“Spencer’s recent addition to the Cartwright PI Series is loaded with unexpected twists and turns and edge of your seat suspense. It’ll keep you guessing to its thrilling finale.”
In his most recent case, Cartwright’s called in to identify a teenager charged with the grisly murder of her grandfather. All the evidence points to her guilt but Cartwright believes that she’s innocent and sets out to prove it.
Cartwright also realizes it’s not a straightforward case of murder. Dark and sinister forces are at work looking to take control of a bio-engineered formula that has the potential to redefine the genetic makeup and future of humanity.
Part 01: YIN 阴
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings
Paul Laurence Dunbar
IT WAS THREE IN THE MORNING when he was rudely awakened by the thunderclap of a distant storm. He decided to get up, knowing there was no way he’d be able to get back to sleep. He maneuvered himself onto the edge of his bed, his feet suspended, not quite reaching the parquet floor below. He was drenched in sweat, uncertain if it was due to the medication or the unbearable heat being generated by an unusual weather pattern.
Through his bedroom window, he noticed that the night sky had turned a crimson red. The moon, punctured by hues of cerulean blue, hung precariously over the withering willow trees that lined the riverbank, located several hundred yards away.
He remembered how a few years back, scientists had warned that the atmosphere would begin displaying erratic behavior — an inevitable result of climate change due mainly to human greed and ignorance. Of course, he, like many others, hadn’t believed this possible, but there it was, nature’s proof, pushing back at him through the open window. Giving up a long anguished sigh, he got up to close the window. In the distance, he could hear a nightingale singing a mournful serenade, a warning perhaps of the impending storm.
He made his way to a white lacquered dresser stationed against the wall, opposite his bed. Opening the top drawer, he began looking for something. A few minutes later, his search was successful. He extracted a small paper object. Returning to his bed, he unfolded the paper as he’d done on numerous other occasions. It was still the same as before — blank.
He recalled earlier that day something had been different about the paper. But he couldn’t remember what. He brought it close to his face, hoping to divine its secrets — nothing. Frustrated, he shifted his gaze to the approaching storm outside the window. Bolts of white light were now piercing the blood red sky, interspersed with the roar of thunder. A torrential rainfall had followed, slapping the window with brute force, demanding its entrance.
He looked back down at the small square piece of paper but couldn’t recall why or how it had gotten into his hand. Noticing the folds etched onto it, he decided to follow suit, first refolding the paper in half. Then in quarters. He continued folding it over on to itself until it had become impossible to add any more folds. He now began to flip it from palm to palm, as though testing its weight. Finally, he allowed it to come to rest in his right hand. He then clenched his hand, making a fist, causing the folded piece of paper to disappear within. He continued squeezing with such intensity that his knuckles began to turn a ghostly white. Perhaps he feared that the object would somehow escape his grasp, or worse, be stolen.
At some point, he must have felt that it was safe to release his grip — to allow the object to rest once again, unguarded, in his open palm. Tears had begun forming along the edges of his hazel eyes. He had an epiphany. He realized that this folded piece of paper represented the sum of his own life — his dreams, his desires and his beliefs.
He also knew he hadn’t much time left. To him, living was at best, an irrational and compulsive folding in of one’s time, of one’s space, of one’s experiences. He had played many roles within the time and space he was allotted — those spaces which he’d occupied for the past eighty years. But like the folded piece of paper, which now lay inert in his palm, having reached the end of its folds, so too he, had reached his. All that remained now was the unfolding.
I GOT A CALL THAT MORNING from Lieutenant William Ant from the homicide division of the 3rd Precinct. I was at my office catching up on some paperwork, which for me, amounted to playing the saxophone without the reed. The IRS had decided that I should be audited for reasons I suspect were not altogether kosher. My last case had got a few bureaucrats upset, so I figured they had called in some markers.
“What gives, Ant?” I fired out into the phone’s receiver.
“I’ve got something for you.”
“Is it my birthday? I thought it wasn’t for another two months?”
“Funny guy. Not sure if you’ll see it as a gift once you hear all the details.”
“We’ve got a girl here charged with the murder of her grandfather. The thing is, she’s not saying a word.”
“Yeah. So, what’s that got to do with me?
“Well, we found one of your business cards in her pocket.”
“That’s weird. Haven’t printed any of those for over a decade. Doing my bit for the environment.”
“I’ll bet,” said Ant, “more likely you didn’t want to spring for new ones.”
“Now you know why. They have a habit of ending up in the strangest places. So, what’s her name?”
“Alice Carmichael. Ring any bells?”
“Well, she keeps saying that she’ll only talk to you. So we need you to come down.”
“What about the details of the murder?”
“That’s where it gets even stranger. But I’d rather fill you in at the precinct.”
“Wow. And here I was thinking I’d be spending a quiet, relaxing morning, working on my taxes. But if duty calls, damn the taxman. See you in ten.”