Life in the California sun suits Elvis Cole--until the day a fifteen-year-old girl and her two younger siblings walk into his office. Then everything changes.
Three years ago, a Seattle family ran for their lives in a hail of bullets. Hired by three kids to find their missing father, Elvis now must pick up the cold pieces of a drama that began that night. What he finds is a sordid tale of high crimes and illicit drugs. As clues to a man's secret life emerge from the shadows, Elvis knows he's not just up against ruthless mobsters and some very angry Feds. He's facing a storm of desperation and conspiracy--bearing down on three children whose only crime was their survival...
About the Author
Hometown:Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:June 20, 1953
Place of Birth:Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Education:B.S., Louisiana State University, 1976; Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University
Read an Excerpt
It was plant day in the City of Angels. On plant day I gather the plants that I keep in my office and take them out onto the little balcony I have overlooking West Los Angeles, where I clean and water and feed them, and then spend the remainder of the afternoon wondering why my plants are more yellow than green. A friend who knows plants once told me that I was giving them too much water, so I cut their rations in half. When the plants turned soft as well as yellow, another friend said that I was still drowning them, so I cut their water in half again. The plants died. I bought new plants and stopped asking other people's advice. Yellow plants are my curse.
I was sneering at all the yellow when Lucy Chenier said, "I don't think I'll be able to get away until much later, Elvis. I'm afraid we've lost the afternoon."
"Oh?" I was using a new cordless phone to talk to Lucille Chenier from the balcony as I worked on the plants. It was in the low eighties, the air quality was good, and a cool breeze rolled up Santa Monica Boulevard to swirl through the open French doors into my office. Cindy, the woman in the office next to mine, saw me on the balcony and made a little finger wave. Cindy was wearing a bright white dress shirt tied at the belly and a full-length sarong skirt. I was wearing Gap jeans, a silk Tommy Bahama shirt, and a Bianchi shoulder holster replete with Dan Wesson .38-caliber revolver. The shoulder holster was new, so I was wearing it around the office to break in the leather.
Lucy said, "Tracy wants me to meet the vice president of business affairs, but he's tied up with the sales department until five." Tracy was Tracy Mannos, the station manager of KROK television. Lucy Chenier was an attorney in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but she had been offered a job by KROK here in Los Angeles. She had come out for three days to discuss job possibilities and contract particulars, and tonight was her last night. We had planned to spend the afternoon at the Mexican marketplace on Olvera Street in downtown LA. Los Angeles was founded there, and the marketplace is ideal for strolling and holding hands.
"Don't worry about it, Luce. Take all the time you need." She hadn't yet decided if she would take the job, but I very much wanted it to happen.
"Are you sure?"
"Sure, I'm sure. How about I pick you up at six? We can go for an early dinner at Border Grill, then back to the house to pack." Border Grill was Lucy's favorite.
"You're a dream, kiddo. Thanks."
"Or, I could drive over and pull the veep out of his meeting at gunpoint. That might work."
"True, but he might hold it against me in the negotiation."
"You lawyers. All you think about is money."
I was telling Lucy how rotten my plants looked when the outer door opened and three children stepped into my office. I cupped the receiver and called, "Out here."
The oldest was a girl with long dark hair and pale skin and little oval glasses. I made her for fifteen, but she might have been older. A younger boy trailed in behind her, pulling a much smaller girl. The boy was wearing oversized baggy shorts and Air Nike sneakers. He looked sullen. The younger girl was wearing an X-Files T-shirt. I said, "I'm being invaded."
Lucy said, "Tracy just looked in. I have to go."
The older girl came to the French doors. "Are you Mr. Cole?"
I held up a finger, and the girl nodded. "Luce, don't worry about how long it takes. If you run late, it's okay."
"You're such a doll."
"Meetcha outside the building at six."
Lucy made kissy sounds and I made kissy sounds back. The girl pretended not to hear, but the boy muttered something to the younger girl. She giggled. I have never thought of myself as the kissy-sound type of per-son, but since I've known Lucy I've been doing and saying all manner of silly things. That's love for you.
When I turned off the phone, the older girl was frowning at my plants. "When they're yellow it means they get too much sun."
Everyone's an expert.
"Maybe you should consider cactus. They're hard to kill."
"Thanks for the advice."
The girl followed me back into my office. The younger girl was sitting on the couch, but the boy was inspecting the photographs and the little figurines of Jiminy Cricket that I keep on my desk. He squinted at everything with disdain, and he carried himself with a kind of round-shouldered skulk. I wanted to tell him to stand up straight. I said, "What's up, guys? How can I help you?" Maybe they were selling magazine subscriptions.
The older girl said, "Are you Elvis Cole, the private investigator?"
"Yes, I am." The boy snuck a glance at the Dan Wesson, then eyed the Pinocchio clock that hangs on the wall above the file cabinet. The clock has eyes that move from side to side as it tocks and is a helluva thing to watch.
She said, "Your ad in the Yellow Pages said you find missing people."
"That's right. I'm having a special this week. I'll find two missing people for the price of one." Maybe she was writing a class report: A Day in the Life of the World's Greatest Detective.
She stared at me. Blank.
"I'm kidding. That's what we in the trade call private-eye humor."
The boy coughed once, but he wasn't really coughing. He was saying "Asshole" and masking it with the cough. The younger girl giggled again.
I looked at him hard. "How's that?"
The boy went sullen and floated back to my desk. He looked like he wanted to steal something. I said, "Come away from there."
"I didn't do anything."
"I want you on this side of the desk."
The older girl said, "Charles." Warning him. I guess he was like this a lot.
"Jeez." He skulked back to the file cabinet, and snuck another glance at the Dan Wesson. "What kind of gun is that?"
"It's a Dan Wesson thirty-eight-caliber revolver."
"How many guys you kill?"
"I'm thinking about adding another notch right now."
The older girl said, "Charles, please." She looked back at me. "Mr. Cole, my name is Teresa Haines. This is my brother, Charles, and our sister, Winona. Our father has been missing for eleven days, and we'd like you to find him."
I stared at her. I thought it might be a joke, but she didn't look as if she was joking. I looked at the boy, and then at the younger girl, but they didn't appear to be joking either. The boy was watching me from the corner of his eye, and there was a kind of expectancy under the attitude. Winona was all big saucer eyes and unabashed hope. No, they weren't kidding. I went behind my desk, then thought better of it and came around to sit in one of the leather director's chairs opposite the couch. Mr. Informal. Mr. Unthreatening. "How old are you, Ms. Haines?"
"I'm fifteen, but I'll be sixteen in two months. Charles is twelve, and Winona is nine. Our father travels often, so we're used to being on our own, but he's never been gone this long before, and we're concerned."
Charles made the coughing sound again, and this time he said, "Prick." Only this time he wasn't talking about me.
I nodded. "What does your father do?"
"He's in the printing business."
"Unh-hunh. And where's your mother?"
"She died five and a half years ago in an automobile accident."
Charles said, "A friggin' drunk driver." He was scowling at the picture of Lucy Chenier on my file cabinet, and he didn't bother to look over at me when he said it. He drifted from Lucy back to the desk, and now he was sniffing around the Mickey Mouse phone.
I said, "So your father's been gone for eleven days, he hasn't called, and you don't know when he's coming back."
"Do you know where he went?"
Charles smirked. "If we knew that, he wouldn't be missing, would he?"
I looked at him, but this time I didn't say anything. "Tell me, Ms. Haines. How did you happen to choose me?"
"You worked on the Teddy Martin murder." Theodore Martin was a rich man who had murdered his wife.
I was hired by his defense attorneys to work on his behalf, but it hadn't gone quite the way Teddy had hoped. I'd been on local television and in the Times because of it. "I looked up the newspapers in the library and read about you, and then I found your ad in the Yellow Pages."
"Resourceful." My friend Patty Bell was a licensed social worker with the county. I was thinking that I could call her.
Teri Haines took a plain legal envelope from her back pocket and showed it to me. "I wrote down his birth date and a description and some things like that." She put it on the coffee table between us. "Will you find him for us?"
I looked at the envelope, but did not touch it. It was two-fifteen on a weekday afternoon, but these kids weren't in school. Maybe I would call a lieutenant I know with the LAPD Juvenile Division. Maybe he would know what to do.
Teresa Haines leaned toward me and suddenly looked thirty years old. "I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that we're just kids, but we have the money to pay you." She pulled a cheap red wallet from her front pocket, then fanned a deck of twenties and fifties and hundreds that was thick enough to stop a 9mm Parabellum. There had to be two thousand dollars. Maybe three. "You see? All you have to do is name your price."
Charles said, "Jeezis Christ, Teri, don't tell'm that! He'll clean us out!" Charles had moved from the Mickey phone and now he was fingering the Jiminys again. Maybe I could handcuff him to the couch.
Teri was looking at me. "Well?"
"Where'd you get the money?"
Her right eye flickered, but she did not look away. "Daddy leaves it for us. It's what we live on."
Teresa Haines's hair hung loosely below her shoulders and appeared clean and well kept. Her face was heart-shaped, and a couple of pimples had sprouted on her chin, but she didn't seem self-conscious about them. She appeared well nourished and in good health, as did her brother and sister. Maybe she was making all of this up. Maybe the whole thing was their idea of a joke. I said, "Have you called the police?"
"Oh no." She said it quickly.
"If my father was missing, I would."
She shook her head.
"It's what they do, and they won't charge you. I usually get around two grand."
Charles yelled, "Ripoff!" A small framed picture fell when he said it, and knocked over three Jiminy figurines. He scuttled toward the door. "I didn't do anything. Jeezis."
Teresa straightened herself. "We don't want to involve the police, Mr. Cole." You could tell she was struggling to be calm. You could see that it was an effort.
"If your father has been gone for eleven days and you haven't heard from him, you should call the police. They'll help you. You don't have to be afraid of them."
She shook her head. "The police will call Children's Services, and they'll take us away."
I tried to look reassuring. "They'll just make sure that you guys are safe, that's all. I may have to call them myself." I spread my hands and smiled, Mr. Nothing-to-Be-Afraid-of-Here, only Teri Haines didn't buy it. Her eyes cooled, growing flinty and hard and shallow with fear.
Teresa Haines slowly stood. Winona stood with her. "Your ad said confidential." Like an accusation.
Charles said, "He's not gonna do frig." Like they'd had this discussion before they came, and now Charles had been proven right.
"Look, you guys are children. You shouldn't be by yourselves." Saying it made me sound like an adult, but sounding that way made me feel small.
Teresa Haines put the money back in the wallet and the wallet back in her pocket. She put the envelope in her pocket, too. "I'm sorry we bothered you."
I said, "C'mon, Teresa. It's the right way to play it."
Charles coughed, "Eat me."
There was a flurry of fast steps, and then Teresa and Charles and Winona were gone. They didn't bother to close the door.
I looked at my desk. One of the little Jiminys was gone, too.
I listened to Cindy's radio, drifting in from the balcony. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were singing "Music Is My Aeroplane." I pressed my lips together and let my breath sigh from the corners of my mouth.
"Well, moron, are you just going to let them walk out of here?" Maybe I said it, or maybe it was Pinocchio.
I pulled on a jacket to cover the Dan Wesson, ran down four flights to the lobby, then out to the street in time to see them pull away from the curb in a metallic green Saturn. The legal driving age in the state of California is sixteen, but Teresa was driving. It didn't surprise me.
I ran back through the lobby and down to the parking level and drove hard up out of the building, trying to spot their car. A guy in a six-wheel truck that said leon's fish almost broadsided me as I swung out onto Santa Monica Boulevard, and sat on his horn.
I was so focused on trying to spot the Saturn that I didn't yet see the man who was following me, but I would before long.
Teresa Haines's Saturn turned south past the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station, then east onto Melrose. I didn't careen through oncoming traffic to cut her off, and I didn't shoot out her tires. Teri Haines was driving just fine, and I wasn't sure what to do if I stopped them. Hold them at gunpoint for the police?
Fairfax High School was just letting out, and the sidewalks were dotted with boys toting book bags and skateboards, and girls flashing navel rings. Most of the kids were about Teri's age, some younger, some older, only these kids were in school and she wasn't. Charles leaned out of the passenger-side window and flipped off a knot of kids standing at the bus stop. Three of the kids gave back the finger, and somebody threw what appeared to be a Coke can which hit the Saturn's rear wheel.
Teri cruised along Melrose past hypermodern clothing outlets and comic-book shops and tour groups from Asia until she turned south onto a narrow residential street. Modest stucco houses lined the street, and the curbs were jammed with parked cars. Some of the cars probably went with the houses, but most belonged to people who'd come to shop on Melrose. I stopped at the corner and watched. The Saturn crept halfway down the next block, then turned into the drive of a yellow bungalow with an orange tile roof and a single royal palm in the yard. The three Haines children climbed out of the car and disappeared into the bungalow. Retreating to familiar territory after an unsuccessful meeting with the detective.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you've been following along with the ongoing Elvis Cole saga, you know exactly how these stories go: Elvis gets hired by someone (usually female) with a sob story, he pokes around while employing his signature wise-assery, finds that All Is Not What It Seems, gets beaten up, brings in his Terminator-like bestie Joe Pike, shoots the hell out of the bad guys, fails to get paid, then pops a cold one on the balcony of his Hollywood Hills A-frame. Did I leave out anything? Good. This one is little different, except this time the female client is 15 and a surrogate mother to two younger moppets. Their ne'er-do-well father went off on business and didn't come home; can Elvis Cole find him? Of course he can...and he also finds the gangsters of various ethnicities who are also after the hapless, wayward dad for a variety of reasons. Kidnappings, gunfights, and threats to Cole's bodily and emotional health ensue. Cole is an engaging character, and author Crais knows his insides and outsides well by now. His voice is solidly established and consistent throughout. We see the world through his eyes, and luckily Cole can describe a scene well enough for us to picture it easily. Cole has always been a soft touch, and here he gets to ponder the imponderabilities of children in between deadly threats to his life. The prose flows smoothly and quickly. Crais has a knack for creating vivid secondary characters, which is a vital skill when the main protagonists remain the same through the series. Teri, the client, is a pretty convincing high-functioning mid-teen, and her younger brother is an equally convincing brat. So why the semi-meh rating? If you've ridden with Cole before, nothing happens here that will surprise you much. A good deal of the dialog veers into banter. Cole's wiseass act wears with repetition. He constantly stumbles into situations that call for him to be tied to chairs and beaten by goons, yet he never seems to develop radar for that sort of thing, only one of several indicators of a lack of growth or development. And I'm seriously over Joe Pike as both a character and a type; as the lead's obligatory stone-killer sidekick, he's yet another version of Spenser's Hawk and Easy Rawlins' Mouse, yet with less charisma, and has come to mostly relieve Cole of having to detect his way out of trouble rather than shooting his way out. This is the seventh Elvis Cole novel and the sixth I've read (I somehow missed Sunset Express). I remember liking the first couple pretty well, and the next couple well enough, but at this point I'm undecided whether I want to sign up for more. Cole's still good enough company, but the formula has become so well-established that I can call the twists and beats well before they happen. (I get to this point sooner or later with most series, so this isn't unique to Crais.) Other than gaining a steady girlfriend, I can't think of a way that Cole has changed or grown much since his debut in The Monkey's Raincoat. If you haven't encountered Elvis Cole before and happen to run across this on the airline seat next to you, it's as good an introduction as any. If you're a rabid Cole fan and can't wait to see if Pike finally removes his sunglasses, go ahead and read this. But if you're like me -- on the bubble about this series, hoping the next one will do something different -- you're not going to find "new" in Indigo Slam.
Robert Crais can do no wrong in my eyes. I love Elvis Cole.
Love Robert Crais! I'm always excited when his new release comes out and this one didn't disappoint. The title was so catchy and couldn't wait to find out how it could have been chosen. He is a talented writer, keeps the story moving, exciting and interesting. Enjoyed this book very much.
This book was very intense, i read this book because my mom is a Crais fan and i didn't have anything to read. It was very good once i got into the thick plot. Very, Very thrilling
I think this is the first Robert Crais book I've read. I have vague memories of listening to something called "L.A. Requiem", but I don't know if he was the author. Anyway, it was pretty good. I won't turn down other books in the series. And how did I end up with #7 first? That's what happens when you get piles of paperbacks from your father.I liked the Elvis Cole character, but I have no earthly idea what "Indigo Slam" means
Tracking a Wayward Father It never fails for the poor, unsuspecting PI. They think they are taking on an easy case when in reality what appears simple holds danger and twists. Of course, if it didn’t, we’d just have a short story instead of a novel. But it’s the case once again for Elvis Cole in Indigo Slam. This book finds Elvis working for a trio of kids. They walk into his office one afternoon and hire him to find their father. The man has been missing for almost two weeks. While he’s left them behind before while pursuing a new job, this is the longest he’s ever been gone, and the trio have gotten worried. Elvis isn’t sure about working for them, especially since the oldest is fifteen and still too young to be caring for her siblings, but Elvis’s girlfriend Lucy talks him into it. The trail quickly leads him from Los Angeles to Seattle, where Elvis realizes that the family was in witness protection three years ago. Does their past have anything to do with the father’s disappearance? Could Elvis stir up old danger by his investigation? Of course, the answer to all of those questions is yes, but I will leave it to you to figure out exactly what is happening now and why. There are some good twists and lots of complications along the way to an exciting climax. The pace never lags along the way, either. There are very few returning characters in this book, but the new cast of characters are interesting enough to keep your attention. I do still feel that Elvis and especially his partner Joe Pike are more caricatures instead of full and real characters, but that feeling is lessening as the series progresses. The previous book left us with a couple of very mild cliffhangers. Lucy had just gotten a potential job offer that would move her to LA, and this book picks up on that, giving us a fun sub-plot as Elvis deals with the case. I’m very curious where this will go in future books. On the other hand, the ending of the previous book left Elvis very disillusioned and thinking of getting out of the PI business. There is no mention of any of that here, which I found very disappointing, especially since it could have fueled some nice character growth. I have often complained in my reviews of Robert Crais’s books about his excessive foul language. I’m happy to say that wasn’t as issue for me here. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there was still foul language, but it fit the characters and the situations instead of feeling like he added it to pad his word count. This isn’t one of my normal cozies, but I wasn’t expecting it to be when I picked it up. This is the second time I’ve listened to David Stuart narrate one of these books, and I found that he did an excellent job. In fact, I’d gotten used to his narration at this point, so his take on Elvis and Joe didn’t feel off like it had when I first started the last book. I’m seeing some good growth in the writing as this series progresses, and I’m beginning to see why it is such a favorite series. I’m hoping that upward trend continues from Indigo Slam.
Another great Robert Crais book. Don't miss this one. Highly Recommend!