Picture Perfect 44
“You’re doing great Dan.” Baxter came out from behind Cliff. “I dropped by to see how things were going.”
“Thanks.” Dan said. He wasn’t going to let Baxter know how difficult it was to stick to the ‘script.’ “I feel for this guy.”
“If you care then the viewers will too.”
“We were just getting to these.” Dan gestured to the photo album. “After all, this what you’re really paying me for.”
“Thats’ right the photo whisperer.” Baxter snapped his fingers. “Fuck that’s a great title of the show. What do you think? Better than East Coast Cold.”
“I think we can take the interview outside.” Stephane said. “The back porch has a postcard view onto the orchard. The sun is amazing. It’ll give the viewers a real feel for the location. Kitchens are fine but this is even better.”
“Too bad we can’t have apple pickers in the back ground.” Dan joked. “Or cows. It is still a dairy farm isn’t it?”
The back porch floor boards creaked underfoot.
“Not too noisy?” Dan asked.
“You’re going to sit out here.” Stephane said. “Not do a hoedown. These chairs’ll be perfect.”
There were two rocking chairs on either side of a small round table.
“I’ll see if I can find a couple of pillows for them, something for the backs too, so they won’t look too rural. Come with me.” she said to one of the crew. They went back into the house.
“Where did our Dad go?” Baxter asked.
“Last I saw, Cameron was on his trail.” Dan put the photo album on the table.
“Anything in there?” Baxter asked.
“Haven’t looked yet. Or have you planted something?”
“Us? No! We might set the scene a little to make it easier for our audience to get a feel for the location. But that’s it.”
“This is part of setting the scene, right.” Dan pulled at his shirt collar. “Did you supply his shirt as well?”
“Just yours. Looks good on you.” Baxter reached out to help.
“Not going to happen.” Dan swatted his hand aside.
“Okay! Okay!” Baxter stepped back.
Mark came around the corner of the house with Cameron walking beside him.
“I’m ready. Like I was saying it’s been ages since I really thought about those days, this month’s when all this happened.”
“It can’t be easy,” Baxter put his arm around Mark’s shoulder. “You’ll never forget.” He guided Mark to one of the rocking chairs. “But maybe this can help put some of those … ghosts … to rest.”
“That’s what I’m hopin’.”
“We all set to continue?” Baxter called into the house.
It took another twenty minutes to get the camera to rest on the porch, to get the furniture staged to Brenda’s satisfaction. Lace doily for the table. The redistributed weight of cameras and crew kept the floor boards from creaking as much.
“I’ll leave you to it.” Baxter said. “I’m heading on to the next location.”
“You have some more photos of your children you’d like me to see?” Dan asked.
“Yes.” Mark opened the album. “They were taken just a few days before, you know.” He handed an envelope of photos to Dan. “We didn’t have them developed for months later. We forgot we even had them, you know.”
Dan turned the pictures over one at a time.
“They were taken at Ma G’s birthday picnic. There’s a mess of people there I hardly remembered. Over a hundred. All her other nieces and nephews.” He leaned over to pause Dan at one picture. “That’s me and Marie.”
“She’s very pretty.” Dan peered the photograph. “Too bad it has that matte finish though. I never really understood why people liked this grainy quality.” Mark was smiling at the camera with Marie leaning on his chest in front of him, her head on his shoulder. She was holding her hand out so the two of them could see something on one of her fingers.
“I’d won some sterling silver ring with a real opal at the circus the day before. Some spin and win game.” Mark laughed. “The ring turned her finger black and the opal fell out when she was doing the dishes.”
“You both look happy.” Dan said. “That’s Madeline reaching up?”
“Oh yeah. She was always one for attention. This is one of the few pictures without the kids all over us.”
Dan looked at the pictures. There was nothing in them beyond being photos of a fun family time. He reached for the album “What else do we have in here?”
“Not much really. We weren’t picture takers. Might hav been if we had a camera an’ time to use it. Ones you just saw were taken by someone else at the party. Some wedding pictures. Baby pictures of Madeline and Gerrard.” He handed the album to Dan.
Dan opened to the middle where there was some loose prints. He recognized them from the back as ones his Dad had taken.
“Hey! School picture days.” He said turning them over.
“What a day that was.” Mark said. “Marie spent the morning trying things on. She settled on that daisy dress Marie made for her.”
Dan hadn’t seen any of his Dad’s school pictures since they had moved from the east coast. There was no mistaking the backdrop his Dad carted from town to town.
“It’s the same one she was wearing when she … left us.” Mark said.
There was a large version of the picture as well as a page with four wallet-size pictures. Gerrard’s had the same standard set. The pictures were crisp. Gerrard had a lopsided grin, dark curly hair and scar on the cheek under his left eye. They didn’t tell Dan anything though, nothing new that might lead to more. They were relics not clues.
“Were these taken that summer.” Mark said.
“After school was finished for the year?”
“Nope. It was the last week of classes. There are a couple of the whole class too.”
“What about the scar on Gerrard?”
“Happened when he was about three. Fell. Climbing trees. He was a climber. Love ladders.”
So, his Dad had had some contact with these children. Like Timmy Dunlop. But he wasn’t in this area when they disappeared. Was he?
Dan tired to remember the dates in his Dad’s travel notes.
“The worse of it was later though.” Mark went on. “When things quieted down after the searching didn’t find anything. When we stopped being suspects. We hadn’t heard about them other kids either. If we’d known maybe they wouldn’t have thought was us. The neighbours I mean. They acted as if we’d done it for years. That’s what did Marie in.”
“Let’s take a break,” Stephane said. “There’s fresh coffee from Tim’s for you Mr. Forestier. Not as strong as what I made.”
Mark went into the house.
She took Dan aside. “What was with those school pics?”
“Nothing.” Dan said.
“You changed when you looked at them.”
“I did? My … There were taken by my father’s company. James Scholastic School Photos.” He didn’t want to say that they were taken by his Dad personally.
“They did that all over the Maritimes in small places like this. Class pictures, weddings, funerals, banquets. That sort of thing.”
“He surely wasn’t the only one doing that, was he?”
“No. I recognized the paper. The pose was one of his favourites as well. Not quite staring into the lens so they’d look less like mug shots and more like kids who just didn’t want their pictures taken in the first place.”
“So you recognized those kids?”
“No! He took thousands of these. Used to send them away to get developed, then, to save money, began to process them himself. I’d help out in the dark room.”
“Can we get back on with this.” Mark Forestier said. “I do have things to do around here.”
They sat back on the porch.
“When was Ma G’s birthday?” Dan asked to get the interview going again.
“About a month before they …”
“Was there anything else going on around at the time.”
“There was the Agricultural Fair in St. John. I went on my own. We used to take the kids but they were at an age where they took too much attention when I was wanting to see about dairy stuff, they’d want to be doing something else.”
“What do you think happened to them?”
“They was took and …” he began to sob. “I never wanted to think about what happened. I wanted to think about them being brought back to me. I’d dream Ma G was at the door with Gerrard wrapped in a blanket to keep him warm, with his face covered and Mad hiding behind her because she felt bad about letting them get lost. I’d try to move the blanket so I could see his face. But it was too wet for me hold. It would slip between my fingers. I had that dream for months.”
“Did your cousin keep you informed of what the Mounties were doing?”
“He said he wasn’t supposed to talk much to me to keep from influencing things. Conflicts of something.”
“Conflict of interest.”
“Yeah. He didn’t help us much. Like no one ever said to us they were sorry about what happened. Just to be hopeful. Hope didn’t keep Marie alive, you know.”