By Mark W. Meier
In the months since Michael Grambic had died, “Howe” had built a secure room in his Wilmington Island home. The most important feature of the room was it would take a human a long time simply to unlock the door.
Chamos rode Howe into the room and locked it up – six deadbolts and a combination lock. Of course, Chamos had no need of using a key to open the deadbolts. A mere thought from a Brother could work them all simultaneously.
Howe, on the other hand, without the powers of the Brotherhood, had no hope of opening a single one without a key. A comfortable recliner stood centered in the room, complete with manacles for wrists and ankles.
He sat, and with a thought fastened Howe to the chair. Metallic restraints were enough for Chamos to be comfortable vacating his gelding. He appeared in physical human form. “Stay here, nice and quiet, and you won’t suffer – as much.”
Howe’s eyes burned with hatred. “What are you doing?” That he didn’t yell showed a level of self-restraint. On the other hand, the man obviously knew the room was sheltered using the best acoustical tile on the market.
“You know what’s going on,” Chamos replied. “I’ve been inhabiting you long enough you should know pretty much everything relevant about me.”
“Yes, but your goals don’t make sense! What did an astrologer or politician or wizard have to do with soundproof tiles?”
Chamos scowled, and Howe shrank back in fear. “You don’t know enough, evidently. I’ll be back in a few minutes. Even if you manage to escape the chair you won’t be able to open the locks before I return.”
A moment later Chamos arrived in the space between spaces where the Brotherhood met. Kulak was waiting.
“Taking your time, Chamos?” Though sound didn’t exist, communication between Brothers could easily be interpreted as if they spoke.
“I can’t simply vacate without preparations. You know how it is.” Chamos suspected Kulak had more experience than most Brothers. Riding a human, while fun, took some effort and a lot of practice to do it right. Eventually the human welcomed not needing to make decisions. Then a Brother could leave for hours without a problem.
Kulak grinned. “Indeed I do know how it is. Some are more welcoming than others, so Howe must be resistant.”
“Endless screaming. It’s wonderful.” Chamos let a smile slip into his malign countenance.
“You’ll tame him. Any bets on how long it’ll take?”
“Loser spends a week with Pop?”
Kulak shuddered. “Never mind.”
Chamos brought up the topic of the meeting. “You called. What did you want?”
“One of my staff tells me a lawsuit has been filed in Georgia contesting the will of the late Michael Grambic.”
“It was probably inevitable.”
“How is it you didn’t know about it already?” Kulak twisted his face into a hideous scowl. “It’s your job to control that situation.”
Chamos wasn’t impressed with Kulak’s displeasure. He’d known his boss long enough to understand he was simply a blowhard. “I’m inhabiting one of the most powerful people in Georgia. Howe deals with courts and lawyers all the time. Grambic, when he was alive, even delegated most of his legal affairs to Howe. This is a minor annoyance.”
“Not this time, Chamos. There are enemy spies lurking about. Don’t underestimate what’s going on, or you’ll spend a week with Pop just on general principle.”
“You don’t need to threaten me.” Chamos prepared to leave. “I already have enough invested in this project. If it fails, we both know what will happen.” Chamos only suspected what would happen, but hoped he could bait Kulak into confirming that suspicion.
Kulak grunted. “Havoc must be created, Chamos. Go. Do that.”
Not a denial. Then it was true – the scorched earth policy of the Brotherhood was the only tactic left. Then the only way to actually harm their archenemy was by hurting His people. Through the millenia he’d been doing that, but now he knew there was no hope for his kind.
Chamos returned to the secret room just as Howe managed to open the first lock on the door. The recliner, somehow, had been reduced to flinders and the human had managed to use a bit of metal as a lock pick.
Howe must have sensed the presence of his tormentor. He backed into a corner, swearing. Then the remaining tatters of his composure fractured and he screamed, “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
Chamos’ response was ice cold. “You wanted Him to leave you alone. That’s why I can use you as I wish.” He glanced over the remains of the chair. “Looks like I’ll need a new way to secure you. Next time it won’t be so comfortable.”
Howe gave a wordless shriek and attacked, but Chamos simply dove into the human once again. Ephemerals had no inherent defense against the Brotherhood.
Chamos/Howe said aloud, “Handcuffs bolted to the floor. I’ll give you a pad, but if you defy me again I’ll remove even that.”
The tiny corner of “Howe” that was still Howe sent a stream of invectives at Chamos. Anyone else would have blushed, but Brothers had heard far worse.
“Shall we see about your new restraints?”
Using a twitch of his personal will Chamos unlocked the rest of the deadbolts and swung the thick door open. The late Michael Grambic’s butler waited in the faux granite hallway. “What is it, Charles?”
“A man is at the door and wishes to see you.” He glanced past Howe. “Would you like me to clean up that mess, sir?”
“Please do.” Chamos stepped into the hall to allow the butler to enter the sanctum. “Do you know why he wants to see me?”
Charles stopped in the threshold and turned his back on the destruction. “I’ve heard Mr. Grambic has a cousin suing to contest the will.”
Chamos smiled. The butler was an asset to be utilized. “Give yourself a thousand dollar bonus, Charles.”
The butler nodded impassively. “Thank you, Mr. Howe.”
The dwindling resistance of Victor Howe tried calling to the butler, sobbing. “Help me, Charles!” None of the plea found voice, squelched by the Brother dominating him.
“Before you clean the mess, please show the man to my day room.” Chamos didn’t know how he’d handle the man, whom he suspected was a process server, but humans were simple to figure out and manipulate.
All in a day’s work.
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