More closed business, some thanks to covid, others thanks to rental increases
It was after six pm when Dan stored his bike in the side garage. The Mazda was gone so he knew that Sanjay wasn’t home. He couldn’t recall if Sanjay had said he was working that night or not. After the unusually busy day he’d had Dan was okay with a quiet night on his own at home.
One side door in the garage led directly to a short flight of stairs into kitchen, the other side door opened onto the backyard patio.
“I’m home!” Dan called out as he put his shoulder bag on the kitchen table.
There was no answer. The TV was on in the living-room. He turned it off. A timer would have turned it off at 7:30 and then again at 8:30 if there was no one home. There was a message by the remote.
“Forgot I had a night shift at Pa’Pappa’s. I’ll be home at the usual time. Sanj.”
Pa’Pappa’s was one of the restaurants Sanjay worked for. The other was Zephyr. Both owned by Sylvan Papoulias. Zephyr was the fine dining establishment that regularly made the Michelin’s list of top North American dining experiences.
Pa’Pappa’s was at the family-oriented end of the spectrum. The difference, according to Sanjay, was in price and paper quality for the menus. Desserts for the family spot would be served at the the other but instead of grated dark chocolate they’d have shaved white chocolate. Both paid him the same but at Zephyr’s he got his name on the dessert menu there.
Dan went to the fridge and took out the remains of the pizza they had ordered on the weekend. A squirt of hot sauce and thirty seconds in the microwave and it was ready to eat.
He took it out to the back patio and ate while watching the sun setting. The various solar lights began to glow as it got darker.
This was a good life.
He was washing the plate he had used for the pizza when his cell rang.
“Good news Dan.” It was Cyrtys. “I just spoke to the big wigs and they are truly excited by your proposal.”
“Why yes, to do a special on this missing children from an almost-abductee’s point of view. You’ll have to tell them how you evaded his grasp and all that. It’ll be so dramatic.”
“I was not almost abducted.” Or was I? Maybe that’s what my mother was holding back. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember that week. What do they call it – post traumatic shock?
“I don’t mean literally. Can we take a meeting tomorrow. We have so much to discuss. So much.”
“I’ll have to check my schedule. I do have a business to run.”
“But Daniel this is your business, isn’t it. Seeing what others don’t see in a simple set of photographs.”
Dan woke in the morning with the naked Sanjay spooning him. He reluctantly disengaged himself careful so as not to wake his lover. Sanjay smelled of vanilla and chocolate. Dan sat at the edge of the bed. Did he want to start something this early in the day? If he didn’t there might not be another opportunity.
He scratched his balls, head and then stretched his arms to work out the sleep kinks. Bladder pressure pulled him off the bed and to the toilet. As he was relieving himself he heard music in the bedroom. That meant Sanjay was awake and had turned on his mp3 player.
The music was a gentle sitar with tabula and distant vocalizing. Soothing for morning.
Dan rinsed his mouth with water and went back to the bedroom. Sanjay was on the floor doing yoga. Dan sat on the floor and began copying what Sanjay was doing. He knew the routine of movements and closed this eyes to flow more consciously into his subconscious. As the exercises moved to a finish the music built up in speed and complexity. Then there was silence.
He opened his eyes and leaned back on his elbows watching Sanjay’s hair stomach as his breathing became more regular. Dan was never able to slow his down as well or as much as Sanjay did.
Over breakfast he was telling Sanjay about the ‘offer’, as he called with with air quotation marks, from Quintex, when his phone rang. He unplugged it from the charger to answer.
“Linda.” Call display told him who was calling.
“Daniel we have to talk.”
“You mean you talk and I listen.” He replied holding the receiver away from his ear.
“I’m not in the mood for your wise cracks this early in the day.” Her voice seemed to echo off the kitchen ceiling. “I’ll expect you at the FairVista store by ten.”
He brought the phone to talking distance. “Not unless I teleport. I’ll be there when I get there. Eleven at the earliest.”
“Get your houseboy to drop you off.”
Dan rolled his eyes to Sanjay’s frown. “She’ll never forgive you, will she.”
“I can hear you.” His sister said.
“Well, Sanjay can hear you, too. Trying using your inside voice. Oh I forgot, you don’t have one.”
Linda had never learned to modulate, as his mother called not shouting. Even quiet conversations ramped up to her shouting. He often wondered if she has some sort of hearing problem but the one time he had suggested she get her hearing checked she went even more ballistic than usual.
“I’ll be expecting you.”
The line went dead.
“Fuck, you’d think she’d learn to say hello and goodbye.” Dan shook his head.
“Family is like that. I don’t think my mother ever asked me how I was doing before she launched into how my sisters were doing.”
“I’d better get going if I expect to be at the big shop by eleven.” Even if he caught the right transit connections travel time was nearly forty minutes. A trip he would make no more than twice a week. Despite her brusqueness his sister did run the business well. She enjoyed the interaction with customers much more than he did.
“Not going to bike out there?” Sanjay asked.
“No thanks. The war on cyclists is as bad the city’s supposed war on cars.”
The door bell rang.
“Who could it be at this time of the morning?” Sanjay asked as he went to answer it.
“Is my brother decent?”
“Good morning to you too, Linda.” Sanjay said as she brushed past him.
“I was outside already Daniel. I knew you’d dawdle.”
She took a mug out of the sink, rinsed it and poured herself a cup of coffee.
“I don’t suppose you don’t have real cream in here do you?” She pulled the fridge open. “I guess this’ll do. Not two percent I hope.” She took two swallows. “Not half-bad. You ready yet. I don’t have all day.”
Daniel put his loafers on, checked his shoulder bag to make sure he had the photos he’d printed off the TV of all the missing children. As expected the quality wasn’t great but would do for now. He followed her out to the car.
“New?” He ran his hand along the hood.
“Don’t give me that look.” she opened her door. “Yearly lease means I can upgrade the Lexus every year. Why own anyway? You should try it. Tax deductible.”
He got in. “Bike styles don’t change that rapidly.”
“Tell me about it.”
She turned at the end of the street and headed to the Expressway.
“What is going on Linda?”
“Those pricks at FairVista say we aren’t making a large enough profit for them. Look, you know we are breaking even at least. It takes a few years for a business to really get established. I’ve explained all that to them. Even their accountants say we have a sound business plan but to them sound means bigger profits.”
“Uh huh. Tell me something you haven’t told me before. I warned you that the profit clause might bite us in the ass one day.”
“Who expected it to bite us so soon. That’s what I’m saying. But I have an opportunity that may increase profits for a minimal outlay.”
“Linda we’ve spent enough getting the new shop set up. I’ve already split off the best selling stuff to you. Or is this another attempting to pressure me into setting up shop with you?”
“No, nothing like that little brother. The people from Cuppa’s has approached me.”
“What? You want to start a coffee shop somewhere?”
“In the store. It’ll be like Starbucks and Indigo. Timmie’s and Shoppers.”
“How much of an outlay?”
“For the two locations a couple of hundred grand.” she said quickly.
“FairVista and Queen.”
“What about the Classic?”
“That lease is coming up soon. Daddy always said follow the money. Cuppa’s is the money.”
“Classic is doing fine. Better than ever in fact with the new condo complex.”
“Why do you always fight me Daniel?”
“I didn’t fight you on the new shop did I?”
“I’d call refusing to move all the business to it, putting up a fight.”
“If I remember correctly you thought having too locations would reflect what a success the business was. The big expansion. Right? Once FairVista was established then there’d be franchise opportunities to sell.”
“Daddy said you have to dream big to get big. Besides Peggy thinks it’s a great idea. She’s already signed the agreement.”
She pulled into the mall lot and parked behind the shop.
“Mom would sign anything you asked.” Dan wanted to get angry but he admired the way his sister often went ahead and did the ground work. “But …”
“I know you have the final say. If Daddy knew …” she trailed off.
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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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