The RedeemerHarry Hole investigates a mistaken assassination
Louisiana native Robert Crais acquired his love of crime-fiction when he purchased a used copy of Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister at age 15. In 1976, he did a stint in Hollywood writing scripts for such major TV series as Cagney & Lacey, Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues. He decided to pursue his dream of becoming a novelist in the 1980s, eventually creating the character of Elvis Cole. The resulting novel, The Monkey’s Raincoat, won the Anthony and Macavity awards, was nominated for the Edgar® and has since been selected as one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. A recipient of the Ross Macdonald Literary Award, Crais currently lives in the Santa Monica mountains with his wife, three cats and thousands of books.
When people call a private investigator because someone they love is missing, especially a child, the fear bubbles in their voice like boiling lard. When Nita Morales called that morning about her missing adult daughter, she didn’t sound afraid. She was irritated. Ms. Morales phoned because the Sunday Los Angeles Times Magazine published a story about me eight weeks ago, rehashing a case where I cleared an innocent man who had been convicted of multiple homicides. The magazine people came to my office, took a couple of pretty good pictures, and made me sound like a cross between Philip Marlowe and Batman. If I were Nita Morales, I would have called me, too. Her business, Hector Sports & Promotions, was on the east side of the Los Angeles River near the Sixth Street Bridge, not far from where giant radioactive ants boiled up from the sewer to be roasted by James Arness in the 1954 classic, Them! It was a warehouse area now, but no less dangerous. Buildings were layered with gang tags and graffiti, and signs warned employees to lock their cars. Steel bars covered windows and concertina wire lined roofs, but not to keep out the ants. That spring morning, 8:55 a.m., a low haze filled the sky with a glare so bright I squinted behind the Wayfarers as I found the address. Hector Sports & Promotions was in a newer building with a gated, ten-foot chain-link fence enclosing their parking lot. A young Latin guy with thick shoulders and dull eyes came out when I stopped, as if he had been waiting. “You the magazine guy?” The magazine guy. “That’s right. Elvis Cole. I have a ten o’clock with Ms. Morales.” “I gotta unlock the gate. See the empty spot where it says Delivery? Park there. You might want to put up the top and lock it.” “Think it’ll be safe?” That would be me, flashing the ironic smile at their overkill battlestar security. “For sure. They only steal clean cars.” That would be him, putting me in my place. He shook his head sadly as I drove past. “I had an old Vette like this, I’d show some love. I’d pop those dents, for sure.” That would be him, rubbing it in. My Jamaica yellow 1966 Corvette Stingray convertible is a classic. It’s also dirty. He locked the parking gate behind us, told me he was Nita Morales’s assistant, and led me inside. We passed through an outer office with a counter for customers, and a man and woman at separate desks. The man and woman both looked over, and the man held up the Sunday magazine issue with my story. Embarrassing. We passed through a door onto the shop floor where fifteen or twenty people were operating machines that sewed logos on baseball caps and photo-inked mugs. Nita Morales had a glass office on the far side of the shop where she could see the floor and everything happening there. She saw us coming, and stepped from behind her desk to greet the magazine guy when we entered. Tight smile. Dry hand. All business. “Hi, Mr. Cole, I’m Nita. You look like your picture.” “The one where I look stupid or the one where I look confused?”
The card security code is an added safeguard for your credit/debit card purchases. Depending on the type of card you use, it is either a three- or four-digit number printed on the back or front of your credit/debit card, separate from your credit/debit card number. To make shopping at The Mystery Guild® Book Club even more secure, we require that you enter this number each time you make a credit/debit card purchase. Please note that your security code will not be stored with us even if you have saved your credit/debit card information.