Free Alone by Loren D. Estleman

Book: Alone by Loren D. Estleman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Loren D. Estleman
Tags: Suspense
his wrist. “I haven’t time for that. I’m due at a housing project in Watts in twenty minutes. I’m going to have to issue a stop-work order and come back for a follow-up inspection tomorrow. No, Friday. I’m booked up the next three days.”
    Kalishnikov said, “The carpenters are coming in this afternoon. They only have blueprints for the auditorium.” Once again his accent had slipped.
    “Then you should have corrected the violation before this. You know the code as well as I.”
    “I doubt that.” Suddenly the designer smiled brilliantly. “Can you spare one minute, Mr. Spink?”
    “Just that. The traffic situation in Los Angeles will continue to be a disgrace until we ban automobiles from the city limits.”
    Kalishnikov unbuttoned his western jacket and spread it open, exposing a hand-tooled leather holster under his left arm with the initials L.K. carved into it in loops, as if they had been spelled out with a lariat. He jerked out a big stag-handled revolver with a shiny nickel finish. Valentino recoiled. Spink squeaked and turned gray. The Russian smiled tightly. “If you will follow.”
    Spink seemed poised for flight, but all the workers in the room had stopped to watch, blocking his path to the street. He turned, and he and Valentino trailed Kalishnikov into the auditorium .
    At the fire exit he waved them back, then planted his feet, pointed the revolver at the padlock slung from the chain, closed one eye, and fired. The report made Valentino’s ears ring; Spink clasped his hands to both of his.
    Things always worked more smoothly on film. It took a second shot to shatter the lock. Kalishnikov holstered the gun, fastened his jacket, and jerked loose the chain. He threw it to the floor.
    ‘“Throw down the box.’” He grinned at Valentino. “This is a line, yes? From which western movie?”
    “Pretty much all of them.”
    They looked at Spink. The inspector produced a pad and pen, scribbled on the top sheet with a quaking hand, and gave it to Kalishnikov. “The fire code requires a second exit before the building can be opened to the public.”
    “But of course.”
    “Your methods are reprehensible.”
    “Whereas yours are open to interpretation.”
    Spink left. The designer watched him go, fanning himself with the sheet from the pad. “I won’t charge you for that.”
    Valentino thanked him. His ears were still ringing.
    “No need. Bullets are cheap. Spink’s the one who’s going to cost you.”
    VALENTINO CONDUCTED HIS efforts on behalf of the Film Preservation Department—and drew upon Kyle Broadhead’s extensive experience for advice—from a window-challenged beige brick facility that had at one time provided heat and electricity to all the buildings on campus. Just enough remodeling had been done to make the chance visitor wonder whether it was a power plant on its way to becoming an office complex or an office complex on its way to becoming a power plant. Only the two cineastes had kept quarters there continuously since it was renovated; for everyone else it was a stopping place on the way up or out. Broadhead called it the UCLA Cartoon Studio.
    The first time he’d said it, Valentino had asked him why.
    “When Jack Warner found out the Warner Brothers cartoon studio wasn’t responsible for Mickey Mouse, he shut it down. We’re always one recession away from a Walgreen’s on this spot.”
    Today, Valentino paused on his way from the parking garage to observe a jumble of cars and satellite trucks perched around the plant building, some of them on the grass. Someone in the crowd that was gathered there spotted him as he was turning to retreat. Feet pounded the sidewalk. He took a deep breath, let it out, and turned back into the stampede.
    “Mr. Valentino, how long have you known Matthew

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