Picture Perfect 24

Dan was surprised that Sanjay did go to Kevin McLeod’s engagement fundraiser. The lineup outside was being entertained by clowns juggling on unicycles. Mario Delucia, Kevin’s manager/partner, dressed as an aerialist in pale pink tights, with sequins sown in a scattered pattern that caught the light, was greeting people as they came in and handing each of them a cd of Kevin’s new single.

“Dan so glad you could make it.” He gave Dan a CD. “And this is the Sanjay Kumar. A real power couple. Crime and cream pies. There’s a TV show plot for you right there.”

He turned to the next guests coming in. 

As they made their way in and up the stairs they saw many people they knew who greeted them. Hugged, kissed, asked how they were doing, then busily went to the next people they half-knew as well.

Dan took a couple of glasses from a waiter. Handed one to Sanjay.

“Impressive.” Dan said.

“Yes, if you like glib.” Sanjay sipped his wine and wrinkled his nose. He looked for a place to put his plastic glass down.

“”You were supposed to call me back?” Cyrtys Baxter barrelled through a clump of people. 

“I’ve been busy. Sanjay this is Cyrtys Baxter. He called the other night.”

“Pleased to meet you. Look there’s Tracy from Zephyr. I’ll go see if they need a hand.” He kissed Dan quickly on the mouth and went.

“Very handsome.” Cyrtys watched Sanjay leave. “You like them a bit on the thick side I see.”

“You know Kevin McLeod?”

“Not at all. We’ve met a few times but this is the event of the season. Why thank you.” He accepted a balloon animal from a clown. “Looks like cock to me.” He laughed. “You pose for this?” He asked the clown.

The clown disappeared back into the crowd.

“You know Kevin?”

“I worked on a couple of his videos. Post production stuff mostly. Some green screen.”

“You’re a man of many talents. I was expecting you to return my calls though. Even during business hours.”

“Sorry, I was caught up in work. It was interesting to meet John Kilpatrick though. He’s an excellent host for the show. Didn’t sound like he was leaving the show.”

“Look, Daniel I didn’t mean to mislead you, honestly. But he was talking about wanting more money, about having another offer but that offer fell through and we’re stuck with him for another season. Contract you know.”

“So what did you want to talk to me about.” Dan accepted another drink from a waiter and some canapés.

“We want to do a more complete follow up to the east coast case. Possibly a mini-series looking only at that one case. I’ve seen the footage Stephanie shot with you and the camera loves you.”

“I know how to find my light.”

“Mr. James you have to learn how to take a compliment.”

“Mr. Baxter you do realize some of us can tell the difference between flattery and a compliment.”

His reply was cut off when a young girl jumped at them with a flash camera. She took three quick photos before taking the camera away from her face.

“Moxy Moxham. Girl reporter!” She did a quick curtsey. “And I do believe I just caught Mr. and Mr. James in polite conversation at this prestigious event.”

“Sorry to disappoint ya’kiddo,” Dan tried a 30’s news editor voice, “but no dice on the Mr. & Mr. angle.”

“Oh,” she was crest fallen.

While he did introductions he looked around the room. “Is your Dad here, too?”

“Over there somewhere. Oh look there’s Lady GaGa! I got to get pictures of this. She’s dressed like a normal person!” Ashely pushed her way into the crowd shouting. “Make way! Make way. Press.”

“What a handful.” Cyrtys shook his head. “Ever wish you had children?”


“Not at all. Sanjay is often enough.”

“I am serious though about …”

“Cyrtys I’m not here to discuss business, Really. I came as a friend of the grooms. Come to my office Monday and we can discuss whatever it is your are trying to pitch.”

“At two-fifty an hour?”

“That’s only if you have a camera on me.”

“Daniel James!” Jeremy Moxham appeared out of the crowd. “Ashley said you were here. I suppose this is your …”

“Let’s not go there. This is Cyrtys, with two y’s, Baxter, of Quintex – is it studios, films?”

“Films.” Jeremy answered. “Yes, I’m familiar with Mr. Baxter’s work.” Jeremy shook his hand. “Jeremy Moxham.”

“Of … TevTec?” Cyrtys asked

“Yes. If you don’t mind I’d like to have a word with Mr. James.”

“Certainly, sir.” Cyrtys walked away.

“What was that all about?” Dan asked.

“Just wanted to rescue you from his grip.”

“TevTec?”


“A subsidiary of mine that is involved with Quintex. It’s one of those tiny logos you see at the end of a TV show. That is if you watch the credits at all.”

“Sometimes. But never the fine print.”

“Your other half here?” Jeremy peered around the room. “Ah, yes, managing the dessert station. You’ve trained him well.”

“Your other half here?” Dan asked. He struggled to keep up the appearance that he and Sanjay were the model couple. 

“Jane? No. We’ve been separated for several years. If it weren’t for Ashley I probably would have forgotten her name by now.”

“Did someone mention my name? Smile.” Ashley popped up in front of them. “Moxy Moxham girl reporter catches the wealthy Jeremy Moxham with the debonaire Daniel James in an intimate moment at the 519.”

“Intimate!” Her dad laughed. “With this bunch of clowns?”

“Oh Dad!” she laughed.

There was a tuba and bass drum fanfare as two clowns pushed the crowd aside to allow Kevin and Stewart to enter. They followed the couple to a stage at the end of the room.

“I’d like to thank everyone who came tonight.” Kevin said. “We’ve raised over $500,000 for the 519.”

He was drowned out by the applause of the crowd.

“But even more important.” He continued as they quieted down. “I’m pleased to officially announce my marriage to Stewart O’Connor after this year’s Pride Parade.”

“Where?” Someone shouted from he crowd. “Queen’s park?”

The crowd response rattled the chandeliers.

“There’ll more people lined up for our wedding than any royal wedding.” Kevin reached for his guitar. “Here’s a little something I wrote for my … I wish I could say my two husbands but that isn’t legal yet. You want it, you knot it, you knot it, you got it.” He started to sing.

It was nearly one when Daniel and Sanjay got back to their house.

“Thank God that’s over.” Sanjay said as he turned on the kitchen light

“It wasn’t that bad, was it?” Dan open a bottle of water. “As always it was too much booze though and not enough water.”

“You didn’t waste much time.”

“How’s that?”

“I saw you flirting with that hot black guy.”

“That was Cyrtys Baxter from Unsolved Cold. It definitely wasn’t me flirting.”

“Maybe not you, but he had his eye on you all night. Then daggers after your other friend showed up. That his daughter?”

“Yes. Ashley Moxham. Daughter of …”

“Jeremy Moxham. Yes I do read the papers. He certainly doesn’t need his pictures touched up.”

“I thought you were overseeing the desserts. Or are you jealous?”

“I hadn’t … I don’t want you rebounding.” Sanjay took some cold chicken out of the refrigerator.

“I’m not looking, if that’s what you are getting at.  It hasn’t been a week yet. I was there. They were there. We were there. Perhaps you saw me kissing the grooms.”

“I kissed the grooms and their best man. Now he’s a looker.”

“Mario?” Dan took a chicken leg and began eating it. 

“Oh yeah.”

“I hate to tell you but he’s taken. It’s a triad. As Kevin explained, three person weddings aren’t legal yet but we’re working on it.”

“Triad?”

“Yep. As I understand it they live together, sleep together, though I don’t know if it’s one big bed.”

“I suppose the three will honeymoon together too.” Sanjay wiped his hands clean. “Maybe we should have a break-up party so neither of us have to work at keeping up appearances.”

“Appearances?”

“Of us as the happy couple.” Sanjay leaned against the kitchen counter.

“It doesn’t matter to me who knows or how they find out.”

“Very adult of you. How many people did you break the break-up news to tonight? Baxter? Moxham?”

“Sanj you know I was happy with you, with us, as we were.”

“So you say, but you don’t seem to care much that it may come to an end.”

“You made it all pretty clear already. The fact that I’m not broadcasting it means … May?”

“You know what it’ll take. I’ve made that very clear. You want it, you knot it, you knot it, you got it.” Sanjay sang the chorus from Kevin’s song.

“See you in the morning.”

Dan started to undress as he went up to his room. When did I start thinking of it as ‘my room’ instead of ‘our room.’ I guess I made that transition to sort-of-single easier that I expected to. Things were so ordinary a month ago and now every time I turn around there seems to be something else to deal with. At least there isn’t a new RCMP case to add to what’s going on.

He change into his bed shorts and pulled the covers around his shoulders. The bed was warmer with Sanjay in it though. I do miss that. I guess I’m human after all. What kinds of gifts would people bring to a break-up party? Or would we give away things that we had given to each other. Thanks for the memories. 

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Picture Perfect 23

As Dan approached his house he saw the guest bedroom light was on. Maybe Sanjay had changed his mind? No, their home security system made sure lights would go on and off if there was no one home. He’d set the system for random times. No one would turn the same lights on and off at exactly the same times.

He was locking his bike in the garage when Sanjay pulled the car in.

“They let you out of the pie factory early?” He gave Sanjay a quick kiss.

“Time off for bad behaviour.” He pulled Dan close for a deeper kiss. He moved Dan so he was balanced on the hood of the car and continued to kiss him.

Dan tried to glance over his shoulder. “You aren’t going to shut the garage door?”

“Why bother? I thought you might like it like this.”

“There’s kids around here.” Dan squirmed off the car.

“I see, it is okay for you to start something but not for me?” Sanjay said and walked into the house.

Dan closed and locked the garage door.

Sanjay was preparing supper when he went into the kitchen. Dan hugged him from behind. Sanjay pried his hands away. “Not while I’m holding a knife.”

“The Unsolved people were by the Depot today. Camera crew and all that.”

“I’ve booked my tickets to Mumbai.” Sanjay said as he washed carrots. “I did not book anything for you, yet.”

“When do you leave.” 

“June 1.”

“When are you coming back?”

“It’s an open end return ticket.”

“Oh? You not planning to come back or something?”

“It is unclear as to how long I’ll be needed there. You know my father isn’t doing well. It could be my last chance to spend time with him.”

“I see. Don’t forget we have Kevin McLeod’s wedding announcement party this week-end. It’ll be a blast.”

“If I don’t have to work.”

“Don’t you know that now? It’s going to be fund raiser for the 519 Church Street Community Centre.”

“Yes. Sylvan has donated some food and of course pastries to the event.” Sanjay turned and leaned on the counter. “Look Dan, I might as well just say this now.”

“Say what?”
“I may not be coming back from India.”

“What! Because of last week?”

“No! I want to build a life for myself.”

“I thought that’s what we were doing here. Us. Isn’t that a life.”

“We’re more like fuck buddies than lovers. We share space not lives.”

“What do you mean? Fuck buddies! Sanjay, fuck buddies don’t meet one another’s families, travel together, own cars together. We might as well be a married couple for how together we are.”

“Exactly but we aren’t, are we.” Sanjay went to the fridge.

“Aren’t what?”
“Married. Dan. Married.”

“So that’s it – marry you or you’ll leave me. Where’s the love in that gun.” Dan watched as Sanjay chopped lettuce.

“Gun?” Sanja asked.

“Yeah, holding the gun of marriage to my head like that. I don’t get it. You were happy enough with the way things were when we couldn’t make it legal.

“Besides aren’t you the one who said there’d be Gay Divorce Court soon. Marriage doesn’t make anything more stable.” Dan lowered his voice. “I thought you cared for me, for us. But what you really wanted was security not a relationship. Right?”

“I do care for you but I just want …”

“What? To move to India?”

“That might be part of it. I hate the winters here. I can’t stand the way people treat me without realizing they are doing it. That I’m just some immigrant. Even though I was born here.”

“I didn’t know you felt that way. Have I ever treated you like that?”
“Not directly. But …” Sanjay paused.

“What!”

“It was with great pride I introduced you to my family. I wanted them to meet my lover. A man of property and substance. To show them that as a gay man I had a real future. But they never acknowledged us. If we were married they might.”

“I’m not going to do that just so you can please your parents.”

“I know that but kept hoping you might change.”

“Perhaps you are the one who needs to change. To stop needing your parents acceptance to be happy with who you are.”

“I was never sure …. you wouldn’t find someone else.”

“I wasn’t looking. What would make you think that?”

“Oh! What about the V-Files? You left your lap top on one night. I noticed and went to turn it off and it was still on that page. You are very popular there, it seems.”

Dan had been looking there the past few nights before going to bed to give a little surge for jacking off.

“That site isn’t for pickups. Or at least I’ve never used it for that.” How could he explain this in a way that made it seem like it wasn’t a threat.

“Then what about TTBurning. He has messaged you many times it seems, to film him again.”

“I’ve never met anyone on that site. That’s not the point of it. It’s for posting …. found footage …. TT thinks he was in some of the found footage that I posted a few months ago.”

“Found? Where do you find it.”

“Mine is from the security cameras around the Depot. The back alley. It often catches more than drunk pissers stumbling around. Sometimes it’s people making out. Hookers with tricks, that sort of thing.”

“People get off on watching that sort of thing?” Sanjay wiped his hands on a tea towel.

“Some do.”
“You?”
“Depends on how much dick I can see.” Dan wanted to stop, but this was the first time he’d hinted to anyone about his fascination with the lane way activities. His cellphone rang.

“Aren’t you going to answer it?” Sanjay snapped. “It might be TTBurning calling for his close up.”

“I told you I’ve never …”

The cell continued to ring.

“Answer it.”

“It can go to voice mail.”

“Answer it.”

“So you’ll know whose calling? Okay.”  He walked into the living room. “Hello? One second.” He took the phone from his ear. “It’s the guy from the TV show.” He put the phone back to his ear. “No I can’t talk now. Yes I’m sure it’s important but call me during business hours.”

Sanjay followed him into the room and sat on the couch. “The other night? Is that that what you wanted? To get us on the security camera so you could post it on the internet for the world to see. Is that what was on your mind?”

“No! I wanted to be spontaneous.” He knew couldn’t tell  Sanjay he was mostly right about wanting to get them on camera. But only for his own personal pleasure. Better no truth than half-truth.

Sanjay’s eyes widened as he looked around. “I suppose there are cameras hidden here too. A couch cam. We’ve made out here often enough for you know the best angle for all the action. In our bedroom?”

“No.”

“What about the one in garage? Is that why you didn’t want to make out there. You thought the angle was wrong?”

“We have a security camera out there, one on the patio, one at the front door. That’s it.”

“The patio?”

“That’s how you knew about the racoons. You pointed them out to me on the monitor. You thought they were so cute till they got into the roof somehow.”

“Too bad you didn’t catch them fucking.” 

“Whatever.” Dan went to the stairs. 

“What about dinner?” Sanjay asked.

“Later. I’m going to take a shower. If you care to join me. There’s no shower cam.”

In the shower he turned the water on full blast, flipped it between hot and cold to see if it would stop his racing mind. Sanjay couldn’t be serious. They’d been so comfortable with each other for so long. He guessed that comfortable wasn’t enough for Sanjay. Was it enough for him? Either way he wasn’t going to be argued into something to save a relationship. If you have to save a relationship then it’s probably not worth saving.

He went to the bedroom, sprawled naked on top of the bed to cool off from the shower. His skin tingled. He could hear Sanjay in the guest room. Drawers opening and closing. He wasn’t packing to leave that night was he? 

He pulled boxers and clean t-shirt on and went down to the kitchen. The unfinished salad was on the counter where Sanjay had left. Dan pushed it into a container and put it in the fridge. He had no appetite.

Upstairs he went to the guest room door. Sanjay was in bed, covers pulled over him. His back to the door.

“Sanj?” he said softly.

“I don’t want to talk anymore.”

“Okay.” Dan went back to his room. From a drawer in the side table he took out a box Sleep Ease and popped two of the pale blue pills out of the blister pack. What was the poem with ‘ends with a whimper’? Well, he wasn’t the one who’d be whimpering, just the one who slept well.

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Picture Perfect 22

The camera started. It had been years since Dan had done this sort of flash reading of a picture. The first one was of a child in a rain coat stooping over a plastic wading pool.

“This top one is commercial. Lighting is controlled. Colors too perfect. It was taken with a Hasselblad, using 1/100 settings, color was tweaked.”

“You can tell tech stuff from looking at a picture.”

“Modern stuff is easier in someway. This was actually shot on film stock as well, not digital.”

The next was Stephanie shaking hands with Brad Pitt at a film opening.

“This is a composite. You were shopped into this picture.”

“What!” Mike glanced at Stephanie. “You told us …”

“How can you tell that?” she asked.

“All in the lighting. Shadows on your face are totally wrong for the shadows on his face. Same with shadows on your clothing.”

“That’s amazing.” she said.

“Basic training.” Dan explained. “Look to the light first. But good job all the same. Nearly seamless. Jack do this?”

“Yes. Are you psychic. Wait! You saw this picture before didn’t you?”

“Never. But I know he specializes is celeb match ups like this.”

“That alone is worth two-fifty an hour.” Mike laughed. 

“Okay. Okay.” Stephanie said. “We’re getting way off track here. Take a look at this last one.”

It was of a young girl in a pretty white dress, veil, hair done up in curls, holding a book in one hand. The face was familiar to Dan. He studied it a few minutes.

“This is one of the children. Paula Morrison. The book is the Catholic missal. Her first Communion? I’m not sure how old you have to be for that. Or is Confirmation? Small cross on a chain around he neck. Her parents were probably quite attached to their parish church.

“Behind her is dark wood panelling. Maybe this was taken in the church itself. Her look is of someone being told to stand still.”

“Spot on.” Stephanie said. “Cyrtys was right about you. You are the real deal. Don’t worry about all this side talk we’ll edit it out.”

“Look I thought you were here to ask about this case not how well I do my work.” Dan got up from the desk. The camera followed him. “It’s not that I mind talking about it but what are you after?”

“Sorry, I guess we got side tracked”  Stephanie shrugged. “You never know when some lead will turn up.”

“Then let’s get this back on course. You know Timmy Dunlop?” John asked.

“We were friends. We met one summer when my Dad stayed in Stellerton for work. We’d see each a few times years. A few times he came to say with us in New Waterford.”

“Do remember when this picture was taken? Take us to that day.”

“We’d been therein Stellerton, since the previous Monday. This was a Monday. We’d been playing cowboys and Indians and robbers. That’s why I had on my cowboy outfit. It was Timmy’s turn to be the sheriff, that’s why he was wearing my badge.”

“What time was this? Was it the last time you saw him?”

“I guess just before supper that day. He went home and we were going to meet the next day to go to the Happy Hippo again.”

“Happy Hippo?” John asked.

“One of those travelling circuses. Small potatoes really. Rides, shooting games, some side shows. Snakes, monkeys.”

“So you went to the circus the next day?”
“No. I didn’t see him. He never called for me like he promised. I was mad and figured he’d gone on his own without me. We left for New Waterford Wednesday. In a bit of a rush.”

“Oh? Why?”

“I never understood. My Dad really didn’t explain much.”

“Was that when you heard about Timmy going missing?”
“I never heard about that till I saw it on your show. I spoke to my mother this week and she says that was part of the reason. All those other children and this being someone so close to home. To be honest I didn’t even know about the other children. We didn’t have amber alerts in those days.”

“So the police never spoke to you about it then?”

“No. Would they have? Maybe they talked to my Dad?” More questions about their move to Toronto came to Dan as they spoke. 

“Your Dad took this picture?”

“Yes. He was always taking pictures of me and my sister. I even found a home movie with Timmy in it and …” He’d become completely unaware of the camera on him and was almost going to mention the saucy pictures.

“And what?” John asked.

“I never got my sheriff’s badge back.”

“Good.” Stephanie said. “I think we got enough. Even though you were a bit difficult downstairs before, you were  really warm on camera.”

“Difficult?” Dan asked.

“That release bullshit.”

“Business is business.” Dan said. He glanced at his cell phone. “That was three hours ten minutes and counting. I’ll invoice you before you leave.”

“You weren’t serious were you?” Stephanie said.

“Will that be cash or credit card.”

“Neither. I can’t expense this like a lunch. About that home movie footage. Of you and Timmy.”

Dan printed out an invoice for her. “When this gets paid we’ll talk.”

She took the invoice, nodded to the crew and they left.

“Think they’ll pay?” Sandy asked.

“Your guess is as good as mine.” He took out his cell to check the time. “Anyone for a coffee?”

“I’m fine.” Ushio said.

“I’ll be at the Carafe if you need me.” Dan needed to get outside to clear his head a little. He hadn’t eaten since his bagel in the morning. 

“Jill around?” He asked Peter as he sat at one of the window tables.

“Nope.” Peter put a coffee in front of him. “She took off early today. I sometimes let her have a little time off.”

“Decent of you.”

“Muffin? Bagel?”

“I … you know I want something but I don’t what it is?”

“The human condition.” Peter laughed. “Let me surprise you.”

“I’ve had my share of surprises for one day.”

“Try this anyway.” He put a plate with an oat-crumbled topped square on it. “Strawberries, dates and pecans. Enjoy. I’m on clean up duty so call out if you need anything.”

Dan had finished half the square when he heard the cafe door ding open. He looked up and it was Robert Warszawa.

“Ushio said I might find you here.”

“Some people hang out in cheap bars after work I hang out in designer coffee shops.”

“There’s been some talk about you and that TV show.” Warszawa sat. “It might not be a good idea for you to get too involved in it.”

“It’s not as if I asked them to air that photo of me and Timmy. I didn’t even know about that till I saw it. That’s pretty much the extend of my involvement.”

“Their researcher has been asking around.”

“Stephanie Carter?”

“Yes. She mentioned that you suggested she might find out more from our files.”

“I did not suggest anything like that to her. She interviewed me this afternoon, as a follow up to my call to them. My Dad did take that photo you know. Not that I knew much then about what was happening around me..”

“I’m sure you didn’t but there’s those who wonder what’s going on.”

“Are they afraid Unsolved will find out something they missed and make the Force look bad?”

“Don’t get pissed at me Dan I was just letting you know, that’s all.” 

“Thanks for the heads up. Then I’ll be on my way.” He went to the door. 

Warszawa followed him. “Can I offer you a lift home?”

“Nah. I got my bike here. I’ll be careful. I won’t do anything to sully the good reputation of the RCMP.”

As he peddled home he wondered what the Division had to worry about. It was an old cold case. They usually welcomed fresh light to help get them solved. Unless there was some ‘discrepancy’ in the initial investigation that would throw a bad light on them. Perhaps force those old files to be reopened for public examination.

He’d have to speak with Cyrtys and Stephanie to find out what what actually going on. He certainly never suggested to Stephanie that she talk to the Force or that she use his name if she did. Considering his history there that wouldn’t have been helpful at all.

After his year at Quantico was hired by the RCMP. His photograph analysis abilities were quickly recognized and he was a rising star until a complaint of sexual harassment was lodged against him. To protect the complainant his identity was kept from Dan. But the fact that the complaint had been lodged was known by many. The investigation found that the complaint was groundless but by then the damage had been done, as far as Dan was concerned. He never found out who the complainant was.

He wasn’t willing to make sure there was always a third person in the room when he spoke with a colleague as was suggested to him to make such allegations never arose again. He opted to leave the service. Some felt he left because he was guilty and the accuser was silenced out of favouritism. A cloud of suspicion never disperses even when there was no grounds for it in the first place.

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Picture Perfect 21

Riding his bike to work Dan was surprised that over the past four days he didn’t mind Sanjay sleeping in the guest room. Having his bed to himself was a pleasant change. No worries about waking Sanjay when he had to go to the can in the night. Not having to pry his arm out from under another body.

The hard part was to not say anything about it. He wrote conversations in his head in which he talked Sanjay into accepting his apology but he didn’t want to have to talk Sanjay into anything. He knew it wouldn’t go on much longer. At least they were warmly civil with each other rather than cold and snarky.

He kept himself in check to avoid saying things that were bitter or hurtful just to teach Sanjay a lesson. So by Thursday Dan was relived to sense a bit of a thaw in things between them.

Though he hadn’t heard anything from Baxter he had been doing his own research on the missing children. He’d printed out articles from newspaper on-line archives. He tapped into school records when he could find them. Some school districts had began to scan and upload class pictures.

Too bad his Dad had cleared out most of the work he had done of that nature. They’d only kept his and Linda school shots. Looking at a couple of those he couldn’t recall the name of a single person in some of them. Not even of the teachers he had had. Much of that memory had been washed away with getting settled in Toronto. The few names he did remember he couldn’t put to faces.

He’d made a more through search of the store’s archives and found a few more old family movies and another file of saucy pictures. What would his mother know about these?

The second set showed the woman’s face in one shot. As is the others her back was mostly to the camera or in profile. In the few full frontals she held her splayed, black gloved, fingers over her face just showing her eyes or mouth in come hither poses. In these she was alone.

They started with the woman dressed in garters, nylons, panties, bra and heels; in each she wore one less garment; by the last one she was nude, spread eagle on a bed – a beaver shot but always wearing heels. He was happy to be spared her dirty feet.

The series started on the studio set but the last few were in a bedroom somewhere. It wasn’t any of the ones in their house, so maybe they took the shoot to a motel. The under lit room had that impersonal look.

There were twenty-two pictures in this set. If it was from a standard roll of 24 that meant there were two missing, maybe a couple that didn’t turn out. The sequence of poses were random enough that he couldn’t guess where the two missing shots might have been.

The body itself was in good shape. He’d guess mid-20’s from the face. But that was hard to tell with the make up the model was wearing. It reminded him of Liz Taylor in Cleopatra – accented eyes and the hair cut square across the eyebrows. No, it was definitely the Betty Page look.

He locked his bike and went into the store.

“Morning, boss man.” Sandy greeted him.

“Morning it is.” He looked at mail by the register. “Paper catalogues! What a novel idea.”

He thumbed through the catalogues. Cameras, camera bags, pants with loads of pockets perfect for any camera man.

“Get a load of these.” He showed the pants to Ushio. “Imagine the clinking sound you’d make with all those pockets filled.”

“How would you keep them up?” Ushio said. “You could never sit down either. You’d have lenses up the butt.”

“Now there’s a camera you need to design.” Sandy said. “The butt cam,”

“It would take shitty pictures.” Ushio laughed.

“The rect-a-cam recked him.” Dan couldn’t stop laughing.

“That asshole sure can take great pictures.” Sandy was gasping for air.

“There was a tripod here a minute ago.” Ushio held his stomach.

“What’s this, Candid Camera?”

Dan caught his breath. It was Stephanie Carter from Quintex. With her was John Kilpatrick, the Unsolved host; a camera woman and a lighting man.

“No. No. Just some crappy camera humour.” Dan said.

This sent Ushio and Sandy into a fit of giggles.

“What brings you and your crew here. Running out of batteries?”

“Didn’t Cyrtys tell you we were coming to interview you?” She said.

“Hi.” John reached out and shook his hand. “I’ll be conducting the interview. This is Francie and Mike.” He introduced the crew.

Dan was a bit confused. He thought Kilpatrick was moving on to another project.

“Uh … Okay. Here?”

“We can start here then move it somewhere more private.” John said looking to Stephanie.

“Cyrtys did tell you we were coming.” Stephanie asked Dan. “That’d I’d be directing the interview?”

“I haven’t heard from him since last week. Unless he sent an email.”

“Nah. The fucker.” Stephanie said. “Just like him. You’re cool with this?”

“This is a work day. How long will it take?” Dan asked.

“Two hours max.” John said. “I’ve done enough of these by now.”

“You’ll have to sign this release before we start though.” Stephanie took out two page form from her briefcase. “Standard stuff.”

“Look, I’m not signing anything without looking it over first. I know copyright law and intellectual property rights. That’s why I don’t do Facebook and the like.”

“What!” Stephanie exclaimed. “I drag a crew here, paying for their time, and now you balk because of intellectual property rights?” She took a deep breath. “We will only talk about Timmy Dunlop. That’s it. We won’t ask about your investigative process but we will certainly make that known as well. It adds to your credibility.”

Sandy looked over the release form. “It is standard stuff, boss, but gives Quintet permission to use the footage in any of their shows not just Unsolved Cold. No mention of payment for other such usage.”

“Think of it as exposure for your business.”

“My business doesn’t need the exposure. Besides you aren’t interviewing me as owner of James Family Photographers are you. That guy only sells cameras. You want to talk to me because of supposed creditability, right.”

“This is more trouble that it’s worth, Steph.” The camera woman said. She and the sound man gathered their equipment and began to leave.

“I’d say do it bossman.”

“Here’s the deal then.” Dan said. “My rate is two-hundred and fifty an hour.”

“Two-fifty!” John exclaimed. “Who you think you are?”

“Someone you want to talk to for starters. That’s what I change any client for my time, materials are extra.”

“What if we don’t get anything we can use?”

“That could happen with anyone you get a release form from right.”

“Right. So where do we go with this next.”

“Start where you were going to start. We got this all on tape anyway. You are agreeing, right.”

“Yes, I, Stephanie Carter on behalf of Quintex Productions agree. Now let’s get to it. We’ve wasted enough time. Your time begins now I presume and not from when we walked in the door.”

“Yes.” Dan looked to John. “What would you like to know?”

“We’re here at the James Photo Depot talking with owner Daniel James.” John read from a script. “Daniel is a photographic forensics expert who has a special interest in the Missing East Coast case. Tell us about your connection to the case.”

“I was watching the episode of Unsolved Cold and recognized the picture of Timmy Dunlop.”

“Recognized it how?” John asked.

“I was in the picture with him. It was a photograph my father took.”

“Stop.” Stephanie said. “Do we have a copy of the picture here? Did you bring one?” She asked Mike as she rooted in her brief case.

“I have the originals upstairs in my office.”

“Excellent.” Stephanie said. “Go up. John you keep talking and Francie you go ahead.

“Look we’re not insured for falling camera people.” Dan said.

“Understood.” Francie said.

They started walking with the crew in front backing up carefully.

“Daniel.” John began. “You’ve become a go to person for the RCMP when it comes to photographic evidence.”

“Go-to? I’m not sure about that but yes, I have assisted on several cases for them.”

“Most recently it was a child porn case.”

“Yes.” Daniel pushed past Francie to open his office door. “I developed soft wear that refines elements in an image for greater clarity and identification. Using it we were able to narrow down the location of some of the photographs that had been circulated.”

John glanced his notes as Daniel got the Timmy photos out of his file.

“Let’s stop here. Everything will be sorted out in editing anyway.” Stephanie said. “Off the record can you tell us how that was done.”

“That info was all in the newspaper. In several of the pictures I saw a similar bedspread but in different room layouts. I isolated that image. That lead us to the manufacturer, to the buyer and ultimately to him.”

“So part of what you do is find details in photographs that the average person might not pick up on.” John asked.

“Yes.”

“Care to demonstrate that for the camera?” Stephanie asked. “It might come in use at some point. I have a feeling.”

“Well, Okay.” Dan agreed.

“We’re here in the office of Daniel James.” John started with the camera on him. 

The camera panned to him. Then to the arm-in -arm photo of him and Timmy that he had put on the table.

“What can you tell us about this picture?” John asked.

“Oh, this is stupid.” Dan said. “I know too much about this picture as it is. I can’t pretend to find things out like that. Besides there wasn’t anything in this picture.”

“Stop.” said Stephanie. “Try a couple of these.” She pulled some photos from her brief case and put them out he table. “Rolling.”

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Picture Perfect 20

A few minutes later Sanjay walked into the lane way.

“Long time no see.” He said as they kissed quickly.

“Yeah. How was the party?”

“Same old. I left before Sylvan could pressure me to help with the service. Feels like I haven’t slept for days.”

“I’m just finishing up here.”

“Anything I can give you hand with?” Sanjay started to roll one of the bins.

“As a matter of fact there is.” Dan grappled with Sanjay from behind and pulled him into the nook. He’d never had sex out there himself. What would that be like. How would it look on the monitors. He could star in his own moment.

“What the fuck.” Sanjay struggled to get away.

“It’s okay.” Dan unzipped Sanjay’s jeans and tried to get his cock out.

“It is not okay. Someone might see us.”

“Not here. Too dark.” He stepped into the darkest corner of the nook. “Can you see me?” Dan knew would be the best spot for the camera to catch any action. He undid his fly and let his erection catch the light.

“Sort of but … that’s not the point.” Sanjay stepped back and into the limited light. “What’s got into you?”

For the time they’d been together Dan had kept his lane way fascination a secret. There didn’t seem to be any of starting a conversation about it with anyone. He didn’t discuss it with his V-Files buddies. He saw no point. But now that he the chance to share it this way with Sanjay was too much for him to resist. He pulled Sanjay back into him and sank to knees. Sanjay pushed away.

“You been drinking or what?”

“No.” Dan said as he finally wrested Sanjay’s thick dick out of his underwear. He lunged forward and got in into his mouth. Was the light right? The angle. It better be for all the work his was doing to get this shot.

“Stop.” Sanjay shoved him hard into the wall. “This isn’t like you.” He shoved his cock back in his pants, did up the fly as he moved away from Dan.

“Sorry.” Dan stood doing up his own fly. A minute more and he would have shot off. “I was just happy to see you. Happy and horny.”

“I can tell.” Sanjay glanced around to see if anyone might have seen them. 

They pushed the bins into the nook. Dan went back into the store to get his bike. He desperately wanted to check the security cameras to see what they picked up. He could access them when he got home.

He strapped his bike to the trunk rack and got in the car.

“Man what a day.” He said. “I’m surprised someone didn’t throw a vcr through the window. Even with the signs saying No VCR’s people insist on bringing them to trade in. They take it personally, as if I was telling they weren’t worth the money, not their tired old equipment. Funny how some people resent being told no.”

“Look, I’m sorry.” Sanjay patted Dan on the knee. “About back there. So you can stop yammering about nothing.”

“I wasn’t.”

“Dan, I know you well enough to know when you are talking around something rather than facing it. I didn’t mind really I didn’t. It was just a bit unexpected.”

“Another time maybe?” Dan said. He knew that the element of the unexpected was a big part for him in making it truly hot. Planning would spoil things too much.

“I doubt it. You know how I feel about …”

“Public displays of affection.”

“Honey that was no display of affection, that was damn near rape.”

“Can’t rape the willing.”

“Or the unwilling.” Sanjay pulled the car into their garage. He handed Dan a plastic bag with some take-out containers in it.

He glanced in the bag as he went into the house. “Chinese?”

“What passes for it anyway.” Sanjay followed him in. “You change and I’ll set the table.”

“Change?”

“You smell like an electronics factory.”

“You don’t like my robot lubricator scent?”

“No more than you do. Now git.”

“Yes, sir. I love it when you tell me what to do.” He took the stairs two at a time. 

“Shower while you’re at it.” Sanjay called up to him.

“What about you?” He called back.

“Did that before I left the pie factory. Be quick so I can do some laundry.”

The water pressure in the house didn’t allow for shower and laundry at the same time. 

When Dam came down Sanjay had set their dinner on the coffee table in the living room.

“Top Chef.” He said. “I have two episodes to catch up on. Start without me. I’ll be right back after I slip into some looser.”

Dan spooned shrimp fried rice, red gooey something done to chicken by a General and some ginger beef onto a plate.

Sanjay came back down in a tank top and sarong. 

“Loose enough?” He asked as he sat down. He took the remote and turned on the TV, found the episodes of Top Chef and pressed play.

“You should try out for that.” Dan said. 

“Not pretty enough.” Sanjay said.

“Doesn’t seem to matter much for this show. The gals can be a bit glam but the guys are truly ordinary. Even chunky.”

“You mean fat. Say it.”

“You know that’s what I mean. I mean hefty. Some of us prefer the hefty handful, as you well know.”

“Shh …” Sanjay glanced him.

Dan finished his plate of food, during the commercial break helped himself to another and got up from the couch. “I’ll leave you to it. I got work to check out anyway.”

“You’re worse than me for always having work to do. Another case?”

“No. Still doing my research on those missing kids.”

“Right.” The commercials were over. “See you in bed.”

Dan went to his desk. Turned on the store computer to see what the monitors might have picked up of his flirtation with with Sanjay. If there was anything he’d send to his personal computer. He’d learned years ago to keep his work computer free of personal files.

He reversed the feed to the approximate time. Yes, there they were. He glanced to make sure Sanjay hadn’t left Top Chef. It happened so quickly Dan had to watch it a few times to see what was happening. None of it was at the right angles for him to see what he longed to see. Sanjay’s cock going into his mouth for a moment. If he had been in the office at the time he could have moved the camera enough to get what he wants. Probably. Damn! What a wasted opportunity.

He set the feed back to the present time. There were some people in the laneway. Perfect timing. Again he checked to make sure Sanjay was still caught up in Top Chef.

It was two people. One was pushing a bundle buggy. The other opened the garbage bin and began rooting in it. Pickers. He was used to that activity. They’s have a field day with the trade in discards. He used to spend time sorting that stuff but when he noticed that it was all often gone by morning before the garbage trucks had been by he stopped being so thorough. 

These two were pretty happy to find what was in the bins tonight. Now this was reality TV. No editing for drama. He shut the work computer off and turned on his personal one. His post on V-Files was still generating likes and looks. He watched it again. Not bad. He shut that computer off as well.

Enough is enough. He stretched and took his dirty dish to the kitchen. Sanjay came in just after him.

“The latino guy was sent packing. I’m not surprised though. Would think these guys had never watched Top Chef they keep making the same mistakes year after year.”

“I guess that’s part of the screening. Have you even seen Top Chef before?” he adopted a comic bass voice. “We have ways of making you cook.”

Sanjay laughed. 

“I’m going to turn in.” Dan said. “Its been an exhausting day. An exhausting week in fact. Missing children, Cuppa threat, RCMP looking for clues, me looking at my past.”

“What about your past?”

“Stuff about when we moved here. The why. Stuff about Timmy Dunlop that I was too young to realize or understand I guess. Funny how childhood can be rewritten when new facts come to light.

“I thought Timmy visited me because he missed me but it was most likely to escape abuse in his own home. We just happened to offer safe shelter. And … ” he almost told Sanjay about the soft-core porn he’d found. He didn’t know what to make of that himself. 

“And?”

“Nothing. Just thinking aloud. You coming up soon?”

“In a bit. I’m still unwinding.”

“By watching other chefs?”

“Yeah, not having to worry about supervise them is soothing for some reason. I’ll be up once my laundry is done.”

Dan yawned. He was falling asleep on his feet. 

Dan woke to Sanjay muttering as he got into the bed.

“What is it.” Dan asked.

“You never put away after yourself.”

“What?”

“Your laundry was all over the laundry room. I had to fold it up and put it away before I could do my own.”

“Sorry.” Without opening his eyes he reached over to where Sanjay was. “I’ll do it the morning. Promise.” He drifted back to sleep.

He woken again sometime later to go the bathroom. Sanjay was no longer in the bed. In the dark he made his way to the washroom. He peeked into the other room and Sanjay was there reading a book in a dime light.

“Can’t sleep?” Dan sat on the edge of the bed.

“Guess not.” Sanjay looked up from his book. 

“You still sore about before. In the lane way?”

Sanjay pulled Dan to him and pushed him onto the bed, kissing him.

“Stop.” Dan pulled away.

“Oh!” Sanjay stopped. “It is okay for you to … to ambush me in public but not okay for me to do the same in private.”

“I get your point. I said I was sorry. What more can I say.”

Sanjay pushed his blanket down.

“Say you want to suck this.” He pushed Dan’s head onto his cock.

Dan struggled to get away but couldn’t. 

“Suck it. You know you want to?” Sanjay said. “Suck it.”

Dam opened his mouth and as he began to suck Sanjay pulled him away.

“That is how I felt. Violated. Did you think I would get off on being violated like that.”

“Sanjay, it’s not as if we were strangers. Not as if we have never had sex before. We’ve done it on the patio, in the car that time. Remember you pulled over so hot from that movie we’d seen. You had to get blown there and then.”

“That was different. In the car you had been touching me. You had started things, I merely let you have your way.”

“Okay I get it.” Dan started to stand.

Sanjay pulled him back to the bed. 

“You starting something you want me to finish?” Dan pulled his t-shirt off over his head.

“No. I just wanted to kiss you good night.”

Sanjay kissed him lightly on the mouth and pushed him way from the bed.

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Picture Perfect 19

His cell phone rang. Sanjay on picture call display.

“Hey babe.” Dan said. “What’s the story?”

“Its getting to be repetitious. I’m stuck here at Zephyr for the night prep shift. I may not get home till breakfast. There’s a major fund raiser here Sunday night and you know is overseeing all the dessert preparations.”

“Poor boy.”

“Worse part is that some of them have to be gluten and nut free and cooked in a place not contaminated by either of those two nasty substances.”

“How do they get plated?”

“Oh, there’ll be separate rooms for everything and I suppose guests in one room will be forbidden to mingle with guests from the others.” Sanjay laughed. “Assault by walnut air kiss. I wonder if that is a criminal offence.”

“You love a challenge.”

“Quite true. Not seeing you is enough of a challenge for me. How was your day.”

He went through the trade-in business, the Cuppa’s take over of the nail salon, even the drop by visit from Warszawa.

“That him I hear in the background?” Sanjay teased.

“That’s just me beating off to the sound of your voice.”

“A pretty picture indeed. I better go they are calling for me. There are two cleaning crews here now and I have yet to find a space that is guaranteed gluten and nut free. Oh my head. Kisses.”

“Kisses.”

When he woke in the morning Sanjay was not in the guest bedroom. The times when he was caught in an all-nighter he would sleep at the restaurant so Dan wasn’t too worried.

He checked his email. Nothing of note. He couldn’t resist checking the V-Files. His post was now viral on the site, endless comments saying pretty much the same thing. Enough in his tip jar to pay for access to the site for a year. Some private comments had been posted to his mailbox there. A couple were invites by women to get in touch, one from a guy who claimed to be the man in the picture.

The way the site worked, to maintain anonymity as much a possible, was that locations were not cited on the actual clips or comments, but if someone posted you privately you would see where their post came from. Even if that information was unsure Dan knew how to reply posts via an off-island server. You never knew if anyone really was on line.

He deleted all the posts in his box there. He never replied to them. He wasn’t there to meet up only to share.

Dan arrived at the shop to find Ushio was already busily going through the pile of trade-ins. The day after the sale the shop was closed for inventory taking. Japanese Kpop blared from the store’s sound system.

“You’re here early.” Dan said loudly as he slipped off his shoulder bag. 

“Much work to do.”

“So I see.”

The bin for Goodwill was already half-full. 

“I forget to give you this yesterday. We were so busy.” Ushio handed Dan a dvd. “It is the movie you gave me to translate …. I mean transfer.”

“Thanks. I’ll look at it later.”

He went over the array of cameras that had been traded-in. The more complete they were – complete meant cables and rechargers – the better the trade in. Some were still in their original boxes. Too bad they weren’t top of the line.

He took several of the incomplete cameras up to the third floor worship where they kept a supply of various cables, batteries and chargers. At least once a day someone would into the store looking to replace cables that been lost, eaten by the dog, dropped in the washing machine. Their complaint was invariably why wasn’t there a universal plug like the usb that could be used on any device. But each company had its own connector and even those weren’t consistent for all devices made by the same company.

He could tell at a glance what cable was needed. Occasionally they’d get some freakish foreign model that had no North American equivalent and no adapter would fit it.

He glanced at the first camera got the correct cable and plugged it into the computer. The memory card was blank and the battery began to recharge automatically when he plugged it in.

The next was an Olympus that had no battery or memory card. Sandy probably took one look at the brand name and accepted it. He put it to one side to deal with later. 

It took him about thirty minutes to go through the ones he had brought up to test. He tagged each one with a post-it note as to what cables, batteries, memory cards they needed. With some he did a test shot to make sure the circuits were working. One memory card had several wedding pictures left on it which he cleared off. If they traded in the camera they probably traded in the bride or groom too.

Once that was done he played the dvd that Ushio had transferred for him.

At first he wasn’t sure what he was looking at. It was blur of out of focus coloured lights. The camera pulled back. It had been pushed into a Christmas tree. The lights and ornaments became clearer. He had shot this himself. His father had kidded him about trying to be too arty.

There were closeup of reflections in shiny Christmas balls. His mother drinking a cup of tea he’d shot though the needles of the tree, weird angles on gift wrap, some clearly shot with him lying on the floor. There was his sister looking down at him then pretending to stomp on him with her foot. The last of it was him rolling in the snow with someone. Timmy!

Right. Timmy had arrived that year on Boxing Day. He had a black eye from a snowball fight before he came to visit. No wait that wasn’t a visit. From what Warszawa found out that was Timmy running away from something. Surely his parents must have known that all along.

That was when Timmy would sneak into his bed and snuggle up to him. That was the first time he played with Timmy’s cock while Timmy played with his.

The reel came to an end. He reversed it to see what he had missed in the surge of memories.

Once the bulk of the trade-ins had been sorted and tested and were ready to be tossed, kept or okay to be donated, Dan let Ushio out the back way.

Dan started to push the store’s garbage bins to the nook. He recalled the first time he became aware of the activity that happened back there. 

The family was living on the third floor of the building. His bedroom was the corner room and had two windows – one on each wall. One window overlooked the lane way. He was coming on fifteen and aware he was gay.

In those years there was a bar on the corner where the office complex now stood. Rafters Bar and Grill. He could never figure out why it was called Rafters. Loud with rock on weekends his mother called the police more than once after midnight about the noise.

The laneway behind the photo shop was used by men and sometimes women late at night who needed to take a leak after a night of drinking. He would sometimes hear them knocking over the garbage cans, swearing, even fighting with one another.

More than once he spied on couples making out down there thinking they were safe. Or did they hope to be detected. If they were too noisy in their making out his mother would open a window and shout down at them that she had called the cops.

If he was restless at night he’d sit at the middle window on the second floor that gave an ideal view of the nook. He’d hope for someone to wander in to relive themselves. If he was lucky he’d have a ring side seat for a make out session.

To see a man’s cock appear out his pants got him hard. So hard he’d off ejaculate without having to touch himself.

His mother was so disgusted with the ‘abuse’ the lane way got she wanted it properly fenced and gated to stop people from using it, but as it was a shared lane she’d need to get all the other buildings on either side of it to agree. All she managed to do was to get that nook boarded over.

Dan wasn’t sure what the old factory warehouse next to his building was being used for these days. It had gone through many hands over the years. For a time it was used for raves. Several years it was a performance space, sometimes artist lofts would appear then go, a gallery. Last he heard it was to be converted to condos but that hadn’t happened yet.

After this sister married and his Dad moved them to real house, the renovations of their shop space began in earnest. One thing Dan saw to was getting the laneway fenced and had the hoarding his mother had put up to cover the nook removed.

He said the space was the perfect spot for garbage bins, which is was. He also made sure was kept clear of bins except on nights when garbage was to be collected. 

His cell rang. It was a text from Sanjay. “Out front. Want a lift home?”

Dan texted back. “Round back.”

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Picture Perfect 18

Dan locked up once Ushio and Sandy left the shop. He went to the back to make that the laneway door was secure. He put the day’s take in the safe hidden in his office. Everything that looks like a planter is not always a planter. 

He went up to the third floor to double check that all the security systems were activated. He enjoyed viewing the empty rooms. Cameras were all function and recording. There was still activity at the Classic as they prepared for that night’s poetry show. Damn he missed the book launch.

Some activity in the laneway caught his attention. It was a man and woman. They stopped in a dark recess in the building on the other side of the lane and began making out. 

He tapped one of the back camera to swivel it for a better view. Zoomed in a little at the same time. The woman was one of the sex-trade workers in the area. He’d frequnetly find used condoms back there, evidence of their work.

The man wasn’t interesting in being kissed though. With his back to the wall he was pushing her down to his groin. He moved enough so that Dan had a nice view of the cock as the hooker pulled it out of his pants. The guy’s dick reflected some of the street light. It wasn’t visible long enough for Dan to see the whole of it before the hooker had it in her mouth. Dan zoomed a bit closer. He wished he had a camera at that level rather than from this angle.

He watched the woman’s head as it moved up and down the cock, her hand squeezing as she did so. The man pulled her hand away. Said something. She adjusted her position and went back to work on his cock. Once more he pushed her hands away.

The guy’s hips moved rapidly and he pulled her away and came on her her face. She jumped up and smacked him. Guess she didn’t want her makeup ruined.

The guy laughed as he put his cock back in his pants and pulled up his fly. The woman turned and left the laneway. The guy followed a few steps then turned back to the nook. Pulled out his dick again and pissed into the corner. The street light made the yellow stream even more yellow. He left.

Dan sighed. He was hard. That sort of action always got him aroused. Sometime he’d jack off watching. He pressed reverse and as the scene replayed he had it sent to his computer at home into a file called LaneWay Play.

This time he watched the the man’s face, what expression he could make out in the lighting of the lane way. He’d kept that area deliberately darker than the rest of the alley so it would be inviting for this sort of thing. Mostly pissing men but every once in a while it would really pay off with a great show like this one.

He was still hard when he wheeled his bike out to the street. Sanjay would be in for a repeat performance for sure. He replayed the scene in his mind – the moment of the cock going into the mouth was always his favourite. He loved the way this guy wouldn’t let her use her hands to hurry the orgasm, clearly he wanted to get his money’s worth. His coming back for a piss was icing on the cake.

He locked his bike in the garage. The car wasn’t there which meant Sanjay wasn’t home yet. Would this hard on wait?

In the kitchen there was note on the fridge that said ‘Plan B.’ This was Sanjay’s signal that he’d be home later than usual and would sleep in the smaller bedroom so as not to disturb Dan when he got home. Plan B came up at least once a week. 

He grabbed some left-over chicken from the fridge and gnawed on it as he went up stairs. Why did chicken always taste better cold?

He dropped his clothes in the laundry hamper after making sure there wasn’t anything in the pockets. More than once he’d found a stray thumb-drive; sometimes cash he’d shoved in to save time doing trade-in sales. This time there was nothing.

After his shower he put on his sleep boxers and a tee, took the hamper down to the laundry room in their basement, sorted coloured from white and tossed in a load. He went back to his desk and turned on his computer. Other than camera equipment spam there was nothing of note.

He opened up the file he had sent himself from the store. He did one screen capture of the man’s face then ran it through a program that would fuzz the face whenever it appeared in the clip. For the women he only fuzzed out her eyes because he didn’t want to loose a pixel of that cock going into her almost eager mouth. 

He kept a copy of the unadulterated version for his own files. Edited the scene down to the point when the woman went to her knees, to her wiping the come hitting her face. He posted it to V-Files – the name and logo was a take off on the X-Files. There were almost instant likes for it. 

He checked his account there once every couple of weeks. If he looked at it more often it lost its appeal. He didn’t care for the picture quality of a lot of what was posted. Too much pussy eating for him as well. His posts were amongst the most popular though. Partly excuse he had better quality images and also because he took the time to do some editing. Most of the guys who subscribed to the site didn’t want to waste time going though the lead up, they wanted the action.

He did a quick search for the content that interested him. Skipped ones where the woman’s finger nails were too long, ones that looked too much like inserts from real porn movies. He stopped to watch one that took place in the back seat of a car. Two guys for change. One of them holding a phone cam as the other went down on him. The cam bobbed a little and at times he caught a glimpse of the driver looking from the front seat. Perfect, watching a watcher. Was the driver jerking off as he looked? How much more meta could it get?

Even though he was disappointed when he footage ended without a come shot Dan watched it twice while he jacked off on a towel he brought along, just in case. One more thing to wash. He tossed something in the ‘tip jar’ for the clip. Checked his account once more and saw that his recent upload now had nearly a thousand likes. Lots of lonely men home tonight.

He went to the basement, took out the first load, tossed the towel into the second. Hung the first load on clothes lines suspended from the ceiling. Saved money on dryer usage.

 

Back at his desk he pulled up the pictures of the missing children. Each was so innocent as they looked into the camera.

First was Madeleine, aged 9, and Gerrard Forestier, aged 7, sister and bother. Last seen walking along the road that ran through their orchard in Annapolis Valley. She was bringing him home from their grandparents farm. Both parents and grandparents had assumed the children were safe with the other. It wasn’t until morning they realized the children were gone.

The segment on them included brief video clip of the two children running around a living room at Christmas, jumping on a couch and then Gerrard cuddling up to an older woman Dan assumed to be the grandmother.

In one photo Madeline was on a swing, looking a little sad. She was wearing a sleeveless summer dress that had big daisies all over it. No shoes just her socks, which were dusty. From the shadows Dan figured this was toward evening.

The picture of Gerrard was taken in winter. He was wearing a one piece snow suit. He was chewing on the thumb of his glove as he look at the camera, eyes squinting from the light reflected from the snow. From the shadows Dan placed this one at noon.

The pictures were probably from the year before the children vanished. They looked to be 7 and 9. Image quality, even as printouts, was similar enough to have been from the same camera. He’d need to see the originals or negatives to know that for sure. Not that that was relevant to what happened them. 

He heard the washing machine stop in the basement and went down to hang the seconds load. Was that leak around the machine’s connection to the hot water line?

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Picture Perfect 17

“Pounding the beat on a Saturday Sergeant?” Ushio said.

“I’ll pound the beat on his head.” Warszawa muttered as he shook Dan’s hand.

“He does have a point Inspector.” Dan emphasized the correct title. “Or is this a case where the beat goes on and on?”

“Not you too?” Warszawa said. “As you should remember, Dan, some job are twenty-fours, even if you aren’t being paid for twenty-fours hours. You know I have dreams about some cases.”

“I dream of cameras.” Sandy said pulling of her work gloves. “And cool hands.”

“I dream of Acid Black Cherry.” Ushio started dreamily over their heads.

“Who?” Warszawa asked.

“Japanese pop.” Dan said. 

“Oh so right, sir.” Ushio giggled.

“Lucky guess.” Dan said to Warszawa. “So what brings you in here on a Saturday. Work for me I hope.”

“Can’t I just drop by to see how you are doing?” Warszawa asked.

“Since when does a twenty-four hour man have time to just drop by.” Dan stepped away from the counter and nodded overhead to his office.

“It’ll only take a few minutes.” Warszawa said.

Dan’s office was stuffy from not having been used the past couple of days. He flipped on the air circulator.

“I’ve done some checking into that case you asked me about.” Warszawa sat in the chair facing the desk.

“Case?” Dan didn’t recall asking to have anything check into.

“Yeah, that boyhood buddy of yours who vanished.” He took some papers out his sport coat’s breast pocket. “Timothy Dunlop.”

“What! He has a rap sheet?”

“No. No. I looked into the cold case. It’s pretty much what the show reported but they left out a lot. Like Timothy’s dad swearing the boy had run off to be with his mother.”

“But he lived with his mother.”

“That was his step-mother in Stellerton. His real mother was in Newfoundland. He didn’t turn up there.”

“That seems pretty obvious.”

“Does now, but at the time he wasn’t considered one of the abducted children. It was Unsolved Cold that included him.”

“Hmm? Maybe that’s why my folks didn’t say much to me. They might have thought he was Newfoundland too. But my mother and sister both  act as if there was something else going on, you know.”

“Something else?”

“Some sort of family issue. Anything else?”

“Did he visit you in New Waterford.”

“A couple of time.”

“Actually those were also run away episodes.”

“What? I knew he didn’t like his Dad but … I didn’t realize that was why he was there. Hiding out. He said our place was his favourite hide out.”

“His Dad, on the other hand did have, as you called it, a rap sheet. You’ve watch too much bad TV since you left the force. B&E, assault, sexual assault, extortion. Finally died in a crash. Trying to outrun the RCMP on his motorcycle. He had been considered a suspect in Tim’s disappearance. Getting rid of the boy so it would look he was one of the abducted children.”

“Was he ever discounted?”

“There was never enough evidence to link him. He was in the Halifax drunk tank at the time Tim went missing.”

“And his step-mother Mrs. Dunlop?”

“She’s still alive. In Stellarton in fact.”

“Unsolved Cold seems to have left out a lot.”

“To be fair they may not have had access to our files. They just used newspaper reports and put this pieces together. Pieces we didn’t then.”

“Why not?”

“Lack of communication between divisions. Remember they we didn’t have the instant net we have today.”

“Could I see the files on the other children?”

“Now Dan you know that isn’t going to happen. What I’ve already told you is just between us. But I can tell you one thing …”

“What?” His cell rang. “Damn. …. Okay I’ll be down in five. They need me downstairs.”

“Another time then.”

“Tell me.” Dan asked as they walked down the stairs. “What was the one thing.”

“There were more.”

“More?”

“Yes there were more children. The others were natives. They police themselves.”

He went to the store and there was only a handful of customers.

“Where’s the big rush?” He asked.

“Ah, Mr. James.”

He turned around and it was Hamid.

“Miss James asked me to bring this over directly when it had arrived.”

He handed Dan a box wrapped in silver foil with a tag that his name printed on it and nothing else.

“A courier brought to the store this afternoon. It was felt it would be best if we accepted it and brought it to you.”

He took the box. It was about the size of a squared off extra large coffee cup. He shook it gently by his ear. All he heard was the foil.

“There haven’t been any reports of bombs lately, Warszawa?”

“No! You think someone is out to get you?”

“After some of the appraisals I did today I wouldn’t be surprised if there were reprisals.”

The wrap was seamless. He turned it over looking for where it had been taped shut. The tag was held on by a thin chain the merged with the corner it was attached to.

“Just pull Goddamn thing.” Sandy said. “By the tag. Give it a tug.”

He put the box on the counter and held it gently with one hand while pulling the tag up with the other. Nothing happened.

“Try pulling down then.” Sandy suggested.

He did and the chain tore through the foil to the bottom of the box.

“Amazing.” Ushio leaned to look closer. “How was that made?” 

Dan was able to peel the foil off, like unwrapping a candy. Inside was a clear plastic box with a crystal bottle of amber coloured cologne. Adhering the the inside of the foil wrap was a card that said. “Ashely is thrilled with the Lyphend. Not as much as I was with your service. I  sensed that you enjoyed this scent. Jeremy.”

“Who is it from?” Sandy asked.

Dan pocketed the note before anyone else could see it. “A satisfied customer.”

“You must be selling more than cameras to get a gift like that.” Warszawa wagged his eyebrows.

Dan reddened. “Thank you Hamid. Now back to work everyone. That means you too Inspector. Unless you want to dust this for prints?’ He made as if to hand the silver foil to Warszawa.

“Only if I found it on the floor of your boudoir.” He went to the front door. “I’ll be in touch.”

The rest of the afternoon passed quickly as they appraised the usual assortment of cameras, tripods, and other such stuff. One was an electronic device none of them could figure out what the use for it was. Even the owner was unsure of what it was.

“That clears out most of our last Christmas stock.” Sandy said.

“There are a few things I can recondition.” Ushio said. “They will be better than new when I am done.”

“I’ll sort through the camera bins,” Dan looked over the boxes of trade-ins. “What we can’t reclaim we’ll pillage for parts and send the rest to Goodwill on Monday.” He knew he was looking at an afternoon’s work.

“Okay bossman. I’ll do the same with the audio equipment.” Sandy pulled on her work gloves.

“Which leaves me the particle separator diffuser.” Ushio said.

“The what!” Dan said.

Ushio held up the mystery electronic device.

 

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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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