Picture Perfect 125
As Dan regained consciousness he was blindfolded in a dim room. He was bound at the ankles to a chair, his hands were bound behind him. He knew the binding were flex cuff zips. He was naked except for his underwear. No socks no shoes. The floor under his feet was wooden. The rank smell of the Nova Convergent Centre was unmistakable. He heard a man behind him swearing.
“Damn! Damn! How the hell does this thing work.”
He couldn’t turn around to see who was behind him. He recognized the voice.
“Troy?” He said. “Is that …”
“Shut up, Mr. James.” A woman in front him said. “If you know what’s good for you. You’ve said enough already. Too much.”
“Janice?” Dan said. “What’s going on?” He tried to move the chair.
“Get him to tell how his damn fancy camera of his works.” Troy demanded.
“Finger print activated.” Dan said. He tried to move the blindfold by farrowing his eyebrows. The zip ties were cutting his circulation but tight enough that he couldn’t slip out of them
“Cool.” Troy grabbed Dan’s hand & began pressing each of the fingers to the start button until the camera beeped on. “Thanks.”
“We couldn’t take any chances that you had hidden cameras.” Janis said. “I know what you people are like. No respect for people’s privacy, for their sensitivities. You only wanted to exploit their heartbreaks.”
“Why?” Dan asked. “Why children?”
“To save them from men. Men who were compelled by their testosterone to to use them. Men like Winston Chamberlain. Like his father before him. As if being men gave them to right to take what they wanted.”
“How …” Dan shuddered as he felt something slither over his naked feet.
“Keep still Mr. James.” Janis replied. “They alarm easily.”
“We lured the children so easily. What kid wouldn’t want to go the circus for free. Get free rides. Cora knew what venom to use to ease them out of this dangerous life.”
Dan saw a suddenly flash around the edge of his blindfold.
“Dammit Troy. Put that camera away.”
He heard a slap then the sound of his camera hitting the wall & falling to the ground.
“Ma! You better not have broken it.” Troy whined.
“I’ll break you.” Janis said. “Put it down now.”
He heard them tussle. He tilted his chair back enough to slip his feet from the chair legs.
“Stop it Troy. Right now.” Janis commanded. “What was that?”
Dan could hear movement from the lobby behind him. The lights in the room went out.
The door behind him opened. Dan shook his head to loosen the blindfold. It slid enough for him to see over the upper edge.
“Dan? Are you in here? Are you okay?”
It was Peter. The room was flooded with light. His blindfold was abruptly pulled off.
“What …?” Dan asked. He blinked in the light & looked around the room. There was no one there.
“How do I open these?” Peter fumbled with the zip ties around his wrists. “I was about five minutes down the road when I saw you left your shoulder bag on the car seat. I turned around & saw you drive off in a van & figured you & Costner were headed some place.”
Dan flexed his hand as one of the zip ties came loose.
“I got your phone & called her to let you guys know I was right behind you. She was puzzled & we realized it wasn’t her that had called you in Toronto.”
“It was …” Dan started answer when the lights went off plunging them back into darkness.
“It was me.” A voice said in the dark, it changed to a whispered lower pitch. “‘Winston Chamberlain’s body has been found about an hour ago.’ You are as smart as the RCMP. Fooled them then & fooled you now. You were so eager for the lure you came running after it.”
The lights around the altar came on. Janie was wearing her ceremonial robe, as was Troy. A third robed figure was sitting on a chair behind the altar.
“What’ll we do ma. He was all we were expecting to deal with.”
“Same story Troy. They broke in & the snakes got’em. We’ll start with you first.” She stepped closer to Peter & a snake slithered out of her sleeve. It darted directly at Peter & bit his cheek. He collapsed to the ground. His body shuddered was still.
Dan stood & holding the chair as best he could he swung it at Janis. It hit her on the shoulder & sent her into Tory & they both fell to the floor. He quickly released the remaining zip tie to free his other hand.
He stooped to check Peter’s neck pulse. There was none.
A kick sent him sprawling into a row of the churche’s chairs.
“Troy bring him here.”
Dan rolled over & saw Troy standing over him with a nylon noose that he slipped quickly over Dan’s head.
“Comes in handy when we have to deal with the bigger snakes.” Troy said giving the noose a yank. “Now get up”
Dan steadied himself on one of the chairs & push himself up slowly. He had to divert Janis & Troy long enough for Costner to arrive.
He said the first thing that came to his mind. “You killed Cora didn’t you?”
“Oh! Mr. Smart knows more than he’s telling us.” She shouted. “Yes, I did. Another death no one suspected. I was the only one visiting her at the unwed mothers. Unwed mothers. Give me a break. Girls who were abused by men who refused to face the responsibility of their acts. Yes. Once the baby was born she was going to give it up for adoption but I made sure she died before she could.”
“Troy’s not your son, he’s her’s.” Dan said.
“What of it? She wanted to abort him, you didn’t know that, did you.”
“Your husband, too? Or were you ever married to any AuCoin.”
“That fat ass. He didn’t see the scripture as clearly as I did. He wanted to run things his way. I was guided to release the spirit of that millstone.”
“You …. You … aren’t my mother!” Troy gasped & let go of the cord around Dan’s neck.
“She was going against the will of the spirit.”
Dan pulled the noose from around his neck. There was blood on his hands from where it had cut into his skin.
Janis spread her arms wide and a snake came out from each sleeve.
“It is time Mr. James.” She stepped toward him.
“No.” Troy grabbed her by the waist and turned her around. They stumbled to behind the altar & knocked the figure that had been watching them. Its hood fell back. It was Winston Chamberlain.
The two snakes fell to the ground. One of them slithered directly at Dan. He grabbed for one of the chairs & swung it at the snake but missed. It darted at him. The white cobra darted out of the dark to strike at it. The two snakes wrapped around each other.
“Look, see!” Troy shouted to his mother. “See. He is protected. The spirit is with him, mother, with him.”
The cobra released the other snake & turned to Janis.
She dropped to her knees before it, pulled open her robe.
“Yes, spirit I am ready for you to take me. I have erred but only to further your work on here.”
The snake reared up to strike.
Dan grabbed the noose cord & slipped it over the cobra’s hood & pulled it away from her.
“You aren’t getting out of this that easily.” He said.
“Ma, the spirit wants you to face the consequences.” Troy said. “Thank you.” He knelt before Dan & placed Dan’s free hand on his head. “Thank you. Thank You, blessed one. Thank you.”
Dan heard sounds from the entrance.
It was Corporal Costner.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
He took a deep breath.
“Yes Corporal Coster. I have things well in hand.”