By indexer
23 days ago

The Brothers: a story

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(With apologies to Geoffrey Chaucer)

The twins were up to no good. That was not unusual – nobody could remember when they had ever been up to anything that could be described as good. Only this time they took their kid brother with them.

Jake and Jeff had started their downward slide quite early in life and, now that they had reached the age of 17, were hurtling quite nicely down the road to perdition. Surely it would not be long before their misdeeds caught up with them one way or another.

Today, they had in mind a little bit of breaking and entering at the ivy-covered home of old Mr Compton, at the far end of Burnett Street. They had just started out when they became aware that they were not alone. Their 11-year-old kid brother Jamie was right behind them.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Never you mind”, said Jake. “It’s none of your business. Get off home”.

“Shan’t” said Jamie.

“On the other hand”, said Jeff, “you might be useful. As long as keep your mouth shut afterwards.”

Jake reluctantly agreed with his twin brother to let Jamie tag along. After all, it was surely only a matter of time before the family’s criminal tendencies would inveigle the third of the brothers.

Jake and Jeff knew that Mr Compton was away from home. They had seen the ambulance take him away the day before, and whether he would ever return was anyone’s guess. They also knew that he had left a small window open at the back of the house, two floors up, and the ivy provided a convenient way of getting up to it. However, Jamie was a lot smaller and slimmer than the twins, which was what had given Jake the idea that he could play a part in the burglary by climbing up and in, then opening the back door for the other two.

Everything went according to plan, and before long the three brothers found themselves staring at a massive hoard of banknotes that they had found in a large suitcase underneath Mr Compton’s bed. In fact, there were so many bundles of ten- and twenty-pound notes that they wondered how they were ever going to take them away. It would surely excite notice if they were seen to be carrying a heavy old suitcase out of the house and down the street.

Jake and Jeff reckoned that the best move would be to pack the bundles in their backpacks, which they often used for perfectly innocent purposes, but which they had left at home. Jeff suggested to Jamie that he nip back and fetch the backpacks.

“Why me?” asked Jamie.

“Because you’re the youngest”, said Jeff. “And while you’re at it, bring us some drinks. We’re going to spend some time counting this lot and splitting it up, and a little celebratory refreshment might be in order.”

“Well mind you don’t cheat me out of my share while I’m away”, said Jamie.

“As if we would”, said Jake. “We’re brothers, remember.”

So Jamie slipped out of the house and made his way back home. After he had gone, Jake and Jeff looked at each other, the same thought occurring to them simultaneously. Suppose they did exactly what Jamie had been afraid of and split the fortune two ways instead of three?

“We could just disappear with thousands of pounds and go anywhere we wanted”, said Jake.

“We don’t need Jamie getting in the way”, said Jeff. “Suppose he were to meet with a tragic accident? OK, he is our kid brother, but I’m sure we’d get over his loss quite quickly.”

“The compensation of all that extra cash would do the trick in no time at all”, said Jeff.

So the plan was laid. They found a nice sharp knife in Mr Compton’s kitchen and got themselves ready to welcome Jamie on his return.

When Jamie got home he had no problem in finding the backpacks as well as a good number of bottles of home-made beer. His parents had not allowed him to drink beer, but that had not stopped him from sampling the occasional bottle from time to time.

He reckoned that his brothers could wait just a bit a longer before he rejoined them, so he downed a bottle there and then. Then he had another.

He then had a sudden alcohol-fuelled thought. That was quite a fortune that they had found under Mr Compton’s bed and which they were preparing to split into three. Suppose it was not split at all? Suppose he could snaffle the lot?

Jamie had long been interested in making weird and wonderful potions from his chemistry set and had produced a liquid that had proved to be highly toxic to vermin and wildlife. He had never tried it on people, but this was his chance. Jamie carefully unscrewed the tops of two of the beer bottles, drank a couple of gulps from each, then replaced the missing fluid with his home-made poison.

When Jamie arrived back at Mr Compton’s house he got no further than the kitchen door before one of the twins grabbed him by the neck and the other plunged the knife between his ribs.

“Nice job” said Jake.

“Thanks”, said Jeff. “Look, he only brought two bottles of beer with him. I wonder why that was?”

“Does it matter?” said Jake. “Cheers!”

“Cheers!” said Jeff.

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