By Mark W. Meier
Amy pulled on her jacket and opened her apartment door to find a man about to knock. “Oh!” Amy exclaimed. “Are you here to see me?”
The man drew a glossy business card from his suit jacket. “Miss Drabbs? I’m Ben Kiel, your cousin’s attorney.”
“Cousin? I have a cousin?”
Amy had been trying to pull her life together for more than three months. Somehow, though, one death after another touched those she knew. Even a few of her friends had died unexpectedly. Who would have expected a fireplace accessory to fall and kill someone at a home improvement store?
“Yes, Miss Drabbs. Michael Grambic. May we step inside to talk?”
“I’m running late for work.” Amy glanced at the business card in her hand. “Mr. Kiel, if you want to meet with me tomorrow morning at church, I’ll have some time then.”
“I could drive you to work. We could talk on the way.”
Amy gave a weak smile, remembering Andy trying to get her alone with him. “Wouldn’t be proper, Mr. Kiel.” She pulled her door closed and headed to the steps. “Corinthian Missionary Baptist on Willow Street. Nine thirty.”
“Very well.” Kiel nodded.
The next morning Amy pulled open the church’s front door precisely on time to find the lawyer already waiting in the lobby, seated in a not-too-comfortable chair between two plastic trees designed to make the area more homey. Kiel stood as she entered.
“Mr. Kiel.” She shook hands with the attorney. “Let me see if Pastor Brill is available yet.” She’d asked David Brill to be on hand to chaperone the meeting. “He’s probably in his office.”
Amy pulled open the glass door to the office suite and walked down the short hall to Brill’s office. “Pastor? Ben Kiel’s here.”
The elderly pastor stood. “Conference room?”
Amy nodded. “That should work. I’ll get him and meet you there.”
Amy was apprehensive about the upcoming meeting. In her experience, lawyers typically were an unemotional lot – stuffy, in fact. She wasn’t prepared for the compassion in Kiel’s eyes when she asked him to follow her to the small conference room.
By the time Amy and Kiel arrived, Pastor Brill had already taken the seat at the head of the table. Amy and Kiel sat across from each other. A window with open blinds graced the end of the room opposite Brill.
Kiel slid his briefcase onto the table and popped open the latches. “I have here a will signed by your cousin, Michael Grambic, from Savannah, Georgia.” Kiel pulled out a packet of papers and slid them across to Amy.
Amy took a cursory glance at the top page of the document held together by a binder clip. “I didn’t even know I had a cousin.”
Brill was apparently satisfied to simply bear witness to the proceedings. He watched and listened, fingers interlaced and resting on the table, but otherwise didn’t contribute.
“Your cousin was very aware of you, Miss Drabbs. No doubt some of his final thoughts were of you.”
Amy thumbed through the stack of papers without looking. “How many pages is this? And what does it say?”
“Sixty-three pages, Miss Drabbs. In short, it says he left you a million dollars, with another hundred thousand every year for the rest of your life.”
Amy exchanged a shocked glance with Pastor Brill. Though not exactly impoverished, the congregation at Missionary Baptist didn’t claim any millionaires that she knew of.
“A million dollars?” Amy’s eyes widened more as she looked up at Kiel. “A cousin I’ve never heard of left me a million dollars?”
Then Amy thought she saw something move out of the corner of her eye. She turned to look out the window and felt a chill. Nothing there, but she shivered.
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. That document is a forgery.” Then he, too, turned toward the window.
After taking down Grambic, Ruax should have been assigned another project. He couldn’t help, though, watching what the lawyer was up to. Unable to enter the church, he settled for watching through windows like a peeping Tom.
When Amy turned to the window Ruax thought he’d become visible. No, it must just be a coincidence. Then Kiel’s head rotated his direction. They must both be able to see him. Then Brill’s gaze speared Ruax with a third dagger of awareness.
As Ruax slid away from the window a percussive sound came from his left. The rancid flavor of the sound told him who had appeared. “What are you doing here, Pop?”
“You know I don’t like that name, Ruax.”
“They can see us. I don’t care what you like.” Inconsequentials didn’t enter into Ruax’s decisions. “We should let Chamos know.”
Baraqijal laughed. “You tell him. Don’t include me in your stupidity.”
Ruax pondered. Chamos would be busy with the beagle, but he had other staff from the Brotherhood. “I guess it’s not our responsibility, but maybe we should tell someone, Pop.” He used the nickname simply to irritate the annoying Brother, who’d been promoted from imp not long ago – for the third time.
Baraqijal grimaced. “Not our circus. If Chamos isn’t aware enough to have these ephemerals watched, it’s on him. We can have fun with an easier target or get another assignment. There are thousands of plans to promote.”
“Nobody will miss us for a few days, I guess.” Ruax grinned. “What do you say we make a plane crash somewhere?”
Baraqijal returned his Brother’s smile. “Deal. As long as it’s not here where so many people can see us.”
“You felt that, didn’t you?” Amy gave Kiel a penetrating stare. “And it’s not the first time.”
The lawyer grimaced. “I first felt it when Michael Grambic saw that will.” He pointed at the stack of papers. “I didn’t think much of it at the time, but this was stronger.”
Amy fought to keep from crying. “Andy had that aura around him, too. When he died I saw a . . . creature . . . in his apartment. Then it and Marshal Woods saw me and disappeared. Pastor, I’ve always believed there were . . . forces . . . in the world. It’s a shattering experience to actually see one. Or rather two.”
Brill leaned forward. “I understand. Did you tell the police what you saw?”
“I’m not stupid enough to talk about a horrific monster hovering over my dead boyfriend, Pastor.” Amy wondered if her words were too caustic. “I’ll never forget how it looked at me. Like I was a piece of meat.”
Kiel looked back and forth at the others in the room, as if unsure what to think. “You saw them?”
“Yes. And I can only say they were horrible beyond belief.”
From the streets of Savannah, Chamos looked out through Howe’s eyes at Grambic Tower. Howe’s position as majority owner of Grambic Tiles would be the perfect tool to advance the Brotherhood’s agenda on a scale Chamos knew he deserved. Money, mayhem and misery – he could use all of it to advance himself into the upper ranks of the Brotherhood.
Sure, there were ways to promote their agenda without money, but to keep their goals from becoming too obvious made their work easier. The kind of wealth Grambic Tiles gave them access to provided a believable source of influence in the physical world.
Chamos had Howe walk into the building’s lobby and cross to the elevator, greeting people along the way. Howe had seen Grambic do that a thousand times, and the Brother knew it engendered loyalty to the company.
In the elevator, Howe’s special key bypassed the lift’s normal operation to make the ride an express trip to the top floor. The doors slid open to the desk formerly known as Howe’s, now manned by a very competent, if buxom, brunette. Chamos had no intention of taking advantage of her. Very few Brothers were actually licentiousness, and he had more important things to do with his time.
“Good morning, Miss Peralta.”
“Mr. Howe.” Peralta handed him a single-page briefing of what had happened overnight and an estimate of what the day would require of him. “Looks like Dannacona will be smooth sailing.”
Chamos smiled at the woman. She probably didn’t know Howe’s predecessor had been a sailing man. “Let’s hope so. I want to expand the company, and our Canadian factory will be a big part of that process.”
Chamos wondered what tactics his enemies would use to fight him in Quebec. They tended to be a sneaky lot, using misdirection more often than brute force. Well, the Brotherhood could be cunning, too. Keeping Howe operating as he normally would was key to a larger plan.
After months of a nightmare existence of torment, Howe felt like he’d awakened.
Only the nightmare wasn’t over.
Chamos’ smile broadened as Howe screamed anew.
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