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 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.