Once Inspector Warszawa left Dan called the Canada Cold number and after a menu of numbers for other shows the channel produced, left his contact information as well as a brief message, as requested. He skipped his usual Classic Carafe lunch and biked down to the Esplanade to visit his mother.
After his father had died and the estate had been settled she had purchased a small condo in one of the complexes there. Compact and easy to maintain.
“Daniel, this is such a pleasant surprise.” She poured him a cup of tea. “If I had known you were coming I wouldn’t have let you catch me in these rags.” She brushed imaginary dust off the shoulders of her pale blue smock.
They sat a table in front of the window that overlooked the inner courtyard.
“This isn’t Sunday is it?” She joked. “I’m not getting that senile that fast am I.”
“No. I found something in the archives that I had to ask you about.” Dan took the file with the photos out of his shoulder bag. “Do you remember these?”
He had brought the pictures of him and Timmy.
“Why, no dear I don’t.” She put on her glasses to look closer at them. “Is that the … why, yes it is, it’s the Wickham, isn’t it? In Stellarton. Of all the places we stayed summers that was my favorite. Maybe because it was where your Dad and I went for our honeymoon. Romanic Stellerton.”
“Right. We stayed there when he did his summer work.”
“You liked it there. Was this one of your little friends?”
“Yes. That’s Timmy Dunlop.”
“Whatever be … came of him.” she stopped. “Oh God!” she covered her mouth with her hand.
“You remember him. Timmy was one of the children that disappeared. That was about the time we left, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know. It was so long ago. So long. Why bring that up again?”
“I didn’t know about this, till I found out this weekend. It was on TV. Timmy was my best friend. Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“I know how you missed him when we moved. But it couldn’t be helped.”
“What couldn’t be helped? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“Dad tried but there seemed no logical way to explain it. No one understood what had happened. We didn’t want to alarm you. And by the time you were old enough to maybe understand, it seemed pointless to say anything anyway. Life went on. Right?”
“This was why we moved so abruptly?” Dan tried not to sound accusatory. He found it hard to contain his anger at having this held back from him.
“We had been planning the move since Christmas. The missing children changed the timeline. When Timmy was … whatever happened, it was too close to us. With everything else that was happening I put my foot down and decided it was time to go.”
“I understand all that Mom but why never tell me.” He teared up. “Timmy was … a friend … now I have to … bury him somehow.”
Dan arrived back the store a little after two. His mother didn’t have a lot to tell him and what she did tell him only made things murkier. It was clear that something beside the missing children had sparked their move to Toronto. But she claimed not to remember exactly what.
“Someone was by to see you, bossman.” Sandy handed him an embossed business card.
It said. ‘Cyrtys Baxter – Quintex Canada – Executive Producer’ with a phone number, fax number, email address and web site printed on the back. As the light played on it, a man’s face appeared momentarily.
“It’s pronounced Curtis.” Sandy explained. “He says he’s from Canada Cold.”
“W.T.F?” Dan tried to steady the reflection on the card to see the face more clearly.
“Amazing.” Ushio took the card from him. “It’s that new Laser 3-D printing I have been reading about. I have never seen anything like it.”
“Did he say what he wanted?” Dan asked taking the card back.
“Nope. Just that he was returning your call in person.”
“Right. I called them about the show I saw last night.” He quickly told them about the missing children and the photo of him and Timmy Dunlop.
“You sure it wasn’t you that disappeared.” Ushio joked. “You do vanish from here often enough.”
Ushio was ribbing about the hours he and Sandy often spent in the top floor lab developing software. It was with her help that he had worked out the bugs in the program that helps with the image work for the porn case.
“Did he say he’d be back?” He looked at the card as if it would tell him. It was a little thicker than the usual card and as he squeezed the image sort of hovered over it. “Wild.”
“He asked you call the number on the card when …”
Dan’s cell phone rang.
Dan was a bit stunned. He stared at the card and then his phone.
“Hello Dan? I’m at Carafe. I’ll be right there.” The line went dead. A few minutes later Cyrtys came into the store.
Dan wasn’t sure what to expect when the tall, heavy set black man came over to shake his hand.
His voice was deep, slow and slightly insinuating.
“Pleased to meet you.”
“How did you know I was back? Some chip in your card?”
“Yes – it is set off by your fillings.” He laughed. “Just kidding. I saw you drive your bike into the back lane. Gave you a few minutes to get in. No magic, really.”
“Crap.” Ushio said. “I was hoping your biz card has some sort of GPS built into it.”
“Canada Cold got your call and I figured I’d answer it in person.”
“We can go up to my office.” Dan lead him to the stairs to the second floor. “I didn’t expect such a prompt response.”
“You weren’t too far from our offices.” Cyrtys follow him up the stairs. “I also knew who you were and figured why not follow up directly.”
“Who I was?” Dan sat behind his desk.
“You work with the RCMP sometimes. You got mentioned in that article about busting the child porn syndicate.”
“Syndicate might be pushing it some. Network is more like it. The cells are everywhere, we just pulled out a few strands of the web, as it were.”
“Don’t be so modest.” Cyrtys sat in the chair in front of the desk. “Nice set up you’ve got here.”
He found himself staring at Cyrtys’s face. There was something familiar about him.
“You had that look. I haven’t seen it for a while. That look of ‘who are you?’ That’s what you were wondering, right?”
“Yeah. Mix-a-Mud? From The Slime Ball Bunch?”
“Got on the first try. That was me. I was a lot younger and … thinner then.”
The Slime Ball Bunch was a kids after school show where contestants would get slimed with various colors of goo if they got a wrong answer.
“I always wanted to be on that show.”
“I’m not surprised. But it was a fucking horror show to produce. Can you imagine what it took to keep the studio clean. Young boys and girls in shower rooms with chaperons. The sexual tension was as slimy as the slime.”
“Wow. I never thought of that. But I remember you now. Man, I wanted to be a DJ and spin records the way you did.”
“Pre-recorded you know. I just twiddled.” Cyrtys mimed fiddling with records on two turntables. “But you can’t imagine the number of girls who thought I was totally hot. It was as if they hadn’t seen a cute black boy before.”
“Not only girls.” Dan said.
“You thought I was totally hot?” Cyrtys laughed. “It was usually much older guys who made that known to me. That’s one of the reasons I stepped from in front of the camera and to behind the scenes.”
“A natural enough progression.”
“What more can you tell me?” Cyrtys asked. “About the tip you called in.”
Dan took the folder of photos out from his file drawer. He put a couple of them on the desk.
“As I said in my message I’m the other boy in the picture you used on the show. My Dad took these. It must have been taken shortly before Timmy Dunlop was taken.”
“This episode has generated more interest than any other in the series. Lost children are like cute kitten pictures. The public can’t seem to get enough of them. There have been more calls in the first forty-eight hours than any of the other cases.” He didn’t take his eyes off Daniel as he spoke.
“I don’t know if I’d equate missing children with cute kittens.”
“Sorry. I guess that did sound a little … cold.” Cyrtys grinned. “I’m a business person after all.”
“People’s misery isn’t a business proposition, Mr. Baxter. I don’t think I have anything more to say to you.”
Dan got up and went to his office door.
“Please.” Cyrtys stood. “I didn’t mean to seem unfeeling.”
In the close space of the office Dan found it hard to breath with Cyrtys cologne wrapping itself around everything. He noticed it when Cyrtys first came in but in the store it wasn’t as pervasive.
“I do have things to do.”
“I realize that. You have another RCMP case, don’t you?”
“I’m never at liberty to discuss such matters. But I do have a business to run here.”
Cyrtys stepped back a few feet.
“What are you looking at?” Dan asked.
“You’ve been studying me since we met.”
“Yes. You have an appealing quality about you. Sort of sexy but serious.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Sorry. We’re looking to replace John Kilpatrick. Actually he wants to leave the show. Not enough money.”
“Me as the host of Canada Cold?”
“Yeah. He only got the gig because he played that crusading coroner for a couple seasons. You have real credentials. You’re not some actor. The real deal.”
“I’m confused. You aren’t looking for more on that case?”
“No. Not my department. I passed that information on to Vicki. She’s our researcher. She’ll be calling you later in the week. Like I said we got so many calls from this one show, nearly as many as all the other episodes combined. Good thing, as the studio wasn’t happy with the numbers.. They’re the ones who don’t care about the victims, not me.” Cyrtys sighed deeply.
“I glanced over the list of callers and saw your name there. It rang a bell. I guess from that article in the paper. I did a quick google on you to confirm you were who I thought you were. Not many pictures of you online though.”
“Would you be interested in testing for the studio?”
“I … Look this isn’t what I was expecting. I called about this case not to get an audition.”
“At least say you’ll think about it. You single?” He picked up a photo on the desk of Dan and Sanjay by the pool in Palm Springs.
“Not that it’s relevant, but no I’m not single. Yes, that is my partner in the picture. Which means I am gay.” Dan realized he was talking louder than usual.
“Yes, I picked that up when you admitted to finding me totally hot. It’s all good Dan. All good. I’m not bothered, if I was, it would be like the pot calling the kettle girlfriend.”
Dan was caught off guard as Cyrtys slipped into a totally diva delivery by the end of what he was saying. He laughed.
“That’s more like it.” Cyrtys smiled. “Think about the offer. We’ll be shooting the next season soon. From the response to this episode I think we’ll do a follow up to these missing children. Having someone in one of the photos as host would make it an easy sell to Quintet. The full package.”
He shook Dan’s hand and bounded down the stairs.
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