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Meet Elvis Cole, L.A. private eye . . . he quotes Jiminy Cricket and carries a .38. He’s a literate, wisecreacking Vietnam vet who is determined never to grow up.
The blonde who walked into Cole’s office was the bestlooking woman he’d seen in weeks. The only thing that kept her from rating a perfect “10” was the briefcase on one arm and the uptight hotel magnate on the other. Bradley Warren had lost something very valuable—something that belonged to someone else: a rare thirteenth-century Japanese manuscript called the Hagakure.
Just about all Cole knew about Japanese culture he’d learned from reading Shogun, but he knew a lot about crooks—and what he didn’t know his sociopathic sidekick, Joe Pike, did. Together their search begins in L.A.’s Little Tokyo and the nest of notorious Japanese mafia, the yakuza, and leads to a white-knuckled adventure filled with madness, murder, sexual obsession, and a stunning double-whammy ending. For Elvis Cole, it’s just another day’s work.
Praise for Stalking the Angel
“Stalking the Angel is a righteous California book: intelligent, perceptive, hard, clean.”—James Ellroy
“Out on the West Coast, where private eyes thrive like avocado trees, Robert Crais has created an interesting and amusing hero in Elvis Cole.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Devotees of the rock ‘em, sock ‘em school should find [Stalking the Angel] tasty.”—The San Diego Union
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Stalking the Angel
I was standing on my head in the middle of my office when the door opened and the best looking woman I’d seen in three weeks walked in. She stopped in the door to stare, then remembered herself and moved aside for a grim-faced man who frowned when he saw me. A sure sign of disapproval. The woman said, “Mr. Cole, I’m Jillian Becker. This is Bradley Warren. May we speak with you?”
Jillian Becker was in her early thirties, slender in gray pants and a white ruffled shirt with a fluffy bow at the neck and a gray jacket. She held a cordovan Gucci briefcase that complemented the gray nicely, and had very blond hair and eyes that I would call amber but she would call green. Good eyes. There was an intelligent humor in them that the Serious Businesswoman look didn’t diminish.
I said, “You should try this. Invigorates the scalp. Retards the aging process. Makes for embarrassing moments when prospective clients walk in.” Upside down, my face was the color of beef liver.
Jillian Becker smiled politely. “Mr. Warren and I don’t have very much time,” she said. “Mr. Warren and I have to catch the noon flight to Kyoto, Japan.” Mr. Warren.
I dropped down from the headstand, held one of the two director’s chairs opposite my desk for Jillian Becker, shook hands with Mr. Warren, then tucked in my shirt and took a seat at my desk. I had taken off the shoulder holster earlier so it wouldn’t flop into my face when I was upside down. “What can I do for you?” I said. Clever opening lines are my forte.
Bradley Warren looked around the office and frowned again. He was ten years older than Jillian, and had the manicured, no-hair-out-of-place look that serious corporate types go for. There was an $8000 gold Rolex watch on his left wrist and a $3000 Wesley Barron pinstripe suit on the rest of him and he didn’t seem too worried that I’d slug him and steal the Rolex. Probably had another just like it at home. “Are you in business by yourself, Mr. Cole?” He’d have been more comfortable if I’d been in a suit and had a couple of wanted posters lying around.
“I have a partner named Joe Pike. Mr. Pike is not a licensed private investigator. He is a former Los Angeles police officer. I hold the license.” I pointed out the framed pink license that the Bureau of Collections of the State of California had issued to me. “You see. Elvis Cole.” The license hangs beside this animation cel I’ve got of the Blue Fairy and Pinocchio. Pinocchio is as close as I come to a wanted poster.
Bradley Warren stared at the Blue Fairy and looked doubtful. He said, “Something very valuable was stolen from my home four days ago. I need someone to find it.”
“Do you know anything about the Japanese culture?”
“I read Shōgun.”
Warren made a quick hand gesture and said, “Jillian.” His manner was brusque and I didn’t like it much. Jillian Becker didn’t seem to mind, but she was probably used to it.
Jillian said, “The Japanese culture was once predicated on a very specific code of behavior and personal conduct developed by the samurai during Japan’s feudal period.”
Samurai. Better buckle the old seat belt for this one.
“In the eighteenth century, a man named Jōchō Yamamoto outlined every aspect of proper behavior for the samurai in manuscript form. It was called ‘Recorded Words of the Hagakure Master,’ or, simply, the Hagakure, and only a few of the original editions survive. Mr. Warren had arranged the loan of one of these from the Tashiro family in Kyoto, with whom his company has extensive business dealings. The manuscript was in his home safe when it was stolen.”
As Jillian spoke, Bradley Warren looked around the office again and did some more frowning. He frowned at the Mickey Mouse phone. He frowned at the little figurines of Jiminy Cricket. He frowned at the SpiderMan mug. I considered taking out my gun and letting him frown at that, too, but thought it might seem peevish. “How much is the Hagakure worth?”
Jillian Becker said, “A little over three million dollars.”
“Yes. But the policy won’t begin to cover the millions our company will lose in business with the Tashiros unless their manuscript is recovered.”
“The police are pretty good. Why not go to them?”
Bradley Warren sighed loudly, letting us know he was bored, then frowned at the gold Rolex. Time equals money.
Jillian said, “The police are involved, Mr. Cole, but we’d like things to proceed faster than they seem able to manage. That’s why we came to you.”
“Oh,” I said. “I thought you came to me so Bradley could practice frowning.”
Bradley looked at me. Pointedly. “I’m the president of Warren Investments Corporation. We form real estate partnerships with Japanese investors.” He leaned forward and raised his eyebrows. “I have a big operation. I’m in Hawaii. I’m in L.A., San Diego, Seattle.” He made an opera out of looking around my office. “Try to imagine the money involved.”
Jillian Becker said, “Mr. Warren’s newest hotel has just opened downtown in Little Tokyo.”
Bradley said, “Thirty-two stories. Eight million square feet.”
I nodded. “Big.”
He nodded back at me.
Jillian said, “We wanted to have the Hagakure on display there next week when the Pacific Men’s Club names Bradley Man of the Month.”
Bradley gave me more of the eyebrows. “I’m the first Caucasian they’ve honored this way. You know why? I’ve pumped three hundred million dollars into the local Asian community in the last thirty-six months. You got any idea how much money that is?”
“Excuse me,” I said. I pushed away from my desk, pitched myself out of my chair onto the floor, then got up, brushed myself off, and sat again. “There. I’m finished being impressed. We can go on.”
Jillian Becker’s face went white. Bradley Warren’s face went dark red. His nostrils flared and his lips tightened and he stood up. It was lovely. He said, “I don’t like your attitude.”
“That’s okay. I’m not selling it.” I opened the drawer in the center of my desk and tossed a cream-colored card toward him. He looked at it. “What’s this?”
“Pinkerton’s. They’re large. They’re good. They’re who you want. But they probably won’t like your attitude any more than I do.” I stood up with him.
Jillian Becker stood up, too, and held out her hand the way you do when you want things to settle down. “Mr. Cole, I think we’ve started on the wrong foot here.”
I leaned forward. “One of us did.”
She turned toward Warren. “It’s a small firm, Bradley, but it’s a quality firm. Two attorneys in the prosecutor’s office recommended him. He’s been an investigator for eight years and the police think highly of him. His references are impeccable.” Impeccable. I liked that.
Bradley Warren held the Pink’s card and flexed it back and forth, breathing hard. He looked the way a man looks when he doesn’t have any other choice and the choice he has is lousy. There’s a Pinocchio clock on the wall beside the door that leads to Joe Pike’s office. It has eyes that move from side to side. You go to the Pinkerton’s, they don’t have a clock like that. Jillian Becker said, “Bradley, he’s who you want to hire.”
After a while the heavy breathing passed and Bradley nodded. “All right, Cole. I’ll go along with Jillian on this and hire you.”
“No,” I said. “You won’t.”
Jillian Becker stiffened. Bradley Warren looked at Jillian Becker, then looked back at me. “What do you mean, I won’t?”
“I don’t want to work for you.”
“I don’t like you.”
Bradley Warren started to say something, then stopped. His mouth opened, then closed. Jillian Becker looked confused. Maybe no one had ever before said no to Bradley Warren. Maybe it was against the law. Maybe Bradley Warren’s personal police were about to crash through the door and arrest me for defying the One True Way. Jillian shook her head. “They said you could be difficult.”
I shrugged. “They should’ve said that when I’m pushed, I push back. They also should’ve said that when I do things, I do them my way.” I looked at Bradley. “The check rents. It does not buy.”
Bradley Warren stared at me as if I had just beamed down from the Enterprise. He stood very still. So did Jillian Becker. They stood like that until a tic started beneath his left eye and he said, “Jillian.”
Jillian Becker said, “Mr. Cole, we need the Hagakure found, and we want you to find it. If we in some way offended you, we apologize.”
Robert Crais is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty novels, sixteen of them featuring private investigator Elvis Cole and his laconic ex-cop partner, Joe Pike. Before writing his first novel, Crais spent several years writing scripts for such major television series as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Miami Vice, Quincy, Baretta, and L.A. Law. He received an Emmy nomination for his work on Hill Street Blues, and one of his standalone novels, Hostage, was made into a movie starring Bruce Willis. His novels have been translated into forty-two languages and are bestsellers around the world. A native of Louisiana, he lives in Los Angeles.