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 25

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

The man in the golf attire 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.

***

‘Vasily, stop!’ Robert commands the man in the golf attire – whose name is Vasily.

Vasily stops in the middle of his swing and looks at Robert – who’s visibly enraged – for a moment, before he turns to Mr Petrov.

Robert follows Vasily’s gaze to Mr Petrov and his visible rage is immediately dampened when he sees Mr Petrov staring at him with deathly intent. Robert opens his mouth to speak, but doesn’t.

Mr Petrov slowly turns to Vasily and nods.

Vasily turns to Slim Charles, still unconscious on the sofa, and begins to viciously smash Slim Charles’ head with the hammer.

Robert watches and struggles to restrain his rage as Vasily takes his time to savour every smash and its effects obliterating Slim Charles’ head.

Robert walks calmly to Mr Petrov and says quietly in Russian, but with a very poor Russian accent, ‘You didn’t need to do this. It makes me look bad.’

Mr Petrov instantly backhand slaps Robert in the face, and Robert begins to bleed from a cut on his bottom lip.

Natalia looks away from Mr Petrov and Robert to Vasily. It’s a grim sight watching Vasily do his thing, but she’d rather watch that; she can’t stand to watch Mr Petrov and Robert fight.

‘You’re making ME look bad,’ Mr Petrov says in Russian. ‘You can’t even handle some rich boys.’ He gestures to Slim Charles. ‘Look at what they did to your man. I’ll be handling them from …’

‘I …’ Robert begins to interrupt, but Mr Petrov backhand slaps him again in the face, and Robert bleeds more profusely from his cut lip.

Samuel – Robert’s associate; the large white man – struggles to contain himself as he watches Robert and Mr Petrov, and he’s keenly watched by Mr Petrov’s man in the adidas tracksuit – called Gennady.

Mr Petrov grabs Robert’s lavish silk blazer and uses it to wipe blood – from Robert’s cut lip – off his ring.

‘Roman, you’ve become a disgrace of a child, not to mention my first son,’ Mr Petrov says, and shakes his head – he only speaks Russian, although he understands English. ‘This country has spoilt you. And your mother too, God rest her soul, she spoilt you.’ He gestures to Natalia. ‘You are nothing compared to your sister. I raised her well.’

Robert – birth name Roman Petrov – nods and fights to hide his anger.

‘The man from Cuba agreed, yes?’ Mr Petrov asks Robert.

‘The Captain?’ Robert asks in Russian.

Mr Petrov stares stoically at Robert for a long moment.

Robert nods and continues in Russian – his father doesn’t acknowledge when he speaks English. ‘But for 200 …’

‘I don’t care about that. I just want my boy back,’ Mr Petrov says, and pauses for a moment. ‘I also want my ring back. Tell the Captain to take my ring back from the rat BEFORE he kills her.’

‘I’ll let him know.’

Mr Petrov turns to Natalia and demands, ‘Bag.’

Natalia picks up Slim Charles’ duffel bag and walks to Robert to hand him the bag. She stares lovingly into her brother’s eyes, but he looks away. She takes a step back to stand beside Mr Petrov.

Robert looks into the bag. ‘This is not 200 …’

‘I know,’ Mr Petrov interrupts. ‘It will not matter. You are going to kill the Captain.’

‘What?’ Robert exclaims in English.

Mr Petrov shakes his head in disgust.

‘His people want him dead. That is the deal,’ Mr Petrov says, and pauses for a moment to stare intently at his son. ‘You can do that, can’t you? Unless you are afraid to kill a man.’

Robert nods.

Mr Petrov turns to Vasily and commands, ‘Enough, Vasily!’

Vasily stops smashing what’s left of Slim Charles’ obliterated head. He pulls out a handkerchief from his pocket and takes his time to clean the hammer. He tosses the bloodied handkerchief onto Slim Charles’ lifeless body and turns to Mr Petrov.

Mr Petrov walks out of the room, closely followed by Vasily and Gennady.

Natalia takes a step to Robert – her younger brother – and attempts to speak, but he looks away from her, uninterested. She strokes his arm and walks out of the room.

Robert seethes as he stares at Slim Charles’ lifeless body.

Samuel watches quietly as Robert walks over to Slim Charles – who was a long time associate of Robert; both Samuel and Slim Charles had worked for Robert approaching six years and had become almost like brothers.

Robert crouches to Slim Charles and gently pulls out Slim Charles’ knife from its sheath inside Slim Charles’ jacket.

***

Jay – dressed smoothly in black – uses scissors to cut the bottom out of his trench coat right pocket. He places the coat and scissors on his bed and picks up the handgun.

He ejects the magazine of the gun to check if it’s full; it is. He reloads the magazine into the handgun and chambers a round. He tucks the gun into the right side of his waistband.

He wears the coat and buttons it up. He softly taps his left breast pocket and reaches in to pull out Natalia’s zippo lighter. He stares at it for a moment, and forces back a smile before he puts the lighter back into his pocket.

He walks to the full-length mirror in a corner of the room and stares at himself for a moment. He slots his hands into his jacket pockets and, suddenly, pulls out the gun through his jacket pocket and aims at his reflection in the mirror in one swift motion. He nods approvingly and returns the gun into his right waistband through the jacket pocket.

He grabs the bin bag, full of his bloodstained clothes, and walks out of the room.

He steps off the stairway and walks towards the front door, but stops and turns to stare at the cellar door.

***

Jay walks purposefully along a quiet residential street close to his home, and surreptitiously tosses the black bin bag into a skip he’d seen the night before, and then heads off towards Epsom railway station.

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 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 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 13

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

‘So, we were …’

***

Ten minutes later, Jay, Derek and Alan eat their main course while they watch Stephen finish the story through large mouthfuls of food.

‘And that as they say is THAT,’ Stephen concludes.

‘Finally,’ Derek says.

‘The story is a lot longer than I remember,’ Jay says.

‘Oh, it gets longer every time,’ Alan says.

‘And more embellished,’ Derek says.

‘Shut up,’ Stephen says, and turns to Jay. ‘Still have your vest?’

Jay nods.

‘Yeah,’ Alan interjects. ‘I encased that shit. Cost me shit loads too.’

‘Fucking hell,’ Stephen says, and gestures to Derek and Alan. ‘It’s all about money with you lads.’

‘That’s why we HAVE the money,’ Alan retorts.

‘Ouch!’ Stephen exclaims with amusement. ‘That was low. I’m trying.’

‘That’s not what your wife says,’ Alan jovially jabs, and turns to Derek. ‘Right?’

Derek exaggeratedly nods.

Stephen laughs softly and waves them off. ‘Speaking of, ‘ he says to Jay. ‘Can you try to get me a job where you work?’

‘You don’t want that,’ Jay says. ‘And …’

Jay stops abruptly as his phone begins to ring. He puts a hand out in apology as he pulls the phone out. He looks at the caller ID and recognises the number as Mr Smith’s.

‘I need to take this,’ Jay says, and stands.

As he walks away from the table towards the exit, Stephen says loudly, ‘Put in a word for me.’

Jay answers the call and coldly says, ‘Give me a moment.’

As he walks through the reception, he makes eye contact with Natalia, who’s stood elegantly behind the desk, and again their gaze lingers on each other, until he is bumped by a swaggering overweight man in his late twenties, who’s dressed rather very flash in an outfit that could’ve been ordered from the first page of an urban gangster catalogue, who goes by the self-given moniker “Slim Charles”.

Jay sharply turns to Slim Charles with a hint of anger, but that immediately fades to amusement as he sees Slim Charles wearing large garish sunglasses in the dark room. Jay shrugs and steps out of the restaurant.

‘Yes,’ he says into the phone.

‘Captain, have you reconsidered?’ Mr Smith asks.

‘I didn’t think I was supposed to.’

‘The company is offering double the price for your service.’

‘No.’

There is a moment of silence.

‘Okay, state your price.’

‘Price is irrelevant.’

‘I know this, Captain. You’ve never cared about the money. It’s not why you do what you do. But I know you take pride in your work. Take pride in being the best. You already are held in the highest regard by the company, as evidenced by how much we already pay for your service. Now we are giving you the chance to retire as the undisputed best, which is affirmed only by the price we pay for your service. And yes, I did say retire; after all, it will be your last job.’

There is another moment of silence as Jay ponders.

‘Captain, again, I never thought I’d have to say this to you, and I’m not one to be pedantic, but, just earlier, it was reiterated to me by the suits that your contract states you cannot refuse the last job; I know you know this.’

Silence reigns again.

Okay, Captain. You also should know that the suitor of your service is very desperate. So, if you reconsider …’

‘I won’t.’

There is silence as Mr Smith fights back to urge to commend Jay’s steadfastness.

‘If you reconsider, it will be a favour to the company,’ Mr Smith says, and continues without pause, so as not to give Jay a chance to object. ‘I will text you the details of your contact. You meet the contact, listen to the offer, and refuse it if you wish.’

‘I meet the contact?’ Jay asks, surprised – that never happens.

‘Time is of the essence, and you already are where you are needed. Plus, I don’t suppose you have any tools?’

‘I don’t.’

‘The contact will provide.’

Again, silence reigns.

‘I’ll be in touch,’ Mr Smith says, and ends the call.

Jay takes a deep breath and scans the somewhat busy high street. He switches his phone off, opens the back case, and there is a red SIM card on the battery. He swaps the SIM cards and switches the phone back on. He dials in a five-digit number and calls.

It’s answered immediately. ‘Hello,’ says an automated female voice. ‘Who is speaking?’

‘Seven, Four, Four, Four, Six, Two,’ Jays says, and waits as the voice recognition software at the other end of the line does its thing.

‘Hello, friend,’ the automated voice says. ‘How can I help you today?’

‘I need 50 thousand, ASAP.’

‘Currency?’

‘British Pounds.’

‘Would you like cash or a card?’

‘Card.’

‘What alias, and where would you like it couriered?’

‘Mr J Matthews; Epsom.’

There is silence.

‘Yes,’ Jay says. ‘I am home.’

‘Okay, friend, it will be with you on Tuesday. The card will have no withdraw limit, and only because of our long-standing relationship, not the fact that I know you are good for it, the card will also have an unlimited overdraft. You will be charged the standard fee.’

‘Okay.’

‘Would you like to know your balance?’

‘No.’

‘Okay. Be safe, friend.’

‘You too.’

Jay ends the call and switches the SIM cards.

***

Slim Charles walks to Natalia with a forced sinister swagger and dumps a filled duffel bag on the reception desk in front of her.

She stares at him for a moment, not bothering to hide her contempt, and picks the bag.

‘Wait here,’ she says, calmly but commandingly, and walks towards the restaurant.

‘Vera in?’ Slim Charles asks with a deep voice, soaked in an urban South London accent.

She stops and turns to him.

‘I’ll let her know you’re here. If any guests walk in, do not approach them, do not speak to them.’

He nods and as soon as she turns to walk away, he smirks.

She walks through the restaurant to the bar, making sure to avoid eye contact with any of the patrons. She taps Vera, who’s waiting at the bar for an order, and gestures to the reception with a disappointed expression. Vera smiles sheepishly, knowing exactly what the expression means, and nods respectfully before she walks away towards the reception.

Natalia walks through a door behind the bar.

***

Vera steps into the reception and smiles as she walks towards Slim Charles, but his eyes open wide as he sees something over her shoulder in the restaurant.

He barges past her and bursts into the restaurant.

‘Baby!’ she pleads.

He ignores and marches through the restaurant, focused on Alan with a frenzied smile.