Cecil Curwin’s corner
office on Beaver Street was spacious and luxuriously furnished. Placed against the solid mahogany paneling
was a glass display case filled with plaques and trophies; beside it were ebony
bookcases lined with leather bound volumes too neatly arranged ever to have
been opened let alone read. On the desk
was a photo of Curwin shaking hands with the mayor at some charity
fundraiser. Quinn took all this in from
the heavily upholstered chair to which he’d been directed.
Curwin himself was
younger than Quinn had expected. A clean
shaven Afro-American in his mid-thirties, he had the height and build of an NFL
linebacker. Still, he moved gracefully
enough as he rose from his enormous desk and crossed the room to shake hands. He was dressed in a freshly pressed Valentino
suit and had had his hair styled in an elegant cut that must have cost several
times more than Quinn’s monthly rent.
“It was good of you to
come here on such short notice,” said Curwin.
His manner was smooth. “After
your visit to my wife yesterday, I thought it imperative that we talk.”
Quinn stood to return the
handshake. “I apologize if I disturbed your
wife. Behan and I were close, and I’d
hoped she could tell me something that would help.”
“Help in what way?”
“Help me find out who
“To tell the truth, my
wife wasn’t at all upset by your visit, even though she may have found your
attire at the time a bit … unorthodox.”
Curwin paused long enough to stare curiously at the dark herringbone
suit Quinn was now wearing. “Actually,
she told me you had been very courteous to her.
But surely you must have realized, even before intruding into my home,
that Penelope hadn’t seen this Behan in quite some time and so couldn’t possibly
have had any information that would assist you in your quest for justice.”
“Quest for justice.” Quinn rolled the phrase on the tip of his
tongue. “That’s a great expression. I like it.
As for the hoodie I was wearing yesterday, I’m sorry if it freaked out
your wife. I hope she’s recovered from
“I admit I’m relieved you
decided to dress more properly for our appointment today. This is a place of business and appropriate
attire is required even of guests.”
“Yes, well the hoodie
hadn’t come back yet from the cleaners and I certainly didn’t want to be late,
so I threw on the first thing that came to hand.”
Curwin sat down at his
desk but continued to stare at Quinn’s outfit.
“That suit is very becoming on you.
I used to own one very much in that same style as a matter of fact. The tie looks familiar as well. Your tailor isn’t Wimple & Connors by any
chance, is it?”
“Sorry, but I don’t think
I ever heard of those guys. I picked up
these threads on sale at Willie’s Jeans on Eighth Avenue. That’s where I buy all my fine clothes.”
Curwin gave a weak smile. “You can have your little joke if you like. What’s important is that you knew enough to
display correct etiquette when you arrived here.”
“Tell me. If you had a potential client with millions
to invest in your firm, would you really send him away if you weren’t happy
with the clothes he had on his back?”
The smile faded from
Curwin’s lips. “Those with substantial
funds to invest didn’t earn their money and become as successful as they are by
sneering at society’s standards.”
“Wasn’t it Conrad who
said a success is a man too boring to be anything else?”
unfazed. “I doubt very much that Conrad
wore a hoodie.”
“I wouldn’t think you’d
worry so much what people wear when we’re only a few blocks from Zucotti Park
where the Occupy Wall Street protestors camped out not too long ago. You could have seen all the jeans and hoodies
you wanted then.”
“That rabble?” Curwin grew suddenly excited and began to
pace rapidly about the room. “They were
a dangerous crowd, criminals keeping honest workers from their jobs. If they hadn’t been evicted from the park, it
would only have been a matter of time until they’d attacked some upright Wall
Street businessman out of pure spite and jealousy. And you’re right about their clothes – those
protestors looked and smelled worse than the homeless.”
“Isn’t the term ‘upright
Wall Street businessman’ an oxymoron to begin with? As for the ‘rabble,’ how can they afford to
buy expensive suits when they’re out of work?
Of course, I suppose you’re one of those who believe it’s their own
fault they can’t find a job.”
“There’s plenty of opportunity
in this city.” Curwin moved to a window from which he could see much of lower
Manhattan. “The Burger King on the
corner of Church and Liberty has a ‘Help Wanted’ sign posted. I pass it every day. If these people truly desired to make
themselves useful, they’d take a job there instead of freeloading and begging.”
“My, my,” said
Quinn. “Was it at Burger King that you
and your Wall Street friends got your start?
I’d no idea.”
Curwin scowled angrily. “You know perfectly well what I’m trying to
“All the 99% want is to
earn enough money to pay the rent and put food on the table. That doesn’t seem so unreasonable a demand to
“If you want to side with
them, go ahead. I didn’t ask you here to
“Exactly why did you invite
me here?” Quinn asked. “I certainly
don’t want to keep you from your own hard work.
The voice message you left said you had something important to discuss,
but so far you haven’t done anything but strut about like a stuffed shirt and
look down on me. I didn’t ride the
subway all the way to Bowling Green for that.”
“Then let me come
straight to the point.” Curwin placed
his hands on the desktop. “You are not
to attempt to contact my wife again. Is
that clear enough for you?”
“If your wife really has
nothing to tell me, then why would I want to see her again? I only went to your home yesterday because I
thought Penelope might remember something from the time she and Behan knew one
another that would point to a reason for his murder. There had to be some motive, even if the
police haven’t yet been able to find it.”
“I’m sure the police are
capable of doing their job without any assistance from you.”
“That’s exactly what they
tell me.” Quinn glanced over his shoulder
at the display case behind him. “You
have a lot of trophies. What did you get
“Marksmanship. I’m an excellent shot. In my senior year at Yale, I nearly qualified
for the Olympics.” Curwin gave Quinn a
crooked smile. “But before you ask me if
I’m the one who killed your friend, I can assure you I’ve never shot anyone.”
“Was Behan shot to
death? How did you happen to know that?”
“I didn’t. But it’s common knowledge most murders in
this city are committed with handguns.
Just read the mayor’s latest statement on the importance of gun
“I’m sure permits are readily
available to the wealthy,” Quinn observed.
“If you have a problem with that, I suggest
you talk to the police commissioner.”
“I wonder if Behan had
time after he’d been shot to realize he was about to die.”
“You’d have to ask him.”
“That’s funny,” said
Quinn. “You’ve got jokes. It really must have rankled that your wife
would have wanted to associate with someone as low class as Behan in the first
“I never actually met the
man. I didn’t have to. From what Penelope told me about him – and
no, she never bothered to keep her association with him a secret from me – his
entire life was one long failure. To the
best of my knowledge, he never accomplished anything meaningful. If he’s dead and gone, I can’t believe it’s
any great loss to the world.”
Quinn controlled himself
with difficulty. “Behan might never have
made a lot of money or been a big businessman, but he took some wonderful
photos. I don’t think someone who
creates art and brings beauty into the world can so easily be written off as a
“Perhaps not from your
perspective. My own standards are quite
“That’s enough about
Behan.” Quinn clenched his teeth. “Now how about dropping the act and telling
me about your partnership with Ito? I
went to visit him, you know. He didn’t
say anything about you, but I understand that you’re a big fan of his and have dumped
a lot of cash into his film company. I
heard you even put together a consortium of investors from among your friends
to give him all the financing he needs. It
all sounds pretty cozy to me. I’m just
wondering what you get back for your money.”
“I don’t have to detail
my business dealings to anyone. But
there’s no mystery. Ito’s films make
money, both here and abroad. A lot of
money. That’s why I’m backing him.”
“I bet you big spenders
get special treatment. Does Ito ever
send you over any actresses to fuck?
Sort of as a way of saying ‘thanks for all your help.’”
“Do you know how low you are to even suggest
such a thing?” Curwin raged.
“Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true, does
it?” Quinn left Curwin no time to
answer. “Why did Ito have the photos
Behan took of your wife? Is he going to
star her in the next sick piece of garbage he puts out, the same one you’re
backing so generously? Is that part of
your deal with Ito, to hand over your wife to be raped on film?”
Curwin’s eyes went
wide. “Are you completely insane? I would never even consider allowing Penelope
to appear in one of Ito’s films. Do you
realize what a scandal there would be if she were seen and recognized? Do you how greatly it would hurt my career?”
“So which is it you care
about more – your wife or your career?
Did you ever really love Penelope to begin with, or was she just some
exotic ornament for you to wear on your arm?
To guys like you, having a beautiful wife is like driving an expensive
sports car. They both help give you the
Curwin couldn’t believe
what he was hearing. “How dare you
insult me this way?”
“Or maybe you’ve got a
thing for porn stars,” Quinn suggested.
“Do you get turned on in bed by those hookers Ito has under
contract? Is that the real reason you’re
so interested in his sleaze fests?”
“That’s enough.” Curwin pounded the top of his desk. “Get out.
“I’ll be out of here in a
minute. I know what packed schedules you
Wall Street financiers must have. I
wouldn’t want to keep you from whoring for another dollar. Maybe we can meet
again, though, and continue our discussion somewhere more private.”
“I only brought you here
to tell you to stay away from my wife.”
Curwin stood and pointed to the door.
“I have nothing else to say to you.”
“Well, thanks for sending me away like I was
the hired help.” Quinn too stood
up. “But before I go, here’s a warning
for you. If you ever talk to me like that
again or even look at me sideways, I’ll kick your ass from here to Battery and
back again. That would teach you some
badly needed manners. You wouldn’t be so
smug afterwards. Your suit would get
wrinkled and your hair would be all mussed up.
Whatever would you do then?”
“I don’t have to listen
to threats from an ass like you.” The
veins stood out on Curwin’s forehead. “You’d
better leave now before I call building security.”
“You won’t do that. You just got done telling me how you don’t
want any scandal rocking your financial wizard image. But don’t worry. I’m happy enough to leave on my own. After having met with you, dealing with a mugger
on the subway would be a step up.”
As Quinn left Curwin’s
office, he turned to take one last look back.
He saw Curwin leaning over his desk with his fists planted firmly on
top. The financier was breathing heavily
and staring blankly ahead.
Quinn continued on his
way to the elevator. As he approached
it, a goggle eyed secretary who must have heard every word that had been spoken
stepped back against the wall and stared at Quinn as though uncertain whether
to scream or to call the police. In the
end, she did neither.
Fujifilm recently announced it will discontinue its Neopan 100 Acros black & white film in October 2018. This is a fine grain (a property of its low ISO) film that's long been popular among portrait photographers.
The film is already shown as discontinued at B&H while last week it was still in stock and selling for $6.49 per roll.
As he returned home from
the East Side, Quinn once again ran into his neighbor Mayla on the stairwell. “How are you doing these days?” she
asked. “All settled in?”
“Yes, there really wasn’t
much moving to do – I’m wearing everything I own – and I’ve even managed to
find myself a new roommate. Her name’s
Violeta. She’s the one who really keeps the
apartment in order. You’ll have to stop
by sometime to meet her.”
“I’d love to. If you’re not too busy, I could drop by this
evening. I’ll bring some wine as a
housewarming present.” Mayla laughed. “Or would you rather smoke weed?”
Quinn smiled at the
thought. “Why not bring both if you’ve got
them to spare.”
“I certainly do. My Dominican friends from Inwood are always
laying Purple Haze and Sour Diesel on me.
A couple of joints of that shit should keep us high all night.” Then Mayla had second thoughts. “But what about your roommate Violeta? I don’t want to sit there smoking and
drinking if it’s going to disturb her.”
“Don’t worry,” Quinn
reassured her. “I don’t know about weed,
but Violeta enjoys a drink as much as we do.
Stop by around ten o’clock if that’s good for you.”
After they’d finished
eating, Quinn and Violeta sat together in the living room later that same evening. He had already told her that he had invited
Mayla to join them.
“Sure,” Violeta had
replied. “I always love to drink fine
wine and smoke good grass. But don’t
worry that I’ll cramp your style – I’ll excuse myself if you two want to be
“There’s nothing to worry
about there. Mayla and I are just
neighbors, nothing more than that. I’m
surprised you haven’t run into her before this.
She’s on the floor below.”
Quinn then told Violeta
about his meeting with Penelope, but he refrained from mentioning the kiss he
had given her.
“So, in the end, she got
the rich husband she’d been looking for all along. I guess we should be happy for her.” That was Violeta’s only comment on Quinn’s
“Yes, I wonder where she
met her husband. I forgot to ask.”
“Probably online. Everyone looks for matches on dating sites
these days. She was lucky he turned out
to be what he said he was, and not some psycho pretender. It’s rare these days to find someone, online
or off, who tells the truth about himself.”
“Just because a guy’s
rich doesn’t mean he’s not a psycho,” Quinn pointed out.
“If he’s rich, most women
in this city wouldn’t care how psycho he is.”
Quinn suddenly changed
the subject. “Violeta, is it really so
wrong for a man to be attracted to a married woman?”
Violeta shot Quinn a
“What is it?” Quinn kept his expression blank. “I was only asking a question.”
“Yes, maybe, but why that
particular question? And right after you
finish telling me how gorgeous this Penelope is. You have to admit it’s pretty strange timing
on your part.”
Quinn looked away. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
Violeta sat up
straight. “Quinn, you’re not thinking of
getting involved with that woman, are you?
She was nothing but bad news for Behan.”
“I doubt she’s the one
who killed him.”
“You realize that’s not
much of a recommendation, don’t you?”
“In the end, it doesn’t
make any difference how I feel about Penelope, does it? People like me and Behan don’t really exist
for her. We’re just there to be used if
“Don’t let her get to you
the way she got to Behan,” Violeta warned.
“There’s no need to
worry. She’s married to money now, and you
can bet your sweet life she’s not going to do anything that would rock the
boat. She’s too smart for that.”
Violeta wasn’t taken
in. “Will you see her again?” she asked.
“What for?” Quinn tried to shrug off the question. “Penelope didn’t have anything important to
tell me about Behan when I saw her today.
Nothing that would help me find his killer anyway. No, there’s no real reason for the two of us
to meet again.”
“You can do what you
like, but I think it would be better if you didn’t.”
“There’s one problem
though,” Quinn mentioned.
“I had a message waiting
on the answering machine when I got back home today. It was from her husband. He wanted to know if I could meet him at his
office tomorrow. Penelope must have
called him as soon as I’d left and told him I’d been to see her.”
“Uh, oh. Are you going?”
The question took Quinn
by surprise. “Why on earth wouldn’t I?”
Violeta poured herself a
large shot of cachaça. “I’ve got a bad
feeling about this.”
Mayla rang the bell at eleven,
an hour later than had been arranged. “I
couldn’t find any wine, but I brought some wonderful weed. It’s hydroponic and really packs a hit.”
For a few hours, the
three friends sat crosslegged on the floor rolling one joint after another and
pulling six packs of beer from the refrigerator. Mayla talked about famous actors she’d met on
set, Violeta about her life as a model and Quinn about his travel assignments during
those times his sister had been well enough for him to leave San Francisco.
By two o’clock, Violeta
was ready to call it a night and get some sleep. “I hate to be a drag on the fun,” she announced,
“but I’ve got a location shoot scheduled for 7 a.m. Photographers don’t care much for models with
big bags under their eyes.”
“They won’t complain when
the model’s as attractive as you,” Quinn said.
After Violeta had left, Quinn
and Mayla continued talking and drinking through the early morning hours. They smoked another full gram of weed and
then popped open a bottle of French champagne Quinn had found at the bottom of
“If I know my father, he’d
probably held onto this for years. What
a total romantic the guy was. He’d get
the best, like this Roederer, and then he’d put it away while waiting for the
perfect evening to arrive when he could be alone with a pretty woman.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Mayla asked. She lit up a cigarette.
“Nothing, I guess, depending on how long he
had to wait.”
They were both silent for
“What about you
Quinn? Are you with anyone right now?”
“I met someone just
today, but as luck would have it she turned out to be married. And to a multimillionaire no less. I don’t expect anything will happen there.”
“Ha. Marriage doesn’t stand in the way of many
men, let me tell you. I have a ton of girlfriends
who’ll testify to that.”
“You should be married
yourself, Mayla. You’re a beautiful
young woman. All the guys must be after
“You’re sweet, Quinn. And
thanks for calling me ‘young,’ but I bet the woman you were so attracted to has
a lot less years on her than I do.”
“Hey, even if she is a
little younger, it can’t be by much.”
“Well, if you do run into
Ms. Millions again, you might want to consider wearing different clothes. No offense, but you’re not exactly dressed to
“She’ll have to take me
as I am. Even if I were willing to
torture myself by putting on a suit, I don’t have the bucks to go out buying
any fancy clothes.”
“Why would you have to
buy anything? You’re about the same size
as Behan – I’m guessing a 52 long – and his closets are stuffed full with high
priced clothes. He showed them to me
once. There’s an incredible selection
there. Some of the suits may be a little
out of date, but quality never really goes out of style. And the Italian silk ties are classic.”
“You should be doing
commercials on late night TV.”
“I wish I was,” Mayla
sighed. She took a deep drag on her
cigarette. “I’ve known actors who’ve
retired on the money they made from residuals.”
“But where did Behan get
such fine clothes? The man was always
“That I couldn’t tell
you,” said Mayla. “I often wondered
about it myself.”
Quinn walked to a closet
and opened it. There were a line of
suits facing him, each still in its cellophane wrapper from the dry
cleaner. “What would you suggest?” he
Mayla stood up and moved
beside him. “That black Versace suit is
really sharp. It would give you a
continental flair. ”
“Bullshit. But I do like the color black all right.”
Wear it with a white
shirt and you can go anywhere. I can see
you and your mystery woman having dinner at 11 Madison. Just make sure she’s the one who picks up the
“Not if I can find a
black dress shirt somewhere in here. As
far as I’m concerned, that would go a lot better with this suit. If I were to wear a white shirt, I’d probably
get busted for impersonating a stock broker.
Or else be mistaken for an undertaker.”
Mayla couldn’t control
her laughter. “Have it your way. Now let’s look for a tie.”
For the next half hour,
the two rifled through Behan’s closets and drawers. They pulled out every expensive piece of
clothing they could find until at last Quinn had put together a full
wardrobe. Every so often, at Mayla’s
urging, Quinn would try on a jacket or sweater to make certain it fit.
“You’re a really handsome
guy, Quinn. When we get done with this
you’re going to look like a millionaire yourself in those clothes.”
“Is that really such a
good idea?” asked Quinn. “When I was
talking to Viktor the other day, he told me the best way to get targeted in the
city was to put on a suit. And he was
right. Once I start wearing expensive
threads, I’ll be putting myself in the crosshairs of every hustler on the
street. I might as well flash a Rolex on
the subway and be done with it.”
“Tsk, tsk. You’re never going to become a playboy with
“Sorry. Mayla. I don’t mean to be ungrateful.” Quinn regarded her fondly. “You know I really appreciate all the help
you’re giving me.”
It was almost 4 a.m. when
Mayla finally stood up and shook out her long red hair. “I’ve got a call back at nine tomorrow
morning. I better get a few hours’ sleep
before I go, or I’ll look like a total hag.”
She stubbed out her cigarette and gave Quinn a kiss on the cheek. “When I see you tomorrow on the stairs, I
expect you to look like someone new.”
Quinn shook his
head. “You can forget that. I’m too old to turn into someone else.”
According to an intriguing article in the New York Post, the latest supermodel to appear on the fashion scene is actually nonexistent. As the story goes, the model named Shudu who recently attained internet fame wearing a celebrity brand of lipstick is actually a CGI created by British photographer Cameron-James Wilson. After having kept Shudu's true identity a secret for months, Wilson recently revealed the truth.
As the article points out, Shudu is only one - if arguably the most realistic - of many virtual models to appear on social media. This may be part of a new trend to replace living models with virtual counterparts. After all, there are already music icons in Japan who are entirely computer generated.
Despite the huge advances that have been made in CGI that makes rendering so realistic an image possible, I'm still not sure why photographers would choose to go with a virtual model rather than a real one. Even with all the high tech available, it still must be extremely time consuming and labor intensive to create a digital model when there are so many beautiful living models to choose from. Even after having taken into account the time needed for hair and makeup and that required for post-processing, it sill seems considerably easier to pick up a camera and photograph a living model. The only advantage to a CGI model that I can think of is that it affords the photographer - and the art director behind him - total control. But one wonders if such control would eventually remove all the spontaneity from images and render them contrived and lifeless. Or, on the other hand, has CGI become so sophisticated that there is no longer any means by which to distinguish the real from the virtual?
Standing on line, his
food stamps application clutched in his hand, Quinn had ample time to read the
posters hung on the center’s walls. The
most prominent was painted with black & white prison stripes and cautioned,
“Assaulting an HRA worker is a felony.
It’s the law and you can go to jail.”
There were others that read, “Be Honest – Medicaid Fraud” and “Don’t
Cheat – Food Stamps.” Quinn turned to
the young woman standing on line behind him.
“Isn’t it great the way they make you feel like a criminal when the only
thing you’ve done wrong is to be poor?”
“Yeah, whatever,” the
woman replied. She snapped her gum in
Quinn didn’t try talking
to anyone else after that.
It had already been more
than twenty minutes that Quinn had waited on line on the second floor of the
Waverly Center on 14th Street.
The room was painted in shades of lavender. There was only one worker standing behind the
counter at Reception. She kept her eyes
fixed on the computer monitor in front of her and never bothered to look up at
the long line that stretched before her.
Every so often she would glance at her watch to see if it were her lunch
hour yet. When Quinn finally stood
before her, she glanced at his application, handed it back to him, and printed
out a green sheet of paper with a number on it.
“Fifth floor,” she said.
On five, Quinn found
himself in another waiting area, this one arrayed with cheap classroom desks
and chairs. The room had been painted in
shades of lime green, and the same threatening posters as downstairs had been
placed on its walls. An electronic
bulletin board hung overhead and showed the applicants’ numbers as they were
announced. For some reason, though, the
numbers were not always called in order and sometimes skipped back and
forth. Quinn took a seat and settled in
for a long wait.
Over an hour later, when
his number finally appeared on the board, Quinn passed through a doorway into
an office space filled with grey cubicles.
He followed a slow moving heavy-set man who beckoned to him and told him
to take a seat beside his desk. Although
the printed information Quinn had been given had referred to this meeting as an
“interview,” the man who had introduced himself as Mr. Kendrick did not look at
Quinn nor address him directly. Instead,
he stared straight ahead at his computer monitor as he entered
information. “Do you have photo ID, proof
of income and proof of shelter?” he asked.
Quinn wordlessly handed
over copies of his passport, his most recent tax return and the lease he had
signed with Viktor the week before. He
looked down at the floor and saw a can of Raid propped beside the desk. “Do you have problems with bugs?”
“Sometimes,” answered Mr.
Kendrick, still looking straight ahead.
He proceeded to ask a series of yes or no questions, most of which Quinn
had already answered on the application.
At one point he excused himself for several minutes and left Quinn
sitting alone. Finally, he returned and
handed Quinn a sheet of paper on which were checked off the items Quinn had provided
to him. “This is your proof I’ve met with
you. Make sure you hold onto it,”
Kendrick advised and only then finally looked Quinn in the eyes. “You’ll receive a determination on your
application by mail within twenty-five days.
If you haven’t received it by then, call me at the number on the
Quinn. “I guess the reason you don’t make
a determination on the spot is because you don’t want people who’ve been denied
assistance going berserk and breaking up the place. Do I have it right?”
Mr. Kendrick didn’t
answer, only stared at the computer monitor.
An hour later, Quinn was once
again on Fifth Avenue after having ridden the 4 train to East 86th Street. He strolled leisurely down Museum Mile while
eyeing the luxury coops that lined his way.
Arriving at the Met Museum, he took a position directly opposite the high
rise he had seen Ito and Penelope exit the day before. While leaning against the cyclone fence
enclosing the plaza, he tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible.
Quinn had a three hour
wait with a blustery November wind blowing hard against him the whole time. He had dressed as warmly as possible, but the
temperature had dropped into the low 30’s the night before and soon the frozen
air had numbed his arms and legs.
Tourists lugging shopping bags filled with souvenirs pushed past him,
and he moved about as much to avoid them as to stay warm.
Finally Quinn was
rewarded by the sight of Penelope striding along the sidewalk on the other side
of Fifth. She was moving rapidly and had
almost reached the entranceway to her building by the time Quinn had crossed
the street and come near her. “You’re Penelope,”
he called out to her. It wasn’t a
The beautiful woman
turned to look inquiringly at him. She
took in his hoodie and worn leather jacket at a glance. Without uttering a single word, she took a
quick step away toward the shelter of her home.
The building’s doorman,
who had watched Quinn’s approach with a wary eye, now hurried forward. Before turning his attention to Quinn, he
gave Penelope an ingratiating smile to show he had the situation well in
hand. “Can I help you, sir?” He deliberately emphasized the word “sir” to
demonstrate how little he thought Quinn deserved the title.
Quinn ignored the doorman
and again addressed the woman. “You’re Penelope,
aren’t you? My name’s Quinn. I was a friend of Behan’s.” As he saw her hesitate, he added. “You do remember who Behan was, don’t
you? He’s the photographer that got
himself murdered a little while back.”
The doorman moved between
them. “Is this man bothering you?” he
asked Penelope. His tone was
deferential. At the same time, he
directed toward Quinn a stare that was a good deal harsher than the November
wind blowing about them.
Quinn held the doorman’s
gaze and smiled back at him.
“It’s all right, Fred,” Penelope
said in the tone of one reprimanding a dog that had been barking too
loudly. By then, she’d had time to take
a second look at Quinn and had made her decision. “He’s coming upstairs with me.” She entered the building and Quinn moved
quickly to join her. The doorman fell
into step behind them.
Quinn turned on his
heel. “Why don’t you wait on the
sidewalk, Fred? The fresh air will do
Penelope turned also and
smiled brightly. “It’s all right,
Fred. I’ll be fine.”
“He was only doing his
job,” Penelope said when she and Quinn had gotten on the elevator. She nodded her head to the operator who’d
already pushed the button for her floor.
“Keeping the riff raff
off Fifth Avenue,” said Quinn. “That’s
what Fred thinks his job is.”
The building’s top floor
was taken up by a single penthouse.
Quinn, his feet sinking into the rich Persian carpeting, stood behind
Penelope as she inserted a magnetic key card into its slot and pushed open the door. Without looking back, she raised her hand
over her shoulder and motioned Quinn to enter.
Quinn took a good look at
Penelope as he passed her. He caught the
scent of Chanel wafting toward him and noted the short black dress that was too
simply cut not to have been fabulously expensive.
The foyer in which Quinn found
himself was the sort he had only seen in the back copies of Metropolitan Home that had once littered
his dentist’s waiting room. The
carefully placed contemporary furniture was designed to complement the modernist
metal sculptures beside which it had been placed. Quinn observed that the floor, rather than
being carpeted, was instead covered with chocolate colored leather. “How do you keep it shined?” he asked.
Penelope looked at him in
astonishment. “I don’t. That’s the
maid’s job.” Her voice was matter of
“Yes, of course. I should have guessed. Come to think of it, I can’t really picture
you on your hands and knees with a buff cloth and a can of shoe polish.”
His host nodded her
“You might ruin your
Penelope looked at the
perfectly shaped nails that had been meticulously painted a deep shade of
“Is Penelope your real
name? I only ask because I know models
often use aliases to protect their identity.”
Without waiting to be asked, Quinn seated himself on a plush sofa. He was about to hang his jacket on a nearby
sculpture when he realized it was a Brancusi.
Penelope regarded Quinn
for a few seconds without answering. She
was too busy appraising her guest. “I didn’t
think I’d be giving too much away by using only my first name. It’s the one I was born with, and the one you
may call me by.” Careful to leave space
between them, she took a seat opposite Quinn.
Quinn could not stop
staring at Penelope’s face. The long blonde
hair and arched eyebrows only accentuated her pale complexion. Her features were so perfectly symmetrical
that it was difficult to believe they were natural and not the work of a
cosmetic surgeon. But it was her almond
shaped eyes that most commanded his attention.
They were so light a shade of green that they were almost yellow; they reminded
Quinn of a cat’s eyes so brightly did they glitter in the dim room light. “You’re really something,” he said as he
lowered his eyes to take in the tiny waist and the small breasted figure that
couldn’t have been any larger than a size zero.
“I wasn’t ready for how gorgeous you were in real life. No matter how talented Behan was as a
photographer, he wasn’t able to do you justice.”
Penelope didn’t bother to
argue. “It’s strange you should put it
that way. Behan always said the exact same
thing. He was very modest about his
“I guess he was at that.”
“You said downstairs that
it was about Behan that you wished to speak.”
“Yes, I’m really grateful
you could spare a few moments for me.
I’m sure you know that Behan is dead.
He was murdered in an alleyway downtown.”
“I was totally shocked when I read it about it
in the newspaper. I could never imagine
anything like that happening to someone I knew.” Penelope visibly shivered. “It’s a shame this city is always so filled
“Did you contact the
police when you found out what had happened?”
genuinely startled at the suggestion.
“No. Why would I? I wasn’t involved and had no pertinent information
to give them.”
“Behan was in love with
you, though, wasn’t he? Anyone could
have seen that just from looking at the photographs he took of you.”
“Even if he were, that didn’t have anything to
do with his death. Those photos were a
private matter, not something that would involve the police. Or you either.” Penelope sat straighter in her chair. “You haven’t told me yet how you learned of
my friendship with Behan. Or how you
know about the photographs he took of me.
Are you a detective?”
Quinn had his explanation
prepared. “No not at all. I’m staying at the apartment where he used to
live and found your address and photos there.”
Penelope raised her
eyebrows in disbelief. “You seem to know
quite a lot.”
Quinn let it pass. “How did you and Behan happen to meet in the
“He hired me after having
seen my photo on the web. I hadn’t been able
to find an agency because of my short height, but back then I still had to earn
a living to support myself. Behan was a
godsend. He not only paid me but offered
me prints for my portfolio. The other internet
photographers, and I use the term loosely, I’d worked with seemed never to have
encountered any fashion other than what was on sale at a Staten Island shopping
mall. But even if Behan weren’t a
professional fashion photographer, he still knew exactly what he was
doing. There was real genius in the
shots he took of me. When I showed his
work to designers, even though I wasn’t a standard dress size, they were more
than willing to lend me their best pieces in exchange for promotional use of
“You never saw him except
when you were working together?”
Penelope’s tone remained
casual. “Oh, once a shoot was finished,
he sometimes invited me to an inexpensive Thai restaurant on Broadway for a
quick lunch or dinner. I’m sure he
realized I hadn’t much money and wanted to be generous. And then too I suppose it was fun for him to be
seen about with an attractive model. But
it certainly wasn’t a date if that’s what you’re getting at. After all, attentive as he was – and he
really did go out of his way to be considerate – the man was old enough to be
“Mine too,” Quinn
noted. “And that was it? There was nothing else between you?”
“Behan may once or twice
have asked me to go with him to a movie, but I always declined as politely as I
could. You see, I didn’t want to say or
do anything that might seem to encourage whatever romantic hopes he might have
“It would be very
difficult for any man not to want a woman as beautiful as you for a
girlfriend,” said Quinn. “If you weren’t
married, I’d probably ask you out myself.”
“You’re being very kind,”
Penelope replied, “or at least I think you are.
But, of course, I am married.”
She touched the platinum band she wore on her left hand.
“Yes, I realize you’re
taken, and I respect that.”
“Then you’re one of the
few men who do.” Penelope glanced
pointedly at a clock on the mantelpiece.
The timepiece was made from quartz and was completely transparent; all
its internal gears could be seen in movement.
Quinn stayed in his
seat. “I’ll be leaving in a moment. There’s just one more thing I’d like to ask
you about, if you don’t mind.”
“Behan had a whole
collection of semi-pornographic DVD’s in his apartment. I couldn’t figure what he was doing with all
that kinky stuff, so I went to see Ito, the director whose work it was. I wanted to find out if he knew
anything. While I was there, I saw that
Ito had somehow acquired several of Behan’s prints. One was hanging on the wall above his
bed. You were the model in every single
photo. Do you know anything about that?”
“So you were lying before
when you told me where you’d first seen those photos?”
Quinn only shrugged. He was sure Ito had told Penelope of his
visit to the studio.
Penelope, set to explode in anger, leaped
halfway from her chair but then restrained herself and regained her
composure. “Please don’t speak to me
about that awful man Ito.”
“You do know him then?”
“Unfortunately, yes. He’s a business associate of my husband. Cecil has invested in Ito’s production
company and has brought him here several times for dinner. Several times too many as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had to play the polite hostess, but I
abhor the man. He makes my skin crawl.” She made a face as though she had a foul
taste in her mouth.
“Why does he have your
“He asked Cecil to loan
them to him. He gave a long winded
explanation about needing new ideas for his films. I didn’t believe a word of it. Personally, I think he’s just a dirty old
man. On the other hand, I couldn’t very
well object to his request since he is my husband’s partner. What he does with those photos I don’t even
want to think about.”
“It occurred to me that Ito
might have wanted you to appear in his next production. I’m sure he has a starring role all picked
out for you. Considering the type of
films he makes, though, I’m not sure it would be that much of an honor.”
“If that’s what he wants,
he will be very disappointed.”
Penelope’s tone was sharp as nails.
“There is only so much I will do for anyone, including my husband, and
that’s a line I will not cross. If Ito
should try to persuade me, I will convince my husband that some action needs to
be taken against him. Cecil may do
business with Ito, but he will not tolerate any disrespect toward me.”
“Fair enough,” said
Quinn. He stood and put back on the
leather jacket he had finally laid on the sofa beside him. “I appreciate the time you’ve given to talk with
a total stranger.” He started to say
something else but then stopped abruptly.
Penelope had risen too
and was making her way to the door to see him out. “I wasn’t quite sure about you when you first
walked through the door, but I can see now you really are sincerely interested
in what happened to Behan. He was lucky
to have so good a friend as you.” She
held out her hand. “I hope we will meet
again sometime in the future.”
Quinn ignored the
outstretched hand and instead moved forward.
He put his arm around Penelope’s waist and drew her to him and then kissed
her passionately on the lips. The
embrace lasted a full minute. Penelope
didn’t struggle or try to stop him.
“You shouldn’t have done
that,” she said when Quinn had at last released her and stepped back.
“You can slap me if you
like,” said Quinn, “but that will probably just make me want to kiss you
Penelope raised her hand
as though she might very well strike him.
Then she let it drop to her side and turned away so he couldn’t see her
face. “Please go now,” she said.
Quinn gazed at her with
undisguised longing, then turned and left.