Picture Perfect 81

Picture Perfect 81

Once he got out of the taxi Dan double checked the address for Joviet J. Inc. he had written down. He was on the right street according to the GPS. Avenue Vert. Both sides were lined with three or four-story warehouse spaces, some of which had been converted to lofts, others appeared to be abandoned. Many didn’t have street numbers just names: Place de Hebo; Masion Au Moire. 

The area had been part of the Ahuntsic garment district at one time but as imports brought prices down many of the side-street shops closed. There were some printing companies listed on the outside of some of them between the ‘a louer’ signs. He was tempted to ask a passerby but didn’t trust his French enough to approach anyone. His time in the RCMP had sharpened his reading & writing French skills but his conversational was never good enough to even order in a coffee shop.

There were a couple cafes & ground floor shops open – direct to public sales – with clothing, ceramics, paintings, in the windows. None with books or magazines. The door to Marcel’s Photocopie Plus was slightly open so he went in. A bell tingled. He took pictures of the various sized advertising cards printed in different languages, French, English, Cyrillic, Japanese, Hindi that were along the walls.

“Ello?” The clerk came out from a curtained room behind the counter & adjusted his toque. “Nice camera.” The clerk said pointing to Dan’s Lifend.

“Thanks. I was wondering if you could help me.”

“I would be most happy to try.” The clerk’s English was slightly accented.

“I’m looking for this address.” He handed the clerk the page he’s written the address on.

“Ah …” the clerk stepped to the door where the lighting was better. “This is a ‘b’ number. Which means it is not a front building but a back building. The fronts are all ‘a.’”

“It would help if even the facades had numbers.”

“I have often felt that way myself. Come … I will take you. I know where this one is.” He started down the sidewalk.

“You leaving your store open like that.”

“I shut the sign.” He reached around Dan, flipped the Overt sign to Ferme. “If they need copies they will come back. Come … ”

He lead Dan past a couple of the shorter buildings to a laneway between two of them. “It is down this lane & to the left.”

Even in the afternoon sun the laneway was dark. Reflected light gleamed at the far end & he could see there was another building.

“Thank you.” He turned and the man was gone. Dan started down the lane. His eyes adjusted quickly. A blow between his shoulders send him face first to the ground. He put one arm up to protect his face and clutched his shoulder bag to his stomach. A foot between his shoulder blades held him to ground. He felt something pulling at his camera strap. He tried to move.

“Be still stupid man or this knife might slip to do real damage.” The pressure on the camera strap increased. 

Dan took a deep breath, flicked the strap’s catch so it came loose. He remained flat on the ground. He wasn’t too concerned about the camera. It was fingerprint protected. Only he could use it. Releasing the catch would send a signal to alert Lifend.

He waited another five minutes after the footsteps had run from the laneway. He pushed himself up slowly, brushed debris from his pants and jacket, got his cell phone and called the police. He gave directions as best he could and waited on the sidewalk by the laneway entrance. He checked the camera’s gps & saw that whomever had it was still a few block away. Probably trying to figure out the Lifend.

When the officers arrived he told them who he was, showed them his special constable card.

“A secret service man!” the older of the two said shaking Dan’s hand. “I am Lucas Fortin and this is my partner Tai Zhang. You are here on a case?”

“No a little pleasure.” He explained his camera’s theft features as they walked back to the print shop.

A man rubbing his head staggered out of the shop. 

“Des voleurs. Voleurs. C’est la troisième fois ce fucking mois-ci.”

After the man had been calmed down it was case of break & enter. He had been for a little lunch & was turning off the security system at the door when this ‘fuckin’ voleur’ had pushed him through it, to the counter  & bashed him in the head. Dan had walked in before the ‘fuckin’ voleur’ had gotten anything. 

Dan checked the camera’s gps & saw that it was no longer in motion.

“He’s abandoned my camera in this area.”

He pointed it out to the store owner.

“A park not too far from here” Lucas Fortin laughed. 

“Place de Drogués.” His partner echoed the laugh. 

“Come, we will take you to it.”

The camera had been stuffed into one of the park trash barrels. It was covered with rotting orange peels.

Dan took it over the fountain, dunked it under the water & rinsed it off.

“Waterproof?” Zhang was impressed.

“More that that.” Dan smiled. “Pretty much indestructible. He turned the camera on to make sure it had survived. “Take a look. Sudden motion sensitive too.”

He played back the footage the camera had automatically started filming when he had undone the strap buckle: the sidewalk as the thief was running & dodging between parked cars, down a laneway & stopping at the park to shake the camera as he tried to turn it on. 

“Shitty shit shit camera.” The thief was saying as he tried to catch is breath. “… buttons do nothin’. Shit why that asshole come in just then.”

Then the camera was shoved into the trash barrel. There were several good quality shots of the thief’s face.

“C’est Clarence.” Zhang said. “Crackhead we know well.”can 

By the time his statement had been taken it was too late for Dan to continue his investigations. He told the police he was there taking photographs and someone had suggested the area and building at 641B Jaccent.

“Is gone.” The shop owner explained. “It was in a big fire last summer, or was it the summer before that? Torn down & soon to be condos.”

“Thanks.” His cell chimed. “That’s my reminder to get to the airport. I have a flight to catch.”

“You catch a taxi fast at the next lights.” Zhang said.

“Thanks.”

“I’ll tag along,” Fortin said. “Just to make sure you don’t get more troubles.”

“Sure.”

A few steps along Fortin said. “641 was a hot spot & not because of t’fire. No one would suggest it as a photo op. What are you looking for here?”

Dan took a deep breath. “I was hoping to track down Joviet J. Inc. in connection with a case I’m working on.”

“Oh?”

“Sorry that is all I can tell you.”

“Understood. The place had biker connections & no one was sorry to see it go, expect the insurance company.”

“I see.” Dan hoped the officer would tell him more.

“There’s a cab.”

As Dan got in Fortin handed him a card. “Get in touch if you want to know more about Joviet. Unofficially.”

“Understood.” 

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Picture Perfect 80

Picture Perfect 80

Dan enjoyed the cool quiet of the back patio as he relaxed on a chaise lounge with the damp cloth over his eyes. He could still see the look on John Kilpatrick’s face from the night before. It went from suppressed rage to almost affable host as he realized he was back on camera. To make matter worse the camera quick zoomed for a closer shot.

Even though he had slept well when he went to bed he felt himself drifting off as slipped into the cool breeze. 

“Hey!”

“Yes Peter.”

“Sorry to disturb you sir but you really have to see this. Really.”

He went into the house.

Peter was seated over the desktop in the study.

“Look at this clip from the show last night.”

It was of him saying “Back to you, John.” with John’s face as he struggled to keep going despite his rage.

“Yeah, been there done that.”

“Look, sir, so far it has gotten over two million hits!”

“What!” Dan stared at the umbers as they continued to go up.

“Not only that but it’s become a meme.”

He switched to a page that showed a collection of gifs & stills of things like volcanos erupting, cars going over cliffs with either the words “Back to you John” superimposed or his voice say it.

“That’s crazy.” Dan was stunned.

“What has Curtis said about it?” Peter asked.

“I haven’t look at my phone since last night. I needed at least one night of sleep you know.”

He turned on both his phones. The Quintex phone has more texts than he could count. Most of them from Curtis, with some from Jeremy & Stephanie. One was a voice message from John Kilpatrick. Plus three voicemails from Curtis on his personal phone. He decided to start with those. 

They were nearly identical. “Dan you amazed me. I didn’t think you were capable of such such fucking smarts.” Each added details. “Have you seen those numbers. That clip has gone viral.” “This is insane. Baxter’s Bits has never had such an online surge. QTel is everywhere too. You broke the internet.”

“Well, boss, you seem to have done good, sir.” Peter chuckled.

“All wanted was to follow up on Sarah’s snake man comment not break the internet.”

He rolled through his text messages & they all were raving about the response to his ‘Back to you, John.’ The one exception was from Stephanie

“Dan, thanks to you we’ve had a surge of tips about this Snake Man. You are definitely on to something new. Let’s face it John Kilpatrick is a personality not an investigator. lol.”

He was about to listen to Kilpatrick’s message when the phone rang. It was Jeremy.

“Good morning Dan.” Jeremy started. “The numbers for the launch are better than we anticipated.”

“Uh …thanks Jeremy. I was just following up on a lead. I learned that in my days on the Force. Act when you sense something because it you don’t it’ll slip away. Besides it’s John’s reaction not my action that’s making waves.”

“Can’t we meet for lunch?”

“Sorry I can’t. I have a plane to catch.”

“If you have to get to east coast for the show that can be changed.”

“Nope. I have something to follow up in Montreal.”

“Montreal? Does it figure into the investigation.”

“I won’t know for sure until I’ve checked into it.”

“Okay. We need to learn to trust your instincts.”

“Thanks, Jeremy.” He shut the phone off.

“Popular guy this morning, sir.”

“Fuck look at the time! I better get going if I expect to catch my flight.”

He double checked his carry-on & shoulder bag to make sure he had all things he needed – both cell phones, both cameras, Lifend travel mug, pad, recharge cables for each one, & printed confirmations of his flights. 

“Your wallet, sir!” Peter handed it to him with a lingering kiss. “Your taxi is here.”

“Thanks. I miss you already.” He held Peter close. 

The taxi honked.

At the Pearson Airport he checked in & found the departure gate for his flight. He turned his Quintex phone on to listen to John’s voice-mail.

“Listen you self-important asshole no one gives me orders when I’m on air & then turns my interview into a train wreck. I don’t know who you think you are but don’t expect to get away with such unprofessional backstabbing. I’ve in this business for decades & trust me I can fuck your career up so badly you’ll be lucky to own a TV, let alone appear on one. You don’t know who are dealing with & if you think this shoot has been plagued by bad luck it is only going to get worse.” 

As Dan shut the phone off one of the overhead TVs caught his eye. There was the clip of him saying “Back to you John” with John’s grimace of emotional control. It was followed by a clip of himself receiving the commendation award for his work on child pornography. He glanced uneasily around yo see who else might be watching but everyone was busy with their own cell phones. The last thing he needed was to be recognized. Yeah, he thought, like that’s going to happen.

It sank in to him then that he would become more of a public figure thanks to Maritime Mystery. He wasn’t working behind the scenes anymore. He had always relied don the official RCMP spokesperson to deal with the public & the the press. This allowed him a degree of anonymity as he worked out of the public eye. He wondered if Maritime Mystery had an official spokesperson? 

Boarding for his flight was called. He checked to make sure he all his gear & made his way to the boarding desk. The flight attendant scanned the code on his cell, then said “Back to you, Mr. James.”

He nodded & took his boarding pass made his along the entry way to the plane. He didn’t know if or how he was supposed to acknowledge being recognized.

He got to his window seat with any further incident. The sun was reflecting off the wings of the various planes around him. He pointed his Lifend out of the window & began taking pictures as the plane made ready for take off. Once it was in the air he began taking pictures again. With the increase in the amount of flying he was doing he discovered a love of clouds, of endless blue sky.

He relaxed back in his seat, closed his eyes & fell asleep.

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Picture Perfect 79

Picture Perfect 79

As the picture of him with Timmy faded to montage of the other missing child there was a gentle guitar with an equally gentle fiddle mixed in with it by the last child. A song started ‘I never knew him

he was long gone/before I came along/they were all long/before I came along.’ The song faded out to him sitting on the front steps of the Wickham Arms.

“This is where that photograph was taken. Timmy sat right here beside me.” The camera moved to the empty space beside him, after a moment a ghostly image of Timothy Dunlop appeared sitting there.

“Holy shit!” Dan said to Peter. “That gave me goose bumps. I didn’t know they were going to do stuff like this. I like the show even more now!”

The image faded away and Dan on TV continued. “Before I tell you what we’re doing let’s go back to the Canada Cold episode where I saw this image.”

The screen faded & the episode of Canada Cold began.

He pressed the record button on the remote & turned the TV off.

“You not interested?” Peter said.

“I’ve seen it.” Dan laughed lightly. 

“Well, I haven’t.” Peter turned the TV back on and put the remote behind his back.

“I had a repeat of something else in mind.” Dan kissed Peter & tried to get at the remote.

“No, you don’t.” Peter tried to squirm away.

“No, you don’t, SIR.” Dan forced the arm Peter was holding the remote from behind his back.

“Sorry, sir.” Peter relinquished the remote.

“That’s more like it.” Holding Peter’s gaze Dan realized his feelings for Peter were more than fuck buddy friendly. The young man wasn’t just a convenient house sitter but someone he looked forward to being with when he was in Toronto.

“Would you like to live here?”

“I am now, aren’t I.”

“I mean not as a house-sitter but as …”

“Your boyfriend!” Peter stood up wide-eyed. “I … I’d have to talk it over with my dad. He counts me, you know. Are you serious? I was, well, I was sure this was just …uh … something fun for a couple of months.”

“So did I but …”

“Okay. I’ll do it. Wait …” He sat again. “Are you trying to distract from the TV?”

“No!” Dan turned the TV back on.

“Sir. I don’t think I can concentrate on it anymore. I’m going to take a cold shower.”

“I’ll join you.”

After their shower Dan went to the TV & zipped through the Canada cCold broadcast to the credits at the end to see who was mentioned in them. He was disappointed not to see Jackson Meade acknowledged but there was thanks to The Atlantic Sentinel for their assistance. 

When ‘I never knew him he was long gone’ started up again Dan almost turned the TV but Kevin McLeod’s face loomed at the camera. 

“Stayed tuned at 9 for our live broadcast & to find out how Sally Sewell & yours truly wrote ‘Long Gone’ which not only won a Juno & a Grammy & is now the theme for Maritime Mysteries.”

“It’s almost 9! We have to see this, sir.” Peter said. “Please.”

“Kevin McLeod! Well, I’ll be.” Dan said.

“You know Kevin?”

“I worked on a couple of his videos. Post production stuff mostly. Some green screen. We almost did his wedding shoot at Pride this past summer but his label insisted on some big name rock photographer.”

“You sound more relieved than disappointed.”

“Let’s just say I’m not the Pride type. Too much hype & not enough shade.” Dan turned the pvr off & switched back to the actual broadcast. 

‘Behind the Mystery’ flickered across the screen ‘with John Kilpatrick’ underneath it.

“John Kilpatrick here live at Cora’s Place in Stellerton, Nova Scotia with Kevin McLeod & Sally Swell.”

John was sitting at a table, over his shoulder was Kevin & Sally on stage performing ‘Long Gone.’ Kevin playing an acoustic guitar & Sally a fiddle accompanied by a guy tapping a sort of handheld drum.

“What’s he playing?” Peter asked.

Dan consulted his phone. “I think it’s called a bodhram.”

“Thank you, sir.”

When they finished the song Kevin & Sally put their instruments down & came over the table to join John.

“First let me congratulate both of you on your Juno & Grammy wins.”

“Thanks John.” Kevin said. “It’s always great to get that sort of recognition. Just don’t call me this generation’s Bryan Adams.”

“Truly.” Sally said. “I’m definitely not the reincarnation of Anne Murray either. For one thing she’s still alive. Right?”

“You should know, Sally. You lured her back into the studio for a duet on your album.” John said holding up the CD case of the album. “So tell me how did you two come to write this song about David McPherson?”

“I was looking to do something outside of my usual hard rock box.” Kevin said. “I knew Sally was doing an lp of duets & I thought it was time to get back to my Celtic roots.’”

“I had the idea for the song last year. Before I knew anything about the cold case show.” Sally explained. “David was a decade before I was born so I didn’t really know much about him other than he sort of disappeared one day. My Gran used to scare us into being good & staying close to the house by warning us about how this kid went out to play one day & never came back.”

“Did she say what happened to him?” John asked.

“No. As I got older I didn’t really believe her, you know, I thought it was just some made up ghost story to keep us kids quiet. Once when I teased her about making it up she did say something about the Snake Man would get my tongue.”

“Snake Man!” Kevin laughed. “You never told me that when we were working on the song.”

“Did you know anything about David McPherson when you were still living on the east coast?” John asked.

“Not really. I was so wrapped up with being queer that I didn’t pay any attention to the news.”

Dan grabbed his note pad & scribbled down ‘snake man.’ As he wrote it got goosebumps.

“Something important?” Peter asked.

“I’m not sure. I just hope John has enough sense to follow up on snake man.”

When he saw that the interview was about their up-coming tour he became impatient.

“I think it’s time for you to treat us to another number.” John said.

As the camera followed them to the stage Dan saw that Stephanie Carter was at one of the tables. He got his Quintex phone & texted her. “We must talk. ASAP.”

A few moments later she replied. “Can’t it wait until this is over?”

“No! Get John to follow up on snake man.”

He saw her go over the table & kneel beside John who shook his head.

“He says to tell that asshole this is his interview.”

The song was over. Stephanie stood & walked over to Sally. The cell Dan was holding buzzed.

“Hello.” He answered.

On the screen Stephanie was handing her phone to Sally.

“There’s an important call for you Sally.”

Sally looked confused for a moment & took the phone.

“If you want this to go live on air press star three times.” Stephanie said.

She did. “Hello? Sally Sewell here.”

“Hi Sally this is Dan James chief investigator for Maritime Mystery.”

“Oh!”

“Sorry to interrupt like this but something you said might be of some importance to the case. What can you tell us about snake man?”

“The snake man?” Sally gave a nervous laugh. “As best as I remember there was this old creepy guy who came around various farms to buy rabbits, piglets & the like to feed his snakes?”

“His snakes?” Dan asked.

“There was some snake museum for the tourists I guess & the snakes liked live … Oh God this sounds horrible. I never gave it much thought.”

“Thanks, Sally, You’ve told me enough, our team can take it from there. Back to you John.” He clicked his phone off.

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Picture Perfect 78

Picture Perfect 78

Dan filled Peter in on recent developments with the show as they drove into Toronto.

“This Meade sounds like a real character.”

“Oh yeah. But he didn’t really have much new to offer, which suits everyone fine. I mean they want to spin things out by stretching what little hard information we have.”

“Speaking of hard information, sir.” Peter’s hand dropped to Dan’s thigh.

“Keep your eye on the road & both hands on the wheel.” Dan was tempted to move Peter’s but didn’t. “So no real developments since we did that video call earlier this week.”

“What’s next?”

“We move along to the Cape. Unless some new leads come our way over the next couple of days then we’ll stick to our basecamp.”

Once in his house Dan felt himself began to relax. “It’s great not to have to worry facing that crew for a couple of days.” He looked around. “ I spent the afternoon shooting some of those talking head bridges as I walked around Stellerton. You know I’ve never thought about how they do those things. I always figured there were done in chronological order. It feels strange not to have Cameron following me with his camera. ”

“I’m sure it does, sir.” Dan said as he pulled his tee-shirt off. “If he was, I wouldn’t be able to do this would I, sir.”

“Peter, if he were here you would be doing it even faster.” He took Peter by the waist of his jeans & pulled him tight. “No c2c is as good as the real thing.” 

Dan undid his own jeans, turned Peter around & shoved his jeans down to his knees. Peter leaned forward & braced himself again the kitchen counter. 

Dan’s erection teased along Peter’s ass crack & then he pushed the head of it up into Peter, then slowly pulled it out.

“Don’t stop, sir. Please.”

Holding his jeans up with one hand Dan slapped Peter’s ass with the other.

“Shower first.”

“Okay, sir.”

<>

Saturday was an exhausting day as Dan went from an hour at the Depot, a visit to the Carafe & to a two hour Lifend demonstration at the FairVista. Linda, to his relief, was personally supervising a wedding shoot in the ritzy Bridal Path part of city. After the demo he met with a representative from Dell and Strong to get an update on the changes in the James Corporation structure. His prime concern was that Linda would have no legal sway over the Depot. It made him long to be back in Toronto dealing with the business he was comfortable with not with Baxter’s moods & broken-hearted parents looking for answers.

He was driving back when he got a text marked urgent from Baxter. 

“Tune in to the launch of QTel tonight at 8.”

QTel? What the fuck was Baxter up to now? When he parked in his garage he sat in the car & did a quick search for QTel Launch. 

QTel was Quintex’s newly created pay channel. It was to be devoted to various investigative crime & supernatural phenomena reality documentaries. He saw that his show was now called The Maritime Mystery. So that’s what they do at the production end of things. There were at least two other Quintex original series coming soon plus repeats of all their shows. The package would include similar shows from Australia, Great Britain, India & even China. Many of which, the release promised, had never been shown in North America.

Now he understood why Baxter was pushing them to stay focused despite the obstacles they’d faced so far. There was no time for Baxter to waste to recover from his injuries, even less for him to grieve the death of Roberto. No wonder Baxter resented Dan taking these pauses to attend his ‘real’ life.

In the house he was distorted by the quiet. He was actually alone. No Peter. No Sanjay. No pressure to research anything, or be anywhere. He went up to his bedroom & the bed was still unmade. Even though there was no hotel staff ticking it in, no fresh towels folded tidily in the bathroom he didn’t feel quite at home. 

He down to his study & turned his computer on for first time since he’d returned. The only site he’d neglected while away was the V-Files. There’d been no opportunity for him create new material for his site there. As he scrolled through the newest additions, even clicking on a couple that mildly peaked his interest he wasn’t into it. The hits on his posts had declined since over the past month as well. No new posts meant no new hits. But he was still getting ‘like’ & there was money in his tip jar with requests to post more.

He heard the front door open.

“Horney I’m home.”

It was Peter.

Dan shut down his computer & went to greet Peter with a hug & long kiss.

“Oh sir, I could get used to this.” Peter said leaning into Dan. “What’s on the menu tonight.”

“It’ll be the Tasty Tai.” Dan said. “It should here by the time we’ve showered off the the day. Can’t have you smelling like an espresso all night.”

<>

As Peter was drying Dan’s feet the doorbell rang.

“Good timing, sir.”

“Perfect in fact. I have a little surprise for you. I’ll get the food, you get dishes & we’ll meet in front of the TV.”

As they piled food on their plates Dan remembered how this had all started with him in front of the TV & being stunned to see that childhood picture of himself & Timmy Dunlop several months ago. Months that felt like years. He tuned into the channel at 7:55. There was a digital clock countdown under rippling colour graphic that said ‘QTel Canada’s newest TV channel will be unveiled in 4:55, 4:54 – minutes.

You can also watch us on line at Qtel.TevTec.TV.’

At exactly 8 the screen went to a deep blue then Jeremy Moxham appeared. He was walking though a busy television studio. Various cameras swivelling to follow him so that he appeared in images shot from cellphones, surveillance cameras, hand-held, night-vision & even a heat-sensor camera. 

“Good evening Canada. Welcome to my latest adventure. QTel a channel devoted to challenging, entertaining, no-holds barred crime investigations, as well as the latest developments in psychic research. Things that I have always been interested in even when I was on the ice.”

There was a brief montage of Jeremy scoring goals, swinging a bat, doing a dive, two-man luge & playing golf.

“He didn’t have time for curling?” Peter said.

“Tonight I’m going to give you a taste of what we have in store for you from around the world & some of our original Canadian productions.”

There was montage of show titles starting with Canada Cold, Maritime Mysteries.”

“Hey that’s you!” Peter said.

“At least it’s my good side.” The brief clip had Dan adjusting his electronic loupe to study a photograph.

Then titles of at least another dozen different show some of which Dan easily understood – Outback Oddities, Creepy Castles, Interpol Exposed.

“How did they miss Scooby-Do?” Peter laughed. “Or Ghostbusters.”

The screen faded to a voice pattern display.

“Hello. This is Daniel James. I am the other boy in the photograph of Timothy Dunlop. Please contact me …” The display faded to the picture of of him & Timmy.

Dan was startled to hear his voice. 

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Picture Perfect 77

Picture Perfect 77

“What do you think happened to those children?” Dan asked.

“Dan, that’s a hard question to answer. At the time there was an expectation that they would show up again.” Meade said. “Or that we’d find their bodies on different beaches. I know what predators do to children but somehow I don’t think this is what happened here. It was too … clean. After a year, when there was nothing, I knew we’d never see any of them again. Alive.”

“Here you are Mr. Meade.” Delores handed him the green file folder. He took a newspaper clipping from it and handed it to Dan.

“Priests Charged” was the headline. Under it was a photograph of three priests.

“That’s Father McKillop!” Dan said. He skimmed the article. Then checked the date. “This is from last year. He’s still alive.”

“Yes.” Meade said. “Pleading not guilty, I might add. Goes to trial in the new year. This was why he was ‘moved’ to new parish.”

“Embezzlement isn’t such a big thing.” Jennifer said. 

“You were hoping for something more …. salacious?” Meade laughed. “I’m sure embezzlement covers a multitude of sins.”

“Such as where did the money go?” Dan said.

“Right, though maybe it was his personal organ fund.” Meade laughed loudly. “He was known to be fond of ladies. Had at least two mistresses while he was still here on the east coast.” 

“Says here he needed the money to pay off gambling debts.” Dan put the article on the table. “Would you know, off hand, if he’s related Staff Sergeant McKillop.” Dan asked.

“I could find out easily.” Meade said. “Cousins for sure.”

“So you covered the disappearance cases at the time?” Dan asked. 

“Only one of them. We reported on two of the others. But no connections between were made. When nothing really developed it stopped being newsworthy.” Meade shook his head. “When I moved here several years ago I decided to do a purge of my old personal files & came across the one for the Forestier’s.”

“And the others?” Jennifer asked.

“I pulled the Forestier & put it to one side. Found the others & did the same & saw the pattern. All were in different counties so even then I didn’t see connections. Running the Sentinel didn’t leave me time to make connections. When I retired I had time to ruminate.”

Jennifer flipped through the other clippings, notes & photographs in Meade’s folder. “Did you uncover anything since you contacted Unsolved Cold?”

Dan reached over & took a colour photo from the papers. It was a panoramic shot of a banquet with several round tables, each with groups people around them smiling at the camera. He pulled out his electronic loupe to study the faces.

“That’s my Dad!” He said. “That’s Father McKillop at another of the tables.”

“Good eye.” Meade said. “That was …”

“The Atlantic News awards in 1984. March, right? Mom was pissed she couldn’t go because I had a cold. Why was the good father there?”

“It was a fairly open guest list.” Meade said. “I think our press celebrity that year was Pierre Burton. All the winners got signed copies of The Promised Land. His latest book.”

“Fuck! This is the Chamberlains. I recognize them from their photos at the Circus museum. Oh wow! Is that a real snake around her shoulders.”

“Yes.” Meade said. “She was a woman of interesting interests.”

“There’s Mrs. O’Connor, too. She’s one of servers!”

Dan turned on his tablet & pulled up the file of interview photos to compare it with one of the younger Mrs. O’Connor. “Yes. Definitely her.”

“What does that tell us?” Jennifer asked. “It was a fairly public event.”

“My inquiries told me the O’Connor woman was one of McKillop’s uh … conquests.” 

“Mrs. Chamberlain, too?” Jennifer asked. “No I don’t feel that here.”

“Yes. Yes. I’m sure.” Meade fell silent. 

Delores stepped to his side.

“I’m afraid it’s time for Mr. Meade to rest. He usually doesn’t have so many visitors.” She shook his shoulder gently. “Time for your afternoon siesta Mr. Meade.”

“Yes. Yes. Thank you Delores.” He stood unsteady. “I hope I’ve been helpful. You can have the files. I have to keep purging my past. There’s more in there than we discussed.”

Delores began to lead him away.

“Please get in touch if you want to ask any questions.” He shrugged Delores’ hand from his shoulder. “Perhaps, if I may, would you mind walking me back to my room Mr. James?”

“Certainly.” Dan stood.

Cameron moved to follow them.

“No cameras beyond the the visiting area.” Delores said.

“Oh.” Cameron looked to Dan.

“It’s alright.”

<>

Dan’s eyes blinked as they left the brightly lit visiting area & went into a dimly lit hallway. Even the smell of the building changed as they walked. The fresh pine of the other room was replaced by a stuffy medicinal dustiness. 

“There’s a flight of stairs around the corner.” Meade said. “My unit is on the first floor so I take the stairs whenever I can. Helps keep me in shape.”

The corridor on the first floor was brighter. The smell of disinfectant was stronger. 

“Here we are.” Meade pushed the buttons on the electronic lock & the door swung open. 

The room was cluttered with a couple of file cabinets, a desk littered with folders, a recent model computer & a bed. 

“Utilitarian but home.” Meade said. “Sit for a moment.”

“You sure Dolores will allow it?” Dan sat on the edge of the bed.

“Yeah. Look did you know about the conflict between your Dad & McKillop?”

“McKillop? No. Dad was none to fond of the Catholic school boards for blocking him from doing their class photos. But he never mentioned anyone in particular.”

“That someone was McKillop. He & your Dad were … I can’t call them friends but they were more than acquaintances too. Not quite business partners either but …”

“What?” Dan was trying to make some connection between his Dad & the priest.

“Members of the same club.”

“Masons?”

“No some camera club.”

“My God! You mean the Kodak Fun Club?”

“Exactly. I’d forgot what it was called. They took photos of an artistic nature.”

“Yeah. I’ve seen some of them. Girly pics. You were a member of the club too?”

“I had a newspaper to run & well, I had access to enough of that sort of smut anyway. Anyway the club voted McKillop out after he’d been a member for a couple of month.”

“Having a priest in the room sort of dampened their innocent pleasures.” Dan gave a little laugh.

“No, he wanted their photographic experiments to go a little further. McKillop was …”

“He liked to be punished for being a bad, bad priest!”

“Good guess.”

“How do you know this if you weren’t a member of the club?”

“My sources must remain confidential. You understand that.”

“You knew Peggy Brooks?”

Meade stared intently at him for a minute. “Never heard of her.”

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Picture Perfect 76

Picture Perfect 76

Dan pressed the remote to open the rental car door. Baxter stepped between him and the door.

“Dan why are you so resistant? John Kilpatrick was always eager to bring interesting viewpoints to the cases he reported on for us.”

“I’ve seen some of that crap. Interviews with the hairdresser of the woman who lived across the street from someone who saw what happened. And you wonder why your show lacks critical credibility.”

“It’s entertainment for fuck sake, not a documentary.”

“I get that but you’ve seen the interviews we’ve done so far. These are people who are still hurting, still looking for answers. They aren’t doing this to be entertaining. Nor am I.” Dan heard his voice echo in the parking lot. “Sorry I didn’t mean to shout.”

“We want those answers too. Don’t you think there’s something to how the original investigation just petered out so easily?”

“Something like one of that team was the abductor?”

“Whoa! That never occurred to me? Do you think that’s a possibility.” Baxter rubbed his hands excitedly.

“Look if you’re that unhappy with my …. lock of cooperation bring Kilpatrick in to do those hairdresser interviews.”

“We’re not unhappy it’s just that …”

“You want the credibility I bring. Right.”

“True but you haven’t been part of the team.”

“Is that why you followed me out here? To tell me I wasn’t a team player?” He nudged Baxter away from the car to open the door. “That may be true but I’ll get results not entertainment.”

“You know what your problem is Dan. You’re looking at this like a policeman. You want to make an arrest. It’s like you expect someone to give you a name that will lead to a suspect.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing but we’re telling the story of what happened. We aren’t looking for a solution to this mystery but clues to the solution. If we solve it fine but we don’t that’s fine too.”

“I get it! You want a season two.”

“Hahhaha.” Baxter could barely control his laughter. “No. Dan I just want to get this season wrapped, alive. After almost dying in a rigged car, you think I want to prolong this?”

Dan resisted saying the the rigged car was meant for him. He did realize Baxter was right though, he had been trying to solve the case with the hope of catching the abductor as he had done in the child porn case. 

“Right. I was envisioning one of busting down-the-door finales.”

<>

Over the next couple of weeks Dan interviewed classmates, cousins, neighbours who were directly connected to the original abductions. He looked more of his dad’s class photos, even some wedding pictures knowing there would be little new information in them. 

Footage of the interviews was being edited for broadcast, not knowing exactly what they were looking for forced them not to make conclusions. Dan spent two mornings recording various weekly introductions to the show that had him talking to the camera as he walked along the shoreline or looking through folders supposedly holding investigative reports. 

He found himself falling into the rhythm of the routine. Make-up, fresh shirts from wardrobe, on-camera conversations with Jennifer about their interviews. He looked forward to his video calls with Peter & keeping tabs on the stores. What he really looked forward to was his upcoming weekend out of the camera to his real life in Toronto. To make it more interesting he booked a flight to Montreal to investigate his father’s connection to Joviet J. Inc.

In the next morning Cameron & Jennifer Devereaux were waiting for him in the Wickham Arms lobby.

“Last day here Dan.” Cameron said.

“What’s on for today.”

“We’re to see Jackson Meade.” Cameron answered. “Former publisher of the Atlantic Sentinel.”

“This one will be fun.” Jennifer said. “Everyone loves Uncle Jack.”

“Uncle?” Dan asked as they got into the car.

“He’s everyones uncle. One winter he visited every school in the district with boxes full of mittens, gloves, toques and scarfs to make sure every child had enough warm clothes. Parkas if they needed them.” Jennifer explained.

“Generous.”

“Of course they all the Sentinel logo on them somewhere. So we kids became walking billboards for his newspaper. Smart man.”

“Sounds like Jeremy Moxham.” Dan said. “Shows up at charity events with a donation and gets his picture in the paper. Free advertising.”

“You know Jeremy Moxham!” Jennifer said.

“I guess you missed that vibe.” Dan laughed. “Tell me more about Uncle Jack.”

“He sold his papers to a mainland conglomerate. Not that he wanted to but he had to. They weren’t financial feasible anymore. Thanks to the Internet.” Jennifer said. “He retired. Travels a fair bit, especially for someone his age.”

“Age?”
“He must be going on ninety.”

“Baxter says it was Meade who contacted Qunitex last year with his theory about the missing children. Baxter flew down then to meet him because Meade wouldn’t let his ‘evidence’ out his sight.”

“Then why didn’t we start the interviewing with him.”

“Ask him when you see him. Here we are.” Cameron drove the gates of a long three story building in a faux Tudor style. A sign with an arrow pointed to the back of the building. The sign said “Parking for Calaidh Retirement Villa visitors this way.”

Jackson Meade greeted them as they came into the second floor sunroom. “We’ll have some tea. Delores has made us a fresh pot. There’ll be scones in a bit. How’s your mother Jennifer?”

“Good. Sends her regards and her regrets.”

‘Damn. She’ll say yes one of these times.”

“Uncle Jack if every woman you proposed to said yes you’d be in big trouble.”

“That sort of trouble is good for a man my age. And this is …” he looked to Cameron.

“Cameron …” Dan said by way of introduction.

“Now there’s a good Scottish name. Can’t remember the last I heard that name.”

“Cameron Andersen.”

“Hmm … ‘e’ or ‘o’.”

“E.”

“And you must be Daniel James. You look a lot like your Dad. Not the face but the stance, the carriage. You made something of yourself. That child porn business you helped with. Brilliant work. Your Dad would have been proud.”

A young woman pushed a food cart over to them.

“Delores will play mother for us. Sit Sit.”

They sat around a large round table with a view of the grounds. Dan noted the discreet Celtic flourishes accented the room. Tartan swags on the curtains, matching napkins at their place settings.

“You looking for the swords and shields? Not in this room. Mostly in the old folks dining hall. This lounge is for the younger generation here.”

While Delores poured tera for them Meade asked “Jennifer what is your sense of the children. Are any of them still alive? Run-aways somewhere with new lives, new identities.”

“No. Not that that isn’t possible. But I don’t get a sense of them. They are still here.’

“Still here?” Dan asked.

“Yes. Their remains are here. I’ve have a feeling of  them safe and protected. Snug but not living.”

“Underground you mean?” Meade asked.

“No!” Jennifer replied.

“Now, Mr. James I know you haven’t spoken with all the families yet but …”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Meade, I thought we were here to interview you?” Dan said.

“We’ll get to that. Be patient. You’re almost as bad as that Mr. Baxter. He’ll never make a good newspaper man. That’s why,” his voice dropped, “he was told not to come here with you today.”

“I see.” Dan said.

“This case has been on my mind all these years. I saw the connections then but I couldn’t get anyone to concur. They saw it as a press attack on their integrity. The Mounties I mean. They walked away from unanswered questions, from opportunities. But I could never find more than suspicions. Rumours. Not evidence.”

“Possibly they came to that conclusion too?” Dan said.

“I realized that over the years. They have limits, legal limits set out by the law. But they didn’t even have suspects. You do. So you are doing better than them already.”

“Do we?” Jennifer asked Dan.

“I don’t know about suspects but we do have, as they say, persons of interest. Winston Chamberlain  for one. That Father McKillop for another.”

“Father McKillop!” Jackson put his scone down.

“One of the visiting Fathers.” Dan said.

“I know who he is.” Meade beckoned Delores to the table. “Delores go to my room and bring me the green file folder on my desk. And see about more scones.”

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Picture Perfect 75

Picture Perfect 75

Dan arrived back in Stellerton around 5. He was happy to see no one was in the mobile war room He walked around the room as he ate a pizza slice. The map had pins stuck in it to represent summer festivals; churches where visiting Fathers were regulars. Red pins marked where each of the abductions had taken place. They were noted with red pins. 

He took the box of pins and from the list on his tablet he placed a yellow pin in additional places that the visiting priests went to perform mass or other ceremonies. Next he placed blue pins in each of the places that the Hippo had visited that summer. Finally he placed white pins for places his father had traveled on his school circuit or had taken wedding, banquets pictures. 

If the time of the visits for any of them didn’t co-ordinate with an abduction he removed a pin. Not that it was impossible for someone to return to do the deed but if they were busy at the same time the pin came out. Pins for each of the Hippo’s three touring groups gave them the largest number of pins. 

Pins that remained but were not in close enough proximity to an abduction he removed. As he did this is hoped some sort of pattern would emerge.

“Working out a theory?” Warszawa came into the war room.

“Looking at the logistics. If I want to find something in a picture I first have to have a picture.”

“I’ve been working with one of our profilers. There isn’t that much to go on but he feels there’s enough to draw some conclusions about the cases.”

“It’s a bit like trying to profile Jack The Ripper.” Dan said.

“Too late for us to catch Jack but there’s a good chance whoever did this is still alive and probably still in the region.”

“Does the profiler have any ideas about what happened to the children. Why there is no trace of them?” Dan asked.

“No. But it is unlikely that any of them are alive. It’s not a captive situation. He feels there’s no copy-cat either. Whoever did this wanted to keep these children for himself. Possibly to protect them from the world around them. The one thing they all had in common was … a lack of parental supervision … a lack that the profiler says could have represented neglect to the abductor.”

“Plausible. I think it’s someone who knew the region pretty well as opposed to a tourist.”

“Yes. The profiler agrees with some of the conclusions we’ve already reached. That it is someone the children trusted, as opposed to someone who knew well.”

“They could have easily been drugged or just assaulted.”

“There’s been no evidence of that.”

“That could be in the initial investigative reports. Without them we can’t be sure.”

“Some of them have been … uncovered.”

Stephanie Carter came into the war room. “I saw lights on. I was expected Baxter to be here. I’m sort of glad he isn’t.”

“I was adding some pins to the map. No real pattern yet.” Dan said.

“Tell me about it.” Stephanie sighed. “If we tracked every travelling salesman we’d run out of colours very fast. I didn’t realize how many people were on the move. Mailmen, bread delivery, roadwork crews.”

“That’s right. I remember there was a rash of road contraction that summer.” Dan nodded. “We had to detour around one.”

“There was an election in the fall.” Stephanie added. “Roads equal votes.”

“So now we can add road crews to the list of possibilities.”

“Oh yes & regional rock bands. Ever hear of the Dashers? They played over two dozen gigs that summer – school proms, graduations, pubs, a couple of the local festivals. When I scratched the surface I could see how the Mounties were overwhelmed.”

Baxter came into the war room.

“It’s hard not to see everything as a clue, every person as a suspect. No one was innocent.” Warszawa said. “The curse of investigators.”

Baxter came into the room. “Everyone is a suspect except me and thee.” Baxter said. “And I’m not sure about me. Chamberlain is intriguing. They didn’t have elephants in their two-bit carnival in the first place.”

“Original carnival art has sold for up to a hundred thousand dollars at auction recently. So there’s nothing two-bit about that carnival now.” Stephanie said. “I checked.”

“I stand corrected. What do you know about Chamberlain?”

“Only what’s on his facebook page.” Dan joked.

“Is he a serious suspect is that I mean.”

“Considering he was fourteen at the time I doubt it.”

“There are lots of teenage murderers.” Baxter said.

“Not denying that but this was abduction. Serial abduction. Something that takes more planning and thought than the sort of rage killing typical of teenagers.”

“You certainly hit some nerve with him. What do you think caused it?”

“Nothing directly. Those pictures brought back unexpected memories.”

“What?” Warszawa asked.

“His shirt. Her hair do. I’m can’t speculate on that sort of thing based on someone looking at a photograph. But he had a defiant reaction to them.”
“Then what can they tell us?” Baxter said.

“Time of day. How far the photographer stood from the subject. Facial expression can give clues as to the subjects’ mood. But it can’t tell me the emotional mood of the the person who took the picture.”

“Do you know who took those pictures?” 

“Teresa  didn’t say. They were taken within the same hour & at the same location. Most likely the girls took turns taking pictures of each other with the guys they ere with. It was one of those Kodak cameras. Nothing fancy.”

“Who took the one of the four of them together?” Baxter was looking the photos on his monitor. “You sure he’s only fourteen?”

“Yes. Here’s the full picture.”

“Tall for his age, was he.” Baxter said. “Look at that …”

“According to Teresa he was hung like a horse.”

“Was? Things like that don’t get smaller with time.” Baxter laughed. “I should know. I was … ah … tall for my age too. I think we should look a little closer at Winston Chamberlain.”

“By closer you mean with less clothing on?” Jennifer said.

“No! I mean check out his … you know … his history.”

“”Baxter keep in mind we aren’t law enforcement. Invasion of privacy and all that.” Stephanie said. 

“The task force is already looking more closely at him.” Warszawa said.
“Fuck. Now they’ll take credit for busting the case they fucked up then. Do you sense we’re on to something here Jennifer.” Baxter asked.

“Yes, but not how you think. Dan is right in that Chamberlain was too young at the time. He was interested in sex. But not with children. Older girls were his target.”

“Oh.” Baxter slumped in his chair. “I was counting on us having something more definite by now.”

“Imagine how the Mounties felt back then.” Warszawa said.

“I don’t give a shit about the Mounties than and now. They are as responsible for these disappearances at the abductor. If they had done the right thing when they first started the investigation some of those children would be safe. I’m sure of it.”

“This sounds more like your concern for ratings than concern for those children.” Dan said. “You want drama.”

“Wake up Dan. This is not Mr Rogers neighbourhood. We didn’t script this and we’re not going to soften what we find either. Sure, I have a beef. We all have a beef with someone. It’s just that I have a chance to do something productive with it.”

“Whatever.” Dan started to leave.

“We’re not finished here.” Baxter said.

“While you were away we have been busy. The Toronto team has obtained information on the visiting Priests. We’ve contacted Sally Sewell.”

“The singer?” Dan said.

“One and the same. She’s even written a song about David. She grew up next door to the McPherson’s. She has never been contacted by the investigators.”

“How old was she at the time?” Warszawa asked.

“Uh … Seven.”

“There’s your answer. Unless she was an eye-witness to the abduction they wouldn’t have questioned her directly. I’m sure they talked to her parents though.” Warszawa explained.

“Please stop with the bullshit Baxter.” Dan looked up from his cell. “She wasn’t even born at the time.”

“Yes. But’s she’s heard stories. Her song ‘Long Gone’ is about this.” Baxter said.

“I supposed it’ll make a great theme song for the series?” Dan said.

“That it might. You’ll interview her later this week.”

“Why?” Dan asked.

“Ratings.”

“No way.” Dan snapped back. “You’re not turning this into a random talking heads show. I’m not dealing with one hit-wonder B-celebes trying to revive their careers by capitalizing on these missing children.” He went directly to the door.

“You come back here. We have story line to work on. This exactly what we’re paying you for.”

“No, it isn’t.” Dan said.

“You pumped up, egotistical, fucking, know it all.” Baxter voice filled the war room. “Just because you are some trained rcmp clown doesn’t give you the the right to tell me what to do with my TV show.”

“Baxter. I wouldn’t dream of telling you how to set the stage, where to put your cameras, what sort of button-down shirt I should be wearing on camera. I wouldn’t dream of that. I bow to your deeper knowledge of the things. That’s what you are paying me for. No pumped-up former child star queen can tell me how to conduct this investigation. It’s too bad you aren’t the one who died in that accident.”

“Are you saying you wish I was dead! He wants to see me murdered. You heard that. Everyone. We have that on tape you know.”

Dan walked to his car. Even with the door shut he could hear Baxter shouting at him. 

“Come back here. You can’t walk out in a hissy fit whenever you want to.”

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Picture Perfect 74

Picture Perfect 74

As Dan walked down the corridor he saw Jennifer Devereaux standing outside the closed door of Mrs. O’Connor’s hospital room. Cameron was waiting patiently beside her.

“What’s the hold up?” He asked.

“Seems no one actually checked with the floor supervisor about having a film crew with us.”

The room door opened & Cameron started to go in. A nurse backed him out of the room.

“There is to be no filming at anytime.” The nurse said. “The patient was in no position to give permission for anything beyond her lunch menu. Which,” she turned to look into the room, “you haven’t done yet, Mrs. O’Connor.”

Cameron looked to Dan then Jennifer. “What can we do?”

“Can we talk to Mrs. O’Connor?” Jennifer asked.

“Talk yes. Camera crew no. Don’t make me call security.”

“I understand.” Dan said. “But I can make a sound recording of our interview?”

“Yes.” The nurse said.

Dan and Jennifer went into the room. Jennifer took her cellphone out, Dan put his Lifend travel mug on the bedside table.

“Good afternoon  Mrs. O’Connor.” She leaned to the woman on the bed. “I’m Jennifer Devereaux. This is Daniel James. You were talking with Curtis Baxter from Unsolved Cold? About Dorothy?”

“Yes.” The woman attempted to push herself into a sitting position.

“Let me give you a hand.” Jennifer supported the woman’s back as she fumbled with the controls of the bed.

The room was bare of anything other than the heart monitor and other hospital equipment. There were no flowers or cards. The woman on the bed was thin, dark circles under her eyes and loose skin hung around her neck.

“You’ve lost a bit of weight.” Dan said.

“What’s that?” The woman cupped one of her ears. “I don’t hear so well these days.”

“How are you doing?” Dan raised his voice.

“Much better. You’re the folks from that TV show?”

“That’s right.” Jennifer said. She set her cellphone on the bedside table.

“Where are your cameras. I figured there’s be lots of cameras.”

“Maybe later, Mrs. O’Connor.” Jennifer said. “We’re just going to talk with you a little first.”

“Oh,” she frowned. “And I got my hair done just for you.” She ran a hand over her almost bald head & laughed.

“Why don’t you tell us about Dorothy?” Dan said.“Dorothy was a good child. Me and Dan … sorry you’re Dan, aren’t you. I mean Stan fostered many children. Some were right bastards but others were joys to have around. Dorothy was one of those joys. Not that we didn’t try to love them but some would resist everything you tired to do. They’d try to take advances of your kindness. Dorothy wasn’t like that. Not a bit. Sweet and right helpful.”

“How many children did you have living with you that summer?” Jennifer asked.

“Only three besides Dorothy.”

“Did they get along with each other.” Jennifer said.

“Now that you mention it no. That native gal, Magpie, was right mean to Dorothy. Thought Dorothy was always sucking up to us.”

“Magpie?” Dan asked. 

“We gave that try a few times. To be fair. Never worked out though. Issues. They always had issues. Many kids did mind you. Dorothy was a joy. Dan, I mean, Stan wanted to keep her, hoped she’d never leave. But she did. Run away, you see.

“He said we should never have let that Magpie girl into our house. That’s why Dorothy ran away. They fought so much. He told me we’d regret it. I pooh poohed him, said I had give the child a chance, that they’re just as good as we were, and not to be an old fart. I regretted standing up for that thief.”

“Thief?” Dan asked.

“Yes, that’s when Dorothy left. I mean we thought she’d just up & run off. Someone had taken the milk money we kept by the backdoor. I just knew it was magpie but she said it was Dorothy. Dorothy denied it & I knew she was telling me the truth. My Stan [it them in their rooms. In the morning both of them were gone.

“After a couple of day we contacted the RCMP. They did nothing. Said there was nothing they could do. That we were just keeping those kids for the money any so it was no wonder they always ran away. I didn’t teach them stop steal! You hear me, I didn’t steal a goddam thing in my life.”

The nurse rushed into the room. “Calm down O’Connor. I’m sorry I’m going to have to ask you to leave. NOW. Upsetting her like like that.” She picked up the phone, press a couple of numbers. “Code blue. Cardiac arrest. Room 1208. I repeat. Code blue. Cardiac. Room 1208.”

Dan, Jennifer & Cameron went to the visitor lobby to be out of the way of the medical team that dashed into the ward and down the hall to Mrs. O’Connor’s room. Cameron pivoted where he stood with his camera to follow the team. 

“Looks like we’re not going to get anything more here.” He said.

“No.” Jennifer said. “She’s dead.”

“You can tell?” Dan asked.

“Yes. I …” Jennifer shivered. “ …. sense things like that. If my mother was worried about someone who wasn’t well she’d ask me to sense them. If I could it meant they were still alive. I can’t sense Mrs. O’Connor.”

“You left these in the room.” The nurse came and a cellphone & the travel mug on a chair. “Mrs. O’Connor has passed away.”

“She’d said what she wanted to say.” Jennifer said as they went to the hospital parking lot.

“What do you make of her?” Jennifer asked Dan.

“Of her generation I’d say. Prejudiced. Well-meaning. Died without family. Did our background note say when her husband died.”

“When she was brought in she didn’t want anyone but Quintex to be contacted. If there was family she didn’t want them to know.” Jennifer said. “According to the research department they didn’t have any children of their own. There’s no mention of Stan’s death.”

“So they became foster parents to compensate. I wonder who the Indian child was? Magpie? Could be short for Margaret. She’s not mentioned in the research notes.”

“She’s not listed as one of the missing children?”

“Reserves weren’t … accountable to the local authorities. Some had deputized tribe members but otherwise they policed themselves.”

“So if a child was missing they didn’t have to tell anyone?”

“Something like that. In fact …” Dan hesitated.

“There were some missing?” Jennifer said. “You knew?”

“Yes. I was told, unofficially.”

“How many more are we talking about?”

“That I don’t know. If you think the RCMP’s communications were a mess, the flow of information between Native Services and white law enforcement was practically non-existent.”

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Picture Perfect 73

Picture Perfect 73

A car pulled into the park lot. On the roof was an illuminated taxi sign that had been repainted with a crude rending of a donairs on one side and Dumphy’s on the other.

He paid for it, tipped generously, as it was Quintex money anyway. He sat at one of the picnic tables outside the breakfast diner and ate the meal. It tasted better when he didn’t have to see it. 

Cameron came out of the dark. “I’ll have to speak to Baxter about this place. Those cabins are rough. I don’t what it is about them but I can’t stand being in one for more than an hour before I’m ready to climb the walls.”

“Ditto.”

“Funny what people will do to get in the credits for a TV show.”

“How so?”

“Locations swung a deal with places. In return for discount, or in this case free, they get mentioned in the credits for the show.’

“Like catering by so and so.”

“Exactly but no catering service is stupid enough to give food away for credits that they know full well no one reads. Owners here didn’t know that. Baxter convinced them it would be good for the tourist trade. We have to shoot an interview here in return.

Dan laughed. “You should be filming me now eating out here. I can move so the sign is over my shoulder.”

“Don’t have a night vision camera.”

“One think to be thankful for or we’d be skulking around at night with Jennifer Devereaux looking for the emanations of the departed.”

“Keep that one to yourself or we’ll end up doing just that.” Cameron gave a little laugh. “Seriously, can I ask you something?”

“Uncut. Versatile?” Dan said.

“What!” Cameron laughed. “No. Never mix work with play. What do you think happened to those children? You always ask that question so I was wondering what you think?”

“I think they are dead.”

“Yes but I mean what happened to their bodies? One never being found I can understand but not this many.”

“Bones have been found in the strangest of places decades centuries after the fact.”

“So you think they are in some cave somewhere? Or in a freezer in someone’s basement?”

“That’s a question you should ask Jennifer. When I was in the Force I never dealt with a cold case of this type. Here we’re trying to make connections as we sift though data, not bones.”

“Baxter would crap his pants if we found remains somewhere though wouldn’t he? In some farmer’s field.”

“There are no unplowed fields in this area, trust me.”

‘Yeah, but you know what I mean.”

“Yes I know. Don’t give him any ideas though or some unidentified remains are likely to show up. There enough drama going on now.”

“Unidentified Remains – sound like a great show title.” Cameron got up from the table. “See you in the morning.”

<>

Winston Chamberlain was waiting for them in the Circus Museum parking lot.

“We’re closed on Monday’s” he said. “But Baxter was so insistent I said I’d talk with you today just to shut him up. We’ll go in the side way. Fewer locks to deal with.”

Inside he gave Cameron a quick tour of the various exit halls and the rides.

“Choice stuff. Let’s sit you two here.” Cameron said. “I can get that merry-go-round frmm one side of you, the Hippo Dog stand from the other.”

“This is to be an interview?” Winston asked. “I thought you just want to check this out for locations.”

“It shouldn’t take too long.” Cameron said.”We never know when we’ll get something we can use.”

“Don’t I have to sign some sort of release.” Winston brushed his hair flat. “How do I look.”

“I have release forms here in my equipment bag.” Cameron rummaged in it and pulled out some forms.

Winston read them over.

“Its really standard stuff.” Cameron explained. “We can’t use this in any other context except the show. If you divulge anything relating to illegal activities we have to inform the authorities.”

“Okay.” He signed where Cameron indicated. 

“Your family owned the Happy Hippo Carnivals?” Dan began.

“Yes.” Winston’s expression changed as the camera started. His irritated smile quickly became garrulous & inviting.

“This museum is a way of preserving them.”

“That’s right Dan. All of the exhibits come from my Father’s need to accumulate. He was a sort of circus hoarder. He couldn’t throw anything away.”

“You worked in the carnival as a boy?”

“Yes. I spent a few summers with the tours. I learned all about the Hippo from the ground up because my dad wanted me to take it over eventually. But, well, it went bankrupt before that could happen.”

“Did you enjoying working the midway?”

“Oh, yeah. I loved the games, the rides. The way the rides worked fascinated me. The gears and mechanics.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t become a mechanical engineer.”

“I did consider it but once the circus folded I didn’t see myself wanting to join any of the other carnivals. You know, move to Toronto to work at the CNE.”

“Does this bring back any memories for you?” Dan handed him a copy of the photo of him and Theresa.

“That’s me! Where did you get this! Man I look so young there.”

“You were young. Around fourteen.”

“I must have really dug that girl.”

“You don’t remember her? Stoney.”

He looked up from the picture. “Jesus. That’s right I used to call myself Stoney so no one would know I was the owner’s son.”

“Used to tell them you were nineteen as well.”

“I might have. Easier to get laid when you tell them you are nineteen.”

“There were rumours about you.”

“Such as?”

“You had a … hankering for younger girls. I mean younger than the one in this picture.”

“Fuck where did you dig that up.” 

“I didn’t dig it up. I wasn’t even looking for it when, there it was.”

“What was I thirteen or fourteen year old kid. I might have looked up the skirts of girls my age on the ferris wheel when I was checking their straps. Who didn’t do that. They weren’t that much younger than me.”

“Right.” 

Dan was amused to see how completely Winston’s camera personality disappeared as he become defensive.

“Are you trying to implicate me in this case?” Winston snapped.

“Not at all. Did you hear anything about them at the time?”

“Only that they had happened.” He took a deep breath. “That was after the fact too I might add. Didn’t know there that many either.”

“Apparently only one person did.”

“Who?” Winston asked.

“The abductor.” He looked to Cameron. “I think we’ve got enough here.” He glanced at his cell. “We have to get to the Moncton Municipal Hospital for the O’Connor interview.”

Cameron slung his shoulder mounted camera off and stored it in the equipment bag.

“Sorry I put you on the spot there Winston.”

“Sorry! You fucking accused me of being a child molester. If anyone ever sees that I’ll fucking sue you and Qunitex for everything you’ve got. Now march you asses out of here.” His shouts echoed in the hall. “In fact, if anything about the Hippos is mentioned in your fucking TV show I’ll shut you down so hard you’ll wish you’d never met me.”

<>

In the car Cameron shook his hand. “That was one of the best reveals I have ever witnessed.”

“Reveals?”

“He was so cooperative while the camera was on but the minute he thought it was off he went off.”

“Thought? You mean you got all that?”

“Oh yeah.” He took off his baseball hat. There was a wire from the front and circling the inner brim. “That Qunitex logo isn’t just for looks. The lens remote feeds directly into this baby.” He indicated his equipment bag.

“You’re as bad as me.” Dan turned up the collar of his interview sports coat to show the remote for his camera. 

“That’s not Q issue is it? Where’s the lens.” 

“No, it’s not and the lens is a trade secret. There’s something going on there though. And someone tinkered with my rental car the last time I was here. He wasn’t with me every minute I was here that time.”

“He certainly has something to hide.” Cameron said. “You might want to talk with that Theresa again. She had more to say. I could tell that when we left her at the park.”

“Yeah I’d like to talk with her again too. Now, back to Waterside then on to hospital.”

“Cut or uncut?” Cameron asked. “Winston I mean.”

“Winston? I’d say uncut. Why? Are you interested.” 

“I didn’t get such a good look at that picture of him before. You sure he didn’t have a career in porn.”

“That’s something I never thought to check.”

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Picture Perfect 72

Picture Perfect 72

Dan plugged in his laptop. No urgent emails. He flipped through the pictures he had uploaded to the cloud. He pulled down one of the s/m shots that showed the woman’s face clearly and one that gave a more than partial of her male victim’s face. He ran them though Face Finder, a face recognition site that searched for matches. The ‘time to do’ clock said ‘check back in ten minutes’ as it usually did for black and white pictures.

After brushing his teeth he went back to his laptop to check on Face Finder’s progress. The first one it found was one of the pictures he had selected. The one of her spread legged, facing the camera and holding the whip in her gloved right hand hand.

Had the program doubled back to his cloud? 

Before he clicked on the picture he entered a cloaking code that would hide him so he couldn’t be traced. He clicked on the picture and no, it hadn’t gone to his cloud, it had gone to an online site. 

“Golden Age of Glamour” topped the page with several black and white photos under it. All similar in content to his and one of them was in fact a duplicate of his.

“This site is devoted to the lost art of sexual tease. We offer an archive of photographs from the past decades of erotica going back as far as the late 1800’s.”

He clicked on his agreeing to being over 18 and being willing to see context of a sexually nature some of which would be explicit. 

The next menu offered eras, types, special tastes, gay, lesbian, straight, solo, couples, interracial. There was a pop invitation to join the members club at twenty percent off, where more features were offered including the opportunity to converse with other members. He clicked a tab for Store.

Various sets of reprints were offered for sale and in some cases originals. He clicked the set that included his father’s photographs. There were six in the set and they were all from the same shoot. He was hoping there would be information about the photographer. 

“This stunning set of six black and white photos features Canada’s answer to Betty Page – Peggy Brooks – in a saucy series of pictures taken by ace photographer Pierre LaBouche. Fans of the genre prize his limited output over that of many others.’

a set of six 8×10 – $60.00 – reproduced from the original negatives 

a set of six 8×10 – signed and numbered originals – $600.00.

Mr LaBouche died in 1990 and we have a limited quantity of these signed photographs.”

He clicked the Pierre LaBouche hyperlink and it took him to a page of thumbnails of forty similar photographs. Only members could see them full size. He looked at each of them. Some where the ones he’d already found in his father’s cache. Some he’d never seen. Those he looked at more closely. It was the same model in all of them. Her outfit changed a few times. He did screen capture of thumbnails. There were none of the photos of her drawing blood in the sets offered; none of her with a victim. Perhaps those were behind the paywall?

He went back to the first page for information about who Golden was. It was copyright by JovietJinc.com. He did a search for Joviet J. Inc which led him to a Montreal suite which he suspected, from his time on the force, was a post office box. He went back to his original scans of his father’s pictures and there on the back of one of them was the same post office box number written by his father. Interesting. A trip to Montreal was called for to investigate. He only had Sundays free for the next couple of weeks. He checked flights and it was possible to do a day trip to Montreal.

He googled a map of Montreal, typed in the postal code which put it in a warehouse district. He did a search of the area for businesses. One of them was J. Carter Magazine Publishers and Distributers. He checked through the scanned pages of his dad’s travel logs and sure enough there were notations for JC Mont in each year. Even after they had moved to Toronto. Was JC Carter Magazine?

He shut the laptop, got up and stretched. His head swam with the bits of information he had assembled. They weren’t adding up to something he didn’t already know. His Dad took and sold smutty pictures. Did Linda know about this? Who was Peggy Brooks. He didn’t know any Brooks growing up. But if his father had become Pierre LaBouche, Peggy was probably not a real name either.

His cell alarm went off. Time for his drops. Perfect. He put the comforter on the floor and made a pillow comfortable to support his neck, put the drops in, covered his eyes with a hand towel and let his body come to a stop on the floor. 

The comforter did little to protect him from the damp or cover the smell of the carpet. When was the last time it had been steam cleaned. The real colour would probably shock them and force them to repaint the rooms. At least it didn’t smell of cigarettes. That Theresa sure smoked like a chimney. That’s what his mother would have said. Did she smoke that much when he knew her. Did his sister smoke too. What was Linda hiding about that summer? That story about being pregnant and losing the child. That couldn’t be true, could it? There should be medical records somewhere. A doctor must have known if she was knocked up. A woman can’t miscarry and not seek medical attention. But they can have a baby without even knowing they are pregnant, so what she was told him was possible. Possible but probable? His mother surely would have known. Did Theresa know? He he could ask her.

His alarm went off and his thirty minutes was up. He removed the towel, got up slowly and went to the bathroom and rinsed his eyes. His stomach rumbled. He texted Dumphy’s Donaire for a repeat of his last order. He checked his email once again. Outside in the parking lot he waited for the food to arrive.

The air was cool, the sky was clear. A light wind rusted leaves of the trees that lined the side of the motel. He could hear cars on the highway. Would he trade his Toronto life for a life like this if he had the opportunity? Probably not.

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