Picture Perfect 46
In the morning Dan packed his suitcase for the drive to their next location. Storm clouds overhead made him hope they could reach Wolfville before a real storm broke. He locked his stuff in the trunk of the car & went to the Waterside Diner for breakfast.
“The usual?” George called to him as he sat with Roberto in one of the window booths.
“Good morning Mr. James.” Roberto said.
Before he could answer Baxter came into the Waterside diner.
“What happened to you?” Dan asked rubbing his eyes.
“What do you mean?” Baxter asked.
Instead of his customary vivid green or purples with the latest in athletic footwear Baxter had on dark grey jeans with an equally toned down sweater, & conservative suede slip-ons. He’d even swapped his bright red framed glasses for solid black frames.
“Oh this?” Baxter gestured to his clothes. “We’re following up on the leads our ads have brought in. I know how to dress so as not to distract people. I even have a different business card for this persona.”
He handed Dan a plain white card with “Curtis Baxter, executive Producer Quintex Studios” printed on it.
“Not promoting Baxter Bits?” Dan said. “I am impressed.”
“I wish I could say the same about your interview yesterday.” Baxter sat at the table.
“I thought you said it was smooth and went well.”
“It did. Too smooth. Too well. The editors in TO went over it & we, frankly, are very hard pressed to find anything in it.”
“We were expecting more of you studying the photographs & than saying ‘she’s very pretty.’ His dissing the RCMP is pretty tired stuff too.”
“I don’t know it was my job to script things for him to say?”
“I know I know but, fuck, there has to be more there, right?”
“You wanted me to sweat a confession out of him? This isn’t a hot pursuit crime show. It’s not COPS. Or were you expecting some sort of e.s.p trance as I wavy hand over the photos as I say ‘I sense of dark presence?’ That’s not how photo forensics works.”
“It’s not that but ..”
“I can’t make looking at a photograph more exciting than it is.”
“I realize that but I was expecting you to find more in them.”
“They were a bunch of very ordinary family photos. It’s not as if I was examining crime scene photos or ones being used for some sort of blackmail. They were ordinary photos of a family party. Of kids growing up. That’s all. None of them had visible bruises.”
“That’s not enough to keep the viewer interested.”
“Isn’t that the editors’ job? Oh! I suppose you expected me to see where the children were … to see the reflection of their abductor in their eyes? That would take more than the naked eye given the quality of those pictures, anyway.”
“Ooh that would be great. Or say, the perp lurking in the background of one of those party pictures. It is possible isn’t it? In a mirror, say? Even if there isn’t, you can act as if there is.”
“This is how reality gets rewritten so truth becomes irrelevant?”
“It has to be heightened in someway. Didn’t you pick up anything from handling those pictures?”
“Look, I can tell you lots of stuff, but none of it is relevant to why those kids disappeared. I can tell you things like the time of day the pictures were taken, what make of camera was used, possibly even the model. If there is a reflection in the children’s eyes it would be of the photographer not their abductor.”
“So who took these pictures?”
“According to Forestier it was a family friend. These were duplicates. They were taken by with ordinary Kodak. Trust me there wasn’t anything unexpected in them.”
“But surely you got some vibe from them?”
“I’m not the Long Island psychic Baxter. I’m a forensic photo examiner. Do you really know what that means? It is a science not e.s.p.”
“Okay, okay. I didn’t mean to get you riled. We expected more from you. Do you think Dad is holding anything back about what happened?”
“He seemed to be telling me everything he remembered. I believe him when he says he has no idea what happened. If he was implicated the RCMP would have found out.”
“Would they? They didn’t even know there were others. Did they?”
“They couldn’t have, according to the timeline of these cases. This was the first one. So they would have had nothing to connect it to.”
“Yes, but even so, when there were others, those dots still weren’t connected.”
“You just said ‘dissing the RCMP is pretty tired.’ Even today that sort of dot connecting can take time. Then they didn’t have the communication network we have today. Fax isn’t the same as Twitter. Besides these provincial divisions were more experienced with bootleggers than the abduction of children.”
“Okay, okay I get the picture.” Baxter’s cell phone rang. “Great! We’ll be over in five.” He turned it off. “Come on the War Room has finally arrived.”
“War room?” Dan followed him to the parking lot. There was a second, slightly larger cube van parked next to the one that housed the remote studio.
The driver came to the back, pulled a stairway out from under the chassis of the truck. He made sure it was firm then walked up it to roll up the back door of the cube. He stepped to one side and into the back of the truck gesturing for them to enter.
Dan followed Baxter up the stairs. Inside was a mock up of a police investigations room. One on wall was a map of the Maritime provinces with pins stuck at the various locations where children had gone missing, from each pin were drawn lines that lead to pictures of the children.
The pictures were spread across in the order of their reported disappearances. Under the pictures was pertinent information: their ages, exact dates of when they vanished, who lead the local investigations. On the other wall were the same pictures but with more information under each – descriptions of clothing, who saw them last, who of their families was still alive & willing to talk to Qunitex studios.
In the middle of the room was a conference table with six chairs around it. From the ceiling hung various cameras, lights. At the very front was a small control panel.
“Everything is done with the computer.” Baxter explained. “Voice and motion activated to follow what goes on in here.”
“And what will go on in here?” Dan sat at the table. The chairs were very comfortable. He could swivel in it but not move it. It was bolted to the floor. As was the table. In front of each chair, embedded the the table top was a tiltable touch screen. He glanced down at it and there he was looking back at himself. “Creepy.”
“This is where we’ll meet to discuss the day’s investigations. Things that we don’t want to discuss in front of the families.”
“But which they may get to see when the series gets broadcast?”
“If they follow the live vblog on line. Don’t let that keep you from saying what’s on your mind. Sometimes there can be as much drama here as out there. We’ve been broadcasting live since the door opened.”
“Who’ll be taking up the other seats?”
“I will, at times, to fill you in on what we learn from the tipsters. Stephanie most of the time. Any of the RCMP who are willing to appear with us and …” he pressed his cell. “Okay, Glaucia we’re ready for you.”
“Glaucia?” Dan asked?
“Dan you startled me when you said psychic earlier. For minute I thought you were one yourself. Ah …”
A thin, red-haired woman came up the stairway into the war room. She was taller than either Baxter or Dan. Minimal make up. Long, flowing skirt, mainly black with iridescent blues and red swirls, pale white blouse and a dark red, fringed shawl. She reached her hand out to Dan.