By Mark W. Meier
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.
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