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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

The Brotherhood #50

By Mark W. Meier

Part 50

Act V

Victory


Chapter Seven


Ruax swore so inventively that the pile of plowed snow at the edge of the parking lot steamed. No doubt Pop would claim he’d seen Ruax linger and would suggest some deficiency.

What would be his best course of action?

With Chamos involved in the beagle’s life, that left Kulak in charge. Asking for an assignment now wouldn’t let him satisfy his curiosity, but at least he’d be doing something productive. If he was busy he stood a good chance of avoiding Chamos’ wrath.

Ruax nodded and shifted to the Brotherhood for a project to put himself out of Chamos’ reach.

***

Kiel stepped off the plane in Savannah and exited the terminal. Jessica Austin, from Kiel, Austin, and Cromwell, was waiting there with her car. “Good timing, Jessica,” Kiel said.

Austin shook her head. “Simple process, Ben. The internet tracks everything now.”

Kiel knew that but hadn’t learned enough about using his phone. That he held a computer in his pocket wasn’t top of mind, so when someone like Austin viewed it as second nature it seemed amazing.

Kiel moved to the already-open trunk and dropped in his carry-on. “You got the suit filed, I presume?”

“I may be young, Ben, but I know my job.” Austin smiled. “That’s why you hired me.” She playfully flipped her shoulder-length hair. “Or was it because I’m blonde?”

“If memory serves, it was because of your client list.” Chuckling, Kiel closed the trunk on the Lincoln MKZ.

Austin laughed. “You’re getting senile, old man. I didn’t have a client list yet.”

The two climbed into the front of the vehicle, and Kiel said, “Oh, that’s right. Cromwell was the one with the client list. You do have clients, right?”

Austin started the engine and pulled away from the curb. “Just the one poverty-stricken orphan. He has a job now, so he won’t be stopping by our lunchroom to steal from our refrigerator.”

Kiel let the banter stop there and waited a minute before continuing. “Jessica, there’s something wrong with Grambic’s will.” He braced himself as Austin took the corner onto Highway 21 faster than he liked.

“I’m guessing that’s why you’re contesting it.” She put on an innocent expression and used a caricature dumb blonde voice. “I think my first clue was the lawsuit you had me file.”

Kiel loved to banter, but Austin sometimes didn’t know when to stop. “Did I ever tell you what the problem was?”

“Oh, I forgot to read the paperwork we filed with the courts. Why don’t you tell me?”

Kiel grimaced. “Smart aleck. Howe’s going to fight us tooth and nail, you know.”

Austin grew serious as they passed through Garden City, where Augusta Road became I-516. “I think anyone would fight to keep that much money. You would, too.”

“Maybe. If it was truly mine, you bet I would. If I’d stolen it, like Howe did . . . .” Kiel’s voice trailed off for a moment. “Then I’d be as dishonest as him, and I’d fight for it anyway.”

“Exactly.” The highway curved to the right and Austin whipped around the ramp to West Bay Street. “The one thing you can count on is dishonest people acting as selfish as they are.”

“That’s why the world needs lawyers,” Kiel said.

Austin took a right turn into downtown Savannah and a couple of blocks later turned into the law firm’s parking lot. “I’m guessing you prefer to use your office facilities to freshen up.”

“You guess correctly.” Kiel’s apartment wasn’t fancy. He spent most of his time at the office, so why would he need a posh home?

The car came to a halt in Austin’s parking space facing the brick exterior of the four-story office building.

“Ben?” Austin hesitated. “I’m, uh, giving you advance notice of leaving the partnership.” Then she blurted in a rush, “I have to leave, Ben, but I don’t have to like it.”

“That’s . . . unexpected, Jessica,” Kiel said. “What brought that on?”

“There’s a firm in Atlanta offering me a partnership. They’re about triple the size.” Austin turned off the engine and stared at the brick wall in front of them. “I’ll leave all my local clients with you, but the ones from the Atlanta metro area I’m taking with me.”

All things considered, Kiel couldn’t blame her. He nodded. “When will you leave?”

“I have some vacation time built up.” Austin unbuckled but still didn’t look at Kiel. “I don’t want to leave you in the lurch, Ben. Let’s call my last day October fifteenth, with vacation time filling out to December twentieth. Keeping everything here in this calendar year and Atlanta next year will make things easier.”

Kiel grimaced. “Okay. I have to say I didn’t see this coming, Jessica. Will there be a conflict with our case about the Grambic will?”

“I don’t think so.” Austin dabbed at her watery eyes. “If there is, I can always recuse myself.”

Kiel gave a forced laugh, even if he didn’t think much of anything was funny at the moment. “Remember that kittennapping case?” A divorcing couple had fought over a tiny kitten, stealing the cat back and forth so often neither could remember who had possession of the pet at any given moment. A judge had given the cat to the couple’s daughter, then declared they both had joint custody of the girl. They’d only gotten the case because of another lawyer had to recuse himself.

Austin chuckled. Mimicking the stentorian tones of the judge, she said, “‘The first person to leave Savannah loses custody of both!’ Judge Banning must have known of the King Solomon precedent.”

“It kept both the parents in the girl’s life.” Kiel considered that a win-win. “It’ll be a while before we can buy out your percentage.”

“You have two years, according to the partnership agreement.”

Kiel smiled. “You checked. Good girl.”

“Taught by the best for the last three years, Ben.”

Kiel opened his car door. A shower and shave would make him feel better, but Austin’s departure would leave a hole at the firm. Buying her out would take a chunk out of their finances, too.

“I’ll get your bag.” She climbed out and popped open the trunk.


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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