The World According To Cassandra Chan's Phillip and Jack

Author Cassandra Chan offers readers an exclusive look at her procedural mystery, A Spider On The Stairs, when she lets her heroes, Phillip Bethancourt and Jack Gibbons do the talking. 

Phillip Bethancourt lounged comfortably on the sofa in the living room of his Chelsea flat. “She’s writing about us again, you know,” he said.

His friend, Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons, raised an eyebrow.

“We did just solve a case,” he pointed out. “She always writes about us when that happens. I don’t think,” he added, “she can help herself.”

But Bethancourt shook his head. He sipped at his scotch and then said, “No, this is different.”

“Oh Lord,” said Gibbons. “She’s not obsessed with our sex lives or something, is she?”

“If she is, you needn’t worry,” retorted Bethancourt. “I’m the only one of us with a sex life, but I haven’t been unfaithful to Marla lately, so I don’t think it’s that.”

Gibbons looked startled. “Lately?” he demanded. “You don’t do that on a regular basis, do you? I thought it was just that once…”

“No, I do not regularly cheat on my girlfriend,” said Bethancourt indignantly. “What a question to ask a man.”

Gibbons shrugged unapologetically. “So if it’s not your philandering tendencies, or the case we just solved, what’s she writing about then?”

“Some kind of expose, about our different outlooks on life.”

“Differences?” repeated Gibbons. “I would have said we were fairly well matched, myself. What differences is she on about then?”

“I’m not altogether sure,” replied Bethancourt. “She seems to think we go about solving cases differently.”

“I can’t see what she means by that,” said Gibbons. “I mean, the only way to solve a case is the way that works. You gather all the facts, your draw your conclusions and bob’s your uncle.”

Bethancourt laughed. “It’s not quite that easy, though, is it?”

“No,” admitted Gibbons, grinning. “Perhaps not. But the going about it is fairly cut and dried.” He held up his glass to the light and admired the amber color of the liquor while he considered. “Do you think,” he added, “she means what we each do best? Because you’re hopeless at any sort of grind.”

“That’s why I have you,” retorted Bethancourt. 

“The more interesting question is why I bother with you,” continued Gibbons, unperturbed. “It’s not like other Scotland Yard detectives have best mates who are always sticking in their oar.”

“No, but they seem to be able to solve cases on their own, whereas if it wasn’t for me—“ Bethancourt ducked as Gibbons pitched a throw pillow at him.

“But really,” said Bethancourt, rescuing the pillow and brushing the hair it had disturbed out of his face, “the more interesting question is why I bother at all. It’s not as if I have to spend my time investigating murders. Most independently wealthy chaps don’t run about dabbling in murder cases.”

“Well,” said Gibbons, “why do you then? Is it because you have a social conscience?”

“No, that’s you,” said Bethancourt. “You like the rule of law, and making a contribution to society and all that.”

“True enough,” agreed Gibbons. “I also happen to be good at it. But I do it to make a living, which doesn’t apply to you.”

Bethancourt considered this for a moment. “I find people interesting,” he said at last. “I like working out what makes them tick, and looking at things from their point of view, even if it’s a view I find wrong-headed. In your murder investigations, I encounter personalities I would never have otherwise crossed paths with.”

Gibbons nodded. “And that, of course, is what I find so useful about you—your ability to analyze people.”

“It’s nice to feel wanted,” said Bethancourt. “But I would have thought you just liked hashing a case out with me—you have to admit, a lot of ideas come out of those discussions.”

“Good ideas, too,” said Gibbons. “We’ve solved a lot of cases trading ideas about what the evidence means. I reckon that’s it, isn’t it? It’s all in the way we look at things—where you see shades of grey, I see right and wrong, so we have different perspectives as starting points, but in the end you need both to solve a case.”

“At least that’s the way we do it,” amended Bethancourt. “And do you know—“ He broke off, struck by a realization. “Oh, God,” he said, “you realize what we’ve just done, don’t you? We’ve just given her everything she needs to write her piece about us.”

Gibbons gaped at him a moment. “Hell, you’re right,” he said. “She’s bloody devious, isn’t she?”

“She’s a woman,” said Bethancourt resignedly. “I swear, they should come with warning labels.”

And he finished off his drink in a single gulp.

You can read more of the adventures of Phillip and Jack, in A Spider On The Stairs, now available in stores.