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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 59

Act V

Victory


Chapter Fifteen


Kiel had a list of bad news when he arrived at the office the next morning. Probably the biggest problem was the notice by the Georgia Bar Association calling into question his fitness to practice law. Governor Rawlin had asked for a review of Kiel, Austin, and Cromwell. An anonymous tip suggested some of his lawyers might be disbarred.

Second on the list was a note indicating their initial appearance in the Grambic/Howe hearing had been moved up to next week. They had five days to put together a legal presentation to give grounds for contesting Grambic’s will. He’d been counting on months of research and preparation.

And Austin wouldn’t be available to help out.

Yvette Faucher buzzed Kiel’s intercom. He picked up. “What is it, Yvette?”

“Austin’s here.”

“Thank you, Yvette.”

He left his office suite and turned left – toward the area with Austin’s office, as well as half the associates and their assorted staff. Tracey Droud, head of that section of secretaries and paralegals, stood.

“Mr. Kiel. She just got here.”

“Thanks, Tracey.” He stepped into Austin’s office to find her packing one small box with personal belongings.

“I’ll be out in ten minutes, Ben.”

Kiel detected a strong note of anger, and hoped that wasn’t because of him. “You could stay.”

Austin paused, holding a stuffed Troll over the box. “We covered that already. It’s time to move on.” She threw the toy into the cardboard container hard enough for it to bounce out. She swore.

“You’ll be missed.” Ben looked down at the commercial grade carpeting. “And you’ll always have a place here if you wanted to come back.” He picked up the Troll and gently stowed it for his partner.

Faucher rushed into the office, face reddened. “They’ve disbarred Cromwell. Can they do that so quickly?”

Kiel cursed. “If someone has enough influence. Jessica, take care of yourself.” He turned to leave. “If you need anything, let me know.”

Faucher was about to say more, but her boss signaled her to wait. She gave Austin a sad grin. “It’s been nice working with you.”

“Thanks, Yvette. Go tell Ben the rest of your news.”

The two hastened back to Kiel’s office. Faucher hadn’t even closed the door when Kiel said, “Okay, what’s next.”

“Virtually everyone here has been disbarred.” Faucher pushed hair back behind her ear. “Only you, Judy, and Carl are left. And you’re under review.”

Kiel reeled, falling into a sofa to the side of his desk. “What happened to bring this on?”

“The executive committee of the state bar was given information last week that members of our firm lied to the FBI in the Lewis case.” Faucher looked down at some notes on her phone. “I quote, ‘We realize that Ben Kiel was vacationing in Spain during the time in question, but it strains credulity to think he didn’t know his own subordinates provided false testimony to federal investigators.’ They’re checking phone records to find out if anyone called you. If they did, you’ll probably be disbarred, too.”

Kiel knew why this was happening, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. “Of course the allegations are untrue.”

Faucher grimaced. “What are you going to do?”

Kiel blinked. “I don’t know.”

***

Chamos sat in the middle of a spiritual web, sensing which strands were tugged, how hard, and in which direction.

Peralta, on the other hand, only saw her boss, Victor Howe, staring off into space. She shook her head while the imp beside her whispered supportive words in her ear.

She went back to work, only occasionally glancing up to look at her boss.

***

Five days later a disheveled Ben Kiel took his place at a table facing the judge’s bench. Only that morning had he been informed their scheduled judge had won $200,000 in the latest Powerball. Currently he was taking time off to rearrange his financial life.

Kiel groaned when he read the name plate on the massive desk in the front of the court room: “Jameson Boynton.”

While still arranging the paperwork into stacks on the mahogany workspace, Kiel heard the doors open in the back of the courtroom. Howe and his attorney entered and made their way up the tiled aisle, hard-soled shoes clacking with each step.

“Mister Kiel,” Howe gloated. “My lawyer, Bob Allen.”

Allen barely glanced at Kiel. “From Booking, Card, Painter, and Allen.”

Kiel nearly choked as an assault of aftershave washed over him, so strong Kiel could taste the Ice Blue. “I believe your firm took one of mine. Austin is a great lawyer.” He wondered why Allen was even talking to him. Opponents rarely talked to each other in a court room.

“I’m sure she’ll have her name up there with the rest of the partners in no time.”

Allen moved to his side of the courtroom just as Judge Boynton entered. He was followed by a bailiff and a stenographer.

“Are we ready, gentlemen?”

Allen was about to speak when Kiel interrupted. “Your Honor, I’d like to clarify something before we begin.”

Boynton sat. “By all means.”

The steno pressed keys to begin the transcript of the hearing.

“My late client, Michael Grambic, whose will we’re discussing today, died in an accident while racing against your uncle, Associate Justice David Boynton. I wondered if there was any conflict of interest.”

Boynton flipped through the papers on his desk. “I believe Mr. Grambic died toward the end of last month. Is that correct?”

“Yes, Your Honor.” Kiel glanced down at his notes. “March twenty-eighth.”

Boynton looked up. “My uncle has been on sabbatical for more than three months. There’s no conflict, because he couldn’t have been involved in a race on the date in question.”

Kiel’s skin prickled with dread. “I saw him at an Atlanta drag race earlier that day.”

Boynton shook his head. “Sorry. He’s been in Italy since the week before Christmas. Shall we get started?”


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.



  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 58

Act V

Victory


Chapter Fourteen


Gavin smiled when he saw Amy’s jaw drop as he sauntered into the room.

“Gavin? What are you doing here?”

The hotel clerk was pleased that she’d remembered his name. “I heard you were injured and wanted to visit.”

“Why would you travel five hundred miles to visit me? And how did you even know? Nobody in Waterloo even knows I’m here.”

Gavin moved to the window side of Amy’s bed and looked toward the highway. “I have my ways.”

A nurse came in to check on Amy. “How are we doing tonight, Miss Drabbs? You have a visitor, so that must be good news.”

A befuddled Amy managed to say, “Um. Yeah.”

Gavin cast a spell to convince the nurse to open up to him. “When do you think Amy will be released?”

The nurse perused the monitors hooked to Amy. “Sorry, but I can’t say anything about a patient unless she gives permission.” She looked at Amy out of the corner of her eye.

Gavin scowled as Amy shook her head a fraction. Why had his spell failed, and why was Amy so closed to him? “Uh, well, yeah. I get that. I guess.” Then he noticed Mastema loitering outside the hospital room.

“Time to go,” the tutor said.

Amy yawned. “Gavin, I’m getting kind of tired. I’d like to rest, if you don’t mind.”

But the nurse stayed, raising Gavin’s ire. “Okay.” Magic had failed to operate, so he needed to regroup anyway. “I’ll stop in tomorrow.” He left without waiting for a response.

Once the door closed, Mastema told him, “Don’t try magick again until you’re rested.” He manifested a physical, albeit invisible, hand and forcibly pulled Gavin back from the bank of elevators. “Do you understand me?”

The hotel clerk gulped, but still resisted his teacher. “You don’t own me. I teleported us here, so I know something of magic.”

The ghostly wizard gave Gavin the superior glare the young man had grown to hate. “Have you noticed the difference between the way you say ‘magic’ and the way I say ‘magick?’ Don’t you think you’re barely touching the surface of what’s available?”

“I know enough.” Gavin crossed his arms.

An orderly walked past. “Talking to yourself? We have room available in our special wing.”

“Cell call.” Gavin pointed at his ear.

Mastema laughed. “That’s going to get old. But let’s see how much magick you can do with unresponsive hands.” He flicked a finger toward Gavin’s hands.

“Right.” Gavin sneered, but when he reached to press the elevator’s call button his hands didn’t respond. His arm lifted, but everything from the wrist outward was as limp as a wet plastic grocery bag.

Mastema’s arrogant sneer had returned. “Right. Do as I say.” The wizard pressed the button Gavin had failed to activate. “Find a place to stay, rest up, and we’ll try again tomorrow.” Another flicker of a gesture toward the limp hands. “I’ll meet you in the lobby. Something I have to do up here.”

Gavin stared and his hands, flexing them to make sure they worked again. He barely managed to slip through the doors as they closed.

***

Mastema zipped over to the nurses station. Amy’s chart was up and a CNA was making a note about the Toradol she was about to administer. She went to a dispensary and unlocked a refrigerated cabinet. When she reached for the painkiller Mastema edged her hand over a few vials.

“Nembutal should do the trick,” he muttered to himself.

***

Governor Rawlin stood at the podium in his press room. A dozen reporters shouted questions at the smiling man. His wife smirked beside him, and his son and two daughters stood off to one side of the low platform.

Rawlin raised a hand, and the room quieted a little. “I’d like to answer the allegations about having two wives. In fact, I have fifteen wives.” He gave the shocked news people a wide smile. “No, let’s make it thirty, or fifty.”

Silence answered him.

As the assembly roused into indignation, he pulled a stack of papers from a shelf in the lectern. “How about a hundred?”

Mrs. Rawlin took the documents and walked down the two steps to the front row of reporters. She peeled off a few sheets and handed them to the first reporter. Another few pages went to a second, then more to the next, and so on until everyone in the room had at least a few marriage certificates.

“They all look real, don’t they?” Rawlin said. “They’re all fake.” He glanced at Sally Shoen in the back of the room and nodded an acknowledgment. She’d saved his career in a matter of hours.

Who knew what else she could do? And all she asked was to investigate a Savannah law firm, which seemed reasonable enough. If they’d done nothing wrong, what could it hurt?

***

The nurse drew out the amount of medication the chart indicated and inserted the hypodermic into the port on Amy’s IV.

***

Austin had just turned off Skidaway onto Bonaventure when her cell phone rang. She answered via her car’s hands-free system. She didn’t recognize the number, but took the chance it wasn’t a spam caller. “Jessica Austin.”

“Jessica, Miles Archer.”

“Miles.” Austin took a moment to recognize her landlord’s name. He’d never called since she’d rented the place three years earlier. “Something wrong?”

“Well, you could say that.”

Archer’s slower-than-usual southern drawl told Austin something serious had happened. “What is it, Miles?”

“A water main broke on Fennel.”

Austin crossed over the canal and followed the road as it curved to the right. “I’m almost home. What’s happening?”

Background voices came through the phone before Archer spoke again. “Might as well turn around, Jessica. Your house is gone.”

“What?” Austin was almost too stunned to follow the soft bends on Bonaventure. “What do you mean? What happened?”

“The leaking water undercut a large part of the house’s foundation. The entire front of the home has collapsed.” More background noise. “No, don’t worry about it,” Archer said to someone on his end of the call. “I’m going to raze the building. Knock down whatever you need to.”

“Miles!” Austin’s voice climbed an octave. “I have belongings in there! Let me get some stuff out before you do anything drastic.”

***

Mastema looked in through the window as the CNA depressed the plunger on the hypodermic. He cursed as the body of the device shattered.

“Problems?” Amy asked.

“Yeah.” The nurse stared at the broken pieces in her hand.

Mastema, however, knew. The enemy’s presence in the hospital grew, and he was forced to leave.

***

Ruax blocked Archer’s cell reception, so all he heard was, “Miles! I have . . . .”

A utility worker in an orange vest asked, “Are you sure?”

Archer glared at his phone and tucked it away. “If nobody can get in there, what’s the difference if there’s something valuable?”

The utility man signaled a backhoe operator. The engine revved.

A minute later Miss Sharp’s car came into view. The roof of her home crashed into the living area, destroying everything inside.

Ruax danced.

***

Kiel’s phone rang, interrupting his evening meal. He glanced at the caller ID and answered. “Jessica, what’s up?”

“My house is gone, Ben.”

Kiel lowered his fork into the takeout container. The chicken Alfredo could wait. “What do you mean, gone?”

Austin’s voice, choked with emotion, told the story of a broken water main washing dirt and foundation material down the street. Most of her neighbors were evacuated pending inspection, but her house was already razed.

“What are you going to do?” Kiel glanced at his supper. People were more important than a cold meal.

“I’ll stay in a hotel tonight. Tomorrow I’ll collect my things from the office and head to Atlanta. No sense trying to reestablish myself in Savannah for only a couple of months.”

Kiel was speechless. Nothing like this had ever happened to him or anyone he knew.

“Ben? You there?”

“Yeah.” He ran a hand over the top of his head. “I don’t know what to say. This is a huge setback for you. Can you salvage anything?”

“Doubtful.” Anger crept into Austin’s voice. “My landlord told the utility guys to bring down the house before I even got there. Everything’s gone.”

“Well.” Kiel paused. “Is there anything I can do? My place is too small, but I have some cash if you need clothes, or luggage, or anything.”

“I just need to think, Ben. Better yet, I need to not think.” Austin went quiet for a bit. “I’m going to do some shopping tonight. My credit cards should cover my needs, short term.”

***

Ruax listened in on the rest of the conversation, but nothing of consequence was said. He briefly considered messing with Miss Sharpe’s ability to use her credit cards, but that would work against his assignment to get her out of Savannah.

Besides, he could have his fun with her once she arrived in Atlanta.

Something to look forward to.


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.



  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 57

Act V

Victory


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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