Illusion Town

By: Jayne Castle

Chapter 1





TO: E. Coppersmith

SUBJECT: It’s late

FROM: Finder


You’re up late again. More problems with the Ghost City project?


Sincerely,

Finder



TO: Finder

SUBJECT: It’s very late

FROM: E. Coppersmith


The Ghost City project is presenting the usual challenges, most of which fall into one of the following two categories: SNAFU and FUBAR. (Sorry for using technical terms.) And it looks like I’m not the only one who is up late. It’s one o’clock in the morning. Am I interrupting anything?


Sincerely,

E. Coppersmith



TO: E. Coppersmith

SUBJECT: Nope

FROM: Finder


You’re not interrupting anything. A dream woke me up. I decided to do some work online. What’s your excuse?


Sincerely,

Finder



TO: Finder

SUBJECT: Your dreams

FROM: E. Coppersmith


Working here, too. I’d like to talk to you about your dreams. And I’d like to do that in person. Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night?


Sincerely,

E. Coppersmith



TO: E. Coppersmith

SUBJECT: Dinner

FROM: Finder


Thank you for the invitation to dinner. It is a very nice gesture but entirely unnecessary. I am glad that I was able to find your heirloom ring. You paid my fees. You don’t owe me anything else. Really.


Sincerely,

Finder



TO: Finder

SUBJECT: It’s not about the ring

FROM: E. Coppersmith


I’m an engineer. I do not make very nice but entirely unnecessary gestures. I am no longer a client. This is personal. I would like to take you to dinner.


Sincerely, but not nicely,

E. Coppersmith



TO: E. Coppersmith

SUBJECT: Bad dates

FROM: Finder


I have found that dates with clients generally don’t end well. Sooner or later it turns out that the client wants an off-the-books favor.


Cautiously,

Finder



TO: Finder

SUBJECT: What the hell?

FROM: E. Coppersmith


This isn’t about the damn ring. I told you, I’m no longer a client. Off-the-books?


Curiously,

E. Coppersmith



TO: E. Coppersmith

SUBJECT: Bad dates

FROM: Finder


Off-the-books, as in finding antiquities on the black market or missing-persons work. I never do the former and I try really, really hard to avoid the latter. Never ends well. Like dating clients.


Clarifying,

Finder



TO: Finder

SUBJECT: Just dinner

FROM: E. Coppersmith


I do my own black-market searches, and no one I know has gone missing. I just want to take you out to dinner tomorrow night.


Sincerely not a client,

E. Coppersmith



TO: E. Coppersmith

SUBJECT: Just dinner

FROM: Finder


Thank you. I would like to have dinner with you. My address is 15 Midnight Lane, Dark Zone, Illusion Town. I live in an apartment above my shop, Visions. Finding a specific address in this zone can be tricky. GPS and the mapping programs don’t work well. I can meet you at the restaurant, if that would be easier.


Sincerely,

Hannah



TO: Finder

SUBJECT: I’ll find you

FROM: E. Coppersmith


I’m an engineer. I’ll figure it out.


Good night,

Elias

The Coppersmith Mining headquarters of the Ghost City project was located several miles outside Illusion Town. The narrow two-lane highway cut through empty desert for the entire distance. Roadside signs promising flashy casinos, high-payout slot machines, and sexy shows appeared every couple of miles.

At the posted speed limit the drive took about forty minutes. A man behind the wheel of a Cadence could cover the distance in half an hour. A man driving a Cadence who was looking forward to an evening with an intriguing woman could do it in twenty-five minutes.

Elias Coppersmith was driving a hot, enhanced Cadence and he was making very, very good time because he was looking forward to meeting Hannah West in person.

For the first few weeks of their online connection he had known her only as the Finder. She specialized in locating missing, lost, or stolen antiquities in the murky underground world where secretive collectors bought and sold powerful relics and crystals. She dealt in hot crystals and he was a crystal engineer. He figured they had a few things in common.

When he contacted her two months ago, he hadn’t expected much. She was just one in a long line of experts he had consulted. But she had located the long-lost Coppersmith family heirloom within days. He had known then that she possessed some very powerful psychic abilities. It hadn’t taken him long to figure out that she was a dreamlight talent.

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