Picture Perfect 37

Something his mother said about the little attic brought to mind the crawl space between the roof and the third floor. When they lived there is was were they kept the Christmas stuff. He couldn’t recall what they did with it during the renovations other that add a layer of insulation. Was there anything up there? What about those corners in the basement that never got used?

He cell rang.

“Daniel?” it was Baxter.

“Yes.” He had expected this call, the one in which Curtis explained why the bonus was not ready yet.

“What is your bank branch?”

Daniel gave him the location.

“Perfect. Meet me there in twenty minutes.”

“I’m walking out the door as we speak.” He shut his phone and turned to Sandy. “Call from the bank. I’ll be back in an hour.”

Curtis was there talking with the manager when he arrived.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Curtis said. “I wanted to things do quickly. Mrs. Herrick has everything ready for the transfer. Once you have signed these.”

The first was a contract with Baxter Bits for the $12,000. The second was a contract for the actual series with Quintex, which would require an additional signature.


“This one won’t get fully signed until they’ve decided they want the show. The 12K is yours regardless.” Curtis explained.

Daniel sorted through his various bank cards deciding which account this would into. It wasn’t Depot money, it wasn’t exactly Restorations money either. Nor was it personal. He opted for personal. He would check with Dell and Strong as to where they thought it should go.

The transfer took a few keystrokes to input pin numbers and it was done.

“That was easy.” Curtis said. “But not painless.”

“When do we meet with Quintex?”

“They were waiting for this to be done.” He waved the first contract. “I’m going there now. They will be in contact with you.”

“What about John Kilpatrick?”

“That’s in the hands of lawyers now.” Curtis shrugged. “Not renewing Unsolved for another season was not my decision. I merely passed that news along to him. Which, as you know, he didn’t take well. Speaking of which how is the eye?”

“Recovering as expected.”

“Good. There isn’t much of a make-up budget for the show. None in fact.” Curtis laughed. “Can I buy you a drink? To celebrate.”

“No, thanks. I have a business to run and you have some paper work to deliver I believe.”

Dan dropped into the Carafe when he got back. He looked around for Peter but didn’t see him.

“Hi Jill. The usual for my crew.”

She began to pour the the various ‘usuals.’

“Short handed today?” he asked. “No Peter?”

“He’s looking after his Dad.”

<>

Dan locked the front doors of the Depot. He leaned against the back counter and looked around the shop. The business that his Dad had built, that his sister had helped built and that he had turned into more than a camera shop. A business that apparently had been built on porn. Just like retail on the internet. Without the need for credit card security there would be no PayPal.

There was a knock at the glass doors. It was Inspector Warszawa. He gestured for Warszawa to come to the back as he didn’t want to go through front security again.

“What brings you here this late at night.”

“I was hoping to catch you before you closed. We had a weird break in the old photos case.”

They went up the back stairs to Dan’s office.

“Weird in what way?”

“All the photos are portions of pictures by Albert Block.”

“The western photographer?” Dan said.

“Right. He did those gigantic panoramic things.”

“I know. It took a pack horse just to carry the camera. I never figured out he got up some of those mountains.”

“Not my problem. But all the scenes were small sections of his pictures made to look like somebody’s travel photos.”

“Simple enough to do. But those pictures were real. I mean the ones that were from the sixties were actually from the sixties.”

“Someone couldn’t be using old film stock, period paper to reproduce them like that today?”

“Possibly but there’s a … patina quality to the finish that is from real aging. No chemical can do that.”

“What we’re dealing with then is someone who has a cache of these pictures that was created sometime in the sixties? I don’t get it.”

“Isn’t there anything else that connects these incidents?”

“They seem random. Victoria, Winnipeg, St. John’s. How much more random can you get.”

“Not so random. They’re all provincial capitols.”

“Fuck! I … no one even noticed that. You sure you don’t want to be reinstated?”

“Too late for that. You couldn’t afford me anyway. Trust me.”

<>

Dan arrived at FairVista five minutes before his Lyphend presentation. 

“Sorry I’m late.” He said to Linda. “They should call it Troubled Transit out of Commission.”

He demonstrated the medium range camera and the new self-framing option that would suggest a better angle for your shot, and the background damper that would allow your main subject to be in better focus. A feature that could be reversed, if one chose. The travel mug got the usual hum of reaction, particularly when he had the Cuppa’s barista fill it.

He was gratified to see that at least four of the cameras were sold. Sales always put Linda in a good frame of mind.

He had been caught off guard to see that Cuppa’s had been installed so quickly. It looked as if it had always been in that corner of the shop. Three small black marble top tables each with two chairs stood between the espresso bar and the front window. Even the floor had been changed with a non-slip slate tile that was flecked with glitter.

It had been fitted out with a Gaggia that looked like it as out of a space station. Beside it was a smaller single cup machine. There were no paper, Styrofoam coffee cups to be seen. Instead there was a range of ceramic mugs in different size and colors, each with Cuppa’s trademark on one side and ‘Linda James Photos’ on the other. 

“The Gaggia is custom made for the location.” Linda said proudly. “Beside it is a Clover. Put’s the Classic to shame.”

“Fast work,” Dan replied. “Considering it was … what less than two months ago you made the agreement.”

“They had their eyes on FairVista for a year or more before they approached us.” She walked to her office.

“By ‘us’ you mean ‘you.’ I knew nothing about this until they happened by the Depot one morning while I just happened to be here.” He followed her.

“I didn’t know they would do that. At that point I thought they were merely making inquiries.”

“Right. Well, speaking of making inquiries, I was in to see Dell and Strong earlier this week.” He sipped from the travel mug and watched to see if she reacted all all.

“Oh?” Her eyes flicked over to Cuppa’s and then back to him. “Another payroll hitch?”

“Why I was there isn’t the point, is it? Very slick. Did Mother know or did you spring it on her as well. No, wait, you made her think I was already on board.”

“You saw the agreement?”

“They showed it to me thinking I already knew about it. Almost put out my other eye. I appeared to have signed it sometime in December of last year.”

“December fifteenth to be exact.” Linda was pinching the skin between her thumb and forefinger. First one hand then the other.

“What … I mean …”

“What I’d like to know is how you got me to sign off on it.”

“Dan, it was laughably easy. You were never one to read every page one it comes to contracts. Top page doesn’t always match the bottom page.”

“Fuck! The projections for next year?”

“Right first time.”

“You realize that makes the contract dubious to say the least. I can imagine what a good lawyer would do with that information.”

“This is between you and me and I’ll never admit this to anyone.”

“You just did.” He sipped his coffee.

Her eyes widened. “You recorded this with the Lyphend!”

“It was laughably easy.” Dan smiled. “If you had come to me to begin with I probably would have been on board. Though when I saw the hasty mess Cuppa’s made on Queen I was shocked to see what they accomplished here.”

“Dan you know how difficult it was to convince you to even open this location.”

“Dad dead. Renovations at the Depot ran over budget and you wonder why.”

“Your workshop ran over budget.”

“A workshop that has since paid for itself. We’re just above the surface here at FairVista.”

“Then you aren’t going to do anything?”

“Dell and Strong are having our accounts gone over by a forensic accounting firm. There better not be any discrepancies.”

“I see.” Linda seemed to sag.

“Is there anything else they might find? The car leasing?”

“No! I didn’t expect you to be so … rational?”

“I’ve had a few days to think. Do I want to damage the James brand over money, deceit and manipulation? The answer is no. But if something more is uncovered I’ll have to rethink. Besides it runs in the family.”

“What runs in the family?”

“Hidden things. Like those sex pics of Dad’s. 

“Don’t tell me you don’t have a stash of porn somewhere.”

“I did once upon a time but the stuff I had wasn’t stuff I’d made myself.” The V-Files didn’t count as porn, did they? “Mom was by to see me earlier this week.”

“What! She left her condo! It must have been important. Health?”

“Nothing like that. You told her about those pictures and she wanted to make sure there were no more. She shredded the copies I showed you. Dad’s secret life may have been why we dashed from the east coast.”

No.”

“The RCMP got wind of it and encouraged him to get out of town as it were.”

“Bullshit. We left bec ….” she stopped herself.

“You do know more about this. Christ! I’m not an eleven year old any more. What could be worse than finding out your Dad was some sort of smut peddler.” He stopped himself from talking about the Montreal connection. If she already knew, he wanted her to talk about it, if not, it didn’t matter if she knew, yet.

“I knew the camera club was more than a camera club, if that’s what you’re fishing for. Sometime Dad would let me and some of the other kids I knew join in but there some nights when it was adults only. Said it was because we teens we so unruly. 

“One time I snuck back to the store to get a glimpse of what they were doing.”

“And.”

“It was some woman in a two piece bathing suit. Skimpy. That’s all I saw. Nothing like what you showed me but well I wasn’t that surprised to see it went further. At the time I freaked out.”

“When was that?”

“About a year before we moved?”

They walked back down to shop level. 

“You sound Daddy when you get serious.” Linda said.

“Then I guess he had reason to distrust you as well.” 

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Picture Perfect 36

Dan was surprised to see his mother come into the Depot. It had been some years since she had visited the site. The last time was the grand reopening of the renovated store. She was wearing a well-tailored, two-piece jacket and skirt in a pale mauve, darker mauve shoes and a small pillbox hat with a bit of veiling. 

She looked around, picked up a few cameras and peered through them. Outside of her apartment she looked smaller.  

“Mom! What brings you here?” Daniel hugged her. “Still sporting the Jackie look I see.” She hadn’t dressed up like this even for the opening of the FairVista location. He glad to see her looking so well. After his Dad’s death she spent a year of not caring about much. It almost took an intervention to get her to go a hairdresser.

“The place is well-organized.” She kissed him on the cheek. “It looks prosperous.”

“So do you.” Sandy said.

“You remember Sandy.” Dan said.

“Of course.” She kissed Sandy on the cheek. “You’ve lost some weight.”

“This is Ushio Tanaka.”

“Yes, we met at Linda’s wedding. The solar man?” 

“Solar?” Dan said. “Oh right! I forgot our foray into solar energy. Panels were too bulky and the profits too low.”

“But we still have some on the roof, right boss. Good to see you Mrs. James.” Ushio nodded to her.

“Care to show me around.” she asked Daniel.

“Sure. We haven’t made many changes here since you were here last. We’ll go up the back way.” Daniel lead her through to the back of the shop.

“Smells good back here.”

“That’s the Carafe.”

“I’m surprised any of you are so thin with such an enticing smell.” She opened the back door. “We used to have a little garden back here.”

“Yeah, but now that’s where we keep the city garbage bins till we put them in the lane way.”

She stepped back into the building. “I can remember you stomping up and down these stairs to go to school. I see you are still locking your bike to that railing.”

She went up the the next landing. “On rainy days I could hang laundry back here. See there’s one of the hooks for the line still here.”

Dan opened the door to his office. “This is where I do my own work. The RCMP stuff.”

She walked in and glanced around. “A man’s office.”

“The workshop is upstairs.”

She followed him up.

“Your bedroom was in the corner.”

“It’s still there. We kept it and the bathroom.”

She looked at the equipment, computer stations and projectors, magnifiers.

“It’s like a space ship, isn’t it.” She walked to the window overlooking the street. “Yes, you’ve done your Dad proud. He was sure he lost you to the law. That’s what he called it ‘the law.’”

“It was more like the Goddamned law if I remember correctly.”

“Right. Linda tells me you found some old photos of Richard’s.”

“The family stuff? Loads of Christmas stuff of us kids, that I barely remembered. A few old super 8’s as well. I’ve had them all digitized and burned to cd. I can get a copy for you. But I must warm you your hair-do’s go through some very drastic changes.”


“I was always trying look up to date.” His mother laughed. “Betty at the salon would say ‘what next’ as if it were a challenge.”

“We always knew when you’d had it done too. The smell of the spray was hard to miss.”

“I needed it to keep the hair hard. I’d love to see those old movies but Linda said you showed her some …. nudies?” She coughed lightly.

“I did.”

“I want them destroyed.”

“Huh?” She had said destroyed so casually Dan wasn’t sure if had heard her correctly.

“I thought I’d found them all. When you father passed I away, I found every one I could and got rid of them. Negatives and all. I was sure he would have wanted it that way.”

“You did what?”

“He thought I didn’t know but I knew from the start. Developing pictures late at night, telling me it was a rush order, but it was easy to find out what was going on.”

“How long had it been going on?” Dan asked.

“I don’t want to discuss it any further Daniel. I just want those photos. I want them all destroyed. I thought I had found them all. I went through everything here, at the house. He had them hidden in the little attic. A big box of them.”

“Were they all Dad’s work.”

“I didn’t care. I put them through the shredder, burned them. Bleached the negatives. It was sick. Taking them was sick. Publishing them was sick.”

“Publishing them?”

“There were magazine he’d sell them to. I’d see the cheques. He said it was his nature pictures for calendars. I believed him but a copy of one came in the mail. I saw it. I knew. He didn’t even try to deny it. He was proud. He said they were art.” She took a deep breath. “They were smut.”

“Calm down Mom.” The more she spoke the more he knew he wasn’t going to let these pictures be destroyed. He didn’t think they were art but now they were a part of his father he never knew.

“You shouldn’t have gone digging into those things.” she said. “It never does any good to dig into the past.”

“I wasn’t digging for anything. I was looking for those pictures of me and Timmy, remember. Because of that TV show. The other pictures had been stuck to the bottom of one of the bins.”

“I guess I sound like some old judgmental biddy.”

“No one is going to see them now anyway.”

“Your sister did.”

“That was to find out if she know anything more than I did about them. She reminded me about Kodak Fun Club.”

“You know about that too?” she sat in one of the arm chairs in front of his desk. “I really hoped all the would disappear once he had died. I never wanted you kids to know about this.”

“It was bit of a surprise. But it’s really no big deal. Not by today’s standards, anyway. It was more unexpected than anything else.”

“Can I see them?”

He took out the few he had shown Linda. She glanced at them, shook her and then tore them in half.

“Mom!” He didn’t move fast enough to stop her.

“Are there any more?”

“No! That was all.” He was glad he hadn’t handed her the originals.

“I hope so. It was hell knowing about it all these years. Kept it a secret. He assured me he never, you know, did more than take the pictures.”

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t know he was selling them to magazines. I was the one mailing them and never knew.. It was to some studio in Montreal. They would somehow get them to the States.”

Daniel remained silent. She knew a lot more about this business than he would have expected.

“He said they were selling copies of his prints. Those pictures of lighthouses, storms. He was good at that. I didn’t know it was …”

“He kept it hidden alright.”

“He assured me he wasn’t … ”

“What?”

“That he wasn’t going to do anymore. When we moved here after him getting caught.”

“What! Caught doing what?”

“Taking those pictures. He wasn’t charged or anything. That’s when we left. He was afraid. No one else, but me, was ever to know.”

“And the models. They know.”

“Right. I don’t think they knew what he was doing with our photos.”

“Our?”

“My God I didn’t mean to …” she began to weep.

“You posed for him?” The image of his mother in stockings, garter, bra and wild a whip left him breathless.

“It was all sort of fun at first. We were just fooling around and he said it would be for his eyes only. They were nothing. Not like this. Bathing suit shots, me drying myself after a bath. But when I found out about Montreal I said no more. No! No! No! I felt like a tramp. I saw the magazine with my photos in it. There. It made me sick.”

“You were in one of those magazines?”

“It wasn’t like you think. I was never … naked … never.”

Dan didn’t know how to calm her. A hug seemed out of place, insufficient.

“He was a good husband. He was good to you children. Always. That’s why I stayed. I loved him. He wanted us to stay together. So when I said move, we moved.”

“I’m beginning to understand.”

“And with those children going missing. It scared him. Sacred me too.”

“It was that weekend in Stellarton that he got found out by someone?”

“Yes. Someone called the RCMP and they went to where they were taking those pictures. You know a lot of his work was with children, school kids, they said they’d ruin that for him if he stayed. I warned him that it would happen. That he’d get caught.”

“Who called?”

“They wouldn’t tell him.”

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Me! No.”

Dan believed her. 

“Now you know why these pictures. All of them. Have to be destroyed. I don’t want his memory ruined.”

“Don’t worry, it won’t be.”

She stood and hugged him, her tears wetting his cheek. “I knew you’d understand.”

He didn’t want to tell her how hard he found it to understand. Keeping secrets for so long puzzled him.

“I best be on my way. If you find any more of these please promise you’ll destroy them.”

“I will Mom. I will.”

He walked down the stairs with her and hailed a cab for her to get home. If she hadn’t been so distraught he would have asked her about her signing on the Cuppa’s agreement. Another time.

“She seemed a little upset.” Sandy said as he went back into the Depot.

“The old homestead got to her.”

“That’s right I forget your family lived here at one time. It has changed a lot.”

“Yes. Nothing stays the same. Even the past can get a renovation.”

“Good thing we have pictures. They never change.”

“I don’t know about that. They don’t change but I’ve found what we see in them does.”

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Picture Perfect 35

Picture Perfect 35

The office space that Curtis Baxter occupied for his company was’t what Daniel expected. It was a second floor walkup that shared the front door with a first floor sandwich shop. The wooden stairs needed painting, the faux marble walls needed to have their faux freshened up. The black lacquered door with ‘Baxter Bits’ on it in red glitter letters stood out from the peeling wallpaper of the hall. There was a glittery red mat in front of it.

The suite took up the front half of the floor with a view of the street. A tiny reception area was barely large enough for a desk. Opposite it were two black lacquered wooden chairs. A sparkly red lacquered door with Curtis Baxter on it was dead centre of the wall. On the walls were posters for various TV shows that Dan assumed were Baxter Bit productions.

There was no one at the receptionist’s desk however. He knocked at the door.

“Enter.” Boomed from behind it.

He went into the office

“Daniel James! I never expected to see you here.” Curtis practically leapt over his desk to shake Dan’s hand.

“Nice set up you have here.”

“I’m usually on the go so I didn’t really need anything more elaborate.”

“Here’s your coffee, hun.” A short Asian woman in a very short skirt bumped the door open. “Oops. Sorry!”

“That fine Lin.” Curtis said as he put the coffee on his desk. “This is Daniel James.”

“Pleased to meet you.” She bowed and exited.

“What’s this about ACTRA rates? As I understand it, you are asking me, I’m not asking you. If you want me, and I am certainly interested, what is it worth to have me attached to this project?”

Curtis gulped. “I … uh … until we are sure Quintex wants the show I can’t make a real offer. That’s why I mentioned the union rates. You would get at least that much.”

“Okay. What are you willing to offer right now to get my participation? A signing on bonus, separate from any salary for doing the show.”

“I thought you were such a push over. Man, oh, man, I was wrong.”

“When your old host got shoved into my eye I stopped being a push over.”

“We had no idea that he’d do anything that stupid.”

“I don’t doubt that. When you’re usually on the  go it’s easy miss what’s going on. I looked over your initial proposal. I won’t be available to travel until after July 6.”

“We can accommodate that.”

“I don’t really care if you can or can’t. You have a figure for me?”

“Five thousand signing bonus.”

Daniel remained silent.

“I’ll make it six grand.”

“Try that again and be more precise.”

“I can manage seven, only if you come with me when I make the presentation.”

“Why is it so important that I be there?”

“Jeremy Moxham will be there. I saw the two of you at Kevin McLeod’s circus. He has the final say and I know he likes you.”

“So that’s it.” Dan stood. “My credentials didn’t matter to you at all did they?”

“Yes, they did. That’s what brought you to our attention. I didn’t know you knew Moxham till the party. Honestly. You and I were in contact before that. Right?”

“Yeah. Yeah. We’ll do a bank transfer for the seven or do you want me to wait till the cheque passes before the pitch? Because I’m not in till that cash is in my account.”

“What if I don’t sell the show?”

“Not my problem is it? But I have full confidence that you could sell cameras to the blind.”

“We can do the transfer tomorrow.”

“I think we have a deal.” He shook Curtis’s hand.

  On the street his knees where shaking so badly he went to the nearest cafe ordered a latte and sat there sipping it. Apparently Kilpatrick’s punch had more of an effect than he expected. Seven k! Not a bad day’s work. Now if he can deal with Linda this well he’ll be happy.

<>

He could smell grilling as he went up the sidewalk to his house. That meant Sanjay was on the patio. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Sanjay was not there after their conversation in the morning.

He dropped his shoulder bag on the couch, pushed his shoes off to let his feet breathe and went out to the patio.

Sanjay turned from the grill. “Ah, perfect timing. I hope you are hungry.” All he was wearing was a lungi loosely tied around his waist. No shirt, no shoes, and from the bulge, no underwear either. “Another five minutes and these would have been over-cooked.”

There were two steaks over the coals along with slightly charred red and green peppers. 

“There is a salad in the fridge. Bring it out and we can eat here.”

“Aren’t you afraid of singing your nipples.” Dan said as he put the salad on the patio table.

“Not when I have you to sooth them.”

“What’s come over you?” Dan sat at the table.

“You said you loved me.” Sanjay put the plates on the table and sat. “I know many married people who are not in love.”

“My point exactly.”

They ate and chatted about the weather, about Dan’s eyes, Sanjay’s work, each avoiding more conversation about their relationship.

“There were a couple of calls for you.” Sanjay said as he cleared the table. “You shouldn’t leave your phone turned off all day. People call here.”

“Not many have the house number. So it must have been Warszawa?”

“Yes.”

“And not Linda.”

“Right.”

“Mother.”

“Yes and someone who didn’t leave a name. The number was unknowable according to call display.”

“I have ways of finding out. What call display doesn’t know doesn’t mean I can’t find out.”

The landline rang.

“Maybe I won’t have to resort to drastic measures.” He went into the house to answer the phone. “Hello?”

“Mr. James?”

“Yes.”

“This is Phil Kaplan from City News. I was wondering if you had any comment on John Kilpatrick’s allegations?”

“Allegations?”

“From the press conference he had today.”

“No. Did he mention that he tried to put out one of my eyes.”

“He claimed that he was bounced from Unsolved Cold when he refused to allow Curtis Baxter to sexually harass him and that now Baxter is hiring you, someone who was once charged with sexual harassment.”

“What the fuck!” Dan shouted. “What the fuck!” He wanted to slam the receiver against the wall. “It’s true I’ve been approached by Curtis Baxter for a … project. Not to host Unsolved Cold. As for the rest I have nothing to say.”

“I see. Can I get an exclusive interview you.”

“Not at this time.” He hung up poised for it to ring again. It didn’t.

“What was that all about?” Sanjay asked.

“Publicity for John Kilpatrick.”

“Ah. Let’s just turn all this off for now.” He turned the ringer off.

Sanjay took him by the hand and lead him back out to the patio. “The hot tub should be the right temperature by now.” He undid the knot on his lungi and stepped into the tub. “You need to relax. What are you waiting for?”

Dan quickly undressed and got in, sitting opposite Sanjay.

“It’s hot alright.” he said standing up. “My balls weren’t ready to be boiled.”

“I am sorry.” He leaded forward to kiss Dan’s balls then sucked on his cock.

“That isn’t cooling them down.”

Sanjay leaned back. “I forget you are not as used to the heat as I am. This feels like a humid night on the balcony of my parents’ home.”

Dan lowered himself slowly into the water. 

“Have you had time to give any thoughts to Sylvan’s proposal.” Sanjay asked. “He wants my answer soon.”

“I have to speak with the family.”

“They do not have to sign off on it, do they?”

“No, but they have a right to know before I make such a big decision.”

“What if they disapprove?”

“I’ll deal with that. I have to get the house appraised first anyway. Then I’d have to repay mother too.”

“Repay?”


“She made the downpayment for me. I had just left the force and wasn’t yet reestablished in the family business. Not that I ever really left it but … it’s a long story. That’s one of things Linda hasn’t forgiven me for. She helped Dad with the store while I was in training and fully expected it would be hers one day.

“No one expected me to leave the force so soon and then when Dad died she expected to inherit the larger share.”

“Ah, family. Nothing like it.”

“What if I can’t get the money?”

“There is always India. With what I have saved now and a little help from my family I could open my own resort, an amusement park if I chose.”

“Are you serious.”

“Yes. I am at the age where I want to build more of a life for myself. You own this house, you have a business, two of them. All I have is a job, and a reputation. I own only the clothes on my back and of course my knives.”

“Is that what the let’s get married is all about? So you would own what I own?” Dan asked.


“No, that is not how that works. I know. We would need an agreement before marriage.”

Dan got out of the tub and sat on the edge with his legs in the water.

“Do you think you would be happy living in India again?”

“Perhaps. I now have the vision of how to make my own opportunities there.”

Dan got completely out of the hot tub and wrapped a towel over his shoulder. “That whack in the head may have damage my eyes but I am seeing somethings much clearer than I did before.”

“What to do mean?” Sanjay got out of the hot tub.

“All this … the ‘I’m over you sleeping around’ … the dinner … it’s all to sweet talk me into the loan for you. Isn’t it.”

“No. I am not asking for a loan.”

“A gift? Or if I don’t I’m forcing you to move back to India?”

“That is not my intention.”

“That is what I see.” Dan grabbed his clothes and went into the house.

Sanjay followed him.

“Dan!” He turned Dan around to face him.

“I’m tired. It’s been a long day. I have decisions to make.” He rubbed along his eyebrows. “I have pain to numb.”

“I have no wish to go back to India.” Sanjay said. “I don’t want a life without you. When we first met I didn’t believe men could care as we did, share as we did. But it seemed the longer we were together the harder it was for me to feel we were part of each other’s lives. I hoped you would change about marriage as the laws changed. But you have never changed. I doubt if you ever will. That is my pain. It is one I don’t think I can ever change, even if I leave you.” Sanjay began to weep.

“Then we have a basic philosophic stand-off. I don’t see a solution. I do know one thing, emotional blackmail isn’t going to change my mind.”


“Emotional blackmail.” Sanjay shouted.

“You may not even realize you are doing it. Just like that guy in the force who thought I was harassing him by answering questions about the gay lifestyle. I didn’t realize I was harassing anyone.”

“I’m sorry you see me that way.”

“I am too. I’m going to bed. This conversation is over.”

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Picture Perfect 33

In the morning he called Dell and Strong to follow up on his email. He was able to get an appointment to see one of them at 3. If Sanjay was serious about this partnership Dan wanted to make sure it was feasible.

A courier came to the door with the proposal from Baxter. He flipped through it. Eye See would entail a six episode arc of one hour shows, each devoted a one of the missing children, and one to review all the findings. He was to examine documents and photographs while he interviewed members of each of the families. 

The shoot would start in late June or early July too take advantage of the ‘scenic’ locations and possibly attract some provincial tourism investments.  There was an initial itinerary of dates, locations that they would be following once they secured consent from all the families. They could shoot around lack of consent by reexamining newspaper clippings of the time and local people’s memories.

Dan sorted through the papers looking for a contract of some sort but there was none. What good was a proposal if it didn’t say how much they were offering to pay him? 

He looked in the envelope and there was one last page that got gotten stuck. It was a handwritten letter from Curtis.

“Dan –

Here is the basic package. Financial details to follow. Perhaps you would interested in a co-production and end up with more than just the standard ACTRA fees.

Let me know what you think

Curtis.”

What were standard ACTRA fees? Crap he was going to need a show biz lawyer to guide him through this shit.

His cell rang.

“Hi babe.” It was Sanjay. “I’m should be home in about an hour. Had to stop for a coffee.”

“Great! I’ll be here with eye patches on.”

“Nothing more?”

“You’ll find that out when you get here.”

“Tease. Bye.”

That meant Sanjay would be home by noon. They’d have a couple of hours to discuss the restaurant proposal and even a make out session. No, this wasn’t to be that sort of reunion. The memory of Peter’s glowing butt cheeks got him hard.

He cleared up the food containers that he’d let pile up over the week. He washed the dishes he’d been neglecting. The flowers Curtis had sent were still where he had put them. They could go into the composter. The vase he tossed into the trash. Not worth saving or explaining.

He put his bedding and damp towels into the washing machine. He didn’t want to risk any olfactory evidence of his play with Peter. Clean sheets on to the bed – clean towels in the bathroom. Tidy enough but not too neat either. 

His cell rang. Call display told him it was Curtis.

“Did you read the proposal?” 

“Yes.”

“What do you think of the title Eye See?”

“I hope it’s a working title. You avoided the important issue.”

“You want your name above the credits? Daniel James’s Eye See? That’s co-pro territory.”

“Threatening to make me a household name isn’t going to get you anywhere. Direct answers will.”

“I can’t help it. I get juiced by new ideas and project and get ahead of myself. My brain thinks faster than …”

“Logic? Practicality?”

“Something like that. But what do you think of the concept, the time line.”

“It sounds doable. I’m not sure I want to spend that much time away from my business though.”

“You won’t have to. It’s easy enough to fly in for each of the shoots themselves. They won’t take more than a day each out of your time. The crew will do the other stuff like location shots and prepping the next location.”

“So that means what? Six days of shoots.”

“That’s right plus whatever we need to do here in Toronto. That shouldn’t take more than another day.”

Dan remained silent.

“You’ll to be paid for whatever research you do.”

“Dan remained silent.

“At your usual rate.”

“What is the ACTRA rate?”

“It varies for hosts, but we’ll offer $2000. for each episode. We’ll be paying for flights, hotels that sort of thing.”

“I’ll want all that in writing. With actual figures.”

“Of course. I’m seeing the Quintex people this afternoon. If you came along it would make it a perfect pitch.”

“I can’t. I already have another commitment.”

“How’s the eye? I’m so, so sorry about all that.”

“I’m recovering. I should be able to play the piano again soon.”

“What?”

“A little joke. I’ll be back to work at the Depot tomorrow or Wednesday.” He almost added ‘I only believe about ten percent of what you tell me Mr. Baxter.’ But opted to keep his doubts to himself. 

“Okay. We’ll talk soon. Bye.”

As he shut off his phone he heard Sanjay pulling into the garage.

“You made good time.” He said as Sanjay came into the kitchen.

“To you perhaps, but I thought I would never get here. Not as bad as driving in Kolkata but still not pleasant. How is this?” He gently touched Dan’s cheek.

“Improved. No real pain anymore. Sore. Only hurts when I look.”

“It is nothing to joke about.”

“If it had been worse I might not be joking.”

They clasped each other, kissing and running their hands over each others backs and butts until Dan pushed away.

“No handy busboys for you in Bobcaygeon?”

“Too early in the season for tender college boys. Besides you know I like them well-seasoned and mature.” Sanjay was pulling Dan’s tee shirt up.

“Slow down.” Dan disengaged. “We have important things to discuss.”

“That can wait.” Sanjay grappled with him again.

“You always use sex to divert my attention.” Dan was glad that after his encounter with Peter his need for sex had been dampened. “Beside the pain meds sort of make me … you know.” He glanced down at his crotch. “I want to to be good for both of us.”

“They better wear off before tonight.” Sanjay grinned. “Or I can’t promise to maintain my restraint.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere. We have an appointment with Dell this afternoon. Before making any decisions about your partnership opportunity we should see where we actually stand financially.”

“So you are seriously considering it? I wasn’t sure you would.”

“When did Sylvan spring it on you?”
They went to the living room and sat on the couch.

“He’d hinted at it a few time but when I mentioned to him that I was considering a move back to India be with my family he wanted to know if I was unhappy with my work here. It came around to him asking if I wanted in on the businesses. He plans to continuing expanding and it made sense to him to have his star chef as more than an employee.”

“It’s about time he realized how important you are.”

“I’d rather be that important to you.” Sanjay got up from the couch and went to the kitchen.

Dan followed him. “Look, I’m willing to help if I can afford it.”

“If you want it/ you’ll knot it.” Sanjay sang.

“Not knot it again. Or are you just after me for my money?”

“You’re joking?” 

“Of course.”

“Good.” Sanjay put away the dishes Dan had left to air dry. “You don’t look like you’ve been going hungry.”

“Just because I don’t cook doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use a telephone. Linda sent a care package over to me. Lots of KFC. I know you can’t abide that in the house.”

“I thought I smelled a deep fried rat when I came in.”

“Of course she didn’t deign to deliver it personally so she sent it over with Hamid.”

“Hamid?”

“He works for Linda. I think is last name is Ranj … Randapati?”

“Ranjit?”

“Could be. He says it so fast I don’t want to make him repeat it. A northerner. I could tell by his accent. Not at all like yours.”

“You know a lot about him. Did he serve you more than food?”

“No! I doubt if his jalebi would be as good as yours.”

“What time did you say we were meeting Dell.”

“Three.” Dan looked at his phone. “We better get going. I’ll drive.”

“After that drive home I was hoping you would.”

“So how was the opening?” Dan asked once he got the car into traffic.

“Excellent but tiring. Sylvan asked all the local millionaires to come and rub elbows with some Toronto glitterati. It was like a one of those Tift movie openings. Actors you almost recognize meeting people whose names were once in the news all wanting to be seen with the people whose names and face you knew.”

“You get some autographs?”

“Not from this crowd. Trust me if it weren’t free they wouldn’t have been there. But there were people from Michelin. Sylvan wants another star and will probably get it.”

“Great.”

“Now tell me more about this Hamid.”

“I can’t really tell you much. He lost family in some uprising. He might be from somewhere around … Gurdaspur?”

“Then his name might not be Ranjit.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Some areas aren’t know for their good reputations.”

“All the more reason for him not to want to be there.”

“Those northern guys are notorious lungi lifters.”

“Lungi lifter?”

“Yes. Sleep with anything if the cash is right.”

“He seems genuine enough. Linda trusts him.”

“My point exactly.”

“Are you actually jealous?” Dan parked the car.

“Should I be?” Sanjay said shutting his door.

“Not of Hamid.” Dan kissed him quickly. Maybe of Peter, he thought.

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Picture Perfect 32

“Are you flirting with me?” Dan asked.

“Sort of. It wouldn’t be appropriate at the cafe but we are alone. You can’t blame me for trying. You’re always friendly but distant and I’ve never found a way to … you know to get your attention. Or it was till you … I mean I saw how you … ah … stiffened when I wiped the latte off your face.”

“I was hoping you hadn’t noticed that.” Dan tried to laugh as if it hadn’t meant anything.

“Hard not to notice.” Peter said.

They both laughed.

“Stop!” Dan tried to calm down. “It’s hurting my eyes.”

“Sorry.”

“Not your fault.” Dan opened his door to get out.

When he and Sanjay first met he had been seeing a couple of others guys, fuck buddies, but stopped playing after being with Sanjay for nearly a year. Monogamy was never discussed between them. He’d had a few other encounters more to prove he could than because he wanted to. He was sure Sanjay had done so as well.

Impulsively he leaned into the car. “Peter do you want to wash more than my face? Do you want to have sex with me?”

“Yes.” Peter replied.

“Okay.” Dan pressed the remote on his house keys. “Park it in there. I mean your car.”

The garage door opened.

“Yes, Papi.” Peter said and started the car.

“Papi! What? I’m not your Papi, Papa nor am I your Daddy. Understand.”

“Yes, Sir.” Peter said sternly.

“That’s more like it.” 

Dan went in the front door and through to the garage. While he secured that door he looked at Peter. He had none of the physical attributes Dan found attractive in a man. Peter was too tall, too red, too All-American. Too much like his memory of Timmy.

“Hungry?” Dan asked as they walked through the kitchen?

“No one who works at The Carafe ever goes home hungry, sir.”

“I suppose not, but they do go home smelling like a coffee pot that hasn’t been washed in weeks.”

“You want me to scrub down, sir.” Peter started to undress.

“Yes.” Dan could get used to being called Sir. “Stop.”

“Yes sir.” Peter said with his tee shirt pulled partly over his head.

Dan reached out, pulled up Peter’s tee shirt and caressed his smooth stomach. Peter was so white he seemed to glow.

Dan pulled the tee the rest of the way off. 

Peter stepped back. “You line what you see?”

“Undress.”

“Yes, sir.” He quickly pushed his sneakers off, lowered his jeans and stepped out of them crumpled over his shoes.

Dan stopped him as he was about to take off his underwear. “Go upstairs. Use the bathroom by the back bedroom. I’ll be up shortly.” He tossed the tee back to Peter. “Rinse this out while you’re at it.”

“Yes, sir.” Peter took the stairs two at a time.

Dan put the files he had brought home from the Depot on his desk. What was he getting himself into. More importantly why? Wasn’t being horny reason enough? Was he horny or acting out to get even with Sanjay? Proving something to himself? This isn’t what good queers do. Maybe he was tired of being a good queer.

He undressed as he went up the stairs. Kicked Peter’s underwear and socks out of the way and stepped into the shower with him.

They kissed. Rubbing against Peter’s soapy belly got him hard instantly.

“Thank you, sir. That feels good.”

“You like to wash. Don’t you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Be my face cloth.”

Peter soaped and rubbed Dan with his stomach, his ass, the top of his head. Then he guided Peter hand to his ass, let Peter’s fingers enter his asshole.

“You like that sir.”

“Yes.”

Peter took his fingers out and and pressed his hard cock between the soapy cheeks.

“Thank you sir.” Peter said. “I needed to be cleaned.” With a quick push he entered Dan.

“Oh God.”

Then as quickly he pulled out. “I can’t without protection, sir.”

“Good boy.” Dan said. 

“You aren’t disappointed.”

“No. You aren’t disappointed.”

“No, sir. Definitely not.”

They got out of the shower.

“I’ll dry you.” Dan began to towel down Peter. 

“Thank you, sir.” Perter spread his legs to give Dan access to his cock and balls.

Dan was taken by Peter’s smoothness. Sanjay was a hairball, as were most of the men Dan found attractive. Peter’s cock was cut, not as thick as Sanjay’s but longer. He was tempted to suck it as it got hard but resisted. Tease was control. Peter moaned as Dan nuzzled this ginger pubes.

“Turn around.” Dan dried Peter’s back and worked his way down. “Your ass is so hairless. I hope you don’t wax it.”

“No, I don’t wax it, sir.” 

Dan pushed the cheeks aside and licked Peter’s hole.

“You enjoy that?” he said.

“Yes.”

“Don’t shave anything but your face.”

“Yes, sir.”

Dan stood and slapped Peter ass hard. “You are dry enough. On the bed.”

He pushed Peter flat onto his back and straddled him running his hands along his shoulder and then pinching his nipples.

Peter reached up to do the same.

“Did I give you permission to touch me?” Dan twisted Peter’s nipples harder.

“No, sir.” Peter gasped painfully. “Sorry, sir.” Peter let his arms fall back to the bed.

“That’s better. You like being a good boy, don’t you.”

“Yes.”

Dan leaned forward and kissed Peter, sucking Peter’s tongue into his mouth. He felt their cocks rubbing against each other. When he thought he was gong to come he stopped and rolled onto his back.

Peter shifted Dan so that he was spewing him from behind.

Dan felt the Peter’s hard cock gently pressing his hole.

“You have a condom, sir.” Peter asked.

“Just be still. I want to feel closeness of you on me.”

“I won’t enter you without protection.”

“I know. I don’t want you to. I want to enjoy possibility.”

“You don’t really want me, do you, sir?” Peter asked.

“Look, just because I don’t want to get fucked or fuck you doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying being with you.”

“Then what?”
“I haven’t fooled around much since meeting Sanjay. That’s all.” He didn’t want to go into his RCMP history. “All this stuff about consent has made me leery, you know.”

“Is that why you asked me if I wanted to have sex with you?”

“Yes. Hinting and innuendo isn’t enough. A kiss isn’t permission anymore. An erection isn’t an invitation.”

“I get that. Do you want me to make you come, sir.”

“Yes. Do you want me to make you come?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Straddle me. Perfect.”

With Peter’s knees on either side of his head the Peter’s cock was in Dan’s favourite position for sucking. Taller than Sanjay there was also enough room for him to work at it the way he wanted to. Peter was sucking his cock and playing with his balls and hole.

“I’m going to come. Sit on my face.” He pushed Peter up and jacked himself off with that hole on the tip of his tongue. Two strokes and he came. A moment later he felt Peter’s come splatter his belly. Dan let his head fall back to the bed.

“Can I move, sir?”

“Not yet. I’m enjoying the view.” Dan bit one of Perter’s ass cheeks as hard as he could.

“Ow,” Peter gasped in pain. “Thank you, sir.”

He held Peter’s ass cheeks in his hands and massaged them. A light fell on the crack just enough to illuminate the hole and the hairs on Peter’s balls.

“What time do you have to pick up your father.” Dan asked.

“Eleven, sir.”

“Then you’ll need to be out of here by 8:30 in the morning to make sure you get there on time.”

Peter pushed himself off Dan and sat on the edge of the bed. He grabbed one the damp towels and wiped Dan’s stomach.

“Lake Come-O.” Dan said.

“I … I can’t stay the night. It’s not that I don’t want to but …”

“No explanations. Get dressed.” 

“Are you disappointed, sir.”

“No.” Dan was hoping to avoid opening and closing the garage and resetting the security system to let Peter leave. “Get a move on. You’ll have to work harder to please me properly the next time.”

“Thank you, sir. I’m happy to know there will be a next time.”

Once Peter was gone Dan took another quick shower to wash the come off his stomach.  It was interesting to him to take the dominant role. With Sanjay he was rarely the aggressive one, not that he was passive but Sanjay was the one who initiated sex play with Dan as an eager participant. 

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Picture Perfect 30

Sunlight streaming on his face woke Dan. He groped for his wrap-around sunglasses and slipped them on without opening his eyes. For the sun to come in the window like that meant it must be midmorning. 

He went to the bathroom, came back to the bedroom, turned on the cd of yoga meditation music and went through the routine he had learned from Sanjay. The music was more a hum with gentle tabala counting the time.

The door bell rang. Well, he’d have to face up to it sooner or later. He pulled on sweatpants and went down to answer the door.

“Hamid?” He’d expected it to be either Curtis or one of his minions. 

“Good morning Mr. James, or should I say good afternoon.” Hamid was holding a cardboard box in front of him

“Come in.” Dan stepped on to the porch to see if anyone was lurking in their car on street. “My God! Is it that late in the day?”

“It most certainly is.” Hamid took the box into the kitchen. “You sister has sent some food for you. Without your cook to look after your meals she felt you might need some help. Has your cook left you?”

“She was referring to my partner Sanjay. He has not left me but is merely working out of town for a short time.” Was Linda sending Hamid to me as a temptation?

Hamid started to take containers out of the box.

“Thank you but that won’t be necessary.”

“Yes sir. She particularly wanted you to know there was some KFC, original recipe in there. What does it mean, Original Recipe?”

“As a marketing ploy they changed to a supposedly more healthy … coating. I’m not sure what to call it, they dip the chicken in spices before they deep fry the nutrition value out of it. It may have been better for people but didn’t prove better for their profits.” Daniel was amused by the way Hamid stood there smiling and watching as he spoke. “But I suppose you don’t have much of a cultural context for my childhood memories. Let’s just say KFC was a favorite of my Dad’s and ours when we were growing up.

“Thank her for me.” Dan went toward the front door to see Hamid out.

“It is no problem.” Hamid followed him. “I volunteered.”

“Thank you too, then.” He stuck his hand out for Hamid to shake. Dan didn’t want to appear to be cold nor overly -friendly. With men he didn’t know that well it was hard to tell what they might read into a simple conversation.

“Yes.” Hamid stepped into the living room. “I like to see how people live in Canada. In Toronto. In some ways it is so very different. In others very much the same.”

He stopped in front of a large silk panel painted with an image of Ganesha. “This is very good. Sanjay is the artist.”

“No. We picked that up some years ago in India.”

“He is very traditional sort of man. I can tell.”

“In some ways.”

“I must be going back to FairVista. Thank you for letting me see some of your home. I hope to see more of it sometime.”

“Yes.”

“I do not mean to seem out of place, I mean, out of line, but I have no family here. It is very hard to make friends.”

“You have family in India?”

“Most were massacred in the uprisings when I was a boy. I lived in an orphanage and then on the streets for a time.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you again.” Hamid opened the front door. “If you wish help with anything please let me know.”

“I will. When Sanjay gets back we’ll have you over to dinner.”

“Thank you. I would like very much.”

Which uprising was Hamid talking about? He’d have to ask Sanjay about that. That is if Sanjay returned.

After he’d put away the takeout food that Linda had sent he relaxed on one of the chaises on the shady end of the back patio. He set his phone timer for twenty minutes. He wrapped a towel he had put in the freezer around his eyes. It was cool without being cold. He could get used to this. Doing nothing while looking at nothing. When was the last time he hadn’t gone into the Depot on a Saturday? Being his own boss he’d always found it hard to give himself time off.

The alarm went off. He took the towel away from his eyes. Put a folded bandana over them and then the sunglasses over that. He stood up and the bandana remained in place. 

He spent the afternoon with his vision blocked. It was an adventure groping around his house. He stubbed his toes a few times but as long as he moved slowly he was fine.

He felt accomplished once he’d done a load of laundry and hung it. He’d wait till later to see how well he’d hung it though. He listened to some TV, some cd’s, heated up something Linda had sent. From the feel of it in the container he knew it was rice. Probably from some Chinese place.

His injured eye didn’t ache as much. When his cell announced 4 p.m. he removed the bandana. The world revealed was not shiny and new or all sharp glints and irritating. He’d have to not see it for longer than a couple of hours

It was time to deal with Curtis now that his anger had faded. He changed the ‘unavailable to this caller’ setting on his phone. No more hiding from that beast.

Sure enough the cell beeped after ten minutes.

“Hello, Mr. Baxter.”

“Oh, Daniel! Thank God you are alright.” Curtis gushed. “When you didn’t answer my calls I was so worried. Almost frantic. Did you get the flowers I sent?”

“It’s Mr. James to you.” Dan said. To get control of this situation he’d have to be firm with boundaries.

“Don’t be like that.”

“If you want a business relationship with me that’s how it’s going to be.”

“I see. I can’t blame you after the way I’ve behaved but I when I get so enthused about a project I won’t let anything stand in the way of getting it off the ground.”

Dan remained silent. 

“You do understand that I never expected Kilpatrick to fly off the handle that way.”

Dan remained silent.

“When I told him about the possibility of a new series he … assumed he’d be involved and when I told him otherwise he … well, you know the rest.”

Dan remained silent. He knew given the chance Baxter would spin doctor himself into a corner.

“This is where we stand now. Quintex will probably approve the new project once we have the whole package ready for them. I want you to be a part of that package.”

“Probably?” Dan said. “The last time we spoke you presented it as done deal. If you want me to be part of a package I want to see the particulars in writing.”

“Why don’t you draft something? I can present it as your idea.”

Dan remained silent.

“After all that’s what Kilpatrick already believes. I had to present it to him that way so he wouldn’t think I was trying to sever ties with him. He’s become more unprofessional this past season, you see. Drinking, being sexually inappropriate with some of the female make-up technicians.”

Dan remained silent.

“When do you want a written proposal Mr. James?”

“By Monday morning. But, Mr. Baxter, if you spin it to look like it was my idea then count me out.”

“But it was.”

Dan remained silent.

“Alright. But you inspired it.”

“That I can’t deny.”

“There’ll be good money in it for you.”

Dan remained silent.

“More as co-producer?”

“Mr. Baxter, I have money enough now. I don’t need the exposure. What is in it for me?”
Curtis’s tone of voice changed. “You were in love with Timmy Dunlop. You want to find out what happened to him!”

Dan felt a sudden stab of pain around his eyes.

“I’m not lacking in sensitivity, Mr. James. I could tell from the way you talked about Timmy, you may have been childhood pals but you had feelings for him. Didn’t you? I bet his was the first dick you diddled. Just be grateful he was only year older than you and not ten years older.”

Dan remained silent. This kind of honesty was not the spin he was expecting.

“You know, Mr. Baxter, now that you’ve cut out the b.s. I think we might be able to work together.”

“Good. You better be worth it.”

“Keep in mind my hourly rate when you send me the proposal and I’ll let you know. Bye.”

Eyes closed he went to the fridge for an ice cube to rub around them. His Dad would have been proud of him sticking to guns like that.

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Picture Perfect 29

Dan sat on the couch, slipped his shoes off and called Sanjay.

“Hi Sanj.” He longed to reach through the phone and hold him Now that’s an app to work on.

“Hey, Dan. What’s going on there? I’m gone for less than a week and you get into a fist fight with some asshole.”

“He got the worse of it. Broken nose, busted jaw.”

“How are you?”

“A bit sore but nothing serious. Nothing that won’t get better.”

“You always minimize.”

“Nah, it’s looking on the bright side with one eye.”

He told Sanjay about the brief fight, his eye injury and his assumption that Curtis had been the ultimate cause of what set Kilpatrick off by firing him.

“What a slimy jerk.” Sanjay said.

“So Papoulias wants more of you up there?”

“Whatever. I can be home in a couple of hours.”

“You know I hate anyone fussing over me.”

“Don’t you want a seeing eye queen to lead you around?”

“I’m not that bad.” Laughing hurt Dan’s eye. “What the resort like?”

“Expensive. If I wasn’t being paid to be here I certainly couldn’t afford it.”

“Maybe I’ll come up there?” He was already wondering how to get there? Bus? Train?

“I’d love that but there’s way too much going on here with last minute work.”

“I know I know you feel too self-conscious when I’m around you at work.” Dan flexed his toes.

“It’s the way you undress me with your eyes.”

“Since when.”

It was as if their contretemps of a week ago had never happened. This was the flirty Sanjay he had fallen in love with and that love was still there. Maybe marriage wasn’t such a compromise?

“I’m taking the weekend off work to rest my eyes. I’m seeing Dr. Grey, the ophthalmologist this afternoon. A couple of days wearing a blindfold to force my eyes to rest will probably be on order.”

His cell pinged with an incoming call. Call display said it was Sgt. Marks.

“I gotta go. The police are calling me.” He made a kissing sound and hung up.

“Hello.”

“You called Mr. James?”

“Yes. Has Kilpatrick has said anything.”

“He insists he has no memory of what happened.”

He told Marks about his conversation with Baxter.

“That make some sense,” Marks said. “But that doesn’t excuse his actions. Neither will being drunk. Assault is assault and he’ll be charged. Now he’s pissed off because he’ll lost a role because of his bandages.”

“Bandages?”

“While you were at St. Mike’s he’d been taken to Toronto Western to get his nose set. Not a bad break but …”

“Western?”

“When possible we don’t bring both parties in an assault to the same emerg. Sometimes a fight resumes and the triage nurses find that rather distracting.”

“I can see that.”

“Anything else, Mr. James?”
“No I was just wondering, that’s all.”

“How are your injuries?”

“Painful. Like after the dentist.”

“We’ll be in touch if we need to know anything else.”

“Thanks.”

He undressed in his bedroom, grabbed a bathrobe and went out to the hot tub. As he stretched out in it be felt the aches of his body dissolve. Without thinking he fully submerged himself and felt the eye bandage getting wet.

“Shit!” He jerked his head out of the water. The doctor hadn’t said anything about getting wet. The damage was done now anyway. He pulled at the edges of it and carefully peeled it off his face. He submerged himself again. The hot water felt good around his eye. He’d ice it when he was dry.

He stepped out of the tub, wrapped his bathrobe around himself and dashed into the house. The air was still cool but they used the tub even in winter.

He tried to keep his eyes closed while he dried off but both of them kept blinking open. The right was more fogged than blurred. As if he was looking through a screen door. 

He studied his face in the mirror for the first time. Red, puffy and darkly bruised under the eye but not too bad on the eyelid over it. He blinked it open briefly to see it. Blood shot.

How was he going to protect it for the rest of the day? Other than basic bandages there wasn’t anything in the house he could think of. Bandage – bandana. Perfect. He wrapped a polkadot bandana around his eye. So that’s what a gay pirate would look like, he thought as he checked himself in the mirror. 

He took an ice cube out of the freezer, put it in a baggie and held it to his cheek bone. Stretched out on the couch he gently rubbed it along the cheek bone and his eyebrow over the bandana. The pain subsided.  He wanted to sleep but didn’t want to be late for his appointment. 

On his way home from Dr. Grey’s clinic he resisted the temptation to drop in at the Depot. He called to confirm he wouldn’t be back till Monday. The doctor’s staff did another series of examinations of both his eyes. Even took pictures of the insides of them.

There was no internal damage to his eyes or the nerves. It was suggested that he use his vision as little as possible for at least a week. No reading, no movies and sun glasses when out of doors, even on overcast days. The clinic had a line of wrap arounds on hand for him to choose from if he wished. The wrap arounds allowed little light in from any angle. He picked a pair that were photochromic so he didn’t have to worry about taking them off right away when he went indoors.

“I feel very movie star.” He said to the receptionist as he left. After stopping at a pharmacy to get his pain control prescription filled he hailed a cab.

As he went to the house he saw lights on in Sanjay’s room and one in the kitchen. Had Sanj come home?

Once in the house he realized it was the pre-set lighting. He’d fooled himself. There were no landline messages. A couple of texts on his cell.

“All well, boss man. See you Monday.” from Sandy.

“Call me.” from Inspector Warszawa.

Dan auto-dialled him.

“You texted?”

“I was by the Depot and they told me what happened. You okay?” Warszawa asked.

“My self-defence training kicked in, so I’m fine. A little bruised not scarred. Kilpatrick will have troubles breathing for awhile though.”

“You nose popped him?”

“Nah. Side stepped and he ran into the wall and nose popped himself.”

Warszawa laughed.

“Look, we got another one.”

“Of the Photo Planter?”
“Yep. Weird though. Unnamed parliamentarian comes into office and finds two of them placed on desk.”

“No connection to the other’s that were found?”

“None. In fact other than the photos there is no personal or coincidental connection between any of the them.”

“That is weird. I’d offer to look at them, but I’m to do no looking for at least a week while my right eye recovers from being slammed by that drunk.”

“Sitting around in the dark doesn’t sound that hard.” Warszawa said.

“I’ll call you Monday and let you know how it goes.”

He turned his phone off. He checked the house’s security systems one last time before going up to his room with fresh ice cubes in the baggie.

What a day! In the dark he massaged around his eye the with ice cube. He took one of the pain killers and a couple of the Dozease. Where was the quiet life he once lived? 

He woke abruptly from a dream of falling. He’d had that dream often the first couple years they had been living in Toronto. Dreams in which he’d be walking down the street and fall backwards into open air and be unable to stop himself or grab anything to stop his fall. The decent was always fast, so fast he couldn’t catch his breath until he woke up gasping.

He felt around him to make sure he was on his bed and not the floor. Once his heart stopped racing he listened intently. He heard nothing other than sounds from outside, the refrigerator in the kitchen. He rolled to his left side and was jolted by the pain. He’d forgotten about his eye.

He got up, slipped his sleep shorts off and without turning on any lights went to the bathroom. The was enough ambient light for him to see his way easily. He peed. 

Out of habit he didn’t flush. The noise would disturb Sanjay.

He stood still at the bathroom door and gazed down the stairs. Was that the shadow of a person the front door window. Or was it his eye? He let his right eye peep open a bit but that didn’t help.

The shadow remained stationary. If it was a person there’d be some movement. Was it the street light through a tree? He crept down the stairs afraid to even breathe. 

He checked the monitor feeds at his desk. There was no one. Wait! The was something at the front door. Not a person but a roundish package was on the porch railing. It was casting the shadow.

He had the front door camera scan the area, the street, and there was no one there.  No cars either. He turned the porch lights on. The garage camera scanned the porch from another direction and there had been no one in the shadows.

The package was a cellophane wrapped vase with flowers in it. He opened the front door, took the two steps to the rail, gabbed it and darted back into the house. Even though he had checked with the security cameras he was sure someone would dart out of the night to accost him.

He sighed deeply as he leaned against the front door. His feet were cold. His ass was cold. He noticed he hadn’t bothered to put his sleep shorts back on. Now that was worth posting on V-File he laughed to himself.

He put the vase on the kitchen table and pulled the cellophane off to get the card. 

“I’m so sorry about everything. Curtis Baxter.”

Dan tossed the note on the counter. At least Baxter didn’t send a bouquet of Black-Eyed Susan’s. It was a little past 3 a.m. Time for a snack. There had to be some cold pizza in the fridge. None! There’s wasn’t much of anything. He’d need to do some grocery shopping. Without Sanjay bringing back various left-overs from work to restock the fridge, it had gotten empty pretty quickly.

Cheese on crackers in the microwave for thirty seconds would do the trick. Not up to Sanj’s standards but Dan never claimed to be a chef, not even a cook, unless you counted being able to turn a microwave, coffee maker or crock pot on.

As he ate in the dark he ran another ice cube around both his eyes. The doctor had suggest he not overly favour the injured one to avoid straining the other even more.

Back in his bed he dropped off instantly. 

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Picture Perfect 28

Dan took the rear stairs and knocked on the Carafe’s back exit.

“Who is it?’ 

“It’s Dan James, Peter.”

Peter unlocked the door and let him in.

“You’re here early. I was just getting the coffee perking. I can do an Americano for you if you don’t want to wait.”

“That’d be sweet of you. I was too bushed to go home last and fell asleep upstairs.”

Peter poured water into the espresso machine and ground fresh coffee while it was heating up.

“I’m surprised Sanjay didn’t insist you come home. I sure would have after what happened to you.”

“Even if he were in town I doubt he would have bothered.” Dan said. “We’re not a couple any more.” Other than Jill he hadn’t told anyone about the break up, not even his staff. 

“That’s a shame but these things to happen, don’t they.” Peter put the Americano on the table.

“Thanks.” Dan sipped it and nodded appreciatively . “Don’t mind me if you have work to do.”

He watched Peter go about the morning routines at the cafe, setting tables right, checking napkins, sugar and such. Each movement was deliberate, confident. He found himself getting aroused by the firmness of Peter’s shoulder, calves. 

He shook his head to break the spell. Peter was definitely not his type. Too tall, too redheaded. But he did have an attractive face. Timmy was a red head, too. Was Peter uncut?

“Something wrong.” Peter stopped.

“Sorry. Just daydreaming.” He gently rubbed his forehead to see if that would relieve the pain around his eyes. “You must live in the neighbourhood to get here this early in the morning.”

“Yeah. Up on Gill. It’s about a five minute walk, ten if I take my time. So I can be here in rain, sleet, snow, sun, rain. Did I say rain already?”

“Who’s counting.” Dan laughed. Why was he finding this young man so attractive this morning. Peter had been working at the Carafe for about year now and had never appealed to him till now.

But he wasn’t almost single until now either. It had been over a week since he’d sex with Sanjay or even with himself. Or was this the pain meds wearing off? 

“I’d best be getting at my own place.” He went to the back exit. “You make a damn fine cup of coffee.”

“Thanks Mr. James. Anytime.”

Dan went up to his retreat. Was Peter flirting with him? Was Jeremy flirting with him. He didn’t know how to tell. At least Jeremy was in the right age range. When he first left the force he was so afraid when meeting other men, gay or straight, that somehow his every action would be seen as harassment. He shook my hand too long. He looked at me while he was talking about something. 

If Sanjay left he did he want to learn all that courting stuff again. At least on line guys where up front about what they wanted. In person one never knew.

He checked his agenda to see what was on for the day. Crap this was FairVista Friday! He rubbed at his forehead again. Did he want to cancel? He’d call the store to find out if many people had signed up for either of the sessions. If there weren’t enough he’d beg off. Knowing Linda she’d probably send Hamid to him pick up.

Baking smells came up from the cafe ovens. Fresh muffins would be a good start. Hopefully Peter wouldn’t be alone when he went down to pick up some.

First he’d open up the Depot. His swipe card wasn’t in his pants pocket. It wasn’t by the bed or in his shoulder bag! Fuck had he lost that too. No, he’d had it to get in. He got the pants he had been wearing the night before and it was in the back pocket. For security purposes he’d learned never to carry two important things together if he could help it. Hence his credit card was not in the same wallet as his i.d.

In the same back pocket was an appointment card from the hospital. He was to see the eye specialist that after noon at 1 pm. That solved the FairVista problem.

By the time he got down to the third floor Sandy had already opened up. 

“Nice bandage job.” She said. “Much pain?”

“Only when I talk.” Dan said.

“Any word from the police?”

“Nothing but the day is still young. Turns out Kilpatrick was drunk.”

“I figured. He didn’t smell that fresh when he came in.”

“Happened so fast I didn’t notice.”

“Hi!” Jill came in with a tray of coffees and bagels. “How are you feeling?”
“Headachy.” Dan said.

“Peter said you were in when he opened up.”

“Easier than going home.”

Ushio arrived followed shortly by Linda.

“I heard what happened!” she said. “How serious is the damage?”

“Heard?”

“I told my brother.” Ushio said. “He tells his wife.”

Sometimes Dan forgot that Ushio’s brother was married to Linda. He used to worry that Ushio was reporting things to her then stopped caring.

“I have an appointment this afternoon. The swelling may have gone down enough by then. But Dr. Grey didn’t think there is much to worry about. He said it didn’t appear that the eye itself had been impacted.”

He saw Linda looking around at the Depot as he explained things to her. Whenever she was there he felt she was judging if he was doing better than she was even though the books for both locations were open to both of them.

“So I won’t be out to the FairVista today.”

“You should take some time off to let it heal.” She said. “I can handle both locations.”

“You’d like that wouldn’t you.” Dan said. “I’ll be fine. Sandy can handle things here if need be. After all you trained her.”

“True. If there’s anything you need let me know.”

“I will. I’ll see you out to your car.”

He wanted to make sure she left before she found an excuse to hang around any longer.

At around 10 he called Officer Marks to see if Kilpatrick had given them any reason for his actions. Marks was out so he left a message.

Next he called Curtis Baxter.

“Daniel! I was about to call you. I have a wonderful offer to make you. I hope you are sitting down.”

“Does it have anything to do with John Kilpatrick?” Dan cut him off.

“Why, yes.” Curtis hesitated. “How do you know?”

“An unlucky guess.”

“I don’t understand.”

“What’s the offer?”

“After seeing your fabulous footage the network wants to offer you the chance to head your own reality show. Working title is Eye See. With your reputation it would be a synch. We’d start with you talking a deeper look at the missing children. The fact that you are in one of the pictures adds a personal dimension to the project we’re sure audiences will like.”

“What about Unsolved Cold Canada?”
“Oh we shelved that. John’s contract ends when the show ends.”

“You told him this yesterday morning.”

“Yes.”

“Let me make another unlucky guess. You told him he show was being canned in favour of one that I would be the host of.”

“Uh … something like that. Why all these unlucky guesses?”

“I guess you haven’t that John Kilpatrick came into my store yesterday morning to assault me. He may have permanently damaged my vision.”

“What?”

“Curtis you are clearly an untrustworthy asshole. I wouldn’t work with or for you under any circumstances.” He turned his cell off so violently he had check to make sure he hadn’t broken the screen.

It began to ring almost immediately.

It was Curtis. He opened the phone’s setting and ticked unavailable to this caller. The caller would get a message saying ‘The person you are calling is unavailable at the moment. Try again later.’ This would keep his voicemail or text from filling up if the caller was persistent.

He rubbed his forehead. His whole head was throbbing.

“Hurting?” Sandy asked.

“Yeah. To be expected. I’m am going to take Linda’s advice though. No specials this weekend so it’ll be a slow Friday.”

He went outside and hailed a cab. He found it disconcerting to have to turn his head so far to see around him. His neck ached from constantly trying to compensate for the loss of peripheral vision on his right side. 

First thing he did when he got in the house was set the hot tub on the patio to fill and heat. He saw that the landline was blinking for voice mail. He hadn’t given that number to Curtis. It was a message from Sanjay.

“Dan I called your cell and got that unavailable message. Called the Depot and Ushio told me that you got attacked. Are you okay?” 

The note of concern in Sanjay’s voice made Dan tear up. 

“I can come home today if you need me? Funny to say I miss you. Sylvan wants me to stay on for another couple of days after the grand opening. But I’d rather be there. Call me. I miss you.”

Dan went to the settings on his cell and saw that he had in fact selected unavailable to all callers not just to Curtis. He changed the settings.

He was about call Sanjay when there was someone at the door. He checked the monitor and it was Stephanie Carter. Had Curtis sent her? He ignored her knocking and doorbell ringing. How was she to know he was actually home? She gave up after ten minutes. He watched to make sure she wasn’t going to try the backdoor too. The motion sensor on the front door camera tilted as it followed her to a car at the curb. She got into the passenger side and the car drove off.

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Picture Perfect 27

The next afternoon Dan was looking over the specs for the latest Lyphend camera. As with most of their models the price range went from four to five figures, including a limited edition of twelve at six figures. The limited edition price always included a portion that was donated to a charity. This one was to go to Eyes Without Borders which brought eye care to people in need. That need could be anywhere in the world. Even in over-privileged nations people couldn’t afford needed eye-surgery or even glasses.

Shouting erupted from the store below. Someone was very angry. Occasionally under-medicated street people would wander into the store. This sounded like one of those. It was the sort of physical confrontation that he found difficult to handle.

The hardest part of his RCMP training was the hand-to-hand combat. He was good enough to get a passing mark but he dreaded that class more than any other. He’d often found himself physically sick by the end of the class. He was grateful that he never had to put use what he had learned or ever had to defend himself.

He went to the monitors to see who it was and if he needed to call the police. It was a man moving too much for Dan to fully see his face. He went to the bottom of the stairs and stood at the entrance to the Depot.

“What’s all the commotion?” Dan asked.

The man turned and charged at him. Dan held his ground, stepped aside at the right moment and nudged the man as he rushed passed him. The man lost his footing and fell on the stairs.

The man laid quiet for a moment then turned himself over. His nose was bleeding.

“What the fuck!” He said. “Look what you’ve done.”

It was John Kilpatrick from Unsolved Cold.

“John?” Dan said reaching over to help him up.

John grabbed Dan’s forearm with his left hand, pulled himself up and at the same time swung with his right fist catching Dan under his eye.

Dazed Dan staggered back as John hit him again in nearly the same spot. Blindly he struck out with his elbow and felt it hit John’s chin. John crumpled to the floor.

By then Ushio was pulling Dan away. The pain in his eye made him dizzy. Ushio lead him to a chair by the order desk.

“Police are on the way.” Sandy said. 

“Which means we’ll see them in about two days.” Dan said. His eye had quickly swollen shut.

“Here,” someone handed him a cloth with ice in it.

He glanced up with his good eye. It was Jill. “Thanks.”

“What was that all about?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Ask him.”

“Who?”

Dan peered around. John Kilpatrick was gone.

“I was John Kilpatrick. Don’t ask me why though? I only met the guy the once a few weeks ago.”

“Weird.” Sandy said. “I think you should go to St, Mike’s emerg and get that looked at a s a p boss man. I’ll deal with the police when they get here.”

Dan got up. Dizzy he sat back down.

“I’ll get a cab.” Jill went out to the street and came back a few minutes later. “Got one. Come on.”

“Ushio get my shoulder bag from upstairs. I’ll need some i.d.”

Three nurses, two x-rays, two resident doctors, one ophthalmologist, a gauze apparatus over his eye and six hours later Dan was squinting around the waiting area for Jill. She was talking with two unformed police officers.

They came over to him and introduced themselves.

“I’m Officer Marks and this is my partner Officer Howard.”

He shook their hands.

“How’s the eye?” Jill asked.

“Not as bad as it feels. Luckily they found no fractures around the eyesocket or cheek. The eye itself appears to been bruised but the extent of that damage can’t be ascertained until the swelling goes down. No broken blood vessels though, which is a good sign.”

“You’ll be glad to know that we have detained Mr. Kilpatrick.” Marks said.

“Thanks.” Dan said. “That was fast.”

“Being that drunk makes a person do foolish things like wandering up Yonge Street with blood dripping down your face. Made him very easy to pick up.” Howard said. “His blood alcohol count was off the charts.”

“When we got the call from your store we realized some of what happened.” Marks said. “We’re still not clear on why though.”

“Neither am I.” Dan said. “It was just a routine day at the office and bam he comes in ranting at my staff.”

“We saw the video. Great security setup you have.” Marks said.

“Didn’t keep this from happening though.” Dan half-laughed.

“You don’t know why he was upset?” Howard asked again.

Dan explained how he knew Kilpatrick, then a bit about the missing children’s case and his personal interest in it.

“He’s said nothing to you?” Dan asked.

“We won’t get much out him till he sobers up. By which time I’m sure he’ll have his lawyer by his side. That was the one thing he most clear about. He wanted his lawyer to sue you, some black bastard named Baxter.” Mark said.

“You should talk to Baxter then.”

“You know who that is?”

“He’s the producer of Unsolved Cold.” Dan said. “I have his card.” He looked in the little pockets inside this shoulder bag and found it. “Here it is.” He handed it to Marks who looked at it then handed it to Howard. 

“We’ll get in touch with him.” Howard sighed as he made a note of the name and number on a pad. “We’ve dealt with Quintex before.” he glanced at Marks.

“Yeah they wanted to do a Bad Boys Toronto then discovered how boring Toronto really is.”

“Is there anything more?” Dan asked.

“Nope. it’s all pretty much open and shut as they say. Assault, video evidence, witnesses. He’ll be charged. His lawyer will see what we have and they plea. Most likely it won’t even go to trial. Unless …”

“Unless what?” Dan asked.

“We find some evidence that you instigated this. That become mitigating circumstances. But that doesn’t sound the case here.” Howard said.

“Can we give you a lift?” Marks asked.

“Sure.” Jill smiled. “You can drop us off at the scene of the crime. I’ll give you a cup of coffee you won’t forget.”

Sandy was still waiting for him at the Depot. Ushio had gone home. He filled her in on what had happened. Once the store was closed and secure for the night he went up to his retreat on the third floor. He was glad his Dad had kept this part the old apartments. A full bathroom and bedroom that Dan had sometimes used when he was visiting home from university.

He resisted calling Sanjay because telling him about this would be too melodramatic. He longed to have someone to sit and talk to about all that he had been going though but couldn’t think of anyone. Outside of Sanjay he had no gay friends. Jill was good up to a point but what could she say about these things he suspected about his father, about his fears that Sanjay would actual leave him.

Now this incident with Kilpatrick. His recollections of the interview last week were vague. He hadn’t had much conversation with John off camera. A few words about camera and light setups and that was it. 

Restless he took out his personal laptop. Nothing on V-Files held his attention. His last nook post was still getting some response. Guys wanting to know what equipment he used to get such a clear image. There was market he had never thought to tap. Nor would he.

His bandaged eye throbbed and his good eye was starting to ache. The ophthalmologist had warned him that would happen. Too much strain on one eye would affect it.

He shut the laptop and laid on the bed. He got up and went to the bathroom to see what was in the medicine cabinet. Thankfully there were some Dozease. He took two, along with one of the pain killers the doctor had given him, laid back down again and dropped into a fitful sleep.

He woke several times thinking he could hear someone in the bedroom, then in his office beneath him. One time he went to the top of the stairs but heard nothing. The monitors showed him the empty spaces, the empty store, as passing car lights illuminated it.

When he could hear the Carafe opening up he took a quick shower, put on clean clothes. The stale smell of the rooms reminded him he needed to air his getaway if he was going to use it more frequently. Without Sanjay at the house it was pointless to keep going back there every night.

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Picture Perfect 26

The next afternoon Dan braved transit to visit his sister at the FairVista location. His last couple of Friday sessions had proved to be very profitable for her. This was the one way he knew he could please her. It was odd, to him, that he still enjoyed her approval. 

Growing up they are constantly at battle from when he was old enough to resent her need to control simply because she was five years older than him. It was often like having three parents to satisfy. She was always the hardest to please. Today he could understand how frustrating it must have been for her to become his caretaker while his folks ran the business.

If she was in a good mood he would find out what she knew about their Dad’s other photo projects. In particular the saucy pictures he had found. He’d brought a ‘clean’ selection from each of the collections, leaving the more explicit material safe in his office.

The shop was empty when he walked in. Hamid was behind the counter leafing through a coffee table book of wild animal photographs.

“Is it suddenly Friday?” Hamid look at his watch. “It appears it is not.”

“Slow day?” Dan asked.

“Tuesdays are always slow days. Perhaps we should bring you in on Tuesdays instead of Fridays.”

“Linda around?”

“She is. But …” he looked at the computer screen. “She is about a hundred meters to the left of us at the moment. That would be Not A Trace.”

“She’s getting Botox shots?”

“No. Her weekly facial does not involve such drastic measures. She is now fifty meters and approaching.”

“I should try that on my staff. Is it her phone?”

“No. Something from Santi.” He pointed to a rack of bracelets and pendants. “Tracking devices for your children that look like jewelry.”

“Clever.”

“Dan! What brings you here today?” Linda asked. “Don’t tell me you just in the neighbourhood. Or are you here for the Hugo Boss tuxedo sale. Time to tie the knot with your dandy chef?”

“Nope.Let’s go up.” He nodded towards her office.

“More bitching about Cuppa’s?” she asked as they went to her office. “I really didn’t think they’d open so fast.”

“Nah. The Carafe never attracted the homeless in that area anyway. Cuppa’s are welcome to them.” He sat in front of her desk. “Do you remember if Dad had any work outside his routine stuff?”

“It would be in his records. You know how meticulous he kept those. Milage, meals, even what the weather was like.”

“I know but … I found these stashed away in the archives.” He gave her a folder with the pictures he had selected.

She quickly flipped through them. “Daddy didn’t take these. Why would you think he did?” She closed the file and pushed it away from her.

“Location.”

“They could be anywhere.”

“It’s the New Waterford studio. I recognize the chair, the backdrop. The technique.”

“There is no technique in these.”

“I know the camera, Linda. The paper is Dad’s paper.”

“So he developed these. Some people took pictures no reputable company would develop.”

“Then why keep them?”

“He’s a man. For God’s sake! Oh right! I guess you wouldn’t know what a straight man would like. Just because he had these doesn’t mean he took these.”

“Inside voice Linda.”

“Look,” she dropped her voice. “Even if he took these. What difference does it make? Can’t you leave the past alone. All that stuff about why did we move. You seem determined to dig up some sordid secret. There isn’t one.”

“You know who she is, don’t you?”

“What! Where did that come from. Or right you used to play detective. So this your deductive reasoning at work?”

“Diverting attention from the question to the questioner is always a sign of something being held back.”

“All that’s being held back is me laughing. Trust me.” She snapped her fingers. “Maybe it was the Camera Club.”

“Camera Club?”

“Yes, for a couple of years Daddy tried to run a camera club for locals who didn’t have equipment. They could practice on his. He’d show things about light and angles. He thought it would a great way to sell them stuff.”

Dan was familiar with Camera Clubs. In England they had been cover for men who wanted to take pictures of women, sometimes of men. The pictures were an excuse to get the model undressed and often lead to sexual encounters.

“He was selling them lingerie?” He tried to joke.

“He gave up it because it was too much trouble and not enough profit.”

“There’s nothing his records about a camera club. You make sound sort of routine.”

“It was called … The Kodak Fun Club, something like that.”

“Oh! That’s what KFC stood for? I thought it was Kentucky Fried Chicken. He was crazy for that when he could find it.”

“We all were.”

She glanced at the photos again. “These all there were?”

“No. Both sets got more explicit as they progressed. Didn’t think you’d need to see them to jog your memory.”

“Thanks, I guess. I wonder who she is though. The face is sort of familiar.”

“Google Bettie Page.”

“Dan I’m not that naive. I know who she looks like. I’m surprised you do though.”

“Linda, I know more than queer. But I suppose whoever she is, she didn’t pose for free.” He put the pictures back in his messenger bag. “I better get going.”

“I can get Hamid to run you home.” She said as they walked down the stairs. “Don’t want to keep Sanjay waiting for you.”

“That’s okay. Transit isn’t too bad.” He stopped by the GPS jewelry. “These selling well?”
“Pretty well. They just came in last week and about a quarter of them have gone.”

“They make them for guys?”

“Why? You want to keep an eye on Sanjay?”

“Not exactly.” Each time she said Sanjay it was as if she was baiting him, mocking him. “See you next Friday.”

As he walked the bus stop his cell phone rang.

“Daniel,” It was Sanjay, “I’ll be going up to Sylvan’s Uncaged in Bobcaygeon. The new resort restaurant is opening at the end of the week and he want me to oversee the final stages.”

“Tonight?” 

“Yes. I’m at the house now packing some things tot make with me. Sorry it such short notice.”

“All things considered I’m surprised you called.”

“Dan, you know I’m not like that. You think I’d let you come back to an empty house and find me gone without notice? Melodrama isn’t my department.”

“You saying it was mine.” His face was getting warm.

“All I’m saying is that I should be back next Monday. Maybe the break will do us both sone good.”

“Thanks for letting me know. Bye.” He put his cell back in his pocket.

The bus was right there when he got to the stop. Rush hour transit home was tolerable thanks to his iPod. He was back at the Depot in time to help Sandy finish locking up. Once she left went in the back way and directly up to the third floor workshop. The archive bins he’d looked through were still on the back workbench ready to be put back in storage. He took out his Dad’s appointment and travel record diaries and began to go through them again.

KFC appeared eight times in 1983, monthly except for June July August and December only five times in 1984. He went into the storage room and got the bins for 1982 but there was no mention of KFC in any of those. So Linda had remembered correctly.

He was reading the notes in the appointment book for the month before they went to Stellarton. Wedding wedding graduation wedding. He came a cross a weekend wedding in St. Peter’s. The place name rang a bell for him. Had he gone with his Dad to help at that one as he sometimes did?

According to the travel memos his Dad had stayed the night there as he sometimes did if there was too much driving in one day. He’d spent the night at the Delany Motor Inn. No, he hadn’t gone on that trip or he’d have remember that name.

Why was St. Peter’s so familiar to him? He went down to his office and looked at the notes he had made on the missing children. One of them, Dorothy O’Connor, has lived there. 

He took the notes with him and checked the dates. His Dad was there a couple of days before the child had disappeared. Considering how much his Dad travelled around the province that wasn’t such a coincidence.

But we were in Stellarton when Timmy disappeared. That’s my Dad being where two different children disappeared. Dan cross-referenced the dates and locations of the other children with his Dad’s records. 

Those where the only two that coincided. On the other dates of disappearances there were no photo bookings or other notes. 

He googled a map of the Maritimes and flagged where his Dad was at and where the disappearances had had happened. His Dad was in driving distance of every one at the time they occurred. But so were countless other people.

He left his desk and paced the room. The abductions were two to three weeks apart. All were early the week. What did that tell him? As far as he could tell they were random. Where did the others that Warszawa told him about fit into this? Where did they fit into the geography and timeline?

He did say they were reservation children. Dan did a search for  native reservations in the Maritimes in the 1980’s. The records he found didn’t provide that specific information. 

The children who had been abducted were in either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick so he could eliminate any reserve in PEI or Newfoundland. This left a list too long for him to figure out. But he did notice one near St. Peter’s where the wedding took place.

St. Peter’s wasn’t that far from them in New Waterford either. Why had he stayed the night? He checked the time of the booking, then noticed the weather notation. “HR 4 pm.” Heavy rain. His Dad hated to drive at night in the rain.

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