CH. 23: Witch, Please

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Mac was so caught up in her own self-centered bullshit about having to work for her brother, Michael that she almost didn't notice the pristine nature of the Wyatt Brand rum warehouse. Gone were the pre-truce days of shady buildings full of bootleg liquor lining the sordid blocks of Liberty Street. Back in the day, necessity had forced both the Wyatts and the Selfridges, as well as the Latimers before they were wiped out, to brew and bottle their wares as close to Sunshine Beach proper as possible. To do otherwise was to risk overt raids and jack moves by the other families, the collateral damage of bringing that violence into town be damned.

Yet, now, with those worries in the past, Michael Wyatt, Jr. had been free to move his family's base of operations outside of town, keeping everything behind the curtain from those wishing to enjoy the wonders of Sunshine Beach. And what a job he had done. Due to Michael's managerial style, everything from harvest to production to delivery was clandestine as fuck.

No federal government interference. No outside sorcerers or supernatural folk looking to hone in on the action. No tourists caught in the pre-truce crossfire whose absence would bring law enforcement or worse yet bounty hunters. Just a first class magical outlaw liquor outfit printing money in a town that's one gigantic party.

A delivery truck passed Mac by and she coughed in and out exhaust. She wandered further into the warehouse, passing various employees and distant relations. Every third or fourth person, Mac would catch a glare or even a sneer. This was their livelihood and she was a threat to that. She suppose she understood.

"I'm looking for Michael's office," Mac asked a beefy guy with a beer belly. "I'm Char-"

"Yeah, we know who you are," Beer Belly said, too curtly, then apparently realizing he overstepped snapping at Tracy Wyatt's daughter, he cowtowed accordingly. "Up those steps and around the corner. He knows your coming."

"Uh, thanks?" Mac said left Beer Belly to return to his cataloging. She passed row after row and stack after stack of Wyatt Brand casks of rum all ready for distribution. Wyatt Brand was essentially a Mom and Pop business or a "Mom" business, truth be told, but supplying Sunshine Beach was a big bucks enterprise. A town of 20,000 people in the off season mushroomed into four times that number during the summer. 80,000 thirsty, thirsty revelers, all looking for freedom and excess and a decent tan. It took a particular mind and a particular set of skills to manage Wyatt Brand. And, following the death of his father, Michael Wyatt, Jr. ran Wyatt Brand like a Swiss fucking watch. He was the man with the plan.

Mac knocked on his office door and hoped maybe that plan didn't include her working there, but once she heard, "Come in, Mac," in her brother's monotone voice, she knew she was fucked.

"Hello, Michael," Mac said after opening the door and closing it after her. "How've you been?"

"Have a seat, Mac."

Michael Wyatt, of medium height, but too skinny, was sitting behind a modest steel desk that supported his laptop, a few picture frames and a row of file folders. Behind him, the walls were basically empty save a portrait of their mother and a crappy abstract art painting that Mac knew right away Michael painted.

He still wore his blonde hair a little on the shaggy side, but kept it groomed, stylish and current. He still knew how to dress and his taste was still impeccable. He'd grown a beard, which Mac supposed was a good idea as it hid his eternally boyish face. The beard sported a long hairless slice from the corner of his bottom lip down his chin and terminating at his throat, Michael's takeaway from the Lowland Massacre of the Latimers. There was still some debate as to whether his assailant was Selfridge or Latimer, but Michael never pressed the issue. It was a necessary sacrifice for the family.

"I don't want you here," Michael said, barely looking up from his laptop. "That can't be a surprise."

Mac took in Michael's minimalist office. Bland. Boring. Stable. Dependable. Her brother in a nutshell and, in his eyes no doubt, the polar opposite of his sister. "That makes two of us."

Michael looked up from his laptop and let out a dry, disbelieving laugh. "Classic, Mac. Mom gives you an opportunity and spit in her eye. Do you have any idea the risk she's taking, that we're all taking, so you can come home and get your shit together?"

"Get my shit together?" Mac scoffed.

"S'what Mom says. That's why you're back, right? Cause you fucked up bad and don't wanna pay your tab? Four years and nothing's changed."

"I didn't come here for a fucking lecture, Michael. You're not my older sibling, I'm yours."

"Since when? This whole family. It's always 'How's Mac?' 'What's up with Mac?' 'Oop. Mac's at it again, let's everyone put all their shit in hold.'"

"You want me to apologize for being sick?"

Michael ran a hand over his shaggy head and scratched at his beard trying to come up with his next words. "I want you to be gratef-! You know what? This is asinine. Mom sent you to me to give you a job. Do you want it or not?"

Mac huffed. Try to disobey Tracy Wyatt. See what that gets you. She folded her arms under her breasts and petulantly said, "Yeah."

"Fine then," Michael said. "Go see Cousin Fisher in the motor pool. He'll show you the ropes. You're going to join him in making liquor deliveries."

"Deliveries?" Mac gawked. "Don't we have people for that?"

"Yeah. You. Is that going to be a problem?"

Mac sighed. "No. Is there anything else or am I excused?"

Michael looked her up and down and scowled. "God, look at you. Mom said car accident. Looks more like you were in a fight. How am I supposed to send you out like this? You need to take more of Aunt Astrid's healing potion. You're repping your family."

Mac shook her head. "You know that stuff is addictive. I'm not going down that road."

"Fine. At least wear a maintenance uniform. Full sleeves and pants. Cover up all those ugly, fucking tattoos."

Mac wanted to snap back so badly, but she looked at her younger brother and tried to summon any goodwill remaining between the two of them. Maybe, if they can't get along, they could at least be civil.

"Look at us, Michael," Mac said. "We used to be close. You, me and Josie. Three peas in a pod. Brother, sister and sister. Friends. What happened?"

Without introspection, Michael immediately said, "Josie died. Get to work."

Gut shot, Mac got out of the chair and walked to the door. She was about to turn the knob when it turned for her and the door swung open. Stephanie Wyatt, resplendent in her gray, formfitting power suit and pencil skirt, practically ran into Mac.

"Michael," Stephanie said without looking up. "I brought lunch. We have a lot to discuss about new distribution avenue- Oh, hey, Mac!"

The two women stepped back, Mac's empty hands in the air, Stephanie's clutching sacks of hamburgers from Liberty's Bell restaurant on Liberty Street.

"Hi, Stephanie," Mac said, still stinging from Michael's pronouncement.

"Why so glum, girl? I heard you were working here now. Way to finally make yourself useful."

Stephanie's smile gleamed white and her eyes blazed triumphantly. Mac sucked her teeth and took it, barb or not.

"Right, so," Mac said, "Time is money or whatever." Then, she slunk out of her younger brother's office. As to what Michael and Stephanie had to talk about and whatever future impact it held for the Wyatt family business, Mac couldn't give two shits.

That might have been a mistake on her part.

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