Dream Town By (David Baldacci)
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IT WAS NEW YEAR’S EVE, 1952.
Aloysius Archer was thirty years old, once a decorated soldier, and next
a humbled inmate. He was currently a private detective with several years
of intense experience trolling the darker side of life.
He was riding in a 1939 bloodred Delahaye convertible with the red top
in the down position because that was how he liked it. He had bought the
car a little over three years before with lucky gambling winnings in Reno. It
had also very nearly cost Archer his life. He still loved the car. Any man
with a pulse would. And so would any woman who liked a man with a nice
He was currently heaving over the roller-coaster humps of Los Angeles.
The city was decked out in its finest livery for the coming of the new year.
That meant the bums of Skid Row had been goose-stepped off the streets by
junior coppers who did what they were told, the hookers had been ordered
not to solicit on the main thoroughfares, and most everyone had put the lids
on their trash cans and brushed their teeth.
The town had brought in about four million strings of lights, an equal
number of balloons, and enough confetti to choke the Pacific. And every
actor and actress with a studio contract, and even some without, would be
showing their toothy mugs in all the right, and wrong, places. While the
town definitely had its seamy side, the City of Angels had all the tools and
incentive to do showy and shallow better than any other place on earth.
It could be a wonderful place to live, if you had money, were famous, or
both, which Archer didn’t and wasn’t. Over the years, he’d worked a slew
of tough cases, and had come to know the town and its denizens maybe
better than he would have liked.
It was a town that took every single dream you had and then merrily ran
it right through the world’s biggest meat grinder. And when the famous
were famous no more, the meat grinder treatment was even worse, because
those people had tasted what life could be like if enough ink was spilled on
you and sufficient butts sat in seats to watch you emote. When that ride was
over, it was like being dropped from the top of the Empire State Building to
land in a squatter’s shack in Alabama.
Los Angeles had two million souls sprawled over nearly five hundred
square miles. Some people were crammed into slums, tract housing, and
shadily built tenement death traps, like staples in a stapler, while the
wealthy and famous had room to both flex and hide. All this in a city
founded on the remnants of a village settled by the Tongva, an indigenous
Indian tribe, who called it Yaanga, which translated to “poison oak place.”
Well, they got that right, thought Archer. But for a private eye, LA could
be a fascinating study of human beings, and all their many foibles.
He turned left and then right as he moved from dirty LA to rich LA and
then to dirty-and-rich LA. He passed a prowler car and saw two of the
LAPD’s “finest” sitting inside and sipping on coffee in vending machine
cups. They stared at Archer as he passed, probably wondering whether he’d
stolen the car or was delivering it to some Hollywood mogul or a desert
sheik who’d bought a piece of the city’s myth, along with a fancy ride.
Archer eyed the prowler in his mirror, hoping it would stay right where it
was. To his mind, the LAPD was one of the largest criminal enterprises in
the world. And they did it with a smile, and a gun, where appropriate. Or
with beatings that didn’t show
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