Picture Perfect 64
Jennifer went into the house before he could reply.
The interview was to take place in the living-room of her rather ordinary house. Cameron followed them in. Stephanie did quick introductions in the front hall. Helen’s was as ordinary as the house. Short, heavy set, with just a touch make-up to bring out her eyes. Francie was already set up in the living room with her camera.
It would be a two camera set up to catch as many reactions as possible. Dan did a quick check through Francie’s camera to see how the scene was set. Just over Helen shoulder was vase roses with a pray hands plaque leaning against it. On the wall overhead was a crucifix.
Helen had been living with her sister Diane at the time & clearly remembered the loss, anger, fear, guilt that lasted several years after the events. Diane was pregnant at the time so Helen was there to help look after the other the five children they at that time. Joseph McPherson, their father, was working in Ontario and he returned as soon as possible when he received the news.
“She was five months pregnant when David went missing. Joseph was in Sudbury at the time. Working in the nickel smelter. He came back as quickly as he could when we called him. He drove all night.”
“I felt real bad about David but there were her other children to deal with. It was so hard to explain to them that he …” Helen shook her head. “would no be coming back. That was the hardest part. Explaining it to the little ones. They didn’t understand why all these strange men were asking them questions.”
“A few months later Helen had a miscarriage & died as a result. Little Rosie was so broken up. Every time she saw one of he Mounties she would ask if they had found her Mom yet. Losing David & then her mother confused her. It was years before she stopped doing that.
“Broke my heart when she finally said to me ‘Mom is with David isn’t she?’ Joseph took the children & left the province January of the next year.”
“You told Stephanie you have some photographs.”
“They were never a picture taking family,” Helen said. “You know when that producer asked me if I had anything I searched. You know when Joseph moved they didn’t leave much behind. So there’s nothing. A couple of David’s comic books that I eventually threw away. I only have these photos because I asked around at the church.” Helen said.
David was with a group of children returning from a church picnic. There several photographs of the Sunday school group, which one of the other parents had taken. As well as some of the school portraits his father specialized in.
Dan took out his loupe and studied the Sunday school picnic. There was a dozen or so children – some running, some sitting around a blanket.
“That’s Little Rosie holding Father Phineas’s hand. David is there just behind them. The children loved Father Phineas.”
He looked at David. He was unexceptional. Brush cut, freckles, tee-shirt and jeans. As was Little Rosie. The other girls were wearing dresses.
“Rose was a tomboy?” he asked.
“Oh yeah,” Helen answered. “Played softball. She could run like the devil. Sad about Father Phineas. He left us in the fall. Felt it was all his fault. That he should have kept a better eye on the children.”
“The church looks modest.” Jennifer said.
“Oh yes, dear. The diocese would send us a priest for mass twice a week. Father Phineas was one of them, Father Gerrard was the other. There have been others over the years but they was the most regular.”
“They had many other parishes to visit?” Dan asked.
“I suppose they did.” Helen answered. “I never gave it much thought. We missed Father Phineas though, he’d been coming to us the longest. That Father Gerrard wasn’t a bit friendly. Stern.”
“Do you know Phineas’s last name?”
“I’m not sure,” Helen thought a moment, “We got so used to calling him Father P. It was Mackillop.”
“We can double check.” Dan said. “I wonder if he’s still alive?”
“Wouldn’t know.” Helen said. “Like so many priests once they’re gone we rarely ever heard from them again.”
“So the McPherson’s were church goers?” Jennifer asked.
“When their Dad was gone, yes.” Helen crossed herself. “The children loved it too. They were one of the biggest families in the diocese. That was one of the reasons Joseph worked away so much. There was no way he could afford a family that size on any job he could get around here.”
“You didn’t go with them when they moved?” Dan asked.
“We talked about it but I was planning my own family.” Helen asked.
“You were … in love him weren’t you?” Jennifer asked.
“How …” Helen paled & began to cry. “Yes. How did you know?”
“Something in the tone of your voice when you talked about planning your own family.” Jennifer explained. “I am the one with second-sight. Dan has first sight, I guess.”
“The RCMP were so sure there was something we were hiding. They thought it was that Diane was sleeping around to have so many children without Joseph being here. She had to show them, you know, calendars of when he was here & when the children were born. They were more interested in finding out about us than there were in finding David.”
“What do you think happened to David?” Dan asked.
“I haven’t given it much thought. Not even then. He was a good boy. Reliable, easy to get along with, helped look after his bothers & sisters. Not the brightest in school but not the worst either. He was crazy about Spiderman. Lots of the kids were. Average.” Helen said. “We were so sure he had just wandered off as children often do. I expected the Mounties would find him sleeping in the woods nearby.”
“Then I was so afraid she’d drowned. After a week or so I prayed that they’d find something. Even if was his body just so we would know. God forgive me,” she crossed herself, “for wishing a child dead.”
“Anything else come to you?” Dan asked.
“We never speculated on what became of him. Things were simpler then. Now with all these child predators I shudder to think what could have happened. I pray he’s in a better place.”
“Thank you for your time.” Dan shook hands with her.
The crew began to clear out their equipment.
“It is very difficult to revisit such heartbreak.” Jennifer said. “I’m sure you’re right. David is in a better place.”
“Oh Thank you. Thank you.” Helen embraced Jennifer and sobbed on her shoulder. “That’s what I’ve been wanting to hear all these years.”
Dan moved back from the scene and bumped into Cameron behind him. “Get that?” he asked.
“You bet. That’s a killer moment. Killer.”
They both stepped out of the house leaving Francie to finish the shoot.
“Cameron I’d have some things to discuss with Jennifer off camera. You can go back with the rest of the crew.”
“I don’t know Mr. James. My orders are to …”
“I’ll deal with Baxter.”
“You’re a braver man than most.” Cameron laughed as he turned his camera off. “Besides, my …. uh … battery is nearly dead anyway.”