Picture Perfect 59

Picture Perfect 59

Dan looked around Cora’s Place for Teresa Dunlop. There were more people there than he had expected for a lunch time crowd at a small-town eatery. Eight tables with people at five of them already. Mostly couples and some families with children.

A waitress noticed him and the camera man standing there. “We have that window table for you.” she nodded in that generally direction.

“Do you know Teresa Dunlop? I was supposed to meet her here.”

The waitress did a fast look around. “Nope can’t say as she’s here. Take that table though she can’t miss you if she shows up. Remember now shots of customers in the restaurant.”

They sat at the table. Cameron, his camera man for the day, beside him. They was five minutes early. Dan glanced at the notes about Teresa on his phone. Married twice, no children, worked at various jobs, currently single, unemployed, trained as dental hygienist, worked as hair-dresser, lived in Halifax for several years before moving back to Stellerton to look after ailing parent. Parent passed away two years ago.

“Get you guys something while you are waiting?” waitress asked. “Beer?”

“Coffee will be fine.”

“Same here. Milk if you got it.” Cameron said.

The waitress brought their coffees. “You must be with that TV show that’s in town. The camera man is a dead giveaway.”

“That’s right.” Dan said.

“Down right sad about that Glaucia. I’d met her a couple of times. Funny how you can be here one day and gone the next.”

“Yes.” Dan stirred cream into his coffee.

“Wonder that she didn’t see it coming, though. Her being psychic and all that. Maybe you can’t see yourself in the picture, right?” The waitress gave a wry smile.

“Yes.” Cameron said.

She went to another table.

Dan sipped the coffee. It was weak. A table emptied, then another.

“Looks like you’ve been stood up.” The waitress came over with the coffee pot. “Top you guys up?”

“Not just yet for me. Too much coffee on an empty stomach isn’t good for me.” Dan looked over the menu. “I’ll have the soup.”

“Chicken noodle today.”

“Sounds good and a … grilled cheese. Whole wheat.”

“White only. But it’s enriched.”

“Okay.”

“Bacon burger and fries for me.” Cameron said. “The works.”

Soup & grilled cheese was the sort of lunch Dan’s mother used to serve when they traveled. She’d always bring a hot plate and grilled cheese was easy and fast. He’d had a craving for it since checking in to the Arms.

He checked his phone for the time and Teresa was thirty minutes late. He figured she wasn’t going to show up. 

The waitress brought his soup and sandwich and camera’s burger.

“Enjoy.”

The chicken noodle was out of a can. Either that or the chef was able to duplicate that look and taste. It was salty. The sandwich was hot, the cheese was mild, tasteless and it had to be those processed slices not real cheese. He waved to the waitress.

“How’s the burger?”

“Filling.” Camera said. “Fries are decent. Needs something.”

“Yes?” she brought the coffeepot to the table. “Ready for this.”

“Yeah, sure. Do you have any hot sauce?”

“No.” she shrugged.

“What about dips for the wings?” Cameron asked.

“Oh yeah. There’s the spicy one. I’ll have to charge extra you for it though.”

“Fine.”

“Dan James!” a woman called from the door, as she entered & walked to his table. She was about five four, though the fringe on her leather jacket made her look taller. Her tight jeans were tucked into the tops of calf-hugging dark red leather boots that came half way up her shins. Tufts of hair in a variety of reds, blues and blonds weren’t tamed by the Jay’s baseball cap she had pulled on her head. She bumped one of the tables on her way.

He stood to meet her. “Teresa Dunlop?”

“I’m she and she needs another drink. A Molson’s, Heather.” She shouted to the waitress as she sat. “A cold one this time, too.” She she slung her fringed purse on the empty chair opposite Cameron, pulled off her scruffy fringed jacket and sat. “They know me here.” She grinned at camera.

“This is my crew for the interview. Cameron Hall.” 

She reached across the table to shake Cameron’s hand and knocked over Dan’s cup of coffee.

The waitress put a the beer on the table along with a glass and gave Dan his hot sauce.

“I’ll get a cloth for that.” she grimaced at the spilled coffee.

Teresa took a swig out of the bottle then poured the rest into the glass. “That first one tastes best out of the bottle. You have to decide what’s more important being a lady or having the right taste.”

Another waitress came over to wipe the table down. They lifted their food to make it easier for her.

The waitress brought a plate of fries with a dollop of gravy splashed in the middle of it and put in front of Teresa.

“Thanks Heather.”

“It’s Barbra.” the waitress said timidly. “Heather’s been gone these two months having her baby.”

“Sorry to hear that. Guess I should look closer. Thanks Barbra.” She ate a couple of fries, had another swallow of her beer. “Look Dan, I gotta have a smoke. Can’t do that indoors anymore. I’ll be right back. Bring me another, Heather.” she called to the waitress.

“Mind if I join you,” Cameron asked.

“Sure! Nothing worse than smokin’ alone unless it’s drinkin’ alone.” She got a package of Export A cigarettes out of her purse. “You not takin’ that with you?” She asked gesturing to his camera. “Mighty small isn’t it?”

“Should I?” Cameron asked Dan. “It’s your interview.”

“Sure why not.”

“Swell, make sure you get m’good side.”

They stood on the sidewalk a few feet from the door. Teresa puffing, taking and pointing here and there. Someone stopped to talk to her and she introduced them to her cameraman. She flicked her cigarette into the street, slipped her arm under Cameron’s and they came back into Cora’s.

“I gotta take a quick, you know, to the ladies. I’ll be right back. Heather can you reheat this for me.”

The waitress took the plate of fries into the kitchen.

“You’ll have your work cut out for you with this one.” Cameron said. 

“She have anything to say out there?”
“Telling me who lived where. She did want to know you were single. I told her you weren’t in the market just now.”

A microwave dinged and waitress put the reheated fries in front of Teresa as she sat back down.

“That’s better. So where do we start Danny Boy.”

“What do remember about that day.” Dan asked.

“Mama was a wreck. Pops was drunk, not unusual. Both of them are dead now, you know that? Anyway.” She was silent for a moment. 

“Yeah, that’s all I remember. I was seeing that guy from Hippo. You know the one your sister had the hots for too, but I made sure she didn’t get more than her hands on him, and vice versa.” she sighed deeply. “I should have just stepped out of the way but I was tired of you folks coming here and getting all that attention. She was pretty enough. Acted better than she was because your Dad was so … rich. Yeah! We though you fellas were loaded. Staying the Arms and all that.” She picked at her fries.

“You weren’t like her though.”

“You mean after the same men as you?” Dan asked.

“Go on with you. No, I mean you acted like you was happy to be here. You and Timmy got on great too. You kept him out of trouble, most of the time.”

“My folks thought he was always getting me into trouble.” Dan said.

“It was pretty awful to lose him like that. You never know. Never.” She teared up. “We fought all the time but I liked him. Loved him. We was sorry to see you up and leave so fast too. Though can’t blame your Dad. He said it could have been you. For a long time I wished that it had been you. I hate to say that.”

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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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