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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

The Brotherhood #61

By Mark W. Meier

Part 61

Act V

Victory


Chapter Sixteen


Gavin wondered if his ghostly tutor had abandoned him. Almost a week had passed with no word, and none of his magic worked. He’d tried teleporting home, conjuring cash, even something simple like tripping someone on the sidewalk outside his motel.

Nothing.

Gavin jumped to his feet when the ghostly wizard finally appeared. “You’re back!”

“Yes.” Mastema looked around the ratty motel room. “Looks like you’ve been neglecting your studies while I’ve been busy.”

“I’ve tried – really tried. But nothing works. I can’t even conjure cash.”

Mastema paused, one hand rubbing his spectral chin. “I guess you were more tired than I thought. Have you tried anything today?”

“Why bother? It won’t work.” Gavin was petulant and knew it.

“Well, this afternoon we’re going to try teleporting to Savannah. Rest up.”

Mastema vanished.

***

Austin arrived at Booking, Card, Painter, and Allen just before eight in the morning. The single story stucco building near Atlanta’s Woodruff Park had a sign in the window with office hours and a bold “CLOSED” indicator. She fidgeted in her car until someone opened the office, then slowly drank a coffee in the lobby until Edmond Allen arrived. No one was expecting her that day because her official hire date was really more than six months away, but nobody would quibble about that difference. Besides, she might get an early jump on the process, now that she was done with what was soon to be named Kiel and Associates – if they could even stay in business.

Austin stood when Allen walked in through the front doors. She handed her empty coffee mug to the receptionist. “Mr. Allen? Good morning. And nice shoes.”

Allen paused, looking in puzzlement at the woman addressing him. When he finally realized who she was he said, “Jessica Austin, I wasn’t expecting to see you for a few months yet.”

“I wanted to get familiar with the firm before I actually start.” Austin mostly believed that of herself. She’d wanted to give Kiel everything until she’d planned to move, but her forced departure had moved up her schedule.

“You specialize in inheritance law, right?”

“Yes. Big case going on in Savannah with Michael Grambic’s will.”

Allen’s eyes widened. “That’s your firm?”

“Was. I don’t work there anymore.”

“That’s our case, too. You’d better not do anything to give grounds for an appeal.”

Then Austin’s midnight revelation flooded back. “Is there somewhere we could talk?”

“I guess.” Allen glanced toward a small conference room. “Sam, any reason we can’t use the room?”

The receptionist said, “No, Mr. Allen. It’s not booked until ten.”

“Thanks, Sam. Could you have Greta join us?” Allen turned to Austin. “Greta is head of our paralegals. I’d be more comfortable if she were with us.”

***

An hour later, paralegal Greta Silvanus watched Allen and Austin shake hands in the firm’s lobby as the woman was leaving. Austin had told Bob Allen about a case in Michigan where a will had been probated even though it remained unsigned.

Allen had been vehement about keeping Austin out of the Grambic case. “It’s a conflict of interest for you to get involved in the least possible way,” Allen had said. Silvanus, though, didn’t have that conflict. She’d taken notes, and that was the extent of her job – to record conversations in case the matter came up in a suit of some kind.

Austin left through the front door. Allen went deeper into the offices.

Silvanus knew she had to do the right thing, so she picked up the desk phone in the small conference room and dialed the number printed on Austin’s business card.

The phone rang twice before someone picked up.

“Kiel and Associates, this is Yvette Faucher. How may I direct your call?”

A twinge of pain shot up her back. “I’m Greta Silvanus from Booking, Card, Painter, and Allen. I have some information for Ben Kiel.”

***

Ben Kiel picked up the call his secretary sent in. “Ben Kiel.”

“Mr. Kiel, Bob Allen.”

“Victor Howe’s attorney. What can I do for you this morning?” Kiel had a good idea, but didn’t want to assume.

Allen’s manner was purely business. “Mr. Howe wants me to explore what kind of settlement Ms. Drabbs might accept.”

That confirmed Kiel’s guess. “Does he have an offer in mind?”

“Well,” Allen said, “I’ve suggested he take it to the judge, but he wants to be done with the process so he can get on with running his business.”

Kiel smirked at the concept of “his business.”

Allen continued. “To that end, I’ve been authorized to offer a one-time cash payment of five million dollars, plus another million every year for ten years.”

“That’s an interesting amount, Mr. Allen.” Kiel kept his voice neutral even as he marveled at the amount. He’d often been on the other end of such a negotiation and knew the first offer was a lowball, which meant Howe probably would accept somewhere around double. “I’ll present that to my client when she arrives later this morning.”

“Mr. Howe is eager to complete this negotiation.” Allen cleared his throat. “Can we meet with you and Ms. Drabbs this afternoon?”

“I don’t see why not.” Kiel checked the time: 10:37. Amy was due to land at 11:30, so he could present the numbers at noon, discuss for an hour, and have a leisurely lunch. “How does 3:30 sound?”

Kiel heard papers rustling and a keyboard clacking.

“How about 4:00? Mr. Howe has a teleconference with contractors in Canada for a new facility. It might run longer than expected.”

“We’ll be ready. Where would you like to meet?”

“Grambic Tower, if you don’t mind. Mr. Howe has a conference table in his office which should be large enough.”

“I’ll be in his lobby at 3:45.”

***

Ruax was glad he’d hung around the Atlanta law firm. He didn’t like the way Silvanus looked. When she’d dialed he knew direct action was required. Since this firm was located in Atlanta, not Savannah, there was no risk in taking the most drastic – and fun – measures. Nobody would connect this with what was happening in the coastal city.

The tinny voice coming from the handset said, “Mr. Kiel is on another call right now. Can you tell me what kind of information you have?”

Silvanus half-covered the phone so Sam Manning, the receptionist, couldn’t overhear her whisper. “It’s about the Grambic case.”

Ruax reached into the woman’s chest and squeezed.

“Can you hold for a moment?”

Silvanus tried to say something, but a croak of pain was the best she could manage.

Faucher asked, “Are you okay?”

The woman was dead before she hit the floor.


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