The Brotherhood #30
By Mark W. Meier
Windowed The Soul
Zone of action
A smaller section of a larger area. Used during offensive maneuvers.
You couldn’t concentrate when you arrived at work on Monday – your busiest day of the week. There wasn’t a lot to do, but making decisions about closing or opening manufacturing plants, increasing or decreasing production, and how it all affected market prices demanded your full attention. Thousands of families would be affected by your course of action and you wanted to do what was right.
A large plant outside Paris wasn’t performing as well as it had in years past. The French police weren’t decisive in law enforcement around your facility, and vandals had taken their toll. Repair costs were climbing, fear among workers increased, and you weren’t confident there’d be any firm response to counter the problem anytime soon.
Though you didn’t know it, that was another Brotherhood project. There were a great many of those, all intertwined, and all orchestrated.
Your mind kept returning to Sunday’s race, if it could be called that. You’d won, which pleased you, but it was simply a matter of which vessel was better. Skill hadn’t figured into it in the least.
You looked up from the computer screen on your desk. “Victor, when was the last time I sailed?”
“I’ll check, Mr. Grambic.” Your assistant raised the rectangular sound deadening partition at the back side of his desk. The sound of his voice on the phone barely reached you.
That you couldn’t remember wasn’t a surprise. Your father had died young, and seizing the reins of Grambic Tiles had kept you busy until you’d settled in.
Howe didn’t take long to find the answer. He lowered the privacy shield which matched the size and shape of the back of his desk. “Seventeen years, sir.”
A note of sorrow crept into your mind. Your father had been gone for seventeen years, which meant your mother was thirty years deceased. The only family remaining for you was a younger cousin in Iowa you’d only learned about last year. You hadn’t contacted Amy since you preferred to keep people at arm’s length. She might want to hug, and you couldn’t have that.
“Thank you, Victor.”
You considered going back to actual sailing. The wind in your face certainly contrasted with the protected environment you now inhabited. You missed the freedom, and though you owned a top-of-the-line powered yacht you still disdained those who couldn’t handle a true sailboat.
You couldn’t sail today, though. The factory in France had to be closed and a location chosen for another to pick up the slack. Not in Europe. The continuing economic difficulties there left things too unstable. Perhaps Canada. Quebec City would have a workforce, and the infrastructure wouldn’t need to be started from scratch. Access to the Atlantic would cover shipping, and air freight was right next door. As a bonus, if a valued employee from the French facility was willing to relocate, there wouldn’t be much of a language barrier.
“Victor, have Legal dig into starting a factory near Quebec City. They’ll know what to look for. I want it up and running before I shut down Paris.”
Again the privacy shield rose.
The next item on your agenda would have to wait. A Hawker 400 flew past your window jarringly close. You owned a similar plane for your trips to overseas facilities, and hated that cramped mode of travel. Even your Gulfstream seemed closed in.
The elevator dinged. Both you and Howe looked up in surprise when the doors opened to admit Georgia Supreme Court Justice David Boynton.
“Gentlemen.” Boynton pulled a key from a slot inside the elevator and dropped it into his pants pocket. He gave you a mysterious smile and raised a restraining hand as Howe rounded his desk. “Mr. Howe, I suggest you keep yourself in check or I’ll break you in half.”
Howe skidded to a stop. His expression of surprise made me want to laugh. Even his martial arts training would have availed him nothing against the muscular gray-haired justice. Boynton glared at your assistant until the intimidated Howe backed away.
“Mis-ter Gram-bic, I have a challenge for you.” The elevator doors closed behind him.
Boynton stood bold and confident on your turf. He’d infiltrated where only a handful of people should have the ability to access. Somehow he must have gotten a key that bypassed all security measures.
You pushed a button to summon a squad of ex-military security guards. “What challenge?”
“Sailing.” Boynton folded his hands behind his back, remaining at ease with a knowing smirk. “You used to sail, did you not?”
“What do you want, Boynton?” The antique clock chimed once for the bottom of the ten o’clock hour, and you noticed your heart beat twice for each tick.
“Your petty display off Hilton Head. The only reason you won is because you owned a faster yacht.” Boynton gave Howe a dismissive glance. “Go back to your seat, lackey. If I’d wanted to hurt Mr. Grambic you certainly couldn’t stop me.”
You waved for Howe to back off. “I buy the best. If you were interested in having a faster vessel, I’m sure you could have afforded one.”
Boynton walked past your oak conference table and toward your window. His shoes made little noise on the hardwood floor. “Nice view.”
“I have men on the way.” You moved to keep the judge on the opposite side of your desk. Nervous sweat formed on your brow.
“No doubt.” Boyton, still standing at the window, pivoted to face you. “I challenge you to a sailing contest. Both of us with identical single hander boats, just you and me, the wind, and Lake Marion.”
That lake had been created in the 1940s after damming the Santee River for hydroelectric power. You’d sailed there in your teens, but parts of the lake had tree stumps just below the waterline. Dangerous, and you’d once almost killed yourself showing off for a girl. She’d only been interested in you for the money you’d inherit.
“What boat, when, and what’s the course?” Your eyes narrowed in suspicion. Boynton wasn’t known to be competitive, and you sensed a trap.
The justice gave you a look of disdain. “RS Neo, Saturday morning, Polly’s Landing to Buoy 100, to Buoy 94, then back to Polly’s. The total trip will be a little less than three miles.”
You shook your head. “No thanks. I’d never race a course like that without studying it. Saturday would be far too soon.”
Boynton shrugged. “If you have another location or a later date, name it.”
You knew sailing a single-hander could be grueling. “That’s kind of a lengthy race for someone of your age to be twisted up in a Neo. You sure you can handle a trip that long?”
He sneered. “Can you?”
You heaved a silent sigh of releif when the elevator doors slid open to disgorge a half-dozen guards, weapons drawn. They took positions to cover the entire room, but most of their attention was focused on Boynton.
The judge held his hands out to his side, palms down. “Paranoid much, Grambic?” He grinned.
“I seem to recall someone killing Brett Stevens last year.” You gave Boynton a measured stare. “Where were you the evening of March third?”
Boynton laughed, but still held his hands out. “Fair enough, Grambic. When and where would you choose to race?”
You noticed the justice’s hands never wavered and wondered how he could hold them out to his sides that long. “Last Saturday in March. I’ll accept your course – provisionally.”
That would give you most of five weeks for research and practice. In a sailing race like this, preparation meant almost as much as actual skill.
Boynton raised an eyebrow. “Can you stand to wait that long?”
“Probably be windier than this weekend,” you countered. “No fun sailing when there’s no wind.”
After considering, Boynton slowly lowered his hands. “Done. May I leave now?” He eyed the security team leader. “I don’t want to get shot today.”
I could almost hear your thought of, “Perhaps tomorrow, then?” But you restrained the snide comment.
You waved permission for your agents to allow Boynton to leave.
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