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 22

New to Brother’s Keeper? Read Episode 1

Jay smiles and says to Natalia, ‘You’re always welcome.’

***

In a single room in the intensive care unit of the hospital, Stephen is peacefully unconscious on a bed, with IV therapy inserted through his left arm.

Alan slouches on a chair opposite the bed, compassionately watching Stephen and struggling to stay awake.

Derek is asleep on the floor beside the bed.

Jay steps quietly into the room, holding a bag of McDonald’s takeaway. He stares at Stephen for a moment, fighting back his emotions, before he walks to the bed. He stands over Stephen and stoically stares at him, as he fights to supress the violent memories of the last time he was close to losing Stephen.

Alan opens his eyes and is startled to see Jay; he quickly sits up and watches Jay for a brief moment before he says softly, ‘He’s going to be alright.’

Jay doesn’t acknowledge him, and there is silence for almost a minute before Jay quietly but authoritatively says, ‘Follow me.’

‘No,’ Alan strongly refuses.

They stare at each other intently for a quiet moment.

‘We’re not doing this here. Follow me,’ Jay quietly demands.

‘Doing what? No!’ Alan says with his voice raised.

‘Keep your voice down,’ Jay chides.

‘Don’t fucking talk to me like that!’

There is another moment of silence as they stare intently at each other, and Derek wakes up.

‘What?’ Alan angrily demands.

‘How could you possibly owe Slim 200 thousand?’

‘What the fuck?’

‘I overheard you.’

‘What?’ Alan exclaims. ‘Why the fuck were you listening to my conversations?’

‘Alan,’ Jay says commandingly, and Alan is instantly forced to calm down, although he continues to curse underneath his breath.

Derek struggles to his feet, but the struggles don’t end there, he struggles mightily as he languidly walks towards Jay – like a drunk zombie.

‘Why the fuck were you listening to my conversations?’

‘What’s wrong with you?’

‘Me?’ Jay loudly exclaims. ‘Wrong with ME? Fucking really?’

‘How did you …’

‘Fuck you! Where have you been all my life?’

Jay is taken aback.

‘Yeah,’ Alan continues loudly. ‘Where the fuck have you been?’

Jay attempts to speak, but Alan continues.

‘You think you can just waltz in after 5 years and fucking ask what’s wrong with me?’ He shakes his head violently. ‘How fucking dare you?’

Derek reaches Jay and grabs the McDonald’s bag. He stands, on unsteady legs, between Jay and Alan, with all his focus on the bag.

‘I …’ Jay begins to say, before Alan cuts him off.

‘Fuck that. Ever since they died you’ve never been around. Never was there for me … you were here, but not actually here.’

A quiet moment as Alan stares intensely at Jay, and Jay doesn’t know how to respond.

‘What?’ Alan continues. ‘You went to fight for your country? Like you give a shit about that. You fucking left me. Left me alone in that fucking house.’

Derek attempts to reach into the McDonald’s bag, but it falls to the ground. He languidly bends over to reach for it.

‘I begged you not to go,’ Alan passionately continues. ‘Not cos I was scared you’d die … Fuck no! You’re Superman. And, of course, you came back a war hero, of fucking bloody course.’

Derek rises with the bag, but it slips from his fingers and falls again. He sighs and languidly bends over to reach for it.

‘Good though, good … Cos I thought that was that. But no, fuck no. You got a job immediately in New York New York,’ Alan says, and pauses for a breath. ‘5 long hard years later …’

Alan suddenly stops and focuses on Derek, who is struggling to pick the bag.

‘What the fuck is wrong with you? Pick it up,’ he aggressively scolds Derek.

Derek rises without the bag and shrugs.

Alan gets off the chair, picks up the bag, aggressively plants Derek on the chair, and places the bag on Derek’s lap.

‘Good?’ he asks Derek.

Derek nods and reaches into the bag.

‘Jesus. No more drugs and alcohol for you. It’s not a good look.’

Jay struggles to hide a smile.

Alan turns to Jay and notices Jay struggling to hold back a smile. He then also struggles to hold back a smile, but he cant and smiles. Jay smiles too.

They smile at each other for a brief moment.

‘I made a few mistakes,’ Alan continues. ‘Firstly, being a banker.’

Jay is mildly amused.

‘I needed some quick money to plug a hole in an investment. I was high. I asked Slim. He introduced me to the guy he works for, Roman. Fucking cunt of a guy, but he gave me the hundred thousand in cash that same day. He expected 150 last weekend. That, of course, didn’t happen. The investment fucked me in the arse. Now Roman’s got me over a barrel.’

‘How are you going to pay him?’

‘I’m going to fuck someone else in the arse.’

‘Don’t do that.’

Alan is amused.

‘That’s the game, Jay. That’s what we do.’

There is a moment of silence.

‘Why does Slim have your car?’

Alan shrugs indifferently.

‘He’s my dealer. I owe him 800 pounds. He took my car till …’

‘800?’

Alan laughs softly.

‘Yeah, I know …’

‘You know where he lives?’

‘Yeah.’

Jay stares expectantly at Alan.

‘What are you going to do?’ Alan asks.

Jay doesn’t respond.

’45 Vicarage Road, Guildford,’ Derek interjects.

Jay and Alan turn to Derek, who is completely focused on eating a Big Mac.

Alan takes a step closer to Jay and they both turn to look at Stephen.

‘I’m sorry about him,’ Alan says, and Jay nods.

In the next moment, Alan smells Natalia scent oozing off Jay. He turns to Jay and attempts to speak, but Jay speaks before him.

‘Have you called his wife?’ Jay asks.

‘Well, yeah … left a voice message.’

‘Really?’ Jay questions, successfully hiding his disappointment. ‘Call her back,’ Jay says calmly. ‘And don’t leave till she gets here.’

Jay hands Alan a phone charger and walks towards the door.

‘I’ll see you tonight,’ he says.

‘Where are you going?’ Alan asks.

Jay ignores the question and steps out of the room.

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 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.

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”.