|Plot details follow, read at your own risk.|
- "We made a mistake and would like to back out gracefully. If you come after us, we will be forced to come after you."
- ―Jack Kelso
Jack Kelso is the second lead character in L.A. Noire. Kelso is a former United States Marine who has history with Cole Phelps at the Battle of Okinawa. After the war and his discharge from the Marine Corps, he became a claims investigator for California Fire and Life.
Later in L.A. Noire, during the time Phelps is on the Arson desk, the player takes control of Kelso for half of the cases.
Kelso joined the United States Marine Corps. and went to Officer Candidate School at Camp Elliott, during the beginning of the U.S.'s involvement in World War II in 1942. During OCS, Jack met Cole Phelps, also an officer candidate, although the two started out on bad terms, instantly creating a rivalry between them. During training, Kelso was singled out for apparently lacking leadership qualities, thus being unfit to be an officer. Despite this, he later demonstrated great merit as a capable Marine NCO. Kelso resented Phelps, describing him as having the "Custer Syndrome," a selfish man too obsessed with his own glory, while sacrificing the lives of men under his command.
Prior to a weekend liberty, Kelso was ordered by his drill sergeant to re-clean a gun that he had already cleaned perfectly. Kelso, disgusted with OCS, dropped out and became an enlisted rifleman. Once at the Pacific Front, he fought at Peleliu Island and then alongside Phelps in the Okinawa Campaign. He eventually rose through the ranks and became a sergeant within the Marine Corps. While fighting, Kelso remained in control of his men and behaved responsibly on the battlefield, inspiring them, and earning their trust and loyalty. Both Kelso's and Phelps' companies worked closely together, however, their rivalry had not dissipated over time, as they often disagreed over courses of action and command.
After the battle on Sugar Loaf Hill, Kelso and his unit found Phelps, the only survivor, who was later awarded a silver star for his "bravery." Kelso, however, was embittered by this as he knew of Phelps' cowardice. Kelso was later present to the accidental atrocity caused by Phelps, as he ordered flamethrower carrier Ira Hogeboom to burn an enemy hideout. However, the cave turned out to be an improvised hospital for Japanese civilians. Tormented and guilt-ridden by the anguished cries of the dying men, women and children, Phelps ordered his men to euthanize them. After humanely killing the civilians, Sheldon, in disgust and frustration, shot Phelps in the back of the abdomen for his hypocrisy. Before leaving the cave behind, Kelso warned Sheldon and the others to never speak of the incident ever again.
While Phelps was shipped home early for his wound, Kelso and the rest of his unit remained in Okinawa until the war was over. As they were shipped aboard the SS Coolridge back to the U.S., they read in the newspaper about Phelps' promotion in the LAPD, causing everyone to reflect about their mediocre job prospects to return home to. Sheldon, however, suggested that they steal the ship's cargo of surplus morphine and sell it back in the states on the streets. However, Kelso argued against the idea and refused to be a part of it. He praised everyone as heroes already, even if their efforts were unnoticed, and warned Sheldon and his would be co-conspirators that they would lose his respect for them if they went through with it. Despite this, they committed the theft. Out of loyalty, Kelso reluctantly remained silent, and protected his fellow Marines by not reporting them.
Events of L.A. Noire
After his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in 1946, he returned to Los Angeles. Kelso became a claims investigator for California Fire and Life Insurance Company, working for Curtis Benson. Six months later in 1947, Kelso was approached by Sheldon who explained his predicament. Mickey Cohen was selling the morphine to drug addicts, causing them to die by overdoses, hence Sheldon asked for Kelso's help to avoid prison and more deaths. Kelso reluctantly helped negotiate with Cohen, stating their intent to stop supplying and selling morphine and warned Cohen that they were prepared to retaliate.
Unfortunately, Cohen struck first by sending hitmen to kill all of Kelso's old unit, specifically those who were involved in the morphine heist. To make matters worse, the LAPD were close to finding out the truth of the heist. Kelso was confronted by Detective Phelps and Roy Earle and was brought in for questioning. Phelps, desperate to stop the morphine distribution and gangsters, could tell that Kelso was withholding the full extent of the truth. However, Kelso didn't trust Phelps and remained tight-lipped to protect his fellow Marines. With the later assassination attempts foiled and Phelps' investigation abruptly closed, Kelso and Sheldon were released.
Resuming his job as a claims investigator, Kelso was approached by Elsa Lichtmann who rejected a $20,000 insurance settlement for the death of Lou Buchwalter. Elsa expressed her suspicions that Elysian Fields Development was attempting to cover up something that was more than just an accident. Curtis Benson, however, pressured Kelso, telling him to make Elsa accept the settlement and close the matter. Kelso began his investigation at the housing development site, the site of Buchwalter's death, where he discovered that the houses were made from inferior and unreliable materials and later found a connection to the Suburban Redevelopment Fund. In shock, Kelso also discovered his own boss, Benson, was involved along with Leland Monroe, the Mayor, Police Chief, District Attorney and other influential figures.
While investigating a second development site for more clues, Kelso was ambushed, beaten and kidnapped by thugs sent by Leland Monroe. Kelso managed to escape, realizing that Monroe had influence throughout the entire city, and Kelso stole a car and drove to Elsa's hotel. Staggering into her room, Kelso not only found out that she was safe but was helping Phelps all along, and finally passed out from his wounds and exhaustion.
Kelso woke up the next morning in a hospital with Elsa at his side. She apologized for not being honest, explaining that both she and Cole needed him to get to the truth of Lou's death and the conspiracy. Jack promised to continue his investigation, and hoped to meet her again under better circumstances. Kelso was then approached by assistant D.A. Leonard Petersen who offered Kelso a job as D.A. investigator, tasking him with helping bring down the corrupt LAPD Vice Department. Kelso proposed a even bigger case, and informed Peterson of Monroe's conspiracy.
- "I want to know all about you and Monroe, Curtis. You give it up or I beat it out of you."
- ―Jack Kelso confronting Curtis Benson in A Polite Invitation.
After a full recovery, Kelso confronted Benson at apartment demanding answers about the Suburban Redevelopment Fund. To add to Kelso's outrage and disgust, he even discovered that Benson was having an affair with a 12-year-old girl. Kelso found the insurance agreement as well as Benson's personal shares of stock in the Suburban Redevelopment Fund. Benson, however, refused to reveal the true extent of the conspiracy, only cryptically saying "the stakes are much, much higher".
Kelso returned to his old office at California Fire and Life to investigate the insurance lead. While reviewing the Buchwalter's case, he was met by Phelps. Phelps admitted to needing his help and apologized for inadvertently involving him in danger. Kelso sensed Phelps' guilt and confronted him about Sugar Loaf Hill, saying that he should stop blaming himself for lacking courage. With their past enmity finally put to rest, the two agreed to help each other solve their respective cases and end the conspiracy.
Kelso went to the Land Registry Office at The Hall of Records. Using the official records of the SRF, Kelso found the names of the main directors and shareholders, including Sheldon's. Upon seeing the increased insurance value, Kelso deduced that the Monroe's plan was to burn the phony houses to cash in grand insurance money. After killing Monroe's thugs in a quick shootout, Kelso confronted Sheldon to learn of involvement in the SRF. Sheldon explained how he safely disposed of the morphine thanks to Fontaine, who in exchange promised to help the Marines by reinvesting money into housing developments. Kelso warned Sheldon not to trust Fontaine, who was clearly using Sheldon as a scapegoat for part of the conspiracy.
After receiving an invitation from Monroe, Kelso anticipated a trap, and hence called in his surviving unit members Felix Alvarro, Patrick Connolly and John Higgins. Together, they led an assault against Monroe's home. Kelso fought his way through a dozen henchmen and stormed into Monroe's office. Kelso shot Monroe in the leg and raided the office for evidence, and discovered enough to incriminate him and the entire the SRF. However, after calling Phelps, he learned of Elsa's kidnapping and Fontaine's murder. Monroe revealed that the arsonist they were using was responsible and that he worked as a bug sprayer. Kelso left Monroe to nearly bleed to death and investigated several extermination agencies to find the arsonist and rescue Elsa.
Kelso arrived at a house on the remains of Rancho Rincon and discovered that the arsonist was in fact a fellow Marine and former flamethrower operator, Ira Hogeboom. With the maps of the river tunnels as a clue, Kelso informed Phelps and Herschel Biggs, however, while driving to the tunnels Kelso was intercepted by police patrols under the orders of corrupt Police Commissioner Worrell. After being escorted to the river tunnels, with Peterson holding off the corrupt cops, Kelso fought his way through Monroe's thugs and reached both Ira with Elsa under his protection. Ira had clearly and tragically gone insane, as Kelso's attempts to reason with him failed. Phelps arrived to take Elsa to safety and Kelso performed a mercy kill on Ira, freeing him from insanity. Biggs helped pull Elsa and Kelso out of the tunnel, but they were too late to save Cole, who simply uttered a final goodbye before being killed by a violent torrent of water.
While attending his funeral, Elsa stormed off in a fit of sorrow and anger from hearing Earle's meaningless eulogy, angrily saying to Kelso, "Get out of my way, Jack. You call yourself his friend?" After Kelso asked Biggs to go to her, Biggs stood up to leave and console Elsa, he made it clear to Kelso that he was never his friend. Kelso simply replied that he was never Cole's enemy, to which Biggs replied, "I think he knew that, Jack."
- "Cole Phelps and Jack Kelso. With some people, it's as simple as chemistry. Two guys who should have been friends, but their personalities got in the way. Phelps - a good guy, but wound way too tight. And Kelso - a quiet man who could never walk away from a fight."
- ―Herschel Biggs describing Jack Kelso and Cole Phelps' relationship, during the opening narration of the patrol case Warrants Outstanding
Jack initially starts out as a headstrong, defensive, and brazen candidate during his time in OCS, due to failures in developing leadership qualities, and butted heads with his superiors. His time as a rifleman and in Okinawa shaped Kelso's defining character: honorable, courageous, decisive, with a strong sense of loyalty and justice. As an investigator, Kelso developed stereotypical "Private Dick" traits such cunning, quick thinking, a soft spot for women (such as Elsa), and no fear to voice out his thoughts and insult people (Roy Earle being an example).
Jack is described by Biggs as a "quiet man" but someone who "could never walk away from a fight." For example, he pursued the Lou Buchwalter case unable to ignore the possibility of foul play. Although not being a participant in the Coolridge heist, Kelso played a part by protecting those who were involved out of loyalty from Mickey Cohen and the LAPD. Furthermore, his initial relationship with Cole started on bad terms creating their long time rivalry to enmity. From that point Kelso was embittered and resentful of Phelps and his actions, making it difficult for Phelps (who had come to admire Kelso somewhat, referring to him as a "tough customer") to establish an amicable working relationship with him. Despite this, Kelso never saw Phelps as an enemy, and the two eventually settled their past and put aside their differences to work towards a common goal.
Weapons and Skills
Jack carries a Browning Hi-Power Pistol. He is an exceptional marksman and served as a rifleman during the war. He can use a variety of weapons with ease, including shotguns, rifles, machine guns and even a flamethrower.
Jack trained in boxing while in the Marines and is incredibly strong and tough, being able to hold his own against multiple enemies in fist fights.
- Don Carraway - Killed as revenge for earlier beating and kidnapping.
- Garfield Henderson - Killed as revenge for earlier beating and kidnapping.
- Walter Tyler - Killed as revenge for earlier beating and kidnapping.
- Ira Hogeboom - Shot once in the head as an act of mercy.
- "The White Shoe Slaying" (Newspaper)
- His name and character could be derived from Jack W. Kelso, a United States Marine as well, who received the Medal of Honor during the Korean War five years after the end of World War II. Jack W. Kelso was killed in action.
- He has two sisters, who both worked in a Bomber factory in L.A. during World War II. They intended to visit Jack while he was at OCS until his liberty was seemingly cancelled by Chisholm for refusing to clean his rifle, despite Lieutenant Taylor saying it wasn't. It could be possible Taylor used his higher authority to change Chisholm's decision. Despite this, it is not explored later on what actually happened.
- Jack was probably a First Sergeant in the USMC during the war. During the "A Different Kind of War" cutscene Jack is called "Sarge" and "Top." In the Marine Corps, First Sergeants may be referred to by the nickname of "Top." In "Manifest Destiny", Phelps tells Earle that Kelso is a "Company Sergeant".
- During L.A. Noire, Jack will work alone most of the time. However, the game offers player the option to drive automatically or not. Unlike Phelps, however, Kelso cannot ask for directions, but will still comment on reckless driving.
- Unlike Cole, Jack cannot change his outfit, therefore he cannot earn an accuracy or damage bonus, nor can he earn a resistance bonus.
- Unlike Phelps, if Kelso picks up something that doesn't pertain to the case, he will simply make no comments about it whatsoever.
- Kelso can use police gamewells, even during the mission House of Sticks when he is still a civilian insurance investigator.
- Even at Phelps' funeral, Kelso still has his facial wounds from "House of Sticks".
- His favorite color seems to be blue, as every article of his clothing has blue in it and even his car is blue.
- Kelso address is apartment four, 1408 North El Centro Avenue, Hollywood.
- His role, especially near the end of the game, makes him very similar to J.J. "Jake" Gittes from the movies Chinatown and The Two Jakes. Both are similarly named private investigators whom uncovered large landing-related schemes set up by rich and powerful figures. Both eventually flirted with their respective female clients, whom had initially requested the inquiry. Both searched Los Angeles's Hall of Records for clues. Both were also severely wounded/beaten by henchmen during the course of their investigations.
Jack owns a Blue 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster 2DR, with the license plate number being 4W 02 86. This vehicle is unique, and cannot be found anywhere else in the game.