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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 44

Act V


You wanted Him to leave you alone. That’s why I can use you as I wish.


Chapter One

Amy remained stock still for a full minute, staring at the spot where two individuals had vanished. Then Andy’s vacant stare intruded and spurred her into action. She dialed her cell phone.

“9-1-1, what is the nature of your emergency?”

Amy swallowed past the lump in her throat. “He’s dead. I think he . . .” Words failed her. Andy was gone. The pain and horror of his final moments were still frozen on his face. She turned to the wall to avoid looking at him.

“Who died, ma’am?”

“Andy.” The hollow echo of Amy’s voice returned from the grubby, pockmarked sheetrock. “My friend Andy.” Tears trickled down her cheeks. She’d been sure they would have a significant relationship. Now . . . nothing. Like so many others in her life, he was dead.

“Can you give us your address, ma’am?”

With a quavering voice the words and numbers spilled from her.

The dispatcher’s androgynous voice told her to stay on the line. “An ambulance is on the way. Have you checked to see if he’s breathing?”

Amy screamed at the operator, “He grabbed his chest and collapsed! But no, he’s not breathing.”

“Have you tried CPR?”

“I’ve never been trained.” Amy vowed to fix that oversight. Andy was dead and she couldn’t even try to save him.

Unable to stay in the same room with Andy, Amy stepped from the apartment into the hallway, which, like the apartment, smelled of days-old cooked grease. The odor of fried food reheated in dirty microwave ovens became a miasma. Something else, though, drove her from the efficiency where Andy had fallen.

Amy slid down the wall, sagging to the stained carpeting, listening to the background chatter of the dispatch center. Indistinct voices spoke in businesslike tones. One emergency after another swam through her overwhelmed emotions, none staying. The dispatcher wasn’t talking to her so it didn’t matter.

Andy was dead.

A sob choked Amy. So many deaths in such a short time. And this one happened at The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. She put her free hand over her mouth to muffle her weeping.

“Are you okay, ma’am?”

“I’ll – I-I’ll be fine. How much longer?”

A radio in the background muttered incoherently. “A patrol car is pulling into your parking lot now. Officers will be on your floor in a couple of minutes.”


Baraqijal watched in disbelief, invisible to the mourning woman. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but a simple human death seemed anticlimactic. Nothing more than a death.

“Sometimes I wonder why I bother.” He departed. A little sightseeing could be excused before going back to the Brotherhood for his next assignment.


The oppressive feeling Amy experienced lifted. Sure, the smell of greasy air was the same, but somehow her mind sharpened. The dulling effect on her emotions ended and she knew what was going on.

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 43

Act IV

Windowed The Soul

Chapter Fourteen

Windowed the block

When an engine part fails and punches a hole in the engine block.

You were surprised at how much time it took to get your racer loaded and ready to transport. Mr. Grin’s Denali stood idling, sucking down gallons of diesel while the crew edged your #88 into the trailer. More time was spent securing the load so it didn’t shift. Meanwhile, the sun vanished behind the Atlanta skyline.

Finally your team pulled away from the pit. Mr. Grin drove, you rode shotgun, and the beagle sat in back, tapping away on his phone.

Interstate traffic was sparse and getting lighter as twilight deepened to darkness. Then a pair of headlights behind you flashed high beams twice and moved into the left lane.

The beagle’s phone buzzed to signal a text message. “Sir? Boynton is behind us.”

You gritted your teeth, wondering how he’d gotten your assistant’s cell number. “Ignore him.”

A car shot past, then its brake lights flared as it slid to a stop, straddling the center line sideways to block both lanes.

“That fool’s gonna get killed.” Mr. Grin grunted.

“We might as well face him now if he’s so adamant about this.” You felt, more than saw, Mr. Grin press the brakes. Light from the dashboard showed his grin fading away. “All I want to do is get home, and this idiot wants to talk all night.”

“Nothing good comes of stopping in the middle of an interstate.” Wilson pulled to the shoulder of the road and came to a stop.

Boynton’s driver stood, hands on hips, in the middle of the highway. He yelled something unintelligible.

Sick of being useless, you decided to take more concrete action than you had in years. You pushed open the door. “I’ll take care of this.” Your feet hit the gravel on the highway’s shoulder.

The beagle stepped out and put his hand on the weapon under his suit. “Let me, sir. He might want to do more than talk.” That’s the dedication that kept you from firing him out of hand.

Scowling, you remained by the truck and watched as Boynton’s driver and the beagle chatted. I prepared for your last moments on Earth.

One truck after another stopped on the highway, but the one towing Boynton’s #13 edged around them and parked on the shoulder opposite your #88.

Boynton emerged from the back seat of the car which caused you to stop. “Mis-ter Gram-bic. Let’s end this.”

The beagle drew his .45 and pointed it at the judge. Boynton stood, arms crossed, sneering at your assistant.

Mr. Grin moved over to the Denali’s passenger seat and climbed out onto the gravel. After closing the door he cautiously peered through the cab at the justice.

“What exactly do you propose, Boynton?” You took a step back toward the Denali. You could duck behind the engine block in a few moments. No firearm the judge might have could punch through all that metal.

“A race, you moron.” He scoffed at the beagle. “What did you think? A shootout? With your loyal dog ready to gun me down?”

Howe scowled. He didn’t like being compared to a canine. Too bad.

You were tempted. The need to actually accomplish something welled up in you, but a straight up competition would be ludicrous. “You’re far more experienced. No race would be fair.”

Boynton nodded in agreement. “Quite true. I’ll spot you a car length or two.”

“Three.” You pointed down the road. “The next mile marker is about a quarter mile away. I’ll start from where your driver stands, you behind your trailer.”

“No deal, Grambic.” Boynton grinned broader than Mr. Grin. “Two car lengths is plenty for a quarter-mile. If you can’t win with that, you’ll never beat me. Not that you ever could.”

Mr. Grin turned into Mr. Frown. “Don’t do it, sir. We don’t have time to check your car before the cops get here.”

“Done. Harley, get the car out.”

Mr. Frown certainly looked ready to argue, but the beagle shot him a nasty look.

The back doors of Boynton’s trailer opened and the ramps extended. Your car was only seconds behind his in reaching the roadway. The two of you climbed in, neither wearing fire safety suits.

Engines turned over and the beagle stood beside Boynton’s driver on the center line. Your car was positioned in the left lane, the judge’s #13 went into the right lane a few yards behind.

Tires spun, smoke drifted into the night, and the rubber warmed to where they could more easily grip pavement. Finally the judge nodded his readiness. You stuck your hand out the window and raised a thumb.

The beagle’s weapon pointed skyward.

At last, the final moments of my project were at hand.


The detonation of a .45 pistol round is louder than most people realized. Before the sound could echo from the nearest solid objects, both cars flew into motion. Within seconds, despite your head start, Boynton’s #13 had closed the gap and pulled even with you.

You glanced to your right at the same instant Boynton looked at you.

He smiled.

Then he cranked the wheel to slam into your car at more than a hundred miles per hour.

Front tires suddenly locked in place. Both vehicles cartwheeled, exploded, and crossed the finish line.

Irony: Your #88 did so before Boynton’s #13.

The flaming wreckage came to a halt before anyone reacted. Then, all at once, people surged forward. Racing crew took the lead, readying fire extinguishers.

I sneered. Two tanks of nitromethane had just exploded. Even with a fire suit it was unlikely anyone could have survived. By that time I’d already vacated “Boynton’s” car, just in time to see Ben Kiel pull up in his rented BMW. He climbed out and gaped at the conflagration.

The beagle stood slack-jawed. His mentor was dead.

Just off the shoulder of the highway I saw a Brother – watching and waiting.

I was supposed to be alone on this one. Why was Chamos here?

The beagle dove for Mr. Grin’s Denali and yanked out his briefcase. Inside was the will Howe had wanted signed. He scrawled “Michael Grambic” on the last page and added the date.

The beagle had crossed a line, and that’s when Chamos moved, clawing his way into the man.

Suddenly I realized how much of a pawn I’d been. The target had been Howe all along, and my toying with Grambic had been a setup for someone else’s larger project.

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.

Next week begins Act V: Victory

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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 42

Act IV

Windowed The Soul

You and Kiel went into the track’s clubhouse. I found a lot of irony that a drag racing facility had a clubhouse serving alcohol. If the drivers would drink perhaps the sport would draw more of an audience.

The two of you selected a small table in a somewhat secluded corner. Only two other patrons were in the open area. A bartender wiped glasses like some movie caricature.

Kiel pulled a pen and yellow note pad from his briefcase. “Mr. Grambic, do you like the will I drew up?” He pointed to the will you’d perused. “It seems to me a trustworthy underling is betraying that trust.”

Perhaps you could read the lawyer’s body language, perhaps not. I certainly could. He hated your will. I loved it.

“No, Ben. It’s almost completely opposite of what I told Victor I wanted.” You pushed the will aside. “I have a cousin in Iowa who should get the bulk of the estate, with the proviso that Victor is kept on as her executive assistant for no less than five years.”

Kiel scrawled a note. Maybe he was a doctor as well as an attorney, judging from his poor handwriting. “Might I make a suggestion?”

“Go ahead.” Your racing loss and the beagle’s push to get your money didn’t put you in a good mood, but you were willing to listen.

Though I was loathe to resort to sophomoric tactics, sometimes they were called for. The pair of drinkers across the room were a perfect opportunity to divert your attention away from the will.

The bigger one shot to his feet and shouted. “What’d you do that for?”

“What?” The smaller one gave a look of total mystification. “I didn’t do anything.”

Big Man took a long swig of beer, emptying his mug. “You kicked me.” His voice, though not as loud as before, certainly carried well enough.

Your conversation with Kiel ended with the exuberant display. Well, maybe not ended, but certainly put on hold.

Small Man carefully climbed to his feet. “I didn’t.”

Big Man slammed his mug to the table and lifted his pants leg. A trickle of red traced a line down his shin. “Look! You drew blood!”

Small Man’s eyes widened. “I swear, I didn’t do that.”

“You wear steel toed shoes, don’t you?” Big Man shoved the round table out of his way, his mug shattering on the floor. He grabbed Small Man’s T-shirt. “You work at that factory, don’t you? Your job needs toe protection, right?”

The bartender shouted from behind the bar. “Hey, guys, keep it civil.”

Small Man lowered his own beer mug to a neighboring table. “Didn’t happen, I swear.”

Kiel stuffed everything into his briefcase and latched it. He nodded toward the door in a clear hint the two of you should leave.

“How’d I get that?” He still held Small Man’s shirt in his right fist, and pointed down with his left index finger.

The barkeep rounded the end of the bar as you and the lawyer stood, left a tip, and stepped outside. As soon as the door closed behind you the fight started.

“Fighting aside, Ben, what’s your suggestion?”

Kiel placed his briefcase on the wooden decking outside. “Michael, Victor Howe has been with you for a long time. Some kind of cash payout would be a good gesture, and a guaranteed annual raise from Miss . . . .” He struggled to remember your cousin’s name.

“Drabbs. Amy Drabbs.”

“Yes. Miss Drabbs will need his help, probably more than either you or Howe realize. Keeping him on the payroll would go a long way to keeping Grambic Tiles solvent.”

You paced outside the clubhouse as another car thundered down the track. You couldn’t tell if the race or the fight set the deck vibrating. The match inside seemed to wind down without my continued instigation. I couldn’t be everywhere at once, and my project was a solo affair. Pity. More bloodshed would have been pleasant.

As the track and crowd noise faded, you continued. “Ben, I told him to have you leave everything to Amy. He didn’t, and obviously told you to leave nearly everything to him. Can I even trust him now? He betrayed me!”

Kiel worried the inside of his cheek. “I could put in language to curb anything he tries if he wants to wrest the company away from Miss Drabbs.”

“Something like . . .” you paused a moment. “You have to approve any major decisions involving the company.”

“Perhaps.” Kiel thought a moment. “A trustee might be the best way to hamper bad decisions, but I’m not sure I’d be appropriate. I’ll think things over and get back to you.”

“Thanks, Ben.” You looked back toward the pit area where Mr. Grin was loading your car. “I’d better go check on things before the day winds down completely.”

Kiel shook your hand. “I’m going to get something to eat before hitting the interstate. Care to join me?”

You considered. The problem was most restaurants outside a race track would be dives or mid-range establishments – certainly nothing of high quality. “I don’t think I could handle a cheeseburger and fries, Ben. I’ll just head home.”

As Kiel headed back to his rented BMW you texted your butler, Charles, to expect the attorney to bring the will in the morning.

Back in the pits you looked around for Boynton. Nowhere to be seen. But his car was getting looked over.

“His stand-in disqualified.” Howe shoved his hands in his pockets. “He’s headed home, too.”

You nodded, still irked with the beagle. “I’m not happy, Victor. Why did you tell Ben to write that will?” You tossed the manila envelope of your rejected will at him.

“You know it’s not greed, sir.”

“You’ve been a valuable assistant for ten years.” You sniffed, still suppressing your anger. “I’m going to assume you’re only thinking of what’s best for the company if I should die.”

Mr. Grin closed up the trailer and walked your direction.

Trying to keep your voice reasonable, you said, “You could help her make good choices.”

“Then I’d be running the company. She knows nothing.” Even though the beagle looked downcast, he exuded defiance.

“She could always sell, but if she wants to keep the company, the new version of my will has you as her executive assistant if you don’t quit.” You pointed toward where Kiel’s sedan backed out of a stall in the parking lot. “He said I should give you a cash bonus, and a sizable automatic annual raise. Provided, of course, the company thrives.”

Though that was a lie, it was something you’d insist on Kiel putting into the will. That you lied was good for the Brotherhood, but it would be better if you didn’t get the chance to put changes in writing. If I had pants, there would be ants in them.

Now if only my project could be completed before the new version was presented for your signature.

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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