Hi, and welcome to the Player vs. Player blog tour! Today I’ll be sharing a scene with you between Detectives Tim Wyatt and Angela Payne, who are investigating the murders of two cosplayers following a convention.
“Pfft. The convention center staff you spoke with didn’t really have a clue what it was about.” Payne rolled her eyes. “They just book the space. Some of the security I had the uniforms interview called it a Star Trek thing. Someone else said Lord of the Rings, someone else mentioned Doctor Who. Which I guess isn’t entirely inaccurate, since there are apparently tabletop and video games within most of those franchises, but it was about video games, as well as the kind you play in person.”
“The techs gotten back to you about the video footage?”
“Dozens of cameras, three days’ worth of footage, thousands of attendees. Charity—and we’ll assume Lakshmi—were there both Friday and Saturday, according to the registration records. The facial recognition software has picked Charity out of the crowd a few times, but so far there hasn’t been anything in the shots to indicate who might have gone after her.” Payne hit the button on the key fob remote to unlock the car ahead of them. “Her costume got a lot of male attention, though.”
Tim opened the passenger door, speaking over the top of the car. “Bryan says it’s pretty commonplace for female cosplayers to receive unwelcome advances at conventions.”
“Typical.” Payne shook her head and ducked into the driver’s seat while Tim closed his door and buckled up. “Girl just wants to dress up as her idol and some dude assumes she’s putting it on display for him.”
Tim nodded, frowning out the front windshield as Payne pulled off the shoulder and into traffic along Macadam Avenue. “You know, I feel like I’m in some cop movie trying to understand crimes committed in an underworld I know nothing about.”
“That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?” Payne smirked at him. “They played video games. It’s not like we’re trying to infiltrate the mafia or crack the codes of the Masonic temple.”
“Maybe, but seriously. These girls lived in a sort of counterculture most of us aren’t even aware of, much less comprehend. Look at the way the convention staff all had no clue about what the convention was actually for. Charity’s neighbors were clueless about her hobbies. Lakshmi’s parents had no idea what she was doing when she went out the day she disappeared.”
“Young Women Keep Lives Secret From Family: news at eleven,” Payne deadpanned, and Niles flashed her a grin.
“We’re not talking about who they were dating.” He shrugged, staring blankly out the window as he let his mind spin. “Back in college, I would just tune out Niles when he started going on about the stuff he was into.”
Payne frowned. “Really? Because I think some of it sounds cool.”
“You gonna be making your own costume soon, Payne?”
“Why not? I’d rock the shit out of a Wonder Woman outfit. If there was ever a character who needs to be a sistah, it’s her.”
Tim chuckled. “I’d pay good money to see that.” He tapped this thumbs on his knees, listening to the background chatter over the police radio. “I guess I just don’t get it. People spend days on end at these conventions, hundreds of hours playing these games, billions of dollars on comics and DVDs of things the rest of us have never even heard of, and according to Bryan, small fortunes and countless hours making those costumes.”
“What’s your point?”
“They fly under the radar. Unless you’re into it, you don’t know they’re there. Or if you do, you dismiss them as being out on the fringe.” He remembered the way he’d listened with condescending amusement when Niles had talked about his computer games back in college. “Stereotypes of Trekkies and Princess Leia impersonators run through our heads, and we think their activities are a joke. But for them, it can be practically a lifestyle.”
Payne hummed in what might have been agreement. “So you’re thinking to understand who killed Charity and Lakshmi, we need to understand their world?”
“Maybe. There are no exes in the picture that we’ve found. No enemies we can pinpoint. Nothing we’ve seen so far indicates the crimes were sexual, or I would say it was just some pervert and it had nothing to do with their hobbies. But this says pattern to me, and right now that convention and those costumes are all we have to go on.”
“So, we need to talk to someone who knows that world. What about Bryan?”
“He only knows about it because he’s had roommates who are into it. He doesn’t go himself. I was thinking of Niles.”
Payne made a face. “If he was at that convention, we need to rule him out.”
“I’ll do that before I discuss any details with him. I’m just not sure he wants to talk to me.”
He couldn’t blame Niles for not calling. Asking to let bygones be bygones had been a long shot after the horrible way he had treated Niles when he’d graduated and left him behind.
“Can’t hurt to ask.” Payne flicked a glance at him out of the corner of her eye. “We got two girls who won’t be going home to their mamas. I think he can suck it up and answer a few questions.”
Tim sighed and tipped his head back against the headrest, closing his eyes. “Right. Okay.”
He pulled his phone out of his coat pocket and thumbed through his address book until he found the number he’d taken down when talking about Niles’s harassment case. The phone rang four times and seemed on the verge of going to voice mail when Niles answered, sounding a little out of breath.
“Niles, hi, it’s Tim.”
“Oh . . . Hi.” Tim’s heart sank at the hesitation in the greeting. He wasn’t sure if it was only surprise, or genuine reluctance, but it didn’t feel very welcoming. “Give me a minute,” he heard Niles murmur to someone, and then the sounds of people shouting and chanting suddenly erupted in the distant background. “Shit. So much for stepping outside for privacy. Sorry about the shouting. Fucking protesters. Anyway, what can I do for you?”
Tim forced himself not to inhale nervously in front of Payne and just plunged in. “I was wondering if we could meet up tonight. I have a case I’m working, and I need to pick your brain about something.”
“A case? And you want to ask me about it?” He heard Niles sigh on the other end of the line. “Tim, look. I appreciate the offer of dinner and the apology, but really, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“What? No. No, I swear it’s not a line. I’m not looking for an excuse to get you to go out with me. I told you to call me if and when you decided you wanted to, and I meant it.” He laughed humorlessly as Payne turned her eye to lift an eyebrow at him until the light changed to green. “I admit I was hoping you’d see your way clear to taking me up on that, but it is what it is. I get it. I wouldn’t be calling right now except I really do need some information, and Payne’s gonna kick my ass if we have to dither around looking for someone else who knows about this stuff when we’ve already got a potential resource.”
Tim could practically see the frown of concentration on Niles’s face as he carefully weighed his options, and waited silently rather than push for a reply. “Okay,” Niles finally said. “But, um, does it have to be tonight? I have plans.”
Tim bit his tongue before he let himself wonder aloud if those plans involved another guy. “I suppose I can wait until tomorrow morning. I can come to you, or we can meet somewhere.”
“Sure. No, wait. Damn it. I have meetings with the writing and visual design staff all day tomorrow, and then I’m taking an evening flight to San Francisco for a convention. I won’t be back until Monday.” He growled softly. “Um. Shit. I’ll be landing too late to do it tomorrow, and I have panels and Q&A during the day on Friday, but maybe we can schedule a Skype conference for Friday or Saturday night? I’m supposed to be at dinners or receptions both nights, but I can probably slip away early.”
Tim drew a deep breath. “Look, Niles, that’s not going to work. I can do tomorrow morning, if I must, but I’ve got two bodies in the morgue, and I’m not willing to wait for your schedule to clear up before I can start getting answers as to why.”
“Two bodies?” Niles’s voice changed pitch, and Tim could all too easily envision his pinched, horrified look.
“Yeah. It’s a homicide case. And I’m sorry if that disrupts your plans, but I’m really going to need to ask you to make meeting with me a priority right now.”
“Oh God.” He heard Niles sigh, an unsteady sound, as though he were shuddering. Was it reluctance to deal with Tim or the knowledge that Tim was talking about a murder case that had him shaken? “Okay, Tim, can I call you back in just a moment? I need to speak to someone.”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll have my phone on me. Talk to you in a few.”
“Okay.” Niles hung up before Tim could reply.
Payne glanced over at him again, a question in her eyes, and he forced a smile before she decided to get nosy. “He’s busy, but he’s going to clear some time from his schedule.”
“Did I say anything?”
“No, but you had that look.”
“Okay, then. This is me, not looking. Maybe we can find out if the A/V techs need help going through all that convention footage until you hear back from him. We need to interview Lakshmi’s family again too, which is going to suck, but I want to see if they have a computer or phone she used. If we can’t find Charity’s, maybe hers will fill in the gaps about their online activities.”
Tim scoffed. “Sounds like the ninth circle of Hell. Which just about suits my mood. Let’s do it.”
Title: Player vs. Player by Amelia C. Gormley
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, M/M, Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Length: 282 pages/Word Count: 74,600
Pushing for change can be dangerous when change starts pushing back.
Video game writer Niles River loves the work he does at Third Wave Studios: creating games with mass appeal that feature women, people of color, and LGBTQ characters. To make his job even better, his best friend is his boss, and his twin brother works beside him. And they mostly agree that being on the forefront of social change is worth dealing with trollish vitriol—Niles is more worried about his clingy ex and their closeted intern’s crush on his brother than he is about internet harassment.
But now the bodies on the ground are no longer virtual, and someone’s started hand-delivering threats to Niles’s door. The vendetta against Third Wave has escalated, and to make matters worse, the investigating detective is an old flame who left Niles heartbroken for a life in the closet.
No change happens without pain, but can Niles justify continuing on with Third Wave when the cost is the blood of others? If he does, the last scene he writes may be his own death.
Purchase Link: Riptide Publsihing
Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.
Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse (Inertia, Book One; Acceleration, Book Two; and Velocity, Book Three) can be found at most major online book retailers, and be sure to check Riptide for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, the The Professor’s Rule series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau), the post-apocalyptic romance, Strain, her New Adult contemporary, Saugatuck Summer, and of course, Player vs. Player, available now. She is presently at work on two more novels set in the Strain universe, Juggernaut and Bane, coming summer/fall of 2015.
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of one a book from my backlist (excluding Player vs Player.) Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 13th. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
Follow the rest of the tour HERE.