Picture Perfect 117 

Picture Perfect 117

They drove out the museum which was opened  for general pubic except for the area roped off for the banquet for the anniversary. Dan showed his guest pass and made sure his Lifend video flow was turned on as they made their way to the Exhibits Hall. 

There were dioramas for each decade complete with posters, mannequins in circus costumes, & in some cases performers recreating the sideshow acts. Knife thrower, sword swallower; crystal ball reader. The Tut-mania was the most elaborate of the 80’s. Snakes in glass tanks graced either side of its entrance. Behind them were live belly-dancers. It was a weird mix of Aladdin and Cleopatra. There was several people inside being given tour by one of the Museum guides.

“As you can see the centre piece is an approximation of the actual tomb of Tut. All the artifacts were created for our exhibit. There’s no claim that any of them are authentic.”

“So, that’s not real gold?” Someone asked.

“No.” The guide said. “The total weight of golditems and jewelry in his tomb was about 1200 kilograms. Worth over seven million dollars. So no this isn’t real gold.”

The group laughed.

“The mummies are fantastic.” A woman said. “I’ve seen some in Cairo and these look like the real thing.”

“We were painstaking about getting things as accurate as possible. That’s why we were all so disappointed when the Tut show was a flop. It took the wind out of the owners. They didn’t even want to tour the show the next year.”

“Where were they fabricated?” Dan asked.

“Some of the work was done by our own staff.”

Mummies of various sizes were posed as if worshipping Tut. A couple were on their own marble altars.

“These small ones.” The guide explained. “Were children who were sacrificed at the same time. They were sent so Tut would have playmates in his afterlife.”

The word ‘playmates’ jolted Dan. No!

“These are the original mummies fabricated for Tut-mania?” he asked.

“Oh yes. We’ve had them in cold storage. Costumes too. The mummies didn’t all arrive at once at the time. It took a few weeks to get them all.”

“Do you have any idea of how they were made?”

“You want trade secrets?”

“Just curious.”

The guide went to one of the playmate mummies. 

“Rest assured The Happy Hippo couldn’t afford real mummies any more than they could afford real gold. These are wire under-frames wrapped in gauze.” The lifted the arm of the mummy gently. It came loose and a real bone protruded from the unravelling gauze. The gauze was a mix of real gauze & various fabrics.

“That’s Timmy’s t-shirt.” Dan said involuntarily.
“Timmy?” The guide stared at the arm.

“Don’t drop it.” Dan commanded. “Put it gently on the floor.”

“Yes.” 

While the guide was putting the arm down Dan texted Robert Warszawa a top-priority code with his location at the exhibit.

“On my way.” Warszawa replied.

“Get forensic unit.” Dan texted.

“Will do.”

“What did you think you’re doing?” Another of the guides pushed people aside. “Oh it’s you! Not getting enough publicity for your stupid show. Get out of here before I call security.”

“They’re on their way.” Dan said.

“And put that camera down.” The guide turned to Cameron & tried to push him back.

“Too late.’ Cameron said, nodding at one of the news reporters with a camera on the other side of the crowd.

Jennifer stepped into the exhibit & held her hands over the shoulders of another of the mummies. 

“Another one.” She paled with the realization.

“Get out of there!” The first guide pulled her back into the crowd.

Warszawa arrived with Sergeant Coster with him.

“We’ve found them.” Dan said.
“Which them?” Coster asked.

“The remains of some of the children.” He pointed the the display. “Mummified.”

Sergeant Coster kneeled to inspect the arm on the floor. She stood. “That is a human bone. How can you be sure it is one of the children?”

“The fabric.” He pulled up the photo of him & Timmy sitting on the steps. “The same stripes. The same colours.”

“Okay.” she sighed deeply. “We’ll have to close down the exhibit to the public.”

“You can’t …”
“We can & we will.” She said.

“This is some cheap publicity stunt. How do se know you didn’t plant this here.” The guide stared at Dan.

“Ask your security cameras.” Dan pointed to one of them. 

“Everyone please exit the exhibit hall.” Coster & two officers escorted the public from the hall. “The forensics team require all the space they can get.”

“You can’t shut me down!” Winston Chamberlain strode into the hall. “Not now. With what’s going on!”

“Mr. Chamberlain, the Tut exhibit is closed to the public. The rest of the facility will remain open.”

“Just because one of these … props had a bone in it? You don’t even know if it’s a human bone. Or even a real bone.”

“I know it’s a real bone.” Sergeant Coster said.  “The forensic’s team will be here shortly. If it a human isn’t then you can reopen. Is this all of the mummies?”

“No. We left three in storage. There wasn’t enough space to put up the entire array.” Winston said.

“Okay, we don’t know for a fact that these are the remains of any of those children.” Warszawa said. “Mr. James, do you have any proof other than your fuzzy photograph?” Winston made air quotes when he said fuzzy.

“I trust my gut. This is them. Maybe not all of them but some of them.”

The forensic team arrived followed by some TV crews that had been covering the gala.

As they arrived a reported stepped to the entry of the hall.

“Stacy Molefski, here. We are interrupting the broadcast of the Chamberlain Gala with breaking news. Authorities have discovered human remains in one of the museums exhibits. Remains that may be a clues in the recently re-opened cold case of the children who disappeared in the 80’s …. Mr. James. Mr. James?”

Dan reluctantly went over to her.
“What can you tell me about this unexpected discovery?”

“Stacy you know about as much as I do. I can’t comment until we get confirmation for the Forensic team that these are actually human bones.”

“And if they are what can they tell about those missing children.”

“First they’ll need dna testing to ascertain identity. That could take up to two weeks.” Dan said. “It’s not like you see in TV crime shows where they put a drop on the bone, run that result through a computer & up pops photos of the victim.”

“Dan?” Warszawa waved from him to come back to the exhibit.

“As you can see I have official business to take care of.”

“Thanks for your time Mr. James.”

Dan walked over to Warszawa.

“You were right.” Warszawa said. “These are human bones. The examiner believes the size indicates the ones here are children bones. They’ve done a cursory check of the other mummies & there are bones of some sort in all of them.”

“They’ll all be taken to the regional hospital to be X-rayed before they are unwrapped though.” Costner explained. “They want to make sure before disturbing the uh …. remains unnecessarily.”

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Picture Perfect 116 

Picture Perfect 116

Peter followed Dan into the cabin “Who was that?” He asked as Dan opened the door.

“Someone who nows knows the power of the harness. That was hilarious.” Dan flopped on the bed with his hands behind his head.

Peter found a spot on the desk for the flowers.

“For the sweetest kiss.” Peter read the note. “Kiss?”

“Yes – in the parking garage.” Dan laughed as he explained it. “A lingering one mind you but that was all. I only enjoy public sex if there’s a hidden camera somewhere. Or if it had been you, we might have buckled a car hood or two.””

“Thank you, sir.” Peter knelt and removed Dan’s shoes. He undid Dan’s pants and pulled them off. “May I, Sir?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Peter buried his face in Dan’s crotch. Pulling and biting at Dan’s underwear. “Someone didn’t have time for a shower this morning.”

“You should know.”

“Sweaty but clean.” Peter pushed the head of Dan’s cock to just above the underwear waistband and began to lick and suck it. “Mmm.”

“Fuck, that feels so good.” Dan thrust his hips so that his cock was deep in Peter’s throat. 

Peter gagged on the sudden thrust.

“Choke on it.” Dan held Peter so he couldn’t pull away. “You like to choke on me, don’t you?” He loosened his grip on Peter’s head.

“Uh huh, Sir. I was dreaming about that the whole flight.”

“That’s not a harness. It’s a dream catcher.” Dan stood and kissed Peter.

His cell buzzed. It was Jeremy.

Peter unpacked his clothes and dangled things in front of Dan.

“I’m busy at the moment.” Dan attempted to grab the jockstrap Peter held up. “Yes the flowers arrived … I haven’t been avoiding you, just your fan base. I have to go. Yes I’ll be at the the premier this afternoon. Bye.”

He ended the call.

“Mr. Moxham I presume.” Peter said.

“Who else. He has his image to think of. I get that.  Hiding isn’t my style.”

“Aren’t you hiding me from him. My house sitter. My house mate. My coffee delivery boy.”

“I’m just trying to be tactful. Do you mind?”

“It depends on what you mean by mind. No. In fact I kind of find it a bit of a turn on to be your secret mistress. Especially when you’re keeping me a secret from a dashing millionaire playboy who is in turn keeping his own secrets. It’s like being in a soap opera written Escher.”

“At least I won’t panic with you beside me in a harness as my date. I can’t show up anywhere beside Jeremy as his date. Now where we?” Dan pulled Peter to him.

“About to hit the showers after my long exhausting cross country travels.” Peter said. “I can wash your back.”

“I hope they have enough hot water.” Dan dropped his shirt on the bed.

“I hope they have enough towels.” Peter followed Dan into the bathroom.

“If not I can use your jock straps to dry off with.”

<>

Quintex’s special showing of the 100 Years of Chamberlain was at the Cineplex on Trinity Drive. Invitation only. 

When Dan & Peter arrived the lobby was crowded with QTel executives. Baxter introduced him to the crew from the 100 Years. They were given bags of pop corn.

Jeremy as the executive producer of 100 Years said a few words about the production, about how much everyone enjoyed working on it, and how delighted he was to learn something new about the history of Canada. There was applause at the right moments.

He introduced John Kilpatrick who said pretty much the same things about how working with QTel was a great cognation of his history hosting Cold Canada. Then Winston Chamberlain said how was thrilled he was to share the magic the Chamberlains had created for the public over the last one hundred years.

The lights dimmed and the program started. After first few minutes Dan tuned out what he was seeing. If the calliope soundtrack volume was a little lower he might have fallen asleep. He sorted through his memories of the interviews, the pictures he had seen, the reports about death that summer, transient populations that summer, his family’s moves that summer. There had to be some connection he was missing. That everyone were missing. Or was there yet another piece to this puzzle.

His attention was pulled back to the show as the narrator said, “It was during the 80’s that the Carnival went though difficult times.”

He recognized the voice as Winston Chamberlain.

“Thanks to the popularity of video games, video movies, even video arcades – yes one could say Video tried to kill the carnival – attendance dropped off. We tried different themes each year. Some worked, some were unsuccessful but all were creatively satisfying.

‘In the summer of 1984 we toured the Tut-Mania side show.”

As Winston spoke there were home movie images of belly dancers, snakes, and the fake Tut exhibits. A sarcophagus with several mummies arranged around it, artifacts. “We dressed our tour guides as Cleopatra’s handmaidens.”

“That’s her!” Dan exclaimed aloud, then covered his mouth. It was the woman wielding the whip in his Dad’s photos. She was on screen for less than thirty seconds and never appeared again. 

The documentary came an end. It was more or less an advertisement for the Museum. The closing credits were so fast and cluttered he couldn’t see who at Quintex was the main researcher. He’d have to ask Stephanie is she knew.

“What did you think?” Cameron asked him as they left the theatre.

“Archival footage is always fascinating.” Dan said. “I always want more of that.”

“Makes them sound like one big happy family of saints determined to bring entertainment to the deprived people of the Maritimes.” Cameron said.

“What did you expect?” Stephanie asked. “It’s not an expose. We don’t do that sort of thing, anyway.”

“Unless there are children involved.” Dan said.

“Cold Canada is a different thing.” she said. “It digs for facts not conclusions.”

“Then the editors shape the facts to suggest conclusions.” Peter said. 

“At least they like to spread the blame around.” Stephanie said. “Legal won’t let us point directly at one person anyway.”

“Or Winston Chamberlain probably wouldn’t have been so eager to have this profile of the 100 years.” Dan said. “There was no mention of the hand-job maidens.”

“Was it you who said ‘that’s her?’.” Cameron asked. “Sounded like you.”

“Yes. I’m not sure but one of the pictures looks like a woman in one of the family photos I examined for the show. I can’t say for sure it was only on for a few seconds.”

“She’s significant in some why?” Stephanie asked.

“Perhaps.” Dan said. He hadn’t told anyone connected with the show about his Dad’s racy pictures.

“Our research department will have the original footage, so you can check with them for a better and perhaps more extensive look. The shows only use about twenty percent of the materials collected.”

“I’ll do that when we get back to Toronto. Let’s check out the exhibits at the museum.”

“We can check out the hand-job maidens.” Cameron said. 

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Picture Perfect 115 

Picture Perfect 115

Where is my memory? I’m not that old or am I? No matter how many times I look at those children’s faces I can’t remember them all. The ones I know, it could have been a week since I saw them last. How eager there were to follow me. I knew by their eagerness they had something to escape. I was the one who could lead them back to safety. Back to purity.

Now these men. Men, it’s always the men, who want to find these children. Men who I saved them from. Men who think they are smart enough to follow tracks, to follow traces that don’t exist. Looking for clues in photographs. Ha. 

I had to laugh when I saw him looking at those pictures that showed him nothing. He didn’t know I was watching. They probably thought I was dead too, that I was too old to have read the newspapers, to see them on television. To see them walking down the street. 

I wanted to stop them that day. Tell them they were wrong, but let them be wrong. My memory isn’t that bad. I saw children’s faces that I didn’t recall. I looked. I stopped the flow of pictures with the pause button but the image was blurred. Maybe that was why I couldn’t remember. If I pause my memory those faces blur.

What good would it do to tell them they are wrong. I don’t want to distract them from the wrong or they might get it right. No, they will never find me. They don’t know where to look because there is no where to look. Even when they were looking right it all those years ago no one saw what was there. Stupid men who only saw what they wanted to not what I had hidden.

All this fuss about the damn carnival has pushed that past out of sight for now. Happy Hippo! What a cesspool of abuse it was but now it’s some sort of temple for happy childhood memories. Children lured in to take their money, to strip them of their purity. No one will dare reveal it was mire of depravity that preyed on the innocence of children. That’s not entertainment.

As Dan found a spot to stand with his sign that said “Limo for Mr. Peter Eastgate” he thought it would a fun way to welcome Peter & perhaps get his picture taken by the press in the airport lobby taking shots of the famous arrivals. There was a mini-red carpet set up with a special backdrop for celebrities still arriving for the event.

From out of the crowd Robert Warszawa came over to him. 

“Robert, what are you doing here?”

“Extra security. You know the Prime Minster is arriving this morning. He worked at the Hippo one summer.”

“Oh! That never came up in our research.”

“So you’re covering the pre-circus circus.” Robert asked.

“I’m meeting Peter.” Dan said. “I happy just to observe.”

“Security’ll cost the tax-payers more than they will raise with their gala.”

“Mr. Eastgate! Over here Mr. Eastgate.” Dan shouted when he saw Peter come through the arrivals gate. 

Peter’s puzzled face lit up when he saw that it was Dan calling to him.

Peter was made to stop for pictures that were taken before anyone asked who he was. 

“Wow!” Peter came over to them. “That was something.”

“Peter, you’ve met Robert Warszawa. My Forces boss.”

Robert reached out & shook Peter’s hand. “I don’t think we’ve properly introduced. You were able to get out of the Carafe?”

“Uh, yes?” Peter said looking to Dan.

“We’ve been keeping an eye on Mr. Daniels since the bomb attack.”

“You mean I’ve been under surveillance?”

“Think of it as protection. Speaking of which the Prime Minster is debarking.”

Robert stepped away and blended back into the crowd.

“Surveillance?” Peter asked. “You don’t tell me you were also a secret agent man.”

“Let’s just say parts of my work life are classified confidential. You car is this way.”

The lot at the Waterside already full. Dan drove around twice looking for a spot.

“Porsche. Porsche. Lexus. Lexus LX.” Peter practically shouted that last one. “My fuck! You sure you’re allowed to even be here? Is that a Silver Cloud? Am I going to need a tux for this event? All I brought was a change of clothes and that black harness you like.” He pulled up his tee shirt to show Dan that he was wearing it. “Set off the alarm at Pearson. Told them I was performing at the gala. The black jeans?”

A flower delivery van pulled out and Dan took the spot.

“We will be skipping the formal dinner.” Dan quickly told Peter about the most recent run in with John Kilpatrick. “I decided it would best if I wasn’t there. If he spilled a glass of water he would probably accused me of somehow doing.”

“Then jeans will be formal enough.”

“I have check for messages.” He handed Peter the card for the cabin. “I’ll be right back.”

George was dealing with an irate, well-dressed man, in his mid-50’s. Thanks to Jeremy, Dan knew the difference between off the rack; between custom made in New York, Paris, Hong Kong or Milan. This man was wearing condo’s worth of clothing. Maybe more when he caught a glimpse of the man’s watch and cufflinks as he slammed his open palm on the front desk.

“We’ve been to every hotel, piss-stained motel and flea-bag b’n’b within a hundred mile radius. You must have something. You fucking jack-off’s hiking prices on top of everything else.”

“Ah, Mr. James.” Clerk said over the man’s shoulder. “There are two messages for you. Plus these flowers, that just arrived.” He put a large floral display in a heavy crystal vase on the counter. “I didn’t have time to get it inot your cabin.”

The man turned and gave Dan a once-over and was clearly about to dismiss him when his eyes stopped at the Lifend camera. He looked at Dan face.

“Can I help you?” Dan asked the man as he read the card. They were from Jeremy.

“Not much anyone can do Mr. James.” George said. “Everything has been booked solid weeks. Good thing QTel had that reservation for the four cabins. I could have let them twice for twice as much, too.”

“What’s taking you so long, sir.” Peter came into the lobby with his tee-shirt off. He sat in one of the lobby arm chairs.

“Here, Peter.” He nodded to the flowers. “Compliments of the Jeremy Moxham.”

Peter picked the vase up carefully. “He must have had this Baccarat flown in for you. I can’t see any local florist carrying them.”

Dan couldn’t stop laughing.

The rich man was confused for a moment. He sat in the other lobby chair and began to text.

“George how many of the cabins is QTel using this weekend.” Dan asked quietly.

George checked. He leaned forward. “Only three. You have one, Baxter has one, Cameron and Stephanie are in the other.”

“Then let the gentleman have that one. It is the one with the crappy a/c,shitty TV reception.”

“If you mean 11b then you’re right.”

“Also the one closest to the highway.” Dan said. He turned to rich guy. “Mr. ?”

“Clarkson.” The man said.

“As it turns out I won’t be using all the cabins I’ve booked. I’ve cancelled my reservation for one of them for the next three nights.”

“That’s most … How can I thank you?”

“Don’t throw the TV in the pool for one thing. Tip clerk well too.”

“Sure.”

“Peter.” Dan commanded.

“Yes, sir.” Peter stood at attention. 

“Flowers to the cabin.”

“Thank you, sir.” Peter picked dup the vase and followed Dan out.

As he left Dan heard Clarkson ask. “Who was that?”

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Picture Perfect 113 

Picture Perfect 113

At the car rental Dan hesitated but accepted the car reserved for him. To swap it for another random car would be giving in to his paranoia. He stopped at the Regent to check in long enough to leave a message for Mr. Moxham that he’d see him at the banquet Sunday. 

At his check in at the Waterside he explained to George he was using a pseudonym to stay avoid press. He figured it would a couple of hours before anyone would be looking for him. In his cabin he finally relaxed. When was the last time no one knew where he was? 

On his personal phone he texted Peter. “Landed. Hidden in plain view.”

He turned off his phones. He wet a face cloth, put the drops in his eyes, covered them & fell asleep. He woke once & undressed & went back to sleep. In the morning he stepped out of the cabin & saw that the parking lot was full. At the far end he spotted what he though was the war room remote. Not that he expected QTel to put the crew in the Regent. He got dressed & went over the Waterside breakfast diner. On his way over his show phone rang. It was Jeremy. 

“Hi.”

“Where are you?” Jeremy said.

“I stuck to my original plan to save you the embarrassment.” 

“What?”

“I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable with Della on your arm this weekend. I’m not going to hover in back ground like …. a body guard.”

“I didn’t plan to have that happened. Honestly.”

“I believe that.”

“Come back to the Regent? The suite is paid for.”

“I know. Peter will be joining me here too.”

“Then we won’t be spending any time together at all?”

“You know my shoot schedule. No one will stop the executive producer from dropping by.”

“Look, I’m sorry about Della. Maybe we can have breakfast tomorrow morning.”

“Uh … okay. Bye.” Dan could tell by Jeremy’s tone of voice that he wasn’t used to people saying ‘no.’ 

He went into the diner. He joined Stephanie & Cameron who where already there.

“Dan!” Stephanie said. “I didn’t think they’d stick out out here in the sticks with us lowly crew.”

“They didn’t but I wanted to avoid the celebrity mash in town. I’m not ready for that nor do I ever want to be.” He opened his business phone. “My shooting schedule is pretty vague. What are we expected to do at the Capitol Theatre?”

“Press conference.” Stephanie said. “It’s time for us, or rather you & Jennifer to be the ones questioned. We’ve been flooded with endless requests for more information, in particular from our investigative crew.”

“Endless requests?” Dan gave a little laugh. “Do you know if any press will actually show up?”

To his mild surprise there was about sixty people seated near the front of the stage for the press conference. Curtis introduced Dan & the Cold East crew before showing a new fifteen minute clip that QTel would be using as a promo of the show. Much like the other there were brief looks at the interviews, the cases. It ended with footage of the Amethyst Court explosion. Postcards of the picture of Dan & Timmy were passed out to the audience. under the faces of the boys was printed “Have You Seen These Children” on the back was the date of the first episode.

Curtis passed the microphone to Dan.

“Good morning or is it good afternoon? It’s easy to lose track of time, though thanks to this digital age we have a recording of this to look to if we need it. When these children were abducted there was little or no trace of what happened. No one with cell cameras or security footage. 

“We’ve been painstakingly putting together information, clues, from local press coverage at time, from family recollections while tying them into local events at the time to find connections that were never made.”

“Thank you Dan” Curtis took the microphone back.”Now you were invited to bring photographs or objects for our two investigators to look at. Dan will look at photographs & our psychic Jennifer Devereaux will attempt some on the spot readings.”

After the first couple of audience members had been dealt with Dan scanned the audience for more hands. “This’ll have to be our last one. Ah, Stacy Molefski.” He remembered her from the Amethyst explosion.

She came up on the stage with a photo album, put on the table & opened to to a specific page.

Dan studied for a minute. “You didn’t like wearing your sister’s hand-me-downs, did you?”

“Is that so apparent?”

He motioned for one of the camera operators to get a shot of the photo so the audience could see the picture of two girls leaning against the car.

“The t-shirt you are wearing is, I’d say, three years after JimJim was on the charts. Your sister was a fan & when she was tired of him you ended up with the t-shirt.”

He passed the album to Jennifer. She held it briefly, put it down & held her hands over it.

“Is that the car she died in?” Jennifer asked.

Stacy gasped. “No.” She flipped the pages of the album, “It was this one.”

She went back to her seat.

“Before we wrap up are they are any questions” Curtis asked.

“Do you have any suspects?” Someone asked.

“No, but, as you know, the RCMP has created its own task force to further investigate what we have uncovered. If there are suspects it will be up to them to release that information.” Dan said. “The show follows our search not …”

“Will you show give credit to the person responsible for first bringing these cases to light?” A voice asked from the furthest edge of the audience.

“I’m not sure who you are referring to?” Dan said. “As I explained it was first brought to my attention by the Cold Canada show.” 

“If you mean Jackson Meade.” Stephanie took over. “The journalist who sent the tip to us. There will an interview with him in the series.”

“Howe generous of you but I was referring to person behind getting that episode on the air.”

“You mean me?” Curtis said. “Rest assured Baxter’s Bits will be listed the credits.”

“But of course.” The voice mocked.

Dan recognized the voice.

“Let’s welcome John Kilpatrick to the stage.”

The figure that stepped into the light was John Kilpatrick. 

“That doesn’t answer my question Mr. James.”

“Maybe not but the question on everyone’s lips these days is your new QTel series. Carnival Canada I think it’s called?”

Kilpatrick came onto the stage.

“Ah …yes it is.”

“We have come to the end our presentation so I’ll leave this captive audience in your capable hands Mr. Kilpatrick.”

As he left the stage Dan resisted the temptation to say “Back to you, John.”

But as they were going up the aisle Curtis turned back to say “Back to you, John.”

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Picture Perfect 112 

Picture Perfect 112

The only snag Dan hit for the Hippo Centennial was that Peter wouldn’t be able to join him because of his Carafe duties, until the Sunday morning of the event. QTel had booked his flight to leave on Thursday so they would have a day or so to do their Cold work without interfering with Kilpatrick’s Centennial Special.

He was was waiting at the Depot for the limo QTel had arranged to pick up the crew they were sending for the occasion. 

Peter had come by with the morning coffees & muffins for Sandy & Ushio. A car horn beeped a couple of times at the curb. 

“That’s some car they’ve sent for you.” Sandy said.

The car door opened & Ashley Moxham got out & ran into the store.

“Come on Dan. We’ve got a tight schedule.” She said.

“Ashely?” Dan reached for his suitcase.

“Yep. I’m going too, so to save money I’m going on your ticket. Now that the muffin man isn’t going.”

“What!” Peter said.

“Just kidding but we’re taking the same flight & Dad thought it would fun surprise for you to join us.” She went to the window & waved to the limo. 

Jeremy stepped out of the car to wave back.

“Better get a move on, sir.” Peter said giving Dan a quick kiss. “You master calls.”

<>

“Thanks.” Dan sat in the back seat. “I appreciate the lift.” He squeezed Jeremy’s hand.

“You can kiss him” Ashley said leaning over the front seat.

“Seat belt! Miss Moxham.” Max, the driver, said pulling her to face forward.

“Humph. I have seen people kissing before you know. Even my Dad.”

“What’s with her?” Dan asked.

“She has a crush on you I think.” Jeremey said. “Ever since ‘Back to you, John.’ …”

Ashley said “Back to you, John.” as Jeremy said it.

“She’s been on to me everyday about when would I see you again.” Jeremy shrugged.

“Really?”

“Don’t lie Daddy. You’ve been looking at the Cold footage every day. You wanted to see Dan, too.”

“True.” Jeremy said. “I did.”

“Really” Dan wasn’t sure what to say. 

“In my role as executive producer.”

“Ahh. Then I guess you were really sweating it when we almost got busted for child porn, when the car rolled in the rain, when the motel blew the fuck up.”

“I was in constant contact with Stephanie through everything.”

“Thanks for the flowers.” Dan didn’t understand his anger. 

“Flowers?” Ashley asked. “Did you send Dan flowers without telling me?”

“No. Dan’s making a joke. Ah here we are.”

Max pulled into the airport.

“We can talk about this later.” Jeremy said once Max had stopped the car. 

Ashley got out ahead of them.

“We’re on the same flight. So there’ll time for me to … apologize. I was concerned.”

“Oh yes in your investment.”

“No! About you but I didn’t see any reason to … send flowers.”

Max put Jeremy’s bag on the sidewalk beside Dan’s battered suitcase.

“I wish I wasn’t staying home.” Ashley said. “This is Mom’s weekend.”

“Oh! So, it’s just the two of us & rest of the Cold crew?” Dan said.

“Yes & no. Look we’d better get a move on. We have an earlier departure time than the one you originally had.”

After they went through the security checks Jeremy guided Dan to the private members lounge. A flight attendant greeted them there. 

“Mr. Moxham. Mr. James.” He handed them each their boarding passes. “You can board now.”

“Your private jet?” Dan asked.

“No.” Jeremy laughed. “A charter.”

As they entered the plane Jeremy was glad handing some people who recognized him.

Jeremy insisted Dan have the window seat. “I know you’ll want to take pictures. “Hope that didn’t bother you?”

“I can help you being who you are. As long as they don’t think I’m your p.a. it’ll be fine.”

“As long as they don’t think you my son I’ll be happy. Once Cold East hits the screen you’ll be a household name too.”

The plane had been chartered for the special guests invited to the gala so they could travel away from, what Jeremy called, their hoards of fans. 

As the plane taxied Jeremy said. “Dan, I’ve always been more comfortable staying out of the way. I have more assists than goals.”

“I see.”

“I’ve never been one to be that direct so I’ve been keeping my distance from you while the show was shooting. But in the distance I was …”

“Assisting?”

“Yes. Why do you think John dropped his suit?”

“He dropped his suit! I was wondering why I hadn’t heard anything more.”

“It wasn’t that easy, mind you, especially after the ‘Over to you.’ That’s when I had this idea that I hoped would … assuage his rage.”

“Idea?”

“Yes QTel offered him a new series with a new … sensibility. Reporting on crime is grim, to say the least, so he’ll be spending A Week In The Circus. Did you know there are travelling carnivals across Canada. Each province has at least one plus big expositions like the CNE.”

“Jeremy Moxham! What luck.”

He was interrupted. Dan recognized actress Della Kincaid. She she took Jeremy hand. “I was so hoping I’d have someone interesting to talk to on the flight. All these boring politicians. Every conversation is a policy speech.”

“Yes.” Jeremy said.

Della Kincaid was the first Canadian actress to be nominated for Oscars two years in a row, winning neither time.

“The seat next mine is free. I’m sure they won’t mind if you join me here.” She pulled him to his feet then got into her seat, encouraging him into the seat beside her. “I hate flying. No I love to fly but I hate taking off. It’s like the first day of rehearsal. You’re not sure if things are really to work this time.” 

“As you can see we are safely in the air.”

Jeremy spent the rest of the flight talking to her.

Her hands would touch him when she laughed at his remarks, or when agreeing with him. Jeremy tried to bring Dan into the conversation but she didn’t acknowledge his presence.

“You’re staying the Astoria Regent.” She asked as they exited the plane.

“Yes.” Jeremy said.

“Perfect you can join me in my limo. I’m know we’ll have a great weekend. I wasn’t looking forward to this command performance, as it were, but now the fates have interceded.”

Jeremy took Dan aside in the airport with a pained face. “Look I’m sorry about this. How can I shut the bitch up?”

“Tell her you’re with your boyfriend.” Dan said.

“If she shuts up long enough I just might. Here … ” he reached into his sport coat pocket and gave Dan the car rental printout and the hotel reservations. “I’ll see you in your room there. It’s across the hall from mine.”

“Not on different floors?”

“Don’t be like that. Her room is definitely on another.”

Dan picked up the rental Jeremy had arranged. He was both amused and angry. Clearly Jeremy was protecting his image. But that he didn’t even introduce him to Della he was pissed. But not as pissed he figured Jeremy would be to find that Dan wasn’t staying at the Regent. He’d made his own reservations at the Waterside. No one in the Quintex office knew he was staying there. Warszawa had made it clear it was someone inside the production company that had tipped off the RCMP. No one would tip anyone off this time.

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Picture Perfect 110 

Picture Perfect 111

The afternoon’s shoot in Glace Bay was simple. They talked to the curator at the Miner’s Museum, & later, the current minster at the United Church. There the minister had a file cabinet of photo albums of the church’s actives that went loosely through the years since it had been opened. They were disorganized and many of the pictures were unmarked.

Dan, Brenda & Jennifer spent a couple of hours sorting the pictures of various weddings, funerals, church picnics, Christmas shows. Thanks to hairstyles, cars and clothes he found several that were from 1984. Jasmine appeared in two of them, while either the man or the woman with her appeared in the others. 

As they searched he described the process for Caron to record as filler for the show.

“This is fantastic stuff.” Brenda. “It will allow the viewers a chance to really see you do what you do Dan. It still flabbergasts me. You’re like a photo Sherlock Holmes.”

“Yeah. I feel more the coroner on describing a body as he cuts into it.”

“Can you tell anything from these?”

“About the McKillop’s ? A little. About what became of Jasmine? Nothing.”

“Jennifer do you sense the abductor be in one of these pictures? Like the one of the out-door service?”

“That’s possible.” Jennifer said, but only if the abductor or Jasmine had handle the photos too.” 

“If we had similar pictures for the other cases it would be possible to do a facial recognition analysis of all the faces in them to find any matches.” Dan added. “But we don’t.”

“On first glance the pictures tell me they dressed within their budget. Modest in keeping with his profession. They appear well fed. Jasmine is happy, though in this one she looks a little … embarrassed about being there.”

In the shot Jasmine was presenting flowers to a tall, well-dressed woman.

“The wife of a visiting dignitary I’d say.” Dan ventured. “I’m sure Deirdre would know who it is. But I don’t think it’s relevant. At least we have some decent pictures of her though.”

He thanked the minister.

<>

Back in Toronto later that week he met with Jennifer in the lounge of recently opened QTel Studios. Along one wall were photos of Jeremy Moxham with various celebrities, some of his glory days with various hockey teams & one of him on the podium with the Canadian team getting their Olympic gold medals.

“You think it was the Hockey Hall of Fame.” Jennifer said.

“True but we do get our own wall.” Dan pointed to a corridor wall lined with photos of the hosts of the new QTel programs. The largest being of him in the glare of the Amethyst Court explosion. Under his name was printed ‘Back to you, John.’ “I wish they’d give that rest though.” 

“You look like you’re covering a war somewhere.” Jennifer said.

“Sometimes that’s the way it felt.” Dan said. “You were there.”

Stephanie stepped off the elevator.

“Hi guys.” She said. “We’re waiting for you on soundstage three on the fourth floor.”

They got on the elevator.

“I would have texted you but the Studio assigned us this stage about twenty minutes ago.”

Once off the elevator they followed her down a short corridor to the soundstage. It had a Cold East poster on the door.

“Cold East is it now?” Jennifer asked.

“For now.” Stephanie said. “PR has been testing names to see which would have the most appeal. Don’t worry there’ll be a final one by tomorrow. May be Cold East with Daniel James.”
“Hmm.” Dan said. “why not with Devereaux & James?”

“Too many words & too many letters. Plus it makes you sound like a firm of lawyers.” Stephanie said.

The studio set was a duplication of the war room they had used on the road. Right down to Tim’s cups littering the desks. The walls had the various photos of missing children pinned, the map with the push pins was there, only the pins were larger now. There were stationary cameras for each of their chairs & three mobile operators. Cameron waved to them from behind a glassed in console.

Baxter was already at his seat at the table. He stood as they came in.

“Welcome to our new home.” He reached out to shake Dan’s hand then air kiss Jennifer. “The paint is barely dry. I love the smell of a new studio in the morning.”

“Before you start I want to pass on some good news.” Harold Carmichael the Quintex representative said. “Though there have been some very unfortunate events during the east coast shoot there is a silver lining. Thanks to the press that has generated subscriptions to QTel are much higher than anticipated. We’ve have sold the show to some new markets.”

“Does this mean more money for us?” Brenda asked. “Only if there’s a Season Two.” Baxter said. “Okay let’s get down to business.”

For the first episode Dan was to mention each case, point to the right photos, say a few words on analysis about some of them to display his unique forensic ability. There would be a clip of each of the interviews. Jennifer explained what impressions she picked up with her sensitivities. He would talk with Jennifer as they summed up with the unanswered questions that future episodes would look at.

His commentary was littered with ‘assumed’, ‘probably’, ‘leads one to conclude’ – words that didn’t clarify – even the fact that these disappearances were somehow related was a logical conclusion not a proven fact. As long he sounded definite even when stated as speculation audiences would be satisfied. 

“We haven’t actually solved the mystery.” Jennifer said.

“Not our goal.” Baxter said. “We shine the light.”

“Thanks to this the cases are now active.” Dan said. “The local forces are going over everything we shone a light on.”

“We can step back so the RCMP task force can do its work.” Stephanie said. “We’ve contemplating a show that’ll keep the public updated. Dan will be hosting it as well.”

“I will!” Dan said.

“With public interest so high for this case we’ll have to follow up as their investigation continues.” Harold said.

After the day’s work Dan took Baxter aside.

“Curtis I have to speak with you. Privately.”

“I didn’t mean to spring that follow up show on you. It’ll be ….”

“No. It’s not that. It’s about Roberto Hajla.”

Baxter paled. “Okay we can go to my office. Down one floor. In five minutes?”

<>

Dan had no trouble finding it as it had the same black lacquered door with ‘Baxter Bits’ on it in red glitter letters that he had seen the first time he visited Baxter. Lin was sitting behind the same reception desk when he went in.

“New location,” she said. “Same old same old. Can I get you something. Coffee perhaps?”

“No thanks Lin.”

“Boss’ll be here is a moment. You go in & get comfortable.”

“Thanks.”

He went in & had just sat down when Baxter came in.

“Great day Dan. Great day. I thought this would take three day but you & Jennifer are easier to work with than Kilpatrick ever was.”

“Thanks. How did Roberto Hajla come to work for you?”

“What are you insinuating? That he fucked his way into the job?”

“No!”

“I’m aware of the rumours. Yeah we were … involved but …”

“That’s not my question. How did he end up as your personal assistant?”

“Bits placed an ad on several job websites. He was one of the applicants. As I remember he had impressive qualifications.”

“Impressive, how?”

“That’s not what I meant. He had been working with me for a month or so before I … I mean before we …”

“By how I mean references not his dick.”

“I really liked Roberto. He never took advantage of our friendship. He did his job so well. Lin is good but … Why are you asking? You can check his file through HR. All his reference & background would be there.”

“He was responsible for the sabotage to the rental.”

“What! That’s impossible. Why would he do that to the car we were driving?”

“Remember I was the one supposed to be one driving that car. You switched them before setting out that morning.”

“It … how do you know Roberto did anything to the car.”

“Camera footage from when I had parked it at the Circus Museum.”

“Fuck! So that’s why he was so nervous in the car that morning. I thought it was because of driving in the rain. He was so nervous I had to take over the driving. Fucker! Why did he do it?”

“Inspector Warszawa is looking into his background. Roberto was most likely responsible for the tip that sent the RCMP to Waterside. He knew the room assignments.”

“When did he have time to, you know, plant the dvd’s? Why?”

“He wasn’t working alone.”

Baxter stood, walked around his office rubbing his eyebrows with the fingers on one hand.

“What’re you thinking?” Dan asked after a few minutes.

“That we have an hit on our hands. We’re the news. Yes.” Baxter snapped his fingers. “The making of Cold East is now the star of its own show.”

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Picture Perfect 109 

Picture Perfect 109

After two more hours in the archives and having another six pages sent for reproduction, Dan felt they had enough to work with. He took the reproductions to study at the hotel and met with Cameron & Brenda at a local restaurant for supper.

“Brenda can you see if we can access Jasmine’s school records?”

“Okay. I did track down Deirdre Rich. She’d happy to speak with us tomorrow & has some recollection of this case. She does know all about Cold Canada though. A fan from season one.”

“Good. Any luck in tracking down the McKillop family?”

“Background information is rather thin.” Brenda said. “They moved here from Britain. Settled in Glace Bay three years before the abduction. That’s it. Apparently no family connections in Canada.”

“Allegedly no family connections in Canada.” Dan corrected her.

“Is ‘no family connections’ suspicious?” Camron said.

“If they were from, say, Brazil, I’d say no but front Britain I’d expect them to have cousins here.” Dan said. “So, tomorrow we’ll meet with Deirdre.”

“Right. Then we’ll go to Glace Bay for a walk about so you can talk about the family. The church is still there so we can use that as background.”

“The school?”

“Long gone. Like their house.”

Dan gave a small cough then started. “The modest home where Jasmine lived with her family is now a parking lot. Like it the memory of her disappearance has been paved over by time and indifference.”

“Dan you should be writing for the show.” Cameron said. 

“Make that ‘alleged’ disappearance.” Dan added.

<>

Deirdre Marshall lived on the first floor of a three story house that had been converted to apartments. The living-room was, what Dan considered, conservative tasteful. No antiques, nothing disruptively modern either. Deirdre appeared to be about the same age his mother.

“Now, don’t tell me.” She said once they had sat in the living-room. “Your father is Richard James.”

She spoke with the east coast accent that Dan enjoyed hearing.

“And yours is Frederick Rich.” Dan replied.

She laughed. “There goes half our conversation thanks to efficient research departments. But in my case I did know Richard.”

“Hardly surprising.” Dan said. 

“Yes. I don’t remember much about the Mackillop child through. I was rushing around from bridal shower to baby baptism thinking I was on my way to being a real reporter.

“When I read about Cold Canada coming here to do this investigation about the summer of 84 it did twig my memory a little. I went into my clippings file and sent that to you.”

“Anonymously.”

“I … I didn’t think who I was was the issue. I didn’t want you think I was trying to revive my dormant career or anything like that.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know what became of the family?” Dan asked.

“Oh my dear, you’ve certainly come to the person for that! When I searched out that clipping there was was my little file about them. I hoped it was going become a big story. I may have been stuck on the doily beat but I knew how to be a professional.” She reached under the couch and pulled out a document folder held shut by string. 

“Oh, this isn’t all about them in particular but about Glace Bay.” She sorted through loose clippings & some hand written notes. “Right. They left in March of 1985. A lovely reception and tea was held as a bon voyage party for them by their church. The mother was a soprano in the choir. They only had the one child and they left sadly losing more than their heart to Cape Breton.

“I did get a Christmas card from them that year.” she handed it to Jennifer.

“Where did it come from?” Jennifer asked.

“When I tell you you’ll laugh, because I did. Christchurch. They’d gone to New Zealand! What could be more perfect a minster going to Christchurch. I made sure to get that into the Bay social column that week.”

“So you’ve heard nothing since then?” Dan asked.

“No.”

“They weren’t happy there.” Jennifer said. “Losing Jasmine shook his faith.”

‘You can tell that from the card?” Deirdre said. “All it says besides the holiday message is ‘thinking of you and trust you are well.’”

“There’s enough of their sadness here for me to read it.” she passed the card to Dan.

He studied it for a few minutes. “Nothing overtly religious or even spiritual about the card. For a minister, I mean. They each signed it though. He did the inscription and wrote his name. The wife signed it and added that little curved flourish.”

“My my. Is that the same card I look at a few minutes ago?” Deirdre said. “With eyes like you have I’m amazed criminal would try to put anything over on you.”

“Did you cover the mayor’s wedding?” Dan asked.

“Of course. I covered it for both the Post and the Chronicle out of Halifax. In fact I think your Dad was the photographer. He did lots of work for the Post you know. This was a big wedding. Mayor marries Cabinet Minister’s daughter. Federal at that! They thought good things would happen when all that Federal money came flowing in. Never happened. Never happened.”

Dan  couldn’t recall if his Dad was still on the east coast at the time. He’d have to check his dad’s travel journals to be sure. A wedding of that nature was one he wouldn’t miss. But it put him in the right place at the right time once again.

“You’ve been very helpful Mrs. Marshall.” Brenda  said once they brought the interview to a conclusion.

“Will you be using any of this. On air I mean.” 

“That’s up the editors.” Brenda said. “Nothing gets wasted. As you well know.”

“Thank you again.” Dan said shaking her hand. “By the way do you have anything about the Happy Hippo in your files?”

“Those bastards.” Deirdre said. “Thought they could flash their money & have their way down here. I put a stop to that. Let me tell you. Or better yet let me show you.”

She left the room & came back moments later with another file folder. She flipped through it & pulled out several articles, along with some typewritten pages.

“This is what was published.” She said. “Puff pieces about how everyone was happy about the Happy Hippo.”

Dan placed at the headlines ‘Happy Hippo Visit Children’s Ward’ ‘Happy Hippo Fundraiser’ “Performs Appear at Retired Home.’ 

“It makes them appear to be so good. Not these stories aren’t true but let me tell you the Chamberlains had no social conscious. It’s all a … smoke-screen to appease the public. This the article I wrote that was refused because the Hippo’s advertising dollar was more valuable than the truth.”

Jennifer began to read the article. “Wow!”

“Yeah.” Deirdre nodded excitedly. “I did my research. Trust me. I had documentation to back up what I say here. Interviews with some past female employees. When the province became stricter about the … uh … dancing girls the carnival started the Cleopatra bullshit. With mummies & of course handmaidens handling snakes to promote the exhibit. 

“One year I launched a complaint about the handmaiden but that was ignored. Next I got the Animal Cruelty people onto them about the snakes that were being abused. The next year they dropped it all.

Jennifer laughed aloud. “This article is hilarious Deirdre.”

“How so?” Deirdre asked.

“The women are only trained to handle the real snakes, not the one’s they are expected to handle in private!”

“It’s true. They became known as handjob maidens.”

Dan chocked back his laughter. “You said that in the article! No wonder it was suppressed.”

“No I didn’t. I also resisted saying they weren’t trained to handle trowser snakes.”

“Oh God! Oh God!” Brenda wiped away tears of laughter.

“This is the first time I’ve heard this about the Hippo!” Dan said. “It’s great information but I don’t know how relevant it is to our investigation.”

<>

In the car Jennifer said. “I got the feeling she was holding something back.”

Dan thought a moment. “She didn’t say a thing about the other cases. At least the one in St. Peter’s. In fact there was nothing in the Post archives about it either. That was one of the things I was searching for.”

“Maybe it wasn’t local enough for them?” Brenda said. “It certainly wasn’t on the doily beat.”

“Maybe she was sore about getting turned down by the Hippo when she applied to be a handjob maiden?” Cameron laughed.

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Picture Perfect 108

Picture Perfect 108

He left the FairVista location with an assurance to Linda that Dell and Strong would review the particulars of the lease & how the Jamison Corporate changes would affect it. He had been counting on a more relaxing few days but realized that the past month of his city life on hold had to be attended to whether he wanted to or not.

When he got back to the house he grabbed a beer from the fridge & sat on the sofa in front of the TV. Peter woke him when he returned from work.

“Tired, sir?”

“I didn’t realize that shooting this series would age me so quickly.”

“Then maybe I should wait till morning to give you this.” Peter dropped a large envelope on the coffee table. “It was by the front door.”

On the front of the envelope was a handwritten note from Stephanie. “I’ve texted you a dozen times. This is the material I was talking about.”

“Oh shit. I turned my phone off at FairVista.” He tore the envelope open. Out fell a newspaper clipping about the disappearance of Jasmine McKillop with a photo of the child as a part of it. The clipping was from the Cape Breton Post. Dan had recognized the photo as one of his dad’s school pictures. “Listen to this.” he read a post-it note with the clipping.

“Dan. Baxter wants you to act on this asap. Check your texts. There will be a bonus for you. Enjoy your flight.”

“Flight! What the fuck!” Dan scrolled through his texts. “Fuck.”

“What?”

“They got this tip by courier this afternoon. Baxter thinks it’ll be a good final episode. I’m flying back to Cape Breton on that early morning non-stop.”

“How early?”

“Six a.m. Which means I have to be at the airport by 4 for checking in which means I’ll have to leave here by 3 a.m. to get there. Fuck.”

“What’s the bonus?” He texted Stephanie. The reply was almost instantaneous. “Oh!”

“How much?” Peter asked.

“A hundred an hour starting with her first text! Two hundred an hour when I get off the plane.”

“Wow! They must expect this show to do real well.”

“Launching QTel channel with it.”

“You better get packing, sir.”

“Starting with this.” Dan pulled Peter into his arms. “I love it when you smell of espresso & almond croissants.”

<>

On the flight he went though the notes on this case. It was not one of the original cases. The tip had come to light as a result of the press coverage the show had generated. There was no living family in the area for Cold to interview. The house in Glace Bay where they had lived no longer existed either. With no family to speak to Stephanie had set up an interview with someone at the Cape Breton Post.

Cameron met him at the Sydney Airport.

“I was already here.” Cameron explained. “Getting more local colour with Brenda. How was your flight.”

“I slept. Or at least I think I slept.” Dan said. His eyes ached & he longed to stretch out with a a damp cloth over them. “How long do we have before I meet his this guy from the Post?”

“He’s expecting us at noon. So there’s time to eat.”

“I’m good but I need a dark place for an hour or so. I didn’t check what hotel in my itinerary.”

“The same as last time. You liked La Promenade?”

“As good as any forgettable hotel. What crew do we have?”

“Brenda deCosta is here. I expected Jennifer Devereaux on the flight with you.”

“Jennifer too?”

<>

“I’m here in Sydney, Nova Scotia, at the corner of Dorchester and George Streets outside the Cape Breton Post building.” Dan stood so Cameron could get a shot of traffic passing behind him and then over his shoulder as he walked into the building. “I’m here with Jennifer Devereaux to follow up on a recent tip we received.”

“You know Dan, I have a strong feeling that this is going to point us something important.”

“We’re meeting Kyle Hayley. Archivist for the Post.” He reached out to shake Kyle’s hand. “Good afternoon Kyle nice to meet you again.”

“Thanks Dan. It’s quite exciting when our archives get some use. Not that I mean they are useless, but …  is that okay? I mean I don’t know what to say.”

“Doesn’t matter Mr. Hayley.” Brenda said. “It gets ironed out in post anyway.”

“I’m just so nervous.”

“You’ll be fine, Kyle. I was worse than you my first day, wasn’t I Cameron.” Jennifer said. “It gets easier.”

“Uh … okay.” Hayley shrugged.

“How long have you been archivist for the Post?” Jennifer asked.

“I’ve worked for the Post since I was a boy. I started with a paper route, did some reporting too and … they cut back some and I …. started working in here when the new building opened …. Blanch, Blanch Jacques, the former archives, died sudden, she was looking after these old files and I took over.”

“Can we go down to see them now?” Dan asked.

“Oh yes, yes. This way.” 

Dan and Cameron with his camera crowded on the elevator with Hayley and went down one floor. Brenda & Jennifer took the stairs.

The elevator stopped with a thud.

“To your left. I’ve got the files ready for you. Some on paper but most on fiche. Some of the fiche have been digitalized. That’s been my prime job the last couple of years. I hate to see paper disappear. mind you, but it can’t be helped.”

“I know.” Dan sighed. “Original documents make a big difference to me. A scan is never as good as the actual.”

“I agree.” Kyle typed a passcode into the door and ran his id card through the lock. He opened the metal door. “Climate controlled and fire resistant.”

“Very nice.” Dan said. There was a wood work table in the middle of the large room. Along one wall were three computers in cubicles.

“This is what we were sent.” He took the article out.

“How exciting.” Kyle rubbed his hands together as he read the item. “I mean, seeing it in the flesh not about the unfortunate child. I see it was filed by D. Rich, she’s Deirdre Marshall now. She’s still with us. I mean alive, not that she still works for the Post.”

Dan glanced at Brenda.

“I’ll get on it right away.” Brenda stepped out into the hall.

“Deirdre mainly covered local events. Showers, fairs that sort of thing. We don’t get much real crime in this area other than drunk drivers. Any way. I checked the editions after this article and there are only two other mentions of it. Strange. It’s not as if there was ever much out of the ordinary to cover. The Steel plant dominated the news. As it always does.”

“Can you pull up the issue this one appeared in. I’d like to see it in context. As well as the one before.”

‘Oh, yes. It’ll take a few minutes.” Kyle wheeled out a microfiche reader and connected it to one of the computer terminals. “We haven’t scanned this far back.”

“This’ll have to do.” Dan scrolled through the pages of the on screen newspaper. “I want to see what else was going on at this time.” The article was on page 3. “The fact that it was on page 3 and not the front page shows its relative importance. But it is the top item with a headline.” He enlarged areas of the page. “Fire in Ashby district. That would mean police had this to divert their attention for the missing child. Which would be more relevant had she been a Sydney child, though.”

“That’s right.” Kyle said. “I never would have made that connection.”

“Lets see what was going in Glace Bay two days earlier. Which was when she was first reported missing.” He quickly found the right file and the right page. “Can you print this out for me Kyle? Full size if possible.”

“That’ll take about an hour. Full size means we’d have to pull it from the big press. There’s no office printers for that page size.”

“Is there someplace that prints posters nearby?”

“Office Depot on Charlotte St.”

“Send it to them as a jpeg and have them print it as a poster.”

Kyle took Dan’s place at the consul, created the file and sent it via email. “It won’t be the best image quality.” He said.

“That’s fine. Contents is more important. This is one of the things I do when examining any photograph. In a crime scene picture the body can take focus. That’s why we get pictures of the whole room. In one I see a vase on one end of a mantle piece. I wondered if was there two? We checked dust patterns on the mantle. Sure enough there was. Where did the other vase go it?”
“Was it the weapon?” Kyle said.

“Maybe. So putting this story into a context of events around might reveal more about it. How long will Office Depot take do you think?’

“They are always fast for us.” Kyle said. “I’ll give them a call.”

“What did you see Dan?” Cameron asked.

“That weekend the mayor got married. The Rankin Family performed at the wedding. There would have been lots of people in town for this. Rev McKillop performed the ceremony. I’m assuming he was her father.

“Rummage sale … meeting to address increase in public drunkenness … Must have been some increase for anyone to notice that … Happy Hippo’s last days in the area … small town stuff.”

“Which tells you what?” Jennifer asked.

“We have to keep digging not speculating.”

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Picture Perfect 107 

Picture Perfect 107

In the morning took Dan a few moments to realize he was waking up in his house, in his bed. He was tempted to wrap the blankets around him & sleep but he knew he had a lot to get done over the next few days. 

Peter had already left for his job at the Carafe so the house was empty. He felt like a visitor to his own home as he saw the little things Peter had done to make staying there comfortable. Peter’s body wash in the bathroom, Peter’s house slippers by the front door.

Dan’s first stop was coffee & a bagel at the Carafe  before he went into the Depot. 

“We put the box of pictures from the east cost up in the Lab.” Ushio said. “Looks like an interesting lot of stuff. I love those hand tinted ones from the twenties. We’ve only loosely sorted them into general time periods.”

“Good. There’s no real rush, mind you.”

He went up to his office & glanced at the snailmail on his desk. Nothing urgent. He went up to the third floor store area to find the files of his father’s calendars. Google gave him a match for a year that had the right days to be used next year. He searched the calendar for copyright information & there was none. But there was a ‘printed by Joviet J. Inc., Montreal’ in small print in the middle of the back cover. So the copyright belonged to the James Corporation. 

Along with it was the master copy it would have been printed from. He carefully ran those pages though the digitizer soothes could be sent electronically to Stan at the museum. 

He went though the fils for the other years to se if there was anything secreted in them. He was hoping more of his Dad’s smut photos but was disappointed. 

The store phone buzzed.

“Boss, there’s an Inspector Warszawa here to see you.” Sandy said in mock seriousness.

“Send him to my office.”

He heard Sandy reply to Warszawa. “Boss’ll see you in his official quarters Mr. Inspector.”

He put the calendar proofs into a folder & took them down with him. Warszawa was already in the office when he got there.

“Is this an official visit, Inspector?” He laughed shaking Warszawa’s hand.

“Yes, it is Dan.” Warszawa took a laptop out of its case & opened on the desk & turned it so they could both see the screen.

“What do we have here?”

“This is satellite footage of your rental. The one you had been driving before you swapped it with Mr. Baxter.”

“That’s the Circus Museum parking lot.” 

“Right.” Warszawa zoomed the picture larger but stopped before the image disintegrated to pixels.

“Where did you et this?” Dan asked.

“We have access to weather satellites.”

“This too good for that.”

“True but our sources are …”

“Okay I won’t press you.”

“I have them coordinates & this is what was found.”

As Dan watched he saw a figure appear from the pine stand at the edge of the parking lot. It went to his car & disappeared.

“He went under the car.” Dan said.

“He?” Warszawa asked.

“Yes, that I can tell even at this distance.”

The figure reappeared & went back into the trees.

“So you car was tampered with while you were at the Museum. Who knew you were there?”

“Everyone on the crew.” Dan said. Play it again but zoom up some so we can see the highway too.

Warszawa scrolled back.

“Look!” Dan pointed. “There’s a car there. It passed the entrance. “There it is again driving the opposite way & doing a u-turn to pass by again.”

“You recognize it?”

“It could be any of the other rentals we had for the shoot. Or none of them. Play it again.”

When the figure went back into the trees Dan said. “You know something I’m pretty sure that’s Roberto Hajla. Don’t ask me how I know but …”

“He was one of the crew that died in the accident.”

“It was no accident remember. He expected me to driving that car for the next couple days.”

“Why sabotage the car at all?”

“He … he wasn’t working alone or rather he was working for someone else. He would have access to all the travel info, like which room I was in at the Waterside to send the RCMP to search it.”

“I get that but why? Who would want to sabotage the show?”

Before he could answer Dan’s cell phone alarm went off. A reminder he was to do a Lifend demonstration at the FairVista location that afternoon.

Dan opted to take a cab to FairVista. He needed to think about what Warszawa had discovered. What did he know about Roberto? 

When he want into the store Hamid greeted him. “Mrs. Tanaka won’t be here until later this afternoon Mr. James. She hopes you don’t mind but she has important business matters to attend to.”

“That’s fine.” Dan was relieved that she wouldn’t be there. He had met with her twice since the start of the Cold Canada shoot to deal with the separation of the two stores. It was as complex as dividing Siamese twins. Linda was doing her best to make sure his head was the one that would die while he wanted make sure both heads lived.

His demonstration was by reservation only & the seating area was full. If they weren’t on they list they would be offered standing room only. Everyone would also to pay for their own over-priced Cuppa coffee and even more for over-priced cake. If they made a purchase that cost would be deducted.

“Today I’ll be talking about the Lifend Capture.” He held up his own Capture. “Here are some photos I recently took with it under various circumstances. These are of overcast cloud formations. The first two are autofocus.”

The overhead HD screens made the clouds appear to be right there.

“The next two I used the deep focus.”

The clouds seemed to loom off the screen. There was a couple of wows in the room.

“Not quite 3 D. But as you see the image detail is even more … precise.”

He projected one of the earlier pictures beside it on the second HD screen.

“You can see the difference. Both taken with without tripod I might add.”

“You were holding the camera yourself?” Someone asked.

“Yes. These next were taken hands free by the Continuous setting.”

These were shots of the fire and explosion at the Amethyst Hotel. 

“I was running when these were taken. No one was prepared for the explosions. The image stabilizer kept the jarring at a minimum.”

“The clarity is stunning.” Someone said. “Was that the motel on the east coast?”

“Yes. I had been staying there.”

“Not even two star.” That someone said to the person next to them.

“Perhaps but I’m sure even a five star wouldn’t have survived.” Dan joked. “But these pictures are definitely five star. Speaking of stars the next were taken at night. Again with no tripod & with the available light autofocus. I did a zoom of the moon.” 

“You can see craters.” Someone said. “Amazing.”

“Next are typical travel pictures. The airport lounge, garden in a park, shoppers at a bazaar. The sort of pictures you might be taking. Here some shots I took of the same locations with one of the most popular autofocus cameras.”

He presented those pictures on the other HD screen.

“As you can tell the Lifend offers a great depth of both field & colour. The new model offers voice command.”

He put the camera on its special stand on the dais facing the audience. He stood behind one of the women and said “Find Dan.”

The lens moved and the camera swivelled to point at him. “Take picture.” It clicked. “Now find … he glanced around at the people … red …” The camera lens retracted, turned on its stand then extended again point to a woman with a red sweater who was standing my the coffee counter. “Take Deep.” It clicked again. “Send last two pictures.”

A few seconds later they appeared on the overhead HD screens. There was some applause.

“Questions?” 

“The voice command is amazing. Does it recognize your voice only.”

“Yes. If I sold it or gave it away, Lifend would clear the voice memory so the new owner could have it impressed with theirs.”

“Can I override the auto focus.”

“Yes. I do sometimes myself when I want … imperfect to the camera pictures. It is nearly impossible to under or over expose the Lifend. To do that you have to change the settings. If you find a setting you like you can program that in as well.”

“Does it brew coffee?” Someone asked.

“We’re working on that.” Dan said. “That’ll be the Fresh Ground model.”

The crowd laughed.

“Some of these new features can been add ons to older models. Lifend customizes each camera for the user. The voice activation system is not a basic feature. Nor is the Deep Focus. Too many cameras come with features users never use, so if there are features you don’t want, Lifend will customize.” 

“Can I get one that does not automatically upload?” A woman asked. “I don’t want to find out I accidentally left it on and it’s been sending pictures of me shopping to my husband’s phone.”

The audience laughed.

“Yes, there is a model without wifi capability. The one benefit of the wifi is that with Lifend cloud you have a virtually inexhaustible memory card. Detailed technical information is in the brochure. If you have any questions about the specs we can ask me. I’ll be in store for another hour to help you find the Lifend for you. Thank you.”

They applauded. 

He explained models to the people who remained at the Lifend counter. He sold one of the Capture cameras. Even in this moneyed group some balked at how high, the high end was. They were miffed that there was no dickering on prices. No employee discount, no cash sale bonuses either. Just free cake & coffee if they bought.

He was happy to sell four of the mid-range models and two of the basic models. At five plus grand, basic was an investment some weren’t ready to make. For them he was happy to allow staff to make recommendations.

Linda arrived as he finalized a sale. Once the customer left Dan went up to her office.

“I’ve just come a meeting with the FairVista management. Thanks to the James corporate split they want to increase the profit margin I have to show to keep the space.” She said.

“They can’t do that. The lease agreement is good for another four years.”

“That lease was with old corporation, which you will fully own. Not with new corporation, which is me. There is a no sublease provision.”

“Linda, Lifend is a sublease. Which is what you’ll be doing as well.”

“That doesn’t change the fact FairVista wants more.”

“Then they’ll have to deal with me. Not you. Or is there something you’re not telling me. What’s your hidden agenda.”

“Hidden agenda! Ha! This coming from the man who had stuff he’d hidden all over the house we grew up in.”

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Picture Perfect Delay 

As I close in on the final 35,000 words of the rough draft I’m taking a week’s pause to sort out timelines, see how much connecting material needs to created to link up the three, increasingly bigger, climaxes – no spoilers but bodies will be found, murderer will be reveal & the saboteur will be confronted.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees  sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet