Picture Perfect 102 

Picture Perfect 102

The next day was a picture perfect day – overcast with a thick cloud cover over the harbour. Dan skipped breakfast to get down to the boardwalk. The pictures were spectacular though. Dark and forbidding. Ideal for a Storm Cloud calendar. 

He went back to the hotel dining room for breakfast. The coffee was passable, the coffee cups were too small, the eggs were tasteless and the toast was equally as dull. As he ate he went over the events of the last couple of days. This get away to Sydney hadn’t turned out to be a stress reliever after all.

One thing he was reminded of was that casual sex was not for him as much as he fantasizes about it. He was incapable of the sort of encounters so frequently shown in gay porn. He needed something besides the rawness of opportunity. Even a body as perfect as Stan’s hadn’t been enough for him to let it happen. 

He borrowed an umbrella from the front desk and walked up Charlotte St., the main street. All the shops that were still in business were opened but it was still and quiet. He checked his cell for the messages he’d been ignoring for the last couple of days.

The most recent two were from Brenda. As he checked another call came from her.

“Dan! Is that really you?” she said.

“Yes.”

“It’s been so long we weren’t sure you were …”

“Okay! Okay! What’s so important. I’ll be in St. Peter’s in time for the big ceremony tomorrow.”

“Don’t bother. The Morrison clan has made that an exclusive event.”

“Exclusive! How?”

“Don’t ask me how but only select invited press will be allowed.”

“Tell that to the drones.” He laughed.

“Very funny. So your travel plans have been …. updated. Instead of going there you’ll be flying back to Toronto tomorrow. We have to get some of the voice-overs finished for the episode one debut in two weeks.”

“Two weeks! Right.”

“Look we have enough footage to stretch out for six episodes. Baxter is getting more local colour to fill them in & bulk them up.”

“I get it.”

“Don’t sound so enthused. Along with your flight details I’m sending you the scripts for them. No need to to memorize them.”

“I know, I just have to say them like I’m interested or something like that. ‘A dark shadow cast itself over the sunny seaside Nova Scotia town of Digby when …’ Is it a town or a village?”

“Stop! Dan.” Brenda laughed. “It’ll be nothing like that but I’ll send that ‘dark shadow’ along to the writers.”

As he walked it started to rain lightly. He forwarded his flight information to Peter. He opened his umbrella and headed through a small park. His cell buzzed. It was Peter.

“Hi, handsome.” Dan said.

“Good morning, sir.” Peter replied. “You still coming home next week?”

“Nope. I just sent you the info. Things have changed. I hop a the plane in the morning.”

“Hold on. Just got it. Tomorrow! I saw the cloud photos you posted this morning. You must enjoying the sights there? They are amazing. You want me to pick you up at the airport? How did it feel going back into your old house?”

“One thing at a time. I can get myself home from the airport. The old homestead was weird. Turns out it’s still in the family. I figured my Dad had sold it when he sold the business years ago. I could almost smell my mother’s home burning.”

“Burning?”

“She was fond of overcooking everything. So invariably something would be a little charred. Caramelized she said. She never did the knack of rice.”

“Have you considered what’ll happen with us when you get back? I don’t want to pressure you. I was just wondering, sir.”

“You wanting to move in full time?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m going to have to think about that. It’s not as if I’ve had time to think about much but Cold Canada the last few months. I’m still dealing with Sanjay as well. Can you stay put for a little while longer? It is rent free after all.”

“I’m still paying for my place.”

“I get the picture.”

It began to rain harder.

“It starting to rain here. I’ll have to call you later.”

A hand-drawn poster on a telephone pole announced a rummage sale a 100 yards away. Books. Memorabilia. Collectables. Live music. A fund raiser for the Island Historical Society. He followed the arrow and stepped into the hall as the rain became a full fledged storm.

<>

“You can put your umbrella here, sir.” A teenage girl took his umbrella and gave him a ticket for it.

He filled in raffle tickets for handmade quilt. He bought tickets for draws that were to happen all-day on the half-hour. Prizes were dinners at local restaurants, massage sessions. Each draw would be from tickets sold in the last-half hour. Smart thinking to keep people buying for every draw. Grand prize was a spa retreat weekend for two outside of Baddeck. Transportation not included. He guessed they wanted tourists not to expect return airfare.

The hall itself was much larger than it appeared from the outside. The building was a former fire station, now community centre that adjoined a coffee shop. The wall diving them had been partially removed to make a large space.

It presented a fascinating repurposing as the fire station fixtures had been kept. One side had fire uniforms, hoses, even the fire pole & an old fire engine; while the other looked like a western saloon with the coffee bar at one end, wagon wheel chandeliers, marbled mirrors. Over the bar was a sign that said Gracie’s Kitchen. All that was missing were cigarette burned, beer stained tables. Perhaps they were being used to display the sale stuff.

More people were pushing in to escape the rain.

Tables were grouped in blocks of fours with space in the middle for sellers. Books had a section against one wall with shelves. Clothes had a wall with racks. Gracie’s Kitchen was selling baked goods, sandwiches, coffee, tea and local cider. There was to be an oatcake contest later in the afternoon.

“Cooking? Tasting? Or who can eat the most?” Dan asked the woman behind the counter dressed like a forties diner waitress. Her name tag said ‘Gracie.’

“Tasting.” She nodded. “Best gets the ribbon. These are by Dolly Dinty, last year’s winner. And the year before, too.”

He bought one & a cup of Gracie’s Blend Tea.  Oatcakes had never been a big thing when he was growing there. Neither was the donair. Ditto for tea blends.

“No donair ribbon?” he joked.

“Nope. Not … Scottish enough. Too messy as well.”

“Ahh.” The tea was strong. The oatcake had an interesting taste. 

“Dolly’s trying something new this year. Lemon zest.”

“How radical.” He laughed. 

“Here.” she slid a card to him. “Judges will look at tasters reactions before coming to a decision.”

“Maybe I should try one of ..” he turned a glass jar of oatcakes around to read the label. “Clive Moffat’s.”

“You won’t be disappointed. Stick around & try them all. Money goes to a good cause.”

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Picture Perfect 101

Picture Perfect 101

He turned off the Lifend, got up from the desk to stretch his shoulders and back. He recalled that the other cigar box would be more postcards, pictures and maybe some hockey cards. The cookie tin, from the way it rattled was marbles, toys and maybe those cuff-links his grandpa had given him. He never had a shirt that needed them. 

He sat on the armchair to check his email. Messages from Peter, Baxter, but nothing urgent. There was reply with some attachments from his lawyer. The message said.

“Dan:

There’s nothing in your father’s will specifically about the east coast real estate . It does say that, as with all the other assets, it was joint property owned by you, your sister and your mother. I’ve attached a copy of will with pertinent sections high lighted.

“Also included are recent tax records for the properties in New Waterford, Nova Scotia; Cardigan in Prince Edward Island and Montreal, Quebec.

“As I’m sure you know its James Incorporated that owns these properties not any one of you. Unlike, say, your residence which is owned wholly by you Daniel James. The Depot property is owned by the Corporation which leases it to James Family Photographers.

“Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.”

Why did every answer lead to more questions? Cardigan? Montreal? 

His cell rang. It was Linda.

“What did you take from the house?” she demanded.

“Why? Did you leave something incriminating behind?”

“That is MY house and the contents are mine as well.”

“Look I didn’t take any of your damned sheets if that’s what you think. Other than them and some sticks of furniture that’s all that’s in OUR house.”

“Daddy said that was my house when we moved to Ontario. It was his way of paying me to leave all my friends so he could give you the life he wanted.”

“Said? Oral contracts are binding only there is a witness. As far as I know it’s the property of the company. Not the private property of any one of us.”

“Mom was there. She’s knows it is mine.”

“Linda you are welcome to it. I thought it had been sold when we moved to help pay for the move. Mrs. Donaldson let me in.”

“I know that. What did you take out of the house?”

“Some things of mine actually.”

“We cleaned that house of everything. There was nothing left behind. Nothing.”

“Did you check the … floor boards.”

“Floor boards?”

“Yeah. In that cupboard under the stairs. I used to hide from you in there.”

“You pulled up those floorboards?”

“When I was kid. I used to stash my comic books there and stuff I didn’t want you prying into.” Which was true. He wasn’t going to tell her about the ultra secret spot in his old bedroom.

“Well, we knew all about that. You weren’t so smart after all. I showed it to Dad and he said just leave it there. There was still some stuff there?”

“Marbles. Fossilized bones of mice. Boy stuff.” He wanted to asker her about the other properties but that could wait until he was back in Toronto. He’s want to see what they were first.

“I thought you were coming back to Toronto now that the show was cancelled.”

“It hasn’t been cancelled merely postponed. I figured while I was here I’d visit my old school. I haven’t been back since we moved you know. Unlike you. Mrs. Donaldson tells me you visit at least once a year.”

“So what if I do?” she said.

She was so defensive he knew there was more to this that just visits to the old homestead to recharge her batteries or renew old acquaintances.

“I didn’t say anything. I did find those pictures we took of each other though. That day when I got my first camera.”

“Oh right. I haven’t seen them ever.”

“The original of us in the dining room mirror.”

“Thank God we stopped using that here. My hair is so bad in it. So bad.”

“I thought we might resurrect it for Christmas this year. The Family that selfies together stays together.”

“Don’t you dare.”

“I’m sure we can Photoshop your hair.” He sent her a copy of the version of the mirror selfie he had found.

“Oh my. I look so …”

“Young.”

“We all do. I love the expression on Dad’s face here too.” Dan said. It had been a long time since he had look at photos of his father other the ones on the walls at their stores. Even those had ceased to be prominent in favour of advertising. Maybe that’s what the Fairview store needed – an appeal to tradition and not this emphasis on the high end today. One of Lifend’s biggest sellers was the retro 30’s newsman’s camera series. 

“I’ll be back on Monday but I’m not sure for how long. We have more of segments to shoot down here. Don’t worry, I won’t be staying at the old house. I still like to be close to the action – i.e. downtown Sydney on a Saturday night.”

“Enjoy bingo at the Legion then. Bye.”

He re-read the files the lawyer had sent. There was nothing in them as he understood them that explained why Linda was so concerned about his being in the house. Was the fact that he knew about enough to alarm her? He didn’t trust her. 

There was a knock at his door.

Now what! 

He looked through the peep hole. It was Stan.

After his tactful bout with Linda he was ready for anything. He made sure the security hinge was on the door as he opened..

“Dan I didn’t mean to come on so strong the other day. I’d like to explain.” He tried to push the open further.

“I’ll meet you at the lounge downstairs in ten minutes. We’ll talk there.”

“Yes.” Stan stood peering through the crack in the door.

“The sooner you go the sooner I’ll be down to see you.”

“Okay.”

Dan cocked an ear to hear the elevator open. He rinsed his face, washed his hands. He dabbed the dust off his pants and shirt with a damp face cloth.

He checked his cell to make sure fifteen minutes has elapsed. He picked up the hotel phone and spoke to the concierge.

“This is Daniel James in 609. Could you call Stan Ferguson to the phone. Thank you.” He waited a moment while Stan was being paged.

“Hello?”

“I’ll be right down Stan. I just wanted to make sure you were still there.” Actually I wanted to make sure you were there and not lurking in the hall of stairwell on this floor.

“I’m here.”

In the lounge The Celtones were playing live. Upright bass, piano and gently brushed snares gave the drinkers privacy without making it necessary for them to shout. The bass player and piano player switched instruments to add fiddle, mandolin even penny whistle to their music. 

Stan was at a table by a window that over looked the harbour. He already a drink. Dan ordered a local craft beer. 

“I honestly don’t know what got into me at the museum.” Stan started. “It’s been awhile since I’ve, you know …” 

He stopped talking as the waiter put Dan’s beer on the table. The waiter poured half a glass of it for Dan to sample. Dan took his time – holding the glass up to the light, swirling it, sniffing it – as if he was a true connoisseur. He could sense Stan getting impatient. He sipped it.

“Very nice. Thank you. No, that’s okay, I’ll pour it myself. You’d like one.” he asked Stan.

“No, thanks.” Stan replied. “Ginger ale is fine for me.”

The waiter left the table.

“I want to make some sort of amend for how I acted. I felt there was some chemistry between us.”

“Chemistry? When we were looking the funeral pictures of the wedding gown rentals?” Dan laughed.

“We don’t know each other well enough to have chemistry.”

“You’re not just an innocent out-of-towner. I felt the way you looked at me at the museum. You don’t find me attractive?”

“You are …”

“Too short? Or am I just some nobody & you’re this big somebody who doesn’t have the time for nobodies like me?”

“Is that what you think?” Dan signalled for another beer. “Is that why you showed up at my room? To prove you’re not a nobody? Or were you attracted to me because I was a somebody?”

“I … I thought if we got more acquainted.”

“This is as acquainted as we’re going to become.”

“Right.” Stan stood abruptly. “I’m sorry I annoyed you.”

Dan finished his beer and watched Stan leave. That went well. Did this happen to every new queer face in town?

Back in his hotel room he glanced into the other two boxes. The larger cigar box had more photos, cards and prize ribbons from school. An envelope with birthday twenties and silver dollars in it. The tin had a couple of marbles, some pogs, loose hockey cards and four or five unopened packages of hockey cards. A little cloth bag with his baby teeth. Baby teeth! 

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Picture Perfect 100 

Picture Perfect 100

Dan hoped so because the living hadn’t much to tell him yet.

He locked the door after her. He checked the back door to make sure it was locked. He didn’t want any surprise visitors from the present to join with the ones from the past. Dan sent a text to Dell and Strong to have them find out who owns the family house in New Waterford and also what happened to the business located on Plummer Ave. He has assumed those properties were sold when the family moved to Toronto.

He turned on the upstair’s hall light and went to the door of his room. He took pictures of it opened slowly with the sun coming through the windows.

Other than a bed the room was empty. It was a single bed, similar to the one he had as a boy but it wasn’t the one he had as a boy, because it had been shipped to Toronto along with the entire contents of his room. All except for the ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK’ which he was told been accidentally torn up by the movers. 

There was linen and pillows at the head of the bed. Coat hangers in the closet. He tried to reach up over the closet shelf but couldn’t. He pushed the bed over and stood on it. He was able to access his secret spot. There was an rough space just above the closet. It was opening about five inches high that opened into the ceiling over his room.

He was able to peer into the space and illuminated it with his cellphone. He had never seen into it this deeply before. He set his camera for continuous as he pulled out a couple of cigar boxes and a cookie tin he had stashed there. There was nothing deeper than he dared to reach as a child. He put the boxes on the shelf behind him. Once he was sure there wasn’t anything else there he put the bed back to where he used to sleep on it when this was his room.

In the kitchen he found some paper towels under the sink and wiped the black dust off the boxes after taking pictures of them. This alone was worth coming here. He hadn’t remembered them until the door to the room opened. 

He resisted the temptation to open the boxes & dump the contents on the counter. He suspected that if he was in the house much longer Marge would knock on the door to make sure everything was all right. 

He found a garbage bag & carefully stacked the boxes in it. After locking the front door he dropped the keys into Marge’s mailbox and went to his car. Back at La Promenade he bought a newspaper & placed it over the top of the desk, set the Lifend on its tripod to record his opening of the boxes.

“Earlier today I found these boxes where I had hidden them in my bedroom in July 1984. Only I knew they were there and so when Linda and my mother packed the house for the move these were still there. 

He picked up the smallest of them & rotated it for the camera. 

“I loved little boxes for hiding things in. I still do, only now it’s pockets in coats, shoulder bags, camera bags. I’m not sure what this wood is. Perhaps pine but the cigars are from … well I can’t make out the name.” 

He opened the box and in it were some post cards, photographs and cereal box tops. 

“I was saving box tops to send away for a kite kit. I guess I never got it. These postcards are from a postcard club I joined. It was a game in which you sent a postcard to each of top three the names on the list. Then cross the top name off and add yours to the bottom. These are from Uganda and Bombay. I got a dozen or so but no more after we moved when we moved. There were others from places in Canada but I only kept the ones from far away.”

He looked at the photos. 

“I took these pictures with my first camera. They are of kids in the neighbourhood. This is Darrell McLeod. I ran into his mother this afternoon. I don’t recall who these girls are but I think the dog is Darrell’s. Scatter was his name.”

“Here’s the very first picture I took.” He turned it over and that was printed on the back. It was of his mother sitting in the kitchen with sun lighting one side of her face. “It’s of my mother so I could prove to my Dad I was ready to take portraits and that they’d be as good as his. She’s smoking here and having a cup of tea. Probably taking a break before she gets supper ready. That’s natural sunset light.”

“This next one is one Linda took of me taking a picture of a rose on the bush in the backyard of the house. My mother was so proud that she had planted something that grew.”

The next several were all similar – a picture his dad had taken of him and his sister taking pictures of each other. 

“We went nuts that day. Stalking each other around the house to get unexpected pictures. I locked myself in the bathroom to take a leak in peace. So did Linda too.” Dan laughed. “Here we are taking pictures of each other taking pictures of each other. We thought was so hilarious.”

“I was so pissed my camera could only take twelve shots before I had to put in another roll. Dad made us stop after three rolls each because they didn’t grow on trees. Only twelve exposures per roll. Only twelve! Fuck my Lifend can hold thousands, millions if I included cloud storage.”

The last one was of the three of them, him, Linda, his father in front the wide mirror in the dining room taking a picture of three of themselves.

“Oh my God. This last one is a classic. There was an enlargement of it in the shop window when we first opened in Toronto. Here we are  in front the wide mirror in the dining room taking one of the first mirror selfies.  This must be my shot as my face in a little blurred looking up from the view finder. I just had to make sure my face was in the picture. Mom was hiding in the kitchen.”

As he looked at each he checked the back to see what written there. The edges of all the pictures were date stamped by the developer except the ones his Dad had taken, which he developed himself. The only note was ‘my first picture.’ 

“That’s all there in this first box. No rare coins.”

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Picture Perfect 99

Picture Perfect 99

Dan pressed the doorbell at 412 and there was no answer. The mailbox had the Donaldson name on it so he hoped this was the right house. He knocked and waited a few minutes before pressing the bell again. He held his ear close to the door and could hear it ringing in the house.

He gave up and went to the front door of his old house. Well, if his sister was still visiting it it must still be in the family somehow. He tried the door knob and it was locked. He rang that bell and it chimed in the house. He started back down the steps when the door opened.

“Sorry, I was in th’basement.” An out-of-breath women said.

He went back to the door. “Mrs. Donaldson?” he asked.

“The same.” she replied. “Marge Donaldson to be exact.”

Except for the black hair she could have been Cassie McLeod.

“Daniel James.” He introduced himself. “You’re … uh … Cassie’s sister?”

“Cousins.” She pulled a pair of wire framed glasses from her apron and put them on.

“Daniel?” he squinted at him. “Let me get a good look at you.” She came out of the house. “Skoot back a bit so as I can get a good look at you in the good light. I suppose it is. What brings you to these here parts.”

“Wanted to visit the old neighbourhood.” He said.

“Time to see those you run away from.” She said.

“I did not …” he stopped himself. He had nothing to defend or explain. “Comes a time to stop running.” he said.

“I suppose you want to see the inside.” 

“I’m not sure.” He really wasn’t sure what he expected to see or find when he came here. “It’s been so long I only have vague images of my life here. Linda comes back regularly enough.”

“Been awhile for that one too. Ats why I’m here. Says she’ll be here next week or so and wants things aired out. She was always one for puttin’ on airs.” Marge laughed at her own joke.

“You might as well come in. If’n you plan to sleep over I can make up the bed in yer old room. New mattress on the bed mind you.” She opened the door to let him into the house.

“That won’t be necessary. I’m staying at La Promenade in Sydney.” 

The hallway was exactly as he remembered it right down to the starburst mirror over the hall vestibule, the spiked silver light fixture still hung there. His mother couldn’t get over it the first time she saw it. It was the future with its space-age promise. He expected to see his book bag and sneakers under the hall table.

“Some of this was in storage y’see.” Marge explained. “Your sister, Linda, only wanted a few pieces though. So she said. Which was what made the antiques guy happy. Sold most of that stuff. If you’re not living in a place, no need to fill it up with furniture that gonna get stolen or mouldier year after year.”

“I understand.” Dan went into the living-room. There were two recliners facing the fire place. No carpets, nothing on the wall. A table lamp on the floor in a corner by the window.

The discoloured shadows of where pictures once were mottled the walls. 

“Don’t let me keep you Mrs. Donaldson. You were working on something.” Dan wanted to be alone to re-acquaint himself with the house.

“Was just finishin’ up. Got some things to takeout of the dryer in the basement. Washing dust out of the sheets. “I only be a coupl’a minutes.”

She disappeared into the kitchen.

He tried the light switches and there was power. Water ran in the kitchen. There was a couple of large coffee mugs in the cupboard by the sink. The water tasted like water. It didn’t spark any memory. The kitchen counters were the same. The floor tile was the same. Time had stood still. No, it had moved enough to shake the house free of its contents. The dining room was clean but empty.

The stairs to the second story were still solid. They never creaked. That was one of the things his father always bragged about. How solid the house was. There was an unmade kingsize bed in his parents room. Sheets were folded neatly at the head of it with some pillows. He recognized the wildly floral print as his sister’s taste. Something his mother would never have liked. She liked colour, solids, not prints. Busy prints would keep her awake she claimed.

The dresser was empty. There was a bathrobe on a hanger in the closet.

In his sister’s room was a work desk. Not one he recognized from his past. There was a wireless router on the window sill. A file cabin in one corner. Nothing in the closet.

He stood at the door to his room. The other doors had been open but this one was closed. It had been cleared off all the pictures and stickers he had covered it with. Gone was ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK’ in letters that dripped blood.

“T’isn’t locked.” Marge stood at the top of the stairs with a laundry basket full of folded towels.”

“I’d be surprised if it was.” Dan said. His Dad had removed the mechanism and let only the door knob when Dan started locking himself in and his family out. He wants this privacy so badly then. Not that he had anything to hide from them but he so wanted a space that was his and his alone.

He pushed the door gently with his toe the way he did as a kid. It opened. Dust motes danced in the sun.

“I’ll be going then.” Marge said before he could go into the room. “You can drop the key at m’place when you leave. Or give it to m’cousin Cassie. You was talkin’ to her afore you came here. I saw you from the window.”

‘Still no secrets on this street.” Dan walked down the stairs with her.

“You ever find out what happened them Atkins. The guy who bought up your Dad’s school business?”

“Atkins? He never mentioned anything about that to me.”

“Seems some party from Montreal gave them a real hard time. Busted up the equipment.”

“Montreal?”

“Tough types. I saw ‘em at the tavern one night glaring at everyone that came in. They was waiting for Atkins. Beat him real bad, too. They, the Atkins, I mean had come from Newfoundland to buy that business. Moved here and everything. Did real well that first summer and then those frogs showed up the next spring.”

“I’ve never heard a thing about it.”

“They was gone fast. But I guess it wasn’t to do with you folk, if’n you didn’t know about it. Didn’t being your Dad back.”

“Linda was still living here though. With our Aunt Sissy?”

“Oh, no! They was at her place in Westmount.”

“That’s right. How could I forget.” What I never knew. “Thanks.” He put the keys in his pocket. I won’t be long and I’ll drop these off when I’m done.”

“Sit awhile, love. I’m sure the ghosts have lots to tell you.”

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Down With The Old 

In the Tarot the Tower card shows a tower being struck by lighting & collapsing – I always assume the card means disaster but the actual meaning is that the old must dies so the new can live – something needs to be sacrificed for change to happen – wether that is letting go of old ideas or old shoes – you have to find a way of making room for the new.

These pictures are of an apartment complex near Queen & Coxwell in Toronto that is making way for the new.

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Picture Perfect 98 

Back at La Promenade, Dan was happy his clothes were back from the laundry. All pressed and smelling fairly smoke free. He wished he’d gotten one of the rooms with a balcony to let them air in the fresh air. At last he could change out of the jeans he’d been wearing the last couple of days. Maybe it was his sweaty pheromones that had set off Stan’s hormones. 

Naked he checked his emails. other than messages from Baxter there was nothing he felt the need to respond to. There was a video post from Peter.

“Hey Dan! You’ve been in the news again, sir – the CBC had an item about the explosion that morphed into a profile of the Morrison twins. You’d think they were the first brothers to ever win an Oscar or have best selling books.” Peter moved away from the camera. “As you can see I’m at the house and everything is running smoothly. Sanjay hasn’t been around again. All I have on is the radio and a trace of Nocturne here.” Peter dabbed at the crook of his elbow. “It smells like you. I hope you don’t mind me using it, sir. I know it belongs to you. As does this.” Peter’s erection dominating the screen. “And this too.” Peter turned around so his ass filled the screen. He bent over and spread his cheeks. “I know you can almost taste it, can’t you, sir.” He turned around and sat so that only his head and shoulders were on screen. “Over and out.” The video ended.

Dan checked the receipts for the James stores and there was nothing of note there. Fairview needed to pull its numbers up though, if his sister expected to keep the space.

In the shower he rinsed out his socks, undies and tee shirt. No point in going back to Toronto with too much dirty laundry. 

In the lobby he went into the gift shop to see if there was some sort of candy he could pick up to bring as a gift for Peter. Beer Fudge? A Capers hoodie? It didn’t have any pockets but his shoulder bag could hold everything he needed, anyway. he could go out with only one camera for a change. He wouldn’t be needing his tablet either.

He bought a Caper’s, which turned out to be the college basketball team, hoodie with the letters in Cape Breton Tartan. Back in his room it only took a few minutes to transfer what he felt he had to have from his jacket to the shoulder bag. One last look in the mirror and he knew he’d made the right decision.

As he headed to the Boardwalk there was text from Baxter. “Channel 3, Global, between 9:30 – 10.”

It was quarter after 7 so he’d be back to the hotel by then. 

He has crab cakes on Boardwalk.

“That’s at 10, isn’t it. Too early for local.”

A sitcom started at 9:30. After the opening then credits commercials came on. The first was a teaser for Cold Case Canada a Maritime Mystery. 

“Holy shit!” Dan exclaimed. “No one told me this was coming soon was coming so soon.”

It showed a series of sepia photos of the missing children fading into each other with the one of him and Tim last. A circle appeared around his face. The name of the show appeared as well and faded at the same time with hosted by Daniel James under his circled face. The voice over said “In 1984 these children vanished and no one connected them until now when forensic specialist Daniel James put the pieces together. Follow his investigation this fall on Cold Canada’s Maritime Mystery.”

It was after midnight when he got back to the hotel.

“There’s an urgent message for you.” the deck clerk gave him note.

“Thanks.” he opened the note and it was from Baxter. ‘Answer my texts, asap.’ 

Dan had turned his phone off while they watched the Cold Canada promo. He checked his texts in the elevator. Baxter wanted to know what he thought of the promo. How urgent could that be?

“They spelt my name right.” he texted back.

The morning was overcast. The dark clouds over the harbour were massive and endless to the horizon. There were a few thinner strata were veiled sunlight seeped through. The air was humid. He took several shots of the sky from the parking lot.

He opted to take the 28 route along the harbour to New Waterford. The road must have been recently repaved as it it was pretty smooth until he passed South Bar where the recent storm had washed away parts of it. He could see some shore side houses had been demolished by that storm’s wind.

The homes on the other side were intact and the wide front yards with the houses set back from the road brought back a sense of his father driving along that same route. The only difference was, in most cases, newer model cars in the driveways. The  houses with aluminum siding hadn’t changed since the last time he drove through here. All that was missing were the few service stations where they might sometimes stop to get a cold Royal Crown Cola because those bottles were the biggest.

Did they still make that? 

Houses got closer, yards smaller as he drove through New Victoria and into New Waterford. He parked on Plummer Avenue. There were few people about but it felt like that moment in movie when you find that the empty street was truly deserted. He walked along looking in the shop windows. The drug store was open. There was even less activity than he had seen in Sydney. It was a ghostless town.

He resisted taking pictures not wanting to add to the growing dying-village porn that was becoming increasingly more popular. Photos of the dusty displays in the unwashed windows of closed stores didn’t appeal to him anymore as a creative statement or even as a meaningful comment on disposable culture.

After a brief tour of both sides of the ‘main’ street he drove by his old school. The building had been replaced with a now standard box designed to hold rather than mold children. Why did schools still look like factories rather than places that invited you in.

Hr turned onto the street where his family’s house was. He parked at the corner and walked on the side opposite his old house. The last time he’d been there  was when he’d left with his Dad, expecting to return at the end of the summer. Instead they’d just kept going. 

The only thing he really missed in the few years after coming to Toronto was his friend Timmy. He knew the names of some of the kids he’d played with, gone to school with, when they were living in New Waterford but there was no nostalgic resonance in them. It wasn’t as if any of them wrote to say how much they missed him or even sent him Christmas cards.

The houses on the street hadn’t changed. Curtains were different and some trees were bigger, some were missing. A few lawns were littered with fallen branches. A dog barked from inside one of the houses.

Scatter? The Fielding’s had a cocker spaniel called Scatter. He couldn’t still be alive. A face appeared in the front door window of the house with the barking dog. Should he wave? What did he have to lose? He waved and the face disappeared. The dog stopped barking.

He stood across from his house. Two stories. Nondescript, almost identical to all the other houses on the street. Each of them had variations in shutters or porch placement. Some had awnings over the front windows. Some did not. All the same or close to the same colour, even those with siding didn’t pop out from the ones that were painted.

“Are you looking for someone in particular?” A woman asked from his left.

He turned and she was walking a brown and white cocker spaniel.

“No.”

“My goodness. It’s Richard’s boy. Am I right? You looks just like yer father.”

“That’s right. It’s Daniel.”

“Cassie McLeod.” She did a little curtsy. “Darrell’s mother!” As she said the name Darrell’s face was clear in his mind. “Tha’s right. I can’t get over it. Yer the image of your father.”

“Thanks. I guess.” He stooped to rub the dog’s ears.

“We was watching about you on the TV t’other day. Making a movie of some kind. Scouting for locations?”

“I don’t think so.” The dog was indifferent to his touch. He stood. “You never know though when some place will be what your looking for even if you aren’t looking for anything.”

“Right you are.”

“I wanted to see the old neighbourhood. I haven’t been back for some thirty years now.”
“By Jesus not really! That sister of yers is down nearly every summer. Guess tha’s why you kept the house. Seems a shame to let go empty so much of the time but then there’s lots around here tha’s been empty fer years anyways. Marge Donaldson in 412 keeps the place nice while no ones there. She has the keys if’un you want to get inside.”

“I was on my way there.” He scanned the street to see how far 412 was along it. “Didn’t they used to live other end?”

“Yes but … tha’s not a happy story, I’m sure you know.” 

“Yep.” He found her speaking to him as if he was still the age when the move happened. “Nice to see you again Mrs. McLeod. How is Darrell?”

“Worse’n his father, if the Lord will forgive me for telling the truth. One drunk gives birth to another. Left shortly after Syd died. Heart gave out playing cards one night. Died drunk and Dar will do the same I’m sure. Lest ways Syd left me enough to keep d’house. That was some ten years ago.”

“Left for where?” He knew he’d have to make some conversation with her or she’d make a beeline for the house once he went into it.

“Here’n’there. I gets cards with some money in’em from BC onct, Florida, Dubai. never know. He’s a good by at heart. Well, don let me keep ya.”

“Good to see you again. Nice to know some of the old families are still here too.” 

“Oh yes. Okay, Rugsy time for yer walkies.” The dog had sprawled on its side in the sun on the grass by the sidewalk. 

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Picture Perfect 97 

Picture Perfect 97

Dan got up from the table, stretched his arms and neck. The window behind him overlooked the back of the museum and some of the former steel plant grounds.

So his sister had gone to Riverview in Coxheath. Did she bus there? That was their first year in Toronto. As he remembered it he and his Dad were in Toronto for a few months before his mother arrived. She and his sister had stayed to close up the house. Their Mother joined them by Thanksgiving. Linda stayed behind to finish her last year of high-school. Did the family still own the house in New Waterford? He didn’t recall any mention of it being sold. It must have been, because it wasn’t in the his father’s estate. Or did his mother own it?

“How are we getting on up here.” Stan said. “You’ve been very quiet.”

“It’s been productive. Turns out my sister went to Riverview.”

“And not Glace Bay. That would have been closer.”

“Do you have much here from the Happy Hippo?”

“A few posters like the one on the walls here. Some of their popcorn boxes, even a few of the prizes. Their new museum in Moncton has the best stuff. It is amazing.”

“Yes. I’ve been there.” He put his tablet into his shoulder bag. “But this has a better feel. Less like a theme park …”

“And more like place people like to park?”

“I don’t think I’d put it that way. A place that invites you to take your time and explore.”

“That’s what I said. Or don’t you take your time when you go parking?”

“Enough Stan. It’s bordering on harassment.”

“Sorry. The mating pool is rather limited here you know. Before you go, I have something you’ll be interested in.”

There were several people in the main part of the museum. One couple was taking pictures of the old kitchen appliances. Another was studying the information on the first African church.

“Actually Kelly thought you’d like to see these.”

Dan recognized the photo albums as ones his Dad sold exclusively. They were sets of wedding or baptismal photos.

The first one was an album of funeral pictures. A black family standing beside the open coffin, of people touching the hand of the deceased, the flowers, the carrying of the coffin to the hearse. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this.” Dan flipped the pages slowly.

“It wasn’t that unusual in the black community here.” Stan said. “They would give copies of the pictures to the pall bearers as a way of thanking them.”

“It’s creepy.” Dan reached for the next album. “Not more of the same?”

“Oh, no.” Kelly said. “Though we have inherited a few more like that one. One of a baby’s funeral. Very sad. I’m not sure what to do with them except preserve as best as we can. I can’t see us doing an exhibition of them.”

“Funerary Photography and Other Expressions of Grief.” Dan said. “Do you have any hair wreathes. My grandmother had two. Kept them in the living room.”

“If you ever need job.” Stan said.

The next album was a set of wedding pictures. In one the bride alone beside a painting of a sea storm. 

“That can’t be a good omen.” Dan said.

The photo set covered the wedding from the bride getting out of the car, the walk up the aisle, slipping the ring on in extreme close-up. Bride’s hands were typical, the groom’s needed to be washed.

“That’s oil!” Dan took his loupe out to examine the photo closely. “He couldn’t have come to the wedding with dirty hands.”

“Oil!” Kelly said. “I’ve always wondered about why they were so dirty. I never thought of oil.”

“Professional hazard.” Dan quickly looked through the rest of the pictures. “The storm picture must have been an omen, after all as there are no other glimpse of the groom other than his hands.” He didn’t want to add that some of the pictures had been cropped to remove the offending groom then resized to maintain uniformity.

“I’ve never noticed that before either.” Kelly said.“They usually ask about the wedding dress?”

“You have e.s.p?” Kelly said.

“I’m the picture whisperer.” Dan said. “It’s part of my training.”

“No!” she said. “There’s no such thing.”

“I’m a certified forensic document examiner who specializes in photographs. I can tell you, pretty much, what exact cameras took what pictures. These …” he flipped through the wedding album again, “would be easy as I did work with my Dad on weddings. But I could tell you, say, if pictures were taken with a 1950’s Brownie or a Duaflex.”

As he looked at pictures he realized that they were of different brides wearing the same dress. He went back to the inside cover & it was stamped ‘Flora’s Bridal Boutique.’

“That explains it!” he said.

“Explains what?” Kelly asked.

“No grooms because this is about the dress not the brides?”

He showed them the different faces.

“Whoa!” Kelly exclaimed. “I’ve been looking at this album for a couple of years & never noticed that at all.”

“Why same dress different brides?” Stan asked.

“Rental.” Kelly explained. “A dress like that would cost a fortune. Money most families couldn’t afford.”

“Makes sense.” Dan said.  

“I can’t believe I missed that all these years. You should have your own TV show like the Antiques Road show.”

“He sort of does.” Stan said. “He’s with the Cold Canada show that’s investigating those missing children cases here in the Nova Scotia.”

Dan continued to study a picture that caught his eye. The bride in this one looked familiar.

“Looking for a wedding dress?” Stan joked. “or a bride?”

Dan took a photo of the photo.

“Thanks for everything.” He shook Stan’s hand.

“If there’s anything else I can help you with …”

“There is one thing,” He pulled his hand out of Stan’s then walked to the front exit. “I’d really like a good feed of cod cakes. Yeah, I know cod is not fished anymore but even decent fish cakes would do.”

Stan opened the door for Dan. “There is one place.” They stepped out into the sunlight. It took Dan’s eyes a moment to adjust to the bright light as they walked to his car.

“One place?”

“Not on the tourist maps.”

Dan opened the driver’s door to let the heat out of the car.

“Yes? Do I have to guess?”

“I’ll write the address down for you.” He took a business card out of his wallet and write on the back of it and handed it to Dan.

“412 Peter’s Avenue?” Dan read it aloud. “Is it a … oh, fuck am I thick or what … you’re asking me for dinner at your place!”

“Is this meeting cute or what?” Stan blushed.

The light caught his face and Dan recognized something in it.

“Your Dad was on the team that won the regional soccer championship in 1986.”

“Uncle. Not Dad. How …”

“I was just looking at that yearbook.”

“That’s amazing. You saw a family resemblance. You must have e.s.p.”

“You’re not the first person who told me that. But I’ll have to decline your offer. My time here is limited, as you said I have a case to investigate.” He got into his car.

“Yeah, sure.” Stan said & went back into the museum.

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Picture Perfect 96 

Picture Perfect 96

“You sound a little disappointed.” she said.

“I am. I half-expected the concierge at the hotel to ask me that or ‘did’ja eat yet?’ Whoseyerfadder?” He asked. 

The girl laughed. “Your accent is spot on.”

“Yours is close. Not from around here?” He reached out to shake her hand. “Daniel James.”

“Kelly Dunn. I’m studying Museum curating & this is my summer placement. Second year here. So your Dad is Richard James? The name is very familiar. I have seen it on material here. Don’t tell me …”

“Need a hint?” He tapped his camera.

“Mother of God!” Kelly exclaimed. “The photographer! Man he took pictures of nearly every school kid on the island.”

“The one and the same.”

“And those amazing calendars. Someone donated a full set you know. We’d love to get permission to reprint them. Do you know who owns the rights to them?”

“Hold on. I’m here to look around not do business.”

“Oh, right. It’s just that … Stan …” she shouted over her shoulder. “Come out here.”

“What!”
A muscular man about 5’5 strode out of the office behind the counter. His shirt and jeans were clearly tailored to show him off to his best advantage. But what sort of advantage did he expect to have here?

“Yes Kelly.”

“It’s … I forgot your name … he’s Richard James’ son … the calendar guy.”

“Cool.” He shook Dan’s hand.

“Daniel James.” 

The man’s hand was solid, firm without exerting pressure. He put his other hand over Dan’s as they shook.

“I am pleased to meet you. Don’t mind Kelly. She’s been doing a research project on the changing views of our island as seen via the tourist lens, or something like that.”

“The filtered dialectic of the past as posited by the lens to create a distance between reality and idealization?” Dan teased her.

“Mother of God, you said it better than I ever could.”

“Moshe got you with “Who’s yer fadder?” Stan said.

“Yep.” Kelly said. “Is one of those expressions that had nearly disappeared. I can tell what generation a visitor is from by the way they react to that question.”

“Now days they ask what’s your handle.” Stan said. “Or what are you into.”

“Into?” Dan asked. Was this man flirting with him? “As is top or bottom?”

“Exactly?” Stan said.

“Now you’ve lost me.” Kelly said.

“Doesn’t matter. I’ve been reading about you in the Post.”

“Me? I haven’t looked at any newspapers for weeks.”

“Not exactly you, but the motel explosion outside of St. Peter’s.”

“You were there?” Kelly said.

“That’s right and now I’m here.”

“I think he wants to change the subject Kelly. Are you here at the Museum just to look or to look for something in specific for the case your working on.”

“Case?” Kelly asked.

“Back to you, John.” Stan said nudging her.

“Mother of God, you’re that guy!”

“Owner of the second-hand books store said you had a collection of high-school year books?”

“That we do.” Satan said.

“It’s on the second floor. I’ll take …”

“That’s alright Jeannie. I’ll show Mr. James around. You can hold the fort down here.”

“But …”

“I won’t be keeping you from anything?” Dan said. “I’m sure I can manage on my own.” Kelly said.

“My fund raising report can wait.” Stan gestured to the entrance. “Stairs are just to the right.”

The top of the stairs was unlit. Stan leaned across Dan to turn on the light.

“We usually don’t light the upstairs unless someone wants to see it. We don’t get too many requests for the year books.”

“Motion sensors would turn on lights when needed.”

“Money would do that job.” Stan strode to the end of the room and pulled open the curtains to let sunlight into the room. “To answer your other question – top but versatile for the right man. You?”

“Easy for the right man.”

“Single?”

“Let’s just say between engagements. Are you east coast guys usually this forward?”

“Not usually. I’ll back off if you aren’t interested.”

“How could tell I was gay?”

“When I saw the first article about Cold Canada coming to the east coast it was pretty simple to check out your background. It certainly isn’t a state secret, is it?”

“I guess not.”

“I recognized you from your ground breaking gay rights work when you were in the RCMP. It made me see that being queer didn’t mean being a queen at the same time. It made a big difference.”

“Thanks Stan. I never thought that legal tangle would have any sort of emotional impact on anyone but myself. Now about those year books.”

“They are loosely organized in these cabinets according to location, school, year. What we really need is someone to catalogue them. I keep begging for someone out of library sciences to do an internship with us. Any place in particular?”

A shout from Kelly came up the stairs. “Mrs. Chargill is here.”

“Board of Directors.” Stan said. “You’d think I was spending their money on myself. Let me know when you are done here.” He left Dan.

Dan opens the file cabinet that held the New Waterford years books. There were none of the years he was looking for. He wanted to see his sister’s entries and maybe see if either of the Kevin’s she was dating were class-mates. He pulled up the two photos on his tablet. Undistinguished handsome boys. 

On the back wall were framed photos of sports teams. Baseball, curling, basketball, soccer, even some of boxing clubs. The coast guard college rowing team. Some he recognized as his father’s work from the lighting and his farther’s preference of not arranging by height. He liked the random rather than the deliberate. It made his team pictures seem more relaxed.

In the back row of a Riverview basketball team  for 1985 he recognized one of the Kevin’s. He took a photo of it, isolated the face and compared it to the one’s he had. Yes, it was a match. He went back to the filing cabinets and found the Riverview year book for that year and flipped through it. 

There was his sister on the inside cover. The cheer leading squad leaping into the air with pompoms over their heads and skirts flaring to reveal a peek of panties. Under the photo it said – “Riverview students jump into a another year of championships and bright futures.” The names of the girls were underneath.

Trust Linda to get front page. He flipped through the pages of graduate head shots. Kevin Epstein – “Most likely to follow in his Dad’s shoes to become a dentist.”

Another head shot on the page caught his eye. ‘Bazyli Reyman” The face was very familiar. Under it said – “Mostly likely to lead Canada to the World Cup.” He photographed it, sent the image to his tablet and fed it into the aging program.

<>

His cell phone beeped. It echoed in the room. The caller was Baxter.

“Where are you?” Baxter demanded. 

Dan held his phone away from his ear and turned down the speaker volume.

“Location tells me you are in Sydney, Nova Scotia when you are supposed to be here in Toronto, Ontario. Here in the Q productions board room number three for an important production meeting.”

“Production meeting? What happened to the hiatus?”

“That was from location shoot, only. We’ve held production meetings every Friday. No one said they were suspended. We have important creative issues to discuss.”

“Such as?”

“The initial cut of the opening and closing credits. We also have a very rough cut of the first episode as well. You thought all I was doing was hanging around those motel rooms waiting them to blow up? I’ve been working with the editors from the very first week getting things into shape. We have to have something to show Q beside the raw interview footage.” Baxter stopped & Dan heard him take a deep breath

“I get that. I still won’t be back until Monday.”

“Flight number please?” Baxter said.

“Baxter I’m doing research here. I don’t have that in front me.”

“I see. Stephane is booking your flight as we speak. One moment, please …. Flight 519 leaving Sydney airport at 2 pm. Arrive Halifax at 3:05. Fight 998 departing Halifax at 4 pm. Arrive Toronto 6 pm. I’ll have someone meet you at the airport.”

“That won’t be necessary.”

“I’m sure you will. I hope your research has something to do with the show. You are still on our payroll you know.”

“I’ve been looking into the Happy Hippo shows.”

He took a photo of a Happy Hippo poster that was on one of the walls and sent it Baxter.

“You know how kids love circuses. You never wanted to run away and join the circus?”

“I was more interested in selling Mary Kay. If I’m going to deal with clown make up it has to be more refined.”

“Good bye Baxter.”

“Wait! Before you go …”

“What.”

“You know those Morrison twins are going to be in St. Peter’s for the coming week. There’s going to be a big do for them.”
“Yes?”

“Is there any possibility you could pass through and take in some of the festivities?”

“In that case cancel that flight booking. I won’t be back until next Friday.”

“Okay. Bye.”

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Picture Perfect 95

Picture Perfect 95

Just then there was a knock at the door & Warszawa came into the cabin. 

“Looks like someone with better than average hacking ability is trying to sabotage your show?” He said to Dan with a laugh.

“Or maybe someone who wants to get caught and doesn’t want to get caught. But why wait nearly 30 years?” Dan mused. “Unless the culprit is jailed for something else and picks up when they are released.”

“Have you done a criminal background search on the families you interviewed.” Warszawa suggested.

“Could we see who was convicted in the fall of 84?” Dan asked. “See what sentences they were given. Or are all those records stored and secured in some underground vault in Ottawa?”

“I’ll find out.” Warszawa said. “Thanks to the text that triggered the alert you’ll have our resources until it gets resolved.”

There was a knock at the door. 

Evans opened it a crack.

“Sir, there’s a Mr. Baxter demanding to see whom ever is in charge.”

“Damn rights. I’m Canadian citizen and know my rights. First, we get told our cars no longer impounded, then we have to show credentials to get them when all our credentials are either in the fucking cars or in our off limit cabins. I tell you this is the limit.”

“I’ll deal with him.” Coster said. “It’ll be my pleasure in fact.”

“Inspector Warszawa tells me you’ve been consulted on the Travel case.” Phillips said.

“Travel Case?” Dan asked.

“That’s what we’re calling the file because you spotted those planted travel photographs.” Warszawa explained.


“Yes.” This is not what Dan was expecting. “Why? Is there’s a connection between that and what is happening here?”

“Peter Morrison has been on our radar for some time now. The connection is tenuous, perhaps coincidental. He was member of an America indigenous  paramilitary group that blew up sections of pipeline.”

“Damn!” Dan snapped his fingers. “That photo in his house! It was one of the ones that were planted at the crime scenes.”

“In Morrison’s house?” Evans leaned closer.

“It’ll be in background the footage we shot of the interview.”

While he, Warszawa & Phillips looked through the footage of the Morrison interview the processing of the rooms the crew had occupied at the Amethyst Court was expedited so they could be checked out by 6 p.m. 

<>

Dan took a break & contacted the Depot, his sister and finally Peter to let them know he was alright & survived the explosion & that he would be returning two weeks earlier than expected. He resisted getting in touch with Jeremy Moxham lest Moxham insist on sending a private plane to Port Hawkesbury to get him.

Most of the crew headed back to Halifax as soon as they could. Dan longed to sleep in his own bed in Toronto but at the same time wanted a few days to himself. He hadn’t been by himself for months. He drove back to the Chambers Motel and booked himself into the room he’d had the night before. 

The silence was complete. When was the last time he didn’t have to wonder when Baxter was going text him or some crew member would come knocking at his door?

In the morning he hesitated at the Causeway for a moment before taking the north turn that headed to Sydney. The sky was cloudless and the sun so warm he wished he’d had shorts. The warm breeze was fresh. Over lunch in Baddeck he made reservations at La Promenade on the boardwalk in Sydney. 

He called Peter before he continued.

“Hi handsome.” He said.

“Hi yourself. What time will you be here. What flight are you one. Can I meet you at the airport, sir?”

“I’m not coming back as soon as that. I’m going on to Sydney then to New Waterford. I have to check out my old childhood stomping grounds while I have a chance.”

“As long as you’re not stomping old boyfriends.”

“I know your disappointed but I almost feel compelled to do this. I’ll make it up for you … say .. I’ll buy you a kilt.”

“A kilt! Really! I’ve always wanted a kilt.”

“You got it! I miss you.”

“Not a much as I miss you.”

The drive to Sydney was soothing & he arrived at La Promenade as the sun was setting. The manager checked him in with only one “Back to you, John.” As he unpacked Dan looked out over the harbour from his hotel room. There were some sail boats moving slowly with sea gulls swooping around their masts. Across the harbour he could make out Coxheath. On the boardwalk beneath his window he watched a pair of joggers dodging people, women pushing baby carriages, tourists taking selfies maneuvering to get the sail boats in the background.

Other than the signed and numbered prints of heather over his bed, the room was corporate hotel. They could have at least tied some Cape Breton tartan ribbon around the lamps. The coffee was passable but the packaged creamer was not. He dumped it down the bathtub drain.

The room service menu did offer cod cakes. Would they be like those fish fingers his mother used to fry up. He could taste the orange crust on them. Did they make those anymore. There had to be a Sobey’s to try.

After a quick shower he bundled his dirty clothes and took them with him down to the lobby. At the front desk he handed them over to be laundered, not dry cleaned. All of them smelled of smoke from the fire. Dry cleaning would not take that scent out.

As boy he hadn’t spent too much time in Sydney. Usually he accompanied his father to pick up photographic supplies. At the time he yearned for it as a big city though. He walked the Boardwalk to stretch his legs, stopped at fast-food kiosk for fish & chips & sent a cell pic of them to Peter with the message.

“The best fish & chips I’ve ever had.” 

Peter replied a little later with pic of his cock. “Better than this?”

“That doesn’t need to be deep fried.” He replied.

He went back to the hotel, resisted his lap top. He put drops inot his eyes with a damp face cloth over them and feel asleep instantly.

In the morning he walked the downtown core. He saw that it more a big town than the big city from his childhood. The entire population of the Sydney could fit into the Eaton’s Centre at one time, with room to spare. There were probably more people living in Toronto’s St. Jamestown than lived on the whole of Cape Breton island.

Not as deliberately quaint as popular tourist spots like Baddeck, the city seemed caught between a decaying past and what? The new buildings he saw lacked anything beyond functionality. 

The owner of the second hand book store suggested he check out the Whitney Pier Museum while he was in town. It was a short drive that passed through where the steel plant one was. He was shocked to see hardly a trace of the towering chimneys that would spew blast furnace dust over the city. That dust was the prime reason they didn’t live in Sydney. 

The Museum was in a converted Synagogue. As he walked in a young woman greeted him.

“Whose yer father?” she asked.

“Richard James.” He answered laughing. “I’ve been  on the east coast for over a month and that’s the first time anyone has asked me that.”

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Picture Perfect 94

Picture Perfect 94

“There was so much going on I’m not sure. The officer was in the second car. On his own. Constables Evans and Fredericks where in the first car to arrive.” 

“All three spoke to each other.” Cameron said. “I … was recording the fire and turned to catch their cars as they pulled up.”

“Hmm. I’ll have to check into this. What did these texts say?”

“I can show you.” Dan stopped his camera and found the pictures from the night before. “I took shots of them to make sure they would be time and date stamped.”

“You always do that when you get texts?” Coster asked.

“Only when I may want more than the cell copy. These called for that.”

“One says ‘wrong people’?” Coster asked. “Who had you been talking to?”

“We’d interviewed David Morrison that afternoon.”

“Oh! His kids are also why I’m here. Security. ‘Chick Frick parking lot at 10.’ That has to be someone who knows the area.”

“Maybe but I found it easily on Google.” Brenda said. “So maybe they did too.”

“We got there late, too. I didn’t get the message until it was almost 10 already.” Dan explained. We didn’t get there until nearly …”

“10:30.” Cameron said.

When they got out of Coster’s car one of the fire department waved him over to the ruins of his cabin.

“We found your suitcase pretty much intact.”

“Right! I had left it in the bathroom so I could take a quick shower.” Dan rooted in his shoulder bag and pulled out the key to the suitcase. “Here.” He handed it to the Fire Marshall. “Nothing in there but a couple of changes of clothes.”

The Fire Marshall opened the suitcase and felt through the layers. 

“My vital stuff was on the desk. You know those charred lumps that once were my lap top and cameras. And of course all my recharger cables.”

“Not all!” Cameron said. “I’m pretty sure you left your equipment bag in the remote truck.”

“You sure?” Dan said. “Can we check?”

“Yes. It’s been cleared already.” The Assistant Fire Marshall said. “You can take it off the property in fact.” 

“And you can have your clothes as well.” The Fire Marshall shut the suitcase. 

“Baxter will be happy. Maybe we can do that last interview.” Cameron man said. “I’ll call and let them know the rest of the cars will be released by afternoon. That’ll save renting replacements.”

Dan quickly checked his equipment bag. All the cables he’d need were there along with his personal tablet.

“Excuse me?” a female voice came from behind him.

He turned around. There was woman with a camera man beside her.

“Stacy Molefski.” She reached out to shake his hand. “CBC. Halifax affiliate. I understand you are Daniel James?”

“That’s right.”

“We’re covering this story.” She said. “Could we talk with you?”

“Do I really have a choice?”

“Only of your lighting.” Cameron guy said. “We’ll look better over here. Less glare.”

“And you are?” Stacy asked.

“Cameron Davis. Chief camera person for Cold Canada.” Cameron guy introduced himself.

“I see.” she said. “You both witnessed this terrorist act?”

“Oh yes.” Cameron said.” I had my camera running when the big blast scared the crap out of everyone.”

“Oh!”

“It’s not for sale. Least ways not by me. Property of Quintex you see.” Cameron shrugged.

“Terrorists?” Dan asked. “You know something we don’t know?”

“We got a call claiming responsibility for this from a middle east group.”

“Isis blew up this obscure little motel in Cape Breton as a part of their plan to dominate the world?” Dan laughed.

“I didn’t say it was Isis.” Stacy said. “You think there was another reason.”

“No. No. That’s as good a theory as any.” Cameron said.

“When did you get this tip?” Dan asked.

“Last night just after the explosion.” Stacy said.

“Does the RCMP also think this might be a terrorist attack?”

“They are looking into it. They are investigating the call and where it came from.”

“So that’s the story? Terrorists attack sleepy costal village!”

“Mr. James.” Constable Evans came around the remote truck.

Dan recognized him as the one who had taken his phone. “Yes! You impounded my phone?”

“That’s right.” Evans replied. “If you’ll come with me.” He placed his hand on Dan’s bicep.

“Of course.” Dan was relived to get away from the CBC reporter. As he accompanied Evans, he  overheard her.

“Our interview with Mr. James has been curtailed by the investigating authorities. I have Cameron Hall head of this Quintex remote photography unit ….” Dan felt both the CBC and Cameron’s cameras were focused on him as he walked away.

“What’s going on?” He glanced at Evans colour bar. He hadn’t noticed them the night before as the uniform was stock RCMP issue. The colours designated him as a member of the Intelligence Service. “Was Stacy right about this being a terrorist attack.”

“I’m sorry Mr. James I’m not authorized to tell you anything.”

Dan saw that several of the cabin were untouched by the blast. Evans stopped outside the furthest of them

“Before we continue you’ll have to turn off any and all recording devices you may have on your person.” Dan shut off his Lifend and put it into his shoulder bag.

“Thank you, sir. Do you mind if I make certain you are clean?” 

“If you must.” 

He took a small, round sensor out of his coat pocket and quickly scanned Dan front and back. 

“Thank you again sir. I took your phone and gave it to Inspector Phillips.”

They stopped at cabin 3. I S knocked on the door sharply. It opened a crack. “Mr. James, sir.”

“Thank you Evans. Come in Dan.” Phillips opened the door wider.

Dan went in. Jacks followed him in. Coster was already in the room. He looked from one to the other.

“What is going on?” Dan asked.

“Whom ever sent these texts messages was using a very sophisticated anonymizing program.” Phillips said. “It was that first message that set off monitoring sensors.”

“Meaning?” Dan asked.

“The sending party’s origin point changed with each message so that they appeared to come from different countries and sources. The first text “I know where those children are.” Came from a source of … threat alert.”

“Okay? I’m not sure what all this adds up to. Was the call to the CBC legit?”

“Tracing that was easy. Some bored teens in Halifax picked up the fire department alert. They threw in the terrorist stuff for fun. But we aren’t telling the CBC that, yet.”

“Anything else Evans?” Phillips asked.

“No, sir.” He took Dan’s cell out of a briefcase on the desk. “We are finished with this Mr. James. We kept all the contents intact but did remove the … troubling texts. There was no trojans tagged on them.”

“Thanks.” 

“It’ll need recharging though. Sorry about that.”

“I’m happy to get it back. I felt naked without it.”

‘Someone named Peter will be glad to hear that.” Phillips dropped his stuffy demeanour for a moment.

“Thanks.” Dan’s face reddened. 

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