Title: Freetown: The Life and Death of Cassidy Parrish
Author: J. T. Riggen
Genre: Thriller / Short Story
This short story introduces readers to the world of Freetown, a corrupt mega-city run by a group of tribal leaders and Italian Mafia. In Freetown, wolves rule and the sheep are left to suffer, unless they disguise themselves as wolves and fight back.
Cassidy Parrish was born into this city and all its complications, but she’s been trying to escape her whole life. Each variation of herself, from legally-permitted prostitute to well-bred, successful businesswoman, is designed to further that goal, to make enough money to where she can finally get out.
But Cassidy Parrish is a woman of many names. Working with a man she only knows as Lucas, she slips in and out of the system, fooling people and making money, and enemies, at every turn. She doesn’t enjoy it, but she does it to take care of her son, Jacob. She wants to get him away from the poverty, the drugs, and the life on the run and finally be able to take care of him like she’s always wanted to.
So when Lucas promises that the latest project will be their last, she’s eager to finish it, collect her money, and get out. Even if it involves blackmailing the mayor’s lover with pictures that show her in a compromising light—and romantically involved with a powerful native leader, a man whose harsh policies are the reason Cassidy is missing one of her fingers.
But the blackmail attempt doesn’t go quite as planned, and soon, Cassidy is racing back to her apartment, eager to outstrip the security-guard-cops and reach her son before it’s too late.
This story is definitely grim and gritty at times, as it examines the corrupt and vicious side of Freetown. There are no “nice” people in this world, only victims and victimizers, and Cassidy’s eagerness to get away fits based on how unpleasant even the nicest of people can be. The laws are strict, the punishment stricter, and there seems to be no room in Freetown for second chances or mercy.
There were some moments where the plot didn’t quite make sense, where the complex web seemed a little too thick with favors and payoffs to truly be believable, but Cassidy shows, time and again, that she’s not a woman to be underestimated. She’s flawed but strong, inexperienced yet determined, and she drives the plot as she navigates all the complications and dangers that come with trying to start a new life.
The narration could use greater depth and richness, though. For a story meant to introduce readers to a particular world, the city just didn’t seem that real. It comes off feeling like many other cities, without the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that surely make Freetown unique.
The story is rich with intrigue, backstabbing, and secrets, and one never knows what the next page will bring. Readers who like danger, action, and plenty of uncertainty will enjoy this short-but-complete tale of one woman determined to take care of her son, no matter what it costs.
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