Picture Perfect 37

Something his mother said about the little attic brought to mind the crawl space between the roof and the third floor. When they lived there is was were they kept the Christmas stuff. He couldn’t recall what they did with it during the renovations other that add a layer of insulation. Was there anything up there? What about those corners in the basement that never got used?

He cell rang.

“Daniel?” it was Baxter.

“Yes.” He had expected this call, the one in which Curtis explained why the bonus was not ready yet.

“What is your bank branch?”

Daniel gave him the location.

“Perfect. Meet me there in twenty minutes.”

“I’m walking out the door as we speak.” He shut his phone and turned to Sandy. “Call from the bank. I’ll be back in an hour.”

Curtis was there talking with the manager when he arrived.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Curtis said. “I wanted to things do quickly. Mrs. Herrick has everything ready for the transfer. Once you have signed these.”

The first was a contract with Baxter Bits for the $12,000. The second was a contract for the actual series with Quintex, which would require an additional signature.


“This one won’t get fully signed until they’ve decided they want the show. The 12K is yours regardless.” Curtis explained.

Daniel sorted through his various bank cards deciding which account this would into. It wasn’t Depot money, it wasn’t exactly Restorations money either. Nor was it personal. He opted for personal. He would check with Dell and Strong as to where they thought it should go.

The transfer took a few keystrokes to input pin numbers and it was done.

“That was easy.” Curtis said. “But not painless.”

“When do we meet with Quintex?”

“They were waiting for this to be done.” He waved the first contract. “I’m going there now. They will be in contact with you.”

“What about John Kilpatrick?”

“That’s in the hands of lawyers now.” Curtis shrugged. “Not renewing Unsolved for another season was not my decision. I merely passed that news along to him. Which, as you know, he didn’t take well. Speaking of which how is the eye?”

“Recovering as expected.”

“Good. There isn’t much of a make-up budget for the show. None in fact.” Curtis laughed. “Can I buy you a drink? To celebrate.”

“No, thanks. I have a business to run and you have some paper work to deliver I believe.”

Dan dropped into the Carafe when he got back. He looked around for Peter but didn’t see him.

“Hi Jill. The usual for my crew.”

She began to pour the the various ‘usuals.’

“Short handed today?” he asked. “No Peter?”

“He’s looking after his Dad.”

<>

Dan locked the front doors of the Depot. He leaned against the back counter and looked around the shop. The business that his Dad had built, that his sister had helped built and that he had turned into more than a camera shop. A business that apparently had been built on porn. Just like retail on the internet. Without the need for credit card security there would be no PayPal.

There was a knock at the glass doors. It was Inspector Warszawa. He gestured for Warszawa to come to the back as he didn’t want to go through front security again.

“What brings you here this late at night.”

“I was hoping to catch you before you closed. We had a weird break in the old photos case.”

They went up the back stairs to Dan’s office.

“Weird in what way?”

“All the photos are portions of pictures by Albert Block.”

“The western photographer?” Dan said.

“Right. He did those gigantic panoramic things.”

“I know. It took a pack horse just to carry the camera. I never figured out he got up some of those mountains.”

“Not my problem. But all the scenes were small sections of his pictures made to look like somebody’s travel photos.”

“Simple enough to do. But those pictures were real. I mean the ones that were from the sixties were actually from the sixties.”

“Someone couldn’t be using old film stock, period paper to reproduce them like that today?”

“Possibly but there’s a … patina quality to the finish that is from real aging. No chemical can do that.”

“What we’re dealing with then is someone who has a cache of these pictures that was created sometime in the sixties? I don’t get it.”

“Isn’t there anything else that connects these incidents?”

“They seem random. Victoria, Winnipeg, St. John’s. How much more random can you get.”

“Not so random. They’re all provincial capitols.”

“Fuck! I … no one even noticed that. You sure you don’t want to be reinstated?”

“Too late for that. You couldn’t afford me anyway. Trust me.”

<>

Dan arrived at FairVista five minutes before his Lyphend presentation. 

“Sorry I’m late.” He said to Linda. “They should call it Troubled Transit out of Commission.”

He demonstrated the medium range camera and the new self-framing option that would suggest a better angle for your shot, and the background damper that would allow your main subject to be in better focus. A feature that could be reversed, if one chose. The travel mug got the usual hum of reaction, particularly when he had the Cuppa’s barista fill it.

He was gratified to see that at least four of the cameras were sold. Sales always put Linda in a good frame of mind.

He had been caught off guard to see that Cuppa’s had been installed so quickly. It looked as if it had always been in that corner of the shop. Three small black marble top tables each with two chairs stood between the espresso bar and the front window. Even the floor had been changed with a non-slip slate tile that was flecked with glitter.

It had been fitted out with a Gaggia that looked like it as out of a space station. Beside it was a smaller single cup machine. There were no paper, Styrofoam coffee cups to be seen. Instead there was a range of ceramic mugs in different size and colors, each with Cuppa’s trademark on one side and ‘Linda James Photos’ on the other. 

“The Gaggia is custom made for the location.” Linda said proudly. “Beside it is a Clover. Put’s the Classic to shame.”

“Fast work,” Dan replied. “Considering it was … what less than two months ago you made the agreement.”

“They had their eyes on FairVista for a year or more before they approached us.” She walked to her office.

“By ‘us’ you mean ‘you.’ I knew nothing about this until they happened by the Depot one morning while I just happened to be here.” He followed her.

“I didn’t know they would do that. At that point I thought they were merely making inquiries.”

“Right. Well, speaking of making inquiries, I was in to see Dell and Strong earlier this week.” He sipped from the travel mug and watched to see if she reacted all all.

“Oh?” Her eyes flicked over to Cuppa’s and then back to him. “Another payroll hitch?”

“Why I was there isn’t the point, is it? Very slick. Did Mother know or did you spring it on her as well. No, wait, you made her think I was already on board.”

“You saw the agreement?”

“They showed it to me thinking I already knew about it. Almost put out my other eye. I appeared to have signed it sometime in December of last year.”

“December fifteenth to be exact.” Linda was pinching the skin between her thumb and forefinger. First one hand then the other.

“What … I mean …”

“What I’d like to know is how you got me to sign off on it.”

“Dan, it was laughably easy. You were never one to read every page one it comes to contracts. Top page doesn’t always match the bottom page.”

“Fuck! The projections for next year?”

“Right first time.”

“You realize that makes the contract dubious to say the least. I can imagine what a good lawyer would do with that information.”

“This is between you and me and I’ll never admit this to anyone.”

“You just did.” He sipped his coffee.

Her eyes widened. “You recorded this with the Lyphend!”

“It was laughably easy.” Dan smiled. “If you had come to me to begin with I probably would have been on board. Though when I saw the hasty mess Cuppa’s made on Queen I was shocked to see what they accomplished here.”

“Dan you know how difficult it was to convince you to even open this location.”

“Dad dead. Renovations at the Depot ran over budget and you wonder why.”

“Your workshop ran over budget.”

“A workshop that has since paid for itself. We’re just above the surface here at FairVista.”

“Then you aren’t going to do anything?”

“Dell and Strong are having our accounts gone over by a forensic accounting firm. There better not be any discrepancies.”

“I see.” Linda seemed to sag.

“Is there anything else they might find? The car leasing?”

“No! I didn’t expect you to be so … rational?”

“I’ve had a few days to think. Do I want to damage the James brand over money, deceit and manipulation? The answer is no. But if something more is uncovered I’ll have to rethink. Besides it runs in the family.”

“What runs in the family?”

“Hidden things. Like those sex pics of Dad’s. 

“Don’t tell me you don’t have a stash of porn somewhere.”

“I did once upon a time but the stuff I had wasn’t stuff I’d made myself.” The V-Files didn’t count as porn, did they? “Mom was by to see me earlier this week.”

“What! She left her condo! It must have been important. Health?”

“Nothing like that. You told her about those pictures and she wanted to make sure there were no more. She shredded the copies I showed you. Dad’s secret life may have been why we dashed from the east coast.”

No.”

“The RCMP got wind of it and encouraged him to get out of town as it were.”

“Bullshit. We left bec ….” she stopped herself.

“You do know more about this. Christ! I’m not an eleven year old any more. What could be worse than finding out your Dad was some sort of smut peddler.” He stopped himself from talking about the Montreal connection. If she already knew, he wanted her to talk about it, if not, it didn’t matter if she knew, yet.

“I knew the camera club was more than a camera club, if that’s what you’re fishing for. Sometime Dad would let me and some of the other kids I knew join in but there some nights when it was adults only. Said it was because we teens we so unruly. 

“One time I snuck back to the store to get a glimpse of what they were doing.”

“And.”

“It was some woman in a two piece bathing suit. Skimpy. That’s all I saw. Nothing like what you showed me but well I wasn’t that surprised to see it went further. At the time I freaked out.”

“When was that?”

“About a year before we moved?”

They walked back down to shop level. 

“You sound Daddy when you get serious.” Linda said.

“Then I guess he had reason to distrust you as well.” 

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Picture Perfect 26

The next afternoon Dan braved transit to visit his sister at the FairVista location. His last couple of Friday sessions had proved to be very profitable for her. This was the one way he knew he could please her. It was odd, to him, that he still enjoyed her approval. 

Growing up they are constantly at battle from when he was old enough to resent her need to control simply because she was five years older than him. It was often like having three parents to satisfy. She was always the hardest to please. Today he could understand how frustrating it must have been for her to become his caretaker while his folks ran the business.

If she was in a good mood he would find out what she knew about their Dad’s other photo projects. In particular the saucy pictures he had found. He’d brought a ‘clean’ selection from each of the collections, leaving the more explicit material safe in his office.

The shop was empty when he walked in. Hamid was behind the counter leafing through a coffee table book of wild animal photographs.

“Is it suddenly Friday?” Hamid look at his watch. “It appears it is not.”

“Slow day?” Dan asked.

“Tuesdays are always slow days. Perhaps we should bring you in on Tuesdays instead of Fridays.”

“Linda around?”

“She is. But …” he looked at the computer screen. “She is about a hundred meters to the left of us at the moment. That would be Not A Trace.”

“She’s getting Botox shots?”

“No. Her weekly facial does not involve such drastic measures. She is now fifty meters and approaching.”

“I should try that on my staff. Is it her phone?”

“No. Something from Santi.” He pointed to a rack of bracelets and pendants. “Tracking devices for your children that look like jewelry.”

“Clever.”

“Dan! What brings you here today?” Linda asked. “Don’t tell me you just in the neighbourhood. Or are you here for the Hugo Boss tuxedo sale. Time to tie the knot with your dandy chef?”

“Nope.Let’s go up.” He nodded towards her office.

“More bitching about Cuppa’s?” she asked as they went to her office. “I really didn’t think they’d open so fast.”

“Nah. The Carafe never attracted the homeless in that area anyway. Cuppa’s are welcome to them.” He sat in front of her desk. “Do you remember if Dad had any work outside his routine stuff?”

“It would be in his records. You know how meticulous he kept those. Milage, meals, even what the weather was like.”

“I know but … I found these stashed away in the archives.” He gave her a folder with the pictures he had selected.

She quickly flipped through them. “Daddy didn’t take these. Why would you think he did?” She closed the file and pushed it away from her.

“Location.”

“They could be anywhere.”

“It’s the New Waterford studio. I recognize the chair, the backdrop. The technique.”

“There is no technique in these.”

“I know the camera, Linda. The paper is Dad’s paper.”

“So he developed these. Some people took pictures no reputable company would develop.”

“Then why keep them?”

“He’s a man. For God’s sake! Oh right! I guess you wouldn’t know what a straight man would like. Just because he had these doesn’t mean he took these.”

“Inside voice Linda.”

“Look,” she dropped her voice. “Even if he took these. What difference does it make? Can’t you leave the past alone. All that stuff about why did we move. You seem determined to dig up some sordid secret. There isn’t one.”

“You know who she is, don’t you?”

“What! Where did that come from. Or right you used to play detective. So this your deductive reasoning at work?”

“Diverting attention from the question to the questioner is always a sign of something being held back.”

“All that’s being held back is me laughing. Trust me.” She snapped her fingers. “Maybe it was the Camera Club.”

“Camera Club?”

“Yes, for a couple of years Daddy tried to run a camera club for locals who didn’t have equipment. They could practice on his. He’d show things about light and angles. He thought it would a great way to sell them stuff.”

Dan was familiar with Camera Clubs. In England they had been cover for men who wanted to take pictures of women, sometimes of men. The pictures were an excuse to get the model undressed and often lead to sexual encounters.

“He was selling them lingerie?” He tried to joke.

“He gave up it because it was too much trouble and not enough profit.”

“There’s nothing his records about a camera club. You make sound sort of routine.”

“It was called … The Kodak Fun Club, something like that.”

“Oh! That’s what KFC stood for? I thought it was Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was crazy for that when he could find it.”

“We all were.”

She glanced at the photos again. “These all there were?”

“No. Both sets got more explicit as they progressed. Didn’t think you’d need to see them to jog your memory.”

“Thanks, I guess. I wonder who she is though. The face is sort of familiar.”

“Google Bettie Page.”

“Dan I’m not that naive. I know who she looks like. I’m surprised you do though.”

“Linda, I know more than queer. But I suppose whoever she is, she didn’t pose for free.” He put the pictures back in his messenger bag. “I better get going.”

“I can get Hamid to run you home.” She said as they walked down the stairs. “Don’t want to keep Sanjay waiting for you.”

“That’s okay. Transit isn’t too bad.” He stopped by the GPS jewelry. “These selling well?”
“Pretty well. They just came in last week and about a quarter of them have gone.”

“They make them for guys?”

“Why? You want to keep an eye on Sanjay?”

“Not exactly.” Each time she said Sanjay it was as if she was baiting him, mocking him. “See you next Friday.”

As he walked the bus stop his cell phone rang.

“Daniel,” It was Sanjay, “I’ll be going up to Sylvan’s Uncaged in Bobcaygeon. The new resort restaurant is opening at the end of the week and he want me to oversee the final stages.”

“Tonight?” 

“Yes. I’m at the house now packing some things tot make with me. Sorry it such short notice.”

“All things considered I’m surprised you called.”

“Dan, you know I’m not like that. You think I’d let you come back to an empty house and find me gone without notice? Melodrama isn’t my department.”

“You saying it was mine.” His face was getting warm.

“All I’m saying is that I should be back next Monday. Maybe the break will do us both sone good.”

“Thanks for letting me know. Bye.” He put his cell back in his pocket.

The bus was right there when he got to the stop. Rush hour transit home was tolerable thanks to his iPod. He was back at the Depot in time to help Sandy finish locking up. Once she left went in the back way and directly up to the third floor workshop. The archive bins he’d looked through were still on the back workbench ready to be put back in storage. He took out his Dad’s appointment and travel record diaries and began to go through them again.

KFC appeared eight times in 1983, monthly except for June July August and December only five times in 1984. He went into the storage room and got the bins for 1982 but there was no mention of KFC in any of those. So Linda had remembered correctly.

He was reading the notes in the appointment book for the month before they went to Stellarton. Wedding wedding graduation wedding. He came a cross a weekend wedding in St. Peter’s. The place name rang a bell for him. Had he gone with his Dad to help at that one as he sometimes did?

According to the travel memos his Dad had stayed the night there as he sometimes did if there was too much driving in one day. He’d spent the night at the Delany Motor Inn. No, he hadn’t gone on that trip or he’d have remember that name.

Why was St. Peter’s so familiar to him? He went down to his office and looked at the notes he had made on the missing children. One of them, Dorothy O’Connor, has lived there. 

He took the notes with him and checked the dates. His Dad was there a couple of days before the child had disappeared. Considering how much his Dad travelled around the province that wasn’t such a coincidence.

But we were in Stellarton when Timmy disappeared. That’s my Dad being where two different children disappeared. Dan cross-referenced the dates and locations of the other children with his Dad’s records. 

Those where the only two that coincided. On the other dates of disappearances there were no photo bookings or other notes. 

He googled a map of the Maritimes and flagged where his Dad was at and where the disappearances had had happened. His Dad was in driving distance of every one at the time they occurred. But so were countless other people.

He left his desk and paced the room. The abductions were two to three weeks apart. All were early the week. What did that tell him? As far as he could tell they were random. Where did the others that Warszawa told him about fit into this? Where did they fit into the geography and timeline?

He did say they were reservation children. Dan did a search for  native reservations in the Maritimes in the 1980’s. The records he found didn’t provide that specific information. 

The children who had been abducted were in either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick so he could eliminate any reserve in PEI or Newfoundland. This left a list too long for him to figure out. But he did notice one near St. Peter’s where the wedding took place.

St. Peter’s wasn’t that far from them in New Waterford either. Why had he stayed the night? He checked the time of the booking, then noticed the weather notation. “HR 4 pm.” Heavy rain. His Dad hated to drive at night in the rain.

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Picture Perfect 13

Without looking at any of the other pictures he gathered them together and put them back in the envelope. Now where to put them? 

No! He couldn’t put them away until he saw what else was there. He took them out and quickly sorted through them. There were twelve from the whip shoot. In the last picture the man’s boxers were around his ankles and the whip marks on his ass were clearly bleeding. By that last shot the woman’s hair had become dishevelled, her nylons where loosened from the garter buttons.

He had sat on the chair in the pictures many times. His Dad used it when taking portraits of families. There was no doubt in his mind about where these were taken. The backdrop was the scrim he mother had ordered from a photo supplier in Montreal. It reflected the light just right and didn’t call attention to itself.

Time to put on my forensic hat. Had his Dad taken these or merely developed them and kept copies? Dan got one of the studio pictures he knew his Dad had taken of him and Linda. There they were by chair, each with a foot on the seat and grinning at the camera. The chair has the same smudge on the back left leg. He turned the paper over and it had the same subtle watermark as the whip pictures. They were taken by the same camera. 

He could see the camera set up on its tripod in the studio. He taken lot of pictures with it himself. Climbing up on that very chair to look through the view finder. Playing with the focus. His Dad didn’t want anyone to tamper with the tripod.

There were no colour pictures in the hidden envelope. Black and white could be easily developed by his Dad. Colour was possible but more expensive and had to sent away for developing. Racy stuff like this would probably be reported to the police if one of the reputable developers had gotten a hold of it.

That’s all what it was though. Racy. Nothing was really exposed. No genitalia, no faces. Just that big bare ass. Was this considered porn at one time? 

He took the photos over to the scanner and fed them in. He watched on the monitor as each was converted. He played them back as a slide show to which made him think of the gif program he’d tweaked so he transferred a copy of the file to that, instructed the program to do fill in – it would take what photos it had and create new versions that continued in an action. It worked best if the action in the originals was fairly similar from shot to shot. The program informed him it would an hour to complete the task.

He went back to the stills for one last close look. Something in them caught his attention but he wasn’t sure what that was as he flipped from one to the other. Then he noticed that the woman was wearing  a simple bracelet in the first four pictures but as the flogging proceeded it was gone. Did the clasp break? Or did fly off as she worked that guy’s ass over?

On the other workshop computer he isolated the bracelet and enlarged it and enhanced the image at the same time. He recognized it. He’d given it to his mother for mother’s day!

He pushed away from the computer. His mother? That couldn’t be his mother in those pictures! 

He dropped a proportions grid on the first of the pictures. He typed in the approximate dimensions of the chair and calculated the woman’s hight based on that. Even in heels his mother wouldn’t have been that tall. But to make sure he found a beach picture of the his mother from the time and had the Proportions program compare the two them. It concluded that they were not the same person.

Then why was the woman wearing his mother’s bracelet? 

He’d bought it at the Kmart that had opened recently in Sydney. They might have sold hundred of them, well at least dozens of them. He’d gotten the notion to buy it from one of the other boys in his class who had bought one for his mother.

He stood, stretched and walked to the window over looking the street. What did he know now? Other than the fact that his past was being seriously re-appraised, he was no further ahead in the finding out what had happened that summer. Right! He had forgotten to check his Dad’s travel records for that summer.

A quick search and he found them where he expected them to be. No secret symbols appeared in the notes for that summer. 

His notes for the abducted children said that Timmy was reported missing on Tuesday of that week. The family departed Stellerton Friday of the same week. That’s why the departure was so rushed. They left within days of the disappearance. The photos of him and Timmy were dated on the back for the Sunday before they left. These were probably the last pictures taken of Timmy.

He stared into Timmy’s wide open eyes. Timmy was looking directly at the camera while he was looking directly at Timmy. Both were ginning like they had secrets. Good secrets.

Dan wiped away a tear. He’d lost a] his best friend at the time and didn’t even know it till now. Not only that but now felt his own past slipping away.

 

 

Friday was Dan’s least favourite day of the week. I was the day he worked at the FairVista location. It was his own fault for insisting that he be there at least once a week to run a ‘camera clinic.’

“Ms James isn’t here again today Dan. She called to say she might in by lunch time.” David O’Neill, her assistant manager apologized.

“Figures.” Dan shook his head. Since the Cuppa visit he’d been unable to make contact with Linda. He’d left messages, texts but so far no response. Not that he was surprised after the stunt she pulled to get him out of the way. But even this avoidance was bit much for her.

“Did she tell you anything?” Dan asked as he watched people arrive in the store.

“Just that Anne was feeling much better.”

“Anne?” Anne was the oldest of Linda’s children.

“Oh! I thought you knew. Anne is in Sick Kids. Fell off her bike. Hit her head. They were afraid there might be a concussion so she’s been at Sick Kids the last couple of days for observation.”

How convenient, Dan thought.

He had arrived at the FairVista shop that morning looking forward to finally confronting Linda about the Cuppa deal. 

He googled the Sick Kids number, called the patient inquiry number and asked for Anne Tanaka’s room. He was patched through and Linda answered.

“Hi Linda. It’s Dan. I’m at the shop and was surprised not to find you here.”

“Let me tell you, I’d rather be there.”

“How’s Anne.”

“Good. Very scared but as it turns out nothing to worry about. No concussion.”

“Is it Daddy?” He could hear Anne in the back ground.

“No, baby, it’s Uncle Dan calling to see how you are.”

“Hi, Uncle Dan.”

“Hi, Tiny. You gave us all a scare.” He didn’t want to let on this was all news to him.

“Me too. I loss consciousness for five minutes. Five whole minutes. I was just riding along on my bike when this dog dashed out in front me and I swerved to not to hit him and ran right into a car that I didn’t even know was there. Good thing the car was parked and I flipped off the bike and landed and hit my head and the dog was licking my face when I came to and he was so cute. And …”

He let her ramble on for a minute or so.

“I gotta go, Tiny. Tell your mother I’ll see her later.”

He looked around the store to see who might be there for the ‘camera clinic.’ If there was enough people he would show them the latest in technology, how to integrate it with what systems they already had. Each week they’d showcase a different camera. Ten people took the seats provided for his demonstration.

The presentation did sell a few items, some software. They often became Q&A with people wanting to know what the fuck to do with the cell phones and tablets that kept sharing information they didn’t want shared. He did his best to keep them focused on what he knew, not what they wanted him to know.

Friday was also the Lyphend ‘by appointment’ day where he discussed their line with prospective buyers. These he enjoyed greatly, as many people thought it was like buying a car. They would try to negotiate but there was no such thing as discounts even if they wanted fewer features. Lyphend did have a line of cameras for the public, along with other household electronics made to their exacting specifications. Not cheap by any means, but all designed to out-live their owners.

The morning session made Dan aware, once again, that too many people found it challenging enough to turn the flash off on their digital cameras that explaining how set fStops was almost a pointless digression. He did show them how easy it was to do on most makes but couldn’t answer questions such as ‘why don’t they make a digital that does all that for you,’ when he had, in fact explained how the auto setting did that.

The best he could do was say some camera can become intuitive about the most frequent users needs, none were mind readers. A camera still had to be pointed somehow to take a picture.

After the session was over he worked the floor. Stopping to chat with customers, answer questions. He aimed to make at least two sales whenever he was at FairVista to demonstrate to Linda he wanted the location to succeed. Plus he liked the rush of selling, especially when he could encourage the customer to upscale what they wanted. 

Selling $750.00 cameras was easy enough but getting them up to $1750.00 was rewarding. He also knew Linda liked to see their extended warranties sold.  These were usually pure profit.

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Picture Perfect 7


It was after six pm when Dan stored his bike in the side garage. The Mazda was gone so he knew that Sanjay wasn’t home. He couldn’t recall if Sanjay had said he was working that night or not. After the unusually busy day he’d had Dan was okay with a quiet night on his own at home.

One side door in the garage led directly to a short flight of stairs into kitchen, the other side door opened onto the backyard patio. 

“I’m home!” Dan called out as he put his shoulder bag on the kitchen table.

There was no answer. The TV was on in the living-room. He turned it off. A timer would have turned it off at 7:30 and then again at 8:30 if there was no one home. There was a message by the remote.

“Forgot I had a night shift at Pa’Pappa’s. I’ll be home at the usual time. Sanj.”

Pa’Pappa’s was one of the restaurants Sanjay worked for. The other was Zephyr. Both owned by Sylvan Papoulias. Zephyr was the fine dining establishment that regularly made the Michelin’s list of top North American dining experiences. 

Pa’Pappa’s was at the family-oriented end of the spectrum. The difference, according to Sanjay, was in price and paper quality for the menus. Desserts for the family spot would be served at the the other but instead of grated dark chocolate they’d have shaved white chocolate. Both paid him the same but at Zephyr’s he got his name on the dessert menu there.

Dan went to the fridge and took out the remains of the pizza they had ordered on the weekend. A squirt of hot sauce and thirty seconds in the microwave and it was ready to eat.

He took it out to the back patio and ate while watching the sun setting. The various solar lights began to glow as it got darker. 

This was a good life. 

He was washing the plate he had used for the pizza when his cell rang.

“Good news Dan.” It was Cyrtys. “I just spoke to the big wigs and they are truly excited by your proposal.”

“My proposal?”

“Why yes, to do a special on this missing children from an almost-abductee’s point of view. You’ll have to tell them how you evaded his grasp and all that. It’ll be so dramatic.”

“I was not almost abducted.” Or was I? Maybe that’s what my mother was holding back. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember that week. What do they call it – post traumatic shock? 

“I don’t mean literally. Can we take a meeting tomorrow. We have so much to discuss. So much.”

“I’ll have to check my schedule. I do have a business to run.”

“But Daniel this is your business, isn’t it. Seeing what others don’t see in a simple set of photographs.”

Dan woke in the morning with the naked Sanjay spooning him. He reluctantly disengaged himself careful so as not to wake his lover. Sanjay smelled of vanilla and chocolate. Dan sat at the edge of the bed. Did he want to start something this early in the day? If he didn’t there might not be another opportunity. 

He scratched his balls, head and then stretched his arms to work out the sleep kinks. Bladder pressure pulled him off the bed and to the toilet. As he was relieving himself he heard music in the bedroom. That meant Sanjay was awake and had turned on his mp3 player. 

The music was a gentle sitar with tabula and distant vocalizing. Soothing for morning. 

Dan rinsed his mouth with water and went back to the bedroom. Sanjay was on the floor doing yoga. Dan sat on the floor and began copying what Sanjay was doing. He knew the routine of movements and closed this eyes to flow more consciously into his subconscious. As the exercises moved to a finish the music built up in speed and complexity. Then there was silence.

He opened his eyes and leaned back on his elbows watching Sanjay’s hair stomach as his breathing became more regular. Dan was never able to slow his down as well or as much as Sanjay did.

Over breakfast he was telling Sanjay about the ‘offer’, as he called with with air quotation marks, from Quintex, when his phone rang. He unplugged it from the charger to answer.

“Linda.” Call display told him who was calling.

“Daniel we have to talk.”

“You mean you talk and I listen.” He replied holding the receiver away from his ear.

“I’m not in the mood for your wise cracks this early in the day.” Her voice seemed to echo off the kitchen ceiling. “I’ll expect you at the FairVista store by ten.”

He brought the phone to talking distance. “Not unless I teleport. I’ll be there when I get there. Eleven at the earliest.”

“Get your houseboy to drop you off.”

Dan rolled his eyes to Sanjay’s frown. “She’ll never forgive you, will she.”

“I can hear you.” His sister said.

“Well, Sanjay can hear you, too. Trying using your inside voice. Oh I forgot, you don’t have one.”

Linda had never learned to modulate, as his mother called not shouting. Even quiet conversations ramped up to her shouting. He often wondered if she has some sort of hearing problem but the one time he had suggested she get her hearing checked she went even more ballistic than usual.

“I’ll be expecting you.”

The line went dead.

“Fuck, you’d think she’d learn to say hello and goodbye.” Dan shook his head.

“Family is like that. I don’t think my mother ever asked me how I was doing before she launched into how my sisters were doing.”

“I’d better get going if I expect to be at the big shop by eleven.” Even if he caught the right transit connections travel time was nearly forty minutes. A trip he would make no more than twice a week. Despite her brusqueness his sister did run the business well. She enjoyed the interaction with customers much more than he did.

“Not going to bike out there?” Sanjay asked.

“No thanks. The war on cyclists is as bad the city’s supposed war on cars.”

The door bell rang.

“Who could it be at this time of the morning?” Sanjay asked as he went to answer it.

“Is my brother decent?”

“Good morning to you too, Linda.” Sanjay said as she brushed past him.

“I was outside already Daniel. I knew you’d dawdle.”

She took a mug out of the sink, rinsed it and poured herself a cup of coffee. 

“I don’t suppose you don’t have real cream in here do you?” She pulled the fridge open. “I guess this’ll do. Not two percent I hope.” She took two swallows. “Not half-bad. You ready yet. I don’t have all day.”

Daniel put his loafers on, checked his shoulder bag to make sure he had the photos he’d printed off the TV of all the missing children. As expected the quality wasn’t great but would do for now. He followed her out to the car.

“New?” He ran his hand along the hood.

“Don’t give me that look.” she opened her door. “Yearly lease means I can upgrade the Lexus every year. Why own anyway? You should try it. Tax deductible.”

He got in. “Bike styles don’t change that rapidly.”

“Tell me about it.”

She turned at the end of the street and headed to the Expressway.

“What is going on Linda?”

“Those pricks at FairVista say we aren’t making a large enough profit for them. Look, you know we are breaking even at least. It takes a few years for a business to really get established. I’ve explained all that to them. Even their accountants say we have a sound business plan but to them sound means bigger profits.”

“Uh huh. Tell me something you haven’t told me before. I warned you that the profit clause might bite us in the ass one day.”

“Who expected it to bite us so soon. That’s what I’m saying. But I have an opportunity that may increase profits for a minimal outlay.”

“Linda we’ve spent enough getting the new shop set up. I’ve already split off the best selling stuff to you. Or is this another attempting to pressure me into setting up shop with you?”

“No, nothing like that little brother. The people from Cuppa’s has approached me.”

“What? You want to start a coffee shop somewhere?”

“In the store. It’ll be like Starbucks and Indigo. Timmie’s and Shoppers.”

“How much of an outlay?”

“For the two locations a couple of hundred grand.” she said quickly.

“Two locations?”

“FairVista and Queen.”

“What about the Classic?”

“That lease is coming up soon. Daddy always said follow the money. Cuppa’s is the money.”

“Classic is doing fine. Better than ever in fact with the new condo complex.”

“Why do you always fight me Daniel?”

“I didn’t fight you on the new shop did I?”

“I’d call refusing  to move all the business to it, putting up a fight.”

“If I remember correctly you thought having too locations would reflect what a success the business was. The big expansion. Right? Once FairVista was established then there’d be franchise opportunities to sell.”

“Daddy said you have to dream big to get big. Besides Peggy thinks it’s a great idea. She’s already signed the agreement.”

She pulled into the mall lot and parked behind the shop.

“Mom would sign anything you asked.” Dan wanted to get angry but he admired the way his sister often went ahead and did the ground work. “But …”

“I know you have the final say. If Daddy knew …” she trailed off. 

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