Picture Perfect 52
“Fascinating, isn’t it.”
Dan was startled to find Winston beside him
“Yes. I didn’t realize there were three Hippos.” Dan said.
“Yes, most children didn’t think that largely. Your interest seems to be more than casual.”
“I hope you don’t mind me taking pictures?”
“Please, that’s what we’re here for. To bring back memories while preserving them as best we can. Do you want to take one of me shoving a pie at you.” He mimed pushing a pie into Dan’s face.
“Oh yes. Not that’d I’d say no to doing it but pie in the face is a professional service not a freebie.” Winston laughed.
“This museum an amazing concept.”
“Convincing the government was more amazing. My folks had all this stuff in storage all over the place. The storage fees were eating up any money they made and were truly eating up my inheritance when they passed away. I had a useless MA in fine arts and the debt to go with it. One bleak morning I got a bill from a storage depot. My synapses pop and eureka out popped Museum.
“To be honest I had spent some time at the Ringling Brothers Museum in Sarasota. I thought I was going to do a book on circus art but there was enough them already. One of curators there said I should think regional. When she heard about my background she sent me packing back here.” He held hands up in a ta-da motion. “So what about you? What family links bring you here?”
“Family links?” Dan asked.
“Off-season visitors don’t just wander in.”
“I’m here as part of the Quintex team.”
“The missing children? I thought you looked a bit familiar. Dan James? Right.”
They shook hands.
“I was wondering if you would drop by. Not that we know anything about those disappearances but your dad is Richard James?”
“No denying that. He took a picture of your high-school graduating class?”
“No but … What you see here represents only a tenth of the materials I’ve unearthed so far.” Winston explained. “Let’s go my office. I’ll just let my assistant know where I am.” He sent a text.
Dan followed him through the Carnie Food Land.
“Hold on.” Dan said. “I really have get one of those Hippo Dogs.”
“Original recipe.” Winston laughed. “this is a training test batch. Not to difficult?” Winston asked a young woman who carefully took one of the Hippo Dogs out the deep frier.
“And still cholesterol free too I bet.” Dan said biting into the deep fried shell of the battered hot dog. “Mmmm better than I remembered.” He then dipped the Dog into a little plastic cup of catsup and ate another piece of it. “Mmmm.” He went to wipe his mouth on his jacket sleeve when Winston handed him a paper napkin.
“Still our biggest seller. They are better now you know. Original batter recipe but the quality of meat has improved. Trust me though, they are still no better for you. But …” he stopped.
“But what … the contain traces of cocaine to addict people?”
“No. One of the files I found contained endless complains about the old Hippo Dogs. I was shocked at the numbers off people who got sick from eating them. I don’t mean over-eating. There was some toxin in them one year that literally made some people very very sick. Law suits were settled out of court. Seems my Mom put a lot of energy into dodging local public health officials.”
“Oh! oh!” Dan groaned, rolled his eyes and rubbed his stomach.
“Not any more. These are beyond public health standards. I’ve found some the butcher store bills for the old dogs and to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were made of old dogs.”
“Considering what hot dogs are supposedly made of that wouldn’t surprise me.”
“If it wasn’t the dogs it was the oil. Seems that was changed every other location stop.”
Winston’s office walls were covered with more flyers and photographs of various barkers, rides and performers. Hen took a folder out of the filing cabinet in the corner. Dan recognized the James Photography logo on the envelope. “I found these not too long ago. Both my parents were pack rats you know but with no sense of organization. They needed a curator then. I’ve found items from the 1950’s mixed in with stuff from the ’20’s. Nothing annotated with anything helpful like dates or locations.”
“My Dad was the opposite. You should see his travel records. Dates, distances, money in, money out. How many cups of coffee ha’d had. But sometimes I still don’t know what he’s recording.”
“The parental secret code. These at least have dates on them.” Put linen gloves on and slid the photos onto the desk. “These seem to be the only record of the number two show in the summer of 1983.”
He handed Dan a pair of the gloves.
“Thanks.” Dan forced himself to look carefully at each picture. He fully expected to see the woman in the s and m pictures he had discovered.
“Do you recognize anyone in these?” Winston asked.
“I was only a kid at the time.” Dan said. “He didn’t take us kids on this shoot either. He sometimes did take us, if he thought we’d behave and have fun too.” He checked the date stamp on the outside of the envelope. “I was still in school. These were taken in April.”
“Just before our season really started.” Winston said.
Dan took his loupe from his shoulder bag to examine the pictures more carefully. Some were of men and women sitting around a table, others were of the same men tossing balls or aiming rifles at various games of chance. Others were of the the women being balanced overhead either horizontally or vertically.
“I figure these were the special for the number three. That year the Flying Romonovs were touring with show three. It was the biggest of the shows.”
Dan was making double sure that none of these were the people in the smut shots. He was pretty sure they weren’t.
“We could do facial recognition if you want?” he said.
“Yeah, my sort of magic. I can scan these and then run them through a program that’ll match them to any other faces in the known world. It’ll take a few hours.”
“Your sort of magic?”
“I work in photo restoration and forensic examination, which means I find information in photos beyond what you see.”
“What do these tell you?”
“This was informal. No one is wearing white shirts, ties or even dress shoes. The location isn’t a house but could be like a hotel ball room. Something like that. The carpeting just isn’t house style. Nor are those tables in the back ground.”
“You have more like these?”
“Not that I’ve found yet. But there are another two storage lockers yet to be dealt with. They’ve been opened and emptied into a container that is here in the basement waiting to be really cracked open.”
Dam checked his cell for the time. “Crap I have to get out of here. I was slipping away for the morning, not the whole day.”
“Here’s my card.” Winston gave him his business card. “Call me. I’d be happy to show you more of the hidden collection.”
“I’d like that. I’d also like to see more of what you already have in the exhibits too. But I can’t say when. Maybe I can talk the producers into doing something here?”
“Sounds good. But be warned Cross-Canada Cooks is doing an episode here this summer. Though camera crews fighting for shots would make great three-ring clown act.”