Alexander had been dead at least two weeks. Detectives not much bothered by the smell after years of exposure to it at countless death scenes milled about, blandly discussing reasons why nobody reported the decedent missing, or even absent from work.
They soon determined from bookmarks on his laptop that he worked from home at his own pace. Maybe he did well enough to afford an apartment in North Hollywood working only two weeks a month. The detectives all shrugged at each other.
The coroner was almost certain it was suicide, just looking at the body. The extension cord around his neck had snapped under his weight eventually, sending the putrefying corpse to the floor with a bit of a splatter. The now-loosened post on his sturdy, well-made four poster bed told the tale. There was no auto-erotic asphyxiation. This guy kept his pants on.
But nobody could find a note.
There was a cursory investigation and the case was closed. Alexander’s Facebook seemed to indicate there was an uncle in Biloxi. They reached out to the man, who said it was a damn shame and hung up. When they called back to see if he wanted Alexander’s few personal effects, no one answered.
They tried again the next day, and the next week, and even the next month, but the person answering always hung up.
Three minutes into the raid, with even their stalwart dwarven troops taking heavy fire, the party knew something was wrong. Lord Azazel never missed a raid, much less one he organized. He always provided magical support to the grunts, aided the noobz, and wielded that mithril-forged elven legendary blade, imbued with seven perfectly arranged attribute stones, with tremendous skill. Their beloved leader “L.A.” spent hundreds of hours finishing quests and mini-quests to make that sword, and he equipped it with healing stones so powerful, he could heal tens of fellow raiders at a time.
They were dying against the mountain orcs, and L.A. was M.I.A. The raiders were angry and panicked. Their guild would surely sink in the rankings, and all they’d win would be some lousy pieces of second tier armour and, like, maybe some gold.
After the first raid was lost, things started to go downhill. They slipped from twelfth to nineteenth in their World’s ranks. There were rumours Lord Azazel abandoned them, but he was still listed as guild father and hadn’t turned over admin responsibilities to guild mother AthenaBlade61, which everyone figured he would if he had to stop playing again for a while, like he’d had to a year ago.
They asked AthenaBlade61 several times where he was. She only responded “IDK.”
Eventually, somebody offered to dox Lord Azazel, but the guild voted that it was poor manners, and ultimately AthenaBlade61 forbade it, asking them how each of them would feel if they quit playing and someone did it to them.
Some in the guild started saying amongst themselves that she must know for a fact that he left the game, with others claiming they were crazy. L.A. had put too much time and effort and love into StoneQuestOnline for Mobile. There’s no way he’d abandon them. He loved to play and he loved giving noobz a leg up.
The guild was so torn over it that they split into two guilds: To Live and Die in L.A. and Athena’s Blades. Neither guild ever attained a ranking above 25. Lady AthenaBlade61 turned her guild over to Lord Orcbanger20 a few months later and left the game.
When she did, she deleted her account, destroying this private message:
“I thought our marriage in-game meant something to you. But in the course of my work as a paid online political operative (don’t worry, sides don’t matter; it’s all highest bidder), I found out that you are actually a 52-year-old professor, have been married IRL to another professor for 26 years, and have a daughter my age. You should have told me. I shared intimate secrets about myself to you. I loved you.
I can’t go on knowing our love is a lie. I can’t do this any more. I know I should be stronger for the guild, but I can’t. You were everything to me. You were the only reason I did anything, and you are getting into bed every night with a real life man.