Chapter 6, Brothers
BY BLAKE BOWMEN
I get out of the car just as Jane does and wonder if Owen is doing alright back home. I hate going on Jane’s missions and hate wondering what Owen would do when he’s alone. I’ve already caught him clutching glass or a kitchen knife several times. For now, I’d have to trust that he’s asleep.
I feel the crisp cold whisp of distant waves against my cheeks when I meet the night air. The smell of fish and salt gets to me as I scan our surroundings. The dark southern vans on the other side of the abandoned dock stare right back at me and armed men get out not long after.
But there’s one particular man that gets my attention. Climbing out of a grey classic sports car is a black-haired man with steely silver eyes and dark blue paint on his leather jacket.
I freeze. Every muscle in my body stands taunt with the impossible scenario playing out in front of me.
“You must be the South’s leader,” Jane addresses the man that takes a position in front of his men.
What makes me almost black out with shock is the girl that gets out from the passenger seat of the classic sports car. She tucks her purple wig behind her ear as she walks up to the dark haired man. I watch her shiver against the cold in her short dress. But it’s when the dark-haired man puts his arm around her that I notice the paint on his leather jacket and everything clicks.
“It’s good to finally meet the real Sterling leader. You may call me Kyle,” The dark-haired man says to Jane before he lets his silver gaze land on me with amusement. “Long time, no see, brother,” he says.
I cannot explain the utter shock taking hold of my entire body. Everything feels too surreal. It’s a dream. It has to be a dream. Or more likely, a nightmare.
There’s no way in hell that my brother can be alive. I... I watched him get shot... He had a funeral... I scattered his ashes in the sea... This can’t possibly be real. The more logical explanation would be that this is a ghost standing in front of me. A ghost so clearly having his arm around a very much alive Myra. A ghost that’s apparently the leader of the South.
“You two are brothers?” Jane asks confused.
“Why yes, Jane dear. However Blake and I haven’t made contact since I faked my death almost five years ago and became co-leader of the South,” the ghost says smoothly. He keeps his amused gaze on me, but I’m too stunned to react properly. I can’t even say something.
“Oh, I know all about faking it,” Jane chuckles.
The ghost looks at me for another while, but realizing I’m in no condition to even react, he finally looks at Jane. “Well, you called us here. Let’s all put our cards on the table. What is it that you want?” he asks Jane.
“I want my wretched cousin to pay. She does nothing and yet gets everything. As long as she and my cheater of a fiance run around leading their own gang, it’s putting bad rep on my name. Besides, I don’t want her sharing my last name. I want her gone, Kyle,” Jane says.
The ghost nods in understanding as he removes his arm from Myra and instead stuffs his hands into his pockets. “So you want the North wiped off the face of the Earth?” he asks.
“Basically,” Jane responds. “What is it that you want?”
Kyle shrugs with a genuine smile. “Just to make this a better, safer and less corrupt world. For that dream, there will have to be sacrificed. The North doesn’t see the dream. They only see what I need to do to get there. They don’t understand. And well, they have become a sore thorn in my side. I’d hate to kill more people than I need to, but I agree that the North has to go,” he explains.
I’m still staring at the ghost, but the more he talks, the more I realize that this can’t possibly be a dream. I feel the cold biting at me through my leather jacket. I feel my hands clenching unbelievably hard. And I feel my heart racing uncontrollably.
“What is it you have to do to make this world so safe as you dream?” Jane asks suspiciously.
“Let’s just say that a lot of people have to be very unsafe,” the ghost smiles sadly.
“It sounds like you’re going to kill some innocent people,” Jane scoffs.
“Quite a couple have to be sacrificed to get my plan into action, yes.”
“So it’s a massacre you’re planning?”
“Not a massacre, a sacrifice. I’ll mourn for the fallen.”
Jane shrugs at the idea of world war 3. “I honestly can’t possibly care how many people have to die. The less to oppose, the better. All I want is to take down my cousin,” she says nonchalantly.
And suddenly the shock of my brother being alive is overshadowed by the talk of mass death and destruction.
“Then we have a deal. I’ll give you everything you need to get rid of the North and you give me the numbers and weapons to make this world safer,” Kyle says.
“Sounds fair,” Jane replies.
“There are, however, two more requests that I have,” Kyle says cautiously.
“Before you kill Amber, I must speak to her. If I get what I need, you may have free reign over her body and life,” Kyle requests.
“That’ll be hard, but... fine. I accept. What’s the second request?”
“We merge our gangs of course.”
I finally gain control over my body again and step forward. “You can’t do that! You can’t accept this deal!” I tell Jane.
“And why the hell not?” Jane snaps at me.
“The South is bad. Everyone knows that. They’re admitting to planning a massacre! You can’t join with them!,” I reason.
“The South, Brother, is family,” Kyle chirps in.
And with him addressing me so directly again, I’m frozen all over. I stare right into his silver eyes that we both got from our mother. I could swear there’s a bit of blue paint in his hair. It scares me how much of Amber I can see in him. The art, the leadership, the drive... They are one and the same but on different spectrums of good and bad. Is my brother bad? The south is bad, but... My brother was always so good. He was so kind...
When it’s clear that I’m not responding, Kyle and Jane take a few steps closer to each other. Nixon comes closer to hand Jane a knife. The moonlight glittering on the cool steal. I have to stop this. If Sterling and the South merge... The North won’t stand a chance. It’ll ultimately be, West, East, South and the biggest gang already teaming up to form... To form something unopposable. I have to do something to stop this from happening.
But my brother... He was always so good... With plans of fixing this world. I’d listen to him and his girlfriend at the time talk about ending corruption not only in gangs but in politics. He dreamed so big... Making it so much more difficult to try and fill his shoes when he supposedly died.
I know from reputation that Kyle can make this world better.
But I also know from reputation that the South can make this world worse.
And because I’m still that kid that had to take over an entire gang five years ago, I watch helplessly as Jane and Kyle slice their hands.
“Here’s to Southern Sterling,” Kyle grins.
“Here’s to us,” Jane smiles right back.
And it’s official. I’ve just witnessed the possible end of my friends.
“Oh and as requested. I’m sure Sean Shavell will be able to help you in taking down the North. We’ve kept him to lure Amber out, but I stick to my word,” Kyle says as he motions for one of his men. It takes me a moment to realize that the man is in fact Jaacobah. Jaaco goes to a van, opens it and starts dragging a struggling Sean out.
“Let go of him!” I say and run to get Jaaco’s hands off of Sean. Before I can reach my friend, Kyle steps in my way.
“Little brother, we are on the same side... If you help Sean, you help the enemy,” Kyle says cautiously while Sean gets dragged over to one of Jane’s cars,
“But he’s my friend,” I argue.
“And I’m family,” Kyle counters.
It gets me to pause. Already I’m faced with a choice that’ll change everything for me. Friends or family? My brother or the North?
Kyle sees my confliction and puts his hand lovingly on my shoulder. “I tried talking to Sean. I offered him to join the South, but he wouldn’t. I don’t want to do this, but he left me no choice. It’s on him, not you or me,” my brother reasons.
I’m definitely still at unease over the situation. “I didn’t even know he was alive...” I whisper.
“You didn’t know I was alive either,” Kyle muses.
Suddenly angered, I push my brother away - calling attention to the plenty of armed guys around us. “You made me believe you were dead! Do you know what it did to me? Do you even care how that mentally fucked me up?! You knew I didn’t want to be part of the gangs! You knew and yet, you still did it! Without warning! Dad is dead because of you!!!” I yell at Kyle - spit flinging from my words, but I don’t care.
Instead of lashing out back at me, Kyle calmly looks down and takes a breath. “I have no excuses for my actions,” he says before looking back up, “And neither will I have excuses for what I’m still to do. All I have is a dream.”
I watch over Kyle’s shoulder at how Sean is getting stuffed into a car and I can’t take his pained expression. “I have to help him,” I urge.
“You mean you have to help the North?” Kyle contradicts with a sad smile. I look back at my brother. “Blake... Brother... I’ve kept such a close eye on you. I see the pain Amber has caused you... And I will never forgive the pain Xavier put you through. They both. When Xavier made Amber choose between Owen and you, she picked Owen. She was willing, however short, to see you die. Why are you helping someone like that? Someone that has repeatedly chosen everyone except you? Friends don’t do that, Brother. Friends who truly care for you. Family, family is what matters. I care for you, little brother. I have mourned for leaving you on your own, but I am proud of the man you have become. However hard it was, I am proud of you. Can you honestly say that any of your friends are proud of you? Can you say that you matter to them? That you serve a purpose? Here, Brother, you serve a purpose,” Kyle explains to me.
And I feel so torn between two parts of myself.
“I’ve done horrible things too,” I try to express.
“We all have, Brother. And you have paid for it. You have paid dearly with the loss of true friends. People like Amber and Xavier do just as horrible, if not worse things, but they don’t face the consequences. I’m not saying you should be the one to make them pay. Just don’t intervene when they’re fate comes knocking at their door. You are lost, Brother. Let me help you get back,” Kyle says.
And I can see it. I can see myself working with my brother towards that dream that he convinced me of when we were boys. I can see myself looking the other way as Jane goes to collect Amber and Xavier’s heads. But who else? The twins? Sean? Maybe Owen? How many times will I look away until I stray away far enough to be truly lost?
The lost don’t play music like that.
I look at the men from the South. I see how they look at Kyle with pride. What did he promise them?
“I’m sorry, Brother,” I say sincerely, “But I’m not giving up on my friends.”
Hopelessly, I sprint to the car that has Sean captured, but as expected, a few hands come to stop and restrain me. I struggle with all I’ve got but knew this act would be futile in any way.
Kyle slowly walks up to me. “You’ll see, little brother. You’ll see who truly cares for you,” he tells me. “Keep an eye on him,” he orders one of his men as they cuff me and take me to one of the Southern vans. Or rather, the Southern Sterling vans...
But before they can close the door, I hear my brother talk to Jane. “We’ll make our move at the wedding,” he says. And I have no idea if I can warn my friends.