By Mark W. Meier
Nachell Peralta fired her FNX 45 fifteen times before the slide locked open. She looked down the firing line at the paper silhouettes at varying distances.
The closest target, ten yards away, had five neat holes within an inch of the center of mass marker. The second, twenty yards away, had seen some drift in her targeting – her four shots there were still less than two inches from optimum. The third, thirty yards away, only had one hit three inches from center with the other three within two inches. The fourth, forty yards away, still had her remaining two shots where they would seriously injure, if not kill.
She nodded in appreciation. Her Sudanese drill instructor had trained her well before she’d moved to the United States. If anyone tried to attack her boss, Victor Howe, she’d be ready.
With a deft motion she pressed the magazine release with her right thumb. Her left hand pulled a full magazine from her belt and slipped it home before the empty one hit the ground.
She emptied that magazine with similar results, then a third, followed by a fourth.
Peralta held her shooting pose, examining her work. Then, with a practiced move, she stuffed her pistol into its shoulder holster. She raised her right ankle and took the grip of her Kahr PM45. She barely aimed. Six resounding explosions, and the nearest target showed six more hits clustered within two inches.
Unseen and intangible, a senior imp stood beside Peralta, whispering support in the woman’s ear. He hoped to gain a name with his involvement in such a large plot. If Pop could, why couldn’t he?
Kiel sighed in relief as he disconnected. Amy had lived through a plane crash. He doubted it was an accident. The crash would, of course, not be ruled foul play – his opponent wasn’t the type to leave evidence.
Kiel arranged for a chartered helicopter to bring Amy to Savannah when she was released from the hospital. He paid using his personal credit card. Then he finished filing the cases he’d been working on and locked his office. As he waited for an elevator, Austin’s secretary – assistant, he reminded himself – approached. “Working late, Tracey?”
“Yes.” She didn’t seem resentful of staying long hours. “With Austin, I’m working late every day.”
Kiel had always liked working with Droud. She seemed to appreciate the lawyer’s calm deliberation. “Any chance I can entice you into staying here?” Kiel knew Droud had a huge calming effect on anyone she worked with, and that asset would be missed.
“Sorry, sir.” She smiled as the elevator dinged.
Kiel chuckled. “Don’t blame me for trying. You’ll be missed.” He gestured for Droud to enter the elevator before him. “Ladies first.” That kind of Southern Polite was getting to be a rare commodity, and Kiel wanted to keep it alive.
Droud’s smile expanded. “Thank you. And I don’t blame you. I have to say, though, that Austin and I had a fight today. I’m convinced she’s a redhead at heart, but a few hours later she apologized in a way that exhibited real class. When she goes to Atlanta, I’ll be going with her.” The lift hummed as it descended.
Kiel knew the feeling about Austin’s temperament. “Despite that dust up I had with Austin, I wish the two of you nothing but the best.” The bell chimed and the doors opened. “I mean that, Tracey.”
Droud paused. “Thank you, sir. I’m sure Jessica thinks the same.”
Baraqijal stood before Kulak, and if Brothers could sweat, it would be shooting out of his pores like a shotgun blast. “I didn’t know!”
The senior Brother finished his rant about the lesser’s technological ignorance with, “There is more than one cellular tower serving Bowling Green!”
Baraqijal cowered. He’d been tasked to kill or isolate Amy Drabbs, and he’d failed on both counts. So recently promoted above imp, earning his name less than a year ago, he worried about his punishment. Most imps were barely aware of a larger world. Only the most senior of them even knew of the existence of the larger plans of the Brotherhood. If Baraqijal were demoted, he’d lose memory, ability, maybe even sentience.
“Last chance.” Kulak seethed. “Fail again, and you’ll be looking up at sprites!” He waved a clawed appendage.
The lowest Brother appeared outside the hospital in Bowling Green with a POP!
“I’m Baraqijal.” He gasped in relief. “My name is Baraqijal.”
A nurse stared at him as she passed on her way to work.
That’s when Baraqijal realized he was in human form and visible.
His clothes weren’t.
Bathin appeared in the governor’s private sanctum as Rawlin passed through his outer offices. In his guise of Sally Shoen, he waited the last few seconds at one end of the massive walnut desk. He eyed the desk and asked himself, “Compensating much?”
The governor pushed open the door and took three full steps before he came to a surprised stop. Three of his assistants staggered into him, pushing him another pace toward his desk. He didn’t know who the woman was, much less how she’d gotten past all the security and gatekeepers. “Who are you?”
Bathin gave his best professional smile – not the alluring one he’d used on Grael. “I’m Sally Shoen from Political Advisors, LLC.”
Rawlin waved as if batting away a gnat. “Get out, Shoen. I have consultants already.” He stepped around the end of the desk opposite Shoen. “Call security and have her removed.”
The Brother dropped a business card on the desk. “Call me when you want to discuss how to answer the charges of polygamy hitting the news later today.”
The governor stared as Shoen sauntered out of the office without waiting for her escort. He looked from one of his secretaries to the next, then the third. “What is she talking about?”
Bathin smiled. Now all he had to do was make up a marriage certificate and pass it to the Journal-Constitution.
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