Free Fall

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Trade Paperback

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 1, 1994. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

“A thoughtful and powerful page turner.”–People

Elvis Cole is just a detective who can’t say no, especially to a girl in a terrible fix. And Jennifer Sheridan qualifies: Her fiancé, Mark Thurman, is a decorated LA cop with an elite plainclothes unit, but Jennifer’s sure he’s in trouble–the kind of serious trouble that only Elvis Cole can help him out of.

Five minutes after his new client leaves his office, Elvis and his partner, the enigmatic Joe Pike, are hip-deep in a deadly situation as they plummet into a world of South Central gangs, corrupt cops, and conspiracies of silence. And before the case is through, every copy in the LAPD will be gunning for a pair of escaped armed-and-dangerous killers–Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.

“Elvis Cole provides more fun for the reader than any L.A. private eye to come along in years.”–Joseph Wambaugh 

“Elvis lives, and he’s on his way to being crowned the king of detectives.”–Booklist


Jennifer Sheridan stood in the door to my office as if she were Fay Wray and I was King Kong and a bunch of black guys in sagebrush tutus were going to tie her down so that I could have my way. It’s a look I’ve seen before, on men as well as women. “I’m a detective, Ms. Sheridan. I’m not going to hurt you. You may even find that you like me.” I gave her my best Dudley Do-Right smile. The one with the twinkle.
Jennifer Sheridan said, “Is what we say privileged, Mr. Cole?”
“As in attorney-client?” I was holding the door, but Jennifer Sheridan couldn’t seem to make up her mind whether to come in or leave.
I shook my head. “No. My records and my testimony can be subpoenaed, and under California law, I must provide them.”
“Oh.” She didn’t like that.
“But there is latitude. I sometimes forget things.”
“Oh.” She liked that better, but she still wasn’t convinced. I guess there’s only so much you can do with the Dudley.
Jennifer Sheridan said, “This isn’t easy for me, Mr. Cole. I’m not sure I should be here and I don’t have much time. I’m on my lunch hour.”
“We could talk over sandwiches, downstairs.” There was a turkey and Swiss on a French baguette waiting for me in the deli on the ground floor. I had been thinking about it for most of the morning.
“Thank you, no. I’m engaged.”
“That wasn’t a sexual proposition, Ms. Sheridan. It was a simple offer to share lunch and perhaps more efficiently use both our times.”
“Oh.” Jennifer Sheridan turned as red as a beating heart.
“Also, Ms. Sheridan, I’m getting tired of holding the door.”
Jennifer Sheridan made up her mind and stepped past me into the office. She walked quickly and went to one of the two director’s chairs across from my desk. There’s a couch, but she didn’t even consider it.
Jennifer Sheridan had sounded young on the phone, but in person she looked younger, with a fresh-scrubbed face and clear healthy skin and dark auburn hair. Pretty. The kind of happy, innocent pretty that starts deep inside, and doesn’t stop on the way out. That kind of pretty. She was wearing a light blue cotton skirt with a white blouse and a matching light blue bolero jacket and low-heeled navy pumps.
The clothes were neat and fit well, and the cuts were stylish but not expensive. She would have to shop and she would have to look for bargains, but she had found them. I liked that. She carried a black imitation leather purse the size of a Buick, and when she sat, she sat with her knees and her feet together, and her hands clutching the purse on her lap. Proper. I liked that, too. I made her for twenty-three but she looked eighteen and she’d still be carded in bars when she was thirty. I wondered if I looked old to her. Nah. Thirty-nine isn’t old.
I closed the door, went to my desk, sat, and smiled at her. “What do you do, Ms. Sheridan?”
“I’m a secretary for the law firm of Watkins, Okum, & Beale. We’re in Beverly Hills.”
“Is that how you found me?” I work for Marty Beale, time to time. A little skip-tracing, a little missing persons. That kind of thing.
“I peeked in Mr. Beale’s reference file. He thinks highly of you.”
“You don’t say.”
“They don’t know that I’m here and I would appreciate it if you didn’t say anything.”
I nodded. “On the phone you said something about your boyfriend.”
“My fiancé. I think that he’s mixed up in some kind of criminal thing. I’ve asked him, and he denies it, but I know that something’s going on. I think he’s scared, and that worries me. My fiancé is not scared of very much.”
I nodded again and tucked that away. Fearless Fiancé. “Okay. What kind of crime are we talking about?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is he stealing cars?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Is he embezzling?”
“No. It wouldn’t be that.”
“How about fraud?”
She shook her head.
“We’re running out of choices, Ms. Sheridan.”
She glanced into the big purse as if there were something inside it that she was hoping she wouldn’t have to show me, as if the purse were somehow a point of no return, and if she opened it and let out whatever was inside, she would never be able to close it again or return the elements of her life to a comfortable or familiar order. Pandora’s Purse. Maybe if I had a purse like that, I’d be careful of it, too.
I said, “I know it’s hard, Ms. Sheridan. If it was easy, you wouldn’t need me. But if you don’t tell me about him, or what you think he is up to, I can’t help you. Do you see that?”
She nodded and held the purse tighter.
I took out a yellow legal pad, a black SenseMatic pencil, and made as if I were poised to copy the rush of information she was about to provide. I drew a couple of practice marks on the page. Subliminal prompting. “I’m ready. Fire away.”
She swallowed.
She stared at the floor.
I put the pad on the desk and the pencil on the pad. I put my fingertips together and looked at Jennifer Sheridan through the steeple, and then I looked at the Pinocchio clock that I’ve got on my wall. It has eyes that swing from side to side as it tocks, and it’s always smiling. Happiness is contagious. It was twelve twenty-two, and if I could get down to the deli fast enough, the turkey would still be moist and the baguette would still be edible. I said, “Maybe you should go to the police, Ms. Sheridan. I don’t think I can help you.”
She clutched the purse even tighter and gave miserable. “I can’t do that.”
I spread my hands and stood up. “If your fiancé is in danger, it is better to get in trouble with the police than it is to be hurt or killed.” Twelve twenty-three. “Try the police, Ms. Sheridan. The police can help you.”
“I can’t do that, Mr. Cole.” The misery turned into fear. “My fiancé is the police.”
“Oh.” Now it was my turn. I sat down.
Jennifer Sheridan opened the purse and took out a 3×5 color snapshot of herself and a tall good-looking kid in a navy blue LAPD summer-weight uniform leaning against a squad car. They were smiling. “His name is Mark Thurman. He doesn’t work uniform anymore. Last year he was chosen for a plainclothes position at the Seventy-seventh Division in South Central Los Angeles.”
“What kind of plainclothes?”
“They call it a REACT team. They monitor career criminals and try to stop them before they hurt people. It’s an elite unit, and he was the youngest man chosen. He was very proud of that.” She seemed proud of it, too. “Everything was fine for the first few months, but then he changed. It happened almost overnight.”
“What kind of change?” I was thinking Kevin McCarthy. Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
“He became anxious and scared and secretive. We never keep secrets from each other and now there are things that he won’t talk about with me.”
I looked closer at the picture. Thurman had long forearms and a ropey neck and a country boy’s smile. He must’ve been fourteen inches taller than Jennifer Sheridan. I said, “I know a lot of police officers, Ms. Sheridan. Some of them are even my friends. It can be a hard job with unusual hours and you see too much of what’s wrong with people. You don’t want to go home and chat about it.”
She shook her head, telling me that I didn’t get it. “It isn’t just him not talking about the job. He was in uniform for three years and I know to expect that. It’s the way he acts. We used to talk about getting married, and having children, but we don’t anymore. I ask him what’s wrong, he says nothing. I say tell me about your day, he says that there’s nothing to say. He was never like that before. He’s become irritable and snappish.”
“That’s right.”
“He’s irritable, and that’s why you think he’s involved in crime?”
She gave me exasperated. “Well, it isn’t just that.”
“Have you seen him perform a criminal act, or heard him speak of it, or seen the results of it?”
“Has he exhibited signs of an income other than his police salary?”
I tapped the desk. “Sounds like you think he’s up to something because he’s irritable.”
She gave me more of the impatience. “You don’t understand. Mark and I have known each other since the seventh grade. We fell in love in the ninth grade. That’s how long we’ve been going together. I love him and he loves me and I know him better than anyone else in all the world.”
“All right,” I said. “Do you have any clues?”
She frowned at me.
“Clues,” I said. “An overheard snatch of conversation. A subrosa glimpse of a secret bank account. Something that I can use in ascertaining the nature of the crime.” I hadn’t used ascertaining in three or four weeks.

On Sale
Apr 1, 1994
Page Count
304 pages