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 26

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

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

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

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

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

“Slow day?” Dan asked.

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

“Linda around?”

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

“She’s getting Botox shots?”

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

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

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

“Clever.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Location.”

“They could be anywhere.”

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

“There is no technique in these.”

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

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

“Then why keep them?”

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

“Inside voice Linda.”

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

“You know who she is, don’t you?”

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

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

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

“Camera Club?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We all were.”

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

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

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

“Google Bettie Page.”

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

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

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

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

“They make them for guys?”

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

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

As he walked the bus stop his cell phone rang.

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

“Tonight?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Picture Perfect 5

Once Inspector Warszawa left Dan called the Canada Cold number and after a menu of numbers for other shows the channel produced, left his contact information as well as a brief message, as requested. He skipped his usual Classic Carafe lunch and biked down to the Esplanade to visit his mother.

After his father had died and the estate had been settled she had purchased a small condo in one of the complexes there. Compact and easy to maintain.

“Daniel, this is such a pleasant surprise.” She poured him a cup of tea. “If I had known you were coming I wouldn’t have let you catch me in these rags.” She brushed imaginary dust off the shoulders of her pale blue smock.

They sat a table in front of the window that overlooked the inner courtyard.

“This isn’t Sunday is it?” She joked. “I’m not getting that senile that fast am I.”

“No. I found something in the archives that I had to ask you about.” Dan took the file with the photos out of his shoulder bag. “Do you remember these?”

He had brought the pictures of him and Timmy.

“Why, no dear I don’t.” She put on her glasses to look closer at them. “Is that the … why, yes it is, it’s the Wickham, isn’t it? In Stellarton. Of all the places we stayed summers that was my favorite. Maybe because it was where your Dad and I went for our honeymoon. Romanic Stellerton.”

“Right. We stayed there when he did his summer work.”

“You liked it there. Was this one of your little friends?”

“Yes. That’s Timmy Dunlop.”

“Whatever be … came of him.” she stopped. “Oh God!” she covered her mouth with her hand.

“You remember him. Timmy was one of the children that disappeared. That was about the time we left, wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know. It was so long ago. So long. Why bring that up again?”

“I didn’t know about this, till I found out this weekend. It was on TV. Timmy was my best friend. Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“I know how you missed him when we moved. But it couldn’t be helped.”

“What couldn’t be helped? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“Dad tried but there seemed no logical way to explain it. No one understood what had happened. We didn’t want to alarm you. And by the time you were old enough to maybe understand, it seemed pointless to say anything anyway. Life went on. Right?”

“This was why we moved so abruptly?” Dan tried not to sound accusatory. He found it hard to contain his anger at having this held back from him.

“We had been planning the move since Christmas. The missing children changed the timeline. When Timmy was … whatever happened, it was too close to us. With everything else that was happening I put my foot down and decided it was time to go.”

“I understand all that Mom but why never tell me.” He teared up. “Timmy was … a friend … now I have to … bury him somehow.”

 

Dan arrived back the store a little after two. His mother didn’t have a lot to tell him and what she did tell him only made things murkier. It was clear that something beside the missing children had sparked their move to Toronto. But she claimed not to remember exactly what.

“Someone was by to see you, bossman.” Sandy handed him an embossed business card.

It said. ‘Cyrtys Baxter – Quintex Canada – Executive Producer’ with a phone number, fax number, email address and web site printed on the back. As the light played on it, a man’s face appeared momentarily.

“It’s pronounced Curtis.” Sandy explained. “He says he’s from Canada Cold.”

“W.T.F?” Dan tried to steady the reflection on the card to see the face more clearly.

“Amazing.” Ushio took the card from him. “It’s that new Laser 3-D printing I have been reading about. I have never seen anything like it.”

“Did he say what he wanted?” Dan asked taking the card back. 

“Nope. Just that he was returning your call in person.”

“Right. I called them about the show I saw last night.” He quickly told them about the missing children and the photo of him and Timmy Dunlop.

“You sure it wasn’t you that disappeared.” Ushio joked. “You do vanish from here often enough.”

Ushio was ribbing about the hours he and Sandy often spent in the top floor lab developing software. It was with her help that he had worked out the bugs in the program that helps with the image work for the porn case.

“Did he say he’d be back?” He looked at the card as if it would tell him. It was a little thicker than the usual card and as he squeezed the image sort of hovered over it. “Wild.”

“He asked you call the number on the card when …”

Dan’s cell phone rang.

“Cyrtys here.”

Dan was a bit stunned. He stared at the card and then his phone.

“Hello Dan? I’m at Carafe. I’ll be right there.” The line went dead. A few minutes later Cyrtys came into the store.

Dan wasn’t sure what to expect when the tall, heavy set black man came over to shake his hand.

“Cyrtys Baxter.”

His voice was deep, slow and slightly insinuating.

“Daniel Jameson.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

“How did you know I was back? Some chip in your card?”

“Yes – it is set off by your fillings.” He laughed. “Just kidding. I saw you drive your bike into the back lane. Gave you a few minutes to get in. No magic, really.” 

“Crap.” Ushio said. “I was hoping your biz card has some sort of GPS built into it.”

“Good idea.”

“Canada Cold got your call and I figured I’d answer it in person.”

“We can go up to my office.” Dan lead him to the stairs to the second floor. “I didn’t expect such a prompt response.”

“You weren’t too far from our offices.” Cyrtys follow him up the stairs. “I also knew who you were and figured why not follow up directly.”

“Who I was?” Dan sat behind his desk.

“You work with the RCMP sometimes. You got mentioned in that article about busting the child porn syndicate.”

“Syndicate might be pushing it some. Network is more like it. The cells are everywhere, we just pulled out a few strands of the web, as it were.”

“Don’t be so modest.” Cyrtys sat in the chair in front of the desk. “Nice set up you’ve got here.”

“Thanks.” 

He found himself staring at Cyrtys’s face. There was something familiar about him.

“DJ Mix-a-Mud.”

“Huh?”

“You had that look. I haven’t seen it for a while. That look of ‘who are you?’ That’s what you were wondering, right?”

“Yeah. Mix-a-Mud? From The Slime Ball Bunch?”

“Got on the first try. That was me. I was a lot younger and … thinner then.”

The Slime Ball Bunch was a kids after school show where contestants would get slimed with various colors of goo if they got a wrong answer.

“I always wanted to be on that show.”

“I’m not surprised. But it was a fucking horror show to produce. Can you imagine what it took to keep the studio clean. Young boys and girls in shower rooms with chaperons. The sexual tension was as slimy as the slime.”

“Wow. I never thought of that. But I remember you now. Man, I wanted to be a DJ and spin records the way you did.”

“Pre-recorded you know. I just twiddled.” Cyrtys mimed fiddling with records on two turntables. “But you can’t imagine the number of girls who thought I was totally hot. It was as if they hadn’t seen a cute black boy before.”

“Not only girls.” Dan said.

“You thought I was totally hot?” Cyrtys laughed. “It was usually much older guys who made that known to me. That’s one of the reasons I stepped from in front of the camera and to behind the scenes.”

“A natural enough progression.”

“What more can you tell me?” Cyrtys asked. “About the tip you called in.”

Dan took the folder of photos out from his file drawer. He put a couple of them on the desk. 

“As I said in my message I’m the other boy in the picture you used on the show. My Dad took these. It must have been taken shortly before Timmy Dunlop was taken.”

“This episode has generated more interest than any other in the series. Lost children are like cute kitten pictures. The public can’t seem to get enough of them. There have been more calls in the first forty-eight hours than any of the other cases.” He didn’t take his eyes off Daniel as he spoke.

“I don’t know if I’d equate missing children with cute kittens.”

“Sorry. I guess that did sound a little … cold.” Cyrtys grinned. “I’m a business person after all.”

“People’s misery isn’t a business proposition, Mr. Baxter. I don’t think I have anything more to say to you.”

Dan got up and went to his office door.

“Please.” Cyrtys stood. “I didn’t mean to seem unfeeling.”

In the close space of the office Dan found it hard to breath with Cyrtys cologne wrapping itself around everything. He noticed it when Cyrtys first came in but in the store it wasn’t as pervasive. 

“I do have things to do.”

“I realize that. You have another RCMP case, don’t you?”

“I’m never at liberty to discuss such matters. But I do have a business to run here.”

Cyrtys stepped back a few feet.

“What are you looking at?” Dan asked.

“You.”

“You’ve been studying me since we met.”

“Yes. You have an appealing quality about you. Sort of sexy but serious.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Sorry. We’re looking to replace John Kilpatrick. Actually he wants to leave the show. Not enough money.”

“Me as the host of Canada Cold?”

“Yeah. He only got the gig because he played that crusading coroner for a couple seasons. You have real credentials. You’re not some actor. The real deal.”

“I’m confused. You aren’t looking for more on that case?”

“No. Not my department. I passed that information on to Vicki. She’s our researcher. She’ll be calling you later in the week. Like I said we got so many calls from this one show, nearly as many as all the other episodes combined. Good thing, as the studio wasn’t happy with the numbers.. They’re the ones who don’t care about the victims, not me.” Cyrtys sighed deeply.

“I glanced over the list of callers and saw your name there. It rang a bell. I guess from that article in the paper. I did a quick google on you to confirm you were who I thought you were. Not many pictures of you online though.”

“No.”

“Would you be interested in testing for the studio?”

“I … Look this isn’t what I was expecting. I called about this case not to get an audition.”

“At least say you’ll think about it. You single?” He picked up a photo on the desk of Dan and Sanjay by the pool in Palm Springs.

“Not that it’s relevant, but no I’m not single. Yes, that is my partner in the picture. Which means I am gay.” Dan realized he was talking louder than usual.

“Yes, I picked that up when you admitted to finding me totally hot. It’s all good Dan. All good. I’m not bothered, if I was, it would be like the pot calling the kettle girlfriend.”

Dan was caught off guard as Cyrtys slipped into a totally diva delivery by the end of what he was saying. He laughed.

“That’s more like it.” Cyrtys smiled. “Think about the offer. We’ll be shooting the next season soon. From the response to this episode I think we’ll do a follow up to these missing children. Having someone in one of the photos as host would make it an easy sell to Quintet. The full package.”

He shook Dan’s hand and bounded down the stairs.

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