The Brotherhood #51
By Mark W. Meier
The next morning Amy’s alarm went off at eight. She could have used the hotel room’s clock, or left a wake-up call, but she trusted her own timepiece.
After showering she read a section of her book by Sarah Young, then went down to the lobby for her complimentary continental breakfast. A package of oatmeal and a glazed cruller should hold her until her shift started at the store.
The real question was what to do with her time. She could always drive over to church, or visit the library, perhaps meet up with Andy.
Then reality came crashing back in. Andy was dead. Had been for months.
A man dressed in felt pajamas, patterned with red cherubs sporting pointed tails, entered the tiny breakfast room. His long hair was pulled back into a pony tail, but otherwise left free. “Good morning.” He yawned as he pulled two slices of bread from their package and dropped them into the toaster. “I hate hotel rooms.” He pushed the lever down and set the dial to “extra dark.”
“I don’t mind them.” Amy wiped her eyes. “It’s another place to stay is all.” Something about him set her teeth on edge.
“I’m Gus.” His spectacled eyes surveyed the selections available at the breakfast bar and took a bowl to the row of cereal dispensers. “I think chocolate.” He pulled the handle to dispense his food.
“Amy.” She pushed a few lingering bits of oatmeal around her own bowl as Gus’ toast popped up. “What are you here for?”
“My job. It requires me to travel and meet with people.” Gus grimaced and poured whole milk on his chocolate cereal. “Probably the most distasteful part of my existence is the people.”
“You don’t like people?”
“I only like the ones I’m done with.” Gus spread butter and jelly on his nearly black toast. “I don’t have to deal with them again. Ever.” He shoveled cereal into his mouth like he was racing.
Amy was taken aback by his misanthropy. Why was he like that? Then she caught a hint of a feeling and knew who he was.
Gus smiled as Amy’s eyes widened. “Yes. You can tell, can’t you? Chamos said you could. But I’m not here for you.” He shoved the toast into his mouth and swallowed. Without using a spoon he drank the rest of his breakfast straight from the bowl. “Gotta go see to my own assignment, Amy. I like you even less than the rest of your horrid species, but you’re someone else’s problem.” His eyes narrowed and he vanished, leaving his bowl behind.
Amy stared at where Gus had stood, unsure of what to do. Pray. That’s what. But before she could even begin, her cell phone buzzed. She answered without looking at the caller ID.
“Amy Drabbs? Victor Howe.”
The name startled Amy. “Hey, that’s like the name on my hotel reservation.”
“Exactly, Victoria.” Howe’s voice took on a nasty tone. “I’m having you watched, and you have no hope of winning your little lawsuit.”
“Uh, Victor? I didn’t file any lawsuit.”
“Liar,” he snarled. “You had Ben Kiel sue to void Grambic’s will so you could get everything.”
Amy threw out a quick prayer. “I didn’t even know I had a cousin until Ben Kiel approached me. But if you hadn’t forged his signature it wouldn’t be an issue.”
The growl in Howe’s voice vanished. “I’ve been signing his papers for years. I’m going to win this case.”
“Perhaps.” Amy didn’t really care who was awarded the inheritance. “Doing what’s right is what matters, and stopping you is what’s important.”
“You’ll never stop me.”
Amy’s hand holding the cell phone closed on air.
There had been no phone.
She must have left it in her room.
A woman with rollers in her bright red hair stood at the entrance to the breakfast room. “You okay, honey?”
Amy wondered if she’d imagined the whole conversation.
At his desk in Grambic Tower, Chamos grinned. The material world was so easy to manipulate. The Brotherhood tried to avoid doing so, because hiding was a better tactic. If too many knew it was done, the overall strategy might collapse, according to Kulak.
Peralta’s voice brought Chamos/Howe back to the here and now. “What is it, Nachell?”
The secretary stood to look over the privacy shield between her desk and Howe’s. “There’s a Terrance Yang who called your private line. He wants to know if you have a moment.”
Howe had always been treated well by Yang, so he screamed a silent “NO!” Anyone in contact with his oppressor became a tool or was damaged in some way. Howe surged forward to stop Chamos.
The fact Howe didn’t want it cemented Chamos’ decision. He stomped down Howe, enjoying the howls of pain from his pawn. Speaking with Howe’s voice took a bit of effort to overcome the human’s resistance, but once inhabited, nobody could stop a Brother. “Sure. Put him through.”
A light on Howe’s desk phone glowed, and Chamos had to fight the human’s will to pick it up. “Mr. Yang, Victor Howe. What can I do for you today?”
“I just got to the office.” Yang’s voice growled with anger. “What’s going on with our stock prices?”
The Brotherhood was spreading rumors that Grambic Tiles would collapse. The company’s stock prices had fallen to half the price it had been before the Paris explosion. On the heels of Grambic’s death it didn’t take much to erode confidence in the company. Howe could snap up remaining shares at a discount.
“Mr. Yang, there are those who still expect the company to fail simply because Mr. Grambic died.” Chamos took a moment to replay the conflagration that had killed the majority owner of Grambic Tiles. “Tragedy makes people nervous when there’s no reason to be. If you’d like, I’ll buy your shares at the closing price the day before he died.”
Yang cleared his throat. “Uh . . . well . . . I’m not sure. Your company has been a reliable business for a number of years.”
Howe tried yelling, “Hang in there, Yang. Resist!” But Chamos’ control was too tight.
“Then you shouldn’t get cold feet, Mr. Yang.” Chamos had to reassure Yang, all the while hoping he’d sell. That extra percentage of company shares would help the Brotherhood in the long run.
Again Yang hesitated. “I guess I’ll hang on for a while yet. But your stock price is down by half! Aren’t you even a little nervous?”
“Not really. The reward for those who hold strong will be so much better.” Chamos didn’t mention “Howe” had already bought back about half of the outstanding shares not owned by Yang.
“The thing is,” Yang said, “it’s been so reliable for so long it’s very disconcerting to have things go so far south now.”
Chamos was sure Yang was nearly ready to sell. “I can only renew my offer to buy you out at the price mentioned already.” He had to play things just right – not too obvious, but not too subtle – to get those shares under his control.
The phone line stayed silent for a half minute before Yang responded. “No. I’ll stand pat. For the time being.”
Chamos gritted his teeth. “Call if you change your mind.” He slammed the handset into the cradle.
Then he said a very nasty word that made Peralta’s eyebrows raise.
Ben Kiel toweled off, wishing he could wipe away the dread of Austin leaving the firm. She’d been an asset to the partnership and at times seemed more like a very close friend – perhaps even a daughter.
He dressed and opened the bathroom door to find his executive secretary waiting in his office, seated on his leather sofa. “What is it, Yvette?”
Yvette Faucher had been a street urchin when Kiel had first noticed her. He’d hired her to deliver messages, then found a tutor for her. After earning her high school equivalency– at fifteen – Kiel had given her a job sorting mail for the then-fledgling Kiel Law Office. Twenty years later, Faucher was the gatekeeper’s gatekeeper. Not even one of the paralegals could see a partner at Kiel, Austin, and Cromwell without going through her. Soon, it would just be Kiel and Cromwell, he thought with disappointment.
“Rumor has Austin leaving in November.”
Kiel sat down in a chair across the room from Faucher’s perch. He opened a drawer on an oak credenza beside him and pulled out a new pair of dress socks. Faucher never beat around the bushes “Your point?” He pulled on his socks and reached for his shoes, thinking how fast the staff change had become common knowledge.
“Five of the paralegals will go with her.” She pointed toward his tidy desk. “I’ve left a list.”
Kiel whistled his amazement. “I’ll talk to Jessica. Perhaps she can convince one or two to stay here. She owes me big time.”
“Don’t we all?”
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