Charlie smiled. "Me too."
Neal slipped into view, but still kept an observational distance. Before he could speak, Owen's phone started ringing. It was still in his hand, so he swiped to answer it. If Owen wanted his friends to leave him be, it was best to pretend everything was normal. "Hello?"
"Hi, this is Paul. I wanted to check on the progress about my stolen account?"
Right. The bone digger job that Owen keep forgetting about. Jobs about cash trades gone bad never paid well. Clients already felt ripped off, so they didn't want to pay extra for revenge, names, or whatever else. Owen glanced over to the random magnets on his fridge. "Oh, yeah. I have a lead. But I also have people over right now, can I call you back?"
Owen wasn't even sure how many lies that made today. Or if that even counted as a lie. His guess was the guy's character had been killed off after all the items got willed over to a new character. It was a simple matter of checking the kill list and going from there. The lie of it was this wasn't a new lead, he said he'd do it days ago. After a meaningless pleasantry, they hung up.
"Sorry, I forgot about this job. You guys can hang out if you want, but..."
Charlie wasn't buying it, but Owen not opening up lately was par for the course. They had pestered Neal to let them check in, but didn't want to push further. "Just, give us a call sometime? We could get out of the house, like old times?"
Owen walked to his desk, turning in his chair to look at them both, and tried to ignore what Charlie meant. "Yeah, the moment I get this done."
Neal had something to say this time. "We now know your phone still works, so answer us when we text you."
"I promise I will not miss another friend-going-into-labor moment."
Neal nodded, before patting Charlie on the back. "Come on, let's leave him to it then."
Owen turned back to his computer and started scrolling the kill list. He didn't fully pay attention until he heard the door close a moment later. It was nice, what they were trying to do. Owen just didn't want them to do anything in the first place. Didn't they ever just want to be left alone?
The character name he was supposed to look up was Amir-something, so it shouldn't be hard to find. Even the mention of death reminded him of the flashes of Amilia last night. It wasn't the job, but he had the urge to check back.
Just when he thought he was wasting time, his eyes skipped right to it. Amilia's name. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Since when did they include NPCs on the player death list? The single line of text listed Amilia's full name, time, location of her death, and a user name of Xinshi. That wasn't his username. If a player was listed at all, it should be his name.
"The fuck's going on here," Owen mumbled. He googled the name first, and several cities with the name popped up. Then he checked the wiki and forums. Still nothing meaningful. His fingers tapped on the keyboard trying to think how else he could check this username.
Two things were known. One, the name didn't show up on the forums or any other character listing. That made it really unlikely it was just a listing error of some other active player. Two, that name seemed Chinese. Since the languages weren't close, Owen started to play around with the different versions of the vowels. A little digging, and several websites later he found a few translations.
"No way." Owen got up, grabbed his jacket, leaving the translation on his screen as he ran downstairs. Xìnshǐ: courier, messenger.
The trip there was a blur. He hardly remembered getting in the taxi, or coming up the elevator until he was standing outside of Andreah's door. When he was just about to knock, a wave of doubt hit. Maybe this was a coincidence. Maybe this all meant nothing.
YOU ARE READING
Bone Diggers (Paperback out now!)Science Fiction
When everyone IRL lies, the only person you can trust is an NPC. Dirty little secrets can't be hidden behind player avatars, because Bone Diggers like Owen expose the lives behind the code. When his two worlds blur, he must decide which is more impo...