Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Dark Veil: Chapter Twenty-Four

Mayla beamed at Quinn, who was once again dressed in his old street clothes, when she passed him on the stairs the next afternoon.  “How are you doing today, neighbor?” she exclaimed.  “I saw an incredibly beautiful woman coming out of your apartment early this morning just as I was getting ready to go out for breakfast.  I’m betting she’s the one you’ve been mooning over all this time.  Tell me you finally got lucky.”
Quinn appeared worn and haggard.  He was in no mood for conversation but didn’t want to appear rude.  “Yes, Penelope stayed the night,” he said at last.
“Well, you don’t seem overjoyed about it.”  Mayla was taken aback by Quinn’s attitude.  “I would’ve thought you’d be jumping up and down and handing out cigars.”
 “I didn’t get much rest.  I woke up around five and then just lay there till she left.”
“Why?  You can’t sleep after sex?  You should have taken an Ambien.”
“No, that had nothing to do with it.”  Seeing his neighbor’s concern, Quinn let down his guard.  “Just as Penelope and I finished making love, it came to me why she was there.”
“Why she was there?” echoed Mayla.  She wasn’t able to keep the incredulity out of her voice.  “I would have thought even you could have figured that much out.”
Quinn rubbed his bloodshot eyes.  “The trouble is that now that I understand what’s been going on and why Penelope is suddenly so anxious to be with me, I don’t know what I’m going to do about it.  I spent so long searching for answers, and now that I’ve found them, the truth is only making me miserable.”
“You’ve totally lost me,” Mayla said as she took another look at him.  She eyed his appearance critically.  “I see you’ve gone back to wearing your hoodie.”
Quinn straightened.  “Yes, I’ve done pretending I’m someone I’m not.  It was because I wanted to impress Penelope that I started wearing those designer clothes in the first place.  Now I can see what a total idiot I was to ever have stooped so low.”
Mayla threw up her hands in irritation.  “Why do you always have to overthink things?  Can’t you just accept that the woman wanted you to make love to her?”
“I wish I could.  But Penelope would never have gone to bed with me unless she had something to gain.  I know that now.  Her being there didn’t have anything to do with me.”
“Do you remember what you were telling me the other evening about the dark veil you weren’t able to see through?  Don’t you realize this is the same thing all over again?  You’ve made up some crazy scenario in your head and now you’re trying to convince yourself that you’ve found the truth at last.  It’s so sad to watch.  Maybe Penelope did break Behan’s heart, but that’s no reason to think she’s out to break yours as well.”
 “The more I think about Behan, the sorrier I feel for him.  He had so many wonderful people in his life – you, Viktor, Violeta – if only he’d taken the time to appreciate them.   He didn’t have to make a fool of himself running after a woman like Penelope.”
“Quinn, can’t you see?  It’s no different for you than it was for Behan.  You have friends all around you – you just have to reach out to them.”
“You should have been a philosopher instead of an actor.”
“Why did you have to fall in love with a married woman?  There are so many single women in this city who’d jump at the chance to go out with a good looking guy like you.”
“Thanks, Mayla.  But that’s the whole problem right there.   I only want the things I can’t have.  Anything that would give me true happiness I turn my back on and run away.”
“Who’s philosophizing now?  But you’re right.  You want to be miserable.”
Quinn cast his eyes down at the floor.  “I wish so badly it weren’t that way.”
“Oh, stop feeling sorry for yourself, won’t you?  I did the same thing as you.  I had my own chances when I was younger, but I always thought someone better would come along, someone I could fall in love with as deeply as you’ve fallen for Penelope.”
“It doesn’t happen often.  This was the first time for me, and I’ve already hit middle age.  Penelope was pretty much my last shot at a normal life.  I keep wondering if the same thought was going through Behan’s mind when he begged her to marry him.”
“Never mind about Behan.  He’s not with us any longer.  The real question is what are you going to do about Penelope?  Are you going to keep seeing her?  You can’t very well throw her out the door after you’ve just spent the night with her.”
“If it were up to me, I’d never let her go.” Quinn put his hand on Mayla’s shoulder.  “I don’t think it’s going to work out that way though.”
“So it’s over then?  Just like that?”  Mayla pulled a pack of cigarettes from her bag.
“It’s more like it never was.”
“I can’t believe you’re actually saying this.”  Mayla took a long look at Quinn while lighting her cigarette.  “Men can be such fools.”

The hotel was on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street, only a block above Port Authority.  It was ultramodern and deluxe, part of a large chain that had bought in during the Times Square redevelopment project.  The seedy buildings surrounding it weren’t shown anywhere on the hotel’s website or advertising.
Quinn rode a series of escalators to the fourth floor where the ballroom hosting the couture show occupied most of the floorspace.  A table had been placed near the head of the escalator.  Two stylishly dressed young women, one of them blonde and the other a brunette, both with elaborately coifed hair and perfectly done manicures, sat at a folding table and checked in the guests as they arrived. 
“I’m a photographer here for the show,” said Quinn when it was his turn.  “The model Violeta Vargas put my name on the list.”
The redhead picked up a clipboard.  “What did you say your name was?”
The woman flipped through all the pages on the clipboard – there must have been at least a dozen – and then went through them a second time more slowly.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t see your name here,” she said at last.  She turned to the blonde beside her.
The blonde was unperturbed.  “Well, if you’re a photographer, the others are already at the end of the stage.  You might as well go in and join them.”
Quinn didn’t argue.  He made a straight line for the pit and placed himself where the other photographers were setting up their equipment.
“You’re blocking me,” said an angry voice behind him.
Quinn knelt down.  “Sorry about that.  You should be able to see all right now.”
The photographer behind him grunted and then went back to fiddling with the Canon he had already mounted atop a Manfrotto tripod.  The DSLR had been fitted with such an exceptionally long lens that Quinn briefly considered asking the photographer how he expected to get anything but headshots with such a setup.  Then he decided it wasn’t any of his business and began unloading his own gear.
Quinn would have liked to have shot with one of Behan’s film cameras, but knew his tight budget couldn’t be stretched to cover the cost of film and processing.  Instead he had opted to bring his own DSLR, a camera he had used regularly on his travel assignments.  What Quinn had found he needed most on those shoots was a lightweight body with an extended ISO range for the times he was forced to shoot in low light without a flash.
“That’s a great camera,” commented the woman seated beside Quinn.
“It’s a solid piece of equipment,” Quinn replied.  “It’s already given me good use.”
“Hell, yes,” agreed the woman.  With her hair in a bun, she resembled a schoolteacher.  “I wish I had one.  It’s not practical for me, though, if it doesn’t have video capability.”
Quinn studied the spotlights that had been brought to bear on the length of the runway.  “It looks bright enough in here.  I could probably get away with 3200, but I’ll play safe and keep it at 1600.  That should work fine as long as I leave the lens wide open.”
“You’re doing better than me.”  The woman was envious.  “I’m stuck at 800 on this old clunker.  Anything above that has too much noise to be usable.”
Quinn regarded the woman’s older DSLR and the bagful of lenses placed beside it.  “You have any tips you want to give me?  This is the first time I’ve shot one of these shows.”
“You’re kidding, right?  Well, it’s no big deal.  This is just something the designer is putting on for some out of town buyers.  He wants to get an idea what the reaction will be when he puts the full line up at Fashion Week in February.”
“Is his stuff any good?”  Quinn nodded in the direction of the designer, a suave older man who stood at the head of the runway making sure everything was in its proper place.
“It’s as good as you make it look in your photos.”
“Fair enough,” said Quinn.
“There won’t be many more of these ballroom extravaganzas.  Designers are wising up and putting all their stuff on YouTube.   Using the internet saves them a ton of money.”  The woman gave Quinn a doubtful look.  “Is this really the first show you’re shooting?”
“The very first, and also probably the last.  I’m just doing it as a favor to one of the models.  She wants some runway shots for her book.”
“Then you should know not to use any flash,” the woman instructed.  You can blind the model with flash and make her fall.”
“Don’t worry.  I never use on-camera flash if I can help it.  The lighting’s too flat.”
The show started ten minutes late.  There were no announcements, just a blare of pop music as the models began filing on stage one by one.
Violeta was easy to spot in the line of models.  She was the only Latina there.  The others were all wide hipped blondes who needed to lose a few pounds.  Violeta was tall and regal and kept steady the stern unsmiling expression models always affect on the runway.
Quinn waited to take his shots until Violeta had paused at the end of the runway and then pivoted directly in front of him.  She waited there for several seconds in order to give the audience a better opportunity to examine the clothes she was wearing.  It was then that Quinn fired the camera in rapid bursts.  Even using a high ISO, he wanted to make absolutely certain there would be no chance of motion blur.  
The show went on for about an hour.  Quinn, like most photographers who had gotten their start shooting film, carefully counted his exposures even when there was no need.  He photographed only Violeta and disregarded the other models passing before him, but he did make sure to get at least several exposures of each outfit Violeta had on. 
After the show had ended, Quinn waited for Violeta outside the ballroom’s entrance.  “I think I got it all,” he said when she finally appeared.
“Thank you so much,” said Violeta.  “You were so great to do this for me.”
“It was an interesting experience even if I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.”
“It’s also good practice for you.  I’ve already told you that you can make good money shooting shows at Fashion Week.”
“No thanks.  Once was more than enough for me.  There’s not enough room in that pit to even breathe.  You can’t move without blocking someone else’s shot.  And the guy behind me seemed never to have heard of deodorant.  Even if I could get the press credentials, I wouldn’t want to do it.”
“I’ve asked other photographers at these shows for photos, but not a single one ever came through for me.  Can you believe that?  What’s the big deal about emailing a few jpg’s?  A model always wants photos of herself that she can use in her book.”
“I doubt all those spotlights were the same color temperature, so I’ll probably have to tweak the white balance in Photoshop.  Other than that, it was all pretty straightforward.  I should be able to finish editing the photos in a couple of days and give them to you then.”
“There’s no big rush,” Violeta reassured him.  “Take your time and work on them when you’re not busy with other jobs.”
Quinn laughed.  “What other jobs?” he asked.

“I just wanted to tell you I was wrong about you,” said Quinn.
“Thanks,” said Curwin, “but it honestly isn’t any big deal.”  Without looking at it, he knocked back the shot of Bushmill’s the bartender had placed in front of him.
“It is to me.  I had you down as a murderer.”
“No way.  There’s only one person I ever wanted to be rid of, and he doesn’t count.”
Quinn didn’t give the comment much thought.  “I’ve got no idea who you’re talking about; but if he’s as worthless as all that, then he’s not worth bothering about in the first place.  Just stay away from the fucker and forget about him.”
“I would if I could.”  Curwin stared despondently at his drink.  “But I can’t.”
“This is all getting too mysterious for me, man.  Let’s change the subject before you get me completely spooked.”  Quinn looked about him at the Irish tavern’s worn interior.  The few young professionals who sat on stools at the bar looked completely out of place; the booths against the wall were empty.  “Did you know this place is shutting down?  They even had an article in The Times about what a loss it was for the neighborhood.”
“It’s too bad.  It has a great atmosphere.  I can see why you like it so much.” 
“I used to stop off in the old days with Behan for a couple of quick ones, but this is the first time since I’ve been here since I got back.  Look at it.  It’s a workingman’s bar in a neighborhood without workingmen.  No wonder the owners can’t make the rent.”
“It doesn’t really matter, does it?”  Curwin knocked back another shot and signaled to the bartender for still another.  “Neighborhoods are like people.  When they’re gone, they get written up as history.  All anyone remembers about them are the good times.  The bad times – the days when people weren’t safe walking down the block – those get forgotten.”
“That’s pretty cynical.”
“Sorry,” Curwin apologized.  “It’s the mood I’m in, I guess.  But I am glad you wanted to meet with me again.  I’ve been thinking a lot about you and Pen, and I’m glad you’re the one she’s going to be with.  I’m happy for you both.”
“Fuck that.  She and I are never going to be a couple.  Even if she weren’t married, for the time being at least, she still wouldn’t want someone as down and out as me.”
“Yes, I noticed you went back to wearing your hoodie.  It suits you better.  You seemed too uncomfortable all dressed up.” Curwin chuckled at the memory.  “But don’t be so sure appearances will stop Pen.  I know her.  She has a lot more heart than she lets on.”
Quinn took a long drink of his Guinness.  “I didn’t mean to speak against her,” he said in a softer tone.  “I’m not here to insult your wife.”
“I appreciate that even though the marriage will soon be over.”
Quinn didn’t bother to look up from his drink.  “Whatever you say.”
“I meant what I told you just now, Quinn.  I’m glad it’s you Pen will be with.  I want you to promise to take good care of her.”
“Are you drunk?  You’ve only had two, but you’re already getting all teary eyed on me.  I invited you here to apologize for suspecting you of murder.  I was hoping we could let bygones be bygones.  It doesn’t look like this is a good night for you though.  Why don’t we finish our drinks, and do this again some other time.”  Quinn put his money on the bar.
“Was that the only reason you wanted to talk with me?” Curwin asked.
“There may have been other things I wanted to tell you, things I’ve discovered about Penelope; but they can wait until the next time we see one another.”
“I don’t know if there will be a next time.  I’m thinking of going away.”
Quinn was caught off guard.  “That’s pretty sudden, isn’t it?  Have you told Penelope what you’re planning?”  He studied his companion more closely.  “Where are you heading off to anyway?  You’ve probably got enough money to travel wherever you want.”
“I haven’t decided yet.”  Curwin put down his drink long enough to mull it over.  “When I was a kid, I had a book with pictures of India in it.  I used to look at this one photo of the Taj Mahal and think how great it would be to live there.”
“It’s really a mausoleum, isn’t it?  I don’t think anyone actually lives there.”
“Yes, you’re right, but I was too young then to know that.  It just seemed so beautiful and serene there, a place I could finally be at peace.”
“Well, go there then if it makes you happy.  Being at peace is always a good thing.”
Curwin returned to what he’d been saying before.  “I’d go a lot easier knowing you were watching out for Pen.  Promise me you’ll take care of her.”
“I can’t do that, Cecil.  I wish I could.  But Penelope isn’t going to end up with either one of us.  I’m going to see her just one more time, and that’s only so I can tell her I’ve finally figured things out and gotten to the truth.  Once I’ve done that, I’ll have repaid my debt to Behan and I can go back to San Francisco.”
“Penelope’s a good person.  Really she is.”
“I know you mean that, Cecil, and it does you credit that you’re so willing to stand up for your wife.  But I just can’t see it that way.  My eyes have finally been opened.”
Curwin got up slowly from his barstool.  “Think about what I said.  I won’t be seeing Pen again before I go.  Next time you meet with her, tell her I loved her more than she imagined.  I might not always have shown it, but the feeling was always there inside me.”
“Hey,” Quinn protested.  “I’m sure she knows that much already.”
“Maybe.  But tell her anyway that I said it.”  Curwin put his hand on Quinn’s arm and pressed it.  “Please.  You’d be doing me a bigger favor than you know.”

It was the first time Quinn had been back to the senior center.  He looked around the lunchroom but didn’t see Cal anywhere. 
“Excuse me,” Quinn said to the volunteer at the door, “but the last time I was here I met an elderly gentleman named Cal.  He was a big man but sort of easygoing and gentle.  Is he around today?”
“Cal?  Oh, Lordy,” exclaimed the volunteer.  She put her hands together as if in prayer.  “He just died this past week.  It happened all of a sudden.  He went to the emergency room and never came back.  A perforated ulcer, that’s what the doctor said done for him.”
“That’s too bad.”  Quinn was crestfallen.  “He was one cool old guy.” 
“Yes, indeed he was.  But that’s the way it goes.  Old people die all the time and those of us who are left can only sit here watching them being carried out one after another.  After a while, we just sort of ignore it or it would end up being too much for us.  We know well enough it’ll be our own turn soon enough.”
“He told me his woman had died.  Did he have any other family?  It’s sad to think of an old man dying all alone.”  Quinn looked down.  “That’s the way it was for my father too.”
“If Cal had any family, he never mentioned them to us.  It’s sad, yes,” said the volunteer.  “but none of us here have anyone.  Or anything.  This place is the end of the line.”
“I guess there won’t be any funeral service then if Cal didn’t leave behind any wife or children to grieve.”  Quinn seemed unsure how to best phrase his next question.  “What’ll happen to his remains if there’s no one to claim them?”
“Oh, someone from here will claim the body so it doesn’t end up being dissected at one of those medical schools.”  The woman was emphatic on that point.  “The city has got a proper cemetery out on Hart Island and buries us poor for free.  Not that I’ve ever been there.  They make the convicts from Rikers dig the graves.  There ain’t no headstones on those graves, but there ain’t anyone going out to pay their respects anyway.”
“I get it,” said Quinn.  “Alone in life, and alone in death.”
The woman looked him over.  “Have you been coming here long?  Excuse me for saying so, but you do look a bit young to be here.”
“No, it’s only the second time.  The first time was when I met Cal.”
“Well, maybe it ain’t as bad here as I make it sound.  They’ve got good food, and there’s plenty of company.  That’s what’s most important.  No one wants to be all by themselves when they’re old.”
“I can understand that well enough,” said Quinn. 
“What do you do for a living?” the woman asked.  “Do you work around here?”
“No, I take photos occasionally, but I haven’t been doing much of that lately.”
“Oh, a photographer.  That’s so wonderful.  We have a big New Year’s Eve party here every December 31st.  Maybe you’d like to photograph that.  ‘Cept it don’t ever take place at night.  We get together at lunchtime on New Year’s Eve and have our party then.  You’d have a big laugh watching us old folks count down to midnight while it’s still only one o’clock in the afternoon.  We do it that way ‘cause most of us aren’t going to be able to stay awake till midnight in the first place.  Besides, at our age, another year ain’t such a big deal.  We’ve seen enough of ‘em come and go.”
“Maybe I’ll come back for the party then and take some photos.  I’d be happy to give a copy to everyone I shot.  It sounds like it might be fun.”
“It’s not the photos themselves that means so much to us.  We’re all of us past being so vain we need to see what we look like.  No, it’s having someone like you take the time to stop in front of us and remind us that we’re still here.  If nothing else, those photos are proof we’re alive and breathing and that the world hasn’t forgotten us altogether.”  The woman got up then, reached out a hand for her walker and moved slowly away to join her friends on the other side of the room.

Outside, on Columbus, Quinn saw on the sidewalk faded chalk drawings of cookies and milk.  A light snow had begun to fall and would soon cover them completely.  In the store windows, holiday decorations sparkled and shone.  On the other side of the avenue, parents and children had gathered around the bright green Christmas trees lined up for sale.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Processing Film with a Single Solution

A company of which I had never before heard, CineStill, has annonuced a product long awaited by film shooters - a single solution that will both develop and fix black &white film in the darkroom.  The mixture, known as DF96, promises to do away with the old three-step process of developer, stop bath and fixer with one solution that will do the work of all three in only a few minutes.  

I really don't know any more of this product than what is shown on the company's website.  If it works as advertised, however, it will obviously be a great timesaver for those who still practice analog photography.  According to CineStill, film can even be push processed (or pulled) by manipulating the water temperature and processing time.  

The price is currently $16.99 for 1,000 ml, enough to process 16+ rolls of b&w film.

It's inventions such as this - assuming it works - that make film processing easier for photographers and thereby help keep analog photography alive.

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.