Picture Perfect 50

Picture Perfect 50

The week old newspaper headline read. “RCMP Pranked”

A local detachment was sent to that ratty hotel on a goose chase. Ha! That comes as no surprise does it. They were never that bright. Whoever it was picked the right bunch to annoy though. These Quintex snoops. Maybe that will discourage them because they aren’t going to find anything. I made sure of that. If the Mounties didn’t find a trace of their man then these TV snoops will never find anything now.

That summer it was such fun watching McKillop and his half-assed deputies asking questions. When they interviewed me I knew they were desperate, clutching at straws. I did tell them the truth. Perhaps if they asked the right questions I might have told them more but they were just as bad as the other men though.

Sick minded men who wanted children for their own twisted needs. I could see that. I could feel that in their touch, when I let them touch me, that is. It was amazing to see how they stopped thinking when they got aroused. How they’d let their guards down and tell me anything. Fools that were so easy to fool.

But it doesn’t look that being made fools of will stop them from snooping around. Digging up all these old memories from people who have put the past aside, left it wherein belongs. It’s not as if they can bring those children back to life. Resurrection isn’t possible. At least not in the flesh. That flesh is gone but there are their faces again in the paper, on the TV. 

I wonder who they’ll find all that willing to talk about what happened? Because there is no one who knows. They couldn’t find anyone then could they. Sure they talked to parents. The guilt they’ve lived is what they deserve for being so careless as to let their children wander, let them out of their sight long enough for me to scoop them up.

It was so simple too. So trusting in those days. Not gullible but eager for distraction. All so willing except for that one boy. He knew I was up to something. I could see it in his eyes but he took the challenge. Thought he could out smart me. None of them could out smart me. I knew that by then. 

The Mounties were too caught up in their little turfs, their own precious little pastures, to even trust one another. They made it so easy to hide anything from them. Hide it right under their noses. 

How kind of Quintex to make their plans so public. This map shows where they’ll be each step of the way. Digging and interviewing. I suppose they end up talking to cousins, school teachers? Yeah, a lot of old bats by now. 

I see they’ve brought in some psychic. What a con that is. Like that Madama Cabanalla in the circus that year. I saw her two times and she didn’t even recognize me the second time. Told me crap about tall, dark strangers, money from an unexpected source and travel.

I knew exactly where the money was coming from, he wasn’t tall or dark, but she was right about the travel. I was so happy to get out here when that summer was over. So happy to leave everything & everyone behind.

It must be true there is no way you can escape the past, it always catches up to you. At least I can see it coming back and heading it off wouldn’t be that difficult. 

Dan was surprised to see Robert Warszawa in the war room.

“After talking with the district commander it was decided that a liaison between the force and Quintex was needed. Someone not in the employ of Quintex, I might add.”

“And you were nominated.” Dan said.

“With the case being officially reopened, the force wanted some one with an unbiased eye to step in. So this is your war room” Warszawa walked around the table and sat at the head of it. “Someone’s been watching too much TV.”

Curtis Baxter & Glaucia Vidro came into the room. 

“If it’s going to be on TV it has look like it always does on TV.” Baxter explained. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Curtis Baxter. ” He reached out and shook Warszawa’s hand. “Stephanie told me you would be arriving. I hope there is no … animosity between out show & the RCMP.”

“Nothing that can’t be dealt with. And this is?” Warszawa nodded to Glaucia.

“This is our psychic advisor Glaucia Vidro. I take you already know Daniel James?”

“Yes we’ve worked on a few cases in the past.”

“Let’s get down to business.” 

They all sat around the table.

“What did you find out from Miss McKay?”

Glaucia filled them in on their meeting with the school teacher. Dan nodded in agreement. Adding a few details here and there.

“One thing I wondered about.” Dan said. “Is this lack of communication with the communities. I’m sure the sub-divisions weren’t that isolated from each – so isolated that they didn’t have any idea what was going on. Would there be any reason one would withhold information from the others?”

“You mean deliberately to obstruct the investigation?” Warszawa asked Dan.

“I didn’t want to say it that directly.”

“You mean the officers here might not have wanted the suspect caught?” Baxter said. “Why?”

“It could have been someone they knew. Someone they felt they had to protect?” Glaucia said. 

“That’s a wild accusation.” W said. “Allegations like that need more substance to be taken seriously.”

“It would make some sense though,” Dan said. “The cases got buried fairly quickly.”

“The fact that they couldn’t find anything doesn’t mean they were buried, Dan.” Warszawa said.

“How do we know that?” Baxter said. “It wouldn’t be the first time evidence was lost or falsified to protect someone.”

“Who was the lead investigator for the case?” Dan asked Warszawa. 

“All I know is who was serving during that time. Most of those records have been warehoused. You know that Dan.”

“I know.”

“Warehoused? A good way to bury something, wouldn’t you say?” Baxter said.

“It’s standard procedure. We’ve been through that already. Everything eventually gets funneled to Ottawa for archiving. Paper gets shredded after so many years. Yes, they were using paper in those days. Not bytes.

“It could be on microfiche.” Warszawa suggested. “They had started do that in the late 70’s when it was clear there was more paper coming in & none going out. Now that the cases have been reopened they’ll be looking through the archives for what they can find.”

“How quickly can that happen?” Glaucia asked.

“If my memory serves me well,” Dan said, “We’ll be using when filming the sequel. Years probably.”

“We do know some of the officers are still alive though and we’re already talking with them to see what they recollect. Sometimes they keep their notes from cases that don’t work out. They want to get their man.”

“Great.” Dan said.

“Can you give a day to coordinate with other detachments in Nova Scotia. It will be efficient if they are prepare to cooperate than me showing up at their stations flashing my badge.” Warszawa said.

Baxter consulted the interview schedule on the wall.

“Okay. I can get Stephany can contact the one we have scheduled for tomorrow. We can pick it up later.”

“That’ll give me a chance to check out the Circus Museum.” Dan said.

“Circus?” Glaucia said.

“Yes. The one me and Timmy had planned to see the day before … we left.” 

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Picture Perfect 47

Picture Perfect 47

“Glaucia Vidro.” she said with a slight accent. “You should believe him, Curtis. There is nothing in those photographs.” Keeping Dan’s hand in her’s she sat next to him. “You do have more than good vision though, my friend. Not what you called e.s.p though perhaps b.s.p.”

“Glaucia, I asked you to call me …”

“Curtis, I will only use your real name. The other means nothing to anyone but annoyances. I am glad to see that you have also stepped outside of those other annoyances. The ones you wear to prepare people to be annoyed.” She released Dan’s hand.

“Okay, okay, enough about me.” Baxter sat opposite them at the table. 

Dan resisted the temptation to wipe his hand on his pants & looked his desk screen. There was a split shot of the three of them looking a little lost. “Is this our first conference?” Dan asked.

“In a way.” Roberto answered. “Everything in the war room is recorded automatically. Right Harold?” 

A fourth face appeared on their screens. “That’s right. Oops one more little fix.” 

Instantly under each head appeared their names and locations. Harold Carmichael was in Toronto. 

“As you can see we can use this for face-to-face conference calls just like CNN.” Harold explained. “Perhaps I should introduce myself. Harold Carmichael. Stephanie’s assistant researcher. I was almost a criminal lawyer but research suited me better.”

“Who’s paying for all this?” Dan asked. He knew at a glance this was not the standard issue equipment in their remote studio.

“Our … Asian sponsors …” Baxter said. “We are going to be a demonstration of their latest technology.”

“I see,” said Dan.

“Glaucia, what can you tell us from your meeting with Mr. Forestier, before we look at the footage of it.”

“Much like Mr. James, I found him to be direct and clear with his emotional feelings. He had no objects that belonged to the children, so I was unable to gather any vibrational information. The school photos did have a residual of their energy but not enough to form an image. 

“It was clear to me that they are, in fact, no longer with us. If they were still alive somewhere I would have sensed that energy.”

“So, you sensed nothing.” Baxter said. “The editors we have their work cut out for them.”

“I did tell him that they hadn’t suffered. It was as if they went to sleep. There was none of the energy turbulence that comes from violent ends. I walked the path they took to the nearby farm and the one it was presumed they walked home.”

“Interesting.” Dan said.

“How so?” Baxter asked him.

“If … don’t take offence … what she says is true about no violence, they might have known their abductor. Someone they trusted enough to go along with willingly.”

“Like a parent?” Harold said.

“Yes, but not in this case.” Glaucia answered. “That energy was not there.”

“Or perhaps someone they had met a fews time before?” Harold asked. “Like … say … a tourist who had stopped to buy apples from their roadside stand a few times.”

“Yes.” Dan said. “That’s possible but not probable. Did they have a roadside stand?”

“Sounds like we have more questions to ask of Forestier before you move on to the next family.” Roberto said.

“See?” Baxter was beaming. “This is how the war room works. We share information and new ideas are produced.”

“New to us, perhaps,” Dan said. “But I’m sure the division looked into things like passing tourists.”

“We won’t know that unless we can see their original  investigation notes.” Harold said.

“Fat chance.” Dan said.

“We’re working on it.” Roberto said. “It’s more a matter of finding where those notes might be. Dan you should know how much record keeping has changed since the 80’s. Things get misplaced, lost, even disposed of, that’s how they become lost cases not merely cold cases.”

“True. Small subdivisions only have limited storage space for old files or backups even. Non-active files more than five years old get shipped out to the regional centre, then those get subsequently shipped to the national depot where they are archived and often never seen again.”

“So the chances of finding them doesn’t depend on Staff Sergeant McKillop in any way?”

“Probably not. Digging up files that old presents its own challenges. But McKillop probably won’t be one of them. We’d have to pay the RCMP to have thos records searched. Unless …” 

“Unless what?” Baxter asked.

“They decide to reopen the cases themselves. So Baxter what did you learn from your tipsters?”

“How little people really remember after thirty years. Stephanie and Roberto met with Dave Jeans. His family owned one of the orchards near the Forestier’s. He was a teen at the time and went on about how all the guys were so eager to fu … meet Mrs. Forestier. She was much younger than her husband. He was a part of one of the search teams that went through the orchards. They were all sure the father had something to do with it. He had a reputation for being hard on his pickers and they figured he was equally as hard on his family. 

“You can watch the interview if you want. We may get a few thing out of it. The idea is to misdirect the viewers a little before reminding them that these weren’t the only children who went missing.”

“So the idea is to cast suspicion at every turn, at everyone, regardless of lack of substantial evidence.” Dan said.

“We present what evidence we may find not cast suspicion, as you put it. As far as any of us know now, any of these parents could be involved.”

“Or Martians?” Dan suggested. “Has any of your researchers checked out that angle? Strange lights in the sky on the days of the disappearances?”

Glaucia began to laugh. “He has you there Curtis. You could market the show to one of UFO markets as well. A simple re-edit for different ‘experts.’ I know of at least one couple in Digby who have been kidnapped by aliens and returned to their beds.”

“Okay.” Roberto went over to the area on the wall with ‘Suspects’ at the head of an empty space. He wrote UFO on it with a grease pencil. “While we’re at it let’s see if we can brainstorm any other sort of suspects. People who the children might trust.”

“School bus drivers.” Dan said.

“Whoah!” said Harold. “That is a good one. There’s a slant we had never considered.”

“Teachers. Priests.” Glaucia said.

“Ice-cream trucks.” Baxter said.

“Get serious.” Dan said. “We’re talking fairly rural areas. I can’t recall ever seeing an ice cream truck anywhere.”

“Doctors. Veterinarians.” Glaucia said.

“Vets!” Harold shouted. “I bet they travelled from farm to farm when called for, right. Did the Forestier’s have any animals? Cows. Horses?”

“None in the photos.” Dan said. “A couple of dogs.”
“Roberto you working on those leads right away. I’ll bet the local constabulary didn’t look for these sort of leads.” Baxter said.

“They were too busy looking for the children.” Dan said. “That was enough work for them.”

“Fuck, Dan give it a rest. We know how limited their resources were then. Maybe we can make up for those limitations now. Anything else?”

Both Dan & Glaucia shook their heads no.

“We’ll try to meet like this every night for a wrap up. Tomorrow we arraigned for the two of you to do an interview together.” He handed them each a folder. “It’s a Mrs. Laura McKay, a grade school teacher who taught both of these children, in different years of course. She says she has her records from the time. Put them aside when she heard news of the disappearances.”

“Records?” asked Glaucia.

“I don’t know exactly what. That’s up to you find out. Maybe she has essays, test papers. Stuff like that. Things the children handled for you Glaucia. Also more class pictures for you Dan.”

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Picture Perfect 43

(finally have this chapter in the right place)

Stephane quickly re-introduced Dan and Cliff, the camera person for this interview, then to Mark Forestier the father of Madeline and Gerrard the first children reported missing. 

“I’ll let you two talk a few minutes,” she said. “We won’t really start shooting for about half-an-hour. Brenda is still setting up the kitchen for the real interview.”

As she left Cliff stayed behind with his shoulder mount camera aimed at Dan and Mark.

“She said we’d be alone?” Mark asked.

“Yeah, yeah. But this is to get you used to being on camera. After awhile you’ll forget I’m here. Trust me.” Cliff explained.

Dan shrugged apologetically. “They never say what they mean. You’ve lived in the Valley all your life?”

“Yep. Place has been in the family since I don’t know when.” Mark began. “Once was more of it though. You know parts got sold off over the years till this is all we have fer now. Was the biggest dairy farm in d’region. Now all been took over by the big corporations. You from around these parts?”

They walked around the yard with Cliff following them.

“I was born in Cape Breton.” Dan said. “Moved to TO when I just a kid.”

“So yer da’s from here too?”

“Yes. My mother too. She was a McPhee from Dartmouth. Then she met my Dad.”

“Marie was a Beaudroux. Her mom was from Dartmouth.” Cliff sighed. He pulled a small flask out of his coat pocket and took a long swig. “She died a few years back. Never got over the loss of our kids, you know. Even though we had another, she was never the same. Left me, you know. Blamed me. Wasn’t my fault, you know.”

“I understand.”

“You understand? What the fuck do you think you understand?” Mark looked away from Dan. “Weren’t your life, was it.”

Cliff ’s camera followed Mark’s head as it turned. He nodded encouragingly at Dan. 

“No. I just meant that it must be hard to lose something, someone like that.”

“We’re ready for you.” Stephane called to them from the back door.

They went into the kitchen.

“This such a great room Mr. Forestier. Big and bright.” Brenda said. “You must cook up a lot of great meals in here. I hope you don’t mind we moved a couple of things around for better lighting.”

She sat them at a wooden kitchen table with a bowl of apples in the middle of it. There was photo album beside the bowl.

“I made you fresh coffee. Should be better than Tim’s. Hope it isn’t too strong. Now you don’t have to drink it, really, but take a stop every now and then to bring it to your mouth. It’ll make this more casual. How does that look?” She asked Cameron, the other camera man. 

“Good frame.” he replied.

Dan sipped the coffee. It was strong. He glanced over his shoulder and on the kitchen counter behind them there was a couple of green glass vases placed to catch the sun.

Mark fidgeted in his chair, took another swig from his flask, then settled down.

“Place never look this tidy.” He said. He leaned over to whisper to Dan. “Stopped usin’ it much of late. Only when Stacy comes over.”

“Stacy?” Dan glanced down at his notes. “Right, your  other daughter. The one you had after …”

“Yeah, we though it might help us get over things but it didn’t. Nothing helped.”

“Okay,” Stephane said. “We’re all set. Don’t worry about pausing to think we can edit all that out to make it smooth. You don’t even have to make sense. That’s our job.”

Dan took another sip of his coffee and looked to Mark for a sign that he was ready to start. Mark smiled back.

“Thank you for letting us into your home Mr. Forestier.”

“I wish I could say it was a pleasure but no one likes to reach back into the past for unpleasant memories. But if this’ll help solve what happened I’m willing to try.”

“How old were your children that summer?” Dan asked.

“Mad was nine and Gerrard was seven. They got along so sweet, you know, fer bother and sister, that is. She’d help with his school work even though he didn’t want help. We thought she might …” he hesitated, “to grow up to … ” he wiped a tear away, “ … to be a school teacher.” He started to get out his flask, stopped and took a sip of his coffee.

“Take your time.” Dan said. He wondered about the nature of memory. How would his Dad have described his relationship with his sister Linda? All he could remember was how distant she was when she wasn’t tormenting him.

“You have some photos of them?” Dan asked. “I’ve only seen these pictures.” He put copies of the Unsolved Cold photos on the table.

“That’s the sundress Marie made for her. Man she loved them flowers. Daisies.” He looked Dan in the eyes. “That was taken just a few days before … whatever happened. They had been down at Ma G’s.”

“Ma G?” Dan consulted his notes. 

“My mother’s sister. She owned the farm over by ours. Raised me. More like a grandmother than an aunt. My mother died giving birth to the one after me.”

“They visited Ma G often?” Dan asked.

“They were always going over there when they could. Marie and I had so much to do around here, you know, we really didn’t have that much time to keep on eye on them every minute. Not that we ignored them or neglected them you know but we’ll … we let them run loose. That’s how I was brought up around here too you know. My folks had ten kids so there wasn’t always an eye on us anyway. You come from a big family?”

“No. There was just me and my sister. Unlike your Madeline, she hated to mind me. Came a time when she couldn’t even be bribed to babysit me.” I was so happy when that torment ended.

“Ma G was happy to do that. It wasn’t that far a walk there fer them. Short cut through the orchard took less than five minutes to get there. The road’ll take twenty minutes, at least.”

“They didn’t take the shortcut that day?”

“Nope. If they had it might have been different, you know. But the rain had made the stream into a swamp. Heavy rain always did that. It’s since dried right up. Thanks to … well, that’s a different thing isn’t it. How modernizing hasn’t really improved things much.”

“About that day.” Dan saw that he was going have keep this interview on track. “You didn’t realize they were missing right away?”

“No, they often stopped overnight with Ma G. So often, nothing need to be said. Ma G didn’t take to the phone. Christ, it was the 80’s, right. Anyone without a phone was just stubborn. If she had one we might have found out sooner. Different these days with cellphones and such.”

“Right.”

“Once we knew that wasn’t here we got ahold of Dave down in Shediac.”
“Dave?” Dan looked at his notes.

“My cousin Dave Forestier. He was in the RCMP there. They come over right away. Asking us lots of questions. Made me feel like they thought we knew more than we were saying. Making it seem it was our fault, or that we had done it. You know. Did away with our own kids.” He punched the table and the coffee mugs bounced into the air. Dan kept his from spilling over. 

“Sorry about that, still gets me steamed up. Dave was no help to us. Said those trained from the mainland felt they knew better than locals. I figure if they had done started a search faster instead of asking us questions and questions they might have found them. Gerrard was so excited about getting back to school you know. I can’t remember me ever being that excited about school. I hated it.”

“They didn’t find anything?”

“Nothing. No one saw them on the road or the highway or anywhere. It was as if those kids never existed. Except they did. I … it wasn’t until those Cold Canada people got in touch with me that I even looked at these.” He flipped open the photo album.

“Not that I forget what happened but after decades life goes on. Marie never did get over it though. She blamed me for trusting Ma G too much. What was I supposed to do? They’re both dead now, too. Ma G died of grief, I’m sure, before the end of the year. She never forgave herself. Never.” He got up from the table, yanked out his flask and drank. “I need to take a break.” Mark left the house. Cliff followed him.

The camera lights shut off. Ma G’s death was not in Dan’s notes. He knew Marie had died but there was nothing about the family after the disappearance. The part of picture you never get to see – where the people go after the wedding photo shoot.

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Picture Perfect 42

Picture Perfect 42

“You’re doing great Dan.” Baxter came out from behind Cliff. “I dropped by to see how things were going.”

“Thanks.” Dan said. He wasn’t going to let Baxter know how difficult it was to stick to the ‘script.’ “I feel for this guy.”

“If you care then the viewers will too.” 

“We were just getting to these.” Dan gestured to the photo album. “After all, this what you’re really paying me for.”

“Thats’ right the photo whisperer.” Baxter snapped his fingers. “Fuck that’s a great title of the show. What do you think? Better than East Coast Cold.”

“I think we can take this outside.” Stephane said. “Without our help the back porch has a postcard view onto the orchard. The sun is amazing. It’ll give the viewers a real feel for the location. Kitchens are fine but this is even better.”

“Too bad we can’t have apple pickers in the back ground.” Dan joked. “Or cows. It is still a dairy farm isn’t it?”

The back porch floor boards creaked underfoot. 

“Not too noisy?” Dan asked
“You’re going to sit out here.” Stephane said. “Not do a hoedown. These chairs’ll be perfect.”

There were two rocking chairs on either side of a small round table.

“I’ll see if I can find a couple of pillows for them, something for the backs too, so they won’t look too rural. Come with me.” she said to one of  the crew. They went back into the house.

“Where did our Dad go?” Baxter asked.

“Last I saw Cameron was on his trail.” Dan put the photo album on the table.

“Anything in there?” Baxter asked.

“Haven’t looked yet. Or have you planted something?”

“Us? No! We might set the scene little to make it easier for our audience to get a feel for the location. But that’s it.”

“This is part of setting the scene, right.” Dan pulled at the collar of his shirt. “Did you supply his shirt as well?”

“Just yours. Looks good on you.” Baxter reached out to help.

“Not going to happen.” Dan swatted his hand aside.

“Okay! Okay!” Baxter stepped back.

Mark came around the corner of the house with Cameron walking beside him. 

“I’m ready. Like I was saying it’s been ages since I really thought about those days, this month’s when all this happened.”

“It can’t be easy,” Baxter put his arm around Mark’s shoulder. “You’ll never forget.” He guided Mark to one of the rocking chairs. “But maybe this can help put some of those … ghosts … to rest.”

“That’s what I’m hopin’.”

“We all set to continue?” Baxter called into the house.

It took another twenty minutes to get the camera to rest on the porch, to get the furniture staged to Brenda’s satisfaction. Lace doily for the table. The redistributed weight of cameras and crew kept the floor boards from creaking as much.

“I’ll leave you to it.” Baxter said. “I’m heading on to the next location.”

“So there are some photos of the children you’d like me to see?” Dan asked.

“Yes.” Mark opened the album. “They were taken just a few days before, you know.” He handed an envelope of photos to Dan. “We didn’t have them developed for months later. We forgot we even had them, you know.”

Dan turned the pictures over one at a time.

“They were taken at Ma G’s birthday picnic. There’s a mess of people there I hardly remembered. Over a hundred. All her other nieces and nephews.” He leaned over to pause Dan at one picture. “That’s me and Marie.”

“She’s very pretty.” Dan peered the photograph. “Too bad it has that matte finish though. I never really understood why people liked this grainy quality.” Mark was smiling at the camera with Marie leaning on his chest in front of him, her head on his shoulder. She was holding her hand out so the two of them could see something on one of her fingers. 

“I’d won some sterling silver ring with a real opal at the circus the day before. Some spin and win game.” Mark laughed. “The ring turned her finger black and the opal fell out when she was doing the dishes.”

“You both look happy.” Dan said. “That’s Madeline reaching up?”

“Oh yeah. She was always one for attention. This is one of the few pictures without the kids all over us in it.”

Dan looked at the pictures. There was nothing in them beyond being photos of a fun family time. He reached for the album “What else do we have in here?”

“Not much really. We weren’t picture takers. Might hav been if we had a camera an’ time to use it. Then you just saw were taken by someone else at the party. Some wedding pictures. Baby pictures of Madeline and Gerrard.” He handed the album to Dan.

Dan opened to the middle where there was some loose prints. He recognized them from the back as ones his Dad had taken.

“Hey! School picture day.” He said turning them over.

“What a day that was.” Mark said. “Marie spent the morning trying things on. She settled on that daisy dress Marie made for her.”

Dan hadn’t seen any of his Dad’s school pictures since they had moved from the east coast. There was no mistaking the backdrop his Dad carted from town to town. 

“It’s the same one she was wearing when she … left us.” Mark said. 

There was a large version of the picture as well as a page with four wallet size picture. Gerrard’s had the same standard set. The pictures were crisp. Gerrard had a lopsided grin, dark curly hair and scar on the cheek under his left eye. They didn’t tell Dan anything though, nothing new, nothing might lead to more. They were relics not clues. 

“These were taken that summer.” Mark said.

“It was after school was finished for the year?”

“Nope. It was the last week of classes. There are a couple of the whole class too.”

“What about the scar on Gerrard?”

“Happened when he was about three. Fell. Climbing trees. He was a climber. Love ladders.”

So, his Dad had had some contact with these children. Like Timmy Dunlop. But he wasn’t in the area when they disappeared. Was he? 

Dan tired to remember the dates in his Dad’s travel notes.

“The worse of it was later though.” Mark went on. “When things quieted down after the searching didn’t find anything. When we stopped being suspects. We hadn’t heard about them other kids either. If we’d known maybe they wouldn’t have thought was us. The neighbours I mean. They acted as if we’d done it. That’s what did Marie in.”

“Let’s take a break,” Stephane said. “There’s fresh coffee from Tim’s for you Mr. Forestier. Not as strong as what I made.” 

Mark went into the house.

She took Dan aside. “What was with those school pics?”

“Nothing.” Dan said.

“You changed when you looked at them.”

“I did? My … There were taken my father’s company. James Scholastic School Photos.” He didn’t want to come out and say that they were taken by his Dad personally. 

“Really!”

“They did that all over the Maritimes in small places like this. Class pictures, weddings, funerals, banquets. That sort of thing.”

“He surely wasn’t the only one doing that, was he?”

“Probably not. I recognized the paper. The pose was one of his favourites as well. Not quite staring into the lens so they’d look less like mug shots and more like kids who just didn’t want their pictures taken in the first place.”

“So you recognized those kids?”

“No! He took thousands of these. Used to send them away to get developed then began to process them himself. I’d help out in the dark room.”

“Can we get back on with this.” Mark Forestier said. “I do have things to do around here.”

“Sorry.” Stephane said.

They sat back on the porch.

“When was Ma G’s birthday?” Dan asked to get the interview going again.

“About a month before they …”

“Was there anything else going on around at the time.”

“There was the Agricultural Fair in St. John. I went on my own. We used to take the kids but they were at an age where they took too much attention when I was wanting to see about dairy stuff, they’d want to be doing something else.”

“What do you think happened to them?”

“They was took and …” he began to sob. “I never wanted to think about what happened. I wanted to think about them being brought back to me. I’d dream Ma G was at the door with Gerrard wrapped in a blanket to keep him warm, with his face covered and Mad hiding behind her because she felt bad about letting them get lost. I’d try to move the blanket so I could see his face. But it was too wet for me hold. It would slip out of my hand. I had that dream for months.”

“Did your cousin keep you informed of what the Mounties were doing?”

“Not a bit. He said he wasn’t supposed to talk much to me to keep from influencing things. Conflicts of something.”

“Conflict of interest.”

“Yeah. He didn’t help us much. Like no one ever said to us they were sorry about what happened. Just to be hopeful. Hope didn’t keep Marie alive, you know.”

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Picture Perfect 14

He noticed a heavy-set woman peering into the Lyphend display. She tried to slide the door open and was clearly dismayed that it was locked.

He went over with the key.

“Is there a camera you’d like to look at.” He asked her.

“Not particularly. But I didn’t think in this location you’d need to worry about security.’

“With security there is no ned to worry, regardless of the location.” Dan slid the cabinet open.

“Who would pay such prices for a … a camera.”

“People who respect craftsmanship. There is a difference between the quality of picture you get with one of these and one of those no name digitals you can buy at any drug store but only camera fanatics could tell that difference.”

“So these are more for status than anything else. More waste productivity. The cost of that camera in the window could feed a lot of children.”

“I’m sure it could.” Just what he needed some rich snowflake who had taken one too many sociology classes and was now here at the most expensive mall in Canada on a mission to shame people. “But so could the money poured into those TV commercials begging for us to save them.”

“Awareness is key.” she went on.

“Who pays the camera people, the lighting guys, to shoot those ads. They don’t use cellphone cameras. Do the administrators of the funds have nice pension packages?”

“I don’t really know.”

“So actually feeding those children is an after thought, isn’t it.”

“Good God! Mr. James you are a bigger cynic than I am.” She shook his hand. “Stephanie Carter. I’m head researcher from Canada Cold. I think Baxter told you I’d be in touch.”

“He said you’d be calling to set things up, not ambushing me on the job.”

“That’s how Quintex works. Catch’em unawares. But seriously what’s up with that outrageous price tag?”

“The top of the line are made to order. Each one of a kind. Handcrafted.”

“You mean like my handcrafted espresso drink from Starbucks?”

“Everything is done from scratch, even the camera body. The costs go up with the materials, the casing, the lenses can easily double the cost of any camera. Lyphend’s are hand-ground as needed. Even the glass is hand-mixed, poured, and their glass formula is a guarded secret.”

“Like KFC.”

“I take you aren’t going to be making a purchase.” Dan said. “Perhaps I could interest you in one of these.”

He opened the Lyphend case again and took out a travel mug.

“I was curious about that.”

He squeezed the handle and a screen lit up around the mug.

“What the …” Stephanie stepped back slightly alarmed.

“Yes. That is you and me.”

“The mug is a security device.”

“Of sorts. Think of it as an undercover reporter.”

“Wow!” she reached for the mug.

“Just a prototype. But that’s how Lyphend started. Making devices during WWI. You didn’t come here to buy overpriced equipment.”

“No. I’ve been told how dangerous it can be going into any electronics store. Now I see why. You are smooth too. Must make a lot of sales.”

“Enough.” Dan walked to the entrance with her.

“Is there someplace we can talk.” she asked.

“I’m at work so the answer is no.”

“Lunch break? I can expense it.”

“Why not. I’ll let David know.”

They walked the concourse to the Atriumata Bistro. The maitre D’ sniffed when they had no reservations but the restaurant had some empty tables.

“Would like the Clifton Room or La Terrazzo?”

“Terrazzo,” Dan said. He’d eaten there a few times with Linda and the Clifton room was dark, plush and even though there was no smoking one felt as if everyone around was smoking, even if the room was empty. La Terrazzo was a faux glass enclosed patio and as a result brightly lit patio that over-looked the parking lot and the tract housing beyond that.

They both declined wine, opting for imported mineral water that was nearly as expensive as the wine. Each ordered a different pasta dish.

“Baxter was quite taken by you. Which isn’t unusual for him. He sometimes makes decisions with his lower head.” Stephanie laughed. “But in your case he may be right.”

“Right?”

“About hosting. You handled me very well. I was trying to throw you off-balance a little. We like interviewers who can flow with things rather than get thrown off course easily. I really liked the way you segued to the travel mug. Very smooth and you didn’t miss a beat. I would have bought anything from you. If I was buying, that is.”

“This was an audition for something that isn’t actually real. Right?”

“We’re building a package. The network likes a package not a concept.”

“Are you actually a researcher or a casting agent?”

“Oh, Dan are you trying to throw me off-balance?” She laughed. “You are a cynic.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“Okay, let’s get down to it.” She took a small digital recorder out of her purse. “You don’t mind if I record this. It means I don’t have to make notes as we go along.”

“Sure.” He fumbled with one of the buttons on his shirt. “Then I can turn mine off.”

“What!” Stephanie pushed her chair back.

“Just kidding. Really.”

“You sure?” She took a note pad out her purse and flipped it open the table. “These are just the general questions we ask.”

“Right.”

Two waiters brought their meals. A moment later a third showed up with a pepper grinder and then after her, a fourth with another bottle of the mineral water.

“I best start before they change the cutlery between bites. You know one of the missing children.”

“Yes. Timmy Dunlop. Stellerton. He was the fourth child to be abducted. There was one more after him if I remember correctly. David McPherson.”

“You knew David too?”

“No, but I’ve watch that particular episode a few times. Making notes. A professional habit.”

“Right. You are the photo specialist. How did you get into that field? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Kind of round about actually. After we’d living here a few years my Dad decided to add photo surveillance to what he offered. He sensed there was market for that, for good quality equipment. As a kid I loved cops and robbers and jumped in to help out as much as I could with installations and such.

“It seemed clear to me that the more I knew about security the more helpful I could be. I nearly got into law informant in fact after taking some courses as Loyalist. One of the prof’s there saw that I had a good eye for documents. He thought art forgery would perfect me but instead I went for forensics. I’m not boring you am I.”

“No not at all.” Stephanie said. “Maybe we should look at the dessert menu?”

“None for me.”

“You don’t mind if I do?”

“It’s not my credit card.”

She ordered a chocolate cheese cake for herself. “Go on.”

“Well – I already knew a lot about photography, different papers, developing techniques so it seemed logical I focus on that end of things. I can authenticate documents as well. You know, figure out if a deed or promissory note is real. But photo’s are my speciality. Which lead me inot the RCMP.”

“That was excellent.” Stephanie pushed the dessert plate away.

“Was that the chocolate cheesecake?” Linda pulled out a chair to join them.

“Stephanie Carter my sister Linda Tanaka – nee James. Stephanie is from Quintex.”

“The cold case?” Linda asked.

“One and the same.” Stephanie answered. “We were just talking about … Timothy Dunlop.”

“I wasn’t surprised at all. No one was. Except Dan here.”

“What do mean except Dan here. I was pretty shocked to learn about this this past weekend.”

“You still on about us holding things back from you.” Linda shook her head. “Don’t you remember his mother coming to the Arms asking if we’d seen him?” She turned to Stephanie. “He used to sleep over a lot. Tim’s Dad was a drunk.”

“The Arms?”

“The Wickham Arms.” Dan explained. “That’s where we would stay when we were in Stellarton. And no I don’t remember Mrs. Dunlop.” He thought a moment.

Linda signalled the waiter to bring her a coffee and the same dessert that Stephanie had.

“I remember she did drop by looking for him. But she did that often enough. She didn’t say he was missing. That he had been abducted.”

“No one knew that then.” Linda said digging into her cheesecake. “I guess in the rush to move we all figured you understood why we were heading out.” She looked at Stephanie. “You can imagine finding out that the kid who was playing with your kid had just vanished. You’d get out of there asap. Which is what we did.” She glared at Dan. 

“Your memory is clearly better than mine.” Dan said.

“What did you mean by not being surprised?” Stephanie asked.

“Timmy … was a bit of a handful.” Linda licked her fork. “He liked to sneak in where he wasn’t wanted.”

“What?” Dan said.

“There was that time you two got caught in the basement of  Gallagher’s store. Filling your pockets with bubble gum.”

“Oh that!” Dan could still feel the wax wrapped gum in his hand. “That was just one time.”

“Yeah the one time you two got caught, right?”
“Well, yeah. We did sneak into garages and houses but that was the first time we took anything.”

“Maybe you, but Timmy had a bit of reputation around Stellarton for that sort of thing. Which might have been another reason Mom thought he was a bad influence.”

“I think we have enough.” Stephanie turned off her recorder. “We’ll be touch Mr. James.” She called the waiter over and gave him her credit card.

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Picture Perfect 3


3

Dan open the door to the archives. The smell brought back so many memories. His first real camera. The first time he developed one of his own pictures. He went directly to the furthest end where the pictures his father had taken while there were on the east coast were kept. Most them at any rate. 

They had transferred the backlog of money makers to digital. There was no need to keep all the prints or negatives of those school class pictures, expect for classes that included him or his sister. He ran his finger along the backs of the storage bins looking for 1984. Yes, there it was. He blew the dust off it before he remembered there would be no dust. The room was built and insulated to protect the negative and photos from any damage. 

He took the bin to a small table half-way along the wall. The dim light once there had been replaced with a set of LEDs that would cause no light damage. He opened the bin and flipped through the envelops of negative and pictures till he found the one marked Stellerton Summer.

He slid the content out onto the table. Several of the negatives had been developed. There was the one he had seen on the TV show. Him and Timmy. This one was in colour. He’d forgotten they were in colour. Why was his memory in black and white he wondered?

He took the strips of negatives and fed them into digital developer. It would create a set of contact sheets he could check on his computer. HighDef had made his job a lot easier in some ways. He’d also set it to print out 8 by 10’s of each of the two dozen pictures, including the ones that hadn’t been printed already.

As he scrolled through the the set he saw that some were in colour others in black and white. His Dad must have been using two cameras that day or did he finish one roll then pop in another? No, it was two different cameras. he could tell by the image quality. His trained eye could tell the difference. Cameras had a finger print.

There were some of him and Timmy in the rocky yard behind the boarding house his Dad usually stayed in when they were in Stellerton. Dan had on his cowboy costume. Chaps, vest, cowboy hat, cap guns and holsters. Man he loved that outfit. Timmy only had a cowboy hat, cap guns and holster but was wearing the sheriff’s badge that Dan had given him.

In a couple of the pictures they were looking for injuns. Some were of him and Timmy on the front steps of the house. It was one of these that had been on the TV show. Both with their cowboy hats pushed back, grinning at the camera, arms around each other’s shoulders.

Dan could see his Dad taking the pictures. There were washed out colour pictures of the nearly the same poses. Too much sun. Someone didn’t know how to shoot in the sun.

Right that was his sister Linda learning to use her new camera. The one he wanted so bad but because he wasn’t old enough she got it. It had been a bribe to reward her for breaking off with that guy his mother didn’t like. Too old for her his mother said.

What was that guy’s name? Cyril something.

So here were the pictures. His Dad must have given copies to Timmy’s family before they left for Toronto. No, the pictures wouldn’t have been ready that fast. Between the packing to move so suddenly and saying goodbyes, there was no time for his Dad to develop any pictures. He must have sent this to them later. By then his Dad must have known Timmy had disappeared. Was this the picture the police used in looking for him?

His cell buzzed.

“Dan, the good sergeant is here to see you?” It was Ushio.

“I’ll be right down.” He glanced at the time on his cell. He wasn’t expecting Warszawa until after lunch. Something must have come up.

When he left the RCMP they retained him as a consultant. He’d been called in on several cases where documents were concerned. Software he had developed enabled him to quickly ascertain if a photo had been doctored. In a couple of instances he had been able to remove the the alteration to reveal what was there before. He’d refined that to do the work on the child porn case.

He went down the back stairs to his office. Robert Warszawa was already sitting in front of his desk.

“Could you explain to Ushio I am not a good sergeant but a dogged Inspector.” He reached out to shake Dan’s hand.

“I’ve tried. He once asked why you don’t wear red.”

“That is what I’d call racial profiling.” Robert laughed. “I know our appointment wasn’t till this afternoon but …”

“You had to know what I’d found?”

Dan took a folder from side file drawer in his desk.

“Tech talk first. These are repros.” He put on a pair of cotton gloves and spread the photographs on the desk.

“You mean others made from the same negative?” Robert rubbed the scruff of beard along his chin line.

“No. These are copies of photographs. Clearly someone didn’t have the negative but wanted copies of them for some reason.”

“Copies of copies?”

“Not unusual. We used to do that fairly frequently here. Someone wanting to share family photos from an old album. These copies go back ten or more generations ago. From the quality of the image. Each such retake affects the image quality.”

“They weren’t scanned?”

“I doubt it. It was like taking a picture of a picture. Only we’d do it under very controlled conditions to get best possible quality. These are okay but not best possible, I’d say. Now I could venture as guess as to what camera was used to make the copies but I can’t tell what took the originals.”

“Anything else?”

“From the content? They’re just a bunch of vacation snaps. The sort a Dad would take. Beach. Amusement park. Probably Florida from the hotels in the background.”

“I figured that much.”

“But …” Dan pushed one of them from the others. “This one is of the crime scene.”

“Yes.”

“Where you found them on this coffee table at the crime scene.”

“That’s right.”

“Why aren’t there any blood spatters on any of them.’

“What do you mean?”

“Look for yourself. Here …”

Robert came over the desk and leaned over Dan to see what Dan was pointing out.

“There’s spatter on the napkins, glasses. If these were there at the time of the shooting there would be spatters on one at least. Nothing.”

“Fuck me! So they were put there after the murder.”

“Or the top ones were removed. There’s no spatter on any of them. You dusted them for prints?”

“No! We assumed they were there all along.”

“Which brings me to my next question? Did you find any other photos like these at the crime scene. An album of family photos?”

“Nope. Just these.”

“Hmm. Okay, then this will seem even odder to you. These are random. They’ve been made to look like a set but they aren’t.”

“What?”

“For one thing there are different families in each of them.”

“Different? How?”

“As in not the same people. Sure at first glance they all look like the same mom, pop and the three kids at the beach, at the amusement park, on the McDonald’s terrace. They are in fact three different sets of people.”

Warszawa took the photos and studied each of them carefully.

“Here’s a comparison I work up for you.”

Dan opened a file on his desk top computer that had isolated the faces of the families and placed them side by side.

“Holy fuck!” Warszawa said. “What the … ”

“I’d say these probably aren’t the victim’s at all but left there by the killer.”

“Interesting.” Warszawa got up to leave. “You have anything more surprises for me?”

“Not yet. But take them, as I have my back-ups to look at. I might do some location search to find out where they were taken.”

“You can do that?”

“Experimental at this point. A program I’ve been working on like Face Finder only for places. If these spots have been photographed before and uploaded, my spiders will find them.”

“Keep me posted. You’ll do a written to go with these.”

“Yeah, I’ll get something to you later today. Before you go …” Dan put the pictures of him and Timmy on the desk. “What do you know about Canada Cold?”

“The TV show? That’s always handled by the PR branch.” He gave little laugh. “Not all of us are pretty enough for them. They contact you about these?”

“No. But this one showed up on their show the other night. Children on the east coast who vanished. That’s one of them in the pictures with me.”

“You the cowboy?”

“Yeah.” Dan reddened.

“You were a cute kid. Not that that’s changed much.”

“For a straight guy you sure know to flatter.”

Warszawa was silent for a moment. “What do you want to know about Canada Cold? For my money they’re a tax gambit by the channel. They get tax credits for the number of Canadian produced shows they do. This is just another one. All edited for effect not reality.”

“I’m thinking of contacting them but wanted to know if they actually passed information on when they got it. There’s that ‘call with tips’ number they have.”

“Automated. That much I know. You leave a number and they may get back to you. I’m sure they get inundated with the same crackpots as we do.”

“I suppose.” Dan put the pictures into his file drawer.

“I’ve never seen a tip passed on to us from them. I’ll ask PR though if you want.”

“Thanks.”

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