Dan got off his bike to wheel it up the laneway behind the row of shops that included James Family Photo. No drunks back there this morning, he was glad to see. His Dad had bought the three-story corner building lot of stores shortly after their move to Toronto. They’d lived in one of the second-story apartments until his sister got married and moved out.
In the mid-80’s the Queen and River area wasn’t considered prime but over the years it had become very prime. So prime, his sister felt it was time to sell. Dan was unwilling to let go of the real-estate.
He unlocked the rear security gate, pushed it open, locked it behind him again, double checked to make sure it was in fact locked. Some mornings he had forgotten to make it secure and would come out to find a drunk or two sprawled in the back space behind the store.
He then unlocked the actual back door to their part of the building, chained his bike to the railing of the back stairway that lead up to the second and third floors. Stairs only used by himself and sometimes Sandy, his shop assistant. Both floors could be accessed by the public entrance. Double checking his bike he unlocked the rear door to his downstairs shop.
Over the years the amount of security needed had increased. What took his Dad a few minutes, now took nearly twenty. He turned off the security alarm but made sure it was still set to go off if anyone came to the back via the laneway. Surveillance cameras covered the front, the back, and even the roof. The roof cams were good for keeping an eye on racoons.
He turned master switch on for the lights in the shop. It took a few moments for them to illuminate the various display stands, racks and street front. He always enjoyed the flicker to life of the business. No, as long as he could afford it, James Family Photography would be centred here and not at the FairVista Mall.
He unlocked the front door from the inside and stepped out to Queen Street. The Classic Carafe Cafe in the corner spot of the building had been opened for a couple of hours. He was still a bit amazed that selling coffee and cookies was a viable business.
“Morning, landlord. Blueberry, coconut, fresh out of the oven. ” Jill Haverly, owner of the Classic stepped out of the cafe with a coffee and muffin for him. Her apron was already dusty with flour.
“Do you stand at your window waiting for me to show up?” Dan asked.
“Don’t have to watch. Your vibration is felt when you are five minutes from here.” She laughed as he took the mug from her.
“French vanilla?” He held it to his nose.
“Just for you. Was reading about you in the Globe the other day.” Jill said.
“Yeah. Hope it’s good for business.” Dan sipped his coffee. Since leasing the corner spot to her five years ago Jill had made sure Dan had a fresh morning coffee. If he didn’t step out, she’d send a couple of mugs over for him and his shop clerks.
“I didn’t realize you were so i.technically inclined. I took you for just another wedding photographer.” Jill said.
“Weddings were always my sister’s end of things. The end that brings in the money. Weddings, babies and now pets. My restoration work … ”
“What you did in that child porn case was more than restoration.” Jill took his empty cup and dashed the last drops onto the sidewalk.
A short, heavy-set woman stopped to talk with them. Jill slipped into the Classic.
“Late night Sandy?”
“No later than usual, bossman.”
Sandy Reynolds had worked for James Family Photography for several years. What she didn’t know about cameras wasn’t worth knowing.
“You kick start the shop?” she asked.
“For the most part. You can fire up the net.”
“This’ll help.” Jill came back out with an espresso for Sandy. “Extra slow.”
Sandy tossed it back in one gulp. “Thanks I needed that. See you inside.”
“I’ll be in in a few minutes,” Dan saw Cliff Silver arriving to open up the Oil On Silver Gallery that occupied the retail space on the other side of the building.
“Thanks Jill. See you for lunch.”
“The usual will be ready. Tell Cliff I’ll send Peter over with his morning booster, if he promises not to offer him a job.”
“You still sore about losing Steve to him?” Dan handed his empty mug back to her. Steve was baker apprentice to Jill for a year when Cliff offered him a job at the gallery. Peter was his replacement.
“Just joking. Better commissions on art than gluten free muffins.”
“That it is.” Cliff gave Dan a quick kiss on the cheek. “DeVida?”
Cliff prided himself on not only having a nose for art but one for scent.
“Yes. You like?”
“I like a man who smells good.” Cliff laughed. “Good enough to eat.”
“Maybe later. How did the Ocean opening go on the weekend?” He followed Cliff into the gallery.
“Tsunami, baby, tsunami. Sold nearly everything within the first hour.”
One wall of the gallery was hung with four different sized paintings of waves; each a different season and diffusing different light patterns. All by the same artist.
“I wasn’t sure about these; the sea seasons, but they went first, in fact.”
“Not sure?” Dan asked.
“Yeah, Halakia insisted, and rightly so, they go as a set. One hundred and eighty grand seemed likes a lot of money, even to me, but fuck they were gone so fast I could have had an auction for them and gotten twice that easily. Live and learn.”
“I didn’t think there was much left for you to learn?”
Silver’s Gallery was the one original shop in the building. It had been there for ten years already when his father bought the space. Like Dan, Cliff had inherited the family business. Cliff had the second floor removed to make the two interior walls large enough for such enormous paintings. The other two were ceiling to floor windows.
“Now to see if I can firm up the offers for this now.” He gestured to a large canvas that took up most of the other side wall. “Most apartments aren’t big enough for something this size.”
“How do you even paint something that large?”
“One brush stroke at a time.”
Peter, from Classic came in with a coffee and bagel. He stood expectantly in the centre of the space.
“I’ll leave you to it then Cliff. Oh by the way, Peter is off limits. That is if you value your caffeine.”
Dan went into his shop. Sandy was, as always dusting the shelves. She claimed it looked good to be busy when a customer enters.
“The James domaine in shape?” she asked.
“Globe was good to you?”
“Yeah, well, I’d rather keep a lower profile about that sort of thing.”
“Helping to bust up a child porn network isn’t a bad sort of thing.”
“Not the sort of business I want to develop.” Dan had worked on a case of a man who was posting sexually explicit pictures of a child, he claimed to be his daughter, from various hotels in the States. The sex acts were clear but backgrounds had been photoshopped into blurs. Dan was able to reverse that blur and traced the photos to an actual hotel and from there to the man.
When Ushio, his other clerk, arrived, Dan went up to his office on the second floor. He took the compact lift he’d had installed two years ago to accommodate handicapped access by-law. Usually he took the stairs but he used it at least once a day to make sure it was in running order. Access to his third floor workshop was only by the stairs.
His office took up the middle of the block of the building. His workshop covered the entire top floor. It was one of the reasons he wasn’t going to let his sister talk him into selling the building.
The workshop has originally been his Dad’s idea. for research and development. One part of it was a dark room for developing film and experimenting with various ways of of printing negatives. All of which was now pretty much passé thanks to the digital age. Another part was devoted to state of the art digital image manipulation and photo restoration.
Running the length of the back walls on both floors was the company archives. Negatives of nearly every photograph he or his dad had taken. His sister removed what she considered her portfolio when the FairVista location had opened. Dan didn’t really care what she wanted. But he knew what she couldn’t have.
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