The first chapter of the mystery, The White Ribbon Man, introduces the detective, Detective Sergeant Jack Cosser. If you have been following this blog at all, you know that there were other attempts at a beginning. Gradually this character has assumed his place. The revision is almost complete now. And here are the first paragraphs of the first chapter of my upcoming mystery novel, The White Ribbon Man.
On a gray Sunday in November when just a touch of frost in the air heralded winter, Detective Sergeant Jack Cosser hoped to spend quiet time enjoying the last of what had been an unusually long fall season. He had considered reading a new mystery or maybe driving a short distance out of Toronto to some peaceful spot for a stroll. He could not muster the energy to go and work out at the gym, nor to try to find someone for a fast game of squash. Maybe his partner on the most recent case, Simon Reid, would be interested. But he could hardly call an off duty police officer and expect him to be happy to give up a quiet Sunday morning. Reid might not know it was to allay Jack’s unease, something that had not diminished in the days and weeks since he and his wife, Marion, had separated, but he would know it was an unwanted interruption.
Cosser glanced at the mirror over the sofa and saw a man of medium height with brown hair with a slight wave in it. He thought his fair reddish skin suggested he probably had freckles in his youth and a short tree trunk of a neck seemed almost to sit on top of his shoulders. In spite of everything, he thought he did not look too terrible. Or not, at least, in a way anyone else would notice in spite of dark circles under his eyes and a worried frown that he tried to erase by smiling. A lopsided smile that did not improve his appearance, he thought.
Not a tall man, probably not more than five feet nine or ten, it was said he was nonetheless an imposing figure. His ruddy cheeks suggested he enjoyed his liquor, but it was also part of having fair skin. Oh, vanity, he thought. But how would he ever court Marion again if he looked as if he were falling to pieces? And, of course, he was not. Just take the recent case that had gone cold for years. An old one for which evidence had surfaced about a year earlier and when it was assigned to him to follow up, he had been able to find the person who had perpetrated the crime and this had led to an arrest when the man had admitted his guilt in the old rape and murder. So there had not been massive publicity that went with a trial. Just a couple of articles when the man was arrested and then confessed. He was now finally in prison. Cosser felt good about that one, satisfied that one more criminal was finally off the streets.
Although nothing made up for his domestic situation. He did not like it and he was lonely. There, he had acknowledged to himself the gnawing feeling that overtook him once he left his work and tried to relax at home. A trial separation. Then there was no end to the trial, just this ongoing reality of his existence in a tiny apartment in an old brick house just a few blocks from the smaller house where they had lived together. And then the divorce papers that he had wanted to tear up, but if divorce was what Marion wanted he had thought he ought to go through with it. After all, what point was there in trying to preserve a sterile relationship with someone you did not even live with any longer? But suppose she still loved him? Suppose. Oh, he had to stop that. He had to get some sleep. He lay down on the floor and started to do push ups. Afterwards he had a shower. When he finally sat down at the kitchen table, wearing the bottoms of a striped pair of flannel pyjamas, he thought that some time soon he would talk to Marion. He would ask her if- After all, it would not be the first time that a couple married again.
From the window across from him, he could see a small park in the Annex where Jaime still went to play at times. She was too young to go on her own, but either he or Marion took her there. He loved the delight on his daughter’s round, chubby face when he pushed her on the swings or she slid down a slide. But unfortunately it wasn’t his Sunday to have her with him.
He picked up a book, lying open on the floor beside him, and started to read where he had left off the last time. It was a mystery novel. You would think in his line of work he would read something else and often he did. Matthew Fox’s Original Blessing and some of the books that had come after it. And heaven knew how he even knew about the books he picked up, but Invisible Man by an American called Ellison. Tonight it was a mystery called The Last Detective. He liked the curmudgeon in charge of the investigation, a British cop who eschewed computer technology. You could not last long in this business these days without using a computer, but he liked the way this cop was able to focus differently because he had come from another era. Not one replete with cell phones and faxes and all the gimmicks that the last twenty or so years had given to the world and to police investigations. Not that Jack did not use all of that same gimmickry himself, it was just that there had to be a place for human ingenuity. And, he thought, also for the human spirit.