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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 64

Act V

Victory


Epilogue


Six weeks later Ben Kiel welcomed Austin and Cromwell back to the law firm. His sorrow at Amy’s death was tempered by the mixed news of Judge Boynton’s ruling which allowed his business to be reconstituted.

Terrance Yang, the minority stakeholder in Grambic Tiles, was awarded another eighty percent of the company. Judge Boynton had reinstated the only will ever filed with Michael Grambic’s actual signature. Grambic hadn’t known of his cousin until years later, and Yang had been instrumental in the days following his father’s death.

The remaining ten percent of the company was awarded to Victor Howe, who had been deemed a hero for trying to save Amy. Every one of Grambic’s executive assistants over the years had been named as the inheritor of ten percent of Grambic’s assets, and Boynton allowed Howe to receive it. Howe was ecstatic.

The recuperating former secretary was also awarded all other Grambic holdings – cash, property, and investments, which included the Grambic mansion. In gratitude of Amy’s actions, which were never specified, Howe formed a nonprofit organization to fund overseas missionaries from Amy’s Baptist church in Waterloo. In turn, Howe was awarded the aloe plant found in Amy’s hotel room. His only response was a wide grin of appreciation.

A bereft Gavin eventually found a relative willing to accept a collect phone call from Georgia. Enough money was wired for the clerk to buy a bus ticket back to Waterloo. When he arrived, he discovered he’d been fired. Not surprising, but a disappointment nonetheless. A nearby convenience store hired him as a night clerk.

Charges of attempted manslaughter were dropped against Nachell Peralta. The district attorney found her assertion she thought Amy posed a serious threat was reasonable and declined to prosecute. With Terrance Yang firmly ensconced in the spacious office on the top floor of Grambic Tower, Peralta found working there distasteful. His daily lunch delivery of greasy-spoon cheeseburgers churned Peralta’s stomach. Within a month she’d found other employment as a personal security consultant.

In the space between spaces, where the Brotherhood resided, power shifted. Kulak, under orders from Rosimar, demoted Chamos for his failure. Ruax had benefited from the whole incident. He now outranked Chamos. Mastema vanished, presumably to train another wizard. None in the Brotherhood had an inkling of where he’d gone.

Most surprising of all, Baraqijal was given much more authority than he’d ever dreamed of. His advancement put him nearly on par with the power of the demoted Chamos, which drove the senior Brother to distraction.

The mystery of how a statue of John Wesley vanished from its place in Reynold’s Square remained. That it suddenly appeared at the top of Grambic Tower was an even deeper enigma.

Don’t ask the Brotherhood to explain. They’re too busy with other plans.

***

Bathin stepped out of a sound-stifling thick fog and showed an identity card to an official about to enter a virology lab. “Doctor Gao? I’m Doctor Ren Long from the World Health Organization.”


The End

If you appreciate this story, please consider supporting the author's ability to write more stories by purchasing The Brotherhood, available in print and on Kindle. Please share on social media, and leave a review on the page linked above.



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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 63

Act V

Victory


Chapter Eighteen


Amy stared at Ben Kiel over the conference table at Kiel’s law office. During the trip from the Hilton Head airport she’d been told about the employment massacre at the law firm. As of noon, only five others worked there – none of them lawyers.

Kiel cleared his throat to break the silence, which had stretched for minutes. “Five million is a lot of money.”

Amy knew Kiel would take his cut of the settlement, but that would still leave a lot of cash. Typically thirty percent of an award went to the lawyers, but Kiel had promised half that. After taxes she’d still have more than two million.

After another few moments the attorney added, “And another million every year.”

Netting about four hundred thousand. Again Amy held her tongue. That was a large settlement, but was the suit filed for the coin or the cause? She prayed silently for guidance. This was too much for her.

On the one hand, that much money could do a lot of good around the world. Nothing Earth-shattering, but enough to make a difference. However, leaving the rest in the hands of someone like Victor Howe would more than nullify anything she did.

Kiel again couldn’t let the quiet linger. “Usually the starting position by someone wanting to settle is their lowball offer. We could ask for twenty million, and settle for ten after negotiation. You might even get two million per year.”

To Amy, the exact number was meaningless. Five or fifty million meant nothing. Why had she agreed to the lawsuit to begin with? The answer was obvious.

“I won’t settle, Ben. Mr. Howe broke the law. If I get nothing, at least I tried to do the right thing. People shouldn’t get away with stealing.” There. She’d said it.

Kiel smiled. “If anyone deserves to have a barn full of cash it’s you, Amy. Let’s have lunch, then head over to Grambic Tower.”

Before they left the offices Amy checked the time: 2:45. As the elevator doors closed she heard the phone ring. With no secretary on duty, she assumed voicemail would take the call.

***

When Kiel’s outgoing message came Bathin scowled and slammed the receiver down. He’d so looked forward to telling Kiel he’d been disbarred.

It wasn’t true. The state bar association had come one vote short at their noon meeting, but the Brotherhood never let truth get in the way of accomplishing their goals.

***

Even with high humidity the day didn’t seem very hot, so Ben and Amy walked to the Wright Square Cafe – which was about halfway to Grambic Tower. They arrived just before 3:00, and lingered over their paninis. Amy had the caprese, Kiel ordered the chicken pepperjack without onions.

Kiel tried to steer conversation to Amy’s hopes and dreams for after the case, but she kept tipping things back toward Kiel’s law firm.

“What will you do with so many people gone?”

“Don’t worry,” Kiel said. “I started with only myself, I can build back up. What are you going to do? You’ve been away from your job so long, will it even be there when you get back?”

“Jobs for convenience store clerks are always around. In a year, you can figure most of your coworkers have moved on. But lawyers are different, aren’t they?”

And so it went, each answering a question before guiding the flow back to the other until Kiel’s second iced coffee was finally gone.

Amy made sure Kiel was on his way to the cashier before slipping another five dollar tip to the table. Her caprese was fabulous.

***

Mastema guided Gavin through a small park north of Grambic Tower. The building’s main entrance looked out over the street between the tower and the park, and the two stopped under a tree next to the sidewalk.

“Why here?” Gavin asked.

Mastema wondered about the human tendency to require a “why” to everything. “Are you a two-year-old? This is the best place to watch for Amy getting here.”

Gavin scowled at the insult while Mastema smiled inwardly.

Both of them waited for the final showdown.

***

When Howe learned of the lunch options Chamos considered, he nearly went apoplectic. “An eatery? You must be joking. We might as well eat at a franchise outlet.” Disdain oozed from the internal words Howe used.

Chamos chuckled silently. “The District it is.” He knew the food was better than fast food. Getting more than despairing resignation from Howe was worth eating any kind of food.

“Peralta.” Chamos actually had to force Howe to stand. “It’s 3:00. Time for a late lunch. Have a driver and bodyguard ready for us in the garage. We’re going to The District Cafe and Eatery.”

Peralta also stood. “Yessir. Don’t forget your 4:00 with Ben Kiel.”

“Plenty of time.”

When they arrived at The District, Chamos perused the menu. He picked up Howe’s distaste at the avocado in the BAT classic. The spicy mustard appealed to the Brother, but Howe protested even more.

Peralta, after ordering a Greek salad, asked, “Why the smile?”

“A friend of mine hates avocado. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.” But he will, Chamos added silently.

After they finished, the ten-block drive back to Grambic Tower was silent. Chamos sensed the resentment of the driver and guard at having to wait outside while the “higher-ups” ate. Peralta practically broadcast her relief at getting out of the restaurant. Chamos rolled his host’s tongue around to get every bit of avocado and mustard flavor he could. His impending victory would be even more tasty.

Chamos extended his senses ahead of the limo and took inventory of those around Grambic Tower. Mastema was on-site with Gavin. Bathin had succeeded in gutting Kiel’s law firm. Ruax had Austin trapped in Atlanta. Even Pop was ready and in position.

Everything was coming together as planned, but Howe’s recent passivity made him suspicious.

“Driver.” Chamos couldn’t remember his name and didn’t care. “Drop us at the front door.”

“His name is Randy,” Howe said silently.

The Brother’s reply was equally soundless. “Oh, you’re coming alive again? To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Howe subsided into a sulk.

“Why out front?” Peralta asked.

Chamos’ smile broadened. “Because I wish it.”

***

Amy felt a peace settle over her as she and Ben Kiel approached Grambic Tower. She knew she was doing the right thing, even if it wasn’t the “smart” thing to do. Money had never motivated her beyond keeping a roof over her head and food to eat.

Then a voice disrupted her confidence.

“Amy?”

She stopped on the sidewalk and turned. Gavin strode across the street. He wore an oily smile that reminded her of a cobra.

She didn’t like the feel of Gavin’s appearance, and a simple glance at Kiel told her the lawyer wasn’t pleased, either. Then an SUV pulled to the curb a few yards away and two people emerged. She knew Victor Howe from an online picture she’d seen, but the woman was unknown to her. Amy’s unease grew.

Amy turned back to Gavin, who’d stopped in the parking lane and reached a hand toward her. His other hand fluttered.

“You love me, don’t you?” The hotel clerk’s smile looked like that of a bad soap opera’s gigolo.

There was so much going on, but Amy finally recognized the aura surrounding Gavin, and the one coming from inside of Howe. With her left hand she grasped the cross pendant at her sternum, and reached out her right hand toward Howe. “Jesus, help me,” she whispered. Aloud she commanded, “Come out of him!”

Howe staggered at the command, but his malevolent glare grew sharper.

Amy looked at her own extended hand and saw the wavering image of a pistol. Where had that come from? She barely heard the sound of stone grinding against stone coming from above.

The woman with Howe shouted, “Gun!” She drew a pistol from her shoulder holster. Her eyes flared, pupils dilating.

***

Howe noticed how the name of Jesus had affected Chamos, and uttered his own silent prayer to his attempt to heave Chamos out.

The Brother felt a wrenching more painful than anything he’d ever felt. Howe found himself standing next to a stunned, translucent monstrosity. The creature cried out. Its keening was so powerful it was audible in the material world.

Howe saw Amy look up, and followed her gaze to see a statue falling directly at the young woman. Amy jumped out of the way as Peralta fired her .45, adjusting her aim to follow the girl.

Howe leaped toward Amy, knocking her out of the line of fire. The bullet slammed into his back, ripping through his right lung and carving a chunk of stone from the building. He rolled off the curb and came to a stop at the feet of a perplexed young man with twitching fingers.

Amy screamed. She looked ready to jump aside again, but the young man yelled, “Love me!”

As Howe collapsed to the pavement he saw Amy freeze.

***

Chamos, suddenly ripped from his host, his scream of agony winding down, blinked in confusion. He made out a befuddled Ben Kiel standing next to Amy Drabbs.

Then the statue of John Wesley from Reynold’s Square smashed into the sidewalk, missing the girl by an inch. The shattered stone sent fragments slashing through the legs of the target of Chamos’ operation.

When the arterial spray of a severed femoral artery drenched the young woman’s pants, Chamos smiled. At least she would soon be dead.

After collapsing to the concrete, Amy glanced up to stare at the non-corporeal Chamos and smiled. “You lose.”

Amy knew her purpose in life had been accomplished. So many people – and others – had worked for and against her, but she’d won. Her eyes emptied and stared into the distance, her smile still in place.


If you appreciate this story, please consider supporting the author's ability to write more stories by purchasing The Brotherhood, available in print and on Kindle. Please share on social media, and leave a review on the page linked above.



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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 62

Act V

Victory


Chapter Seventeen


Ben Kiel watched the helicopter land – twenty minutes later than scheduled. When the blades slowed he walked closer.

The vehicle’s side door opened and Amy Drabbs stepped out. She ran to Kiel and gave him a big hug, even though it hurt. “I was so scared,” she said

Kiel gave an indulgent smile and tugged free of the embrace. “Why were you afraid? It’s not like you’ve survived a plane crash.”

Amy playfully punched him on the shoulder. “No, it’s not that. Something hit us over Tennessee.”

The pilot stepped from the aircraft. “Something?” He pointed to a crease in the helicopter’s skin. “Looks like a bullet did that. See that rotor?”

Kiel looked at the blades slowly rotating past. One of them was missing a significant chunk at the tip. The lawyer whistled. “Lucky to have made it.”

“Well,” the pilot said, “it was rough the last half of the trip. No worse than it was in the bad days in Kandahar, though.”

Amy was shocked. “I didn’t know.”

“Not supposed to.” The pilot shrugged. “I do my job right and my client never notices.”

“Can you fly it?” Kiel wondered what the process was. “Not that it’s any of my business, but I’m curious.”

“I’ll check with home base. Might be best to swap out the blade here at Hilton Head. If that’s not possible, I could head back to Atlanta.”

Kiel held out a hand to shake. “Good luck with that. If there’s something I could do, let me know.”

As the two walked toward the terminal, Amy asked, “What now?”

Kiel held open a glass door and guided Amy inside. “We have time to discuss things on our way to lunch, then to Grambic Tower. Victor Howe and Bob Allen want to discuss a settlement.”

***

Chamos sent messages to the Brothers under his authority. The time of reckoning was at hand, and he didn’t want to lose his advantage. “Come.” The instruction was simple.

His Brothers came.

***

Mastema woke Gavin from his nap. “It’s time.” The Brother handed Gavin a slip of paper with an address. “Take us there.”

The apprentice wizard blinked sleep from his eyes. “After I use the bathroom.”

Mastema shook his head. Humans.

***

Bathin, in the guise of Sally Shoen, suddenly appeared in Governor Rawlin’s office during a private meeting with the head of the Bar Association. “I have a request,” she said.

Both men shot to their feet, surprised by the abrupt arrival. The governor recovered first. “How did you get in here?”

“Not relevant.” Bathin placed a large briefcase with tens of thousands of fifty-dollar bills onto the governor’s desk. “I have a campaign donation. You can split it between the two of you.” Bathin popped open the lid and turned it so both men could see what it contained.

The lawyer gaped, but the governor only glanced at it before asking, “What do you want?”

“Pull Kiel’s authorization to do business in Georgia. And I want him disbarred.”

Rawlin said, “Done.”

The lawyer nodded.

The woman known as Sally Shoen vanished in a puff of ecru smoke.

***

Ruax knew Miss Sharpe was still a danger, and Chamos needed him to cover or eliminate the risk. Too many deaths would make people suspicious, so he used stolen epoxy to fasten the handset of the hotel room’s phone into its cradle.

When the attorney returned to her room, Ruax suppressed a chuckle as he jammed a stack of pennies between the door and the jamb. Then he reached into Sharpe’s cell phone and broke a couple of critical connections. Another circuit was closed, and the battery slowly lost power.

Done. Ruax went back to Savannah.

***

Baraqijal didn’t see how he could delay either Amy or Kiel. Simply flattening a tire might make them later than planned, but nothing he could do would stop them.

As soon as Baraqijal considered a multi-vehicle traffic accident, a solid line of the enemy appeared over the road into Savannah. He couldn’t even close in on Kiel’s limousine without opposition.

Frustrated, he yelled, “POP!”

The nearby enemies chuckled, but otherwise remained impassive.

Baraqijal wondered how much he’d remember after being demoted to imp.

Then he came up with an idea.

Laughing outright, he vanished. In his wake he left a percussion of collapsing air, along with his signature POP!

***

Austin finished changing into a cooler outfit – tan slacks and a white top with periwinkle trim – and headed for her door.

Odd. The handle barely moved and the latch remained closed.

She shook the door to no avail.

The pamphlet on the table next to her bed gave her the number to dial for guest services. Austin picked up the handset and the whole phone lifted with it. She growled to herself. No amount of prying separated the two.

Austin pulled out her cell phone to call the front desk. Dead. She retrieved her charger and plugged it in, then dialed the front desk. Nothing. This time a snarl of frustration.

Even though Austin knew windows in hotels had long ago been sealed against opening, she tried. She slammed a fist down on the table next to the window.

No way to call out, no way to escape, and now her hand hurt.

She wasn’t even sure Kiel would find the ruling of Sabry Mohamed Attia’s will in the Michigan appellate court. A simple LexisNexis search would probably turn it up, but he was kind of behind the times, though not exactly a Luddite.

Maybe pounding on the door would alert someone. A maintenance worker, another guest, anyone to get her out.

***

Gavin appeared in downtown Savannah on a busy street. Only he could see the ghostly figure next to him. “A parking lot? What are we doing here?”

“You missed again.” Mastema speared his apprentice with a condemning look. “Will you ever learn anything I teach you?” Mastema muttered to himself, “That’s why you should never rush the curriculum. The last wizard you trained took decades. It’s a better way, really.”

Gavin gritted his teeth. He hated being treated like an idiot, and it seemed that’s all he’d ever gotten. “Maybe I should go my own way, then.”

A pedestrian gave Gavin the same kind of look he’d gotten in Bowling Green. Again he pointed to his ear. “Cell call.”

Mastema laughed. “You’re delusional if you think this is something you can teach yourself. It takes another wizard.”

“Then where’d the first one come from?”

“Nobody knows. Some things can’t be answered.”

***

Judge Boynton picked up his office phone before the second ring. “What is it, Robin?”

“Governor Rawlin on line three.”

“Thanks.” Boynton punched one of the lighted buttons. “Boynton, Governor. How are you today?”

“Extraordinary, Your Honor. I thought I’d let you know about a development which might have an impact on a case you’re adjudicating.”

“I have dozens. Which one?”

“Well, I’m not exactly sure what the legal name of your case is, but Ben Kiel’s business license has been revoked. He’s no longer legally able to operate a law firm in the state.”

“That’s interesting.” Boynton shuffled some manila folders from one stack on his desk to another. “That would be the Grambic will lawsuit. What grounds do you have to pull his license?”

“Most of his attorneys have been disbarred, utilities haven’t been paid in months, and now there’s a charge of sexual assault.”

Boynton frowned. “Serious charges, Governor. Is that enough to put him out of business?”

“Enough for the Bar Association to vote about disbarring him.”

“That is serious.” Boynton paused to run some options through his mind. “I’m going to rule against his client anyway, so it shouldn’t have much of an impact on the case.”

“Your Honor, you are a credit to your profession.”

The judge accepted the praise with dignity. “I appreciate you saying that, Governor.”

Bathin smiled. He hadn’t even needed to “push” the judge while impersonating Rawlin.

Next up, getting Kiel disbarred.

***

Ruax appeared behind Nachell Peralta, Victor Howe’s secretary, at her desk. She played a game of computer solitaire while occasionally shifting a paper or file to make it look like she was busy.

Chamos glanced up from his video conference call with Canadian officials and grinned at his Brother. Chamos had recognized his Brother’s arrival. Ruax nodded to tell his superior that Austin was safely out of play, at least for the time being.

Ruax made a reminder on Peralta’s computer jump to the foreground. The executive assistant noticed her boss looking her way and held up a finger to indicate one hour left.

Chamos pressed a button to deactivate his microphone and said, “Thank you, Nachell.” He went back to finish his meeting.

***

Howe’s personality, while appearing to the Brother as totally resigned, gathered energy again. He knew his time would come.

Chamos only needed another hour, then he’d be firmly entrenched in a position to expand the Brotherhood’s plans.

Howe had to stop them.

Somehow.

***

Irony drove Baraqijal’s choice of murder weapon. He positioned a stone statue over the entrance to Grambic Tower.

One hour to go.


If you appreciate this story, please consider supporting the author's ability to write more stories by purchasing The Brotherhood, available in print and on Kindle. Please share on social media, and leave a review on the page linked above.



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