By Mark W. Meier
A month later the partners at Kiel, Austin, and Cromwell discussed various payout packages for Austin’s divestment. In the middle of a heated discussion between various paralegals, Austin was surprised when Kiel, normally quite reserved, shot to his feet.
“I’ve got it!” He pushed past secretaries scrambling to get out of his way. “I’ve got it!” He pulled open the conference room door and raced down the hall.
Austin and Cromwell exchanged mystified glances. Austin shrugged and said, “Guess we’re done for now. He’s ‘got it.’”
Moments later, Kiel rushed back into the room and slapped a thin manila folder on the spacious table. “Michael Grambic’s original will,” he said breathlessly. “It predates the hiring of Victor Howe and all his other executive assistants. He had me draw this up the day after his father died.”
Cromwell scooped up the folder before Austin could reach it. He flipped to the last sheet of the ten-page document. “Doesn’t look forged. No stops-and-starts or wavering lines, letter size is consistent, too.”
Kiel slid another page to the table next to the folder. “Here’s a copy of the signature page on the will giving Howe nearly everything.”
This time Austin beat Cromwell to the punch. “They don’t match.”
Kiel grinned as he took out his cell phone. “Time to bring Amy to Savannah.”
Howe/Chamos stood in the spartan soundproof room built into the Wilmington Island home inherited from Michael Grambic. The only adornments were a mat with manacles to hold a human spread-eagle. The gray tiles on walls and ceiling absorbed all of the sound and most of the light from the lone bare bulb attached twelve feet over the floor.
Chamos twisted reality and Mastema’s natural form appeared.
Mastema’s initial expression of surprise quickly transformed into hostility. “What do you want, Chamos? I was in the middle of showing a Canadian how to cast spells.”
Howe’s subjugated personality gibbered in fear while shrinking away. He’d never seen a Brother’s true form.
“I know you prefer to work alone, but I need you for a more important assignment,” said Chamos. “And your affectation of being a ghost isn’t relevant to the Brotherhood.”
“I’ve gone three centuries without appearing in bodily form, and you do this to me? How dare you?”
“How dare I?” Chamos bent reality to his will, pulling Mastema’s arms and legs in different directions. “I serve someone else just as you serve me. We have a plan, and your petty machinations will be subordinate to that design.” Chamos, in Howe’s body, took a threatening step toward the faux wizard. “Do you understand?”
Mastema whimpered. “Okay. Fine. Just give me half an hour to prepare my protege for my absence.”
Chamos contorted space-time even further. “No. I need you to get a hotel clerk believing in magick. I don’t want you wasting time arguing.” He waved a hand and sent Mastema to Iowa.
Another manipulation brought a second Brother into the secret room. Bathin was able to keep the human form of Sally Shoen when being summarily yanked from another assignment.
“Chamos.” Bathin subtly altered the Sally Shoen form into a more voluptuous figure, which leered at the human body worn by Chamos.
“Bathin. A situation requires me to draft you out of your current assignment.” Chamos resented the Brother’s transparent attempt to distract him. Grambic’s will was of too much importance.
“I guess Suriname can wait.”
“And the governor of Georgia can’t. See if you can get him or his people to put pressure on Kiel, Austin, and Cromwell.” Chamos waved Bathin away as Howe-within recovered from his horror at Mastema’s visage.
Another gesture brought Pop, aka Baraqijal, away from whatever he’d been doing. “Pop. Amy Drabbs will be coming to Georgia. See if you can keep her away from Savannah.”
“By any means?”
Chamos’ disappointment sat like a bratwurst in a vegetarian’s stomach. “Yes, Pop. Kill her if you want, but keep her away from here.” He had no hope the overgrown imp would succeed. There were too many of the enemy arrayed against them now.
Barely a nod from the most annoying of Brothers. He vanished without being dismissed. Of course there was his signature POP!
Then the hardest of all, Ruax. Chamos rested a moment to summon every bit of strength he had. Ruax was nearly as capable as Chamos. The order needed to be irresistible, or Chamos would lose status and influence.
Just as Chamos marshaled the last bits of his power, Ruax appeared of his own accord as a nondescript human male.
“Chamos.” Ruax wore a mocking grin. “I’m guessing I was next on your list.”
“Yes.” Chamos relaxed, letting his accumulated energy slowly fade. “I have need of you.”
Ruax’s smirk turned nasty. “After what you did to me with the beagle? Why would I lift a finger to help?”
Howe strained to exercise his will, sensing that Chamos’ was fading. Maybe today he could change something – anything.
“You mistake this as a request. It’s not.”
“You’re not authorized to draft me from my current assignment.”
“You and I both know that you’re bluffing. You have no assignment at all now. You are at my disposal, and I require you to destroy Jessica Austin’s usefulness to Ben Kiel. Kill her only if you need to. We need to keep her expertise away from Savannah, but killing will draw too much attention to this project.” There’d been so much of it already another death or two might show Brotherhood involvement.
Ruax tipped his head to one side, squinted slightly, and grinned. “You’ll owe me for this.”
Howe struck as the word, “Grabintalimtha,” slipped from Howe/Chamos’ lips.
Chamos blinked in confusion as Howe laughed at making his oppressor speak gibberish.
“What was that?” said Ruax, cocking his head.
Chamos sent waves of actinic pain at his host. “I might owe you,” he said to Ruax, “but that depends entirely on how effective you are.”
As Howe screamed in agony, Chamos nonetheless felt his human taunting him.
More than anything, Brothers hated being mocked.
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