She was waiting in the hallway when the elevator doors opened and threw herself into his arms when he stepped off, making him take a stumbling step back and wish he’d come to see her even sooner.
As they stepped inside her penthouse, Hans looked at Deliverance with curiosity.
Sixt said, “This is my brother…”
“Harm.” He stuck his hand out.
Deliverance hesitated for a minute before deciding that he didn’t want to punish Sixt through her brother. He shook hands.
Sixt’s eyes had widened when her brother had announced his name was ‘Harm’. For obvious reasons, the principal credo of witches was keep a low profile. In answer to the claim that ‘nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition’, witches would say it’s always on their mind.
With his good looks and show-stopping smile, keeping a low profile was a challenge for Hans to begin with. But the addition of a name like ‘Harm’ was, well, curious.
“Harm? Really?” she asked.
He shrugged. “It’s a new age.”
She shook her head. “You’re wrong, brother. The outer trappings are new.” She waved her hand at the view out the window. “Skyscrapers, drones, internet, cars that drive themselves. Da. Da. Da. People are just the same.”
He flashed a blinding grin. “Good thing we aren’t people.”
Deliverance looked at Harm like he was an infectious viral bacteria rapidly multiplying. And he was definitely not interested in family reunions. “May I be excused?” he asked, words dripping with venom.
Sixt sighed and waved her hand. Deliverance disappeared.
“Am I interrupting something?” Harm looked at Sixt as if expecting an explanation.
“As a matter of fact, now is probably not the best time.”
Recognition lit up Harm’s face. “Hold. The. Newsflash. That’s not that demon you were pining for…” The way Sixt jerked her chin up and fixed him with a glare caused him to rethink finishing that sentence. “Okay, then. Your business.”
“That’s right. Just like I don’t meddle in your business. But for the record, I was never pining for the demon. I just had unfinished business with him.”
“Oh. Right.” His tone changed. “You worried about being hunted?”
“Why? Looks like you’re…” He looked around at the penthouse office. “Fortified.”
“And connected to judges, congressmen, even movie makers.”
She canted her head. “Cultures are shaped by their stories. Right? You know this.” She motioned to walk with her toward the kitchen. “I like movies that make witches comical, like Bewitched, or sympathetic, like Nanny McFee.”
His lips twitched. “Not a Blair Witch fan?”
“Please. I had to pay those little fuckers three fortunes to say it was all a hoax.”
“So this is what it’s come to? Instead of using your talents to get what you want, you bribe kids with cameras?”
He nodded. “Who am I to judge?”
She smiled. “As I remember, back in the day, you rained down some major judgment on witch persecution.”
He smiled. “I still keep track of their descendants and make sure there’re never more than one or two alive.”
“Sins of the great grandfathers sixteen times over? Maybe it’s time to let that go.”
He laughed. “Hmmm. Maybe. I’ll bet they spend their lives wondering why they can’t ‘catch a break’.” He made air quotes when he spoke the phrase ‘catch a break’. ”Maybe they don’t know why they’re being punished.” He shrugged. “But it’s entertaining for me.”
“So where’ve you been the past…” She stopped to try to remember the last time she’d heard from her brother. “Fifty years?”
He pursed his lips. “More or less, I guess. Last time I saw you was San Francisco. 1969.” He waved at the penthouse. “So you’re trying on empire. I read all about WC6.”
“Keeps me busy.”
“Distracted, you mean. It keeps you distracted. Not busy.”
“What’s the difference?”
Instead of answering, he said, “And you think you’ve insulated yourself with so much power that you’re safe from humans with torches and pitchforks?”
She sighed deeply, looked out the window for a time, then turned back. “Hide in plain sight. If somebody wants to hunt me, well, I have enough money to charter a shuttle to the moon if I want to. Enough to buy an army of mercenaries.”
He smiled. “Remember the healing potions. Our parents sold them for just enough to get by?”
She locked gazes with Harm. “Of course I remember.”
“Makes more sense to take their money and let them die.”
“I wouldn’t put it like that.”
“No? How would you put it?”
“The enterprises I control aren’t evil, Harm. They’re just successful. I help a lot of people who are good money managers enjoy their retirement.”
He laughed. “That’s what you tell yourself?”
“I just play the game…”
“That was set up by nut job, insecure little men whose insatiable desire for more money is a cry for help. Or mother’s milk. Usually hoarding syndrome.”
“Is there a point on the horizon? Have you spent the last fifty years meditating on the Tibetan Plateau? And now you think you’re a German warlock version of Yoda?”
He laughed. “Hardly. I’ve pretty much done the same as you. Just more quietly. If we pooled our resources, we could probably buy a country big enough to get a front row seat at the U.N.”
She raised an eyebrow. “No interest in politics. Other than the protection racquet they offer. Thanks just the same.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care if you take advantage of humans. After everything they’ve done to us.” He trailed off then asked abruptly. “You have any friends?” She scowled. “Right. Same here.” He poured himself a bourbon remembering how their parents had instructed them to go their separate ways and not make friends with other witches. Separation was key to safety. “How about love? What’s with the ‘may I be excused’?”
“My business,” she reminded him.
He saw by the tortured look on her face that he’d hit a nerve dead center.
“Ah. The demon. What’s his name?”
“Deliverance,” she said quietly. “Why are you here, Hans?”
“Harm. Can’t you guess? I’m lonely. And it satisfies to the core to talk to somebody who knows who I really am.”
She nodded, walked over and sat down on the end of the sofa close to the big plush chair he plopped into. “It’s nice.”
“Maybe we should seek out others like us. Enlarge our social circle.”
She laughed. “It wouldn’t take much to enlarge a social circle that consists of two.”
“You mean three. Don’t forget about Deluvian.”
“Deliverance.” She sighed and looked at the fire. “Not a friend.”
“Ouch. Well, all the more reason to network. Come on. You’ve never thought about it? Casting a spell to find out what others are out there?”
“Maybe I don’t want to know if we’re the last.”
“Pish. That’s beneath you. And we’re not.”
“How do you know?”
“I just know.”
“Oh, well then,” she agreed sarcastically.
“He reached over and tapped her knee with two fingers. “Let’s find out for sure.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“We have to lower the personal guards so we can be found. Right now there might be somebody out there looking for you. Or me.”
Sixt gave Harm a snide smile when she saw a dreamy look cloud his eyes. “And there it is. You’ve devolved into a sappy romantic who thinks that love is just over the next hill.”
“Why does that make me a sappy romantic? Our parents loved each other.”
Sixt turned to face forward at that. It was true. Her parents had given every appearance of loving each other and their children. They were crazy idealists. Love family. Serve community. Harm none.
His face softened when he saw that Sixt was wearing the faraway dreamy look he knew he got when he thought about a mate. “So what’s wrong with that?”
Her eyes snapped to his as her attention slammed back to reality. “Clusters invite being burned at the stake. Or drowned by dunking.”
He waved around the room. “We’re not poor, powerless farmers, Sixt. They should stay awake at night worrying about what we could do to them. If we combined our resources, we could rain global economic woes down on the world. Like plagues of Biblical proportion. We can put people into power or yank them away from every good thing they’ve ever known. Now we’re the big bad, sis. Don’t you know that?”
She sighed. “Seems like our insecurities, and I’m not saying they aren’t justified, drove us in similar directions.”
“It was only logical to insulate ourselves with money and power. As far as the benefits we could have given the humans? Like our parents wanted to do? Their loss.”
She felt a wave of affection for her brother. It had been a while since she’d felt connected to anything other than work and Ashes. She smiled. “You hungry?”
He ran his hand over a divinely formed six pack that rippled under his salmon colored knit shirt. “I’m always hungry. You know that.”
She chuckled. “I figured some things never change.”
His eyes crinkled at the corners as he returned her look of affection. “Some things never do.”
“Let’s go out among the torch and pitchfork crowd. They’ve learned a thing or two about culinary arts since we were children in Germany. What do you feel like?”
“What is that?”
He looked scandalized. “You must know. Americans specialize in manly food. Burgers. French fries. Steak. Prime rib. Shall I go on?”
“No. I get the idea. I heard about a place where people go after work sometimes.”