Picture Perfect 119
Over the next forty-eight hours Dan with members of the task-force went through the unedited footage of the Cold East interviews to see what connections were made with the Happy Hippo. Others in the task force were going through the Hippo’s haphazard employment records. Many of the carnies & even the performers were, for tax purposes, considered part-time free-lancers so the Chamberlains weren’t required to keep detailed records. Often the only record was the newspaper adverts to flyers for the town where the carnival was appearing.
There was also no record of who made the props for any of the acts. Dan was discussing the lack of documentation with the Cold East crew as they prepared for some new interviews with the families.
“You might talk with Jane Poitier.” Jennifer suggest. “From the Wickham Arms. She was one of the touring Madama Cabanallas.”
“Right! We could also talk with Janis Hadley. She might have more on this Snake Man that we heard about.”
“Which first?” Cameron asked.
“Janis Hadley.” Dan said. “the Nova Convergent Centre is closer. Maccan, if I remember correctly.”
He found the business card for The Nova Convergent and called. The phone was answered on the first ring.
“Ah, Mr. James.” Janis Hadley answered before he could say hello. “I was expecting your call.”
“You’ve seen the news.” He said.
“Who hasn’t? What a sad sensation. Those poor, poor children. Come out in the morning & we can talk further.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“Bring Jennifer Devereaux with you as well. I have a message for her.”
“We are talking to people who the few people we know who have been connected with the Hippo in the past. So I’ll be bringing a small crew with me.”
“The should be fine,” she said after a pause.
“Thanks again.” He ended the call. “Shite.”
“What?” Cameron asked.
“I have to take Peter to the airport in the morning. He’s flying back to Toronto. The other flight isn’t until like midnight.”
When he got back to the Waterside he explained things to Peter.
“Nova Convergent Centre?” Peter asked.
“Snake handlers. You know …”
“Yes! Yes! I know. I did a paper about them when I was at U of T.”
“No, sir. About the religion itself. As a kid I was fascinated by snakes.”
“First time you’ve mentioned it to me.”
“I always envied Whorey, I mean, Harry Potter & his ability to speak Parseltongue. Sshhuuchhk.”
“Whatever.” Dan laughed.
“Besides it’s not something that ever came up. Hi, my name is Peter & I like snakes.”
“Take me with you, sir, please.”
“What! No! I’ll make sure you catch your flight. Jill’ll fire your ass if you don’t get back to the Carafe.”
“Not if you tell her I’ve been detained as a material witness by the task force.”
“Yes.” Peter pulled Dan’s fly open & put his hand in. “Or tell her I’ve been attacked by a trouser snake, sir”
The equipment van with Peter added to shoot crew of Cameron & Brenda & Jennifer was crowded.
“I wonder what sort of message the Convergent would have for me?” Jennifer said. “I’m definitely not be of their … um …. religious persuasion but it doesn’t matter you call the spirit, it remains the spirit.”
“Snakes usually speak with forked tongues.” Peter said.
“Yes.” “Jennifer said. “But spirit doesn’t. When I was near those mummies I could actually feel those bandages going smothering me.”
“What about you Dan?” Brenda asked. “It wasn’t just a gut reaction?
“You are suggesting I have powers of observation that are supernatural? That I’m psychic?” Dan said.
“I don’t think there’s anything supernatural about it.” Jennifer said. “When you look at photograph you see a greater spectrum than normally sighted people do.”
“This is your way of telling me I have second sight?”
Dan laughed. “I hope this isn’t leading so some on-line university you want me to sign up to further develop my esp skills.”
“No!” Jennifer laughed.
When they reached Maccan Dan had Cameron pull over at Flannery’s.
A sign in window said ‘Sorry – Closed for the day.’
“Too bad. The scone here are nearly as good as the ones at the carafe.”
“We’ll have to face the snakes without another cup of coffee. Maybe an empty stomach is best.” Peter said.
The parking lot was full. There were people standing in groups chatting. He parked and got of the car. As he approached the front of the church Janis Hadley broke away from one of the groups and greeted him.
“Welcome Mr. James. Miss Devereaux. ” she extended her right hand from a slit in the deep emerald green velvet robe she wore. It was bordered with azure zig-zag embroidery. She shook their hands. “I’m so glad to see you again, Dan. Jennifer, this is the first time we’ve met. I know your mother from the Hippo days.”
“Oh!” Jen said.
“Yes. She took over as Madam Vanya when I left. The next summer she was Madama Cabanalla. The service for today is about to begin.”
“I … ” If he had known there was to be a service he would have opted for a later time.
“We can talk after the service.” Janis said.
Cameron hefted his camera to his shoulder.
“Mr. Carter you must remain at the back of the hall if you intend to film anything. No faces.”
Organ music began to play from inside the building.
“Come the service is about to start.”
She put a hand on Cameron’s shoulder to guide him in. The other’s followed them in. She indicated the back row for him & aisle seats four rows from the front for the rest of them
“You will have a good view from here but not feel too threatened.”
Jennifer went in first, then Peter, and Dan sat in the aisle seat.
Jennifer took a deep breath.
“You sensing something?” Dan asked her.
“I was checking to see if there was an a/c. It’s mighty stuffy in here.”
“If it’s too cool snakes aren’t that active.” Peter said.
The seats were mental stacking chairs. Eight rows deep and eight rows across with the aisle running down the centre so there were four chairs on either side. Dan could see more stacks of the chairs at the far side of the room. There was a balcony on the opposite side of the room.
The seats quickly filled up. Some of attendees wore robes similar to Janis’s. Several women in deep greens, a couple of men in indigo.
“This is one time I wish I was colour blind.” Jennifer whispered.
“I don’t know. I think Baxter would approve.”
Janis went to the front of the room. There a large flat screen to one side of her podium. On a pedestal behind her was a statue of a very dark complexioned Christ standing with his arms reaching out to the congregation. He wore an actual robe. It was pure white with the same zig-zag stitching in gold. Around his arms were carved snakes whose heads were raised over his open palms. As far as Dan could tell they were carved but the eyes glinted red. Carved snakes also coiled around the pedestal.
“Historically correct Jesus.” Peter said quietly.
“I wonder if it’s anatomically correct?” Peter asked.
“Once again Baxter would approve.” Dan said.
“Stop!” Jennifer giggled.
The couple in front glanced and glared at them. Dan was flooded with a memory of being in church with another boy and the two of them being dragged out for giggling. A fly had been buzzing around and had landed on the nose of one of the statues and they couldn’t stop giggling. Who was that boy?
Janis nodded to the organist who stopped playing.
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