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  • Mark Meier

The Brotherhood #10

By Mark W. Meier

Part 10

Act II

Prophet of Death


Chapter Three

You’d accumulated enough of a following there was no need to blather. Subscriptions to your blog continued to climb, and advertising revenue followed suit.

The day after Marshal Woods accused you of murder, you fielded a question from a local starlet. She’d been singing at regional venues and asked if she should try to go national. She went by the stage name Bether to keep some anonymity in her personal life, and signed her email Crooning to the Country.

Dear Crooning:

You have a strong survival instinct, and can be painfully loyal to your inner circle. When you make the decision to “go nationwide,” you’ll do well if you keep in mind you don’t know everything. However, don’t let others dominate you, as you may be tempted to delegate far too many chores.

Your rebirth as a star will give you intense emotional satisfaction. Avoiding routine will help you skip meaningless romance. A wardrobe including an ascot or colorful scarf might also serve as a barrier against idle flirtation by strangers. Such affectations, however, should be used sparingly. They may prove risky in some circumstances.

Three days later Crooning left a gig at the Reverb Rock Garden in Waterloo. She took an Uber to visit a friend. After dropping the fare, the driver sped away from the intersection of Midway and Sunray, and didn’t notice the starlet’s scarf had caught in the door. The other end of the scarf remained around the singer’s neck. He pulled out on University Avenue before noticing the corpse he dragged. An autopsy showed Crooning’s neck had been broken.

Marshal Woods knocked on your door even before Crooning’s parents had been notified of the death.

By now you were used to such visits. You didn’t even look out the peephole before shouting, “Just come on in, Marshal.” To say you didn’t like him would have been an understatement, but at least someone visited.

Woods opened the door and walked in. “Mr. Reymond, imagine seeing you again.” He sat without invitation. “We have another victim. This time she was only a few miles away.”

You closed down your computer and stood. You crossed your arms and turned to face him without speaking a word.

“You have nothing to say?”

You scoffed. “You haven’t mentioned anything about this ‘victim,’ as you put it. I don’t know the name of your victim, much less what happened to her. How could I have anything to say?”

“Yet you know the victim is female.” Woods made a note. “Interesting.”

“You said ‘she’ was only a few miles away. That’s a detail a writer would catch.” You glared at the Marshal.

Woods returned your glare with his familiar sneer. “Since it happened in your hometown, I thought maybe you’d already heard something about it.”

“I don’t know what ‘it’ is. You’ve told me there’s a victim, but not anything about a crime for the victim to be involved in. Robbery? Assault? Fraud?”

“Try murder.”

“Murder? You still think I’ve killed someone?”

“I think you’ve killed a great many people, Mr. Reymond. I just can’t prove it yet.”

Your television popped.

“Why does it do that?” Woods barked. “That’s your third television, and every one of them has made that noise when I’m here.”

Because I knew it bothered you, as well as the marshal. I made the unit crack again, only louder. The angrier I could make Woods, the more likely he was to arrest you. Which might trigger what I planned for you.

“If I knew, I’d fix it.” You flicked a finger at the monitor. “I’ve even unplugged it. Still happens.”

“About this Ms. Mattis . . . .”

“Who?” You gave Woods an innocent smile, feigning ignorance.

The smile breaking across Woods’ face was genuine for the first time. “Oh, Mr. Reymond, you know who I’m talking about.”

“Your victim, right?”

Now the marshal was calculated in his response. “Your victim.”

“I don’t know anyone named Mattis, Marshal.”

POP.

Woods eyed your television. “She asked you for advice a few days ago.”

Finally you sat back down on your cheap chair. “Marshal, I get a lot of requests these days. I can’t be expected to remember each and every person who writes to me.”

“You answered her question. I’d think that would make her more memorable.”

You stared at the chartreuse wall across from you, trying to remember a Ms. Mattis.

“I can’t recall anyone with the name Mattis.”

Woods waved away a fruit fly hovering in front of him. “Does a singer named Bether bring her to mind?”

“Crooning to the Country! Right. I told her, in essence, that she’d do well singing on a national stage.”

“She caught a ride to a friend’s house. The scarf she’d bought, based on your recommendation, got caught in the car door. Broken neck when the car drove off.”

The look of horror on your face was priceless. That alone made all my efforts worthwhile. But I wasn’t done with you, nor was the United States Marshal.


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