Indigo Slam

An Elvis Cole Novel


By Robert Crais

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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 . . .”


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At two-fourteen in the morning on the night they left one life to begin their next, the rain thundered down in a raging curtain that thrummed against the house and the porch and the plain white Econoline van that the United States Marshals had brought to whisk them away.

Charles said, "C'mere, Teri, and lookit this."

Her younger brother, Charles, was framed in the front window of their darkened house. The house was dark because the marshals wanted it that way. No interior lights, they said. Candles and flashlights would be better, they said.

Teresa, whom everyone called Teri, joined her brother at the window, and together they looked at the van parked at the curb. Lightning snapped like a giant flashbulb, illuminating the van and the narrow lane of clapboard houses there in Highland Park on the west side of Seattle, seven and one-half miles south of the Space Needle. The van's side and rear doors were open, and a man was squatting inside, arranging boxes. Two other men finished talking to the van's driver, then came up the walk toward the house. All four men were dressed identically in long black slickers and black hats that they held against the rain. It beat at them as if it wanted to punch right through the coats and the hats and hammer them into the earth. Teri thought that in a few minutes it would be beating at her. Charles said, "Lookit the size of that truck. That truck's big enough to bring my bike, isn't it? Why can't I bring my bike?"

Teri said, "That's not a truck, it's a van, and the men said we could only take the boxes." Charles was nine years old, three years younger than Teri, and didn't want to leave his bike. Teri didn't want to leave her things either, but the men had said they could only take eight boxes. Four people at two boxes a person equals eight boxes. Simple math.

"They got plenty of room."

"We'll get you another bike. Daddy said."

Charles scowled. "I don't want another bike."

The first man to step in from the rain seemed ten feet tall, and the second seemed even taller. Water dripped from their coats onto the wooden floor, and Teri's first thought was to get a towel before the drips made spots, but, of course, the towels were packed and it wouldn't matter anyway. She would never see this house again. The first man smiled at her and said, "I'm Peterson. This is Jasper." They held out little leather wallets with gold and silver badges. The badges sparkled in the candlelight. "We're just about done. Where's your dad?"

Teri had been helping Winona say good-bye to the room they shared when the men arrived fifteen minutes ago. Winona was six, and the youngest of the three Hewitt children. Teri had had to be with her as Winona went around their room, saying, "Good-bye, bed. Good-bye, closet. Good-bye, dresser." Beds and closets and dressers weren't things that you could put in eight boxes. Teri said, "He's in the bathroom. Would you like me to get him?" Teri's dad, Clark Hewitt, had what he called "a weak constitution." That meant he went to the bathroom whenever he was nervous, and tonight he was very nervous.

The tall man who was Jasper called, "Hey, Clark, whip it and flip it, bud! We're ready!"

Peterson smiled at Teri. "You kids ready?"

Teri thought, of course they were ready, couldn't he see that? She'd had Charles and Winona packed and dressed an hour ago. She said, "Winona!"

Winona came running into the living room with a pink plastic Beverly Hills 90210 raincoat and a purple toy suitcase. Winona's straw-colored hair was held back with a bright green scrunchie. Teri knew that there were dolls in the suitcase, because Teri had helped Winona pack. Charles had his blue school backpack and his yellow slicker together on the couch.

Jasper called again, "C'mon, Clark, let's go! We're drowning out there, buddy!"

The toilet off the kitchen flushed and Teri's dad came into the living room. Clark Hewitt was a thin, nervous man whose eyes never seemed to stay in one place. "I'm ready."

"We won't be coming back, Clark. You're not forgetting anything, are you?"

Clark shook his head. "I don't think so."

"You got the place locked up?"

Clark frowned as if he couldn't quite remember, and looked at Teri, who told him, "I locked the back door and the windows and the garage. They're going to turn off the gas and the phones and the electricity tomorrow." Someone with the marshals had given her father a list of things to do, and Teri had gone down the list. The list had a title: Steps to an Orderly Evacuation. "I just have to blow out the candles and we can go."

Teri knew that Peterson was staring at her, but she wasn't sure why. Peterson shook his head, then made a little gesture at Jasper. "I'll take care of the candles, little miss. Jasper, get 'em loaded."

Clark started to the front door, but Reed Jasper stopped him. "Your raincoat."


"Earth to Clark. It's raining like a bitch out there."

Clark said, "Raincoat? I just had it." He looked at Teri again.

Teri said, "I'll get it."

Teri hurried down the hall past the room that she used to share with Winona and into her father's bedroom. She blew out the candle there, then stood in the darkness and listened to the rain. Her father's raincoat was on the bed where she'd placed it. He'd been standing at the foot of the bed when she'd put it there, but that's the way he was—forgetful, always thinking about something else. Teri picked up the raincoat and held it close, smelling the cheap fabric and the man-smell she knew to be her father's. Maybe he'd been thinking about Salt Lake City, which is where they were going. Teri knew that her father was in trouble with some very bad men who wanted to hurt them. The federal marshals were here to take them to Salt Lake City, where they would change their names. Once they had a Fresh Start, her father had said, he would start a new business and they would all live happily ever after. She didn't know who the bad men were or why they were so mad at her father, but it had something to do with testifying in front of a jury. Her father had tried explaining it to her, but it had come out jumbled and confused, the way most things her father tried to explain came out. Like when her mother died. Teri had been Winona's age, and her father had told her that her momma had gone home to see Jesus and then he'd started blubbering and nothing he'd said after that made sense. It was another four days before she'd learned that her mother, an assistant night manager for the Great Northwest Food Store chain, had died in an auto accident, hit by a drunk driver.

Teri looked around the room. This had been her mother's room, just as this house had been her mother's house, as it had been Teri's for as long as she could remember. There was one closet and two windows looking toward the alley at the back of the house and a queen-size bed and a dresser and a chest. Her mother had slept in this bed and kept her clothes in this chest and looked at herself in that dresser mirror. Her mother had breathed the air in this room, and her warmth had spread through the sheets and made them toasty and perfect for snuggling when Teri was little. Her mother would read to her. Her mother would sing "Edelweiss." Teri closed her eyes and tried to feel the warmth, but couldn't. Teri had a hard time remembering her mother as a living being; she remembered a face in pictures, and now they were leaving. Good-bye, Momma.

Teri hugged her father's raincoat tight; just as she turned to leave the room she heard the thump in the backyard. It was a dull, heavy sound against the back wall of the house, distinct against the rain. She looked through the rear window and saw a black shadow move through the rain, and that's when Peterson stepped silently into the door. "Teri, I want you to go to the front door, now, please." His voice was low and urgent.

Teri said, "I saw something in the yard."

Peterson pulled her past a third man in a still-dripping raincoat. The man who'd been loading the boxes. He held his right hand straight down along his leg and Teri saw that he had a gun.

Her father and Charles and Winona were standing with Jasper. Her father's eyes looked wild, as if at any moment they might pop out right onto the floor. Jasper said, "C'mon, Dan, it's probably nothing."

Her father clutched Jasper's arm. "I thought you said they didn't know. You said we were safe."

Jasper pried Clark Hewitt's hand away as Peterson said, "I'll check it out while you get 'em in the van." He looked worried. "Jerry! Let's move!"

The third man, Jerry, reappeared and picked up Winona. "C'mon, honey. You're with me."

Jasper said, "I'll check it with you." Jasper was breathing fast.

Peterson pushed Jasper toward the door. "Get 'em in the van. Now!"

Jasper said, "It's probably nothing."

Charles said, "What's happening?"

A loud cracking came from the kitchen, as if the back door was being pried open, and then Peterson was pushing them hard through the door, yelling, "Do it, Jasper! Take 'em!" and her father moaned, a kind of faraway wail that made Winona start crying. Jerry bolted toward the street, carrying Winona in one arm and pulling Teri's father with the other, shouting something that Teri could not understand. Jasper said, "Oh, holy shit!" and tossed Charles across his shoulder like a laundry bag. He grabbed Teri hard by the arm, so hard that she had never felt such pain, and she thought her flesh and bone would surely be crushed into a mealy red pulp like you see in those Freddie Krueger movies, and then Jasper was pulling her out into the rain as, somewhere in the back of the house, she heard Peterson shout, very clearly, "Federal Marshals!" and then there were three sharp BOOMS that didn't sound anything like thunder, not anything at all.

The rain fell like a heavy cloak across Teri's shoulders and splattered up from the sidewalk to wet her legs as they ran for the van. Charles was kicking his legs, screaming, "I don't have my raincoat! I left it inside!"

The driver had the window down, oblivious to the rain, eyes darting as Jerry pushed first Winona and then Clark through the side door. The van's engine screamed to life.

Jasper ran to the rear of the van and shoved Teri inside. Clark was holding Winona, huddled together between the boxes and the driver's seat. Winona was still crying, her father bug-eyed and panting. Two more BOOMS came from the house, loud and distinct even with the rain hammering in through the open doors and windows. The driver twisted toward them, shouting, "What the fuck's happening?!"

Jerry yanked a short black shotgun from behind the seat. "I'm with Peterson! Get 'em outta here!"

Jasper clawed out his gun, trying to scramble back out into the rain, saying, "I'm coming with you!"

Jerry pushed Jasper back into the van. "You get these people outta here, goddamnit! You get 'em out now!" Jerry slammed the door in Jasper's face and the driver was screaming, "What happened?! Where's Peterson?"

Jasper seemed torn, but then he screamed back, "Drive! Get the hell outta here!" He crushed past the cardboard boxes to the van's rear window, cursing over and over, "Always some shit! Always goddamn bullshit!"

The van slid sideways from the curb as it crabbed for traction. The driver shouted into some kind of radio and Jasper cursed and Teri's father started crying like Winona, and Charles was crying, too. Teri thought that maybe even Federal Marshal Jasper was crying, but she couldn't be sure because he was watching out the van's square rear window.

Teri felt her eyes well with tears, but then, very clearly, she told herself: You will not cry. And she didn't. The tears went away, and Teri felt calm. She was soaked under her raincoat, and she realized that the floor was wet from rain that had blown in when the doors were open. The eight cardboard boxes that held the sum total of their lives were wet, too.

Her father said, "What happened back there? You said we were safe! You said they wouldn't know!"

Jasper glanced back at her father. Jasper looked scared, too. "I don't know. Somehow they found out."

Teri's father shouted, "Well, that's just great! That's wonderful!" His voice was very high. "Now they're gonna kill us!"

Jasper went back to staring out the window. "They're not going to kill you."

"That's what you people said before!" Her father's voice was a shriek.

Jasper turned again and stared at Teri's father for the longest time before he said, "Peterson is still back there, Mr. Hewitt."

Teri watched her brother and sister and father, huddled together and crying, and then she knew what she had to do. She crawled across the wet, tumbled boxes and along the van's gritty bed and went to her family. She found a place for herself between Winona and her father, and looked up into her father's frightened eyes. His face was pale and drawn, and the thin wet hair matted across his forehead made him look lost. She said, "Don't be scared, Daddy."

Clark Hewitt whimpered, and Teri could feel him shivering. It was July, and the rain was warm, but he wasn't shivering because he was cold. Teri said, "I won't let anyone hurt us, and I won't let anything happen to you. I promise."

Clark Hewitt nodded without looking at her. She held him tightly, and felt his shaking ease.

The van careened through the night, hidden by the darkness and rain.

Three Years Later

Los Angeles


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."

"I know."

"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 person, 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."

"That's right."

"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 Para-bellum. 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.


On Sale
Feb 18, 2014
Page Count
256 pages
Hachette Books

Robert Crais

About the Author

Robert Crais lives in Los Angeles and is the author of many New York Times bestsellers, including The First Rule, The Sentry, the #1 bestseller Taken, and Suspect. In 2014 the Mystery Writers of America honored Robert Crais with the Grand Master Award.

Learn more about this author