Bitter 198

Britta had to wait for about ten minutes before the guard came back. He had another guard with him, even better dressed. Britta recognised him.

“Captain Jerrod,” she said. “Nice to see you again.” He had been one of the guards to confront her after she killed Freddy that one time.

Captain Jerrod looked a bit confused. “Have we met?”

“Yes. In passing. Can I see Stan, now?”

Captain Jerrod had a scroll of parchment which he unrolled. “According to the information Mr Cameo gave us, he isn’t married.”

“Yes,” said Britta. “He’s ashamed of me.” She gave a little sniffle, the wronged wife. “He says I let myself go after our third child. It’s not easy giving birth, you know? The pain, the screaming.” She let out a grunt, as though the next child was on the way.

Captain Jerrod shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. He looked at the other guard who pulled a face, indicating he wasn’t very comfortable, either.

“Well, I suppose we can ask him. It is nearly visiting time.”

It turned out the prisoners, of which there were a lot, had regular visitation times. All the people sitting behind Britta were here to see their incarcerated loved ones. Britta was taken to a courtyard along with everyone else, and the prisoners filed out of a door on the opposite side, hands and feet chained.

They sat down at wooden tables, similar to what you might find in the picnic area of a park. Prisoners and visitors squeezed onto the benches and kissed and hugged. Britta didn’t know what crimes these men were accused of, but it didn’t seem very smart to let them all mingle like this. Kids ran around screaming and shouting while the guards stood around the perimeter.

Stan waved at her as he came out, not looking particularly worried. They sat down at the end of a table mostly taken up by a bald man with scars all over his face and his family of six children who all seemed to be about the same age.

“I was a bit confused when they told me my wife was here,” said Stan.

“They weren’t going to let me see you. I had to think of something, and I’m not sure they’d believe I was your lawyer. They probably haven’t been invented yet.”

“Well, it’s very nice of you to offer. I had no idea you felt that way about me.”

Britta didn’t say anything, it would only encourage him. “Doesn’t seem so bad in here. I didn’t think they’d have family day in a medieval prison.”

“It’s not really medieval, but it’s still pretty grim. I don’t fancy being stuck in here for the next twenty years.”

“You still can’t log out?”

“Nope. Doesn’t give me the option. Can’t contact any mods, either.”

“Could be a bug,” said Britta. “I was able to log out like normal. I can contact Dr Reedy, if you want. Actually, they should be watching us, anyway.”

Stan shrugged. “I guess they’re waiting to see what we do.”

“What happened?” asked Britta. “I mean with Freddy. How did he die?”

Stan rested his arms on the table and leaned towards her. “We went to see the mayor, like you wanted. I thought we’d just get an appointment for later, which was fine, right? I wanted to see how Freddy would interact with me when you weren’t around.”

“And how did he?”

“Same. Whatever juju you put on him, it seemed to have stuck. He was acting very odd, the way he does when you’re there.”

“So you went to the Town Hall?”

“Yes. We asked for an appointment, but then the door opened and the mayor himself was standing there, saying he could give us a few minutes. I was caught off guard a bit. I told the secretary I wanted the meeting to discuss opening a new mine on the other side of the mountain to the kobolds. I figured, if the mayor was involved with the dwarves and the kobolds and the mine, he’d at least be interested in what I had planned. Of course, I didn’t actually have anything planned. Thought I’d have time to come up with something.”

Britta nodded. It seemed like a fairly plausible reason to want an appointment. “Do you think the mayor overheard you?”

“I would have thought he’d be too busy doing mayoral stuff, but maybe.” Stan looked over at the kids climbing all over the bald hardcase at the other end of the table. The man scowled at Stan, who smiled and winked at him. “Good thing this isn’t a real prison,” he said to Britta from the side of his mouth. “I’d probably be someone’s prison wife by now.”

“Can you get to how Freddy died, and why they think you did it?”

Stan returned his attention to Britta. “We went into the mayor’s office—very nice, big fireplace, paintings on the wall—and I started rambling, because I had no idea what else to do. And I could see Freddy getting worked up in the corner of my eye. I was just getting into my spiel on starting my own mining operation for unobtainium, a new mineral I’d discovered, when Freddy stands up and accuses the mayor of killing his uncle.”

“Oh, no,” said Britta. She could picture the scene quite easily. Freddy was the type to do something that stupid.

“The mayor was a bit surprised, but he was quite diplomatic about it, very calm. But Freddy wouldn’t let it go, kept saying he had proof and he was going to expose him. The mayor was still very chill about the whole thing, smiling a lot. But then Freddy lunged at him.”

“Why?”

Stan shrugged. “You think he needed a reason? He just went for him. And the mayor almost seemed like he was expecting it. He stood up and walked towards the lunge, picked up Freddy like he was a doll, and threw him out of the window.”

“The mayor did it? But how—”

Stan raised a hand to indicate he hadn’t finished. “A couple of seconds later, the guards and everyone else came running in, which is when the mayor pointed at me and told them I did it. They weren’t going to take my word against his, were they?”

The mayor pinning the blame on Stan was no great surprise. If he was a crooked politician with things to hide, he would do whatever it took to keep his secrets. But it didn’t explain why Stan was unable to exit the game. There was something else going on here. Something to do with the game itself.

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