Series: The Cassie Tam Files, Book Five
Author: Matt Doyle
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: March 2, 2020
Heat Level: 1 - No Sex
Pairing: No Romance
Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, genderfluid, interspecies, space opera, space travel, third gender
SynopsisWith Angel Tanner, the android that runs California’s criminal underworld, pulling the strings, PI Cassie Tam finds herself thrust into a conflict with New Hopeland’s biggest and baddest. But working with the murderous AI may be the only way that Cassie can get to the bottom of her home’s greatest mystery: What is New Hopeland City?
As she struggles to balance her dealings with allies and enemies alike, Cassie is left with a difficult choice. She has always straddled the line between light and dark. Now, the time to decide which side she’s on is drawing close…if she can figure out which is which.
Matt Doyle © 2020
All Rights Reserved
I look to my right and find a free space to pull the car into. I have a couple of different ringtones on my cell phone, each assigned to give me a clear idea of whether I need—or want—to answer it. This generic-but-far-too-loud melody marks this call as coming from one particular number. Given what day it is, I’ve been expecting to hear from them. The last few days have been spent playing a game that’s essentially the adult equivalent of passing notes in class. I leave a note somewhere, I get another at home, I respond somewhere else. It’s been a pain, and it’s all been leading up to this. “It’s where it leads next I’m worried about.”
I steel myself and tap the screen to answer the call. A female voice comes through, dripping with an overacted panic. “Is…is that Cassandra Tam?”
I recognise the voice instantly. “It is. Cassie or Caz is fine.”
“My name is Anna Welch. I need help, Miss Tam.”
I sigh. “Well, that’s what I’m here for. Do you want to discuss this over the phone, or would you rather meet in person?”
“In person,” she replies, and I can hear the smile in her voice. “Somewhere neutral would be best. I’m rather paranoid, you see.”
“Okay, that’s fine. Where?”
“I’ll text you the location.”
She hangs up, and the text comes through almost immediately. Once I’ve finished reading it, I can’t help but smile. She wants to meet at an old abandoned warehouse. It’s one I’m familiar with. A few months back, I broke up a dog fight in the same building. During the case, I discovered there’s a secret entrance to the building via an underground network of hallways. That gives me a way to monitor her if I need to. Or a convenient escape route.
I hit the speed dial for Lori, and it goes straight to her answering service. After the beep, I say, “Hey, it’s Cassie. I guess you’re driving. Listen, I’ve just had a call from a potential client, and I’m gonna have to go meet with them. I’m still coming, but it may be worth checking what later times there are for the film, just in case this runs long. Anyway. Be with you soon.”
I throw my phone onto the passenger seat next to me and pull out into the light traffic of the New Hopeland afternoon.
By the time I reach the warehouse, I’ve already run through a number of different scenarios in my head. None of them ended well, so I’m putting my faith in reality right now. “No fear, Tam, this was a voluntary trip,” I remind myself, and push the main door open. Inside looks the same as it did the last time I was here, minus the boxed area. And people.
Frowning, I make my way towards the back of the building and start checking doors. Finally, I spot a far-too-tight black ponytail, illuminated by the screen of a computer. “Welch. Real cute using the surname of the woman you murdered,” I say, just loud enough to make sure she heard it.
Angel Tanner spins in her chair towards me and laughs, casually turning her monitor off as she does so. “Now, detective, you know full well Harold did that.”
“The way I understand it, it amounts to much the same thing, eh?” I walk into the room and she rises to meet me. When she offers a handshake, I take it on instinct.
“Actually, no. The core result is the same, but the point is it wasn’t me. That makes it a very different thing, at least in the eyes of the law. Still, I’m happy you reached out.”
“I almost didn’t,” I say and then shake my head. “No, that’s not true. I considered looking for a different way to contact you after I found out our mutual acquaintance was Gary Locke. You could have got in touch any time you wanted.”
“Yes, I could have. But I knew talking to Mister Locke would be hard for you after that whole unfortunate incident with your girlfriend and her brother.”
“Unfortunate incident?” I reply, my words dripping with a mix of anger and shock. “He tried to kill both of us. And he convinced her brother to take his own life for a cause that wasn’t even real.”
“Which is why I did it this way. I needed to know you were serious in your intention. Oh, and the cause was real, I’m certain of that. Or the part Locke cared about was anyway.”
I grunt and shake my head. “I didn’t come here to talk about conspiracy theories. You said I wanted to know what’s happening in New Hopeland, and you’re right. You want help to find out the same thing, so I came. Can we please get on with this? I have plans.”
She smiles her creepy smile and nods. “You and me both, detective. But that’s fine. Today was more about checking you’re on board than anything. So, this will be our base of operations for the time being. It’s out of the way, and it’s neither used nor monitored, so it’s fit for purpose.”
I shrug. “Seems okay. It’s easy enough to get to.”
“I should hope so. You’ll be spending a good amount of time here. Now, to business. What I said on the phone wasn’t entirely false; I really do need your help. As you can imagine, I can’t move freely right now, and my links in the city aren’t particularly well suited for certain jobs. Like the one I have for you to do tomorrow.”
She pulls an envelope out of her pocket and hands it to me. “This contains a couple of photographs relating to Anna Welch’s case. You’re going to visit Mister Locke at the prison tomorrow morning and question him about them. They contain some gifts for him, a mild drug on one, and a special communicator on the other. You’ll find a corresponding communicator in there, too, along with instructions as to what to do with it. Make sure you read them somewhere cameras can’t see them clearly.”
“Great. You know, he wasn’t happy to see me the last time.”
“I don’t doubt it. Harold will make sure he plays nice though. I trust you can do the same?”
“Good enough.” She waves me away and heads back to her computer. “Now, go enjoy yourself. We’ll talk more soon.”
Play nicely. Follow orders until you know more. I leave without another word.
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Meet the AuthorMatt Doyle is a speculative fiction author from the UK and identifies as pansexual and genderfluid. Matt has spent a great deal of time chasing dreams, a habit which has led to success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.
These days, Matt can be found working on multiple novels and stories, blogging about pop culture, and plotting and planning far too many projects.