Formerly "From Sloth to Sleuth: The Chatbox Shamus." Set in 1984, the story follows Bastion Crowley, an out-of-work 26-year-old high school graduate who decides he wants to be a detective, and advertises himself on a college bulletin board system through an old Tandy.
- A Mask and a Mood Swing - We meet Marcus Tosh, who is contributing to a local museum and planning to open an exhibit on Victorian oddities when one of his artifacts, a brass domino mask, turns up missing. Tosh himself comes under suspicion when Bastion finds that another museum claims that it is missing pieces as well, and the description for one of the "student art" exhibits matches that of Tosh's artifact. The artifact winds up being Tosh's senior art project from college that he has lifted, and he is promptly turned in for it. Bastion, meanwhile, is cited for investigating without a license.
- The Performer's Path - When a local playwright drafts a script for a stage play about the life of Great War spy, Mata Hari, former 1970s "actress" Myrna Maxwell jumps on her chance to get into stage acting, until she disappears on the day she promises to meet her daughter, Lilly, for her birthday celebration. Lilly comes to the Pacific Daily to put out an ad seeking information about her mother's disappearance, but Ruby instead refers her to Bastion, who has obtained his investigator's license in the time between cases.
- Stress and Separation - An over-stressed, domestically violent father of three is found shot dead in his bedroom, and his wife is the prime suspect. Their eldest son, Chris, doesn't think his mother did it, and hires Bastion to figure out what really happened. Meanwhile, Bastion has overstepped his bounds with Ruby and gotten her in trouble with her boss, resulting in a nasty falling-out between the two, that they are forced to eventually put aside when Mrs. Davenport's initial court hearing does not go well.
- From A Different Perspective - Despite being highly annoyed with him over the events of the last case, Ruby has to put aside her grudges, as Bastion's latest case has gotten him thrown in a police holding cell. This case is from Ruby's point of view.
- For the Good of the Clan - An elderly Japanese-American businessman named Hasegawa, who owns a significant number of businesses in the Pacific Southeast, suddenly falls ill and dies. A police lieutenant who conducted stings out of the Mountain Kittens bar (one business owned by the Hasegawa Group) was on vacation the whole time, and had not submitted his itinerary. This looks bad for said lieutenant, as well as the police department itself. An Internal Affairs man contacts Bastion to figure out the truth behind Hasegawa's death, and how every single officer of the Hasegawa Group may have contributed to it.
- Bastion Crowley - The main character, Bastion hasn't gone much of anywhere except living in a small apartment just to get away from his overbearing mother and irritating sisters. He has a fascination with old detective novels and loves the Continental Op, but despite his income being almost entirely from odd jobs, he somehow has access to a computer and knows how to access the bulletin board at Pacific Southeast Community College.
- Ruby Travaglia - Bastion's best friend, whom he hasn't seen since high school. She's almost as quick to anger as she is quick with her wits, and while she's a schmoozer at heart, she hasn't got much patience for the tech side of things. She graduated from college with a law degree, but instead got a job as the editor of the police blotter column for the local newspaper.
- Richard Crowley (deceased), Bastion's biological father.
- Julia Marshall-Crowley (née Raleigh), Bastion's quickly-remarried mother.
- Steven Marshall, Bastion's stepfather.
- Tamsin Crowley, Bastion's older sister.
- Tera Crowley, Bastion's younger sister.
Pacific Daily News
- Albert Cervantes - Writes the obituary column for the paper and constantly antagonizes Ruby during office hours, foisting his work on her so he can slack off all day. Serious slimeball, but nothing in his history to get him fired, let alone arrested. Ruby eventually "hires" Bastion to hang out at her desk as a "witness" to the things he does.
- Editor in Chief - Despite having mountains of evidence (thanks to Bastion) of Albert's wrongdoings against Ruby, refuses to fire Albert, but is also willing to give Ruby paid vacation time by way of compensation.
Pacific Southeast Criminal Justice System
- Officers Mitch and Carl, comic relief, constantly embroiled in Abbott & Costello-esque arguments in the lobby of the police department.
- Detective Greg Standish, PSEPD Missing Persons department.
- Detective Indira Haseem, PSEPD Homicide department.
- Detective Lt. Ryan Scholls, PSEPD Vice department.
- Dr. Felix Maximov, medical examiner.
- Johnny Yang, crime lab tech.
- County Court Judge
- District Attorney Nigel Norton
- Rick the cab driver - Former friend/acquaintance/lover of Ruby's; she won't talk about how she used to know him, but keeps calling him when Bastion needs a quick ride somewhere. He dispenses advice during longer trips.
- Annie Yoshida - Annie works at the "Mountain Kittens" Japanese bar and dance club, and acts as an "ear to the street" in later cases. Bastion has sort of a puppy-love thing going with her, until he realizes the reason why she works there: she's the daughter of the club's owner.
- Arthur Westmacott - Bastion's understanding landlord, who only asks for his back-rent when he knows Bastion actually has money to pay for it. There is a rumor that he once worked for the police.
- Irma - The owner of Irma's, a 24-hour inner-city diner where Ruby has her late-night dinners. She is obsessed with conspiracy theories (she founded the diner the very week of the Roswell crash - coincidence?) and loves to talk to her customers about them. She also has a long list of contacts in various industries that wind up being useful in some way or another.
- Marcus Tosh - The client of Case 1, a 30-something that does a pretty awful job of selling Bastion on his first case.
- Viola - The perpetually bored receptionist of the Pacific Southeastern Museum of History.
- Lilly Maxwell - The client of Case 2, a distressed high school freshman who keeps mainly to herself unless provoked.
- Myrna Maxwell - The disappeared of Case 2, former porn actress who wants to get into stage acting, now that she has a daughter to look after.
- Marty Pulaski - College soccer player and one of Myrna's two "door guards."
- Timothy Haacke - College chess club captain and the other of Myrna's "door guards."
- Malcolm Tanner - The main suspect of Case 2, a high school gym teacher who was once a big fan of Myrna's until she moved to get away from him.
- Chris Davenport - The client of Case 3, oldest of the Davenport children, a 19-year-old high school senior who seriously doubts his mother even knows how to use a shotgun.
- James Davenport - Late father of the Davenport family. Abusive, argumentative, arguably suicidal.
- Martha Davenport - Mother of the Davenport family, a busy homemaker who is in a constant state of stress over managing the family while her husband is at work. Suspected of murdering James Davenport.
- Brooke Davenport - Middle child of the Davenport family, a grim and pessimistic middle-school girl who shows no sadness over losing her father.
- Elmo Davenport - Youngest of the Davenport children, a perky kindergartner that has not been told a thing of what happened to his father.
- Seigel, James' boss at Mechtronic Systems.
- Dr. Jakob Markussen, the family therapist that took on the Davenports' case following a court order.
- Ryuhei Hasegawa - Chairman of the Hasegawa Clan and president of Hasegawa Holdings Group, and the victim of Case 5.
- Hasegawa Holdings, in turn, owns almost a hundred small businesses throughout the Pacific Southeast, as well as the Pacific Court Mall.
- Yukino Wakai, Hasegawa's advisor.
- Wakai is the "tactician" of the Hasegawa Clan, doing what he can to influence decisions made by the clan patriarchs.
- Dan Kobe, accountant.
- Dan pretty much just handles the money. His allegiance is solely to Hasegawa, and he does not bend to the patriarchs.
- Thomas Kitamura, Hasegawa's family lawyer.
- Kitamura is not only a capable lawyer, but is also owed several favors by various members of the PSE judicial system. Met Ruby exactly once; it was by his recommendation that she not be issued her license to practice law, despite passing the bar exam.
- Jimmy Kitamura, owner of Pacific Daily News and Hasegawa's chief of public relations.
- Jimmy's ownership of the Daily News is strictly outside the umbrella of Hasegawa Holdings and was financed with his own money. He uses this as a two-way leverage between the Clan and the PSEPD - the Clan could easily take down the PSEPD by publicizing police usage of Mountain Kittens for stings, but the PSEPD could just as easily take down the Clan if Jimmy turns state's evidence. He holds the bargaining chips that prevent both sides from eliminating each other.
- Toshi Sakamoto, owner of a small chain of bakery stores.
- Nobody would expect a baker to be the one responsible for Hasegawa's death.
- Sammy Kay, formerly Samano Kasugano before a name change, owner of Kay Autos.
- In some legal trouble not only over his name change (not handled legally) but also over his used cars being found with drugs packed inside door panels.
- Keiji Yoshida, owner of Iriomote/Mountain Cat bar/Mountain Kittens exotic dance club.
- He makes no bones about being bitter that he's been saddled with a failing bar.
- Gou Sato, bouncer at Mountain Kittens.
- A close friend of Yoshida's, but he's really acting under Sakamoto's orders.