A wild-living young heiress slams into trouble in the L.A. night—the kind of trouble even her money can’t shut down. After her Aston Martin collides with a mysterious car, Larkin Conner Barkley attempts to help the accident victims—and becomes the sole witness in a federal investigation. Whisking her out of her Beverly Hills world is Joe Pike—ex-cop, ex-Marine, ex-mercenary—hired to shield Larkin from a relentless team of killers. But when a chain of lies and betrayals tightens around them, Pike drops off the grid and follows his own rules for survival: strike fast, hit hard, hunt down the hunters. . . .
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 girl was moody getting out of the car, making a sour face to let him know she hated the shabby house and sun-scorched street smelling of chili and episote. To him, this anonymous house would serve. He searched the surrounding houses for threats as he waited for her, clearing the area the way another man might clear his throat. He felt obvious wearing the long-sleeved shirt. The Los Angeles sun was too hot for the sleeves, but he had little choice. He moved carefully to hide what was under the shirt.
She said, "People who live in houses like this have deformed children. I can't stay here."
"Lower your voice."
"I haven't eaten all day. I didn't eat yesterday and now this smell is making me feel strange."
"We'll eat when we're safe."
The house opened as the girl joined him, and the woman Bud told him to expect appeared: a squat woman with large white teeth and friendly eyes named Imelda Arcano. Mrs. Arcano managed several apartment houses and single-family rentals in Eagle Rock, and Bud's office had dealt with her before. He hoped she wouldn't notice the four neat holes that had been punched into their fender the night before.
He turned his back to the house to speak with the girl.
"The attitude makes you memorable. Lose it. You want to be invisible."
"Why don't I wait in the car?"
Leaving her was unthinkable.
"Let me handle her."
The girl laughed.
"That would be you all over it. I want to see that, you handling her. I want to see you charm her."
He took the girl's arm and headed toward the house. To her credit, the girl fell in beside him without making a scene, slouching to change her posture the way he had shown her. Even with her wearing the oversize sunglasses and Dodgers cap, he wanted her inside and out of sight as quickly as possible.
Mrs. Arcano smiled wider as they reached the front door, welcoming them.
"It's so hot today, isn't it? It's cool inside. The air conditioner works very well. I'm Imelda Arcano."
After the nightmare in Malibu, Bud's office had arranged the new house on the fly dropped the cash and told Mrs. Arcano whatever she needed to hear, which probably wasn't much. This would be easy money, no questions part of the deal, low-profile tenants who would be gone in a week. Mrs. Arcano probably wouldn't even report the rental to the absentee owner; just pocket Bud's cash and call it a day. They were to meet Mrs. Arcano only so she could give them the keys.
Imelda Arcano beckoned them inside. The man hesitated long enough to glance back at the street. It was narrow and treeless, which was good. He could see well in both directions, though the small homes were set close together, which was bad. The narrow alleys would fill with shadows at dusk.
He wanted Mrs. Arcano out of the way as quickly as possible, but Mrs. Arcano latched onto the girl one of those female-to-female things and gave them the tour, leading them through the two tiny bedrooms and bath, the microscopic living room and kitchen, the grassless backyard. He glanced at the neighboring houses from each window, and out the back door at the rusty chain-link fence that separated this house from the one behind it. A beige and white pit bull was chained to an iron post in the neighboring yard. It lay with its chin on its paws, but it was not sleeping. He was pleased when he saw the pit bull.
The girl said, "Does the TV work?"
"Oh, yes, you have cable. You have lights, water, and gas everything you need, but there is no telephone. You understand that? There really is no point in having the phone company create a line for such a short stay."
He had told the girl not to say anything, but now they were having a conversation. He cut it off.
"We have cell phones. You can hand over the keys and be on your way."
Mrs. Arcano stiffened, indicating she was offended.
"When will you be moving in?"
"Now. We'll take the keys."
Mrs. Arcano peeled two keys from her key ring, then left. For the first and only time that day he left the girl alone. He walked Mrs. Arcano to her car because he wanted to bring their gear into the house as quickly as possible. He wanted to call Bud. He wanted to find out what in hell happened the night before, but mostly he wanted to make sure the girl was safe.
He lingered at his car until Mrs. Arcano drove away, then looked up and down the street again both ways, the houses, between the houses and everything seemed fine. He brought his and the girl's duffels into the house, along with the bag they had grabbed at the Rite Aid.
The television was on, the girl hopping through the local stations for news. When he walked in, she laughed, then mimicked him, lowering and flattening her voice.
"'Hand over the keys and be on your way.' Oh, that charmed her. That certainly made you forgettable."
He turned off the television and held out the Rite Aid bag. She didn't take it, pissed about him turning off the set, so he let it drop to the floor.
"Do your hair. We'll get something to eat when you're finished."
"I wanted to see if we're on the news."
"Can't hear with the TV. We want to hear. Maybe later."
"I can turn off the sound."
"Do the hair."
He peeled off his shirt and tossed it onto the floor by the front door. If he went out again or someone came to the door he would pull it on. He was wearing a Kimber .45 semiautomatic pushed into the waist of his pants. He opened his duffel and took out a clip holster for the Kimber and a second gun, this one already holstered, a Colt Python .357 Magnum with the four-inch barrel. He clipped the Kimber onto the front of his pants in the cross-draw position and the Python on his right side. He hadn't chanced the holsters with Mrs. Arcano, but he hadn't wanted to take the chance of being without a gun, either.
He took a roll of duct tape from his bag and went to the kitchen.
Behind him, the girl said, "Asshole."
He made sure the back door was locked, then moved to the tiny back bedroom, locked the windows, and pulled the shades. This done, he tore off strips of duct tape and sealed the shades over the windows. He taped the bottoms and sides to the sills and jambs, all the way around each shade. If anyone managed to raise a window they would make noise tearing the shade from the wall and he would hear. When the shades were taped, he took out his Randall knife and made a three-inch vertical slit in each shade, just enough for him to finger open so he could cover the approaches to the house. He was cutting the shades when he heard her go into the bathroom. Finally cooperating. He knew she was scared, both of him and of what was happening, so he was surprised she had been trying as hard as she had. And pleased, thinking maybe they would stay alive a little while longer.
On his way to the front bedroom he passed the bath. She was in front of the mirror, cutting away her rich copper hair. She held the hair between her fingers, pulling it straight from her head to hack it away with the cheap Rite Aid scissors, leaving two inches of jagged spikes. Boxes of Clairol hair color, also fresh from the Rite Aid, lined the sink. She saw him in the mirror and glared.
"I hate this. I'm going to look so Melrose."
She had peeled down to her bra but left the door open. He guessed she wanted him to see. The five-hundred-dollar jeans rode low on her hips below a smiling dolphin jumping between the dimples on the small of her back. Her bra was light blue and sheer, and the perfect color against her olive skin. Looking at him, she played with her hair, which now stuck out in uneven spikes. She fluffed the spikes, shaped them, then considered them. The sink and floor were covered with the hair she had cut away.
She said, "What about white? I could go white. Would that make you happy?"
"I could go blue. Blue might be fun."
She turned to pose her body.
"Would you love it? Retropunk? So totally Melrose? Tell me you love it."
He continued on to the front bedroom without answering. She hadn't bought blue. She probably thought he hadn't been paying attention, but he paid attention to everything. She had bought blond, brown, and black. He locked and taped the front bedroom windows as he had done in the rest of the house, then returned to the bathroom. Now the water was running and she was leaning over the sink, wearing clear plastic gloves, massaging color into her hair. Black. He wondered how long it would take for the red to be hidden. He took out his cell phone, calling Bud Flynn as he watched.
He said, "We're in place. What happened last night?"
"I'm still trying to find out. I got no idea. Is the new house okay?"
"They had our location, Bud. I want to know how."
"I'm working on it. Is she okay?"
"I want to know how."
"Jesus, I'm working on it. Do you need anything?"
"I need to know how."
He closed the phone as she stood, water running down the trough of her spine to the dolphin until she wrapped her hair in a towel. Only then did she find him in the mirror again and smile.
"You're looking at my ass."
The pit bull barked.
He did not hesitate. He drew the Python and ran to the back bedroom.
She said, "Joe! Damnit."
In the back bedroom, he fingered open a slit in the shade as the girl hurried up behind him. The dog was on its feet, squinting at something he could not see.
She said, "What is it?"
The pit was trying to see something to their left, the flat top of its head furrowed and its nubby ears perked, no longer barking as it tested the air.
Pike watched through the slit, listening hard as the pit was listening.
The girl whispered, "What?"
The pit exploded with frenzied barking as it jumped against its chain.
Pike spoke fast over his shoulder even as the first man came around the end of the garage. It was happening again.
"Front of the house, but don't open the door. Go. Fast."
The towel fell from her head as he pushed her forward. He hooked their duffels over his shoulder, guiding her to the door. He checked the slit in the front window shade. A single man was walking up the drive as another moved across the yard toward the house. Pike didn't know how many more were outside or where they were, but he and the girl would not survive if he fought from within the house.
He cupped her face and forced her to see him. She had to see past her fear. Her eyes met his and he knew they were together.
"Watch me. Don't look at them or anything else. Watch me until I motion for you, then run for the car as fast as you can."
Once more, he did not hesitate.
He jerked open the door, set up fast on the man in the drive, and fired the Colt twice. He reset on the man coming across the yard. Pike doubled on each man's center of mass so quickly the four shots sounded like two baboombaboom then he ran to the center of the front yard. He saw no more men, so he waved out the girl.
She ran as hard as she could, he had to hand it to her. Pike fell in behind her, running backwards the way cornerbacks fade to cover a receiver, staying close to shield her body with his because the pit bull was still barking. More men were coming.
When Pike reached the bodies, he dropped to a knee and checked their pockets by touch. He was hoping for a wallet or some form of ID, but their pockets were empty.
A third man came around the corner of the house into the drive, saw Pike, then dove backwards. Pike fired his last two shots. Wood and stucco exploded from the edge of the house, but the man had made cover and the Python was dry. The third man popped back almost at once and fired three shots bapbapbap missing Pike, but hitting his Jeep like a ball-peen hammer. Pike didn't have time to holster the Python. He dropped it to jerk free the Kimber, pounded out two more shots and dropped the man at the edge of the house. Pike ran for the car. The girl had the driver's door open, but was just standing there.
Pike shouted, "Get in. In."
Another man appeared at the edge of the house, snapping out shots as fast as he could. Pike fired, but the man had already taken cover.
Pike pushed the girl across the console, jammed the key into the ignition and gunned his Jeep to the corner. He four-wheeled the turn, buried the accelerator, then glanced at the girl.
"You good? Are you hurt?"
She stared straight ahead, her eyes red and wet. She was crying again.
She said, "Those men are dead."
Pike placed his hand on her thigh.
"Larkin, look at me."
She clenched her eyes and kneaded her hands.
"Three men just died. Three more men."
He made his deep voice soft.
"I won't let anything happen to you. Do you hear me?"
She still didn't look.
"Do you believe me?"
Pike swerved through an intersection. He slowed only enough to avoid a collision, then accelerated onto the freeway.
They had been at the house in Eagle Rock for twenty-eight minutes. He had killed three more men, and now they were running. Again.
He was sorry he lost the Colt. It was a good gun. It had saved them last night in Malibu, but now it might get them killed.
Copyright © 2007 by Robert Crais
By Robert Crais
Max Holman was convicted of armed robbery and served his ten-year sentence. He's clean and sober, his debt to society has been paid. The day he gets out of the pen, the only thing on his mind is reconciliation with his estranged son, who is, ironically, a cop. Then the devastating news: his son and three other uniformed cops were gunned down in cold blood in the LA warehouse district the night before Holman's release. The evidence points to an area gangbanger, Warren Juarez, who was once arrested by two of the officers.
Max's one rule was no violence. Throughout his career as a bank robber, during nine years in the pen, he never crossed that line. But now, shut out from any information on the case (the LAPD isn't interested in keeping ex-cons informed), and the only thing worth living for taken from him, Max decides there is only one thing to do: Avenge his son's death. Kill Juarez.
So begins The Two Minute Rule. As Holman launches his renegade investigation, he realizes there's no way Juarez could have killed his son -- he was across the city, with a valid alibi. Why, then, is the LAPD rushing to arrest? As Max develops his own theories, he unearths evidence of his son's corruption -- devastating news that the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree. It is this that finally moves him to reach out to the woman who put him behind bars -- Katherine Pollard. Soon they find themselves working together to root out the truth, a truth that puts both of their lives very much at risk.
1. What are some of the obstacles that Holman faces as an ex-convict? How does he get aroundthem in his search for Richie's killer? Is it fair that he is treated differently because of his criminal history?
2. When Pollard agrees to help Holman, she feels "as if she had been paroled" (113). What sort of "prison" has Pollard been released from? Discuss the reasons for her new feelings of freedom.
3. Holman always wears "his father's watch with its frozen hands" (180). What is the significance of the broken watch? How does the watch's meaning change over the course of the novel?
4. Holman's brief visit to Union Station and Olvera Street stirs up memories of his parents. What do we learn about Holman's mother and father? Based on what we learn on page 185, what kind of childhood do you think Holman had? How do you think Holman's relationship to his parents affects his identity as a father?
5. What happened ten years ago, when Holman "violated the two minute rule by three minutes and forty-six seconds" (219)? What did you learn about Holman's character from the circumstances of his last bank robbery? How does Holman's robbery compare to the Marchenko and Parsons scene in the prologue? Why does the author wait until Chapter 34 to reveal the full story of Holman's arrest?
6. Holman is afraid that "You just couldn't beat bad blood. 'Like son, like father'" (252). What evidence is there that Richie's fate is determined by genes rather than his environment?
7. Revisit Holman's daring escape from Vukovich, Fuentes, and Random, starting on page 257. What makes this scene so thrilling? How does the author create tension in his description of Holman's escape?
8. Who in this book has "gold fever" (301) -- a desire for money that has made him or her irrational? Discuss this obsession as opposed to Holman's obsessions. Can Holman also be accused of having gold fever? Do you think that Holman's determined search for Richie's killer resembles a "fever?"
9. Holman and Pollard have different approaches to finding Richie's killer. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each character's style of investigation? How do their approaches complement each other? Do you think their success in solving the case bodes well for them romantically?
10. Holman is haunted by a memory of "Richie running alongside his car, red-faced and crying, calling him a loser" (317). Does Holman come to terms with his role in Richie's life, or do you think this image will continue to haunt him? Has Holman redeemed himself as a father by solving Richie's murder? Why or why not?
Enhance Your Book Club:
1. Do you think two minutes is a short period of time? Test the "two minute rule" with your book club! Set a stopwatch for two minutes. Think of all the things you would buy if you had sixteen million dollars, and write down as many as you can in two minutes. Whoever makes the longest list in two minutes gets to pick the next book club selection!
2. Use a detailed map of Los Angeles to mark some of the places featured in The Two Minute Rule: the Los Angeles River Channel, the Hollywood sign, Union Station, Olvera Street, and the Federal Building. You can map these sites online at maps.google.com.
3. Does your town or state have a landmark like the Hollywood sign? Do some research on your favorite area attraction, or ask a local historian to speak about it at your book club meeting.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
B&N, please take this off your website, the free book doesn't exist. Better customer service PLEASE!!
Same problem...won't download. I see it in my library, but .....
I have tried several times to download this book, does not show up
Elvis Cole sidekick, the enigmatic and dangerous Joe Pike, gets a high-powered starring role in "The Watchman," with The World's Greatest Detective playing backup this time. A reluctant Pike is convinced to repay an old debt by protecting Larkin Barkley, a spoiled young heiress (Paris Hilton anyone?) who rear-ended another car after a night of wild partying and is now on the run from both the mysterious accident victims, who suspiciously absconded from the accident scene, and the FBI, who seem to be hiding the real reason they want her in custody. Pike, with Cole's assistance, gets Larkin into hiding and goes after the bad guys - which may include members of the police force and the FBI - himself, setting a series of traps to find out what's going on. What I really liked about this book, besides the fast pace, colorful characters and vivid SoCal setting, all up to Crais' usual high standards, is the sensitive portrayal of the girl, who is far more than just a cliche of the pampered, spoiled celebs constantly overexposed in the tabloids. "The Watchman" is a welcome change of pace which tells us a lot about Joe Pike and the things in his past that made him who he is. Hopefully this is just the first in his own series. Also recommended: "A Stranger Lies There" - a hard-boiled thriller set in the desert around Palm Springs, it won the Malice Domestic Award for best first mystery. I actually discovered this book in an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine review alongside "The Watchman." The review stated: "Santogrossi writes powerfully and movingly about a man who has paid for his mistakes only to find out that he's not through paying and never will be. An author to watch."
Why so long to fix???
As of 5/28/2011 does not download. Shows up on my nook and "book" says download but it does not happen when download button is tapped.
That's how I felt a few times in this great book with of course Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. I rated the book high because I love these two characters but I don't like ridiculous spoiled brats. However, I can't say it isn't unrealistic for there to be such "bratty things" and it meant I got to see a little more behind those sunglasses of Joe Pike...even more than Elvis Cole has. Great read again.
This might have been a good first novel for some newbie author, but for Robert Crais, the mastermind behind the wonderful Elvis Cole novels, this was just not on par. As everyone else does, I LOVE Joe Pike, but I'm not sure that God meant for Joe Pike to utter so many words. In this book, he's as tough and sexy as usual, but some of the mystery is now missing. Plus, toward the end, I was starting to wonder if Crais had allowed Danielle Steel to finish his book for him. The good news is that the real Joe Pike comes back in "Chasing Darkness", faithful friend and partner to Elvis Cole, where he belongs.
LOVE CRAIS NOVELS BUT CANT GET IT TO DOWNLOAD?
I downloaded this Free-E-Bok but every time I tried to bring it up on my computer or my Nook it gave a message of Technical Difficulty try again later. I enjoy the books of this author but do not understand why this was offered free, shows up in my library, but does not allow me to download or open the book.
I have read all of Robert Crais books and love the Elvis Cole re-occuring character the best. Elvis dialog is unexpected and unusual private eye behavior/clothes etc. Readers have been anxiously awaiting (since LA Requiem) more on Elvis's partner Joe Pike. Finally he has his own book and true to his character- Pike is AWESOME. We can't wait for another Elvis/Joe book. Crais has built two characters that readers really care what happens to them both on the job and in their personal lives. Maybe next one will provide more than just a peek into Joe's private life. If you enjoy reading thrillers with an extra punch- you will enjoy this Joe Pike Book!!!
When a favor is called in, Joe Pike finds himself as the bodyguard for Larkin Conner Barkley, a spoiled rich young woman who has become a witness in a Federal investigation thanks to a traffic accident. But when people come for them twice within just a few hours, Pike must go to extreme measures to protect them both. The bigger question becomes, what is really going on? From a mystery standpoint, this book is outstanding, which several wonderful twists and surprises. I had a hard time putting the book down. Since this book focuses on Pike, it is interesting to get some more perspective on this character, although I did feel some flashbacks slowed the book down. Don’t worry, we do get Elvis Cole as well. My biggest beef with the book was two characters who I found super annoying. We were supposed to find them comedic, but I wanted to slap both of them. Additionally, some characters can’t seem to remember when events they just lived through took place.
Crais never disappoints.
I really think this author is a great storyteller. However, I did not like the young female character. She was a selfish,ungrateful,and childish girl. I found myself hoping the bad guys WOULD get her! If her character would have been more likable, I would have given more stars! I am plaanning on reading the author's next book!
A good, but not great, fast moving book with some interesting twists and turns. I've read a few other books by this author hop-scotching between early and later offerings. While this book doesn't make me want to seek out other Joe Pike books, I'd consider reading another.