Picture Perfect 16

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

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

“Jeremy Moxham.” one of them said.

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

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

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

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

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

“Just say when. Bye.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not so perfect?”

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

 

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

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

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

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

“Not even time to fix a sandwich.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Poetry or prose?”

“Actually I think it’s one of each.”

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

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

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

“Anything interesting come in?” He asked Ushio.

“A steam powered VCR.” Ushio answered.

“Not another one.” Dan trolled his eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the man was leaving Inspector Warszawa came in.

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Picture Perfect 14

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

He went over with the key.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Awareness is key.” she went on.

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

“I don’t really know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Like KFC.”

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

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

“I was curious about that.”

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

“What the …” Stephanie stepped back slightly alarmed.

“Yes. That is you and me.”

“The mug is a security device.”

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

“Wow!” she reached for the mug.

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

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

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

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

“I’m at work so the answer is no.”

“Lunch break? I can expense it.”

“Why not. I’ll let David know.”

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

“Would like the Clifton Room or La Terrazzo?”

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

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

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

“Right?”

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s not an answer.”

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

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

“What!” Stephanie pushed her chair back.

“Just kidding. Really.”

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

“Right.”

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

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

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

“You knew David too?”

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

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

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

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

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

“None for me.”

“You don’t mind if I do?”

“It’s not my credit card.”

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

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

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

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

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

“The cold case?” Linda asked.

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

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

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

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

“The Arms?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” Dan said.

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

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

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

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

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

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Picture Perfect 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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