Picture Perfect 13

Without looking at any of the other pictures he gathered them together and put them back in the envelope. Now where to put them? 

No! He couldn’t put them away until he saw what else was there. He took them out and quickly sorted through them. There were twelve from the whip shoot. In the last picture the man’s boxers were around his ankles and the whip marks on his ass were clearly bleeding. By that last shot the woman’s hair had become dishevelled, her nylons where loosened from the garter buttons.

He had sat on the chair in the pictures many times. His Dad used it when taking portraits of families. There was no doubt in his mind about where these were taken. The backdrop was the scrim he mother had ordered from a photo supplier in Montreal. It reflected the light just right and didn’t call attention to itself.

Time to put on my forensic hat. Had his Dad taken these or merely developed them and kept copies? Dan got one of the studio pictures he knew his Dad had taken of him and Linda. There they were by chair, each with a foot on the seat and grinning at the camera. The chair has the same smudge on the back left leg. He turned the paper over and it had the same subtle watermark as the whip pictures. They were taken by the same camera. 

He could see the camera set up on its tripod in the studio. He taken lot of pictures with it himself. Climbing up on that very chair to look through the view finder. Playing with the focus. His Dad didn’t want anyone to tamper with the tripod.

There were no colour pictures in the hidden envelope. Black and white could be easily developed by his Dad. Colour was possible but more expensive and had to sent away for developing. Racy stuff like this would probably be reported to the police if one of the reputable developers had gotten a hold of it.

That’s all what it was though. Racy. Nothing was really exposed. No genitalia, no faces. Just that big bare ass. Was this considered porn at one time? 

He took the photos over to the scanner and fed them in. He watched on the monitor as each was converted. He played them back as a slide show to which made him think of the gif program he’d tweaked so he transferred a copy of the file to that, instructed the program to do fill in – it would take what photos it had and create new versions that continued in an action. It worked best if the action in the originals was fairly similar from shot to shot. The program informed him it would an hour to complete the task.

He went back to the stills for one last close look. Something in them caught his attention but he wasn’t sure what that was as he flipped from one to the other. Then he noticed that the woman was wearing  a simple bracelet in the first four pictures but as the flogging proceeded it was gone. Did the clasp break? Or did fly off as she worked that guy’s ass over?

On the other workshop computer he isolated the bracelet and enlarged it and enhanced the image at the same time. He recognized it. He’d given it to his mother for mother’s day!

He pushed away from the computer. His mother? That couldn’t be his mother in those pictures! 

He dropped a proportions grid on the first of the pictures. He typed in the approximate dimensions of the chair and calculated the woman’s hight based on that. Even in heels his mother wouldn’t have been that tall. But to make sure he found a beach picture of the his mother from the time and had the Proportions program compare the two them. It concluded that they were not the same person.

Then why was the woman wearing his mother’s bracelet? 

He’d bought it at the Kmart that had opened recently in Sydney. They might have sold hundred of them, well at least dozens of them. He’d gotten the notion to buy it from one of the other boys in his class who had bought one for his mother.

He stood, stretched and walked to the window over looking the street. What did he know now? Other than the fact that his past was being seriously re-appraised, he was no further ahead in the finding out what had happened that summer. Right! He had forgotten to check his Dad’s travel records for that summer.

A quick search and he found them where he expected them to be. No secret symbols appeared in the notes for that summer. 

His notes for the abducted children said that Timmy was reported missing on Tuesday of that week. The family departed Stellerton Friday of the same week. That’s why the departure was so rushed. They left within days of the disappearance. The photos of him and Timmy were dated on the back for the Sunday before they left. These were probably the last pictures taken of Timmy.

He stared into Timmy’s wide open eyes. Timmy was looking directly at the camera while he was looking directly at Timmy. Both were ginning like they had secrets. Good secrets.

Dan wiped away a tear. He’d lost a] his best friend at the time and didn’t even know it till now. Not only that but now felt his own past slipping away.

 

 

Friday was Dan’s least favourite day of the week. I was the day he worked at the FairVista location. It was his own fault for insisting that he be there at least once a week to run a ‘camera clinic.’

“Ms James isn’t here again today Dan. She called to say she might in by lunch time.” David O’Neill, her assistant manager apologized.

“Figures.” Dan shook his head. Since the Cuppa visit he’d been unable to make contact with Linda. He’d left messages, texts but so far no response. Not that he was surprised after the stunt she pulled to get him out of the way. But even this avoidance was bit much for her.

“Did she tell you anything?” Dan asked as he watched people arrive in the store.

“Just that Anne was feeling much better.”

“Anne?” Anne was the oldest of Linda’s children.

“Oh! I thought you knew. Anne is in Sick Kids. Fell off her bike. Hit her head. They were afraid there might be a concussion so she’s been at Sick Kids the last couple of days for observation.”

How convenient, Dan thought.

He had arrived at the FairVista shop that morning looking forward to finally confronting Linda about the Cuppa deal. 

He googled the Sick Kids number, called the patient inquiry number and asked for Anne Tanaka’s room. He was patched through and Linda answered.

“Hi Linda. It’s Dan. I’m at the shop and was surprised not to find you here.”

“Let me tell you, I’d rather be there.”

“How’s Anne.”

“Good. Very scared but as it turns out nothing to worry about. No concussion.”

“Is it Daddy?” He could hear Anne in the back ground.

“No, baby, it’s Uncle Dan calling to see how you are.”

“Hi, Uncle Dan.”

“Hi, Tiny. You gave us all a scare.” He didn’t want to let on this was all news to him.

“Me too. I loss consciousness for five minutes. Five whole minutes. I was just riding along on my bike when this dog dashed out in front me and I swerved to not to hit him and ran right into a car that I didn’t even know was there. Good thing the car was parked and I flipped off the bike and landed and hit my head and the dog was licking my face when I came to and he was so cute. And …”

He let her ramble on for a minute or so.

“I gotta go, Tiny. Tell your mother I’ll see her later.”

He looked around the store to see who might be there for the ‘camera clinic.’ If there was enough people he would show them the latest in technology, how to integrate it with what systems they already had. Each week they’d showcase a different camera. Ten people took the seats provided for his demonstration.

The presentation did sell a few items, some software. They often became Q&A with people wanting to know what the fuck to do with the cell phones and tablets that kept sharing information they didn’t want shared. He did his best to keep them focused on what he knew, not what they wanted him to know.

Friday was also the Lyphend ‘by appointment’ day where he discussed their line with prospective buyers. These he enjoyed greatly, as many people thought it was like buying a car. They would try to negotiate but there was no such thing as discounts even if they wanted fewer features. Lyphend did have a line of cameras for the public, along with other household electronics made to their exacting specifications. Not cheap by any means, but all designed to out-live their owners.

The morning session made Dan aware, once again, that too many people found it challenging enough to turn the flash off on their digital cameras that explaining how set fStops was almost a pointless digression. He did show them how easy it was to do on most makes but couldn’t answer questions such as ‘why don’t they make a digital that does all that for you,’ when he had, in fact explained how the auto setting did that.

The best he could do was say some camera can become intuitive about the most frequent users needs, none were mind readers. A camera still had to be pointed somehow to take a picture.

After the session was over he worked the floor. Stopping to chat with customers, answer questions. He aimed to make at least two sales whenever he was at FairVista to demonstrate to Linda he wanted the location to succeed. Plus he liked the rush of selling, especially when he could encourage the customer to upscale what they wanted. 

Selling $750.00 cameras was easy enough but getting them up to $1750.00 was rewarding. He also knew Linda liked to see their extended warranties sold.  These were usually pure profit.

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Picture Perfect 12

The next day Dan was grateful for a routine morning at James Family Photographers. The the unusual activity the past couple of days had tempted him to take a day off to collect his thoughts about Timmy, Cyrtys and his sister’s Cuppa threat. He dropped into the Classic for a bagel and coffee to take up to his office. 

“Quiet morning for you too?” He asked Jill as he waited for his bagel to toast.

“Yeah. The Institute doesn’t take a morning break Thursday. I wonder how those students feel when they get off the street car to to see their Toronto campus for the first time.” Jill said. 

“I know. When I think of a campus I imagine something like U of T not a two floors in a ten story office complex.” Dan nodded. “Sorry about the Cuppa people.”

“These things happen. But I’ve always said your sister is a piece of work. The whole atmosphere here has changed since you opened up the other location.”

“In a good way?”

“Oh, yes. Very good. I don’t envy Cuppa. She used to come in here and no matter how busy we were she’d just push in front of the line up. She’d claim she was picking up an order she’d texted us.”

“She does know how to get her way. Most of the time. Not this time though.”

Coffee and bagel in hand he stepped into the shop. “Ushio, I’ll be up in the archives for awhile. If you need me.”

He went thought store to the back stairway. It always brought back memories of when they had lived her. He always expected to see his first bike locked to the landing on the second floor along with garbage he frequently forgot to take out. On really humid days he could still smell the steamed cabbage his mother was so fond of. Today he could smell coffee and baked goods coming from the basement ovens of the Classic.

Once he had finished his bagel he went into the archives storage and pulled out the two bins for 1984. All he had taken when he retrieved the Timmy photos were from the month they had moved. Maybe there was something in the other files that would shed some light on what was going on in the months before.

Linda had said the move was talked about at Christmas so he also took the bins for the previous year. Each year had been split into two bins – regardless of how little there was in one half.

His father had kept meticulous records of his travels – hotels, motels, school he’d worked for, endless receipts for restaurants, gas, even for clothes bought for them when they were kids.

Much of that had been discarded before his Dad had died. Receipts were for tax purposes. But his Dad’s daily appointment books were there, in those he recorded, expenses, mileage and sometimes incidents.

His Dad opted to only keep family or other personal photographs. Most of the commercial stuff, that wasn’t in the business’s portfolio, was discarded. Dan sometimes wished they had kept some of those early wedding photos though to compare them with what was being done now.

He shook the contents out of the envelop in the Dec 83 folder. Like most of them there were glassine envelopes of negatives, lots of developed photos in back and white, in colour, even a super eight. Did they have a projector? There was always the Stedman Transferer. When had they used that last? There had been a brisk business for awhile in transferring old home movies to VHS. Did they even have a VHS player on the premises?

He used his cell to call the store. “Ushio can we transfer Super 8 to digital? …. I see …. come up the third I have a little project for you.”

It was possible but it wasn’t a one-step operation as he had hoped. 

He flipped through his father’s record books but saw nothing that jumped out to him. Entires were in both his father’s and mother’s handwriting. She had been the main receptionist when the store first opened. 

Weddings. parties. Business banquets. One of his Dad’s specialities was a super wide lens that could take a picture of an entire ballroom of tables. The camera was huge and took two men to move and set up. Maybe it was time to haul that out of storage and set up in the store to contraat it with todays tiny digitals cameras.

There was soft knock at the door. Dan realized he hadn’t unlocked the storage door.

“Sorry Ushio. Got so involved I forget.”

“You have top secrets today?” 

“Nothing like that.” he gave Ushio the super 8 reel.

Ushio unspooled the first few feet and held it up to the light.

“Very clear. Being in the dark was good for it. I can have this ready in a couple of hours. Anything else.” He reached for the other pictures.

“No, not yet. I may get some of these scanned later though. I’m sure Linda will be thrilled to see her acne pictures.”

Ushio stood awkwardly at the door.

“Is there anything else?”

“I was wondering   ….”

“Yes. You want a raise?”
“Oh no nothing like that. The school across the way …”

“Yes?”

“They ask if I might teach sometimes.”

“Teach?”

“Yes! Equipment repair. That sort of thing.”

“You want to leave here to work for them?”

“Oh, no. It would be part time. Two nights a week.”

“You don’t need my permission to dot hat.”

“They have no facility there. It would be here. In the shop downstairs.”

“Oh! Let me think about it.” Was the building zoned for that sort of use he wondered. It had to be as they did camera workshops often.

Once Ushio left he want back the assortment of items from the bin. Why had his Dad held on to these paper napkins? Some party that only he could remember. Dan opened one of them up and there was a red lipstick kiss in the middle of it. Hmm. 

The Shoreline Diner was printed in one corner in letters sticking in the sand. They had eaten there a few times for special occasions. He recalled standing at the huge plate glass windows that overlooked the Atlantic. One night there had be an amazing storm and he saw a boat’s lights bobbing up and down.

He had emptied the bin of all the various folders, envelopes and photos. As far as he could tell there wasn’t anything unexpected in the appointment books. Nothing that explained the decision to move.

He put the contents back in order. As he lifted it to move to the next box an envelop flapped from the bottom. The gum of the flap had adhered it there and gravity had pulled it free.

On the front of it ‘04/79 – 07/83’ was scribbled. He couldn’t tell whose handwriting it was though. He pushed the sides in to open it enough to see what was in it. More photographs and negatives. He cautiously tipped it so the contents slid out into the pool of light on the desk.

He couldn’t believe this eyes. The top picture was a black and white shot of a woman in bra and panties buttoning her seamed nylons into a garter belt. Her back was to the camera so her buttocks were the focus. Her face was turned but not enough for him to see who she was. He recognized the chair she had her left foot on as one from his Dad’s studio.

He turned the photo over to see the next one. It was the same woman, in the same clothes, back still to the camera, head partly turned, standing wide legged, her hands on her ass as if about to spread the cheeks.

On the back of the the photo he had turned over was a hand drawn circle with an x through it. He’d seen that symbol before. He took one of the record books out of the bin and flipped though it till he came to day with that mark on it. Was that the day the pictures were taken?

Gingerly he went to the next picture. The same woman, the same chair, the same back to the camera only this time there was man on his knees, leaned over the chair. No face visible. Boxer shorts, shoes and socks on. The woman was wielding a cat-of-nine-tails aimed at the man’s ass. In the next several pictures the whip went from hitting the man’s ass to being brought back and down to his ass.

Dan squirmed uneasily in his chair. He got up and went to the window rubbing his eyes to relive the strain of peering at the photos. This wasn’t the fun family Christmas memories he expected to find.

Had his Dad rented out the studio space for these? He couldn’t have taken them himself. Could he?

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Picture Perfect 11

Leaning on the kitchen counter they rested against each other.

“I better finish these dishes.” Sanjay bit Dan’s ear lobe.

“They can wait. You have this to clean up first.” Dan wiped at the come drying on his face.

Sanjay leaned closer and began to lick off the come. Dan started to laugh. “That tickles. Let’s hit the shower. We can have the other dessert later when we are clean enough to eat it.”

He pulled his jeans up, grabbed Sanjay hand and pulled him toward the stairs

 “Yes, master.”

When they remodelled the house Dan had made sure the shower in the master bedroom was large enough to hold two. They soaped and scrubbed each other. Rubbing and kissing, slipping and sliding around each other at the same time. Dan loved the feeling of Sanjay’s hairy chest and belly on his back. 

“You are tempting the elephant again.” Sanjay said.

“No more than you are summoning up the albino cobra.” Dan turned so they faced each other in the shower. Erections rubbing side by side. He reached to the tap and cut the hot so they were caught in a sudden downpour of icy cold. He jumped out of the shower.

“Ah. You fucker.” Sanjay followed him out.

“Yes perhaps I am for a change.” Dan said pushing the wet Sanjay onto his back on the bed, then climbed on top of him. He moved down Sanjay’s chest, his mouth biting here and there, then to his cock, balls and pushing Sanjay’s legs into the air to his butt.

The black hairs around his hole were so tightly wound it was hard to worm his tongue to it but Dan knew he had succeeded as Sanjay gasped.

“Ooo, that hits more than one spot.”

“Freshly washed.” Dan muttered as he came up keeping Sanjay’s legs on his shoulders. He reached under the pillow and pulled out a tube of lube, quickly smeared some on his cock and Sanjay’s hole.

His cock was longer than Sanjay’s but not as thick. He pressed it against the warm opening and pushed.

“Not so gentle baby.” Sanjay squeezed his legs around Dan and pulled him in tight so Dan’s cock was buried in a single thrust. “You know I don’t like it as gentle as you do.”

“If I were as thick as an elephant trunk you wouldn’t be saying that.” He pulled out completely and thrust in hard and fast.

“Oh.” Sanjay gasped. “Yes. Hard. Bite.” He pushed Dan’s head at his left nipple. “Bite.”

Dan bit the nipple as hard as he could without losing momentum. He tasted man milk after a few sharp bites.

“Yeah yeah.” Sanjay moaned. He pushed Dan’s head to his other nipple.

Dan saw spots as he felt himself about to come and started to pull out. Sanjay gripped him even tighter with his legs. 

“In me. In me.” He begged.

Dan felt his first spurt as he pulled out. The rest of his come spilled over Sanjay’s cock and balls. He rolled off Sanjay and laid on the bed his hand on Sanjay’s stomach.

“It has been a while.” Dan said.

“Too long. I was beginning to wonder if you were still interested. It happens, I know. After a years.”

“Same here. Sometimes I wonder if you are filling more that pastry at P’s.”

“What!” Sanjay rolled and propped himself up on elbow. “You know what I’m like. I’m a one butt pie at a time kind of man.” He leaned and bit Dan’s nipple.

“Oh stop!” Dan laughed and pushed him away. “Looks like I’m going to have to shower again. This time alone.”

“Yes master.”

Once he had washed off he left the shower running for Sanjay. He dried off and went downstairs to his desk. He arrayed the pictures of the other children in the light to see if there was some connection between them. The unexpected connection he had found with the RCMP photographs in the afternoon had played on his mind.

“A new case. Right. I forgot you can’t talk about your cases.” Sanjay asked.

“This isn’t a case in that sense. These are from that cold case show I caught the other night.”

“Still thinking about that. What was it about Timmy any way?”

“I think it was the way it ended but never ended. I know now why he never answered my letters. He was abducted. Otherwise I might have forgotten all about him.”

“What do you remember?”

“We had loads of fun when we summered in Stellerton. He even visited me a couple times in New Waterford.”

“Same bed?” Sanjay asked.

“Yes. I’d sort of forgotten about that. We’d fall asleep spooning from behind. The way we sometimes do!”

“So …”

“I was only a boy Sanj. I sure liked him though. He was uncut. I’d never seen that before. Not that I’d seen any cock other than my own but I guess I figured they were all like mine.”

“Uh … huh. I wish I could say the same. I saw lots of cock when I was growing up. Men would piss in front of each other without thinking twice. There was no shame with body functions.”

“I played with his once. He saw how amazed I was at his foreskin. He let me touch it, it wouldn’t pull back the way yours does. It was so tight he could barely pee out of it.”

“Did it taste pissy?”

“Sanjay! I don’t know. That never entered my head. Though years later when I knew what I like I did wonder why I didn’t then.”

“Perhaps is just as well you didn’t. Your tender young heart would have been even more broken when your parent so cruelly tore you apart.”

“They did not move because of him, of my friendship with him. My mother says his disappearance was one of the reasons we did move. My Dad didn’t feel it was safe.”

“As if Toronto was such a safe place, right?”

“I never considered that.”

“I hate to change the subject but let’s talk about me for a change.”

“You? Something wrong?”

“No. Dessert awaits you in the living room.”

He followed Sanjay to the living room. On the coffee table were two bowls of Sanjay’s speciality. A banana raisin ice-cream with a subtle dash of curry.

“Yummy.” Dan eagerly took a spoonful. “So what about you?”

“You know this year is my parents fiftieth wedding anniversary.”

“Right.”

“You know I will be going to India to celebrate it with the rest of my family. There will be many, many of us.”

“Lots of cooking for you, right?”

“You don’t know the half of it. I will be going there the first of June to start the preparations. As the unmarried son I have more responsibilities.”

“When is the anniversary?”

“Not until the end of June.”

“I don’t know if I can get away for that long.”

“I’m not expecting you to.”

Dan had travelled with Sanjay to Agra twice now to meet his family. He wasn’t sure if his family even realized the nature of their relationship.

“You could join me for the week of the actual anniversary.”

“You sure you want me there? Last time they kept dropping hints about grandchildren.”

“I remember,” Sanjay grinned. “But if we send them pictures of our wedding, that would put a stop to that.”

“They’d see two grooms and wonder where the brides where.”

“You have a point there.” Sanjay took Dan’s hand. “One no longer has to be a pop star to pop the question.”

Sanjay regularly dropped hints about them getting married.

“Sanj, you know that isn’t going to happen. I thought you understood. Do I have to explain that again?”

Sanjay stopped him with a kiss. “Say no more but I hoped after your excitement about Kevin McLeod’s nuptials, you might have had a change of mind.”

“His wedding more PR than love I think. Though a … triad does seem interesting. Marriage is just fucking heteronormative bs being forced on us. Marriage has proven to be a flop for centuries.”

“You cynic!” Sanjay lay with his head in Dan’s lap. “We only hear about the drama of failure not about the ordinariness of success. Drama sells, quiet success fades into the background.”

“You want to fade into the background? Not that we are such an out there couple but … you know what I mean. Forced conformity just isn’t for me.”

“Forced?”

“Yeah, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. It seems only the real queers are getting married. Us who don’t are giving them bad name by living in sin.”

“Whatever.” Sanjay stood to take the dessert bowls to the kitchen.

“I doubt if married couples, of any gender, have the sort of sex we just had. Especially after being to gather for nearly ten years.”

“How did we end up talking about you again?” Sanjay laughed. “I’ll be booking my tickets to India next week. My cousin tells me there’s going to be seat sale. I’ll book yours at the same time.”

“No more than seven days for me.” Dan was firm.

“That barely gives you time to get over jet lag. I’ll get a better price for a ten day spread.”

“Since when?” Dan stood, stretched and yawned. “Man, I am tired. Bushed.”

“And well whacked too.” Sanjay called from the kitchen.

“I’m going to turn in. Check with me before you book anything for me.”

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Picture Perfect 10

As Warszawa and Clarke drove away, Dan rubbed his fingers against the palm of his hand. What was that look all about? Was Warszawa showing some sort of interest him. 

His cell phone rang. Sanjay’s face lit up on the screen as his incoming caller.

“Sanjay! I was just thinking about you.” He said.

“Me too. I mean I was also thinking about you not about me. Will you be home at the usual time? It seems like weeks since we had a meal together.”

This was the main stress on their relationship. Finding and making time to be together for more than a few hours.

“I’ll make sure I’m there. You do the same.”

“Agreed.”

“Even if Sylvan offers you triple-time.”

“Yes, of course. If I am delayed you can triple-time my Gulab Jamuns.”

“Not so much rosewater this time. Your balls taste fine without it.”

 

After a busy morning James was enjoying a routine afternoon at the shop until Kevin McLeod arrived, he had Mario Delucia and another man with him.

“Kevin,” they hugged. “It’s been ages since I’ve seen you. Mario,” he shook Mario’s hand, ‘You’re looking well. And this is …”

“Stewart O’Connor.” Stewart was a little taller than both Mario and Kevin. His full beard made him look older as well.

“So you are getting married?” Dan said, glancing between Kevin and Mario. 

“Not that I have a choice.” Kevin kissed Stewart.

Dan was puzzled. He’d expected Mario to be the other groom.

“Well, actually I did have a choice. We each pulled name out of a hat and Stewart and I were the winning combination.”

“Combination?” Dan asked.

“It could have just easily been Stewart and Mario. But it does make more sense that it’s me with either of them.”

“Oh?” Dan was more puzzled.

“We’re a …” Mario stopped to find the right word.

“Triad.” Stewart supplied. “Not all that unusual in ichthyology.”

“Stewart is a marine biologist.” Mario explained. 

“I see.” Dan had heard of polyamory but this was the first time he’d actual met a triad. 

“Mario will be best man.”

“Very best.” Stewart joked. 

“Okay.” Dan said. “It’s been some years since I shot a wedding. What did you have in mind?”

“It’ll be a simple three ring ceremony.” Kevin began.

“At Pride.” Mario added.

“In front of a hundred thousand people.” Stewart shook his head.

“Pride because that’s where I really came out.”

“You had too much talent to keep in any closet.” Stewart said.

“So you’ll want the shoot there?” Dan was already thinking of the logistics. In the past ten years Kevin had become a major international pop star. Canada’s answer to Elton John.

“Of course.” Kevin said. “But I really want something more subtle for actual wedding. The parade and all that comes after the fact.

“It’s not as if you need the exposure.” Daniel said.

“True.” Mario explained. “But after the success of Kevin’s pro-marriage song we figured it was a good idea.”

“Just cause I can’t have your baby

don’t mean I’ll take your maybe

if you want it

you’ll knot it

cause I’m drivin’ you crazy’’ Kevin sang the chorus.

“So we’re talking the end of June, right. Gives us more than a few months to prepare.” Dan said. “How much of a budget do have for this?”

“How much did Beyonce spend on her wedding?” Kevin asked Mario.

“Look Kevin.” name said sternly. “You promised this wasn’t going to too over-the-top. It’s a three ring ceremony, not a three-ring circus.”

“Trust me it won’t be.” Dan said. “Not if I can help it. If that’s what you want, and I wouldn’t blame you, but I’m the photographer for you.”

“Okay.” Kevin said. “There’s be an official engagement party next week. Can you be there?”
“As guest or photographer? I come free as a guest but if you want pictures I don’t come free.” He’d learned to draw that line years ago after being asked to bring his camera along to various friends’ function.

“I get you Dan. Sometimes I’d like to go to party where I’m not expected to perform. Guest. My friend. Guest.”

“Okay.”

“Bring Sanjay, too.”

“He’s such a big fan there’s no way I could stop him.”

“We’re doing a circus motif for the engagement party.” Stewart added.

“His daughter’s idea.” Marco said. “She never got a real birthday so thinks we have to make it up to her this way.”

“I see.” Dan said even though he didn’t quite get it. “As long as I don’t have to wear clown white.”

“No.” Kevin said. “We’re leaving costumes to the professionals.”

“Time to get to the studio Kevin.” Mario said.

“Okay okay. We’re working on a follow up to the hit. Knot Got Me Caught.”

“Catchy.” Dan said as they left the shop.

The place was very quiet as he, Sandy and Ushio looked at each other in stunned amazement.

 

 

“And then Kevin McLeod walks in with his two husbands.” Dan was going through the events of his day for Sanjay.

“What!” Sanjay turned away from the sink where he had been doing the dishes. “Two?”

“You heard me. Only one of them will be the legal husband. The rewards of being young and famous and rich.”

“Is that a note of envy in your voice? You’d like two husbands I suppose.”

“Sanj I have barely enough time for one.” He hugged Sanjay from behind pushing his hands though the top of his sweats to play with Sanjay’s foreskin. “I bet neither of them has anything as sweet as this.”

You want it, You gotta knot it first.” Sanjay sang.

“Oh man. Don’t quit your day job.” Dan continued to caress Sanjay as he got hard in his hands. “This is too thick to tie a knot in anyway.”

He remembered the first time he and Sanjay had sex. They’d met on line on a site for bears and their admirers. It turned out that neither of them were bears though but the attraction was there. 

Dan found Sanjay’s wide face and sense of humour enough to make him want more. Sanjay said it was Dan’s smooth skin that turned him on the most when they first met. It took two dates before they actually got to the practical matter of sexual compatibility.

Dan hooked his thumbs around the waist band of Sanjay’s sweats and began to pull them down.

“Hey!” Sanjay slapped at his hand. “At least let me finish the dishes.”

“Yes, master.” Dan nuzzled Sanjay’s ear. “How’s this.”

“Not much better.” Sanjay giggled and reached behind with one hand to fondle’s Dan’s cock. “Good thing you are wearing jeans or I’d be unable to finish my work.”

Dan took his hands out of Sanjay’s sweats, put one over Sanjay’s hand to press it harder on his cock and stroked Sanjay’s erection through the front of his sweats.

“You want to finish these?” Squirmed around to face Dan.

“Nope. I’d rather finish this.” He pushed Sanjay’s sweats down past his ankles and leaned over to suck the head of his cock.

San pumped his hips slightly. “Ah yes, that is a good worker.”

Dan knelt. Hands on Sanjay’s ass he pushed Sanjay deeper into his mouth then let him back out a little. He worked his tongue under the foreskin, tasting pre-come. He gently bit the loose skin.

“Oh. Oh.” Sanjay gasped. “Yes. Yes. Harder. Bite that skin harder.”

Dan bit a little harder. Sanjay rocked his hips a little, pulled his cock out and then came on Dan’s face.

“Let me wipe that off for you.” With a ragged sigh he rubbed his cock in his come on Dan’s chin

As he did that Dan attempted to catch Sanjay’s cock in his mouth again.

“You can’t get enough, can you you cock-sucking slut.” He shoved his still hard cock back into Dan’s mouth then pulled it out. He forced Dan to stand up and kissed him, smearing the come on both their faces.

“You like that.” He grunted between kisses.

“You know I do.”

“Then you are going to like this even more.”

Sanjay stepped out of his sweats and kicked them away. Then he undid Dan’s jeans and forced down to his ankles, pushed him around and bent him over the table. He dropped to his knees and tongued Dan’s ass. He reached around to jack Dan off.

Dan moaned while he reached back to push Sanjay’s face between his ass cheeks. The rub of Sanjay’s whiskers on his ass cheeks made his eyes water with pleasure.

“Oh, baby yes. Eat that fucking ass. Eat it.”

Sanjay did for a few minutes then stood to grab some lube from behind the cookie jar on the kitchen counter.

“You ready for this?” he said as he rubbed lube on his cock and then along Dan’s ass crack and up his hole.

“Oh!” Dan said. “I see you were ready.”

“Yeah. Why wait for dessert before I have dessert. Right? Nothing like some fresh butt pie to make me happy.”

He pressed his cock along Dan’s ass and gently pushed the head in.

“Ow.” Dan steeled himself. “Slowly. It’s been awhile.”

“Don’t I know it.” Sanjay pushed in a little.

“Be still.” Dan said. He held his breath as his ass muscles relaxed enough to allow Sanjay to enter deeper. Then pushed down on the cock to encourage Sanjay to push up at the same time.

“I love to open you up.” He trust deeper. In and out slowly.

“That’s it.” Dan rolled his head back on Sanjay’s shoulders. “Who knew we would turn out to be the perfect height for each other.”

The table began to move as Sanjay fucked Dan harder. They did a quick pivot so Dan could brace himself against the kitchen counter.

“Better?” He asked.

“Perfect, baby, perfect.”

Sanjay held Dan’s hips as he trust faster and deeper. His knees flexed and his last few trusts lifted Dan right off the floor. He stopped abruptly and pulled his cock out.

Dan felt hot come splatter the small of his back.

“Whoa!” Sanjay breathed out. “I’m getting too old for that sort of thing.”

“Didn’t feel that way to me.” Dan wiped the come off his back and used it to lube his dick. As he stoked he guided Sanjay’s hand to his balls. Sanjay squeezed them and kissed him until he came.

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Picture Perfect 8

His father had died before Daniel had come out to his family. He’d kept the gay part of his life a secret from them. He’d hid it when he joined the RCMP but it was there that he knew he’d have to be honest with himself. The family didn’t know until he showed up at the funeral with Trevor, his lover at the time.

His Dad’s will split the business three-ways with Dan getting sixty per cent, his sister thirty-five and, as long as she lived, his mother held the remaining five per cent. Daniel held the controlling interest so that the business would retain the family name. There was an in trust bequest for Daniel’s first born. 

At the time Linda was sure his Dad would never have split the business in such a way if he’d known Daniel was gay. After all she was married and already children why should he get the bigger share.

“Jesus, Daniel when will you trust that I know what I’m doing! I am older than you. I was running the business with Daddy when you were running around playing detective at Quantico. Or maybe you were playing with detectives.” She got out of the car and slammed the door shouting at him. “Who do you think was running things while you are off fucking up in Alberta with the RCMP.”

Daniel got out of the car.

“Sorry.” She touched his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to go off on you like that but you always fucking block me at every move even when you do give in. But this is important.”

“It was Dad’s idea I go to Quantico. Done is done. Sis. ”

She glared at him. She hated to be called ‘sis.’ 

They walked thorough the mall entrance to the store. Linda had convinced him that being here with these high-end, exclusive shops was the best thing for James Family Photographers. Thanks to Daniel they had exclusive North American distribution for Lifend, one of the top manufacturer of cameras and lenses in the world. The camera bodies were hand-crafted and one of a kind. Of course neither of them realized that shoppers at FairVista were more interested in brand names they could wear without needing to know more than how to do up a zipper.

She stopped at a window display that took up half of one of the store’ two front windows. All black except for a lighted box that held one of the hand-crafted Lifend’s. A simple card beside it said ‘The Vista – $250,000.00.”

“Time to give Cartier’s a run for their money.” Linda grinned. “We can’t have people think we only sell inexpensive digital key chain cameras.”

“I gave you the best part of the business. You know that. Mom knows that. So what more is there?”

They went into the store and up to Linda’s office on the second story loft that overlooked the main floor. 

“It’s called due diligence Daniel. I’m looking out for our investment while you are frittering your time with stuff like this.” She shoved the newspaper article that mentioned his involvement in busting the porn ring. “This is good work, but associating a family business with child porn is not a good PR move.”

“Linda, it doesn’t directly mention the business.”

“You always try to wriggle out of things.” She smirked. “The folks always gave into you. More than they did to me. The golden boy, right. Name one time when you didn’t ultimately get your way. While you were gone I was holding things together. Remember that.”

“Right. Dad wasn’t working himself to death. Mom wasn’t behind the counter every day, either. It was all you.”

“At least I wasn’t the one bitching about losing all my friends when we moved here. So sad.”She pretend to rub her eyes crying. “Boo fucking hoo.”

“Friends like Timmy Dunlop.” He took the porch photos out and put them on the desk in front of her. “Do you remember him. Stellerton.”

She stared at the pictures then back at him.

“Maybe these will help?” He added a couple of the colour pictures of him and Timmy leap-frogging in the back yard. “The Wickham Arms. Summer of 84.”

She pushed the pictures back toward him. “What of it.”

“The summer we moved to Toronto. What really happened?”

“N … nothing.” she paled a little.

“You know Timmy was one of the children who were abducted that summer. Along with …” he named off the other children.

“Yes, I remember that. Dad was so scared. He didn’t feel either of us were safe.”

“I understand that but to take off just like that. I didn’t know about Timmy until this past week.”

“There’s nothing to tell. What did you expect. A quiet chat about your buddy disappearing. Try telling that to a spoiled brat. That’s the past. Let go of it Daniel. You were a child. I was not that much older than you. I know little more than you do. It was Peggy that was pushing him, you know. Since Christmas, we had planned to move that summer. It was decided already that this was to be Dad’s last year on the road.

“He loved that circuit. It paid pretty well and he felt like it was … a sort of adventure for us all. Mom didn’t. They fought.”

“It didn’t have anything to do with …”

“Joey Martel! Yeah. Mom thought he was too old for me. I guess she was fucking right. What was I, sixteen he was twenty-six. I thought he was such a looker. I found out a few years later he’d been playing around with a couple of other girls. Girls younger than me. He was another sick creep.”

“You are right about him being a looker.” He took another of the old pictures out. It was one she had taken of Joey. He was aiming a gun at a carnival shooting range.

“You took this after we left. I thought you were staying with Aunt Tansy.”

She glanced at the photo, then at him. “Look, I have nothing more to tell you. The past is the fucking past. I’m more concerned about the future. Our future. Even if you aren’t.” She pushed all the photos closer to him and walked away from her desk. “Come here. Look down there.”

He walked over to the railing. There was at least a dozen customers in the store. Some browsing. Others being shown cameras or video equipment by her staff.

“Business is good. This is a Wednesday afternoon. Demographically Wednesday not a hot time for sales of any sort. Yet we draw them in.”

“And you think Cuppa’s will drawn even more in?”
“There isn’t a food court here. Just a couple of overpriced spots that make Zephyrs look like a soup kitchen. So why not an overpriced coffee shop.”

“I’ll think about it.” He took out his cell to check the time. He saw that he had several text messages from the other store. “I have to be going. I do have to show some due diligence to the mother ship.”

“I’ll get Hamid to drive you. To make up for me abducting you?”

“Hamid?”

“New staff. I think you’ll like him.”

“I am taking you to your home or office?” Hamid asked as he started the car.

“Office. You know where that is.”

“Oh, yes, Mr. James you are … I mean your office is on Queen Street.”

Linda was right in her estimation that he’d like Hamid. He was a Sanjay clone. A little shorter though but with the same solid body type and at 11 a.m. already needed to shave again.

“You’ve been in Canada long?”

“Oh yes sir. Three years and counting. I will be a citizen soon. I have degrees in electronics, computer analysis and cosmetology.”

Hamid had as diverse an educational background as Sanjay.

“Mrs. T is telling me you have a friend from Mumbai.”

“Yes. Sanjay’s family is from there. He was born here and educated there.”

“It is said that every person on the planet has relatives in Mumbai.” Hamid laughed.

“I suppose.”

“You have children as well?”

“No. The two shops are children enough for me. Besides I’m not the marrying type. Sanjay on the other hand is.”

“Oh?”

“I’m gay. Didn’t Linda tell you that when she told you about my Mumbai friend. He’s my lover. We’ve been together for several years.”

“I see. I see.” Hamid smiled widely. “But so many same-sex couple are adopting children, are they not?”

“Not this couple.” He resisted haranguing Hamid with his tirade about heteronormative assimilation by gays. “You can pull over here.”

Hamid pulled over.

“Thanks, Hamid. You made good time.”

“Thank you, sir. I trained in Mumbai. You must ask your Sanjay about driving there. Then I did my tour of duty in Toronto driving taxi for a year before I got the job at your most wonderful store.”

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Picture Perfect 7


It was after six pm when Dan stored his bike in the side garage. The Mazda was gone so he knew that Sanjay wasn’t home. He couldn’t recall if Sanjay had said he was working that night or not. After the unusually busy day he’d had Dan was okay with a quiet night on his own at home.

One side door in the garage led directly to a short flight of stairs into kitchen, the other side door opened onto the backyard patio. 

“I’m home!” Dan called out as he put his shoulder bag on the kitchen table.

There was no answer. The TV was on in the living-room. He turned it off. A timer would have turned it off at 7:30 and then again at 8:30 if there was no one home. There was a message by the remote.

“Forgot I had a night shift at Pa’Pappa’s. I’ll be home at the usual time. Sanj.”

Pa’Pappa’s was one of the restaurants Sanjay worked for. The other was Zephyr. Both owned by Sylvan Papoulias. Zephyr was the fine dining establishment that regularly made the Michelin’s list of top North American dining experiences. 

Pa’Pappa’s was at the family-oriented end of the spectrum. The difference, according to Sanjay, was in price and paper quality for the menus. Desserts for the family spot would be served at the the other but instead of grated dark chocolate they’d have shaved white chocolate. Both paid him the same but at Zephyr’s he got his name on the dessert menu there.

Dan went to the fridge and took out the remains of the pizza they had ordered on the weekend. A squirt of hot sauce and thirty seconds in the microwave and it was ready to eat.

He took it out to the back patio and ate while watching the sun setting. The various solar lights began to glow as it got darker. 

This was a good life. 

He was washing the plate he had used for the pizza when his cell rang.

“Good news Dan.” It was Cyrtys. “I just spoke to the big wigs and they are truly excited by your proposal.”

“My proposal?”

“Why yes, to do a special on this missing children from an almost-abductee’s point of view. You’ll have to tell them how you evaded his grasp and all that. It’ll be so dramatic.”

“I was not almost abducted.” Or was I? Maybe that’s what my mother was holding back. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember that week. What do they call it – post traumatic shock? 

“I don’t mean literally. Can we take a meeting tomorrow. We have so much to discuss. So much.”

“I’ll have to check my schedule. I do have a business to run.”

“But Daniel this is your business, isn’t it. Seeing what others don’t see in a simple set of photographs.”

Dan woke in the morning with the naked Sanjay spooning him. He reluctantly disengaged himself careful so as not to wake his lover. Sanjay smelled of vanilla and chocolate. Dan sat at the edge of the bed. Did he want to start something this early in the day? If he didn’t there might not be another opportunity. 

He scratched his balls, head and then stretched his arms to work out the sleep kinks. Bladder pressure pulled him off the bed and to the toilet. As he was relieving himself he heard music in the bedroom. That meant Sanjay was awake and had turned on his mp3 player. 

The music was a gentle sitar with tabula and distant vocalizing. Soothing for morning. 

Dan rinsed his mouth with water and went back to the bedroom. Sanjay was on the floor doing yoga. Dan sat on the floor and began copying what Sanjay was doing. He knew the routine of movements and closed this eyes to flow more consciously into his subconscious. As the exercises moved to a finish the music built up in speed and complexity. Then there was silence.

He opened his eyes and leaned back on his elbows watching Sanjay’s hair stomach as his breathing became more regular. Dan was never able to slow his down as well or as much as Sanjay did.

Over breakfast he was telling Sanjay about the ‘offer’, as he called with with air quotation marks, from Quintex, when his phone rang. He unplugged it from the charger to answer.

“Linda.” Call display told him who was calling.

“Daniel we have to talk.”

“You mean you talk and I listen.” He replied holding the receiver away from his ear.

“I’m not in the mood for your wise cracks this early in the day.” Her voice seemed to echo off the kitchen ceiling. “I’ll expect you at the FairVista store by ten.”

He brought the phone to talking distance. “Not unless I teleport. I’ll be there when I get there. Eleven at the earliest.”

“Get your houseboy to drop you off.”

Dan rolled his eyes to Sanjay’s frown. “She’ll never forgive you, will she.”

“I can hear you.” His sister said.

“Well, Sanjay can hear you, too. Trying using your inside voice. Oh I forgot, you don’t have one.”

Linda had never learned to modulate, as his mother called not shouting. Even quiet conversations ramped up to her shouting. He often wondered if she has some sort of hearing problem but the one time he had suggested she get her hearing checked she went even more ballistic than usual.

“I’ll be expecting you.”

The line went dead.

“Fuck, you’d think she’d learn to say hello and goodbye.” Dan shook his head.

“Family is like that. I don’t think my mother ever asked me how I was doing before she launched into how my sisters were doing.”

“I’d better get going if I expect to be at the big shop by eleven.” Even if he caught the right transit connections travel time was nearly forty minutes. A trip he would make no more than twice a week. Despite her brusqueness his sister did run the business well. She enjoyed the interaction with customers much more than he did.

“Not going to bike out there?” Sanjay asked.

“No thanks. The war on cyclists is as bad the city’s supposed war on cars.”

The door bell rang.

“Who could it be at this time of the morning?” Sanjay asked as he went to answer it.

“Is my brother decent?”

“Good morning to you too, Linda.” Sanjay said as she brushed past him.

“I was outside already Daniel. I knew you’d dawdle.”

She took a mug out of the sink, rinsed it and poured herself a cup of coffee. 

“I don’t suppose you don’t have real cream in here do you?” She pulled the fridge open. “I guess this’ll do. Not two percent I hope.” She took two swallows. “Not half-bad. You ready yet. I don’t have all day.”

Daniel put his loafers on, checked his shoulder bag to make sure he had the photos he’d printed off the TV of all the missing children. As expected the quality wasn’t great but would do for now. He followed her out to the car.

“New?” He ran his hand along the hood.

“Don’t give me that look.” she opened her door. “Yearly lease means I can upgrade the Lexus every year. Why own anyway? You should try it. Tax deductible.”

He got in. “Bike styles don’t change that rapidly.”

“Tell me about it.”

She turned at the end of the street and headed to the Expressway.

“What is going on Linda?”

“Those pricks at FairVista say we aren’t making a large enough profit for them. Look, you know we are breaking even at least. It takes a few years for a business to really get established. I’ve explained all that to them. Even their accountants say we have a sound business plan but to them sound means bigger profits.”

“Uh huh. Tell me something you haven’t told me before. I warned you that the profit clause might bite us in the ass one day.”

“Who expected it to bite us so soon. That’s what I’m saying. But I have an opportunity that may increase profits for a minimal outlay.”

“Linda we’ve spent enough getting the new shop set up. I’ve already split off the best selling stuff to you. Or is this another attempting to pressure me into setting up shop with you?”

“No, nothing like that little brother. The people from Cuppa’s has approached me.”

“What? You want to start a coffee shop somewhere?”

“In the store. It’ll be like Starbucks and Indigo. Timmie’s and Shoppers.”

“How much of an outlay?”

“For the two locations a couple of hundred grand.” she said quickly.

“Two locations?”

“FairVista and Queen.”

“What about the Classic?”

“That lease is coming up soon. Daddy always said follow the money. Cuppa’s is the money.”

“Classic is doing fine. Better than ever in fact with the new condo complex.”

“Why do you always fight me Daniel?”

“I didn’t fight you on the new shop did I?”

“I’d call refusing  to move all the business to it, putting up a fight.”

“If I remember correctly you thought having too locations would reflect what a success the business was. The big expansion. Right? Once FairVista was established then there’d be franchise opportunities to sell.”

“Daddy said you have to dream big to get big. Besides Peggy thinks it’s a great idea. She’s already signed the agreement.”

She pulled into the mall lot and parked behind the shop.

“Mom would sign anything you asked.” Dan wanted to get angry but he admired the way his sister often went ahead and did the ground work. “But …”

“I know you have the final say. If Daddy knew …” she trailed off. 

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Picture Perfect 5

Once Inspector Warszawa left Dan called the Canada Cold number and after a menu of numbers for other shows the channel produced, left his contact information as well as a brief message, as requested. He skipped his usual Classic Carafe lunch and biked down to the Esplanade to visit his mother.

After his father had died and the estate had been settled she had purchased a small condo in one of the complexes there. Compact and easy to maintain.

“Daniel, this is such a pleasant surprise.” She poured him a cup of tea. “If I had known you were coming I wouldn’t have let you catch me in these rags.” She brushed imaginary dust off the shoulders of her pale blue smock.

They sat a table in front of the window that overlooked the inner courtyard.

“This isn’t Sunday is it?” She joked. “I’m not getting that senile that fast am I.”

“No. I found something in the archives that I had to ask you about.” Dan took the file with the photos out of his shoulder bag. “Do you remember these?”

He had brought the pictures of him and Timmy.

“Why, no dear I don’t.” She put on her glasses to look closer at them. “Is that the … why, yes it is, it’s the Wickham, isn’t it? In Stellarton. Of all the places we stayed summers that was my favorite. Maybe because it was where your Dad and I went for our honeymoon. Romanic Stellerton.”

“Right. We stayed there when he did his summer work.”

“You liked it there. Was this one of your little friends?”

“Yes. That’s Timmy Dunlop.”

“Whatever be … came of him.” she stopped. “Oh God!” she covered her mouth with her hand.

“You remember him. Timmy was one of the children that disappeared. That was about the time we left, wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know. It was so long ago. So long. Why bring that up again?”

“I didn’t know about this, till I found out this weekend. It was on TV. Timmy was my best friend. Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“I know how you missed him when we moved. But it couldn’t be helped.”

“What couldn’t be helped? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“Dad tried but there seemed no logical way to explain it. No one understood what had happened. We didn’t want to alarm you. And by the time you were old enough to maybe understand, it seemed pointless to say anything anyway. Life went on. Right?”

“This was why we moved so abruptly?” Dan tried not to sound accusatory. He found it hard to contain his anger at having this held back from him.

“We had been planning the move since Christmas. The missing children changed the timeline. When Timmy was … whatever happened, it was too close to us. With everything else that was happening I put my foot down and decided it was time to go.”

“I understand all that Mom but why never tell me.” He teared up. “Timmy was … a friend … now I have to … bury him somehow.”

 

Dan arrived back the store a little after two. His mother didn’t have a lot to tell him and what she did tell him only made things murkier. It was clear that something beside the missing children had sparked their move to Toronto. But she claimed not to remember exactly what.

“Someone was by to see you, bossman.” Sandy handed him an embossed business card.

It said. ‘Cyrtys Baxter – Quintex Canada – Executive Producer’ with a phone number, fax number, email address and web site printed on the back. As the light played on it, a man’s face appeared momentarily.

“It’s pronounced Curtis.” Sandy explained. “He says he’s from Canada Cold.”

“W.T.F?” Dan tried to steady the reflection on the card to see the face more clearly.

“Amazing.” Ushio took the card from him. “It’s that new Laser 3-D printing I have been reading about. I have never seen anything like it.”

“Did he say what he wanted?” Dan asked taking the card back. 

“Nope. Just that he was returning your call in person.”

“Right. I called them about the show I saw last night.” He quickly told them about the missing children and the photo of him and Timmy Dunlop.

“You sure it wasn’t you that disappeared.” Ushio joked. “You do vanish from here often enough.”

Ushio was ribbing about the hours he and Sandy often spent in the top floor lab developing software. It was with her help that he had worked out the bugs in the program that helps with the image work for the porn case.

“Did he say he’d be back?” He looked at the card as if it would tell him. It was a little thicker than the usual card and as he squeezed the image sort of hovered over it. “Wild.”

“He asked you call the number on the card when …”

Dan’s cell phone rang.

“Cyrtys here.”

Dan was a bit stunned. He stared at the card and then his phone.

“Hello Dan? I’m at Carafe. I’ll be right there.” The line went dead. A few minutes later Cyrtys came into the store.

Dan wasn’t sure what to expect when the tall, heavy set black man came over to shake his hand.

“Cyrtys Baxter.”

His voice was deep, slow and slightly insinuating.

“Daniel Jameson.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

“How did you know I was back? Some chip in your card?”

“Yes – it is set off by your fillings.” He laughed. “Just kidding. I saw you drive your bike into the back lane. Gave you a few minutes to get in. No magic, really.” 

“Crap.” Ushio said. “I was hoping your biz card has some sort of GPS built into it.”

“Good idea.”

“Canada Cold got your call and I figured I’d answer it in person.”

“We can go up to my office.” Dan lead him to the stairs to the second floor. “I didn’t expect such a prompt response.”

“You weren’t too far from our offices.” Cyrtys follow him up the stairs. “I also knew who you were and figured why not follow up directly.”

“Who I was?” Dan sat behind his desk.

“You work with the RCMP sometimes. You got mentioned in that article about busting the child porn syndicate.”

“Syndicate might be pushing it some. Network is more like it. The cells are everywhere, we just pulled out a few strands of the web, as it were.”

“Don’t be so modest.” Cyrtys sat in the chair in front of the desk. “Nice set up you’ve got here.”

“Thanks.” 

He found himself staring at Cyrtys’s face. There was something familiar about him.

“DJ Mix-a-Mud.”

“Huh?”

“You had that look. I haven’t seen it for a while. That look of ‘who are you?’ That’s what you were wondering, right?”

“Yeah. Mix-a-Mud? From The Slime Ball Bunch?”

“Got on the first try. That was me. I was a lot younger and … thinner then.”

The Slime Ball Bunch was a kids after school show where contestants would get slimed with various colors of goo if they got a wrong answer.

“I always wanted to be on that show.”

“I’m not surprised. But it was a fucking horror show to produce. Can you imagine what it took to keep the studio clean. Young boys and girls in shower rooms with chaperons. The sexual tension was as slimy as the slime.”

“Wow. I never thought of that. But I remember you now. Man, I wanted to be a DJ and spin records the way you did.”

“Pre-recorded you know. I just twiddled.” Cyrtys mimed fiddling with records on two turntables. “But you can’t imagine the number of girls who thought I was totally hot. It was as if they hadn’t seen a cute black boy before.”

“Not only girls.” Dan said.

“You thought I was totally hot?” Cyrtys laughed. “It was usually much older guys who made that known to me. That’s one of the reasons I stepped from in front of the camera and to behind the scenes.”

“A natural enough progression.”

“What more can you tell me?” Cyrtys asked. “About the tip you called in.”

Dan took the folder of photos out from his file drawer. He put a couple of them on the desk. 

“As I said in my message I’m the other boy in the picture you used on the show. My Dad took these. It must have been taken shortly before Timmy Dunlop was taken.”

“This episode has generated more interest than any other in the series. Lost children are like cute kitten pictures. The public can’t seem to get enough of them. There have been more calls in the first forty-eight hours than any of the other cases.” He didn’t take his eyes off Daniel as he spoke.

“I don’t know if I’d equate missing children with cute kittens.”

“Sorry. I guess that did sound a little … cold.” Cyrtys grinned. “I’m a business person after all.”

“People’s misery isn’t a business proposition, Mr. Baxter. I don’t think I have anything more to say to you.”

Dan got up and went to his office door.

“Please.” Cyrtys stood. “I didn’t mean to seem unfeeling.”

In the close space of the office Dan found it hard to breath with Cyrtys cologne wrapping itself around everything. He noticed it when Cyrtys first came in but in the store it wasn’t as pervasive. 

“I do have things to do.”

“I realize that. You have another RCMP case, don’t you?”

“I’m never at liberty to discuss such matters. But I do have a business to run here.”

Cyrtys stepped back a few feet.

“What are you looking at?” Dan asked.

“You.”

“You’ve been studying me since we met.”

“Yes. You have an appealing quality about you. Sort of sexy but serious.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Sorry. We’re looking to replace John Kilpatrick. Actually he wants to leave the show. Not enough money.”

“Me as the host of Canada Cold?”

“Yeah. He only got the gig because he played that crusading coroner for a couple seasons. You have real credentials. You’re not some actor. The real deal.”

“I’m confused. You aren’t looking for more on that case?”

“No. Not my department. I passed that information on to Vicki. She’s our researcher. She’ll be calling you later in the week. Like I said we got so many calls from this one show, nearly as many as all the other episodes combined. Good thing, as the studio wasn’t happy with the numbers.. They’re the ones who don’t care about the victims, not me.” Cyrtys sighed deeply.

“I glanced over the list of callers and saw your name there. It rang a bell. I guess from that article in the paper. I did a quick google on you to confirm you were who I thought you were. Not many pictures of you online though.”

“No.”

“Would you be interested in testing for the studio?”

“I … Look this isn’t what I was expecting. I called about this case not to get an audition.”

“At least say you’ll think about it. You single?” He picked up a photo on the desk of Dan and Sanjay by the pool in Palm Springs.

“Not that it’s relevant, but no I’m not single. Yes, that is my partner in the picture. Which means I am gay.” Dan realized he was talking louder than usual.

“Yes, I picked that up when you admitted to finding me totally hot. It’s all good Dan. All good. I’m not bothered, if I was, it would be like the pot calling the kettle girlfriend.”

Dan was caught off guard as Cyrtys slipped into a totally diva delivery by the end of what he was saying. He laughed.

“That’s more like it.” Cyrtys smiled. “Think about the offer. We’ll be shooting the next season soon. From the response to this episode I think we’ll do a follow up to these missing children. Having someone in one of the photos as host would make it an easy sell to Quintet. The full package.”

He shook Dan’s hand and bounded down the stairs.

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Picture Perfect 4

I’m sorry I forgot your names. I’m sorry I forgot your faces but I have never forgotten you. I’ll never forget you. Never. I know it was bad of me to forget so much when I took so much from you but you understood I did that to protect you. To keep you from being spoiled, like I had been spoiled, by a world you couldn’t be safe from. There was no one to protect any of you or I wouldn’t have found you each so easily it was like you were coming to me.

I know you understood. See I have still something to remember each of you. I never forgot where I kept these parts of you. Now I have your names. Perhaps I never knew your names. That wasn’t a part of the bargain we made, was it. I wanted only to protect you. To preserve your purity. Without names you would be even safer.

Seeing your faces again on that show brought back so much. I could almost hear your voices, feel your skin. Now all I have are those socks, these buttons. You didn’t mind that while I stole your lives I also stole these mementos of you. I left your faces and names unrecalled, till now.

I wish I knew which of you owned these little socks, these red buttons, this sheriff star. Maybe it was you Timmy. You were the biggest of them all. Such a rough boy, too. You struggled but couldn’t resist the potion. None of you could, but he fought the hardest till it overtook him. In the last moment he knew what was happening but by then it was too late. Too late.

None of you could resist the lure I set out for you. The promise of internal life. Well, that’s not what I told you but that was what I was really offering. A life everlasting and free of any stain.

What stopped me was the commotion. Press. Police.  I’d found it too easy. No not easy. It was never easy to watch the life flicker out of your eyes, the breath leave your bodies. That part was never easy.

Believe me I’m sorry I had to do what I did. I know you understand. That you forgive me for forgetting your names, your faces. I didn’t forget you. But I didn’t remember you clearly until that show. The missing children. Dorothy with your braids; Madeline and your sweet little brother. You couldn’t understand how he fell so silent in my arms. Your grandmother must have thought you were a big girl to leave you to tend him like that. I watched till she had gone into the house. Waited five minutes then you came so eagerly to me with him. So eagerly it was a joy to bring you to everlasting purity.

See I do remember you. You are will always be sweet young children. Wrapped forever in my arms.

Paula were these your barrettes? You had so many questions. Now you don’t need to know anything. How much sweeter it is not to need to know anything. I wish I didn’t know so much, you know, Paula. Being an adult isn’t fun. It isn’t. You have be responsible. Pay the bills. Clean the house. It isn’t always playing house. I wish I could have joined you somehow.

And Timothy. Yes, you were the boy with the sheriff’s badge. The cap guns. It was as if I had found Tom Sawyer, or was it Huckleberry Finn – all red hair and freckles. The perfect picture of a boy. 

Finally you David. The dreamer. Yes I think you were a dreamer. Afraid to leave your comic books behind. I let you bring this Spiderman. 

Yes I know there are more of you. I often wonder why no one missed those others. I spared you that indifference. You never felt it once I had rescued you. I hope not. Not a deeply as I did. No one will look for you.

I was scared, at first, when I realized someone was looking for any of you. As the show progressed I saw that I had done my work well. They had no idea. Not a clue. Wasn’t I clever. No, I didn’t have anyone to help me either. I didn’t realize I could be so clever. Fool all those people. Men. Women. All looking for what I saved. They never knew where to look. 

Maybe I should call them? Give them a clue about the others. How can I? There’s no way to be anonymous anymore. I see enough TV to know that. What with electric surveillance anything can be traced. Anything. All they need is one word. Is that enough for them to follow it back to me.

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Picture Perfect 2


2

Dan got off his bike to wheel it up the laneway behind the row of shops that included James Family Photo. No drunks back there this morning, he was glad to see. His Dad had bought the three-story corner building lot of stores shortly after their move to Toronto. They’d lived in one of the second-story apartments until his sister got married and moved out.

In the mid-80’s the Queen and River area wasn’t considered prime but over the years it had become very prime. So prime, his sister felt it was time to sell. Dan was unwilling to let go of the real-estate. 

He unlocked the rear security gate, pushed it open, locked it behind him again, double checked to make sure it was in fact locked. Some mornings he had forgotten to make it secure and would come out to find a drunk or two sprawled in the back space behind the store.

He then unlocked the actual back door to their part of the building, chained his bike to the railing of the back stairway that lead up to the second and third floors. Stairs only used by himself and sometimes Sandy, his shop assistant. Both floors could be accessed by the public entrance. Double checking his bike he unlocked the rear door to his downstairs shop. 

Over the years the amount of security needed had increased. What took his Dad a few minutes, now took nearly twenty. He turned off the security alarm but made sure it was still set to go off if anyone came to the back via the laneway. Surveillance cameras covered the front, the back, and even the roof. The roof cams were good for keeping an eye on racoons.

He turned master switch on for the lights in the shop. It took a few moments for them to illuminate the various display stands, racks and street front. He always enjoyed the flicker to life of the business. No, as long as he could afford it, James Family Photography would be centred here and not at the FairVista Mall.

He unlocked the front door from the inside and stepped out to Queen Street. The Classic Carafe Cafe in the corner spot of the building had been opened for a couple of hours. He was still a bit amazed that selling coffee and cookies was a viable business. 

“Morning, landlord. Blueberry, coconut, fresh out of the oven. ” Jill Haverly, owner of the Classic stepped out of the cafe with a coffee and muffin for him. Her apron was already dusty with flour.

“Do you stand at your window waiting for me to show up?” Dan asked.

“Don’t have to watch. Your vibration is felt when you are five minutes from here.” She laughed as he took the mug from her. 

“French vanilla?” He held it to his nose.

“Just for you. Was reading about you in the Globe the other day.” Jill said.

“Yeah. Hope it’s good for business.” Dan sipped his coffee. Since leasing the corner spot to her five years ago Jill had made sure Dan had a fresh morning coffee. If he didn’t step out, she’d send a couple of mugs over for him and his shop clerks.

“I didn’t realize you were so i.technically inclined. I took you for just another wedding photographer.” Jill said.

“Weddings were always my sister’s end of things. The end that brings in the money. Weddings, babies and now pets. My restoration work … ”

“What you did in that child porn case was more than restoration.” Jill took his empty cup and dashed the last drops onto the sidewalk.

“Morning boss.”

A short, heavy-set woman stopped to talk with them. Jill slipped into the Classic.

“Late night Sandy?”

“No later than usual, bossman.”

Sandy Reynolds had worked for James Family Photography for several years. What she didn’t know about cameras wasn’t worth knowing.

“You kick start the shop?” she asked.

“For the most part. You can fire up the net.”

“This’ll help.” Jill came back out with an espresso for Sandy. “Extra slow.”

Sandy tossed it back in one gulp. “Thanks I needed that. See you inside.”

“I’ll be in in a few minutes,” Dan saw Cliff Silver arriving to open up the Oil On Silver Gallery that occupied the retail space on the other side of the building.

“Thanks Jill. See you for lunch.”

“The usual will be ready. Tell Cliff I’ll send Peter over with his morning booster, if he promises not to offer him a job.” 

“You still sore about losing Steve to him?” Dan handed his empty mug back to her. Steve was baker apprentice to Jill for a year when Cliff offered him a job at the gallery. Peter was his replacement.

“Just joking. Better commissions on art than gluten free muffins.”

“Morning, Cliff.”

“That it is.” Cliff gave Dan a quick kiss on the cheek. “DeVida?”

Cliff prided himself on not only having a nose for art but one for scent. 

“Yes. You like?” 

“I like a man who smells good.” Cliff laughed. “Good enough to eat.”

“Maybe later. How did the Ocean opening go on the weekend?” He followed Cliff into the gallery.

“Tsunami, baby, tsunami. Sold nearly everything within the first hour.”

One wall of the gallery was hung with four different sized paintings of waves; each a different season and diffusing different light patterns. All by the same artist.

“I wasn’t sure about these; the sea seasons, but they went first, in fact.”

“Not sure?” Dan asked.

“Yeah, Halakia insisted, and rightly so, they go as a set. One hundred and eighty grand seemed likes a lot of money, even to me, but fuck they were gone so fast I could have had an auction for them and gotten twice that easily. Live and learn.”

“I didn’t think there was much left for you to learn?”

Silver’s Gallery was the one original shop in the building. It had been there for ten years already when his father bought the space. Like Dan, Cliff had inherited the family business. Cliff had the second floor removed to make the two interior walls large enough for such enormous paintings. The other two were ceiling to floor windows.

“Now to see if I can firm up the offers for this now.” He gestured to a large canvas that took up most of the other side wall. “Most apartments aren’t big enough for something this size.”

“How do you even paint something that large?”

“One brush stroke at a time.”

Peter, from Classic came in with a coffee and bagel. He stood expectantly in the centre of the space.

“I’ll leave you to it then Cliff. Oh by the way, Peter is off limits. That is if you value your caffeine.”

Dan went into his shop. Sandy was, as always dusting the shelves. She claimed it looked good to be busy when a customer enters. 

“The James domaine in shape?” she asked.

“As always.”

“Globe was good to you?”

“Yeah, well, I’d rather keep a lower profile about that sort of thing.”

“Helping to bust up a child porn network isn’t a bad sort of thing.”

“Not the sort of business I want to develop.” Dan had worked on a case of a man who was posting sexually explicit pictures of a child, he claimed to be his daughter, from various hotels in the States. The sex acts were clear but backgrounds had been photoshopped into blurs. Dan was able to reverse that blur and traced the photos to an actual hotel and from there to the man.

When Ushio, his other clerk, arrived, Dan went up to his office on the second floor. He took the compact lift he’d had installed two years ago to accommodate handicapped access by-law. Usually he took the stairs but he used it at least once a day to make sure it was in running order. Access to his third floor workshop was only by the stairs.

His office took up the middle of the block of the building. His workshop covered the entire top floor. It was one of the reasons he wasn’t going to let his sister talk him into selling the building. 

The workshop has originally been his Dad’s idea.  for research and development. One part of it was a dark room for developing film and experimenting with various ways of of printing negatives. All of which was now pretty much passé thanks to the digital age. Another part was devoted to state of the art digital image manipulation and photo restoration. 

Running the length of the back walls on both floors was the company archives. Negatives of nearly every photograph he or his dad had taken. His sister removed what she considered her portfolio when the FairVista location had opened. Dan didn’t really care what she wanted. But he knew what she couldn’t have.

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Picture Perfect 1

1

“You’re not listening to me.” Sanjay took the remote from Dan and muted the TV.

“I was.” Dan grabbed the remote. “You said my sister had a good point.”

“But you are going to ignore her?” Sanjay tried to get the remote back before Dan could turn the sound back on.

“Some thing don’t change.” Dan  blocked Sanjay’s hand looked him in the eyes and kissed him. “If I had listened to her, we would not be together. You know she thought that you weren’t a point in my favour.”

“So you keep telling me.” Sanjay pushed Dan away from him, got up from the couch and stood in front of the TV.

“Sanj, If you want to distract me you’ll have to drop your drawers.”

“We’re talking a lot of money, Dan. A lot of money.”

“I’m not paying for you to drop them. Now, step away from the TV. I was watching something.”

“You’re always watching something when I want to talk to you. You’ve recorded this anyway, so you can go back to it.”

“You asked me to clear things off the pvr, remember. Now that I’m trying to, you want to talk me.” Dan hit pause. “You’re the reason I don’t think we need a cat.”

“What?”

“Cats ignore you until you are trying to do something and they are all over you and whatever you are trying to do.”

“You wish.”

“This is nearly over anyway. Ten minutes.” he unpaused. “Step aside?”

He pressed the back button to rewatch what he’d missed talking to Sanjay.

“What’s it about anyway?” Sanjay sat beside him.

“Missing kids on the east coast.”

“I should have known.”

“Yeah, everything is homework for … hey! That’s me!” Dan hit the pause button.

It was a photo of two boys on the front steps of a house. Arms over each other shoulders, grinning at the camera.

“You sure aren’t missing.” Sanjay said.

“Yeah yeah I know. It’s the other boy Timmy Dunlop. I guess.”

“Guess? I thought you were watching this.”

“You mean, trying to watch. My Dad took this picture. I remember it. It’s been years since I’ve seen it though.”

“Yeah, right. How many photographs have you seen?”

“Enough, but some you remember. I sort of had a crush on Timmy. We played doctor a couple of times. When we moved I kept hoping to hear from him but nothing.”

“I guess you know why now.” Sanjay stretched his arms over his head. “I’m heading for bed. I will leave you to your homework.”

Any reality show dealing with crime was considered Dan’s homework. He saw things in photographs that most didn’t see. His eyes had been trained to discover and recognized what might appear ordinary to the untrained eye.

He went back to the beginning of the program ‘Canada Cold’ that looked at cold cases across Canada. He’d worked such cases when he was with the RCMP and that had solidified his interested in them. This episode was about the disappearance of several children in the Maritimes in the mid-80’s. Dan had no recollection of this case at all. His family had moved when he was eleven, the same summer of these disappearances.

As he watched he jotted down the names and locations of the children. None struck a chord with him expect Timmy’s. The place name were familiar, Stellerton, Digby, Wolfville in Nova Scotia; Small Town & Port Something in New Brunswick. His Dad had been an itinerant photographer, “Photos By James”, who travelled from school to school, taking class pictures and individual portraits. For summer’s he would take the family with him, spending a day or two, or up to a week in various small towns. 

Dan pulled himself out his reflective daze. Replayed the ending of the show again and wrote down the number one was to call if they had any information. He’d call once he had found those photos. Stellerton had been one of the longer stays and one of the last as he recalled. 

They’d been there long enough for him to renew his friendship with some of the boys he’d palled around with the previous summer. His family left pretty quickly. He remembered being pretty pissed because the Happy Hippo Carnival had just set up and he wanted so badly to go it. 

Moving to Toronto wasn’t as important to him then as seeing the sideshows. Even his sister was nosily disappointed, but that was because she was seeing some guy their mother didn’t approve of. He figured that was why they were really moving and for years blamed her for ruining his childhood.

“You coming up or am I coming by myself?” Sanjay called from the top the stairs.

In the morning Dan ate without noticing what he was eating. His folks must have known about Timmy disappearing. Why hadn’t they told him. He’d written Timmy letters from Toronto but never got a reply. Did those ever get mailed? 

“He must have been something special?” Sanjay nudged Dan’s shoulder as he offered to refill his coffee cup.

“Who?” Dan waved the coffee away. “I’ve had enough.”

“The lad in the picture. You are thinking about him, aren’t you?”

“Some, but more about why I didn’t know what happened until now. I was so heartsick about him but I let my folks think I was homesick for Cape Breton.”

“How old were you?”

“Only eleven.”

“Still carrying that flame?”

“No! I haven’t really thought about Timmy or those days until last night. I’m surprised I recognized his face.”

“It was yours that you recognized first.”

“Yeah, well, there were so few pictures of me, I mean just of me, without Linda lurking in the background. She invented photo bombing because they was no way Dad could take a picture if she was around without her getting in on it. Nearly all my baby pictures show either her or my mother holding me.”

“So, that’s when the rivalry started.”

“Oh yeah, I wasn’t out of the womb before she was making sure she got as much attention as she could. I better get going. Time to open shop. I’m seeing Warszawa this afternoon. I’ll ask him what he thinks I should do.”

“The RCMP do come in handy sometimes.”

“You working today?”

Sanjay was a pastry chef at two different restaurants and Dan was never sure which one he was working at on which day. Neither was Sanjay somedays.

“If I was I’d been gone by now, right?”

“No. You work evenings more and more.”

“Miss me?”

“You know I do.” He pulled Sanjay tight for a long kiss.

“Today’s the day the animal people are coming. Raccoon in the eaves.”

“Right. What’s that going to cost us I wonder.”

“At least a week of night shifts for me.”

“And two high-end digitals for me.”

“I thought your sister had that commission market cornered.”

“So she does but you know what I mean.”

Dan finished his coffee.

“I’ll be biking today so you can use the car.”

He leaned over Sanjay, kissed him while sliding one hand down his chest to squeeze his partner’s balls.

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