Picture Perfect 109 

Picture Perfect 109

After two more hours in the archives and having another six pages sent for reproduction, Dan felt they had enough to work with. He took the reproductions to study at the hotel and met with Cameron & Brenda at a local restaurant for supper.

“Brenda can you see if we can access Jasmine’s school records?”

“Okay. I did track down Deirdre Rich. She’d happy to speak with us tomorrow & has some recollection of this case. She does know all about Cold Canada though. A fan from season one.”

“Good. Any luck in tracking down the McKillop family?”

“Background information is rather thin.” Brenda said. “They moved here from Britain. Settled in Glace Bay three years before the abduction. That’s it. Apparently no family connections in Canada.”

“Allegedly no family connections in Canada.” Dan corrected her.

“Is ‘no family connections’ suspicious?” Camron said.

“If they were from, say, Brazil, I’d say no but front Britain I’d expect them to have cousins here.” Dan said. “So, tomorrow we’ll meet with Deirdre.”

“Right. Then we’ll go to Glace Bay for a walk about so you can talk about the family. The church is still there so we can use that as background.”

“The school?”

“Long gone. Like their house.”

Dan gave a small cough then started. “The modest home where Jasmine lived with her family is now a parking lot. Like it the memory of her disappearance has been paved over by time and indifference.”

“Dan you should be writing for the show.” Cameron said. 

“Make that ‘alleged’ disappearance.” Dan added.

<>

Deirdre Marshall lived on the first floor of a three story house that had been converted to apartments. The living-room was, what Dan considered, conservative tasteful. No antiques, nothing disruptively modern either. Deirdre appeared to be about the same age his mother.

“Now, don’t tell me.” She said once they had sat in the living-room. “Your father is Richard James.”

She spoke with the east coast accent that Dan enjoyed hearing.

“And yours is Frederick Rich.” Dan replied.

She laughed. “There goes half our conversation thanks to efficient research departments. But in my case I did know Richard.”

“Hardly surprising.” Dan said. 

“Yes. I don’t remember much about the Mackillop child through. I was rushing around from bridal shower to baby baptism thinking I was on my way to being a real reporter.

“When I read about Cold Canada coming here to do this investigation about the summer of 84 it did twig my memory a little. I went into my clippings file and sent that to you.”

“Anonymously.”

“I … I didn’t think who I was was the issue. I didn’t want you think I was trying to revive my dormant career or anything like that.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know what became of the family?” Dan asked.

“Oh my dear, you’ve certainly come to the person for that! When I searched out that clipping there was was my little file about them. I hoped it was going become a big story. I may have been stuck on the doily beat but I knew how to be a professional.” She reached under the couch and pulled out a document folder held shut by string. 

“Oh, this isn’t all about them in particular but about Glace Bay.” She sorted through loose clippings & some hand written notes. “Right. They left in March of 1985. A lovely reception and tea was held as a bon voyage party for them by their church. The mother was a soprano in the choir. They only had the one child and they left sadly losing more than their heart to Cape Breton.

“I did get a Christmas card from them that year.” she handed it to Jennifer.

“Where did it come from?” Jennifer asked.

“When I tell you you’ll laugh, because I did. Christchurch. They’d gone to New Zealand! What could be more perfect a minster going to Christchurch. I made sure to get that into the Bay social column that week.”

“So you’ve heard nothing since then?” Dan asked.

“No.”

“They weren’t happy there.” Jennifer said. “Losing Jasmine shook his faith.”

‘You can tell that from the card?” Deirdre said. “All it says besides the holiday message is ‘thinking of you and trust you are well.’”

“There’s enough of their sadness here for me to read it.” she passed the card to Dan.

He studied it for a few minutes. “Nothing overtly religious or even spiritual about the card. For a minister, I mean. They each signed it though. He did the inscription and wrote his name. The wife signed it and added that little curved flourish.”

“My my. Is that the same card I look at a few minutes ago?” Deirdre said. “With eyes like you have I’m amazed criminal would try to put anything over on you.”

“Did you cover the mayor’s wedding?” Dan asked.

“Of course. I covered it for both the Post and the Chronicle out of Halifax. In fact I think your Dad was the photographer. He did lots of work for the Post you know. This was a big wedding. Mayor marries Cabinet Minister’s daughter. Federal at that! They thought good things would happen when all that Federal money came flowing in. Never happened. Never happened.”

Dan  couldn’t recall if his Dad was still on the east coast at the time. He’d have to check his dad’s travel journals to be sure. A wedding of that nature was one he wouldn’t miss. But it put him in the right place at the right time once again.

“You’ve been very helpful Mrs. Marshall.” Brenda  said once they brought the interview to a conclusion.

“Will you be using any of this. On air I mean.” 

“That’s up the editors.” Brenda said. “Nothing gets wasted. As you well know.”

“Thank you again.” Dan said shaking her hand. “By the way do you have anything about the Happy Hippo in your files?”

“Those bastards.” Deirdre said. “Thought they could flash their money & have their way down here. I put a stop to that. Let me tell you. Or better yet let me show you.”

She left the room & came back moments later with another file folder. She flipped through it & pulled out several articles, along with some typewritten pages.

“This is what was published.” She said. “Puff pieces about how everyone was happy about the Happy Hippo.”

Dan placed at the headlines ‘Happy Hippo Visit Children’s Ward’ ‘Happy Hippo Fundraiser’ “Performs Appear at Retired Home.’ 

“It makes them appear to be so good. Not these stories aren’t true but let me tell you the Chamberlains had no social conscious. It’s all a … smoke-screen to appease the public. This the article I wrote that was refused because the Hippo’s advertising dollar was more valuable than the truth.”

Jennifer began to read the article. “Wow!”

“Yeah.” Deirdre nodded excitedly. “I did my research. Trust me. I had documentation to back up what I say here. Interviews with some past female employees. When the province became stricter about the … uh … dancing girls the carnival started the Cleopatra bullshit. With mummies & of course handmaidens handling snakes to promote the exhibit. 

“One year I launched a complaint about the handmaiden but that was ignored. Next I got the Animal Cruelty people onto them about the snakes that were being abused. The next year they dropped it all.

Jennifer laughed aloud. “This article is hilarious Deirdre.”

“How so?” Deirdre asked.

“The women are only trained to handle the real snakes, not the one’s they are expected to handle in private!”

“It’s true. They became known as handjob maidens.”

Dan chocked back his laughter. “You said that in the article! No wonder it was suppressed.”

“No I didn’t. I also resisted saying they weren’t trained to handle trowser snakes.”

“Oh God! Oh God!” Brenda wiped away tears of laughter.

“This is the first time I’ve heard this about the Hippo!” Dan said. “It’s great information but I don’t know how relevant it is to our investigation.”

<>

In the car Jennifer said. “I got the feeling she was holding something back.”

Dan thought a moment. “She didn’t say a thing about the other cases. At least the one in St. Peter’s. In fact there was nothing in the Post archives about it either. That was one of the things I was searching for.”

“Maybe it wasn’t local enough for them?” Brenda said. “It certainly wasn’t on the doily beat.”

“Maybe she was sore about getting turned down by the Hippo when she applied to be a handjob maiden?” Cameron laughed.

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