Dan walked down to the shop. Sandy and Ushio were busy with customers. Since opening the new mega-store at the FairVista Mall two years ago, business at this original location had changed considerably. Most of the advertising they were doing was now directing shoppers to the mega. This old location was now specializing in equipment repair and flash sales of soon to be discontinued camera equipment.
Dan went to the service counter to see if there were any new photo restorations for him to look over. It was the work he had done on photo restorations that lead him back to his RCMP life. The RCMP had brought in some security camera footage that needed ‘clarification.’ Pixel by pixel he had painstakingly crafted a more precise image for them. That lead him and Sandy developing a program to do just that – sharpen or delete till the image was clear.
Usually the restorations were of old wedding photos, pictures that had gotten tossed in the wash, bleached on purpose in revenge, or merely faded by time. He enjoyed the focus the work took to do successfully.
“Mr. James?” a woman in her mid-forties came up to the counter.
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“I certainly hope so.” She leaned forward and dropped her voice. “I need someone followed.”
“Your husband?” he asked.
“Yes,” she hissed back. Her hand darted from her beaded chocker to her bracelets as she talked.
“I’m sorry, we don’t don’t handle that sort of case.”
This wasn’t the first time someone had come in looking for a detective agency. James did specialize in various surveillance equipment but they didn’t do the actual surveillance themselves.
“I see.” She glared, twisting her left bracelet sharply. “Not enough money in it for you.”
“No, that’s not it not all. We only provide equipment not manpower.”
“You don’t think I’m worth the manpower or are you one of those men who think it’s okay for a husband to fool around, to lie and take advantage of women.”
“That’s not the point Ma’am.” He looked to Sandy or Ushio for some sort of backup.
“Not to you, but it is to me. So you refuse to help me. I’ll report you to the human rights commission. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the same quality of service you’d gave a man.” She put her purse on the counter and began rooting through it.
“It has nothing to do with rights. It is not the kind of work we do. We deal with equipment, with photographic equipment.” He wasn’t sure how to make himself any clearer.
“That’s what I want.” She pulled her phone out of her purse, turned it on and turned it for Dan to see. “You take pictures of him, catch him at his little game, get me the proof.”
“We can provide cameras, even install them for you.”
“Install them! If I knew where he was meeting this women I wouldn’t need you to follow him to take pictures. He’s found out how to confused GPS you know.”
“Ma’am we don’t follow people.”
“Isn’t that what surveillance means?” She demanded. “It says in your advertising. Surveillance specialists.”
Was she deliberately not understanding him?
“No. It says surveillance equipment specialists. We sell, repair, maintain, but we don’t operate or even monitor the equipment.”
“I didn’t think you personally did, it but you must have employees who work your cases.”
“That’s not what we do. I can recommend a couple agencies that do what you are looking for.”
“You are like all men.” She snapped. “Offer one thing and then refuse to deliver. I’m going to report you for false advertising.”
She shut her purse and yanked it off the counter sending a display of photo albums to the floor. If the shop doors could have slammed she would have slammed them.
“So got your number bossman,” Sandy laughed. “You are like all men, promise one thing and never deliver.”
“Since when?” he asked her as he helped her straighten the photo albums.
“For one thing you said these albums would sell like hot cakes.”
“Give them time.” He muttered weakly. “Give them time.”
“I don’t know why we still carry things like this anyway?” Ushio asked. “Or even why we open up. Since the new place opened last year we’ve been getting less and less street business. I can’t remember the last time I sold something that wasn’t corporate.”
“You been talking Linda?” Closing the shop was something she was keen on. “You think she’ll hire you?”
“Ushio,” Sandy said, “she may have married your brother but trust me Itchy doesn’t want you round either.”
“It is Ichirou,” Ushio laughed. “But I always give older bother an itch. He never likes it when I do better than him. And I always do.”
“The Depot will remain opened as long as I can keep it open. Linda isn’t going to push me into closing it or selling the building either.”
“Understood.” Sandy saluted. “Time for me to see what online orders we have.” She went to the order desk and sat at her computer.
“I have that security set up to design.” Ushio bowed and backed away to his work space. “Now Dan-sai you vanish so we can get some real work done.”
Back in his third floor workshop, Dan took the east coast pictures out and spread them on the light table. His mother had picked out the location in one of them quickly. He hadn’t seen what she saw.
He swivelled the lighted magnifier over the picture of him and Timmy arm over shoulder. They were on the top steps of the porch. The bottom of the letters of the sign over the door was visible over them. So that was how his mother knew where they were. He knew the name Wickham Arms but it hadn’t occurred to him till his mother said it.
Just hearing the name brought back a sense of the times. He didn’t have any clear memories of the days they spent packing to move, other than wishing he’d had a chance to say goodbye to Timmy. Once they had put their stuff into the car they had driven directly from Stellerton to their house in New Waterford in Cape Breton.
His Aunt Tansy was so tearful when they told her they were moving. She’d been their housekeeper and house minder since he’d been born. She didn’t really seem to understand the great urgency, as she called it, the great urgency in their moving so far, far away.
What was his mother not telling him? He felt she was holding something back about the move. About why they had moved.
That week they spent packing their house. Did his Dad sell it right away? He must have, because he had money for the down-payment on the shop in Toronto. He could see their furniture being carted into the moving van.
He could barely recall the drive to Toronto. Motels where they spoke French, his being car sick. He did even fight much with Linda. Wait. Linda had stayed behind, That’s right. She got to say goodbye to her friends while he wasn’t given the chance to do the same. Not that he’d had that many friends and the only one his missed was Timmy.
They stayed at some cheap motel in Mississauga for the first few weeks till his father found a sublet. It wasn’t till they had been in Toronto for two months that they moved into the third floor of the Queen Street E. building. Linda didn’t show up until then. Until she had a room of her own.
The Wickham Arms. What really happened there? Besides Timmy Dunlop going missing and no one telling me about it, ever. He did a quick online search and the Wickham Arms was still operating.
He’d never considered family as having secrets worth hiding. Maybe he was wrong. He’d have to talk to Linda next. Maybe she’d have more to tell him.
He shook off his memories and refocused on the pictures in front of him. Timmy’s wide-open eyes and sneaky grin made it hard for him to see anything else in the picture.
He grabbed a notepad and began jotting down the details. This was what he would do if this were a crime scene photo. porch. stairs worn from use. can’t see the bottom step. wooden railing with evenly spaced slats. needs painting. to the left some wicker furniture – two chairs, a table under the window, a rocking chair in the corner. set for a view of the street. lace curtains in the window. no hanging plants.
As he made notes of the facts he drew some conclusions as to what the pictures were telling him. The Wickham Arms, even for the times, was old fashioned. The curtains were of a more conservative decade. The furniture was mismatched and also harkened back to the forties.
The boys’ clothing was dusty but not dirty. Timmy was wearing cut-off jeans that were too large for him, something from an older sibling probably and would be used for one summer only. The sheriff’s badge Tim wore was shiny and had the same moulding detail as the buttons on the vest of the other child, himself. Tim’s tee shirt was torn on the shoulder.
In one of the other pictures the boys were horsing around the a backyard and that was probably where the tee shirt got torn. It had a cross-eyed Yoda on it with ‘care me what’ printed underneath. A Mad magazine reference?
Tim’s straw cowboy hat was pushed back on his head. There is a folded flyer tucked into the hat band.
Dan was wearing cut-off shorts as well, his bare-legs are clear from the knees down behind the cowboy chaps he was wearing. The chaps had a cow skin pattern, fringe and metal medallions along the other edge with more fringe tied though them. A matching vest over a plain black tee-shirt. His felt cowboy hat was pushed right of his head and held around his neck by the string.
What would the other photos from the TV show tell him? He had kept the episode he’d recorded. Abstracting images from the TV wasn’t that difficult. He’d done is several times to see how it would work out. The image quality depended on the original sources. HD broadcasts were pretty good. Black and white movies not so good. None as good as a still camera.
He made memo on his cell to check the show when he had a chance. As he entered the memo he noticed the time. He’d spent the last three hours on those photos and wasn’t even getting paid for it.
He double checked all the Depot’s rear security on the top two floors and went down to the shop where Ushio was doing the same for the front doors. It wouldn’t do to advertise as surveillance specialists to be broken into, so the stores had state-of-the protection.
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