Picture Perfect 85

Picture Perfect 85

“Paula Morrison. 12 years old. The oldest of the girls to disappear. Father: David, step-mother: Rosemoon. One word.”

“Rosemoon?” Cameron asked.

“Hippy days.” She shook her head.

Dan nodded as Stephanie read the file to him. He’d gone over it several times already. He kept his eye on the road as they approached the Canso Causeway.

“How much more of this do you want to hear?” She asked.

“I’ll let you know when I’ve heard enough.”

“She’d been a runaway since the dad remarried two years earlier. Birth mother, Madeline, died of breast cancer. Father an American draft-dodger, birth mother from Whycoak …”

“Whycocomagh.”

“You say that like a native.” Cameron repeated the name.

“One of those place names that stuck with me. It’s a Mi’kmaq word means Head of the Waters.’” Dan repeated the name. “Feels good to say it too.”

“I suppose. Anyway she died and he remarried several years later. Paula was an only child until Rosemoon had twins.”

“Which was when the runaway business started?”

“Yes. Rosemoon has since passed away. Breast cancer again. Must be something in the water.”

“That’s a different investigation, Stephanie. I’m sure there’s some report buried somewhere that shows an alarming coincidences of cancer and the water in the area.”

“Un-huh. Her twin half-brothers, Seal and Wolf no longer live in the area.”

“Seal! Wolf!” Cameron giggled. “More of that hippy draft-dodger stuff?”

“Probably. Wolf is in BC and the other …” she read the file. “Is in Hollywood! Seal Morrison. The director! He’s from around here!”

“Yep. I’m not the only famous person from the backwaters of Nova Scotia.” Dan said.

As they drove under Welcome to Cape Breton sign on the Causeway, Dan half-expected to hear his mother say “Turn down the radio so we can listen to the waves.”

“Will you look at that!” Dan was tempted to roll down the car window & stick out his head.” I haven’t seen the Causeway since we left here. It was always a mini-adventure to drive across it. One year a storm blew waves over our car. Mom was terrified but Dad kept on going. All he said was roll up the windows.” Dan rolled down the windows to hear the waves.

“You sure that’s wise?” Cameron took a deep breath. “Don’t want to get lung cancer.”

“Very funny.”

Cameron followed the curve of the Causeway to the other side. 

“Pull off at the Souvenir Shop. Your first act here has to be one of shopping.”

“Dan this is not my first time at this .… cèilidh. You know we’ve already pre-interviewed people before you got here. Right?”

“Yes, yes, but did you drive across the causeway or fly into Sydney on the Quintex private jet?”

“As if a producer that insists ‘no four star accommodations’ could afford a jet.” Stephanie said.

Dan got out of the car. “What a view.”

“Yes.” Cameron said. “Just like a post card.”

Memories of Dan’s last summer there became clearer as he watched the waves breaking against the rocks that lined the roadway. Men fishing dotted the piers.

“I wonder what they’re catching?” Stephanie asked.

“Squid. Sometimes mackerel.” Dan said.

“You’re kidding?” Cameron laughed. “These are the squid jiggers like in the song? I gotta try that myself.”

The gift shop was a clutter of tartan objects. Coffee mugs made in China, tee-shirts from Bangladesh. One wall was devoted to local handicrafts and there was shelf of books about the area.

“Looking for something in particular?” The clerk came over.

“You have something without the Cape Breton tartan or a lighthouse on it?” Stephanie joked.

“Something like this?” The clerk handed her a roll of toilet paper. The wrapper said: ‘Cape Breton ass wipe doesn’t take shit from nobody.’

Dan laughed. “Maybe we should get a dozen for the crew.” He pulled out one of the books titled ‘Cabot Trail Mix Trivia.’ “Collected by David Morrison!”

“Let’s see?” Stephanie took the book from him.

“Is this the David Morrison from St. Peter’s.” Dan asked the clerk.

“Could be.” The clerk replied. “All of the books on that shelf are by locals.”

“It is.” Stephanie said. “According to the bio he’s a life long resident of St. Peter’s who had always been fascinated by local history. He is the proud father of Wolf and Seal.” She flipped to the inside front cover. “And it’s autographed.”

“Nice.” Dan took the book back. “You have many copies of it?”

“Just these three. We don’t tend to stock a lot of that sort of thing. Books, I mean.”

“Maybe if it had a kitten in a kilt on the cover. It would sell better?” Cameron said.

Dan bought all three copies. In the car he read through one of them. It was, as the title said, a collection of anecdotes, jokes, short historical facts about the area. No index and apparently haphazardly arranged.

“Wonder if he’ll sign them again?” Stephanie asked.

Cameron pulled into Amethyst Court, a motel just past the welcome to St.Peter’s sign. The remote truck was parked at the far end of the cabins. 

“I never thought I said this but thank God for a normal drive.” Dan got out of the car. “I was beginning to think these highways were jinxed for me.”

“If they were you know it would be part of the show anyway. Baxter expects you at six to go over the next week of shoots. You’ll see Mr. Morrison in the morning. 10 a.m. sharp.”

“Right.” He glanced at his cell for the time. “Give sme time to freshen up. Which cabin is mine?”

“Not sure. I’ll check with Brenda. She’s doing the production coordinating here.” She texted Brenda.

Brenda came out of cabin 3. “Took your time. We’ve been here since morning.”

“Dan took his time,” Cameron said. “A little shy after recent highway to hell events.”

“Highway to heck, is more like it.” Dan said as Brenda gave him a door pass card.

“Cabin 10. Baxter is in 9.”

“Yikes.” Dan winced. “Hope he keeps it down. He must be deaf from all that loud TV.”

“Whatever.” Brenda said. “I’ve done two series with him and I never knew how he could keep track of everything. Must in the volume.”

Dan grabbed his suitcase, shoulder bag and went to his cabin. It smelled so strongly of lavender when he opened the door, he propped the door open with a chair to see if he could air it out. He put his laptop out on the tiny writing desk. He wondered why these desks were always smaller than the TVs. At least the Court offered free wifi. He tried it but the signal wasn’t as strong as his Lifend connection.

He had email from both this lawyers. The one dealing with his sister, the other dealing with Sanjay. He made the Skype connection with the Depot.

“Hey Sandy.”

“Good afternoon boss. You’ll be pleased to hear that there is nothing major to report. Weekend sales were good. ‘While the boss is away’ made for a great promo.”

“More than good Sandy.” Dan looked over the sales figures. “Maybe I should stay away more often.”

“Please don’t.” she said. “You are our visible shield of protection from that sister of yours.”

“She been sniffing around again?”

“Nope. In fact the silence is ominous.”

“She has her hands full with the new contracts anyway. Thanks for the update.”

“I hope we can hold on until you get back boss. We can manage here without you but things go a lot better when you are on the premises. At least when you are in the city.”

“Go on. You angling for a raise?”

“Any more … rough spots?”

“No. I’m a bit surprised that the families we interviewed were so cooperative. I didn’t think their memories would be so clear about events so long ago. I know mine aren’t. Each day something new comes back to me about growing up here.”

“Such as?”

“Fishing. I look back on my childhood and all I recall is tagging around with my Dad, setting up cameras. But when we stopped earlier today I saw people fishing off the piers near the Causeway.”

“Fishing! Safe to eat?”

“It was back then. My Dad would sometime stop for a day there just to fish. He called it his summer vacation. Mackerel and sometimes squid. My mother hated the squid.”

He got a beep that someone else wanted to talk to him on Skype.

“Keep me posted. I’ll get in touch again in a couple of days.”

“Let us know when you’ll be back so we can have a ‘The Boss Is Back’ sale.”

“Will do.”

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Picture Perfect 84

Picture Perfect 84

“Other thing, which in fact was what lead me here.” Dan stepped back from Janis.

“Yes?” she cradled her hands over her stomach.

“We received several tips regarding a snake man.”

“Snake man?”

“They were about a man who would visit various farms buying baby pigs to feed to snakes.”

“Oh my.” Janis rubbed her hands. “There was always an issuing keeping the snakes fed. The Hippo never suffered from mice or rats while it had the snakes but I suppose they … Wait! Now that you mention it I remember some of the set-up crew would bring fresh …uh … food for the snakes. I never asked where it came from. I supposed it was from local butchers.”

“I see. If you recall anyone in particular us know.”

“Here.” Cameron handed her a business card. “This is a more direct line than that tips line.”

“I’ll do that.” Janis read the card.

<>

“I can drive for awhile.” Dan started to get into the driver’s side.

“Okay.” Cameron strapped his shoulder camera unit in the back seat. “Don’t forget we’re heading back to the Truro.”

“We are? Since when?”

“Got a text from Stephanie to get things back on schedule.”

“We’re not that far behind.” He glanced at the GPS. “It’ll take an hour or so to get there.”

“Don’t hurry on my account.” Cameron gave a little laugh. “What did you make of the good Rev?”

“Interesting lady. I think she was holding something back.”

“Besides that snake on her belly.”

“So that’s what that was.”

“Hard not to see it … rippling under her clothes.” Cameron shuddered. “It’ll fit in nicely though even if it doesn’t lead anywhere.”

“My buddy Timmy was excited about seeing those snakes when the Hippo came to town. All we’d ever seen were glimpses of ring-necks.” Dan thought a moment. “So seeing real live snakes would have been great.”

“Maybe you’ll get your chance if Baxter wants you take in a Nova service.”

“You don’t sound too enthused.”

“I’ll have nightmares tonight. Trust me I almost dropped the camera when that one slithered out from her sleeve. Didn’t it bother you?”

“I found it a bit weird.”

He dropped Cameron off at the crew’s motel & continued on to the Warwick.

In his room he checked his cell phones to see if he had missed any calls or messages while they were talking to Reverend Hadley. The updated shooting list had families to interview in Cape Breton.The Sheldons were new to the list but there was no background information. 

He played back the footage of the interview with Hadley. Cora suicide? Who was Cora? Winston Chamberlain hadn’t mentioned any suicides. He didn’t recall seeing more mentions of Cora in the Museum either, just the side-show banner.

<>

In the morning Warszawa was in the Wickham lobby as Dan came down for the breakfast part of the b’n’b.

“I have the the initial report on the cars.” Warszawa said.

“That was fast.” Dan shook his hand.

“Having me here gives them reason to be quick. They aren’t pleased with any internal investigation. You know how that is.”

“Yeah. Anything in the report.”

“Possible but not confirmable tampering.”

“Big help.”

“Possible is a code word for probable, ‘not confirmable’ means they know it happened but don’t know how it happened. Not enough to take to court.”

“I know how that is.”

“Part of the problem is the fact that the cars are rentals. No way of knowing if this was an unnoticed malfunction that was triggered by the rain storm.”

“The other cars?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Small consolation for Vidro family.”

“None to speak of. Brother in Calgary. That’s it.”

“So, I’m not a suspect?”

“Suspect! More like target. You switched cars at the last minute, right.”

“Yes. But this isn’t news. What do you actually have to tell me?”

“You turned off?”

Dan double -checked his body camera. “Yep. Let’s go up to my room so I can get this stuff off.” 

They went up to his room. 

Dan draped the apparatus carefully on the back of a chair. “Feels good to take that off. I forget that I’m wearing it but I feel so much lighter when I take it off.”

“I want do to this off the book until we have something concrete.”

“I know! This isn’t the first case we’ve worked on.”

“Yeah, but the first one where you’ve been so directly involved.”

“Right.”

“The detachment has a file on Winston Chamberlain.”

“Underage girls?”

“You knew!”

“Not about the file. More than one person has mentioned his predilections.”

“There wasn’t much they could actually do. He was underage himself. They brought him in after the father of one of the girls insisted. Thought he was an adult. Didn’t believe he was only fifteen.”

“I believe that.” he showed Warszawa the picture Teresa had given him. “That’s him there.”

“Hmm. There was more than one complaint mind you. But no one was willing to press charges. He was an oversexed, underaged kid – no law then against that. His parents said they’d see to it that he got treatment for his problem.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. They sent him to Toronto to see some specialist child psychologist. He was gone less than a month. Two of the disappearances happened while he was away. Visiting an aunt.”

“So he has family in Toronto?”

“At the time.”

“He kept out of trouble when he returned from Toronto.” Warszawa said. “At least as far as the RCMP are concerned.”

“I feel he’s holding something back though.”

“That has to do with the missing children?” Warszawa asked.

“A gut reaction. We’ll have to ask Jennifer Devereaux. She’s the seer, I’m the … actually I’m not sure what I am. A photo reader investigator. Does the local detachment have anything on the Nova Convergent Centre?”

“I did a check when you said you were going there. A few complaints. Every time someone gets scared by a garter snake they point at the Nova cult. But other than that they’re pretty quiet for such an odd bunch. Apparently there are several religious communities through out the Maritimes. Catholic retreats, an Ashram or two, Sisters of Isis.”

“What about importing snakes? Aren’t there laws about exotic animals, that sort of thing.”

“No one’s made that specific complaint. You think it’s worth checking out?”

“No harm. I was just wondering. Where did the original Tut snakes come from? You can’t pick them up like … dogs or parrots.”

“Parrots?”

“The Hippo had a parrot show at the time.”

“You think they shipped those children off in trade or something?” Warszawa laughed lightly. “You are starting to sound like Baxter.

“All things considered that may not be so far fetched. If you can smuggle snakes into the country, smuggling a child out would be easy enough.” Dan said. “Anything on Janis Hedley?”

“Picked up for grass a couple of times. She pressed charges against some guy who roughed her up when she worked at the Hippo. She didn’t want to charm his snake and he took it personal.”

“I’ve seen some of the snakes she now handles. Not many men would compare.” Dan said. “And if there is one who does, I don’t want to meet him.”

“Not even to take a peek?” Warszawa laughed.

“Not even.”

“I’m heading back to Toronto tomorrow. Sergeant Coster is the official show liaison, She’ll will be on hand to help should she have to.”

“We’ve got one more real interview to do over in Cape Breton in St. Peter’s. I’ll be spending a few days in New Waterford. I haven’t been back since my Dad moved us to to Toronto.”

“I wish I had it so easy. The I.S. unit is looking into the travel photo cases.”

“Oh!” Dan had forgotten about the case. There’s been developments?”

“Another one murder, last week. In Edmonton. ”

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Picture Perfect 82

Dan hopped into the cab & directed the cabbie to the Mirabel. He sat back tor relax a bit & decided to double check his flight departure & saw to his dismay that his flight to Halifax was out the Trudeau  in Dorval.

“Merde. Arret. Arrêt.” He swore. 

“Pardon?” the cabbie said looking for somewhere to stop.

“Wrong way,” Dan’s French failed him. “I have to go to the Pierre Trudeau in Dorval!” 

“Ah!” The cabbie raised his hands in frustration & slowed the car looking for an exit ramp.

Dan wondered how many idiots made the same mistake & missed their flights? Did they have as much swirling around on their minds as he did? 

He gave his driver a tip equal to the fare when he got out of the cab at the airport with five minutes to spare. Breathless he gave his flight printout to the steward at the boarding desk. 

“Ah, sir! You are Daniel James?”

“Yes! Yes.” He pulled out his driver’s licence. “I headed to the wrong airport.”

“It happens. I haven’t missed my flight have I?”

The clerk scanned Dan’s ticket & typed into the computer.

“Non, monsieur. Your flight to Moncton leave in an hour.”

“Moncton! My ticket is for Halifax!” He took the ticket from the steward. 

“It appear there has been a change in your plans.”

“What!”

“Telephone for Monsieur Daniel James.” Came over the public address system. “Telephone for Monsieur Daniel James.”

“Maybe that will be the news you are expecting. You can take your call in the Salon Or privé.”

“Uh … thank you.”

As he followed the signs to the lounge he pulled out his Quintex phone & turned it on & saw that there were dozens of voice mails & an equal number of texts.

He walked into the lounge.

“Over here Mr. James. We were expecting you.” A young Asian steward waved him over to the phone.

“How did you know who I was!”

“Back to you, John.” She laughed lightly.

He took the phone. It was Baxter.

“Where the fuck have you been! We’ve been trying to get ahold of you all day. All fucking day. That house boy of yours was no help & your sister is a piece of work. Even Lifend wouldn’t take my calls.”

“You’ve met your match. What do you want!”

“You’re going back to Moncton to follow up on Snake Man. Stephane has sent you the information. I’ve texted you the information. We took the liberty of changing your flights.”

“So I discovered.”

“When we couldn’t a hold of you we what I thought was necessary. If you had bothered to check your messages you would have known. This is hot & we have to act on the wave.”

“I see without consulting me.”

“Dan we tried. Cameron is already on his way to meet up with you in Moncton.”

He hung up.

“Back to you, Tiffany.” He read the name on the woman’s tag. 

She laughed & took the receiver.

“This way Mr. James.” Another steward took his carry on & lead him to a semiprivate spot. “Mr. Moxham has sent instructions for us to make you are comfortable as possible. He also apologizes for this last minute change in your plans.”

“Merci.” 

There was a pot of coffee, muffins & a smoked meat on rye sandwich at the table.

“Anything else sir?” The attendant asked.

“No. This will be fine. Leave my carry on.”

“Of course sir.”

Alone in the quiet nook Dan took a deep breath. He poured a cup of coffee, had a bite of the sandwich & scrolled through the messages on both his phones. 

On his private cell his sister didn’t appreciate being pestered by Baxter;  Sandy didn’t appreciate being annoyed by that arrogant git Baxter; Jeremy apologized but for some reason Baxter thought he had more influence over Dan than he did; Peter sent lol Baxter says get in touch.

On the Quintex cell it was the series of increasingly urgent calls starting in the morning at eleven from Baxter, Stephanie, even Harold from the Toronto office. A for moment he regretted leaving the phone off then was thankful he hadn’t been caught up in the distractions.

He read through his updated travel itinerary & once again a reservation for him has been made at the Waterside. A car would be ready for him to pick up at the Moncton airport. Cameron would meet him in the morning & they would follow up a lead to Nova Convergent Centre near Maccan in Nova Scotia.

<>

Cameron turned off the road into the dirt lot in front of a store so Dan could consult the google map.

“I think we took a wrong turn somewhere outside of Amherst.”

“That I know already. Where the fuck are we?”

“Single isn’t that strong wherever we are. Let’s not be men for a minute & actually ask for direction.”

He got out of the car and went to the store. 

It was like stepping into a vintage photo, all that was missing were a couple of gas pumps out front. 

Cameron hoisted his camera to his shoulder to get footage of the rusted sign swinging above the door said “Welcome to Flannery’s” over an advert for ‘Nutsy Nougat’ a chocolate bar. A dingy card board sign dangling midway behind the glass said “Open” in fancy script.

Dan cupped his eyes and peered through the dusty door to see if the sign was right. He tried the handle, it wasn’t locked and bells clanged as he pushed the door open. The clang was a toneless metal like a cow bell. Cameron on his heels. 

Inside was dim until lights were turned on. A young man came from behind a curtain at the back of the store. 

“Don’t turn lights on unless we got a customer.” The man wore an unbuttoned white shirt with a plain grey tee-shirt under it “Ma won’t let us use that motion sensitive stuff. Hope it didn’t scare you too much. Them coming on like that.” 

In the man’s arms was a nearly matching grey cat that leapt to the floor and came over to sniff that Dan’s, then Cameron’s shoes then hopped to the window sill.

“Cod doesn’t take to strangers.” The man stepped behind the counter, brushed cat hair off his shirt sleeves. 

The store was larger than it appeared from the outside. It could have been a 7/11 from the layout, right down to a coffee island in the middle of the floor near the front window. Only this one had a couple of comfy chairs like a coffee shop.

“Bottled water at the back. That’s usually what people’re looking for when they stop here. But we’re prepared. Coffee fresh this morning. Columbian we roast and decaf, none of the flavoured nonsense. Coffee only. We’re not Tim’s.” The man laughed. “Ma bakes the cookies and scones. Fresh. Daily.”

“You’re certainly fixed for any tourists.” Cameron picked up a cookie with his free hand.

“Locals like us. We’re the closest thing to a coffee shop that isn’t Tim’s in these parts. Self-serve for the coffee.”

Dan had stopped for directions only but he couldn’t resist the man’s invitation. “Smells good.” He said as he filled a large take-out cup.

The man went one to one of the coolers. “Whole milk or cream? Can’t help you if you’re intolerant.”  

“Cream’ll be fine.” Dan stirred the cream into the coffee and put on a lid. “I’ll take one of those scones.”

“We got cranberry lemon or broccoli cheddar.”

“Really?” Cameron said putting a lid on his coffee.

“Oh yeah, just because we’re not city doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s selling.” The man held Dan’s gaze. “It’s pretty clear you’re with that TV film crew that’s been talking to people around here?”

“Yes.”

“I’d rather you didn’t film me, you understand.”

“No problem.” Cameron turned his rig off & slid it to the floor.

“Dan James.” Dan reached out to shake the man’s hand. “Cameron Carter cameraman extraordinaire.”

“Trey AuCoin.” 

“Not Flannery?” Cameron asked.

“Nah. That was the sign when we bought the place years ago. They weren’t Flannery’s either. Didn’t aim to rewrite history. We figured it would better to fit in some. We call ourselves Flannery’s General Store and Cafe.”

“So you’re not from here?” Dan sipped his coffee.

“Ma was. I’s born in the States. Price was right and so far we’ve managed to break even.”

“You know the area well?”

“Lost are you?”

“Sort. As long my g.p.s works I’m safe but the single is weak out here. We were looking for the Nova Convergent Centre.”

“You mean The Slythies.” Trey laughed. “Oh man those people are strange.”

“Slythies?”

“That’s what some around here call it. The snakes and all. From Harry Potter?”

“I see. It may be part of the show we’re doing. Thought I’d check it out. Research you might say.”

“Then you already know about them and the snakes.”

“Not much that’s why we’re here.”

“Yours is that TV show about the missing children, right? Weird about that psychic that got killed. I’m surprised it’s still going forward with it.”

“Nothing stops the news.” Cameron chuckled.

“You think it might be connected?”

“With Slythies?”

“I mean her accident. The guys responsible for those kids might not want to be caught all these years later. Maybe she was in psychic contact with the killer.”

“Anything is possible.” Dan opened the door to leave. “Good coffee.”

“You didn’t let me tell you how to find the Slythies place. Isn’t far.”

“Right. The coffee was so good I forgot.”

“You just follow this road and turn left when you get back to Maccan. It’s on the left about ten minutes down the other road.”

“Thanks again.”

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Picture Perfect Pause

The rough drafts of Picture Perfect were written as a part of NaNoWriMo over a three year span – 2015-16-17. So far I’ve edited & posted 2015 & 2016. I’m about to start in of the 2017 drafts & have been reading though the nearly 75,000 words I wrote to bring the seemingly endless story to a big finish. 

I’m making sure I have the sequence correct, that I haven’t missed any of the major scenes & to get an idea of what will be cut – trust me lots will get cut. At least one whole distracting subplot with get chopped. I also found that one big confrontation isn’t there! Oh my, but that can fall into place when I get to where I know it needs to be.

So I’m taking a brief pause to sort though this last set of scenes, notes & loose ends. Be assured a couple of those loose ends will not be tied up – but you will know what happened to the missing children – unless I get a better getter idea by the time I get to that revelation.

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Picture Perfect 81

Picture Perfect 81

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You leaving your store open like that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A man rubbing his head staggered out of the shop. 

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

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

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

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

He pointed it out to the store owner.

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

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

“Come, we will take you to it.”

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

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

“Waterproof?” Zhang was impressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks.”

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

“Sure.”

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

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

“Oh?”

“Sorry that is all I can tell you.”

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

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

“There’s a cab.”

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

“Understood.” 

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Picture Perfect 80

Picture Perfect 80

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

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

“Hey!”

“Yes Peter.”

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

He went into the house.

Peter was seated over the desktop in the study.

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

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

“Yeah, been there done that.”

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

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

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

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

“That’s crazy.” Dan was stunned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Can’t we meet for lunch?”

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

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

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

“Montreal? Does it figure into the investigation.”

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

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

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

“Popular guy this morning, sir.”

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

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

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

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

The taxi honked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Picture Perfect 79

Picture Perfect 79

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

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

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

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

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

The screen faded & the episode of Canada Cold began.

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

“You not interested?” Peter said.

“I’ve seen it.” Dan laughed lightly. 

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

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

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

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

“Sorry, sir.” Peter relinquished the remote.

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

“Would you like to live here?”

“I am now, aren’t I.”

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

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

“So did I but …”

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

“No!” Dan turned the TV back on.

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

“I’ll join you.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You know Kevin?”

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

“You sound more relieved than disappointed.”

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

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

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

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

“What’s he playing?” Peter asked.

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

“Thank you, sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Something important?” Peter asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello.” He answered.

On the screen Stephanie was handing her phone to Sally.

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

Sally looked confused for a moment & took the phone.

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

She did. “Hello? Sally Sewell here.”

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

“Oh!”

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

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

“His snakes?” Dan asked.

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

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

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Picture Perfect 78

Picture Perfect 78

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

“This Meade sounds like a real character.”

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

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

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

“What’s next?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t stop, sir. Please.”

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

“Shower first.”

“Okay, sir.”

<>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He heard the front door open.

“Horney I’m home.”

It was Peter.

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

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

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

<>

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

“Good timing, sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey that’s you!” Peter said.

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

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

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

The screen faded to a voice pattern display.

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

Dan was startled to hear his voice. 

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Picture Perfect 77

Picture Perfect 77

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And the others?” Jennifer asked.

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

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

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

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

“Good eye.” Meade said. “That was …”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delores stepped to his side.

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

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

Delores began to lead him away.

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

“Certainly.” Dan stood.

Cameron moved to follow them.

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

“Oh.” Cameron looked to Dan.

“It’s alright.”

<>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Members of the same club.”

“Masons?”

“No some camera club.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good guess.”

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

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

“You knew Peggy Brooks?”

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

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Picture Perfect 76

Picture Perfect 76

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’re not unhappy it’s just that …”

“You want the credibility I bring. Right.”

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

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

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

“What’s wrong with that?”

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

“I get it! You want a season two.”

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

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

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

<>

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

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

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

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

“Last day here Dan.” Cameron said.

“What’s on for today.”

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

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

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

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

“Generous.”

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

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

“You know Jeremy Moxham!” Jennifer said.

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

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

“Age?”
“He must be going on ninety.”

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

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

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

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

“Good. Sends her regards and her regrets.”

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

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

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

“Cameron …” Dan said by way of introduction.

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

“Cameron Andersen.”

“Hmm … ‘e’ or ‘o’.”

“E.”

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

A young woman pushed a food cart over to them.

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

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

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

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

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

“Still here?” Dan asked.

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

“Underground you mean?” Meade asked.

“No!” Jennifer replied.

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

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

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

“I see.” Dan said.

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

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

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

“Do we?” Jennifer asked Dan.

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

“Father McKillop!” Jackson put his scone down.

“One of the visiting Fathers.” Dan said.

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

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