The following excerpts are from material I prepared in 2012 while I was ‘getting to know’ my main characters better. They were introduced in the first novel of the Jake and Kenora series – Reinvention Hustle. Their development, challenges and personal growth are more complex in book two – The Fifth Man – and I wanted to dig deeper into their goals and motivation.

What helped spark my creativity and strengthen the sense of how real my characters are was finding photos of them.

“Saddle up, Pard. We’re going for a ride.” Bosco Poon, my partner in work and business for thirty-some years, sauntered into my office and dropped a pile of outdoor gear on my visitor’s chair. He was sporting his rowdy, I’ll -kick-your-ass growth of facial hair, accessorized with a camo tuque instead of his usual leather cowboy hat, a dark down parka, a red turtleneck and heavy bib overalls tucked into lace-up winter hiking boots. Not the most outrageous outfit I’d seen him wear but from the look he gave me, he was up to something.

“Don’t you look a sight?”

“I gotta do some surveillance in the west end.”

“So?”

“Kenora’s off doing an interview downtown and I need a second chair.” He headed for the door.

I was just about done for the day, anyway, and I needed a break. My mind had been working like cottage cheese for weeks. I shucked off my loafers and office clothes, put on a dark turtleneck, my Goretex boots and a pair of jeans and finished suiting up.

By the time I was done, Bosco was already in the parking lot with the motor running. His favourite 12-year old crap-brown van with the strategically placed rust spots and dents looked like a thousand other low-budget delivery trucks, but the interior was completely tricked out with ergonomic captain’s chairs, an electric motor that would keep us and our coffee warm even though the engine was turned off, front-rear-side mounted cameras feeding into a video system under the dash and fooler window coverings that made the vehicle look empty from the outside. “What’s going down?”

He fiddled with his Bluetooth gizmo and peeled out of the driveway. “Check to see if the camera feed’s working.” Which I did. “Supplies.”

I flipped open the insulated box between the centre front seats. It was stocked with a pair of steel thermoses, bottled water, a padded bag of sandwiches and brownies wrapped in cellophane. We had our mobile radios, cell phones and flashlights under the seats. I flipped through the papers on the clipboard hanging from a magnet on the coin tray. By the time I finished my inventory, he was wheeling onto the Gardiner Expressway westbound.

“Looks fine to me. What’s this about?”

“I’m looking for a Rumanian dude I used to know. Worked auto accident injury insurance scams. Almost succeed in turning him as an informant but he bolted.”

“You needed me for this?”

“Seems he’s graduated to defrauding banks. I got a tip about a location in the Junction.”

“What, I’m now just-in-case muscle?”

“Sure. Plus, it’s been a while since we had a chat, Bud.”

“Chat? Sounds like you’re been in therapy.”

“Nope. Working at being married again. Figuring that out.”

“Okay, I’ll play. Whaddya want to ‘chat’ about, child-rearing?”

“Nope.”

“What? ”

“You, Chum.”

“Why?”

“I’ve been picking up some weird vibes lately.”

“Like what?”

“You’re preoccupied. Pulled in. I’m not the only one to notice, by the way.”

“Who else’s noticed?

“Never mind. Your PSA up or something?”

“No.”

“Business problems?”

“No. You know better. This last year’s been the best ever. More clients, more investigations completed.”

“Uh huh.” He waited until a southbound dump truck passed then pulled a left from Keele Street onto Glenlake Avenue. “So what’s been chapping your ass lately?”

“Nothing,” I said. My jaw was beginning to hurt from me clenching my teeth.

He got occupied searching for a parking spot on Oakmount. “Be honest.”

“Nothing.” He positioned the van in halfway down a line of rehabbed row houses, tight between a dark Mercury Marquis and a Ford Taurus. “You hear about…”

“Don’t care. What’s wrong with your life right now, Jake?”

“Geez. What’s with the Q&A?”

Instead of answering, he fired up the electric generator then took his time arranging his parka behind his head. He flipped open the storage box, pulled out one thermos for himself and handed one to me. I knew his would be one quarter Eagle brand condensed milk – his stakeout staple. Mine would be black, extra strong. I jammed the thermos back into the box. For some reason, I felt jacked up enough already not to need more caffeine.

He muttered, “You lost the ability to form rational thought?”

“This place brings back memories.” He was pushing hard and I wasn’t in the mood to be pushed.

The area he’d chosen used to be part of our patrol zone when we were teamed up in 12 Division. Most of the calls then had been for B&Es, thefts from parked cars, fence line disputes, some ethnic sports grudge stuff. I hunkered down, figuring I’d outwait the stubborn bastard. We were on the west side of Ravina Gardens park. I knew it was a long cold walk to Keele Street and a bus stop. Did they still run after midnight? Half an hour passed. Bosco mainly stared out the window. Hungry, I fished out a sandwich, then had a couple brownies and a bottle of water. “You put this together?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s good. Remember those clapped-out surveillance vans we spent so much time in?”

“Uh huh.”

“Did I tell you the one about…”

“You forget I asked you a question, Bro?”

“What the… you gonna talk about paradigm shifts next?”

“Don’t demean our friendship with that crap. Spill it.”