Larkin Conner Barkley lives like the City of Angels is hers for the taking. Young and staggeringly rich, she speeds through the city during its loneliest hours, blowing through red after red in her Aston Martin as if running for her life. Then suddenly she sees another car’s metal-on-metal explosion of a terrible accident and, dazed, finds herself the single witness in a secret federal investigation.
For maybe the first time in her life, Larkin wants to do the right thing. But in doing so she becomes the target for a relentless team of killers. And when the US Marshals and the finest security money can buy can’t protect her, Larkin’s wealthy family turns to the one man money can't buy―Joe Pike.
Pike lives a world away from the palaces of Beverly Hills. He’s an ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-mercenary who owes a bad man a favor, and that favor is to keep the uncontrollable Larkin alive.
Pike commits to protecting the girl, but it becomes clear someone in their circle is selling them out. Taking matters into his own hands, Joe drops off the gird with Larkin and follows his own survival rules: strike fast, hit hard, hunt down the hunters. With the help of private investigator Elvis Cole, Pike uncovers a web of lies and betrayals, and the stunning revelation that even the cops are not who they seem. As the body count rises, Pike’s biggest threat might come from the girl herself, a lost soul in the City of Angels, determined to destroy herself unless Joe Pike can teach her the value of life...and love.
About the Author
Hometown:Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:June 20, 1953
Place of Birth:Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Education:B.S., Louisiana State University, 1976; Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University
Read an Excerpt
The Two Minute Rule
By Robert Crais
Simon & SchusterCopyright © 2006 Robert Crais
All right reserved.
"You're not too old. Forty-six isn't old, these days. You got a world of time to make a life for yourself."
Holman didn't answer. He was trying to decide how best to pack. Everything he owned was spread out on the bed, all neatly folded: four white T-shirts, three Hanes briefs, four pairs of white socks, two short-sleeved shirts (one beige, one plaid), one pair of khaki pants, plus the clothes he had been wearing when he was arrested for bank robbery ten years, three months, and four days ago.
"Max, you listening?"
"I gotta get this stuff packed. Lemme ask you something -- you think I should keep my old stuff, from before? I don't know as I'll ever get into those pants."
Wally Figg, who ran the Community Correctional Center, which was kind of a halfway house for federal prisoners, stepped forward to eye the pants. He picked them up and held them next to Holman. The cream-colored slacks still bore scuff marks from when the police had wrestled Holman to the floor in the First United California Bank ten years plus three months ago. Wally admired the material.
"That's a nice cut, man. What is it, Italian?"
Wally nodded, impressed.
"I'd keep'm, I was you. Be a shame to lose something this nice."
"I got four inches more in the waist now than back then."
In the day, Holman had lived large. He stole cars, hijacked trucks, and robbed banks. Fat with fast cash, he hoovered up crystal meth for breakfast and Maker's Mark for lunch, so jittery from dope and hung over from booze he rarely bothered to eat. He had gained weight in prison.
Wally refolded the pants.
"Was me, I'd keep'm. You'll get yourself in shape again. Give yourself something to shoot for, gettin' back in these pants."
Holman tossed them to Wally. Wally was smaller.
"Better to leave the past behind."
Wally admired the slacks, then looked sadly at Holman.
"You know I can't. We can't accept anything from the residents. I'll pass'm along to one of the other guys, you want. Or give'm to Goodwill."
"You got a preference, who I should give'm to?"
Holman went back to staring at his clothes. His suitcase was an Albertsons grocery bag. Technically, Max Holman was still incarcerated, but in another hour he would be a free man. You finish a federal stretch, they don't just cross off the last X and cut you loose; being released from federal custody happened in stages. They started you off with six months in an Intensive Confinement Center where you got field trips into the outside world, behavioral counseling, additional drug counseling if you needed it, that kind of thing, after which you graduated to a Community Correctional Center where they let you live and work in a community with real live civilians. In the final stages of his release program, Holman had spent the past three months at the CCC in Venice, California, a beach community sandwiched between Santa Monica and Marina del Rey, preparing himself for his release. As of today, Holman would be released from full-time federal custody into what was known as supervised release -- he would be a free man for the first time in ten years.
Wally said, "Well, okay, I'm gonna go get the papers together. I'm proud of you, Max. This is a big day. I'm really happy for you."
Holman layered his clothes in the bag. With the help of his Bureau of Prisons release supervisor, Gail Manelli, he had secured a room in a resident motel and a job; the room would cost sixty dollars a week, the job would pay a hundred seventy-two fifty after taxes. A big day.
Wally clapped him on the back.
"I'll be in the office whenever you're ready to go. Hey, you know what I did, kind of a going-away present?"
Holman glanced at him.
Wally slipped a business card from his pocket and gave it to Holman. The card showed a picture of an antique timepiece. Salvadore Jimenez, repairs, fine watches bought and sold, Culver City, California. Wally explained as Holman read the card.
"My wife's cousin has this little place. He fixes watches. I figured maybe you havin' a job and all, you'd want to get your old man's watch fixed. You want to see Sally, you lemme know, I'll make sure he gives you a price."
Holman slipped the card into his pocket. He wore a cheap Timex with an expandable band that hadn't worked in twenty years. In the day, Holman had worn an eighteen-thousand-dollar Patek Philippe he stole from a car fence named Oscar Reyes. Reyes had tried to short him on a stolen Carrera, so Holman had choked the sonofabitch until he passed out. But that was then. Now, Holman wore the Timex even though its hands were frozen. The Timex had belonged to his father.
"Thanks, Wally, thanks a lot. I was going to do that."
"A watch that don't keep time ain't much good to you."
"I have something in mind for it, so this will help."
"You let me know. I'll make sure he gives you a price."
"Sure. Thanks. Let me get packed up here, okay?"
Wally left as Holman returned to his packing. He had the clothes, three hundred twelve dollars that he had earned during his incarceration, and his father's watch. He did not have a car or a driver's license or friends or family to pick him up upon his release. Wally was going to give him a ride to his motel. After that, Holman would be on his own with the Los Angeles public transportation system and a watch that didn't work.
Holman went to his bureau for the picture of his son. Richie's picture was the first thing he had put in the room here at the CCC, and it would be the last thing he packed when he left. It showed his son at the age of eight, a gap-toothed kid with a buzz cut, dark skin, and serious eyes; his child's body already thickening with Holman's neck and shoulders. The last time Holman actually saw the boy was his son's twelfth birthday, Holman flush with cash from flipping two stolen Corvettes in San Diego, showing up blind drunk a day too late, the boy's mother, Donna, taking the two thousand he offered too little too late by way of the child support he never paid and on which he was always behind. Donna had sent him the old picture during his second year of incarceration, a guilty spasm because she wouldn't bring the boy to visit Holman in prison, wouldn't let the boy speak to Holman on the phone, and wouldn't pass on Holman's letters, such as they were, however few and far between, keeping the boy out of Holman's life. Holman no longer blamed her for that. She had done all right by the boy with no help from him. His son had made something of himself, and Holman was goddamned proud of that.
Holman placed the picture flat into the bag, then covered it with the remaining clothes to keep it safe. He glanced around the room. It didn't look so very different than it had an hour ago before he started.
He said, "Well, I guess that's it."
He told himself to leave, but didn't. He sat on the side of the bed instead. It was a big day, but the weight of it left him feeling heavy. He was going to get settled in his new room, check in with his release supervisor, then try to find Donna. It had been two years since her last note, not that she had ever written all that much anyway, but the five letters he had written to her since had all been returned, no longer at this address. Holman figured she had gotten married, and the new guy probably didn't want her convicted-felon boyfriend messing in their life. Holman didn't blame her for that, either. They had never married, but they did have the boy together and that had to be worth something even if she hated him. Holman wanted to apologize and let her know he had changed. If she had a new life, he wanted to wish her well with it, then get on with his. Eight or nine years ago when he thought about this day he saw himself running out the goddamned door, but now he just sat on the bed. Holman was still sitting when Wally came back.
Wally stood in the door like he was scared to come in. His face was pale and he kept wetting his lips.
Holman said, "What's wrong? Wally, you having a heart attack, what?"
Wally closed the door. He glanced at a little notepad like something was on it he didn't have right. He was visibly shaken.
"You have a son, right? Richie?"
"Yeah, that's right."
"What's his full name?"
"Richard Dale Holman."
Holman stood. He didn't like the way Wally was fidgeting and licking his lips.
"You know I have a boy. You've seen his picture."
"He's a kid."
"He'd be twenty-three now. He's twenty-three. Why you want to know about this?"
"Max, listen, is he a police officer? Here in L.A.?"
Wally came over and touched Holman's arm with fingers as light as a breath.
"It's bad, Max. I have some bad news now and I want you to get ready for it."
Wally searched Holman's eyes as if he wanted a sign, so Holman nodded.
"Okay, Wally. What?"
"He was killed last night. I'm sorry, man. I'm really, really sorry."
Holman heard the words; he saw the pain in Wally's eyes and felt the concern in Wally's touch, but Wally and the room and the world left Holman behind like one car pulling away from another on a flat desert highway, Holman hitting the brakes, Wally hitting the gas, Holman watching the world race away.
Then he caught up and fought down an empty, terrible ache.
"I don't know, Max. There was a call from the Bureau of Prisons when I went for your papers. They didn't have much to say. They wasn't even sure it was you or if you were still here."
Holman sat down again and this time Wally sat beside him. Holman had wanted to look up his son after he spoke with Donna. That last time he saw the boy, just two months before Holman was pinched in the bank gig, the boy had told him to fuck off, running alongside the car as Holman drove away, eyes wet and bulging, screaming that Holman was a loser, screaming fuck off, you loser. Holman still dreamed about it. Now here they were and Holman was left with the empty sense that everything he had been moving to for the past ten years had come to a drifting stop like a ship that had lost its way.
Wally said, "You want to cry, it's okay."
Holman didn't cry. He wanted to know who did it.
* * *
I am writing because I want you to know that Richard has made something of himself despite your bad blood. Richard has joined the police department. This past Sunday he graduated at the police academy by Dodger stadium and it was really something. The mayor spoke and helicopters flew so low. Richard is now a police officer. He is strong and good and not like you. I am so proud of him. He looked so handsome. I think this is his way of proving there is no truth to that old saying "like father like son."
* * *
This was the last letter Holman received, back when he was still at Lompoc. Holman remembered getting to the part where she wrote there was no truth about being like father like son, and what he felt when he read those words wasn't embarrassment or shame; he felt relief. He remembered thinking, thank God, thank God.
He wrote back, but the letters were returned. He wrote to his son care of the Los Angeles Police Department, just a short note to congratulate the boy, but never received an answer. He didn't know if Richie received the letter or not. He didn't want to force himself on the boy. He had not written again.
Copyright ©2006 by Robert Crais
Excerpted from The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais Copyright © 2006 by Robert Crais. Excerpted by permission.
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