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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 55

Act V

Victory

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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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

By Mark W. Meier

Part 54

Act V

Victory

Chapter Eleven


Baraqijal flew up into low Earth orbit and selected a bolt with a nearly appropriate vector. He nudged the titanium to fall from orbit, then punched a hole in the atmosphere to keep the metal from burning up.

Twenty minutes later, before those protecting Amy’s plane could notice, Baraqijal released his hold on the troposphere. In seconds the fastener turned incandescent. Trailing vaporized metal, the bolt slammed into the port engine of Amy’s plane.

Baraqijal scowled. He’d missed the passenger cabin, probably because an enemy agent had deflected the missile at the last second. Still, the turbine tore itself to pieces and the plane pitched down toward western Kentucky.

Flames poured out of the engine, streaming behind like a comet streaking toward the sun.

***

Mastema started out with a lie. “You liked her, didn’t you?” He smirked as Gavin threw a book, a lamp, and an empty beer bottle at him. Each passed through where the ghostly figure stood. “Give up trying to hurt me. I’m here to help.”

Another scream ripped from Gavin’s throat, and he dove for the other side table for more useless weapons.

Again Mastema muted the noise as it hit the walls of Gavin’s apartment, which was built using a floor plan identical to Amy’s now-condemned structure. “I want to teach you magick.”

Gavin stopped mid-throw, a stuffed aardvark clenched in his fist. “Magic? What if I don’t want to learn magic?” He stretched back to pitch the toy again.

Mastema didn’t want to get bogged down in the minutia of magic vs magick. “Then I’ll leave,” Mastema lied again. “But that girl was kind of attractive, wasn’t she?”

Gavin considered. He hadn’t thought so at the time, but thinking back he had to admit he now wanted her more than anything. He lowered the gift from his sister. “Yes. But there’s something I don’t like about her.”

“Learn magick.” Mastema leered. “You can make her the way you want her.”

Gavin’s expression mirrored the ghost’s.

***

Bathin sashayed into Governor Rawlin’s office suite in the Georgia Capitol building. The stone edifice would no doubt impress ephemerals, but Bathin had seen far more astounding construction in various empires across the centuries. Even the snug skirt and tighter top revealed more awe-inspiring structure.

The male secretary, Kenneth Grael, the initial gatekeeper for the office, looked at Bathin’s Sally Shoen persona and stopped everything. He glanced at Bathin’s ring finger to assess whether she was married. Not that it would make any difference to him.

“May I help you?”

Bathin lowered a briefcase to the floor to give the flunky a nice view. Then the Brother extended a hand toward the secretary. “Sally Shoen. I believe I spoke with you about getting a few minutes of the governor’s time.”

Grael nodded. His expression told Bathin that he’d have done more for Shoen if he’d only realized how attractive she was. With one eye reserved for her physique, he tapped on his computer keyboard. “Perhaps we could squeeze in a few minutes after lunch. I’ll have to check with his executive secretary first. We could meet at Capitol Commons at one o’clock to discuss what I find out.”

Bathin gave a slight smile he knew Grael would interpret as invitation. “In the solarium?”

“Solarium it is.” Grael nodded and opened a small address book. “I’ll make a call and meet you there.”

Bathin nodded, his smile growing. “One o’clock.”

***

The Phenom 300 spun out of control, waking Amy from her nap. Therese screamed from her seat behind the younger woman. Different blurred colors flashed past the window in the side of the plane – white, blue, green, and more arced through the view.

The smell of melting plastic and seared metal washed over Amy as a wave of thick, black smoke obscured everything beyond a couple of feet away. She turned toward the window as the jet shook like a horse shedding rainwater.

Amy’s eyes widened, but then the jet stabilized for a brief moment, pointing nearly straight toward the landscape below. The scenery out the front of the airplane, unobstructed by anything more than the busy arms of the pilot and copilot, showed a cityscape expanding far too quickly.

One of the two in the control cabin said something like “emergency landing,” but all Amy could think was “crash.”

Therese’s screams never let up, and Amy wondered if the woman even breathed.

Baraqijal, still unable to directly affect the jet, was permitted some access because of Therese. He mimicked the terror of the flight attendant, long after the woman’s heart gave out. Another two minutes and his part in Chamos’ design would be over.

One dead, three to go.

***

Gavin sneered. As it turned out, he was a natural.

In half an hour the man had learned how to cast his first spells, despite what his ghostly tutor had indicated. “Years of training – HA!”

He looked out his bedroom window and watched a teenager rolling down the sidewalk on a skateboard. With a flick of his wrist Gavin made the front wheels seize up, pitching the youth face first into the concrete.

The desk clerk wriggled his fingers and the skateboard, which had flipped into the air, came down on the back of the neck of the injured teen.

Gavin chuckled. Another spell as the kid climbed to his feet, dazed.

Mastema dampened the youth’s emotional reaction, correctly reading his “student’s” intent. Normally he’d make his client suffer through a thousand setbacks before giving him what he wanted, but Gavin needed to be brought along to the point where he had some idea of what to do.

If, that is, Amy survived the incident Pop had engineered. Mastema had very little confidence in that particular Brother.

***

Baraqijal exited the jet as it floundered over Bowling Green’s airport. The white painted “12” sped into the plane’s wake as it belly-flopped to the tarmac. Smoke and flames erupted, sparks flew, and vaporizing fuel combusted.

Inside the Phenom the surviving humans pitched against their restraints. The pilot’s experience had saved them from spiraling in, but he died when his face impacted the dashboard. The copilot, helping out with the control column, was impaled moments later.

Baraqijal ticked two more victories for himself. “Call me Pop, will you? How about Crash, now?”

Amy’s life force still pulsed in the smoldering fuselage, however.

Baraqijal wondered why the plane hadn’t become fully engulfed, then noticed the expanding fireball at the end of the runway. The wings had . . . popped . . . off. Not enough left to burn as the body of the craft slid to a stop three-quarters of the way down the pavement.

Pop muttered invectives to himself, knowing he hadn’t earned a new nickname yet.

***

Ruax watched Miss Sharpe move through her work day at the law firm in a haze. At noon she noticed a pile of boxes packed and ready to be loaded in her car, but couldn’t recall packing them.

After the Brother released his distraction, she pulled open her office door and called for her personal assistant. “Tracey! Has anyone been asking for me?” Across the ten feet which separated them Ruax could feel Droud’s aura of disapproval.

“Yes,” Tracey Droud hissed her irritation. “Mr. Kiel has been calling for hours, and even came in person.”

Ruax wanted to dance, but his job wasn’t complete. Celebration would be premature.

Miss Sharpe frowned, but before she could respond her assistant’s phone rang.

“Kiel, Austin, and Cromwell. Jessica Austin’s office.” Hissy listened for only a few seconds. “Yessir, Mr. Kiel. I’ll tell her.”

Still with a scowl on her face, Miss Sharpe asked, “What does he want?”

“You to stay put.” Hissy crossed her arms. “When he was here at eleven-thirty he used his passkey. You’d jammed the door with something so nobody could get it open.”

Ruax sensed Sharpe’s disbelief.

“I’ve been packing my office all morning and nobody knocked, the phone never rang, and nobody tried to get in.”

Hissy’s demeanor hardened. “Do you want me to stay here with Kiel? I don’t like being lied to, Ms. Austin.” The woman’s toe tapped the tan carpeting.

Ruax figured getting Miss Sharpe out of town wouldn’t be too difficult. He’d managed to blunt her perceptions for a whole morning, which had gone a long way to alienating her closest coworkers. There was no reason for her to stay even another hour.

Perfect.

***

Baraqijal was about to transport a few gallons of Jet-A into the passenger cabin’s interior when Amy regained consciousness.

“Help me, Lord!”

The words were no more than a delirious muttering, but were still effective.

The Brother vanished – with a pop – and reappeared outside the craft.


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 53

Act V

Victory

Chapter Ten


Amy tried to look everywhere as the private jet’s engine whine increased. The craft moved toward the small taxiway pointing to the brightening horizon. Wisps of cloud, only orange a few minutes earlier, already turned white.

Garbled voices, both on and off the radio, spoke gibberish to each other. Amy looked from the sky to the visible controls in front of the pilot, back to the passenger cabin, and finally over her shoulder at Therese, the only flight attendant aboard.

“First time flying?” The stewardess gave her a reassuring smile. “It’s no big deal, really. I’ve been on hundreds of flights.”

Amy felt anxiety tightening her chest. “Would you pray with me, Therese?”

The stewardess paused before saying, “Sure.” She unbuckled and slid forward in her seat so she could reach Amy, who turned in her seat.

The two clasped hands.

***

Baraqijal flew backwards from the Phenom 300 and swore. He’d been about to punch a small hole in one of the fuel tanks in the wings. He knew a prayer when it hit him.

“Plan one, foiled,” he muttered.

***

“Amen.” Amy smiled at Therese, convinced that the older woman didn’t really believe. That was okay, though. Few really did. Probably not even Andy. That thought stopped her smile, but she thanked the flight attendant anyway.

The radio squawked, and the pilot gave a cryptic reply before the plane’s engines roared and the craft rolled forward. A half-minute later the jet pitched up and leaped into the sky.

A voice came across the tiny jet’s PA. “Amy, this is your pilot, Jim Robbins. We’re going to be in the air for about two hours, and when we reach our cruising altitude I’ll let you know. Until that time please remain belted in. If there’s something you’d like, let Therese know. She knows how to move around a passenger cabin while in the air.”

Therese placed a hand on Amy’s shoulder. “We’ll be climbing for a few more minutes.”

The plane rolled to Amy’s right, and her chest tightened again. “I’ll stay here.” She could feel the blood drain from her face. Amy had never been fond of roller coasters and hadn’t felt the world move around that way since her last ride at the fair with the youth group. “Maybe I’ll nap.”

She closed her eyes. Then the small jet rolled level again and sunlight blasted in through the windows in the pilot’s cabin. Amy sighed. Maybe she wouldn’t nap.

Therese stood and moved forward to the refreshment center right behind the control cabin. She withdrew a sleep mask and a package of ear plugs from the cabinet and offered them to Amy. “This should help.”

“Thanks, Therese.”

In a few minutes Amy was fast asleep.

***

Baraqijal hunted for another option. He couldn’t touch Amy’s plane with any of his abilities, but perhaps another solution would present itself.

Before he left, though, he caused a static burst which made the pilot’s earphones POP!

***

Gavin had been dreaming of the girl he’d checked into the hotel when he awoke with the sense of someone in his bedroom. When he noticed a ghostly figure hovering a few inches above his apartment’s floor, he screamed.

Mastema dampened the sound.

He’d visited too many people as a ghost to be surprised by a sudden scream.

***

Bathin called the governor’s switchboard.

“Governor Rawlin’s office.”

“Hi, my name is Sally Shoen from Political Advisors, LLC.”

***

Ruax grimaced at the thought of helping Chamos. Still, the Brotherhood had assigned the case, so he watched Jessica Austin go through her morning routine.

He needed to get her out of Savannah as soon as possible, but the lawyer was sharp – certainly more attentive than the nearly oblivious Michael Grambic had been. Getting Miss Sharpe out of town might take a whole week.

Perhaps the old stereotype would be the best option.

Yes.

Maybe even appearing physically.

Ruax smiled. He didn’t have a week, so being blunt might make things easier.

An hour later, as Sharpe entered her firm’s building, he purposely stepped in front of her before physically appearing out of nowhere as a tall man with black hair and a neatly trimmed beard.

Austin slammed into Ruax’s human form, and both fell to the granite floor. The folders he held went flying while her briefcase slammed to the granite and slid a few feet to the side.

“Watch it, prat whid!” Austin snapped.

Ruax extricated himself from the woman, laughing at Austin’s British term for breaking wind. “Oh, I haven’t heard that one in a long time. Sorry for bashing into you.” He gave his best disarming smile. The Brotherhood had perfected that sort of thing over the millennia. “Can I make it up to you by taking you to dinner tonight?”

Austin stood dazed and dumbfounded while Ruax collected his papers and retrieved her briefcase. “I, uh, don’t even know your name.” Her ire had already faded.

“Roy.” He held out his hand. “Ruth’s Chris?” His smile broadened as he felt Sharpe’s resistance crumble.


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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