I'm currently in the midst of editing my second adventure with Gary, Jessica, and Karen; entitled Barbadian Backlash. In it, Detectives Celdom and Amerson are on the trail of a suspect responsible for a number of break and enters in the Regent Park area; however, as the two Toronto detectives are about to proceed with the case, Gary gets a call from his old writing buddy -- whom he reunited with in Scarlet Siege -- to interview him for a future Novel Writing Challenge project. The interview leads Detective Celdom to recall the case where he was sent to Barbados to assist in the investigation of the murder of his former partner. It is during this Caribbean case where Gary first meets the infamous Elaine Abraham. Below is the opening chapter of this tome.
If there is one season I enjoy out of the entire year, its autumn. The weather starts to get a little cooler, the foliage on the trees change into a kaleidoscope of red, yellow, and brown, and if you happen to be Canadian – like I am – the dawning of a new professional ice hockey season is upon you. Mind you, if you happen to be a fan of such a sport in Toronto, chances are you look upon the season with much promise with the hopes that the Maple Leafs will finally seize the season and make a serious run for the league championship; only to have your hopes dashed sometime around the All-Star break in late January. Unfortunately, in my line of work, one doesn’t get much of an opportunity to get too involved with such follies. For I happen to be a detective with the Toronto P.D. with 27 years of experience under my belt.
I have seen a lot during my years on the job, but things took an interesting twist just a little over a month earlier when, after I was in the midst of a hostage situation during a fan convention for my favourite television series, I begun a new romantic relationship. I had been involved with a couple of women in the past; one of which still haunts me to this day. However, the one I commenced the previous August was different. For I wasn’t dating any fellow member of the law; I was dating my partner.
“So, Gary,” she asked, “do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?”
“Not really, Jessica,” I told my partner. “I was thinking of closing up my cottage in the Kawarthas for the winter. But other than that, I don’t have anything concrete in the cards.”
Just then, I heard a ghostly voice urging my co-worker.
“Go on,” the spirit encouraged. “Ask him.”
“I was wondering if you would like to come to my place for Thanksgiving dinner,” my co-worker enquired.
I turned to the spectre and quizzed, “And you didn’t put her up to this?”
“Relax, Gary,” Karen reassured. “I had no part in this whatsoever. Well, aside from her talking to me about it and asking what I thought.”
In the few weeks since it started happening, it is a notion that I still have problems fathoming. In the run-up to my first date with my partner, Detective Jessica Amerson, the spirit of my long-departed fiancée, Karen Prairie, revealed herself to Jessica, and gave her the incentive that out of all the women I have dated in the twenty years since her death, Jessica would be the one that would receive Karen’s blessing to enter into a relationship with Detective Gary Celdom. Up until that point, I was the only one who could actually see and hear my ex-fiancée. However, Karen’s reasoning was since Jessica and I have the same chemistry that she and I used to share, she believed the two of us would be able to hit it off outside of the workplace, as well as working the beat.
“I don’t know,” I hesitated. “What about Benny?”
“You can bring him along,” Jessica replied. “I’m sure he’d like gnawing on the bone from a turkey drumstick.”
“And huskies are just like any dog,” Karen added. “Just make sure you save a little bit of meat on it for him.”
I was thinking about the prospect of my pet of the past seven years tagging along for the festive feast. Usually for the autumn harvest feast Benny and I just spend an extra day up at the cottage and have a quiet meal together consisting of a microwavable turkey entree for myself and some premium kibble with a little bit of a turkey slice from my dinner mixed in. Having an actual home-cooked holiday meal with someone you care about is a rarity I enjoy anymore. Then again, this Thanksgiving will be the first actual holiday Jessica and I would be spending together. It would be a welcome change from the typical pace I have enjoyed for the past couple of decades. I was about to give my response when my desk phone suddenly rang. I temporarily excused myself from the conversation to take the call.
“Toronto P.D., Detective Celdom,” I answered.
“Hello, Toronto Phoenix?” the voice on the other end queried.
Out of all of the years I have worked as a detective here in Toronto, there is only one group that has referred to me by such a moniker. It was the alias I had given myself nearly three years ago to the day when I became a participating member of the Toronto chapter for a month-long novel writing challenge. It was an event I got turned onto by one Elaine Abraham, a waitress I had met four years ago when I was in Barbados investigating the murder of my former partner, Rob McManus. I was all set to scribe my own 50,000-word novel when that November’s event turned into a crime spree. One of the participants turned into a murderous psychopath because he objected to some of the members within the chapter creating a character within their novels based on him, and then killing him off in the name of prose. I could understand being a little miffed about such homage, but the problem with some people who have a few screws lose: they tend to take their displeasure too far and act out upon it. While a few budding writers did end up losing their lives in the process, I was able to eventually apprehend the killer with the assist of one of the fellow writers; a gentleman who called himself “Highlander of the Bluffs.”
He and I would meet up again, ironically, during the hostage siege a few weeks prior to today, and would even offer himself up as a sacrifice in a bid to save me after one of the captors pointed a loaded assault rifle at us. Fortunately, Jessica and the rest of the reinforcements showed up before Highlander and I became the third and fourth murder victims that weekend.
“Yes,” I confirmed, “this is him.”
“My apologies for intruding, Detective Celdom,” the voice on the other end of the line spoke. “It’s Highlander.”
“Oh, hello there,” I recognized. “What can I do for you?”
“Well,” he commented, “as you know, a few weeks from now is the annual novel writing challenge.”
“That it is,” I nodded. “Have you thought about what you’re going to write yet this year?”
“Actually,” Highlander replied, “that’s why I’m calling you. I’m planning on redoing the novel I wrote when we first met three years ago and I was wondering if I could interview you for some research?”
“You mean that detective novel you tried to hammer out back then?” I enquired.
“That would be the one,” he noted. “I figured I could pick your brain so I could help solidify my story idea. You know, smooth out the rough edges I had back then.”
“I don’t know,” I said reluctantly. “You wouldn’t be using any case details word-for-word would you?”
“Oh, no, no,” he reassured. “I wouldn’t use any real names, and I would change the details so that you wouldn’t get into trouble with your superiors.”
Great, now I had a second decision to make. I remembered his novel idea from the year we first met. I thought it seemed almost similar to the McManus murder case. However, I thought if I could recollect what actually transpired down in Barbados, maybe it could make for a better story. The only thing is it might also open up the can of worms that was the relationship between Elaine and me. Karen wasn’t too impressed with how that relationship started, and if Jessica found out those details, I would be in the dog house with her.
I temporarily excused myself from the phone conversation, covered up the mouthpiece, and I asked the spirit sitting with my partner, “its Bennett. He wants to interview me for research on a novel he’s working on.”
“And this is a problem?” Karen questioned.
“Possibly,” I mentioned. “I suspect he wants me to go over the McManus murder case with him.”
“That case was closed three years ago,” Jessica interjected. “I don’t see why that would be such a problem.”
“There are certain matters of the case that I don’t think I should be divulging,” I attempted to reason.
“What matters?” my partner quizzed.
“I think I know,” Karen acknowledged. “He doesn’t want to get into details with him and that Barbadian strumpet.”
“You still have bad blood towards Elaine, don’t you?” I accused the spectre.
“The woman was taking you for a ride, Gary,” she commented. “If you hadn’t come to your senses last year when she was here for the Caribbean Carnival, you would’ve still been led along like a dog on a leash. Besides, if you got back together with her, you wouldn’t have the good thing you have right now.”
“What do you think, Jessica?” I posed to my partner.
“It was in the past,” my girlfriend/partner answered. “While I can understand that it might bring back old feelings and memories; whether it might be of Elaine or the cases you worked on with Rob, you have to move on.”
“So, you’re saying I should do the interview?” I blinked.
“Absolutely,” Jessica reassured. “And if something does come up, you could always talk to Ann about it.”
My partner was right. I did have a support safety net in place in the form of the Police psychologist, Ann Knoblach. Should I begin to have any feelings of remorse or anxiety because of what had transpired back then during my recollection, I could always call her and make an appointment to talk about it. With the vote of confidence I returned my attention to my phone conversation.
“Alright,” I responded, “I can do the interview with you.”
“Thank you kindly, Detective Celdom,” Highlander answered. “Is tomorrow afternoon at five good for you? We can do it at The One over on Danforth.”
“Tomorrow at five works,” I confirmed. “Just be forewarned, I’ll still be on call, so don’t be alarmed in case I have to cut the interview short because of an investigation.”
“No problem,” he acknowledged. “I hope to get as many questions as I can before you get called away.”
“Okay then,” I replied. “I will see you tomorrow at 5.”
“See you then,” Highlander concluded. “And thanks again.”
“My pleasure,” I finished.
I hung up the phone and returned to my original conversation.
“So, as I was going to say before we were interrupted,” I commented. “Benny and I can return from the cottage a day early and we can go to your place for Thanksgiving dinner.”
“That would be wonderful,” Jessica smiled.
“Is there anything you’d like me to bring?” I questioned my partner, “Some salad? Stuffing? Dinner rolls?”
“If you could make a salad and bring some rolls,” she replied, “it would be greatly appreciated.”
“There’s one thing I should ask though,” Karen interjected. “Will it just be the two of you and Benny? Or will any of your family be showing up?”
“Not this time around, Karen,” Jessica confirmed.
“That’s alright,” I sighed in relief before taking a sip of my coffee. “Her family hasn’t met me yet.”
“I’m saving that for Christmas,” my partner added.
The next thing I knew, I ended up doing a spit take upon that revelation.