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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