My Brothers Would Kill You by Will Kemp

Phil is enjoying a lads' holiday on a Greek island when he's brutally attacked for no reason; by Will Kemp.

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He'd never known such pain. His chest, right ear and foot throbbed; even breathing hurt. And that pounding behind his right eye - as if he were no longer a young man with a damaged eyeball but a damaged eyeball attached to a young man. All he could do was inhale the smell of disinfectant and lie still - bandages binding him from head to foot, arms strapped across his chest like a dead pharaoh.

Sunlight slanted through a window to his left, giving the ward the warmth of a greenhouse. It must be late morning. He could remember the night before in waves - the iodine in A&E, being carried into the ward as two old men coughed and groaned, unattended. There was no sign of them now, their beds already stripped and made, flowers and photographs long since cleared away.

A clack of heels echoed down the corridor then stopped, leaving a small woman in glasses and a white coat by the side of his bed. She inspected a tube from his chest to some liquid below which babbled occasionally when he exhaled.

"You can see?" She inquired, her accent converting the s into a heavy sh, as she wagged her stethoscope prongs towards a large damp patch shaped like South America on the flaking, white-washed wall opposite.

He tried to focus his working eye on the continental water stain, then looked to the window where a distant cloud had cauliflowered against the blue.

"It is," she began, then left the words hanging in mid-air. "I not know words... Everyone says that and this, but nobody does nothing... How we say in Greece, kaos. Like last night for you, I think?"


He recalled the baseball bats raining down, the jump over the wall into the darkness below. But not how he'd got to the hospital or any procedure to insert a tube into his chest.

"Pardon," she smiled, sitting on the edge of the bed. "I am Dr Mariapolous. How you feel?"

"Terrible," he struggled. "I'm in agony, all over. There's this incredible pressure in -"

"Sorry," she interrupted, raising the palm of her hand. "Slow please. My English is a little."

The hand turned into a gesture of a gap between finger and thumb, then plopped two tablets into the glass of water on his bedside unit. He spelt out the words as the mixture frothed into a chalky grey then started to clear.

"Here," she beckoned, extending the glass to his mouth. "For pain."

He craned forward and drank. Some of the solution dribbled onto his chest, seeping into the bandages.

"Me eye," he moaned. "Will I see again?"

She took a pencil torch from her top pocket and clicked it on. Phil could feel the heat from the light roving over his jammed eye, but saw nothing.

"I think so," she considered before breaking the neck of an invisible bird. "But bone is broken."

She donned her stethoscope, placed the teat on his chest and ordered him to inhale. She tapped his chest with two joined fingers, listening with the intensity of a safe-breaker. She nodded again then summarised the extent of his injuries while pointing to parts of her body, wringing more birds' necks and holding up different numbers of fingers as if playing charades. Seven broken ribs. Four broken fingers. Two broken teeth. Broken eye socket. Broken ankle. Ruptured ear drum. Stab wound. Punctured lung. Loss of blood. A lot of blood.

It was meant to be a lads' holiday on Simnos. Sun, sex and sangria. A way of flicking two fingers up at Kirsty after the split. But late on the first night the three amigos were slogging back alone to the resort when ten or more mopeds carrying passengers flew past - so close the lads had to back up against the loose dry-stone wall above the sea. Phil was struck by something heavy across the shoulders, knocking him to the ground.

He got up, helped by Snowy. A group of men stood around them, some with baseball bats, acrid smoke billowing from the revving engines. Phil tried to figure out what was happening - they'd done nothing wrong. A man with a ram's nose yabbered at John, then headbutted him. John lashed out with a fist. The others started punching and kicking Phil and Snowy.

"Leg it!" John yelled, breaking free to sprint downhill.

Snowy jumped over the retaining wall to flee uphill into the woods. Phil turned to run up the road - to be faced with about fifteen men, encircling him, two or three deep. He held out his hands and felt a hot pain below his left ribs, like a deep wasp sting. He sank to the ground, clutching his side with his right hand, then curled up on the road, only for bats to start pummelling him with the mechanical regularity of a chain gang. Each blow was powerful, and meant. He'd been in fights before, back in Leeds, and could look after himself, but this was too much. He wasn't going to survive.

He scrambled to shoulder-charge the nearest attacker then dived over the seaward wall into the pitch-black below. A heart-stopping silence.

He crashed into a branch then through some more before landing on his right-hand side, winded and dazed, the taste of blood in his mouth. He tried to take stock, surprised not to be in greater pain, then began folding part of his ripped shirt to press it against the stab wound.

Above, voices. Mopeds buzzed downhill. A lightbeam searched between the firs to his left, picking out rocks - he could feel its warmth beside him. He had to move, but his right foot was immobilised, as if caught in a trap. He dragged himself forward, crawling through tall, wet grass with a strong herbal smell.

Below, mopeds began careering across the beach as if a group of giddy teenagers were carving figures of eight in the sand for fun. But this was no game - their headlights were criss-crossing the hillside, searching for him. One warmed his back. He fell to his belly at once. Other spotlights then congregated on the area where he lay, briefly touching the mouth of a concrete tunnel ahead. Eventually they moved away.

He hauled himself towards the tunnel and groped his way inside. It had a sour, salty smell, like a broken drain. It had to be a stormwater outlet above the beach. But it provided cover. Safety. Respite.

By early afternoon the ward was hot and airless, despite the open windows. The painkillers had done little to stop his eye and foot transmitting incessant signals. He lay squelching in sweat, thirsty but unable to reach the water on the bedside unit, bandages soaked from lunch - a greasy soup he'd had to balance on his sternum then flick towards his mouth with a teaspoon. He was dependent on the nurses' infrequent rounds for food, water and bed-pan. None of them spoke English or seemed to care.

Maybe it was retribution for the furore the night before, when he'd found himself lying on a table, a bright bulb swaying overhead, as an elderly woman in a white uniform handed John a roll of toilet paper with an order to mop up the blood.

"Jasus," John had remonstrated, "he doesn't need cleanin, he needs to stop feckin bleedin! For Chrys' sake, will you just go an fetch the doctor!"

She'd shouted back in Greek, hands waving. An unshaven doctor strolled in, chewing gum and smoking a cigarette which never left his mouth. He wore an opened white coat, jeans and a crumpled grey T-shirt with sweat stains. He talked briefly to her, cigarette wagging, then took some surgical scissors and a dark brown bottle from a glass cabinet. Without a word he cut into Phil's T-shirt to reveal a chest that looked as though it had been rubbed down with sandpaper, then unscrewed the lid of the bottle and emptied it over him at arm's length. The electric shock of pain made Phil scream. Unmoved, the doctor glared at John as if to say this was all his fault.

Outside, the sun seemed to be intensifying. A fragrance like freshly cut flowers wafted in. At least his sense of smell was still intact. But how long would it take to recover? How long would he be stuck here?

To think, only twenty-four hours ago he'd been tucking into the in-flight drinks trolley. Watching Snowy get nowhere with the stewardess. Snickering at John's jokes. Leading the team talk about sharking tactics and the points system for the week ahead. Declaring at customs he was available to the women of Simnos. And had later chatted up those girls at the taverna - each one in a mini-skirt, heels and make-up, looking stunning. They were cousins from Piraeus on a hen weekend, mostly married - up for flirting and tequila slammers, but also looking out for each other like a family of meerkats. There was no chance of going missing in action with any of them, so the lads had decided to go clubbing.

"How would your family react if you brought me home?" he'd asked the unattached one before they left.

"My mother would love you," she'd glowered without hesitation. "But my father would hate you. And my brothers would kill you."

In the corridor, a nurse was talking to someone. John or Snowy perhaps, come to visit him at last? No. Two swarthy men in pressed white shirts entered, one short with a thick moustache, the other huge and sporting a suit jacket around his shoulders like a Seventies filmstar. They pulled up chairs to sit side by side on his right. Phil looked down, disconcerted by the slop stains, the reek of his storm drain-infused BO.

"You seem to have been," the smaller one smiled, "in the wars?"

"You can say that again," Phil huffed, relieved at the standard of English, the chance to find out what was going on.

He tried to sit upright, but pain screamed through his chest.

"Please," the man interjected, raising a hand as if signalling traffic to stop. "No need."

A delayed wave of pain boomed down Phil's right-hand side.

"We are police," the stranger carried on. "The hospital has asked us to consider the cause of your injuries. Tell us what happened."

About time. Phil started running through the incident, eager to relay the sequence of events. They nodded at intervals.

"And where is your passport?" the man cut in after the second wave of mopeds. "We must see it."

Phil looked puzzled. What did that have to do with anything?

The man repeated the question slowly as if he hadn't understood.

"I'm not sure," Phil ruminated briefly, keen to return to his account.

The inquisitor's mouth narrowed, the pleasant disposition drained from his face.

"And where are your friends?" He burned, as if insulted.

"I dunno."

He stood up, then pointed from hip-height.

"I said," he strained, teeth bared, "where are your friends?"

Heat shot to Phil's face. His breathing shortened. He recalled from biology at school that a rat is harmless when going about its business but becomes hunched and aggressive when cornered.

The man turned to pace the ward, hands on hips, shaking his head.

"I'm sorry for my colleague," the bigger one interposed with a pleasant smile, slipping a hand into his jacket. "He just wants to be sure your friends are OK."

He produced a badge and held it towards Phil.

"My ID," he indicated then put it back and slipped off his jacket.

But Phil hadn't asked for his ID. Nor had they been taking notes. And he hadn't even got to the beating yet.

"We need to take care of your passport," the big man proceded in a brisk tone, arranging the jacket on the back of his chair. "Where is it?"

Phil checked himself, unsettled. It was back at the apartment, at the bottom of his unpacked suitcase.

"I'm not sure," he lied as best he could.

The man's face dropped. He stood up, bent over Phil and grabbed the greasy bandages below his neck, twisting them tight, pulling him to his face. Phil whimpered as pain turned to agony.

"Get off!" he blurted, trying to wriggle out of his straightjacket, "get off me!"

The man threw Phil back into the pillows - then leant forward to land a bone-crunching punch in his face. Phil cried out, blood splashing from the bridge of his nose into his eyes. The first man advanced to hold him down from the other side, shouting for his passport. The big one struck again.

"Get out!" a woman's voice shrieked, piercing the fray. "Get out of my hospital!"

Phil squinted through blood-stinging eyes. It was the doctor. The first man let go.

"How dare you come here," she raged, then stepped towards the big one and reached up to slap him across the face.

Phil looked on in disbelief. What was she doing, hitting a policeman? Let alone this Goliath?

"Go!" she shouted, stamping her foot, pointing the way outside.

She turned on the first man and started boxing him about the ears. He ducked, raising both hands to parry her blows. The men backed towards the door as she stood her ground at the end of the bed like a mountain goat. The first man slid out, but the big one turned to point at Phil.

"We will be waiting for you," he warned, then left.

The doctor turned to sit on the bed, breathing loudly through her nose. She plinked two tablets in a glass of water, then took some cotton wool from the bedside unit and started to wipe blood from his face.

"They were police," he exclaimed, stupified.

She raised her head and dabbed away, leaning forward in deep concentration to inspect his nose as the glass of water fizzed.

"Shhh," she calmed, almost as an afterthought. "You have broken nose."

Her touch was so gentle and precise - hard to equate with the she-wolf that had just seen off the aggressors.

"These are not police," she spat in a hushed tone, raising the cleared solution to his lips. "You must trust no one in this country. And not leave my hospital until I say."

Phil sank back into his pillows, able to see his scoured and bruised body now the bandages had loosened. He'd assumed the attack the night before had been a case of thugs being thugs, but clearly it was part of something bigger, more sinister. He was being targeted.

Maybe it was linked to the fracas with some local lads in the first club after a bout of speed drinking had fuelled John's courage to dance with a bored-looking girl who turned out to be the barman's fiancée. Or to his passport - to sell on the black market. But why his? Why not just break into an apartment and steal one?

He didn't have a clue. All he knew was that he had to get out. But couldn't move. Had nowhere to go. Had no one to trust except the doctor. But even she knew more than she was letting on. Worse still, the men had tracked him down, and were probably still there, somewhere, waiting.

He shut his left eye, trying to think of a worse time in his life. There wasn't one. He'd thought earlier he might die right here from his injuries, but now there was a press gang waiting to finish him off. If his wounds didn't get him, the cut-throats would. This was where he was going to die.

But he wasn't ready for death. He needed to see Mum and Dad, to say goodbye, to tell them he loved them. Right now they'd be doing the shopping or getting lunch ready, joking about how he'd be trying to swim off a hangover - with Becky in her room, a girl-band on full blast, singing into the microphone of a brush while joining the group's dance routine.

And another thing... Where were the lads? Why hadn't they visited - as he'd have done if the boot had been on the other foot? He pictured them sunbathing and chatting up girls on the beach. Some mates they were. Or maybe they'd had it worse - been rounded up and slaughtered like sheep?

No. The imposters had pressed for their whereabouts. So they had to be alive. In fact, this was the only positive from the encounter. But if they did visit, they'd be taken apart. He had to warn them to stay away. But how? And what if the nurses were in league with the duo? Better maybe to look after himself, in case the men returned. To smother him with a pillow. Smash his skull in with baseball bats.

He began to mumble the Lord's Prayer, surprised he could remember the words.

Dusk was deepening when he woke, stiff and sore, pain driving a spike through his forehead. A young woman was sitting at the end of the bed, almost a silhouette though he could make out a suit, long brown hair, pretty nose. He felt embarrassed at his dishevelled state and rotten stench, the drool hanging from his chin.

"Are you OK?" she soothed in a Home Counties accent, leaning forward to pat his hand.

Somehow Phil knew he could trust her.

"Well, I've been better," he slurred in a sotto voice. "An looked better an all."

She gave a faint smile and stroked his hand.

"My name is Alison. I'm from the British Embassy. I'm here to help. We know what's happened to you. We have to get you out of here."

Oh, thank you God. He was going to live.

"Can you walk?" she murmured.

"I don't think so."

"Well," she tried, with a kind face, "let's have a go and get you to your feet, shall we?"

She helped manoeuvre his legs then clasped his torso and eased him to the edge of the bed. He could see his right foot for the first time now - it had gone mauve and ballooned horribly, too swollen to be put in a cast. She picked up the glass jar of the burbling chest drain and lugged him to his feet, letting him use her as a crutch. The muscles and tendons in his legs screeched at having to bear the dead-weight of his body. The pair inched towards the window like stragglers in a three-legged race, each step harder than the last, pausing whenever he yelped or winced.

Eventually, he looked outside from the fifth floor of the L-shaped building, a landscaped area of cypress trees below, a sparse constellation of yellow streetlights beyond. She gestured towards a black BMW by the entrance.

"See that parked car down there?" She asked, drawing her head back. "There are two men in it, waiting for you. They're probably working in shifts with another pair. Somehow we need to get you out of here without them seeing us."

He edged his head forward briefly then drew it back as she'd done. She guided him back to bed. Every step sent razor blades down his legs. The pressure above his right eye was unbearable.

"I'm in agony," he grimaced, once back in bed.

She perched on the left side of his bed and helped him to a glass of water. But what he needed was some painkillers.

"Can you tell us what's goin on?" He swallowed.

She folded her arms and looked down, mulling it over.

"All in good time," she answered at length. "Do you think you can make it to the lift?"

He remembered it from the night before. It was some distance away.

"I can try."

"Good," she replied, patting his hand again. "I'll come and get you at midnight. But you must be ready. And don't tell a soul you're leaving."

He frowned.

"But what about me mates? Where are they?"

"Don't worry," she reassured, squeezing his hand. "We've got your friends. They're safe."

She moved off the bed and stood up.

"So who are those guys?" He questioned, shifting uncomfortably. "Why are they waiting for me?"

She faced the window in thought, sighed then sat down again.

"You'll have heard of the Italian mafia," she started. "Well, the Greeks have one too."

She explained that two nights ago a mobster's daughter had been raped by an English-speaking tourist outside a club. They thought Phil was that rapist. Once the police had established the crime had been committed before the lads' arrival, they took John and Snowy into protective custody then called the Embassy. The intruders wanted Phil's passport to prevent him from leaving the island.

Mafia. Rape. Passport. The words exploded in his head. And explained everything. What idiots they'd been to go up against those lads in the club, inadvertently marking themselves out as targets. He felt sick. But knew now he had to walk, however bad the pain.

"Out here, it's an eye for an eye," she shrugged, then rested her hand on his. "Blood must have blood. Facts don't enter the equation. It's a question of honour, you see. A vendetta."

He remained staring at the ceiling after she'd gone, still taking it in. Mistaken identity. An indiscriminate attack the night before, like wasps stinging the nearest passer-by, regardless of whether they'd disturbed the nest or not. And now a premeditated assault. If anyone touched Becky he'd probably feel much the same, but would at least want to know he was taking on the right man. Now he was being hunted down by a death squad for something he hadn't done. Worse still, they knew where he was, trussed up, unable to move.

His breathing quickened. His sweat filled the stifling air. It was a good job he hadn't taken any painkillers since waking. He needed to listen to every click or clack down the corridor - every fly buzzing in and out the window - just to keep himself awake - alive - in case they returned to finish him off.

Thank God for Alison. He needed her so much. But what if she didn't come back?

Time dragged. When the lights came on at last, the doctor stood by the door, her hair in a bun. She wheeled in a metal trolley rattling with bottles and instruments, stating that his chest drain had to be removed. She set to work in silence, her face a study in concentration and concern that made him regret his earlier doubts. He wanted to explain the situation, thank her, say goodbye. But couldn't risk it.

In no time she was gone, leaving a book-sized bandage over his chest. Silence. He wondered if the hospital was open all hours, like back home. Did it have guards? And if so, what chance would they stand against the opposition. The two men were probably just waiting for the day staff to leave before entering, unnoticed and unchallenged, to slit his throat like a pig.

He had to be ready to help Alison help him, walk on hot coals if necessary. Mind over matter. He lifted himself to his feet, the searing pain ten times worse when upright, and tried some football warm-ups in slow-motion. Impossible. He reached out for the next bed and clung onto it, moving one excruciating step at a time towards the window, then peered below, keeping within the shadow of the curtain.

The stake-out car was still there.

"Are you ready?" Alison whispered, her hand on his.

He opened his left eye. She was wearing glasses, her hair in a bun too.

"Yep, I'm ready."

He used her to heave himself to his feet, then hobbled to the door and down the dimly-lit corridor. The hospital was silent, still. It seemed like they were the only ones there.

She steered him through a door marked with two red signs - one an X across a stick-man, the other a porter's trolley - into an area stacked with large laundry baskets. She pressed a button by a steel lift door. There was a clunk, a gear-changing scrunch, then a gradual hum, low-level and deafening at the same time.

He bit his bottom lip, on full alert. He was breathing hard, heart skipping in irregular beats. All evening he'd wanted nothing more than to escape, but now he'd left the ward he missed the scant security it offered. He was adrift on an open sea of risk. They would surely be seen. Then what?

The door slid open. She yanked the inner black concertina door closed and pressed a button on the control panel. The outer doors of the lift clunked shut, leaving only a square of light from their small head-height window, casting one side of her face in shadow.

The service lift moved off, light receding until they were submerged in darkness. Light from the floor below burst into the enclosed space then disappeared again as they descended further.

Phil's mouth had gone dry. He searched Alison's face for some reassurance. She was looking down, eyes hard to read behind the glasses - half her face the dark side of the moon, then fully gone. A world away from the cheerful guardian from earlier.

But of course. She was in league with them. Light flooded in. He tensed. She'd told him to keep quiet to avoid detection. What a fool he'd been. The touching said it all - no diplomat would do that. Trust no one in this country. Darkness rose as he saw the welcoming party ahead. The two men. The moped gang. Ready to tape over his mouth, bundle him into the boot of the BMW. Then drive to an isolated wood, put a bullet in his brain and bury him in a shallow grave.

Light streamed in. He lunged forward to bang his palm against the black mesh of the concertina door.

"What are you doing?" she exclaimed, blocking him as the light withdrew.

"I wanna go back!" he cried out in the sudden dark, tears welling from nowhere.

She grabbed his arm to prevent him from reaching the control panel.

"Get off me!" he shouted, grappling with her, shards of pain stabbing his chest.

The lift filled with light again, then bumped to a halt. She let go. He looked in horror at the door. It started to slide open. A well-lit service area with a dark basement car park beyond. Concrete pillars. Markings on the tarmac. A small blue Fiat.

He stayed put, panting, eyes flitting from pillar to pillar. She shook her head, brushed a hand over her jacket arms, then tugged the inner door open. A white-coated figure stepped into view. It was the doctor. She studied his wild look then moved forward to take his arm.

"It's OK," she hushed, guiding him out. "All OK."

He looked at her in disbelief. What on earth was she doing here?

"This way," she added softly, ushering him towards the car.

She took off her white coat and gave it to Alison, who scrambled it on. He shut his eyes and hung his head, shaking it slowly, fighting back a fresh surge of tears. He had been so wrong. He raised his left hand to shield his face as it began to contort, and sank back against a pillar, unable to stop crying.

The doctor took his left arm and Alison the right. Together they hauled him towards the car.

"Go," the doctor ordered. "You must go."

Yellow light flipped across the dashboard as he lay hunched on the back seat in great discomfort.

"Keep your head down," Alison directed. "We're going to have to pass them."

An indicator ticked as they began a right turn, bumping over something. He recoiled in acute pain.

"They're just ahead," she clipped, the words barely audible. "I can't talk now."

He could picture the two men in the BMW. Watching. Smoking. Waiting.

"It's OK," she confirmed at last. "We've passed them. I'm taking you to your friends. They've got your things. Then onto a private airfield, where a plane will take you all to Athens. From there you can fly to England."

It was over. Finally over. They'd made it. He levered himself onto an elbow to look back at the well-lit hospital towering over the parked cars, then noticed a rear light switching on like an infrared night-sight - with someone about to pull the trigger.


  1. Will did a fantastic job of producing a narrative with just the right amount of description; some stories go into excruciating detail, almost like a novel would, but “My Brothers Would Kill You” contained just the right amount. Plus, it showed a dry humor on the part of the writer. Near the end, I was thinking, along with Phil, that Alison might betray him. And we never really know: the laser scope—like light may have meant a weapon, maybe a tail light. The reader is left guessing—a perfect ending to a satisfying story. I believe that it is important to not tell the reader everything, to allow their own fertile imagination make of your words what it will. Bravo, Will.

  2. My tension was through the roof as I read this story. Is there a part two coming (I hope)?

  3. The protagonist is hospitalized, injured and disoriented in a foreign country. The story builds a kafkaesque paranoia of “kaos”in which the main character and the reader do not know whom to trust but do know that things are not as they seem.
    (I also enjoy the story’s exaggerated take on the friction between English tourists and Greek natives.)

  4. This story has such beautiful descriptions. Great tension. Left me guessing until the end! Great story

  5. Never thought that it would end well. What of his friends? Was he betrayed at the end?

  6. Had me gripped and guessing from start to finish. Really clever title. Congratulations to the author.