‘Tell me Chuck, if you ever saw that guy again, do you think you would recognise him?’
‘The Guy who bought the pitcher?’
Chuck nodded positively. ‘Oh yeah, I’d know him. I don’t forget faces.’
‘If ever you see him in here again, try to get his name, will you?’
‘Sure, Kent. Be glad to. Anything wrong?’
‘I’m not sure. I’m just curious.’
Chuck looked sorrowful. ‘The boss was a damn fool to sell that pitcher. It bought a lot of guys in here. I used to look at it myself.’ He swivelled his head and gazed up at a huge sepia print of a redwood tree that hung above the bar. The tree had a tunnel chopped in its base, and an old-fashioned automobile was driving through. ‘That goddam thing!’ he sneered in disgust.
‘I’d give a lot to know who bought it,’ the young man said.
Chuck turned to Dan.’Jesus, it was a lovely thing! Pitcher of a dame. Nothin’ on. What hips! Whew! And a pair of tomatoes that would make your mouth water.’ He poised his fat hands over his chest to indicate size. ‘Used to hang right up there over the bar.’
‘I just want to know who got it,’ the young man repeated doggedly.
Chuck’s shoulders heaved with laughter. ‘Guys used to sneak in here to eye it.’ He leaned on the bar and imitated a man sneaking a look. ‘They pretended they wasn’t even interested. Just drinkin’ their liquor. Soon as they thought nobody was watching’ them up goes their eyes.’ He rolled his eyes lasciviously.
The Bishop Gallery had a large store front on Sutter Street, with a few paintings displayed in the windows. Dan paused to study one of them, but couldn’t make head or tail of what he saw. An enormous eye, divorced from its socket, was lying off to one side. A card on the little rack on the painting read: ‘ Existophrenic Landscape by Arnold Winckleman’. Dan gave it up and entered.
Robert Finnegan. Pen name of Paul William Ryan,1906-1947, who also wrote as Mike Quin. The Bandaged Nude, 1952. Chapter 1 and 10
Image: Ralph Burke Tyree, 1921-1979
Plot: Dan Banion is a Philip Marlowe style crime reporter investigating the murder of artist Kenton Kipper, and a sub-plot of someone buying, stealing and destroying Kipper’s paintings that touches the art world, and underworld of the post-1945 environs of San Francisco.