Picture Perfect 73

Picture Perfect 73

A car pulled into the park lot. On the roof was an illuminated taxi sign that had been repainted with a crude rending of a donairs on one side and Dumphy’s on the other.

He paid for it, tipped generously, as it was Quintex money anyway. He sat at one of the picnic tables outside the breakfast diner and ate the meal. It tasted better when he didn’t have to see it. 

Cameron came out of the dark. “I’ll have to speak to Baxter about this place. Those cabins are rough. I don’t what it is about them but I can’t stand being in one for more than an hour before I’m ready to climb the walls.”

“Ditto.”

“Funny what people will do to get in the credits for a TV show.”

“How so?”

“Locations swung a deal with places. In return for discount, or in this case free, they get mentioned in the credits for the show.’

“Like catering by so and so.”

“Exactly but no catering service is stupid enough to give food away for credits that they know full well no one reads. Owners here didn’t know that. Baxter convinced them it would be good for the tourist trade. We have to shoot an interview here in return.

Dan laughed. “You should be filming me now eating out here. I can move so the sign is over my shoulder.”

“Don’t have a night vision camera.”

“One think to be thankful for or we’d be skulking around at night with Jennifer Devereaux looking for the emanations of the departed.”

“Keep that one to yourself or we’ll end up doing just that.” Cameron gave a little laugh. “Seriously, can I ask you something?”

“Uncut. Versatile?” Dan said.

“What!” Cameron laughed. “No. Never mix work with play. What do you think happened to those children? You always ask that question so I was wondering what you think?”

“I think they are dead.”

“Yes but I mean what happened to their bodies? One never being found I can understand but not this many.”

“Bones have been found in the strangest of places decades centuries after the fact.”

“So you think they are in some cave somewhere? Or in a freezer in someone’s basement?”

“That’s a question you should ask Jennifer. When I was in the Force I never dealt with a cold case of this type. Here we’re trying to make connections as we sift though data, not bones.”

“Baxter would crap his pants if we found remains somewhere though wouldn’t he? In some farmer’s field.”

“There are no unplowed fields in this area, trust me.”

‘Yeah, but you know what I mean.”

“Yes I know. Don’t give him any ideas though or some unidentified remains are likely to show up. There enough drama going on now.”

“Unidentified Remains – sound like a great show title.” Cameron got up from the table. “See you in the morning.”

<>

Winston Chamberlain was waiting for them in the Circus Museum parking lot.

“We’re closed on Monday’s” he said. “But Baxter was so insistent I said I’d talk with you today just to shut him up. We’ll go in the side way. Fewer locks to deal with.”

Inside he gave Cameron a quick tour of the various exit halls and the rides.

“Choice stuff. Let’s sit you two here.” Cameron said. “I can get that merry-go-round frmm one side of you, the Hippo Dog stand from the other.”

“This is to be an interview?” Winston asked. “I thought you just want to check this out for locations.”

“It shouldn’t take too long.” Cameron said.”We never know when we’ll get something we can use.”

“Don’t I have to sign some sort of release.” Winston brushed his hair flat. “How do I look.”

“I have release forms here in my equipment bag.” Cameron rummaged in it and pulled out some forms.

Winston read them over.

“Its really standard stuff.” Cameron explained. “We can’t use this in any other context except the show. If you divulge anything relating to illegal activities we have to inform the authorities.”

“Okay.” He signed where Cameron indicated. 

“Your family owned the Happy Hippo Carnivals?” Dan began.

“Yes.” Winston’s expression changed as the camera started. His irritated smile quickly became garrulous & inviting.

“This museum is a way of preserving them.”

“That’s right Dan. All of the exhibits come from my Father’s need to accumulate. He was a sort of circus hoarder. He couldn’t throw anything away.”

“You worked in the carnival as a boy?”

“Yes. I spent a few summers with the tours. I learned all about the Hippo from the ground up because my dad wanted me to take it over eventually. But, well, it went bankrupt before that could happen.”

“Did you enjoying working the midway?”

“Oh, yeah. I loved the games, the rides. The way the rides worked fascinated me. The gears and mechanics.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t become a mechanical engineer.”

“I did consider it but once the circus folded I didn’t see myself wanting to join any of the other carnivals. You know, move to Toronto to work at the CNE.”

“Does this bring back any memories for you?” Dan handed him a copy of the photo of him and Theresa.

“That’s me! Where did you get this! Man I look so young there.”

“You were young. Around fourteen.”

“I must have really dug that girl.”

“You don’t remember her? Stoney.”

He looked up from the picture. “Jesus. That’s right I used to call myself Stoney so no one would know I was the owner’s son.”

“Used to tell them you were nineteen as well.”

“I might have. Easier to get laid when you tell them you are nineteen.”

“There were rumours about you.”

“Such as?”

“You had a … hankering for younger girls. I mean younger than the one in this picture.”

“Fuck where did you dig that up.” 

“I didn’t dig it up. I wasn’t even looking for it when, there it was.”

“What was I thirteen or fourteen year old kid. I might have looked up the skirts of girls my age on the ferris wheel when I was checking their straps. Who didn’t do that. They weren’t that much younger than me.”

“Right.” 

Dan was amused to see how completely Winston’s camera personality disappeared as he become defensive.

“Are you trying to implicate me in this case?” Winston snapped.

“Not at all. Did you hear anything about them at the time?”

“Only that they had happened.” He took a deep breath. “That was after the fact too I might add. Didn’t know there that many either.”

“Apparently only one person did.”

“Who?” Winston asked.

“The abductor.” He looked to Cameron. “I think we’ve got enough here.” He glanced at his cell. “We have to get to the Moncton Municipal Hospital for the O’Connor interview.”

Cameron slung his shoulder mounted camera off and stored it in the equipment bag.

“Sorry I put you on the spot there Winston.”

“Sorry! You fucking accused me of being a child molester. If anyone ever sees that I’ll fucking sue you and Qunitex for everything you’ve got. Now march you asses out of here.” His shouts echoed in the hall. “In fact, if anything about the Hippos is mentioned in your fucking TV show I’ll shut you down so hard you’ll wish you’d never met me.”

<>

In the car Cameron shook his hand. “That was one of the best reveals I have ever witnessed.”

“Reveals?”

“He was so cooperative while the camera was on but the minute he thought it was off he went off.”

“Thought? You mean you got all that?”

“Oh yeah.” He took off his baseball hat. There was a wire from the front and circling the inner brim. “That Qunitex logo isn’t just for looks. The lens remote feeds directly into this baby.” He indicated his equipment bag.

“You’re as bad as me.” Dan turned up the collar of his interview sports coat to show the remote for his camera. 

“That’s not Q issue is it? Where’s the lens.” 

“No, it’s not and the lens is a trade secret. There’s something going on there though. And someone tinkered with my rental car the last time I was here. He wasn’t with me every minute I was here that time.”

“He certainly has something to hide.” Cameron said. “You might want to talk with that Theresa again. She had more to say. I could tell that when we left her at the park.”

“Yeah I’d like to talk with her again too. Now, back to Waterside then on to hospital.”

“Cut or uncut?” Cameron asked. “Winston I mean.”

“Winston? I’d say uncut. Why? Are you interested.” 

“I didn’t get such a good look at that picture of him before. You sure he didn’t have a career in porn.”

“That’s something I never thought to check.”

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Picture Perfect 72

Picture Perfect 72

Dan plugged in his laptop. No urgent emails. He flipped through the pictures he had uploaded to the cloud. He pulled down one of the s/m shots that showed the woman’s face clearly and one that gave a more than partial of her male victim’s face. He ran them though Face Finder, a face recognition site that searched for matches. The ‘time to do’ clock said ‘check back in ten minutes’ as it usually did for black and white pictures.

After brushing his teeth he went back to his laptop to check on Face Finder’s progress. The first one it found was one of the pictures he had selected. The one of her spread legged, facing the camera and holding the whip in her gloved right hand hand.

Had the program doubled back to his cloud? 

Before he clicked on the picture he entered a cloaking code that would hide him so he couldn’t be traced. He clicked on the picture and no, it hadn’t gone to his cloud, it had gone to an online site. 

“Golden Age of Glamour” topped the page with several black and white photos under it. All similar in content to his and one of them was in fact a duplicate of his.

“This site is devoted to the lost art of sexual tease. We offer an archive of photographs from the past decades of erotica going back as far as the late 1800’s.”

He clicked on his agreeing to being over 18 and being willing to see context of a sexually nature some of which would be explicit. 

The next menu offered eras, types, special tastes, gay, lesbian, straight, solo, couples, interracial. There was a pop invitation to join the members club at twenty percent off, where more features were offered including the opportunity to converse with other members. He clicked a tab for Store.

Various sets of reprints were offered for sale and in some cases originals. He clicked the set that included his father’s photographs. There were six in the set and they were all from the same shoot. He was hoping there would be information about the photographer. 

“This stunning set of six black and white photos features Canada’s answer to Betty Page – Peggy Brooks – in a saucy series of pictures taken by ace photographer Pierre LaBouche. Fans of the genre prize his limited output over that of many others.’

a set of six 8×10 – $60.00 – reproduced from the original negatives 

a set of six 8×10 – signed and numbered originals – $600.00.

Mr LaBouche died in 1990 and we have a limited quantity of these signed photographs.”

He clicked the Pierre LaBouche hyperlink and it took him to a page of thumbnails of forty similar photographs. Only members could see them full size. He looked at each of them. Some where the ones he’d already found in his father’s cache. Some he’d never seen. Those he looked at more closely. It was the same model in all of them. Her outfit changed a few times. He did screen capture of thumbnails. There were none of the photos of her drawing blood in the sets offered; none of her with a victim. Perhaps those were behind the paywall?

He went back to the first page for information about who Golden was. It was copyright by JovietJinc.com. He did a search for Joviet J. Inc which led him to a Montreal suite which he suspected, from his time on the force, was a post office box. He went back to his original scans of his father’s pictures and there on the back of one of them was the same post office box number written by his father. Interesting. A trip to Montreal was called for to investigate. He only had Sundays free for the next couple of weeks. He checked flights and it was possible to do a day trip to Montreal.

He googled a map of Montreal, typed in the postal code which put it in a warehouse district. He did a search of the area for businesses. One of them was J. Carter Magazine Publishers and Distributers. He checked through the scanned pages of his dad’s travel logs and sure enough there were notations for JC Mont in each year. Even after they had moved to Toronto. Was JC Carter Magazine?

He shut the laptop, got up and stretched. His head swam with the bits of information he had assembled. They weren’t adding up to something he didn’t already know. His Dad took and sold smutty pictures. Did Linda know about this? Who was Peggy Brooks. He didn’t know any Brooks growing up. But if his father had become Pierre LaBouche, Peggy was probably not a real name either.

His cell alarm went off. Time for his drops. Perfect. He put the comforter on the floor and made a pillow comfortable to support his neck, put the drops in, covered his eyes with a hand towel and let his body come to a stop on the floor. 

The comforter did little to protect him from the damp or cover the smell of the carpet. When was the last time it had been steam cleaned. The real colour would probably shock them and force them to repaint the rooms. At least it didn’t smell of cigarettes. That Theresa sure smoked like a chimney. That’s what his mother would have said. Did she smoke that much when he knew her. Did his sister smoke too. What was Linda hiding about that summer? That story about being pregnant and losing the child. That couldn’t be true, could it? There should be medical records somewhere. A doctor must have known if she was knocked up. A woman can’t miscarry and not seek medical attention. But they can have a baby without even knowing they are pregnant, so what she was told him was possible. Possible but probable? His mother surely would have known. Did Theresa know? He he could ask her.

His alarm went off and his thirty minutes was up. He removed the towel, got up slowly and went to the bathroom and rinsed his eyes. His stomach rumbled. He texted Dumphy’s Donaire for a repeat of his last order. He checked his email once again. Outside in the parking lot he waited for the food to arrive.

The air was cool, the sky was clear. A light wind rusted leaves of the trees that lined the side of the motel. He could hear cars on the highway. Would he trade his Toronto life for a life like this if he had the opportunity? Probably not.

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Picture Perfect 70

Picture Perfect 70

“Pizzas here!” Peter called. “or is that pizzae?”

“You plan on feeding an army?” Dan looked at the stack of pizza boxes on the dining room table. “One each for each of us! I’m lucky to finish two slices in a large. These have to be extra large.”

“Be grateful I didn’t order the Super Bowl party size.” Jeremy said.

Ashley spread the boxes over the table, flipped open the top of each. “Pepperoni classic with extra cheese where are you. Nope this one is – what is it?”

“Looks like shrimp and lobster to me.” Peter said handing Jeremy a plate and a carving knife. “No enough pizza cutters to go around.”

“This one has sausages and bacon.” Ashley said.

“Meat Lovers.” Jeremy explained. “there should be ground beef and salami under the extra cheese.”

“Daddy did you order one for me?” she opened another boxx. “Oh here it is. Give me that pizza slicer. Got bigger plates?”

‘“Nope.” Dan said. “We only have plates for people with normal sized appetites. And this one is,” he opened the last box. “Spinach, egg plant and I’m not sure.”

“Avocado and sun dried tomatoes. That one also has feta for those of us who get tired of mozzarella or cheddar. Crust is gluten free, too.” Jeremey explained. “The vegan deluxe. You’ll never miss the meat.”

“Oh yummy,” Peter said, “There’s nothing more tempting than cardboard with hot spinach.”

“Try it, you’ll like it.” Jeremey said before he pushed the tip of the sea food pizza in his mouth.

They each managed to try, of not fully eat, a slice from each of the pizzas. 

“I hope everyone is stuffed.” Peter said. “If they are thank the man who paid the chef. Those of us about to explode with goods salute you Mr. Moxham.”

“My pleasure.”

“I’m sleepy.” Ashley announced.

“It is getting late.” Jeremey checked his watch. “We’ll head home in half an hour, princess. Need time for the dough to settle.”

“You can nap in my room.” Peter said.

“Your room?” she said. “You don’t live here! Dan does.”

“True. But unlike you I am a guest who stayed for longer than dinner.”

He went upstairs with her.

“So he is really house sitting?” Jeremy said. “I thought that was was a euphemism for sleeping together.”

“No, it isn’t a euphemism. But yes we are sleeping together.” Dan collected the dirty plates.

“Oh!”

“You mean you’ve been celibate all these years?”

“No but …”

“The lobster pizza was pretty good.” Dan began to combine remains of pizzas into two boxes. “I wasn’t sure about it at first. The idea of putting seafood on a pizza struck me as being more inventive than tasty.”

“Like the idea of gay men courting?” Jeremy asked.

“You mean inventive or tasty? Sorry, I didn’t mean that to sound as sarcastic as it did.”

“I’m a little confused.” Jeremy said. “You know I find you attractive.”

Just then Peter came back into the room. “Did I miss something, sir?”

Dan massaged his forehead with the palm of his hand. “I came home to deal with business business not emotional business. I’m not looking to be courted. I’m not looking for a replacement for Sanjay. Not yet anyway. I don’t know where you got it into your head I was I husband hunting.” He went down to his study and shut the door.

His head throbbed. His study smelled of Jeremy’s cologne. All he wanted was to be free of emotional encumbrances for a while. Yet, everywhere he turned there was another opportunity, another someone trying to attach themselves to him. It wasn’t as if what that great looking or even had a big fat thick dick. Ordinary. He was ordinary.

There was knock on his door. “Ice cream?” Peter said.

“I’ll be right out.”

On his way up to the FairVista store in the morning Dan wished he had exercised more restraint when it got to the ice cream and brioche. Neither of which did anything to dispel the awkwardness of acting normal with Ashley in their midst. Once Jeremy left with her Dan went directly to bed. Peter had enough sense to let him sleep alone.

In the morning he was glad he had turned the message alert off before going to bed as there was three texts from Linda. The first sent at midnight, said “wlcm hm thnx 4 pics.” The second sent two hours later said “pics r exclnt.” The third was sent an hour ago said. “Must talk asap.”

As she hadn’t sent Hamid to pick him up he didn’t he didn’t think her asap was that urgent. Peter had already left for work when he got up with an ice cream hangover. His stomach felt bloated from the excess of glutenated products they had eaten. Cold sea food pizza made for a good breakfast though. 

The FairVista hadn’t changed. There were some discreet Halloween decorations here and there but this wasn’t where anyone shopped for costumes, monster makeup or candy to give away. Christmas was the serious season. He could smell the coffee when the doorman opened the mall door for him.

“Lovely morning Mr. James.”

“Yes, it is.”

Linda was at one of the Cuppa tables with a coffee and biscotti in front of her.

“Smell it when you came in?” she asked.

“Couldn’t miss it.” 

“I read how movie theatre would pump the smell of popcorn to the street so people would get the craving for it when they passed. Bakeries do with the fresh bread too. Have one?”

“Water for me.” He took a bottle of water out of his shoulder bag. “I’m here. By the way I had supper last night with Jeremy Moxham.”

“Then you already know what I wanted to talk to you about. Saves me the trouble of having to explain it to you.”

“No explaining to do. It’s your business now.”

“I want your guarantee that you won’t pull Lifend out of here.”

“Why would I do that Linda.”

“You know why.”

“Oh that! Lifend has their own system of checks and balances. You can’t accidentally add their name to anything.”

“I’ve gone over the store’s contractural agreement with them.”

“And?”

“How flexible will they be on some of those stipulations.”

“Not at all. No discounts. No trade-ins. They own the stock until it is sold.”

“FairVista wants me to capitalize even more of their name though.”

“You can use the logo on site as much as you want to & when you advertise my product demonstrations & workshops. They aren’t concerned with getting their name out there beyond that.”

“It makes it hard to sell them. People expect discounts at some point.”

“That’s what exclusivity means.” Dan said. “They sell what they want, at the price they want. There are not seconds, discontinued lines or even knock-offs. They are paying enough for the square footage they are using here. Plus they pay for the amount of window display they get. Those you can expand, at no cost to them, but cannot reduce it, to make room for another Cuppa’s coffee table.”

“FairVista …”

“Fuck FairVista, Linda. They know their contractual obligations to Lifend. Lifend doesn’t want its own store. They want a single North American site where people can buy period. They sell to people who can afford to fly to Toronto to make face-to-face purchases.”

“I get that.”

“Then why bringing Jeremy Moxham into this?”

“I was hoping to bring him in as a business partner. Without the Depot …”

“Partner? Really! Are you serious?”

“It makes sense to me. We need someone with a name value to the public & to FairVista. Something that can do more for us than this rinky-dink cable crime show of yours.”

“Teresa sends her regards.”

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Picture Perfect 68

Picture Perfect 68

“Dan,” Sandy said. “For someone who claims to lead a sheltered life you certainly attract men wherever you go. Peter. Silver. Larry. Jeremy.”

“Me! Cliff Silver?”

“Boss, even I have seen how he looks at you.” Ushio said. “I may be straight but I recognize that look.”

“Really?” he asked Sandy. 

“I thought you knew?” She shook her head.

“Not me. I have businesses to run, remember. I better get out of here though. Think about some cross promotion for the Carafe. I’ll be expecting to hear about it tomorrow.”

He stepped into the Carafe.

“Is Peter around?” He asked. 

Jill looked from the customer she was serving at the counter. “He’s around somewhere. Thank you.” she finished with the customer in front of her. “Where is that buzz?” 

“Buzz?”

“Like the ones at Shopper’s. When you get prescription and have to wait, they give you a buzzer to carry that alerts you when your order is ready. I’m sure they wait long enough for you to spend at least fifty dollars before buzzing.”

“You buzz people when their coffee is ready?”

“No! Whomever is on duty here can buzz other staff members for help or to let them know someone is looking for them.” She held up the master buzzer. There were seven lights in the panel. Three were lit up. “This one is Peter. Twice means someone is looking for him.” She pressed the light twice. “Once is ‘need help’. Three times is ‘bring baked goods’.”

“Four get me the fuck out of here.” 

Peter brought a tray of scones to the display case. “Try?” she gave one to Dan. “Espresso infused lemon cake. Lemon curd glaze and vanilla butter cream.”

“Expanding your fat-free line.” Dan took a bite. “You can’t keep food like this from the public Jill. Keeping this place running is really a public service.” He took another bite. 

“Sit for a mo.” He said to Peter & nodded to an empty table in the window.

“I dropped by to let you know I’m expecting Jeremy and his daughter for supper tonight.”

“So you don’t want me around.” Peter snapped. “Sir. To walk in on the two of you?”


“Three – I said daughter. I just didn’t want you to be surprised when you got to the house. That’s all.”

“Okay.” He got up from the table. “I better get back to work.” He went to the display case and rearranged  the cupcakes.

“What’s with him?” he asked Jill.

“He was telling me how much he was looking forward to having you all to himself tonight.”

“You try saying no to the charming Ashley Moxham.”

“I have.” she smiled. “That girl only hears what she wants to hear. I don’t envy the man who marries her. Besides that’s not called charm it’s called money.”

“I don’t envy any man who wants to marry period.” Dan laughed. “I’ll take … six of those lemon muffins.”

“They are not muffins, asshole,” Jill said. “They are handcrafted limited edition Classic Carafe Brioche.”

“I stand corrected.” He got up and went to the counter & paid for the desserts. “The Depot gang are handcrafting a promotion for you. I’ll know more tomorrow.”

He opened the door to leave and Peter stopped him.

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to give you attitude, sir. I know this …” he tapped his chest then Dan’s, “between us is temporary. You being on the rebound and me being handy.”

“We’ll talk later Peter but rest assured it isn’t rebound. I want to get back to the house to relax a little.”

He crossed to the corner to wait fro the street car. Sandy was right about him attracting men easily. He’d never felt particularly good looking. Not in that classic porn hunk way, anyway. Even with a beard he felt he lacked standard queer appeal. When he met Sanjay he was amazed that there was such a strong sexual connection between them.

The street car pulled up. Not too full for a change. More construction along Queen East than ever before. Who was moving into those places? Another Starbucks in a corner building. What was replacing the Cool Jerk. He got off a stop before his and walked. Finally he was feeling relaxed. No one to content with. The air was cool. Leaves were beginning to change. He left Queen and was pleased that the street traffic sound dimmed quickly on his street. It was like stepping out of one city and into another.

He’d have to get someone in to look after the garden before fall really set in. He’d be back on the east coast for all that. Did Peter know anything about gardens? Or was it better to set clear limits on that … friendship.

“Daniel.”

He turned around. “Sanjay!” Was the universe going to squeeze everyone into these forty-eight hours. 

“I was hoping we could talk like adults.”

“We can try.” Dan replied. They hadn’t spoken face to face since Sanjay left the house. He put the box of brioche on the porch rail.

“You going to ask me in?”

“No. Our attorneys no meeting privately even in public.

“Your little boy toy …”

“Watch it Sanjay. You wanted to talk like adults. Name calling isn’t a good way to start.”

“That was quite a rain storm on the east coast. It made me think of the monsoons. I was concerned when I heard about the accident. First it was reported that Toronto TV personalities were involved in it. When names were attached I was relieved.”

“Did you look for your copy of the life insurance policy or were you cursing me for changing my will before I left.”

“You changed …”

‘Yes. Did you think I wouldn’t?”

“I guess I’m still hoping you’d change your mind.”

“Sanjay you were the one who couldn’t go on living this way. Living in sin.”

“Peter moved in fast enough.” Sanjay said.

“I needed a house sitter. He was willing.”

“To do more than house sit, I am sure.”

“Sanjay let’s not start in on that again. It’s tired and not productive. How are things with Papoulias?”

“Business is good. You should come up and check it out.”

“I just might. I’m happy to see you are doing well. I have no ill will towards you.”

“Then why not ask me in.” Sanjay caressed Dan’s chin.

“Because I have no interest in you either.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Not my problem. I have company coming in a couple of hours. You haven’t forgotten how long it takes me to put my face on.”

“When are you going back to your show?”

“That’s not relevant to this conversation. Have a good weekend.” He went into the house. Leaned his back against the front door. The emotions he still felt towards Sanjay surprised him. The smell of him, the touch of him. It hurt to be so close and to hold back but that’s what adults out of love did.

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Picture Perfect 67

Picture Perfect 67

Dan went up to the work lab on the third floor. He pulled up Teresa’s photos & focused on two of them. The one of her with Stoney and the one of his sister Linda with Kevin. They had been taken with Teresa’s camera. He could recall that little Kodak of hers. For such a crap camera it took okay pictures. The shots had been taken within a short time of each other around the same location. The post Teresa & Stoney were leaning against was to the left of Linda & Kevin. Shadows made it mid-afternoon.

None of them looked as if they were dressed for a date. Minimal make up on the girls. Sloppy clothes on the guys. Maybe they didn’t dressed up for afternoon dates. Maybe it wasn’t a date. Of course the girls must have dropped by to have lunch with their circus hands.

He cropped each of the pictures so they only showed the couples from the waist up. With Stoney’s denim incased dick out of the picture it was clear to Dan that this was the face of no twenty year old as Teresa was convinced he was. Funny how an ample cock  could add years.

He went into the family photos and found one with Linda and the man she had introduced to the family as Kevin. He was clearly not the man with Linda in Teresa’s picture. 

Once he was satisfied with the cropped pictures he emailed them to Linda with the subject line: “Remember when” The body of the email said: ‘Met up with Teresa Dunlop this past week. She has lots of vivid memories of you and me from when we in Stellerton. Here’s a couple of picture she had of you and her with various boy toys. Let me know what memories they call up for you.”

He’d let her tell him who the the various men were. It was possible he had the years mixed up. But she was wearing the same blouse and pedal pushers in both pics, merely with different men on her arm. 

A few minutes later his cell beeped. It was Linda.

“How long are you in Toronto for?” She asked.

“I leave tomorrow night.”

“I see. It’s hard to proceed with things with you out of town. You aren’t making things any easier for either of us.”

“What’s the hurry Linda? I’ll see you on the morning as arranged.”

“I can’t make any decisions here until the business split in finalized. I should never have let you …”

“You didn’t let me do anything Linda. Even the Lifend was your idea.”

“Yeah, but it was your idea to become their sole agent.”

“They offered that to both of us. I said yes while you weighed your options. Speaking of Lifend has anyone representing them visited your store?”

“Who knows? I’ve been busy enough here. Is there one in town?”

He told her quickly about Jakob Marhene & forwarded the photos of him to her as they spoke.

“Not familiar to me.” She said.

“I hope not but after Cuppa’s you can’t blame me for being suspicious.”

“I …”

“Did those pictures I just sent of you & Teresa spark any memories?” He had to take control of the conversation before she started double-talking.

“Teresa was a … tramp. Anything in pants caught her eye & this guy Rocky …”

“Stoney.” Dan supplied.

“Right, Stoney lasted longer than any of the others. I don’t remember the guy with me at all.”

“Kevin?” Dan suggested.

“No! He was just some pal of Stoney’s. They worked at the Hippo doing odd jobs, I think. Dan it’s all so long ago. What does this have to do with anything, anyway?”

“Tracking down leads for the cold case show. Remember that’s my job now. Just because it’s family doesn’t mean I can over look it.”

A blue light started flash. It was the alarm from the store that someone was looking for him downstairs.

“I gotta go. I’m being paged by the shop. I’ll see you in the morning.”

He called the store.

“There’s someone down here to see you.” Sandy said.

“Customer?”

“You might say that.” another voice answered.

“Jeremy! I’ll right down.”

Jeremy and Ashley were talking with Ushio. He was demonstrating a drone for them. Ashley tried to take a pictures of the drone as it darted around her head.

His daughter, Ashley dashed over and, after moving her Reporter camera to one side, hugged him.

“Time you got a more lady like camera.” Dan said.

“That is a sexist remark.” She said.

“Then let me rephrase it – time you got something with a faster shutter speed.” Dan reached past her to shake hands with Jeremy.

“How’s east coast life?” Jeremy asked.

“Wet and windy.” Dan replied.

“That was quite a storm. I guess you were in the middle of it.”

“I hope you got some good pics!” Ashley said.

“What do you think.” Dan said. 

“Show me. Show me.” She demanded.

“Well? There’s nothing duller than someone’s travel photos.” Dan said.

“Indulge us,”Jeremy touched Dan on the biceps.

“Twist my arm why don’t you. I do have a slide show of my storm pics.” He went over to the store showroom computer and loaded the film from his cloud. The pictures appeared on all the TVs on display and the one in the front window.

“This is the car I was driving. Built for speed.”

“Built for looks.” Jeremy said.

“These are some quick grabs as I stopped to decide which way to go to Stellerton. These are the cloudy horizon … the first drops … the lightening … the nearly total dark before the storm really hit … the windshield wipers losing the battle … a short video of the rain on the roof and on the wind shield …”

‘Weren’t you scared at all?” daughter asked.

“Oh yeah. Here’s where I pulled off at the Proud Tartan in Port Elgin. … my red beer … my excellent burger … the sudden power loss … on the porch ….”

“You can’t see across the street.” Jeremy said.

“Too true.”

“My room at the Tartan b’n’b …. Larry Clarke my rescuer … a little film Larry’s jeep … I love the way it emerges from the rain but never seems to separate from it either … … ”

“How did you get those pictures driving in the rain?” daughter asked. “You can’t drive and aim a camera at the same time. Can you?”

“Nope. I let my Lifend travel mug do most of the work. I edited these when I had time.”

The slide show had progressed to the video him and Larry careening down the slope on Moose Trail.

“That’s flipping amazing.” Sandy said.

“Yeah pretty good picture quality for a travel mug.” Jeremy laughed.

“That one calls for Imax.” daughter said.

“At end of the trail.” Dan said at the last slide show picture of himself standing by the jeep.  

“You don’t look much worse for wear after your downhill surfing.” Jeremy said. 

“Daddy & I were wondering if you might be free for supper.”

“I knew there was a real reason for you two to show up here.” Dan said.

“There’s something I’d like to talk over with anyway.” Jeremy said.

“I don’t like the sound of that.” Dan smiled. “I was looking forward to a night of nothing in my own little house. Busy day tomorrow and then I’m heading back to Moncton on a six o’clock flight.”

“We could send out from your little house. Couldn’t we Daddy.” Ashley said.

Dan hesitated. Peter was moved in for his house sitting duties. Explaining that to the Moxham’s would require more tact than he could muster at short notice.

“Unless you have other plans.” Jeremey said.

“All right. Let’s see …” Dan checked the time on his cell. “Say 6:30. That gives me time to get home first and make sure the cobwebs have been cleared out.”

“Perfect. Okay princess, let’s get out of here.” Jeremy said opening the shop door for her.

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Picture Perfect 63

Picture Perfect 63

“Okay.” Baxter said. “Now that we are on the subject of the contract, it was agreed that you would freely share any relevant information you discovered in photo or document examination, or in your interrogations, I mean, interviews of the subjects as we arranged them.” He was reading directly from the contract as it appeared on everyone’s monitor screens.

“You have all the footage. I haven’t held anything back.”

“What about this.” It was a clip from his interview with Teresa. The point were camera was trying to get a close up of the photograph she had given Dan

“This is me not wanting to get sued for libel. I am to do reasonable diligence with any evidence I find. I’ll be doing more research on this Monday. You heard the conversation leading up to it didn’t you?”

“Of course that’s why we needed to get that photo on camera. It could be … a person of interest …”

“Baxter you watch too many of your own TV shows.” Dan said. “You know as well as I do, that if this is truly crucial you’ll be told and if it isn’t I can’t let you spin it to implicate someone with rumours from decades ago.”

“He’s right.” Stephanie said. “If this is of importance someone alive now may be harmed greatly if it isn’t handled correctly.”

“What do …” Baxter stopped. “This is what you .. see.”

“Yes.” Jennifer replied. “Mr. Baxter I realize I am just a … nod for your ratings. But you don’t need to believe in me for my abilities to work.” She left the war room.

“I guess I’ve been told.” Baxter said. “Inspector Warszawa perhaps you have some … warmer news from your end of things.”

“Warmer?” War said. “I don’t know about that. I do have to concur with Dan though about ascertaining the relevance of evidence. If you want what you’re doing to be taken seriously by the local law enforcement branches do what they would do as much as possible.”

“If we did what they did we’d have nothing to report on.”

“Point taken but trust Dan on his experience in the field. It’ll make your series that much more believable and powerful. Now that the cases have been officially reopened a task force has been put together to examine the information we already have. They expect Quintex’s full& open cooperation.”

“Even if what we discover doesn’t show them in a positive light.”

“Let’s face it.” Dan said. “They can’t afford to look any worse in the public eye. It’s the best way for them to rebuild public trust. I know investigative abilities  have changed greatly over the past decades.”

“Being called a faggot by an angry cop is still the same.” Baxter said. “And that happened to you less than a week ago.”

“He called me an asshole. But he did refer to you as a queer.”

“Captain MacKillop will be heading the task force. I’ve met with him and he’s on the ball.”

“We’ll get access to the RCMP files?” Stephanie asked.

“When they unearth them” Warszawa said. “MacKillop was surprised to find out how well they had been buried. Cases involving children are handled with greater attention these days. He’s also looking into that.”

“Once again the RCMP investigates itself.” Stephanie said.

“You can keep statements like that to yourself if you expect them to be at all cooperative.” Warszawa said. “Agreed?”

“Whatever.” Stephanie replied.

“I think we’re done here for today?” She looked to Baxter.

“Yes.”

Jennifer Devereaux was waiting beside Dan’s car. Cameron walked over the car. “I’ll be with you again today. Not that we have many others to choose from.” He joked. 

“Remote unit has gone ahead to Truro. This’ll be Helen Davis.” He glanced at his phone. “David McPherson’s aunt. Coordinated have been programmed into your cell already Captain Kirk.”

“Okay. Pile in.” Dan got behind the wheel. 

Jennifer sat in the front beside him. Cameron in the back seat.

“You knew Glaucia?” Dan asked.

“Yes. She had come to my mother many years ago.”

“Your mother?” Dan said.

“Jane Poitier.”

“From the Wickham?” Dan asked. “I though you looked familiar. Sarah must be your sister.”

“Yes, she the ordinary one. There’s a history of second sight in our family that goes back generations in various forms. It has never been the same in subsequent generations but it has always been. With each generation the need to hide has decreased. My mother was called to help others with their talents.”

“Glaucia came to your mother?’

“Yes, to be guided.”

“Like Hogwarts?” Cameron said.

“Nothing that spectacular.” Jennifer laughed. “My mother was more like a guidance councillor than a teacher. Which was what Glaucia was to me.”

“Why not your mother?”

“No, that would never work. Doctors don’t treat their own children, or least they shouldn’t. It is the same with sensitives. It is best when someone who isn’t blood encourages you. They prove be less … invested.”

“How much control do you have over your abilities?”

“It can vary. There are times when an … energy will hit me. There are times when I need to close my eyes and focus on what is around me. I know that if I see nothing it is because there is nothing to see, not that I am not trying hard enough.”

“I hate these set interviews.” Dan said.

“Set?” Jennifer asked. “Aren’t we talking to her in her home?”

“Yes and no. Baxter Bit stylists set the stage for us. Furniture gets moved around. Back grounds become crucial for ambience. When possible they like to help the guests look good too. Hair gets done.”

“What?”

“Oh yes. That’s why my interview with Teresa Dunlop was so good, for me. She called Stephanie in the morning to say where and there was no time to fix things beyond warning the diner we’d be there.”

“That explains the idiotic fringe purse!” Jennifer said.

“You watched it?”

“Some of it. Mr. Baxter said I should observe your style. Didn’t seem to be much style on your part. More like old friends meeting after years.”

“Which in a way it was.”

“What are you going to do about your sister and Kevin?”

“That’s not relevant, is it? Or did you sense something I didn’t.”

“Tread carefully. By the way I have to admire the way you totally ignored her calling you Danny Boy.”

“You picked up on that? She used to do that when I was a kid. Drove me crazy angry.”

“The MacPherson’s came across as fairly ordinary folk.” She tapped the folder of notes on her lap. “So does the Aunt.”

“So far they all have. The abductions were the major crisis in their lives. The fact that they went unconnected is the what makes them unique in an … entertaining way.”

“You’re not doing this for the entertainment value.”

“Oh no, the pay check isn’t bad.”

“There’s more to than that. More like seeking Dad’s approval.”

“You not seeking your Mom’s approval?”

“Excellent reversal. I didn’t see that coming.”

“That’ll put you in the frame of mind of the people we’ll be seeing. None of them saw what happened to them coming.”

They drove in silence for several miles.

When they got to the location Cameron got out first to follow them as they walked up to the house.

“Jennifer.” He stopped her at the bottom of front steps. “Stay focused on these people, on these cases. Our private lives are just that.”

“Sorry. It’s hard for me to block out everyone. If your father had anything to do with these cases I can’t help it.”

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Picture Perfect 60

Picture Perfect 60

“Figures.” Dan gave a little laugh. “What about the RCMP?”

“Oh them. They did what they could. Asked us lots & lots of questions. Made it seem like Pops might have had something to do with it. You must know all about that, Dan, being one yourself. Is that why you joined them? To make victims sweat?”

“Nope. They recruited me.”

“That all they do? That Sergeant, or whatever he was, Davis, I think, certainly wanted to recruit me too. He came to the house more times than I care to remember to ask one more thing. I thought he was trying to get me to rat out on Pops but he was like every guy I’ve ever met. Found out he was talking to your sister right after he’d been to see me. Wonder if he got the information he wanted out of her.”

Dan flied that away for later. His sister never mentioned being questions by the RCMP.

“What do you think happened to Timmy?”

“Oh my God! No one has ever asked me that. I used to think he just ran away. Never to look back. Maybe went to the States and got into the airforce. After he was gone I’d imagine him in a pilot’s uniform. Flying the President around the world. I don’t like to think of him in the hands of some … sicko … or that he’s …” she teared up. “that he’s dead.” She began to weep noisily. “He was just a kid, you know. A good kid. That’s all we were, kids. Those RCMP fellas trying to make out that we were more than that. That everyone was hiding information, being cunning and sly. It wasn’t like that. We just didn’t know what happened.”

Barbra came over with handful of paper napkins.

“Thanks Heather.”

“Another one?” Barbra picked up the empty beer bottles.

“Nope I have had enough. For the afternoon that is.” she smiled. “Sorry, Dan, I didn’t mean to get all mushy like that. We never knew about all them others either until the show. We knew about some of them but not that there were so many. So many.” She began to tear up again. “When I think of those poor children. Now that I have a couple of my own I feel it all even more. I realize what my folks had gone through. It wasn’t a loss, it was like, having your heart ripped out and then some asshole in a uniform acting as if you ripped it out yourself to spite them.

They had no sympathy. That’s what got to me anyway. How did you feel when they talked to you?” she asked Dan.

“They didn’t.”

“But you and Timmy’s was great pals.”

“I didn’t know he’d been abducted until I saw it on Cold Case a few months ago.”

“Go on! They talked to your Dad and Linda. Not you?”

“Yeah. I even wrote Timmy a few times after we moved to Toronto but when he never answered I figured he wasn’t going to.”

“You don’t look much like your Dad. Like, I can, for a bit, see the boy I knew when I look at you. You sound just like him though. When you say some words it’s as if your Dad was speaking to me.”

“I may not of inherited his looks but I did inherit his eye and his voice.”

“Your looks are good. Your Dad was handsome. Charming. My mother said that he was charming. I’d never thought of a man like that until my mother said it. We girls were always trying to get him to take our pictures too. Provoke him as if we were woman enough to … tempt him. We wanted so badly to grow up. Trouble was what we’d lose when we grew up.” She was silent.

“Our researcher said you had some photographs from around that time?” Dan said. 

“Oh yes. I forgot all about them. They’re in my purse here.” She reached for it on the chair next to her. It wasn’t there. “Where the fuck .. sorry, or can you edit things out?” she asked Cameron.

“Edit is easy.”

She looked under her chair, inside her jacket. “Did I have it when we went for a smoke?”

“Don’t think so.” Cameron said.

“Did I take it to the bathroom with me? I’ll be right back.”

The waitress came over and cleared their table.

“Anything else?” she asked.

“Not for me. You?” Dan asked Cameron.

“I’m fine.”

“You want us out of here?” Dan asked the waitress.

“Oh no. Your prediction manager made sure you could take all the time you wanted here. Owners did put their foot down about not letting in our regulars though. How was the food?”

“Let’s just say be glad we’re not restaurant reviewers?” Cameron answered her.

Teresa retuned to the table with her purse clutched under her arm. She had hastily reapplied her make up.

“Would it be okay if we got out of here?” she asked.

“I don’t see why not?” Dan glanced at Cameron.

“I may have to mike you for out of doors.” He looked into his equipment bag for microphones. “I usually have a couple with me.”

“I hate to be a bother but I just gotta … I get restless sitting around talking like this.”

Cameron clipped mikes onto each of them. “These ought to work.”

They went outside.

“Which way?” Dan asked her.

“Let’s go to Allan Park. Not too far from here. You remember it?”

“Sort of. Timmy and I used to play around the train yards a lot. Then the Maple Woods.”

“Woods is gone now.” she said. “Sounding okay, camera guy?”

He gave them a thumbs up.

“Funny I thought it’d be … weird with a camera like this but he sort of stops being there.”

“That’s the idea. Was there anything going on the week before things happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like a  big festival. Was it Stellarton’s Homecoming Week or a Celtic Music Show.”

“Oh, no. Not here. Hippo was the most exciting thing that usually happened around here. Even that was pretty small potatoes. It was always something if they brought in a new ride. No, if we wanted something to do we would go to Truro. Guess that’s part of why even your Dad stopping by for awhile was an event. Never understood why he picked here. Like New Glasgow or even Truro would have been better.”

“Sounds like you thought any place was better.”

“Yeah. I guess I sound like all those soured bitches who drag themselves back to their roots. I’ve been to bigger places and they were no better or worse than here. Lots more of the crappy stuff but the same amount of the good stuff.”

“So there was nothing special that week.”

“Not that I recall.” She unzipped her purse. “Here and those pictures I was talking about. Mama had a drawer full of them. Most of them still in their envelopes. Putting them in albums was something she was going to get around to some day. But after Timmy she didn’t want to look at them. That’s where I found the one of you two on the steps. The one they used on that show.”

“You remember much about that day?” Dan asked as he sorted through the pictures. 

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Picture Perfect 58

Picture Perfect 58

The Cold Case war room was parked in the lot at the Comfort Motor Inn. Warszawa was leaning over and talking to Curtis as he came in. Curtis’s left arm was a sling with his neck in a brace.

“Glaucia didn’t survive her injures.” Baxter said. “We were discussing who, if anyone, we could call to replace her.”

“Dead!” Dan sat in his usual chair. 

“There’s more.” Baxter said. “You tell him Robert.”

“A preliminary examination of the car indicates that it had been tampered with.”

“T … Tampered? As in someone cut the brake lines?”

“Yes but more sophisticated than that. It means that we are talking double-murder and attempted murder now.”

“Roberto was driving carefully.” Baxter explained. “Everyone was when the rain started. Even the GPS didn’t warn us the storm was going to get that bad so fast. Glaucia and I were discussing a show for her, about her like the Long Island Medium. She had enough for a six-parter I felt. The rain got so bad we decided to pull off into the comfort station we were nearing but nothing was responding. Like nothing. Roberto couldn’t get the steering wheel to turn. The brakes wouldn’t respond. Glaucia said the car has been possessed.” He stopped to catch his breath. “A transfer truck passed us, hit a puddle and the wave … it was like a tidal wave … the wipers stuck to the window by the force of it and the car spun. I couldn’t do anything.” His voice dropped. “I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. Never. Then it flipped. It was all so fast. Glaucia was screaming. Things were tumbling through the air around me. I felt my arm snap and I passed out. I came to when they were lifting me on to the stretcher. It was the pain that woke me. The pain and the wet. For a moment I thought I was drowning in my blood but it was Roberto’s.” He wiped around eyes & his chin with a paper towel. “Look at me sweating like Tina Turner just thinking about it.”

“Awful.” Dan said. 

“Yes. Roberto was … sweet.” He dabbed at his eyes again. “But you know me. There’s things to be done. We have a shooting schedule. Investors to satisfy. We’ve lost enough time already thanks to the storm. We have to push on.”

“What about Glaucia?” Dan asked. 

“We can dedicate the series to their memory. Harold in Toronto says it gives our investigation a whole new angle. Another layer. This is more than bad luck. Someone is clearly trying to shut us down.”

“Clearly?” Dan asked.

“Yes.” Warszawa replied. He went to the suspects wall of the war room. There was already list titled ‘shut down.’ 

“First we have the Waterside porn tip. Someone in the know had to have done that. ‘Why’ is as important as who. Next …” he wrote on the list “… car tampering. I don’t think they intended to kill anyone but someone is dead as a result of their actions.”

“You think it’s the same person?” Dan asked.

“Or persons.” Stephanie said.

“Someone who doesn’t want us to find out what happened thirty years ago.” Baxter said.

Dan stood up. “I was supposed to be driving that car, you know. We switched just before we headed out. You needed more room for luggage.”

“Shit! Yes.” Baxter said. “You were named in the search warrant.”

“Someone wants me out of the picture?” Dan was dizzy. “Me?”

“Let’s not jump to that conclusion,” Warszawa said. “It’s still not clear if the car was tampered with. The heavy rain could have affected the electrical system for all we know.”

“I can name at least five people who would benefit from my death.” Dan said.

“Yeah, well, honey I can think of over 100 who would rejoice at mine.” Baxter said.

“Hundreds of thousands,” Stephanie said.  “If you think of your viewers. But to get things on schedule.” She continued. “Tomorrow Dan you’ll be interviewing Tracy Dunlop.”

“Timmy’s sister is still around?”

“Oh yeah. She remembers you and your sister. Your sister sounds like she was a piece of work in those days.”

“She had a mind of her own.” Dan said. He’d never thought of how others saw him or his sister in those days. Now he’d find out.

“Where’s your rental?” Stephanie asked.

“The motor was flooded. Literally.” Dan said. “It’s still parked in Port Elgin.”

“I was afraid of that. You can pick up another one in the morning.”

“I’ll drive you back to the Wickham.” Warszawa offered. “I’m staying there myself.”

In the car Warszawa said. “I don’t know how you put up with that Baxter.”

“You forget the years I put in on the Force.” Dan laughed.

“Right. What do make of this … targeting of you.”

“I don’t know what to make of it. These days everything sounds like it came from some movie. You know where the profiler gets stalked by someone out to prove they are smarter than the profiler.”

“You have suspects in mind?” Warszawa asked.

“Not really. I’d never given it a thought until little while ago. Sanjay sure isn’t happy about how we separated. Linda would be thrilled to take over James Photos.”

‘You said you could name five people.”

“Exaggerating. I don’t want anyone to know how empty life really is.”

“There’s always Vickers who charged you with harassment.”

“Vickers? Was that the asshole who did that. But that was years ago.”

“He was none too pleased when you were cleared.”

“He fucking admitted he’d lied.”

“Truth is irrelevant when someone has been made a fool of. Last I heard he was stationed somewhere on the east coast.”

“You thinking he had something to do with the tipster? With Baxter’s accident?”

“Putting another suspect on the board. He had motive and a better opportunity. He could have read about you being here in the papers. Whereas Sanjay or Linda certainly didn’t have opportunity.”

Warszawa parked in the Wickham’s lot.

“This is where my folks would stay when we were in Stellerton.” Dan said as he got out of the car.

“So that’s why you ended up here and not with the rest of the crew. Baxter was hoping it would bring back memories?”

“More like a story line. ‘It’s was on these very steps that our host Daniel James last saw Timothy Dunlop thirty years ago. How does that make you feel Mr. James.’”

As they walked up the porch Dan looked around.

“The place hasn’t changed much but so far no surpressed memories have surfaced.” 

In the lobby a younger version of Mrs Poitier was at the reception desk.

“Mr. James? I’m Sarah Sweeny, Mrs. Poitier is my mother.” She reached out to shake his hand & then handed him the key to his room.

As he turned to go up the stairs a wall of photographs caught his eye.

“The history wall my mother calls it.” She explained. “We found a pile of these old pictures in one of the living room hutches.”

One of the pictures caught his eye. There on the side porch of the Wickham was his mother and father standing behind him and his sister. Next to them were the Greens. 

“Hey,” He turned to Sarah. “That’s me and my folks. And that’s the Greens who owned the Arms at the time.”

“Oh?” She peered at the picture. “We never met them.”

“How did you come to own the Wickham?”

“It’s sort of funny. My Dad saw a headline in the Halifax paper that said ‘Empty Arms In Stellerton.’ The hotel had been empty for about five years & was due to be torn down. He loved the look of the building & bought it as a surprise for my mother. Let me tell you she was surprised but well, we both love it.”

“And your Dad?”

“He passed away a few years ago.”

“I’m sorry.” Dan was looking at his Dad in the picture.

“You sister is pretty. I mean you are cute too. But your sister. Those are great pants she has on.”

‘Peddle pushers.” Dan said.

“Yeah, that colour is wild. She must have liked the attention.”

“Yeah. I suppose she did. She still does too now that I think of it.”

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Picture Perfect 55

Picture Perfect 55

“Okay.” He called down to Hazel.

“I’ll send Larry up with a lantern for you, once I find them.” Hazel said. “You’ll probably have use the TransCanada in the morning though.”

“Such is life.” Dan unlocked his room. Glad, for once, to have a key that didn’t rely on electronics to open doors.

There was just enough afternoon light for him to find his bed in the dark room. He hoped the rain pounding on the glass wouldn’t break it. Automatically he switched on the bedside lamp, which didn’t  go on.

He turned on his laptop on. Now he was glad the  Lyfend satellite connection didn’t rely on local wifi service. The highways department latest advisory listed the roads that were usable. Hazel was right he’d have to get back to the TransCanada if he wanted to get to Stellerton in the morning. The only problem was that the road between Port Elgin and the TransCanada had been washed out in the storm and would remain closed to traffic for at least twenty-four hours. The Gaspereau had washed out parts of the highway.

He searched for news about Baxter’s accident but there were no updates on that. He was tempted to vidconference with Peter but didn’t want to drain the laptop’s battery that quickly. 

A voice spoke from behind him

“Any news?” 

“Fuck!” He turned around to see a man who looks like a younger version of Joe. “What happened to knocking?”

“Sorry. The door was open. Hazel found a couple of these.” He put a flickering hurricane lantern on the desk. “There’s enough oil in it for awhile. More downstairs if you need it.”

“Thanks.”

“Larry Clarke.” He shook Dan’s hand. He smelled of cigarettes & beer. “General maintenance round here.”

“Joe your Dad?” Dan asked.

“Uncle. Though manys seen the resemblance. Need anything else?”

“Nope. But to answer your question the roads are passable in areas. Crews are working on getting the lines back up. A couple of the transformers were struck by lightening and they are replacing those. They expect full power to be restored by noon.”

“A likely story. One year it was a week before we got full power back here. Hazel asks to find out if there’s any news of your friends?”

“Not online. I was about to call the production assistant to find out.”

“Okay. Plumbing’s working if you need. Cold water though. Water heater shut down. You’ll be wanting supper later? Haze can use the gas grill.”

“That would be great. Thanks for everything.”

Once Larry had left Dan called Stephane. He could hear a lot of noise behind her. 

“Hi Steph. It’s Dan checking in.”

“Thanks for calling. Baxter is still in emerg. The hospital is like being in a disaster movie. There must have been a dozen or so accidents as a result of the storm. It hit so suddenly no one was ready for how quickly it became severe.”

“Any word on how Baxter is?”

“Only that he’ll live. Broken bones. Luckily not his face.”

“What?”

“Yeah! I know, that was the last thing he asked me before they wheeled him off. Is my face okay?” She laughed. “Not, are the others okay.”

“What about Glaucia?”

“Serious is all I know. Her family has been contacted. I don’t know if you heard but Roberto died.”

Dan didn’t know how to respond. “Fuck. I hardly knew whim but he was nice enough.”

“Yeah. A good worker. Plus he kept Baxter happy.”

“Oh! I didn’t realize. Anything from Quintex?”

“They have insurance that’ll cover costs due to production delays, if that’s what you are worried about.”

“No. I mean about the future of the project itself.” 

“We won’t decide that this soon. Chances are it’ll go on.”

“Okay. Tell Baxter I’m sending him good vibes.”

“I will. Bye.”

Dan wasn’t ready to give up. So far the connections to his Dad hadn’t point to or away from his involvement in the disappearances.

….

In the morning the sky was still streaked with clouds but the sun was boring through. 

Larry brought in a deep saucepan of hot water. “The rainwater is receding and power is restored along most of the shore, except, of course Port Elgin. They were replacing the damaged transformers.”

“My car hasn’t been washed away?”

“Nope. Still in the lot.”

Dan’s cell buzzed. It was a text from Baxter: ‘Cn u gt 2 Stlton 4 2nite. Bones set rdy to wrk.’ “Oh shit!”

“Bad news?” Larry asked.

“Not exactly. They want me in Stellerton tonight.”

“Good luck with roads as they are.”

“You know the side roads around here better than GPS can. Is it possible.”

“Ordinarily yes. But after this storm I not sure.”

“Let’s check my car first.” His cell buzzed again. The text read “?” He texted back “Rds permitting.”

Outside the Tartan parking lot was a lake. The car was like an island in the middle with water up to the bottom of the doors.

“Drainage valves must have been clogged by the storm.” Larry said. “Give the me keys and I drive it over. I came prepared.” He lifted his knees to show Dan the waders he was wearing.

Dan watched as Larry light a cigarette as he walked to the car. He stopped at one point and reached into the water and pulled up a mucky clump of leaves to show Dan. He dropped the clump back and rinsed the dirt off his hands. He got into the car. Dan could hear the engine turn over but it didn’t start.

Larry got out of the car and came back to the porch. He tossed his butt into the water. “By the sound of the motor that car isn’t going anywhere soon.”

“Fuck!” Dan said & went back into the restaurant.

“Day is early.” Larry followed him. “What’s it worth to you to get there?”

“Worth?”

“Yeah. I got a powerful Jeep all-terrain. There might be a way, for say …. two hundred bucks? I’m parked back by the kitchen.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not asking I’m offering. There’s a difference.”

Hazel came out of the kitchen with a plate of hotcakes & a pot of coffee.

“What’s he offering you?” She asked.

“To get him out of this heck hole.” Larry laughed.

“If you keep him sober he’s the guy that can do it.” Hazel pure Dan a cup of coffee.

“Haze. What the fuck! I haven’t a beer yet this morning.” He went to the kitchen with Hazel.

Dan thought it over while he ate his breakfast. His cell buzzed again. “On yr wy?” He messaged back a thumbs up.

He took his plate back to the kitchen.

“Okay Larry. Let’s do it.”

Larry face lit up. “Okay! Okay! We’ll stop back at my place to pick up a few things first though. No gas stations on this trail, or comfort stations either.”

“I guess I don’t have much choice.”

It was a five minute drive to Larry’s mobile home. It took him about ten minutes to get the ATV loaded for the trip. Ropes, a cooler joined Dan’s suitcase in the back of the car.

“Here. Those sneakers of yours aren’t going to last long if we have … you get out. ” he gave Dan a pair of heavy duty work boots. “I think these will fit you. They are my mother’s but I your feet seem to about the same size. Mine would be too large for you.”

He put his right foot beside Dan’s left foot. It was much wider and longer. 

Larry got behind the steering wheel. “So are you ready, my friend?”

Dan took his sneakers off & pulled the boots on.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” 

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Picture Perfect 54

Picture Perfect 54

In the morning Dan rolled his suitcase out to the back of his rental SUV. Baxter, then Roberto were piling their bags beside the trunk of Baxter’s compact car. Baxter had insisted on the sporty two-seater for himself because he doing a lot of running around.

“You’ll have no trouble finding space for that.” Baxter said looking from his car to Dan’s.

Both he and Roberto had two large suitcases.

“Can’t you load some of that in the remote truck?” Dan said.

“I suppose I could but …” he nodded at Glaucia. “She has another suitcase yet to come.”

Glaucia stood at her cabin door nodding at him with her white beats headphones firm in place.

“I can take a hint.” Dan laughed. “If you wanted to swap cars why not come right out and say so. Oh, I forgot, asking is not your style. Let me just my crap out of the front seat.” He checked to make sure there was nothing of his in the glove compartment or under the seat. “You can have the Hippo Dog sticks.” he said giving the keys to Baxter.

“Thanks.” Baxter said. 

Dan fit his suitcase into the trunk of the smaller car, then put his shoulder bag on the passenger seat.“Pays to travel light.” he said to Baxter.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Baxter said as he heaved the first of the suitcases into the back of the bigger car.

Dan surveyed the dashboard of the car. He’d driven it once already. It had all the latest electronic stuff they could squeeze into a car and keep it affordable. As he pulled out of the parking lot the built in GPS asked:

“Destination please.”

“Stellerton. Nova Scotia.” He said.

“Follow route 2. You will need gas in an hour. Next comfort stop is …”

“Thank you.” He found the control for turning the GPS voice off. He left the map portion turned on so he could see how far along he was on the route he had opted for which he was sure the GPS would argue with him about. Sometimes going ‘the wrong way’ got him to where he was supposed to be.

Then he went into the Waterside diner for breakfast. His was already on table where he usually sat.

“I told George you’d have the usual.” Stephanie said. “Hope you don’t mind? Saves time.”

“Fine,” Dan said sitting at his spot. The toast was still warm. “It’s going to hard leaving these perfect breakfasts behind.” He said to George as George put a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him.

“It’s going to hard not racking up these tips.” George said. “You’ll be back?”

“Maybe.” Stephanie said. “We may want to do some pick up shots, as they say. Never know what information may lead us back here.”

‘There’s always the Circus Museum.” Dan said. “I think it would be an ideal spot for an interview.”

“Or a birthday party.” Baxter said. “Maybe we’ll have the wrap party there once the shoot is done.”

“We best get going,” Roberto said. “That storm looks like it’s going be rolling in soon.”

“So no one’s coming with me.” Dan asked?

“No,” Baxter answered. “She’ll be driving with me and Roberto.”

“Then I’ll be on my own?” Dan said. “Cool. I can turn the radio up as loud as I want.”

He went back to his cabin to use the bathroom one last time. As he had officially checked out he asked George. 

 “Is the old Conner route still being used?”


“Oh yeah. That Trans Canada by passed a passel of places along the shore there. Not as well kept as the Trans but good enough. Make sure got a full tank o’gas before you head along there. No comfort stations.”

“Will do.”

The Conner would take an hour longer so it was avoided by the transfer semi’s that hogged the Trans Canada. His Dad hated those monsters and so did he. The less stress driving was the better. The fewer comfort stops the better too. That would mean more scenery and glimpses of the ocean.

The rain didn’t start until he turned east at Shediac. Seemed fitting that as he got closer to the Strait that the sea should rise up to meet him. When was the last time he’d thought that phrase? It was one his Dad would use in really heavy rain. He stopped to fill the gas tank. This stretch of highway was seeing more use thanks to the Confederation Bridge. He was tempted by the signs pointing the way to the bridge. Maybe if it wasn’t raining so heavily he’d be tempted. Something for after the shoot or next summer. 

At Port Elgin he crossed the Gaspereau River, was spun round on an unexpected highway round about, lost his sense of direction in the rain but managed to head in the right direction to stop at The Proud Tartan Bar and Grill for lunch. The place had wifi. First thing he checked was the weather report.

“Storm’s not going to stop soon.” The waitress said. “I can tell you that. Rather my left knee can tell you that.”

“I was afraid of that, Hazel.” Dan glanced at her name tag then the menu. “What would to recommend.”

“Good time of year for the speckled trout. Can’t go wrong with the burger either. Local beef. Ground fresh here.”

“Dig your own spuds for the fries too I suppose.”

“Yeah,” she laughed. “But no, though they are … hand-crafted by our skilled chefs.”

“Burger appeals. Fries too.”

“Want a Kiefers to go with that. Local micro-brewery.”

“Sure why not.”

He was the only customer in the restaurant. His table give a decent view of the river across the street. The sky darkened even more and a crack of lightening illuminated the other shore. Heavy fall of rain followed. He could hear it on the roof of the bar. Soon he couldn’t see past the parking lot.

“Roof is solid,” Hazel said as she put his beer on table along with a schooner glass.

He tipped the bottle to pour it into the glass and was amazed as the deep red of the brew.

“I love to see that look.” she said. “This is the one beer we always let the customer pour. Gently now, so there’s not too much head.”

Dan did as directed. He took a sip.

“Strawberry?” he said.

“Right.”

“And hay?”

“Right again. This is the end of their summer brews. The other is … ”

“Blueberry Beer?”

Hazel brought his burger. “Hope you don’t mind the onion roll.” she said as she put it on the table. “None of t’other.”

“It’ll be fine.” another one of these too. He tapped the Keifers bottle.

“Two’s the limit you know” she laughed. “Unless to got designated driver.”

“This storm keeps up and …”

There was another flash of lightening followed by a deep rumbled of thunder. The lights in the bar flickered off for a minute then came back on.

“That can’t be good.” Dan said.

“Nope. I’ll check the TV and see what I can find out.”

There were no more electrical problems while Dan ate his burger. He declined a third beer though. 

“If you’re fixing to stay the night you best get your kit from your car. You’ll have your choice of rooms here.”

“Here?”

“B’n’B upstairs. We don’t put the sign out until the season really starts.”

“Thanks.” Dan said. He paid for his lunch and added an equal amount as tip. Quintex would be paying so he could afford to be generous.

“Much appreciated Mr. James. I’ll get Joe to get room … 101 ready for you.” 

“Joe?”

“You don’t think I cooked that hamburger for you.”

He went out to the the covered porch of the Proud Tartan. Did he really want to get his suitcase? The rain was so heavy Dan couldn’t see across the street. The wind was shaking the flag poles along the parking lot. 

“Here.” Hazel gave him a heavy rain poncho. “You’ll have get your own luggage.”

He dashed out to the car to get his suitcase. His jeans & shoes were soaked by the time he got back. 

“Don’t remember it raining this hard since I was a boy.” He sat at a table to take off his wet shoes.“Hurricane Francis, I think.”

“You from a round these parts?” Hazel handed him a towel.

“Yes. Grew up on the Cape. New Waterford.”

“Francis was some storm. Waves washed cars off the Causeway that year.”

Dan’s cell rang.

“I better answer this. It could be my crew wondering where I am.”

“Hello.” It was Stephanie. “What … I’m okay … Baxter had Roberto and Glaucia with him. That’s right he took the SUV I had been driving … Right now I am at …” he looked to Hazel “What’s the b’n’b called?”

“Tartan Beds.”

“Tartan Beds at the Proud Tartan. It’s in Port Elgin. It’s as far as I got before the sea rushed up to meet me … okay … I’ll let you know when I’m heading out of here but I don’t expect it will be until morning.”

“Bad news?”

“Yeah.” Dan walked to the front window to look out at the storm. The wind was whipping the various flags around. “The car my boss Baxter was driving lost traction on the highway and flipped. He’s been taken to a hospital in Halifax. He had two other passengers. They aren’t sure if they’ll survive.”

“You were close to these people?” 

“I hardly really knew them. I didn’t know Baxter until a few months ago. I liked them if that’s what you are asking. Close? No.”

His cell rang again. “Sorry.”

This time it was Peter. “I’m alright. … no I wasn’t in the car … you tell Sanjay everything is okay … yeah I’m sure he’s concerned … no I don’t know how this will affect the shoot but trust me Baxter will make the most of it. … yes, I’ll … okay … bye.” He put his phone on the table. “My house sitter. News report was that a TV film crew from Toronto was in traffic accident. He was sure I was dead.”

“Room’s ready.” A grizzled man in an apron tossed a key on the table.

“Thanks Joe.” Hazel said.

“I’m going to up to my room and slip into some dry clothes.” Dan pushed himself up from the table.

Halfway up the stairs there was a loud crash from outside & the power went out.

“First door on your left, Mr. James.” Hazel called up to him. “First door on your left.” 

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