Picture Perfect 23

As Dan approached his house he saw the guest bedroom light was on. Maybe Sanjay had changed his mind? No, their home security system made sure lights would go on and off if there was no one home. He’d set the system for random times. No one would turn the same lights on and off at exactly the same times.

He was locking his bike in the garage when Sanjay pulled the car in.

“They let you out of the pie factory early?” He gave Sanjay a quick kiss.

“Time off for bad behaviour.” He pulled Dan close for a deeper kiss. He moved Dan so he was balanced on the hood of the car and continued to kiss him.

Dan tried to glance over his shoulder. “You aren’t going to shut the garage door?”

“Why bother? I thought you might like it like this.”

“There’s kids around here.” Dan squirmed off the car.

“I see, it is okay for you to start something but not for me?” Sanjay said and walked into the house.

Dan closed and locked the garage door.

Sanjay was preparing supper when he went into the kitchen. Dan hugged him from behind. Sanjay pried his hands away. “Not while I’m holding a knife.”

“The Unsolved people were by the Depot today. Camera crew and all that.”

“I’ve booked my tickets to Mumbai.” Sanjay said as he washed carrots. “I did not book anything for you, yet.”

“When do you leave.” 

“June 1.”

“When are you coming back?”

“It’s an open end return ticket.”

“Oh? You not planning to come back or something?”

“It is unclear as to how long I’ll be needed there. You know my father isn’t doing well. It could be my last chance to spend time with him.”

“I see. Don’t forget we have Kevin McLeod’s wedding announcement party this week-end. It’ll be a blast.”

“If I don’t have to work.”

“Don’t you know that now? It’s going to be fund raiser for the 519 Church Street Community Centre.”

“Yes. Sylvan has donated some food and of course pastries to the event.” Sanjay turned and leaned on the counter. “Look Dan, I might as well just say this now.”

“Say what?”
“I may not be coming back from India.”

“What! Because of last week?”

“No! I want to build a life for myself.”

“I thought that’s what we were doing here. Us. Isn’t that a life.”

“We’re more like fuck buddies than lovers. We share space not lives.”

“What do you mean? Fuck buddies! Sanjay, fuck buddies don’t meet one another’s families, travel together, own cars together. We might as well be a married couple for how together we are.”

“Exactly but we aren’t, are we.” Sanjay went to the fridge.

“Aren’t what?”
“Married. Dan. Married.”

“So that’s it – marry you or you’ll leave me. Where’s the love in that gun.” Dan watched as Sanjay chopped lettuce.

“Gun?” Sanja asked.

“Yeah, holding the gun of marriage to my head like that. I don’t get it. You were happy enough with the way things were when we couldn’t make it legal.

“Besides aren’t you the one who said there’d be Gay Divorce Court soon. Marriage doesn’t make anything more stable.” Dan lowered his voice. “I thought you cared for me, for us. But what you really wanted was security not a relationship. Right?”

“I do care for you but I just want …”

“What? To move to India?”

“That might be part of it. I hate the winters here. I can’t stand the way people treat me without realizing they are doing it. That I’m just some immigrant. Even though I was born here.”

“I didn’t know you felt that way. Have I ever treated you like that?”
“Not directly. But …” Sanjay paused.

“What!”

“It was with great pride I introduced you to my family. I wanted them to meet my lover. A man of property and substance. To show them that as a gay man I had a real future. But they never acknowledged us. If we were married they might.”

“I’m not going to do that just so you can please your parents.”

“I know that but kept hoping you might change.”

“Perhaps you are the one who needs to change. To stop needing your parents acceptance to be happy with who you are.”

“I was never sure …. you wouldn’t find someone else.”

“I wasn’t looking. What would make you think that?”

“Oh! What about the V-Files? You left your lap top on one night. I noticed and went to turn it off and it was still on that page. You are very popular there, it seems.”

Dan had been looking there the past few nights before going to bed to give a little surge for jacking off.

“That site isn’t for pickups. Or at least I’ve never used it for that.” How could he explain this in a way that made it seem like it wasn’t a threat.

“Then what about TTBurning. He has messaged you many times it seems, to film him again.”

“I’ve never met anyone on that site. That’s not the point of it. It’s for posting …. found footage …. TT thinks he was in some of the found footage that I posted a few months ago.”

“Found? Where do you find it.”

“Mine is from the security cameras around the Depot. The back alley. It often catches more than drunk pissers stumbling around. Sometimes it’s people making out. Hookers with tricks, that sort of thing.”

“People get off on watching that sort of thing?” Sanjay wiped his hands on a tea towel.

“Some do.”
“You?”
“Depends on how much dick I can see.” Dan wanted to stop, but this was the first time he’d hinted to anyone about his fascination with the lane way activities. His cellphone rang.

“Aren’t you going to answer it?” Sanjay snapped. “It might be TTBurning calling for his close up.”

“I told you I’ve never …”

The cell continued to ring.

“Answer it.”

“It can go to voice mail.”

“Answer it.”

“So you’ll know whose calling? Okay.”  He walked into the living room. “Hello? One second.” He took the phone from his ear. “It’s the guy from the TV show.” He put the phone back to his ear. “No I can’t talk now. Yes I’m sure it’s important but call me during business hours.”

Sanjay followed him into the room and sat on the couch. “The other night? Is that that what you wanted? To get us on the security camera so you could post it on the internet for the world to see. Is that what was on your mind?”

“No! I wanted to be spontaneous.” He knew couldn’t tell  Sanjay he was mostly right about wanting to get them on camera. But only for his own personal pleasure. Better no truth than half-truth.

Sanjay’s eyes widened as he looked around. “I suppose there are cameras hidden here too. A couch cam. We’ve made out here often enough for you know the best angle for all the action. In our bedroom?”

“No.”

“What about the one in garage? Is that why you didn’t want to make out there. You thought the angle was wrong?”

“We have a security camera out there, one on the patio, one at the front door. That’s it.”

“The patio?”

“That’s how you knew about the racoons. You pointed them out to me on the monitor. You thought they were so cute till they got into the roof somehow.”

“Too bad you didn’t catch them fucking.” 

“Whatever.” Dan went to the stairs. 

“What about dinner?” Sanjay asked.

“Later. I’m going to take a shower. If you care to join me. There’s no shower cam.”

In the shower he turned the water on full blast, flipped it between hot and cold to see if it would stop his racing mind. Sanjay couldn’t be serious. They’d been so comfortable with each other for so long. He guessed that comfortable wasn’t enough for Sanjay. Was it enough for him? Either way he wasn’t going to be argued into something to save a relationship. If you have to save a relationship then it’s probably not worth saving.

He went to the bedroom, sprawled naked on top of the bed to cool off from the shower. His skin tingled. He could hear Sanjay in the guest room. Drawers opening and closing. He wasn’t packing to leave that night was he? 

He pulled boxers and clean t-shirt on and went down to the kitchen. The unfinished salad was on the counter where Sanjay had left. Dan pushed it into a container and put it in the fridge. He had no appetite.

Upstairs he went to the guest room door. Sanjay was in bed, covers pulled over him. His back to the door.

“Sanj?” he said softly.

“I don’t want to talk anymore.”

“Okay.” Dan went back to his room. From a drawer in the side table he took out a box Sleep Ease and popped two of the pale blue pills out of the blister pack. What was the poem with ‘ends with a whimper’? Well, he wasn’t the one who’d be whimpering, just the one who slept well.

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Picture Perfect 21

Riding his bike to work Dan was surprised that over the past four days he didn’t mind Sanjay sleeping in the guest room. Having his bed to himself was a pleasant change. No worries about waking Sanjay when he had to go to the can in the night. Not having to pry his arm out from under another body.

The hard part was to not say anything about it. He wrote conversations in his head in which he talked Sanjay into accepting his apology but he didn’t want to have to talk Sanjay into anything. He knew it wouldn’t go on much longer. At least they were warmly civil with each other rather than cold and snarky.

He kept himself in check to avoid saying things that were bitter or hurtful just to teach Sanjay a lesson. So by Thursday Dan was relived to sense a bit of a thaw in things between them.

Though he hadn’t heard anything from Baxter he had been doing his own research on the missing children. He’d printed out articles from newspaper on-line archives. He tapped into school records when he could find them. Some school districts had began to scan and upload class pictures.

Too bad his Dad had cleared out most of the work he had done of that nature. They’d only kept his and Linda school shots. Looking at a couple of those he couldn’t recall the name of a single person in some of them. Not even of the teachers he had had. Much of that memory had been washed away with getting settled in Toronto. The few names he did remember he couldn’t put to faces.

He’d made a more through search of the store’s archives and found a few more old family movies and another file of saucy pictures. What would his mother know about these?

The second set showed the woman’s face in one shot. As is the others her back was mostly to the camera or in profile. In the few full frontals she held her splayed, black gloved, fingers over her face just showing her eyes or mouth in come hither poses. In these she was alone.

They started with the woman dressed in garters, nylons, panties, bra and heels; in each she wore one less garment; by the last one she was nude, spread eagle on a bed – a beaver shot but always wearing heels. He was happy to be spared her dirty feet.

The series started on the studio set but the last few were in a bedroom somewhere. It wasn’t any of the ones in their house, so maybe they took the shoot to a motel. The under lit room had that impersonal look.

There were twenty-two pictures in this set. If it was from a standard roll of 24 that meant there were two missing, maybe a couple that didn’t turn out. The sequence of poses were random enough that he couldn’t guess where the two missing shots might have been.

The body itself was in good shape. He’d guess mid-20’s from the face. But that was hard to tell with the make up the model was wearing. It reminded him of Liz Taylor in Cleopatra – accented eyes and the hair cut square across the eyebrows. No, it was definitely the Betty Page look.

He locked his bike and went into the store.

“Morning, boss man.” Sandy greeted him.

“Morning it is.” He looked at mail by the register. “Paper catalogues! What a novel idea.”

He thumbed through the catalogues. Cameras, camera bags, pants with loads of pockets perfect for any camera man.

“Get a load of these.” He showed the pants to Ushio. “Imagine the clinking sound you’d make with all those pockets filled.”

“How would you keep them up?” Ushio said. “You could never sit down either. You’d have lenses up the butt.”

“Now there’s a camera you need to design.” Sandy said. “The butt cam,”

“It would take shitty pictures.” Ushio laughed.

“The rect-a-cam recked him.” Dan couldn’t stop laughing.

“That asshole sure can take great pictures.” Sandy was gasping for air.

“There was a tripod here a minute ago.” Ushio held his stomach.

“What’s this, Candid Camera?”

Dan caught his breath. It was Stephanie Carter from Quintex. With her was John Kilpatrick, the Unsolved host; a camera woman and a lighting man.

“No. No. Just some crappy camera humour.” Dan said.

This sent Ushio and Sandy into a fit of giggles.

“What brings you and your crew here. Running out of batteries?”

“Didn’t Cyrtys tell you we were coming to interview you?” She said.

“Hi.” John reached out and shook his hand. “I’ll be conducting the interview. This is Francie and Mike.” He introduced the crew.

Dan was a bit confused. He thought Kilpatrick was moving on to another project.

“Uh … Okay. Here?”

“We can start here then move it somewhere more private.” John said looking to Stephanie.

“Cyrtys did tell you we were coming.” Stephanie asked Dan. “That’d I’d be directing the interview?”

“I haven’t heard from him since last week. Unless he sent an email.”

“Nah. The fucker.” Stephanie said. “Just like him. You’re cool with this?”

“This is a work day. How long will it take?” Dan asked.

“Two hours max.” John said. “I’ve done enough of these by now.”

“You’ll have to sign this release before we start though.” Stephanie took out two page form from her briefcase. “Standard stuff.”

“Look, I’m not signing anything without looking it over first. I know copyright law and intellectual property rights. That’s why I don’t do Facebook and the like.”

“What!” Stephanie exclaimed. “I drag a crew here, paying for their time, and now you balk because of intellectual property rights?” She took a deep breath. “We will only talk about Timmy Dunlop. That’s it. We won’t ask about your investigative process but we will certainly make that known as well. It adds to your credibility.”

Sandy looked over the release form. “It is standard stuff, boss, but gives Quintet permission to use the footage in any of their shows not just Unsolved Cold. No mention of payment for other such usage.”

“Think of it as exposure for your business.”

“My business doesn’t need the exposure. Besides you aren’t interviewing me as owner of James Family Photographers are you. That guy only sells cameras. You want to talk to me because of supposed creditability, right.”

“This is more trouble that it’s worth, Steph.” The camera woman said. She and the sound man gathered their equipment and began to leave.

“I’d say do it bossman.”

“Here’s the deal then.” Dan said. “My rate is two-hundred and fifty an hour.”

“Two-fifty!” John exclaimed. “Who you think you are?”

“Someone you want to talk to for starters. That’s what I change any client for my time, materials are extra.”

“What if we don’t get anything we can use?”

“That could happen with anyone you get a release form from right.”

“Right. So where do we go with this next.”

“Start where you were going to start. We got this all on tape anyway. You are agreeing, right.”

“Yes, I, Stephanie Carter on behalf of Quintex Productions agree. Now let’s get to it. We’ve wasted enough time. Your time begins now I presume and not from when we walked in the door.”

“Yes.” Dan looked to John. “What would you like to know?”

“We’re here at the James Photo Depot talking with owner Daniel James.” John read from a script. “Daniel is a photographic forensics expert who has a special interest in the Missing East Coast case. Tell us about your connection to the case.”

“I was watching the episode of Unsolved Cold and recognized the picture of Timmy Dunlop.”

“Recognized it how?” John asked.

“I was in the picture with him. It was a photograph my father took.”

“Stop.” Stephanie said. “Do we have a copy of the picture here? Did you bring one?” She asked Mike as she rooted in her brief case.

“I have the originals upstairs in my office.”

“Excellent.” Stephanie said. “Go up. John you keep talking and Francie you go ahead.

“Look we’re not insured for falling camera people.” Dan said.

“Understood.” Francie said.

They started walking with the crew in front backing up carefully.

“Daniel.” John began. “You’ve become a go to person for the RCMP when it comes to photographic evidence.”

“Go-to? I’m not sure about that but yes, I have assisted on several cases for them.”

“Most recently it was a child porn case.”

“Yes.” Daniel pushed past Francie to open his office door. “I developed soft wear that refines elements in an image for greater clarity and identification. Using it we were able to narrow down the location of some of the photographs that had been circulated.”

John glanced his notes as Daniel got the Timmy photos out of his file.

“Let’s stop here. Everything will be sorted out in editing anyway.” Stephanie said. “Off the record can you tell us how that was done.”

“That info was all in the newspaper. In several of the pictures I saw a similar bedspread but in different room layouts. I isolated that image. That lead us to the manufacturer, to the buyer and ultimately to him.”

“So part of what you do is find details in photographs that the average person might not pick up on.” John asked.

“Yes.”

“Care to demonstrate that for the camera?” Stephanie asked. “It might come in use at some point. I have a feeling.”

“Well, Okay.” Dan agreed.

“We’re here in the office of Daniel James.” John started with the camera on him. 

The camera panned to him. Then to the arm-in -arm photo of him and Timmy that he had put on the table.

“What can you tell us about this picture?” John asked.

“Oh, this is stupid.” Dan said. “I know too much about this picture as it is. I can’t pretend to find things out like that. Besides there wasn’t anything in this picture.”

“Stop.” said Stephanie. “Try a couple of these.” She pulled some photos from her brief case and put them out he table. “Rolling.”

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Picture Perfect 16

“You made the sale?” Linda beamed. “I can’t believe it.”

“Who was that?” Dan asked looking at her and then the other staff.

“Jeremy Moxham.” one of them said.

“Yes, I know that from his credit card. But who is that?”

He cell phone rang. It was from an unknown caller. He answered.

“Dan, I just wanted to thank you for treating us like normal, annoying customers.”

“My pleasure, Mr. Moxham.” He recognized the voice.

“I also wanted to make sure you’d given me the right cell number too, for that private tutoring. Bye for now.”

“Just say when. Bye.”

“Jeremy Moxham, happens to be one of the richest men, non-oil, non-tech, in the world.” Linda explained.

“I see. That explains why he only asked what the price included.”

“Little brother, he could probably afford to buy Lyphend. You should have pushed the custom model in the window.”

“The Newsman is the same price. You know …” He almost said I think Jeremy was flirting with me. “I’ve had quite a week. I think I’ll head for home.”

“I can get Hamid to drive you. A bike in this traffic isn’t going to be easy going.”

“Thanks I’ll take you up on that. That is if you don’t mind, Hamid?”

“Not at all sir. It would be my pleasure.” They went through the back of the store to the car. “You were amazing, sir. You could have sold him anything.” Hamid started the car.

“Thanks Hamid. I guess it pays not to know what’s going on the big world.”

“You have a busy life. That is good, to be too busy to not know what is going on. You must relish the opportunity to take a vacation.”

“I can’t remember the last time I really had a vacation Hamid. I guess it was when I visited India with Sanjay to see his family in Mumbai.”

“Ah, ha.” Hamid shook his head laughing. “I bet that was not the relaxing sort of vacation.”

“You got that right. I’d met his parents here a few years earlier. They’d didn’t quite grasp that Sanjay and I were a couple. They just thought it was great two bachelors were sharing expenses.”

“I know that too well. Did they introduce you to lots of cousins?”

“Oh yeah. Half our time in Mumbai was spent dining with various family friends who had marriageable daughters.”

“You see how everyone wants a Canadian husband. Even one who is not so perfect.”

“Not so perfect?”

“I mean … gay. Rest assured I’m am sure they know what is going on between the two of you but they live in hope. They do not see why you cannot be one thing in public and quite another not in public.”

 

The next morning there was already a line up in front the James Family Photography Depot when Dan let himself in through the back door at nine a.m. He’d forgotten that this was the weekend of their semi-annual ‘trade in and up sale.’ Customers could bring in old cameras, dvd players, and trade them in for up to a whopping 20% off on any similar item.

The old equipment had to be working order and the bulk of it ended up donated to Goodwill in return for a tax receipt for charitable donations. The company always made money of these sales. The public was none the wiser about the tax break they were creating for the Depot.

“Looks like we’ll have a busy Saturday.” He said to Ushio who had also come in the back way.

“Yes!” Ushio grinned. “No time to fix things today.”

“Not even time to fix a sandwich.”

“You have broken a sandwich?” Ushio scratched his head.

“Sorry. One of those expressions that doesn’t translate well I guess.”

When Sandy arrived they opened the shop twenty minutes earlier than usual to deal with the crowd. While the first dozen were being dealt with Dan went outside to look over what the others had to weed out things that weren’t what they were accepting for trade in. VCR’s were no longer wanted and even though the promo flyers made that clear people still brought them in. Unless it was a VHS to DVD converter and even then that market was disappearing. 

The size of the discount depended on the age, condition and serviceability of what was brought in. Often brands even Sandy had never heard of would show up.

The morning went by quickly. Dan was happy to see more stock leaving than was brought in. People spent more when they felt they were getting a real deal. If they were hesitant, the customer would be offered a discount on the whole purchase, not just the equivalent item.

“I’ll do a run to Classic.” Dan said. “You two can hold the fort.”

“Okay Boss man,” Sandy said. As he was leaving she announced. “There’ll be an addition 5% off all purchases over two hundred bucks while the boss is out of the store and can’t stop us.”

Dan was happy so see some of his customers at tables in the Cafe.

“You should have reminded me the sale was this weekend.” Jill said as she put bagels for him and his staff into the toaster.

“How could you forget.” He pointed to the pile of flyers by her front door. Looking out the front window he saw that the windows in one of the bottom retail stores of the office complex across the street had been covered – floor to ceiling – with brown paper. The paper was covered with the EconoCuppa logo – a hand holding a coffee cup up to the sun so the sun rays radiated around it. “Opening Soon” a sign on the front door announced.

“That was up this morning when I arrived.” Jill said from behind him.

“That was the Happiness Nail Salon when I left here Thursday.”

“It was Happiness when I locked up here last night, too. I guess they weren’t so happy to get nailed so quickly.” Jill handed him a bag with the bagels and a tray with four coffee’s. “The extra is for Sandy.”

Most days Sandy drank two to one for the him or Ushio.

“I didn’t know about this.” Dan nodded at the store across the street.

“Don’t sweat it. At least it proves they aren’t taking over here. Besides we bake fresh on the premises. They reheat only.”

“Then we’ll add that to your sign asap. Fresh baked daily. How about a vent that blows the smell of fresh baking out into the street?”

“How about getting those to your store before they cool off much more.” Jill nudged him toward the door and held it open for him. “Drop by this afternoon if you have chance, for the book launch.”

“Poetry or prose?”

“Actually I think it’s one of each.”

One if the ways Classic had made itself felt in the area was to host frequent literary events along with two weekly ‘spoken-word’ shows. One was a slam, which as far as Dan could tell, was poetry spoken faster than usual; the other was lower key delivery.  The cafe often featured photo exhibits which sometimes lead to a bigger show for the photographer at Silver Gallery.

He and Jill had discussed the possibility of adding a book store to her second floor performance space but between them they decided it was better to stick to what she knew best. Books meant stock, storage space, extra staff. He did share the cost of making the second floor fully accessible. 

When he got back to the Depot the line up was gone. There were still several customers in the store but no one was waiting to have their trade-in’s looked over. This spring sale wasn’t as busy as the Pre-Christmas one.

“Anything interesting come in?” He asked Ushio.

“A steam powered VCR.” Ushio answered.

“Not another one.” Dan trolled his eyes.

He remembered the year when the VCR was being faded out in favour of DVD. People couldn’t accept that their old machines were practically worthless and would ague at the low trade-in value they were being offered.

The same issue arose when the Depot stopped looking at Play Stations, Wii’s or any other gaming consoles. These were being so rapidly updated they no longer dealt in them at all.

When people arrived with them he sent them to Stationville a few blocks west of them. Stationville dealt in new and used gaming equipment.

There was the expected lull around one p.m. then a new influx of customers at one-thirty. 

Dan was dealing with and older gentleman who wanted a camera with a display that had buttons and lettering large enough for his hands to cope with. This was something Dan had never thought of and was as dismayed as the man to find none of the digital cameras they carried fit that bill.

“Let me just check on line.” He went over to one of the computers. After quickly checking their online catalogue and finding nothing he typed in ‘camera with large font.’ To his surprise there was one in Lyphend’s Everyman collection. 

“I’ll order one,” he said the the man. “If it suits you fine. If not, such is life, right. It’ll be here by Wednesday of next week.” 

He knew it would probably be there Monday morning but wanted a day to familiarize himself with its functions.

“Thank you. The other places I went weren’t helpful at all.”

As the man was leaving Inspector Warszawa came in.

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