Life's Work

Life's Work by Jonathan Valin Read Free Book Online

Book: Life's Work by Jonathan Valin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jonathan Valin
bar?" I said with surprise.
    "A gym, Mr. Stoner," Kaplan said. "You have a nice day."
    I went back to sleep after Kaplan called and didn't wake up again until the alarm went off at two thirty. The afternoon sun had made kindling out of the bedroom furniture, and as soon as I got my ground sense back, I bolted for the bathroom and took a quick shower.
    I plunged back into the bedroom and guided a handful of clothes out safely. As soon as I'd dressed, I sat down at the rolltop desk by the living room window, picked up the phone, dialed Information, and got Otto Bluerock's number. I hated to be the one to call him to reveille -he had a bad day ahead. But I wanted some information about Walt Kaplan before I met with him. It was either Otto or Petrie, and I was pretty sure that the Cougar management wouldn't approve of me conferring with Parks's agent. I went ahead and made the call to Otto.
    He answered on the seventh ring, in the same mood that I'd been in earlier that day.
    "What?" he bellowed into the phone.
    "Hi, Otto," I said. "How's the head?"
    "Who is this?" he said darkly. "No. Don't tell me. I'd recognize that limp-wristed voice anywhere. I already told you, Stoner -don't call us, we'll call you. Got it?"
    "I got it," I said. "I just thought you'd like to know that Walt Kaplan called me."
    "Did he, now?" Bluerock said with interest. "And what did the cocksucker want?"
    "He knows I'm looking for Bill."
    "That's my fault," Bluerock said. "When Petrie told me you'd be coming out to Bloomington, I mentioned your name to a couple of guys. And there isn't much around camp that Walt doesn't pick up on."
    "He claims he's Parks's agent," I said.
    Bluerock grunted. "He's a fucking subculture, that's what Professor Walt is."
    "You don't like him, do you?"
    "No, I don't like him," Bluerock said coldly.
    "Can I ask why?"
    "I don't fit into his game plan, sport," Bluerock said. "We're not on the same mailing lists."
    "What's his angle?"
    "Professor Walt? He's into what you might call health, the whole person game. Walt's guru to a bunch of local bodybuilders and football players. The guys worship at his feet -work out together, eat right, sleep right, do each other's hair. Kind of like Moonies with muscles. Fred is one of the Professor's boys. Remember Fred?"
    I remembered Fred from the Bloomington bar. Bluerock had implied that Fred's guru, the Professor, had sent him to spy on us. At the time, I thought nothing of it, since I didn't know who the Professor was. Now that I'd gotten that phone call and knew that "Professor Walt" was also Parks's agent, Bluerock's accusation didn't seem quite so far-fetched.
    "Why do you call him `Professor' Walt?" I asked Otto.
    "He's got a Ph.D. in exercise physiology," Bluerock said. "Or so he claims. He got the nickname when he won the Nationals in power lifting a couple of years ago. The muscle mags dubbed him the 'Professor of Press."'
    "He's a power lifter?" I said. "Over the phone, the son-of-a-bitch sounded like a corporate lawyer."
    "Oh, Walt's a class act, all right. If you're impressed, just think how he comes across to guys like Fred -guys whose entire life's reading consists of back issues of Joe Weider magazines."
    "Fred's a protege?"
    "A star pupil."
    "What about Parks?"
    "It's different with Bill," he said, without explanation.
    I started to ask him what he meant, but I knew I wouldn't get an answer. The sense of loyalty that had kept him from talking to me the night before hadn't evaporated overnight. And nagging him about Parks wasn't going to change that. Instead, I asked him how Kaplan had gotten involved in the agency business.
    "How do you think?" Bluerock said. "You tell somebody how to spend his time, pretty soon you're telling him how to spend his money. And how much money he should make. It's a very sweet racket."
    "Okay, Otto," I said. "Thanks for the help."
    "Stoner," Bluerock said. "Give me a call after you get done with the Prof."
    "All right."

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