CRAIS: THE WANTED
HARVEY AND STEMMS
and Stemms were making progress, but
they couldn’t just blow into the
club and flash the picture. The
photograph of Unknown Male Subject
#1 was dangerous. The picture
connected Harvey and Stemms to the
person in the picture, and the girl
who threw up on the actor, and to
everything that would soon happen.
Stemms and Harvey were careful to
avoid a connection. A connection
could get them both killed.
Harvey frowned at the long line of people outside the
“This is crazy, Stemms. You really wanna mingle with
“Only your busboy, Harvey.”
“He might not be working tonight. My source didn’t
The busboy was a twenty-two-year-old parolee named
They needed to know if the girl’s story was true, so
Harvey made a few calls and came up
with Guzman. The busboy had a
history of misdemeanor arrests,
substance abuse, and terrible luck,
which was about to turn worse when
he met Harvey and Stemms.
“If he’s not here, we’ll catch him at home. Either way,
let’s hope he remembers.”
Harvey rolled his eyes.
“Remembers what, a barfer? A place like this, nobody
can tell one barfing chick from the
next. They mop up chick-barf every
Stemms hated Harvey’s negativity.
“It isn’t like she puked in the bathroom, Harvey. She
threw up on a
Harvey sighed, and shook his head.
“There is nothing to remember, Stemms. She made it up.”
“She didn’t lie. The lady told us the truth.”
“Not the old lady. The barfer. I don’t doubt the girl
said it, but criminals lie all the
time, especially about themselves.
It’s what we call a fanciful life
construction. Also known as
“You’re right. The girl probably made it up, but we
still have to check.”
Harvey gave in with a nod.
Earlier that day, Stemms and Harvey back-traced a
stolen SLR camera to a Santa Monica
flea market. They located a flea
market regular, this older woman
with sun-scorched skin and liver
spots, who remembered the young
couple who sold the camera. The
woman described a slender girl with
green eyes and a scar on her wrist,
and a good-looking boy with dimples.
The girl was a lush. She slurped
vodka from a pink plastic cup, and
told outlandish stories, like how
she’d thrown up on a has-been actor
at a fancy Hollywood club, the Jade
Horse or Gay Horse, a place she went
to a lot. Stemms grew excited. He
flashed the picture, and was
surprised when the woman said, no,
this wasn’t the boy with the girl.
bad for flashing the picture, but
their progress was worth it. The SLR
had led to the barfer, and the
barfer was linked to a dance club in
Hollywood. Harvey was a buzz kill,
but if they found the girl, they’d
find the Unknown Male Subjects, and
everything else they’d been hired to
Jade House was one of those celebutante clubs with a
squad of paparazzi camped at the
door, three-hundred-pound guards,
and a line of sexed-up women and
nervous men begging a doorman to let
them in. Stemms parked their
stolen Chrysler around the corner,
and slipped a doorman a thousand,
cash, to buy their way past the
Stemms hated the place. The crowd was a sweaty press of
hipsters, drunks, pretenders, and
wealthy foreign nationals, all
pounded by the sonic hammer of a
Swedish DJ spinning a hip-hop dance
mix. Stemms and Harvey split up to
find the busboy, hiding their search
in jokes and banter.
The employees they questioned did
not realize they were being
None of them knew they were being
asked about the busboy.
Stemms and Harvey were good.
An hour into their search, Harvey slipped past two women
shimmering blue, and whispered.
“I found him. That bitch told the truth.”
Stemms was shocked.
“You’re kidding? For real?”
“He’s going on break. Meet us. The next block, in the
“Don’t let anyone see you.”
“No one sees me, Stemms. Ever.”
Stemms hurried back to their car, and drove to the
alley on the next block. Two minutes
later, Harvey walked up with a trim,
nice looking guy with caramel skin.
Harvey told the busboy to sit up front, and slid into
Harvey said, “Jesse, this is Detective Munson. Rich,
Guzman offered his hand, but Stemms ignored it.
The kid’s eyes flitted like a couple of June bugs
bouncing off a light. Scared.
“Hey, no. No, sir. I’m doing the program.”
“If I had you tested, think you’d show clean?”
Harvey’s hand floated out of the darkness in back, and
patted Guzman’s shoulder.
“Stop grinding him, Rich. He was working the night she
hurled on the actor. He saw it.”
Guzman’s head bobbed.
“She’s here a lot. She gets sick a lot, too.”
“Okay. What’s her name?”
“I don’t know her like that. I don’t have conversations
with these people. I’m a busboy.”
Stemms sniffed the air loudly, like a dog catching a
“I’m smelling bullshit.”
Harvey spoke again, voice mellow and calm, like a jazz
man at two in the morning.
“Relax, Jesse. What does she look like? Describe her.”
“Really pretty. Like a model. Green eyes. She has a
scar on her wrist.”
Stemms glanced at Harvey. Guzman’s description matched
with the flea market. Stemms settled
back, and studied the busboy.
“Okay, Jesse, I’m liking you better. Sounds like our
girl. She comes here a lot?”
“Is she here now?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so, but it’s a big club.”
The kid flashed a nervous grin.
“She’s hot. She always has boys.”
Harvey spoke from the shadows.
Stemms hesitated, so Harvey said it again.
“Show him the picture.”
Stemms took out his phone. The image he carried was
taken from a high-quality
residential surveillance video. The
video was captured at night, and
showed three figures creeping
alongside a house. They moved
in single file, one after another,
and knew the camera was watching.
All three wore hoodies and hats to
cover their faces, and kept their
heads down. The second figure blew
it. The second figure, dubbed
Unknown Male Number One glanced up
at the camera as he stepped out of
frame. The image had to be enhanced
and refined, but it turned out okay.
A ball cap and hoodie masked a third
of the face, but his features were
readable. Now Harvey and Stemms
needed a name.
Stemms held out the phone.
“What about this guy? You see him with the girl?”
Guzman studied the picture.
“I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him, but she’s with another
Stemms put away his phone, and repeated the old woman’s
“Tall guy. Good-looking. Dimples.”
Guzman’s eyes lit up.
Stemms glanced at Harvey, and tried not to smile.
Harvey’s hand appeared, and squeezed
Guzman’s shoulder. Encouraging.
“That’s right. You know Alec’s last name?”
Guzman squinted, as if he thought he should know, but
“Some of the staff know him. He’s a waiter. Up in the
Stemms glanced at Harvey again.
“Alec the waiter. Up in the Valley.”
He turned back to the busboy.
“You know this how?”
“They give him free drinks. They talk. Alec is here
more than the girl.”
“Yeah? So who in the club here knows Alec?”
“Crystal. There’s Crystal, and Paul. Paul is a
bartender. Crystal is a server. I
can ask them. I can find out his
Stemms ignored his offer.
“Has anyone else been asking about this?”
“Not me. I don’t know if anyone else been asked.”
Harvey said, “The girl, Alec, their friends? Nobody’s
asking about them?”
Guzman again tried to turn, but Harvey’s touch stopped
“No, sir. What did they do?”
Stemms ignored him again, and stared at Harvey.
“What do you think?”
Harvey’s voice was a shadow.
“I think Jesse’s been a big help. Thank you, Jesse.”
Stemms smiled at the busboy.
“Yeah, dude. We owe you.”
“Can I go?”
Stemms offered his hand.
Guzman was surprised. He beamed, and took the hand.
Harvey looped a rope across Guzman’s throat as they
shook. Stemms held tight, and hooked
a hard left to the boy’s temple. The
busboy arched and thrashed and
kicked the dashboard. Stemms hooked
lefts as hard as he could, and
Harvey strained against the rope.
The kicking slowed, and finally
stopped. Stemms made sure the busboy
was dead, and pushed his body under
the dash. Harvey said nothing.
Stemms fired up the Chrysler, and
pulled away. He listened to Harvey
breathe, somewhere in the darkness
“He saw the picture.”
Harvey said, “That’s right.”
Stemms and Harvey drove through Hollywood, looking for
a place to dump the body. The image
of Unknown Male Number One was
captured sixteen days earlier.
Stemms and Harvey had been on the
hunt since before the image was
captured. They were ahead of the
police, the insurance investigators,
and the private security firms. Now
they were even farther ahead. Stemms
and Harvey were the best in the
Stemms glanced in the mirror.
Harvey was a shadow within a shadow. Silent.
Stemms glanced again.
“We’re really bad people.”
Stemms laughed. His laughter grew as they glided across
the night, but
Harvey didn’t laugh with him.
James Tyson Connor walked out of his
home on a chill fall morning,
climbed into a twelve-year-old
Volvo, and left for school an hour
late. Tyson was a seventeen-year-old
junior at an alternative school in
Fernando Valley. He was thin,
nervous, and cursed with soft
features and gentle eyes that made
him look like a freshman. Nothing
about him suggested that Tyson was
one of the most wanted felons in Los
Tyson and his mother lived in a modest, one-story ranch
house not far from his school. I was
a block away, waiting for Tyson to
leave. His mother had warned me he
would be late. Tyson suffered from
anxiety issues, and hated going to
school. Two prior schools had
expelled him for absenteeism and
failing grades, so his mother
enrolled him at the alternative
school to keep him from dropping
out. This was a decision she
His mother called as Tyson drove away.
“Mr. Cole? Are you here?”
“I’ve been here almost two hours, Ms. Connor. The
sunrise was lovely.”
“He’s gone. You can come in now.”
Tyson’s mother worked as an office manager for a law
firm in Encino. She appeared neat,
trim, and ready for work when she
opened the door, but carried herself
with so much tension she might have
been wrapped with duct tape.
I walked up the drive, and offered my hand.
“Devon Connor. Thanks so much for coming, Mr. Cole. I’m
sorry he took so long.”
I stepped into her living room, and watched her lock
the door. The house smelled of
pancakes and fish, and something I
didn’t place. A glowing aquarium
bubbled beside a couch.
“The new school doesn’t mind, him being so late?”
“With what they charge, they should send a limo.”
She stopped herself, and closed her eyes.
“Sorry. I sound like a bitch.”
“He’s your son. You’re worried.”
“Beyond worried. I moved mountains to get him into this
school, and now I feel like I’ve fed
him to animals.”
Devon had found money and valuables in Tyson’s room.
She believed her son had gotten
involved with drug dealers and
gangsters, and wanted me to find out
what he was doing. I wasn’t sure I
wanted the job.
I tried to sound reassuring.
“It probably isn’t as bad as you think, Ms. Connor.
These things usually aren’t.”
She studied me like I was stupid, and abruptly turned
“Follow me. I’ll show you how bad.”
Tyson’s bedroom was small, and looked like a typical
middle-class, teenage boy’s bedroom.
A dresser sat opposite a walk-in
closet, an unmade bed filled the
corner, and his nightstand bristled
with soda cans, chip bags, and
crumbs. Special Forces operators
with glowing green eyes watched us
from a recruitment poster above the
bed. A desk beneath his window was
crowded with a desktop computer, a
laptop, three monitors, and an
impressive tangle of game
I said, “He must be a serious gamer.”
“He can’t sit still in school, but he can sit in front
of these things for hours.”
She went to the desk, opened the middle side drawer,
and took something from the back of
“This is how bad it is.”
She held out a watch with a bright white face, three
dials, and three knobs on the rim.
The distinctive Rolex crown was
“A Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, made with eighteen-carat
A watch like this sells for forty thousand dollars,
new. Even used, they sell for more
than twenty. He came home wearing
it. I said, this is a Rolex, where’d
you get a watch like this?”
Small nicks marred the rim and crystal, but the watch
appeared otherwise perfect.
“What did he say?”
She rolled her eyes, and looked disgusted.
“A flea market, can you imagine? He says it’s a
knockoff, but I don’t believe it.
Does this look like a knockoff to
She pushed the watch closer, so I took it. The body
felt heavy and substantial. The
hands showed the correct time, and
the second hand swept the face with
silent precision, but I wasn’t an
“Could it be a gift, and he doesn’t want you to know?”
“Who would give him a gift like this?”
“His father? A grandparent?”
She frowned again, and gave me the ‘you’re stupid’
“His father left before Tyson was born, and everyone
else is dead. My son should not have
this watch. He shouldn’t have
anything this expensive, and we have
to stop him before he gets himself
killed or arrested.”
I tried to tone down the drama.
“Maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. If the watch
is real, then he shouldn’t have it,
but this is the kind of thing a kid
might lift if he saw it at a
friend’s house. You don’t need a
detective if Tyson has sticky
The reasonable detective offered a reasonable
explanation, but she seemed
“There’s so much more than the watch.”
She went to the closet, and reached inside.
“It started with shirts. He didn’t even bother to hide
them, like with the watch.”
I said, “Shirts.”
She came out with a sleek black sport coat trimmed with
“New shirts. Then new shoes turned up, and
another new shirt, and this jacket,
all from Barneys in Beverly Hills.
We can’t afford Barneys.”
Her phone chirped with an incoming text. She checked
the message, and slipped the phone
back into her pocket.
“Sorry. The school. I text when he leaves, they text
when he arrives. It’s how we keep
I fingered the jacket. The fabric felt soft and creamy,
like very fine wool. Expensive.
I glanced up, and found her watching
“Did the clothes come from the same flea market?”
“No, this time a friend’s father runs the wardrobe
department at a studio. They get so
many free clothes, Tyson can have
whatever he wants.”
I didn’t say anything. Devon went on without my
“I called Barneys. This jacket? Tyson bought it. The
salesman remembered because Tyson
paid cash. Three thousand dollars,
and Tyson paid cash.”
She put the jacket back in the closet, and went to his
“After I found out about Barneys, I searched his room.”
She slid a plastic storage container from under the
bed. The container was filled with
keyboards, Game Boy and Xbox gear,
and action figures. She moved a
keyboard, took out a box, and opened
it. The box contained a thick roll
of cash wrapped by a blue rubber
“Four thousand, two hundred dollars. I counted. The
first time, he had twenty-three
hundred dollars. I found over seven
thousand dollars here once. The
I sat back and stared at her. Devon was describing an
“Did you ask him about the money?”
“If I ask, he’ll lie, just like he lied about the
clothes and the watch. I want to
know what he’s doing and who he’s
doing it with before I confront
“I can ask him.”
“If we ask, he’ll know I snoop, and he’ll still lie.
Don’t detectives follow people? You
could follow him and see what he
“Following someone is expensive. Asking is cheaper.”
Her mouth pinched, and she glanced away. Worried.
“We should discuss your fee. I have a good job, but I’m
“Okay. What would you like to know?”
“How much would it cost to follow him?”
“Two cars minimum, one op per car, ready to go
twenty-four/seven. Call it three
thousand a day.”
She wet her lips, and her eyes lost focus. She was
trying to figure out how to come up
with the money, and all her options
were bad. I had met a hundred
parents like Devon, and seen the
same fearful confusion in their
eyes. Like people who didn’t know
how to swim, watching their children
I changed the subject.
“How long has this been going on?”
“Since the beginning of school.”
“And whatever he’s doing, you believe he’s doing it
with students from school.”
Her eyes snapped into hard focus.
“Tyson’s never been in trouble. Tyson’s a sweetheart!
He stayed home all the time, he
never went out, he was afraid of
everything, but then he started
changing. He met a girl.”
“I was thrilled. Tyson doesn’t meet girls. Tyson’s
afraid of girls.”
“Have you met her?”
“He wouldn’t tell me her name. He made friends with a
boy named Alec. They go to the mall.
I ask questions, but he’s evasive
and vague, or makes up more lies.
Tyson was never like this. He never
used to go to the mall, and now he’s
Tyson sounded like any other teenage boy, except for
the parts about money and watches.
“He met Alec at school?”
“I think so, but I checked the roster.”
She took a slim red booklet from Tyson’s desk. The
cover was emblazoned with a soaring
bird and the name of the school.
Cal-Matrix Alternative Education.
Where students soar.
“I didn’t find anyone named Alec or Alexander.”
We weren’t exactly drowning in clues.
I jiggled the watch. An authentic Rolex had serial and
model numbers cut into the head
behind the bracelet, or on the inner
rim below the crystal. High-end
fakes often had numbers, too, but
fake numbers didn’t appear in the
“Tell you what. I have a friend who knows watches. She
can tell us if the watch is real.
She might even be able to tell us
who owns it.”
“You can’t take it. Tyson might notice.”
I told her about the numbers.
“I’ll take off the bracelet, and copy the numbers. The
watch can stay.”
“You won’t have to follow him?”
“We’ll start small to keep the costs down, and see what
develops. Sound good?”
Her face brightened, and split with a smile.
I thought about the money and the watch she’d found,
and wondered if Tyson had hidden
“You searched his room, but what about his car?”
“Only twice. When the car’s home, he’s home.”
“If you have a spare key, I’d like it. I’ll check his
car after I call in the watch.”
She started away for the key, then hesitated.
“I saw on your website, The Elvis Cole Detective
Agency. The website says your work
“Meaning, when we find out what Tyson’s doing, you
won’t tell the police?”
“The website doesn’t say anything about depends.”
“If I find a human head in his trunk, I might feel the
urge to report it.”
She smiled again, and turned away.
“No human heads, Mr. Cole. Not yet.”
I didn’t like the way she said ‘yet’.
Devon gave me the key and watched me copy the numbers.
When the bracelet was back on the
watch, she put the watch in the
drawer, and we left the house
Devon Connor drove away first. She had a long drive in
bad traffic ahead, and was already
late for work. Alternative schools
were expensive, and so were
I started my car, but I didn’t leave. I pictured the
skinny kid with gentle eyes who
looked like a freshman. I pictured
him sneaking cash into his room, and
hiding it under his bed. There were
many ways he could have gotten the
cash, but none of the ways were
Devon’s pleasant, middle-class street was peaceful. No
one was trying to murder her, or
Tyson, or me, but this was about to
© 2017 by Robert Crais