Mysteries were over with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and no one can change your mind about that. All other detective tales fell under the category of cheap attempts at a whodunnit, with either too much spice and too little substance or too much logic and too little oomph.
And yet, here you are, sending in your query letter for your first detective story. Are you being over-confident? Do you really trust your skills enough to not make a fool of yourself in front of these publishers? Now won’t they call your work a cheap attempt?
Well, no more time now to mull over these questions. The email has been sent and is travelling through the cyberbits of the digital world as we speak.
And now there’s only one thing for you to do. Bite your nails and wait. Wait so hard that it starts to hurt. You will check your inbox every few minutes. You will check it when you wake up in the middle of the night to take a pee. Every notification beep will fill you with anxious apprehension, and you will rush to your device, only to be disappointed. And to start waiting again.
But then the wait will become so long that it will make you weary. That is when you will try and distract yourself with other things. You will give yourself a thousand good reasons why it is okay to not have heard back. You will stick new motivational quotes up on your wall.
You are all too familiar with the cycle.
You swipe your hand across the touchpad. The screen comes to life. As you glance at what is in front of you, the air seems to escape your lungs!
From: Dr. John H. Watson
Subject: Re: Query Letter
You have been commissioned by 22B Baker Street in this matter of urgent importance. Take the 2 pm train to Chesterville today. Follow the man with the green umbrella.
PS: The game is afoot.
What a silly joke! Do these publishers have some warped sense of humour?
But wait, is the email silly, or are you being silly, doubting the ridiculousness of this.
There has to be some explanation though. Is your subconscious mind impinging upon your reality? Have you been drinking too much? Have you resorted to Sherlock Holmes’ famous narcotic ways while waiting for projects to land? Despite being well aware of how you’ve been spending your days, you find yourself thinking about everything you have done in the past twenty-four hours, trying to ascertain if anything could be messing with your mind.
Nope. It was one of your regular days. Nothing stronger than an afternoon latte. Nothing more disturbing than your cat knocking over its bowl. Nothing more peaceful than last night’s sleep.
And now, what are you supposed to do? You decide to reply, just in case it was the publishers testing to see that you’re not a robot. Like those CAPTCHA things. All you write is:
Thanks for your response. I am not sure I quite understand. Please clarify and advise if anything is required of me, further to the query letter I sent you.
So, the question is, are you going to catch that train? The train station is at a walking distance. Chesterville is only 45 minutes away.
A part of you wants to try this out. Why not? But the other part, the much larger part of you, is not willing to fall for this, this… whatever this is.
You look at the clock. It is almost 1 o’clock. This is absurd. Why did the stupid email have to say 2 pm? If it had said 11 am or something else from the past, it would have been easier to dismiss. But now you know you will not be able to drive this out of your mind until the time has passed.
You get out of your chair, walk into the kitchen and pour yourself a glass of cool tap water. Should you go sit in your recliner and read a book? No, making some phone calls would be better.
Painfully, but resolutely, you finish having long conversations with friends and family who are pleasantly surprised to receive your call. There’s nothing to talk about with some people. There never is. That is why you never do this. You are shaking your head at the way the conversations are going, while keeping one eye on the time.
Finally, you hit the 2 pm mark. It is 2:08 pm when you finally get rid of the last person on the phone.
You did it! The train would have left the station by now. Without you on it. Phew!
I mean, how weird would it be if you had actually been on the train. Just imagine.
Are you going that route now? Are you seriously going to think of how it might have turned out if you had actually acted upon that email?
You have some paperwork to complete, a manuscript to beta read and some freelance calls awaiting your action. Best to get to work.
Time whizzes past. It’s almost dinner time. You cook yourself some pasta with stir fried vegetables and sit in front of the TV. Dinner with the news has become a cherished evening ritual.
You’ve covered the weather watch, stock markets and the latest on the tragic forest fire situation which has been a raging media topic. The pasta is delicious. Must be the basil sauce you used.
All of a sudden, your fork freezes on its way from the pasta bowl, while your eyes are glued to the reporter wearing a pink jacket and matching pink lipstick. Is it a coincidence that she is saying this on public television?
“In an unfortunate incident on the outskirts of Chesterville, an elderly couple has been found dead under mysterious circumstances. The victims are identified as Mrs. and Mr. Peytin. Suspicious activity was reported by a neighbour at 3:20 pm when he saw three men rushing out of the Peytins’ home. The neighbour reports that by the time he got to the Peytins’ front door, everything seemed calm, but the door was wide open.”
The camera zooms to the Peytins’ white front door with a door-knocker and a mailbox. You see yellow caution tape all over the area.
Pink Jacket continues. “According to this neighbour, the men seemed to be arguing as they got into a white SUV. One of them was carrying a green umbrella.”
Your jaw drops. You are barely being able to keep up.
“The neighbour said he went inside to check up on the couple. He noticed that papers and documents were strewn all over when he entered the house.”
The camera now hovers over the neighbour whose face is pixelated for confidentiality. He is speaking in a thick accent.
“Yes, the door it was open. I just go in. Clara and Gord was really nice people. In the front room, there is so many papers.” He gestures with his hand and continues.
“I called out their names. I saw both in dining-room, like sitting on chairs. Like they about to eat. I start to talk to them but they not answering. Both of them. Like they are frozen. I go close and touch Gord on the back. He falls down on table. I scream and call the police. I was scared.”
Pink Jacket is back on. “This neighbour also reports an odd note he saw lying conspicuously among the messy papers. It had the words, ‘Help is arriving. — Baker Street Team.’
“Whatever that meant, it is clear that the ‘help’ did not arrive on time.” She presses her pink lips disappointedly and continues.
“While the police are still awaiting the results of the autopsy, it seems clear that…”
The reporter carries on in her slick, serious voice, but you have tuned out.
How are you going to live this one down?
By biting your nails and waiting for someone to not respond to your query letter?