Authors: Robert Crais
When quiet Ellen Lang enters Elvis Cole's Disney-Deco office, she's lost something very valuableâher husband and her young son. The case seems simple enough, but Elvis isn't thrilled. Neither is his enigmatic partner and firepower, Joe Pike. Their search down the seamy side of Hollywood's studio lots and sculptured lawns soon leads them deep into a nasty netherworld of drugs and sexâand murder. Now the case is getting interesting, but it's also turned ugly. Because everybody, from cops to starlets to crooks, has declared war on Ellen and Elvis. For Ellen, it isn't Funtown anymore. For Elvis, it's just a living. He hopes.
STALKING THE ANGEL
THE LAST DETECTIVE
THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT
A Bantam Book
Bantam edition / August 1987
Bantam reissue / April 1992
Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to reprint the excerpt from
On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho
, translated by Lucien Stryk, Viking Penguin Inc., 1985.
All rights reserved
Copyright Â© 1987 by Robert Crais
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Bantam Books
Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, New York, New York.
For Pat, who met Joe Pike and
decided to hang around
That ain't tactics, baby. That's just the beast in me.
Â Â Jailhouse Rock
(the movie)Â Â Â Â
Winter downpourâeven the monkey needs a raincoat.
“I'm sorry, Mr. Cole, this has nothing to do with you. Please excuse me.” Ellen Lang stood up out of the director's chair across from my desk. I'd had it and its mate fitted in a nice pastel burgundy a year ago. The leather was broken in and soft and did not crack when she stood. “We shouldn't have come here, Janet,” she said. “I feel awkward.”
Janet Simon said, “For Christ's sake, Ellen, sit down.”
Janet Simon said, “Talk to him, Ellen. Eric says he's very good at this sort of thing. He can help.”
Speak, Ellen. Arf. I rearranged two of the Jiminy Cricket figurines on my desk and wondered who the hell Eric was.
Ellen Lang adjusted her glasses, clutched her hands, and faded back into the director's chair. She looked small, even though she wasn't. Some people are like that. Janet Simon looked like a dancer who'd spent a lot of time at it. Lean and strong. Good bones. She wore tight beige cotton pants and a loose cotton shirt striped with shades of blue and pink and red. No panty line. I hoped she didn't think I was
in my white Levis and Hawaiian shirt. Maybe the shoulder holster made up for it.
Ellen Lang smiled at me, trying to feign comfort in an uncomfortable situation. She said, “Well, perhaps if you told me about yourself.”
Janet Simon sighed, giving it the weight of the world. “Mr. Cole is a private detective. He detects for money. You give him some money and he'll find Mort. Then you can get Perry back and kiss off Mort and get your life together.” She said it like she was talking to someone with brain damage. Great legs, though.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said.
Janet Simon gave me a look, then turned away and stared at the Pinocchio clock. It's on the wall beside the door that leads to my partner's office, just above the little sign that says
Elvis Cole Detective Agency
. As the second hand sweeps around, Pinocchio's eyes move from side to side. Janet Simon had been glancing at it since they walked in. Probably thought it was peculiar.
Ellen fidgeted. “I was just curious, that's all. I'm sorry.”
“You don't have to be sorry, Mrs. Lang,” I said. “I'm thirty-five years old and I've been licensed as a private investigator for seven years. The state of California requires three thousand hours of experience before they'll give you the license. I spent that time with a man named George Feider. Mr. Feider was an investigator here in L
Angeles for almost forty years. Before that I was a security guard, and before that I spent some time in the Army. I'm five feet eleven and one-half inches tall, I weigh one hundred seventy-six pounds, and I'm licensed to carry a firearm. How's that?”
“Yeah, it impresses me, too,” I said. “I don't take custody work. I might find your husband and your son but after that it's up to you. I don't steal children unless there's reason to believe the child is in danger.”
Ellen Lang looked as if I'd kicked her. “Oh, no. No, no. Mort's a good man, Mr. Cole, please don't think he isn't.” Janet Simon said something like
. “You have to understand. He's been under enormous strain. He left ICM last year to start his own talent agency and things just haven't gone the way they should. He's had to worry about the house payments and the cars and schools. It's been terrible for him.”
Janet Simon said, “Mort's an asshole.” She was standing by the sliding glass doors that lead out to the little balcony. On a clear day I could go out there and see all the way down Santa Monica Boulevard to the water. The view had been the selling point. Janet Simon fit nicely with the view.
“I just want Perry home, that's all.” Ellen Lang's eyes went from Janet Simon to me, sort of like the Pinocchio clock. “Mort will settle for McDonald's. He'll let Perry stay up all hoursâ”
I cleared my throat. “Mrs. Lang, I don't bill by the day. I charge a flat fee exclusive of expenses and I get it in advance. You're looking at about two grand here. Why don't you wait? Mort might call.” McDonald's. Christ.
“Yes,” Ellen Lang said. She looked relieved. “I'm sure you're right.”
“Bullshit,” Janet Simon said. She turned away from the balcony to sit in the other director's chair. “That's not right and
she knows it. Mort's been threatening to leave for almost a year. Mort treats her like a sop. He runs around.” Ellen Lang made a little gurgling noise. “He's even hit her twice that I know of. Now he's taken their son and disappeared. She wants her son back. That's all she wants. It's very important to her.”
Ellen Lang's eyes widened but didn't seem to be looking at anything. “Ms. Simon,” I said evenly, “as much as I'd like to lick chocolate syrup off your body, I want you to shut up.”
Ellen Lang said, “Oh, my.” Janet Simon stood up and then Ellen Lang stood up. Janet Simon put a hand on Ellen Lang's shoulder and shoved her back down. “Who do you think you're talking to?” she said.
“A woman who's very concerned with her friend's problem. But a woman who, right now, is acting like a royal pain in the ass. If the sexual nature of my comment surprised you it's only because I needed to be shocking to get your attention.”
She chewed at the inside of her cheek, trying to decide about me, then nodded and took her seat.
“Also,” I said, “I find you devastatingly attractive and it's been on my mind.”
She leaned forward and said, “Eric told us you had a partner. Maybe we should speak with him.”
Eric again. The Mystery Man. “Fine by me.”
Janet Simon looked at the door beneath the Pinocchio clock. If she looked close enough she'd see the little ridge in the jamb from the time someone had forced the lock. Three coats of paint, and you could still see the crack. She didn't notice. “Is that his office?” she said.
“Aren't you going to introduce us?”
Janet Simon stood up, steamed over to the door, and went through. I smiled at Ellen Lang. Ellen Lang looked nervous but smiled back. After a while Janet Simon rejoined us.
“That's no office,” she said. “There's no desk, no furniture, nothing. What kind of office is that?”
She cocked her head a little to the side. “Eric said you'd be like this.”
Eric. “How do you know Eric?” I smiled. Mr. Sly. I have
quite a charming smile. Like Peter Pan. Innocent, but with a touch of the rake.
“We worked together when I was in the legal department at Universal.”
That brought it back. Eric Filer. Three years ago.
“He said you found some film negatives for him. He said it wasn't easy. He recommends you highly.”
“He also said you were like this.”
“Were you ever a dancer?” I said.
If she wanted to smile, she fought it. She took out a pack of Salem Lights, lit up in the office but stood in the balcony door, blowing smoke out over West Hollywood. I liked the way her neck looked when she lifted her chin to send out a plume of smoke. Some woman. I bet her mouth tasted like an ashtray.