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 57

Picture Perfect 57

Dan stood at the door of the Wickham Arms. It brought back no memories. After studying the pictures his Dad has taken around the Arms and in particular the one of him and Timmy on the front steps, he had expected the actual location to have some resonance. Maybe the storm washed it away.

“Mr. James?” An elderly woman came to the door.

“Yes.” He put down his suitcase to open the door.

“We were expecting you much sooner.” She smiled. “A spot of rain usually doesn’t slow our guests down.”

“When the sea rushes up to meet you it is wise to a pause to let it recede.” Dan answered.

“Or sink where you stand your ground.” she replied. “Come in.  I’m Jane Poitier. Some of your crew has arrived. Least those who are staying here. Some of them have opted for the modern comforts of the Comfort Motor Inn.”

“I’m sure they’ll be happier there.” He signed the register. “Larry Clarke speaks highly of your hospitality.”

“A charming young man.” She handed him a skeleton key with a large oval fob. “You hang that here when you leave”

“Another key! Same as the Proud Tartan. It’s always been some sort of card.”

“Like them I believe strongly in tradition. How is Mrs. Clarke?”

“Larry’s married? He didn’t mention her when he drove me here in fact.”

“No, his mother. His folks own the Tartan. I guess he didn’t mention that either.”

“The short cut he used took up all our attention. Not much time for talking.”

“Short cut?” She asked.

“Some skidoo trail through them there hills. Moose something, he called it. Then a logging road.”

“The young fool.” she said. “Reckless. Too many reckless people these days. He’s lucky he did’t get the two of you killed. More than one has gone down the ravines along there.”

“He knew what he was doing as you can see, I’m here. A little rough for wear. Things have changed a here at the Arms. The reception used to be right by the door, there.” He pointed to a spot that was now occupied by a sideboard covered with plants.

“We took over the Arms about fifteen years ago. It had fallen on hard times and was closed for a few years before we reopened it.”

“You don’t know what became of the Greens.”

“No.  You’ll have number 36. On the third floor. It’s a bit of a walk up. No elevator but we do have…”

“The dumb waiter?”

“Why yes.”

“I can remember going up and down in it as kid when my folks stayed here.”

“We’ll have none of behaviour now young man.”

Dan couldn’t tell if she was joking.

“Yes ma’am.” He tossed his suitcase into the dumbwaiter and sent it up to the third floor. The stairs up to the second floor were as wide as he remembered. Carpeted now. The bannisters had been replaced so there little chance of the initials he and Tim had carved would still be there.

The turn to the second floor wasn’t as sharp or sudden. His mother always had a problem negotiating that turn. The squeaks were gone but the stairs to the third floor were still as narrow. The stairway window was now clear glass. The previous yellow stained glass never illuminated much. A large white globe was suspend on the ceiling.

The third floor had been two apartments on either side of the hall. Now they were redivided into three separate rooms each. At least he supposed they were separate. His was at the end of the hall. 

He got his luggage out of the dumbwaiter and rolled it down to his room. The Arms was familiar and totally different at the same time. The same doorframes but new doors, new colours. The window at the end of the hall looked out over a back garden. Yes, the garden was still there but the empty lots beside it was now one of those red brick bunkers.

His room was bigger than he expected. Queen bed, one bedside table, comfy chair, tiny desk triangled in a corner. It looked large enough for a laptop but little else. Tiny bathroom with a shower stall. Rosebud soap by the sink, which was also triangled into a corner. Not enough room to swing a wet towel.

The closet was a fair size and he took his clothes out, shook the wrinkles from his jeans and shirts as best he could and hung them. He turned the shower on. Hot water without waiting and good pressure. He turned it off and undressed, tossing his socks, undies & tee-shirt into the shower. Laundromats where not on the itinerary.

He looked in his toiletries bag for body wash & shave cream. After the past couple of days of being on & off the road he longed for a hot soak. He needed a shave too. He adjusted the mirror on the back of the door. No bruises on his butt from the mountain ride. His hands needed something though. They were rough and scraped from pushing those logs to move the tree. There were scratches on his forearms from grappling with them.

There was a loud knock at his door. He opened it without thinking to grab for a towel. It was Larry.


“You dropped this in the truck.” he handed Dan his cellphone. “It started to beep or I would have been back at the Tartan before I noticed it.”

“I was … just going to take a shower.” Dan took his cellphone. He moved back so Larry could enter the room

“So I see.” Larry said. “How is the butt? Black and blue?”

“No.” Dan wrapped a towel around his waist.

“It’s still not too late to rectify that.” 

“Larry!” Dan felt his face redden. “Wasn’t the three hundred bucks enough?”

“You are saying you aren’t even curious. Are you sure you are gay?”

“Oh I’m sure. But if that was going to happen between us it would have by now.”

“I am not your type?”

“That’s not it but …”

“You are total top?”

“No but …”

“I am too country boy for you. Is that it.”


“Fuck Larry! You sound like one of those straight guys who is positive every queer he meets is after his dick. Sure that every queer is fucking every queer he can get his hands on.”

“Is the part where you slap my face and push me out the room.”

“It sure ain’t the part where you kiss me to show me the error of my ways with your manly brutishness.” Dan tried to make a joke of the situation.

“Why not?”

“I’m not sure what’s going on here. Between us. I’ve never been that sort of person.”

“I see.” Larry took the one step from the bed to the door. “You aren’t angry with me?”

“No!” His cell buzzed that a text had arrived. “It’s work calling.” He glanced at it and it was from Stephanie. It was an “?” 

He showed it to Larry. “You see – the show must go on. But not until I take a shower.” He watched Larry go down the hall, locked the door and turned the shower on full.

In the lobby he was surprised to see Stephanie chatting with Larry.

“Seems likes you’ve had your own adventures while we were having ours.” Stephanie said.

“Yes. He’s heading back to Port Elgin now.”

“Ah … yes. I won’t have to take the Moose Trail. Roads are better.”

“Thanks again for getting me here, in one piece.”

“My pleasure.” Larry shook his hand. “Can we keep in touch?”

“Sure. Send a receipt to Baxter’s Bits for the three hundred dollars.”

Larry went out quickly.

“What was all that bout?” Stephanie asked.

“He didn’t risk his life to get me here for free. I gave him three hundred, cash.”

“I get that part but there seemed to be more to the story than that.”

Dan ignored her question. “Did the war room arrive intact?”

“Oh yeah. Baxter is waiting for us. He sent me to  pick you up.”

“Any word on Glaucia?”

“Serious. Even if she survives there’s little chance she’ll ever fully recover. Head trauma.”

He went out the to the far end front porch and Stephanie followed him. “How’s Baxter? I thought he was injured too?”

“Bad enough but not enough to hold him back. He is heartsick about Roberto.”

They went to Stephanie’s rental. Larry was wiping mud splashes off the doors of his jeep.

“Thanks again Larry.” Dan said as he got into her car.

“Anytime.” He got inot his jeep & drove away.

“You sure know how to pick’em.” Stephanie said.

“I don’t pick’m, he showed up when I needed him. If I picked them they wouldn’t turn out to be … stalkers.”

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