Picture Perfect 28

Dan took the rear stairs and knocked on the Carafe’s back exit.

“Who is it?’ 

“It’s Dan James, Peter.”

Peter unlocked the door and let him in.

“You’re here early. I was just getting the coffee perking. I can do an Americano for you if you don’t want to wait.”

“That’d be sweet of you. I was too bushed to go home last and fell asleep upstairs.”

Peter poured water into the espresso machine and ground fresh coffee while it was heating up.

“I’m surprised Sanjay didn’t insist you come home. I sure would have after what happened to you.”

“Even if he were in town I doubt he would have bothered.” Dan said. “We’re not a couple any more.” Other than Jill he hadn’t told anyone about the break up, not even his staff. 

“That’s a shame but these things to happen, don’t they.” Peter put the Americano on the table.

“Thanks.” Dan sipped it and nodded appreciatively . “Don’t mind me if you have work to do.”

He watched Peter go about the morning routines at the cafe, setting tables right, checking napkins, sugar and such. Each movement was deliberate, confident. He found himself getting aroused by the firmness of Peter’s shoulder, calves. 

He shook his head to break the spell. Peter was definitely not his type. Too tall, too redheaded. But he did have an attractive face. Timmy was a red head, too. Was Peter uncut?

“Something wrong.” Peter stopped.

“Sorry. Just daydreaming.” He gently rubbed his forehead to see if that would relieve the pain around his eyes. “You must live in the neighbourhood to get here this early in the morning.”

“Yeah. Up on Gill. It’s about a five minute walk, ten if I take my time. So I can be here in rain, sleet, snow, sun, rain. Did I say rain already?”

“Who’s counting.” Dan laughed. Why was he finding this young man so attractive this morning. Peter had been working at the Carafe for about year now and had never appealed to him till now.

But he wasn’t almost single until now either. It had been over a week since he’d sex with Sanjay or even with himself. Or was this the pain meds wearing off? 

“I’d best be getting at my own place.” He went to the back exit. “You make a damn fine cup of coffee.”

“Thanks Mr. James. Anytime.”

Dan went up to his retreat. Was Peter flirting with him? Was Jeremy flirting with him. He didn’t know how to tell. At least Jeremy was in the right age range. When he first left the force he was so afraid when meeting other men, gay or straight, that somehow his every action would be seen as harassment. He shook my hand too long. He looked at me while he was talking about something. 

If Sanjay left he did he want to learn all that courting stuff again. At least on line guys where up front about what they wanted. In person one never knew.

He checked his agenda to see what was on for the day. Crap this was FairVista Friday! He rubbed at his forehead again. Did he want to cancel? He’d call the store to find out if many people had signed up for either of the sessions. If there weren’t enough he’d beg off. Knowing Linda she’d probably send Hamid to him pick up.

Baking smells came up from the cafe ovens. Fresh muffins would be a good start. Hopefully Peter wouldn’t be alone when he went down to pick up some.

First he’d open up the Depot. His swipe card wasn’t in his pants pocket. It wasn’t by the bed or in his shoulder bag! Fuck had he lost that too. No, he’d had it to get in. He got the pants he had been wearing the night before and it was in the back pocket. For security purposes he’d learned never to carry two important things together if he could help it. Hence his credit card was not in the same wallet as his i.d.

In the same back pocket was an appointment card from the hospital. He was to see the eye specialist that after noon at 1 pm. That solved the FairVista problem.

By the time he got down to the third floor Sandy had already opened up. 

“Nice bandage job.” She said. “Much pain?”

“Only when I talk.” Dan said.

“Any word from the police?”

“Nothing but the day is still young. Turns out Kilpatrick was drunk.”

“I figured. He didn’t smell that fresh when he came in.”

“Happened so fast I didn’t notice.”

“Hi!” Jill came in with a tray of coffees and bagels. “How are you feeling?”
“Headachy.” Dan said.

“Peter said you were in when he opened up.”

“Easier than going home.”

Ushio arrived followed shortly by Linda.

“I heard what happened!” she said. “How serious is the damage?”

“Heard?”

“I told my brother.” Ushio said. “He tells his wife.”

Sometimes Dan forgot that Ushio’s brother was married to Linda. He used to worry that Ushio was reporting things to her then stopped caring.

“I have an appointment this afternoon. The swelling may have gone down enough by then. But Dr. Grey didn’t think there is much to worry about. He said it didn’t appear that the eye itself had been impacted.”

He saw Linda looking around at the Depot as he explained things to her. Whenever she was there he felt she was judging if he was doing better than she was even though the books for both locations were open to both of them.

“So I won’t be out to the FairVista today.”

“You should take some time off to let it heal.” She said. “I can handle both locations.”

“You’d like that wouldn’t you.” Dan said. “I’ll be fine. Sandy can handle things here if need be. After all you trained her.”

“True. If there’s anything you need let me know.”

“I will. I’ll see you out to your car.”

He wanted to make sure she left before she found an excuse to hang around any longer.

At around 10 he called Officer Marks to see if Kilpatrick had given them any reason for his actions. Marks was out so he left a message.

Next he called Curtis Baxter.

“Daniel! I was about to call you. I have a wonderful offer to make you. I hope you are sitting down.”

“Does it have anything to do with John Kilpatrick?” Dan cut him off.

“Why, yes.” Curtis hesitated. “How do you know?”

“An unlucky guess.”

“I don’t understand.”

“What’s the offer?”

“After seeing your fabulous footage the network wants to offer you the chance to head your own reality show. Working title is Eye See. With your reputation it would be a synch. We’d start with you talking a deeper look at the missing children. The fact that you are in one of the pictures adds a personal dimension to the project we’re sure audiences will like.”

“What about Unsolved Cold Canada?”
“Oh we shelved that. John’s contract ends when the show ends.”

“You told him this yesterday morning.”

“Yes.”

“Let me make another unlucky guess. You told him he show was being canned in favour of one that I would be the host of.”

“Uh … something like that. Why all these unlucky guesses?”

“I guess you haven’t that John Kilpatrick came into my store yesterday morning to assault me. He may have permanently damaged my vision.”

“What?”

“Curtis you are clearly an untrustworthy asshole. I wouldn’t work with or for you under any circumstances.” He turned his cell off so violently he had check to make sure he hadn’t broken the screen.

It began to ring almost immediately.

It was Curtis. He opened the phone’s setting and ticked unavailable to this caller. The caller would get a message saying ‘The person you are calling is unavailable at the moment. Try again later.’ This would keep his voicemail or text from filling up if the caller was persistent.

He rubbed his forehead. His whole head was throbbing.

“Hurting?” Sandy asked.

“Yeah. To be expected. I’m am going to take Linda’s advice though. No specials this weekend so it’ll be a slow Friday.”

He went outside and hailed a cab. He found it disconcerting to have to turn his head so far to see around him. His neck ached from constantly trying to compensate for the loss of peripheral vision on his right side. 

First thing he did when he got in the house was set the hot tub on the patio to fill and heat. He saw that the landline was blinking for voice mail. He hadn’t given that number to Curtis. It was a message from Sanjay.

“Dan I called your cell and got that unavailable message. Called the Depot and Ushio told me that you got attacked. Are you okay?” 

The note of concern in Sanjay’s voice made Dan tear up. 

“I can come home today if you need me? Funny to say I miss you. Sylvan wants me to stay on for another couple of days after the grand opening. But I’d rather be there. Call me. I miss you.”

Dan went to the settings on his cell and saw that he had in fact selected unavailable to all callers not just to Curtis. He changed the settings.

He was about call Sanjay when there was someone at the door. He checked the monitor and it was Stephanie Carter. Had Curtis sent her? He ignored her knocking and doorbell ringing. How was she to know he was actually home? She gave up after ten minutes. He watched to make sure she wasn’t going to try the backdoor too. The motion sensor on the front door camera tilted as it followed her to a car at the curb. She got into the passenger side and the car drove off.

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