Friday, June 22, 2018

Cigar Smoker

This gentleman let me take his photo at Bryant Park during Christmas season back in 2016.  I really liked the way he stood there puffing on his cigar.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Twenty-Three

It was the first time Quinn had visited Koreatown since the evening he’d been almost killed by the pile of falling bricks.  This time he wasn’t alone.  Penelope walked closely by his side as they made their way across 32nd Street.
The restaurant was on the south side of the block a few doors to the west of Fifth Avenue.  Beside its entrance, cooks stood directly behind the plate glass windows so that customers could better see them preparing the dumplings that were the house specialty.  Inside was a long narrow room furnished simply with yellow wooden tables and benches.
“I enjoy Asian cuisine, especially Chinese, but this will be the first time I’ve tried Korean food,” Penelope confessed as they took their seats.  “I’ve always heard how spicy it is.”
“Trust me,” said Quinn.  “This is the best place in the city to get dumplings and fried rice.  It’s a lot better than the Chinese takeout downtown.”
“Better than Chinese,” repeated Penelope in a doubtful tone.  “I don’t think so.”
Quinn didn’t bother to argue the point.  Instead, he concentrated on the menu as the waiter walked over to take their order.
A few minutes later, the same waiter reappeared with one large plate of dumplings, one of fried rice and a large bowl of hot & spicy soup.
“Why only one of each?” Penelope asked.  “Where’s mine?”
“We share,” said Quinn.
Penelope was aghast.  “What?  I never share food with anyone.”
“This is as good a time as any to start,” Quinn replied as he shoveled dumplings onto one of the two smaller plates the waiter had left on the table.
Penelope made a face.
“I’m glad you were willing to see me again,” Quinn started in on the speech he’d rehearsed.  “If nothing else, I wanted to apologize for all the things I said to you about your husband.  I met with him the other evening.  He turned out to be a decent guy after all.”
Penelope was taken aback by Quinn’s change in attitude.  “So you finally realized you were wrong about Cecil?” she asked.   “It certainly took you long enough.”
“I made a huge mistake,” he answered, “though it’s not that easy for me to admit.”
“If we’re going to be honest with one another, then there’s something I should tell you as well,” Penelope informed him.  “Cecil and I have agreed to separate.”
Quinn busied himself unwrapping his chopsticks.  “There’s no reason to do that.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.  This has nothing at all to do with you.”
“So why are you doing it then?”  Quinn tried to hold Penelope’s gaze with his own.
Penelope answered without any hesitation.  “Because Cecil and I aren’t in love with one another; we never were.  He and I have both known it all along.  We’ve just been keeping up appearances so we wouldn’t have to face the truth.  If this business with Behan’s murder has done anything at all, it’s made us realize what a sham our life together really is.”
Quinn watched her closely.  “No matter what you say, I can’t help feeling at least partially responsible.  If I hadn’t stormed into your apartment and insisted on speaking with you that day, you two might have been able to patch things up and move on.  Maybe you still can.  Maybe it’s not too late.”
Penelope gazed uncertainly at the dumplings.  “You’re too funny, Quinn.  A week ago you were telling me what a monster Cecil was.  Now you’re hoping to be guest of honor when we renew our vows.  You have to make up your mind what it is you want.”
“Don’t make a joke of it.  You know you feel the same for me as I do for you.”  As he spoke, Quinn rolled another half dozen dumplings onto Penelope’s plate.
“Stop it.  I’m not in love with you any more than I was with Behan.”
Quinn popped a dumpling into his mouth.  “I don’t believe that for a minute.”
“Do you realize how conceited you are to even think such a thing?”
“That doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.  I know what’s in my heart, and I see what’s in your eyes whenever you look at me.”  Quinn drank some of the soup.
“You think I want a drifter like you?  Someone who’s never had a penny to his name?  If that’s what’s going through your head, you’re just being silly.”
“That’s cold, but I’m not going to argue.  Sooner or later, you’ll realize you’re in love with me.  I can wait.” 
“Don’t hold your breath.”  Penelope bit into one of the dumplings.  She smiled.
“Besides, how are you going to manage on your own?  With all the litigation your husband is facing, you might end up not getting that big an alimony settlement.”
Penelope pointed her chopsticks at Quinn’s heart.  “Is that why you put yourself through all this?  Were you just hoping to have a rich wife so you could live comfortably?”
“Please.  I’ve made do for myself all my life.  Behan was never around, and I moved out from my mother’s place as soon as I turned 17.  I can get by on my own.”
“You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you?”
“Not that I can see.  If I were smart, I’d probably be long gone from New York City and all the heartache it’s given me.”
“Yet you still want to find out who killed your father.  At least you have loyalty.” 
Quinn pointed to her empty plate.  “How were the dumplings?”
“Pretty good.”
“Better than Chinese?”
Penelope shook her head.  “I don’t think so.”  But then she smiled again.
Quinn turned to a passing waiter.  “Can I have an OB beer?”
The waiter was apologetic.  “Oh, man, we don’t have a liquor license anymore.”
“No beer?”  A disconsolate expression appeared on Quinn’s face.
“Stop it,” said Penelope.  “It’s not a big deal.”
“It is to an Irishman.”  He turned to the waiter.  “Two ginger ales, please.”
Penelope was busy pushing fried rice onto her plate.  “You are so crazy.”
“This is where I say how glad I am that you appreciate my finer points.”
Penelope giggled in spite of herself, but then grew serious.  “I read in the paper today that an arrest has been made in the murders of Behan and Lachner.”
“After my run in with Chester, I called Sloane and told him where he could find what was left of him.  No rush, I told him.  The punk wasn’t going anywhere, not after the lesson I’d given him.”  Quinn ate another dumpling.  “Of course, as far as Sloane is concerned, Chester just got careless sitting on the Park wall, lost his balance and fell off.”
Penelope regarded Quinn’s face where Chester had cut him.  “You should have a doctor bandage that wound before it becomes infected.”
Quinn rubbed the stitches Violeta had sewn into his face.  “The case is closed, at least to hear Sloane tell it.  The police haven’t found the gun Chester used, but there’s nothing unusual about that.  He would have tossed it the first chance he got.  The way Sloane has it figured, Chester killed Behan on Lachner’s orders after my father somehow found out about the money laundering scheme.  That would have been the real reason Behan stopped visiting his old friend on the East Side.  Even if Lachner hadn’t been sure how much my father actually knew, he couldn’t very well have afforded to take the chance Behan might talk.  He had him murdered to make sure he never opened his mouth.”
Penelope shivered.  “How cold blooded.”
“Then Chester got greedy.  He wanted more than Lachner had paid him for the job.”
“It all fits together so neatly, doesn’t it?” Penelope observed.
“Maybe a little too neatly.  That’s the problem.”
Penelope noticed the change in Quinn’s tone.  “What does that mean?”
“It means that I’m not so sure Chester is as guilty as the police think he is.  He’s a low life piece of scum for sure, and I have no doubt he’s capable of murder if he’s pushed far enough.  The trouble is I still remember the look in his eyes when I accused him of killing my father.  He had no idea what I was talking about.”
“So you think the murderer is still out there?”  Penelope’s yellow eyes clouded.
“It doesn’t really matter what I think.  The DA is furious over Lachner’s death.  If he can get a conviction, he’ll put Chester away for life.  That will be the end of it.”
“And then you’ll be gone,” said Penelope, “won’t you?”
“I’ll be honest.  The only thing keeping me in the city now is you.”
“Then you might as well pack your bags.”
“All right then, but there’s one thing I’ve got to know before I go.”  Quinn leaned across the table to Penelope.  “What was it you said to Behan that got him so upset he stopped seeing you for such a long while?  There’s no reason you can’t tell me now.”
“It was not a big thing.”  Penelope clearly didn’t want to discuss it.
“It certainly was to my father.”
Penelope blushed with embarrassment.  “Once, when he’d asked me for the thousandth time to marry him, I got tired of listening.  I told him I was too expensive for him.”
“That’s so New York!”  Quinn eyes opened wide.  “Didn’t you realize how devastated Behan would be hearing that?  How could you say it after he’d been so kind?  From what you’ve told me, he did everything he could for you, spent every penny he had on you.”
Penelope finished her ginger ale.  “Now that I’ve told you what happened, do you feel differently about me?”
“I might wish I did, but love isn’t a faucet I can turn on and off.”
Penelope only sighed.  “You use the word too easily.”

Krankow wasn’t in the showroom when Quinn arrived there the next afternoon.  There was only the receptionist still seated behind the roll top desk.   She showed no sign of remembering Quinn from the last time he’d visited.
“Is Mr. Krankow in?” he asked.  He put down the portfolio case he was carrying on the floor beside him.
“Who may I ask is calling?”
“My name’s Quinn.  I’m here to show him some prints by a friend of mine.”
The receptionist glanced at the leather case at Quinn’s feet.  “I’m afraid we don’t do portfolio reviews unless it’s work we’ve asked to see.”
“I realize that.  But Mr. Krankow was kind enough to say on the phone he’d make an exception in this case.”
“Just one moment then.”   The receptionist stood up and moved to the door at the back of the gallery that led to Krankow’s office.
While he was waiting, Quinn took another look around.  The previous show had already been taken down but nothing had yet been hung in its place.
“You were here to view the Mortensen exhibit, weren’t you?”
Quinn turned at the voice behind him and saw the wizened octogenarian still leaning on his metal cane.   He had moved so quietly with it that Quinn hadn’t realized he was there.
“Yes,” said Quinn.  “I really enjoyed that show a lot.”
“But you didn’t come back to purchase a print, did you?”  Krankow’s tone was mild. It contained no trace of reproof.
“I would if I could, but I’m dead broke.  I came because, just as I told you on the phone, I was left some prints by a photographer who died.  He was a good man, and I wanted to see if something could be done with his work so it wouldn’t be lost.”
“Yes, you said he’d passed.  That was why I agreed to take a look.”  Krankow ran a hand through what was left of his hair.  He seemed to grow older even as Quinn stood watching him.  “One hates to think of any photographer struggling for years in a darkroom to create a body of work and then dying without anyone having seen what he accomplished.”
“I’m glad you understand.”
Krankow waved a skeletal hand and motioned Quinn to a tiny inner office whose entire wall space was hung with black & white prints by any number of famous photographers.  Quinn followed him inside and laid out a dozen matted prints on the desktop.  Krankow sorted through them quickly, pausing now and then when one in particular caught his eye.
“Your friend knew how to print, I’ll say that for him.  And the use of infrared film to photograph the nude is intriguing.” Krankow held one print up to the light to see it better.  “At least he knew enough to sign his name on the mat instead of the print.” He bent to study it more closely and then turned toward Quinn in surprise as he recognized the signature.  “Well, if it isn’t my old friend.  I actually knew Behan quite well at one time.  Years ago, he came regularly every month to show me his latest work.  Back then, though, his photography was quite different.  Behan was so enthusiastic about it, always hoping for a show.”
“But you weren’t able to do anything to help him, were you?”
Krankow put the prints down with a sigh.  “Behan was devoted to photography and knowledgeable about its history.  I’m sorry he’s gone.  I missed our talks when he finally grew discouraged and stopped visiting.” 
“What do you think of these nudes he shot at the end?”
“I’ll tell you exactly what the problem is.  There are some fine examples of darkroom technique here.  And the female nude is, of course, a classic theme.  But there’s no potential for a show.  The work is too backward looking, too nostalgic.   Those who buy prints these days are investors on the lookout for something new, what they like to call ‘cutting edge.’  They hope that if they get in at the bottom, they’ll realize a big profit when that style becomes better known.  To them, it’s like buying stock in a company.  Quality and craftsmanship have no meaning for them.
“So there’s no hope then?”
“Perhaps a collector would be interested in purchasing one or two prints, but that would be about it.”
“I understand,” said Quinn.  “I didn’t think it likely Behan would ever get an exhibit at a New York City gallery, but I owed it to his memory to try.”
“You did the right thing.  We can best show our esteem for a dead artist by doing whatever we can to help his work survive.  I’m sure Behan would have appreciated it.”
“Or maybe he’d have thought I did too little, too late.”

When Quinn returned to his apartment, he found Penelope sitting on the couch waiting for him.  She looked up expectantly as he entered.
“Violeta let me in,” Penelope explained.  “She’s very beautiful, your roommate.”
Quinn glanced about the apartment.  “Where is Violeta now?”
“Your friend is very discreet.  She told me she was going to visit your redheaded neighbor Mayla.  I know what she really wanted was to give us a chance to be alone.”
“Yes, Violeta’s cool all right.”  Quinn put down the portfolio case he was still carrying and took off his jacket.  He sat down opposite Penelope and gave her a questioning look.  “Why are you here?  I thought we’d said everything we had to tell one another.”
“Maybe I decided I was in love with you after all.”
“Just like that?”  There was more than a little disbelief in Quinn’s voice.
Penelope lowered her eyes.  “No, I knew it the very first time I saw you.  I was only pretending to myself I didn’t care for you.  I guess I was too afraid what would happen.”
“So what do we do about it?” Quinn asked.  His worn features dissolved into a tender smile that showed he already knew the answer.
Penelope stood up.  She was wearing a simple white dress.  She unbuttoned the front and let the garment fall to the floor about her feet.
Quinn stood also.  He reached over and took Penelope’s naked body in his arms.  “You’re so totally gorgeous,” he said, “more like a work of art than a real woman.”
Penelope only laughed.  “Oh, I’m real woman all right.  Just let me show you.”
“Yes, I know you are.  I’ve just been alone too long.  I’ve forgotten what it’s like to touch a woman’s skin.  How soft and warm it is.”

Quinn kissed Penelope, then stepped back to stare a moment at her loveliness.  Finally, he took her by the hand and led her into the bedroom.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Central Park Carriage Driver

I shot this near Tavern on the Green in Central Park.  The carriage driver willingly posed and told me I had the right to take photos in public places, but he asked a lot of questions about what I was going to do with the picture I'd taken of him.  I tried to reassure him that it would only be used on my blog.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Twenty-Two

That evening, when Quinn entered the ground floor restaurant inside the New York Historical Society, he found that Curwin had arrived there ahead of him. The financier, still dressed conservatively in a hand tailored dark blue suit, was seated comfortably at the small bar and was sipping his drink as though he hadn’t a care in the world.  As soon as he saw Quinn approach him, he rose and extended his hand.  “I’m glad you could make it.  We got off to a bad start the last time we met.  I was hoping we could give it another try.” 
As Quinn shook Curwin’s hand and then took a seat beside him, he gazed curiously at the businessman.  “Ever since I got your voice mail I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why you wanted to see me.  I was pretty sure it was so you could rip me a new one for having ruined your career, not to mention having tried to seduce your wife.  I wouldn’t have held it against you under the circumstances.  And yet here you are as calm as can be welcoming me like an old friend.  I hope you’re not going to tell me you set this up just so you could apologize for having shown bad manners, especially when mine were no better.” 
Curwin gave a slight smile as he handed Quinn the drinks menu.  “I can see perfectly well how you’d be leery; but, believe it or not, that really was pretty much the reason I invited you here.  I’m afraid I let my temper get the better of me when you visited my office.  I should have held it in better check.”
“You realize I’m having a hard time believing that that’s all there is to it?”
“I can well appreciate your skepticism.  I didn’t act well.  I know it.”
 “Neither did I for that matter.  But this is too much for me.” Quinn couldn’t get over his amazement.  “I came here expecting to have another loud argument with you if not an actual fistfight.  I was sure you’d tell me again to stay away from your wife and to get the hell out of town.  The last thing I was prepared for was for you to roll out the red carpet.”   Quinn took the drinks menu but didn’t immediately open it. “I definitely have some apologizing of my own to do.  You probably know by now that I’m the one who hung you out to dry.  I was the idiot who told Lachner about your business dealings with Ito, as much as I knew or thought I knew anyway.  If I hadn’t shot my mouth off, Lachner wouldn’t have had anything to hand the press when they confronted him outside the courthouse.”
Curwin signaled the bartender, a balding middle aged man in a white apron.  “Oh, yes, I was sure all along it was you.  There was no one else it could have been.  You were the only one outside of Penelope and a few investors who knew about my connection to Ito.”
“Well, if it helps any, I’m sincerely sorry for the problems I’ve caused you.”  Quinn lowered his head.  “I know that isn’t much to offer, but it’s all I’ve got to give right now.”
Curwin remained eerily calm.  “Don’t worry about it.  I’ve been in the game long enough to know that there are always risks involved when backing a business venture.”
“The funny thing is that Ito never was involved with the yakuza in the first place.  He told me so himself, and I have no reason to doubt his word.”
“No, I knew that too.  I’d never have put my clients’ money on the table without first having made sufficient inquiries and done due diligence.  Lachner’s firm was one of those that helped in the investigation, though I’m sure he never mentioned that fact to you.”
“No, he didn’t.  And now Lachner’s dead.”
“Yes, the police have already questioned me about it.  There wasn’t anything I could tell them though.”  Curwin gave a short laugh as he watched the bartender amble toward him carrying another drink.  “I hope you’re not too disappointed they didn’t arrest me.” 
Quinn’s face reddened.  “Listen, I’m not out to get you.  At least not anymore I’m not.  If you weren’t involved in Behan’s killing – and I’m sure now you weren’t – you can forget you ever knew me and get on with putting your life back together.”
“Well, that’s a relief to hear.”  Curwin laughed again – only this time it had a shrill ring to it – and then jumped to another topic.  “Pen told me you were a photographer.  I used to be interested in it myself when I was younger, but I wasn’t really any good at it.”
Quinn tried not to show his surprise at the turn the conversation had taken.  “I was never that successful myself, just picked up the odd assignment here and there.  But if you’d honestly wanted to get involved in photography, you should have kept at it.  No one takes photos like Stieglitz did when they first start out, probably not even Stieglitz himself.”
“Maybe I was too hard on myself.  I always wanted to be the best at whatever I did.  That was always my greatest strength and at the same time my greatest weakness.”
Quinn nodded.  “How’s your drink?  I heard the bartender call it some Italian name.”
“It’s really just a gin and tonic, but I guess people are more likely to order one, or maybe two, if it’s got a swell sounding title.”
Quinn opened the drinks menu and gave it a cursory glance before tossing it aside.  “I don’t think I’d get far here ordering a boilermaker.”
Curwin changed the subject once again.  “I honestly am sorry about Behan.  Pen told me he was your father.  It’s important you know that I had nothing to do with his death.”
“Maybe not,” Quinn admitted, “but you really did have it in for him, didn’t you?  Why were you so down on the old guy when he’d never done anything to you?”
Curwin called the bartender over and ordered for Quinn.  “Premium rye, a double, and the best beer you have on tap.”  Then he shifted uneasily on his upholstered bar stool and looked Quinn in the eye.  “If you want to know the truth, I was jealous of him.”
“Jealous?  Of Behan?  Are you shitting me?   You were the one who ended up married to Penelope, not him.  My father never had a snowball’s chance in hell with your wife.  She saw him as a friend, nothing more than that.  And what else was there to be envious of?  The poor fucker never had two nickels to rub together his whole life.”
“I don’t know what a critic would say about Behan’s work…”
“Nothing very nice,” interjected Quinn, “probably only that the photos weren’t worth looking at.”  He watched as the bartender quietly set his drink down before him.
“…but when I saw his prints, I realized that they really were art and better than anything I could ever have hoped to accomplish myself.”
“Yes, Behan was actually a wonderful photographer – I’ve never met anyone who understood light as well as he did – and a solid darkroom technician as well.  The irony is that when digital came along, it took away the only thing he’d ever been good at.” 
“I hear traditional printmaking is referred to now as a ‘lost art.’”  Curwin’s expression grew wistful.  “I wish now I’d had a chance to take a crack at it before it all disappeared.”
“If you ever do want to try, I’d be happy to show you the basics.  Behan’s old Durst enlarger is still in the apartment, and I’d like to try it out myself one day.”
“Thanks.  I might take you up on that sometime.”
“No problem.”  Quinn wasn’t sure how to phrase his next question.  “Do you mind telling me why you ever got involved with Ito?  It wasn’t a typical Wall Street investment.”
“No, not at all.  I’m going to have to go through it with the SEC anyway.  It’ll take a long time for me to satisfy them that everything was on the up and up.   My accountants and lawyers will make a fortune on all the work they’ll end up having to do.”
“So what are you going to tell the SEC?”
“The truth.  What else?  I did business with Ito because it was lucrative.  Those films of his may have been trash, but they made millions for everyone who’d put up money.”
“Do you think the examiners will buy that explanation?”
“They’ll kick and scream, but when they look at the books they’ll see my point.”
“You should be back in business in no time then.”  Quinn couldn’t help sounding hopeful.  “And not only that, but you’ve still got your penthouse on Fifth Avenue and a beautiful wife to come home to at the end of the day.”
But Curwin wasn’t having any of it.  “As far as my marriage goes, it’s already too late to salvage it.  Pen and I are finished.  I’m not exactly sure when it ended.  Maybe it was when she learned Behan had been killed.  Maybe it was when she met you.”
 “I don’t really take much pleasure in thinking I destroyed someone’s marriage.  I’m no playboy.  I rarely even go on dates, and when I do it’s always been with single women.”
“Don’t worry.”  Curwin pushed his empty glass aside.  “It would have been over soon enough anyway.  It was just a matter of time till she and I called it quits.”
“I don’t see why you have to be so negative.”  Quinn knocked back the double shot of rye.  “You’re still together.  You both could give it another go if you really wanted.”
“Listen, I know you’re in love with my wife.  I could see it the first time we met at my office.  It drove me crazy then.  It’s one reason I acted so irrationally.  But now I think she may be better off with someone more normal, someone who loves her for herself.”
“Do you really believe that?” asked Quinn.
“Yes, I do.  So don’t be too hard on yourself.  You’re not a homewrecker, just a guy who was around to pick up the pieces.”
“If you’re telling me the truth, then I don’t know what to say.  I never thought you’d lay it on the line this way.  I can’t tell you how sorry I feel now.”
“I must have seemed a total monster to you, the incarnation of capitalist greed.”
“Listen, Cecil, who am I to go around condemning others?  It’s not like I don’t have any failings of my own.  Like seeing stereotypes instead of people.  It’s just as wrong of me to think every millionaire is evil and calculating,  especially when I know all the while that most rich people got their money by working night and day so they could give their children a better life than they had themselves.  I think any time people look at someone without taking the time to see the person inside, there’s going to be no end of misconceptions.”
“You’re not so bad yourself if you realize that much.”  Curwin stood up, placed his platinum Amex card on the bar and beckoned to the bartender for the check.

Once outside, on the corner of 77th Street, Quinn took a quick look across the way to Central Park’s darkened greenery.  Out of habit, he scanned the shadows.  As he was turning away, he noticed a figure sitting alone on a bench.  The man’s slight frame was partially concealed by the overhanging branches.  Still, Quinn knew at once the man was watching him.
Even though the silhouetted figure wore a hat pulled low over his eyes, Quinn had no trouble recognizing him.  For his part, the seated man, even when he became aware that Quinn had seen him, didn’t try to change position or make himself any less conspicuous. 
Quinn waited for the light to change, then crossed Central Park West and placed himself in front of the bench.  He looked down at the motionless figure.  “So here we are again, Chester,” he said.  His voice was low and almost conversational in tone.  “You should have listened better when I warned you to stay away from me.  But I guess a guy like you doesn’t take advice from anyone.  You think you’re dangerous enough that you can do whatever you please and that guys like me should just step aside and let you alone if they know what’s good for them.  Except I don’t quite see you that way.”  Quinn’s voice hardened.  “To me you’re nothing but the dog shit I scrape off the sole of my shoe.”
Chester glanced up but made no movement to stand.  He kept his hands stuffed inside his jacket pockets.  The same mischievous smile as always played about his lips as he studied Quinn’s face.  “Always playing the joker, aren’t you?” he asked in an unnaturally soft voice.  “That smart mouth is going to be the death of you yet.”
Quinn shifted his balance as he prepared to move forward.  “We could keep this up all night, little man, but there’ll be a cop passing by sooner or later.  If you’re still packing that .32, now’s the time to pull it.  You’ve already got two murders to your credit, so you might as well try for the hat trick.” 
“When are you finally going to get wise?  I ain’t killed anybody.”  Chester gave his head a gentle shake.  “Not yet anyway.”
“Try telling that to Lachner… and to my old man.”
A puzzled frown crossed Chester’s face and momentarily wiped away his smile.  “I don’t know shit about your old man and could care less.  As for Lachner, I know they’re going to try to hang a frame on me for that one, but they’ll have got the wrong guy.”
“Sure, I know,” Quinn jeered.  “Poor old Lachner was just like a father to you.  You miss him already.  Tell me all about it, why don’t you?”
The smile returned to Chester’s face as he stood up slowly.  “Maybe if the gig had lasted longer I might have helped myself to a few odds and ends when it came time to leave.  Nothing wrong with that.   For sure he had plenty to spare.”
“You should have been more patient then and waited your chance.”
“I should’ve made my move sooner, you mean.  The way it went down I just about had time to get out the door with the clothes on my back.”
“I’m crying for you.”
“Yeah, I can see the tears pouring out of your eyes.  Why don’t I lend you my hanky so you can wipe them away?”
“Oh, and here I thought you had no heart.”  Quinn turned for a quick look behind him, then pivoted on his hips.  His fist, when it smashed into Chester’s face, had his full weight behind it.
Chester fell back and banged his head against the stone wall that extended around the Park.  A bruise appeared on the side of his head.  “You sucker punched me, you lousy bastard,” he gasped.  He clambered back to his feet.  “I’ll kill you for that.”
Quinn didn’t move as the other stood catching his breath and wiping the blood from his mouth.  “Go ahead and do it, punk.  Show me how tough you really are.”
Chester popped open the stiletto and brought it up in a single fluid movement.  He never took his eyes off Quinn as the two maneuvered back and forth, each of them waiting for the other to let down his guard even if only for an instant.
Quinn feinted to the left.
Chester saw his opening and took it.  His arm was a blur as the blade slashed open a wide cut on the side of Quinn’s face.
Quinn never flinched.  If he felt the wound at all, he didn’t let on.  Disregarding the knife still pointed at him, he moved steadily forward.  He punched Chester in the face a second time.  There was a snapping sound as the younger man’s jawbone shattered from the force of the impact.  Two of his teeth fell out and landed on the sidewalk in a small puddle of blood.  Then Quinn began throwing body punches hard enough to crack Chester’s ribs.
Chester went down again and this time landed heavily on his back.  He made an effort to rise but couldn’t get to his feet.  A shudder passed through his body and his limbs twitched convulsively.
“Had enough yet?” Quinn asked.
Chester peered up from the pavement on which he was lying.  A low moan passed his lips as he tried unsuccessfully to move himself.  “Go ahead and finish me,” he said.
“You should be so lucky.”  Quinn reached down and picked up Chester’s broken body with his two hands and then lifted it high over his head.  For a second Quinn remained poised in that position.  Then, with a grunt, he heaved Chester over the side of the stone wall and into the Park’s gloomy interior.  Beyond where he stood, there was an almost twenty foot drop to the bridle path below.  Chester made no sound at all when he landed.

“The hell with you,” Quinn said under his breath.  He quickly checked the opposite sidewalk and the windows above but could see no one watching him.  He rubbed his reddened knuckles and used his sleeve to wipe away the blood still streaming down his torn cheek.  Then he strode off without stopping to look back.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Nik Collection Returns

There's good news for users of the Nik Collection that was abandoned by Google last year.  The suite has now emerged in an updated form and is once again available after having been acquired by DxO, the niche software graphics firm.  Though DxO itself is currently involved in bankruptcy proceedings that have led it to discontinue the DxO One camera, the company maintains that this is for reorganization purposes only and will not impact the Nik rollout or any other of its software offerings including PhotoLab, the RAW processor formerly known as OpticsPro.  According to an article on the Digital Trends website:
"The Nik Collection is no longer nixed — on Wednesday, June 6, DxO Labs launched the Nik Collection 2018 by DxO, a bug-squashing and compatibility update for the Photoshop and Lightroom plug-ins long favorited by photographers. Several of the Nik features are also migrating into DxO PhotoLab, which also sees an update today as version 1.2 adds U-Point technology for local adjustments. 
"Both updates come as DxO Labs faces bankruptcy and refocuses the company on four software programs while discontinuing the DxO One camera. The company says it expects to leave bankruptcy in a few months after refocusing on the software and reorganizing the company."
The collection now has a new website from which the software can be downloaded.  There's a cost of $69 (49.99 until June 30th), but that's rather modest considering the excellence of the Collection.  It's roughly $80 less than what Google had been charging before giving it up and far less than Nik once charged for the original package.

I've always considered the Nik filters the most useful available for Photoshop (they're also compatible with Lightroom and PS Elements).  In particular, Silver Efex Pro is the best black & white conversion software I've come across.

Since I'm still using PS CS6 I probably won't be upgrading myself until I make the switch to PS CC, but DxO claims a number of improvements have been made including full support for all Adobe CC products as well as the Mac OS X system.  The software also features an auto-update engine.  It does not appear, however, that the Collection can be used as a free-standing software package, meaning that it apparently still exists only in plug-in form.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Christmas Tree Salesmen

These two gentlemen were selling Christmas trees in December on Columbus Avenue in back of the Museum of Natural History and were nice enough to pause briefly so that I could take their photos.  While their job might seem easy enough, it can't be any fun standing all day in the freezing cold while waiting to make a sale.  December is a harsh month in New York City and the wind chill often drops below zero.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Twenty-One

It was late, sometime after midnight, when Quinn was woken by the phone ringing beside his bed.  He groped about in the dark for the cordless landline.  “Yes, what is it?” he asked once he had located it.  His voice was still sleepy but an instant later fully alert.  “Is that you, Sloane?  Are you still there?  Could you repeat that?”
Quinn listened again to the detective’s voice on the other end of the line.  “I got it.  I’ll be there as soon as I can find a cab.”
On Riverside Drive, Quinn waited five minutes before he saw a taxi discharging an elderly pair in evening clothes.  Quinn was in the back seat before the driver had had time to count his tip.  “67th and Fifth,” Quinn said, “and get there as fast as you can.  I’ll make it worth your while.”
When Quinn arrived in front of Lachner’s townhouse, the front door was standing wide open.  Police and medics moved methodically back and forth through it.  No one gave him much notice.   A uniform raised a hand as Quinn approached but then allowed him to pass once he had mentioned Sloane’s name.
Inside, the detective was standing in conversation with a patrolman.  “This is Winkelman,” he explained as Quinn joined them.  “He was first on the scene.”
Winkelman glanced curiously at Quinn and then went on talking to Sloane.  “There were multiple calls to 911 reporting the sound of a single gunshot.  I was on foot patrol two blocks away at 65th and Madison when I got the word.  I ran here as fast as I could.”
“How much time elapsed before you arrived on the scene?” asked Sloane.
“It could only have been a minute or two, but everything was completely silent by then.  A neighbor came out on his stoop and pointed me here.  As I approached, I saw the front door was ajar.  I unholstered my weapon and called out ‘Police.’  There was no response, so I pushed the door back.  It was pitch black inside.  I couldn’t see a thing.  I didn’t want to walk into an ambush, so I stepped back and called for backup.  Nothing happened before the other units arrived.  No one came in or out.  Once they got here, we drew our guns, again loudly identified ourselves and then made our way inside.”
“Did you touch anything?  Is everything here exactly as you found it?”
Winkelman pushed his cap back from his forehead.  “Callaghan stumbled in the dark before we could find a light switch and knocked over a small table in the foyer.  Aside from that, though, nothing’s been moved.  As soon as the lights were on, we saw the victim stretched out on the living room floor with a single bullet wound directly between the eyes.  Callaghan immediately attempted CPR even though it was clear the man was dead.  There was no way he could have survived.  The bullet would have gone directly into his brain.”
Sloane nodded and Winkelman walked off to one side to await further instructions.
The detective moved toward the living room and Quinn followed directly behind.
Lachner’s body hadn’t yet been moved.  Clothed in silk pajamas, it lay facing upwards.  The sightless eyes were fixed on the ceiling above and the lips were drawn back in a rictus of pure terror.  From the horrified expression on the corpse’s face there couldn’t be any doubt that Lachner had had time to see death coming straight at him. 
“He must have gotten a good look at the killer,” Sloane remarked.
“Too bad he can’t tell us anything about him,” Quinn answered.  As he looked down on the corpse, a police photographer bent low beside him to take another shot.  In the harsh light of the camera flash the body seemed to stiffen and the skin to turn a translucent shade of blue.  Quinn turned away as though from some obscene display.
“I see this every day of the week,” said Sloane, “but I never get used to it.”
“Why are you here anyway?”  Quinn asked.  “Isn’t this a little off the Chinatown beat?  And why wasn’t anyone guarding the man in the first place?”
“The homicide squad from the 19th have already been here and gone.  They’ve turned it over to me for the time being.  Someone screwed up big time.  The surveillance team was pulled after Lachner agreed to testify, and no one thought to post an officer out front even though it should have been obvious the old guy was in danger.”
Quinn nodded.  “The bullet in Lachner’s brain will probably turn out to have been fired from the same gun that killed Behan.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Sloane, “but this time the killer’s moved into an entirely new league.  The Feds have been building this money laundering case for over a year.  It was their pet project, the one that would make headlines.  Now the killer’s managed to silence the star witness before he ever had a chance to tell what he knew.  That’s going to make a lot of people very unhappy.  An ADA is already on the way over to take charge.”
“What else is new?” Quinn asked.  He wasn’t able to hide the bitterness in his voice.  “When it was just some penniless old man, no one gave a shit.  But now that it’s a member of the financial community, one of Wall Street’s movers and shakers, the cops will tear the city apart trying to find out who pulled the trigger.”
“That’s the way it’s always worked in New York.  Money talks, and bullshit walks.”
“Tell me about it,” Quinn muttered, more to himself than anyone else.
“Look at it this way – when we find the guy who killed Lachner, we’ll also find the guy who killed Behan.”
Quinn glanced at Sloane in surprise.  “I don’t think there’s any big mystery who took Lachner out.”
Sloane shook his head in disbelief.  “Don’t start in about Curwin again.  There’s absolutely no way he could have been involved.  Ever since he got his name in the papers, he’s had a squad of reporters and photographers camped outside his front door.  If he’d left his building, they’d have swarmed him the minute he set foot on Fifth Avenue.”
“No, Curwin’s no longer a suspect,” Quinn agreed.  “I was thinking much closer to home.  If there wasn’t any break in, then the killer must have been someone Lachner knew and trusted.  I told you about Chester, the rich man’s little helper, the last time you were at my place.  Were you able to find out anything about him?”
“Yeah, I owe you one for giving me the word on that punk.  He’s a sweetheart all right. Hasn’t reported to his parole officer for the past six months.  There was already a warrant out for him on that.”  Sloane clenched his fists.  “Yes, he’s the first one we want to talk to.  Once we find him that is.  There was no trace of him when we arrived.  I had Winkelman check the whole house.  The SOB’s gone on the run.  We’ve put out an APB out on him.  He’s considered armed and dangerous.”
“The last time I was here, he pulled a knife on me.  I had to take it away from him and tell him to mind his manners.”
Sloane chuckled in spite of himself.  “I’d have liked to have seen that.  You must be hell on wheels when someone pisses you off.”
“Yeah, sure.  I’m a fucking comic book hero once I get going.”  Quinn watched the morgue attendants come in and load Lachner’s corpse onto a stretcher.
“Ballistics should have results tomorrow on the bullet that’s sitting inside Lachner’s skull.  If you’re right and it turns out to be the same gun that killed Behan and was used in the shooting outside your building, all we’ve got to do is find the guy with the .32 in his pocket and we’ll be able to tie everything up in one neat package.”
“You don’t have any other suspects, do you?” Quinn asked.
Sloane regarded him inquisitively.  “Have you told me everything you know?”
“I’m not holding anything back,” said Quinn.  “Not this time.”
“It still might be a good idea if you came downtown tomorrow and gave a statement.”
“What the hell do you need a statement from me for?  I was at home all evening.  The first I knew about this was when you called me.”
“Then it’ll be a short statement.  But you’re going to give it to me all the same.”

“I’m sorry about the other day,” Shaley apologized.  “I didn’t mean to lose my temper the way I did.  I get irritable sometimes when I’m not feeling well.”
“It’s ok,” Quinn replied.  “I had no right getting down on you the way I did.  It was like you said – I jumped to conclusions and then tried to blame you for my own stupidity.”
The two of them had just returned to Shaley’s studio from a walk with their cameras through the East Village.  Shaley had paused on almost every block to show Quinn some spot he, Behan and Lachner had frequented in their student days more than forty years before.  There wasn’t much left to see; most of those venues had long ago been torn down.
“Those were good times,” Shaley had said as he and Quinn had stood outside the former site of the Fillmore East.  All that was left was a plaque on the wall granting the building landmark status.  “All the greats played here.”
In the harsh early afternoon light on Second Avenue, Shaley had appeared to have aged twenty years in as many hours.  His face had taken on a waxen pallor and the muscles around his mouth twitched uncontrollably.  Once back in his studio, under the fluorescent lighting fixtures, he looked little better.  “This is getting to be too much for me,” he told Quinn.  “First your father, and now Lachner.”
Quinn offered what comfort he could.  “I know you must be worried about your heart condition, but you’ve got to keep going.  You still have your work to keep you busy.”
“Yes, there’s always that.”  Shaley put his hand on Quinn’s shoulder.  “I was thinking it might be a good idea, though, if I took a break and did some traveling.”
“Everyone needs a vacation when they’ve been under pressure, and this is probably a good a time as any for you.  Where will you go?”
“Europe probably.  I haven’t been overseas in ages.”
“Great idea,” said Quinn.  “There’s plenty to do in the EU.  I wouldn’t mind spending a few weeks in Amsterdam or Paris myself once all this is over.”
“There’s another reason I want to get away for a while,” Shaley confided.  “Behan and Lachner and I were so close that I can’t help being afraid I may be next.  What if the killer turns out to be someone we knew?   He might be planning to take us out one by one.”
Quinn scoffed at the idea.  “You’re being paranoid.  Why would someone have put your names on a hit list after all these years?  What you’re saying doesn’t make any sense.”
“You’re probably right,” Shaley acknowledged, “but these killings have shaken me up so badly I’m not able to think straight any longer.”
Quinn walked to the refrigerator and opened it.  “Here,” he said, “have a beer and try to relax.”
“Easier said than done,” Shaley complained.  He took the Heineken, though, and drank the entire bottle straight down.
Quinn opened a bottle for himself and seated himself beside the older man.  “You don’t have anything to worry about as far as your safety is concerned.  The police know who did it – it was that punk Chester that Lachner had staying with him – and they’re out there searching for him night and day.”
“Poor Chester.”  Shaley closed his eyes.  “He should have stuck to knocking over corner drugstores.  What’s his old man going to do when the kid gets charged with murder?  It’ll most likely kill him.”
“That’s not for you to worry about.  Chester made his life, and now he has to face the consequences.”   Quinn threw the empty beer bottle in the garbage and put on his jacket.
“What about you?” Shaley asked.  “Where are you off to?”
“There was a message from Curwin on my answering machine earlier today.  He wants to meet with me this evening.  He didn’t say about what, but I’m pretty sure he’s all set to give me hell for making his life such a misery.”
Shaley looked up.  “Are you sure you should go then?  What if he turns violent?”

Quinn’s mouth tightened.  “I’m not worried.  I can take care of myself well enough.  Besides, I owe the man the courtesy of at least hearing him out after all the damage I’ve caused.  I’m sure as hell not going to run away and hide from him.”