Authors: Niall Teasdale
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #fox meridian, #robot, #Police Procedural, #cybernetics, #sci-fi, #Action, #Science Fiction, #serial killer, #artificial intelligence, #Detective, #AI
A Fox Meridian Novel
By Niall Teasdale
Copyright 2016 Niall Teasdale
Amazon Kindle Edition
Part One: The Sisters of Corruption
New York Metro, 12
‘I got it! I got it I got it I got it!’
Fox looked at Sam, sitting beside her on his sofa. ‘Do you think she got it?’
Sam looked up at where Marie was bouncing up and down on her toes, an expression of serious contemplation on his face. ‘I think she may have, though I’m at a loss to explain what she has.’
Marie scowled at him. ‘That part. The vid? For IB-Nineteen?’
‘I thought you’d already got that. Last month, in fact.’
‘I passed the audition, but it was preliminary casting, subject to confirmation from the channel management,
subject to them getting final go-ahead on the project. We start shooting on the twenty-third. I got it!’ The bouncing picked up again.
‘Who’s the producer?’ Fox asked.
‘Ha! A guy named Nathan Shark. The writer’s a friend of his, Adrian Daker.’
‘I know them. They worked on
Murder is My Business
‘Still do, as far as I know, but this is totally separate. And I’m the lead actress!’ Marie stopped bouncing and settled onto the sofa beside Sam. ‘It’s kind of low-budget, to be honest, which is why they’re taking a total unknown as the lead. It doesn’t pay star headline rates, but it’s a chance to really show what I can do, I hope.’
‘You’ll shine,’ Fox told her. ‘What’s the part? A murder mystery of some sort, I assume?’
‘Uh-huh. It’s very loosely based on Jack the Ripper, but told from the point of view of the last victim. Would-be victim. I doubt I’m spoiling anything if I say she doesn’t die. She’s the heroine.’
‘Mary Kelly,’ Fox said, raising an eyebrow. ‘You’re playing Mary Jane Kelly. Discovered in her room at thirteen Miller’s Court on the ninth of November eighteen eighty-eight. Throat cut, abdomen sliced open and more or less emptied. Her heart was missing.’
Marie nodded, grimacing. ‘The character is called M. J., but that’s the part. She’s been updated. It’s a modern setting so she’s a licensed prostitute in New York… but I might pick your brains about the original murders. It sounds like you know about them.’
‘Ripper lore. It’s one of the great, unexplained serial murder sprees. And responsible for various forensic techniques which are still in use today, sort of anyway. If Jack had been at work in London today, I think they’d catch him, but it was a different world back then.’
‘I suppose you’ll be wanting to pick my brains too?’ Sam asked. ‘Or is living alongside a licensed prostitute enough?’
‘No, I’d like to know more,’ Marie replied, enthused. ‘I want to really get this character right. I’m not exactly a method actor, but I’d like to understand what being a pro is about. Mind you, M. J. is almost an ex-prostitute. The backstory is that she was attacked by one of her clients and she sort of dropped out of the life. When the story starts, she’s working as an instructor with the Sis– Uh, she joined the Church of Saint Nicholas and she teaches more than practising.’
Sam’s lips quirked. ‘They’re quite happy to be called the Sisters of Corruption. There’s your first tip. It was originally used as an insult, mostly by more conventional Christians, but they have an excellent memetics division and they turned an insult into a positive reference. “If love, skill, and professional ethics are corrupt, then we
the Sisters of Corruption.”’
‘You seem to know a lot about them.’
‘I should. I trained in their Boston Chapter House and I’m a lay member. You have to be female to be a full member, but they take men as lay brothers.’
‘You never struck me as the religious type, Sam,’ Fox said.
‘The Sisters have a rather more… egalitarian view of belief. They don’t require their lay members to believe in God; they simply require them to believe in behaving as they think God would wish. It’s another bone of contention with the more traditional religions. A relatively minor one compared to the core issue, obviously.’
‘That they’re all practising prostitutes.’
‘That would be it.’ Sam turned his attention back to Marie. ‘You’re serious about wanting to get the character right?’
‘Oh yes,’ Marie replied, nodding.
‘And do you think the producer and writer would accept some input on the character?’
‘I… Well, I think this is the first project they’ve had that they’re doing solo, so to speak. I got the impression they wanted a good vid. Commercial, obviously.’ Marie’s cheeks coloured a little. ‘There’s some nude work and a sex scene, which I’m going to need to work up to. It’s going to show in a late-night slot. But I think they’ll take input if it improves the product.’
‘All right. I’ll get you an appointment with Naomi. She’s usually happy to promote the Church and getting your character right may help.’
‘Naomi Lind?! You know Naomi Lind?’
‘I… know Naomi. She was one of my instructors in Boston before she was promoted to Sister Superior. I’ll call and see if she can fit you in.’
‘Mind if I tag along?’ Fox asked.
‘No, but why?’
‘Because she’s a client. Palladium was contracted to handle security at all their houses in April. I’ve not got anything major on until the contract negotiations for the regional private policing stuff starts in October. They’re going through the legislative consultation process now, but that’s mostly a problem for the legal department. Meeting clients is always useful and I honestly know next to nothing about the Sisters.’
Sam gave a nod. ‘A good, and professional, reason. I’ll make arrangements.’
‘The consultation process is going fairly smoothly,’ Garth Eaves said. It was his avatar, projected onto a seat at the head of the table which was not really there, that Fox was looking at: Eaves was in Chicago with the rest of the Palladium board. ‘Nothing has come up which was not expected, but it’s early days yet. We’re expecting to have to press on some of the details, but the broad features are acceptable.’
‘Wayden reacting as expected?’ Ryan Jarvis asked.
‘Seventeen proposed amendments so far. As expected, they’re trying to make it harder for local groups to create their own forces. They aren’t set up, as we are, to take advantage of that kind of arrangement. They want people to have to buy services from them, but they’ll have a hard fight to get any of these changes through, even without our opposition.’
‘They misjudged public mood?’ Fox asked.
‘They’re more interested in this as practice,’ Eaves replied. ‘It’s also precedent. They want stiffer rules for the metro areas when they become subject to the same laws.’ There were nods, some resigned, but no one said anything. ‘We’ll keep monitoring and see how things go. Any other business?’
‘Actually, yes,’ Fox said.
bring up other business,’ Jarvis said, grinning.
‘Because I don’t normally have any. I’m meeting with Naomi Lind of the Sisters of Corruption this afternoon. Anything I should bring up?’
‘Why are you meeting Naomi?’
Fox noted the immediate use of a client’s first name, but decided not to mention it. ‘Marie has a part in a vid. She’s playing a Sister and Sam, it turns out, is a lay brother and knows Ms Lind. I asked if I could tag along since I don’t know much about the organisation.’
‘The contracts are all dotted, crossed, and in action,’ Eaves said.
‘We have emergency facilities cover in place,’ Alice Vaughn added. ‘We ran a trial in May and we were all happy with how that worked out.’
‘Security is solid,’ Jarvis said. ‘It was before we took over, to be honest; we just tightened a few things here and there, and made sure we had personnel to cover them. We use all-female response personnel for that contract. It wasn’t a requirement, but we thought it appropriate and they liked the idea. You’ll probably like Naomi.’
‘She is… quite something,’ Vaughn agreed.
‘Well,’ Fox said, ‘I guess I’ll get to find out this afternoon.’
The New York Chapter House of the Church of Saint Nicholas occupied an entire block just off the LI-line as it ran south-west past Jersey City, just before it turned to cross Newark Bay and headed for the spaceport. Four storeys high, it had been housing, once upon a time, and a car park before that according to the records Fox had found. Unlike Marie, Fox knew the interior layout as well, because she had done her homework and gone over the security documentation. So, as they walked in through the wide front door of the central section into a lobby, Fox was checking the positions of the security cameras and did not immediately notice the woman striding toward them.
‘Good afternoon, Sam,’ the voice was sultry but strong, and Fox focused on its owner. The voice fit her
‘Sister Naomi,’ Sam said. ‘I’d like to introduce Marie Shaftsbury, who I called about, and Tara Meridian, the CIO of Palladium Security Solutions.’
Naomi smiled a smile full of perfect, white teeth. She was a truly beautiful woman with a hard edge, the kind of model good looks you saw on catwalks. Long,
long, legs and a slim body with long, firm muscle gained from training. There was a gym in the building, Fox knew. Fox was also pretty sure that Naomi’s beauty was substantially natural, but there had been some work. Cheekbones had been sharpened a little and there had been breast augmentation because nothing natural was that firm. The hard edge was lent added weight by cool, blue eyes with sharp, upward-tilted eyebrows and short-cropped blonde hair. She was wearing the standard uniform of the Sisters of Corruption, which was not your typical nun’s habit. There was a wimple sitting over the short hair, but not covering it or her face. Below that was a tunic, black at the back, white at the front, with an open cleavage partially covered by a cross of black fabric. The skirt was black, and came down to mid-thigh, but it was cut high over the thighs to show off her stocking tops and the suspenders holding them. The white stockings were settled into eight-inch, white pumps with two-inch platforms. Naomi was a little taller than Fox anyway, even without the heels. With them, the sight was… quite something.
‘Marie,’ Naomi said, holding out a hand. ‘I hope you don’t mind me using your first name. We tend to be informal here.’
Marie took the hand. She was looking a little dumbfounded, but she rallied. ‘No, that’s fine. It’s a pleasure to meet you.’
Still smiling, Naomi turned to Fox. ‘Despite our business relationship, I hope it’s okay to call you Tara?’
‘No, I’m afraid it’s not,’ Fox replied with just a little cool in her voice. Then she waited a beat as Sam started to look shocked and Naomi’s eyes turned puzzled, and added, ‘I’m Fox. My mother calls me Tara and, despite recent changes to her wardrobe choices, you are most definitely not her.’ Fox’s lips twitched. ‘So it’s Fox, if you don’t mind.’
The confusion was replaced by a sparkle and Naomi’s lips curled. ‘I think I’m going to like you, Fox. Let’s go up to my rooms and get comfortable. We can have the tour later.’ She turned smartly on her heel and started for the back of the lobby area. The skirt was shorter at the back, considerably so, with a pair of similarly high-cut vents showing off far more suspender and a substantial amount of ass.
‘That is one helluva outfit,’ Fox said. ‘You’re going to be wearing that, Marie?’
‘I think she can pull it off,’ Naomi said over her shoulder. ‘Good legs. We really don’t have any illusions about what we are, Fox. We have religious beliefs, but we’re prostitutes and showing off the goods is part of the job.’ She walked through double doors into a small corridor with an elevator on each side. The doors on one car were already opening.
‘Efficient,’ Fox noted.
‘Well, we did have your colleague, Alice, take a look over our systems and improve a few things. The elevator control system was one of them. All on call via our VAs. I must say it didn’t take long to get used to that.’ She smirked a little. ‘Stairs in these heels are killers’
It took seconds to reach the top and then Naomi strutted out onto another corridor, walked to the end, and opened a door into her apartment. They walked into a lounge which had the odd feature of looking both comfortable and austere. There were pictures on the walls, real ones painted by a human, but no excessive decoration. The furniture appeared comfortable, far more so than one might expect in a religious house, all in a soft, cream fabric which looked a terror to keep clean, but was spotless.
‘Can I get anything for anyone?’ Naomi asked. ‘Coffee, tea, soft drinks?’