Picture Perfect 86

Picture Perfect 86

Dan clicked on his other caller. Sanjay came up on the screen.

“Back to you, John.” Sanjay laughed. “But seriously are you okay?”

“Fine. Why?”

“We heard about the accident. I was worried about you.”

“No need to worry. I wasn’t in that car.”

Most likely they made sure it got some press to create buzz for the show.

“I know. The first reports mentioned unnamed fatality. Unnamed until family was contacted.”

“The was awhile ago now. Quintex is using it to create buzz for the show.”

“Whatever. Dan it made me pause. I don’t want to lose you. I’ll drop all legal proceedings if you …”

“Sanjay speak to my lawyer.” Dan resisted the temptation to say yes. He could feel Sanjay’s hairy belly against his, as they pushed each other up against a kitchen counter. He could taste Sanjay’s tongue in his mouth. He was aroused.

“Every day I regret what I did. Hitting you was unspeakable. But I’m not the one who …”

“You hit me before Peter happened. You hit me because of the money not because of love.”

“No! It was because you didn’t believe in me, in my dreams, my possibilities.”

“Right. I said speak to my lawyer. Don’t force me to get a restraining order.”

“You can’t restrain this any more than I can.” Sanjay moved back so his cock and balls filled the screen. Dan ended the connection and hit the block caller button. He checked his cloud saved to make sure Sanjay’s call had been recorded and stored there. He considered contacting his lawyer. Did he want to escalate the friction between him and Sanjay. It wasn’t going to disappear but making it worse wouldn’t help things either. If he heard from Sanjay again he’d have to take some action.

His cell beeped with a text alert.

The text said: “Where are you? We’re waiting in cabin one for you.”

“On my way.” He replied as he left his cabin.

The production crew were using cabin one as their temporary conference room. It was the largest of the rooms with its own tiny kitchen. One of the king size beds was set up as a low conference table. It was already littered with pizza boxes.

“Hope I didn’t wake you from your beauty sleep.” Baxter said.

“You didn’t.” Dan sat on the edge of the second bed facing the improvised table. There wasn’t enough room between the beds for chairs. 

“Stephanie has your interview set for tomorrow.”

“Ten a.m. sharp. I know. I’m expecting Morrison to be different from the others.” Dan put a copy of Trail Mix Trivia on the table. “The man may have background information about the context of the case.”

“Interesting.” Jennifer flipped through the book. 

“Wolf and Seal Morrison are his sons.” Stephanie said. “I’ve done more checking on them. Wolf has also written a book. One you may have heard of – Sister Gone.”

“He wrote that!” Baxter said. “The movie option went for millions.”

“Right. And you know who is slated to direct.”

“His brother Seal. After his second Oscar nom last year he can afford to do what he wants.”

“Sister Gone?” Cameron asked.

“Yes.” Jennifer said. “It’s about a sister that vanishes one day.”

“But the boys were only about two years old when that happened.” Dan said.

“He didn’t write it then.” Stephanie said.

“Is it about this abduction?” Baxter asked.

“Not according to what I’ve read on line. Clearly it’s based on this even if it isn’t a case history. I’m sure he did his research.”

“Will Morrison know?” Dan asked.

“Now there’s something to ask him.” Baxter said. “It could the perfect way to start a buzz for the movie version. Does Quintex p.r. know about this connection?”

“I don’t know.” Stephanie said. “What if they don’t want a buzz. Do you think they might try to shut us down to protect their creative rights.”

“Maybe they have already.” One of the crew said pretending to steer a car.

“Please!” Dan said. “That’s not funny.”

“Exactly.” Brenda said. “Legal checked into this at the very start. Sister Gone is a work of fiction, we are investigating a work of fact, as it were. Besides if they were at all bothered we would have heard something by now.”

<>

Back in his room Dan downloaded a sample chapter of Sister Gone. It was not a true crime novel but one about a family’s sense of loss, not about the search for the sister. Poetic not hard edge or, at least in what he read, graphic. On-line reviews were about the emotional content, no mentions of violence, or of other missing children. The point of view was of the mother Moon Star, a full-blood Mi’kmaq. Was their actual mother Native? That would explain their names.

Brenda woke him in the morning with his freshly dry cleaned interview look. Colours that looked good but not commanding on camera. Jennifer was with her.

“Two more interviews to go.” Jen said.

“Maybe.” Brenda said. “We’ve been getting more and more contacts who think they have useful information. Stephanie and I have been pre-screening them for possible interviews too.”

“Seems we’re getting more than enough from the families as it is.” Dan said as he put on his shoes.

“You know Baxter. There is no such thing as enough. He’s hoping to expand the show to 90 minute episodes if he can get some sensational stuff.”

“You mean if we can find more of what the RCMP missed.”

“We’ve already done that haven’t we.” Jen said.

“Exactly! That’s why Quintex is taking him seriously about expanded episodes. They’ve already okay a starter at 90 and a finale at 90 as well.”

“Hmmm.” Dan said. “I’ll have to check my contract. I’m pretty sure it’s for 60 minute episodes.”

“Oops.” Brenda covered her mouth. “I wasn’t supposed to let the cat out of the bag so soon. But now that it’s out, QTel has been really really pleased with how things are going. “Back to you, John.” was a bonus. The deaths of Vidro and Hajla, didn’t hurt either.”

“I don’t think they enjoyed it.” Jen said.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to sound so ….”

“Cynical.” Jen said.

“Calculating.” Dan said at nearly the same time.

“Only repeating what I’ve heard.”

“Anything else you aren’t supposed to tell us?” Dan asked as they got in the car.

“No.” Brenda said as they pulled out of the parking lot.

It was an overcast morning. Fog clung to the motel sign and the telephone poles along the highway. The hills on either side were barely visible.

“I hope you had the brakes checked.” Dan laughed.

“You think?” Cameron paled as he tested them. “No, they’re fine. Lights are working fine, too.”

“We’ll be fine.” Jen said. “This’ll be more productive than your visit to Nova Pentecostal.”

“You know about that?” Dan said. “I haven’t talk to anyone other than Warszawa about it.”

“Baxter knows everything that goes on.” Cameron said. “He follows us with drones.”

“Or plants them on us.”

“What took you to the Nova Pentecostal?” Jen asked.

“You can’t tell me?” Dan challenged her.

“I knew you were going to say that.” Jen laughed. “I’m not a mind reader. I figured you knew the difference by now. If I were to guess it was following something to do with the Hippo.”

“Right. The Reverend Hadley worked for Hippo the summer of ’84. She was one of the crystal ball readers, amongst other things.”

“Other things?” Brenda asked.”

“Yes. According to Jane Poitier at the Wickham.” Jen said. “The carnival men got to drink, carouse, set up rides while the women got to cook, clean and fend the men off. She hated that the seers sex-appeal was bait. The money was good but some only lasted a summer with them.”

“They had to shimmy off stage?” Cameron asked.

“Yes and the fact that when they shimmy on stage they had to have enough to shake. Even if you were the best seer they had.”

“Sounds like one of those forties carnival movies where the real seer pretends to be a fake seer.” Dan said.

“And the barker who pretends to love her ends up falling in love with her.” Brenda said.

“But it’s too late because she’s in love the with high wire hunk.” Jen said.

“Mmm … with those tight spangly tights.” Dan said. “Or is it his trapeze bar that she really want to swing on?”

“Dan!” Jen swatted at him. “That’s hilarious. Hippo never went in for the high wire.”

“No wonder the women didn’t stick around.” Cameron said.

“I’m sure the randy clowns were enough for her anyway.” Jen said. “Jane told me about a balloon animal specialist whose creations looked like harmless elephants or dogs or whatever from one angle but like … aroused beasts from another. She dusted his balloons with alum and man did he pucker up.”

“So he couldn’t get his pecker up.” Brenda said.

They had to stop the car until their laugher subsided.

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Picture Perfect 38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is it?”

A figure stepped into the light. It was Peter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Too busy.” Dan rubbed around his eyebrows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cool,” Peter said.

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

“Thanks for the offer Peter.” Dan said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Does it matter?”

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

They went into the house.

“I’m going to turn in.” Dan said.

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

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

“Much of a time commitment?”

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

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

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

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

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

“You know what I mean.”

“You not working up country this weekend?”

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

“Things like your buy in?”

“No!” Sanjay pulled Dan towards him.

“I’m tired. Really.”

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

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

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Picture Perfect 21

Riding his bike to work Dan was surprised that over the past four days he didn’t mind Sanjay sleeping in the guest room. Having his bed to himself was a pleasant change. No worries about waking Sanjay when he had to go to the can in the night. Not having to pry his arm out from under another body.

The hard part was to not say anything about it. He wrote conversations in his head in which he talked Sanjay into accepting his apology but he didn’t want to have to talk Sanjay into anything. He knew it wouldn’t go on much longer. At least they were warmly civil with each other rather than cold and snarky.

He kept himself in check to avoid saying things that were bitter or hurtful just to teach Sanjay a lesson. So by Thursday Dan was relived to sense a bit of a thaw in things between them.

Though he hadn’t heard anything from Baxter he had been doing his own research on the missing children. He’d printed out articles from newspaper on-line archives. He tapped into school records when he could find them. Some school districts had began to scan and upload class pictures.

Too bad his Dad had cleared out most of the work he had done of that nature. They’d only kept his and Linda school shots. Looking at a couple of those he couldn’t recall the name of a single person in some of them. Not even of the teachers he had had. Much of that memory had been washed away with getting settled in Toronto. The few names he did remember he couldn’t put to faces.

He’d made a more through search of the store’s archives and found a few more old family movies and another file of saucy pictures. What would his mother know about these?

The second set showed the woman’s face in one shot. As is the others her back was mostly to the camera or in profile. In the few full frontals she held her splayed, black gloved, fingers over her face just showing her eyes or mouth in come hither poses. In these she was alone.

They started with the woman dressed in garters, nylons, panties, bra and heels; in each she wore one less garment; by the last one she was nude, spread eagle on a bed – a beaver shot but always wearing heels. He was happy to be spared her dirty feet.

The series started on the studio set but the last few were in a bedroom somewhere. It wasn’t any of the ones in their house, so maybe they took the shoot to a motel. The under lit room had that impersonal look.

There were twenty-two pictures in this set. If it was from a standard roll of 24 that meant there were two missing, maybe a couple that didn’t turn out. The sequence of poses were random enough that he couldn’t guess where the two missing shots might have been.

The body itself was in good shape. He’d guess mid-20’s from the face. But that was hard to tell with the make up the model was wearing. It reminded him of Liz Taylor in Cleopatra – accented eyes and the hair cut square across the eyebrows. No, it was definitely the Betty Page look.

He locked his bike and went into the store.

“Morning, boss man.” Sandy greeted him.

“Morning it is.” He looked at mail by the register. “Paper catalogues! What a novel idea.”

He thumbed through the catalogues. Cameras, camera bags, pants with loads of pockets perfect for any camera man.

“Get a load of these.” He showed the pants to Ushio. “Imagine the clinking sound you’d make with all those pockets filled.”

“How would you keep them up?” Ushio said. “You could never sit down either. You’d have lenses up the butt.”

“Now there’s a camera you need to design.” Sandy said. “The butt cam,”

“It would take shitty pictures.” Ushio laughed.

“The rect-a-cam recked him.” Dan couldn’t stop laughing.

“That asshole sure can take great pictures.” Sandy was gasping for air.

“There was a tripod here a minute ago.” Ushio held his stomach.

“What’s this, Candid Camera?”

Dan caught his breath. It was Stephanie Carter from Quintex. With her was John Kilpatrick, the Unsolved host; a camera woman and a lighting man.

“No. No. Just some crappy camera humour.” Dan said.

This sent Ushio and Sandy into a fit of giggles.

“What brings you and your crew here. Running out of batteries?”

“Didn’t Cyrtys tell you we were coming to interview you?” She said.

“Hi.” John reached out and shook his hand. “I’ll be conducting the interview. This is Francie and Mike.” He introduced the crew.

Dan was a bit confused. He thought Kilpatrick was moving on to another project.

“Uh … Okay. Here?”

“We can start here then move it somewhere more private.” John said looking to Stephanie.

“Cyrtys did tell you we were coming.” Stephanie asked Dan. “That’d I’d be directing the interview?”

“I haven’t heard from him since last week. Unless he sent an email.”

“Nah. The fucker.” Stephanie said. “Just like him. You’re cool with this?”

“This is a work day. How long will it take?” Dan asked.

“Two hours max.” John said. “I’ve done enough of these by now.”

“You’ll have to sign this release before we start though.” Stephanie took out two page form from her briefcase. “Standard stuff.”

“Look, I’m not signing anything without looking it over first. I know copyright law and intellectual property rights. That’s why I don’t do Facebook and the like.”

“What!” Stephanie exclaimed. “I drag a crew here, paying for their time, and now you balk because of intellectual property rights?” She took a deep breath. “We will only talk about Timmy Dunlop. That’s it. We won’t ask about your investigative process but we will certainly make that known as well. It adds to your credibility.”

Sandy looked over the release form. “It is standard stuff, boss, but gives Quintet permission to use the footage in any of their shows not just Unsolved Cold. No mention of payment for other such usage.”

“Think of it as exposure for your business.”

“My business doesn’t need the exposure. Besides you aren’t interviewing me as owner of James Family Photographers are you. That guy only sells cameras. You want to talk to me because of supposed creditability, right.”

“This is more trouble that it’s worth, Steph.” The camera woman said. She and the sound man gathered their equipment and began to leave.

“I’d say do it bossman.”

“Here’s the deal then.” Dan said. “My rate is two-hundred and fifty an hour.”

“Two-fifty!” John exclaimed. “Who you think you are?”

“Someone you want to talk to for starters. That’s what I change any client for my time, materials are extra.”

“What if we don’t get anything we can use?”

“That could happen with anyone you get a release form from right.”

“Right. So where do we go with this next.”

“Start where you were going to start. We got this all on tape anyway. You are agreeing, right.”

“Yes, I, Stephanie Carter on behalf of Quintex Productions agree. Now let’s get to it. We’ve wasted enough time. Your time begins now I presume and not from when we walked in the door.”

“Yes.” Dan looked to John. “What would you like to know?”

“We’re here at the James Photo Depot talking with owner Daniel James.” John read from a script. “Daniel is a photographic forensics expert who has a special interest in the Missing East Coast case. Tell us about your connection to the case.”

“I was watching the episode of Unsolved Cold and recognized the picture of Timmy Dunlop.”

“Recognized it how?” John asked.

“I was in the picture with him. It was a photograph my father took.”

“Stop.” Stephanie said. “Do we have a copy of the picture here? Did you bring one?” She asked Mike as she rooted in her brief case.

“I have the originals upstairs in my office.”

“Excellent.” Stephanie said. “Go up. John you keep talking and Francie you go ahead.

“Look we’re not insured for falling camera people.” Dan said.

“Understood.” Francie said.

They started walking with the crew in front backing up carefully.

“Daniel.” John began. “You’ve become a go to person for the RCMP when it comes to photographic evidence.”

“Go-to? I’m not sure about that but yes, I have assisted on several cases for them.”

“Most recently it was a child porn case.”

“Yes.” Daniel pushed past Francie to open his office door. “I developed soft wear that refines elements in an image for greater clarity and identification. Using it we were able to narrow down the location of some of the photographs that had been circulated.”

John glanced his notes as Daniel got the Timmy photos out of his file.

“Let’s stop here. Everything will be sorted out in editing anyway.” Stephanie said. “Off the record can you tell us how that was done.”

“That info was all in the newspaper. In several of the pictures I saw a similar bedspread but in different room layouts. I isolated that image. That lead us to the manufacturer, to the buyer and ultimately to him.”

“So part of what you do is find details in photographs that the average person might not pick up on.” John asked.

“Yes.”

“Care to demonstrate that for the camera?” Stephanie asked. “It might come in use at some point. I have a feeling.”

“Well, Okay.” Dan agreed.

“We’re here in the office of Daniel James.” John started with the camera on him. 

The camera panned to him. Then to the arm-in -arm photo of him and Timmy that he had put on the table.

“What can you tell us about this picture?” John asked.

“Oh, this is stupid.” Dan said. “I know too much about this picture as it is. I can’t pretend to find things out like that. Besides there wasn’t anything in this picture.”

“Stop.” said Stephanie. “Try a couple of these.” She pulled some photos from her brief case and put them out he table. “Rolling.”

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