Picture Perfect 76
Dan pressed the remote to open the rental car door. Baxter stepped between him and the door.
“Dan why are you so resistant? John Kilpatrick was always eager to bring interesting viewpoints to the cases he reported on for us.”
“I’ve seen some of that crap. Interviews with the hairdresser of the woman who lived across the street from someone who saw what happened. And you wonder why your show lacks critical credibility.”
“It’s entertainment for fuck sake, not a documentary.”
“I get that but you’ve seen the interviews we’ve done so far. These are people who are still hurting, still looking for answers. They aren’t doing this to be entertaining. Nor am I.” Dan heard his voice echo in the parking lot. “Sorry I didn’t mean to shout.”
“We want those answers too. Don’t you think there’s something to how the original investigation just petered out so easily?”
“Something like one of that team was the abductor?”
“Whoa! That never occurred to me? Do you think that’s a possibility.” Baxter rubbed his hands excitedly.
“Look if you’re that unhappy with my …. lock of cooperation bring Kilpatrick in to do those hairdresser interviews.”
“We’re not unhappy it’s just that …”
“You want the credibility I bring. Right.”
“True but you haven’t been part of the team.”
“Is that why you followed me out here? To tell me I wasn’t a team player?” He nudged Baxter away from the car to open the door. “That may be true but I’ll get results not entertainment.”
“You know what your problem is Dan. You’re looking at this like a policeman. You want to make an arrest. It’s like you expect someone to give you a name that will lead to a suspect.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing but we’re telling the story of what happened. We aren’t looking for a solution to this mystery but clues to the solution. If we solve it fine but we don’t that’s fine too.”
“I get it! You want a season two.”
“Hahhaha.” Baxter could barely control his laughter. “No. Dan I just want to get this season wrapped, alive. After almost dying in a rigged car, you think I want to prolong this?”
Dan resisted saying the the rigged car was meant for him. He did realize Baxter was right though, he had been trying to solve the case with the hope of catching the abductor as he had done in the child porn case.
“Right. I was envisioning one of busting down-the-door finales.”
Over the next couple of weeks Dan interviewed classmates, cousins, neighbours who were directly connected to the original abductions. He looked more of his dad’s class photos, even some wedding pictures knowing there would be little new information in them.
Footage of the interviews was being edited for broadcast, not knowing exactly what they were looking for forced them not to make conclusions. Dan spent two mornings recording various weekly introductions to the show that had him talking to the camera as he walked along the shoreline or looking through folders supposedly holding investigative reports.
He found himself falling into the rhythm of the routine. Make-up, fresh shirts from wardrobe, on-camera conversations with Jennifer about their interviews. He looked forward to his video calls with Peter & keeping tabs on the stores. What he really looked forward to was his upcoming weekend out of the camera to his real life in Toronto. To make it more interesting he booked a flight to Montreal to investigate his father’s connection to Joviet J. Inc.
In the next morning Cameron & Jennifer Devereaux were waiting for him in the Wickham Arms lobby.
“Last day here Dan.” Cameron said.
“What’s on for today.”
“We’re to see Jackson Meade.” Cameron answered. “Former publisher of the Atlantic Sentinel.”
“This one will be fun.” Jennifer said. “Everyone loves Uncle Jack.”
“Uncle?” Dan asked as they got into the car.
“He’s everyones uncle. One winter he visited every school in the district with boxes full of mittens, gloves, toques and scarfs to make sure every child had enough warm clothes. Parkas if they needed them.” Jennifer explained.
“Of course they all the Sentinel logo on them somewhere. So we kids became walking billboards for his newspaper. Smart man.”
“Sounds like Jeremy Moxham.” Dan said. “Shows up at charity events with a donation and gets his picture in the paper. Free advertising.”
“You know Jeremy Moxham!” Jennifer said.
“I guess you missed that vibe.” Dan laughed. “Tell me more about Uncle Jack.”
“He sold his papers to a mainland conglomerate. Not that he wanted to but he had to. They weren’t financial feasible anymore. Thanks to the Internet.” Jennifer said. “He retired. Travels a fair bit, especially for someone his age.”
“He must be going on ninety.”
“Baxter says it was Meade who contacted Qunitex last year with his theory about the missing children. Baxter flew down then to meet him because Meade wouldn’t let his ‘evidence’ out his sight.”
“Then why didn’t we start the interviewing with him.”
“Ask him when you see him. Here we are.” Cameron drove the gates of a long three story building in a faux Tudor style. A sign with an arrow pointed to the back of the building. The sign said “Parking for Calaidh Retirement Villa visitors this way.”
Jackson Meade greeted them as they came into the second floor sunroom. “We’ll have some tea. Delores has made us a fresh pot. There’ll be scones in a bit. How’s your mother Jennifer?”
“Good. Sends her regards and her regrets.”
‘Damn. She’ll say yes one of these times.”
“Uncle Jack if every woman you proposed to said yes you’d be in big trouble.”
“That sort of trouble is good for a man my age. And this is …” he looked to Cameron.
“Cameron …” Dan said by way of introduction.
“Now there’s a good Scottish name. Can’t remember the last I heard that name.”
“Hmm … ‘e’ or ‘o’.”
“And you must be Daniel James. You look a lot like your Dad. Not the face but the stance, the carriage. You made something of yourself. That child porn business you helped with. Brilliant work. Your Dad would have been proud.”
A young woman pushed a food cart over to them.
“Delores will play mother for us. Sit Sit.”
They sat around a large round table with a view of the grounds. Dan noted the discreet Celtic flourishes accented the room. Tartan swags on the curtains, matching napkins at their place settings.
“You looking for the swords and shields? Not in this room. Mostly in the old folks dining hall. This lounge is for the younger generation here.”
While Delores poured tera for them Meade asked “Jennifer what is your sense of the children. Are any of them still alive? Run-aways somewhere with new lives, new identities.”
“No. Not that that isn’t possible. But I don’t get a sense of them. They are still here.’
“Still here?” Dan asked.
“Yes. Their remains are here. I’ve have a feeling of them safe and protected. Snug but not living.”
“Underground you mean?” Meade asked.
“No!” Jennifer replied.
“Now, Mr. James I know you haven’t spoken with all the families yet but …”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Meade, I thought we were here to interview you?” Dan said.
“We’ll get to that. Be patient. You’re almost as bad as that Mr. Baxter. He’ll never make a good newspaper man. That’s why,” his voice dropped, “he was told not to come here with you today.”
“I see.” Dan said.
“This case has been on my mind all these years. I saw the connections then but I couldn’t get anyone to concur. They saw it as a press attack on their integrity. The Mounties I mean. They walked away from unanswered questions, from opportunities. But I could never find more than suspicions. Rumours. Not evidence.”
“Possibly they came to that conclusion too?” Dan said.
“I realized that over the years. They have limits, legal limits set out by the law. But they didn’t even have suspects. You do. So you are doing better than them already.”
“Do we?” Jennifer asked Dan.
“I don’t know about suspects but we do have, as they say, persons of interest. Winston Chamberlain for one. That Father McKillop for another.”
“Father McKillop!” Jackson put his scone down.
“One of the visiting Fathers.” Dan said.
“I know who he is.” Meade beckoned Delores to the table. “Delores go to my room and bring me the green file folder on my desk. And see about more scones.”