Brother’s Keeper: Episode 30

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Natalia’s smile broadens and she scrolls through the contacts on Alan’s phone to “SUPERMAN”. She calls “SUPERMAN”.

***

Jay calmly steps into Palm Palace Shisha bar – seemingly forever busy – and walks to sit on the empty chair opposite Robert. He places the envelope – containing the M9 – on the table.

Robert gently strokes his half empty glass of gin and sprite as he stares intently at Jay. He is tipsy – he’s had four glasses of gin and sprite – and is battling severe anxiety as he questions his decision to instruct Jay to kill Fyodor – his 2 years old half brother – and ponders its unavoidable far-reaching consequences.

‘I added sprite,’ he says, gesturing to his glass. ‘It tastes much better.’ He pauses and vacantly scans the bar. ‘I like sprite.’

He downs the rest of his drink and remains silent as he continues to people watch, and Jay stoically stares at him.

He turns back to Jay and asks, ‘You want a drink?’

Jay doesn’t respond.

‘I can’t imagine it’s easy to kill a kid,’ Robert says flippantly, in an effort to disguise his true sentiment.

Jay instinctively shakes his head as a response to the comment – “it’s certainly not easy,” he’s thinking.

‘You did it, right?’ Robert earnestly asks.

Jay doesn’t respond.

‘I know,’ Robert says, hiding his resignation. ‘I got your text. Well, not me per say. I’m professional.’

Jay pulls out Cameron’s wedding ring and places it on the envelope.

Robert reaches for the envelope and drags it to himself. He stares at the ring for a moment and nods.

‘Where’s the money?’ Jay asks.

‘I don’t carry that sort of cash around. It’s very conspicuous. I like that word – conspicuous.’

‘Where is it?’ Jay sternly asks.

‘It’s in my office … back of a little butcher shop where I lay my head during the day. It’s close. Might even pack you some fucking tasty sausages to take with you.’

Jay calmly stands and says, ‘Let’s go.’

Robert leads Jay out of the bar to a black Range Rover Sport parked in front of the bar. He turns to Jay with a smile and says, ‘I didn’t think my man in the brown leather jacket needed to hide any more.’

Jay hides a smile; when he was approaching the bar, he’d noticed Samuel – the man in the brown leather jacket – sitting confidently in the driver’s seat of the car. He follows Robert’s lead and steps into the back seat.

Jay slots his hands into his jacket pockets and clutches Slim Charles’ gun – tucked in his waistband – through the large hole he’d cut in his right pocket earlier in the day.

‘Captain,’ Robert says to Jay, and gestures to Samuel. ‘Meet man in the brown leather jacket.’ He turns to Samuel. ‘Brown leather jacket man …’ He gestures to Jay. ‘Meet Captain.’

Samuel and Jay acknowledge each other through the rear-view mirror.

‘I tried to get him to wear another jacket,’ Robert says. ‘I thought it had become too conspicuous.’ He laughs for a moment. ‘But he didn’t listen. Stubborn fucker, he is.’

Samuel exaggeratedly nods.

‘To the office,’ Robert instructs.

***

They are ten minutes into the journey to the butcher shop and the car is silent; you could cut the air with a knife.

‘So, Captain, you have a family?’ Robert asks.

Jay turns to Robert, but doesn’t respond.

‘I thought so,’ Robert continues. ‘You strike me as one of the no attachment types – nothing you can’t leave in thirty seconds flat and shit. You have it right; family is fucking overrated.’

With that, the car returns to silence.

***

The Range Rover parks by the back entrance of a high-end High Street butcher shop and Jay, Robert, and Samuel step out of the car. Robert leads Samuel, and Jay, who still has his hands in his pockets and is firmly clutching the gun, to the back door.

Samuel does his best to act cool, but is evidently on edge.

Jay, on the other hand, appears absolutely calm but his mind is in overdrive working out the smoothest way of eliminating them both, disposing their bodies, cleaning up the scene, and escaping in just over an hour – which is all the time he has left from the three hours of silence he’d requested from Cameron.

Robert stops by the door and stares expectantly at Samuel, but Samuel doesn’t react.

‘The key?’ Robert asks, and gestures to the door.

Samuel pats himself, searching for the key, and then has a moment of recollection. He forces an apologetic smile and walks briskly back to the car.

Robert turns to Jay and exaggeratedly shakes his head in disappointment. Jay sees through their elaborate charade and has the urge to put a bullet through Robert’s eyes right there and then, but no, he’ll wait till he gets the money.

Samuel steps into the driver side of the car. He opens the glove compartment with one hand and surreptitiously opens a secret compartment underneath the steering wheel with the other. He quickly picks out a matte black sawed off shotgun and tucks it into his jacket before he picks out the back door key from the glove compartment.

He shuts the compartment, steps out the car, and walks briskly back towards Jay and Robert.

Samuel opens the back door and Robert leads through a small hallway into an expensively furnished office. Samuel waits at the door, and Robert walks round to the front of his desk.

Jay glances back to Samuel at the door before he walks up to the desk.

Robert picks up a duffel bag from the floor and dumps it onto the middle of the desk.

Samuel reaches into his jacket and grabs the shotgun. His nervous finger is on the trigger and he waits for Robert’s signal to shoot Jay. It’s not his first rodeo, but he has only one shot, if he misses or isn’t quick enough, he knows he won’t live to regret it.

Robert gestures at the duffel bag, which is full of money, and says with a wide smile, ‘You want to count …’

Suddenly, a loudly ringing phone interrupts him.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 28

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay takes a deep breath and walks away – it’s on now.

***

Jay softly lands in a dark corner of the safe house back garden after deftly scaling the wall and immediately notices a motion detector light above the back door. The light is off, but any sudden movement could switch it on. He slowly pulls out the M9 pistol – now with a suppressor attached – and carefully aims for the light bulb. He pulls the trigger and there is a sharp impact sound as the bulb shatters.

He waits motionless in the darkness for almost a minute before he stands and walks quietly, in a crouched position with his M9 raised, to the back door. He slowly attempts to open the door, but its locked. He steps back and scans the building – there is a slightly open upstairs window.

***

Jay slowly sticks his head through the window into an upstairs bedroom, which is dark and empty. He carefully climbs into the room through the window. He pulls out his M9 and walks quietly to the room door.

He pushes the door open very slightly and listens – loud noises from a television across the hall, with accompanying loud banter from male voices; two distinct male voices.

He steps out of the room and remains motionless in the hallway. Across from him are two doors. One leads to the toilet, which has its lights switched on, and the other leads to the room where the television noises and banter emanate.

He quietly walks to the room door. He swiftly opens the door and steps into the room with his M9 raised. Two uniformed London Metropolitan officers are sat on a sofa a short distance away from the door, jovially watching Top Gear on the large television hung on the wall, and with their assault rifles resting by their feet. They casually turn to Jay in the doorway and instantly become motionless as they stare nervously at him.

The older officer can’t stop glancing down to his rifle. Jay focuses on him and shakes his head. In the next moment, the younger officer reaches down for his rifle. Jay charges at the officer and viciously knees him in the head as the officer grabs the rifle. The officer collapses onto the floor, unconscious, as the older officer reaches for his rifle. Jay stumps on the rifle, trapping it underneath his feet, and smashes the butt of his M9 into the officer’s head. The officer slumps onto the sofa, unconscious.

Jay drags the younger officer to the column radiator attached to the wall. He pulls out the officer’s handcuffs and cuffs the officer’s wrists to the radiator. He then drags the older officer to the other end of the radiator and handcuffs him to it.

He pulls out their phones and radios and walks across the room to the television remote control. He increases the volume of the television to a deafening level and places the phone, radio, and remote on the sofa – far out of reach for the officers.

He walks out of the room to the toilet door and softly taps on the door.

‘Yes?’ comes a frightened whisper from inside the toilet.

Jay taps the door again and aims his M9 head height. The door slowly opens until the uniformed officer inside the toilet is staring down the barrel of the gun.

‘I’m the guy,’ the officer says frantically. ‘I’m …’

Jay swings the butt of the M9 into the back of the officer’s head. The officer loses consciousness on his feet and Jay catches him before he collapses.

Jay drags the officer into the room and to the radiator. He pulls out the officer’s cuffs and cuffs him to the radiator between the other officers. He takes the officer’s phone, radio, and shoes.

He places the shoes and radio on the sofa, slots the phone in his pocket, and walks out of the room. He shuts the door gently behind him and sneaks down the stairway.

He steps off the stairway into a small but brightly lit hallway and remains in a crouched position with his M9 raised as he turns to three doors – two open and one closed. The open door to his right leads to the living room, which is dimly lit with faint noises from a television; but there are no accompanying voices or sounds of movement. The other open door, which is in the middle of the doors, leads to a dark and evidently empty kitchen.

The closed door is closest to him on his left and he sneaks to it. He listens and the room sounds empty. He quietly opens the door and pushes it open to reveal a small toilet.

He quietly steps into the living room to see Cameron – looking extremely weary and almost unrecognisable from the picture he was shown – sat on a sofa, glumly watching the television, and her toddler is asleep on the sofa beside her with his head resting on her lap. There is a female officer sat on an armchair beside them, also watching the television but with far more enthusiasm than Cameron. An automatic shotgun leans on the wall beside the armchair.

They haven’t yet noticed him – this though is always the case; his target never sees him until its too late, unless he wants it; he’s a ghost in plain sight. He slowly advances towards them with his M9 aimed at the female officer’s head.

Cameron and the female officer see him approach at the same time. Cameron instantly reaches into her blouse to grab something as the female officer attempts to reach for the shotgun.

‘Don’t,’ he commands.

Cameron and the female officer stop; the female officer sits back comfortably in her chair, as if she’d rather die in a comfortable sitting position, but Cameron stares defiantly at him, still grabbing the item in her blouse in one hand and covering her sleeping son’s eyes with the other.

‘Pull it out slow and place it on the ground,’ he commands Cameron.

To the female officer’s utter surprise, Cameron slowly pulls a sawed off shotgun out from her blouse. Cameron wields the gun with ease; like she’s held one many times, and also looks like she’s fired one before and wont hesitate to fire it again. The wife of a Russian crime lord – a toddler in one hand and a sawed off in the other, par for the course, it seems. She fights her better instincts as she carefully places the shotgun on the floor by her feet.

‘Cuff yourself to the radiator,’ he says to the officer, and gestures to the column radiator a short distance away from her.

The female officer is reluctant to stand.

He lowers his gun and calmly says, ‘Do it.’

The officer walks to the radiator and cuffs her wrists to it, but the handcuffs are evidently loose. He stares at her expectantly, and she diligently fastens the cuffs.

He calmly walks to the officer, keeping an eye on Cameron, and the officer does her best to hide her fear as she stoically watches him approach. He swings the butt of his gun into the back of her head, and she falls to the ground, unconscious.

He takes her radio and her phone and walks back to Cameron.

As he approaches, she gestures to her son and passionately declares, ‘I wont let you take my son!’ She glances at the shotgun by her feet. ‘I’ll fight you to the death.’

He blankly stares at her for a long moment, before he places the phone and radio on the coffee table.

‘You don’t think I can?’ she angrily questions. ‘I’ll do …’

‘I’m not taking him,’ he says, and tucks his gun into his waistband.

She stares at him, deeply confused. ‘What do you want?’

‘I want three hours of your silence.’

‘What?’

‘Three hours,’ he says earnestly and pauses. ‘Without alerting anyone of what’s happened here.’

‘Why?’

‘You’ll know. In time.’ He glances at the wedding ring on her finger. ‘I need the ring.’

She glances at the ring. ‘He sent you to kill me.’

He glances at the toddler. ‘He sent me to kill you all.’

She is aghast and turns to her son, and he watches as she lovingly caresses her son’s head. She turns back to him, pulls off the ring, and hands it to him.

There is a moment of silent acknowledgment between them.

‘The officers upstairs are unconscious,’ he says, and glances at the female officer. ‘They are also handcuffed to the radiator. The one without shoes let me in.’

‘Sorry?’

‘You’ll see what I mean.’

She nods. ‘Thank …’

‘No,’ he says, and instinctively raises a hand to object. ‘Three hours.’ He gestures to the female officer. ‘They might wake up before then, but they can’t do anything without you.’

‘Okay. Three hours.’

He nods and pulls out the corrupt officer’s phone. He sends the blank text to the number Robert specified and offers her the phone.

‘You might need it. It belongs to the one without shoes.’

She takes the phone, and there is another quiet moment between them as she fights the urge to thank him.

He turns and walks away towards the back door.

He steps through the back door into the back garden and pulls out his M9. He aims for the grass a distance ahead of him and fires a shot into the ground. He repeatedly shoots into the grass.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 19

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Robert bangs his fists on the table in an eruption of anger.

***

Jay walks in the shadows on the other side of the street from his home, keenly observing the well lit street. He intentionally walks past his home and past four more elegant detached houses before he suddenly turns to intently scan the street – it’s empty and quiet.

He quietly steps into the dark hallway of his home, shuts the door behind him, and remains motionless, alert – the house is eerily silent.

He quietly walks up to the top of the stairs, and again he remains motionless, alert as the eerie silence reigns. He glances down the hallway to Alan’s room. The room door is open and the lights in the room are on, but that’s exactly how it was left, right down to the degree of the open door. The room is empty.

He walks into his dark bedroom and, without switching on any lights, undresses to his underwear and gets into bed. He looks at his phone – the battery level is very low. He scrolls through his recent calls and lingers on Mr Smith’s number for a long moment before he scrolls down to Alan and calls.

It rings for a while before the voicemail service answers.

‘Hey, it’s Alan. Do what you do,’ says Alan’s recorded voice.

Jay ends the call and places the phone underneath this pillow. He closes his eyes to sleep.

***

In the VIP room of ON ANON club, Alan struggles to pull out his ringing phone from his pocket, but in his inebriated state he doesn’t manage it in time, and Derek, utterly inebriated, and Stephen, visibly tipsy, laugh at him.

Natalia watches on with a smile. She’s clearly not inebriated, not even tipsy.

‘Who was it?’ she asks Alan.

‘Jay,’ he replies.

‘Call him back.’

He shakes his head and attempts to speak, but he sees the waitress walking towards them with a tray of three Tequila shots.

‘Shots!’ he shouts.

He, Derek, and Stephen grab the glasses and down the shots.

‘Keep them coming,’ she says to the waitress.

Five minutes later, the waitress returns with three more shots, and the guys are very animated as they grab the shots and down them. The waitress turns to Natalia for instruction, and Natalia nods.

As the waitress leaves, Alan feigns throwing up on Natalia. She flinches, and they laugh heartily.

Another five minutes later, more shots arrive and the guys are less animated as they grab and down them. Natalia nods at the waitress.

Natalia watches the guys interact languidly as more shots arrive. They sluggishly pick the shots and, in their attempts to down them, pour most of the Tequila all over themselves.

Natalia shakes her head to the waitress, and the waitress leaves.

‘Let’s head back to mine,’ she says.

The guys do their best to muster excited responses.

She smiles as she stands and watches them struggle to their feet.

Alan stumbles and reaches out to her, and she holds him up.

‘I … I … fucking love you!’ he drunkenly declares.

She forces back a laugh and leads him out of the room.

Stephen, who is the most stable of the guys, supports Derek as they follow Natalia out of the room.

***

Outside the club, the two bouncers struggle to contain the inebriated people streaming out of the club and the not so inebriated ones eager to get in.

Across the street, the silver Mercedes Coupe is parked with its engine running. Slim Charles is sat at the driver seat, staring intently past Vera to the club. He is seething.

‘Fat fuck, eh?’ he mutters. ‘Okay. Okay.’

‘Calm down, baby,’ she says.

‘Oh, I’m calm. I’m fucking calm!’ he rages, and suddenly sees Stephen supporting Derek as they stumble out of the club. He bursts out of the Mercedes wielding his knife and marches menacingly towards them.

Derek sees Slim Charles approach and attempts to alert Stephen, but then Stephen also sees Slim Charles. Before Stephen can react, Slim Charles viciously drives the knife into his belly.

Slim Charles yanks out the knife and shoves Stephen and Derek to the ground. He immediately sees Natalia holding Alan up a short distance ahead of him and he freezes as she stares piercingly at him.

Alan, on the other hand, is too inebriated to recognise the gravity of the situation.

Screams erupt followed by commotion as people notice Stephen bleeding on the ground.

Slim Charles instinctively steps back, away from Natalia’s piercing stare, and then turns to run towards the Mercedes.

Natalia locks eyes with Vera, who is watching from the car, and Vera is overcome with fear. Her terrified eyes can’t look away from Natalia as Slim Charles gets into the car and speeds off, just as the frantic screams climax.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 18

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Natalia walks away, still wearing Jay’s jacket, and he watches her, captivated.

***

The Palm Palace Shisha Bar in Guilford is extremely busy, with every seat out front filled with people, most seeming of Middle-Eastern descent, smoking shisha pipes.

A taxi parks on the opposite side of the street from the bar and, a moment later, drives off to reveal Jay. He scans the bar intently for almost a minute, before he walks across the street towards the bar.

He steps into the bar/restaurant, and stops at the doorway to scan through the people in the bar. He scans almost the entirety of the bar before he sees a man in his mid thirties, who’s more pretty than handsome with deep blue eyes and long flowing blonde hair, sitting alone at a table in the corner of the large room. Their eyes meet and there is recognition in their stare.

Jay walks to the man, and sits on the empty chair opposite him.

‘Robert,’ Jay says to the man – more a statement, not a question.

‘Captain,’ Robert replies, and nods.

‘Details, please.’

‘No small talk?’ Robert asks with a smirk, and takes a sip from his pint of Guinness.

Jay doesn’t respond; he just stares stoically at Robert.

‘Okay. I ordered us shawarmas though.’

‘Not hungry.’

‘You tried one before?’

Again, Jay doesn’t respond, although he almost cracked a smile. He’s been studying Robert intently and he’s amused by the height of Robert’s vanity – Robert’s nails are freshly manicured, no strand of his long blonde hair is out of place, eyebrows appear tweezed, teeth are perfect and white, his outfit is tailored and colour coordinated with a penchant for royal blue, he’s adorned with opulent gold jewellery, and doused in a subtly strong perfume. To be fair to the man, without question, he has immaculate taste.

‘Shawarmas are amazing. You really should try it. Fuck kebabs,’ Robert declares, and chuckles. ‘I got you the chicken. I’m having the lamb. It’s my favourite, but I find most people prefer the chicken.’

Jay leans back into his chair as he fights to hold back a smile.

‘Okay, okay, details,’ Robert says, and Jay leans forward. ‘Cameron is being protected …’

‘Cameron’s the target?’

‘Target … I like that. Yes, Cameron, the target, is being protected by the Met at a safe house in Croydon …’

A waitress arrives at the table with two plates of shawarmas.

‘Lamb’s mine, chicken’s his,’ Robert says to the waitress.

She nods and places the plates of shawarmas in front of them as instructed.

‘Want a drink with that?’ Robert asks Jay.

Jay shakes his head.

‘Okay,’ he says to Jay, and turns to the waitress with a soft smile. ‘Thank you.’

She smiles back and walks away.

He gestures to the scrumptious-looking chicken shawarma. ‘Smells good doesn’t it?’ he asks.

Jay doesn’t respond, although he is somewhat impressed by Robert’s persistence.

‘You are going to regret this tomorrow if you don’t at least give it a try.’

‘Okay.’

Robert shrugs and asks, ‘Mind if I eat?’

‘No.’

Robert commences to eat as he talks, although he effortlessly manages never to talk with food in his mouth.

‘Where was I?’ he asks.

‘Safe house in Croydon. You have any pictures?’

‘Pictures?’

‘Of the safe house. Of Cameron. Do you know the amount of Met officers protecting him?’

Robert laughs softly for a long moment.

‘I don’t know how many Met officers,’ he says. ‘I don’t have a picture of the house. But I do have the address. And I do have a picture of Cameron.’

Robert pulls out an iPhone from his jacket and works on it for a moment. He turns the phone around for Jay to see a zoomed-in image of a happy-looking beautiful woman in her late twenties, affectionately carrying an equally happy male toddler – her son. There is an arm around her and the toddler from a man who is cropped out of the frame by the zoom.

‘That is Cameron,’ Robert says. ‘For all intents and purposes … HER. We’ll pay you half a million to kill her and everyone in the safe house, BUT the boy. I want the boy … well, not me per say.’

Jay stands and calmly says, ‘No.’

‘What?’ Robert blurts out. ‘Sit down!’

‘I’m leaving.’

‘What? I can’t let you do that,’ Robert says angrily. ‘You’ve seen my face. You know what I’m about.’

‘You’ve seen mine, and you know, for all intents and purposes, I am a serial killer.’

Those words immediately cool Robert’s erupting anger and he leans back into his chair, powerless as he watches Jay walk away.

Jay stops midway to the restaurant’s door and walks back to Robert.

‘Your man in the brown leather jacket,’ Jay says, and gestures across the room.

A large white man wearing a brown leather jacket, sat alone at a table a short distance away with a glass of water in front of him, quickly looks away from them.

‘If he follows me,’ Jay continues. ‘I’ll kill him, and then I’ll come back for you.’

Robert remains silent, seething.

Jay nods at Robert, and walks away, out of the restaurant, and out of sight.

Robert bangs his fists on the table in an eruption of anger.

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.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 7

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

‘Alright then,’ he says to himself. ‘Home it is.’ He laughs softly, but he’s not amused.

***

Jay, dressed in a polo shirt underneath a sharp business suit, stands alone at the Heathrow Terminal 5 pick-up point with a small travelling bag by his feet; his airline ticket from Havana through Paris sticks out of the side pocket of the bag.

He is somewhat uncomfortable in his attire – he has to look the part of a travelling businessman – but he is completely uncomfortable with being back in England. He has to fight not to fidget and his growing impatience isn’t helping. He glances at his wristwatch; he’s been waiting twenty-five minutes.

A Silver Mercedes S-Class Saloon with tinted window stops in front of him, but he doesn’t acknowledge the car as that isn’t the car he’s expecting. The window of the back seat lowers, and Alan Matthews, strongly resembling his older brother but more slender and with a beer belly, sticks his head out of the window with a wide smile.

‘Superman,’ Alan calls his older brother with more than a hint of sarcasm. ‘Fucking get in, we can’t park here. Unless you want to fly home.’

Jay smiles – a genuine smile. He is happy to see his younger brother happy.

Jay opens the door and steps into the car. Alan switches a half empty bottle of Peroni beer from his right hand to his left and then he and his brother bump fists as the car drives on. Jay instinctively glances at the bottle, and the two empty and two full bottles in an ice cube bucket between them. Alan looks at the bottles and raises an eyebrow.

‘What?’ Alan inquires. ‘It’s not like I’m fucking driving.’

‘I didn’t say anything.’

‘Fuck off!’ Alan says jovially, and takes a gulp of beer. ‘Anyway, I thought you were fucking around when you called. But no, you’re here. That was sudden.’

‘I know, it happened fast.’

‘Didn’t it just. You are lucky today’s a bank holiday too. How long you here for?’

Jay glances through the car’s interior and then through the rear-view mirror at the elderly driver, who’s focused on the road ahead.

‘For a while, I think. Where’s your car?’

‘A while? Fucking hell. I wish I had your job.’

‘You don’t.’

‘Oh, I do.’ He laughs. ‘What exactly do you do again?’

Jay stares at Alan, without an ounce of amusement.

‘I forgot,’ Alan says, fuelled with amusement. But he hasn’t forgotten, it’s just in his character to be, for the lack of a better word, a dick. ‘It’s been years, you know.’

Alan looks into the distance of the motorway as he exaggerates trying to remember.

‘Security Consultant,’ Jay calmly says.

‘Yeah, that! I’d do that. You certainly have more holidays than us Investment Bankers.’

‘Right. Where’s your car?’

‘It’s being serviced, for fuck’s sake. Leave that alone.’

Jay nods.

***

The S-Class drives slowly along an affluent suburban street in Epsom, a town just outside London, and parks in the driveway of a large elegant detached house.

The elderly driver turns to Alan and says, ‘Hundred twenty-five Pounds, please.’

Alan turns to Jay. ‘I don’t have my wallet on me.’ And with that he steps out of the car and leaves Jay to sort it out.

Jay fights back a smile and pulls out his wallet and pays the driver.

He steps out of the car and is stricken motionless by the sight of the house; it’s just as it always is in his nightmares, even the greenery that surrounds the house, and shadows. It’s all the same. He hears the front door unlock; it’s the same sound. He hears his brother’s footsteps along the hallway inside the house; again, the same sounds. He can’t go inside; he knows the memories his home will evoke are even worse than the nightmares. His breathing becomes erratic and his pulse surges. He wants to flee.

Alan walks back to the front door and immediately recognises the excruciating struggle in his brother’s face. He understands and gives his brother a quiet moment to fight through, but it soon becomes evident that his brother might not succeed in that fight.

‘Jay,’ Alan calls out, with a hint of compassion.

Jay slowly turns to Alan.

‘Forgive me,’ Alan says. ‘I forgot about the red carpet.’

They smile at each other.