Picture Perfect 127 

Picture Perfect 127

Dan was stunned to see Timothy Dunlop standing in the reception area of the QTel studios. He was wearing the too large cut-off jeans & torn tee-shirt with the cross-eyed Yoda on it with a shiny sheriff’s badge pinned on it. He dangled straw cowboy hat in his left hand.

“Timmy!” Dan exclaimed before he remembered QTel was filming re-enactments of some of the abductions. 

The boy pulled his hat on & reached out to shake Dan’s hand.

“Kevin Stone.” The boy said. “I know who you are. You’re Daniel James, right?”

“Ah … yes.” Dan stepped back. The face wasn’t quite Timmy’s.

“Must be a good to fool you.” Kevin giggled.

“You almost did.” He was tempted of apologize to this duplicate of Timmy for being so angry with him all these years for not writing him not knowing that the real Timmy was dead. He turned away before he started to cry.

“Weren’t you scared by all those snakes?” Kevin asked.

“Yes, but so much was happening at once I didn’t really have time to know how scared I was.”

“Yeah. I get that. Like when I audition I get so scared I don’t know I’ve done it till it’s over.”

“Kevin!” A woman came out of Baxter’s office. “I told you to stay put.”

“Mom! I was talking to Dan. The real Dan not someone pretending to be him.”

“Oh! Hello Mr. James. Lilly Stone.” She shook his hand. “Kevin’s mom. Come on now. Studio D is upstairs?” She asked Dan.

“Yes.” He was glad that he hadn’t run into his younger self. 

“Mr. James, Mr. Baxter will see you now.” The reception said to him.

“Dan.” Baxter came from behind his desk to welcome him into the room. “Seems like ages since I’ve seen you in person. You look rested.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re on the safe side of the camera.”

“You’re not the one facing that Inspector Warszawa of yours. The recording on your confrontation with … the snake princess is off-limits to us. How can we wrap up the series without that? Could you have a word with him?”

“I have. Your agreement with the task force was to give them access to everything we discovered.”

“We have.”

“It also says that anything of material interest would be subject to rules of evidence. In other words you can’t reveal that evidence until it is used in court.”

“As far I know the snake princess has confessed to everything.”

“Until a judge has heard the case nothing will be released. They don’t want her to get a lawyer to contest everything & force a retrial because we rushed the system.”

“That’s unfair. We got that confession.”

“We! You mean me. I wasn’t on your pay check when I got that call or when I …”

“Okay! Okay! Legal has briefed me on those details. It wasn’t our equipment. It wasn’t time included in our shooting schedule.”

“Thank of it as a Christmas Special next year once the series has been shown. The criminal proceedings will be over by then.”

“Christmas Special. Don’t be an idiot. A Halloween Special. Midnight in a creepy circus. I can see it now. Snakes wrapped around merry-go-round horses. Dan you are a genius.”

“Is that why you wanted to see me?”

“Well, no. You just met Kevin Stone.”

“Yes. Almost gave me a heart attack.”

“We’d like to shoot a promo bumper with the two of you. After all it was that picture of the two of you that started this for you.”


“Here’s my brainwave. You won’t have to do much anyway.”

“I’m listening.”

“We start with that photo & morph into the real two of you sitting on steps, you’ll age & he’ll stay the same age. You with me so far?”

“Yes. You get up off the steps & walk to the camera & as you do he disappears. We can use some of your previous voice-overs.”

“Sounds almost tasteful, Baxter. How long’ll this take?”

“An hour at most. We’re all set in …”

“Studio D.” Dan shook his head. “You knewI wouldn’t say no after seeing Timmy again. Right?”

“It was a chance I was willing to take. If you’d said no I was ready to sweeten the offer with this.” He handed Dan a cheque.

“Sold the show to another market?” Dan said.

“More than one.” Baxter grinned. “More than one.”


In Studio D they had built a mock up of the front steps of the Wickham Arms in front of a green screen. The background would be a blow up the actual photograph. 

The simple set up was done in three takes. He was given a black felt cowboy hat similar to the one in the photo. As he stood we was to remove the hat & drop it on the steps before he walked to the camera. Each time there was a different voice over from one of Dan’s previous work.

The final one started with him saying “For years I dreamed of getting a letter from Timmy. I never forgot him.” He started to tear up hearing himself admit that. After a brief silence the crew applauded.

“Brilliant work Dan.” The unit director said. 


“Wow Mr. Daniels.” Kevin came over to him. “How did you find that? I mean I can laugh on cue easy enough but crying is a bitch.”

“I guess you had to be there.” Dan wiped his eyes. “You forget I was there.” He ruffled Kevin’s hair the way Tommy used to do to him. “You were great too.”


Dan opted to walk from the QTel studios to the Photo Depot he was a bit dismayed to see the number of storefronts papered over, some with ‘For Lease’ signs, others with nothing but a clumsy ‘closed’ scrawled on the front window. A couple had been replaced by what Jill from the Carafe called ‘pot holes’ – weed dispensaries.

As he reached the Oil on Silver Gallery Cliff stepped out to greet him.

“Daniel James! is that actually you?” He joked. “Seems like years since I’ve last seen you.”

“I have been busy.” Daniel laughed.

“Yes I know. I’m so sorry about Peter. He was a … bright young man.”

“Thanks Cliff. I …” He wasn’t sure what to say. He was feeling the loss of two loves him life Timmy & Peter. “He’ll be missed. I hear business has been good for you.”

“Ah, yes. The photo exhibition I did for Patrice Yazdi sold out. I was amazed at how many people had wall space for photographs that large. I was almost shocked that people wanted the interiors of abandoned buildings taking up a wall too.”

“You hanging a new show soon.”

“Yes but not for a month or so. Until then I’ve brought some choice pieces out of storage to see if they’ll finally find better homes. Drop by soon.”

“I’d say ‘once things settle down’ but who knows when that’ll be. Take care.”

Dan started up the steps to the Depot when his cell rang. He glance at it & it was from an unknown caller but the number was familiar to him so he answered.

“Daniel James here.”

“Sylvan Papoulias here.” 

What could Sanjay’s boss, or where they finally business partners now. He hadn’t thought about Sanjay since he dropped his palimony suit.

“What can I do for you Mr. Papoulias?”

“It was urgent to speak to you. Sanjay would have but there remains a restraining order & didn’t want to go through a lawyer.”

Timmy. Peter. Now Sanjay?

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Picture Perfect 126

Picture Perfect 126

The mood at Carafe was somber. Dan sat at his usual corner table gazing out the window as cars stopped at the street light. Jill was leaning against the glass display case wiping her eye with a corner of her apron. The last of the memorial service guests had left.

“He was a piece of work,” Jill looked at a photo of Peter on the wall. In it he was holding out a coffee and muffin with a slightly manic yet friendly look on his face. “You captured him perfectly in this. Good at his job but … ” 

“A typical twenty-one year old.” Dan said. He got up to look at the photo and put an arm around her shoulder. “You know, under the apron he wasn’t wearing pants in that picture. As I took it I told him I wanted only the freshest of his cream in my coffee.” Tears welled up in Dan’s eyes.

“It was a nice service.” Jill said. “I was glad to have the reception for it here. It gave me something to do.”

“Yes. I didn’t realize his family was that large. All he ever talked about was his Dad. I got the impression he was an only child.”

“His sister was … odd.”

“I don’t think she expected to see so many show up from the lgbt community. Frankly neither was I. The last gay funeral I attended wasn’t so flamboyant.”

“You don’t suppose she didn’t know he was gay, do you?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me. If only …”

“I know. We all have if only’s. If only I had been firmer when he begged for time off. If only …”

“I gave in when he was so eager to be a part of things. I didn’t want to … Fuck I’m not really sure what I was thinking at the time.”

“You certainly weren’t thinking anything like this would happen.” Jill wiped the table.

“I thought it was just for a night. He had such …” Dan let his tears drip onto his shirt. “… dreams. I … was a part of them, I guess. He had practically moved into the house.”

“I know. I got progress reports from him. Things he was doing to your garden. How he hoped this was not a rebound. Have you heard anything from Sanjay?”

“Not about Peter. I don’t think he knew how … involved we’d become.”


“Oh! He knew. He didn’t like it but I saw no reason to keep it from him either. Not that Peter and I were that serious … but I guess we were. It happened in such a casual way and keep happening. I figured he’s so young he’ll grow of it and move on. If I had … ”

“What ended it then? After that first time? Why didn’t you?”

“I liked him. He was sweet. I wasn’t looking and there he was. Now he’s gone.” His cell alarm buzzed.

“I have to get going. I have yet another interview about what happened. Zoom with some Australian news show.”

“You’ll get over this. Not soon but you’ll get over it.” Jill hugged him.

“So they tell me.” But Peter didn’t die in your arms.”See you tomorrow.” He hugged Jill.

He circled around the building & entered through the back stairway to avoid his staff. The wooden stairs always reminded him of when his family had first moved into the building. He was doing the interview from his shop office where the lighting was better & the room had no memories of Peter. He quickly set up his new Lifend for the interview. The camera was better than the one in his desktop.. 

He logged into the AusTV zoom room.

“Good evening Mr. James. Welcome to our zoom studio.” A man on the screen laughed. “I’m Greg Best the tech for this interview. Wow! That’s an amazing picture we’re getting of you.”


“Ah yes the camera that saved your life.”

“Not the exact camera. My old camera has been impounded as evidence.”

“Stop right there Mr. James, save that for Sara. Here she is now. You’ve need Sara Upshaw already?”

“Only on line.” Dan said.

“Hi Dan,” Sara replaced Greg on his screen. “We’re grateful you could make time to talk with us. I’m sure you’ve been inundated with requests.”

“Yes. So many I would have no time to do anything else twenty-four hours a day.”

All the interviews he had done were arranged by QTel with his strict instructions of no more than two a week.

“I was forced to hire extra security for the store to control the demand.”

His recent Lifend lecture at Fairvista was by reservation only & no press were admitted.

“Before we start I know there are some things to cannot tell us pertaining to the on-going investigation.”

“That’s right. I’ll tell you when I can’t answer.”

“Thank you Mr. James. The we’ll start anytime you are ready.”

“I’m as ready as I’m going to be.” After the second interview he knew what questions to expect & what he could say without compromising the trial. ‘How did you feel’ was the hardest to answer because at the time he wasn’t thinking of how felt.

“Good evening. Today I’m talking with Daniel James, or is that Special Inspector Daniel James?”

“Please, Daniel will do.”

“Right. We’ll all seen the footage of you exiting the Nova Convergence Centre. Something I haven’t been able to find out is why you are naked.”

“Oh! If you looked closely you would see I have on my underwear. My abductors undressed me to make sure I wasn’t wearing any hidden camera or recoding equipment.”

“Yet they let you use your Lifend camera?”

“Actually no. One of them inadvertently turned it on & left it running. They didn’t realize that resulted in the everything being recorded with some visuals & all the sound. All of which had been automatically sent to my Lifend account as well as the QTel studio. It was still running when I was … rescued.”

“What can you tell our viewers about the Convergence Centre?”

“It was the church for a sect that handled snakes. usually poisonous.”

“Isn’t it true that it was found that nearly all the snakes were not longer venomous?”

“That’s possible but the ones that attacked me were not.”

“Now the young man that died. Peter …. was he part of the Cold East investigative team?”

“No. Peter was … my boyfriend. He joined me on this trip on impulse. One which I regret giving in to. He really had nothing to do with this case.”

“I’m sorry for your loss. Uh … how did you become aware of these abductions?”

Dan welcomed the return to the story he had told many times. He didn’t bother correcting Sara when she took it for granted that Peter was the boyfriend he was watching TV with when he first saw the Cold Canada show.

“There is some speculation that Winston Chamberlain, whose body was found at the Convergence Centre, was also one of the original abductors?”

“Sorry Sara, I can’t comment on that.”

“How did you feel about being involved in a crusade investigation?”


“The death of two members of your crew. The destruction of Amethyst Court?”

“That was no curse, they were acts of deliberate sabotage.”

“Any connection to the Conversion Centre?”

“None that has been found. That’s all that I’m liberty to say about that.” In fact the RCMP teams had been unable to find out anything more about the sabotage.

“One last question How does all this media attention affect you?”

“To be honest I hate it. I can’t wait for it to be over & done with. When I was approached to host Cold East that’s all I expected to do, not become this week’s media sensation.”

“Not even when “Back to you, John” became such a meme?”

“That’s was puzzling & amusing. The one you should talk to about that is John Kilpatrick. Back to you, Sara.”

He could hear Greg laughing in the background.

“Thank you for you time Mr. James.”

His monitor screen went black. 

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Picture Perfect 125 

Picture Perfect 125

As Dan regained consciousness he was blindfolded in a dim room. He was bound at the ankles to a chair, his hands were bound behind him. He knew the binding were flex cuff zips. He was naked except for his underwear. No socks no shoes. The floor under his feet was wooden. The rank smell of the Nova Convergent Centre was unmistakable. He heard a man behind him swearing.

“Damn! Damn! How the hell does this thing work.”

He couldn’t turn around to see who was behind him. He recognized the voice.

“Troy?” He said. “Is that …”

“Shut up, Mr. James.” A woman in front him said. “If you know what’s good for you. You’ve said enough already. Too much.”

“Janice?” Dan said. “What’s going on?” He tried to move the chair.

“Get him to tell how his damn fancy camera of his works.” Troy demanded.

“Finger print activated.” Dan said. He tried to move the blindfold by farrowing his eyebrows. The zip ties were cutting his circulation but tight enough that he couldn’t slip out of them

“Cool.” Troy grabbed Dan’s hand & began pressing each of the fingers to the start button until the camera beeped on. “Thanks.”

“We couldn’t take any chances that you had hidden cameras.” Janis said. “I know what you people are like. No respect for people’s privacy, for their sensitivities. You only wanted to exploit their heartbreaks.”

“Why?” Dan asked. “Why children?”

“To save them from men. Men who were compelled by their testosterone to to use them. Men like Winston Chamberlain. Like his father before him. As if being men gave them to right to take what they wanted.”

“How …” Dan shuddered as he felt something slither over his naked feet. 

“Keep still Mr. James.” Janis replied. “They alarm easily.”

“We lured the children so easily. What kid wouldn’t want to go the circus for free. Get free rides. Cora knew what venom to use to ease them out of this dangerous life.”

Dan saw a suddenly flash around the edge of his blindfold.

“Dammit Troy. Put that camera away.”

He heard a slap then the sound of his camera hitting the wall & falling to the ground.

“Ma! You better not have broken it.” Troy whined.

“I’ll break you.” Janis said. “Put it down now.”


He heard them tussle. He tilted his chair back enough to slip his feet from the chair legs. 

“Stop it Troy. Right now.” Janis commanded. “What was that?”


“Be quiet.”

Dan could hear movement from the lobby behind him. The lights in the room went out.

The door behind him opened. Dan shook his head to loosen the blindfold. It slid enough for him to see over the upper edge.

“Dan? Are you in here? Are you okay?”

It was Peter. The room was flooded with light. His blindfold was abruptly pulled off.

“What …?” Dan asked. He blinked in the light & looked around the room. There was no one there.

“How do I open these?” Peter fumbled with the zip ties around his wrists. “I was about five minutes down the road when I saw you left your shoulder bag on the car seat. I turned around & saw you drive off in a van & figured you & Costner were headed some place.” 

Dan flexed his hand as one of the zip ties came loose.

“I got your phone & called her to let you guys know I was right behind you. She was puzzled & we realized it wasn’t her that had called you in Toronto.”

“It was …” Dan started answer when the lights went off plunging them back into darkness.

“It was me.” A voice said in the dark, it changed to a whispered lower pitch. “‘Winston Chamberlain’s body has been found about an hour ago.’ You are as smart as the RCMP. Fooled them then & fooled you now. You were so eager for the lure you came running after it.”

The lights around the altar came on. Janie was wearing her ceremonial robe, as was Troy. A third robed figure was sitting on a chair behind the altar.

“What’ll we do ma. He was all we were expecting to deal with.”

“Same story Troy. They broke in & the snakes got’em. We’ll start with you first.” She stepped closer to Peter & a snake slithered out of her sleeve. It darted directly at Peter & bit his cheek. He collapsed to the ground. His body shuddered was still. 

Dan stood & holding the chair as best he could he swung it at Janis. It hit her on the shoulder & sent her into Tory & they both fell to the floor. He quickly released the remaining zip tie to free his other hand. 

He stooped to check Peter’s neck pulse. There was none.

A kick sent him sprawling into a row of the churche’s chairs.

“Troy bring him here.”

Dan rolled over & saw Troy standing over him with a nylon noose that he slipped quickly over Dan’s head. 

“Comes in handy when we have to deal with the bigger snakes.” Troy said giving the noose a yank. “Now get up”

Dan steadied himself on one of the chairs & push himself up slowly. He had to divert Janis & Troy long enough for Costner to arrive. 

He said the first thing that came to his mind. “You killed Cora didn’t you?”

“Oh! Mr. Smart knows more than he’s telling us.” She shouted. “Yes, I did. Another death no one suspected. I was the only one visiting her at the unwed mothers. Unwed mothers. Give me a break. Girls who were abused by men who refused to face the responsibility of their acts. Yes. Once the baby was born she was going to give it up for adoption but I made sure she died before she could.”

“Troy’s not your son, he’s her’s.” Dan said.

“What of it? She wanted to abort him, you didn’t know that, did you.”

“Your husband, too? Or were you ever married to any AuCoin.”

“That fat ass. He didn’t see the scripture as clearly as I did. He wanted to run things his way. I was guided to release the spirit of that millstone.”

“You …. You … aren’t my mother!” Troy gasped & let go of the cord around Dan’s neck.

“She was going against the will of the spirit.”

Dan pulled the noose from around his neck. There was blood on his hands from where it had cut into his skin.

Janis spread her arms wide and a snake came out from each sleeve. 

“It is time Mr. James.” She stepped toward him.

“No.” Troy grabbed her by the waist and turned her around. They stumbled to behind the altar & knocked the figure that had been watching them. Its hood fell back. It was Winston Chamberlain.

The two snakes fell to the ground. One of them slithered directly at Dan. He grabbed for one of the chairs & swung it at the snake but missed. It darted at him. The white cobra darted out of the dark to strike at it. The two snakes wrapped around each other.

“Look, see!” Troy shouted to his mother. “See. He is protected. The spirit is with him, mother, with him.”

The cobra released the other snake & turned to Janis.

She dropped to her knees before it, pulled open her robe. 

“Yes, spirit I am ready for you to take me. I have erred but only to further your work on here.”

The snake reared up to strike.

Dan grabbed the noose cord & slipped it over the cobra’s hood & pulled it away from her.

“You aren’t getting out of this that easily.” He said.

“Ma, the spirit wants you to face the consequences.” Troy said. “Thank you.” He knelt before Dan & placed Dan’s free hand on his head. “Thank you. Thank You, blessed one. Thank you.”

Dan heard sounds from the entrance. 


It was Corporal Costner.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

He took a deep breath.

“Yes Corporal Coster. I have things well in hand.”

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Picture Perfect 124 

Picture Perfect 124

“What the fuck.” Dan checked flights on his cell and there was one in an hour but unless he could teleport he couldn’t get to the airport in time. 

“Peter.” He took the steps two at a time. 

“I’m ready, sir.”

“Something important’s come up. I have to get to the east coast asap. There’s a flight in an hour that if I rush I can get to. Pack a few things for me while I get a seat.”

As he was booking a seat there was a notification that the flight would be delayed by up to an hour. If he hurried he might make it in time.

“Can you get two?” Peter said. “Don’t look at me like that, sir. I don’t have to work tomorrow. It’s my day off.”

“You sure you want to be a part of this … adventure?” Sanjay had rarely shown any interest in Dan’s life out side their house.

“Of course. After the all excitement last time I want more. Maybe you’ll find the Oak Island treasure.”

“Adrenaline junkie.” Dan got two seats and texted for a cab. “Done.”

He sent a reply text to Corporal Coster explain the flight delay. 

“Then do up your fly. sir, and we’re out of here.”

The taxi arrived as Dan set the house security lock. He promised the driver an extra fifty if he could get them to the airport within thirty minutes. They got to the flight gate just as the flight was being called.

“Not how we expected to spend the night.” Dan said. “What really possessed you to want to come.”

“You were so impulsive when we got in the house I figured I’d show you I can be impulsive too. Dan James I love you.” He kissed Dan and wouldn’t let him pull away,

“Gentlemen,” a steward interrupted them. “Please fasten your seat belts.”

“Now, what’s the big rush?” Peter asked as the plane took off.

“They found Winston Chamberlain’s body. Constable Coster said there was evidence about the missing children I had to see. And that it couldn’t wait until morning.”

“It’s like being in a movie. Do you think there’ll be  car chase? I’ve always dreamed of being in a car chase.”

“You know, I did too, when I was in high-school. Seeing those Bond movies, I would wonder if gay spies existed. Wouldn’t that be wild. Every man he meets going weak in the knees to please him like every woman in every spy movie did for the dangerous spy. Even the lesbians wanted him.”

“Did you always want to be a photographer? When you were growing up.” Peter asked.

“If you mean, did I long to take pictures of weddings, the answer is no. I knew I was going be doing something with cameras. They fascinated me. The mechanics. I fantasized about discovering a new way of developing film so that you could relive it when you looked at it.”

“Like high-def amateur porn, you mean?” Peter said.

“I suppose. Sure why not, if it weren’t for online porn there be no internet shopping. Besides being an amateur porn star, what sort of dreams did you have as a kid”

“Same one I still have. Writing a novel.”

“I’ve heard your stuff at the Carafe salons. You can do it.”

“Thanks. I did that short-story workshop and it was sort of discouraging.”

“Not everyone is going to like what you write.”

“No, it was nothing like that but the prof & even the guest writers he brought in, made it sound like I’d have to become a promo agent as well as a writer. Or for a reasonable fee they would become my promo agent.”

“I see what you mean. But you haven’t stopped writing.”

“No! What do you think I don when you aren’t here? Watch TV sniffing your undies.” Peter laughed. 

“I guess not but I’ll kick your ass if you stop writing.”

“Really! There’s other things I’d rather you do to my ass.” Peter squeezed Dan’s thigh.

“Careful now or the steward will come over again.”

“Let him.” Peter giggled “To be honest that’s one of the reasons I came along.”

“So we could finish what we started?”

“That’s right. I couldn’t resist a thousand kilometre fuck. You did reserve a hotel?”

“Oh shit! I didn’t. I have to make sure there’s a rental too.” Dan texted the Waterside & one of the Quintex cabins was available.

“Cool.” Peter said. “This is the sort of excitement that inspires me, you know. Life actually happening as opposed to thinking of tender words to expose deeply wounded past events.”

“Ah.” Dan nodded.

“You know this is one of the few times we’ve just talked, with you on the go so much & both of us so horned up when we we do get together.”

“I know. I know. I keep waiting for things to calm down so we can spend quiet time together. We will, I promise.”

“You sure, sir?”

“Yes. I’ll need a vacation once all this wrapped. If they want another season I’ll demand a break.”

It was raining when the plane landed. 

“I should have brought an umbrella.” Peter said as they got into the rental.

“Here’s the plan.” Dan said. “We’ll go directly to the Hippo museum.”


“That’s were Coster said they found the body. You drop me off and go to the motel. I texted you the reservation information. If they give you any trouble text me. When you get the room text me.”

“I thought you’d take me with you?”

“To a crime scene? There’s be enough going on without adding an audience – no matter how adoring – to the mix .”

Dan pulled into the parking lot. It was dark except for a pool of light at the entrance. He could see some car hoods.

“I guess they’ve taken the body. No ambulance.” He got out of the car. “I’ll let you know how long when I know how long.”

“How’ll you get back?”

“Coster or one of the team will drive me back.”

He waved as Peter drove away. He pulled his jacket hood up and ran to the museum door. As neared it he realized he had left his shoulder bag in the car. His cell was in it. There should be one here he could use.

The doors were locked. 


He rattled the door & peered through the window see see if her could catch someone’s attention. There was some light deeper in the museum. He stepped inot the rain to see if there was any lights on the second floor. Was he too late?

Something enveloped his head.

“Just breathe.” A voice rasped.

He lost consciousness.

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Picture Perfect 123 

Picture Perfect 123

In his Depot work lab Dan opened the calendar template and printed out a daily diary for 1984. He often found that working by hand – pen to paper – would make things clearer to him. The dates of events of that summer had become more & more unreal to him. He couldn’t figure things out in his head like the number of days between each abduction. He’d been through the information many times already he hoped doing it this way might reveal something he had missed.

Starting with June 1 he made notes of where his father’s travel journals placed him. Dan included the distances between places travelled & approximately how long it would take to drive those distances. He no longer believed his father had anything to do with the cases but these locations & distances would help in judging the actual locations.

He then entered where the Happy Hippo’s three carnivals had been during June, July & August. Next he put in the dates of the abductions as reported by the parents, as well as when they contacted the authorities. If there was Hippo near on those days he added a red plus sign & the distance between where the show was set up & the location of the abduction. He circled the date they left for Toronto. Finally he put in the dates when Cora was still in the carnival & the date of her death & the date of her obituary.

One fact jumped out him. All the abductions had taken place on a Wednesday. They were usually reported within thirty-six hours. Except for Paula which took seventy-two. Happy Hippo was within a hour’s distance from each of the abductions. The Wednesdays were all the second day of the Hippo’s run in an area. Most of the runs were for six days. A couple were for two weekends. Other than the Wednesday’s no other pattern appeared. It was never two Wednesday is a row. There was no relation to how long the Hippo was in the area. Six days or ten days. He’d need the Chamberlain records to know just who was performing at which of the shows. The fortune tellers, Tut handmaidens & belly dancers moved between the shows randomly. The records should tell him when Cora left the show. 

Would they also show when the various mummies were added to the Tut sideshow? Would they tell when Winston was doing repair work? Or did he move from to show constantly, not travelling with any one in particular? He did know when Winston was in Truro thanks to Teresa’s pictures. 

Even with data missing he saw that it was possible for someone with Hippo to do the abductions. Someone with transportation. Which Winston had. Someone with a motive. Surely making mummies wasn’t the driving force behind these acts.

Robert Warszawa came into the work shop.

“I thought you might want to see this.” He handed Dan a file folder.

“I have so much data now I’m not sure I can take any more. Give me some old wedding photos to restore for a change.”

“It’s the coroner’s report on Cora Murchison’s death.” 

Dan read it twice. “Self-inflicted?” he said. “How?”

“My thought exactly. There’s no toxicology report so I assume it wasn’t poison.”

“So she what? Jumped off a building? Cut her wrists?”

“There are some photos too. Not pretty. She’d been dead five days before they found her.”

“Okay.” They were standard black and white shots of Cora’s remains on the mortuary table. “No visible bruising. No bullet to the head. Water in the lungs?”

“Doesn’t say. The organs were sound.”

“Then how did he conclude it was self-inflicted.”

“There was a note.”

“Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted you to view these without that filter.”

“Fair enough.” He read the note. 

“Mom & Dad,

I’m sorry for the pain this will cause you both but you always wanted what would make me happy. I’ll be happy leaving all this behind.


“They made sure this was her handwriting?”

“Yes, they had her diary.”

“Diary? I’d love to see that.”

“No trace of it. It must have gone back to the family when they were done with it.”

Dan read the report again. “This doesn’t mention that she was pregnant.”

“Perhaps she had aborted. Bled out and died.” Warszawa suggested. “Wouldn’t have been the first time.”

“There’s no mention of vaginal tissue damage here. We both know that’s a must for any female corpse.”

“Right.” After a few minutes of silence Warszawa said. “They weren’t as through when there is no visible signs of struggle.”

“There’s always something missing.”

“Beside motive?” Warszawa said.

“Right. I have hope that I’ll find what I need to know if I look hard enough at what we have now.”

“Sometimes you see better when you stop looking so hard. Why don’t you take a break and get away from this for a little while?”

“I wish I could. When I’m not here, I’m at Quintex recording new voice overs for the show to work in what’s been discovered since we finished the shoot. They had me shoot a new intro for the old Cold Canada show that started it all. They’ll be repeating that episode before the new series airs. At least I talked them out of doing it in my living room as I watched that show. Seems like years ago.”

“I’ve had cases like that too. They take up so much of your thinking you lose track of what life you had at one time. Lose track of that life, lose track of that wife.” He took a deep breath. “Lose that wife.”

“Shit, yeah! That reminds me I promised to take Peter for a drink after work. Want to join us?”

“For a drink only.” Warszawa said.

“The Crown & Broken Anchor isn’t too far from here. It is straight enough for you, isn’t it?”

“It’s is called the Crown not the Tiara.”


Warszawa only stayed for a beer at the Crown. Dan was sleepy after another one. Peter was ready for a third.

“I’m going to get us a cab.” Dan said. “I’m not waiting around for a street car feeling like this.”

“Feeling like what?” Peter laughed squeezing Dan by the forearm.

“I get the message.” Dan said. “I want the massage too.”

“Yes, sir.” Peter swallowed his beer. “All you have to do is ask.”

Dan couldn’t keep his hands to himself once they got into the cab.

“Dan! Sir, you should have a few drinks more often.”

“I’ve been cooped up with the Cold bunch for the last sex, I mean, six months, or is it weeks. Your trip to Moncton was pretty much pointless from a lust point of view. Jeremy is a tease. That guy in Sydney was like a bull and I was a china shop. Yes, so I’m ready to rumble.”

“What guy in Sydney?” Peter asked as they got out of the cab.

“I’ll ask the questions.” Dan opened the front door and pushed Peter into the house.

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s more like it.” He pinned Peter to the wall by the front door; undid both their pants and pushed his to his knees.

“Thank you, sir.” Peter kissed him

“This is how you thank me.” He refused the kiss and pushed Peter to his knees. “I haven’t showered all day. So better lick me clean first.”

“I will sir. I will.”

Dan held Peter there then pulled him to eye level and kissed him. While they were kissing he reached between Peter’s legs and Peter gasped. Pushing his fingers deeper Dan crouched and sucked the head of Peter’s cock. Peter tried to push it in further but Dan would only allow the head.

“Sir! Sir! I’m going to … oh.”

Dan let the come fill his mouth and without swallowing stood to kiss Peter again.

“Thank you, sir. That was so … unexpected.”

“Upstairs.” Dan slapped Peter’s ass, hard. “Now. Shower.”


“Make sure your ass is washed before I get there.”

“What!” Peter stopped part way up the stairs.

“You heard me. I want something from you I haven’t had for awhile.”

“It’s all yours, sir.”

When his cell buzzed he was tempted to ignore it. He answered without even checking to see who was calling.

The connection was bad. “Dan! It’s Sergeant Coster. 

Inspector Robert Warszawa said to call you. Winston Chamberlain’s body has been found about an hour ago. There’s evidence with it about the missing children you have to see.”

“I can get there in the morning. If I can get a flight.”

“No! You must get here as soon as you can. There’s a flight in an hour.”

The line went dead.

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Picture Perfect 122 

Picture Perfect 122

The next morning they gathered for coffee in the Moncton airport before their flight.

“What exactly did you see in your trance?” Jennifer asked.

“That I was getting my picture taken. I was seeing things through Dorothy O’Connor’s eyes.”

“So you were the Dorothy as she appeared in the picture. You got no sense of what she did next or what she had for breakfast.”

“Nope, just the moments of the picture itself. I was worried about what I was wearing then the real me said she looked fine.” Dan said. 

“You mean you changed from her to yourself?” Peter asked.


“That must be why she reached out to you.” Jennifer said. “You had contact with her when she was alive.”

“When you sense things, Jennifer, what comes to you.”

“It’s like smelling something in a room. I put on the emotions like a sweater but I rarely see faces. It helps when I handle the objects. My connection is much stronger. If that’s what you mean. I can see the bruise but can’t tell what caused it.”


The day after their return to Toronto Dan met with the RCMP task force. Sergeant Coster from the New Brunswick detachment was summarizing their progress so far.

“The Chamberlain records of the time have manufacturing information on the props, costumes for the Tut exhibit. The principle ones of Tut are both a wire fabrication. One of the others was a mannikin. They were made by a theatrical props company in Montreal. They arrived already attached to their stands or coffins. There is no mention in the records of mummies other than the principal ones.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “The other five contained human bones. Children’s bones that we in process of identifying. We can name two of them already. Dorothy O’Connor & Timothy Dunlop. Those families have been informed.

“Winston Chamberlain knows nothing about the other mummies except that they were delivered at random times and then they were integrated into the dioramas. As fr as he knows none of the women work in the exhibit had any contact with them. They were handled by the carnies.”

“The forensic team has examined the bones.” Warszawa took over. “Other than connecting wire frame the mummies of the children contained bones only. There was little flesh and scant traces of any other tissue. No internal organs, no brain matter. The coroner found cuttings in the skull that were similar to those found in actual Egyptian mummies.

“Most of the wrappings on each of the children were linen that had been cut into long endless strips from a single bed sheet. Each mummy was a different sheet. Different in weave. Fabric matches were found with different manufacturers. Apparently some of the clothing of the children was included in the wrappings”

As the reports were being read the profile of the killer was becoming clearer to Dan. It would have been an exacting process. Someone with surgical or butcher knowledge assisted in preparing the bones. Also someone connected in some way with the Happy Hippo. 

Dan felt that if he shook his head hard enough all this information would fall into the right place. The scattered pieces would form a face.

“Special Investigator Daniel James has some new information for us.”

Dan filled them in on his conversation with Janis Hadley about Cora Murchison.

“Why do you feel this Cora Murchison has something to do with the case?” Warszawa said as he read over the notes in Dan’s file. “An affair with the owner doesn’t actually make her a suspect.”

“It’s … call it a gut reaction. When I saw this footage of her …” He passed his pad around so they could see her performing with one of the snakes. “My gut responded. To her, not the snake.”

“Thanks Daniel.” Coster said. “We’ll look into this. Winston Chamberlain is a more likely suspect with his history at the time. It’s not a big step from underage girls to murder.”

“I’ve studied the timelines. Unless he was in two places at once that’s impossible.” Dan said.

“Perhaps he wasn’t working alone.” Coster suggested. “Cora was having the affair with his father, why not with Winston, too?”

“That’s possible.” Dan said. “While she was with the Hippo she was responsible for the Tut sideshows. They were her idea. Maybe she made those other mummies?”

“Have you tracked her down?” Costner asked.

“The Cold East research team has found an obituary for her. It did not spell out the cause of death. She was 32, born in Stellerton, left a father and mother.” Dan said. “Maybe they’re still alive.”

“What would the motivation be?” Warszawa asked. “The cases are so random. Only the fact that they were children links them together.”

“They were opportunity.” Dan said. “I don’t think they were selected. It isn’t difficult to find unprotected children in small towns. In farming communities.”

“What do you think Corporal?” Warszawa asked Costner. She had been studying the files. 

“I think we have reason to believe she is a person of interest in this case. I also find it curiously convenient that the carnival has such detailed records of its doings but then blank spaces for that summer. Mostly around the Tut exhibit. There is no record of where the snakes came from. No import documentation. Maybe they were smuggled into the country? No record of where the additional mummies came from. Cora Murchison is not on the payroll after 1983 yet she clearly is in those photos from 1984.”

“Nothing concrete.” Warszawa said. “We need more than gossip.”

“How about this?” Dan showed them a photo he had found in the Hippo archives of Winston helping a child onto her seat in the ferris wheel. “Here he is, at the time, with one of the missing children. I’m pretty sure that’s Madeline Forestier.”

“I wonder if this Cora affair is why Winston Chamberlain gets so defensive.” Dan said. “Maybe she did she sleep with father and son?”  

“Even if she did that doesn’t explained how or why the remains of the missing children showed up at the Happy Hippo.” Warszawa said.

“The connection between the Hippo tours and the children is now very clear.” Dan said.

Corporal Costner’s cellphone buzzed.

“Sorry,” she said then answered. “Corporal Costner here.” She listened a moment. “What! …. Yes I understand but … Okay I’ll return to the station on the next available flight.”

She put her phone on the table.

“That was Brian McKillop, my division captain. There was a fire at the Chamberlain Museum last night. Mainly in their archive storage.”

“Anyone hurt?” Dan asked.

“No but …. Winston Chamberlain can’t be found. His car is in the parking lot. His … uh …. personal effects are in his office – cell phone, car keys. Even his shoes. But no sign of him. They are currently searching the property & the surrounding woods.”

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Picture Perfect 121 

Picture Perfect 121

“Welcome home Mr. James.” Troy said. “Here’s a cup of coffee for you. Sorry if it isn’t as hot as you’d like. Ma said you’d need something. She and your friends are in the lobby.”
Dan sipped the coffee. He could remember everything he’d experienced in his trance. Why Dorothy he wondered.

“I think I need some fresh air.” Dan handed Troy the coffee cup & started to get up.

“Sure. I’ll gave you a hand.”

The parking lot outside was empty expect for one other car. Dan walked over to his car and leaned against the front hood. He rotated his shoulders to loosen the tension that had built up in them.

“Is this what the services are usually like here?” Jennifer asked Troy.

“We usually don’t get so many people.” Troy said. “When there are so many some are just gawkers. These all wanted to be here. Ma thinks it had something to do with the Mr. James finding of the missing children.”

Janis walked over to them once she had locked the building and turned the security alarm on. “You’re welcome to come to the Cafe. There’ll be fresh coffee. Scones baked fresh this morning too. We can talk there.”

“The lemon cranberry?” Dan asked.

“Of course.” Janis replied. “We can talk about what you had on your mind when you called me yesterday. Unless that was answered already by Silas.”

“Silas?” Peter asked.

“The cobra.” Janis answered. “We’ve had him the longest.”

“No answers but more questions.” Dan said.

“I’ll go ahead then. Troy I’ll wait while you double check everything.”

“Sure enough Ma.” Troy went back to the church.

Dan gave Peter the keys to drive the car & got in the front seat beside him. Jennifer got into the back. Cameron & Brenda took the other car.

“Is Troy her son?” Jennifer asked. “We weren’t actually introduced.”

“I don’t know. Could be ‘Ma’ one of those affectionate husband wife things?” Dan said. “You picking up anything from him or Janis.”

“Nothing much. She’s very guarded. Smells odd too.”

“Snake aroma therapy?” Peter said.

When they pulled into the small parking lot for the General Store and Cafe, Troy was already sitting on the front porch.

“How did you do that?” Peter asked.

“There’s a shortcut through a backroad. Figured you would just as soon take the scenic route.” He explained.

“You go on in. Got the coffee fresh perking for you.”

He opened the door. Dan let the others go in first & stopped Troy from going in.

“You’re an AuCoin. Janis is a Hadley. You call her Ma.”

“Kept went back to her maiden name after Da died. I was about six when he died from a snake bite. The creator wasn’t in him at that moment, Ma says. It happens like that sometimes. I’ve never been bitten. I was home schooled.”

“Yes.” Dan nodded.

“I don’t usually talk to people much. Ma says we need to be apart from the others. I like others well enough though. I’m telling you this because Silas trusted you.”

“I glad you trust me.”

“Ma, says I’m a bad judge of people because she protected me too much. She says there are people who like to spoil innocence. My Da had his own cathedral once outside of Montreal. He could heal people when the Lord was in him. But he could not heal himself. He could not heal me.”

“Heal you?” Dan asked.

“Yes. I … don’t think fast as other people. Ma, tells me I had a real bad fever as a child. It hurt my brain like breaking a leg.” He held the door of the cafe open for Dan.


Dan filled his travel mug & joined the others in the armchairs at the side of the self-serve coffee area. Janis came out a few minutes later with a plate of scones.

“What is it that brings you here?” She asked

“Do you remember who this is?” He handed her a picture capture from the documentary. “I know she was a tour guide for one of the Tut exhibits tour.”

“Cora.” Janis said with a heavy sigh. “Cora Murchison.”

“Cora! Queen of the King Cobras of course! I thought that was the name of the act not of a person. Do you know what became of her?”

“Dead.” Janis paused. “I’m thinking of where to begin. Seeing her face brings back so many memories of those summers with the Carnival. She was one of the old hands when I joined up in ’83. 

“Something the Hippo archives won’t tell you is the number of disposable young women who worked there. Often paid in cash, you know, to evade taxes. They say it was because it was summer work, college kids who went on to other things after a thrilling and rewarding couple of months touring with the carnival.

“Take a close look at those records and you see the same men there year after year. Carnies, mechanics, cooks. The only woman who lasted more than than three years was Mrs. Chamberlain.”

“Cora was one of the disposable?” Jennifer asked.

“This one played her cards well. Old Mr. Chamberlain liked her a lot.”

“They were sleeping together.” Jennifer said.

“Yes. For some of the girls it was expected. If not with him with one of the other bosses. Playing hard to get made it harder for you to get tips or it might get you made redundant & disposed of without a penny. No girl from wanted to find herself hitching home.”

“You …”

“I was no saint. But Cora showed me how to minimize my compromises.”

“How did Cora die?” Dan asked.

“Suicide. She’d had a row with Mrs. Chamberlain. Over the old man. Cora was sure they’d be married once Mrs. Chamberlain died, which everyone thought was imminent. Another of the old man’s lies.”

“Married?” Jennifer said.

“She was knocked up in this picture.” Janis said. “He had spoiled her. When Mrs. Chamberlain found out she had her fired and removed from the premises. Then we heard she was dead. Suicide.”

“Wow!” Peter said. “What a sad life.”

“If it weren’t for the snakes I’d’ve left the show then but I stuck it out for the end of that summer. It was the last week of the tour when I met Archie. Your Dad.” She playfully rubbed Troy’s head. “Being a parent changed everything. Don’t you think Mr. James?”

“I suppose. But I have not children. At least that I now of.” Dan laughed.

“Oh! I thought … well … I assumed Peter was your son. You look very much alike.”

“What!” Peter exclaimed.

Dan wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or insulted. Did he look old enough to be Peter’s father? He did the quick math in his head & it wasn’t impossible for him to fathered a child when he was fifteen.

“No way!” Peter said. “The again is that why you didn’t want me to call you Daddy, sir.”

“Peter is my … partner.”

“In business?” Janis asked.

“No, in bed. We’re ….”

“I understand now. Mr James.” She stood. “How dare you come into my church, into my home with your degenerate lifestyles. Get out of here, all of you.”

They all stood & left quickly. Janis went to the porch & glared at them as they drove away. 

“Peter, pull over at the first service centre.” Dan said as he texted the other car to do the same. “We have a few things to discuss while they are fresh in our minds.”

“Okay, sir. Thanks for what you said back there.”


“You said i was your partner. That’s a step above boyfriend, right, & even above lover.”

“Okay, whatever.”

They parked at a service centre & gathered around Cameron’s car.

“Jennifer did you pick up anything in the store. I mean vibes?” Dan asked.

“The place is full of energy. They have so many things, I mean items they collected for the homey decor that I’d need to to actual handle them to to pick up anything specific.”

“There was a rainbow welcome at the Convergent Centre.” Peter said. “So that’s she’d be homophobic was unexpected.”

“That was an act.” Dan said. “I’ve enough experience to tell when someone is trying to distract from the truth.”

“You mean Cora Murchison?” Jennifer asked.

“Yes. There something there she didn’t want to either remember or delve into. Your camera was running during all that?” He asked Cameron.

“Of course.” Cameron said.

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Picture Perfect 120 

Picture Perfect 120

“Thank you Margarette.” Margarette, adjuster her robe and stood with the help of a cane. A man in the front row got up to help her. It was Troy AuCoin from Flannery’s Cafe. He was not wearing a robe. His white shirt was buttoned to the neck.

“Before we start this special service I will ask you to turn off all electronic devices to silent. We do not want to any distractions or sudden noises to disturb the spirits as they manifest themselves amongst us through their envoys. Silent means silent, not vibrate. No recording devices are to be used.” Janis looked directly at Dan, then Cameron. “What we witness here today is only for our eyes & ears.”

“Amen.” several of the attenders said.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” Janis began. A song was sung without musical accompaniment. The lyrics scrolled on the large screen TV beside her. In the songs and prayers that followed they affirmed their trust and assurance in the Creator as their protector. 

The congregation rose and sat at various points. Janis signalled for the TV to be removed. Troy from his side of the room and a man, also not wearing a robe, from the other side stepped up to roll it to one side. Behind the TV was a glass aquarium with snakes it. The top of the tank was about waist high. A light came on over the tank & the statue of Christ & the snake coiled around it appeared to be made of bronze.

“Lord. Creator. We are here in utmost humility to demonstrate our faith in your protection. We are here in utmost humility to allow you to demonstrate your protection for us.”

As Janis said each sentence the people repeated it in unison. Troy assisted Margarette back to the organ. She adjusted her green robe and began to play. The lights in the room dimmed except for those around the glass tank. The lights made the tank appear to float in the air in the dark.

“These envoys were sent by Our Creator to not tempt us but to challenge us.” Janis said as she removed the wire covering the top of the tank. “They mean us no harm. They are not of Satan but of the just God who made all good things Look upon God’s creatures with compassion and they will increase your compassion. Look upon them with fear and they will increase your fear.”

As Dan watched the snakes it was as if they were writhing in time to the music. The different skin patterns smoothly coiled and uncoiled around one another. Different patterns would be closest to the glass. One of the snakes was nearly white with pale green markings on its throat. The head would at times rise above the others and the snake’s red eyes would look directly into his. The glint in them was calling him.

“Yes.” He started to get up when a man behind him shouted out.

“I am ready.” The man rushed to the tank pulling off his robe, then shirt as he went up the aisle. When he reached he cage he removed his pants. “I am shedding what holds me from trust.”

“I am ready.” “I am ready.” Came from different parts of the room. Several people left their seats. They stood naked at the front of room. Their bodies bathed in the blue and green lights that illuminated the snake tank.

“It is good to see so many of you ready.” Janis intoned rising her arms to the ceiling as a snake twined around them. “I call upon the radiance of Your care to be here now with us. Be here now in this special service as we thank Daniel James for finding the bodies of those souls lost so many years ago. Souls that now can find peace and rest in Your everlasting Grace.”

Dan heard her say his name. It was like hearing it on a TV in another room. It was a name it wasn’t him. His saw the people around him, in front of him. Naked men. Naked women. Undulating slowly in the light around the tank.

“I am ready.” The first man reached into the tank and picked up a snake. The snake hissed and bared its fangs “I am protected by faith.” The man said as he brought he face of the snake closer to his. He touched his eyes with the snake’s nose. The snake’s tail coiled around the man’s arm then freed itself from his hand and slid back into the tank.

Others of the congregation did the same. Some naked. Some clothed. All fearless.

“I thank you Creator.” Janis chanted. The others joined in. 

The music and chanting stopped abruptly. Everyone sat. The room was silent except for the breathing of the people around him. He continued to gaze at the tank. At the constant shift of patterns. The lights gradually came up.

“It is good to see so many who were called but amongst us we have one who calls.” Janis said.

Dan felt her hand gently touch him on the forehead. There was a weight on his upper thighs. A white snake reared from his lap, the sides of it head flared as its red eyes looked into his. He heard Peter gasp.

“What do you see Mr. James?” Janis asked. “Open and see what you’re are shown.”

He turned his head slowly to look at the faces around him. Janis, Peter, Troy, the first man to undress. The room receded as returned the snake’s stare.

“I’m at school. My class is getting our pictures taken. The whole class. I told my mother about it. I hate this dress. It isn’t good enough. The other girls have nice dresses just for this picture. I don’t want to have mine taken. I won’t. I won’t.”

Dan was in the school auditorium where student photographs were being taken. There were children lined up waiting their turn. A part of him was Dan but part of him was Dorothy O’Connor. This was the day when his Dad was taking pictures at her school. Taking the picture of her that he had seen.

“The man taking our pictures is coming over to me. He says my dress is fine. Not to worry so much. He’s giving me some candy. He sits me in front the screen and goes behind his camera. I’m afraid to smile too much. He tells me to look over his shoulder. Then it is over. He says I was the best model he’s had all day.”

Dan repeats “All day” as he becomes aware of the room. The church is empty except for Troy who is sitting beside him. 

“You feeling like yourself?” Troy asked. “I’ve never seen anyone go so deep like you did. Dorothy O’Connor was one of the bodies you found?”

“Yes. She was the first to be reported missing.”

“Then she was the first you found.” Janis said from behind him as she walked in with Peter.

“He is good. Isn’t he Ma.” Troy said. “Silas sensed him.”


“The white king cobra.” Janis said. “What are you thinking Mr. James?”

“My thoughts are all over the place. I don’t know where to start.” He braced himself on the back of the chair in front of him and pushed himself up. He was unsure on his feet. 

“Are you okay.” Peter held him steady.

“I just need some fresh air.” Dan said.

“The room is a little warm. It helps to keep the snakes docile.” Janis said. “Cold snakes tend to be unpredictable.”

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Picture Perfect 119  

Picture Perfect 119

Over the next forty-eight hours Dan with members of the task-force went through the unedited footage of the Cold East interviews to see what connections were made with the Happy Hippo. Others in the task force were going through the Hippo’s haphazard employment records. Many of the carnies & even the performers were, for tax purposes, considered part-time free-lancers so the Chamberlains weren’t required to keep detailed records. Often the only record was the newspaper adverts to flyers for the town where the carnival was appearing.

There was also no record of who made the props for any of the acts. Dan was discussing the lack of documentation with the Cold East crew as they prepared for some new interviews with the families.

“You might talk with Jane Poitier.” Jennifer suggest. “From the Wickham Arms. She was one of the touring Madama Cabanallas.”

“Right! We could also talk with Janis Hadley. She might have more on this Snake Man that we heard about.”

“Which first?” Cameron asked.

“Janis Hadley.” Dan said. “the Nova Convergent Centre is closer. Maccan, if I remember correctly.”

He found the business card for The Nova Convergent and called. The phone was answered on the first ring.

“Ah, Mr. James.” Janis Hadley answered before he could say hello. “I was expecting your call.”

“You’ve seen the news.” He said.

“Who hasn’t? What a sad sensation. Those poor, poor children. Come out in the morning & we can talk further.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Bring Jennifer Devereaux with you as well. I have a message for her.”

“We are talking to people who the few people we know who have been connected with the Hippo in the past. So I’ll be bringing a small crew with me.”

“The should be fine,” she said after a pause.

“Thanks again.” He ended the call. “Shite.”

“What?” Cameron asked.

“I have to take Peter to the airport in the morning. He’s flying back to Toronto. The other flight isn’t until like midnight.”

When he got back to the Waterside he explained things to Peter.

“Nova Convergent Centre?” Peter asked.

“Snake handlers. You know …”

“Yes! Yes! I know. I did a paper about them when I was at U of T.”

“About Nova?”
“No, sir. About the religion itself. As a kid I was fascinated by snakes.”

“First time you’ve mentioned it to me.”

“I always envied Whorey, I mean, Harry Potter & his ability to speak Parseltongue. Sshhuuchhk.” 

“Whatever.” Dan laughed.

“Besides it’s not something that ever came up. Hi, my name is Peter & I like snakes.”


“Take me with you, sir, please.” 

“What! No! I’ll make sure you catch your flight. Jill’ll fire your ass if you don’t get back to the Carafe.”

“Not if you tell her I’ve been detained as a material witness by the task force.”

“Material witness!”

“Yes.” Peter pulled Dan’s fly open & put his hand in. “Or tell her I’ve been attacked by a trouser snake, sir”


The equipment van with Peter added to shoot crew of Cameron & Brenda & Jennifer was crowded. 

“I wonder what sort of message the Convergent would have for me?” Jennifer said. “I’m definitely not be of their … um …. religious persuasion but it doesn’t matter you call the spirit, it remains the spirit.”

“Snakes usually speak with forked tongues.” Peter said.

“Yes.” “Jennifer said. “But spirit doesn’t. When I was near those mummies I could actually feel those bandages going smothering me.” 

“What about you Dan?” Brenda asked. “It wasn’t just a gut reaction?

“You are suggesting I have powers of observation that are supernatural? That I’m psychic?” Dan said.

“I don’t think there’s anything supernatural about it.” Jennifer said. “When you look at photograph you see a greater spectrum than normally sighted people do.”

“This is your way of telling me I have second sight?”

Dan laughed. “I hope this isn’t leading so some on-line university you want me to sign up to further develop my esp skills.”
“No!” Jennifer laughed.

When they reached Maccan Dan had Cameron pull over at Flannery’s.

A sign in window said ‘Sorry – Closed for the day.’ 

“Too bad. The scone here are nearly as good as the ones at the carafe.”

“We’ll have to face the snakes without another cup of coffee. Maybe an empty stomach is best.” Peter said.

The parking lot was full. There were people standing in groups chatting. He parked and got of the car. As he approached the front of the church Janis Hadley broke away from one of the groups and greeted him.

“Welcome Mr. James. Miss Devereaux. ” she extended her right hand from a slit in the deep emerald green velvet robe she wore. It was bordered with azure zig-zag embroidery. She shook their hands. “I’m so glad to see you again, Dan. Jennifer, this is the first time we’ve met. I know your mother from the Hippo days.”

“Oh!” Jen said.

“Yes. She took over as Madam Vanya when I left. The next summer she was Madama Cabanalla. The service for today is about to begin.”

“I … ” If he had known there was to be a service he would have opted for a later time.

“We can talk after the service.” Janis said.

Cameron hefted his camera to his shoulder.

“Mr. Carter you must remain at the back of the hall if you intend to film anything. No faces.”

“I understand.”

Organ music began to play from inside the building.

“Come the service is about to start.”

She put a hand on Cameron’s shoulder to guide him in. The other’s followed them in. She indicated the back row for him & aisle seats four rows from the front for the rest of them 

“You will have a good view from here but not feel too threatened.”

Jennifer went in first, then Peter, and Dan sat in the aisle seat.

Jennifer took a deep breath.

“You sensing something?” Dan asked her.

“I was checking to see if there was an a/c. It’s mighty stuffy in here.”

“If it’s too cool snakes aren’t that active.” Peter said. 

The seats were mental stacking chairs. Eight rows deep and eight rows across with the aisle running down the centre so there were four chairs on either side. Dan could see more stacks of the chairs at the far side of the room. There was a balcony on the opposite side of the room. 

The seats quickly filled up. Some of attendees wore robes similar to Janis’s. Several women in deep greens, a couple of men in indigo.

“This is one time I wish I was colour blind.” Jennifer whispered.

“I don’t know. I think Baxter would approve.”

Janis went to the front of the room. There a large flat screen to one side of her podium. On a pedestal behind her was a statue of a very dark complexioned  Christ standing with his arms reaching out to the congregation. He wore an actual robe. It was pure white with the same zig-zag stitching in gold. Around his arms were carved snakes whose heads were raised over his open palms. As far as Dan could tell they were carved but the eyes glinted red. Carved snakes also coiled around the pedestal.

“Historically correct Jesus.” Peter said quietly.

“I wonder if it’s anatomically correct?” Peter asked.

“Once again Baxter would approve.” Dan said.

“Stop!” Jennifer giggled.

The couple in front glanced and glared at them. Dan was flooded with a memory of being in church with another boy and the two of them being dragged out for giggling. A fly had been buzzing around and had landed on the nose of one of the statues and they couldn’t stop giggling. Who was that boy?

Janis nodded to the organist who stopped playing.

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Picture Perfect 118 

Picture Perfect 118

Back at the Waterside Motel Dan stretched out on his stomach on the bed while Peter massaged him. They were both watching the TV news coverage of the discovery of the bones. The segment ended with a shot of teddy bears and flowers by the ‘do not cross’ tape at the Museum.

“Wow, sir!” Peter said. “You are a different person when you really take charge.”


“Yeah. Like you are real policeman not a TV host or …”

“Or someone who is putty in your hands.” Dan rolled over to his back.

“That’s too hard to be putty, sir.” Peter laughed.

“That’s your doing. Now, you know here that putty gets putted.” Dan pushed his hips up.


Just before noon the next day Dan got a call from Corporal Coster confirming that his ‘gut’ was right. There was to be a press conference at the division head quarters with the RCMP task force that afternoon & she hoped he could attend.

When he & Peter arrived the conference had already started. Corporal Coster had just introduced Senior Investigator Robert Warszawa who was heading the task force.

“Thanks to investigative work by Daniel James in connection with the Cold East show the RCMP had reopened these cold cases two weeks ago. We already had a forensic team on hand so we were able to quickly ascertain that some of remains found belong to Madeline & Gerrard Forestier. Dental records confirmed their identity.

“The remains in the other mummies were a mix of several other children. There are also two more pelvis bones than there were children reported missing. At this point cause of death is undetermined. We have no suspects at this time.”

“Inspector Warszawa how will the force treat these cases differently than they did originally?” A reporter asked. 

“State-of-the-art analysis equipment for one thing. We have real-time communications as well so that what one detachment discovers can be passed on to to others quickly. There is a national data base of investigative information that can make connections that we as humans may not make.” Warszawa answered.

“I might add,” Constable Coster said. “We already had dental records for most of the missing children & of course access to family dna samples that will make identifying these remains much quicker.”

“The task force has a mobile lab dedicated to the case.” Warszawa explained. 

“Is there any physical evidence from the original disappearances?” A reporter asked.

“No.” Coster shrugged. “We do have the reports that were filed but apparently, at the time, the divisions didn’t feel the need for anything beyond recent photographs. There was no suspicion of abductions.”

“So they were considered runaways?” A reported asked.

“That’s an assumption no one is prepared to make.” Coster said.

“Speaking of connections how did Mr. James connect the children to the mummies?”

“I believe he is here. Why don’t you ask him? Dan would you care to join us.” Warszawa nodded to Dan.

Cameras swivelled to follow him as he walked to the microphone.

“Thanks Inspector. As most of you are aware I have been immersed in this case for months now, so my brain was looking for connections. The Tut sideshow was touring that summer in the mid-80’s. I a grid of locations & dates for those shows & the abductions in my head in flash.”

“Can you remember the exact moment of that flash?” A reporter asked.

Dan was silent for a moment.

“It was when the museum guide said something about the servant mummies. No! He called them playmates. It was a leap of logic. Tut was a child only nine when he took the throne. I put the missing children together with playmates. Aha!”

“What comes next in the investigation?” One of the reporters asked.

“It’ll take a few weeks to sort the various bones and mate them properly.” Constable Coster took over. “Families are already asking when they would be released for burial. Thank you all for coming. You’ll be notified when we have more to tell the world.”


Dan stepped away from the TV cameras relieved that the Happy Hippo was the connecting thread for the abductions. His Dad was not implicated after all. He itched for an opportunity to get into the Chamberlain archives to find out who made the mummies.

Warszawa walked with Dan & Peter to their car.

“How well did you know Roberto Hajla?” Warszawa asked.

“Beyond his being Baxter’s assistant nothing.”

“We’ve checked with Quintex Human Resources & they have no record of him. He wasn’t on their payroll. Baxter claims Roberto was assigned to him by Quintex.”

“Hmm? You think Baxter isn’t telling the truth?”

“Or perhaps Roberto wasn’t.” Peter said.

“How is that?” Dan asked.

“Do you know who I am beyond what I’ve told you?”

“No! You holding something back from me?” 

“He might have something there.” Warszawa said. “Do you think Baxter checked out Roberto when he arrived saying he was sent by Quintex?”

“I … I really don’t know. Knowing Baxter all he checked out was Roberto’s body not his credentials.”

“Immigration has no information on him either.” Warszawa said.

“An illegal?” Dan said.

“Perhaps. We’re running his information through international data bases. Keep in touch.”

“Yes, boss.”

In the car Peter asked. “Boss?”

“I’m part of the task force.” Dan said.

“Did you warn everyone before you interviewed them than anything they said …”

“I wasn’t investigating them as suspects.”

“Yes but …”

“No buts unless we talk about your butt.”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Sometimes I want to think about something else, to talk about something else. It’s as if my life has become this one thing.”

“Is there a beach around here where we can fuck?” Peter asked.

Dan had to pull the car over to get control of his laugher. While they were stopped there was a call from Baxter.

“Hey Dan you must be super happy to beat the Force to the punch once again. This latest development will make Cold East the top show in North America. No other program that Quintex had produced had received such buzz before it premiered.”

“I wish I could share your enthusiasm. It is now a real case. The remains make it a real murder investigation. Are you sure we’ll even be allowed to run the show?”

“Don’t you worry about that. Legal is already working on that with the task force. This guarantees a second season.”

“Kilpatrick will be trilled to host two hit shows.” Dan said.

“Now Dan don’t be like that. QTel will make you an offer you can’t refuse. Plus your name in the title. Dan James’s Cold East.”

“Thanks but no thanks.”

“You gotten a better offer already! Let me remind you that your contract with us might get in the way of that.”

“Baxter no one has made that sort of offer to me. Though someone did suggest a … Picture of Delight.”

“What the fuck are you taking about.” Baxter said.

“Yeah a show about photographing food.”


When they got back to the Waterside Jeremy was sitting in the bench in front of their cabin.

“I’ve come to take the two of you to dinner.” He said.

“It’s been a long day …” Dan started.

“Yes I’m aware of what’s been going on. Between Baxter & the Quintex back in Toronto it’s been like an ants’ nest flooded with water.”

Dan looked to Peter. “What do you think?”

“It’s bound to better than a donair, sir.”

“Yes.” Jeremy said. “It’ll be better than a donair, sir.”

“Okay. Okay.” Dan said. “Give us time to change.”

“Yes … uh … sirs.” Jeremy said. “I’ll wait right here.”

“Sir?” Peter caught Dan’s eye.

“No need Jeremy. You might as well come in & get out of the public eye.”

“You’re sure!”

“Yes.” Dan opened the door. “Get in here.”

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