Picture Perfect 35

Picture Perfect 35

The office space that Curtis Baxter occupied for his company was’t what Daniel expected. It was a second floor walkup that shared the front door with a first floor sandwich shop. The wooden stairs needed painting, the faux marble walls needed to have their faux freshened up. The black lacquered door with ‘Baxter Bits’ on it in red glitter letters stood out from the peeling wallpaper of the hall. There was a glittery red mat in front of it.

The suite took up the front half of the floor with a view of the street. A tiny reception area was barely large enough for a desk. Opposite it were two black lacquered wooden chairs. A sparkly red lacquered door with Curtis Baxter on it was dead centre of the wall. On the walls were posters for various TV shows that Dan assumed were Baxter Bit productions.

There was no one at the receptionist’s desk however. He knocked at the door.

“Enter.” Boomed from behind it.

He went into the office

“Daniel James! I never expected to see you here.” Curtis practically leapt over his desk to shake Dan’s hand.

“Nice set up you have here.”

“I’m usually on the go so I didn’t really need anything more elaborate.”

“Here’s your coffee, hun.” A short Asian woman in a very short skirt bumped the door open. “Oops. Sorry!”

“That fine Lin.” Curtis said as he put the coffee on his desk. “This is Daniel James.”

“Pleased to meet you.” She bowed and exited.

“What’s this about ACTRA rates? As I understand it, you are asking me, I’m not asking you. If you want me, and I am certainly interested, what is it worth to have me attached to this project?”

Curtis gulped. “I … uh … until we are sure Quintex wants the show I can’t make a real offer. That’s why I mentioned the union rates. You would get at least that much.”

“Okay. What are you willing to offer right now to get my participation? A signing on bonus, separate from any salary for doing the show.”

“I thought you were such a push over. Man, oh, man, I was wrong.”

“When your old host got shoved into my eye I stopped being a push over.”

“We had no idea that he’d do anything that stupid.”

“I don’t doubt that. When you’re usually on the  go it’s easy miss what’s going on. I looked over your initial proposal. I won’t be available to travel until after July 6.”

“We can accommodate that.”

“I don’t really care if you can or can’t. You have a figure for me?”

“Five thousand signing bonus.”

Daniel remained silent.

“I’ll make it six grand.”

“Try that again and be more precise.”

“I can manage seven, only if you come with me when I make the presentation.”

“Why is it so important that I be there?”

“Jeremy Moxham will be there. I saw the two of you at Kevin McLeod’s circus. He has the final say and I know he likes you.”

“So that’s it.” Dan stood. “My credentials didn’t matter to you at all did they?”

“Yes, they did. That’s what brought you to our attention. I didn’t know you knew Moxham till the party. Honestly. You and I were in contact before that. Right?”

“Yeah. Yeah. We’ll do a bank transfer for the seven or do you want me to wait till the cheque passes before the pitch? Because I’m not in till that cash is in my account.”

“What if I don’t sell the show?”

“Not my problem is it? But I have full confidence that you could sell cameras to the blind.”

“We can do the transfer tomorrow.”

“I think we have a deal.” He shook Curtis’s hand.

  On the street his knees where shaking so badly he went to the nearest cafe ordered a latte and sat there sipping it. Apparently Kilpatrick’s punch had more of an effect than he expected. Seven k! Not a bad day’s work. Now if he can deal with Linda this well he’ll be happy.

<>

He could smell grilling as he went up the sidewalk to his house. That meant Sanjay was on the patio. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Sanjay was not there after their conversation in the morning.

He dropped his shoulder bag on the couch, pushed his shoes off to let his feet breathe and went out to the patio.

Sanjay turned from the grill. “Ah, perfect timing. I hope you are hungry.” All he was wearing was a lungi loosely tied around his waist. No shirt, no shoes, and from the bulge, no underwear either. “Another five minutes and these would have been over-cooked.”

There were two steaks over the coals along with slightly charred red and green peppers. 

“There is a salad in the fridge. Bring it out and we can eat here.”

“Aren’t you afraid of singing your nipples.” Dan said as he put the salad on the patio table.

“Not when I have you to sooth them.”

“What’s come over you?” Dan sat at the table.

“You said you loved me.” Sanjay put the plates on the table and sat. “I know many married people who are not in love.”

“My point exactly.”

They ate and chatted about the weather, about Dan’s eyes, Sanjay’s work, each avoiding more conversation about their relationship.

“There were a couple of calls for you.” Sanjay said as he cleared the table. “You shouldn’t leave your phone turned off all day. People call here.”

“Not many have the house number. So it must have been Warszawa?”

“Yes.”

“And not Linda.”

“Right.”

“Mother.”

“Yes and someone who didn’t leave a name. The number was unknowable according to call display.”

“I have ways of finding out. What call display doesn’t know doesn’t mean I can’t find out.”

The landline rang.

“Maybe I won’t have to resort to drastic measures.” He went into the house to answer the phone. “Hello?”

“Mr. James?”

“Yes.”

“This is Phil Kaplan from City News. I was wondering if you had any comment on John Kilpatrick’s allegations?”

“Allegations?”

“From the press conference he had today.”

“No. Did he mention that he tried to put out one of my eyes.”

“He claimed that he was bounced from Unsolved Cold when he refused to allow Curtis Baxter to sexually harass him and that now Baxter is hiring you, someone who was once charged with sexual harassment.”

“What the fuck!” Dan shouted. “What the fuck!” He wanted to slam the receiver against the wall. “It’s true I’ve been approached by Curtis Baxter for a … project. Not to host Unsolved Cold. As for the rest I have nothing to say.”

“I see. Can I get an exclusive interview you.”

“Not at this time.” He hung up poised for it to ring again. It didn’t.

“What was that all about?” Sanjay asked.

“Publicity for John Kilpatrick.”

“Ah. Let’s just turn all this off for now.” He turned the ringer off.

Sanjay took him by the hand and lead him back out to the patio. “The hot tub should be the right temperature by now.” He undid the knot on his lungi and stepped into the tub. “You need to relax. What are you waiting for?”

Dan quickly undressed and got in, sitting opposite Sanjay.

“It’s hot alright.” he said standing up. “My balls weren’t ready to be boiled.”

“I am sorry.” He leaded forward to kiss Dan’s balls then sucked on his cock.

“That isn’t cooling them down.”

Sanjay leaned back. “I forget you are not as used to the heat as I am. This feels like a humid night on the balcony of my parents’ home.”

Dan lowered himself slowly into the water. 

“Have you had time to give any thoughts to Sylvan’s proposal.” Sanjay asked. “He wants my answer soon.”

“I have to speak with the family.”

“They do not have to sign off on it, do they?”

“No, but they have a right to know before I make such a big decision.”

“What if they disapprove?”

“I’ll deal with that. I have to get the house appraised first anyway. Then I’d have to repay mother too.”

“Repay?”


“She made the downpayment for me. I had just left the force and wasn’t yet reestablished in the family business. Not that I ever really left it but … it’s a long story. That’s one of things Linda hasn’t forgiven me for. She helped Dad with the store while I was in training and fully expected it would be hers one day.

“No one expected me to leave the force so soon and then when Dad died she expected to inherit the larger share.”

“Ah, family. Nothing like it.”

“What if I can’t get the money?”

“There is always India. With what I have saved now and a little help from my family I could open my own resort, an amusement park if I chose.”

“Are you serious.”

“Yes. I am at the age where I want to build more of a life for myself. You own this house, you have a business, two of them. All I have is a job, and a reputation. I own only the clothes on my back and of course my knives.”

“Is that what the let’s get married is all about? So you would own what I own?” Dan asked.


“No, that is not how that works. I know. We would need an agreement before marriage.”

Dan got out of the tub and sat on the edge with his legs in the water.

“Do you think you would be happy living in India again?”

“Perhaps. I now have the vision of how to make my own opportunities there.”

Dan got completely out of the hot tub and wrapped a towel over his shoulder. “That whack in the head may have damage my eyes but I am seeing somethings much clearer than I did before.”

“What to do mean?” Sanjay got out of the hot tub.

“All this … the ‘I’m over you sleeping around’ … the dinner … it’s all to sweet talk me into the loan for you. Isn’t it.”

“No. I am not asking for a loan.”

“A gift? Or if I don’t I’m forcing you to move back to India?”

“That is not my intention.”

“That is what I see.” Dan grabbed his clothes and went into the house.

Sanjay followed him.

“Dan!” He turned Dan around to face him.

“I’m tired. It’s been a long day. I have decisions to make.” He rubbed along his eyebrows. “I have pain to numb.”

“I have no wish to go back to India.” Sanjay said. “I don’t want a life without you. When we first met I didn’t believe men could care as we did, share as we did. But it seemed the longer we were together the harder it was for me to feel we were part of each other’s lives. I hoped you would change about marriage as the laws changed. But you have never changed. I doubt if you ever will. That is my pain. It is one I don’t think I can ever change, even if I leave you.” Sanjay began to weep.

“Then we have a basic philosophic stand-off. I don’t see a solution. I do know one thing, emotional blackmail isn’t going to change my mind.”


“Emotional blackmail.” Sanjay shouted.

“You may not even realize you are doing it. Just like that guy in the force who thought I was harassing him by answering questions about the gay lifestyle. I didn’t realize I was harassing anyone.”

“I’m sorry you see me that way.”

“I am too. I’m going to bed. This conversation is over.”

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Picture Perfect 33

In the morning he called Dell and Strong to follow up on his email. He was able to get an appointment to see one of them at 3. If Sanjay was serious about this partnership Dan wanted to make sure it was feasible.

A courier came to the door with the proposal from Baxter. He flipped through it. Eye See would entail a six episode arc of one hour shows, each devoted a one of the missing children, and one to review all the findings. He was to examine documents and photographs while he interviewed members of each of the families. 

The shoot would start in late June or early July too take advantage of the ‘scenic’ locations and possibly attract some provincial tourism investments.  There was an initial itinerary of dates, locations that they would be following once they secured consent from all the families. They could shoot around lack of consent by reexamining newspaper clippings of the time and local people’s memories.

Dan sorted through the papers looking for a contract of some sort but there was none. What good was a proposal if it didn’t say how much they were offering to pay him? 

He looked in the envelope and there was one last page that got gotten stuck. It was a handwritten letter from Curtis.

“Dan –

Here is the basic package. Financial details to follow. Perhaps you would interested in a co-production and end up with more than just the standard ACTRA fees.

Let me know what you think

Curtis.”

What were standard ACTRA fees? Crap he was going to need a show biz lawyer to guide him through this shit.

His cell rang.

“Hi babe.” It was Sanjay. “I’m should be home in about an hour. Had to stop for a coffee.”

“Great! I’ll be here with eye patches on.”

“Nothing more?”

“You’ll find that out when you get here.”

“Tease. Bye.”

That meant Sanjay would be home by noon. They’d have a couple of hours to discuss the restaurant proposal and even a make out session. No, this wasn’t to be that sort of reunion. The memory of Peter’s glowing butt cheeks got him hard.

He cleared up the food containers that he’d let pile up over the week. He washed the dishes he’d been neglecting. The flowers Curtis had sent were still where he had put them. They could go into the composter. The vase he tossed into the trash. Not worth saving or explaining.

He put his bedding and damp towels into the washing machine. He didn’t want to risk any olfactory evidence of his play with Peter. Clean sheets on to the bed – clean towels in the bathroom. Tidy enough but not too neat either. 

His cell rang. Call display told him it was Curtis.

“Did you read the proposal?” 

“Yes.”

“What do you think of the title Eye See?”

“I hope it’s a working title. You avoided the important issue.”

“You want your name above the credits? Daniel James’s Eye See? That’s co-pro territory.”

“Threatening to make me a household name isn’t going to get you anywhere. Direct answers will.”

“I can’t help it. I get juiced by new ideas and project and get ahead of myself. My brain thinks faster than …”

“Logic? Practicality?”

“Something like that. But what do you think of the concept, the time line.”

“It sounds doable. I’m not sure I want to spend that much time away from my business though.”

“You won’t have to. It’s easy enough to fly in for each of the shoots themselves. They won’t take more than a day each out of your time. The crew will do the other stuff like location shots and prepping the next location.”

“So that means what? Six days of shoots.”

“That’s right plus whatever we need to do here in Toronto. That shouldn’t take more than another day.”

Dan remained silent.

“You’ll to be paid for whatever research you do.”

“Dan remained silent.

“At your usual rate.”

“What is the ACTRA rate?”

“It varies for hosts, but we’ll offer $2000. for each episode. We’ll be paying for flights, hotels that sort of thing.”

“I’ll want all that in writing. With actual figures.”

“Of course. I’m seeing the Quintex people this afternoon. If you came along it would make it a perfect pitch.”

“I can’t. I already have another commitment.”

“How’s the eye? I’m so, so sorry about all that.”

“I’m recovering. I should be able to play the piano again soon.”

“What?”

“A little joke. I’ll be back to work at the Depot tomorrow or Wednesday.” He almost added ‘I only believe about ten percent of what you tell me Mr. Baxter.’ But opted to keep his doubts to himself. 

“Okay. We’ll talk soon. Bye.”

As he shut off his phone he heard Sanjay pulling into the garage.

“You made good time.” He said as Sanjay came into the kitchen.

“To you perhaps, but I thought I would never get here. Not as bad as driving in Kolkata but still not pleasant. How is this?” He gently touched Dan’s cheek.

“Improved. No real pain anymore. Sore. Only hurts when I look.”

“It is nothing to joke about.”

“If it had been worse I might not be joking.”

They clasped each other, kissing and running their hands over each others backs and butts until Dan pushed away.

“No handy busboys for you in Bobcaygeon?”

“Too early in the season for tender college boys. Besides you know I like them well-seasoned and mature.” Sanjay was pulling Dan’s tee shirt up.

“Slow down.” Dan disengaged. “We have important things to discuss.”

“That can wait.” Sanjay grappled with him again.

“You always use sex to divert my attention.” Dan was glad that after his encounter with Peter his need for sex had been dampened. “Beside the pain meds sort of make me … you know.” He glanced down at his crotch. “I want to to be good for both of us.”

“They better wear off before tonight.” Sanjay grinned. “Or I can’t promise to maintain my restraint.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere. We have an appointment with Dell this afternoon. Before making any decisions about your partnership opportunity we should see where we actually stand financially.”

“So you are seriously considering it? I wasn’t sure you would.”

“When did Sylvan spring it on you?”
They went to the living room and sat on the couch.

“He’d hinted at it a few time but when I mentioned to him that I was considering a move back to India be with my family he wanted to know if I was unhappy with my work here. It came around to him asking if I wanted in on the businesses. He plans to continuing expanding and it made sense to him to have his star chef as more than an employee.”

“It’s about time he realized how important you are.”

“I’d rather be that important to you.” Sanjay got up from the couch and went to the kitchen.

Dan followed him. “Look, I’m willing to help if I can afford it.”

“If you want it/ you’ll knot it.” Sanjay sang.

“Not knot it again. Or are you just after me for my money?”

“You’re joking?” 

“Of course.”

“Good.” Sanjay put away the dishes Dan had left to air dry. “You don’t look like you’ve been going hungry.”

“Just because I don’t cook doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use a telephone. Linda sent a care package over to me. Lots of KFC. I know you can’t abide that in the house.”

“I thought I smelled a deep fried rat when I came in.”

“Of course she didn’t deign to deliver it personally so she sent it over with Hamid.”

“Hamid?”

“He works for Linda. I think is last name is Ranj … Randapati?”

“Ranjit?”

“Could be. He says it so fast I don’t want to make him repeat it. A northerner. I could tell by his accent. Not at all like yours.”

“You know a lot about him. Did he serve you more than food?”

“No! I doubt if his jalebi would be as good as yours.”

“What time did you say we were meeting Dell.”

“Three.” Dan looked at his phone. “We better get going. I’ll drive.”

“After that drive home I was hoping you would.”

“So how was the opening?” Dan asked once he got the car into traffic.

“Excellent but tiring. Sylvan asked all the local millionaires to come and rub elbows with some Toronto glitterati. It was like a one of those Tift movie openings. Actors you almost recognize meeting people whose names were once in the news all wanting to be seen with the people whose names and face you knew.”

“You get some autographs?”

“Not from this crowd. Trust me if it weren’t free they wouldn’t have been there. But there were people from Michelin. Sylvan wants another star and will probably get it.”

“Great.”

“Now tell me more about this Hamid.”

“I can’t really tell you much. He lost family in some uprising. He might be from somewhere around … Gurdaspur?”

“Then his name might not be Ranjit.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Some areas aren’t know for their good reputations.”

“All the more reason for him not to want to be there.”

“Those northern guys are notorious lungi lifters.”

“Lungi lifter?”

“Yes. Sleep with anything if the cash is right.”

“He seems genuine enough. Linda trusts him.”

“My point exactly.”

“Are you actually jealous?” Dan parked the car.

“Should I be?” Sanjay said shutting his door.

“Not of Hamid.” Dan kissed him quickly. Maybe of Peter, he thought.

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