Picture Perfect 43

(finally have this chapter in the right place)

Stephane quickly re-introduced Dan and Cliff, the camera person for this interview, then to Mark Forestier the father of Madeline and Gerrard the first children reported missing. 

“I’ll let you two talk a few minutes,” she said. “We won’t really start shooting for about half-an-hour. Brenda is still setting up the kitchen for the real interview.”

As she left Cliff stayed behind with his shoulder mount camera aimed at Dan and Mark.

“She said we’d be alone?” Mark asked.

“Yeah, yeah. But this is to get you used to being on camera. After awhile you’ll forget I’m here. Trust me.” Cliff explained.

Dan shrugged apologetically. “They never say what they mean. You’ve lived in the Valley all your life?”

“Yep. Place has been in the family since I don’t know when.” Mark began. “Once was more of it though. You know parts got sold off over the years till this is all we have fer now. Was the biggest dairy farm in d’region. Now all been took over by the big corporations. You from around these parts?”

They walked around the yard with Cliff following them.

“I was born in Cape Breton.” Dan said. “Moved to TO when I just a kid.”

“So yer da’s from here too?”

“Yes. My mother too. She was a McPhee from Dartmouth. Then she met my Dad.”

“Marie was a Beaudroux. Her mom was from Dartmouth.” Cliff sighed. He pulled a small flask out of his coat pocket and took a long swig. “She died a few years back. Never got over the loss of our kids, you know. Even though we had another, she was never the same. Left me, you know. Blamed me. Wasn’t my fault, you know.”

“I understand.”

“You understand? What the fuck do you think you understand?” Mark looked away from Dan. “Weren’t your life, was it.”

Cliff ’s camera followed Mark’s head as it turned. He nodded encouragingly at Dan. 

“No. I just meant that it must be hard to lose something, someone like that.”

“We’re ready for you.” Stephane called to them from the back door.

They went into the kitchen.

“This such a great room Mr. Forestier. Big and bright.” Brenda said. “You must cook up a lot of great meals in here. I hope you don’t mind we moved a couple of things around for better lighting.”

She sat them at a wooden kitchen table with a bowl of apples in the middle of it. There was photo album beside the bowl.

“I made you fresh coffee. Should be better than Tim’s. Hope it isn’t too strong. Now you don’t have to drink it, really, but take a stop every now and then to bring it to your mouth. It’ll make this more casual. How does that look?” She asked Cameron, the other camera man. 

“Good frame.” he replied.

Dan sipped the coffee. It was strong. He glanced over his shoulder and on the kitchen counter behind them there was a couple of green glass vases placed to catch the sun.

Mark fidgeted in his chair, took another swig from his flask, then settled down.

“Place never look this tidy.” He said. He leaned over to whisper to Dan. “Stopped usin’ it much of late. Only when Stacy comes over.”

“Stacy?” Dan glanced down at his notes. “Right, your  other daughter. The one you had after …”

“Yeah, we though it might help us get over things but it didn’t. Nothing helped.”

“Okay,” Stephane said. “We’re all set. Don’t worry about pausing to think we can edit all that out to make it smooth. You don’t even have to make sense. That’s our job.”

Dan took another sip of his coffee and looked to Mark for a sign that he was ready to start. Mark smiled back.

“Thank you for letting us into your home Mr. Forestier.”

“I wish I could say it was a pleasure but no one likes to reach back into the past for unpleasant memories. But if this’ll help solve what happened I’m willing to try.”

“How old were your children that summer?” Dan asked.

“Mad was nine and Gerrard was seven. They got along so sweet, you know, fer bother and sister, that is. She’d help with his school work even though he didn’t want help. We thought she might …” he hesitated, “to grow up to … ” he wiped a tear away, “ … to be a school teacher.” He started to get out his flask, stopped and took a sip of his coffee.

“Take your time.” Dan said. He wondered about the nature of memory. How would his Dad have described his relationship with his sister Linda? All he could remember was how distant she was when she wasn’t tormenting him.

“You have some photos of them?” Dan asked. “I’ve only seen these pictures.” He put copies of the Unsolved Cold photos on the table.

“That’s the sundress Marie made for her. Man she loved them flowers. Daisies.” He looked Dan in the eyes. “That was taken just a few days before … whatever happened. They had been down at Ma G’s.”

“Ma G?” Dan consulted his notes. 

“My mother’s sister. She owned the farm over by ours. Raised me. More like a grandmother than an aunt. My mother died giving birth to the one after me.”

“They visited Ma G often?” Dan asked.

“They were always going over there when they could. Marie and I had so much to do around here, you know, we really didn’t have that much time to keep on eye on them every minute. Not that we ignored them or neglected them you know but we’ll … we let them run loose. That’s how I was brought up around here too you know. My folks had ten kids so there wasn’t always an eye on us anyway. You come from a big family?”

“No. There was just me and my sister. Unlike your Madeline, she hated to mind me. Came a time when she couldn’t even be bribed to babysit me.” I was so happy when that torment ended.

“Ma G was happy to do that. It wasn’t that far a walk there fer them. Short cut through the orchard took less than five minutes to get there. The road’ll take twenty minutes, at least.”

“They didn’t take the shortcut that day?”

“Nope. If they had it might have been different, you know. But the rain had made the stream into a swamp. Heavy rain always did that. It’s since dried right up. Thanks to … well, that’s a different thing isn’t it. How modernizing hasn’t really improved things much.”

“About that day.” Dan saw that he was going have keep this interview on track. “You didn’t realize they were missing right away?”

“No, they often stopped overnight with Ma G. So often, nothing need to be said. Ma G didn’t take to the phone. Christ, it was the 80’s, right. Anyone without a phone was just stubborn. If she had one we might have found out sooner. Different these days with cellphones and such.”

“Right.”

“Once we knew that wasn’t here we got ahold of Dave down in Shediac.”
“Dave?” Dan looked at his notes.

“My cousin Dave Forestier. He was in the RCMP there. They come over right away. Asking us lots of questions. Made me feel like they thought we knew more than we were saying. Making it seem it was our fault, or that we had done it. You know. Did away with our own kids.” He punched the table and the coffee mugs bounced into the air. Dan kept his from spilling over. 

“Sorry about that, still gets me steamed up. Dave was no help to us. Said those trained from the mainland felt they knew better than locals. I figure if they had done started a search faster instead of asking us questions and questions they might have found them. Gerrard was so excited about getting back to school you know. I can’t remember me ever being that excited about school. I hated it.”

“They didn’t find anything?”

“Nothing. No one saw them on the road or the highway or anywhere. It was as if those kids never existed. Except they did. I … it wasn’t until those Cold Canada people got in touch with me that I even looked at these.” He flipped open the photo album.

“Not that I forget what happened but after decades life goes on. Marie never did get over it though. She blamed me for trusting Ma G too much. What was I supposed to do? They’re both dead now, too. Ma G died of grief, I’m sure, before the end of the year. She never forgave herself. Never.” He got up from the table, yanked out his flask and drank. “I need to take a break.” Mark left the house. Cliff followed him.

The camera lights shut off. Ma G’s death was not in Dan’s notes. He knew Marie had died but there was nothing about the family after the disappearance. The part of picture you never get to see – where the people go after the wedding photo shoot.

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Picture Perfect 42 (reboot)

Picture Perfect 42 (reboot)

Dan parked his rental in the parking lot across from the sub-division station. It was clearly one of those make-work government aluminium and slab boxes that went up fast during the 90’s. Post offices, Canada Manpower and RCMP buildings erected to ratify local communities, get votes in a coming election to repay voters for sticking with them. Utilitarian structures he always suspected were designed by engineers or siding salesmen, not architects. 

Many of the post offices had been closed down and Canada Manpower was renamed & then had branches shut down as well. Not so with the RCMP. The number of officers serving each had been reduced. He had been a bit surprised to see four officers show up at the Waterside the night before.

Corporal Tyler was behind the desk in the small reception area. There was a closed room on either side of the room.

“Manning the fort on your own?” Dan said as he approached the desk.

“What do want?” Tyler looked up him.

“Here’s the Quintex shooting schedule for the next two weeks. Where we’ll be, who are expecting to be interviewing.” He held out the pages for the Corporal.

“We have that information already.”

He didn’t take the pages from Dan so Dan laid them on the desk.

“My cell number is there too. In case you need you contact us.”

“We have a contact numbers already. Stephanie Carter gave us her’s. As did Mr. Baxter.”

“I see. Is Sergeant Coster in today?”

“No. She’s not stationed here.”

“Oh!” So Dan was correct in assuming this was a sub-division. “She’s at the Moncton detachment?”

“What business is it of yours?”

“I don’t want to tread on the wrong boot toes.” Dan joked. “I’ve been through enough of that when I was in the ranks.”

“More like treading on the wrong jockey shorts in your case.” As Tyler stood up he raised his voice. “It didn’t take much for me to check you out Mr. James.”

“The past is the past. If you checked me out you’d know the tribunal found nothing to justify the charges.”

“Look,” He leaned towards Dan. “We both know how that system works. You were wise not to stick around after you were found so innocent. Even if you were innocent we don’t need pervs like you representing the Force.”

“If that’s an issue for you then I’ll recommend some sensitivity training for the division.” Dan wished he had been able to keep his mouth shut but whenever he hit this not-so-hidden hostility he found himself lashing out instead of being rational.

Tyler took a deep breath and came from behind his desk. 

“Sensitivity! You big shot assholes come down here looking for publicity not for anything more.” He was about to push Dan in the chest with his index finger but stepped away. “It’s a fucking TV show out for ratings, so don’t act as if you have anybody’s interest in mind expect your own. Paid for by sponsors who don’t care about completion or whatever you want to call it.” He went behind his desk. “Digging up old memories that’ll upset people who have learned to live with the past just to make a couple of bucks.” 

Dan stepped back as Tyler was nearly spitting on him.

“You doing this job because you have deep spiritual compassion & care about people or for your pay check?” Dan asked. “At least I’m not wasting tax payers money. It is them that pays your salary. Right?”

“You say we’re wasting tax payers money! You’re like every tourist who comes down here looking for quaint and then getting pissy with us for not wanting to to put on our dress reds and pose with you.”

“Look, just because you were led on some wild goose chase is not my fault. I know you had to follow up that tip. Now I’m trying to set things on the right track.

“As for the the dress reds I know that drill. I was stationed in Saskatoon for two years as a part of my training. There isn’t enough money to protect the public the way it thinks it needs to be protected by the fucking musical ride. That’s nobody’s fault.” Dan lowered his voice. “Sorry I didn’t mean to shout at you.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not sorry I did. Anything else I can do for you?”

“No. I’ll keep you posted if there are any last minute changes to this.” I tapped the production schedule he had put on the desk. 

“Don’t expect me to thank you.”

“I don’t. By the way did you hear the tip that was brought you to the Waterside?”

“I’m not privy to that information. If I was I wouldn’t be allowed to divulge that to you.”

Dan went back to his car. The time he put in at Saskatoon was still fresh enough in his mind that he understood some of Sgt. Tyler’s irritation. The press would frequently question their procedures as if they knew better than the RCMP how to conduct an investigation or how to deal with criminals in general. Always clambering for services that there wasn’t money or manpower for, or that the Charter of Rights didn’t allow for in the first place. Every crime became the force’s fault for not preventing. 

He could also imagine how he would have felt if some amateur film crew showed up to investigate something he had already looked into. Not that he was an amateur. Any new information they did uncover wouldn’t make the local forces look good for missing. All the more reason not to keep stepping on the wrong toe boots.

Sgt. Tyler must have been on his own in there. No one came out to see what they were shouting about. Even the sub-stations always had two officers on duty at the station at all times. As he pulled out he saw the branch SUV pull in to the division’s parking area. 

Corporal Coster and another officer got out of the car. The man was probably the area staff sergeant. Did he want to talk with them? No. That was enough cooperation with the authorities for one day.

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Picture Perfect 41

the sequence in my rough draft was out of order so I’m correcting it so this is a new Picture Perfect 41

“You’re up early.” Baxter said as Dan sat at the table in the Waterside’s breakfast diner. A sign in the window proclaimed “Breakfast only. Served from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.”

Baxter was sitting with Stephanie and another woman. The rest of the crew was at another tables.

“You remember Stephanie. She’ll be coordinating the shoots. This is Brenda DeCosta our locations manager here on the east coast. She does things to set the scene.”

“You be shocked at the number of people who never clean their windows. Nothing looks worse on camera than dirty windows.” Brenda shook his hand. 

“Our camera guys will be Cliff Hanson and Cameron Carter.” Stephane took over the introductions. “Yes, the one with the beard is my brother.” 

They waved to him from the other table.

“That’s Roberto Hajla. Interning with us.”

“Be prepared for the breakfast basics here.” Brenda said to him. “All they do is fried things, meat things and cereals. That is if you consider Rice Crispies or Corn Flakes cereals.”

“What no almond milk?” Dan said.

“Honey, we’re lucky they have perked coffee here.” Baxter said. “But it is good.” He held up his cup to get the waiter’s attention. “The staff is …” he was interrupted as the waiter came to the table with a pot of coffee and a mug for Dan.

“Thanks.” Dan glanced up at the waiter. He was expecting a teenager but it was a man in his mid-30’s he figured.

“Great coffee George.” Baxter said.

‘Yeah. One of the few good things I learned in barista school.” George answered. He looked to Dan. “You ordering food?” he asked.

“That bacon smells good.” Dan said. “So all you offer is a basic breakfast?”

“Pretty much. Charlene can do pancakes if you want. Sausages or bacon … otherwise is eggs, bacon, toast. The eggs are local. Oh, yeah, and there are two grapefruit if you’ve a mind for one.”

“Three eggs, over easy. You have …”

“Local baked bread. White.”

“White’ll be great. Thanks.”

“He likes you.” Baxter said when George had left their table. “He didn’t offer me grapefruit. Either of you?”

“So, what was with those cops busting our chops last night,” Stephane asked. “You used to be one of them, right?”

“Still am in a way,” Dan answered. “They don’t have much choice but to act on a tip when they get one. Child porn gets quicker attention than say … weed … Harder to dispose of evidence with drugs. Anything on the internet can be erased fairly quickly.”

“But not without a trace.” Stephane said.

“I’m more curious about who set us up.” Dan said.

“What do you mean?” Stephane asked.

“The officers knew which cabin I was in.” Dan stirred his coffee. “That info was on the warrant they had. Takes a couple of hours to get the right judge to sign off on a search and seize. So the tip had to be more than just an anonymous call that said child porn at the Waterside.” Dan was speaking aloud. “Those details meant it also had to be someone who knew our itinerary.”

“Don’t look at me!” Stephane said. “Our original bookings got changed, like, the day before and this was what the agency replaced them with.”

“Changed?” Dan asked. “Why?”

“Happens often enough with on-line bookings. When I saw the changed I phone here to confirm to make sure we got here and there was no motel.” Stephanie said. “I figured Baxter found a cheaper rate handmade the change.”

“It wasn’t me!” Baxter held his hands up. “I leave all that up to the producers.”

“Without telling you?” Dan asked. “Would they do that?”

“You sure it wasn’t that lover of yours?” Baxter asked. “He sure was pissed at you last time I saw the two of you together.”

Was that why Sanjay had called? To see if his trap had been sprung? No.

“Pissed for sure but he’s not that … calculating or inventive outside of the kitchen. Whoever made that call knew before even I knew, where I’d be staying. I don’t even think we were assigned cabins, were we, Stephane?”

“Nope. The agency booked the whole motel. As far as I know the cabins were to be given out on a first come basis. I can check at the desk though.”

“Breakfast is served people.” George put dishes in front of each of them. “More coffee?”

After they had eaten and the tables had been cleared Dan looked over the the day’s work-sheet. The first actual interview was set for the next day with Mark Forestier, the father of Madeline and Gerrard, the first two children reported missing. It would be at his farm in the Annapolis Valley. He was to drive there with Cameron while Baxter and his intern were to stay at this end to follow up on some leads.

Quintex has advertised in several local newspapers for anyone who might remember anything about the summer when the disappearances happened. There had been some of that done when the initial Cold Case show was put together. Once it was decided to go ahead with developing  the abduction cases into a series they had got the word out for more information.

The Forestier interview was to take a day, then they continue on to Stellerton.

“I’ll drop into the RCMP division,” Dan said, “to see if they have any more information on those cold cases and see if I can find out what happened last night.”

“You think they’ll tell you anything?” Baxter asked.

“Probably not but things will go much smoother for us if we are cooperative. I’ll let them know what our plans are and how to get a hold of me if they need me for anything.”

“The original Unsolved show didn’t put them in a good light.” Stephane said. “It practically accused them of neglect them didn’t it.”

“Neglect?” Baxter said.

“Did you watch it Baxter?” Stephane asked. “It practically said that if the local investigators had shared information they would have made the connections that it took us one show nearly 30 years later to be made.”

“I don’t recall that?” Baxter shrugged. “If that was so they should be grateful for us doing their work them.”

“They’d be more grateful if just kept our noses out of their work,” Dan said. “That’s why it’s best to keep them in the loop from now on. Anything we may find has to be relayed to them. We may need to get approval from them before releasing any information relating to the cases. You realize that don’t you.”

“Not as long as they remain cold cases.” Stephane said. “I haven’t heard anything about them being reopened or even considered related to each other.”

“That won’t get us very far with them.” Dan said. “Which car is mine?”

“Let’s go out and see what we have.” Baxter went out to the parking lot. There were four cars there. One a small sporty two-door Miata. The others were Suburban SUV boxes. 

“I’m claiming the Miata.” Baxter said. “The perfect size for running round it. There’ll be plenty of leg room for me.”

“Then it’s one of the boats for me.”

“Boats for all of us.” Cameron said.

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Picture Perfect Delay

No Picture Perfect this week. In my edits I discovered I had some of the scenes filed out of sequence – so I’m figuring out how to get it back on tract. I should have it sorted out for next week.

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Picture Perfect 42

Picture Perfect 42

“You’re doing great Dan.” Baxter came out from behind Cliff. “I dropped by to see how things were going.”

“Thanks.” Dan said. He wasn’t going to let Baxter know how difficult it was to stick to the ‘script.’ “I feel for this guy.”

“If you care then the viewers will too.” 

“We were just getting to these.” Dan gestured to the photo album. “After all, this what you’re really paying me for.”

“Thats’ right the photo whisperer.” Baxter snapped his fingers. “Fuck that’s a great title of the show. What do you think? Better than East Coast Cold.”

“I think we can take this outside.” Stephane said. “Without our help the back porch has a postcard view onto the orchard. The sun is amazing. It’ll give the viewers a real feel for the location. Kitchens are fine but this is even better.”

“Too bad we can’t have apple pickers in the back ground.” Dan joked. “Or cows. It is still a dairy farm isn’t it?”

The back porch floor boards creaked underfoot. 

“Not too noisy?” Dan asked
“You’re going to sit out here.” Stephane said. “Not do a hoedown. These chairs’ll be perfect.”

There were two rocking chairs on either side of a small round table.

“I’ll see if I can find a couple of pillows for them, something for the backs too, so they won’t look too rural. Come with me.” she said to one of  the crew. They went back into the house.

“Where did our Dad go?” Baxter asked.

“Last I saw Cameron was on his trail.” Dan put the photo album on the table.

“Anything in there?” Baxter asked.

“Haven’t looked yet. Or have you planted something?”

“Us? No! We might set the scene little to make it easier for our audience to get a feel for the location. But that’s it.”

“This is part of setting the scene, right.” Dan pulled at the collar of his shirt. “Did you supply his shirt as well?”

“Just yours. Looks good on you.” Baxter reached out to help.

“Not going to happen.” Dan swatted his hand aside.

“Okay! Okay!” Baxter stepped back.

Mark came around the corner of the house with Cameron walking beside him. 

“I’m ready. Like I was saying it’s been ages since I really thought about those days, this month’s when all this happened.”

“It can’t be easy,” Baxter put his arm around Mark’s shoulder. “You’ll never forget.” He guided Mark to one of the rocking chairs. “But maybe this can help put some of those … ghosts … to rest.”

“That’s what I’m hopin’.”

“We all set to continue?” Baxter called into the house.

It took another twenty minutes to get the camera to rest on the porch, to get the furniture staged to Brenda’s satisfaction. Lace doily for the table. The redistributed weight of cameras and crew kept the floor boards from creaking as much.

“I’ll leave you to it.” Baxter said. “I’m heading on to the next location.”

“So there are some photos of the children you’d like me to see?” Dan asked.

“Yes.” Mark opened the album. “They were taken just a few days before, you know.” He handed an envelope of photos to Dan. “We didn’t have them developed for months later. We forgot we even had them, you know.”

Dan turned the pictures over one at a time.

“They were taken at Ma G’s birthday picnic. There’s a mess of people there I hardly remembered. Over a hundred. All her other nieces and nephews.” He leaned over to pause Dan at one picture. “That’s me and Marie.”

“She’s very pretty.” Dan peered the photograph. “Too bad it has that matte finish though. I never really understood why people liked this grainy quality.” Mark was smiling at the camera with Marie leaning on his chest in front of him, her head on his shoulder. She was holding her hand out so the two of them could see something on one of her fingers. 

“I’d won some sterling silver ring with a real opal at the circus the day before. Some spin and win game.” Mark laughed. “The ring turned her finger black and the opal fell out when she was doing the dishes.”

“You both look happy.” Dan said. “That’s Madeline reaching up?”

“Oh yeah. She was always one for attention. This is one of the few pictures without the kids all over us in it.”

Dan looked at the pictures. There was nothing in them beyond being photos of a fun family time. He reached for the album “What else do we have in here?”

“Not much really. We weren’t picture takers. Might hav been if we had a camera an’ time to use it. Then you just saw were taken by someone else at the party. Some wedding pictures. Baby pictures of Madeline and Gerrard.” He handed the album to Dan.

Dan opened to the middle where there was some loose prints. He recognized them from the back as ones his Dad had taken.

“Hey! School picture day.” He said turning them over.

“What a day that was.” Mark said. “Marie spent the morning trying things on. She settled on that daisy dress Marie made for her.”

Dan hadn’t seen any of his Dad’s school pictures since they had moved from the east coast. There was no mistaking the backdrop his Dad carted from town to town. 

“It’s the same one she was wearing when she … left us.” Mark said. 

There was a large version of the picture as well as a page with four wallet size picture. Gerrard’s had the same standard set. The pictures were crisp. Gerrard had a lopsided grin, dark curly hair and scar on the cheek under his left eye. They didn’t tell Dan anything though, nothing new, nothing might lead to more. They were relics not clues. 

“These were taken that summer.” Mark said.

“It was after school was finished for the year?”

“Nope. It was the last week of classes. There are a couple of the whole class too.”

“What about the scar on Gerrard?”

“Happened when he was about three. Fell. Climbing trees. He was a climber. Love ladders.”

So, his Dad had had some contact with these children. Like Timmy Dunlop. But he wasn’t in the area when they disappeared. Was he? 

Dan tired to remember the dates in his Dad’s travel notes.

“The worse of it was later though.” Mark went on. “When things quieted down after the searching didn’t find anything. When we stopped being suspects. We hadn’t heard about them other kids either. If we’d known maybe they wouldn’t have thought was us. The neighbours I mean. They acted as if we’d done it. That’s what did Marie in.”

“Let’s take a break,” Stephane said. “There’s fresh coffee from Tim’s for you Mr. Forestier. Not as strong as what I made.” 

Mark went into the house.

She took Dan aside. “What was with those school pics?”

“Nothing.” Dan said.

“You changed when you looked at them.”

“I did? My … There were taken my father’s company. James Scholastic School Photos.” He didn’t want to come out and say that they were taken by his Dad personally. 

“Really!”

“They did that all over the Maritimes in small places like this. Class pictures, weddings, funerals, banquets. That sort of thing.”

“He surely wasn’t the only one doing that, was he?”

“Probably not. I recognized the paper. The pose was one of his favourites as well. Not quite staring into the lens so they’d look less like mug shots and more like kids who just didn’t want their pictures taken in the first place.”

“So you recognized those kids?”

“No! He took thousands of these. Used to send them away to get developed then began to process them himself. I’d help out in the dark room.”

“Can we get back on with this.” Mark Forestier said. “I do have things to do around here.”

“Sorry.” Stephane said.

They sat back on the porch.

“When was Ma G’s birthday?” Dan asked to get the interview going again.

“About a month before they …”

“Was there anything else going on around at the time.”

“There was the Agricultural Fair in St. John. I went on my own. We used to take the kids but they were at an age where they took too much attention when I was wanting to see about dairy stuff, they’d want to be doing something else.”

“What do you think happened to them?”

“They was took and …” he began to sob. “I never wanted to think about what happened. I wanted to think about them being brought back to me. I’d dream Ma G was at the door with Gerrard wrapped in a blanket to keep him warm, with his face covered and Mad hiding behind her because she felt bad about letting them get lost. I’d try to move the blanket so I could see his face. But it was too wet for me hold. It would slip out of my hand. I had that dream for months.”

“Did your cousin keep you informed of what the Mounties were doing?”

“Not a bit. He said he wasn’t supposed to talk much to me to keep from influencing things. Conflicts of something.”

“Conflict of interest.”

“Yeah. He didn’t help us much. Like no one ever said to us they were sorry about what happened. Just to be hopeful. Hope didn’t keep Marie alive, you know.”

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Picture Perfect 40

Picture Perfect 40

Dan sat in the lumpy armchair beside the desk. The blue leatherette cooled his back. What should he do first? He pushed his shoes off. That was better. Close the door? Nope, better leave it open in case the Corporal wants back in. Unpack more? They wouldn’t be there that long. In fact the first three interviews allowed for overnight stays and nothing more. No time unpack until they got to Stellerton. A shower seemed in order, but that would have to wait until he was sure the division was finished with him for the night. 

He went into the bathroom. The towels were scattered on the floor and the ceiling tiles Sergeant Tyler removed where in the sink. At least there wasn’t a big black foot print on the toilet seat. The motel sofas were lime-pine by Tarsly. They didn’t smell too bad.

He plugged the powercord back into the laptop. No use running the battery down. The flash screen for the motel wifi came back on. Did he have to re-buy the high speed? Nope. He went to google maps, put in the motel name, searched for food delivery. 

Only 3 places popped up. One that specialized in donairs? Dumphie’s Donairs. What was a donair? According the restaurant’s page it was something done to lamb – an east coast variation on Turkish dish. Why had he never heard of it before? Was it another of things hidden in his past? If he was going to re-immerse in the east coast a donair was as good a way as any. He place his order. 

Corporal Coster came back into the room. “You know who that was, right?” She glared at him. “I don’t appreciate anyone trying to go over my head to make a fool out of me.”

“That wasn’t my intention.”

“Quintex should be more … forthcoming. Contacting  the Force’s Public relations department would have been a smart move.” she said. 

“Agreed. Not my department. I’m just a hireling.”

“With connections.” she said.

“Your tipster didn’t have access to the whole picture.”

“Perhaps. But thanks to your buddy, Inspector Warszawa, we have more of it.”

There was knock at the cabin’s screen door.

“You okay?”

“Sounds like Sergeant Tyler is getting impatient. Newbie?”

“You could tell?”

“Been one myself. Lots to prove in front of the old hands.”

“Try to keep us posted of what’s going on.”

“Here’s the itinerary for the shoot while we’re here.” He handed it to her. “Subject to change.”

She read it over. “Ambitious. You got the sequence wrong though.”

“You mean the dates of the abductions. I know but that too isn’t my department. I go where I’m told. Their editors will make sense of it all. I’ll suggest they make someone a liaison with the local detachments.” 

“There’s a Dumphie’s here.” Tyler annoucned.

“That was fast. Send him in.” Dan said.

“I’ll leave you to your dinner.” She left the cabin as the delivery man came in.

“Hi! Carol busting another grow op?” He asked her as she passed him.

“Not tonight, Jim. If we need to fill our quota I’ll put a tail on you.”

“Yeah, right. You can’t afford the gas the way I run around some nights.”

“See you around Mr. James.” She let the screen door slam shut.

Dan paid for the food. 

“Something goin’ on out here?” the delivery man asked. “They don’t drop in for no reason.”

“Ask the Corporal next time you see her.”

The delivery man frowned. “Be that way.”

Once he was alone Dan levered the door shut and locked it. He untucked the bed and turned it down to air it out. There was nothing in his email to reply to. He went to his Lyfend storage to look over the pictures his camera had taken while he was in transit. 

The Capture/Send feature was one of his favourite features of this model. With that setting he could have it automatically take pictures every five seconds to five minutes and send them directly to his storage dropbox. Hands free photography.

Depending on where he pinned the lens it was as good as any bodycam and less obtrusive. Plus his storage box was bottomless.

The shots at the Pearson were clear but cluttered with people. He sorted them all into the No file. The ‘No’ meant they wouldn’t show up every time he checked his storage. The same with his flight though he did keep a couple of the handsome father and son getting into and out their seats a few rows ahead of his. 

His eyes quickly tired so he stopped looking at things. They were still recovering from the set to he’d had with John Kilpatrick at the Depot. He had used the drops the ophthalmologist had prescribed a few times then stopped. The swelling had done fast enough and his vision was clear. The hour of resting his eyes in the dark was impossible. He’d been lucky to manage ten minutes each time. 

He could never find a place where an hour of silence was possible. The apartment at the Depot would have perfect if no one knew he was there. He refused to shut his cell phone off in case he missed a call for his lawyers who had been dealing with Sanjay’s demands for some sort of palimony when he realized Dan was serious about ending their relationship and pulling the plug any financial support. He had another lawyer handling the split of James Photos so the Depot and the FairVista location were independent of each other in all matters. 

The naming of names was one of the contentious issues. Linda wanted full rights to James Family Photographers and Equipment. Dan was willing to drop the James from the Depot signs and advertising. He’d been calling it simply The Camera Depot’ for last couple of years. But he wasn’t willing to change the name of his personal business -Daniel James Documents and Photograph Restoration. If she had the right to capitalize on the James name for her business so did he.

It was the contractural complexity of the Lyfend relationship which named him as their sole North American agent at the FairVista location. FairVista was focused on exclusivity which Lyfend offered. The FairVista lease was with James Family Photographers not Lyfend. Did he need yet another lawyer?

He could smell something in the room & remembered his Dumphie’s Donair. He took the styrofoam box out of the bag. The pita wrapped sandwich was in silver foil which he unrolled & took a bite. He had to hold it over the box to keep the sauce from dripping on his laptop. 

Not too unpleasant he thought stepping into the shower. He’d have another. Maybe he’d enjoy the shoot more than he expected.

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Picture Perfect 39

Picture Part 2

Picture Perfect 39

Balancing his luggage Dan held his point and click camera to his eye and took a couple of pictures of the cabin door. The door opened slowly to the electronic key with an audible creak. Inside Dan put his suitcase down to shut it. The door wasn’t cooperating. He slung off his shoulder bag and put it on the bed and went back to the door. He had to lift it slightly by the knob to fit it into the door frame.

Just what he needed, another sign that things weren’t going to go so smooth. At least he was here in New Brunswick as the Waterside Motel. He opened his shoulder bag and took out the production schedule for the five weeks of the shoot. Places, distances, dates, times, drivers, motels, b’n’b’s, with no time-out between each. He was glad he’d had his breaks included in the contract.

Baxter talked big money but spent small. At least Dan wasn’t saddled with booking his own motels. If he was, they would have been half-a-star better. He was only here for two nights so he didn’t even bother unpacking more than his interview drag. Those sport coats couldn’t show a wrinkle for the HD camera. The pale blue shirt would need to ironed. That wasn’t in his contract.

He put his camera on the bedside table. He got his laptop out of his shoulder bag. Swallowed the last gulp of orange juice in his travel mug. At least this place had wifi. He turned on the laptop and while it was starting, found the outlet to to plug it in. He had to choose: did he want the TV or the laptop plugged in? At least there was a desk to put it on, too bad it faced the wall, while the TV merely blocked half the window.

The motel splash page came up first. There was free wifi but if he wanted higher speeds he would have to pay more for it. It would be charged to his room. As Quintex was paying for that, he opted for the highest speed.

There was a knock at his door. “You decent?”

It was Baxter himself. Dan pulled the door open. “Come in. I was just getting started.” He gestured to his laptop.

“Utilitarian,” Baxter glanced around the room. He breathed deeply. “Stuffy. Damp.”

“Lives up its name – Waterside Motel.”

“There’s a difference between being water side and being in the water.” Baxter brushed the quilt before sitting on the bed. “You ready for tomorrow?”

“Yeah. Interview is with the Forestier’s. I’ve read the background stuff. They have some photos I’ve never seen before. I’ll look at them to see what I might see in them. I have the set of questions your researcher has provided. Plus a few of my own. It’ll take more than a hour to get through them all you know.”

“No problem as long as you stick to them. We have to …”

He was interrupted by a loud knocking at the door.

“You order a pizza?” Baxter asked.

Dan stepped to the door when it was shoved open.

Two RCMP officers strode in.

“Daniel James?” A thick set, tall female glared at him. 

“Yes. What can I do for you Corporal?” Dan recognized her rank patch.

The other officer reached for the laptop. “Couldn’t wait for the filth, eh.” He muttered squinting at Dan then Baxter.

“John!” She silenced him. “I’ll do the talking.”

“What’s this about?” Baxter stood.

With all of them standing there wasn’t much space left for them to move in the tiny room. She handed Baxter a piece of paper. “I’m Corporal Coster. This is Sergeant Tyler. From the local RCMP detachment. We have a warrant to search the premises and to seize all electronic devices on a charge of attempting to purvey child pornography.”

“What!” Dan said.

“You heard her, asshole.” The male office nudged Dan out of his way as he left the cabin with the laptop. “I’ll take this out to Sergeant Palmer.”

“Then you’ll be impounding the truck, too?” Baxter asked.

“Truck?” she asked.

“Yeah the remote studio we brought with us.”

“Studio.” The male officer exploded. “You ….”

“There must be some confusion,” Dan said. He took out his wallet and flipped it open to his RCMP consultant badge.

Coster looked at the badge carefully. 

“We have a report that members of a child pornography ring were setting up shop here.” She said.

“Where did you get this report from?” Dan asked.

“I’m not at liberty to divulge that.” She handed him back his wallet. “We’ll be taking that.” She nodded to his cell phone. “What?” Baxter said. “We start filming tomorrow.”

“Not our problem.” The male officer said. “We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“You can’t …”

“Read the warrant,” Coster cut Baxter off. “We can and we will and we have.”

“There must be some misunderstanding.” Baxter said reaching to stop her.

“Don’t.” Dan pulled him back. “Corporal … ”

“Listen,” she turned to face Dan. “I don’t care who you know or what you think will impress me.” She gave him back his wallet.

Dan’s cellphone rang.

“Hello,” The male officer answered it. “I’m sorry he can’t speak to you right now. … No! I won’t take a message …” He turned the phone off. It rang again. A different ring. Dan recognized it as Sanjay’s ring.

“Popular man.” The male officer said. “I guess your buyers network knew when you’d be getting here.”

“Of course people knew when we’d be getting here.” Baxter said. “I can give you a list starting with my pre-production manager who will be calling to confirm locations for tomorrow. We’re from Quintex Studios.” He attempted to hand his business card to the Sergeant. “Surely you’ve heard of us?”

“Look,” Coster glared at him. “Your cover story has been blown already. Just because we’re small town doesn’t mean we are stupid.”

“There’s a difference between being stupid and being wrong.” Dan said. “But finding out how wrong you are is up to you.”

The room phone began to ring.  Dan automatically reached to answer it. The male officer grabbed it up before Dan could get to it.

“Hello. Hello. They hung up.”

Dan read through the warrant. “You only have access to my laptop not my cellphone. And certainly not Mr. Baxter’s. The truck is also off limits. Not mentioned here.”

“It’s good for all electronic recording devices.” She said.

“That’s not what it says.” He read aloud the section that set out the perimeters of the warrant. “That’s pretty clear. Only the laptop in this cabin is liable for seizure. I’ll have my cellphone back, please.”

Reluctantly she gave it back to him. 

“Sergeant check the bathroom.” She said to Tyler. “That is listed is it not?” she said to Dan.

“Right. The premises is your. The laptop is yours to search. The warrant doesn’t even extend to my luggage.”

“Okay. So you know about search warrants.” She said.

“Who is the division captain?” Dan asked.

“Brian McKillop.” Coster said.

“Look, you can’t do this,” Baxter said. “We’ve been planning this for months now. I have all the permits, waivers from the families, you know, real documentation, not some trumped up goose chase …”

While Baxter was talking, Dan sent a text to Warszawa with McKillop’s name a question mark and a 411, a code for ‘contact this guy’.

“It was there.” Sergeant Tyler came out of the bathroom with a spindle of dvd’s. “They were in the ceiling where we were informed they’d be.”

“Shouldn’t you be wearing gloves Sergeant Tyler,” Dan said. “You’ve already contaminated the evidence.”

“I’ll contaminate you, you fucking perv.” Tyler pushed his face close to Dan’s. “You make me sick.”

“How did that get there!” Baxter exclaimed looking at Dan.

“Don’t ask me. I had barely opened the door when you came in, then these guys were right on your heels. Right?”

“You bet.” Tyler said.

“The tip told us your accomplices were here earlier in the week to leave this for you for pick up.”

“So, I guess you’ve checked to see who has rented this room recently?” Dan asked.

“Not yet.”

“Get back to me when you’ve done all your homework then.”

“Let’s check out this guy’s cabin.” Tyler said.

“Better get a warrant for that,” Dan said. “Yours only covers my laptop. It said nothing about other rooms. But we’ll let that pass, for now.”

Another officer came into the cabin with Dan’s laptop. 

“It’s clean.” He put the laptop back on the desk.

“Clean? Are you sure Palmer?” Tyler said. “He must have a flash drive somewhere.”

“You can search where you want Corporal.” Dan dumped the contents of his shoulder bag on the bed.

“They cannot,” Baxter exploded. “They …”

“Listen Baxter,” Dan said. “Why don’t you go back to your cabin and let me deal with this. There’s nothing …”

“You call these nothing?” Tyler shook the dvd’s at him.

“I’ll take those.” Sergeant Palmer took the container out of Tyler’s hand. “His laptop doesn’t have a dvd drive.”

Baxter laughed nervously. “What the fuck. I guess you’re right Dan, I’ll let you handle this.” He started to leave the cabin.

“Hold on.” Tyler followed him. “What’s this truck you were talking about.”

“In the parking lot.” Baxter said. “You can’t miss it.”

Tyler pushed past him and left the cabin. Baxter went after him. “Call me later.”

“Do you have any idea of what’s going on here?” Corporal asked.

“I don’t know.” Dan said. “I got off an airplane less than two hours ago.”

“Who knew you were coming here?”

“According to Baxter, millions of people.”

“Millions?”

“The reality show we’re making has been promoted on the History network for at least a month. Plus cross promo.”

“The one about the missing children?” she rubbed the back of her neck.

“Yep. I am that Daniel James.” He reached out to shake her hand.

“Christ, I never put that together. I’ll ask that again. Who knew you’d be here? Here at the Waterside?”

“Good question.” Dan had been too caught up in what was going on to wonder why it was going on. “I didn’t know what motel we’d be using until I got the plane in Toronto this afternoon. I didn’t even have time to tell my office manager or even Sanjay.”

“Sanjay.”

“My … lover.”

“Right. So only the production people would have known.” She asked. “Why would someone want to do something like this?”

“Someone who doesn’t want the show to go on.”

Sergeant Palmer came back into the room. “I did a quick look at random dvd’s and there is adult material on some of them – but as far as I saw no children were involved.”

“That fucking queer made a pass at me!” Sergeant Tyler stormed back into the room. 

“What?” Sergeant Palmer said.

“Yeah! He said I look good in a uniform and he was sure I would look better out of it.” 

The Corporal covered her mouth as she began to laugh. “Tyler! Tyler! What am I going to do with you.”

“What are we going to do with these pervs?” Tyler made a fist. 

“Nothing for now. It seems we have been misled. But …” she became serious. “Mr. James we will be keeping an eye on all this. I can tell when something isn’t right.”

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Picture Perfect 38

Dan waited ten minutes for FairVista shuttle that dropped him off at the nearest subway station. One change, a streetcar ride and he was back at the Depot in less than an hour.

Maybe it was time to make the store completely independent of each other. The corporation originally only included the building and the Depot business. He’d have to check into that before the end of the business year so each could start a fresh in the new. 

The Depot was busy when he got there. They were having a night of quick sales. Fifty percent of certain items for only an hour. Different items every hour. Much like the trade-in sale, when customers felt they were saving big, they were willing to spend more than they intended. It was always rewarding to see the shelves empty and sometimes even to sell out on an item. The sort of sale that could never happen at FairVista. This sort of sale was considered déclassé at the high-end mall. The lease allowed for a Boxing Day sale with discounts of no more than 10%. Rather than give a discount his sister opted for a ‘we pay the tax’ special. Evading tax was in their millionaire clientele’s DNA.

An electronic bell sounded the time to change items. Some items had deliberately limited qualities that the display board would tick off as each was sold. 

Dan enjoyed the retail end of the business. Talking to people, slyly getting them to commit to more than they intended. He didn’t sell them extended service contacts, that he left to Ushio. Dan knew most people ever used them so he felt bad palming them off on them. If there was any repair work to be done it would fall to Ushio anyway.

The last sale bell went off at 10 p.m. This was the extra hour of savings where floor samples or slow products that had proved to be hard to sell ,but kept off the floor till now would be brought out. All offered at sixty per cent off. They’d lose a bit of money on some but that was always made up for by accessories like the perfect camera bag, or spare computer cable in case you lost the one that came with the camera.

His eyes began to ache by then and he was happy when the ten minute bell rang. If you hadn’t paid for your item by eleven you’d have to hope it showed up next year. They allowed an extra five minutes grace period.

Dan was setting the back security for The Depot by eleven-thirty. Bushed by the long day he wasn’t all that eager to go home to Sanjay. The rift in their relationship showed no sign of being healed over the past week. He half-hoped Sanjay wouldn’t be home.

“In a hurry?” A voice came from the nook behind him.

Dan spun around in a fighting stance. There had been more than one assault in that back lane.

“Who is it?”

A figure stepped into the light. It was Peter.

“Fuck, you trying to give me a heart attack?” Dan said.

“Sorry, sir.” Peter kept his eyes down. “I haven’t seen you at the Carafe the last couple of days.”

“I’ve been pretty busy. How is your Dad?”

“He’s well. I was afraid you were displeased with me, sir.”

“Save sir for the bedroom” Dan looked at the shadow on the nook. Was this a good time for catching some real action on the security camera. He glanced up at the camera. His eyes ached, his feet were tired from standing. No they’d do that another night.

“The Depot was super busy tonight.” Peter said.

“Too busy.” Dan rubbed around his eyebrows.

“I was afraid you were avoiding me at the Carafe. You’re usually in a couple of times a day.”

“Things got hectic.” He didn’t want to admit to Peter that he was right.

“Yes, Mr. James.” Peter stepped further into the light. “I … can I give you a lift, sailor?”

“Got room for this?” He lifted his bike briefly.

“We can find out.” Peter’s grin almost made Dan change his mind about getting nook footage. He had never posted himself on the V-Files.

With a little wrestle the bike fit into the back seat of the car. He was about to get in when a nearby parked car started and its headlight came on. Dan recognized it as it pulled up behind them and the passenger window wound down. The driver leaned out. It was Sanjay.

“I thought I’d come for you.” Sanjay said. “It looks like you are already been well taken care of.” Sanjay stopped the car and got out. “How are you tonight, Peter. It is Peter isn’t it?”

“Uh … yes.” Peter glanced from Dan to Sanjay. “But now that you are here you’ve saved me a trip.”

“Right.” Sanjay began to pull the bike out of Peter’s back seat. “My car is a better fit for this. We bought it with bikes in mind. Didn’t we, dear.”

“Cool,” Peter said.

Dan could see how bewildered Peter was. He was just as unsure of how to handle the situation.

“Thanks for the offer Peter.” Dan said.

“Any time Mr. James. At least any time I have my Dad’s car.” He got into his car and drove off.

“His Dad’s car.” Sanjay sniggered as he got back behind the wheel. “Sounds like a line out of some high school movie.”

“I suppose it does.” Dan got in the car. “But waiting outside in the dark to spy on what’s going on is out of an equally bad movie.”

“I was not spying. I had just pulled up and was waiting for you to come from the laneway with your bike when I saw Peter go back there. Is this were you usually meet your tricks?”

“I do not meet tricks period. Any where.”

“Yeah sure. With all the surveillance equipment ready for your next V-Files home movie. You do have quite a collection there. Mostly hetero though. That is a bit disappointing. I never suspected you might be bi. You aren’t bi are you?”

“Does it matter?”

“Not really. Here we are.” Sanjay pulled into their drive. “Home, not so sweet, home.”

They went into the house.

“I’m going to turn in.” Dan said.

“Any developments on the Quintex project?” Sanjay rubbed Dan’s shoulders.

“The proposal gets presented Monday morning to the Quintex people. If they like it, which is possible, then it’ll be a go.”

“Much of a time commitment?”

“You want to turn house into an air b’n’b while I’m out of town?” Dan joked.

“No. I’ve been so caught up in the restaurants I’ve lost track of what is going on in your half of our life.”

Dan moved away from Sanjay and sat on the couch to take off his shoes. He reached for the remote but changed his mind. He was too tired to relax in front of the TV. He pushed himself up front he couch and started up stairs.

“How long are we going to go on like this?” Sanjay stopped him at the bottom of the stairs. “We can’t live like miffed room mates like this for much longer. Avoiding each other in the morning.”

“If you aren’t here when I get up I can’t be avoiding you.”

“You know what I mean.”

“You not working up country this weekend?”

“I decided not to, not while we have things that have to be worked out.”

“Things like your buy in?”

“No!” Sanjay pulled Dan towards him.

“I’m tired. Really.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t have said that to your … what is he?”

“Your competition.” Dan laughed, as he shrugged out of Sanjay’s grip.

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Picture Perfect 37

Something his mother said about the little attic brought to mind the crawl space between the roof and the third floor. When they lived there is was were they kept the Christmas stuff. He couldn’t recall what they did with it during the renovations other that add a layer of insulation. Was there anything up there? What about those corners in the basement that never got used?

He cell rang.

“Daniel?” it was Baxter.

“Yes.” He had expected this call, the one in which Curtis explained why the bonus was not ready yet.

“What is your bank branch?”

Daniel gave him the location.

“Perfect. Meet me there in twenty minutes.”

“I’m walking out the door as we speak.” He shut his phone and turned to Sandy. “Call from the bank. I’ll be back in an hour.”

Curtis was there talking with the manager when he arrived.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Curtis said. “I wanted to things do quickly. Mrs. Herrick has everything ready for the transfer. Once you have signed these.”

The first was a contract with Baxter Bits for the $12,000. The second was a contract for the actual series with Quintex, which would require an additional signature.


“This one won’t get fully signed until they’ve decided they want the show. The 12K is yours regardless.” Curtis explained.

Daniel sorted through his various bank cards deciding which account this would into. It wasn’t Depot money, it wasn’t exactly Restorations money either. Nor was it personal. He opted for personal. He would check with Dell and Strong as to where they thought it should go.

The transfer took a few keystrokes to input pin numbers and it was done.

“That was easy.” Curtis said. “But not painless.”

“When do we meet with Quintex?”

“They were waiting for this to be done.” He waved the first contract. “I’m going there now. They will be in contact with you.”

“What about John Kilpatrick?”

“That’s in the hands of lawyers now.” Curtis shrugged. “Not renewing Unsolved for another season was not my decision. I merely passed that news along to him. Which, as you know, he didn’t take well. Speaking of which how is the eye?”

“Recovering as expected.”

“Good. There isn’t much of a make-up budget for the show. None in fact.” Curtis laughed. “Can I buy you a drink? To celebrate.”

“No, thanks. I have a business to run and you have some paper work to deliver I believe.”

Dan dropped into the Carafe when he got back. He looked around for Peter but didn’t see him.

“Hi Jill. The usual for my crew.”

She began to pour the the various ‘usuals.’

“Short handed today?” he asked. “No Peter?”

“He’s looking after his Dad.”

<>

Dan locked the front doors of the Depot. He leaned against the back counter and looked around the shop. The business that his Dad had built, that his sister had helped built and that he had turned into more than a camera shop. A business that apparently had been built on porn. Just like retail on the internet. Without the need for credit card security there would be no PayPal.

There was a knock at the glass doors. It was Inspector Warszawa. He gestured for Warszawa to come to the back as he didn’t want to go through front security again.

“What brings you here this late at night.”

“I was hoping to catch you before you closed. We had a weird break in the old photos case.”

They went up the back stairs to Dan’s office.

“Weird in what way?”

“All the photos are portions of pictures by Albert Block.”

“The western photographer?” Dan said.

“Right. He did those gigantic panoramic things.”

“I know. It took a pack horse just to carry the camera. I never figured out he got up some of those mountains.”

“Not my problem. But all the scenes were small sections of his pictures made to look like somebody’s travel photos.”

“Simple enough to do. But those pictures were real. I mean the ones that were from the sixties were actually from the sixties.”

“Someone couldn’t be using old film stock, period paper to reproduce them like that today?”

“Possibly but there’s a … patina quality to the finish that is from real aging. No chemical can do that.”

“What we’re dealing with then is someone who has a cache of these pictures that was created sometime in the sixties? I don’t get it.”

“Isn’t there anything else that connects these incidents?”

“They seem random. Victoria, Winnipeg, St. John’s. How much more random can you get.”

“Not so random. They’re all provincial capitols.”

“Fuck! I … no one even noticed that. You sure you don’t want to be reinstated?”

“Too late for that. You couldn’t afford me anyway. Trust me.”

<>

Dan arrived at FairVista five minutes before his Lyphend presentation. 

“Sorry I’m late.” He said to Linda. “They should call it Troubled Transit out of Commission.”

He demonstrated the medium range camera and the new self-framing option that would suggest a better angle for your shot, and the background damper that would allow your main subject to be in better focus. A feature that could be reversed, if one chose. The travel mug got the usual hum of reaction, particularly when he had the Cuppa’s barista fill it.

He was gratified to see that at least four of the cameras were sold. Sales always put Linda in a good frame of mind.

He had been caught off guard to see that Cuppa’s had been installed so quickly. It looked as if it had always been in that corner of the shop. Three small black marble top tables each with two chairs stood between the espresso bar and the front window. Even the floor had been changed with a non-slip slate tile that was flecked with glitter.

It had been fitted out with a Gaggia that looked like it as out of a space station. Beside it was a smaller single cup machine. There were no paper, Styrofoam coffee cups to be seen. Instead there was a range of ceramic mugs in different size and colors, each with Cuppa’s trademark on one side and ‘Linda James Photos’ on the other. 

“The Gaggia is custom made for the location.” Linda said proudly. “Beside it is a Clover. Put’s the Classic to shame.”

“Fast work,” Dan replied. “Considering it was … what less than two months ago you made the agreement.”

“They had their eyes on FairVista for a year or more before they approached us.” She walked to her office.

“By ‘us’ you mean ‘you.’ I knew nothing about this until they happened by the Depot one morning while I just happened to be here.” He followed her.

“I didn’t know they would do that. At that point I thought they were merely making inquiries.”

“Right. Well, speaking of making inquiries, I was in to see Dell and Strong earlier this week.” He sipped from the travel mug and watched to see if she reacted all all.

“Oh?” Her eyes flicked over to Cuppa’s and then back to him. “Another payroll hitch?”

“Why I was there isn’t the point, is it? Very slick. Did Mother know or did you spring it on her as well. No, wait, you made her think I was already on board.”

“You saw the agreement?”

“They showed it to me thinking I already knew about it. Almost put out my other eye. I appeared to have signed it sometime in December of last year.”

“December fifteenth to be exact.” Linda was pinching the skin between her thumb and forefinger. First one hand then the other.

“What … I mean …”

“What I’d like to know is how you got me to sign off on it.”

“Dan, it was laughably easy. You were never one to read every page one it comes to contracts. Top page doesn’t always match the bottom page.”

“Fuck! The projections for next year?”

“Right first time.”

“You realize that makes the contract dubious to say the least. I can imagine what a good lawyer would do with that information.”

“This is between you and me and I’ll never admit this to anyone.”

“You just did.” He sipped his coffee.

Her eyes widened. “You recorded this with the Lyphend!”

“It was laughably easy.” Dan smiled. “If you had come to me to begin with I probably would have been on board. Though when I saw the hasty mess Cuppa’s made on Queen I was shocked to see what they accomplished here.”

“Dan you know how difficult it was to convince you to even open this location.”

“Dad dead. Renovations at the Depot ran over budget and you wonder why.”

“Your workshop ran over budget.”

“A workshop that has since paid for itself. We’re just above the surface here at FairVista.”

“Then you aren’t going to do anything?”

“Dell and Strong are having our accounts gone over by a forensic accounting firm. There better not be any discrepancies.”

“I see.” Linda seemed to sag.

“Is there anything else they might find? The car leasing?”

“No! I didn’t expect you to be so … rational?”

“I’ve had a few days to think. Do I want to damage the James brand over money, deceit and manipulation? The answer is no. But if something more is uncovered I’ll have to rethink. Besides it runs in the family.”

“What runs in the family?”

“Hidden things. Like those sex pics of Dad’s. 

“Don’t tell me you don’t have a stash of porn somewhere.”

“I did once upon a time but the stuff I had wasn’t stuff I’d made myself.” The V-Files didn’t count as porn, did they? “Mom was by to see me earlier this week.”

“What! She left her condo! It must have been important. Health?”

“Nothing like that. You told her about those pictures and she wanted to make sure there were no more. She shredded the copies I showed you. Dad’s secret life may have been why we dashed from the east coast.”

No.”

“The RCMP got wind of it and encouraged him to get out of town as it were.”

“Bullshit. We left bec ….” she stopped herself.

“You do know more about this. Christ! I’m not an eleven year old any more. What could be worse than finding out your Dad was some sort of smut peddler.” He stopped himself from talking about the Montreal connection. If she already knew, he wanted her to talk about it, if not, it didn’t matter if she knew, yet.

“I knew the camera club was more than a camera club, if that’s what you’re fishing for. Sometime Dad would let me and some of the other kids I knew join in but there some nights when it was adults only. Said it was because we teens we so unruly. 

“One time I snuck back to the store to get a glimpse of what they were doing.”

“And.”

“It was some woman in a two piece bathing suit. Skimpy. That’s all I saw. Nothing like what you showed me but well I wasn’t that surprised to see it went further. At the time I freaked out.”

“When was that?”

“About a year before we moved?”

They walked back down to shop level. 

“You sound Daddy when you get serious.” Linda said.

“Then I guess he had reason to distrust you as well.” 

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Picture Perfect 36

Dan was surprised to see his mother come into the Depot. It had been some years since she had visited the site. The last time was the grand reopening of the renovated store. She was wearing a well-tailored, two-piece jacket and skirt in a pale mauve, darker mauve shoes and a small pillbox hat with a bit of veiling. 

She looked around, picked up a few cameras and peered through them. Outside of her apartment she looked smaller.  

“Mom! What brings you here?” Daniel hugged her. “Still sporting the Jackie look I see.” She hadn’t dressed up like this even for the opening of the FairVista location. He glad to see her looking so well. After his Dad’s death she spent a year of not caring about much. It almost took an intervention to get her to go a hairdresser.

“The place is well-organized.” She kissed him on the cheek. “It looks prosperous.”

“So do you.” Sandy said.

“You remember Sandy.” Dan said.

“Of course.” She kissed Sandy on the cheek. “You’ve lost some weight.”

“This is Ushio Tanaka.”

“Yes, we met at Linda’s wedding. The solar man?” 

“Solar?” Dan said. “Oh right! I forgot our foray into solar energy. Panels were too bulky and the profits too low.”

“But we still have some on the roof, right boss. Good to see you Mrs. James.” Ushio nodded to her.

“Care to show me around.” she asked Daniel.

“Sure. We haven’t made many changes here since you were here last. We’ll go up the back way.” Daniel lead her through to the back of the shop.

“Smells good back here.”

“That’s the Carafe.”

“I’m surprised any of you are so thin with such an enticing smell.” She opened the back door. “We used to have a little garden back here.”

“Yeah, but now that’s where we keep the city garbage bins till we put them in the lane way.”

She stepped back into the building. “I can remember you stomping up and down these stairs to go to school. I see you are still locking your bike to that railing.”

She went up the the next landing. “On rainy days I could hang laundry back here. See there’s one of the hooks for the line still here.”

Dan opened the door to his office. “This is where I do my own work. The RCMP stuff.”

She walked in and glanced around. “A man’s office.”

“The workshop is upstairs.”

She followed him up.

“Your bedroom was in the corner.”

“It’s still there. We kept it and the bathroom.”

She looked at the equipment, computer stations and projectors, magnifiers.

“It’s like a space ship, isn’t it.” She walked to the window overlooking the street. “Yes, you’ve done your Dad proud. He was sure he lost you to the law. That’s what he called it ‘the law.’”

“It was more like the Goddamned law if I remember correctly.”

“Right. Linda tells me you found some old photos of Richard’s.”

“The family stuff? Loads of Christmas stuff of us kids, that I barely remembered. A few old super 8’s as well. I’ve had them all digitized and burned to cd. I can get a copy for you. But I must warm you your hair-do’s go through some very drastic changes.”


“I was always trying look up to date.” His mother laughed. “Betty at the salon would say ‘what next’ as if it were a challenge.”

“We always knew when you’d had it done too. The smell of the spray was hard to miss.”

“I needed it to keep the hair hard. I’d love to see those old movies but Linda said you showed her some …. nudies?” She coughed lightly.

“I did.”

“I want them destroyed.”

“Huh?” She had said destroyed so casually Dan wasn’t sure if had heard her correctly.

“I thought I’d found them all. When you father passed I away, I found every one I could and got rid of them. Negatives and all. I was sure he would have wanted it that way.”

“You did what?”

“He thought I didn’t know but I knew from the start. Developing pictures late at night, telling me it was a rush order, but it was easy to find out what was going on.”

“How long had it been going on?” Dan asked.

“I don’t want to discuss it any further Daniel. I just want those photos. I want them all destroyed. I thought I had found them all. I went through everything here, at the house. He had them hidden in the little attic. A big box of them.”

“Were they all Dad’s work.”

“I didn’t care. I put them through the shredder, burned them. Bleached the negatives. It was sick. Taking them was sick. Publishing them was sick.”

“Publishing them?”

“There were magazine he’d sell them to. I’d see the cheques. He said it was his nature pictures for calendars. I believed him but a copy of one came in the mail. I saw it. I knew. He didn’t even try to deny it. He was proud. He said they were art.” She took a deep breath. “They were smut.”

“Calm down Mom.” The more she spoke the more he knew he wasn’t going to let these pictures be destroyed. He didn’t think they were art but now they were a part of his father he never knew.

“You shouldn’t have gone digging into those things.” she said. “It never does any good to dig into the past.”

“I wasn’t digging for anything. I was looking for those pictures of me and Timmy, remember. Because of that TV show. The other pictures had been stuck to the bottom of one of the bins.”

“I guess I sound like some old judgmental biddy.”

“No one is going to see them now anyway.”

“Your sister did.”

“That was to find out if she know anything more than I did about them. She reminded me about Kodak Fun Club.”

“You know about that too?” she sat in one of the arm chairs in front of his desk. “I really hoped all the would disappear once he had died. I never wanted you kids to know about this.”

“It was bit of a surprise. But it’s really no big deal. Not by today’s standards, anyway. It was more unexpected than anything else.”

“Can I see them?”

He took out the few he had shown Linda. She glanced at them, shook her and then tore them in half.

“Mom!” He didn’t move fast enough to stop her.

“Are there any more?”

“No! That was all.” He was glad he hadn’t handed her the originals.

“I hope so. It was hell knowing about it all these years. Kept it a secret. He assured me he never, you know, did more than take the pictures.”

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t know he was selling them to magazines. I was the one mailing them and never knew.. It was to some studio in Montreal. They would somehow get them to the States.”

Daniel remained silent. She knew a lot more about this business than he would have expected.

“He said they were selling copies of his prints. Those pictures of lighthouses, storms. He was good at that. I didn’t know it was …”

“He kept it hidden alright.”

“He assured me he wasn’t … ”

“What?”

“That he wasn’t going to do anymore. When we moved here after him getting caught.”

“What! Caught doing what?”

“Taking those pictures. He wasn’t charged or anything. That’s when we left. He was afraid. No one else, but me, was ever to know.”

“And the models. They know.”

“Right. I don’t think they knew what he was doing with our photos.”

“Our?”

“My God I didn’t mean to …” she began to weep.

“You posed for him?” The image of his mother in stockings, garter, bra and wild a whip left him breathless.

“It was all sort of fun at first. We were just fooling around and he said it would be for his eyes only. They were nothing. Not like this. Bathing suit shots, me drying myself after a bath. But when I found out about Montreal I said no more. No! No! No! I felt like a tramp. I saw the magazine with my photos in it. There. It made me sick.”

“You were in one of those magazines?”

“It wasn’t like you think. I was never … naked … never.”

Dan didn’t know how to calm her. A hug seemed out of place, insufficient.

“He was a good husband. He was good to you children. Always. That’s why I stayed. I loved him. He wanted us to stay together. So when I said move, we moved.”

“I’m beginning to understand.”

“And with those children going missing. It scared him. Sacred me too.”

“It was that weekend in Stellarton that he got found out by someone?”

“Yes. Someone called the RCMP and they went to where they were taking those pictures. You know a lot of his work was with children, school kids, they said they’d ruin that for him if he stayed. I warned him that it would happen. That he’d get caught.”

“Who called?”

“They wouldn’t tell him.”

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Me! No.”

Dan believed her. 

“Now you know why these pictures. All of them. Have to be destroyed. I don’t want his memory ruined.”

“Don’t worry, it won’t be.”

She stood and hugged him, her tears wetting his cheek. “I knew you’d understand.”

He didn’t want to tell her how hard he found it to understand. Keeping secrets for so long puzzled him.

“I best be on my way. If you find any more of these please promise you’ll destroy them.”

“I will Mom. I will.”

He walked down the stairs with her and hailed a cab for her to get home. If she hadn’t been so distraught he would have asked her about her signing on the Cuppa’s agreement. Another time.

“She seemed a little upset.” Sandy said as he went back into the Depot.

“The old homestead got to her.”

“That’s right I forget your family lived here at one time. It has changed a lot.”

“Yes. Nothing stays the same. Even the past can get a renovation.”

“Good thing we have pictures. They never change.”

“I don’t know about that. They don’t change but I’ve found what we see in them does.”

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