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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

The Brotherhood #7

By Mark W. Meier

Act II

Prophet of Death

Scene 7

“Humans. What a waste of matter.”


Chapter One

We first did business when you wrote horoscopes for a local newspaper – pablum worded so vaguely almost any event could be interpreted as fitting the oracle. Most people laughed when you told them what you did for a living – if an efficiency apartment in the poorest part of Waterloo, Iowa, qualified as living.

The internet allowed you to work from home, writing your tripe for a publication based in a larger city. You even wrote a subscription-based blog which took questions. “Should I quit my job, or stick it out?” was asked toward the end of March by someone calling herself Flummoxed in Fairmont.

That’s when I first planted an answer into your receptive mind. You looked for inspiration and I provided it. “If you don’t quit, you’ll be fired.” I’d see to that, if it came right down to it.

The screen in front of you glowed in the dim confines of your third-floor hovel. You pondered, considered, wrote out a few sentences, reworded things, and posted the answer.

Dear Fired,

While a job as a medical transcriptionist might be the perfect entry-level job for your hopes of attaining a career in nursing, your current employer is positioned near a dairy organization undergoing a bankruptcy. Though encountering a dairy cow is an excellent omen, the farm’s financial problems indicate the reverse for your future.

If you attempt to hold onto your current job things will not go well for you. With four being an unlucky number, I would predict you will be losing your job on April fourth – a week from tomorrow.

You reread your posting and your jaw dropped in surprise at your own words. Such specific predictions were frowned upon among those who foretold such things. It was so unlikely it would play out as you predicted; things could go wrong in too many ways. But credibility was my hook.

You sought more, so I gave you another thought. You tapped out one more line.

Avoid railroad crossings this spring.

You published the Q and A.

Ten days later law enforcement knocked on your cheap door.

“Mr. Reymond, may we come in?” A man in a tailored suit, flanked by two uniformed officers, held up his credentials folder to your peephole. “We have some questions we’d like to ask.” His badge showed he was from the United States Marshal Service.

You sighed and unlocked the door – which could be pushed in by anyone but the weakest preteen, even with the deadbolt set. “Come in, Marshal . . .”

The marshal stepped inside and ignored your offer to shake hands. “Woods. Bill Woods, Mr. Reymond.”

Woods glanced around your squalid apartment. He almost tiptoed, as if afraid he’d step in something that might ruin his custom Kenneth Coles. The two uniformed patrolmen were a little less genteel as they entered. I knew they’d seen much seedier homes than yours.

“What can I do for you, Marshal Woods?” You offered him the folding chair you used when tapping away on the laptop resting on a pressed-wood desk from a thrift store. Since there were no other chairs you sat on your bed only a few feet away. The police remained on their feet.

“Mr. Reymond, a few days ago you published your astrological advice column about a woman wondering if she should quit her job.”

You nodded. “That’s right. She signed her email Flummoxed in Fairmont. That’s a city just across the border in Minnesota. I changed her name to ‘Fired in Fairmont’ in my answer.” The interaction stood out in your memory because it was so atypical.

Woods grimaced. “She worked at a clinic, didn’t she?”

“Uh. . . .” You paused. “Worked? Past tense?” As a writer, no matter how incompetent, you’d pick up on a detail like that.

“Yes.” Woods noticed a cockroach scampering across the dirty dishes in your minuscule kitchen’s diminutive sink. “Worked. She was fired three days ago.”

Your face burned with embarrassment at the condition of your home, but you forged ahead with the business at hand. “If memory serves, I advised her to quit before she got fired.”

The thirteen-inch black-and-white television in the room emitted an electronic snap. It did that on occasion, and you never knew it was me causing it. Woods eyed the device with a grimace, but turned back to you. “And you told her to avoid railroads.” He stared intently at your face.

“Uh, maybe. I don’t remember that part.”

“Her internet browser’s history showed your website and the advice.” Woods drew out a stereotypical notepad and read. “‘Avoid railroad crossings this spring.’ What prompted you to tell her that?” The note of subtle threat wasn’t lost on you.

As if on cue, both police officers lowered their hands to the butt of their service weapons. They were unobtrusive, but that nuance was also noticed by you.

“I, uh, don’t . . .” You looked from the police to Woods, and finally to your computer. “Did I tell her that? I don’t recall.”

You wouldn’t. I didn’t want you to. My best work is done without anyone realizing who was at work. Newly promoted from imp to full Brother, even I knew that much.

Woods drew out a digital voice recorder and placed it on your sorry excuse for a desk. He pressed the red button. “Where were you in the early hours of yesterday morning, Mr. Reymond?”

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