Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Thirteen

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 alone.”
“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 story.
“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 curious look.
“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 needed.”
“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.
“What’s that?”
“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 Behan’s refrigerator. 
“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 a moment. 
“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.”
“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 impress.”
“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 dead broke.”
“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 asked.
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 tab.”
“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 that attitude.”
“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.”

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