Ryan’s Story – The Memory
The man looked up from the coolbox at the sounds of laughter as two boys ran into the back garden. “Ryan,” he said addressing the seven-year-old, “put down that bucket of water and stop chasing your brother.”
“But dad, he started it,” the small boy pouted as he pointed at his older brother, “he threw the sponge at me.” There was a large wet patch on the front of his t-shirt where soapsuds soaking into the cotton.
“Mark, is that true?” He asked, turning to his other son.
“Kinda,” the fourteen-year-old said guiltily scratching his head and smiling.
“In that case,” he said smiling in return, “then it is the decision of this court that the punishment be a ritual soaking.” He turned to younger brother who was gleefully smiling. “Mr Henderson, please carry out the sentence on behalf of the court.” Ryan quickly picked up the bucket, and with an evil grin on his face, threw the contents at Mark. The older boy gasped as the tepid soapy water struck him in the chest, soaking him.
“I’ll get you for that,” Mark said in mock-threat, chasing Ryan. The two brothers ran across the grass towards the back door, Mark finding it difficult to keep up with his younger brother. Ryan’s escape route was barred as the back door was opened and their mother stood their holding a tray of buns, uncooked beef burgers and sausages. Ryan darted to the side but Mark caught up with him, pulling the small boy into a headlock.
“That’s enough you two,” their dad said as their mum put the tray down next to the barbecue. “Remember our deal guys, no barbecue until you wash the car.”
“Awwww,” Ryan whined.
“Come on you,” Mark said grabbing Ryan’s hood and almost lifting his little brother of the floor, “we got a car to rinse and I’m starving.” The small boy yelped as he was dragged through side gate back to the driveway. Just a few minutes later, the sounds of squeals could be heard from the driveway.
Paul and Tracy looked at each other. “Hosepipes,” they said simultaneously.
Out front, the two brothers sprayed each other with the hoses, drenching themselves and the car. Thoroughly soaked, they turned their hoses back on the car and washed off the soapsuds. Mark noticed that his brother has hopping from foot to foot leaning on his tiptoes. “Do you need the toilet or something?”
Ryan nodded, “Uh huh, I gotta go bad.”
“Well,” Mark said rolling his eyes, “you’re a big boy now; you don’t need permission or anything to have a piss.” Ryan dropped his hose and ran into the house. Mark couldn’t help but squirt his hose at the ground just behind his brother’s feet, chasing him up the path. After finishing washing the car, ¬
Mark went into the back garden where his dad had already started the barbecue and first batch of burgers were on the grill. After a few minutes, the sizzling slabs of meat were ready. With a rumbling stomach, he greedily tucked into the first off the grill.
“Where’s your brother?” His mum asked as she drenched one of the burgers in ketchup, just the way Ryan liked it.
“He’s on the toilet,” he said with a mouthful of meat.
“Hmm, the toilet flushed five minutes ago,” she said looking up at the closed bathroom window. “Could you go and check on him?” Mark started to protest but his mother’s expression warned him that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
Grumbling, he got out of the garden chair and tromped across the garden and into the house. He had a good idea where Ryan had gotten to and as he approached the top of the stairs, he realised that he was right. Mark crept quietly up to his bedroom door, avoiding all the floorboards that creaked. A skill he had developed sneaking out at night without alerting his parents. Peering around the doorframe Mark saw his brother sitting at the foot of Mark’s bed holding a skateboard and playing with its wheels. Mark stepped into the doorway, leant against the frame and cleared his throat. Ryan stood up quickly, dropping the skateboard.
“Mark! I was just … er …” Ryan stammered guiltily. Despite how close the two brothers were, Ryan knew that Mark didn’t like people being in his room uninvited.
“You’ve been eyein’ my board for the last three weeks,” Mark said interrupting him. Ryan looked at the floor, his hands fiddling with the bottom of his t-shirt. “Guess I better teach you how to use it properly before you break your neck.”
Ryan looked back up, a hopeful look on his face. “You mean it?” Mark nodded. Ryan’s face lit up and the small boy threw himself at Mark and hugged him. “Thank you thank you thank you,” he said repeatedly. Mark lifted his little brother into a piggyback and started downstairs.
“Come on squirt, dinner first.”
Seven years later…
Mark rubbed the stubble on his chin and looked down at the photo of his brother. It had been taken through a telephoto lens and it showed him skating along, headphones on and school bag on his back oblivious to the fact that was being watched. The photo brought back memories from when he had decided to teach his little brother how to skate. Ryan had taken to it like a monkey to bananas. He put the photo down and looked at the others. One showed his brother sitting on a packed boat with a hundred other teenagers wearing life jackets. Another photo showed him sitting on a wall with a group of friends enjoying an ice cream cone in the hot sun. Over a dozen photos had been taken over the previous week. Most of them were of his brother but a few were detail shots of his friends and foster family showing everyone important in his brother’s life.
“You did good work,” he said to the man across the table from him. They were sitting in a dingy back alley pub in the East End of London; the type of pub where shady deals could be made with fear of questions being asked. The poor lighting and loud music masking any such deals being made.
The man took a sip from his pint. “You paid me well.”
“So,” Mark said putting the photos back on the table, “apart from these what else did my money get?”
“Quite a lot actually,” the man said smirking. He reached under the table, pulled a folder out of his bag, and placed it on the table. When the man opened it, Mark could see that it was full of official looking documents. “If you know the right people and have enough money, you can learn a lot about anyone.”
The man shuffled through the papers, picking out the key points. “Well, the kid’s had it rough the last few years. Lost his family in a home invasion in 2004, probably where he got that scar on his neck. Spent a while in hospital afterwards before being put into care. In 2005, he was back in hospital after a failed suicide attempt.”
“Suicide?” Mark said looking up from the papers.
“Er … first time with foster parents. By all accounts not exactly the role model type. Viewed their foster kids as a source of government cheques by all accounts. It happened a year to the day after the death of his family. No support at home, bullied like heck at his new school, he tried to hang himself but was found before it was too late. As it was, he was already unconscious when they cut him down. Foster parents dumped him back on social services as soon as he was out of hospital.”
“Harsh,” Mark said although inwardly he was cursing. If only that help had been a few minutes slower.
“Yeah, anyway, he’s had seven foster families in four years, failing at school …” The part about his brother failing at school piqued Mark’s interest. The Ryan he remembered was smart, even at just ten-years-old he’d stood out at primary school. “… was in a car accident a couple of months ago. Took a header into the bay but didn’t suffer any major injuries. Ran away from home last month, but was only gone for a day.”
Mark blinked, impressed at the depth of information the man had discovered. “Anything else.”
“Well, despite having more reason than most kids his age to go off the rails, he’s managed to keep his nose clean. Well, except for the fact that he’s got a few secrets.” He passed a fuzzy black and white photo. Unlike the others, it had been taken at night using a low-light camera. In the centre of the frame, Mark could just make out his brother climbing down the drainpipe outside his bedroom window. “Took this night before last. Don’t know where he went but he was gone a couple of hours.”
Mark smiled. “Used to do that myself when I was your age,” he said quietly, barely audible above the booming music. He cleared his throat and shuffled through the papers and photos. “Here’s what I owe you,” he said taking a fat brown envelope from inside his jacket. The man opened the envelope and quickly counted the stack of used notes within.
Satisfied, the man picked up his coat and bag. “If you need anything else Jim, you’ve got my number.” The man left the pub. A few moments after he had left, another man walked over from the bar and sat down opposite Mark.
“I take it you heard everything Seth?” Mark asked not looking up.
Seth smirked, his lips parting to reveal a set of fangs. He looked down the photos, picking one of them up. “This him? Good looking kid, what he do to piss you off?”
“You think you can handle him?” Mark asked him impatiently.
Seth leafed through the papers. “Sure thing, he’s just a kid right? No funky powers or shit?” Mark nodded. “Then he should be a pushover.”
“Good. This ritual you want as payment is difficult. Giving a vampire immunity to sunlight ‘aint like slapping on factor 500 sun block. It’s going to take a considerable amount of mojo to pull it off and I don’t want to be wasting my time on some fang banger who can’t deal with one 14-year-old kid.”
The vampire laughed. “Like I said, no worries.”
“Anyway,” Mark said not entirely convinced, “just get your arse down to circle on Friday night for the first part of ritual.”
“First part?” Seth said interrupting.
“Yeah, the first part. I’m not going to give you permanent immunity until you deliver my brother to me alive and in one piece. Until then, you get 24 hours cumulative immunity.”
“Fair enough.” Seth put the photos and papers into the file and stood up. “You better be on the level though. I know you got a rep in the scene and all, but you screw me on this deal and it’ll be you that ends up dead.” The vampire walked out of the pub and into the night. Mark waited a few minutes before taking a photo out of his jacket pocket. It was the one of his little brother skating along. He looked at it intently as he finished his pint.