Two weeks earlier:
“If I kill him, would it be considered justifiable homicide?” Matilda tried to keep her tone light. She unclenched her fists and put her hands in her lap so she wouldn’t be tempted to break anything on her lawyer’s desk. Not that she could if she wanted to, since she wasn’t physically present in the room.
“I’m not a criminal attorney but I’m guessing…. no.” Raine Showers Addison-Williams the Fifth had dark circles under her eyes and her lipstick was starting to wear off. Strands of her hair escaped from her bun. Even her fingernails had been bitten down to the quick. The attorney, just like Matilda herself, only existed virtually, so her appearance was an affectation. A visual indication to show how hard she’d been working on Matilda’s behalf. The attorney, just like Matilda herself, only existed virtually. Matilda didn’t know how Raine died. It wasn’t polite to ask.
Matilda died in a freak accident while training for a mixed martial arts tournament. Raine had been able to get her a very substantial settlement, far and beyond the standard life insurance payout. Matilda has planned to use the money to get a new body, and, while she was re-training to be fit for competition again, to start her family. Everything was in place. She’d put down a deposit at Arms, Legs, and Body Works, found the perfect house, hired a coach…
She looked up, over Raine’s shoulder, at the picture window that took up most of the back wall. Through it, Matilda could see the village green of the small Connecticut town where her lawyer’s office was located. The physical office was a ridiculous and unnecessary luxury, just like the flesh-and-blood receptionist in the welcome area and the dust-covered legal tomes on the shelves to the right.
“We still have options,” Raine said. “Just because the judge denied your discovery request doesn’t mean your money is permanently lost.” She tapped on the paper work in front of her. “Take a look.” She pushed one of the binders forward. Matilda tried to see the difference between the virtual document and the rest of the papers on the desk. Were they all virtual? They looked just a bit too crisp and fresh to be real.
She tried to focus on the content of the document itself, ignoring the sinking feeling in her stomach. The phrase “fishing expedition” jumped out at her.
“The money isn’t in any of the jerk’s accounts,” said Matilda. She glanced up at the screen to her left, which was filled with headshots of all of Roland’s relatives, friends, and acquaintances. “One of those people must be hiding it for him. How is that a phishing expedition?”
“Because there are close to 200 people you’ve identified so far,” said Raine. “Most of them are innocent. Maybe all of them. You’ll need to get more specific.”
“Why don’t we just pick someone at random?” She lifted a hand. “How about that guy? I never liked the look of him. He always acted shifty whenever I saw him.”
“I’d rather have something more specific to go on than a gut feeling,” said Raine. “And even if the court does allow it, if the we aren’t able to find what they need, they won’t give us a second chance with someone else. We need something concrete. Something specific.”
Matilda leaned back. “It sounds hopeless.”
“No, it’s not,” said Raine. “It will just take time. Someone might have a falling out with Roland and be willing to testify. Roland himself might make a mistake. He might get a job, and we can garnish his wages. Just be patient. Go do something to take your mind off things.”
“I wish I could just take Roland by the neck and shake it out of him,” said Matilda.
“Don’t even say that. If there’s even an inkling that you’re considering violence, Roland will slap a restraining order on you. You’re lucky he’s not corporeal, or I’d have to report you.”
Matilda had met Roland in a bereavement support group. She’d gone for exactly one session. Listening to a bunch of people whine about how sad they were about losing their physical bodies wasn’t her cup of tea. And, unlike the rest of them, she had plans. So many plans…
“Maybe I’ll go play a game.” She stood up. “What about if I meet Roland in a game? Can I kill him there?”
“If the game rules allow,” said Raine.
“What if he tells me where the money is while I’m dangling him out a tower window?” Matilda sighed. Roland wouldn’t give up money just to avoid being killed in a game. Still, it would be fun to watch him splatter on the rocks.
“If you can trick him into telling you, try to get as many specific details as you can,” said Raine. “Not that I’m encouraging violence. But it’s a game. No court will punish you for it. Just don’t use any racial slurs or other hate speech.”
“I can still tell him I hate him, though?”
“That kind of hate speech is allowed.”
“Thank God for small favors.” Matilda stood up. “I appreciate your help with all this.”
“The receptionist will have the bill,” said Raine. “Do you want me to go ahead with hiring a different forensic investigations firm? They might find something our first team missed.”
“No,” said Matilda. “I think I’m going to have to be watching my pennies for the foreseeable future.” She brightened up. “But World of Battle has a competition coming up next week. If I get the dragon hoard, I can throw some money at the detectives, and maybe kill Roland a few times along the way for the fun of it.”