During the 1980’s, it seemed every new PI , with the refreshing exception of VI Warshawski, had to have a psycho sidekick. After all, Spenser had Hawk, and wasn’t Spenser the face of the modern PI?
Well, yes, but…
When I created Nick Kepler, I had a strong aversion to giving him a psycho sidekick. Lehane had created Bubba Rugowski, and Robert Crais did Joe Pike. It not only had been done, but done better than I felt like doing. So Nick Kepler had to dirty his own hands.
That’s not to say he didn’t have a sidekick. He just had a different one. Through his arrangement with his former employer, TTG Insurance, he gets the services of the Specialty Claims Division’s senior administrative assistant, Elaine Haskell. From the moment she first appears in Northcoast Shakedown, it’s clear her loyalties lean more towards Nick than TTG. She’s somewhat of a maternal presence in his life and he needs it. Nick is not exactly the most organized PI.
But what red-blooded male PI wouldn’t want to have Elaine as his sidekick. She’s a former Cleveland Cavaliers cheerleader who still has the body, flirty, and smart. It’s suggested she really runs the Claims Division, an exaggeration, but her bosses, including Nick’s college roommate depend on her as much as Nick does.
There is an obvious undercurrent of sexual tension between Nick and Elaine. She is frequently interested and amused by Nick’s sex life, and Nick muses that he’s loaned Elaine use of his office for marital purposes on her lunch hour. Yet it’s also clear the two share a mutual crush. She’s a bit older than Nick, who is in his late thirties in Northcoast, which puts Elaine clearly into cougar territory. It begs the question, “Have they?”
In the pages of Northcoast Shakedown, no. Though I suspect if one of them invited the other across the street to the Marriott (which is attached to the Key Tower, Cleveland’s tallest building), the other would protest just long enough to lock up the office and get to the elevator.
More importantly, Elaine clearly has a bigger interest than the orders of her employer might suggest. In many way, she’s the silent partner in Kepler Investigations.