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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 57

Act V


Gavin had succeeded in casting one of the spells Mastema claimed was very difficult – teleportation. One instant he was in Waterloo, Iowa, the next he stood along a busy street he assumed was in Bowling Green.

He whooped in joy at having transported himself five hundred miles.

Mastema growled in irritation. “Failure, Gavin. We’re in Delafield. Why didn’t you take us directly to the hospital?”

“I didn’t know which hospital. I didn’t even know where it was located.”

“Attention to detail!” the truculent master said. “You didn’t even ask!”

Gavin bowed his head in shame. “Sorry. I’ll try to do better.” He looked up without raising his head. “But I got us here, right?”

“I helped. You’ll have to work on the nuances of magick.”

“Can’t we just jump over to the hospital now?”

Mastema shook his head. “You’re too tired for that kind of exertion. We might find ourselves appearing in an MRI or halfway between floors. We’ll have to walk most of the way across Bowling Green to get to the hospital!”

And walk they did, despite the fact Gavin didn’t feel at all fatigued.

With Mastema, invisible, berating his disappointing apprentice every step of the way.


Sally Shoen’s phone rang.

Little surprise, Bathin mused. A dozen different faxes and emails had gone out to media outlets, another hundred to pundits, and Governor Rawlin was on the verge of being an international punchline.

Disguising his voice, the Brother picked up the line. “Political Advisors, LLC, this is Bruce.”

The accented voice of Rawlin’s executive assistant replied. “Bruce, this is Georgia Governor Rawlin’s office. May the governor please speak with Ms. Shoen?”

Bathin smiled.


Ruax was pleased with the progress of his dinner with Miss Sharpe. He’d steered conversation away from work until after handing “Roy’s” credit card to the server. The charge would be accepted, but in the morning everything would fall apart and the restaurant would be left taking a loss.

The time had come to pressure Sharpe about her job.

“Is it true you made a pass at Ben?”

Sharpe, in the process of taking a sip of Bordeaux, nearly choked. “Excuse me?”

Roy lifted his glass and gave her a frank stare. “Well, that’s what an intern told me. She heard it from another intern who got it from Yvette Faucher herself. That’s why you’re moving to Atlanta, right? A forced removal from the firm?”

“I don’t know what Kiel’s secretary is spewing, but no, there’s no truth to that.” Austin took a giant swallow of wine, visibly suppressing her temper. “Even if I were the type, I know he’s not. I’d never do that.”

“Word around the office is you had a fight with your secretary because she thought you did.” Division was a favorite tactic of the Brotherhood. Ruax knew it worked more often than anything else, especially when mixed with allegations of sexual misconduct. Maybe if he impersonated Miss Sharpe he could . . . no. Kiel couldn’t be touched by any Brother. Accusations would have to suffice.

Austin scowled into her wine glass as their server brought the credit slip for Roy to sign. Then she tried explaining. “Tracey was upset because I hadn’t answered her calls, and had locked the door to my office. I never heard the phone, didn’t know anyone had knocked, and barely remember anything that happened this morning.”

Ruax affected mild disbelief. “I don’t know. They seemed to think it was real, regardless of what you did or didn’t do.” He leaned back, stretching his legs out beside the table. “I, of course, believe you. Too bad they don’t.”

Ruax watched Austin ponder getting out sooner, wondering why she should hang around a group of people who didn’t really know her at all.


Mastema sneered at Baraqijal, who watched in disgust as the higher ranked Brother escorted Gavin toward the hospital. Mastema could wander about where the lesser was prohibited.

The ghostly “wizard” mouthed, “POP!” and pantomimed laughter as he took his client through the rotating doors and toward the elevators.

Gavin glanced at his tutor. “What are you laughing at?”

“Inside joke.” Mastema pointed toward an elderly couple in the lobby staring at the student like he’d lost his mind. “Keep in mind, to them it looks like you’re talking to yourself.”

The hotel clerk smiled at the man and woman and pointed to his ear. “Cell call.”

They nodded and continued toward the exit while Gavin and Mastema moved to the elevators.

“What floor is Amy on?”

“Third floor, room 307.”

“How did she get injured?”

“Plane crash. She wasn’t hurt badly.” Mastema hummed to himself while waiting for the elevator. He wondered when the Brotherhood would demote Pop – for the third time in less than a century.

The lift’s doors opened and Gavin entered.

“I’ll meet you up there.” Mastema transported himself to the third floor to scout the area. He might accomplish Pop’s goal in the time it took his protege to arrive. An “off book” victory would make the senior Brother look good, and Pop look bad.

When he tried to enter Amy’s room, though, a glowing enemy appeared in the doorway, arms crossed.

“Sorry,” Mastema said. “Wrong room.” The knowing smile he got in return irritated him, but what could he do? Nothing against a skilled and ready opponent.

Instead of confronting Amy directly, he settled for visiting the nurses station. Mastema’s specialty was “magick,” not electronics, so he couldn’t alter anything within the computers themselves. He’d have to wait for a medical professional to enter information and make them miskey the data.

When Gavin’s elevator arrived Mastema pointed the way. “You go in. I’ll wait here to give you privacy.” As long as none of the Brothers inhabited the man, the enemy couldn’t stop an ephemeral from entering.

Mastema watched as Gavin passed straight through the sentinel. The human shivered in response.

The Brother didn’t even care if he couldn’t hear what Gavin and Amy said. He waited for his chance to alter a medication to bring about the destruction of Pop’s hopes.

That Amy would die was of secondary importance since that wasn’t his assignment anyway.

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 56

Act V


Chapter Thirteen

Nachell Peralta fired her FNX 45 fifteen times before the slide locked open. She looked down the firing line at the paper silhouettes at varying distances.

The closest target, ten yards away, had five neat holes within an inch of the center of mass marker. The second, twenty yards away, had seen some drift in her targeting – her four shots there were still less than two inches from optimum. The third, thirty yards away, only had one hit three inches from center with the other three within two inches. The fourth, forty yards away, still had her remaining two shots where they would seriously injure, if not kill.

She nodded in appreciation. Her Sudanese drill instructor had trained her well before she’d moved to the United States. If anyone tried to attack her boss, Victor Howe, she’d be ready.

With a deft motion she pressed the magazine release with her right thumb. Her left hand pulled a full magazine from her belt and slipped it home before the empty one hit the ground.

She emptied that magazine with similar results, then a third, followed by a fourth.

Peralta held her shooting pose, examining her work. Then, with a practiced move, she stuffed her pistol into its shoulder holster. She raised her right ankle and took the grip of her Kahr PM45. She barely aimed. Six resounding explosions, and the nearest target showed six more hits clustered within two inches.

Unseen and intangible, a senior imp stood beside Peralta, whispering support in the woman’s ear. He hoped to gain a name with his involvement in such a large plot. If Pop could, why couldn’t he?


Kiel sighed in relief as he disconnected. Amy had lived through a plane crash. He doubted it was an accident. The crash would, of course, not be ruled foul play – his opponent wasn’t the type to leave evidence.

Kiel arranged for a chartered helicopter to bring Amy to Savannah when she was released from the hospital. He paid using his personal credit card. Then he finished filing the cases he’d been working on and locked his office. As he waited for an elevator, Austin’s secretary – assistant, he reminded himself – approached. “Working late, Tracey?”

“Yes.” She didn’t seem resentful of staying long hours. “With Austin, I’m working late every day.”

Kiel had always liked working with Droud. She seemed to appreciate the lawyer’s calm deliberation. “Any chance I can entice you into staying here?” Kiel knew Droud had a huge calming effect on anyone she worked with, and that asset would be missed.

“Sorry, sir.” She smiled as the elevator dinged.

Kiel chuckled. “Don’t blame me for trying. You’ll be missed.” He gestured for Droud to enter the elevator before him. “Ladies first.” That kind of Southern Polite was getting to be a rare commodity, and Kiel wanted to keep it alive.

Droud’s smile expanded. “Thank you. And I don’t blame you. I have to say, though, that Austin and I had a fight today. I’m convinced she’s a redhead at heart, but a few hours later she apologized in a way that exhibited real class. When she goes to Atlanta, I’ll be going with her.” The lift hummed as it descended.

Kiel knew the feeling about Austin’s temperament. “Despite that dust up I had with Austin, I wish the two of you nothing but the best.” The bell chimed and the doors opened. “I mean that, Tracey.”

Droud paused. “Thank you, sir. I’m sure Jessica thinks the same.”


Baraqijal stood before Kulak, and if Brothers could sweat, it would be shooting out of his pores like a shotgun blast. “I didn’t know!”

The senior Brother finished his rant about the lesser’s technological ignorance with, “There is more than one cellular tower serving Bowling Green!”

Baraqijal cowered. He’d been tasked to kill or isolate Amy Drabbs, and he’d failed on both counts. So recently promoted above imp, earning his name less than a year ago, he worried about his punishment. Most imps were barely aware of a larger world. Only the most senior of them even knew of the existence of the larger plans of the Brotherhood. If Baraqijal were demoted, he’d lose memory, ability, maybe even sentience.

“Last chance.” Kulak seethed. “Fail again, and you’ll be looking up at sprites!” He waved a clawed appendage.

The lowest Brother appeared outside the hospital in Bowling Green with a POP!

“I’m Baraqijal.” He gasped in relief. “My name is Baraqijal.”

A nurse stared at him as she passed on her way to work.

That’s when Baraqijal realized he was in human form and visible.

His clothes weren’t.


Bathin appeared in the governor’s private sanctum as Rawlin passed through his outer offices. In his guise of Sally Shoen, he waited the last few seconds at one end of the massive walnut desk. He eyed the desk and asked himself, “Compensating much?”

The governor pushed open the door and took three full steps before he came to a surprised stop. Three of his assistants staggered into him, pushing him another pace toward his desk. He didn’t know who the woman was, much less how she’d gotten past all the security and gatekeepers. “Who are you?”

Bathin gave his best professional smile – not the alluring one he’d used on Grael. “I’m Sally Shoen from Political Advisors, LLC.”

Rawlin waved as if batting away a gnat. “Get out, Shoen. I have consultants already.” He stepped around the end of the desk opposite Shoen. “Call security and have her removed.”

The Brother dropped a business card on the desk. “Call me when you want to discuss how to answer the charges of polygamy hitting the news later today.”

The governor stared as Shoen sauntered out of the office without waiting for her escort. He looked from one of his secretaries to the next, then the third. “What is she talking about?”

Three shrugs.

Bathin smiled. Now all he had to do was make up a marriage certificate and pass it to the Journal-Constitution.

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 55

Act V


Chapter Twelve

Mastema felt Pop’s plan fail, then received confirmation his client would be put to work in Bowling Green. The Brother partially materialized a hand and yanked Gavin away from his apartment window. “You’ve done enough trivial trash. Time for something more impressive.”

“What do you mean? I haven’t been training for very long,” the clerk said. “What could I do that’s impressive?”

“First a test.” Mastema rubbed his ghostly-again hands together. “Conjure a thousand dollars out of thin air.”

Gavin’s eyebrows drew together as he thought.

Mastema knew the man had never conjured before, and barely knew what it meant.

When Gavin’s pause lengthened, the Brother sighed. “It’s like your enchantment spell making that skateboarder fall, but instead of seeing your target, you imagine it in your mind. The chant should sound like,” he uttered ten syllables of sheer gibberish. “The hand motions are like this.” He pantomimed five useless gestures.

Gavin cleared his throat, then imagined a neat stack of twenty dollar bills on his end table. He gestured the way Mastema had instructed, and said the same words – or at least a reasonable facsimile of them.

The Brother thought it was close enough for some success, and teleported from one bank to another in New York City, taking forty-three bills from the various bank vaults. The process took less than three seconds. If only The Brotherhood could do that on a routine basis and remain unnoticed.

When he returned, Mastema had the money appear in a cloud in front of his client. An orderly pile would have been asking too much. After all, the limited practice Gavin had received didn’t warrant such an achievement.

Gavin whooped as the cash fluttered to the floor like dried leaves.

Mastema helped Gavin’s thoughts center on forcing Amy’s affection. The Brother closed his eyes and suppressed the urge to shake his head. Humans were morons.


Bathin researched Grael between their first meeting and the solarium appointment at Capitol Commons. Contrary to the wholesome image the secretary exhibited at work, Grael indulged in some of the darker appetites. Nothing illegal, all consensual, but quite far from what most would call mainstream. At the very least he’d be embarrassed if the general public learned of his internet history.

With that in mind, Bathin picked attire which might entice the clerk. The outer layer was a sheer red loose-fitting dress. Beneath that Bathin chose a black leather crop top tight enough to be painful if any human wore it. Hints of sharp, polished steel were a deliberate homage to Grael’s tastes. The strategic placement of small studs in the bodice might push Grael over the edge.

When Grael finally arrived, he staggered to a stop before sitting. Bathin’s internal smile was far different from the facial expression.

“Have a seat, Ken.” Bathin waved to a seat on the opposite side of the table. The leathers beneath the red dress gave a soft protest, and steel pushed into the faux flesh beneath. “I’m having a salad.”

Grael, speechless, managed to sit without embarrassing himself. “Ms. Shoen. I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

Bathin’s coquettish pout was calculated. “I certainly hope not. I have certain . . . rewards . . . in mind if I could meet with the governor.”

Grael just stammered incoherently.

After taking a deep breath designed to elicit pain in someone wearing that particular black-and-red outfit, Bathin lifted a delicate hand to his face. “Certainly something can be done, Ken.”

“P-p-perhaps this,” Grael panted, “this afternoon.”

Bathin leaned forward, giving Grael a better view of the “rewards” in question.

“Th-three . . . thirty.”

The Sally Shoen smile at least looked genuine. Long practice had made Bathin an expert on fooling ephemerals.

But when Bathin arrived for the promised three-fifteen time slot, Ken Grael was nowhere to be found.

“Mr. Grael no longer works in this office,” the new secretary said.

Nothing “Sally” said elicited more information.


Ruax watched Miss Sharpe all afternoon. Her confrontation with Ben Kiel ended with hard feelings on both sides. Apparently Kiel still assumed his partner should be more deferential. Sharpe didn’t like taking orders from someone who wouldn’t be her boss for more than a few more months.

Ruax’s specialty of highlighting a human’s existing feelings accentuated the differences between the two. Even Tracey Droud, “Hissy,” exhibited an increasing tendency toward resentment. Ruax didn’t really care about the secretary, but just for fun he “pushed” Hissy’s bitterness to higher levels. Perhaps the Brother could get her to throw a Hissy fit.

He laughed at the thought.

By six that evening Sharpe had finished packing the files she’d be leaving in Savannah. Someone else would be assigned those cases – mostly wills and trusts – and they’d be distributed to the offices of those lawyers. She’d be available to provide transition, but wouldn’t take the leading role.

Ruax stayed with Sharpe as she stepped into the reception area and closed her office. “Tracey?”

Droud turned a cold look at Ruax’s client. “Yes?” She was primarily Sharpe’s assistant, but three of the non-partner attorneys in the firm were her responsibility, too. Ruax’s pushing meant Hissy was no longer willing to do much more than the minimum required.

“I’ve been neglectful,” Sharpe said. “There’s nothing I can say or do to make up for it. By way of apology, though, I’ve arranged for an evening at the Olde Pink Lady for you and Tom.”

Ruax scowled. Sharpe wasn’t supposed to remember the name of Hissy’s husband.

“Uh . . . .” Hissy looked like she wanted to say more, but words failed.

Sharpe said, “Just give them your name and they’ll charge it to my credit card.” She hesitated, wondering if Droud would respond. After silence stretched into awkwardness, she continued. “Anyway, no rush, at your convenience. The managers there know.” She turned toward the elevators and marched away.

Ruax zipped away. He’d be waiting near Ruth’s Chris, but would make sure Miss Sharpe arrived first. “Roy” would get there fifteen minutes after, just to put the lawyer off her stride.

Tactics like that had worked in the past, and he needed to pull out all the stops.


Amy woke in a hospital bed. The sensors attached to various locations on her body sent impulses to monitors beside her, which bleeped and blooped.

When she tried to move Amy discovered she wore a neck brace. Her ribs also complained, sending sharp pains into her right side. Even half of a breath sent razor-sharp knives into her torso.

A nurse arrived. “Miss Drabbs. You’re lucky to be alive.”

Amy tried to recall what had happened. She’d been on an airplane, there’d been smoke, blurred views out of a window, and then nothing. “What happened?” She coughed, wondering how her throat had gotten so dry. The daggers stabbing her ribs brought a cry of pain.

The nurse passed her a cup of water. “Your plane crashed. From what the ambulance workers said, it slammed down on the runway. The wings broke off, which probably saved your life. That’s where all the fuel is, by the way – in the wings.”

Amy sipped the soothing drink and carefully cleared her throat. “What about Therese?” Something told her everyone else had died in the crash, but she had to know for sure.

The nurse paused just a bit too long. “I’m sorry, that’s all I know.”

“Only survivor, then?”

“I’m sorry, dear.”

Amy wanted to cry, but held her tears in check. “How am I doing?”

“Surprisingly well.” The nurse smiled. “Three cracked ribs is about it. Not bad for a plane crash survivor.”

Amy fingered her neck brace. “What about this?”

“Mostly a precaution. There’s no evidence of an injury, but until you woke up we didn’t want you making anything worse.”

“I don’t feel any pain except in my side.”

The nurse checked Amy’s monitors and made some notes on a chart. “I’ll let the doctor know. He’ll be here in an hour or two, but until then let’s keep the brace on.”

“Do you have my belongings? I’d like to make a cell call, if I may. Where’s my purse?”

“Sure.” The nurse opened a drawer beside the bed and pulled out Amy’s handbag. “Here ya go. I have to finish my rounds, so I’ll give you some privacy.”

Amy pulled out her flip phone and selected Ben Kiel on her contact list. She pressed the button to call.


Baraqijal, unable to enter the hospital, nonetheless heard Amy’s conversation with the nurse. He popped over to the nearest cellular tower and corroded a connection into worthlessness. “That should do it.” He smiled. As long as Kiel didn’t know Amy had survived there was nothing the lawyer could do.

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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