Picture Perfect 9

Hamid was driving off when Sandy came out of the shop. “Where the … have you been? I’ve been calling you all morning.”

“Sorry.” They walked back into the shop. “My sister abducted me from my house in the middle of breakfast to take me to FairVista. I barely got a word in edgewise with her let alone have a chance to make any calls. Besides Linda’s aura blocked all messages.”

“That sort of explains some things. I almost called Sanjay to ask if he knew what was up.”

“It’s not as if you and Ushio can’t handle things here.”

“That’s not the point. We didn’t know where you are and when to expect you back. Telling people we have no idea where the boss is isn’t professional.”

“People? Such as who?”

“That TV guy has called twice. Jill is in a state too. Even Cliff dropped in to see where you were.”

“Any problems with the plumbing? Or is the a.c. acting up? The last I had the two of them on to me at the same time was when the a.c. broke down. As if I was a repair man. Is that all?”

“Nope.” Ushio said with a lopsided grin. “Kevin McLeod called. He’s looking for a wedding photographer.”

“The rocker star? Fuck!” Dan had helped out with green screen work in a couple of Kevin’s videos. One had won several awards.

“Says he’ll be by sometime this afternoon to talk about it. Hard to turn down a gig like that.”

It had been several years since Dan had tackled a wedding. He’d been happy to leave all that to his sister or one of the other staff. Too much pressure from all side with people who want you to be creative but want to control everything at the same time. Digital cameras had pretty much dried up that market and he didn’t regret that for a minute.

“I’ll go over to the Classic first to see what’s going on there.”

“Bossman.”

“Yes Sandy?” he said as he went to the door.

“Turn on your phone.”

“Oh right. Is my head screwed on?” he asked.

“Yes, but your lens cap is clearly loose.” Ushio laughed.

The Classic was busy. All the tables were taken and there was a line up at the counter. He caught Jill’s eye. She nodded and finished waiting on her customer.

He sat at her table in the back of the cafe. Peter darted over with a coffee and bagel for him.

“Rushed today?” Dan said.

“Like this most mornings. That new Institute of Higher Learning, or whatever, has a mid-morning break and they dash over here.”

Jill sat at the table. “You could have at least given me a warning.”

“About the Institute?” he could tell she was angry.

“If you aren’t happy with us you could have told me directly.”

“But I am happy.”

“Look Daniel, the Cuppa people were here this morning.” She shoved some papers at him. “They were authorized to take measurements. I have a legal right to know well in advance if you letting someone on my premises.”

“Authorized!” He glanced at the form and his sister’s signature was on it. The form was an application for franchise if the locations were suitable.

“So that’s why she whisked me away.” he said.

“You mean you knew nothing about Cuppa?”

“Not until this morning. Linda thinks it’ll be a good thing for the FairVista store. It’s not going to happen here. Not as long as we own the property.”

“Yeah, well, they seemed pretty convinced. They also went to Silver to look his premises over for possible conversion for their purposes. A building with two corners. Perfect for them. As one of their agents said.”

“Send them to me if they show up again.” He read the document and it was merely an inquiry about entering into a working arrangement. “This says nothing about allowing more than a look at the location. They could have come in and said nothing to anyone.”

“Who has time for fine print?” Jill frowned. “They were quite impressed with the crowd we had though. Maybe it is time we discussed the new lease?”

“I’ll get legal on it.” He laughed. “And this too.”

There was no way he’d let Linda interfere with his management of the Queen St. property. No way.

Dan went over to the Gallery. Cliff was talking loudly on the phone.

“I have to go.” he said hanging up.

“A land line, Cliff!”

“I have a private life. Or at least try to have one. Some artists don’t think twice about calling you twice a day to have their ego or their prices boosted. No one gets me at lunch time.”

“I’ve heard about the Cuppa people from Jill. There is nothing to it. Really. Some hair-brained idea of Linda’s.”

“Daniel, your sister has never had a hair-brained idea. She’s one of the most practical people I know, when it comes to squeezing money out of an opportunity.”

“You aren’t going anywhere.”

“I know that. They took one look at the prices on these,” he gestured at the art on the walls, “and literally blanched. They were engineers anyway. Not appraisers. No sense of art, if you know what I mean.”

Dan laughed. “This from the man who sells art based on size and colour.”

“Please! I have to take everything into to consideration. I’m not losing a commission because someone couldn’t tell the difference been avocado and dark-mint green.”

“All the same. If those guys, or anyone else from Cuppa, shows up again, send them to me.”

“Only if they aren’t buying what’s on the wall.”

 

“Fires put out for now.” He told Ushio. “I’m going to have to speak Linda though.”

Inspector Warszawa came into the shop with another officer.

“Dan, Inspector Clarke wants a word with you. With us, I mean.”

“Pleased to meet you.” He shook Daniel’s hand.

“We’ll go up to my office. Coffee?”

“No, we’re fine.”

Inspector Clarke was a shorter and thicker than Warszawa. Dan guessed he’d be about 5’6, Ushio’s height. His hair was cut even more severe than Warszawa’s. Both wore the official dark suit, off-white shirts, with colour-flecked ties, and black shoes that sounded like they had granite soles as they walked up the wooden stairs to his office. 

He sat at his desk.

“I’ll get right to the point. I’ve read your comments on the travel photographs.” Clarke said.

“I tried to be as precise as I could.”

“We appreciate that.” Warszawa said. “But …”

“You intimated that these were brought to the crime scene?” Clarke said.

“I had asked Warszawa if there were any similar travel pictures found there. Something to connect them to the victim.”

“That was very astute of you, Mr. James. No one had considered such a possibility. It set me to thinking of why someone would do that. As a result we did a data base search.” Clarke said. “Of crime scene evidence. We discovered that this isn’t the first time this has happened.”

“What do you make of that?” Warszawa asked.

“I … uh … don’t know.” Dan thought for a moment. “Did this victim even have a camera?”

The two inspectors looked at each other.

“I don’t know.” Warszawa said. “This opens a whole new line of investigation. We’d assumed the pictures pertained to the victim. That they were hers. Clearly because of the aged look of them, something from her past. But you said …”

“That they weren’t originals. Good reproductions mind you.”

“Where they taken by the same sort of camera?” Clarke asked.

“No. That’s in my report. Even the slightly disintegrated images made that clear to me. Some were with simple one-shot cameras, others from a 35 mil. If I had the originals I could even venture a guess as to the make and maybe even the model.”

“That’s impressive.” Clarke said.

“Thanks. You say you’ve found others?”

“I had them send jpegs of them to us. Printed them out for you.” Warszawa put them on Dan’s desk.

“Holy fuck!” Dan glanced at them.

“What! You see something in them that fast.”

“This one …” He got his prints from his side file drawer and placed one of those beside the ones he was just shown. “Fits in with that one.”

The tree line and shore line of the lake in the picture of the family picnicking almost lined up perfectly.

“There is a connection.” Clarke said. “I’ll be damed.”

“Connection?” Dan asked.

“We found that lake shore picture in another victim’s wallet. No one at the time could make any sense of it. It never occurred to us that it might have been put there by the killer.”

“How many of these do you have?” Dan asked.

“I’m afraid we’re not at liberty to tell you that, yet. But we do have more than a couple of cases to re-examine in the light of what you’ve told us.” Clarke shook Dan’s hand again. “Thank you. You’ve been more help that you realize. You should still be on the force.”

“Thanks, I guess.” Dan walked down the stairs with them. “But I don’t think I could stand the official foot wear.”

They walked to their car.

Warszawa stepped back to speak to him. “Dan make sure to bill us for this consultation. That was impressive.” He shook Dan’s hand. “There’s more to you than just another handsome face.” He held Dan’s gaze. “We’ll be in touch.”

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