire event. It was bolted to the ceiling twenty metres from the kill zone.
It was unmoved, facing directly to the murder scene, its signal wire drilled into the wall and disappearing off to its destination, the security office upstairs. The camera appeared relatively new in appearance, but it was probably just well maintained. As noted by Lakos, it was a functional camera, but not a very advanced one. The central lens was crystal clear and sparkled under the fluorescent lighting installed above them.
Turning around, Corigan wandered back to Catherine and stood in the same spot as the murder victim, avoiding the stain on the cement. He looked left, then right and all around.
Catherine was also examining the area, but more on the ground for anything which could not be picked up, scraped or taken into evidence. Nothing.
Corigan spoke first. “Why here?”
“Why what here?” Catherine turned to him.
“Why kill Vails here?”
Catherine checked the floor and the surrounding area. “Is there a designated spot to kill someone in here?”
“Ha Ha.” Corigan knelt down, examining the blood stain. It was small, circular and smeared, revealing small hints of cotton batten threads from the CSI officers who took the samples that morning. “I can’t figure why it was done so brazenly right here and yet, denied so vehemently in our interrogation this morning. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“Which is why you and I don’t kill for a living and these monsters do.” She knelt down beside him. “Sense is no longer a word in their vocabulary.”
Both detectives stood up.
Corigan had reached into his pocket and pulled out a thin black marker. He placed the rear end between his teeth. Corigan was not a smoker, nor an ex-smoker, or a man who wanted to smoke. He tended to put pens, pencils or markers in his mouth. It seemed to calm his nerves. His mother told him once, he was orally fixated as a child, either by having a thumb in his mouth, toys in this teeth or anything he could find to fit between those lips to make him relax. After a while, his mother stopped trying to break the habit. It was ingrained.
“But of all the places… All the spots he could have chosen…” Corigan stepped forward and pointed. “The stairwell, the rear of the building, anywhere in here was a far superior spot to killing someone than right smack dab in the middle of the garage.”
“It was early morning. Maybe he thought to avoid anyone seeing him.” Catherine chided herself the moment the statement left her lips.
Corigan on the other hand took the opening, gesturing to the cameras bolted about the garage, six in total, strategically placed for maximum coverage. “Not the most brilliant reason. A video recording is far superior in court than an eyewitness.”
“Agreed.” Catherine shrugged, “And we have one.”
Corigan needed to move. He started pacing about the garage, in and around large concrete foundation columns, in between several vehicles, being careful not to nudge them, suspecting many of them probably had loud anti-theft devices or flashing headlight responses for would-be car thieves. He kicked two pop cans out of his way, freshly drank, which would likely be picked up by the staff, and stepping over two predominately high speed bumps.
Three times Corigan slipped in and out of shadows, mimicking the action of a man reaching out and grabbing someone and pulling them out of sight. Then he would remain in the shadows, hidden for several seconds to see if he could give the illusion of disappearing.
Corigan then stopped and moved back out and towards Catherine, hands in his pockets, pen in his mouth and a bead of sweat on his brow.
Catherine watched Corigan with amusement. She always found his ingenious method of investigation fun and easy to be a part of. Made for a quicker work day and not quite so draining as paper pushing or moving furniture. “What have you determined so far Sherlock?”
“Nothing conclusive.” Corigan was now standing next to Catherine. “But I do plan to ask the security office upstairs to email a clip of the last hour down here. I’m betting from every position I hid in, it would have covered me perfectly to snatch and murder someone.”
Catherine moved directly towards the primary camera, the one that caught the murder. “Even if you show all the blind spots, it belies the point as Beckham did the deed for the camera to see. This is evidenced by the fact he sauntered up to this very camera for his introduction to the world. And quite arrogantly I might point out.”
Corigan approached from behind, again staring directly into the camera. “I admit, when we first met Beckham this morning, he did show off a high handed feel of his superiority, but nothing in comparison to the way he acted in the presence of this camera after the murder. Like two different personalities.”
“Ever see the movie ‘Raising Cain’?” Catherine asked.
“Yes.” Corigan responded with less enthusiasm.
Raising Cain was a classic Lithgow movie directed by Brian De Palma where the protagonist and the antagonist are one and the same person, suffering from a dissociative identity disorder, a psychiatric condition that describes a single person who displays multiple distinct identities or personalities, each with their own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the world. Usually involving two personalities, or more, who routinely take control of the individual’s behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness.
Corigan was hoping old movie themes were not the standard by which they were now comparing crime scenes. “It was a good movie, but I doubt it’s relevant to the situation here.”
“We’ll see.” Catherine reached up for the camera and immediately determined it was completely out of her capacity to grab.
Corigan tried as well. His fingertips just grazed it, but not enough to move it. He gently stepped on the bumper of a nearby car, luckily no car alarm, and tried to grab at the wires. He could touch them, but nothing more. If he leaped, he could definitely pull the camera down, but that would accomplish nothing since the video feed was not saved on the device itself. It was uploaded to security. So tampering with the camera was pointless.
From both vantage points, neither Corigan nor Catherine could see any sabotage to the camera. There was no internal feed ports for connecting another video device and uploading a clip of an orchestrated crime. There was no proof of any interference whatsoever.
Whatever was recorded here this morning was seen by this camera and no other.
Another nail in Beckham’s coffin.
Catching a movement at the corner of his eye, a figure manifested itself out of the shadows and alongside a large yellow pick-up truck.
Corigan’s hand gripped his weapon under his shoulder.
Catherine gently rested her hand on her holster as well, a Smith and Wesson model 4000 with a de-cocking lever, six groove rifling and an eleven round magazine capacity.
Within seconds, Corigan released his grip and pointed towards the rear of the garage, near the elevators leading to the upstairs.
It was the OPP officer they heard about from reception. He was standing at the stairwell, examining the emergency exit. He was opening and closing the security door to analyze how easy it was to open from the outside.
Corigan put his two fingers to his lips and blew, in hopes of attracting the officer’s attention. The whistle echoed throughout the garage.
The officer looked up from his work and nodded in their direction. He went back to his writing.
‘Sorry to disturb you princess.’ Corigan sarcastically thought to himself. The man barely registered their presence let alone stopped what he was doing to look at them.
Increasing their pace, out of courtesy of the officer’s time, Corigan and Catherine strode quickly to his position.
“Good afternoon.” Corigan came to a stop, extending his hand in a friendly gesture. “Officer Albom I believe?”
Corigan and Catherine opened their wallets to show their identification, holding them high enough for the officer to see them, read them and verify who they were.
Albom was a tall officer, six foot two in height and weighing a good two hundred and twenty five pounds. He appeared to be forty five years old, possibly younger, with more experience in his features than desired. He looked to exercise regularly, but not with the steady conviction of a dedicated body builder. One could see some looseness in his physique at the folds of his uniform. He had dark black hair with slivers of grey, pale white skin with postmarks from a severe early case of teen acne, some deeply scarred, never having healed. The most predominant feature, his eyes, were a silky grey in shade.
Eyes which Catherine found quite attractive.
Not in Corigan’s estimate. The first visual impression he got, noticing it almost right away, was Officer Albom was wearing cover-up to hide his acne. And not very successfully Corigan thought to himself. It appeared to almost accentuate the acne as opposed to hiding it. He wanted to suggest Albom get a new cream to cover his skin, but figured that would be rude way to start their conversation.
Suddenly, Corigan got a small chill on his spine. A creepy crawly feeling like a dozen spiders had crawled up and down his body and with no way to brush them off.
Corigan turned his head around, because for a second, a fleeting moment, he felt they were being watched. He shook it off and turned back to Albom.
Albom was wearing rubber gloves and still holding both his notepad and a black pen. He looked down at Corigan’s extended hand and up to his face.
Corigan, feeling slightly awkward, pulled his hand back as he got the sensation that there was a less than a welcoming aura emanating from this officer.
Catherine, trying to alleviate the tension, popped the next question. “Aren’t the OPP supposed to call before they drop in on an investigation?” She asked animatedly.
Albom turned to her, his face giving off the same annoyance he gave to Corigan when he provided his hand in greeting. It was the look a professor would give when criticizing a student for interrupting his class. Albom wrote something quick in his book, his eyes not leaving Catherine’s. “You would be wrong.”
No follow up statement.
Albom just said ‘she was wrong’ and left it at that.
Catherine was not one to leave an answer so rudely given like that. Her animation was now gone. She queried again, this time with more ice in her voice. “I think you misunderstood. I meant to say, you should call first instead of intruding on an active crime scene without an official invitation. Did you get one from myself or Corigan?” She turned to Corigan. “Did we forget we invited the OPP into our investigation?”
Corigan had his one hand on his hip. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t forget. But maybe I forgot what I should have remembered when I forgot to remember it?”
Catherine, too annoyed with the OPP officer to be amused by Corigan’s retort, asked again, being firm and clear. “So, if no invitation by us… Did you decide while out driving for a coffee that you needed to invade our crime scene?” Catherine crossed her arms over one another. “When I get back to OUR station, I’ll make sure to call YOURS so one of your superiors can help re-integrate you on jurisdictional protocol.”
The pissing match was on.
Albom flipped his notepad closed and turned to face the two detectives, zipping up his leather jacket at the same time. “I was here for another reason. One I’m not at liberty to discuss. The fact your little investigation is going on at the same time is your problem. Not mine.”
Catherine and Corigan felt embarrassed. They never thought to presume Albom was here on another matter.
“Now if you two can go back to whatever bike theft or paint scratching crime you’re looking into, us real officers can do our job.” Albom spoke with such venom, it was hard to believe they were on the same side. “I don’t have the time to offer training on how to conduct an investigation.”
Corigan was not impressed with this officer in any way, from his rude attitude to his arrogant demeanor. A lot of arrogance was going around today. He threw in. “That does not explain why you went upstairs to the fifteenth floor before our forensics team arrived?”
Corigan was bluffing. Front desk had not mentioned Albom going to the fifteenth floor. Only that Albom had arrived before Corigan’s team did, been provided a security card and that the reception manager had last seen Albom in the garage.
Albom frowned for a brief second, considering his response. He smiled as he replied, “That’s odd. I never went upstairs. You might want to check with security. When I arrived, I came straight down to the garage to do my investigation and nothing else. “
Corigan couldn’t push the lie any further. “I’ll do just that.”
“I may have taken a piss or two.” Albom snidely threw in, “So if you need a sample, just give me one of your coffee cups.”
Both Corigan and Catherine reserved their emotions not to lash out and belt the man.
Corigan carefully weighed one final thought to himself. Unless of course, you had gone upstairs and been stealthy enough to do it without being spotted on camera. But that doesn’t mean the security card you have didn’t leave an electronic trail of which doors you opened and when.
Corigan would have security office give him a copy of the key card log before he left.
The only difficulty Corigan felt in the suggestion that the OPP officer was somehow involved, as an accomplice as it were, is it would not explain his piss poor attitude. Killers rarely visit their crime scenes, except by compulsion. They also did not try to stand out by being rude to the investigating detectives. Any good cop knows the best suspects are the ones who stay too long, act too interested or appear out of place.
This officer gave of no feeling of having a compulsive disorder of any kind nor if he cared in the least that he was remembered. By being this rude, he wanted to be noticed. This was not the act of a man trying to hide a crime.
That and if this OPP officer was involved, he would have removed evidence, not planted it. It was illogical.
A well trained officer would know how to hide a crime better than the standard citizen so it too seemed to remove Albom as a suspect by his training and experience alone.
Corigan motioned for Catherine to leave, her eyes still filled with rage.
“And to think,” Catherine interjected, “I once took the OPP entrance exam to join your force.”
Albom sneered. “Don’t feel bad. A lot of people fail when they first try.”
Catherine looked like she had been slapped. She was genuinely insulted. Had it been any other time, she would have been impressed with the speed of his response, but the pure distain in his reply only added acid to the already volatile situation. “No. I figured the OPP had lowered their standards too much.”
Corigan then smelled something.
Something out of place, but recognizable.
A drink Corigan kept for poker games. His friends loved it, from its amber colour to its mash taste. Something he would pour on ice to losing players to increase braver bets and speed up the game. A good stiff whiskey made even the most reserved players more daring with their hands and foolhardy with their bluffs. A good poker game could go on for hours if a chilled drink did not bring the game to conclusion. They did have lives outside of poker to get to.
Very light, but definitely in the air.
Corigan quickly deduced the source.
Albom. He had a slight red rim on his eyes and a flush to his cheeks. The pink blossom was smeared with thin layers of poor cover up, not so much as advertising he was drunk, but definitely happy.
This was something Corigan would have to look into.
Corigan leaned forward, glaring right into Albom’s eyes, smelling his liquor laced breath, making sure Albom’s understood his attitude was not welcome here. “Catherine was surprised by how immature the instructors were. She had to assume, the students were no better.” Corigan smiled from ear to ear. “At least in meeting you, she has the satisfaction in proving it true.” Corigan kept his gaze locked on Albom.
Albom appeared for a second, only a moment, to be losing control. But equally as quick, he reined it in.
“Good-bye Detectives.” Albom pocketed his notebook, put on his sunglasses, not needed in this indoor facility and turned away without a word. He entered the stairwell and slammed the door behind him.
After a few seconds of silence, Corigan was the first to speak. “No good-bye kiss?”
Obviously Albom was returning to the lobby to leave.
“Good riddance” Catherine added.
Corigan and Catherine stood there, a bit put off by his abrupt departure.
Albom obviously wanted his exit to be remembered.
It worked. Albom’s presence was not going to be forgotten.
Corigan turned to Catherine. “I think it’s about time we leave. We can check the evidence reports when they’re delivered. Maybe we’ll get some new leads.”
Catherine turned to him. “Remember Corigan. Forty-eight hours and we hand this off. I’ve seen all the evidence I need, but I promised you, and I will follow through on that promise.”
Corigan gave her a wink. “That’s why I love you.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. “At least we’ll get some more professionalism at our station.”
“Corigan glared at the closed stairwell door. “Maybe. But I won’t brush this under the rug.” They walked to the elevators. “I’ve every intention of checking up on our Mr. Albom and why he was here today.”
As Catherine turned away, she casually gestured to the closed door on the stairwell with her middle finger, enough to make her feel better.
She would have normally taken the stairs, but felt with the stink of Albom in it, she was more than justified to take the unnecessary elevator ride.
They boarded the elevator and hit ‘Lobby.’
Corigan suspected as they were leaving, whatever had brought this case to the OPP’s attention, if it was indeed on their radar, would have Albom back in their lives in a very short time.
But next time, they will be better prepared to deal with the surly attitude that came with him.
As for the booze, it was a nice ace to be holding in case Albom felt like playing his hand as roughly as he did.
Corigan’s best Poker motto came to mind. “Know your opponents. Spot their tells and you’ll bluff them out of every game.”
And now, the game was afoot.