Brother’s Keeper: The Finale

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay stands over Natalia, holding the bloodied hammer in his right hand. His left hand is lifeless by his side, dripping blood. He tosses the hammer and crouches to pick up the shotgun. He aims for her head and blasts it to pieces.

***

He drops the shotgun and winces in pain as he slowly unbuttons his jacket with his right hand. He opens his jacket to reveal his bulletproof vest – the same vest that saved him in Afghanistan – with several shotgun pellets embedded in it. He thankfully smacks the vest and slowly picks out the pellets.

He pulls out Natalia’s Zippo lighter from his jacket and lights it. He walks to the torture table and carefully places the lit lighter on it. He then crouches to pick up the dagger and walks to Alan.

He cuts the rope knotted tightly around Alan with one deft swing and supports Alan’s unconscious body with his before it falls to the ground. He searches Alan for the Mercedes key and pulls it out of Alan’s trouser pocket.

He slowly and carefully carries Alan over his right shoulder, picks the Desert Eagle from the table, and staggers out of the room.

He staggers into the hallway with the Desert Eagle raised and is met with the gruesome aftermath of his carnage. He steps over the henchman with a knife lodged in his throat and stops at Samuel’s corpse. He grimaces as he crouches to Samuel and picks out the Range Rover key.

He staggers along into the kitchen and stops at the doorway to scan the room. He is unaffected by the merciless result of his vengeance as he stares through the dead bodies. He staggers across the kitchen to the gas cookers and opens all the gas valves. He then staggers towards the exit as quick as he can.

He steps out of the back door with the gun raised and quickly scans the car park – it’s desolate. He tosses the gun back into the restaurant and staggers as quick as he can to Alan’s Mercedes. He unlocks the car and gently lays Alan on the back seat.

He walks briskly to the Range Rover and unlocks the car. He opens the back door and grimaces as he reaches in to pull out the duffel bag filled with money. He rushes back to the Mercedes and steps into the driver seat.

He swiftly pulls out of the car park and speeds away just as the restaurant violently explodes and the raging flames light up the night.

***

Jay parks the Mercedes indiscriminately outside the A&E Department of Epsom Hospital. He rushes out of the car and pulls open the back door. He quickly pulls out Alan’s wallet and removes Alan’s watch and tosses them onto the car mat.

He grimaces as he carries Alan over his right shoulder and rushes into the A&E department. He walks through the half empty waiting room and barges into the active major incidents ward.

‘I need help!’ he screams. ‘He’s dying!’

Two nurses immediately rush to him and they lead him towards a bed.

‘What’s the …’ the older nurse begins to ask, and abruptly stops as the extent of Alan’s injuries becomes evident to her.

She and the younger nurse assist Jay in laying Alan softly on the bed and the younger nurse purposefully runs off.

‘What happened?’ she earnestly asks Jay.

‘You need to pay attention now, okay?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Just listen. He’s 26, a heavy drinker, social smoker, marijuana as well, and he snorts cocaine. He has no allergies. Isn’t currently taking any prescribed medication. No long term conditions. Blood type is O positive. You get that?’

She takes a moment before she nods, and then asks, ‘What is his name?’

‘I don’t know,’ he says, and stares over her head to a fast approaching Trauma team, which is led by the younger nurse.

They shove him aside and begin working on Alan, and he watches them work. He soon becomes overcome with emotion and fights back tears. He grabs the older nurse’s arm and she turns to him.

‘Tell him …’ he stops; he doesn’t know what to say. He lets go of her arm and walks away.

‘Where are you going?’ she questions him. ‘You are bleeding. You …’

‘I will be back,’ he says, and turns around. ‘Tell him I will be back.’

***

Jay stands over Stephen, who is asleep with an I.V still inserted through his hand in a patient room in a different ward of the same hospital. Across the room, Stephen’s wife is asleep in a cosy sleeping bag.

Stephen’s breathing is regular and his blood pressure on the monitor beside the bed reads relatively normal.

Jay softly shoves Stephen in the shoulder, but Stephen doesn’t wake up. Jay flicks Stephen’s nose and Stephen instantly wakes up. Stephen attempts to speak, but Jay covers his mouth.

‘Quiet,’ Jay whispers.

Stephen nods and Jay uncovers his mouth. Stephen scans Jay for a moment and is visibly concerned.

‘Are you okay?’ Stephen whispers.

‘Yes,’ he says, and pauses for a beat. ‘Sincerely, no, but I’m doing better than you.’

They smile at each other.

‘I know you won’t be in this bed much longer,’ Jay continues. ‘But Alan will …’

‘Alan?’

‘Yes, he’s downstairs in A&E.’

‘Was is the …’

‘That doesn’t matter anymore. It’s sorted.’

Stephen knows exactly what Jay means and nods.

‘Is Alan alright?’

‘No, but he will be. I need you to watch him from a distance while he recuperates. I need time, a couple days, maybe more. Downstairs, they don’t know who he is, and I’d like to keep it that way for as long as I can, unless the stubborn fucker wakes up and tells them, but I think he’s going to be out for a while.’

‘He’s that bad?’

‘Yes.’

‘And you’re leaving again.’

‘Yes, I need to finish something.’

‘You don’t.’

‘I do. Tell Alan I said …’ he pauses for a beat, gathering his thoughts. He’s not at all good at voicing his emotions; he hasn’t had any practice. ‘I’m not here, but I am actually here. I’m here for him. I will return.’

‘You want me to write this down?’ Stephen teases, and they smile. ‘I’ll tell him. Take care, brother.’

‘You too, brother. Wednesday, expect a package. It’ll come every three months till I return. Sort yourself out, take care of Alan … and Derek.’ He gestures to Stephen’s wife. ‘And her.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Thank you.’

Stephen watches Jay walk away.

***

Jay steps out of the hospital and walks briskly past a couple ambulances to the Mercedes parked outside the hospital. He steps into the car and speeds off.

He pulls out his phone, scrolls to Mr Smith’s number, and calls. It’s answered immediately.

‘Hello, Captain,’ Mr Smith softly says in his distinct soothing elderly Texan accent.

‘Hello, Lieutenant General Rupert Spencer-Harington. Yes, I know your name, as you know mine.’

There is a moment of silence.

‘Very well, Captain Matthews,’ Rupert, aka Mr Smith, says in a relatively younger and very cultured English accent – his real voice and accent.

‘You got my brother killed.’

‘No. You got your brother killed. You became a loose end. Your brother was simply collateral damage.’ He pauses for effect and continues. ‘And from what I gather, your brother was well on his way to getting himself killed.’ He pauses for a beat. ‘But unsurprisingly, you survive. You, Captain Matthews, are a very special soldier. What a shame. Oh well, we won’t underestimate you again.’

‘You won’t live to make that mistake.’

There is no response from Rupert.

‘I’m coming for you,’ Jay says. ‘I’m coming for you all.’

‘We’ll be expecting you.’

Jay ends the conversation as he slows to a halt at a red light. He opens the phone and picks out the red SIM card on the battery. He tosses the phone out into the desolate road and speeds off into the night as the traffic light switches to green.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 32

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Robert pulls open a desk drawer, picks out Slim Charles’ knife, and hands it to Jay.

***

Natalia parks her Mini Cooper in the empty driveway of the Matthews’ home and intently scans the house, searching for any sign that anyone’s home. The lights are switched on in one of the upstairs rooms facing the street, but no other lights are visible from the house.

She opens the glove compartment and picks out a pair of black leather gloves. She takes her time to wear them as she continues to scan the house. She reaches underneath her seat and pulls out a small Walther P22 pistol. She deftly unlocks the safety and checks if there is a bullet in the chamber – there is. She places the P22 in her Givenchy shoulder bag and steps out of the car.

She confidently walks up to the door and pushes the door buzzer. She stares up at the room with the lights on and waits for a long moment before she pushes the door buzzer again and firmly knocks on the door twice. She turns around to scan the quiet upscale residential street for a moment before she turns back to the door and picks out Alan’s house key from her handbag.

She unlocks the door and quietly pushes it open. She steps into the dark hallway – there are no lights switched on downstairs and no lights are visible from upstairs either.

She gently shuts the door behind her and calls out, ‘Jay.’

There is a moment of silence.

She switches on the hallway lights and walks to the open doorway of the living room; she looks in and its dark, quiet, and empty. She walks to the kitchen doorway and looks in; it’s also dark, quiet, and empty.

She walks quietly up the stairway and then stops at the top of the stairs. She remains motionless as she stares down the hallway to Alan’s bedroom, which has its door ajar and its lights switched on, and then to the closed door leading to Jay’s old bedroom just ahead of her, and lastly to the closed door leading to Jay’s present bedroom at the other end of the hallway.

She slots her hand into her bag and clutches the P22. She walks to Alan’s room door and pushes the door further open with her foot.

She steps into the aptly lit, flamboyantly furnished, but very untidy bedroom. She scans the room and notices a small framed picture on a chest of drawers – the first picture she’s seen in the entire house. She walks to the chest of drawers and stares into the picture – teenage aged Alan and Jay in loving embrace with their parents on a sunny holiday.

Her gaze remains on the picture for a long moment, focused on the mother, and then she suddenly shuts her eyes as she fights back memories of her dead mother. She opens her eyes and turns away from the picture to walk out of the room.

She opens the door leading into Jay’s old room and briefly stares into the dark and untidy room before she shuts the door and walks to Jay’s bedroom.

She pushes open Jay’s bedroom door and, even in the darkness, notices that the room is very tidy. She switches the lights on and is utterly surprised by how meticulously clean the room is. She carefully scans the room as she walks around. She stops at his travelling bag and stares at the baggage label attached to the handle – it reads from HAV to LHR via CDG. She takes a moment to ponder, and then, suddenly, runs out of the room.

The flight was from the Havana airport in Cuba, to London Heathrow, via Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. Jay is the man from Cuba.

Natalia, holding her phone to her ear, frantically races to her car.

‘Come on, ring!’ she exclaims, as she unlocks the car.

She dials another number for Robert as she steps into the car, and returns her phone to her ear as she quickly reverses out of the driveway and into the street. She speeds on, steering the speeding car with only one hand while listening to ringing tone of her call. She then loudly curses as her call is sent to voicemail.

‘Roman, be calm,’ she says frantically. ‘But as soon as you hear this, you kill the man from Cuba. He is Jay – Alan’s brother. Jay is the Captain.’

***

Robert’s Range Rover Sport parks beside Alan’s silver Mercedes in the small car park behind Sophia’s place. Robert, Samuel, and Jay step out of the car and Jay successfully hides his recognition of the Silver Mercedes, but it confirms to him that his brother is in the restaurant, and, if still alive and he dearly hopes so, gravely needs his help.

A phone begins to ring, and Robert quickly pulls out the phone – a different phone from the one he’d shattered in the butcher shop – and stares at the caller ID; it reads “Natalia”. He hisses and rejects the call and switches the phone to silent.

He leads Jay and Samuel to the back door and taps the door twice.

Gennady opens the door. He nods at Robert and steps aside to allow Robert and Samuel through, but he then stops Jay and attempts to frisk him.

‘He’s with me,’ Robert sternly says to Gennady.

Gennady hesitates for a moment before he steps aside.

Robert leads Samuel, Jay, and Gennady who is a couple steps behind, in a single file through the large kitchen full of men who don’t look at all like chefs or kitchen staff. Eight men in total, and they all look mean and readied for a fight – they are henchman, and all look of Russian descent.

Jay, with his hands in his jacket pockets and clutching Slim Charles’ gun in his right and Slim Charles’ knife is his left, keenly observes the men and his surroundings. He follows the train into a hallway and then past two sturdy henchmen, who are heartily eating, but they abruptly stop eating and follow behind Gennady.

The restaurant phone begins to ring loudly, but no one cares.

Robert leads to another large square jawed henchman, with a Desert Eagle prominently tucked in his waistband, standing in front of a sturdy door. The henchman taps the door behind him twice and steps aside as it opens.

Robert steps through the door and Samuel and Jay attempt to follow, but are stopped by the square jawed henchman. Jay stares into the room just as its doors close and his eyes light up. He saw Alan tied to a chair, lifeless, and bloodied. He becomes visibly enraged and struggles to regulate his breathing.

Gennady and the henchmen surround Jay and Samuel and slowly begin to converge. Samuel is visibly terrified, but Jay calmly shuts his eyes.

Jay takes a deep breath and slowly exhales. Suddenly, he pulls out the knife and drives it into the throat of the square jawed henchman in one swift motion. He then simultaneously grabs the henchman’s Desert Eagle with his left hand and pulls out Slim Charles’ gun through his jacket pocket with his right hand.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 27

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

‘Fucking hell!’ Robert mutters, and pulls out a handkerchief to wipe dry his face, but then he smiles – he’s sure going to enjoy putting a bullet through the fucker’s head.

***

A luxury taxi slows to a halt in front of the Matthew’s family home, and Alan slowly steps out of the taxi – he’s incredibly exhausted. He leans back into the car to Derek, who’s splayed out on the back seat, and says, ‘Tomorrow, 8 AM. Prompt, okay? We need to sort some shit out.’

Derek nods, and Alan closes the door and watches the taxi drive off.

Alan turns around to walk into his driveway and immediately stops in stride as he stares at his Mercedes parked ahead in the driveway. He is visibly elated and walks quickly to the car.

He strokes the car as he walks alongside it and sees the key on the bonnet. He excitedly grabs it and smiles proudly – he knows Jay got it back, but how … His phone begins to ring, interrupting his pondering. He pulls it out and stares at the caller ID – it’s an unknown number.

He answers the phone and quietly listens for a response from the other end of the line, but there is just silence.

Impatient, he questions, ‘Yes?’

‘Alan?’ is the response from Natalia’s sultry voice.

‘Yes,’ Alan says, excited. ‘Yes … Natalia?’

‘Yes. How’s Stephen?’

‘He’s doing fine,’ he answers with nonchalance, and begins to pace along the driveway.

‘That’s very good,’ she says, attempting to bury his nonchalance with evident enthusiasm. ‘Are you with him?’

‘No … I just left him actually. His wife’s with him now.’

‘Oh,’ she blurts, oozing empathy. ‘How is she? How is she handling it?’

‘Err … I dunno … good, fine … she seemed fine. He’s doing fine.’

‘That’s good, really good. What about you? Jay?’

‘I’m all right, considering.’

There is a beat of silence.

‘And Jay?’

‘Good. Although he’s not here right now.’

‘Are you alone?’

‘Yeah. Yes, I am.’

‘I could come over if you need someone right now.’

He smiles to himself and takes a moment to contemplate. He glances at the house, wondering if Jay is home, and then sniffs his armpits.

‘I’m not home. I could come to you though.’

‘That would be lovely, Alan. I’m at the restaurant. We’re just closing for the night.’

‘I’m on my way,’ he says, and unlocks his car.

‘Good. See you soon.’

He ends the call and quickly steps into the car. He quietly reverses of the driveway and slowly drives off – hoping not to alert Jay, if Jay’s home.

***

Daylight fades as Natalia walks out of the back entrance of the restaurant – Sophia’s Place – and into its small car park, where her Mini Cooper and a couple luxury cars are parked. She watches with a smile as Alan’s Silver Mercedes rounds the corner into the car park and parks beside her Mini.

Alan steps out of the car and walks to her with a gleeful smile. She reaches out for a hug as he approaches and they hug affectionately. He kisses her on the cheek, just missing her lips, and she leads him towards the back door.

‘That was fast,’ she says.

‘I know,’ he says, and gestures backwards to his car. ‘It’s pretty fast.’

She taps the back door twice and they wait. She turns to him with a soft smile and he smiles back – she’s even hotter dressed casually, he’s thinking. In the next moment, the door swiftly opens and Gennady grabs him and aggressively pulls him into the restaurant. She calmly walks in after them and shuts the door behind her.

***

A short distance away and across the street from the semi-detached safe house, Jay hides in the shadows, watching the house intently. The house is nondescript, similar in everyway to the neighbouring houses on the quiet residential street. He glances at his wristwatch – it reads “20:16”.

The signal ought to have come a minute ago, but these things are never prompt, it’s the nature of the business. He’ll give it an hour … but just then the light in one of the upstairs rooms facing the street switches on, and then immediately off. Back on. Off. On. Off. On. Off. Then it stays off.

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

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 24

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

‘I’ll do it,’ Jay says into the phone. ‘For two hundred thousand.’

***

The Mercedes slowly parks in the driveway of the Matthew’s family home. Jay steps out of the car, gently places the car key on the bonnet, and walks towards the house.

He quietly steps into the house and remains in the doorway as he keenly listens and observes. The house is quiet and everything within view is just as he left it. He shuts the door behind him and walks to the kitchen to grab a bin bag.

He walks into his room, pulls out Slim Charles’ handgun, and gently places it on the bed. He completely undresses and places all the worn clothes into the bin bag. He grabs a towel and walks out of the room, heading for the bathroom.

***

Slim Charles lay unconscious in the middle of his hallway, his wide chest enlarging and contracting with every deep breath and the blood on his battered face has congealed.

The house is silent, until the sounds from the front door being unlocked with a key pierces the silence. The door is gently pushed open, and Vera walks in. She immediately sees Slim Charles and screams.

***

Slim Charles is unconscious on a sofa in his sparsely furnished living room; the room is very tidy though, thanks solely to Vera’s cleanliness.

Natalia, dressed casually in tight jeans and a deep V-neck fitted tee shirt, and Mr Petrov, dressed sharply in gulf attire – a polo shirt and navy blue trousers – stand over Slim Charles. Two large sturdy men, one also dressed in gulf attire and the other in an adidas tracksuit, diligently stand a couple steps behind them.

Vera, doing her best to hold back tears, stands by the entrance of the living room and intently watches Natalia, Mr Petrov, and her unconscious battered boyfriend.

‘Thank you for calling us first,’ Natalia says softly to Vera, and Vera nods.

Mr Petrov gestures to the man in the gulf attire, and the man walks purposefully to Slim Charles.

Suddenly, the man slaps Slim Charles hard across the face and Slim Charles regains consciousness.

Slim Charles grimaces in pain as he regains awareness and then attempts to move, but the man holds him down.

‘Slim,’ Natalia says softly, and crouches to Slim Charles. She gently places a hand on his chest to calm him. ‘Take it easy. You’re badly hurt. Who did this to you?’

‘Alan’s brother,’ Slim Charles says through the pain.

Mr Petrov raises a finger in an inquisitive manner.

Natalia heeds the cue and asks Slim Charles, ‘Just one person?’

Slim Charles fearfully glances at Mr Petrov before he tentatively answers, ‘Yes. Yes, but he had a gun.’

Mr Petrov nods.

Natalia caresses Slim Charles’ arm and says, ‘Okay. You’ll be fine.’

‘I need the hospital,’ Slim Charles declares.

‘I know,’ she says.

Mr Petrov speaks for the first time; slowly in Russian he says to Natalia, ‘Tell him why he’s going to die.’

‘We’ll take care of you, Slim,’ she says. ‘But you really fucked up last night.’

‘I know …’

‘You actually don’t,’ she interrupts. ‘My father sent me to the club to get them.’ She glances at Vera before she continues. ‘And your actions put a stop to that.’

I’m sorry,’ Slim Charles pleads to her, and turns to Mr Petrov. ‘I’m so sorry, Mr Petrov.’

Mr Petrov nods in acceptance of the apology.

‘But, Slim,’ she continues. ‘The altercation in the restaurant – you know better than to do that.’

‘I didn’t …’ he begins to plead.

‘It’s too late for that now,’ she says sternly. ‘You know the consequences.’

‘Please, Natalia!’ Vera pleads, and hurries towards them, but as she scampers past the man in the adidas tracksuit, he swiftly pulls out a wire from his pocket, grabs her neck with it, and strongly tightens the wire around her neck – strangling her.

Vera struggles violently as life escapes her, and Natalia calmly watches her die.

Slim Charles watches Vera’s last living moments in deep anguish and struggles as hard as he can to escape from underneath the powerful grasp of the man in the golf attire, but he can’t; the man is easily holding him down.

Mr Petrov watches Vera until she dies and the man in the tracksuit gently places her lifeless body on the floor. He then turns to Natalia and says softly in Russian, ‘Invite the brothers to the restaurant. We finish this tonight.’

Natalia hesitates for a moment and then attempts to speak, but doesn’t and nods.

Mr Petrov gestures to the man in the golf attire and then he and Natalia take a deliberate step backwards.

The man drives an elbow into Slim Charles’s head and Slim Charles instantly loses consciousness. He then pulls out a claw hammer from his waistband, raises it high above his head, but before he swings the hammer into Slim Charles’ head, Robert and the large white man with him at the Shisha bar burst into the room.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 23

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay ignores Alan’s question and steps out of the hospital room

***

A taxi turns into Vicarage Road – a desolate street in Guilford, lined with terraced houses – and parks at the top of the street. Jay calmly steps out of the taxi, nods at the driver, and watches the taxi drive off.

He walks purposefully along the street, keenly observing the houses – searching for no. 45 – and his pace steadily quickens, until he is running at full speed.

He notices the Silver Mercedes parked ahead and slows his pace to a brisk walk. He quietly approaches the car and then looks at the house that the car is parked in front of – there is a metallic “45” embedded on the front door.

He walks towards the door, and as he approaches, he hears the door being unlocked and charges at the door.

***

Slim Charles, dressed as flash as usual and with the duffel bag over his shoulder, opens his front door and is immediately ferociously kicked in the chest. He is driven backwards and crashes hard onto the bottom of his stairway.

Jay calmly steps into the house, shuts the door behind him, and menacingly walks across the small hallway towards Slim Charles, who’s in evident extreme pain.

Slim Charles sees Jay approach, and is overcome with fear. He frantically crawls to the duffel bag, unzips it, and pulls out a handgun. He hurriedly attempts to aim for Jay, but Jay kicks his hand and the gun flies away from his grasp. Jay then kicks him flush in the Jaw and he crashes onto the floor, unconscious.

Jay picks up the gun and aims it at Slim Charles’ head, but he doesn’t shoot. He takes a couple deep breaths to calm his vengeful rage and then lowers the gun. He keenly listens for any movement in the house, but there is none; the house is utterly quiet.

He crouches to Slim Charles and slaps Slim Charles hard across the face.

Slim Charles wakes up and Jay calmly places the barrel of the gun between his eyes. Slim Charles stares at the gun, deathly afraid.

‘Look at my face,’ Jay says calmly.

Slim Charles looks up to Jay and attempts to plead for his life.

‘Don’t speak,’ Jay commands. ‘Just look at my face. If you ever see me again, run. Your life depends on it. I’m Alan’s older brother. If you ever see him, run.’ Jay pauses for a moment to allow the gravity of his words to permeate. ‘The guy you stabbed, I’m his friend. If you ever see him, run. Same goes for Derek. But if you decide not to run, and fight, you better be prepared. Be prepared to die … violently.’

‘I …’ Slim Charles begins to say before Jay swings the gun into his face.

Blood splatters across the room, on the bag and on Jay, as Slim Charles is knocked unconscious.

Jay rises and walks into the rather very tidy kitchen. He walks to the sink and washes the blood off the gun, and then washes his hands. He tears several sheets of paper towel and wipes dry his hands and the gun. He tucks the gun into his waistband and walks back into the hallway.

He stands over Slim Charles and scans the room for the Mercedes key. He spots the key on the floor beside the bag and steps over Slim Charles to walk to it.

He crouches to pick up the key and notices the bag is filled with money, but he doesn’t hesitate, he picks up the key and walks towards the front door.

He steps out of the house, kicks the door shut behind him, and calmly walks to the Mercedes.

He unlocks the Mercedes as he approaches, steps into the driver seat, and smoothly drives away.

As he drives, he pulls out his phone and scrolls through his recent calls to 07859007525 – Robert’s number.

He calls, and it’s immediately answered.

‘I’ll do it,’ he says. ‘For two hundred thousand.’

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 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.