Round 2 Mafia Hit - Rumor Has It

“You heard Dimak. He killed himself. Had a few screws loose, is my guess.”

“No, I don’t buy that. What happened with Pinual…no, I don’t accept…”

“It’s true,” a third voice countered. The two arguing soldiers whipped around to face this new arrival, obviously taken by surprise. Even they must have known it was uncouth to speak of the dead that way, children though they were.

Lynn rolled her eyes at them, indicating her lack of caring that they had been caught in their amateur gossip session, and stepped closer. They were about to hear from a master. She plunked down her lunch tray and joined them, uninvited though she was.

“Did you see Dimak’s face? He was really upset, I bet Pinual was one of his favorites. And what about Dan?” She paused for breath and examined her nails, peeking up after a moment to see if she had stoked a sufficient amount of curiosity. “–Some- say he was pushed. I hear things.”

The two soldiers, both from Dragon, fixed on her with openly dubious expressions, though eventually they seemed to come to a mutual decision.

“Did you see it?”

“…well sort of,” Lynn admitted. “I was there – only there was a big fight, see. It –could- have been an accident…” Her voice was full of doubt, and not all of it was feigned to make her story more interesting. Fortunately the soldiers rescued her from her self inflicted awkward moment with another pointed question.

“And Pinual? What did you hear about him?”

“She doesn’t know nothin’. Look at her – they givin’ uniforms to babies these days.”

Lynn accepted this ribbing as par for the course. They couldn’t weaken themselves by asking for information – they had to make it look like they bullied it out of her. She had two choices – hastily blurt out everything, to prove that she –did too- know things…or feign indifference.

She shrugged and stood, aware that she would soon wear out her welcome anyway. “I know you two aren’t the only ones asking questions.” Turning, she spoke over her shoulder. “Some people think it wasn’t suicide.”

Derisive laughter. “What, someone else stuck his head through the noose?”

Lynn did not bother looking over her shoulder this time – she simply shouted out loudly enough for the two soldiers, and anyone else nearby, to hear her.

“Nobody ever said Pinual hung himself. Whatever happened, he had help getting there.”

This much was true – thought it was heavily implied, Dimak had never outright stated the cause of death. He was found suspended, if Lynn recalled correctly, and she usually remembered details like that.

Had she turned around, she would have seen the profound effect her statement had on the two soldiers. Stricken looks were quickly masked. Nods were exchanged. Quickly and silently, like a pack of predators, The Battle School Mafia closed in on Lynn, tailing behind her as she trashed the scant remains of her lunch and left the mess hall.

Oblivious, she headed for the game room, wanting to sneak in a few rounds before her next class.


Dimak was holding up okay until Dap pulled out of the child-sized game shuttle, covering his mouth and making heaving sounds. He stood aside to let him by, and tried not to puke himself.

Blood and some substance (eye juice, his mind helpfully supplied) were sprayed across the viewing screen, but it was really the console that was the gruesome part. At first it almost looked as though the girl had fallen asleep at the controls, until you realized that a joystick was sticking into one eye socket.


“…horrible! How did this happen?”

Dimak swallowed hard and took a moment to work out whether or not he was going to vomit after all. Then, he turned to answer his colleague’s question.

“The game is designed with realistic movement built in; you move the controls, the shuttle responds physically as well as on screen. Not that different from Chuck E. Cheese game rides…though much more sophisticated and purposeful. I would guess someone surprised her from behind; there’s plenty of room in here for someone to hide unseen. I would guess that, in response, she instinctively grabbed the controls and yanked up, hard, while her attacker shoved down. And…” He brought his two hands together to simulate his theory. “…crunch.”

His colleague flinched, repulsed, but recovered quickly. “All just guesses. Maybe we’ll never know…”

‘You mean you don’t –want- to know,” Dimak thought but did not say.

“Right. We may never know.”