Picture Perfect 37

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

He cell rang.

“Daniel?” it was Baxter.

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

“What is your bank branch?”

Daniel gave him the location.

“Perfect. Meet me there in twenty minutes.”

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

Curtis was there talking with the manager when he arrived.

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

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


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

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

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

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

“When do we meet with Quintex?”

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

“What about John Kilpatrick?”

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

“Recovering as expected.”

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

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

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

“Hi Jill. The usual for my crew.”

She began to pour the the various ‘usuals.’

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

“He’s looking after his Dad.”

<>

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

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

“What brings you here this late at night.”

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

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

“Weird in what way?”

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

“The western photographer?” Dan said.

“Right. He did those gigantic panoramic things.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<>

Dan arrived at FairVista five minutes before his Lyphend presentation. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You saw the agreement?”

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

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

“What … I mean …”

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

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

“Fuck! The projections for next year?”

“Right first time.”

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

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

“You just did.” He sipped his coffee.

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

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

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

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

“Your workshop ran over budget.”

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

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

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

“I see.” Linda seemed to sag.

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

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

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

“What runs in the family?”

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

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

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

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

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

No.”

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

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

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

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

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

“And.”

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

“When was that?”

“About a year before we moved?”

They walked back down to shop level. 

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

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

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Picture Perfect 36

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

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

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

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

“So do you.” Sandy said.

“You remember Sandy.” Dan said.

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

“This is Ushio Tanaka.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Smells good back here.”

“That’s the Carafe.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The workshop is upstairs.”

She followed him up.

“Your bedroom was in the corner.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“I did.”

“I want them destroyed.”

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

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

“You did what?”

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

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

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

“Were they all Dad’s work.”

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

“Publishing them?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your sister did.”

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

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

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

“Can I see them?”

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

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

“Are there any more?”

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

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

“Yeah.”

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

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

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

“He kept it hidden alright.”

“He assured me he wasn’t … ”

“What?”

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

“What! Caught doing what?”

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

“And the models. They know.”

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

“Our?”

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

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

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

“You were in one of those magazines?”

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

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

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

“I’m beginning to understand.”

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

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

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

“Who called?”

“They wouldn’t tell him.”

“It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Me! No.”

Dan believed her. 

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

“Don’t worry, it won’t be.”

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

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

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

“I will Mom. I will.”

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

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

“The old homestead got to her.”

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

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

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

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

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