Halloween 2022

pull up a chair

Walking the side streets in east end Toronto I see that Halloween decor is getting as popular as Christmas decorating. Houses with strings or orange lights, some with illuminated spiders, ghosts or skulls , plus the growing variations of inflatables. Giant grinning cats with heads that rotate back-and-forth. Shelves of candy – now mostly little chocolate bars – at Shoppers, WalMart & supermarkets. 

As a youngster in Sydney, Cape Breton the only decoration one might see was carved pumpkins with candles inside. We used pillowcases to go door-to-door for trick-or-treating. The candy was usually those toffy/taffy kisses, apples or oranges, & if you were lucky small bags of chips. Sometimes a small bag of unshelled peanuts. Those little chocolate bars hadn’t been invented then lol. Now one has to provide bars that have no nuts! I guess soon we’ll have to find some sort of sugar-free chocolate bar too, or ones with no trans fats. Sorry, but I’ll leave the sorting of treats to parents.

Store bought costumes – cowboys, pirates etc. Or something homemade – old sheets reprised as ghosts, your Dad’s oversized sports coat sort of things. Rarely a superhero & nothing that lit up with led’s. Costumes to school if Halloween fell on a school night. It was an innocent time. At that age I had no awareness of the pagan roots of event. I later discovered it was one of the few ‘old religion’ holidays that the Church couldn’t erase turn into their own – they did try with All Saints Day but well, we don’t see illuminated Saints on peoples front lawns. A giant inflatable St. Teresa hovering in the air would be fun though.

In the past decade, here in Toronto, the decorating for the event has gotten bigger & more macabre – severed hands, feet, heads suspended from trees, skeletons hanging on front porches, zombi arms digging themselves out of the ground. Bats, spiders, plastic skeletons of dogs, owls, dinosaurs even spiders (which have no skeletons). It is easy to guess which house has children by the number of doll limbs dangling in the trees.

Halloween 2021:

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Cape Breton Calendar Boy

Cape Breton Calendar Boy

I recently ordered a scenic Cape Breton 2023 calendar. (from: The Best of Cape Breton Gift Shop: https://bestofcbgiftshop.ca) I love the photos but I’m more into the ‘old times’ not the ‘today’ on the island – I doubt if these pictures will ever show their ‘age’ & could be for any of last 10 or next 10 years. I prefer vintage photo calendars like these promotional political calendars from 2000, 2009, 2010. My Dad sent me the first one, then my sister sent the others. Were they published in the between years? I don’t know. 

But these were very smartly put together with excellent, fun archival photographs. Many photos of streets in Sydney. My favorite shots are the groups – high school hockey teams, well-dressed teens at a high-school prom, cadets in formation. Looking at them I think ones similar to these would be great fund-raisers. I would certainly buy one of, say, Sydney Academy class photos over the decades or one of local hockey teams over the decades, pee-wee baseball anyone?

On some of these are notes of things I was doing here in Toronto. The August 2000 reminds me that I went to the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-lake to see a production of Lord of the Flies. The July 2009 reminded me I saw Chekov’s Three Sisters at the Stratford Festival that month. June 2010 – nothing noted so a quiet month, I guess. 

But in July 2010 I attended the Writer’s Workshop that was a part of The Loyalist Summer Arts program in Bellville. This was all before I started the TOpoet blog so no links to these past events 😦 I only know I saw Lord of the Flies by checking the Shaw Festive web site to see what shows were in that season. Calendars – thanks for the memories 🙂

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Garden Glance

Thanks to sunny days & persistent watering my garden is doing nicely this year. I rarely post pictures of it as so many people do better flower pictures no one needs a stunning rose with a single raindrop on a petal picture from me 🙂 So there’ll be nothing of that sort in this glimpse. Beside the soil in the yard, thanks to the towering fir tree, is too acidic for roses.

On my back steps I have herbs along with standard petunias, marigolds & several varieties of morning glory. As you see by the photo I’ve been ‘training’ the vines to grow along the eaves. These will be mainly heavenly blue. They are climbing string that I’ve put up for the, they do need to be reminded to follow the string though.

Along the shady side the back porch I have moonflower vines being trained in the same way. The twine loops across the window so I hope to enjoy themwhen This is the first year these here. Moonflower blooms at night & too much sunlight slows them down! In the basket with them are some coleus, which also prefer shade & they are doing very well here.

Not everything in the garden was planted by me, or anyone else! These petunias self-seeded along the back steps – the seeds are from the ones I had in a planter box last summer. The morning glories beside them are also self-seeded from last year. There’s even one, at the top of the photo, growing out of a crack in the steps. The will to live.

I ordered my elephant ear bulbs (Colocasia) on line as I didn’t find a nursery that had the bulbs. I’ve had them in the past but digging them up every fall was too much work. These I put in a pot about eight weeks ago. Once sprouted they grew quickly & will continue to grow to about 6 ft with huge ears. It’ll winter inside & next spring I’ll consider planting in the ground to see if I can get them to their full height & size.

This is only a portion of the garden. The rest can be seen by appointment only lol.

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Buried Moons Drums and Caramel 

Over the past year of so I’ve rediscovered some of my childhood treats at a local supermarket – things that Shopper’s never has on their shelves. I can’t say that I longed for them but trying them again after decades did bring back some sweet memories of growing up in Sydney.

I can remember buying the individual Half-Moon’s at Flubs (I think that’s what it was called) a family run corner store (St. Peters Rd at Ashby). Cellophane wrapped & merely a sugary cloud with nearly no texture or much flavour. There was also a chocolate version but Preferred the bland vanilla. The current version is smaller, has less cream filling & remains relatively flavourless.

I was allowed one a week & would usually buy it on my way home from school. It took less than a minute to eat but was totally satisfying. For some reason there has never been a 100% whole wheat version lol. Flubs also had home-made molasses candies I loved & super moist molasses cookies.  

Another one is Ah Caramel – the name of which I forgot until I saw a package on the shelf – these are smallish squares of cake with a ring of cream filled with caramel on top & all dipped in chocolate. They came in cello packs of two, so you could share one. Like the half-moons these are smaller than I recalled. Thanks to the chocolate & caramel they actually have flavour & though the chocolate shell is too thin to give it much of a texture.

Then there is the Drumstick – ice cream filled sugar cone dipped in chocolate & the top rolled in peanuts. In my day there was only one vanilla kind – now there is a range with chocolate, crushed oreo cookie, fillings but still dipped in chocolate & rolled in peanuts. I’ve tried them all but I prefer the traditional. Sadly another one that has been sized down but still large enough to satisfy.

Finally, one that I haven’t found is Buried Treasure – orange sherbet & vanilla ice cream on a plastic stick. As you ate the ice cream, a figure, your buried treasure, would appear on the stick. As I remember it actually tasted like orange! I wish I still had some of my treasures – I loved the circus lion. Buried Treasure is no longer available 😦 I guess it is not the sort of hand-held device to keep children amused.

What were your favorite childhood treats.

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Did anyone every send away for these gifts?

(Buried Treasure/Popcicle images sourced from internet)

Picture Perfect 124 

Picture Perfect 124

“What the fuck.” Dan checked flights on his cell and there was one in an hour but unless he could teleport he couldn’t get to the airport in time. 

“Peter.” He took the steps two at a time. 

“I’m ready, sir.”

“Something important’s come up. I have to get to the east coast asap. There’s a flight in an hour that if I rush I can get to. Pack a few things for me while I get a seat.”

As he was booking a seat there was a notification that the flight would be delayed by up to an hour. If he hurried he might make it in time.

“Can you get two?” Peter said. “Don’t look at me like that, sir. I don’t have to work tomorrow. It’s my day off.”

“You sure you want to be a part of this … adventure?” Sanjay had rarely shown any interest in Dan’s life out side their house.

“Of course. After the all excitement last time I want more. Maybe you’ll find the Oak Island treasure.”

“Adrenaline junkie.” Dan got two seats and texted for a cab. “Done.”

He sent a reply text to Corporal Coster explain the flight delay. 

“Then do up your fly. sir, and we’re out of here.”

The taxi arrived as Dan set the house security lock. He promised the driver an extra fifty if he could get them to the airport within thirty minutes. They got to the flight gate just as the flight was being called.

“Not how we expected to spend the night.” Dan said. “What really possessed you to want to come.”

“You were so impulsive when we got in the house I figured I’d show you I can be impulsive too. Dan James I love you.” He kissed Dan and wouldn’t let him pull away,

“Gentlemen,” a steward interrupted them. “Please fasten your seat belts.”

“Now, what’s the big rush?” Peter asked as the plane took off.

“They found Winston Chamberlain’s body. Constable Coster said there was evidence about the missing children I had to see. And that it couldn’t wait until morning.”

“It’s like being in a movie. Do you think there’ll be  car chase? I’ve always dreamed of being in a car chase.”

“You know, I did too, when I was in high-school. Seeing those Bond movies, I would wonder if gay spies existed. Wouldn’t that be wild. Every man he meets going weak in the knees to please him like every woman in every spy movie did for the dangerous spy. Even the lesbians wanted him.”

“Did you always want to be a photographer? When you were growing up.” Peter asked.

“If you mean, did I long to take pictures of weddings, the answer is no. I knew I was going be doing something with cameras. They fascinated me. The mechanics. I fantasized about discovering a new way of developing film so that you could relive it when you looked at it.”

“Like high-def amateur porn, you mean?” Peter said.

“I suppose. Sure why not, if it weren’t for online porn there be no internet shopping. Besides being an amateur porn star, what sort of dreams did you have as a kid”

“Same one I still have. Writing a novel.”

“I’ve heard your stuff at the Carafe salons. You can do it.”

“Thanks. I did that short-story workshop and it was sort of discouraging.”

“Not everyone is going to like what you write.”

“No, it was nothing like that but the prof & even the guest writers he brought in, made it sound like I’d have to become a promo agent as well as a writer. Or for a reasonable fee they would become my promo agent.”

“I see what you mean. But you haven’t stopped writing.”

“No! What do you think I don when you aren’t here? Watch TV sniffing your undies.” Peter laughed. 

“I guess not but I’ll kick your ass if you stop writing.”

“Really! There’s other things I’d rather you do to my ass.” Peter squeezed Dan’s thigh.

“Careful now or the steward will come over again.”

“Let him.” Peter giggled “To be honest that’s one of the reasons I came along.”

“So we could finish what we started?”

“That’s right. I couldn’t resist a thousand kilometre fuck. You did reserve a hotel?”

“Oh shit! I didn’t. I have to make sure there’s a rental too.” Dan texted the Waterside & one of the Quintex cabins was available.

“Cool.” Peter said. “This is the sort of excitement that inspires me, you know. Life actually happening as opposed to thinking of tender words to expose deeply wounded past events.”

“Ah.” Dan nodded.

“You know this is one of the few times we’ve just talked, with you on the go so much & both of us so horned up when we we do get together.”

“I know. I know. I keep waiting for things to calm down so we can spend quiet time together. We will, I promise.”

“You sure, sir?”

“Yes. I’ll need a vacation once all this wrapped. If they want another season I’ll demand a break.”

It was raining when the plane landed. 

“I should have brought an umbrella.” Peter said as they got into the rental.

“Here’s the plan.” Dan said. “We’ll go directly to the Hippo museum.”


“That’s were Coster said they found the body. You drop me off and go to the motel. I texted you the reservation information. If they give you any trouble text me. When you get the room text me.”

“I thought you’d take me with you?”

“To a crime scene? There’s be enough going on without adding an audience – no matter how adoring – to the mix .”

Dan pulled into the parking lot. It was dark except for a pool of light at the entrance. He could see some car hoods.

“I guess they’ve taken the body. No ambulance.” He got out of the car. “I’ll let you know how long when I know how long.”

“How’ll you get back?”

“Coster or one of the team will drive me back.”

He waved as Peter drove away. He pulled his jacket hood up and ran to the museum door. As neared it he realized he had left his shoulder bag in the car. His cell was in it. There should be one here he could use.

The doors were locked. 


He rattled the door & peered through the window see see if her could catch someone’s attention. There was some light deeper in the museum. He stepped inot the rain to see if there was any lights on the second floor. Was he too late?

Something enveloped his head.

“Just breathe.” A voice rasped.

He lost consciousness.

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I Love My Shirts

A few months ago I watched a British series ‘ Stitch In Time’ in which the fashion historian host, with her team of specialists, replicates clothing worn in famous oil paintings – giving us a context for the painting & the fabrics used etc. Sometimes they went to an archive that had actual clothing made in the period in question. It led me to think of the oldest clothing I now owned.

My mother was a seamstress, making clothes for herself & my sisters most of the time. She wasn’t fond of the construction of collars or putting in button holes but I did get her to make me a few shirts. On my semi-regular trips from Sydney to Halifax I would buy albums & fabric. The stores in Sydney didn’t carry ‘fun’ prints & as far as I remember, there were stores dedicated to fabric just departments at Zellers etc. I found these at a sort of Fabricland in Halifax.

I had two of the movie star shirts. This one in blue with the brown insert & one in brown with blue insert – both in this sort of western style. I made sure it had the Frankenstein monster pocket. The fabric is a heavy cotton, almost denim. I loved wearing these because of the campiness of the print & because they echoed my job – I worked at the Famous Player theatres in Sydney. This one still fits me, if I don’t button it up, but the thread is ‘delicate’ with age.

The dashiki style with the racing cars still amazes me. I love this kids pj print, though it is cotton not flannel. I also had another with a cowboys & stallions print but has been lost to time. My mother liked this pattern because it had no collar or buttons to bother with. I’ve kept my eye open on visits to Fabricland or something similar without success. Truly vintage I guess. this one doesn’t fit & the fabric itself is now delicate with age.

The tie is made from another of my Halifax fabric finds. Another cotton print that I may might have had a dashiki made of too. I have worn this tie a few times to perform at poetry readings. My mother wasn’t too sure of the construction of ties so it lacks the interlining fabric that keeps the tie in shape so it never really knotted properly so it proved not to be practical for tying someone to the bed 😦

In Sydney at this time men weren’t wearing prints expect plaids. Shirts were nondescript in mild colours. Mine were attention getters. I see now how these print choices were a part of my coming out at the time with their tres gay sensibility.

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Picture Perfect 123 

Picture Perfect 123

In his Depot work lab Dan opened the calendar template and printed out a daily diary for 1984. He often found that working by hand – pen to paper – would make things clearer to him. The dates of events of that summer had become more & more unreal to him. He couldn’t figure things out in his head like the number of days between each abduction. He’d been through the information many times already he hoped doing it this way might reveal something he had missed.

Starting with June 1 he made notes of where his father’s travel journals placed him. Dan included the distances between places travelled & approximately how long it would take to drive those distances. He no longer believed his father had anything to do with the cases but these locations & distances would help in judging the actual locations.

He then entered where the Happy Hippo’s three carnivals had been during June, July & August. Next he put in the dates of the abductions as reported by the parents, as well as when they contacted the authorities. If there was Hippo near on those days he added a red plus sign & the distance between where the show was set up & the location of the abduction. He circled the date they left for Toronto. Finally he put in the dates when Cora was still in the carnival & the date of her death & the date of her obituary.

One fact jumped out him. All the abductions had taken place on a Wednesday. They were usually reported within thirty-six hours. Except for Paula which took seventy-two. Happy Hippo was within a hour’s distance from each of the abductions. The Wednesdays were all the second day of the Hippo’s run in an area. Most of the runs were for six days. A couple were for two weekends. Other than the Wednesday’s no other pattern appeared. It was never two Wednesday is a row. There was no relation to how long the Hippo was in the area. Six days or ten days. He’d need the Chamberlain records to know just who was performing at which of the shows. The fortune tellers, Tut handmaidens & belly dancers moved between the shows randomly. The records should tell him when Cora left the show. 

Would they also show when the various mummies were added to the Tut sideshow? Would they tell when Winston was doing repair work? Or did he move from to show constantly, not travelling with any one in particular? He did know when Winston was in Truro thanks to Teresa’s pictures. 

Even with data missing he saw that it was possible for someone with Hippo to do the abductions. Someone with transportation. Which Winston had. Someone with a motive. Surely making mummies wasn’t the driving force behind these acts.

Robert Warszawa came into the work shop.

“I thought you might want to see this.” He handed Dan a file folder.

“I have so much data now I’m not sure I can take any more. Give me some old wedding photos to restore for a change.”

“It’s the coroner’s report on Cora Murchison’s death.” 

Dan read it twice. “Self-inflicted?” he said. “How?”

“My thought exactly. There’s no toxicology report so I assume it wasn’t poison.”

“So she what? Jumped off a building? Cut her wrists?”

“There are some photos too. Not pretty. She’d been dead five days before they found her.”

“Okay.” They were standard black and white shots of Cora’s remains on the mortuary table. “No visible bruising. No bullet to the head. Water in the lungs?”

“Doesn’t say. The organs were sound.”

“Then how did he conclude it was self-inflicted.”

“There was a note.”

“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted you to view these without that filter.”

“Fair enough.” He read the note. 

“Mom & Dad,

I’m sorry for the pain this will cause you both but you always wanted what would make me happy. I’ll be happy leaving all this behind.


“They made sure this was her handwriting?”

“Yes, they had her diary.”

“Diary? I’d love to see that.”

“No trace of it. It must have gone back to the family when they were done with it.”

Dan read the report again. “This doesn’t mention that she was pregnant.”

“Perhaps she had aborted. Bled out and died.” Warszawa suggested. “Wouldn’t have been the first time.”

“There’s no mention of vaginal tissue damage here. We both know that’s a must for any female corpse.”

“Right.” After a few minutes of silence Warszawa said. “They weren’t as through when there is no visible signs of struggle.”

“There’s always something missing.”

“Beside motive?” Warszawa said.

“Right. I have hope that I’ll find what I need to know if I look hard enough at what we have now.”

“Sometimes you see better when you stop looking so hard. Why don’t you take a break and get away from this for a little while?”

“I wish I could. When I’m not here, I’m at Quintex recording new voice overs for the show to work in what’s been discovered since we finished the shoot. They had me shoot a new intro for the old Cold Canada show that started it all. They’ll be repeating that episode before the new series airs. At least I talked them out of doing it in my living room as I watched that show. Seems like years ago.”

“I’ve had cases like that too. They take up so much of your thinking you lose track of what life you had at one time. Lose track of that life, lose track of that wife.” He took a deep breath. “Lose that wife.”

“Shit, yeah! That reminds me I promised to take Peter for a drink after work. Want to join us?”

“For a drink only.” Warszawa said.

“The Crown & Broken Anchor isn’t too far from here. It is straight enough for you, isn’t it?”

“It’s is called the Crown not the Tiara.”


Warszawa only stayed for a beer at the Crown. Dan was sleepy after another one. Peter was ready for a third.

“I’m going to get us a cab.” Dan said. “I’m not waiting around for a street car feeling like this.”

“Feeling like what?” Peter laughed squeezing Dan by the forearm.

“I get the message.” Dan said. “I want the massage too.”

“Yes, sir.” Peter swallowed his beer. “All you have to do is ask.”

Dan couldn’t keep his hands to himself once they got into the cab.

“Dan! Sir, you should have a few drinks more often.”

“I’ve been cooped up with the Cold bunch for the last sex, I mean, six months, or is it weeks. Your trip to Moncton was pretty much pointless from a lust point of view. Jeremy is a tease. That guy in Sydney was like a bull and I was a china shop. Yes, so I’m ready to rumble.”

“What guy in Sydney?” Peter asked as they got out of the cab.

“I’ll ask the questions.” Dan opened the front door and pushed Peter into the house.

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s more like it.” He pinned Peter to the wall by the front door; undid both their pants and pushed his to his knees.

“Thank you, sir.” Peter kissed him

“This is how you thank me.” He refused the kiss and pushed Peter to his knees. “I haven’t showered all day. So better lick me clean first.”

“I will sir. I will.”

Dan held Peter there then pulled him to eye level and kissed him. While they were kissing he reached between Peter’s legs and Peter gasped. Pushing his fingers deeper Dan crouched and sucked the head of Peter’s cock. Peter tried to push it in further but Dan would only allow the head.

“Sir! Sir! I’m going to … oh.”

Dan let the come fill his mouth and without swallowing stood to kiss Peter again.

“Thank you, sir. That was so … unexpected.”

“Upstairs.” Dan slapped Peter’s ass, hard. “Now. Shower.”


“Make sure your ass is washed before I get there.”

“What!” Peter stopped part way up the stairs.

“You heard me. I want something from you I haven’t had for awhile.”

“It’s all yours, sir.”

When his cell buzzed he was tempted to ignore it. He answered without even checking to see who was calling.

The connection was bad. “Dan! It’s Sergeant Coster. 

Inspector Robert Warszawa said to call you. Winston Chamberlain’s body has been found about an hour ago. There’s evidence with it about the missing children you have to see.”

“I can get there in the morning. If I can get a flight.”

“No! You must get here as soon as you can. There’s a flight in an hour.”

The line went dead.

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Picture Perfect 122 

Picture Perfect 122

The next morning they gathered for coffee in the Moncton airport before their flight.

“What exactly did you see in your trance?” Jennifer asked.

“That I was getting my picture taken. I was seeing things through Dorothy O’Connor’s eyes.”

“So you were the Dorothy as she appeared in the picture. You got no sense of what she did next or what she had for breakfast.”

“Nope, just the moments of the picture itself. I was worried about what I was wearing then the real me said she looked fine.” Dan said. 

“You mean you changed from her to yourself?” Peter asked.


“That must be why she reached out to you.” Jennifer said. “You had contact with her when she was alive.”

“When you sense things, Jennifer, what comes to you.”

“It’s like smelling something in a room. I put on the emotions like a sweater but I rarely see faces. It helps when I handle the objects. My connection is much stronger. If that’s what you mean. I can see the bruise but can’t tell what caused it.”


The day after their return to Toronto Dan met with the RCMP task force. Sergeant Coster from the New Brunswick detachment was summarizing their progress so far.

“The Chamberlain records of the time have manufacturing information on the props, costumes for the Tut exhibit. The principle ones of Tut are both a wire fabrication. One of the others was a mannikin. They were made by a theatrical props company in Montreal. They arrived already attached to their stands or coffins. There is no mention in the records of mummies other than the principal ones.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “The other five contained human bones. Children’s bones that we in process of identifying. We can name two of them already. Dorothy O’Connor & Timothy Dunlop. Those families have been informed.

“Winston Chamberlain knows nothing about the other mummies except that they were delivered at random times and then they were integrated into the dioramas. As fr as he knows none of the women work in the exhibit had any contact with them. They were handled by the carnies.”

“The forensic team has examined the bones.” Warszawa took over. “Other than connecting wire frame the mummies of the children contained bones only. There was little flesh and scant traces of any other tissue. No internal organs, no brain matter. The coroner found cuttings in the skull that were similar to those found in actual Egyptian mummies.

“Most of the wrappings on each of the children were linen that had been cut into long endless strips from a single bed sheet. Each mummy was a different sheet. Different in weave. Fabric matches were found with different manufacturers. Apparently some of the clothing of the children was included in the wrappings”

As the reports were being read the profile of the killer was becoming clearer to Dan. It would have been an exacting process. Someone with surgical or butcher knowledge assisted in preparing the bones. Also someone connected in some way with the Happy Hippo. 

Dan felt that if he shook his head hard enough all this information would fall into the right place. The scattered pieces would form a face.

“Special Investigator Daniel James has some new information for us.”

Dan filled them in on his conversation with Janis Hadley about Cora Murchison.

“Why do you feel this Cora Murchison has something to do with the case?” Warszawa said as he read over the notes in Dan’s file. “An affair with the owner doesn’t actually make her a suspect.”

“It’s … call it a gut reaction. When I saw this footage of her …” He passed his pad around so they could see her performing with one of the snakes. “My gut responded. To her, not the snake.”

“Thanks Daniel.” Coster said. “We’ll look into this. Winston Chamberlain is a more likely suspect with his history at the time. It’s not a big step from underage girls to murder.”

“I’ve studied the timelines. Unless he was in two places at once that’s impossible.” Dan said.

“Perhaps he wasn’t working alone.” Coster suggested. “Cora was having the affair with his father, why not with Winston, too?”

“That’s possible.” Dan said. “While she was with the Hippo she was responsible for the Tut sideshows. They were her idea. Maybe she made those other mummies?”

“Have you tracked her down?” Costner asked.

“The Cold East research team has found an obituary for her. It did not spell out the cause of death. She was 32, born in Stellerton, left a father and mother.” Dan said. “Maybe they’re still alive.”

“What would the motivation be?” Warszawa asked. “The cases are so random. Only the fact that they were children links them together.”

“They were opportunity.” Dan said. “I don’t think they were selected. It isn’t difficult to find unprotected children in small towns. In farming communities.”

“What do you think Corporal?” Warszawa asked Costner. She had been studying the files. 

“I think we have reason to believe she is a person of interest in this case. I also find it curiously convenient that the carnival has such detailed records of its doings but then blank spaces for that summer. Mostly around the Tut exhibit. There is no record of where the snakes came from. No import documentation. Maybe they were smuggled into the country? No record of where the additional mummies came from. Cora Murchison is not on the payroll after 1983 yet she clearly is in those photos from 1984.”

“Nothing concrete.” Warszawa said. “We need more than gossip.”

“How about this?” Dan showed them a photo he had found in the Hippo archives of Winston helping a child onto her seat in the ferris wheel. “Here he is, at the time, with one of the missing children. I’m pretty sure that’s Madeline Forestier.”

“I wonder if this Cora affair is why Winston Chamberlain gets so defensive.” Dan said. “Maybe she did she sleep with father and son?”  

“Even if she did that doesn’t explained how or why the remains of the missing children showed up at the Happy Hippo.” Warszawa said.

“The connection between the Hippo tours and the children is now very clear.” Dan said.

Corporal Costner’s cellphone buzzed.

“Sorry,” she said then answered. “Corporal Costner here.” She listened a moment. “What! …. Yes I understand but … Okay I’ll return to the station on the next available flight.”

She put her phone on the table.

“That was Brian McKillop, my division captain. There was a fire at the Chamberlain Museum last night. Mainly in their archive storage.”

“Anyone hurt?” Dan asked.

“No but …. Winston Chamberlain can’t be found. His car is in the parking lot. His … uh …. personal effects are in his office – cell phone, car keys. Even his shoes. But no sign of him. They are currently searching the property & the surrounding woods.”

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Picture Perfect 121 

Picture Perfect 121

“Welcome home Mr. James.” Troy said. “Here’s a cup of coffee for you. Sorry if it isn’t as hot as you’d like. Ma said you’d need something. She and your friends are in the lobby.”
Dan sipped the coffee. He could remember everything he’d experienced in his trance. Why Dorothy he wondered.

“I think I need some fresh air.” Dan handed Troy the coffee cup & started to get up.

“Sure. I’ll gave you a hand.”

The parking lot outside was empty expect for one other car. Dan walked over to his car and leaned against the front hood. He rotated his shoulders to loosen the tension that had built up in them.

“Is this what the services are usually like here?” Jennifer asked Troy.

“We usually don’t get so many people.” Troy said. “When there are so many some are just gawkers. These all wanted to be here. Ma thinks it had something to do with the Mr. James finding of the missing children.”

Janis walked over to them once she had locked the building and turned the security alarm on. “You’re welcome to come to the Cafe. There’ll be fresh coffee. Scones baked fresh this morning too. We can talk there.”

“The lemon cranberry?” Dan asked.

“Of course.” Janis replied. “We can talk about what you had on your mind when you called me yesterday. Unless that was answered already by Silas.”

“Silas?” Peter asked.

“The cobra.” Janis answered. “We’ve had him the longest.”

“No answers but more questions.” Dan said.

“I’ll go ahead then. Troy I’ll wait while you double check everything.”

“Sure enough Ma.” Troy went back to the church.

Dan gave Peter the keys to drive the car & got in the front seat beside him. Jennifer got into the back. Cameron & Brenda took the other car.

“Is Troy her son?” Jennifer asked. “We weren’t actually introduced.”

“I don’t know. Could be ‘Ma’ one of those affectionate husband wife things?” Dan said. “You picking up anything from him or Janis.”

“Nothing much. She’s very guarded. Smells odd too.”

“Snake aroma therapy?” Peter said.

When they pulled into the small parking lot for the General Store and Cafe, Troy was already sitting on the front porch.

“How did you do that?” Peter asked.

“There’s a shortcut through a backroad. Figured you would just as soon take the scenic route.” He explained.

“You go on in. Got the coffee fresh perking for you.”

He opened the door. Dan let the others go in first & stopped Troy from going in.

“You’re an AuCoin. Janis is a Hadley. You call her Ma.”

“Kept went back to her maiden name after Da died. I was about six when he died from a snake bite. The creator wasn’t in him at that moment, Ma says. It happens like that sometimes. I’ve never been bitten. I was home schooled.”

“Yes.” Dan nodded.

“I don’t usually talk to people much. Ma says we need to be apart from the others. I like others well enough though. I’m telling you this because Silas trusted you.”

“I glad you trust me.”

“Ma, says I’m a bad judge of people because she protected me too much. She says there are people who like to spoil innocence. My Da had his own cathedral once outside of Montreal. He could heal people when the Lord was in him. But he could not heal himself. He could not heal me.”

“Heal you?” Dan asked.

“Yes. I … don’t think fast as other people. Ma, tells me I had a real bad fever as a child. It hurt my brain like breaking a leg.” He held the door of the cafe open for Dan.


Dan filled his travel mug & joined the others in the armchairs at the side of the self-serve coffee area. Janis came out a few minutes later with a plate of scones.

“What is it that brings you here?” She asked

“Do you remember who this is?” He handed her a picture capture from the documentary. “I know she was a tour guide for one of the Tut exhibits tour.”

“Cora.” Janis said with a heavy sigh. “Cora Murchison.”

“Cora! Queen of the King Cobras of course! I thought that was the name of the act not of a person. Do you know what became of her?”

“Dead.” Janis paused. “I’m thinking of where to begin. Seeing her face brings back so many memories of those summers with the Carnival. She was one of the old hands when I joined up in ’83. 

“Something the Hippo archives won’t tell you is the number of disposable young women who worked there. Often paid in cash, you know, to evade taxes. They say it was because it was summer work, college kids who went on to other things after a thrilling and rewarding couple of months touring with the carnival.

“Take a close look at those records and you see the same men there year after year. Carnies, mechanics, cooks. The only woman who lasted more than than three years was Mrs. Chamberlain.”

“Cora was one of the disposable?” Jennifer asked.

“This one played her cards well. Old Mr. Chamberlain liked her a lot.”

“They were sleeping together.” Jennifer said.

“Yes. For some of the girls it was expected. If not with him with one of the other bosses. Playing hard to get made it harder for you to get tips or it might get you made redundant & disposed of without a penny. No girl from wanted to find herself hitching home.”

“You …”

“I was no saint. But Cora showed me how to minimize my compromises.”

“How did Cora die?” Dan asked.

“Suicide. She’d had a row with Mrs. Chamberlain. Over the old man. Cora was sure they’d be married once Mrs. Chamberlain died, which everyone thought was imminent. Another of the old man’s lies.”

“Married?” Jennifer said.

“She was knocked up in this picture.” Janis said. “He had spoiled her. When Mrs. Chamberlain found out she had her fired and removed from the premises. Then we heard she was dead. Suicide.”

“Wow!” Peter said. “What a sad life.”

“If it weren’t for the snakes I’d’ve left the show then but I stuck it out for the end of that summer. It was the last week of the tour when I met Archie. Your Dad.” She playfully rubbed Troy’s head. “Being a parent changed everything. Don’t you think Mr. James?”

“I suppose. But I have not children. At least that I now of.” Dan laughed.

“Oh! I thought … well … I assumed Peter was your son. You look very much alike.”

“What!” Peter exclaimed.

Dan wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or insulted. Did he look old enough to be Peter’s father? He did the quick math in his head & it wasn’t impossible for him to fathered a child when he was fifteen.

“No way!” Peter said. “The again is that why you didn’t want me to call you Daddy, sir.”

“Peter is my … partner.”

“In business?” Janis asked.

“No, in bed. We’re ….”

“I understand now. Mr James.” She stood. “How dare you come into my church, into my home with your degenerate lifestyles. Get out of here, all of you.”

They all stood & left quickly. Janis went to the porch & glared at them as they drove away. 

“Peter, pull over at the first service centre.” Dan said as he texted the other car to do the same. “We have a few things to discuss while they are fresh in our minds.”

“Okay, sir. Thanks for what you said back there.”


“You said i was your partner. That’s a step above boyfriend, right, & even above lover.”

“Okay, whatever.”

They parked at a service centre & gathered around Cameron’s car.

“Jennifer did you pick up anything in the store. I mean vibes?” Dan asked.

“The place is full of energy. They have so many things, I mean items they collected for the homey decor that I’d need to to actual handle them to to pick up anything specific.”

“There was a rainbow welcome at the Convergent Centre.” Peter said. “So that’s she’d be homophobic was unexpected.”

“That was an act.” Dan said. “I’ve enough experience to tell when someone is trying to distract from the truth.”

“You mean Cora Murchison?” Jennifer asked.

“Yes. There something there she didn’t want to either remember or delve into. Your camera was running during all that?” He asked Cameron.

“Of course.” Cameron said.

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Picture Perfect 120 

Picture Perfect 120

“Thank you Margarette.” Margarette, adjuster her robe and stood with the help of a cane. A man in the front row got up to help her. It was Troy AuCoin from Flannery’s Cafe. He was not wearing a robe. His white shirt was buttoned to the neck.

“Before we start this special service I will ask you to turn off all electronic devices to silent. We do not want to any distractions or sudden noises to disturb the spirits as they manifest themselves amongst us through their envoys. Silent means silent, not vibrate. No recording devices are to be used.” Janis looked directly at Dan, then Cameron. “What we witness here today is only for our eyes & ears.”

“Amen.” several of the attenders said.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” Janis began. A song was sung without musical accompaniment. The lyrics scrolled on the large screen TV beside her. In the songs and prayers that followed they affirmed their trust and assurance in the Creator as their protector. 

The congregation rose and sat at various points. Janis signalled for the TV to be removed. Troy from his side of the room and a man, also not wearing a robe, from the other side stepped up to roll it to one side. Behind the TV was a glass aquarium with snakes it. The top of the tank was about waist high. A light came on over the tank & the statue of Christ & the snake coiled around it appeared to be made of bronze.

“Lord. Creator. We are here in utmost humility to demonstrate our faith in your protection. We are here in utmost humility to allow you to demonstrate your protection for us.”

As Janis said each sentence the people repeated it in unison. Troy assisted Margarette back to the organ. She adjusted her green robe and began to play. The lights in the room dimmed except for those around the glass tank. The lights made the tank appear to float in the air in the dark.

“These envoys were sent by Our Creator to not tempt us but to challenge us.” Janis said as she removed the wire covering the top of the tank. “They mean us no harm. They are not of Satan but of the just God who made all good things Look upon God’s creatures with compassion and they will increase your compassion. Look upon them with fear and they will increase your fear.”

As Dan watched the snakes it was as if they were writhing in time to the music. The different skin patterns smoothly coiled and uncoiled around one another. Different patterns would be closest to the glass. One of the snakes was nearly white with pale green markings on its throat. The head would at times rise above the others and the snake’s red eyes would look directly into his. The glint in them was calling him.

“Yes.” He started to get up when a man behind him shouted out.

“I am ready.” The man rushed to the tank pulling off his robe, then shirt as he went up the aisle. When he reached he cage he removed his pants. “I am shedding what holds me from trust.”

“I am ready.” “I am ready.” Came from different parts of the room. Several people left their seats. They stood naked at the front of room. Their bodies bathed in the blue and green lights that illuminated the snake tank.

“It is good to see so many of you ready.” Janis intoned rising her arms to the ceiling as a snake twined around them. “I call upon the radiance of Your care to be here now with us. Be here now in this special service as we thank Daniel James for finding the bodies of those souls lost so many years ago. Souls that now can find peace and rest in Your everlasting Grace.”

Dan heard her say his name. It was like hearing it on a TV in another room. It was a name it wasn’t him. His saw the people around him, in front of him. Naked men. Naked women. Undulating slowly in the light around the tank.

“I am ready.” The first man reached into the tank and picked up a snake. The snake hissed and bared its fangs “I am protected by faith.” The man said as he brought he face of the snake closer to his. He touched his eyes with the snake’s nose. The snake’s tail coiled around the man’s arm then freed itself from his hand and slid back into the tank.

Others of the congregation did the same. Some naked. Some clothed. All fearless.

“I thank you Creator.” Janis chanted. The others joined in. 

The music and chanting stopped abruptly. Everyone sat. The room was silent except for the breathing of the people around him. He continued to gaze at the tank. At the constant shift of patterns. The lights gradually came up.

“It is good to see so many who were called but amongst us we have one who calls.” Janis said.

Dan felt her hand gently touch him on the forehead. There was a weight on his upper thighs. A white snake reared from his lap, the sides of it head flared as its red eyes looked into his. He heard Peter gasp.

“What do you see Mr. James?” Janis asked. “Open and see what you’re are shown.”

He turned his head slowly to look at the faces around him. Janis, Peter, Troy, the first man to undress. The room receded as returned the snake’s stare.

“I’m at school. My class is getting our pictures taken. The whole class. I told my mother about it. I hate this dress. It isn’t good enough. The other girls have nice dresses just for this picture. I don’t want to have mine taken. I won’t. I won’t.”

Dan was in the school auditorium where student photographs were being taken. There were children lined up waiting their turn. A part of him was Dan but part of him was Dorothy O’Connor. This was the day when his Dad was taking pictures at her school. Taking the picture of her that he had seen.

“The man taking our pictures is coming over to me. He says my dress is fine. Not to worry so much. He’s giving me some candy. He sits me in front the screen and goes behind his camera. I’m afraid to smile too much. He tells me to look over his shoulder. Then it is over. He says I was the best model he’s had all day.”

Dan repeats “All day” as he becomes aware of the room. The church is empty except for Troy who is sitting beside him. 

“You feeling like yourself?” Troy asked. “I’ve never seen anyone go so deep like you did. Dorothy O’Connor was one of the bodies you found?”

“Yes. She was the first to be reported missing.”

“Then she was the first you found.” Janis said from behind him as she walked in with Peter.

“He is good. Isn’t he Ma.” Troy said. “Silas sensed him.”


“The white king cobra.” Janis said. “What are you thinking Mr. James?”

“My thoughts are all over the place. I don’t know where to start.” He braced himself on the back of the chair in front of him and pushed himself up. He was unsure on his feet. 

“Are you okay.” Peter held him steady.

“I just need some fresh air.” Dan said.

“The room is a little warm. It helps to keep the snakes docile.” Janis said. “Cold snakes tend to be unpredictable.”

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