Picture Perfect 94

Picture Perfect 94

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’d interviewed David Morrison that afternoon.”

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

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

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

“10:30.” Cameron said.

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

“We found your suitcase pretty much intact.”

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

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

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

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

“You sure?” Dan said. “Can we check?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s right.”

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

“Do I really have a choice?”

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

“And you are?” Stacy asked.

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

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

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

“Oh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If you must.” 

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

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

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

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

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

“What is going on?” Dan asked.

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

“Meaning?” Dan asked.

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

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

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

“Anything else Evans?” Phillips asked.

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

“Thanks.” 

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

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

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

“Thanks.” Dan’s face reddened. 

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The Kafka Hotel

The Kafka Hotel

Nothing was the right size. G stood in the centre of the hotel room. The windows were too high to look out of & were too large for the room. On tip-toe G could barely get a brief glimpse of the high-rise across the street.

It strained G’s neck to keep looking outside. The suitcase took up half the bed. The bed would clearly be too small for anyone to stretch out on. The desk was more like ledge. There wasn’t enough room under it for legs. Not enough room on it for a laptop to open properly. The chair back came half-way up G’s spine and offered no support to lean back on.

The wall-to-wall carpet wasn’t quite wall-to-wall. In one corner there was an bare angle of raw concrete floor that hadn’t been covered. The sink in the bathroom was so low G had to stoop to get hands under the taps to splash lukewarm water on the face. There was no cold or hot just lukewarm. The shower stall door didn’t close properly so water rained all over the floor when the shower was on.

Nothing was the right size except for the price.

I’ve never stayed in a hotel room this bad but some have come close. I remember one where the ‘closet’ was just big enough to hang a shirt. More than one had desks with minimal leg room underneath. I did have one with a shower door that didn’t close properly. I suspect every hotel, no matter how good, has crappy ‘discount rooms’ that they give when people book with points or though some online agency.

The first draft of the piece had only ‘G’ as a name so I kept that. I pruned away gender designations to make G as anonymous as the room itself. I was tempted to not mention body parts – hands, face to further dehumanize G but then it felt too much like a parody of Metamorphosis. 

I’ve read Kafka’s novels & short stories a few times. I enjoy his sense of things happening for no discernible reason. Characters who hit that blank wall that refuses to explain, apologize or help. In fact they are made to feel at fault or shamed for even asking for ‘clean towels.’ Life is out of our control – which isn’t fiction as we’ve learned in these covid19 days.

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Picture Perfect 93

Picture Perfect 93

Dan and Cameron walked along the dirt shoulder of the highway.

“How does it feel to be a target?” Cameron asked.

“Target?”

“I’m the one who asks. I’m in frame?” Dan joked.

“Oh yes. The gyro stabilizes things pretty good. I don’t even have to be looking at you or through the camera lens.”

“Cameron stop! You know who you’re talking to?”

“Oh right I kept forgetting you’re the major camera man in Canada.”

“Let’s just say I do know the equipment end of things”

“You also know how to evade a simple question.”

“Which was?”

“How does it feel to be a target?”

“I don’t really feel like a target.”

“If two attempts had been made on my life in the last week I’d be worried.”

“Speculation isn’t productive. Any of us could be …”

“Bull. You know that’s bull.”

“The car was a fluke.”

“The way I see it is if you had got back to the Amethyst on time you would have been in your cabin when the bomb went off.”

“What! The prank call was to get me out so they could plant an incendiary that would go off when I returned after realizing I had been pranked? That kind of timing is … pretty neigh impossible.”

“Yeah. But it’s pretty coincidental all the same. The way I look at you’ve been targeted at four time since this production started.”

“Four!”

“First when Back-to-you John Kilpatrick went for you. Man he was some pissed at being passed over this season of Cold Canada. Second when you got raided in Moncton and nearly got sent up river. Those guys in that division were none to pleased with you. Even less pleased when your bud Warszawa showed up to kick their sloppy asses.”

“I don’t think that quite how it went down when Warszawa showed up.”

“Surely you must have sensed some … tension.”

“Right but they had every reason …”

“Right, you’ve been on their side of the story. Isn’t that how you ended up leaving the forces – targeted by some homophobic asshole?”

“That has nothing to do with this situation!”

“Whatever you say. Then the car you we’re supposed to be driving, rolls killing two. Now your motel room blows up when you were expected to be in it.”

“Are you trying to make me more paranoid than I am already.”

“Sometimes the fly doesn’t know its in a web until its too late.”

“Thanks for pointing that out to me.” Targeted! Maybe there was something to that when he added Sanjay looking for something from him. Plus his sister wanting to get the business out from under him. Typical investigator thinking – everyone is a suspect.

An RCMP cruiser pulled up beside them.

“Hop in.” It was Sergeant Coster. “I’ve been called back to keep and ye on you. Don’t you know its illegal to walk on the Trans Canada.”

Dan got into the front seat. Cameron got into the back.

“Turn your camera off please.” she said. “I have my dashboard on & that’s enough camera for me.”

“We were heading for Amethyst  to see what progress was going on. No one here knows what’s up.” Dan said.

“A Fire Marshal is there as well some tech from the Arson Unit out of Division 23. It’ll take two days to process the scene. Then your people can get their stuff from the rooms.”

“The vehicles?” Cameron asked.

“Your remote unit is free to go. The explosions were started by the same substance. No trace of it was found in or on any of the vehicles, other than the two parked closest to the sites. That was residue but we have to make sure.”

“I guess that’s good news.” Cameron said.

She pulled into the Amethyst parking lot. The smell of smoke was still strong in the air. Dan put his Lifend around his neck and set it for every three seconds, continual.

He surveyed the damage in the room they had set up at a mini-war room. The ceiling was torn out, walls caved outward, charred papers were being scattered by the breeze. Outward meant the explosion was from inside the room.

He went down to his cabin. The damage wasn’t as severe. A photographer from the fire marshal’s department was taking pictures in the room. From the singe pattern Dan could tell that the fire had started at the head of his bed. Possibly something under the pillow. Whatever it was it wasn’t as powerful as what destroyed the other room.

“Who ever did this,” the photographer said, “wanted you to suffer.”

“Sounds like my ex.” Cameron said. “She never did things slowly that would hurt. She didn’t want the hurt to end until she had enjoyed it.”

“You think who ever did this was here when it ignited?” Dan asked.

“No comment.” Coster said. “‘It’s all very curious’ is my official statement. The convenient text messages make it clear that someone was keeping their eyes on you. You are the target for some reason.”

“That’s been pointed out to me already.” He caught Cameron’s eye. “Me and this investigation. This sure isn’t what I signed on for.”

“None of us signed on for this.” Cameron said. “I have good mind to put in for danger pay. I should speak to the union about that. The more dangerous a stunt the higher the pay rate.”

“This was no stunt.” Coster said. “This person meant business and I doubt if they’re going to give up.”

“What if we shut down the production? This is all just an attempt to do that. They aren’t out to get me, personally. They could have just as easily picked Baxter or my camera man?”

“Hey leave me out of this.”

“What’s this?” Fire department photographer waved a couple of the investigators into the room. They came out ten minutes later with a scorched carry on.

“Holy shit!” Dan said. “That’s my carry on!” He’d completely forgotten that was fire resistant. 

“You say this is yours?” The Fire Marshall asked.

“Yes. Daniel James.” He shook hands with the Fire Marshall. “This was my room. The fire was underway when we got back.”

“From where?”

“Chick Frick.”

“It was around 11?” The Fire Marshall asked.

“Yes.” Cameron man said. 

“The Chick Frick north of here?”

“About ten minutes.”

“They’re only open that late of Friday and Saturday. Most other days they close by 7.  Many a time I’ve cursed them when I couldn’t get there before closing. The wife likes her fried chicken.” The Marshall said.

“They were just locking up when we got there. I flashed a couple of twenties and they let me in.” Dan explained.

“They?”

“It was just a girl. Teenager I’d say. She was nice enough to sell us what chicken & fries was left.”

“Conveniently this happened while you were gone.” The Marshall said.

“We went there because of the text messages I got.” Dan said. “You know about that? One of the RCMP officers confiscated my phone last night to find out where they came from.”

“Cell phone?” Coster asked. “First I’ve heard of that. Who did you give it to?”

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Picture Perfect 92

Picture Perfect 92

Dan looked around the Chambers’ parking lot for a familiar car then remembered everything had been impounded by the RCMP. The Amethyst Court was now a crime scene. It was cool and he wished he’d had time to grab his jacket before they went to the Chick Frick. 

There was coffee & granola breakfast bars at the motel’s check in office. Bad coffee, whitener and expired breakfast bars. None of the crew was to be seen as he sipped from the paper cup.

“Good morning, sir.” A short, overweight woman came into the office. She had a box of muffins from Tim Horton’s. She put them on the counter & ran her hands over her arms. 

“Kathy Stevens.” She reached out to shake his hand. “Manger. I hope these will be sufficient. I was no way prepared for so many guests at any time. It is horrible, just horrible what happened to you people there at the Amethyst. Such a shame they had spend a fortune, a fortune, renovating it last winter. The place was a total dump, a dump I wouldn’t let a dog sleep it. No one could believe how good it looked. Really! I thought they’d spent too much. And look all that money down the drain, up in smoke. All that money. Where did they get it from? The money I mean. Now this. Let me tell you people aren’t going to forget this. No siree.” She stopped talking and looked inquisitively at him.

“Do you know which cabin Stephanie Carter is in?” he asked.

“Oh, no sir. People arrived and took what keys we gave them.  Grabbed them. No one officially checked in expect for that black guy, Baxter. He signed for all the rooms. Not how we usually do things around here but the Corporal said it would be okay and besides under the circumstances it seemed the fastest way to do things.”

Things were so confused after the explosion Dan couldn’t place things in order. The RCMP had escorted them over to the Chambers Motel. He’d stayed on the fire truck while the arrangements were made. Brenda had brought him the key to his cabin and walked him to its door.

“Hows the coffee?” Kathy asked. “Not too weak? I maybe should have picked up some actual cream while I was out too.”

“It’ll do.” Dan said. “Is any sort of car rental place around here?”

“That’s right! You folks will be needing transportation. There’s the one in Port Hawkesbury.”

“How about a Bell store.” He’d replace his cell as fast as he could.

“Oh yes sir. There’s one in Hawkesbury too.”

Perhaps he could get someone from the detachment to drive him there. The Amethyst Court would be a fifteen minute walk. There was bound to be someone there to secure the scene who could help him out.

“Airport, too.” She added. “Not a big one like Hal-e-fax but them movies stars sometimes flies in on their own little planes. Charters sort of stuff. Showing off I thinks. Some of’em have never driven a car themselves in their lives. Always got someone else to do for them. Spoils their kids. One bunch that stayed here last summer. I can’t begin to tell you the mess they left behind. If you can have kids of your own why adopt so many more. And if you do, why don’t you get ones that speak English for Christ sakes.

“It’s not as if was m’fault we couldn’t keep up with the amount linen’s they needed. Fresh sheets every day for all of them. Plus,” her voice dropped to a whisper. “they didn’t even leave a tip. Lest ways your boss already gave us a handsome one when by rights he didn’t even have too. Payed for all them rooms too for three nights but’ll only need’em for two, he says. That’s a man who appreciates good service. Guess being black and all he’d be more sensitive to people like us who run around to someone else’s beck and call all day long. Should I make you some fresh coffee?”

“No, no, this is fine.” He put the cold, soggy cup on the table by the percolator. “I’m going to find the … boss … see what’s up.”

Looking out the window he’d seen some of the crew (find out how many would be on such a crew and what their jobs might be) exiting their rooms and heading for a laneway that divided the motel’s strip in half.

“You know which room the boss took?” he asked.

“Oh yeah, that I do know. He took Cupid Cottage one of the honeymoon suites out back of the motel. There’s three of ‘em. Fully detached you know so as to guarantee privacy.”

Dan started laugh as he looked around ate the motel. Each of the cabins had cute name plaques over the doors: ‘Jack & Jill’ ‘Adam & Eve’. The first of the detached cottages, Venus Vale, was directly at the end of the laneway so it was framed by the curved arches on either side. The arches almost formed a heart. Cupid Cottage was well to the left of it. ‘ Behind the cottages was a swimming pool and some children’s swings and slides.

He turned around directly in front of Venus. The view through the arch was a perfect one of the mountains. Someone had done careful planning when they built this motel. Too bad they didn’t think of wifi.

“What the hell is keeping you?” Curtis shouted from the doorway of his cottage. “I’ve sent you a dozen texts. Stephanie has called you at least two times.”

Dan gestured with palms up. “No phone. No answer.”

“No phone!” Curtis said as Dan came into the cottage.

“Evidence.” Dan said.

“No phone!” Brenda said slightly shocked.

“No wifi here either.” Dan cocked his head at Curtis.

“Pardon me.” Curtis said. “We didn’t have time to find a five star hotel for you.”

“Even Amethyst Court had wifi.” Cameron said.

“Listen up.” Curtis raised his voice. “We have more pressing issues than wifi. The first of which is ..”

“Some decent coffee?” one of the crew called out.

“Honey there ain’t no Starbucks in this unwashed neck of the woods.” Curtis replied. “once the cars get here we can sort out coffee. They’ll be here by eleven.”

“One of them will stop at that Tim’s.” Brenda said. “I just texted them.”

“I said decent coffee.” Cameron said. 

Curtis quieted the laughter. “It might even be hot when it arrives. But I have some bad news QTel has decided to shut down the shoot.”

“What the fuck!” someone called out.

“Temporarily. A pause to consider what direction to take things. The insurers are nervous as well. Too many ‘accidents.’ Have any one you worked on a show that had so much bad luck?”

“As soon as the RCMP says we can leave we’ll get you all back to Halifax. Flights home will be booked then.” Stephanie said.

“Fine but what will we do for clothes!”

“Yeah.”

“All our stuff is back at the Amethyst Court. When can we get back there. I need my meds.”

“I’ll go over to the Amethyst Court.” Dan said. “I know something about crime-scene protocols. If any of you need medication I’ll see what I can do. There’s bound to be a Shoppers near enough.”

“Use my Optimum card I want the rewards points.” One of the crew said to a round of relieved laughter.

“I’ll need someone with a working cellphone to come with me.”

“I’ll tag along.” Cameron guy said. “I still have my mobile pack with me. All charged up. As long I keep it running I’ll get paid.” More laughter.

“As long as you’re on camera you’ll get paid too.” Curtis. “Hiatus doesn’t start until we’re back in Toronto. If QTel doesn’t like that they can … they can blow me.”

“Maybe it was them who tired to blow you …. up.”

“Right.” Curtis sagged. “All those files, our equipment. Fuck I hope we don’t have to start from scratch.”

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Picture Perfect 91

Picture Perfect 91

Dan locked his cabin door. He wasn’t sure who was driving Curtis’s rental when they left the Waterside. But they might have switched drivers at any point. Curtis was always happy to have someone else do the work. 

His cell was blinking. There was a series of text messages for him from and unknown caller. Why where they calling him & not the tips line? 

“I know where those missing children are.”

“You are looking in the wrong places.”

“You are talking to the wrong people.”

“I know what happened to them.”

“Meet me at the Chick Frick parking lot at 11.”

He made sure messages where saved so he could check the sources more throughly. No messages were untraceable.

It was twenty to eleven. Dan laughed out loud. G.P.S told him the Chick Frick was ten minutes away. It also said the diner had a five star rating. He pulled  his shoes on. Even if this was some wild goose chase Chick Frick sounded like a good idea after the day he’d had.

He attempted to text back but his text was returned as being undeliverable. Was that even possible? He forwarded the texts to Warszawa and to Brenda.

Brenda was at his car with Cameron when he got out to it.

“You expect an interview?” he said.

“It didn’t say come alone?” She shrugged.

“Chick Frick is cat nip to stoners.” Cameron guy said. “Uh … not that I’d really know.”

It was quarter after eleven when they got there. The clerk was putting up the closed sign. There were no cars in the parking lot. Dan got out followed by Cameron wielding his camera. 

“You’re going to scare them away.” Dan said.

Cameron did a slow pan of the empty lot.  

“I think we’ve been pranked.”

Dan went to the door and got the clerk’s attention by holding a couple of twenties to the glass. She let him into the store. He came out ten minutes later with a couple of containers.

“I caught her before these went into the trash.” He handed Brenda the containers.

One held several misshapen chicken pieces, the other had fries and some macaroni salads.

“She hasn’t had a customer since 10. There’s been no one hanging around the parking lot either. So as Cameron said it looks like we’ve been pranked.”

As they ate a van pulled into the lot, honked, the girl left the store and hopped into it.

“Who would have your number?” Brenda asked.

“Everyone we interviewed. I’ve been giving my card out. But I repeated the tips line for the radio interviews. It’s not listed on the website. So I must have been someone I gave it to.”

“What’s that noise?” Brenda said winding down the car window.

They could hear a fire engine sirens in the distance. Cameron got out his cellphone. “I’ve got a dispatch app here. Let’s see what it’ll tell me. Fire service called to an incident at … at the Amethyst Court.”

“Amethyst Court?” Dan said.

“That’s where we’re staying.”

“Oh! We’ve been in so many crummy motels I’;ve stop paying attention to their names.” Dan sped out of the Chick Frick parking lot.

The highway in front to the motel the motel was blocked by the fire truck that was halfway up the drive. One of the cabins was on fire. 

“Shit!” Dan said. “That’s my cabin!”

He pulled the car around the firetruck and parked on the lawn in front of the motel office. They ran over the the rest of the crew who were huddled around the back of the fire engine.

“My God. My God.” Stephanie rushed over to them. “Dan! Cameron! We thought you were trapped in there.”

“No. We were up the road at the …” A realization struck him. “Those messages where meant to get me out of here!”

“Messages?” Baxter said.

Dan showed him the texts.

“What the fuck!” Baxter read them twice. “What is going on?”

“I thought we were being pranked. There was no one there when got to Chick Frick.”

Two RCMP cars & an ambulance pulled up forcing them closer to the side of the engine. As the officers got out of their cars there was loud shattering of glass followed by an explosive fireball that soared high into the night sky. The ground underneath shook briefly. Other cabins were engulfed in flame. Car alarms went off. Stephanie began to sob. Dan held her. 

Cameron came over to them. “I got all that. I think. From when we left for the Frick. That explosion was right out of the movies. Wow. This must be what war is like.”

The RCMP questioned them. He surrender his phone so they could trace the messages. He let them know that Warszawa already had copies of them as well. If they could be traced Warszawa would see that happened.

<>

Chambers, nearby motel provided the crew emergency shelter. Dan slept fitfully in the cabin he was given. He felt uncertain without access to his laptop. His cell phone had been surrendered to the Force to check the texts he had received. Other than the motel phone he had no way to get in touch with anyone. He left the motel without putting anything in his shoulder bag other than what it usually held. His favourite Lifend camera and his travel mug.

Travel mug! right. He hoped the battery was charged enough for him to use it. All his cables were in his luggage. He unrolled the thin keyboard and turned it on. As he feared battery level was low. He hadn’t recharged it since the start of the shoot. The wireless Lifend looked for wifi signal to recharge. There was no signal to be found. He used the Lifend satellite signal, which drained the battery faster than it could recharge. 

It couldn’t connect with the ancient TV in his room without wifi so he was stuck with the small curved screen on the mug. He had several concerned emails all of the “why aren’t you answering your phone? are you okay” variety.

He sent short messages back explaining the situation, that he was well and that his phone was in the hands of the RCMP. There were two Skype calls as well but he didn’t want to drain the battery on those. He shut the mug down to recharge.

He didn’t feel so isolated but didn’t know how to do anything without a phone of some sort. He’d even left his person phone behind int he rush to follow up the lead. He didn’t even have a change of socks. He reached for his cell to check the time and realized once again that he didn’t have it. It was nearly 9 a.m. according to the clock radio.

He wet a face cloth in the tiny bathroom, laid on the bed with it over his throbbing eyes & drifted off to sleep.

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Picture Perfect Pause

Thanks to the time lost sorting out my connectivity issues I wasn’t able to give the next section of Perfect the focus it needed to edit it properly. It will return next week an an explosive development.

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Picture Perfect 90

Picture Perfect 90

“You want to see the bike? It’s around back.”Morrison’s cellphone rang. “You ahead I’ll be right with you. It’s Seal so I have to take it.”

Dan & Jennifer walked around the house with the camera crew in tow. 

“Stop!” Morrison was shouting at them. “This interview is over.”

“But …” Brenda started.

“Seal has watched some of the Baxter Bits bullshit. He won’t let you exploit our loss for your benefit.”

“What!” Dan was stunned.

“You don’t care about these children. You are looking for fodder for this fucking new cable channel. They mean nothing more to you than commercial dollars-per-minute. Get off my property. Now. Stop filming before I … ” He lunged at Cameron & tried to wrestle his camera from him.

Dan looked to Stephanie. She shrugged.

“Ok folks let’s get out of here.” She said.

Back at the motel Dan showered thoroughly. He put the dusty clothing he’d been wearing into a plastic bag. He gave the crew instructions that all the clothes everyone who had gone into the dome needed to be laundered to clear out the residue. He used the drops Dr. Grey had prescribed. He hadn’t used them for the past week but when he saw how red his eyes where he knew they needed more than hot water to clear them.

Wearing a clean tee-shirt and underwear he covered his eyes to rest on top of his bed & fell asleep after two deep breaths. He dreamt Peter was on the bed beside him. He wanted Peter to touch his cock but Peter kept pulling his hands away while giving him teasing kisses. 

“I know you want it but it’s not that easy to get.” Peter said. 

Dan’s cock ached. The ache woke him.

“I get the message.” He said to his body. “But there isn’t anything we can do about it here.” Why not give Larry a shout? He was definitely interested when we were bouncing over the Moose Trail. Maybe that man from Flannery’s. Troy? His white shirt would come off easily enough. 

Dan cupped his balls and squeezed them. If he hadn’t Skyped Peter so recently he would have done so then. Cam2Cam wasn’t all that satisfying, no one to cuddle when he was done, it was better than doing himself in a motel room.  Maybe Cameron guy was having similar feelings. “Don’t screw the crew!” wasn’t that something Baxter had told him. Camera guy’s beard was hot. Not that it was beard, more like constant stubble. A bit longer than that. Did he use some special razor to keep it always at that length. Nah. There hadn’t been any sign that Cameron was even bi. He’d probably be uncut like Sanjay. But not as well hung. At least his jeans never betrayed with even an outline their contents. Unlike Larry who wasn’t shy about what he would have offered if Dan had been willing to take him up on that offer. 

He rolled on to his stomach and reached for his cell to check when his next Toronto visit was scheduled. He knew it wasn’t the coming weekend. But unless there was something definite to shoot he wasn’t really needed here either. The review of the week’s work was set for Sunday. Saturday was set aside to look over what they had. Baxter and the production crew would view all the footage, make notes for him. 

So he wouldn’t be needed Saturday. Thursday and Friday he was to interview the last family. He looked at flight times. It would be possible to fly out of Sydney late Friday and out of Toronto Sunday morning and get back just in time for the Sunday review. He rolled to his back while pushing his briefs off.

There was a knock at his door.

“Dan?” it was Baxter.

“One second.” He grabbed for his jeans and zipped them carefully not to catch his cock skin in its teeth.

“What can I do for you?” he stepped out onto the narrow walk way. Meeting with Baxter in private wasn’t wise. The night air brought him quickly to his senses.

“Brenda told be about the incident with Morrison.”

“Incident?”

“Could he sue us?”

“What for! Invasion of privacy?”

“I don’t know but he’s not happy. His attorney, actually it was Seal’s lawyer, was onto to Quintex demanding that we turn over all the footage we shot with a guarantee it wouldn’t be aired.”

“What! Morrison signed a release, didn’t he?”

“Seal claims we are infringing on his proprietary rights.” Baxter said. “The bothers going to make a movie out of Sister Gone.”

“It’s a work of fiction. The facts …. Maybe there’re afraid we’ll uncover something.” Dan said. “Family is always the prime suspect until hard evidence proves otherwise.”

“But none of the other families have been proven totally innocent either. It’s only the chain of children vanishing that gives any credence to their claims that their’s were abducted.”

“Whew, Curtis that’s a wild conspiracy theory. They would have to be in collusion in some way. There’s nothing in the files we have that show any connection between these families other than they were families who lost children.”

“That’s not what I was saying at all, but Dan I gotta remember that idea. It would make a great series. Morrison’s lawyer in breathing down our neck. Is there anything that incriminating in what he told us?”

“Not that I recollect.”

“The legal department is viewing them now. It’s his sons. They never responded to our initial requests for interviews.” 

“What about the Morrison footage.”

“It’ll be there. Don’t worry about that. Legal will see to it. They may not like the way it’s been edited mind you. What you say to the camera and what gets on air can be two different things.” Baxter turned to leave.

“What’s this about ninety minute episodes?” Dan asked.

“There’ll be a couple in the mix.”

“Now you tell me. There’s nothing in my contract …”

“Check that contract careful, it says episodes but doesn’t state how long they are. If we package the show as 6 one hour segments you get paid for six. If we package it as 3 you get paid for three. There is even a clause for shooting beyond the three month time frame.” He put his arm around Dan’s shoulder. “The money for your time here is already in the bank. What’s the big deal.”

Dan slid out of Curtis’s grasp. His cologne was suffocating him. “I have an early call.” He opened his cabin door holding Curtis back with his free hand. “See you in the morning.”

“No. I’ll be heading back to Halifax. Follow up on the accident. Insurance stuff to deal with. Their doctors want to talk to mine about the seriousness of my injures. The fact that the car was totalled and passengers killed means nothing to them.”

“Passengers? I thought Glaucia was driving.”

“That’s what I meant. The driver & a passenger was killed.” Baxter gave Dan an air kiss. “I’ll be back by the end of the week. After the insurance inquisition I’m going to QTel in Toronto. After their launch there’s a push to get the first episode of the show on the air.”

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Picture Perfect 89

Picture Perfect 89

“You are right. There isn’t much residual energy of her here. Too much testosterone in this room since she was last here.” Jennifer went to the window. “Is that the tree she liked.” A tall maple dominated the view from the window. “I mean the one behind the maple. That maple wasn’t there when she was here.”

“What about the leaf in the envelope?” Dan asked.

“One of the twins put that there.” 

“Seal.” We planted two maples when they were born. We cut one down. But I …I don’t think she had a favourite tree. Paula was more an indoor child. Now that you mention, it I don’t think she had a favourite anything. No dolls or stuffed animals she had to have near her. Same with her clothes. What she wore was never a big thing.”

“Until the Banshees.” Dan said.

“Yes. That last year she became more … I guess the word is ‘aware’ of herself as a woman. She knew how much it aggravated her step-mother as well.”

“She wanted the attention.” Jennifer said. “I doubt if she was a real fan of any band. This one worked. If it hadn’t she might have tried Madonna to get the reactions she wanted.”

“I need a break.” David said and left the room.

“This is a wrap for now.” Brenda said. “Take, say, an hour. I’ll talk with Mr. Morrison and see what’s up.”

The camera crew went downstairs. Brenda motioned Dan & Jen to stay in the room.

“Do you think we’re getting anything here. I mean neither of you seem to be picking up any vibes or clues. No new information.”

“Perhaps not but he does confirm the ineffective way the constabulary dealt with things.” Jennifer said.

“We already know why these children were never found. That isn’t strong enough.”

“So we’re back to stretching things out for 90 minute episodes.” Dan said. “You want me to accuse him of molesting his daughter which forced her to run away.”

“My God.” Jennifer paled. “You mean she might not be one of the victims after all?”

“Abuse is something the RCMP would have suspected. They do that in all cases of missing children.”

“Now they do. Did they back in the eighties?” Brenda asked.

“I’d have to see the actual case file. You know, the files that the division has been unable to locate. I don’t get that vibe from him.”

“I don’t get that from the house either.” Jennifer said. “But the minute you suggested that it give me the sort of chill I get when an ugly truth is revealed. Someone was seriously traumatized in this house. Perhaps this room. But the weird shape of this house does things to energy.”

“He’s right about pyramid power?”

“Oh yes. This shape attracts and channels an energy your average house doesn’t.”

“I’m for talking with him some more.” Dan said. “At least to find out who saw her after she left here. Maybe, she did go the reserve. She’s the oldest of the children that went missing and was clearly more involved in a world outside of the home and school.”

“I’ll talk with Mr Morrison and see how he feels about going on.”

“I’m going to take a stroll around the grounds.” Jennifer said. “Do your eyes only work on photographs?”

“No. It took me a few years after I left the force to stop seeing all rooms as crime scenes. I don’t know if I want to get back into that head set.” 

They walked down to the first floor & outside.

“Did you ever wonder why it is your photo eye is so acute?” Jennifer asked. “You’ve had specialized training but you make connections that go beyond training.”

“You suggesting I might have some psychic powers?”

“Strong intuition …”

“I just remembered something.” David Morrison joined them. “Follow me.” They walked over to one of the domes. “When the RCMP decided to follow up on our fears they found her bicycle at her cousins. That’s when they concluded she had run away with them.”

He opened the door into a dome. 

It was stacked with plastic storage boxes, chairs, sofas, a covered rack of clothing, gardening equipment. He stepped aside to let camera man into the dome to take a shot of the interior.

“It’s back here. Give me hand with this.” With the help of the other camera person he slid the covered rack away from the wall.

Dan coughed with the dust and left the dome when the dust got into his eyes.

“It’s been decades since I moved anything around this far back in here.” David said. 

Dan’s eyes began to water as he sneezed repeatedly.

“You alright.” Jennifer asked him.

For a moment he couldn’t see anything. “I’ll be okay.” He blinked his eyes but they didn’t clear up. “I think I better wash my eyes out. That dust has done a number on them.”

Brenda lead him to the remote truck. “I’ll see if they have any water.”

“Bottled.” Dan said, “I don’t want to risk the well water.”

“How does that feel?” Brenda asked.

“Better. The stinging is gone.” He blinked tentatively. Things were clearer. One of the crew handed him a towel. He carefully dried his face and around his eyes. He could hear coughing and hacking as the others exited the dome. 

“Sounds like I’m not the only one.” he said.

“No.” she said. “Everyone had to get out of there thanks to that dust or whatever it is.”

“I hope it isn’t toxic.” He opens his eyes more fully. He took a deep breath. His heart was no longer racing. Cameron was placing a wet cloth over his eyes.

“Fuck!” David sat on the bench beside him. “Sorry about that. I guess there had been some pesticide stored in there. But I did find the bicycle.” He sneezed & his nose began to bleed. “Shit!” He dashed into the house.

“Maybe we should call it a day.” Stephanie said. “I’ll check with Morrison to see if he’s ready to go on.” She went into the house & came back a little later.

“What did Morrison say about continuing the interview?”

“If we can wrap it up today. Seal will be here tomorrow, Wolf the day after. It’s their birthday and this year they’re coming home to celebrate. Neither wants cameras around.”

“Let’s do it then.” Dan said.

He & Jennifer went into the house with the camera crew behind them. 

“Mr. Morrison.” He called out.

“Up here Dan.”

Morrison was in the glass peak of the house reclining on a day bed with a pyramid awning to protect it from the sun. It was in the centre of the room.

“I come here to focus the energy on me.” he said though an iceberg on his nose. “It works.”

“What about the bike?” Jennifer asked.

“I was found close enough to Whycocomagh for the investigators to assume she had been there before she took off. They also thought the guys were lying – you know the way native’s can’t be trusted. Talk to them.” He got up carefully.

“You might want to talk to her cousins.” Morrison walked down the stairs.

“The one she supposedly ran away with?” Dan asked.

“Yes. By the time they came back to the reservation no one wanted to question them about her. They did tell the RCMP that she wasn’t with them. They hadn’t see her that day either.”

“I’ll suggest that to the producers. We still have another family to interview. Once they are all done we’ll see where things stand for needing more information.”

“Okay. Stay in touch regardless.”

“Before we go I was wondering if you had any school photos of Paula. You know those portrait sets.”

“I don’t think so. I’ll ask my boys when they get here. They were so keen on her. In fact Seal has her notebooks. So he might have those pictures too.”

“Stephanie will be in touch with you if we need more for the interview. You touched on the same things the other parents did. The lack of cooperation on the part of the RCMP seems to come up a lot.”

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Danforth Potholes

In Toronto we’re at the edge of post-covid19 life as the retail world returns to life, within safety protocols, that is. Stores have signs that say maximum capacity 121, while others say no more than 4 at time. Some say ‘for rent’ not having survived the prolonged lockdown. I suspect some took the lockdown as a sign to close up a business that was merely breaking even. 

Some that did close were fairly popular coffeeshops that subsisted on their takeout business anyway. Maybe the per sq. foot costs weren’t being covered by the sale of elevated cupcakes? Some places that survived have cut back their hours – no longer opening a 9 a.m. but at 11 a.m., or in some cases not until 2 p.m. Others are ‘by appointment only.’ I suppose the $ saved in operating costs helps their bottom lines.

Several have been replaced by similar business, chains like A&W or Burger King. The most invasive had been, what I call potholes. Marijuana dispensaries – that have taken over video, buy-your-gold, stores. Some have obvious names – High Time, Natural High, Neighbourhood Joint – others aim for a different ‘class’ – Canvas, Tokyo Rose (?). At least one has gone ‘native’ naming itself after one of the original land-owners. Cultural appropriation or perhaps the owners are natives? I don’t care to find out because even if they are, it is still a marketing ploy.

Last summer I did several photoblogs of ghosts – stores that had shut down due the pandemic – without cash flow they didn’t survive. I stopped taking those pictures as it become increasing depressing to see that covid19 wasn’t merely killing people but also opportunity. I’d say killing ‘the economy’ but lets face it big pharma is raking in the bucks. 

As for the potholes that have shown up all over Toronto – I guess they are better than abandoned storefronts.

Kharis 

<>

is this the last wrap

or the first

the first wrap was a tissue

of lies

‘oh i’m fine’

I used that wrap

over & over

until the tissue

was a layer

layer after layer of

‘oh i’m fine’

‘i don’t mind’

‘how can i make you happy’

walking away

rather than add another layer

hoping nothing had caught

no thread was snagged

on a expectation

an exception

on resurrecting love

<>

I was protected

entombed by safety

by the fact

that all anyone wanted to hear

was ‘oh i’m fine’

‘this bandage solution will do’

‘you deserve to be fixed first’

<>

bound tight

peering at life though the slits

surrendering to the weight of history

pushed along by an unquestioned past

by ritual expectations

controlled by the clasp of gauze

layer upon layer after layer

some turned to dust

some turned to scar

some turned to face the sun

reaching for release

<>

decayed tissue 

dust motes settling in the moonlight

‘how can i make you happy?’

‘how can i unravel the book of life’

can i survive

without another layer

of this tissue

this scar tissue of lies

‘oh i’m fine’

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Picture Perfect 88

Picture Perfect 88

“Do you have any other photos for me?” Dan asked.

“There’s albums full of them. Most after the boys where born. Madeline wasn’t fond of pictures where as Rosemoon was.”

“Can you remember if there was there anything going on at that time. In the area I mean.” Dan asked as he looked over the family photos.

“Festivals.” Jennifer explained. “That sort of thing.”

“Happy Hippo?” Dan stopped at one of the photos. It showed Paula being helped into a ferris wheel seat. The helper was Winston Chamberlain.” 

David took the album from him to check the photo. “That was in Sydney. Hippo never stopped at small places like this. They’d put up flyers as they drove through but never pitch a tent. This was the summer before anyway. I don’t even remember if they came through that summer.”

“If they had we would have skipped it anyway. We did go back to Sydney though but for a couple of funerals at Eskasoni.”

“The reservation outside of Sydney?” Dan asked.

“Yes. Some teens were found dead. Alcohol poisoning we were told. Come to think of it they had been reported missing too but were found in the woods a few weeks later. Rosemoon knew the family.”

“I sort of recall that incident myself.” Dan said. “We lived in New Waterford. My mom said ‘let that be lesson about drinking’.”

“Break time.” Brenda came into the house.

Dan glanced at his cell. He didn’t realize how much time had passed. He stood and stretched.

“They are right.” David said. “You forget about the cameras quickly.”

“If it’s a good interview you also forget about the passage of time. How do your sons feel about their past?”

“They were cool about it. Wolf started to write a book about Paula. The truth about the past made him too uncomfortable and so it turned into Gone Sister.”

“Yes I’ve read some of it. More about a sister who was never there than one who vanished.”

“Yeah. For me that was the one weakness about the book. You never knew anything about her. How she disappeared. Not even what happened after she disappeared. It felt incomplete. But critics loved it. The anti-mystery one of them called it. I found it anti-climactic and told him so.”

“I’ll have to read it for myself.” Dan said. “How much of break do we get?” He asked Brenda. 

“Half-an-hour. We’re changing the set up for another location.”

“I’ll be outside if you need me.” Dan walked around the green-house domes. He contacted Warszawa.

“Robert can you find information about child deaths in eight-four? I don’t mean just suspicious ones but for any reason? …. It’s just a hunch but maybe missing children aren’t the only ones this killer came in contact with …. And could we find out about native children? Would they be included or are their records kept separate? … Yeah I know too many toes to tread on. I’ll be getting our researchers on it too.”

He went back to the porch. This time they were set up outside with a couple of the domes in the background.

“You going to tell people what these are?” Jennifer  asked. “Otherwise they’ll think we’re on the set of some scifi movie.”

“All we need is an eye superimposed over the pyramid we’ll look like we’re on the American dollar.” Cameron said.

“True but the proportions are wrong.” David said. “The Eye of God on the dollar only takes up about tenth. My roof is exactly a third. It is the only part of the house that maintains the Egyptian ratio. The base isn’t pure. But the house does keep my razor blades sharp.”

Dan looked at Cameron then Jennifer for some sort of understanding of what David had just told them.

“What no one here up on their pyramid power?” David laughed. “Beside channelling energy to make plants grow, to keep me from growing older any faster than I am, true pyramids supposedly keep razor blades sharp.”

“How about your piano playing?” Jennifer asked.

“I don’t … oh I get it you’re pulling my leg.” David giggled. “Good one.”

After a fast dusting by make-up they were ready to continue.

“You were telling us about the days before Paula vanished?”

“Other than the tiff between Rosemoon and Paul it was fairly routine. Looking after twins was more of a challenge than we expected. Paula was too young to be of real help. The boys were squalling and sleepless. Paula had been much easier to bring up.

“It wasn’t any worse that their usual set to’s. I had become used to them by then and had learned not to come between them but to take the boys out of the house. Doors were slammed and Paula left the house. Her last words” … he faltered … “were ,’You never see me again.’ We never did.”

“Do you have any of her things? Clothes. Toys. Doc Martins?” Jennifer asked. “Dan can read photos, so can I to a certain extent. But it helps to be near things she actually handled.”

“Sure.” David got up. “I should have thought of that. The boys took over her room. Some of the furniture is still there. Bookshelves. Her desk. It took me a couple of years to dispose of her clothes. Even if she came back they wouldn’t fit her anymore.”

“That must have been difficult.” She followed him into the house.

Cameron hoisted his camera to follow them. Dan followed Cameron with Francie on camera behind him. On the wall by the stairs leading up to the second floor was a large framed photograph of a picnickers at a table by a lake over shadowed by a sheer mountain ledge. It was very familiar to him. None of the faces were distinct. The clothes set it in the later 40’s, as did the car parked on the grass. 

“You coming up?” Cameron called down to him.

“You see something” Francie asked. She got a good shot of the photo.

“Not sure.” Dan shrugged. 

<>

“Paula’s old room is where my sons stay when they visit.” David opened the door.

Jennifer ran her hands along the bookshelf then sat at the desk. It looked out over the grounds.

“Much there?” David asked. “It’s been decades and lots of other butts and books have been in and out of this room.

“The desk used to be over there.” Jennifer said. “She liked it in that corner facing the door and the window. She needed to see who was coming into the room.”

“Right.” David said.

She pulled the desk away from the wall to look at the back of it. “This would have faced into the room.” She gently brushed that side of the desk. “Can I?” she sat and pulled out one of the drawers. It didn’t come out completely. She ran her hand on the underside.

“Paula liked to hide things, didn’t she. She needed her secrets.”

“Don’t we all.” David said. “She became more … introverted after her mother died. That’s one of the reason I remarried.”

“Find something?” Dan asked.

She pulled out an envelope. It was sealed. 

“May I open it?” She asked David.

“Sure.”

The two camera operators swooped down to her hands as she opened it.

‘Oh.” She frowned & shook the remains of a maple leaf into the palm of her hand.

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