Picture Perfect 122
The next morning they gathered for coffee in the Moncton airport before their flight.
“What exactly did you see in your trance?” Jennifer asked.
“That I was getting my picture taken. I was seeing things through Dorothy O’Connor’s eyes.”
“So you were the Dorothy as she appeared in the picture. You got no sense of what she did next or what she had for breakfast.”
“Nope, just the moments of the picture itself. I was worried about what I was wearing then the real me said she looked fine.” Dan said.
“You mean you changed from her to yourself?” Peter asked.
“That must be why she reached out to you.” Jennifer said. “You had contact with her when she was alive.”
“When you sense things, Jennifer, what comes to you.”
“It’s like smelling something in a room. I put on the emotions like a sweater but I rarely see faces. It helps when I handle the objects. My connection is much stronger. If that’s what you mean. I can see the bruise but can’t tell what caused it.”
The day after their return to Toronto Dan met with the RCMP task force. Sergeant Coster from the New Brunswick detachment was summarizing their progress so far.
“The Chamberlain records of the time have manufacturing information on the props, costumes for the Tut exhibit. The principle ones of Tut are both a wire fabrication. One of the others was a mannikin. They were made by a theatrical props company in Montreal. They arrived already attached to their stands or coffins. There is no mention in the records of mummies other than the principal ones.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “The other five contained human bones. Children’s bones that we in process of identifying. We can name two of them already. Dorothy O’Connor & Timothy Dunlop. Those families have been informed.
“Winston Chamberlain knows nothing about the other mummies except that they were delivered at random times and then they were integrated into the dioramas. As fr as he knows none of the women work in the exhibit had any contact with them. They were handled by the carnies.”
“The forensic team has examined the bones.” Warszawa took over. “Other than connecting wire frame the mummies of the children contained bones only. There was little flesh and scant traces of any other tissue. No internal organs, no brain matter. The coroner found cuttings in the skull that were similar to those found in actual Egyptian mummies.
“Most of the wrappings on each of the children were linen that had been cut into long endless strips from a single bed sheet. Each mummy was a different sheet. Different in weave. Fabric matches were found with different manufacturers. Apparently some of the clothing of the children was included in the wrappings”
As the reports were being read the profile of the killer was becoming clearer to Dan. It would have been an exacting process. Someone with surgical or butcher knowledge assisted in preparing the bones. Also someone connected in some way with the Happy Hippo.
Dan felt that if he shook his head hard enough all this information would fall into the right place. The scattered pieces would form a face.
“Special Investigator Daniel James has some new information for us.”
Dan filled them in on his conversation with Janis Hadley about Cora Murchison.
“Why do you feel this Cora Murchison has something to do with the case?” Warszawa said as he read over the notes in Dan’s file. “An affair with the owner doesn’t actually make her a suspect.”
“It’s … call it a gut reaction. When I saw this footage of her …” He passed his pad around so they could see her performing with one of the snakes. “My gut responded. To her, not the snake.”
“Thanks Daniel.” Coster said. “We’ll look into this. Winston Chamberlain is a more likely suspect with his history at the time. It’s not a big step from underage girls to murder.”
“I’ve studied the timelines. Unless he was in two places at once that’s impossible.” Dan said.
“Perhaps he wasn’t working alone.” Coster suggested. “Cora was having the affair with his father, why not with Winston, too?”
“That’s possible.” Dan said. “While she was with the Hippo she was responsible for the Tut sideshows. They were her idea. Maybe she made those other mummies?”
“Have you tracked her down?” Costner asked.
“The Cold East research team has found an obituary for her. It did not spell out the cause of death. She was 32, born in Stellerton, left a father and mother.” Dan said. “Maybe they’re still alive.”
“What would the motivation be?” Warszawa asked. “The cases are so random. Only the fact that they were children links them together.”
“They were opportunity.” Dan said. “I don’t think they were selected. It isn’t difficult to find unprotected children in small towns. In farming communities.”
“What do you think Corporal?” Warszawa asked Costner. She had been studying the files.
“I think we have reason to believe she is a person of interest in this case. I also find it curiously convenient that the carnival has such detailed records of its doings but then blank spaces for that summer. Mostly around the Tut exhibit. There is no record of where the snakes came from. No import documentation. Maybe they were smuggled into the country? No record of where the additional mummies came from. Cora Murchison is not on the payroll after 1983 yet she clearly is in those photos from 1984.”
“Nothing concrete.” Warszawa said. “We need more than gossip.”
“How about this?” Dan showed them a photo he had found in the Hippo archives of Winston helping a child onto her seat in the ferris wheel. “Here he is, at the time, with one of the missing children. I’m pretty sure that’s Madeline Forestier.”
“I wonder if this Cora affair is why Winston Chamberlain gets so defensive.” Dan said. “Maybe she did she sleep with father and son?”
“Even if she did that doesn’t explained how or why the remains of the missing children showed up at the Happy Hippo.” Warszawa said.
“The connection between the Hippo tours and the children is now very clear.” Dan said.
Corporal Costner’s cellphone buzzed.
“Sorry,” she said then answered. “Corporal Costner here.” She listened a moment. “What! …. Yes I understand but … Okay I’ll return to the station on the next available flight.”
She put her phone on the table.
“That was Brian McKillop, my division captain. There was a fire at the Chamberlain Museum last night. Mainly in their archive storage.”
“Anyone hurt?” Dan asked.
“No but …. Winston Chamberlain can’t be found. His car is in the parking lot. His … uh …. personal effects are in his office – cell phone, car keys. Even his shoes. But no sign of him. They are currently searching the property & the surrounding woods.”