Brother’s Keeper: Episode 17

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Alan looks at Jay, then Stephen, then Natalia, and then back to Jay. He considers lying, or apologising, but instead he defiantly declares, ‘Fuck that!’

***

Jay and Stephen aren’t amused, but Natalia fights back a smile and looks around for the waitress.

‘You guys want a drink?’ she asks, and glances at her luxury white gold Cartier watch. ‘We can all go back to mine afterwards. I’m expecting a few friends.’

‘Yeah!’ Alan excitedly exclaims.

‘Fucking sweet,’ Derek slurs.

‘I don’t know about that,’ Stephen instinctively objects.

‘Come on,’ Derek chides.

She smiles and says softly to Stephen, ‘It’s nothing like you’re thinking. Just chill, have a few drinks. I’ll personally make sure you’re home safe.’

Stephen nods in agreement, and she turns to Jay.

Jay stares back at her and it’s evident to him that she really wants him to come along, and he struggles to conceal a flattered smile.

Alan watches Jay and Natalia for a moment, with envy evident on his face. He grabs Natalia’s arm and says, ‘Let’s go dance!’

‘Let’s do it,’ she says, and stands.

Alan leads her out of the VIP room and Derek languidly follows.

‘I’m leaving,’ Jay says to Stephen, and stands.

‘Why?’ Stephen asks.

‘What do you think?’ Jay retorts.

Stephen nods knowingly. ‘See you in the morning then,’ he says.

‘Be good,’ Jay says.

Stephen nods and smiles and Jay smiles back. They bump fists and Jay walks out of the room.

On the busy dance floor, Alan’s attempt to dance is severely hampered by his inebriation, but he still knows how to move to a rhythm, as he hasn’t danced sober in years.

Natalia is amused and keeps a bit of a distance between them as she dances along with him. She spots Jay, and watches, over Alan’s shoulder, as Jay walks across a corner of the dance floor towards the exit.

Jay walks to a quiet area outside the club and pulls out his phone. He scrolls to the message from Mr Smith: “ROBERT 07859007525”.

He takes a moment to contemplate, and glances back towards the club – as if looking through the walls to what is at stake if he makes the wrong move.

He makes the call, and it’s immediately answered, but no one speaks, just lively background noise on the other end of the line.

‘Robert?’ Jay says.

‘Captain?’ Robert replies in a London accent.

‘Where do we meet?’

‘Oh, err … at mine?’

‘No. A public place. Are you alone?’

‘Well … yes. Yes, I am.’

‘Where are you?’

‘You are coming here?’

Jay removes the phone from his ear and stares suspiciously at it for a long moment, and then returns it to his ear.

‘… Captain?’ Robert eagerly calls out for the third time in succession.

‘Yes, Robert, I am coming to you. You are in a public place, aren’t you?’

‘Yes. Guildford … Palm Palace. Shisha bar.’

‘I’ll be there shortly.’

Jay ends the conversation and immediately turns to his left – Natalia stands a short distance away; she smiles at him.

She pulls out a pack of cigarettes and a Zippo lighter; she offers him a cigarette, and he declines. She nods and sensually places a cigarette between her lips. She lights up the cigarette and takes a long drag.

‘Meeting someone?’ she asks, and adeptly blows out smoke.

‘No, not exactly.’

‘Hmm, not exactly,’ she repeats, and wraps her arms around herself – she is cold. ‘The intrigue continues.’

He smiles, takes off his jacket, and wraps it around her.

‘Thank you,’ she says, and smiles.

He smiles back.

‘You’re not coming back to mine then? It’ll be fun, I promise I don’t bite.’

‘I’ll have to pass. Don’t think Alan would want me there.’

‘I want you there.’

He stares at her with a raised eyebrow, and she smiles.

‘Maybe some other time,’ he says.

‘Maybe.’

She tosses her cigarette butt to the ground.

‘See you then,’ she says, and kisses him on the cheek.

She walks away, still wearing his jacket, and he watches her, captivated.

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 16

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

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

***

Jay, Stephen, Alan and Derek are sat around their table in the VIP room. Derek and Alan, both clearly inebriated, prepare drinks for themselves from the emptying bottles as they banter with Stephen, who’s evidently having a good time, although he isn’t trying to keep up with the professional drunkards. Jay, on the other hand, is distant, staring intently at the glass in front of him, which is full of vodka.

Alan sneakily gestures to Stephen to hold Jay down so he can pour the contents of Jay’s glass down Jay’s throat, but Stephen vigorously refuses. Alan huffs and gives Stephen the finger; Stephen returns the gesture.

Alan gestures for Derek to hold Jay down, and Derek excitedly nods. They simultaneously stand.

‘Don’t try it,’ Jay says, without looking away from the glass.

‘Ah!’ Alan exclaims. ‘You guys are no fun. I’m off to the bathroom.’

‘Me too,’ Derek says, and he and Alan stagger out of the VIP room.

Alan leads Derek into the dance floor and immediately locks eyes with the tall muscular man standing alone in a corner of the room. Alan nods towards the toilet and the man nods back.

Alan and Derek walk into the toilet and Derek immediately approaches the jolly toilet attendant. He blocks the attendant’s view of the door and starts up a conversation about the array of perfumes on the counter.

Alan walks into a cubicle, and, a moment later, the tall man steps into the bathroom, walks straight into the same cubicle, and closes the cubicle door.

Alan watches with excitement as the man briskly pulls out a cigarette case.

The man opens the case, full of longer than usual cigarettes, carefully picks out a cigarette, and shuts the case. He bites off the filter and pours out cocaine from the open cigarette onto the flat metal case. He hands Alan the now empty cigarette cylinder and pulls out a bankcard to make four lines of the cocaine.

Alan adeptly snorts a line of cocaine off the case and closes his eyes to savour the high.

‘It’s 60 quid a gram now,’ the man whispers.

Alan’s eyes jet open to stare questioningly at the man.

‘Hard times,’ the man says, and smiles. ‘From what I hear, you know all about that.’

Alan gives the man the finger and snorts another line of cocaine, and, again, he closes his eyes and tightly clenches his fists as he basks in the intense feeling.

‘You know Slim is looking for you, right?’ the man asks.

‘Fuck that fat fuck!’ Alan snaps, and the man chuckles.

Alan shoves the man aside and attempts to exit the cubicle, but the man grabs his arm and demands, ‘My money.’

Alan pulls out his wallet and hands the man several ten-pound notes.

‘That’s a hundred,’ Alan says as the man counts the money, and he exits the cubicle before the man can object.

Alan walks to the sink closest to the toilet attendant, and Derek immediately cuts short his conversation with the enthusiastic toilet attendant and walks into the same cubicle.

Alan takes his time to wash his hands, and the toilet attendant knowingly watches him. Alan smiles widely as he takes a paper towel from the attendant and slowly wipes his hands as he and the attendant stare at each other. He then looks indecisively through the perfumes on the counter, continuously reaching for a perfume but stopping midway; intentionally frustrating the attendant.

Derek steps out of the cubicle, and Alan shrugs at the evidently frustrated attendant and follows Derek towards the exit of the toilet, but he stops, pulls out two ten-pound notes from his wallet and tucks them into the breast pocket of the grateful attendant.

***

Jay and Stephen sit quietly at their table; Jay is still distant, in deep contemplation.

‘You should have a word with Alan,’ Stephen says. ‘Think he’s having some problems.’

Jay nods.

‘You don’t think so?’ Stephen asks.

‘I do,’ Jay says.

Stephen attempts to speak, but sees the waitress leading Natalia towards their table.

Jay follows Stephen’s eyes and sees Natalia. She looks absolutely stunning in an elegant black dress that showcases her curves.

Jay and Stephen instinctively stand as she approaches, and she and Jay cant keep their eyes off each other.

‘Do you guys need anything?’ the waitress asks.

‘No, we’re alright,’ Stephen answers.

‘Not right now, if you don’t mind,’ Natalia says to the waitress, while she and Jay maintain their gaze.

The waitress nods and walks away.

‘We weren’t expecting you,’ Stephen says. ‘I’m Stephen.’

She looks away from Jay for the first time and smiles at Stephen.

‘Natalia,’ she says to him.

She turns back to Jay and there is a moment of silence as they all wait for Jay to introduce himself.

Stephen nudges Jay, and Jay immediately grasps the cue. ‘Jay,’ he says, and they smile in amusement before they sit around the table; she takes the seat closest to Jay.

Again, there is a moment of silence.

Stephen attempts to break the silence, but Natalia beats him to it.

‘I saw you guys salute earlier,’ she says. ‘Soldiers?’

‘Well, yeah …’ Stephen begins to answer.

‘No,’ Jay interjects. ‘Not anymore.’

‘Yes, not anymore,’ Stephen concurs.

‘Oh, okay, why not?’ she asks.

‘Medical discharge, me,’ Stephen says. ‘I could show you my scar, but you probably don’t want to see it.’ He laughs and places an arm around Jay. ‘He just got tired of saving all our behinds.’

Jay modestly turns to Stephen and they share a heartfelt moment, stemmed from the endless hours spent together in battle and the even more relatively quiet hours spent together between those battles – band of brothers, forever.

Natalia smiles as she watches them, and a moment later, Stephen turns to her.

‘I can tell you the story,’ he says.

‘No,’ Jay says, and laughs softly. ‘She’s not interested.’

‘Don’t speak for me,’ she says. ‘I’m very interested.’

Jay smiles.

‘Right now, you are,’ he says. ‘Ten minutes in, you won’t.’

They laugh.

‘To put it concisely,’ Stephen says. ‘I and the other brothers in our platoon were caught in an ambush. Bloody Taliban everywhere.’ He gestures at Jay. ‘Our captain here, he saved our behinds.’ He pauses a moment. ‘No man left behind. Not one. Even if he had to carry your unconscious body two hundreds metres through a hail of bullets and explosions.’

There is a quiet moment as Stephen repeatedly nods, reminiscing, and Jay stares down to his feet.

‘Why wouldn’t I be interested in that?’ she sincerely asks.

‘It was concise,’ Jay says.

They laugh.

‘Alan should be back any moment,’ Jay says.

‘I’m not here because of Alan,’ she says. ‘I decided to come out for a drink … or two. This is the only place to be after midnight in Epsom.’ She smiles. ‘But I did know you guys were in here. So I thought to come say hello. Make sure …’

Alan and Derek stagger into the room; Stephen, Jay, and Natalia turn to watch them approach.

‘Fucking hell, you came,’ Alan says to Natalia. ‘Nice!’

Alan kisses her firmly on both cheeks, and she smiles politely.

Derek, who is most intoxicated, just smiles widely at her, and she smiles back.

Alan drags a seat very close to her and dumps himself on it. Derek, on the other hand, takes his time as he attempts to sit beside Stephen and still he almost falls to the ground; Stephen has to catch him and guide him to the seat.

Derek ploddingly attempts to prepare himself a drink as Jay and Stephen stare intently at Alan, not bothering to hide their disappointment.

‘You want a drink?’ Alan screams at Natalia.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll order something soon,’ she says.

‘Cool. Cool,’ he says, and turns to Jay and Stephen. ‘Why the fuck are you guys staring at me like that?

Jay gestures for Alan to wipe his nose, which has remnants of cocaine on the tip and around the nostrils.

‘What?’ Alan asks, confused.

‘Your nose,’ Stephen says, frustrated. ‘Wipe your nose!’

‘Oh!’ Alan says, and wipes the cocaine off his nose.

He looks at Jay, then Stephen, then Natalia, and then back to Jay. He considers lying, or apologising, but instead he defiantly declares, ‘Fuck that!’

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.