Picture Perfect 14

He noticed a heavy-set woman peering into the Lyphend display. She tried to slide the door open and was clearly dismayed that it was locked.

He went over with the key.

“Is there a camera you’d like to look at.” He asked her.

“Not particularly. But I didn’t think in this location you’d need to worry about security.’

“With security there is no ned to worry, regardless of the location.” Dan slid the cabinet open.

“Who would pay such prices for a … a camera.”

“People who respect craftsmanship. There is a difference between the quality of picture you get with one of these and one of those no name digitals you can buy at any drug store but only camera fanatics could tell that difference.”

“So these are more for status than anything else. More waste productivity. The cost of that camera in the window could feed a lot of children.”

“I’m sure it could.” Just what he needed some rich snowflake who had taken one too many sociology classes and was now here at the most expensive mall in Canada on a mission to shame people. “But so could the money poured into those TV commercials begging for us to save them.”

“Awareness is key.” she went on.

“Who pays the camera people, the lighting guys, to shoot those ads. They don’t use cellphone cameras. Do the administrators of the funds have nice pension packages?”

“I don’t really know.”

“So actually feeding those children is an after thought, isn’t it.”

“Good God! Mr. James you are a bigger cynic than I am.” She shook his hand. “Stephanie Carter. I’m head researcher from Canada Cold. I think Baxter told you I’d be in touch.”

“He said you’d be calling to set things up, not ambushing me on the job.”

“That’s how Quintex works. Catch’em unawares. But seriously what’s up with that outrageous price tag?”

“The top of the line are made to order. Each one of a kind. Handcrafted.”

“You mean like my handcrafted espresso drink from Starbucks?”

“Everything is done from scratch, even the camera body. The costs go up with the materials, the casing, the lenses can easily double the cost of any camera. Lyphend’s are hand-ground as needed. Even the glass is hand-mixed, poured, and their glass formula is a guarded secret.”

“Like KFC.”

“I take you aren’t going to be making a purchase.” Dan said. “Perhaps I could interest you in one of these.”

He opened the Lyphend case again and took out a travel mug.

“I was curious about that.”

He squeezed the handle and a screen lit up around the mug.

“What the …” Stephanie stepped back slightly alarmed.

“Yes. That is you and me.”

“The mug is a security device.”

“Of sorts. Think of it as an undercover reporter.”

“Wow!” she reached for the mug.

“Just a prototype. But that’s how Lyphend started. Making devices during WWI. You didn’t come here to buy overpriced equipment.”

“No. I’ve been told how dangerous it can be going into any electronics store. Now I see why. You are smooth too. Must make a lot of sales.”

“Enough.” Dan walked to the entrance with her.

“Is there someplace we can talk.” she asked.

“I’m at work so the answer is no.”

“Lunch break? I can expense it.”

“Why not. I’ll let David know.”

They walked the concourse to the Atriumata Bistro. The maitre D’ sniffed when they had no reservations but the restaurant had some empty tables.

“Would like the Clifton Room or La Terrazzo?”

“Terrazzo,” Dan said. He’d eaten there a few times with Linda and the Clifton room was dark, plush and even though there was no smoking one felt as if everyone around was smoking, even if the room was empty. La Terrazzo was a faux glass enclosed patio and as a result brightly lit patio that over-looked the parking lot and the tract housing beyond that.

They both declined wine, opting for imported mineral water that was nearly as expensive as the wine. Each ordered a different pasta dish.

“Baxter was quite taken by you. Which isn’t unusual for him. He sometimes makes decisions with his lower head.” Stephanie laughed. “But in your case he may be right.”

“Right?”

“About hosting. You handled me very well. I was trying to throw you off-balance a little. We like interviewers who can flow with things rather than get thrown off course easily. I really liked the way you segued to the travel mug. Very smooth and you didn’t miss a beat. I would have bought anything from you. If I was buying, that is.”

“This was an audition for something that isn’t actually real. Right?”

“We’re building a package. The network likes a package not a concept.”

“Are you actually a researcher or a casting agent?”

“Oh, Dan are you trying to throw me off-balance?” She laughed. “You are a cynic.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Okay, let’s get down to it.” She took a small digital recorder out of her purse. “You don’t mind if I record this. It means I don’t have to make notes as we go along.”

“Sure.” He fumbled with one of the buttons on his shirt. “Then I can turn mine off.”

“What!” Stephanie pushed her chair back.

“Just kidding. Really.”

“You sure?” She took a note pad out her purse and flipped it open the table. “These are just the general questions we ask.”

“Right.”

Two waiters brought their meals. A moment later a third showed up with a pepper grinder and then after her, a fourth with another bottle of the mineral water.

“I best start before they change the cutlery between bites. You know one of the missing children.”

“Yes. Timmy Dunlop. Stellerton. He was the fourth child to be abducted. There was one more after him if I remember correctly. David McPherson.”

“You knew David too?”

“No, but I’ve watch that particular episode a few times. Making notes. A professional habit.”

“Right. You are the photo specialist. How did you get into that field? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Kind of round about actually. After we’d living here a few years my Dad decided to add photo surveillance to what he offered. He sensed there was market for that, for good quality equipment. As a kid I loved cops and robbers and jumped in to help out as much as I could with installations and such.

“It seemed clear to me that the more I knew about security the more helpful I could be. I nearly got into law informant in fact after taking some courses as Loyalist. One of the prof’s there saw that I had a good eye for documents. He thought art forgery would perfect me but instead I went for forensics. I’m not boring you am I.”

“No not at all.” Stephanie said. “Maybe we should look at the dessert menu?”

“None for me.”

“You don’t mind if I do?”

“It’s not my credit card.”

She ordered a chocolate cheese cake for herself. “Go on.”

“Well – I already knew a lot about photography, different papers, developing techniques so it seemed logical I focus on that end of things. I can authenticate documents as well. You know, figure out if a deed or promissory note is real. But photo’s are my speciality. Which lead me inot the RCMP.”

“That was excellent.” Stephanie pushed the dessert plate away.

“Was that the chocolate cheesecake?” Linda pulled out a chair to join them.

“Stephanie Carter my sister Linda Tanaka – nee James. Stephanie is from Quintex.”

“The cold case?” Linda asked.

“One and the same.” Stephanie answered. “We were just talking about … Timothy Dunlop.”

“I wasn’t surprised at all. No one was. Except Dan here.”

“What do mean except Dan here. I was pretty shocked to learn about this this past weekend.”

“You still on about us holding things back from you.” Linda shook her head. “Don’t you remember his mother coming to the Arms asking if we’d seen him?” She turned to Stephanie. “He used to sleep over a lot. Tim’s Dad was a drunk.”

“The Arms?”

“The Wickham Arms.” Dan explained. “That’s where we would stay when we were in Stellarton. And no I don’t remember Mrs. Dunlop.” He thought a moment.

Linda signalled the waiter to bring her a coffee and the same dessert that Stephanie had.

“I remember she did drop by looking for him. But she did that often enough. She didn’t say he was missing. That he had been abducted.”

“No one knew that then.” Linda said digging into her cheesecake. “I guess in the rush to move we all figured you understood why we were heading out.” She looked at Stephanie. “You can imagine finding out that the kid who was playing with your kid had just vanished. You’d get out of there asap. Which is what we did.” She glared at Dan. 

“Your memory is clearly better than mine.” Dan said.

“What did you mean by not being surprised?” Stephanie asked.

“Timmy … was a bit of a handful.” Linda licked her fork. “He liked to sneak in where he wasn’t wanted.”

“What?” Dan said.

“There was that time you two got caught in the basement of  Gallagher’s store. Filling your pockets with bubble gum.”

“Oh that!” Dan could still feel the wax wrapped gum in his hand. “That was just one time.”

“Yeah the one time you two got caught, right?”
“Well, yeah. We did sneak into garages and houses but that was the first time we took anything.”

“Maybe you, but Timmy had a bit of reputation around Stellarton for that sort of thing. Which might have been another reason Mom thought he was a bad influence.”

“I think we have enough.” Stephanie turned off her recorder. “We’ll be touch Mr. James.” She called the waiter over and gave him her credit card.

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