If you’ve read The Compleat Kepler and the first two Kepler novels, you know Nick Kepler doesn’t go it alone, even if he feels like it sometimes. He has friends in police departments, in the prosecutor’s office, and with his client/former employer, TTG Insurance.
But he also has part-time ops as well. Most are cops working off-duty. One is a PI who seems to have learned all he knows from reruns of The Rockford Files. None of them are the psycho sidekick, though one likes to play at that.
Who are they?
ELAINE HASKELL – By Bad Religion, it’s pretty clear that Elaine and Nick can’t keep their hands off each other. Over the course of the novel, we not only learn why, but we witness them giving up the pretense that what happened in Second Hand Goods was a one-time thing. But Nick Kepler, PI, exists partly because Elaine willed it so. When Nick was downsized out of TTG Insurance, she and her boss convinced the company to give him office space in exchange for cheap, freelance claims work. And it’s this situation that leads to the events of Northcoast Shakedown. It’s pretty clear that Elaine, married with two children, has been pretty sweet on Nick for a long time, but there’s something else driving her to become his partner. Years earlier, when she was blonde, she was also a cheerleader for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was fine for a partying college girl who liked to hangout with basketball players, not fine for the wife of an accountant and an executive assistant to some of the managers at a large insurance company. Working with Nick gives her a sense of purpose.
RICK REESE – Reese first appeared in “Race Card” as a harassed deputy sheriff whose wife once worked with Nick. Like any cop, Nick recruits him to be a part-time op. For Reese, it’s more interesting than his job with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff. In Cleveland, which exists in a county where every square inch is developed or part of a municipality, the sheriff’s department is largely confined to the county jail and government buildings. Reese is a family man who sometimes has to remind Nick when he’s crossing a legal line.
TY WOLVERSON, AKA “WOLF” – Wolf comes closest to being the psycho sidekick. Muscular, with a buzz cut, Wolf likes to intimidate and is not above flashing his badge to get his point across. He first appeared in “Race Card” as Nick’s fellow gym rat and an antagonist to Reese. Divorced, he drives a restored 1971 Plymouth Duster called “Black Beauty.” The car and his daughter are the two things he cares about most in life.
ERIC TEASDALE – Teasdale is the most questionably qualified of Nick’s sidekicks. He became a PI after taking one of those correspondence courses Sally Struthers used to hawk. What is so inexplicable to Nick is how Teasdale gets any surveillance done in his 1968 Ford Thunderbird. The car is large enough, as Nick says, “to launch bombing sorties off the hood.” Some time before we meet him in Second Hand Goods, Teasdale helped Nick out with a murder case involving two strippers. He wound up in a relationship with one of the strippers, who turned out to be the killer, and Nick fired him over it. In the interim, Teasdale snagged himself a gig as a part-time investigator for a nearby township. Unlike Elaine, Reese, and Wolf, who all live in nice suburban homes, Teasdale lives in a house trailer in rural Valley City, which is neither a city nor in a valley. (True story. I used to play basketball against Valley City’s high school.)