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Matt Doyle has a new lesbian sci fi mystery out: “Shadows of the Past.”
Shadows of the Past is the new novella collection set in The Cassie Tam Files universe! Enjoy two new stories that follow PI Cassie Tam and her girlfriend Lori Redwood as they deal with the fallout from LV48. This book is part of a series and needs to be read in sequence.
A Week in New Hopeland
When Lori Redwood agrees to help out her girlfriend, PI Cassie Tam, by going undercover at a local shipping firm, she gets more than she bargained for. Her ‘boss’ Mr. Graves is a misogynist and a bully, and has been targeting one girl in particular. Cassie is known to him, and he tends to be cautious around Tech Shifters. Which means that Lori may be the best person for the job.
Will Lori be able to help Cassie gather enough evidence for the police to act, or will she become the next target?
PI Cassie Tam is not the only person who lives with regrets, and like most people, she just wants to get on with her life. But in New Hopeland, the past never remains buried. When she’s hired to track a stalker that’s been using some interesting tech to mask their identity on the city’s security cameras, Cassie ends up face-to-face with her darkest memory.
Can Cassie find out who’s responsible before her past mistakes tear her – and her friends – apart?
Warnings: Contains: bullying, stalking, a deceased family member, guns, and workplace harassment
About the Series:
New Hopeland City was built to be the center of the technological age. It was supposed to be a shining example of humanity’s achievements. A beacon to guide us towards a better future. But some habits die hard. Within five years, it had become a hotbed of crime and corruption. And now, even the police are sometimes in too deep to help. That’s where I come in. My name is Cassie Tam. I’m a PI. When no one else will help, I’m the one people turn to …
“So. You said you need my help. What kind of help?”
“Protection, partially. And for you to find someone.”
I raise an eyebrow and tap the fingers of my top hand on the lower one. “Sounds complicated. Are both things connected, or are they two separate issues?”
“Yes, they’re both connected. I’m being…stalked. I need you to find out who by.”
I drop my hands to the table and sigh. Complicated was right. “Do you mind if I grab a coffee myself?” Faraday nods and I make my way to the kitchen. Even with the table so close to the kitchen, my kettle is currently running at the volume known as “stubbornly boisterous,” so when I continue, I have to raise my voice to make sure I’m heard. “First things first, why do you think you’re being stalked?”
“I wasn’t sure at first. I’d catch things out of the corner of my eyes, familiar shapes and so on, but I brushed it off as part of the daily routine. I leave home, go to work, and come home again.”
Huh. I’d presumed she just stayed at the office. That’s interesting. Let’s just treat this like she’s human. “Let me guess. You take the same routes to work and back each day, so you figured you were catching people with similar habits.”
“Yes. I keep fairly regular hours, the same as most people. And you’ve seen the offices. Quite aside from the sheer number of staff, there are plenty of other businesses nearby. So, I made a game of it. I started trying to take note of the people around me, to see if I could figure out who I was spotting. But that one person was always just out of sight. It was as if they were intentionally avoiding me getting a good look at them.”
“And you’re certain there’s only one person doing this, and it’s not multiple similar sized people you’re noticing?”
“I suppose, all things considered, you’d be able to tell, right? Your eyes would be like Bert’s.”
“Actually, no. Bert’s purpose is his own, and he is built to be suitable for his particular role. I, on the other hand, am built to imitate humans, and that comes with certain limitations. While my eyes operate in a similar way to Bert’s, their power is more akin to the average person.”
I finish pouring my coffee and make my way back to the table. “That opens up the possibility of this being just a case of someone taking the same route as you each day.”
Faraday shakes her head. “No, they’re definitely following me. I know, because I tricked them.”
“Well, I was heading home, and started catching sight of the shape again. Rather than continue on my normal route, I took a shortcut down an alley. Yes, it was risky, but I’m familiar enough with the area to know I wasn’t getting closed in. I only take the longer route normally because I prefer the scenery. Anyway, I kept going, and by this point, being out of the crowds, I could hear their footsteps. When they stopped partway down I… I couldn’t stop myself. I turned and saw them. Sort of.”
“They were wearing a dark hoodie and had turned away to look at something. A security camera, I think. Regardless, the hood was up, and they weren’t looking at me, so I couldn’t see their face.”
“And what did you do then?”
“I ran. I knew for certain someone had been following me then, and human limitations being what they are—” she flexes her fingers a little and sighs “—I’m not exceptionally strong. My hands are better suited to my allocated job than to fighting.”
“Okay,” I reply, keeping my voice as light as possible. “When you saw this person, did you notice anything at all that may help identify them? Any clear indicators of gender, any standout physical traits?”
“No, I’m sorry. The hoodie was baggy enough to hide their shape well.”
“That makes it a little difficult, but if they were looking at a camera, then maybe we’ll get lucky. I’ll be honest with you; I’m going to have a lot of questions. But… your safety is the most important thing right now. I assume you’ve finished work for the day?” She nods. “How does it feel when you’re there? Do you think you’ll be safe in the office?”
“Definitely. I’ve not noticed anything once I’m in there, only on the walks to and from.”
“And at home?”
“I’m not sure. They are clearly aware of where I live, though I’m not sure if they know which apartment.”
I roll over in bed and let my arm flop into the empty space next to me. Even with my eyes closed, I can tell the early morning light is beginning to creep in through the window. My slightly bent leg finds a long warm spot, giving away that Cassie hasn’t been up long. I instinctively grip the bedsheet where her body would normally end and let out a content sigh.
“Mine,” I say to myself and roll onto my back again. I raise my hands to my face and rub the sleep out of my eyes, taking in the familiar sight of my bedroom as I clear the cobwebs a little. There are other things to wake me up too; new things that are becoming more familiar as time passes. Smells and sounds I don’t experience as often as I’d like. But I have to be careful, gentle even. Cassie is outwardly quite rough, but she’s softer on the inside. She’s like an emotional armadillo.
A partial conversation from last night flashes across my mind, and a smile reaches my lips. I sit up and stretch, forcing out a yawn as I glance at the back of the door. “Someone’s borrowing my robe again.”
I grab my spare from the wardrobe and tie it up, then walk down the hall, through the living room, and up to the kitchen. I rest against the doorframe, watching Cassie as she carries on oblivious to my presence. After a moment, I say, “Morning.”
Cassie jumps a little and smiles my way. She pulls gently at the sleeve of the robe and says, “Sorry, I didn’t bring mine. I wasn’t planning to stay over, but…”
“Ink can be quite persuasive, can’t she?” I nod to the frying pan on the hob and ask, “What’cha cooking?”
Cassie’s lips tighten and her nose wrinkles, making her look like a cute, frustrated, pouting bunny. She taps the bowl she’s been piling the food in. “It was supposed to be pancakes. I don’t know what went wrong, I’m normally really good with pancakes. These keep sticking, though. And burning. Maybe I didn’t use enough oil.”
“Nah, it’ll be the pan,” I reply, walking into the room and grabbing some plates from the cupboard. “And they look fine, just a little broken.”
“The pan, eh?”
“Yup. That one never was much good. Everything sticks to it, no matter what you do.”
“Huh. If it’s that bad, why keep it?”
“Sentimental reasons,” I reply and start splitting the pancakes out. “So, come on, detective, see if you can figure it out.”
“The first thing you bought for here?” she tries.
I hand her a plate and shake my head. “Nope. Try again.”
“A gift from a relative?”
“Swing and a miss,” I say and start pouring us a drink from the percolator she’s been keeping warm in preparation. “One more guess.”
She shrugs and grabs two forks from the drawer. She hands me one as she answers, “You got me.”
We walk to the living room and sit on the couch. “Well, a few years back, I was woken up by this noise in the kitchen. It must have been about three in the morning, I think. Anyway, I started panicking, right? There’s someone in the house. Who is it? What do they want? That sort of thing.
“Well, we’d been covering some home break-in stories at work, and I decided there and then I wasn’t going to be just another victim, sitting scared in my room while someone takes all my stuff. So, I got up, and creeped up to the kitchen as quietly as I could, and what did I find? Someone going through the fridge.”
“Who was it?”
“I couldn’t tell. Between tiredness, the darkness, and the fridge door being slightly closed, I couldn’t see anything at all really, other than a silhouette. So, I grabbed the first sturdy thing I could.”
“The frying pan.”
“Exactly. I grabbed it, waited for them to step back, and swung. Bam.”
“Then what happened?”
“The woman dropped her milk and starts yelling, ‘What the fuck, Lori?’ So, I turn the light on, and everything starts slotting into place. I’d been out at a club and taken this lady home. Karen, I think her name was. The problem was, I’d gotten a bit drunk and, between that and the stories we’d been covering, I’d completely forgotten she’d stayed over and had gotten a little paranoid.”
“Was she all right?” Cassie asks, staring at me in disbelief.
“She was angry more than anything. That was our one and only night together, though. But yeah, so the frying pan is sentimental for me because it reminds me that one, I shouldn’t bring people home if I met them while drunk, and two, I’m not as much of as a wuss as I thought.”
Cassie laughs. “I guess I should be happy you didn’t think I was an intruder, eh?”
I smile and kiss her forehead. “You never need to worry. If I wake up and you’re gone, I’ll just assume you’re off dealing with any intruder. And even if I did somehow forget you were staying over, I can always tell when you’re in the kitchen in the morning. You sing while you cook.”
Cassie stops mid-sip, and her eyes go wide, peering over the top of the mug. “Diu. You can hear that?”
“‘Iris’ by the Goo Goo Dolls, wasn’t it? I mean, it’s clearly a product of its era, but it’s a good track.”
“Oh, no, no, no. You weren’t meant to hear that. It’s why I stop when I hear your bedroom door open.”
I tilt my head and frown. “Really? I like it. You sound happy.”
“I am happy, but…I don’t really sing…well. Or in front of people.”
“Oh,” I reply, a little worried now. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t really notice you stopped. I always get excited to see what you’re making, so it never really occurred to me.”
“It’s fine,” she says, but I can tell she’s still embarrassed. “Anyway, it can’t be that exciting. I only use what you have in.”
“I know, but I don’t always bother myself. Usually, it’s cereal or toast if it’s just me. Work, right?”
Cassie’s shoulders relax a little and she takes another mouthful of coffee. “Oh, I get that. I’m the same at the apartment, really. I don’t usually stay here when I have a case on, so there’s rarely any rush for me in the morning when I do. I do try to get up early, though, just in case you need to head out earlier. I can make sure I still get something made for you then.”
I take a leaf from Cassie’s playbook and fail to stop the blush rising to my cheeks. If she enjoys doing it, I may as well tell her. “Okay, confession time. Sometimes, I buy a few things I know I might not have the time to cook. You know, to see if you use them when you stop over. I kinda might have noticed you enjoy cooking more than you let on. And, you know, I quite like what you put in front of me.”
I take another big mouthful of pancake to prove the point, and Cassie giggles. “Well, aren’t you full of surprises today?”
“Oh, speaking of surprises, it’s the Saturday after next, right? Your birthday?”
She rolls her eyes. “Yes, it is. Look, Lori, I really don’t want you to make a big deal out of it. Just something small, eh?”
I wave my hands frantically, spilling a little coffee on my knee. Good job it’s cooled down. “Absolutely. I promised I wouldn’t go overboard, so I won’t. We’ll do a stop at a café. And maybe a present or two.”
“No more than two,” she says, fixing me with a stern look.
“No more than two,” I reiterate.
“And a limit of one hundred dollars.”
“I know, I know. You never did explain why you don’t like doing too much.”
Cassie sighs and puts her empty mug down. “Okay, I guess I owe you that much at least. If you really have to know, my birthday falls exactly one week before…one week before the anniversary.”
Cassie’s dad was a cop back in Canada. He took a bullet for her during her last major case back there, and his death tore her and her mom apart. That was why she moved to New Hopeland. “I’m sorry. I knew it was coming up, but the connection didn’t click.”
She waves it away, and her walls come up a little. “It’s fine; I never told you the date. Honestly, if I didn’t want to do anything at all, I wouldn’t have told you my birthday either.”
“Are you sure?”
“Just don’t be a Nancy, okay?”
“My nan. She hated having a fuss made on her birthday, like at all. But she never told us because she didn’t want to disappoint anyone. It wasn’t until she was at death’s door that she finally came clean. Don’t be like her. If it’s too much, tell me so I can back off.”
Cassie’s face softens a little and she pulls me into a gentle kiss. “Thank you. It means a lot knowing you’d do that. It’s fine; just keep it low key. Anyway, I better get a wash and head back home. You never know when the next case will drop in your lap.”
She gets to her feet and starts walking to the door, but I can’t help myself. “An armadillo.”
She stops. “What?”
“Last night. You asked what sort of animal I thought you’d be if you were a Tech Shifter? Well, I’ve decided. An armadillo.”
“An armadillo,” she repeats. “Why?”
I gather the plates and mugs and give her a wink. “I’ll let you figure that one out.
Matt 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.
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