Picture Perfect 63

Picture Perfect 63

“Okay.” Baxter said. “Now that we are on the subject of the contract, it was agreed that you would freely share any relevant information you discovered in photo or document examination, or in your interrogations, I mean, interviews of the subjects as we arranged them.” He was reading directly from the contract as it appeared on everyone’s monitor screens.

“You have all the footage. I haven’t held anything back.”

“What about this.” It was a clip from his interview with Teresa. The point were camera was trying to get a close up of the photograph she had given Dan

“This is me not wanting to get sued for libel. I am to do reasonable diligence with any evidence I find. I’ll be doing more research on this Monday. You heard the conversation leading up to it didn’t you?”

“Of course that’s why we needed to get that photo on camera. It could be … a person of interest …”

“Baxter you watch too many of your own TV shows.” Dan said. “You know as well as I do, that if this is truly crucial you’ll be told and if it isn’t I can’t let you spin it to implicate someone with rumours from decades ago.”

“He’s right.” Stephanie said. “If this is of importance someone alive now may be harmed greatly if it isn’t handled correctly.”

“What do …” Baxter stopped. “This is what you .. see.”

“Yes.” Jennifer replied. “Mr. Baxter I realize I am just a … nod for your ratings. But you don’t need to believe in me for my abilities to work.” She left the war room.

“I guess I’ve been told.” Baxter said. “Inspector Warszawa perhaps you have some … warmer news from your end of things.”

“Warmer?” War said. “I don’t know about that. I do have to concur with Dan though about ascertaining the relevance of evidence. If you want what you’re doing to be taken seriously by the local law enforcement branches do what they would do as much as possible.”

“If we did what they did we’d have nothing to report on.”

“Point taken but trust Dan on his experience in the field. It’ll make your series that much more believable and powerful. Now that the cases have been officially reopened a task force has been put together to examine the information we already have. They expect Quintex’s full& open cooperation.”

“Even if what we discover doesn’t show them in a positive light.”

“Let’s face it.” Dan said. “They can’t afford to look any worse in the public eye. It’s the best way for them to rebuild public trust. I know investigative abilities  have changed greatly over the past decades.”

“Being called a faggot by an angry cop is still the same.” Baxter said. “And that happened to you less than a week ago.”

“He called me an asshole. But he did refer to you as a queer.”

“Captain MacKillop will be heading the task force. I’ve met with him and he’s on the ball.”

“We’ll get access to the RCMP files?” Stephanie asked.

“When they unearth them” Warszawa said. “MacKillop was surprised to find out how well they had been buried. Cases involving children are handled with greater attention these days. He’s also looking into that.”

“Once again the RCMP investigates itself.” Stephanie said.

“You can keep statements like that to yourself if you expect them to be at all cooperative.” Warszawa said. “Agreed?”

“Whatever.” Stephanie replied.

“I think we’re done here for today?” She looked to Baxter.

“Yes.”

Jennifer Devereaux was waiting beside Dan’s car. Cameron walked over the car. “I’ll be with you again today. Not that we have many others to choose from.” He joked. 

“Remote unit has gone ahead to Truro. This’ll be Helen Davis.” He glanced at his phone. “David McPherson’s aunt. Coordinated have been programmed into your cell already Captain Kirk.”

“Okay. Pile in.” Dan got behind the wheel. 

Jennifer sat in the front beside him. Cameron in the back seat.

“You knew Glaucia?” Dan asked.

“Yes. She had come to my mother many years ago.”

“Your mother?” Dan said.

“Jane Poitier.”

“From the Wickham?” Dan asked. “I though you looked familiar. Sarah must be your sister.”

“Yes, she the ordinary one. There’s a history of second sight in our family that goes back generations in various forms. It has never been the same in subsequent generations but it has always been. With each generation the need to hide has decreased. My mother was called to help others with their talents.”

“Glaucia came to your mother?’

“Yes, to be guided.”

“Like Hogwarts?” Cameron said.

“Nothing that spectacular.” Jennifer laughed. “My mother was more like a guidance councillor than a teacher. Which was what Glaucia was to me.”

“Why not your mother?”

“No, that would never work. Doctors don’t treat their own children, or least they shouldn’t. It is the same with sensitives. It is best when someone who isn’t blood encourages you. They prove be less … invested.”

“How much control do you have over your abilities?”

“It can vary. There are times when an … energy will hit me. There are times when I need to close my eyes and focus on what is around me. I know that if I see nothing it is because there is nothing to see, not that I am not trying hard enough.”

“I hate these set interviews.” Dan said.

“Set?” Jennifer asked. “Aren’t we talking to her in her home?”

“Yes and no. Baxter Bit stylists set the stage for us. Furniture gets moved around. Back grounds become crucial for ambience. When possible they like to help the guests look good too. Hair gets done.”

“What?”

“Oh yes. That’s why my interview with Teresa Dunlop was so good, for me. She called Stephanie in the morning to say where and there was no time to fix things beyond warning the diner we’d be there.”

“That explains the idiotic fringe purse!” Jennifer said.

“You watched it?”

“Some of it. Mr. Baxter said I should observe your style. Didn’t seem to be much style on your part. More like old friends meeting after years.”

“Which in a way it was.”

“What are you going to do about your sister and Kevin?”

“That’s not relevant, is it? Or did you sense something I didn’t.”

“Tread carefully. By the way I have to admire the way you totally ignored her calling you Danny Boy.”

“You picked up on that? She used to do that when I was a kid. Drove me crazy angry.”

“The MacPherson’s came across as fairly ordinary folk.” She tapped the folder of notes on her lap. “So does the Aunt.”

“So far they all have. The abductions were the major crisis in their lives. The fact that they went unconnected is the what makes them unique in an … entertaining way.”

“You’re not doing this for the entertainment value.”

“Oh no, the pay check isn’t bad.”

“There’s more to than that. More like seeking Dad’s approval.”

“You not seeking your Mom’s approval?”

“Excellent reversal. I didn’t see that coming.”

“That’ll put you in the frame of mind of the people we’ll be seeing. None of them saw what happened to them coming.”

They drove in silence for several miles.

When they got to the location Cameron got out first to follow them as they walked up to the house.

“Jennifer.” He stopped her at the bottom of front steps. “Stay focused on these people, on these cases. Our private lives are just that.”

“Sorry. It’s hard for me to block out everyone. If your father had anything to do with these cases I can’t help it.”

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Picture Perfect 62

Picture Perfect 62

In his room Dan scanned the photo he thought might be Winston Chamberlain and ran the face through his Ager program and compared the result with one of the ones he had taken at the Museum. They were almost identical. What did that mean? Besides another visit to the Museum. He’d have to ask Linda about the two Kevins. Or was his memory starting to play tricks on him.

He went to his cloud storage where he had uploaded as many of the family photos he had time to before coming to the east coast. He then had Face Recog match these new face pics to all the ones in that file. No direct matches for this Kevin but a couple of near matches. Both were random people in the back ground of the beach pictures. 

He knew from his years on the force that no coincidence was to be overlooked so he flagged those pictures. He did the same for the pictures of Winston Chamberlain. 

The VidCon buzzer went off on the computer. He answered it and Sandy Reynolds appeared on his screen.

“Got caught in the rain, eh, boss?” She said.

“Word gets around.”

“More like lack of word gets around. We were expecting your call the last two nights and nothing. Good thing Peter kept us informed.”

“Shows how much I trust you guys. I can check up on you on line anyway.”

“I suppose.”

“This man from Lifend,” A photograph of a nondescript man appeared on a corner of the screen. “was by the Depot today looking for you.”

Dan enlarged the picture then minimized it.

“Not familiar to me.”

“He did give me his card.”

The card appeared on the screen. ‘Jakob Marhene – Products Development’ printed in the middle of it.

“Unless they’ve changed their design, that isn’t a Lifend card.”

“I didn’t say anything. Told him you weren’t available. You made it clear that anyone who needed to know where you’re already knew.”

“Right.”

“You did tell Lifend you’d be out of town?”

“They contacted me before I left to wish me well and to be sure to use their products as much as possible. The travel mug comes in handy. I’ve made sure the mug is in every shot I’m in. Of course the viewers will not know that unless Lifend buys advertising time to show them off. The hidden camera doesn’t call attention to itself.”

“What’s the picture quality like on the mug’s camera?”

He quickly told her about his Moose Trail adventure.

“The mug survived that easily. The pictures were random snaps with no one at the controls. It tumbled around taking pictures and even video footage. It’s on their website now. I don’t think the show’s target audience can afford two thousand dollar travel mugs.”

“Don’t put that mug in the dishwasher by mistake.”

“No fear. I’ll double check with Lifend about this Jakob Marhene.” With a couple of clicks he forwarded the picture & business card to Lifend. “There.”

“I’m worried about Linda. We haven’t heard anything from her since you left.”

“That’s good news. Hows Cuppa’s doing on their corner.”

“Funny you should ask. They’ve been delivering complementary coffee and muffins here twice a day since you left. Even to the Classic.”

“What!”

“They clearly did no market research.” Sandy laughed. 

“I can’t wait to talk too Jill about this. I’ll be back to Toronto on the weekend. I should be arriving Friday night. I’ll be at the store Saturday.”

“See you then boss.”

He checked his flight reservations before his video chat with Peter to confirm that he’d pick him up at the airport.

In the morning Dan was finishing the b part of the Arms b’n’b when he got a text from Baxter: “War rm 10 am.”

Two days into the Stellerton stay and they had made up for most of the time lost to the storm. Stephanie had new leads for them to follow up on. Dan had interviewed Joe Murphy a cousin of David McPherson, one of the missing children. His recollections were not that that different from what he had heard from the others.

The shock of the loss, anger at investigators being more convinced the parents were culprits. He didn’t tell them that in all cases the closest relatives were always prime suspects. That was also standard so as not to alert the families of other victims to avoid influencing their initial statements.

Dan was as puzzled as Joe as to why the investigations were never linked until the Quintex researchers had made those connections. 

Shortly after Dan arrived at the war room Warszawa arrived, then Stephanie, a couple of the camera crew and a woman he had never seen before.

“Before we get going I want to introduce you to our new sensitive. Jennifer Devereaux.”

“Pleased to meet you all. I am eager to help as much as possible. I’ve assisted in police cases across Canada for the several years. Glaucia Vidro was a good friend to me and had mentored me at one time. 

“Unlike her I am … more sensitive to current events. She was more attuned to what had happened in the past. I do have some sensitivity to the energy of  previous events but I’ve found that unless the objects have been protected in one way or the other, there isn’t enough energy for me to sense. Unlike Mr. James who can read things in a photograph from any point time. I would only see an old photograph.

“I should add that I am not a mentalist so don’t ask me to read your minds; nor am I the sort of clairvoyant who can tell you who you’ll marry. I can tell you if are going to get married though. But not how long it’ll last.”

“Any questions for Jennifer?”

“Will we catch the abductor?” Stephanie asked.

Jennifer closed her eyes for a moment. “Yes! Oh, even I wasn’t expecting that to come through so fast. That means you are closer to a solution than you think. But it isn’t going to be a … tidy ending.”

“Excellent Jen. You and Dan will be interviewing David McPherson’s Aunt. His parent are both deceased so she & the cousin are the best we can do.” 

Baxter went to the families’ section of the suspects’ boards in the war room. “Mrs. O’Connor in Moncton is in shape to be seen as well, so Dan will be backtracking to talk with her on Saturday.”

“Dan will be talking to his staff in Toronto on Saturday.” Dan said.

“Oh, no! Didn’t you get the memo.” Baxter laughed. “All weekend passes have been cancelled to make up for time lost thanks to the storm.” Baxter shrugged. 

“Not mine.” Dan said. “There was nothing in the contract about forced overtime.”

“Dan I thought you were a team player.”

“Think again. It is a part of our contract that I return to Toronto to attend to my business there. It was you who insisted we specify exact dates for that, so you could keep the production schedule on track.”

“We didn’t anticipate this set of circumstances.” Baxter said, motioning toward his broken arm. “You know how limited our time is for this. I don’t want to add any days after the proposed end time.”

“Not my problem.” Dan said looking up from his cell. “I’ve confirmed my flight. Out of Halifax tomorrow. I’ll be returning here for Tuesday.” He sent Stephanie & Baxter copies of the confirmation. 

“Tuesday! If we’re going by that contact you forced on me, you’ll be back here Monday.”
“Monday I’ll be interviewing Mrs. O’Connor in Moncton.”

“Let me check with her.” Stephanie tapped into her cell.

“That’ll work. Monday is actually better for Mrs. O’Connor. She’s thankful for the slight delay.”

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Picture Perfect 61

Picture Perfect 61

“It wasn’t something I thought much about, especially after the Mounties stopped coming around. We never understood why they stopped. Or why they never came back when there were others.”

“Have you remembered much?”

“More and more since your show contacted me. Silly stuff. Like what I was wearing. Those cowboy costumes you and Timmy loved to play in. Mama had to sew them back together nearly every other day. We couldn’t make you kids understand they weren’t really clothes. They were as real as the toy guns. You would be climbing trees, jumping off porches in them. Timmy would sometimes sleep in his chaps. He said that how real cowboys slept. I told him real cowboys didn’t hang around with their bare butts where coyotes could get at them in their sleep. He wanted to get a job as a sharp shooter at that circus. The Hippo something.”

“You mean the Happy Hippo?”

“What a crappy circus that was. It used to be so … exciting when I was your age but as I got older, it stayed the same. All that brought me and your sister to it was to see the freaks and the fellas that ran the rides. They wanted us to call them carnies but they weren’t much older than us and working for the summer and planning to go into the army or back to university. I always kept an eye and ear out for those college boys. Here …” She took the photos from him and sorted through to a couple of them. “These are of me and Stoney. He was already studying some sort of engineering at Dalhousie. He kept the rides in good repair. He was a better catch than just the guy who sold you tickets or turned the switch on. Not that he didn’t do those things too but he also knew stuff.”

Dan stopped walking to look closely at the picture.

“Yeah, that’s me he’s got his arm draped around. I looks so cute in that halter-top.”

The young shirtless man in the picture was leaning against a fence, legs crossed at the ankles, one arm around Teresa. She was looking up at him with her hand on his bare stomach. He was gawking at her cleavage. He was enjoying the view as he had an obvious erection barely contained in his faded jeans. The face was familiar to Dan.

“It can’t be.” he said.

“Real? Yeah, he was, as they say, hung like horse.”

“Not that but I think I know him.”

“Stoney?” Teresa asked?

“Or maybe it’s his son.” He did the math in his head. “If this is who I think it is he was probably only about fourteen when this was taken.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. Turns out he diddled lots of the younger ones too. Wait fourteen! Then all stuff about Dalhousie was a load of bs?” She gabbed the picture back from him. “Nah, he was twenty. That’s what he told us anyways. Who do you think he is?”

“I’d rather not say anything until I know more for sure. Did you tell the RCMP about his diddling young girls?”

“No. Never occurred to me. He couldn’t have anything to do with those kids disappearing. Timmy was a boy. Stoney was sure weren’t no fairy.”

“Who?” Cameron angled in for a close up of the picture.

“I’d rather not say.” Dan said covering the photo with his hand. “No need to implicate someone rashly. Baxter’s Bits doesn’t want to face a defamation law suit.”

“I’m not sure about that.” Cameron laughed. “It would go well with stories of his recent brush with death.”

“This other one.” Teresa brought the attention back to her. “Is of your sister with that Kevin guy your parents was so steamed up about. O’Neill. Kevin O’Neill. I only know because he took me out a few times.”

“The one she blamed for us moving.”

“Huh?”

“For years she said that was why we moved. To break them up.” He took the picture. “That’s my sister but that isn’t Kevin. I met him a few times when she was supposed to be minding me. He was a red head. This guy is certainly not a red head.”

“Redhead? You sure? I don’t recall any redheaded fellas in our gang that year.”

They arrived at the park.

She lit another cigarette as they sat on a bench.

“What do you think happened to Timmy?” He asked.

“Like I said we were sure he’d run off, again. Maybe to follow you guys to Ontario. When it turned more kids had gone missing no one knew what to think. Aliens?”

“Aliens?” Dan laughed.

“Look they were gone without a trace, you know. Like not even a shoe left behind. How is that possible? What do you think happened to them?”

Dan looked at Cameron. “You know, I’ve never really thought about that. We’re so focused on who and when. I doubt if any of them are alive now.”

Teresa began to cry. “I just hate thinking about what ever was done to these kids when they were … taken.”

“Teresa, I think we’ve got enough for one day.” Dan said. “What do you think Cameron.”

“Whatever you say. I know Steph will be happy with what we have.”

“You can always call me if you want to do more. I got lots of the super 8’s from then too. Not sure who took them.”

“I’ll take these pictures and go through them. We’ll get them back to you.” 

They left her at the park and went back to the rental car. Dan had Cameron drive so he could look through the pictures more carefully, separating the ones he was most interested in. He studied the one of Teresa and Stoney. It had to be Winston Chamberlain. Much younger but there was no mistaking him. It made some sense that the owner’s son would know about the rides and would want to keep his identity a secret.

“Who is it?” Cameron asked. “Your Dad?”

“No! But another suspect. If this is who I think it is, he was practically a child himself at the time.” That is if he was right about Winston’s age. 

“How does it feel being back here in Stellerton.”

“Odd. Same streets but different buildings.”

“You ever miss it.”

“Timmy was the only thing I missed. My Dad kept us so busy with his business because it was a good way to teach us values. I never had much of a chance to make friends. We moved around a lot in the summer. This was where we stayed the longest.”

“So what did he say when you moved like that?”

“Enough Cameron. Asking questions is my job. Or are you filming this too.”

“You know it. Baxter said not to waste a moment. That isn’t a GPS you know.” He pointed to the unit on the dash with his elbow. “Dashboard camera.”

“In all the cars?”

“When ever possible.”

“I guess it picked up my panic in the storm.”

“Oh, no. That had been Baxter’s car you were driving. He wasn’t interested in being filmed. We didn’t have a chance to make a switch out for the camera. Good thing too because we have his accident. Can’t fake footage like that.”

“Would it show someone tampering with the car?”

“Only if they were in the car. It wasn’t set to see outside the car. We got nothing that shows that.”

He parked the car. “Steph will send someone to pick me up. This one be your wheels for the rest of the shoot.”

“Where’s the real GPS?”

“It’s an app on your cellphone.”

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Picture Perfect 60

Picture Perfect 60

“Figures.” Dan gave a little laugh. “What about the RCMP?”

“Oh them. They did what they could. Asked us lots & lots of questions. Made it seem like Pops might have had something to do with it. You must know all about that, Dan, being one yourself. Is that why you joined them? To make victims sweat?”

“Nope. They recruited me.”

“That all they do? That Sergeant, or whatever he was, Davis, I think, certainly wanted to recruit me too. He came to the house more times than I care to remember to ask one more thing. I thought he was trying to get me to rat out on Pops but he was like every guy I’ve ever met. Found out he was talking to your sister right after he’d been to see me. Wonder if he got the information he wanted out of her.”

Dan flied that away for later. His sister never mentioned being questions by the RCMP.

“What do you think happened to Timmy?”

“Oh my God! No one has ever asked me that. I used to think he just ran away. Never to look back. Maybe went to the States and got into the airforce. After he was gone I’d imagine him in a pilot’s uniform. Flying the President around the world. I don’t like to think of him in the hands of some … sicko … or that he’s …” she teared up. “that he’s dead.” She began to weep noisily. “He was just a kid, you know. A good kid. That’s all we were, kids. Those RCMP fellas trying to make out that we were more than that. That everyone was hiding information, being cunning and sly. It wasn’t like that. We just didn’t know what happened.”

Barbra came over with handful of paper napkins.

“Thanks Heather.”

“Another one?” Barbra picked up the empty beer bottles.

“Nope I have had enough. For the afternoon that is.” she smiled. “Sorry, Dan, I didn’t mean to get all mushy like that. We never knew about all them others either until the show. We knew about some of them but not that there were so many. So many.” She began to tear up again. “When I think of those poor children. Now that I have a couple of my own I feel it all even more. I realize what my folks had gone through. It wasn’t a loss, it was like, having your heart ripped out and then some asshole in a uniform acting as if you ripped it out yourself to spite them.

They had no sympathy. That’s what got to me anyway. How did you feel when they talked to you?” she asked Dan.

“They didn’t.”

“But you and Timmy’s was great pals.”

“I didn’t know he’d been abducted until I saw it on Cold Case a few months ago.”

“Go on! They talked to your Dad and Linda. Not you?”

“Yeah. I even wrote Timmy a few times after we moved to Toronto but when he never answered I figured he wasn’t going to.”

“You don’t look much like your Dad. Like, I can, for a bit, see the boy I knew when I look at you. You sound just like him though. When you say some words it’s as if your Dad was speaking to me.”

“I may not of inherited his looks but I did inherit his eye and his voice.”

“Your looks are good. Your Dad was handsome. Charming. My mother said that he was charming. I’d never thought of a man like that until my mother said it. We girls were always trying to get him to take our pictures too. Provoke him as if we were woman enough to … tempt him. We wanted so badly to grow up. Trouble was what we’d lose when we grew up.” She was silent.

“Our researcher said you had some photographs from around that time?” Dan said. 

“Oh yes. I forgot all about them. They’re in my purse here.” She reached for it on the chair next to her. It wasn’t there. “Where the fuck .. sorry, or can you edit things out?” she asked Cameron.

“Edit is easy.”

She looked under her chair, inside her jacket. “Did I have it when we went for a smoke?”

“Don’t think so.” Cameron said.

“Did I take it to the bathroom with me? I’ll be right back.”

The waitress came over and cleared their table.

“Anything else?” she asked.

“Not for me. You?” Dan asked Cameron.

“I’m fine.”

“You want us out of here?” Dan asked the waitress.

“Oh no. Your prediction manager made sure you could take all the time you wanted here. Owners did put their foot down about not letting in our regulars though. How was the food?”

“Let’s just say be glad we’re not restaurant reviewers?” Cameron answered her.

Teresa retuned to the table with her purse clutched under her arm. She had hastily reapplied her make up.

“Would it be okay if we got out of here?” she asked.

“I don’t see why not?” Dan glanced at Cameron.

“I may have to mike you for out of doors.” He looked into his equipment bag for microphones. “I usually have a couple with me.”

“I hate to be a bother but I just gotta … I get restless sitting around talking like this.”

Cameron clipped mikes onto each of them. “These ought to work.”

They went outside.

“Which way?” Dan asked her.

“Let’s go to Allan Park. Not too far from here. You remember it?”

“Sort of. Timmy and I used to play around the train yards a lot. Then the Maple Woods.”

“Woods is gone now.” she said. “Sounding okay, camera guy?”

He gave them a thumbs up.

“Funny I thought it’d be … weird with a camera like this but he sort of stops being there.”

“That’s the idea. Was there anything going on the week before things happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like a  big festival. Was it Stellarton’s Homecoming Week or a Celtic Music Show.”

“Oh, no. Not here. Hippo was the most exciting thing that usually happened around here. Even that was pretty small potatoes. It was always something if they brought in a new ride. No, if we wanted something to do we would go to Truro. Guess that’s part of why even your Dad stopping by for awhile was an event. Never understood why he picked here. Like New Glasgow or even Truro would have been better.”

“Sounds like you thought any place was better.”

“Yeah. I guess I sound like all those soured bitches who drag themselves back to their roots. I’ve been to bigger places and they were no better or worse than here. Lots more of the crappy stuff but the same amount of the good stuff.”

“So there was nothing special that week.”

“Not that I recall.” She unzipped her purse. “Here and those pictures I was talking about. Mama had a drawer full of them. Most of them still in their envelopes. Putting them in albums was something she was going to get around to some day. But after Timmy she didn’t want to look at them. That’s where I found the one of you two on the steps. The one they used on that show.”

“You remember much about that day?” Dan asked as he sorted through the pictures. 

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Picture Perfect 59

Picture Perfect 59

Dan looked around Cora’s Place for Teresa Dunlop. There were more people there than he had expected for a lunch time crowd at a small-town eatery. Eight tables with people at five of them already. Mostly couples and some families with children.

A waitress noticed him and the camera man standing there. “We have that window table for you.” she nodded in that generally direction.

“Do you know Teresa Dunlop? I was supposed to meet her here.”

The waitress did a fast look around. “Nope can’t say as she’s here. Take that table though she can’t miss you if she shows up. Remember now shots of customers in the restaurant.”

They sat at the table. Cameron, his camera man for the day, beside him. They was five minutes early. Dan glanced at the notes about Teresa on his phone. Married twice, no children, worked at various jobs, currently single, unemployed, trained as dental hygienist, worked as hair-dresser, lived in Halifax for several years before moving back to Stellerton to look after ailing parent. Parent passed away two years ago.

“Get you guys something while you are waiting?” waitress asked. “Beer?”

“Coffee will be fine.”

“Same here. Milk if you got it.” Cameron said.

The waitress brought their coffees. “You must be with that TV show that’s in town. The camera man is a dead giveaway.”

“That’s right.” Dan said.

“Down right sad about that Glaucia. I’d met her a couple of times. Funny how you can be here one day and gone the next.”

“Yes.” Dan stirred cream into his coffee.

“Wonder that she didn’t see it coming, though. Her being psychic and all that. Maybe you can’t see yourself in the picture, right?” The waitress gave a wry smile.

“Yes.” Cameron said.

She went to another table.

Dan sipped the coffee. It was weak. A table emptied, then another.

“Looks like you’ve been stood up.” The waitress came over with the coffee pot. “Top you guys up?”

“Not just yet for me. Too much coffee on an empty stomach isn’t good for me.” Dan looked over the menu. “I’ll have the soup.”

“Chicken noodle today.”

“Sounds good and a … grilled cheese. Whole wheat.”

“White only. But it’s enriched.”

“Okay.”

“Bacon burger and fries for me.” Cameron said. “The works.”

Soup & grilled cheese was the sort of lunch Dan’s mother used to serve when they traveled. She’d always bring a hot plate and grilled cheese was easy and fast. He’d had a craving for it since checking in to the Arms.

He checked his phone for the time and Teresa was thirty minutes late. He figured she wasn’t going to show up. 

The waitress brought his soup and sandwich and camera’s burger.

“Enjoy.”

The chicken noodle was out of a can. Either that or the chef was able to duplicate that look and taste. It was salty. The sandwich was hot, the cheese was mild, tasteless and it had to be those processed slices not real cheese. He waved to the waitress.

“How’s the burger?”

“Filling.” Camera said. “Fries are decent. Needs something.”

“Yes?” she brought the coffeepot to the table. “Ready for this.”

“Yeah, sure. Do you have any hot sauce?”

“No.” she shrugged.

“What about dips for the wings?” Cameron asked.

“Oh yeah. There’s the spicy one. I’ll have to charge extra you for it though.”

“Fine.”

“Dan James!” a woman called from the door, as she entered & walked to his table. She was about five four, though the fringe on her leather jacket made her look taller. Her tight jeans were tucked into the tops of calf-hugging dark red leather boots that came half way up her shins. Tufts of hair in a variety of reds, blues and blonds weren’t tamed by the Jay’s baseball cap she had pulled on her head. She bumped one of the tables on her way.

He stood to meet her. “Teresa Dunlop?”

“I’m she and she needs another drink. A Molson’s, Heather.” She shouted to the waitress as she sat. “A cold one this time, too.” She she slung her fringed purse on the empty chair opposite Cameron, pulled off her scruffy fringed jacket and sat. “They know me here.” She grinned at camera.

“This is my crew for the interview. Cameron Hall.” 

She reached across the table to shake Cameron’s hand and knocked over Dan’s cup of coffee.

The waitress put a the beer on the table along with a glass and gave Dan his hot sauce.

“I’ll get a cloth for that.” she grimaced at the spilled coffee.

Teresa took a swig out of the bottle then poured the rest into the glass. “That first one tastes best out of the bottle. You have to decide what’s more important being a lady or having the right taste.”

Another waitress came over to wipe the table down. They lifted their food to make it easier for her.

The waitress brought a plate of fries with a dollop of gravy splashed in the middle of it and put in front of Teresa.

“Thanks Heather.”

“It’s Barbra.” the waitress said timidly. “Heather’s been gone these two months having her baby.”

“Sorry to hear that. Guess I should look closer. Thanks Barbra.” She ate a couple of fries, had another swallow of her beer. “Look Dan, I gotta have a smoke. Can’t do that indoors anymore. I’ll be right back. Bring me another, Heather.” she called to the waitress.

“Mind if I join you,” Cameron asked.

“Sure! Nothing worse than smokin’ alone unless it’s drinkin’ alone.” She got a package of Export A cigarettes out of her purse. “You not takin’ that with you?” She asked gesturing to his camera. “Mighty small isn’t it?”

“Should I?” Cameron asked Dan. “It’s your interview.”

“Sure why not.”

“Swell, make sure you get m’good side.”

They stood on the sidewalk a few feet from the door. Teresa puffing, taking and pointing here and there. Someone stopped to talk to her and she introduced them to her cameraman. She flicked her cigarette into the street, slipped her arm under Cameron’s and they came back into Cora’s.

“I gotta take a quick, you know, to the ladies. I’ll be right back. Heather can you reheat this for me.”

The waitress took the plate of fries into the kitchen.

“You’ll have your work cut out for you with this one.” Cameron said. 

“She have anything to say out there?”
“Telling me who lived where. She did want to know you were single. I told her you weren’t in the market just now.”

A microwave dinged and waitress put the reheated fries in front of Teresa as she sat back down.

“That’s better. So where do we start Danny Boy.”

“What do remember about that day.” Dan asked.

“Mama was a wreck. Pops was drunk, not unusual. Both of them are dead now, you know that? Anyway.” She was silent for a moment. 

“Yeah, that’s all I remember. I was seeing that guy from Hippo. You know the one your sister had the hots for too, but I made sure she didn’t get more than her hands on him, and vice versa.” she sighed deeply. “I should have just stepped out of the way but I was tired of you folks coming here and getting all that attention. She was pretty enough. Acted better than she was because your Dad was so … rich. Yeah! We though you fellas were loaded. Staying the Arms and all that.” She picked at her fries.

“You weren’t like her though.”

“You mean after the same men as you?” Dan asked.

“Go on with you. No, I mean you acted like you was happy to be here. You and Timmy got on great too. You kept him out of trouble, most of the time.”

“My folks thought he was always getting me into trouble.” Dan said.

“It was pretty awful to lose him like that. You never know. Never.” She teared up. “We fought all the time but I liked him. Loved him. We was sorry to see you up and leave so fast too. Though can’t blame your Dad. He said it could have been you. For a long time I wished that it had been you. I hate to say that.”

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Picture Perfect 58

Picture Perfect 58

The Cold Case war room was parked in the lot at the Comfort Motor Inn. Warszawa was leaning over and talking to Curtis as he came in. Curtis’s left arm was a sling with his neck in a brace.

“Glaucia didn’t survive her injures.” Baxter said. “We were discussing who, if anyone, we could call to replace her.”

“Dead!” Dan sat in his usual chair. 

“There’s more.” Baxter said. “You tell him Robert.”

“A preliminary examination of the car indicates that it had been tampered with.”

“T … Tampered? As in someone cut the brake lines?”

“Yes but more sophisticated than that. It means that we are talking double-murder and attempted murder now.”

“Roberto was driving carefully.” Baxter explained. “Everyone was when the rain started. Even the GPS didn’t warn us the storm was going to get that bad so fast. Glaucia and I were discussing a show for her, about her like the Long Island Medium. She had enough for a six-parter I felt. The rain got so bad we decided to pull off into the comfort station we were nearing but nothing was responding. Like nothing. Roberto couldn’t get the steering wheel to turn. The brakes wouldn’t respond. Glaucia said the car has been possessed.” He stopped to catch his breath. “A transfer truck passed us, hit a puddle and the wave … it was like a tidal wave … the wipers stuck to the window by the force of it and the car spun. I couldn’t do anything.” His voice dropped. “I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. Never. Then it flipped. It was all so fast. Glaucia was screaming. Things were tumbling through the air around me. I felt my arm snap and I passed out. I came to when they were lifting me on to the stretcher. It was the pain that woke me. The pain and the wet. For a moment I thought I was drowning in my blood but it was Roberto’s.” He wiped around eyes & his chin with a paper towel. “Look at me sweating like Tina Turner just thinking about it.”

“Awful.” Dan said. 

“Yes. Roberto was … sweet.” He dabbed at his eyes again. “But you know me. There’s things to be done. We have a shooting schedule. Investors to satisfy. We’ve lost enough time already thanks to the storm. We have to push on.”

“What about Glaucia?” Dan asked. 

“We can dedicate the series to their memory. Harold in Toronto says it gives our investigation a whole new angle. Another layer. This is more than bad luck. Someone is clearly trying to shut us down.”

“Clearly?” Dan asked.

“Yes.” Warszawa replied. He went to the suspects wall of the war room. There was already list titled ‘shut down.’ 

“First we have the Waterside porn tip. Someone in the know had to have done that. ‘Why’ is as important as who. Next …” he wrote on the list “… car tampering. I don’t think they intended to kill anyone but someone is dead as a result of their actions.”

“You think it’s the same person?” Dan asked.

“Or persons.” Stephanie said.

“Someone who doesn’t want us to find out what happened thirty years ago.” Baxter said.

Dan stood up. “I was supposed to be driving that car, you know. We switched just before we headed out. You needed more room for luggage.”

“Shit! Yes.” Baxter said. “You were named in the search warrant.”

“Someone wants me out of the picture?” Dan was dizzy. “Me?”

“Let’s not jump to that conclusion,” Warszawa said. “It’s still not clear if the car was tampered with. The heavy rain could have affected the electrical system for all we know.”

“I can name at least five people who would benefit from my death.” Dan said.

“Yeah, well, honey I can think of over 100 who would rejoice at mine.” Baxter said.

“Hundreds of thousands,” Stephanie said.  “If you think of your viewers. But to get things on schedule.” She continued. “Tomorrow Dan you’ll be interviewing Tracy Dunlop.”

“Timmy’s sister is still around?”

“Oh yeah. She remembers you and your sister. Your sister sounds like she was a piece of work in those days.”

“She had a mind of her own.” Dan said. He’d never thought of how others saw him or his sister in those days. Now he’d find out.

“Where’s your rental?” Stephanie asked.

“The motor was flooded. Literally.” Dan said. “It’s still parked in Port Elgin.”

“I was afraid of that. You can pick up another one in the morning.”

“I’ll drive you back to the Wickham.” Warszawa offered. “I’m staying there myself.”

In the car Warszawa said. “I don’t know how you put up with that Baxter.”

“You forget the years I put in on the Force.” Dan laughed.

“Right. What do make of this … targeting of you.”

“I don’t know what to make of it. These days everything sounds like it came from some movie. You know where the profiler gets stalked by someone out to prove they are smarter than the profiler.”

“You have suspects in mind?” Warszawa asked.

“Not really. I’d never given it a thought until little while ago. Sanjay sure isn’t happy about how we separated. Linda would be thrilled to take over James Photos.”

‘You said you could name five people.”

“Exaggerating. I don’t want anyone to know how empty life really is.”

“There’s always Vickers who charged you with harassment.”

“Vickers? Was that the asshole who did that. But that was years ago.”

“He was none too pleased when you were cleared.”

“He fucking admitted he’d lied.”

“Truth is irrelevant when someone has been made a fool of. Last I heard he was stationed somewhere on the east coast.”

“You thinking he had something to do with the tipster? With Baxter’s accident?”

“Putting another suspect on the board. He had motive and a better opportunity. He could have read about you being here in the papers. Whereas Sanjay or Linda certainly didn’t have opportunity.”

Warszawa parked in the Wickham’s lot.

“This is where my folks would stay when we were in Stellerton.” Dan said as he got out of the car.

“So that’s why you ended up here and not with the rest of the crew. Baxter was hoping it would bring back memories?”

“More like a story line. ‘It’s was on these very steps that our host Daniel James last saw Timothy Dunlop thirty years ago. How does that make you feel Mr. James.’”

As they walked up the porch Dan looked around.

“The place hasn’t changed much but so far no surpressed memories have surfaced.” 

In the lobby a younger version of Mrs Poitier was at the reception desk.

“Mr. James? I’m Sarah Sweeny, Mrs. Poitier is my mother.” She reached out to shake his hand & then handed him the key to his room.

As he turned to go up the stairs a wall of photographs caught his eye.

“The history wall my mother calls it.” She explained. “We found a pile of these old pictures in one of the living room hutches.”

One of the pictures caught his eye. There on the side porch of the Wickham was his mother and father standing behind him and his sister. Next to them were the Greens. 

“Hey,” He turned to Sarah. “That’s me and my folks. And that’s the Greens who owned the Arms at the time.”

“Oh?” She peered at the picture. “We never met them.”

“How did you come to own the Wickham?”

“It’s sort of funny. My Dad saw a headline in the Halifax paper that said ‘Empty Arms In Stellerton.’ The hotel had been empty for about five years & was due to be torn down. He loved the look of the building & bought it as a surprise for my mother. Let me tell you she was surprised but well, we both love it.”

“And your Dad?”

“He passed away a few years ago.”

“I’m sorry.” Dan was looking at his Dad in the picture.

“You sister is pretty. I mean you are cute too. But your sister. Those are great pants she has on.”

‘Peddle pushers.” Dan said.

“Yeah, that colour is wild. She must have liked the attention.”

“Yeah. I suppose she did. She still does too now that I think of it.”

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Picture Perfect 57

Picture Perfect 57

Dan stood at the door of the Wickham Arms. It brought back no memories. After studying the pictures his Dad has taken around the Arms and in particular the one of him and Timmy on the front steps, he had expected the actual location to have some resonance. Maybe the storm washed it away.

“Mr. James?” An elderly woman came to the door.

“Yes.” He put down his suitcase to open the door.

“We were expecting you much sooner.” She smiled. “A spot of rain usually doesn’t slow our guests down.”

“When the sea rushes up to meet you it is wise to a pause to let it recede.” Dan answered.

“Or sink where you stand your ground.” she replied. “Come in.  I’m Jane Poitier. Some of your crew has arrived. Least those who are staying here. Some of them have opted for the modern comforts of the Comfort Motor Inn.”

“I’m sure they’ll be happier there.” He signed the register. “Larry Clarke speaks highly of your hospitality.”

“A charming young man.” She handed him a skeleton key with a large oval fob. “You hang that here when you leave”

“Another key! Same as the Proud Tartan. It’s always been some sort of card.”

“Like them I believe strongly in tradition. How is Mrs. Clarke?”

“Larry’s married? He didn’t mention her when he drove me here in fact.”

“No, his mother. His folks own the Tartan. I guess he didn’t mention that either.”

“The short cut he used took up all our attention. Not much time for talking.”

“Short cut?” She asked.

“Some skidoo trail through them there hills. Moose something, he called it. Then a logging road.”

“The young fool.” she said. “Reckless. Too many reckless people these days. He’s lucky he did’t get the two of you killed. More than one has gone down the ravines along there.”

“He knew what he was doing as you can see, I’m here. A little rough for wear. Things have changed a here at the Arms. The reception used to be right by the door, there.” He pointed to a spot that was now occupied by a sideboard covered with plants.

“We took over the Arms about fifteen years ago. It had fallen on hard times and was closed for a few years before we reopened it.”

“You don’t know what became of the Greens.”

“No.  You’ll have number 36. On the third floor. It’s a bit of a walk up. No elevator but we do have…”

“The dumb waiter?”

“Why yes.”

“I can remember going up and down in it as kid when my folks stayed here.”

“We’ll have none of behaviour now young man.”

Dan couldn’t tell if she was joking.

“Yes ma’am.” He tossed his suitcase into the dumbwaiter and sent it up to the third floor. The stairs up to the second floor were as wide as he remembered. Carpeted now. The bannisters had been replaced so there little chance of the initials he and Tim had carved would still be there.

The turn to the second floor wasn’t as sharp or sudden. His mother always had a problem negotiating that turn. The squeaks were gone but the stairs to the third floor were still as narrow. The stairway window was now clear glass. The previous yellow stained glass never illuminated much. A large white globe was suspend on the ceiling.

The third floor had been two apartments on either side of the hall. Now they were redivided into three separate rooms each. At least he supposed they were separate. His was at the end of the hall. 

He got his luggage out of the dumbwaiter and rolled it down to his room. The Arms was familiar and totally different at the same time. The same doorframes but new doors, new colours. The window at the end of the hall looked out over a back garden. Yes, the garden was still there but the empty lots beside it was now one of those red brick bunkers.

His room was bigger than he expected. Queen bed, one bedside table, comfy chair, tiny desk triangled in a corner. It looked large enough for a laptop but little else. Tiny bathroom with a shower stall. Rosebud soap by the sink, which was also triangled into a corner. Not enough room to swing a wet towel.

The closet was a fair size and he took his clothes out, shook the wrinkles from his jeans and shirts as best he could and hung them. He turned the shower on. Hot water without waiting and good pressure. He turned it off and undressed, tossing his socks, undies & tee-shirt into the shower. Laundromats where not on the itinerary.

He looked in his toiletries bag for body wash & shave cream. After the past couple of days of being on & off the road he longed for a hot soak. He needed a shave too. He adjusted the mirror on the back of the door. No bruises on his butt from the mountain ride. His hands needed something though. They were rough and scraped from pushing those logs to move the tree. There were scratches on his forearms from grappling with them.

There was a loud knock at his door. He opened it without thinking to grab for a towel. It was Larry.


“You dropped this in the truck.” he handed Dan his cellphone. “It started to beep or I would have been back at the Tartan before I noticed it.”

“I was … just going to take a shower.” Dan took his cellphone. He moved back so Larry could enter the room

“So I see.” Larry said. “How is the butt? Black and blue?”

“No.” Dan wrapped a towel around his waist.

“It’s still not too late to rectify that.” 

“Larry!” Dan felt his face redden. “Wasn’t the three hundred bucks enough?”

“You are saying you aren’t even curious. Are you sure you are gay?”

“Oh I’m sure. But if that was going to happen between us it would have by now.”

“I am not your type?”

“That’s not it but …”

“You are total top?”

“No but …”

“I am too country boy for you. Is that it.”


“Fuck Larry! You sound like one of those straight guys who is positive every queer he meets is after his dick. Sure that every queer is fucking every queer he can get his hands on.”

“Is the part where you slap my face and push me out the room.”

“It sure ain’t the part where you kiss me to show me the error of my ways with your manly brutishness.” Dan tried to make a joke of the situation.

“Why not?”

“I’m not sure what’s going on here. Between us. I’ve never been that sort of person.”

“I see.” Larry took the one step from the bed to the door. “You aren’t angry with me?”

“No!” His cell buzzed that a text had arrived. “It’s work calling.” He glanced at it and it was from Stephanie. It was an “?” 

He showed it to Larry. “You see – the show must go on. But not until I take a shower.” He watched Larry go down the hall, locked the door and turned the shower on full.

In the lobby he was surprised to see Stephanie chatting with Larry.

“Seems likes you’ve had your own adventures while we were having ours.” Stephanie said.

“Yes. He’s heading back to Port Elgin now.”

“Ah … yes. I won’t have to take the Moose Trail. Roads are better.”

“Thanks again for getting me here, in one piece.”

“My pleasure.” Larry shook his hand. “Can we keep in touch?”

“Sure. Send a receipt to Baxter’s Bits for the three hundred dollars.”

Larry went out quickly.

“What was all that bout?” Stephanie asked.

“He didn’t risk his life to get me here for free. I gave him three hundred, cash.”

“I get that part but there seemed to be more to the story than that.”

Dan ignored her question. “Did the war room arrive intact?”

“Oh yeah. Baxter is waiting for us. He sent me to  pick you up.”

“Any word on Glaucia?”

“Serious. Even if she survives there’s little chance she’ll ever fully recover. Head trauma.”

He went out the to the far end front porch and Stephanie followed him. “How’s Baxter? I thought he was injured too?”

“Bad enough but not enough to hold him back. He is heartsick about Roberto.”

They went to Stephanie’s rental. Larry was wiping mud splashes off the doors of his jeep.

“Thanks again Larry.” Dan said as he got into her car.

“Anytime.” He got inot his jeep & drove away.

“You sure know how to pick’em.” Stephanie said.

“I don’t pick’m, he showed up when I needed him. If I picked them they wouldn’t turn out to be … stalkers.”

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Picture Perfect 56

Picture Perfect 56

“You need anything before we head out?”

“I got Hazel to pack us a lunch in case we need it. Plus she filled my travel mug.” He shook his Lyfend mug. He figured trail bouncing would be good test for it.

“I’m thinking the old Moose Trail won’t be too bad. Runs along the high ridge. Mostly rock too so shouldn’t be too mucky.”

Larry backed his SUV up then drove up a low hill near the entrance of the plot his tailer was on & directly into the woods. “I found this trail with the snowmobile the first winter I had one. One of my jobs is make sure this trail clear but not … too easy. The winter people like a bit of a challenge.”

The jeep rocked back forth as it negotiated the trail. Branches slapped at the roof, windows & the sides. Larry stopped at the brink of a steep downward grade. He grinned at Dan, released the clutch sending them bouncing down the side of the hill. Dan found himself grabbing the dash to brace himself.

“This is what I call driving.” Larry said happily.

“Now, I’m sure you aren’t queer.” Dan shook his head.

“What?” Larry laughed. “I could say the same thing about you.” 

“Me?”

“Yeah. Most gay guys spot my big feet within minutes. In my case it is true what they say. Why do you think I made sure you saw them before you changed into those boots?”

“Jesus! I just thought you were being … nice.”

“No, playing hard to notice. Gay’s not something to broadcast in these parts.”

“You’re kidding me. You’re gay?”

“More like bi.” Larry shrugged keeping a tight grip on the steering wheel as they bumped over the uneven trail. “You might have good gaydar but lousy bidar.”

“I only use gaydar when I think it’ll serve a ….” the left side of the jeep did a sharp dip then righted itself. “A purpose. You get much opportunity out here.”

“Summer mainly. I suggested, half-joking, to the management at the Tartan they should advertise for LGBT honeymooners. I was shocked they were willing to put up a rainbow flag. They don’t grasp that there is a generation that grew up watching queers on TV. It means nothing to them.”

He stopped the SUV. A tree had fallen across the trail. “We’re going to have to move that. It’s a two man job. Think you can manage.”

“Is that a dare?”

They got out of the truck. 

Larry walked around the tree peering into the trunk on either side. “I’m seeing where we would best put it.”

“Put it!” Dan tentatively lifted the part of the fallen trunk nearest him. “We’ll need a … I don’t know what to move this. It must weigh a ton.”

“Not a bad estimate.” Larry laughed. “We will have a little help.”

He went to the back of the truck and pulled out two steel spars about five feet in length. He gave Dan a pair of work gloves.

“You’ll need these. Let us … try over there first. You see where that other tree has been broken under this one.”

“Right.” Dan pulled on the gloves.

Larry showed him how to ram the spar under the tree as he did the same.

“Press down gently.”

They bounced the fallen tree trunk a few times.

“That’s good news. It is not lodged in that deeply. Now we go to here.” He jabbed under the tree. “No. the soil is too loose. We need bedrock.” He moved a few more feet along. “This boulder should suit us.”

They both pushed their spars under the trunk.

“Lift a moment, now push as hard as you can.”

The trunk felt immobile to Dan. “It’s like trying to move a sofa with a tooth pick.” He said.

“Yes. One of those situations that lube won’t solve. Stop for a moment. Once more. All your weight.”

For a split second Dan’s feet left the ground. He lost grip on his spar as the trunk moved a fraction then slewed off and away from them. While it did Larry pushed him to the ground. Freed from he weight of the tree his spar bounced into the air where he had been.

“What the …” Dan sat on the wet ground staring at the tree trunk. “I can’t believe we just moved that fucker.” His hands were stinging from the pressure he had been applying. “I have never done anything like that in my entire life.”

“I guess you don’t get to handle such big lumber in Toronto.” Larry lit a cigarette. “You handled that quite well for such a little guy.”

“Luckily your feet didn’t get in the way.” Dan started to stand but he was washed by a wave of dizziness. Spots danced before his eyes.

“Easy there.” Larry reached down to help him up. “All that exertion caught your body off guard.”

Dan let himself be led to the truck.

Larry went to the back and brought out a six-pack of beer & a plastic bag with some bananas in it.

“Time for a breather.” He offered Dan a beer.

“No thanks, I’ll stick to caffeine until we’re back on solid ground” He got the mug from the front seat. In the bouncing around the camera had been turned on. He resisted checking what footage it may have captured. “There’s a comfort station here after all.” 

They tossed their banana skins into the brush.

“Ready to push on?” Larry asked.

“Yes.”

The the next couple of miles were as rough but Dan was accustomed to the sway and lurch of the truck.

“There here is the old logger road.” Larry steered the ATV down a steep but short incline to a wider dirt road marked with tire ruts. “This will take us directly to the highway. How you doing there? Haven’t had much to say since we did right by that tree.”

“Thinking about what makes a man a man. A male a male.”

“Ah. There is more than one way to be who we are, right. I’m sure not your typical gay. Least ways not the type you usually meet in Toronto.”

“That’s for sure.”

“You are not quite what I expected. All I see are men who want to marry men, or who want to have sex with any man who is available. Available! They think it’s a challenge, their right to … corrupt the staff.”

“Corrupt!”

“You didn’t find it easy to see me as gay. They see me as the bulky, heterosexual, staff. A challenge to get in the sack. You’re not like that.”

“Let’s face it, we’ve been too occupied for me to think about anything else but why I am here & how to get to where I’m supposed to be.”

“In the movies the hero always has a hard-on for the random women in his moment of crisis. Sometimes it is all they seem to think about. The bomb is about to go off – let’s make out. Here we are.”

The road ended at the highway. 

“Great.” Dan was hoping the forest drive would last longer. After being surrounded by the trees the highway on either side of them was empty. 

“You know where we are headed?” Larry asked.

Dan turned and pulled his shoulder bag from her back seat to the front. He got out the Cold Case itinerary. “We’ve been booked into the Wickham Arms.” 

“It’s a decent b’n’b. Older than the Tartan though. I’ve stayed there myself.”

“Me too. But I’m sure it’s changed since the eighties.”

Dan wondered if Baxter had picked the Wickham in particular because he knew this was where Dan had stayed at the time of the disappearances. 

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Picture Perfect 55

Picture Perfect 55

“Okay.” He called down to Hazel.

“I’ll send Larry up with a lantern for you, once I find them.” Hazel said. “You’ll probably have use the TransCanada in the morning though.”

“Such is life.” Dan unlocked his room. Glad, for once, to have a key that didn’t rely on electronics to open doors.

There was just enough afternoon light for him to find his bed in the dark room. He hoped the rain pounding on the glass wouldn’t break it. Automatically he switched on the bedside lamp, which didn’t  go on.

He turned on his laptop on. Now he was glad the  Lyfend satellite connection didn’t rely on local wifi service. The highways department latest advisory listed the roads that were usable. Hazel was right he’d have to get back to the TransCanada if he wanted to get to Stellerton in the morning. The only problem was that the road between Port Elgin and the TransCanada had been washed out in the storm and would remain closed to traffic for at least twenty-four hours. The Gaspereau had washed out parts of the highway.

He searched for news about Baxter’s accident but there were no updates on that. He was tempted to vidconference with Peter but didn’t want to drain the laptop’s battery that quickly. 

A voice spoke from behind him

“Any news?” 

“Fuck!” He turned around to see a man who looks like a younger version of Joe. “What happened to knocking?”

“Sorry. The door was open. Hazel found a couple of these.” He put a flickering hurricane lantern on the desk. “There’s enough oil in it for awhile. More downstairs if you need it.”

“Thanks.”

“Larry Clarke.” He shook Dan’s hand. He smelled of cigarettes & beer. “General maintenance round here.”

“Joe your Dad?” Dan asked.

“Uncle. Though manys seen the resemblance. Need anything else?”

“Nope. But to answer your question the roads are passable in areas. Crews are working on getting the lines back up. A couple of the transformers were struck by lightening and they are replacing those. They expect full power to be restored by noon.”

“A likely story. One year it was a week before we got full power back here. Hazel asks to find out if there’s any news of your friends?”

“Not online. I was about to call the production assistant to find out.”

“Okay. Plumbing’s working if you need. Cold water though. Water heater shut down. You’ll be wanting supper later? Haze can use the gas grill.”

“That would be great. Thanks for everything.”

Once Larry had left Dan called Stephane. He could hear a lot of noise behind her. 

“Hi Steph. It’s Dan checking in.”

“Thanks for calling. Baxter is still in emerg. The hospital is like being in a disaster movie. There must have been a dozen or so accidents as a result of the storm. It hit so suddenly no one was ready for how quickly it became severe.”

“Any word on how Baxter is?”

“Only that he’ll live. Broken bones. Luckily not his face.”

“What?”

“Yeah! I know, that was the last thing he asked me before they wheeled him off. Is my face okay?” She laughed. “Not, are the others okay.”

“What about Glaucia?”

“Serious is all I know. Her family has been contacted. I don’t know if you heard but Roberto died.”

Dan didn’t know how to respond. “Fuck. I hardly knew whim but he was nice enough.”

“Yeah. A good worker. Plus he kept Baxter happy.”

“Oh! I didn’t realize. Anything from Quintex?”

“They have insurance that’ll cover costs due to production delays, if that’s what you are worried about.”

“No. I mean about the future of the project itself.” 

“We won’t decide that this soon. Chances are it’ll go on.”

“Okay. Tell Baxter I’m sending him good vibes.”

“I will. Bye.”

Dan wasn’t ready to give up. So far the connections to his Dad hadn’t point to or away from his involvement in the disappearances.

….

In the morning the sky was still streaked with clouds but the sun was boring through. 

Larry brought in a deep saucepan of hot water. “The rainwater is receding and power is restored along most of the shore, except, of course Port Elgin. They were replacing the damaged transformers.”

“My car hasn’t been washed away?”

“Nope. Still in the lot.”

Dan’s cell buzzed. It was a text from Baxter: ‘Cn u gt 2 Stlton 4 2nite. Bones set rdy to wrk.’ “Oh shit!”

“Bad news?” Larry asked.

“Not exactly. They want me in Stellerton tonight.”

“Good luck with roads as they are.”

“You know the side roads around here better than GPS can. Is it possible.”

“Ordinarily yes. But after this storm I not sure.”

“Let’s check my car first.” His cell buzzed again. The text read “?” He texted back “Rds permitting.”

Outside the Tartan parking lot was a lake. The car was like an island in the middle with water up to the bottom of the doors.

“Drainage valves must have been clogged by the storm.” Larry said. “Give the me keys and I drive it over. I came prepared.” He lifted his knees to show Dan the waders he was wearing.

Dan watched as Larry light a cigarette as he walked to the car. He stopped at one point and reached into the water and pulled up a mucky clump of leaves to show Dan. He dropped the clump back and rinsed the dirt off his hands. He got into the car. Dan could hear the engine turn over but it didn’t start.

Larry got out of the car and came back to the porch. He tossed his butt into the water. “By the sound of the motor that car isn’t going anywhere soon.”

“Fuck!” Dan said & went back into the restaurant.

“Day is early.” Larry followed him. “What’s it worth to you to get there?”

“Worth?”

“Yeah. I got a powerful Jeep all-terrain. There might be a way, for say …. two hundred bucks? I’m parked back by the kitchen.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not asking I’m offering. There’s a difference.”

Hazel came out of the kitchen with a plate of hotcakes & a pot of coffee.

“What’s he offering you?” She asked.

“To get him out of this heck hole.” Larry laughed.

“If you keep him sober he’s the guy that can do it.” Hazel pure Dan a cup of coffee.

“Haze. What the fuck! I haven’t a beer yet this morning.” He went to the kitchen with Hazel.

Dan thought it over while he ate his breakfast. His cell buzzed again. “On yr wy?” He messaged back a thumbs up.

He took his plate back to the kitchen.

“Okay Larry. Let’s do it.”

Larry face lit up. “Okay! Okay! We’ll stop back at my place to pick up a few things first though. No gas stations on this trail, or comfort stations either.”

“I guess I don’t have much choice.”

It was a five minute drive to Larry’s mobile home. It took him about ten minutes to get the ATV loaded for the trip. Ropes, a cooler joined Dan’s suitcase in the back of the car.

“Here. Those sneakers of yours aren’t going to last long if we have … you get out. ” he gave Dan a pair of heavy duty work boots. “I think these will fit you. They are my mother’s but I your feet seem to about the same size. Mine would be too large for you.”

He put his right foot beside Dan’s left foot. It was much wider and longer. 

Larry got behind the steering wheel. “So are you ready, my friend?”

Dan took his sneakers off & pulled the boots on.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” 

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Picture Perfect 54

Picture Perfect 54

In the morning Dan rolled his suitcase out to the back of his rental SUV. Baxter, then Roberto were piling their bags beside the trunk of Baxter’s compact car. Baxter had insisted on the sporty two-seater for himself because he doing a lot of running around.

“You’ll have no trouble finding space for that.” Baxter said looking from his car to Dan’s.

Both he and Roberto had two large suitcases.

“Can’t you load some of that in the remote truck?” Dan said.

“I suppose I could but …” he nodded at Glaucia. “She has another suitcase yet to come.”

Glaucia stood at her cabin door nodding at him with her white beats headphones firm in place.

“I can take a hint.” Dan laughed. “If you wanted to swap cars why not come right out and say so. Oh, I forgot, asking is not your style. Let me just my crap out of the front seat.” He checked to make sure there was nothing of his in the glove compartment or under the seat. “You can have the Hippo Dog sticks.” he said giving the keys to Baxter.

“Thanks.” Baxter said. 

Dan fit his suitcase into the trunk of the smaller car, then put his shoulder bag on the passenger seat.“Pays to travel light.” he said to Baxter.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Baxter said as he heaved the first of the suitcases into the back of the bigger car.

Dan surveyed the dashboard of the car. He’d driven it once already. It had all the latest electronic stuff they could squeeze into a car and keep it affordable. As he pulled out of the parking lot the built in GPS asked:

“Destination please.”

“Stellerton. Nova Scotia.” He said.

“Follow route 2. You will need gas in an hour. Next comfort stop is …”

“Thank you.” He found the control for turning the GPS voice off. He left the map portion turned on so he could see how far along he was on the route he had opted for which he was sure the GPS would argue with him about. Sometimes going ‘the wrong way’ got him to where he was supposed to be.

Then he went into the Waterside diner for breakfast. His was already on table where he usually sat.

“I told George you’d have the usual.” Stephanie said. “Hope you don’t mind? Saves time.”

“Fine,” Dan said sitting at his spot. The toast was still warm. “It’s going to hard leaving these perfect breakfasts behind.” He said to George as George put a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him.

“It’s going to hard not racking up these tips.” George said. “You’ll be back?”

“Maybe.” Stephanie said. “We may want to do some pick up shots, as they say. Never know what information may lead us back here.”

‘There’s always the Circus Museum.” Dan said. “I think it would be an ideal spot for an interview.”

“Or a birthday party.” Baxter said. “Maybe we’ll have the wrap party there once the shoot is done.”

“We best get going,” Roberto said. “That storm looks like it’s going be rolling in soon.”

“So no one’s coming with me.” Dan asked?

“No,” Baxter answered. “She’ll be driving with me and Roberto.”

“Then I’ll be on my own?” Dan said. “Cool. I can turn the radio up as loud as I want.”

He went back to his cabin to use the bathroom one last time. As he had officially checked out he asked George. 

 “Is the old Conner route still being used?”


“Oh yeah. That Trans Canada by passed a passel of places along the shore there. Not as well kept as the Trans but good enough. Make sure got a full tank o’gas before you head along there. No comfort stations.”

“Will do.”

The Conner would take an hour longer so it was avoided by the transfer semi’s that hogged the Trans Canada. His Dad hated those monsters and so did he. The less stress driving was the better. The fewer comfort stops the better too. That would mean more scenery and glimpses of the ocean.

The rain didn’t start until he turned east at Shediac. Seemed fitting that as he got closer to the Strait that the sea should rise up to meet him. When was the last time he’d thought that phrase? It was one his Dad would use in really heavy rain. He stopped to fill the gas tank. This stretch of highway was seeing more use thanks to the Confederation Bridge. He was tempted by the signs pointing the way to the bridge. Maybe if it wasn’t raining so heavily he’d be tempted. Something for after the shoot or next summer. 

At Port Elgin he crossed the Gaspereau River, was spun round on an unexpected highway round about, lost his sense of direction in the rain but managed to head in the right direction to stop at The Proud Tartan Bar and Grill for lunch. The place had wifi. First thing he checked was the weather report.

“Storm’s not going to stop soon.” The waitress said. “I can tell you that. Rather my left knee can tell you that.”

“I was afraid of that, Hazel.” Dan glanced at her name tag then the menu. “What would to recommend.”

“Good time of year for the speckled trout. Can’t go wrong with the burger either. Local beef. Ground fresh here.”

“Dig your own spuds for the fries too I suppose.”

“Yeah,” she laughed. “But no, though they are … hand-crafted by our skilled chefs.”

“Burger appeals. Fries too.”

“Want a Kiefers to go with that. Local micro-brewery.”

“Sure why not.”

He was the only customer in the restaurant. His table give a decent view of the river across the street. The sky darkened even more and a crack of lightening illuminated the other shore. Heavy fall of rain followed. He could hear it on the roof of the bar. Soon he couldn’t see past the parking lot.

“Roof is solid,” Hazel said as she put his beer on table along with a schooner glass.

He tipped the bottle to pour it into the glass and was amazed as the deep red of the brew.

“I love to see that look.” she said. “This is the one beer we always let the customer pour. Gently now, so there’s not too much head.”

Dan did as directed. He took a sip.

“Strawberry?” he said.

“Right.”

“And hay?”

“Right again. This is the end of their summer brews. The other is … ”

“Blueberry Beer?”

Hazel brought his burger. “Hope you don’t mind the onion roll.” she said as she put it on the table. “None of t’other.”

“It’ll be fine.” another one of these too. He tapped the Keifers bottle.

“Two’s the limit you know” she laughed. “Unless to got designated driver.”

“This storm keeps up and …”

There was another flash of lightening followed by a deep rumbled of thunder. The lights in the bar flickered off for a minute then came back on.

“That can’t be good.” Dan said.

“Nope. I’ll check the TV and see what I can find out.”

There were no more electrical problems while Dan ate his burger. He declined a third beer though. 

“If you’re fixing to stay the night you best get your kit from your car. You’ll have your choice of rooms here.”

“Here?”

“B’n’B upstairs. We don’t put the sign out until the season really starts.”

“Thanks.” Dan said. He paid for his lunch and added an equal amount as tip. Quintex would be paying so he could afford to be generous.

“Much appreciated Mr. James. I’ll get Joe to get room … 101 ready for you.” 

“Joe?”

“You don’t think I cooked that hamburger for you.”

He went out to the the covered porch of the Proud Tartan. Did he really want to get his suitcase? The rain was so heavy Dan couldn’t see across the street. The wind was shaking the flag poles along the parking lot. 

“Here.” Hazel gave him a heavy rain poncho. “You’ll have get your own luggage.”

He dashed out to the car to get his suitcase. His jeans & shoes were soaked by the time he got back. 

“Don’t remember it raining this hard since I was a boy.” He sat at a table to take off his wet shoes.“Hurricane Francis, I think.”

“You from a round these parts?” Hazel handed him a towel.

“Yes. Grew up on the Cape. New Waterford.”

“Francis was some storm. Waves washed cars off the Causeway that year.”

Dan’s cell rang.

“I better answer this. It could be my crew wondering where I am.”

“Hello.” It was Stephanie. “What … I’m okay … Baxter had Roberto and Glaucia with him. That’s right he took the SUV I had been driving … Right now I am at …” he looked to Hazel “What’s the b’n’b called?”

“Tartan Beds.”

“Tartan Beds at the Proud Tartan. It’s in Port Elgin. It’s as far as I got before the sea rushed up to meet me … okay … I’ll let you know when I’m heading out of here but I don’t expect it will be until morning.”

“Bad news?”

“Yeah.” Dan walked to the front window to look out at the storm. The wind was whipping the various flags around. “The car my boss Baxter was driving lost traction on the highway and flipped. He’s been taken to a hospital in Halifax. He had two other passengers. They aren’t sure if they’ll survive.”

“You were close to these people?” 

“I hardly really knew them. I didn’t know Baxter until a few months ago. I liked them if that’s what you are asking. Close? No.”

His cell rang again. “Sorry.”

This time it was Peter. “I’m alright. … no I wasn’t in the car … you tell Sanjay everything is okay … yeah I’m sure he’s concerned … no I don’t know how this will affect the shoot but trust me Baxter will make the most of it. … yes, I’ll … okay … bye.” He put his phone on the table. “My house sitter. News report was that a TV film crew from Toronto was in traffic accident. He was sure I was dead.”

“Room’s ready.” A grizzled man in an apron tossed a key on the table.

“Thanks Joe.” Hazel said.

“I’m going to up to my room and slip into some dry clothes.” Dan pushed himself up from the table.

Halfway up the stairs there was a loud crash from outside & the power went out.

“First door on your left, Mr. James.” Hazel called up to him. “First door on your left.” 

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