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 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 11

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Alan brushes past Jay and walks out of the kitchen.

***

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

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

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

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

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

‘It’s noon.’

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

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

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

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

‘Barely. I had …’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Whatever. I certainly dress better than you.’

Jay shrugs, amused.

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

‘No, I don’t care.’

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

‘I’m good.’

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

‘I don’t care …’

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

Brother’s Keeper: Episode 8

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay and Alan smile at each other.

***

Alan turns and walks along the hall towards the living room as Jay steps into the house. Jay takes his time walking through the hall, anxiously observing his surroundings – he looks like a stranger in the only place he’s called home; he has been away for years, but nothing has changed.

He steps into the living room. Same exquisite furniture, but the room is very untidy – cans of beer and cartons with left over slices of pizza litter the room. Alan switches on a 78” curved television – which is obviously new – hung on the wall and is immediately engrossed by the sports news. Jay glances at him and then carefully walks around the room, observing. There are no family pictures or memorabilia on the wall, just a few really good abstract paintings.

‘Forgive the mess,’ Alan says, without looking away from the television. ‘I had a poker night a couple days ago.’

‘Couple days,’ Jay repeats.

‘Yeah, I know. I been busy.’

Jay nods and attempts to step out of the room.

Alan glances at Jay and asks, ‘Where you going?’

‘My room.’

‘Well, gimme a minute. That’s not …’ He suddenly pumps his fist and exclaims, ‘Fuck yeah!’

‘What was that?’

‘I had 50 on the Red Sox last night.’

Jay is visibly perplexed. ‘Red Sox?’ he inquires. ‘Since when did you start watching baseball?’

Alan chuckles.

‘I don’t. I back heavy favourites. It’s a good system. And the Red Sox are pretty good, right?’

Jay nods; he knows the Red Sox usually are good, but not this season.

‘You were saying about my room?’

Alan blindly tosses the remote on a sofa and leads Jay out of the living room through the hallway and up the exquisitely designed – by their mother – staircase.

‘It’s not exactly your room anymore. Most of the rooms are pretty much guest rooms now. Well, besides mine … not mine as in my room back in the day, but the room I sleep in now – mum and dad’s old room.’

He glances quickly at Jay to gauge Jay’s response, but Jay remains stoic. He leads Jay along the upstairs hallway.

‘If you still want to sleep in your old room you might have to clean it up, cos I think …’

He pushes open a door, and looks inside – the large room is very untidy.

‘Yep, you’ll need to clean it up.’ He points to a room further along the hall. ‘But, I think my old room is clean.’ He turns to Jay. ‘So, what’s it going to be?’

‘I’m good with either.’

‘Don’t gimme that shit,’ Alan says jovially, and leads Jay towards his old bedroom. ‘It’s not like I knew you were coming. I’d have paid somebody to clean it up.’

Alan pushes the door into the room open – the room is smaller, but not considerably, and it is tidy.

‘This is fine,’ Jay says.

He drops his bag on the bed and carefully observes the room.

‘Where’s all my stuff?’ he asks.

‘Well … you left and never asked for them. So I threw them away.’

Jay is visibly surprised, and Alan smiles broadly, revealing his perfect white teeth.

‘Follow me,’ Alan says.

Alan, still smiling, leads Jay back down the stairs to the cellar door. He opens the door and slowly, like a showman, leads Jay down into the cellar, and gloriously steps aside so Jay can take in the entirety of the room.

The room is a shrine to Jay and their parents. On one side there is a large cabinet filled with several family portraits – Jay, Alan and their parents, as the boys grow up from babies and abruptly stops when the boys are in their late teenage years. Two beautiful urns are set on top of the cabinet.

On the other side is a much smaller cabinet, filled with a framed picture of Jay in fatigues with other merry soldiers in Sangin, Afghanistan; another framed picture of Jay in Royal Marines uniform receiving a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross; four encased military medals and decorations, including the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross; and an encased bullet proof vest with an indentation of a large calibre bullet on the left chest.

‘What do you think? You like it?’ Alan eagerly asks.

Jay forces a smile and nods. He is completely uncomfortable and needs to be out of the room, ASAP.

‘Cos it cost me shit loads. I had the cabinets made. Fucking top range oak there.’

‘You curse a lot.’

‘Fuck you.’