Brother’s Keeper: Episode 15

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay’s phone beeps with a text message. He pulls the phone out and reads the text – “ROBERT 07859007525”.

***

Alan and Derek lead Jay and Stephen as they walk past a long queue waiting outside ON ANON nightclub.

The slender and flamboyant club manager pompously stands at the entrance beside several large bouncers and two club hostesses. He sees Alan approach and forces a smile.

‘Toto the King!’ Alan jovially exalts Toto, the club manager, but Toto isn’t amused. Alan hugs Toto like a long lost friend, but Toto doesn’t reciprocate the sentiment.

‘You took your time,’ Toto says with a soft almost feminine voice.

‘Fashionably late, you know,’ Alan retorts.

‘Hello, Dee,’ Toto says to Derek, and Derek nods courteously at him. Toto turns back to Alan and asks, ‘Just the four of you?’

‘Yeah,’ Alan answers.

Toto turns to one of the beautifully dressed hostesses and says, ‘Take them to table three.’

Toto pulls Alan aside as the hostess leads the others past the bouncers into the club.

‘Monday, okay,’ he whispers to Alan. ‘Don’t fuck around.’

Alan chuckles and says, ‘Take it easy, Toto. Have I ever not sorted my tab?’

Toto cracks a knowing smile and says, ‘Not here you haven’t.’

Alan laughs and walks into the club.

Loud thumping dancing music electrifies the crowded dance floor as the hostess leads the guys through. Alan has made his way past Derek and Stephen, who are both visibly excited, and Jay, who doesn’t appear at all enthused as he intently scans his surroundings, to the front of the pack just behind the hostess. He is also scanning the club, but unlike his older brother who is working out the threat level and exit strategies, he’s scanning for girls, and he sees a lot of promise.

The hostess leads the guys into the VIP room, which is relatively much quieter, although the thumping bass of the music reverberates through the room. She leads them to a table full of alcohol and mixers and watches them sit around the table.

‘I’ll be back soon if you need any more drinks,’ she says to the table, and walks away.

Alan and Derek simultaneously reach for alcohol and two glasses each.

‘Oh, I’ve had enough today,’ Stephen objects. ‘Not good for me.’

‘Fuck that, you whipped fuck,’ Alan chides. ‘You can stay over at ours tonight.’

‘I don’t think so,’ Stephen replies.

Alan doesn’t acknowledge Stephen as he turns to Jay. ‘Now you are certainly having a drink, you need to loosen the fuck up.’

Alan hands Stephen a glass of whiskey and coke, and Stephen feigns reluctance for a moment before he accepts the glass.

Derek hands Jay a glass of vodka and tonic and leans in to whisper to Jay, ‘I only put a tiny bit in there.’

Jay smiles and accepts the drink.

Derek raises his glass in call for a toast and the others follow his lead.

‘To friendship …’ Stephen begins to say.

‘Fucking hell!’ Alan interrupts.

‘No!’ Derek also objects. ‘To a bloody good night.’

‘Yeah!’ Alan shouts. ‘And we are downing this shit, yeah?’

‘Yeah!’ Derek and Stephen answer, and Jay nods in agreement.

They knock their glasses together and all attempt to down their drinks, but Jay stops after a large gulp and flinches.

‘Derek!’ Jay jovially exclaims – it was straight vodka, no tonic.

Derek and Alan laugh heartily.

‘What happened?’ Stephen asks, confused.

Jay attempts to drop the half full glass on the table, but Derek and Alan loudly object.

‘You accepted the glass,’ Derek says. ‘You have to finish it.’

‘Down it, brother!’ Alan commands.

Jay laughs to himself and downs the rest of the vodka.

‘Now let’s go get war hero a girl!’ Alan shouts.

Alan, Derek, and Stephen lead a reluctant Jay through the dance floor, scouting for girls.

Alan gestures ahead to a pair of alluring girls dancing with each other and screams over the thumping music to Jay, ‘What you think?’

Jay shrugs, and Alan sighs before he leads Jay to the girls.

‘How are you girls doing?’ Alan screams at them over the music.

The girls cant make out what Alan says because of the loud music, but force smiles, as they are somewhat interested in the brothers.

Alan leans towards the taller of the girls, so she can hear him clearer, as Jay forces a reciprocating smile at the other girl, but their forced smiles very quickly become genuine as both stare desirably at each other.

‘You girls here with anyone?’ Alan asks the taller one.

She shakes her head.

He gestures to Jay and asks, ‘Want to hang with a war hero?’

‘What?’ she asks, confused.

He again gestures to Jay and says, ‘My brother; war hero! Just got back from Afghanistan!’

‘Oh, good for him,’ she says with a patronising smile.

Alan is taken aback for a moment, but he continues the pursuit.

‘Want to hang out?’ he asks. ‘I’ve got a table in …’

‘No, we’re fine!’

‘Oh, fuck off then,’ he says, more in jest than annoyance.

She is visibly enraged and attempts to speak, but Jay steps in.

‘I’m sorry about that,’ Jay says apologetically.

‘Fuck off, cunt!’ she hurls at Jay, to the surprise of her friend.

Jay nods in acceptance of the insult and leads Alan away back to Derek, who is not amused at all, and Stephen, who is laughing to himself.

‘Fuck off!’ Alan says to Stephen, and Jay joins Stephen in laughter.

Derek gets Alan’s attention with his eyes and quickly glances to a corner of the dance floor.

Alan follows Derek’s glance to a tall muscular man with a threatening demeanour who is staring intently at he and Derek.

Alan quickly turns away and says to the guys, ‘Fuck this! Let’s go back in.’

They nod and head back towards the VIP room, and this time Alan allows the others to walk ahead of him.

Alan cant help but glance back at the man, and the man smiles menacingly at him.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 14

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Slim Charles ignores and marches through the restaurant, focused on Alan with a frenzied smile.

***

Alan laughs loudly as he, Derek, and Stephen banter – in a vicious manner that only family and the best of friends can tolerate. Then he sees, through the corner of his eyes, Slim Charles approaching with menacing intent and he immediately becomes tense.

Slim Charles places a heavy hand on Alan’s shoulder and loudly asks, ‘You ducking my calls, mate?’

‘No,’ Alan says with feigned confidence. ‘I’ve just been busy.’

‘Busy?’ Slim Charles repeats, and grins. He turns to Derek and says, ‘Shithead, has he been busy?’

Derek shrugs, while also doing his best to mask his fear.

‘Who are you?’ Stephen authoritatively asks Slim Charles.

‘Who am I?’ Slim Charles retorts as he gestures to his wide chest, and says to Derek. ‘Shithead, he’s asking who I am. Tell him.’

‘Don’t call him shithead,’ Stephen chides.

Slim Charles laughs heartily.

‘What are you going to do about it, you bald fuck?’ Slim Charles inquires.

Stephen rises to his feet, ready for a fight.

‘Leave it, Stephen,’ Alan says.

‘Yeah,’ Slim Charles says, and mimics Alan. ‘Leave it, Stephen.’

Slim Charles returns his attention to Alan and runs his hand through Alan’s hair.

‘Why have you been ducking my calls, Alan? I don’t …’

‘Remove your hand from his hair,’ Stephen sternly commands.

In that moment, the restaurant becomes quiet and all eyes are on them.

Slim Charles laughs as he picks a piece of prawn from Alan’s plate and eats it.

‘Silly cunt!’ Slim Charles caustically chides Stephen. ‘What are you going to …’

Stephen throws a quick straight right punch flush into Slim Charles’s face and Slim Charles crashes to the floor.

***

Jay walks towards the entrance of the restaurant, but notices a metallic silver Mercedes S-Class coupe parked in front of the restaurant and he instantly recognises it.

He circles the car, observing it, then stares at the plate number, visibly perplexed. He takes a moment to contemplate and then walks back towards the restaurant.

He steps into the reception, expecting to see Natalia, but it’s empty, and he is surprised to be disappointed by that. He smiles to himself as he walks through the reception.

He steps into the restaurant and immediately sees Slim Charles on the floor, with Stephen standing over him. He quickly scans the restaurant – the entire restaurant is staring aghast at Stephen and Slim Charles, and Vera is visibly distraught as she watches on anxiously.

Natalia, carrying the now empty duffel bag, steps into the restaurant through the door behind the bar and sees the scene in the restaurant. She immediately retreats through the door.

The restaurant is silent as Slim Charles struggles to his feet. He is evidently dazed and struggles to stay on his feet as he wipes blood from his burst lip. He takes a moment to regain his balance and pulls out a knife from his jacket.

Stephen is unafraid of the knife and shoves aside chairs to create space for the fight.

Jay walks purposefully and quietly towards Slim Charles, who has his back to him, and he visualises exactly what he’s going to do – He’ll drive his heel through the back of Slim Charles’ right knee, shattering it, and that’ll cause Slim Charles to fall onto his knees with his arms flailing. With his right hand he’ll grab Slim Charles’ right wrist, which wields the knife, and with his left hand he’ll grab Slim Charles’ fat chin. He’ll torque Slim Charles’ head to the left, dislocating or even fracturing the neck, but importantly unveiling the throat to be slit by Slim Charles’ knife, which is still in Slim Charles’ grasp – but then he makes eye contact with Stephen and Alan and instantly snaps out of his lethal intent; he can’t kill Slim Charles, he can’t kill anyone, not here, not now, but Slim Charles will be neutralised.

He approaches Slim Charles, and suddenly there is a loud bang on the bar table.

A grizzled man, in his early sixties with a deathly stare and a natural presence, stands behind the bar beside his daughter, Natalia. His large fists are still on the bar, where their impact had made the loud resonating bang.

Slim Charles turns to the grizzled man, Mr Petrov, and immediately puts the knife away. He walks briskly to the bar and grabs the bag. He attempts to speak, but Mr Petrov’s deathly stare intensifies and Slim Charles turns and walks away. He makes an effort to bump into Jay as he walks out of the restaurant.

Jay watches through the window as Slim Charles steps into the silver Mercedes and speeds off. He glances to the bar and sees Mr Petrov whisper to Natalia and retreat through the door behind the bar.

Jay calmly walks to the table and nods approvingly at Stephen. Stephen nods back and they both sit.

Everyone at the table and in the restaurant remains silent for a long moment, before Derek excitedly says to Stephen, ‘That was a sweet punch!’

Stephen laughs as the murmurs in the restaurant begin. He is also excited, and evidently proud of himself.

Jay turns to Alan, who has been silent, and sees Alan staring blankly into his almost empty wine glass; Alan is making an effort not to make eye contact with anyone, most especially Jay. With that, Jay becomes certain that Alan is somehow the root of the fracas, and he has a few ideas how. He wants to scold his younger brother, but it’s obvious that won’t be the right course of action; he won’t console him either. He turns away from Alan and sees Natalia approaching. He forces a smile.

‘We are very sorry for the disturbance,’ she says, seeming sincerely apologetic as she glances at each of them individually. ‘The meal is on the house. Including any drinks you have and wish to order.’

‘That’s good …’ Derek begins to say.

‘We apologise as well,’ Jay interjects.

‘Oh, no, it’s okay,’ she says, and smiles at him. ‘Enjoy your meal.’

She walks away towards the reception.

Jay’s phone beeps with a text message. He pulls the phone out and reads the text – “ROBERT 07859007525”.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 13

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

‘So, we were …’

***

Ten minutes later, Jay, Derek and Alan eat their main course while they watch Stephen finish the story through large mouthfuls of food.

‘And that as they say is THAT,’ Stephen concludes.

‘Finally,’ Derek says.

‘The story is a lot longer than I remember,’ Jay says.

‘Oh, it gets longer every time,’ Alan says.

‘And more embellished,’ Derek says.

‘Shut up,’ Stephen says, and turns to Jay. ‘Still have your vest?’

Jay nods.

‘Yeah,’ Alan interjects. ‘I encased that shit. Cost me shit loads too.’

‘Fucking hell,’ Stephen says, and gestures to Derek and Alan. ‘It’s all about money with you lads.’

‘That’s why we HAVE the money,’ Alan retorts.

‘Ouch!’ Stephen exclaims with amusement. ‘That was low. I’m trying.’

‘That’s not what your wife says,’ Alan jovially jabs, and turns to Derek. ‘Right?’

Derek exaggeratedly nods.

Stephen laughs softly and waves them off. ‘Speaking of, ‘ he says to Jay. ‘Can you try to get me a job where you work?’

‘You don’t want that,’ Jay says. ‘And …’

Jay stops abruptly as his phone begins to ring. He puts a hand out in apology as he pulls the phone out. He looks at the caller ID and recognises the number as Mr Smith’s.

‘I need to take this,’ Jay says, and stands.

As he walks away from the table towards the exit, Stephen says loudly, ‘Put in a word for me.’

Jay answers the call and coldly says, ‘Give me a moment.’

As he walks through the reception, he makes eye contact with Natalia, who’s stood elegantly behind the desk, and again their gaze lingers on each other, until he is bumped by a swaggering overweight man in his late twenties, who’s dressed rather very flash in an outfit that could’ve been ordered from the first page of an urban gangster catalogue, who goes by the self-given moniker “Slim Charles”.

Jay sharply turns to Slim Charles with a hint of anger, but that immediately fades to amusement as he sees Slim Charles wearing large garish sunglasses in the dark room. Jay shrugs and steps out of the restaurant.

‘Yes,’ he says into the phone.

‘Captain, have you reconsidered?’ Mr Smith asks.

‘I didn’t think I was supposed to.’

‘The company is offering double the price for your service.’

‘No.’

There is a moment of silence.

‘Okay, state your price.’

‘Price is irrelevant.’

‘I know this, Captain. You’ve never cared about the money. It’s not why you do what you do. But I know you take pride in your work. Take pride in being the best. You already are held in the highest regard by the company, as evidenced by how much we already pay for your service. Now we are giving you the chance to retire as the undisputed best, which is affirmed only by the price we pay for your service. And yes, I did say retire; after all, it will be your last job.’

There is another moment of silence as Jay ponders.

‘Captain, again, I never thought I’d have to say this to you, and I’m not one to be pedantic, but, just earlier, it was reiterated to me by the suits that your contract states you cannot refuse the last job; I know you know this.’

Silence reigns again.

Okay, Captain. You also should know that the suitor of your service is very desperate. So, if you reconsider …’

‘I won’t.’

There is silence as Mr Smith fights back to urge to commend Jay’s steadfastness.

‘If you reconsider, it will be a favour to the company,’ Mr Smith says, and continues without pause, so as not to give Jay a chance to object. ‘I will text you the details of your contact. You meet the contact, listen to the offer, and refuse it if you wish.’

‘I meet the contact?’ Jay asks, surprised – that never happens.

‘Time is of the essence, and you already are where you are needed. Plus, I don’t suppose you have any tools?’

‘I don’t.’

‘The contact will provide.’

Again, silence reigns.

‘I’ll be in touch,’ Mr Smith says, and ends the call.

Jay takes a deep breath and scans the somewhat busy high street. He switches his phone off, opens the back case, and there is a red SIM card on the battery. He swaps the SIM cards and switches the phone back on. He dials in a five-digit number and calls.

It’s answered immediately. ‘Hello,’ says an automated female voice. ‘Who is speaking?’

‘Seven, Four, Four, Four, Six, Two,’ Jays says, and waits as the voice recognition software at the other end of the line does its thing.

‘Hello, friend,’ the automated voice says. ‘How can I help you today?’

‘I need 50 thousand, ASAP.’

‘Currency?’

‘British Pounds.’

‘Would you like cash or a card?’

‘Card.’

‘What alias, and where would you like it couriered?’

‘Mr J Matthews; Epsom.’

There is silence.

‘Yes,’ Jay says. ‘I am home.’

‘Okay, friend, it will be with you on Tuesday. The card will have no withdraw limit, and only because of our long-standing relationship, not the fact that I know you are good for it, the card will also have an unlimited overdraft. You will be charged the standard fee.’

‘Okay.’

‘Would you like to know your balance?’

‘No.’

‘Okay. Be safe, friend.’

‘You too.’

Jay ends the call and switches the SIM cards.

***

Slim Charles walks to Natalia with a forced sinister swagger and dumps a filled duffel bag on the reception desk in front of her.

She stares at him for a moment, not bothering to hide her contempt, and picks the bag.

‘Wait here,’ she says, calmly but commandingly, and walks towards the restaurant.

‘Vera in?’ Slim Charles asks with a deep voice, soaked in an urban South London accent.

She stops and turns to him.

‘I’ll let her know you’re here. If any guests walk in, do not approach them, do not speak to them.’

He nods and as soon as she turns to walk away, he smirks.

She walks through the restaurant to the bar, making sure to avoid eye contact with any of the patrons. She taps Vera, who’s waiting at the bar for an order, and gestures to the reception with a disappointed expression. Vera smiles sheepishly, knowing exactly what the expression means, and nods respectfully before she walks away towards the reception.

Natalia walks through a door behind the bar.

***

Vera steps into the reception and smiles as she walks towards Slim Charles, but his eyes open wide as he sees something over her shoulder in the restaurant.

He barges past her and bursts into the restaurant.

‘Baby!’ she pleads.

He ignores and marches through the restaurant, focused on Alan with a frenzied smile.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 12

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay looks up to her and is captivated. She is divine.

***

She is Natalia Petrova – an extremely alluring second-generation British Russian in her mid twenties with captivating blue eyes. She has an effortless composed aura behind the reception desk, which gives the restaurant an added jolt of elegance.

She notices Alan and Jay approach and smiles invitingly at them. ‘Hello,’ she says in a sweet but practised voice, which shows no hint of Russian, but instead a refined English accent. ‘I’m Natalia …’

‘I know,’ Alan confidently interjects. ‘I’ve been here a few times.’

She smiles softly at Alan, and then glances to Jay, and in that moment their eyes meet and their gaze lingers on each other for almost a moment too long before she turns back to Alan.

‘Do you have a reservation?’ she asks.

‘Yeah. Matthews. We have a couple people waiting for us already.

She looks down at the screen on the desk, and Jay turns to Alan in surprise – he wasn’t aware they were meeting people – but Alan doesn’t acknowledge him.

She looks up at them with her smile and says, ‘Please, follow me.’

Natalia leads through the fully occupied restaurant, which is just as darkly lit and sophisticatedly decorated as its reception.

‘Who’s waiting?’ Jay whispers to Alan as he subtly scans the restaurant, but Alan ignores and takes a quick step ahead to Natalia.

‘Natalia, what are you doing tonight?’ Alan smoothly asks. ‘I’ve got a table at ON ANON if you are interested. Bring friends. I guarantee a bloody good time.’

She smiles.

‘I’m Alan, by the way,’ he continues.

‘Thank you, Alan, but I’m working early tomorrow.’

‘Very well, some other time then.’

‘Sure,’ she says with a well-practised and oft-deployed polite smile.

She stops and gestures to a table ahead with Stephen Aziz – a cleanly bald cheery man in his mid thirties with the body frame of a former body builder who’s let himself go – and Derek Blair – mid twenties, skinny, upper middle class and looks the part.

Jay notices Stephen and smiles happily. He walks past Alan towards the table and Stephen and Derek stand.

As Jay approaches, Stephen performs the Royal Navy salute to him, and he stops and returns the salute. Stephen then takes a step to him and bear hugs him.

Natalia smiles as she watches them, and Alan also proudly watches them as he walks to sit on an empty chair at the table.

‘Enjoy your meal,’ she says, maintaining her smile. ‘Your waitress will be with you in a moment.’

Alan briefly watches her walk away and then returns his attention to Stephen and Jay as Stephen finally relaxes his embrace.

‘Why didn’t you tell me you were coming back?’ Stephen asks Jay.

‘It happened fast,’ Jay says.

‘Oh, okay. Well, it’s really good to see you.’

‘Really? I wouldn’t have guessed,’ Alan jokingly interjects, but with a straight face.

‘Fack off,’ Stephen says, and chuckles.

‘Could you introduce me so I can sit?’ Derek says to Stephen.

‘Sorry,’ Stephen says, and gestures to Derek. ‘Derek, my brother in-law.’

Jay steps to Derek and gives him a firm handshake.

‘Nice to meet you, Derek.’

‘Likewise,’ Derek says.

‘He works with your douchebag of a brother too,’ Stephen says.

‘Wait, what?’ Alan questions. ‘Douchebag, I accept, but working WITH this shithead? No. He works for me. I hired him.’ He turns to Derek. ‘Didn’t I? Right?’

Derek laughs and nods.

‘So if shithead here talks out of turn, let me know, I’ll fire him on Tuesday.’

‘Whatever, douchebag,’ Derek says.

‘What!’ Alan exaggeratedly exclaims.

‘Shut up, Alan,’ Jay says in jest, and turns to Stephen. ‘Sorry I missed the wedding. Couldn’t get time off.’

‘It’s okay. Was shit anyway,’ Stephen says.

‘Damn right, it was,’ Alan says.

‘Oi!’ Stephen scolds, and laughs. ‘I get to say that, you don’t.’

Alan grabs the menu and Stephen, Jay, and Derek sit. Alan is about to speak, but their young waitress, Vera, arrives with a large plate of starters and gently places it on the centre of the table.

‘I ordered a platter of starters for everyone,’ Derek says.

‘Are you ready to order now?’ Vera cordially asks the table.

‘No,’ Alan says. ‘I fucking just got here.’

‘Easy,’ Derek mildly scolds Alan.

Vera is visibly uncomfortable and tries to look away from Alan at the others, and Jay stares sternly at Alan, who continues to look through the menu.

‘Sorry about that,’ Stephen says to her. ‘He has one of your forks …’

‘Two,’ Derek interjects.

‘Two of your forks up his bum,’ Stephen continues. ‘Give us another five minutes.’

Vera nods and walks away, and Stephen is the first to enthusiastically reach for the platter.

‘I can’t help but ask this,’ Derek says to Jay, and gestures to Stephen. ‘How exactly did you carry the fat man a hundred metres or whatever it was?’

‘Oi! I’m not fat, I’m burly,’ Stephen says, and they laugh.

‘Adrenaline, I suppose,’ Jay answers.

‘Oh, yeah, with the bloody Taliban motherfuckers shooting at your head, there’s no telling what you’re capable of,’ Stephen says between a mouthful of food. He’s eating fast, closely followed by Derek – if you didn’t know better, you’d think they were competing.

‘I remember it like yesterday …’ Stephen continues, fuelled with excitement.

‘Oh, you fucking got him started now,’ Alan says.

‘No need for war stories,’ Jay says, and laughs – but he’s not amused, he really doesn’t want to reminisce about war.’

‘Oh, no, let him tell it. You saved his life. Least he can do is tell the story EVERY FUCKING TIME your name comes up. Again and again and again and again …’

The others laugh.

‘I’d like the burly man to tell it. So he can at least leave some food for us,’ Derek says.

‘Fack off, I want to tell it,’ Stephen says and leans back into his chair, ‘So, we were …’

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 11

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Alan brushes past Jay and walks out of the kitchen.

***

It’s approaching noon as Jay vacuums the now very tidy living room. He’d considered going back to sleep – he usually sleeps till 6 AM, and every minute of rest counts – but, instead, he’d commenced his daily routine thirty minutes early.

He went for an hour run around the neighbourhood, while listening to his advanced level Japanese audio learning course. So far, he is fluent or near fluent in Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, German, Portuguese, Afrikaans, French, Dutch, Hindi, Italian, and, of course, English – you’ve got to put in the work if you want to be an upper echelon international assassin, which he undoubtedly is. Also, he has a passing understanding of Persian and Pashto from his tours in Afghanistan, which is where the immense value of understanding native languages, especially when the natives don’t know you understand, first manifested.

When he returned from his run, he’d done his usual brief but high intensity strength workout and finished with a full-body stretch routine. Then, he’d set on cleaning the house, and he’s now three hours into a very fine job – military training, it can be handy sometimes.

Alan saunters in with a glass of juice and winces at the sound of the old vacuum cleaner.

‘Really?’ he asks, and gestures to the vacuum cleaner. ‘You know you woke me up with that thing.’

‘It’s noon.’

‘It’s the weekend, I get to sleep in.’

Alan dumps himself on a sofa and places his glass of juice on the glass coffee table.

Jay gestures to the glass and says sternly, ‘Put something underneath that.’

‘Ah! Calm the fuck down. You haven’t changed at all. If you hadn’t noticed, the house survived while you were gone.’

‘Barely. I had …’

‘What do you mean barely? I get someone to clean it every other week. Chill out.’ He switches on the television and gestures to the vacuum cleaner. ‘When are you going to be done with that?’

Jay grabs a cushion and tosses it at Alan. It hits Alan flush on the nose and they laugh heartily.

‘I’m done,’ Jay says, and switches the vacuum cleaner off.

‘So, you have anything to wear out in that tiny bag of yours?’

‘Well, yeah,’ Jay says as he rolls up the vacuum cleaner power cord.

‘Well, no, if it’s anything like you wore yesterday. You looked like the grim reaper. We need to get some colours on you.’

Jay chuckles and says, ‘Fashion tips from YOU?’

‘Whatever. I certainly dress better than you.’

Jay shrugs, amused.

‘Really?’ Alan says with an eyebrow raised. ‘You want to argue that?’

‘No, I don’t care.’

‘I do. Let’s go to the mall to get you something.’

‘I’m good.’

‘Right. Well, I’m not going out with you dressed …’

‘I don’t care …’

‘Plus!’ Alan says, and smiles. ‘I need to get something for myself.’

***

A few hours later, Alan walks into the house holding several shopping bags and Jay walks in after him holding one shopping bag.

‘Thanks,’ Alan says as he leads up the stairway. ‘I’ll pay you back soon as I get to a cashpoint.’

Jay shrugs indifferently as they diverge at the top of the stairs and walk towards their rooms at opposite ends of the hallway.

‘Yeah,’ Alan says with excitement. ‘I was saying, this girl at the restaurant, she’s absolutely fucking hot.’

Jay smiles to himself as he steps into his room – Alan hasn’t stopped going on about this girl at the restaurant. He leaves the room door open as Alan’s still going on about her.

‘I’ve been watching her for a bit now,’ he continues. ‘And I can tell she likes me.’

Jay laughs softly to himself – he was expecting Alan to say something like that, although, to be fair to Alan, he’s rarely wrong about these things; you might say Alan’s good with the ladies.

He empties the contents of the shopping bag onto the bed – a pair of blue jeans, a soft pink shirt, a pair of Chelsea boots and a honey coloured Burberry trench coat. He reaches into his unpacked travelling bag for underwear and a pair of socks; he lives out of the bag, and hasn’t unpacked the bag in years.

Alan peeks into the room and says, ‘Trust me. She’s fucking amazing.’

‘Sure, I’ll take your word for it … since you’ve been WATCHING her.’

‘Fuck you. You want to get in the shower first? I’ll call the cab.’

***

A luxury black Mercedes parks in front of Sophia’s Place, a modern European restaurant right in the middle of Epsom’s high street. Alan, dressed sharply in a fashionable fitted suit with no tie, is the first to step out of the Mercedes. A moment later, Jay steps out, also dressed sharply in his recently bought outfit.

Jay feels very comfortable in the outfit, although it had taken a while before he finally relented and went with Alan’s choices. Alan picked the entire outfit, after objecting to all of Jay’s previous choices, because they were in his words – ‘fucking dull’; ‘fucking grim’; ‘fucking weak’; ‘shit’; ‘really, dude? It’s fucking 2014’; ‘you’re fucking with me, right?’; and his final objection, ‘what the fuck is with all this dark colours? It’s not a fucking burial, mate.’

Jay tucks his wallet into his pocket as Alan leads into the restaurant. They step into the darkly lit and sophisticatedly decorated reception and Jay instantly begins to scan his surroundings, but Alan tightly grabs his arm.

‘That’s her,’ Alan whispers, and nods ahead.

Jay looks up to her and is captivated. She is divine.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 10

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay reaches for his wallet and Alan tears open the bag of Haribo and turns it over into his mouth.

***

Jay is alone in the kitchen, cooking spaghetti carbonara. He enjoys cooking; he finds it therapeutic, although none of the healthy whole grain and high protein dishes he’s been cooking over the past years will go down well with Alan, so spaghetti carbonara it is – but made with fresh whole wheat spaghetti and unsalted butter; and with a lot more chillies than he’d normally cook with, because Alan loves hot food.

Suddenly, he hears a loud gunshot from the living room and instantly turns to the sound. He grabs the kitchen knife he’d used to dice the garlic and chillies and advances swiftly and quietly, like a glide on his tiptoes, to the doorway of the living room. He peeks in, only to see Alan obliviously lounging on a sofa watching the television loudly.

He tucks the knife in his sleeve, steps into the living room, and subtly scans the living room and windows, so as not to make his incessant extreme alertness evident to Alan.

‘That was the TV, I suppose,’ he says.

‘What?’ Alan asks, without looking at him.

‘The shot.’

Alan turns to Jay for a moment, amused, but instantly notices that Jay is serious, so he buries his amusement and says, ‘Jay, it’s Epsom.’

Jay nods.

‘It was Walter White,’ Alan continues and gestures to the TV.

Jay glances at the TV, but there is no sign of recognition of Walter White.

‘Breaking Bad,’ Alan proclaims.

Jay shrugs.

‘Never heard of it?’

‘Might have, but I don’t watch TV.’

‘Fucking hell. Get a life, mate.’

Jay smiles – he’d love to.

‘I’m just on the third season, but it’s amazing. You should watch it.’ He gestures to the TV. ‘Netflix – comes with the TV, has all the episodes.’

Jay nods and walks out of the room. He steps into the kitchen and immediately hears his phone – Alan’s phone, to be exact, but he’d borrowed it about an hour ago – on the kitchen counter ringing faintly over the loud television. He looks at the caller ID and instantly recognises the number as Mr Smith’s.

He glances towards the living room and then shuts his eyes for a long moment as he contemplates answering the call. He takes a deep breath, opens his eyes, and grabs the phone. He steps through the kitchen door into the darkness of the expansive back garden and shuts the door behind him.

He answers the phone with a cold, ‘Hello.’

‘Hello, Captain,’ Mr Smith says with his soothing voice. ‘How are you?’

‘Good.’

‘Good. How’s the home life?’

‘Good.’

‘Good.’

There is a moment of silence.

‘I have a job for you.’

‘I thought I needed a break?’

‘Well, now that’s up to you.’

‘What about the settling dust?’

‘It’s a long way from being settled. This job is right where you are.’

‘No.’

There is another long moment of silence.

‘I’m with family,’ Jay continues. ‘And this town is too small, I won’t risk it.’

‘Okay. Enjoy the break in your small town, Captain.’

The conversation ends, and Jay remains motionless as he stares into the darkness of the garden, deep in thought.

Suddenly, he rushes back into the kitchen and straight to the cooker to lift the pan of spaghetti carbonara off the fire. He tastes it and nods approvingly.

‘It’s ready!’ he calls out to Alan.

***

Jay and Alan are sat across each other at a large bespoke oak dining table in the rather cosy dining room. Jay watches Alan heartily eat his last fork of spaghetti while also engrossed by the large television hung on the wall beside them.

‘Why would you put a TV in here?’ Jay asks.

‘Why the fuck not? There is a television in every room,’ Alan retorts, and takes a gulp from his cold bottle of Peroni beer. ‘Actually, besides yours.’

Jay softly shakes his head in mild disapproval.

‘It’s my money. I fucking work hard for it. I …’

Alan is interrupted by his phone, which begins to ring. He pulls it out from his pocket and stares at the caller ID. He instantly turns the ringer off and drops the phone face down on the table.

‘I do what I want with my money,’ he continues.

‘Fair enough.’

‘Fair has nothing to do with it.’

Jay nods affirmatively at the comment.

‘So, tomorrow,’ Alan continues. ‘We are going out for dinner and then to a club …’

‘I don’t want to go into London.’

‘We’re not going to London. It’s on the high street. Epsom is picking up. It’s a new club; relatively; about a year now.’

Jay nods – he does that a lot.

‘The restaurant too, it’s been open on the high street for about three months. Food’s fucking good.’ He laughs. ‘I’m not saying your cooking is bad or anything.’

Jay is amused. ‘It’s cool,’ he says.

‘Damn right, it’s cool, or I’ll put my foot up your bum!’

They burst out laughing.

***

Jay jolts up in bed from a nightmare, sweating and breathing heavily. He quickly scans the bedroom at full alert – it’s clear. He takes a moment to regulate his breathing and glances at his wristwatch – “05:24 AM”. He slowly gets off the bed and walks out of the room.

He steps into the kitchen and heads straight to the fridge. He picks out a carton of orange juice from the fully stocked fridge and walks to the cabinets. He opens a cabinet and as he reaches for a glass, he hears Alan’s voice coming from the back garden. He walks quietly to the back door and peeks through the window – Alan paces along the garden, talking on the phone and anxiously smoking.

Jay leans on the wall by the doorway, away from the window, and listens.

‘ … you think I can pluck money from trees?’ Alan chides.

‘No, no, I apologise. I’m …’

‘I already told you. I can’t do anything till I get to work on Monday. No, sorry, Tuesday.’

‘I know I said yesterday, but I forgot it was a Bank holiday.’

‘Yeah, I did. You …’

‘200 now?’ he exclaims.

‘That’s too …’

‘Tuesday. Yeah, yeah, Tuesday.’

‘You don’t need to say that …’

‘I understand.’

There is a moment of silence and then Jay hears Alan’s footsteps approach the door. He bounces off the wall, walks quickly to the cabinet, and pulls out a glass as Alan steps into the kitchen.

‘Fucking cunt,’ Alan says to himself as he shuts the door, and is immediately startled when he sees Jay in the sparsely lit room. ‘Fucking hell!’ he exclaims.

‘Good morning to you too,’ Jay says. ‘You okay?’

‘Yeah, I’m good. It’s just work.’

‘At 5 AM?

‘It’s 5 PM somewhere. I’m going back to bed. It’s too early for your shit.’

Alan brushes past Jay and walks out of the kitchen.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 9

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

‘Fuck you.’

***

Jay steps into the kitchen, and it is surprisingly very tidy. He opens the large fridge freezer and it is sparsely filled with cans of beer, several take-away left overs, and a bottle of Nandos extra hot sauce.

‘What do you eat?’ Jay loudly calls out to Alan.

Alan saunters into the room and glances nonchalantly into the fridge.

‘You hungry?’ he asks Jay. ‘What do you want … oriental or pizza?’

Jay attempts to answer, but Alan walks purposefully out of the room. Jay shrugs and opens a kitchen cabinet. Neatly set unused dishes that he recognises. He opens the other cabinets and recognises all the cutlery and kitchenware – all immaculately arranged and clean. He smiles widely to himself – evidently Alan doesn’t bother with these cabinets, or the kitchen.

In the next moment, Alan returns with several take-away restaurant flyers.

‘Fuck you smiling for?’ he asks.

Jay softly shakes his head, still smiling.

‘Okay then,’ Alan says, and gestures to the flyers. ‘None of em take cards and I don’t have cash.’ He hands Jay a Chasing Dragons Chinese restaurant flyer. ‘I’d suggest this. They are fantastic. Their …’

‘It’s still the same flyer,’ Jay interrupts, astonished.

‘Oh, yeah, you were here when they opened. They’re still …’

Alan stops abruptly as his phone begins to ring.

Jay notices that Alan’s demeanour instantly changes to anxious. He watches intently as Alan pulls out his phone, glances at the caller ID, turns the ringer off and returns the phone into his pocket. Jay has the urge to ask about the call, but decides against it.

‘Yeah,’ Alan continues. ‘They’re still the best. But then again, they aren’t too many of them in Epsom?’

‘Them?’ Jay inquires with amusement.

‘Yes. Chinese restaurants.’

They laugh.

‘Very well,’ Jay says. ‘The Waitrose still around the corner?’

‘Yeah, why?’

‘Let’s go. I’ll cook.’

‘I don’t have my car.’

‘It’s around the corner; we’ll walk.’ He gestures to Alan’s beer belly. ‘You need the exercise.’

Alan laughs.

It’s early evening and the clean leafy streets surrounding their home are quiet. Alan lags a few steps behind Jay; he’s struggling to keep up with Jay’s brisk walking pace.

‘Fucking slow down already, it’s not a race,’ Alan says.

‘Keep up. We’re almost there.’

‘Fucking hell, you seem to forget I was faster than you.’

‘What?’ Jay laughs. ‘Stop that.’

‘Really, what you forgot now?’

‘There’s nothing to forget. I know you were pretty fast …’

‘I have the school medals to prove that. Where are yours, eh?’

‘Firstly, I never ran in school.’

‘Yeah, you thought you were to cool to sweat, eh?’

They laugh as they turn the corner into another quiet residential street; Waitrose supermarket can be seen further ahead in the horizon.

‘Secondly, we never raced each other.’

‘I’ll race you to the store.’

Alan immediately takes off running. Jay shakes his head in amusement and chases after him.

Jay quickly catches up with Alan and slows down a moment to keep pace. He taps Alan’s head and impressively picks up pace, leaving Alan behind.

Jay stops at the entrance to the supermarket – his breathing is regular, no sign of exertion. He watches Alan approach and admires the fact that Alan didn’t give up the race.

Alan arrives, panting, and raises his arms above his head as he attempts to regulate his breathing.

‘That’s sorted then,’ Jay says.

‘You cheated,’ Alan says, between heavy breaths.

‘How?’

‘You don’t drink or smoke.’

They laugh. Jay turns to walk into the supermarket and Alan slaps him on the back of the head and runs past him into the supermarket.

‘I win,’ Alan declares.

‘Yeah, sure, you did,’ Jay says sarcastically, and picks up a basket.

They walk along the fruit and vegetable aisle of the somewhat busy supermarket.

‘Do we need anything for the house?’

‘Well, yeah, you have seen the fridge.’

‘I mean like toiletries and all.’

‘What? Do you think I don’t shower?’

‘Probably not.’

Jay laughs as he selects fruits.

‘Oh my god, you’re so funny,’ Alan exaggeratedly declares.

‘Shut up. How about some fruit?’

‘What? Do you think I’m gay now?’

Jay shakes his head in mild amusement.

‘I’ll go get some stuff and meet you at the checkout,’ Alan says. ‘And yes, we need toiletries.’

Jay smiles as he watches Alan saunter off into another aisle. He carefully selects vegetables and places them neatly in the basket.

Alan stares through a vast array of beer, indecisive about what six pack of beer to choose.

Jay methodically picks more foodstuffs and household supplies; without pausing to make a decision, as if he has a list in his head.

Alan still stares at the array of beers. He sighs in frustration and grabs a six pack of Peroni – like always. He takes a couple steps to the spirits and stares lustfully at the array of spirits.

Jay walks to the checkout and waits. There is only one person – a sweaty middle-aged woman in a yoga outfit ahead of him.

Alan grabs a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and a bottle of Grey Goose vodka with his free hand.

It’s Jay’s turn. He glances around looking for Alan before he forces a smile back at the young redheaded checkout assistant and places his basket on the counter.

Alan walks towards the checkout and, in stride, grabs a bag of Haribo with his teeth.

The checkout assistant diligently scans the items as Jay looks around for Alan. He sees Alan and grins as he watches Alan approach.

‘You’re so predictable,’ Jay says.

Alan opens his mouth to speak and the bag of Haribo falls.

‘Nice,’ Alan says, and gestures to the juices in the basket. ‘You bought mixers.’

He dumps the beer and spirits into the basket.

Jay chuckles and says, ‘Really Alan? No, they’re not mixers. They are for breakfast.’

‘Oh, I know. A little vodka and orange with breakfast never hurt anyone.’

Jay smiles and picks the bag of Haribo.

‘I haven’t had one of these in years.’

He places the Haribo in the basket.

‘They don’t have Haribo in New York?’

‘They do. Just never had them.’

‘Hmm,’ Alan mutters, and grins mischievously.

‘A hundred and forty-two Pounds, please,’ the checkout assistant says.

Jay reaches for his wallet and Alan tears open the bag of Haribo and turns it over into his mouth.