Picture Perfect 116 

Picture Perfect 116

Peter followed Dan into the cabin “Who was that?” He asked as Dan opened the door.

“Someone who nows knows the power of the harness. That was hilarious.” Dan flopped on the bed with his hands behind his head.

Peter found a spot on the desk for the flowers.

“For the sweetest kiss.” Peter read the note. “Kiss?”

“Yes – in the parking garage.” Dan laughed as he explained it. “A lingering one mind you but that was all. I only enjoy public sex if there’s a hidden camera somewhere. Or if it had been you, we might have buckled a car hood or two.””

“Thank you, sir.” Peter knelt and removed Dan’s shoes. He undid Dan’s pants and pulled them off. “May I, Sir?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Peter buried his face in Dan’s crotch. Pulling and biting at Dan’s underwear. “Someone didn’t have time for a shower this morning.”

“You should know.”

“Sweaty but clean.” Peter pushed the head of Dan’s cock to just above the underwear waistband and began to lick and suck it. “Mmm.”

“Fuck, that feels so good.” Dan thrust his hips so that his cock was deep in Peter’s throat. 

Peter gagged on the sudden thrust.

“Choke on it.” Dan held Peter so he couldn’t pull away. “You like to choke on me, don’t you?” He loosened his grip on Peter’s head.

“Uh huh, Sir. I was dreaming about that the whole flight.”

“That’s not a harness. It’s a dream catcher.” Dan stood and kissed Peter.

His cell buzzed. It was Jeremy.

Peter unpacked his clothes and dangled things in front of Dan.

“I’m busy at the moment.” Dan attempted to grab the jockstrap Peter held up. “Yes the flowers arrived … I haven’t been avoiding you, just your fan base. I have to go. Yes I’ll be at the the premier this afternoon. Bye.”

He ended the call.

“Mr. Moxham I presume.” Peter said.

“Who else. He has his image to think of. I get that.  Hiding isn’t my style.”

“Aren’t you hiding me from him. My house sitter. My house mate. My coffee delivery boy.”

“I’m just trying to be tactful. Do you mind?”

“It depends on what you mean by mind. No. In fact I kind of find it a bit of a turn on to be your secret mistress. Especially when you’re keeping me a secret from a dashing millionaire playboy who is in turn keeping his own secrets. It’s like being in a soap opera written Escher.”

“At least I won’t panic with you beside me in a harness as my date. I can’t show up anywhere beside Jeremy as his date. Now where we?” Dan pulled Peter to him.

“About to hit the showers after my long exhausting cross country travels.” Peter said. “I can wash your back.”

“I hope they have enough hot water.” Dan dropped his shirt on the bed.

“I hope they have enough towels.” Peter followed Dan into the bathroom.

“If not I can use your jock straps to dry off with.”

<>

Quintex’s special showing of the 100 Years of Chamberlain was at the Cineplex on Trinity Drive. Invitation only. 

When Dan & Peter arrived the lobby was crowded with QTel executives. Baxter introduced him to the crew from the 100 Years. They were given bags of pop corn.

Jeremy as the executive producer of 100 Years said a few words about the production, about how much everyone enjoyed working on it, and how delighted he was to learn something new about the history of Canada. There was applause at the right moments.

He introduced John Kilpatrick who said pretty much the same things about how working with QTel was a great cognation of his history hosting Cold Canada. Then Winston Chamberlain said how was thrilled he was to share the magic the Chamberlains had created for the public over the last one hundred years.

The lights dimmed and the program started. After first few minutes Dan tuned out what he was seeing. If the calliope soundtrack volume was a little lower he might have fallen asleep. He sorted through his memories of the interviews, the pictures he had seen, the reports about death that summer, transient populations that summer, his family’s moves that summer. There had to be some connection he was missing. That everyone were missing. Or was there yet another piece to this puzzle.

His attention was pulled back to the show as the narrator said, “It was during the 80’s that the Carnival went though difficult times.”

He recognized the voice as Winston Chamberlain.

“Thanks to the popularity of video games, video movies, even video arcades – yes one could say Video tried to kill the carnival – attendance dropped off. We tried different themes each year. Some worked, some were unsuccessful but all were creatively satisfying.

‘In the summer of 1984 we toured the Tut-Mania side show.”

As Winston spoke there were home movie images of belly dancers, snakes, and the fake Tut exhibits. A sarcophagus with several mummies arranged around it, artifacts. “We dressed our tour guides as Cleopatra’s handmaidens.”

“That’s her!” Dan exclaimed aloud, then covered his mouth. It was the woman wielding the whip in his Dad’s photos. She was on screen for less than thirty seconds and never appeared again. 

The documentary came an end. It was more or less an advertisement for the Museum. The closing credits were so fast and cluttered he couldn’t see who at Quintex was the main researcher. He’d have to ask Stephanie is she knew.

“What did you think?” Cameron asked him as they left the theatre.

“Archival footage is always fascinating.” Dan said. “I always want more of that.”

“Makes them sound like one big happy family of saints determined to bring entertainment to the deprived people of the Maritimes.” Cameron said.

“What did you expect?” Stephanie asked. “It’s not an expose. We don’t do that sort of thing, anyway.”

“Unless there are children involved.” Dan said.

“Cold Canada is a different thing.” she said. “It digs for facts not conclusions.”

“Then the editors shape the facts to suggest conclusions.” Peter said. 

“At least they like to spread the blame around.” Stephanie said. “Legal won’t let us point directly at one person anyway.”

“Or Winston Chamberlain probably wouldn’t have been so eager to have this profile of the 100 years.” Dan said. “There was no mention of the hand-job maidens.”

“Was it you who said ‘that’s her?’.” Cameron asked. “Sounded like you.”

“Yes. I’m not sure but one of the pictures looks like a woman in one of the family photos I examined for the show. I can’t say for sure it was only on for a few seconds.”

“She’s significant in some why?” Stephanie asked.

“Perhaps.” Dan said. He hadn’t told anyone connected with the show about his Dad’s racy pictures.

“Our research department will have the original footage, so you can check with them for a better and perhaps more extensive look. The shows only use about twenty percent of the materials collected.”

“I’ll do that when we get back to Toronto. Let’s check out the exhibits at the museum.”

“We can check out the hand-job maidens.” Cameron said. 

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Picture Perfect 110 

Picture Perfect 111

The afternoon’s shoot in Glace Bay was simple. They talked to the curator at the Miner’s Museum, & later, the current minster at the United Church. There the minister had a file cabinet of photo albums of the church’s actives that went loosely through the years since it had been opened. They were disorganized and many of the pictures were unmarked.

Dan, Brenda & Jennifer spent a couple of hours sorting the pictures of various weddings, funerals, church picnics, Christmas shows. Thanks to hairstyles, cars and clothes he found several that were from 1984. Jasmine appeared in two of them, while either the man or the woman with her appeared in the others. 

As they searched he described the process for Caron to record as filler for the show.

“This is fantastic stuff.” Brenda. “It will allow the viewers a chance to really see you do what you do Dan. It still flabbergasts me. You’re like a photo Sherlock Holmes.”

“Yeah. I feel more the coroner on describing a body as he cuts into it.”

“Can you tell anything from these?”

“About the McKillop’s ? A little. About what became of Jasmine? Nothing.”

“Jennifer do you sense the abductor be in one of these pictures? Like the one of the out-door service?”

“That’s possible.” Jennifer said, but only if the abductor or Jasmine had handle the photos too.” 

“If we had similar pictures for the other cases it would be possible to do a facial recognition analysis of all the faces in them to find any matches.” Dan added. “But we don’t.”

“On first glance the pictures tell me they dressed within their budget. Modest in keeping with his profession. They appear well fed. Jasmine is happy, though in this one she looks a little … embarrassed about being there.”

In the shot Jasmine was presenting flowers to a tall, well-dressed woman.

“The wife of a visiting dignitary I’d say.” Dan ventured. “I’m sure Deirdre would know who it is. But I don’t think it’s relevant. At least we have some decent pictures of her though.”

He thanked the minister.

<>

Back in Toronto later that week he met with Jennifer in the lounge of recently opened QTel Studios. Along one wall were photos of Jeremy Moxham with various celebrities, some of his glory days with various hockey teams & one of him on the podium with the Canadian team getting their Olympic gold medals.

“You think it was the Hockey Hall of Fame.” Jennifer said.

“True but we do get our own wall.” Dan pointed to a corridor wall lined with photos of the hosts of the new QTel programs. The largest being of him in the glare of the Amethyst Court explosion. Under his name was printed ‘Back to you, John.’ “I wish they’d give that rest though.” 

“You look like you’re covering a war somewhere.” Jennifer said.

“Sometimes that’s the way it felt.” Dan said. “You were there.”

Stephanie stepped off the elevator.

“Hi guys.” She said. “We’re waiting for you on soundstage three on the fourth floor.”

They got on the elevator.

“I would have texted you but the Studio assigned us this stage about twenty minutes ago.”

Once off the elevator they followed her down a short corridor to the soundstage. It had a Cold East poster on the door.

“Cold East is it now?” Jennifer asked.

“For now.” Stephanie said. “PR has been testing names to see which would have the most appeal. Don’t worry there’ll be a final one by tomorrow. May be Cold East with Daniel James.”
“Hmm.” Dan said. “why not with Devereaux & James?”

“Too many words & too many letters. Plus it makes you sound like a firm of lawyers.” Stephanie said.

The studio set was a duplication of the war room they had used on the road. Right down to Tim’s cups littering the desks. The walls had the various photos of missing children pinned, the map with the push pins was there, only the pins were larger now. There were stationary cameras for each of their chairs & three mobile operators. Cameron waved to them from behind a glassed in console.

Baxter was already at his seat at the table. He stood as they came in.

“Welcome to our new home.” He reached out to shake Dan’s hand then air kiss Jennifer. “The paint is barely dry. I love the smell of a new studio in the morning.”

“Before you start I want to pass on some good news.” Harold Carmichael the Quintex representative said. “Though there have been some very unfortunate events during the east coast shoot there is a silver lining. Thanks to the press that has generated subscriptions to QTel are much higher than anticipated. We’ve have sold the show to some new markets.”

“Does this mean more money for us?” Brenda asked. “Only if there’s a Season Two.” Baxter said. “Okay let’s get down to business.”

For the first episode Dan was to mention each case, point to the right photos, say a few words on analysis about some of them to display his unique forensic ability. There would be a clip of each of the interviews. Jennifer explained what impressions she picked up with her sensitivities. He would talk with Jennifer as they summed up with the unanswered questions that future episodes would look at.

His commentary was littered with ‘assumed’, ‘probably’, ‘leads one to conclude’ – words that didn’t clarify – even the fact that these disappearances were somehow related was a logical conclusion not a proven fact. As long he sounded definite even when stated as speculation audiences would be satisfied. 

“We haven’t actually solved the mystery.” Jennifer said.

“Not our goal.” Baxter said. “We shine the light.”

“Thanks to this the cases are now active.” Dan said. “The local forces are going over everything we shone a light on.”

“We can step back so the RCMP task force can do its work.” Stephanie said. “We’ve contemplating a show that’ll keep the public updated. Dan will be hosting it as well.”

“I will!” Dan said.

“With public interest so high for this case we’ll have to follow up as their investigation continues.” Harold said.

After the day’s work Dan took Baxter aside.

“Curtis I have to speak with you. Privately.”

“I didn’t mean to spring that follow up show on you. It’ll be ….”

“No. It’s not that. It’s about Roberto Hajla.”

Baxter paled. “Okay we can go to my office. Down one floor. In five minutes?”

<>

Dan had no trouble finding it as it had the same black lacquered door with ‘Baxter Bits’ on it in red glitter letters that he had seen the first time he visited Baxter. Lin was sitting behind the same reception desk when he went in.

“New location,” she said. “Same old same old. Can I get you something. Coffee perhaps?”

“No thanks Lin.”

“Boss’ll be here is a moment. You go in & get comfortable.”

“Thanks.”

He went in & had just sat down when Baxter came in.

“Great day Dan. Great day. I thought this would take three day but you & Jennifer are easier to work with than Kilpatrick ever was.”

“Thanks. How did Roberto Hajla come to work for you?”

“What are you insinuating? That he fucked his way into the job?”

“No!”

“I’m aware of the rumours. Yeah we were … involved but …”

“That’s not my question. How did he end up as your personal assistant?”

“Bits placed an ad on several job websites. He was one of the applicants. As I remember he had impressive qualifications.”

“Impressive, how?”

“That’s not what I meant. He had been working with me for a month or so before I … I mean before we …”

“By how I mean references not his dick.”

“I really liked Roberto. He never took advantage of our friendship. He did his job so well. Lin is good but … Why are you asking? You can check his file through HR. All his reference & background would be there.”

“He was responsible for the sabotage to the rental.”

“What! That’s impossible. Why would he do that to the car we were driving?”

“Remember I was the one supposed to be one driving that car. You switched them before setting out that morning.”

“It … how do you know Roberto did anything to the car.”

“Camera footage from when I had parked it at the Circus Museum.”

“Fuck! So that’s why he was so nervous in the car that morning. I thought it was because of driving in the rain. He was so nervous I had to take over the driving. Fucker! Why did he do it?”

“Inspector Warszawa is looking into his background. Roberto was most likely responsible for the tip that sent the RCMP to Waterside. He knew the room assignments.”

“When did he have time to, you know, plant the dvd’s? Why?”

“He wasn’t working alone.”

Baxter stood, walked around his office rubbing his eyebrows with the fingers on one hand.

“What’re you thinking?” Dan asked after a few minutes.

“That we have an hit on our hands. We’re the news. Yes.” Baxter snapped his fingers. “The making of Cold East is now the star of its own show.”

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Picture Perfect 109 

Picture Perfect 109

After two more hours in the archives and having another six pages sent for reproduction, Dan felt they had enough to work with. He took the reproductions to study at the hotel and met with Cameron & Brenda at a local restaurant for supper.

“Brenda can you see if we can access Jasmine’s school records?”

“Okay. I did track down Deirdre Rich. She’d happy to speak with us tomorrow & has some recollection of this case. She does know all about Cold Canada though. A fan from season one.”

“Good. Any luck in tracking down the McKillop family?”

“Background information is rather thin.” Brenda said. “They moved here from Britain. Settled in Glace Bay three years before the abduction. That’s it. Apparently no family connections in Canada.”

“Allegedly no family connections in Canada.” Dan corrected her.

“Is ‘no family connections’ suspicious?” Camron said.

“If they were from, say, Brazil, I’d say no but front Britain I’d expect them to have cousins here.” Dan said. “So, tomorrow we’ll meet with Deirdre.”

“Right. Then we’ll go to Glace Bay for a walk about so you can talk about the family. The church is still there so we can use that as background.”

“The school?”

“Long gone. Like their house.”

Dan gave a small cough then started. “The modest home where Jasmine lived with her family is now a parking lot. Like it the memory of her disappearance has been paved over by time and indifference.”

“Dan you should be writing for the show.” Cameron said. 

“Make that ‘alleged’ disappearance.” Dan added.

<>

Deirdre Marshall lived on the first floor of a three story house that had been converted to apartments. The living-room was, what Dan considered, conservative tasteful. No antiques, nothing disruptively modern either. Deirdre appeared to be about the same age his mother.

“Now, don’t tell me.” She said once they had sat in the living-room. “Your father is Richard James.”

She spoke with the east coast accent that Dan enjoyed hearing.

“And yours is Frederick Rich.” Dan replied.

She laughed. “There goes half our conversation thanks to efficient research departments. But in my case I did know Richard.”

“Hardly surprising.” Dan said. 

“Yes. I don’t remember much about the Mackillop child through. I was rushing around from bridal shower to baby baptism thinking I was on my way to being a real reporter.

“When I read about Cold Canada coming here to do this investigation about the summer of 84 it did twig my memory a little. I went into my clippings file and sent that to you.”

“Anonymously.”

“I … I didn’t think who I was was the issue. I didn’t want you think I was trying to revive my dormant career or anything like that.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know what became of the family?” Dan asked.

“Oh my dear, you’ve certainly come to the person for that! When I searched out that clipping there was was my little file about them. I hoped it was going become a big story. I may have been stuck on the doily beat but I knew how to be a professional.” She reached under the couch and pulled out a document folder held shut by string. 

“Oh, this isn’t all about them in particular but about Glace Bay.” She sorted through loose clippings & some hand written notes. “Right. They left in March of 1985. A lovely reception and tea was held as a bon voyage party for them by their church. The mother was a soprano in the choir. They only had the one child and they left sadly losing more than their heart to Cape Breton.

“I did get a Christmas card from them that year.” she handed it to Jennifer.

“Where did it come from?” Jennifer asked.

“When I tell you you’ll laugh, because I did. Christchurch. They’d gone to New Zealand! What could be more perfect a minster going to Christchurch. I made sure to get that into the Bay social column that week.”

“So you’ve heard nothing since then?” Dan asked.

“No.”

“They weren’t happy there.” Jennifer said. “Losing Jasmine shook his faith.”

‘You can tell that from the card?” Deirdre said. “All it says besides the holiday message is ‘thinking of you and trust you are well.’”

“There’s enough of their sadness here for me to read it.” she passed the card to Dan.

He studied it for a few minutes. “Nothing overtly religious or even spiritual about the card. For a minister, I mean. They each signed it though. He did the inscription and wrote his name. The wife signed it and added that little curved flourish.”

“My my. Is that the same card I look at a few minutes ago?” Deirdre said. “With eyes like you have I’m amazed criminal would try to put anything over on you.”

“Did you cover the mayor’s wedding?” Dan asked.

“Of course. I covered it for both the Post and the Chronicle out of Halifax. In fact I think your Dad was the photographer. He did lots of work for the Post you know. This was a big wedding. Mayor marries Cabinet Minister’s daughter. Federal at that! They thought good things would happen when all that Federal money came flowing in. Never happened. Never happened.”

Dan  couldn’t recall if his Dad was still on the east coast at the time. He’d have to check his dad’s travel journals to be sure. A wedding of that nature was one he wouldn’t miss. But it put him in the right place at the right time once again.

“You’ve been very helpful Mrs. Marshall.” Brenda  said once they brought the interview to a conclusion.

“Will you be using any of this. On air I mean.” 

“That’s up the editors.” Brenda said. “Nothing gets wasted. As you well know.”

“Thank you again.” Dan said shaking her hand. “By the way do you have anything about the Happy Hippo in your files?”

“Those bastards.” Deirdre said. “Thought they could flash their money & have their way down here. I put a stop to that. Let me tell you. Or better yet let me show you.”

She left the room & came back moments later with another file folder. She flipped through it & pulled out several articles, along with some typewritten pages.

“This is what was published.” She said. “Puff pieces about how everyone was happy about the Happy Hippo.”

Dan placed at the headlines ‘Happy Hippo Visit Children’s Ward’ ‘Happy Hippo Fundraiser’ “Performs Appear at Retired Home.’ 

“It makes them appear to be so good. Not these stories aren’t true but let me tell you the Chamberlains had no social conscious. It’s all a … smoke-screen to appease the public. This the article I wrote that was refused because the Hippo’s advertising dollar was more valuable than the truth.”

Jennifer began to read the article. “Wow!”

“Yeah.” Deirdre nodded excitedly. “I did my research. Trust me. I had documentation to back up what I say here. Interviews with some past female employees. When the province became stricter about the … uh … dancing girls the carnival started the Cleopatra bullshit. With mummies & of course handmaidens handling snakes to promote the exhibit. 

“One year I launched a complaint about the handmaiden but that was ignored. Next I got the Animal Cruelty people onto them about the snakes that were being abused. The next year they dropped it all.

Jennifer laughed aloud. “This article is hilarious Deirdre.”

“How so?” Deirdre asked.

“The women are only trained to handle the real snakes, not the one’s they are expected to handle in private!”

“It’s true. They became known as handjob maidens.”

Dan chocked back his laughter. “You said that in the article! No wonder it was suppressed.”

“No I didn’t. I also resisted saying they weren’t trained to handle trowser snakes.”

“Oh God! Oh God!” Brenda wiped away tears of laughter.

“This is the first time I’ve heard this about the Hippo!” Dan said. “It’s great information but I don’t know how relevant it is to our investigation.”

<>

In the car Jennifer said. “I got the feeling she was holding something back.”

Dan thought a moment. “She didn’t say a thing about the other cases. At least the one in St. Peter’s. In fact there was nothing in the Post archives about it either. That was one of the things I was searching for.”

“Maybe it wasn’t local enough for them?” Brenda said. “It certainly wasn’t on the doily beat.”

“Maybe she was sore about getting turned down by the Hippo when she applied to be a handjob maiden?” Cameron laughed.

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Picture Perfect 108

Picture Perfect 108

He left the FairVista location with an assurance to Linda that Dell and Strong would review the particulars of the lease & how the Jamison Corporate changes would affect it. He had been counting on a more relaxing few days but realized that the past month of his city life on hold had to be attended to whether he wanted to or not.

When he got back to the house he grabbed a beer from the fridge & sat on the sofa in front of the TV. Peter woke him when he returned from work.

“Tired, sir?”

“I didn’t realize that shooting this series would age me so quickly.”

“Then maybe I should wait till morning to give you this.” Peter dropped a large envelope on the coffee table. “It was by the front door.”

On the front of the envelope was a handwritten note from Stephanie. “I’ve texted you a dozen times. This is the material I was talking about.”

“Oh shit. I turned my phone off at FairVista.” He tore the envelope open. Out fell a newspaper clipping about the disappearance of Jasmine McKillop with a photo of the child as a part of it. The clipping was from the Cape Breton Post. Dan had recognized the photo as one of his dad’s school pictures. “Listen to this.” he read a post-it note with the clipping.

“Dan. Baxter wants you to act on this asap. Check your texts. There will be a bonus for you. Enjoy your flight.”

“Flight! What the fuck!” Dan scrolled through his texts. “Fuck.”

“What?”

“They got this tip by courier this afternoon. Baxter thinks it’ll be a good final episode. I’m flying back to Cape Breton on that early morning non-stop.”

“How early?”

“Six a.m. Which means I have to be at the airport by 4 for checking in which means I’ll have to leave here by 3 a.m. to get there. Fuck.”

“What’s the bonus?” He texted Stephanie. The reply was almost instantaneous. “Oh!”

“How much?” Peter asked.

“A hundred an hour starting with her first text! Two hundred an hour when I get off the plane.”

“Wow! They must expect this show to do real well.”

“Launching QTel channel with it.”

“You better get packing, sir.”

“Starting with this.” Dan pulled Peter into his arms. “I love it when you smell of espresso & almond croissants.”

<>

On the flight he went though the notes on this case. It was not one of the original cases. The tip had come to light as a result of the press coverage the show had generated. There was no living family in the area for Cold to interview. The house in Glace Bay where they had lived no longer existed either. With no family to speak to Stephanie had set up an interview with someone at the Cape Breton Post.

Cameron met him at the Sydney Airport.

“I was already here.” Cameron explained. “Getting more local colour with Brenda. How was your flight.”

“I slept. Or at least I think I slept.” Dan said. His eyes ached & he longed to stretch out with a a damp cloth over them. “How long do we have before I meet his this guy from the Post?”

“He’s expecting us at noon. So there’s time to eat.”

“I’m good but I need a dark place for an hour or so. I didn’t check what hotel in my itinerary.”

“The same as last time. You liked La Promenade?”

“As good as any forgettable hotel. What crew do we have?”

“Brenda deCosta is here. I expected Jennifer Devereaux on the flight with you.”

“Jennifer too?”

<>

“I’m here in Sydney, Nova Scotia, at the corner of Dorchester and George Streets outside the Cape Breton Post building.” Dan stood so Cameron could get a shot of traffic passing behind him and then over his shoulder as he walked into the building. “I’m here with Jennifer Devereaux to follow up on a recent tip we received.”

“You know Dan, I have a strong feeling that this is going to point us something important.”

“We’re meeting Kyle Hayley. Archivist for the Post.” He reached out to shake Kyle’s hand. “Good afternoon Kyle nice to meet you again.”

“Thanks Dan. It’s quite exciting when our archives get some use. Not that I mean they are useless, but …  is that okay? I mean I don’t know what to say.”

“Doesn’t matter Mr. Hayley.” Brenda said. “It gets ironed out in post anyway.”

“I’m just so nervous.”

“You’ll be fine, Kyle. I was worse than you my first day, wasn’t I Cameron.” Jennifer said. “It gets easier.”

“Uh … okay.” Hayley shrugged.

“How long have you been archivist for the Post?” Jennifer asked.

“I’ve worked for the Post since I was a boy. I started with a paper route, did some reporting too and … they cut back some and I …. started working in here when the new building opened …. Blanch, Blanch Jacques, the former archives, died sudden, she was looking after these old files and I took over.”

“Can we go down to see them now?” Dan asked.

“Oh yes, yes. This way.” 

Dan and Cameron with his camera crowded on the elevator with Hayley and went down one floor. Brenda & Jennifer took the stairs.

The elevator stopped with a thud.

“To your left. I’ve got the files ready for you. Some on paper but most on fiche. Some of the fiche have been digitalized. That’s been my prime job the last couple of years. I hate to see paper disappear. mind you, but it can’t be helped.”

“I know.” Dan sighed. “Original documents make a big difference to me. A scan is never as good as the actual.”

“I agree.” Kyle typed a passcode into the door and ran his id card through the lock. He opened the metal door. “Climate controlled and fire resistant.”

“Very nice.” Dan said. There was a wood work table in the middle of the large room. Along one wall were three computers in cubicles.

“This is what we were sent.” He took the article out.

“How exciting.” Kyle rubbed his hands together as he read the item. “I mean, seeing it in the flesh not about the unfortunate child. I see it was filed by D. Rich, she’s Deirdre Marshall now. She’s still with us. I mean alive, not that she still works for the Post.”

Dan glanced at Brenda.

“I’ll get on it right away.” Brenda stepped out into the hall.

“Deirdre mainly covered local events. Showers, fairs that sort of thing. We don’t get much real crime in this area other than drunk drivers. Any way. I checked the editions after this article and there are only two other mentions of it. Strange. It’s not as if there was ever much out of the ordinary to cover. The Steel plant dominated the news. As it always does.”

“Can you pull up the issue this one appeared in. I’d like to see it in context. As well as the one before.”

‘Oh, yes. It’ll take a few minutes.” Kyle wheeled out a microfiche reader and connected it to one of the computer terminals. “We haven’t scanned this far back.”

“This’ll have to do.” Dan scrolled through the pages of the on screen newspaper. “I want to see what else was going on at this time.” The article was on page 3. “The fact that it was on page 3 and not the front page shows its relative importance. But it is the top item with a headline.” He enlarged areas of the page. “Fire in Ashby district. That would mean police had this to divert their attention for the missing child. Which would be more relevant had she been a Sydney child, though.”

“That’s right.” Kyle said. “I never would have made that connection.”

“Lets see what was going in Glace Bay two days earlier. Which was when she was first reported missing.” He quickly found the right file and the right page. “Can you print this out for me Kyle? Full size if possible.”

“That’ll take about an hour. Full size means we’d have to pull it from the big press. There’s no office printers for that page size.”

“Is there someplace that prints posters nearby?”

“Office Depot on Charlotte St.”

“Send it to them as a jpeg and have them print it as a poster.”

Kyle took Dan’s place at the consul, created the file and sent it via email. “It won’t be the best image quality.” He said.

“That’s fine. Contents is more important. This is one of the things I do when examining any photograph. In a crime scene picture the body can take focus. That’s why we get pictures of the whole room. In one I see a vase on one end of a mantle piece. I wondered if was there two? We checked dust patterns on the mantle. Sure enough there was. Where did the other vase go it?”
“Was it the weapon?” Kyle said.

“Maybe. So putting this story into a context of events around might reveal more about it. How long will Office Depot take do you think?’

“They are always fast for us.” Kyle said. “I’ll give them a call.”

“What did you see Dan?” Cameron asked.

“That weekend the mayor got married. The Rankin Family performed at the wedding. There would have been lots of people in town for this. Rev McKillop performed the ceremony. I’m assuming he was her father.

“Rummage sale … meeting to address increase in public drunkenness … Must have been some increase for anyone to notice that … Happy Hippo’s last days in the area … small town stuff.”

“Which tells you what?” Jennifer asked.

“We have to keep digging not speculating.”

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Picture Perfect Delay 

As I close in on the final 35,000 words of the rough draft I’m taking a week’s pause to sort out timelines, see how much connecting material needs to created to link up the three, increasingly bigger, climaxes – no spoilers but bodies will be found, murderer will be reveal & the saboteur will be confronted.

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Picture Perfect 106

Picture Perfect 106

Dan found himself dozing off as Peter pulled the car into the garage.

“Traffic was a bitch tonight, sir.”

“I’d forgotten what real traffic was like while I was on the east coast. This is one thing about Toronto life I don’t miss.” Dan said pushing himself up & out once he had opened the car door. “But feels good to be home. What’s that song about the smell of home?”

Dan went through the kitchen & dropped his shoulder bag on the couch. Peter followed & put Dan’s carry on beside it.

Dan gabbed him. “There is one thing I do miss about Toronto life.”

As they kissed they fell awkwardly on the couch pushing Dan’s baggage on to the floor. 

“Sir!” Peter said as he tugged his jeans down. “Yes, sir.”

Dan yanked his own shirt off as Peter did the same.

“Oh fuck yeah.” They both said at the same time as flesh met flesh.

“This is the smell of home.” Dan growled as he rubbed his unshaved chin down Peter’s chest, stomach & to his cock & balls.

Peter moaned as Dan pushed his legs higher into the air to quickly tongue his hole.

“Don’t stop Sir.”

Dan adjusted the position of Peter’s ass before thrusting deep into him. As he pounded into Peter’s ass they kissed. Dan pulled out to shoot his load over Peter’s stomach. He slumped back on the couch.

“I need that more than I realized.”

“So did I, sir. So did I.”

“Shower time. You first while I unpack this stuff.” 

“Okay. You sure you don’t want to join me?”

“Not this time. I have things to do. Busy day tomorrow & back to the studio on Monday.”

“Right I forgot you are big star now.” Peter laughed. ‘Back to you, John.’ There’s food in the fridge for you to reheat if you are hungry.”

As he was washing the dishes he got a call from Sandy at the Depot.

“Good evening bossman.” she said. “Calling to confirm that you would be here tomorrow.”

“Yes. No ‘he’s back’ sale?”

“No nothing like that. I also wanted to check about that package you sent from Sydney.”

“Oh right. I picked up a jumble of photos & photos albums. Vintage stuff. You can sort them for me.”

“Chronological?”

“Yes that’ll do. As best as you can figure. If any strike you, scan them. No rush mind you.”

“No rush, darn, I was looking forward to overtime.”

“See you in the morning.”

He went into his study to go over the notes and transcripts of the interviews they had done for Cold Canada. This was his first real opportunity to get a sense of the time line, locations and possible connections without having a camera over this shoulder.

He had made a calendar grid based on his father’s travel journals. As well as one of events that happened around the province at the same time. Fairs, concerts, the Happy Hippo stops. There had even been a hypnotist using movie theatres and small town school gym to put on his show.

No pattern had emerged other than the obvious one of them all being children. There was no link between the families. Different religions, different financial status. They didn’t see the same doctors, travelling nurses, play the same sports. There were no real common factors. There was actually no evidence to suggest that the disappearances were even related expect by coincidence.

Now if they were all done by the same person what might that person be like. He hadn’t profiled a criminal for some time so this would be the right time to resurrect those skills.

He paced his office as he went over the personality variables to see which ones would fit this case. He tried to put the people he suspected out of his mind. It was too easy to create a profile to to fit a specific person. He didn’t want to be narrow focused.

It would be someone mobile enough to transport the children. Someone the children didn’t consider a threat or who offer them something. Possibly someone the children had met before or whom they had seen in the company of their parents or other adults. That trust was something the abductor knew how to manipulate.

School teacher. Female? Statics were against that. Someone who knew how not to lave a trail. Or knew how to cover a trail if one was left. In every case there had be a delay in either reporting or starting a search. Where children considered so disposable that delay was standard. 

Who would children easily trust? Ice cream man. minister, nuns. someone with a pet – a dog or cat perhaps – that would attract the child.

Motivation. Children would be easier to abduct than adults. They need to be taught a lesson, needed to be protected, needed to be saved … from what? The parents for the most part had been average. There had been no reports of family abuse or even of being overly protective.

There were casual overlaps – school photos by his Dad, mentions of Happy Hippo but nothing he would consider conclusive. The snake man? There was that picture of Paula and Winston Chamberlain.

Someone who had a way of hiding the bodies of these children. No trace of them had been found. Had the bodies been buried at sea, in the ground, burned and scattered? The more he looked the more questions presented themselves. Answering any one of them would start to unravel them all.

He read over what he had input as he thought though the materials they had gathered. One thing he was sure of was that they were connected and that the children  were all dead. None of these were runaways. One person was responsible for what had happened to them. Was this person still alive? Were they also abductor of Paula Morrison.

A rattle outside his study door disturbed his thinking. He reached over & let the door swing open.

“A gift for for me?” Peter shook the cookie tin Dan had found stashed in his boyhood room.

“Haven’t I given you enough?” Dan laughed as he stood to stretch.

They went into the living room to look at the other boxes he had found. He quickly told Peter how he found them as they went though the contents.

“You know I’m not even sure I didn’t leave them there. There’s enough of my youth in the company archives at the Depot.”

He stared at the hockey cards & realized his family had made a practice of hiding things from one another. Like, why his Dad had moved them so suddenly to Toronto, his Dad’s secret business, his sister holding on to the house. What would he find out next? That he was adopted. No he looked too much his Dad for that fantasy to be real.

“Earth to Dan! Earth to Dan.”

“Sorry Peter. I’m tired from the flight, I guess. Takes longer to get from the airport than the flight actually takes.”

“So were you serious about me moving in?”

“Yes but …”

“But what?”

“Separate rooms. So we both can get some sleep.”

Dan ran up the stairs with Peter right behind him trying to pull his sweat pants down.

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Picture Perfect 105 

Picture Perfect 105

Dan arrived at Sydney small airport a couple of hours before this flight. He turned the keys of his rental over to the agency office. His shoulder bag and camera equipment bag went through the scanner with no problem but the carry-on set off the alarm.

“We’ll have to ask you to open this up sir.” A security 

agent asked him.

He unzipped the bag.

“It’s this box.” The agent said.

“It’s cookie tin.” Dan took it out of the bag. He opened it and the agent looked through the contents.

“Estate sale mystery box?” she asked.

“Childhood memory trove.” he said.

“Ah.” She said. “It must be real metal not some sort of plastic. It was totally impenetrable to the scanner.”

“I see. I hope it isn’t covered with lead paint.”

“Thank you, sir. You may continue on.”

He repacked the carry on. Showed his boarding pass and ID to the next level of security.

“Welcome to flight 555, Mr. James.” The airline check in said. “We will be leaving on time. You can wait in boarding area 2.”

He passed through to the boarding area. There was about a dozen people already there. The snack bar was closed, with machines along on one wall with juice, chips. chocolate bars. At least the wifi was decent here.

He looked through his message. Not many. Since the Cold Canada hiatus the flow from Baxter had been reduced to a trickle. Nothing from the Depot. A ‘good trip’ from Peter. 

There was a message from Warszawa with file from the Intelligence Service. 

“Dan – this is a for delectation. Rob”

The message was a code for him to be security cautious when reading the the file. He disconnected from the airport wifi and reconnected to the Lifend satellite secure connection. Their service automatically doubled checked on line security.

He opened the attached file. The first page said. 

“Dan, here’s the preliminary report from the Amethyst. The devices were simple, internet instruction stuff, but the incendiary material was not so garden variety. It is the same as used in bombs in Paris and Tokyo.

“We’re not saying this was a terrorist incident but whomever did this has access to get such substances. Like the tampering with you car there, there is a high level of technical sophistication at work here. The devices were very controlled in the degree of damage they would do.

“We’ll talk further when you get back to Toronto.”

He didn’t read the technical details in report. His flight was called. It was the type of small plane he was used to from his time in the prairies. A walk across the runway, short stairs into it, single row of seats on either side. At least he didn’t have to worry about anyone sitting beside him.

The flight wasn’t even long enough for him to nap. They did offer a juice & a granola bar. He took pictures from the window. 

“There will be slight delay in landing in Halifax.” The pilot announced over the intercom. “Due to a some stubborn seagulls on the runway.”

“Must be Newfies.” Some called out.

The delay cut time out of his Halifax stop over & by the time the plane landed he dashed to the washroom. While he washing his hands the flight to Toronto was called. 

His sense of direction took him the wrong way for ten minutes before he realized he was going in the wrong direct. As he was going what he hopes was the right direction the final boarding for his flight was called.

He flushed his boarding pass to the attendant. “Cutting it close Mr. James.” The attendant said.

“I didn’t delay the flight from Sydney.” He said.

“Right you are.”

Dan started to the ramp that lead to the place.

“Mr. James.” The attendant called to him.

“Yes.” He turned around.

“Back to you, John.” The attendant laughed.

Dan struggled to get his carryon into the overhead & sat in his seat, fumbling with the seatbelt. 

Buckled in he sighed deeply.

“Don’t fly much.” his seat mate said. “I used be terrified too. Looks like you need a drink? Or have you had one too many already.”

Dan nodded & turned his head to look out the window. He felt drained by the rush to get to the flight & wasn’t in the mood to make conversation.

“They’ll come around with drinks soon enough.” His seat mate said.

“Right.” He answered. “I’ll pass.” 

He took a facecloth out of his bag & fished out his eye drops. Once they were airborne he damped the cloth with water from the attendant, reclined his chair back, dropped in the drops & covered his eyes, within minutes he was asleep.

“We’re arriving in Toronto, sir.” The attendant woke him “Put your seat in the upright position please.”

As he hoped Peter was was waiting for him at the exit gate where his chauffeur’s hat & holding up a Mr. James sign. Standing next to him was Jeremy.

“This is an unexpected pleasure Jeremy.” Dan said with a glance to see Peter’s expression.

“I hope you don’t mind.” Jeremy said. “I was here to pick up Ashley. She’s been visiting her mother & I ran into Peter. He glanced at his watch. “Her flight doesn’t get here for another half-an-hour.”

Dan shook Jeremy’s hand. “Good to see you. For a minute I was afraid I’d have to choose between which driver to take home.”

Mentally he was comparing the two men before him. Peter barely out of his teens with a job at a muffin shop & Jeremy in his late 40’s with millions in the bank. 

“The car is this way, sir.” Peter took Dan’s carry-on. 

“Right Peter.”

“I’ll call you soon Dan.” Jeremy said. “I want to hear about your side of the east coast adventures.”

“My side?”

“Curtis has his own spin on things.”

“I see. Developing his own reality series I suppose?”

“Pretty much.”

“Sir!” Peter said.

“Okay.” Jeremy said. “He’s all yours Peter. For now.”

He quickly disappeared in the crowd.

“Which way?” Dan asked.

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Picture Perfect 104 

Picture Perfect 104

Dan flipped through the rest of the album. He tried to make sense of the the collection.

“Mr. Dingwall, was this all from the same estate sale?” He asked.

“I … You know I don’t know. I just figured it was. Why?”

“The photos come from such different times I think it …”

“Was a job lot! Yes that could be right. The auction house just stuffed a bunch of random left-over photos inot the box & sold it as is. So I guess some of them don’t have provenance.”

“I’ll give you, say, a hundred for the lot.”

“I was going to donate them to the Society.”

“One-fifty.”

“There must be something of value in there.”

“Okay.” Dan thought of what cash he had in his wallet. “Two hundred. Cash.”

“Sure! It’s a deal.”

Dan handed him the cash. 

“Find something?” Stan walked over to him & glanced in the box.

“Uh … yeah …. some of my Dad’s work to add to our archives.”

“Cool.” Stan hefted the box. “Some weight to it. I’ll carry it back to the hotel for you.” He flexed his biceps.

“Thanks but I’ll a cab.” Dan grabbed his umbrella & followed him to the street.

“I’m just offering to help. Not coming on to you.” Stan said.

The rain had stopped.

Dan took a deep breath. “I love the smell after the rain.” Dan said as they walked to the to the hotel.

“Yeah. You know when we first met I figured you were like all those Toronto hot-to-trotters.”

“I suppose it is a bit isolated living here. There can’t be much if a gay scene.”

“There is one but, you know, small pond.”

They were on the street in front of La Promenade. Stan put the box on an end table in the lobby.

“Thanks. I’m not sure if I’ll be back this way again.” Dan said. “If I am I’ll give you a call.” He shook Stan’s hand.

“I’d like that.” Stan squeezed back. “I can take this up to your room if you’d like.”

“Thanks but I can manage the rest of the way. Thanks again.”

Once he was sure Stan was gone Dan went to the reception desk to get access to their office-away-from-home suite. He was grateful to see that it had some packaging supplies.He took all the looses photos & albums out of the box & repackaged them. Taking photos of the young women on the dock. Securely wrapped he went back to the reception desk to see how quickly he could have it couriered to Toronto. He laughed when he heard it would go out on the early plane in the morning. He’d forgotten this wasn’t Toronto where a courier would be at the his store within minutes to whisk things away.

In his room he fell asleep studying the picture of the young women on the dock. 

In the morning started to packed his few things. There was just enough room in his carry on for the three cigar boxes he’d found in the bedroom closet of his old house. He wrapped undies around the marbles so they wouldn’t rattle during the flight. 

None of his emails or texts required more than confirmations of his departure & arrival. Peter would meet him at the airport. He checked the time difference & made a video call to Peter.

“Hello stranger!” Peter answered.

“Not catching you at a bad time. Too early I mean?”

“I leave here in ten minutes. I don’t need pants on to go to work. Do I, sir?” He stepped back to give Dan a view of him in undies.

“I’ve been thinking.” Dan said. “Give notice at your apartment.”

“What!”

“We can start moving you in during the week.”

“You mean that! Sir!”

“Yes. The worse than can happen is that it won’t …”

“Sir! It will be okay.”

“Right. My plane lands at five.” Dan sighed. “I have a stop over in Halifax for about an hour.”

“There is a direct flight, isn’t there.”

“It left at 5 a.m. That isn’t for me. Not after the week I’ve had.”

“You can tell me all about it tonight. I can’t get over how much I missed you, sir.”

“Same here. Now get your pants on.” He ended the connection.

Dan took the cookie tin out of his suitcase. Maybe delving in his past would dissipate the departure restlessness. 

He set up the Lifend to record the contents as he looked through it. The tin was a dull brass colour embossed with a Christmas wreath on the top and four smaller ones on each of the sides.

“This tin was bight and shiny when my mother brought it home. There were three of them of different sizes. I was sure it was made of gold. But it isn’t. It didn’t take long for it to lose its shine. She never knew what became of this one. It just vanished one day.

“On the inside lid I used to have a piece of paper taped that said ‘My Retirement Fund’ because Dad was always saying if you save that toy or that comic book, you can retire on it when you get to be sixty. I was going to use this tin for my precious stuff.”

He took out the top envelope. 

“This is as close as I came to that. Here we have some money given to me for various birthdays. It was supposed to be my college fund. A silver dollar for every year since I was born. This continued until I was twenty-one. Of course these are the ones I received while I was still living on the east coast.”

He spread them out for the camera. “Oh! Here are a couple of real silver ones. They must have been Linda’s, I remember now I wanted some real silver to go with my solid gold box. I wonder if she ever missed them.” He didn’t recall her accusing him of that in their many fights. “No, wait, she sold them to me! I had to give her some of my birthday twenties for them. I only wanted those silver ones. A quick check online tells me she got the better of me.”

He held up old report cards, class pictures, an article about his school hockey team winning something. 

“The picture quality isn’t that good. It’s not one of my Dad’s. Did I have a crush on one of the guys on the teams.” He read the names aloud & stopped at one. “Cyril Mullins! Oh fuck I remember Cyril. I had asked then begged my Dad to take him along with us one summer. It never happened. What ever became of him?”

There was knock at his door.

“Housekeeping.”

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Picture Perfect 103 

Picture Perfect 103

The Historic Society table was on the cafe side in a corner by the window. Two period costumed manikins, one male one female, flanked either side of table. 

“Good morning?” A middle-aged man explained. “These are original manikins. The lady is from Jacobson’s Ladies Wear. The other from Crowell’s mens’ wear department. She dates from the twenties and is in pretty good condition for her age.”

The hands were chipped and white plaster showed under the beige-pink of her skin. She was wearing a  black beaded flapper’s dress.

“Not exactly daily street wear.” Dan said.

“Well, no … but we Capers didn’t wear kilts all the time, if that’s what you mean.”

“No. But he seems more appropriately attired.”

The male manikin had on a brown worsted wool suit, high-collared blue shirt with a dark red tie underneath it.

“I would agree.” the man said.
“The clothes are from the stores the manikins are from?”

“No.” Someone said from beside Dan. It was Stan. “Even if they had period garments having them on open public display wouldn’t be wise. These are approximations. The real are behind glass.”

“Thanks.” Dan finished his tea. “I better get rid of this.”

He found the recycle trash bin for his cup. It was near the books. He had hoped to find out more from the Historic Society man but with Stan there he wasn’t comfortable. Cliff Dingwall, owner of the 2nd hand book store was behind the table there.

“Great day if don’t rain.” Cliff said.

“East Coast sunshine is what my mother used to call it.” Dan said.

“Right she was.”

“I was wondering if you had any books on the history of New Waterford? Even a photo history would be great.”

“There is some that deals with the area but never heard of one about Waterford in particular.” Cliff answered. “Let me just check on line for you.” He took a lap top out from under the table and did a few taps on it. 

“Marvellous,” he said, “to have me whole catalogue at m’finger tips like this. And if’n I don’t have it I can find it pretty good too.” 

Cliff scrolled through a few pages. “Don’t seem to be anything still in print. There’s some that can be ordered if’n you want to pay for it. Not that they is rare books but scarce.”

“Don’t need them that much. Here’s my card. Could you send me the links. I can check them out when I get back to Toronto. Might find them in one of our libraries there.”

“Sure thing. But I do have a couple of similar things here. This pictorial history of Hans County ….”

“We’re about to do the draw for next prize.” Came over the sound system. It was Gracie from the snack bar. “If we could have the tickets, Flo m’dear?” 

Flo was the teen who greeted him when he arrived. The tickets were in a squared cookie tin.

“Shake’m up good this time.” Someone called out.

“Jim you come up here and make the draw.” Gracie said. “Prize this time is place setting for four made from Cape Crafts.”

She held up one of the place mats.

Jim shook the tin again. Gracie opened the lid so he could draw a ticket out. He read the number slowly. Dan found his tickets and checked them. 

“Not even close.” Dan shook his head.

Jim repeated the last three numbers again. 

“It’s me!” Someone called out.

“Okay folks. We have a winner. Don’t forget, all tickets go in to the big draw at 5. Next draw in thirty minutes. Get your tickets now if you want a chance to win a selection jams from Gracie’s Kitchen.”

“Thanks Gracie.” Someone called out.

“We have young Gordie O’Neil here now. He’s going to play us some songs.” Gracie said. “Let’s give him a big hand.”

The tea had gone directly to Dan’s bladder. He looked for washroom signs. He didn’t want Stan to spot see him going to the men’s room and follow him there. He wasn’t usually pee shy but the less pressure the better. 

The men’s room was up two short flights of stairs at the top of the building. One flight at either end of a midpoint landing. The view overlooked the floor. He took pictures of the swirling iron work of the stair railing and the leaded-glass transom window over the door. A sign said the washrooms had been maintained to keep the original tile and fixtures but the actual plumbing was new. 

There was nothing particularly distinct about that tile. There was ice in the dual floor level urinals. He glanced at the toilets and they too were nondescript but clearly of some period other than this one.

There was another door in the washroom with ‘showers’ over it. It was locked but the window in the door allowed him to see where the fireman would have showered. Here the tile was black and white. He got some pictures of the shower floor and the shower heads. How much head did they get in those showers? That’s a lost history he’d find interesting.

“Next raffle draw in ten minutes. Get your tickets now for a selection of Gracie’s Jams.” Came over the PA system.

Dan checked his cell for messages before he left the sale & went back out into the rain. 

“Oh! Mr. James.” Cliff called to him. “I remembered than I have some albums you might be interested in.”

“Photo albums?” Dan walked over to the table.

 “Yes. I bought them in an estate sale a few years ago  in New Waterford.” He pulled a largish cardboard box out from under the table. “You can look’em over at the Gracie’s.”

He handed the box to Dan. It was heavier than it looked.

“I usually don’t buy this sort of thing but it was part of a lot deal.”

Dan found an empty table at the cafe & plopped the box down. Inside was a lot of loose photos, some in their original envelopes, many loose & two large albums. He did a quick glance the loose photos. Many were in colour & several were in black & white. He loved at them a litter closer. At glance he could tell they were from the forties or early fifties.

He gathered them into a pile so he could take out the albums. The top one was one of those eighties  spiral bound. The other was older & the covers were laced together. 

The first pages had pictures with dates underneath – beginning with 1919. He took pout his loupe to examine them to make sure they were authentic to the dates & they were. A quick though the pages showed family photos, baby showers, picnics, school graduations. Many with first names or events written underneath. He filled back to the inside cover but there was no last name. It was the same with the envelopes of developed pictures – first name, drug store rubber stamped. Someone who used the same drugstore often enough that last names weren’t needed.

He flipped open the more modern album. More family gatherings, Christmas trees, birthday parties. Then one set of three pictures stopped him cold. Three girls in their late teen or earlier twenties on a lakeside wharf making faces at each other r& the camera. He recognized one of them as the woman wielding the in his father’s photos.

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Picture Perfect 102 

Picture Perfect 102

The next day was a picture perfect day – overcast with a thick cloud cover over the harbour. Dan skipped breakfast to get down to the boardwalk. The pictures were spectacular though. Dark and forbidding. Ideal for a Storm Cloud calendar. 

He went back to the hotel dining room for breakfast. The coffee was passable, the coffee cups were too small, the eggs were tasteless and the toast was equally as dull. As he ate he went over the events of the last couple of days. This get away to Sydney hadn’t turned out to be a stress reliever after all.

One thing he was reminded of was that casual sex was not for him as much as he fantasizes about it. He was incapable of the sort of encounters so frequently shown in gay porn. He needed something besides the rawness of opportunity. Even a body as perfect as Stan’s hadn’t been enough for him to let it happen. 

He borrowed an umbrella from the front desk and walked up Charlotte St., the main street. All the shops that were still in business were opened but it was still and quiet. He checked his cell for the messages he’d been ignoring for the last couple of days.

The most recent two were from Brenda. As he checked another call came from her.

“Dan! Is that really you?” she said.

“Yes.”

“It’s been so long we weren’t sure you were …”

“Okay! Okay! What’s so important. I’ll be in St. Peter’s in time for the big ceremony tomorrow.”

“Don’t bother. The Morrison clan has made that an exclusive event.”

“Exclusive! How?”

“Don’t ask me how but only select invited press will be allowed.”

“Tell that to the drones.” He laughed.

“Very funny. So your travel plans have been …. updated. Instead of going there you’ll be flying back to Toronto tomorrow. We have to get some of the voice-overs finished for the episode one debut in two weeks.”

“Two weeks! Right.”

“Look we have enough footage to stretch out for six episodes. Baxter is getting more local colour to fill them in & bulk them up.”

“I get it.”

“Don’t sound so enthused. Along with your flight details I’m sending you the scripts for them. No need to to memorize them.”

“I know, I just have to say them like I’m interested or something like that. ‘A dark shadow cast itself over the sunny seaside Nova Scotia town of Digby when …’ Is it a town or a village?”

“Stop! Dan.” Brenda laughed. “It’ll be nothing like that but I’ll send that ‘dark shadow’ along to the writers.”

As he walked it started to rain lightly. He forwarded his flight information to Peter. He opened his umbrella and headed through a small park. His cell buzzed. It was Peter.

“Hi, handsome.” Dan said.

“Good morning, sir.” Peter replied. “You still coming home next week?”

“Nope. I just sent you the info. Things have changed. I hop a the plane in the morning.”

“Hold on. Just got it. Tomorrow! I saw the cloud photos you posted this morning. You must enjoying the sights there? They are amazing. You want me to pick you up at the airport? How did it feel going back into your old house?”

“One thing at a time. I can get myself home from the airport. The old homestead was weird. Turns out it’s still in the family. I figured my Dad had sold it when he sold the business years ago. I could almost smell my mother’s home burning.”

“Burning?”

“She was fond of overcooking everything. So invariably something would be a little charred. Caramelized she said. She never did the knack of rice.”

“Have you considered what’ll happen with us when you get back? I don’t want to pressure you. I was just wondering, sir.”

“You wanting to move in full time?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m going to have to think about that. It’s not as if I’ve had time to think about much but Cold Canada the last few months. I’m still dealing with Sanjay as well. Can you stay put for a little while longer? It is rent free after all.”

“I’m still paying for my place.”

“I get the picture.”

It began to rain harder.

“It starting to rain here. I’ll have to call you later.”

A hand-drawn poster on a telephone pole announced a rummage sale a 100 yards away. Books. Memorabilia. Collectables. Live music. A fund raiser for the Island Historical Society. He followed the arrow and stepped into the hall as the rain became a full fledged storm.

<>

“You can put your umbrella here, sir.” A teenage girl took his umbrella and gave him a ticket for it.

He filled in raffle tickets for handmade quilt. He bought tickets for draws that were to happen all-day on the half-hour. Prizes were dinners at local restaurants, massage sessions. Each draw would be from tickets sold in the last-half hour. Smart thinking to keep people buying for every draw. Grand prize was a spa retreat weekend for two outside of Baddeck. Transportation not included. He guessed they wanted tourists not to expect return airfare.

The hall itself was much larger than it appeared from the outside. The building was a former fire station, now community centre that adjoined a coffee shop. The wall diving them had been partially removed to make a large space.

It presented a fascinating repurposing as the fire station fixtures had been kept. One side had fire uniforms, hoses, even the fire pole & an old fire engine; while the other looked like a western saloon with the coffee bar at one end, wagon wheel chandeliers, marbled mirrors. Over the bar was a sign that said Gracie’s Kitchen. All that was missing were cigarette burned, beer stained tables. Perhaps they were being used to display the sale stuff.

More people were pushing in to escape the rain.

Tables were grouped in blocks of fours with space in the middle for sellers. Books had a section against one wall with shelves. Clothes had a wall with racks. Gracie’s Kitchen was selling baked goods, sandwiches, coffee, tea and local cider. There was to be an oatcake contest later in the afternoon.

“Cooking? Tasting? Or who can eat the most?” Dan asked the woman behind the counter dressed like a forties diner waitress. Her name tag said ‘Gracie.’

“Tasting.” She nodded. “Best gets the ribbon. These are by Dolly Dinty, last year’s winner. And the year before, too.”

He bought one & a cup of Gracie’s Blend Tea.  Oatcakes had never been a big thing when he was growing there. Neither was the donair. Ditto for tea blends.

“No donair ribbon?” he joked.

“Nope. Not … Scottish enough. Too messy as well.”

“Ahh.” The tea was strong. The oatcake had an interesting taste. 

“Dolly’s trying something new this year. Lemon zest.”

“How radical.” He laughed. 

“Here.” she slid a card to him. “Judges will look at tasters reactions before coming to a decision.”

“Maybe I should try one of ..” he turned a glass jar of oatcakes around to read the label. “Clive Moffat’s.”

“You won’t be disappointed. Stick around & try them all. Money goes to a good cause.”

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