Picture Perfect 77
“What do you think happened to those children?” Dan asked.
“Dan, that’s a hard question to answer. At the time there was an expectation that they would show up again.” Meade said. “Or that we’d find their bodies on different beaches. I know what predators do to children but somehow I don’t think this is what happened here. It was too … clean. After a year, when there was nothing, I knew we’d never see any of them again. Alive.”
“Here you are Mr. Meade.” Delores handed him the green file folder. He took a newspaper clipping from it and handed it to Dan.
“Priests Charged” was the headline. Under it was a photograph of three priests.
“That’s Father McKillop!” Dan said. He skimmed the article. Then checked the date. “This is from last year. He’s still alive.”
“Yes.” Meade said. “Pleading not guilty, I might add. Goes to trial in the new year. This was why he was ‘moved’ to new parish.”
“Embezzlement isn’t such a big thing.” Jennifer said.
“You were hoping for something more …. salacious?” Meade laughed. “I’m sure embezzlement covers a multitude of sins.”
“Such as where did the money go?” Dan said.
“Right, though maybe it was his personal organ fund.” Meade laughed loudly. “He was known to be fond of ladies. Had at least two mistresses while he was still here on the east coast.”
“Says here he needed the money to pay off gambling debts.” Dan put the article on the table. “Would you know, off hand, if he’s related Staff Sergeant McKillop.” Dan asked.
“I could find out easily.” Meade said. “Cousins for sure.”
“So you covered the disappearance cases at the time?” Dan asked.
“Only one of them. We reported on two of the others. But no connections between were made. When nothing really developed it stopped being newsworthy.” Meade shook his head. “When I moved here several years ago I decided to do a purge of my old personal files & came across the one for the Forestier’s.”
“And the others?” Jennifer asked.
“I pulled the Forestier & put it to one side. Found the others & did the same & saw the pattern. All were in different counties so even then I didn’t see connections. Running the Sentinel didn’t leave me time to make connections. When I retired I had time to ruminate.”
Jennifer flipped through the other clippings, notes & photographs in Meade’s folder. “Did you uncover anything since you contacted Unsolved Cold?”
Dan reached over & took a colour photo from the papers. It was a panoramic shot of a banquet with several round tables, each with groups people around them smiling at the camera. He pulled out his electronic loupe to study the faces.
“That’s my Dad!” He said. “That’s Father McKillop at another of the tables.”
“Good eye.” Meade said. “That was …”
“The Atlantic News awards in 1984. March, right? Mom was pissed she couldn’t go because I had a cold. Why was the good father there?”
“It was a fairly open guest list.” Meade said. “I think our press celebrity that year was Pierre Burton. All the winners got signed copies of The Promised Land. His latest book.”
“Fuck! This is the Chamberlains. I recognize them from their photos at the Circus museum. Oh wow! Is that a real snake around her shoulders.”
“Yes.” Meade said. “She was a woman of interesting interests.”
“There’s Mrs. O’Connor, too. She’s one of servers!”
Dan turned on his tablet & pulled up the file of interview photos to compare it with one of the younger Mrs. O’Connor. “Yes. Definitely her.”
“What does that tell us?” Jennifer asked. “It was a fairly public event.”
“My inquiries told me the O’Connor woman was one of McKillop’s uh … conquests.”
“Mrs. Chamberlain, too?” Jennifer asked. “No I don’t feel that here.”
“Yes. Yes. I’m sure.” Meade fell silent.
Delores stepped to his side.
“I’m afraid it’s time for Mr. Meade to rest. He usually doesn’t have so many visitors.” She shook his shoulder gently. “Time for your afternoon siesta Mr. Meade.”
“Yes. Yes. Thank you Delores.” He stood unsteady. “I hope I’ve been helpful. You can have the files. I have to keep purging my past. There’s more in there than we discussed.”
Delores began to lead him away.
“Please get in touch if you want to ask any questions.” He shrugged Delores’ hand from his shoulder. “Perhaps, if I may, would you mind walking me back to my room Mr. James?”
“Certainly.” Dan stood.
Cameron moved to follow them.
“No cameras beyond the the visiting area.” Delores said.
“Oh.” Cameron looked to Dan.
Dan’s eyes blinked as they left the brightly lit visiting area & went into a dimly lit hallway. Even the smell of the building changed as they walked. The fresh pine of the other room was replaced by a stuffy medicinal dustiness.
“There’s a flight of stairs around the corner.” Meade said. “My unit is on the first floor so I take the stairs whenever I can. Helps keep me in shape.”
The corridor on the first floor was brighter. The smell of disinfectant was stronger.
“Here we are.” Meade pushed the buttons on the electronic lock & the door swung open.
The room was cluttered with a couple of file cabinets, a desk littered with folders, a recent model computer & a bed.
“Utilitarian but home.” Meade said. “Sit for a moment.”
“You sure Dolores will allow it?” Dan sat on the edge of the bed.
“Yeah. Look did you know about the conflict between your Dad & McKillop?”
“McKillop? No. Dad was none to fond of the Catholic school boards for blocking him from doing their class photos. But he never mentioned anyone in particular.”
“That someone was McKillop. He & your Dad were … I can’t call them friends but they were more than acquaintances too. Not quite business partners either but …”
“What?” Dan was trying to make some connection between his Dad & the priest.
“Members of the same club.”
“No some camera club.”
“My God! You mean the Kodak Fun Club?”
“Exactly. I’d forgot what it was called. They took photos of an artistic nature.”
“Yeah. I’ve seen some of them. Girly pics. You were a member of the club too?”
“I had a newspaper to run & well, I had access to enough of that sort of smut anyway. Anyway the club voted McKillop out after he’d been a member for a couple of month.”
“Having a priest in the room sort of dampened their innocent pleasures.” Dan gave a little laugh.
“No, he wanted their photographic experiments to go a little further. McKillop was …”
“He liked to be punished for being a bad, bad priest!”
“How do you know this if you weren’t a member of the club?”
“My sources must remain confidential. You understand that.”
“You knew Peggy Brooks?”
Meade stared intently at him for a minute. “Never heard of her.”