Bitter 188

“Well, I’ll tell you what I can,” said Aunt Ginnie. She was quite flustered by the news of her husband’s murder. “I really have to sit down.” She flopped onto a chaise longue and put a hand to her forehead, almost touching it but not quite.

The butler came in with a tray. There was a single, tall glass on it which he presented to his mistress. She took it and sipped the concoction which was green and bubbling.

“Oh, that’s better. This is a restorative my doctor prescribes for my nerves.” She took another sip which turned into a steady gulp until the glass was empty. It really did seem to restore her. Her eyes were wide open and looking at Stan with renewed interest. “Please, sit down.” She patted the space next to her.

Stan made an attempt to claim the chair opposite, but Britta beat him to it, giving him a shove so he landed next to the predatory aunt.

She leaned towards him. “First, you have to tell me what makes you think my husband’s dead.”

Stan leaned away. “Well, you see, it’s rather delicate. I wouldn’t want to upset you.”

“Upset me? No, no, don’t worry about that. This is the best news I’ve had in a long time. I want to know everything.” She was leaning even more now and Stan had nowhere to go. They were both practically horizontal.

Stan looked over at Britta, his eyes pleading for her to intervene.

“There’s a body,” said Britta. “In the mines.”

Aunt Ginnie straightened up and turned her attention on Britta, although not so intensely. Stan took the opportunity to move further down the chaise, but Aunt Ginnie’s hand shot out and grabbed his knee. From the wince on Stan’s face, it was a firm grip.

“A body? And you think it’s my Roman? How can you be sure? It’s been many years.” She turned to look into Stan’s eyes. “Many lonely years.”

“The body’s remarkably well-preserved,” said Britta, which was undeniably true. “That painting on the wall, if that’s an accurate likeness, it’s definitely him.”

“My poor Roman. I remember how much he complained when he had to sit for it. Hated every moment.” She smiled wistfully and for a minute Britta could believe the high-strung lech truly had feelings for her dwarf husband.

“Freddy, I mean, Alfredo, told us the d… Roman was the one who sold the mines to the kobolds.”

“No, that isn’t quite right,” said Ginnie. “The dwarf way of life doesn’t involve personal property, they own everything together, financially speaking. It was a joint decision. That’s what all those gossips and troublemakers didn’t understand. He couldn’t sell the mine to anyone without his people’s permission.”

“And he convinced them?” asked Stan.

“He did. He had a silver tongue, that one.” She winked at Stan and then flicked her tongue at him.

“And you said he had lots of enemies?” asked Britta, trying to get some more answers before Ginnie launched herself at Stan.

“That’s right. People didn’t want kobolds moving into the area, which is understandable, I suppose. You know what they’re like.” She pulled a handkerchief out of her cleavage. She waved it about in front of her face.

Britta wasn’t sure what the issue with kobolds was. It could have been any number of things, from having monsters howling at the moon at all hours of the night to falling house prices.

“He wanted to sell the mine to the kobolds?” asked Britta.

“No, not at first, but Gabby convinced him it was a good idea.”


“Yes, my brother, Gabriel. Alfredo’s father.” She sighed deeply. “We had such wonderful times back then. Laughing and dancing and falling in love. You should have seen the wedding. It was spectacular. Gabby spared no expense for his baby sister.” She turned to Stan, whose knee was still locked in her fist. “I’m a lot younger than him, you see.”

Stan nodded through the grimace.

“And I don’t suppose the mayor was involved in any of this.”

Ginnie let go of Stan’s knee, much to his relief.

“So, you heard about that.” Her mood was more serious, now. “It was never going to last. Him a married man, me a very, very young ingenue. Sometimes a budding youngster needs the firm hand of an experienced, older person.” She began stroking Stan’s thigh, much to his horror. “But it’s only a temporary thing. Something everyone needs to round them out as a person. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences.”

Britta had not, nor did she wish to. “So you two were an item, before Roman?”

“Yes, I suppose you could call it that. A fling, a momentary indiscretion. He said he’d leave his wife for me, but they always say that, don’t they?”

Britta felt obliged to agree. “Always.”

“Aunt Ginnie,” said Freddy, standing up suddenly. “We will find Uncle Roman’s killers, and avenge him.”

“How lovely,” said Aunt Ginnie. “Bring me their heads and I will give you a reward worthy of your actions.” She said this to Stan and only Stan.

“No rewards necessary,” said Stan, standing up to speak, and also to get out of Ginnie’s range. “We’re here to see that justice is done.”

It wasn’t normal for players to turn down rewards in an RPG—that was usually the main point of playing—but in this case, Britta could see why Stan preferred to go pro bono. In fact, she’d never seen someone so keen to work for free.

Subscribe to this content and receive updates directly in your inbox.