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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

The Brotherhood #39

By Mark W. Meier

Part 39

Act IV

Windowed The Soul


Chapter Eleven


In the marbles

Bits of rubber peel off racing car tires and the “marbles” build up on the edges of a track.


An hour after you arrived home a text arrived from the beagle. He’d found a drag racing team whose owner needed a rapid influx of cash. Five of his most lucrative stock investments all took a nosedive after rumors of sexual misconduct allegations were leveled at the CEOs. Then the team owner’s thirty-million-dollar mansion caught on fire, the suppression system malfunctioned, and the garage doors at the nearest fire stations jammed closed.

The mansion was a total loss.

Coincidentally, vandals ruined his summer home in the Hamptons, his Jamaican home was infested with termites, the workers at all of his factories went on strike, and cleanup from a hurricane in Texas kept him from his ranch.

He’d be living in a hotel until allowed to return to one of his homes. And the penthouse suite’s costs forced him to liquidate his racing team.

All a happenstance, of course.

Your offer of fifteen million dollars was accepted. You were the owner of the Muted Roar Top Fuel Funny Car drag racing team – or would be after the details were sorted out.

“How did you hear about this, Victor? It’s not like this kind of thing is on the news.”

“I’m friends with a guy at Hennen Motorsports. I’d asked him about getting into a race team, so he kept a lookout.”

You nodded. “Good job. Have Ben Kiel look over the papers when they get here, and schedule a signing.” Kiel was your personal attorney, not a corporate hack.

The beagle wrote on a sticky note at his desk. “Should we have a press conference, sir?”

“I don’t think so, Victor.” You stood to take your typical spot by the window, looking toward the river. “It’s not newsworthy.”

“Have you considered updating your will, sir?” The beagle seemed genuinely concerned, but he could be likened to a dog worrying a bone. “After all, picking up a race team will complicate things even more than they already are.”

You scowled, confident your assistant couldn’t see your expression. “I only have the one living relative, Victor. Hounding me won’t get me to change my mind.”

Now the beagle frowned. “Maybe Kiel could write something up. Would you look it over if he did?”

“Fine.” Your sigh would have been enough to tell anyone else not to bother. “But first have him look over the paperwork for the race team.”

“Very well, sir.” The partition between your desk and his rose.

Boats moved up and down the segment of the river you could see between the buildings of Savannah. The water still called to you. Though you weren’t about to race a sailboat again, the peace of sliding over the water was compelling. You considered the sounds of waves and wind and flapping sails as part of the contentment of the process. A smile blossomed at the memories.

That smile would soon be ended, along with your life.

Then the beagle finished a phone call and lowered the panel. “Kiel said he’d contact Saffron Racing and get the paperwork sent to him by the end of the day. If everything is in order we could sign by end of day tomorrow.”

Reality imposed itself. You nodded your response and kept your lonesome vigil.

Then the memory of the street racers screaming past on the interstate bubbled up in your mind. A bit more adrenaline and boating vanished from your imagination.

“Does Isaiah know anything about racing cars?” You turned toward the beagle. “I’ll need someone to oversee the team without getting in the way. I’d hate to have to fire him so soon.”

Howe pondered a moment. “He might have what it takes to manage without being intrusive.”

You turned back to the window. “The people in place know their jobs, Victor. Make sure Isaiah doesn’t step on any toes.”

The beagle’s phone rang, and after a muted conversation he stood to look over the partition. “Sir, Terrance Yang would like a word.”

You sighed again, then returned to your desk and picked up the phone. “Terrance. Michael here.”

“Mr. Grambic.” He’d never called you by your first name, despite your repeated efforts to keep things informal. “How’s business?”

I stirred in your mind, and suddenly you realized “how’s business” sounded like “Howe’s business.” And the beagle had been pushing you to change your will. You stumbled through an explanation of the latest developments in Canada, the police in France releasing their hold on the sale there, and the death of the man responsible for the explosion.

Could Howe have hired the mercenaries? Was he angling to take over?

“Mr. Grambic? Are you there?”

“I’m sorry, Terrance. What was it you’d asked?”

“Any idea when Dannacona will be up and running?”

Though Yang was a minor owner, ten percent of the company was significant enough that you’d have to calm his nerves. “These things take a considerable amount of time. We might not be producing anything until late summer next year.”

You turned to the internet to get some information about Yang while you spoke. “First off there’s the permitting, Terrance.” A quick scan showed his interest in Grambic Tiles to be his only investment in industry, and about half of his personal wealth. No wonder he was nervous. “Our land purchase offer was contingent on getting the required permits for construction. Then we have to line up contractors, subcontractors, municipal workers, and more. Then, and only then, can we break ground.” A notation indicated Yang suffered from ulcers. “If you’d like, I’m willing to buy back your share of the company at a pre-Paris price.”

“Oh, no-no, no.” Yang’s voice still held a nervous edge. “I’m willing to stay the course.”

Time to increase the heat on you. Your end was approaching and events were falling into place.

You heard the beagle’s phone ring again.

“Terrance, it’s busy here. Is there anything else I can do for you?” You noticed Howe lowering the partition at his desk. He held up the phone and mouthed the name of Judge Boynton. You raised a finger to tell him to hang on for a moment.

Yang grunted. “That should do for now, Mr. Grambic.”

After hanging up, you took a deep breath and had the beagle send the call to your phone. “Judge. What can I do for you today?” The vein at your left temple pulsed.

“Mis-ter Gram-bic.” The judge’s condescending greeting grated from your handset. “Going for a different kind of racing now? Drag racing? Are you going to drive wearing women’s clothing?”

Your teeth ground like a neophyte driver shifting gears. “What do you want, Boynton?”

“You realize I saved your life out there on the water, right?”

“Victor told me a fisherman hauled me out and took me to Polly’s Landing. Isaiah had already called for the ambulance. You had nothing to do with it.”

“Au contraire.” The judge’s French was atrocious. “I nearly sailed right over the top of your unconscious body. My keel would have split you wide open. I managed to swerve out of the way, saving your life. You’re welcome.”

You snorted your disbelief. “I’m pretty sure you only dodged to keep from hitting the log, Boynton.”

“Perhaps.” He still sounded smug, regardless of you catching him out. “But now we have another opportunity to race. I’m counting the sailing trip as a win, by the way.”

You sputtered incoherently for a moment. “A win? By what definition could you count that as a win?”

“I crossed the finish line before your fisherman savior.” Boynton sounded genuinely surprised. “Even if he’d beaten me, you weren’t in a sailboat, you weren’t in the same boat you left in, and you weren’t in command of the fishing boat when it returned to Polly’s Landing. I won by any definition.”

“I’ll repeat myself. What do you want?”

“You keep going over the same part of the track, Grambic. Careful you don’t get into the marbles.”

“So as long as I stick to my issue I have traction?” You couldn’t believe he’d admit that.

Boynton “hmmmed” to himself. “Whatever you have in mind it’s not working with me.”

“You still haven’t answered my question.” You sat, planting your forehead into the palm of your left hand. “I’m going to hang up unless you get to your point.”

“Your new race team,” said the judge. “Will you be racing Saturday?”

“Not personally, Boynton. I’m not a practiced driver.”

“But I am.”

This revelation silenced you for several seconds.

Boynton laughed. “Now you’re in the marbles, Grambic. You didn’t know that, did you?”

“What difference does that make?”

“I beat you on the water,” the judge snarled, “and I’ll beat you on the track. Even if you yourself aren’t racing. You’re nothing but a loser, Grambic, as that little event in Paris proves.”

You wondered how a state supreme court justice could possibly be so blatantly nasty. “Beating my racer on the track proves nothing.” But your voice had climbed at least an octave.

“If you say so, Grambic. See you in Atlanta.”

Click.


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