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My Brother's Keeper

Abigail Roux

  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux


  “IT was a lovely service, dear.”

  “Thank you, Mrs. Hapscomb.”

  “If you boys need anything, you know where to come.”

  “Yes, sir, Mr. Fitzgerald, thank you.”

  “Such a shame, Brayden dear. It’s just such a shame.”

  “Yes, ma’am, Miss Mattie, it is.”

  The line went on and on; each of Coral Gables’ finest

  and, apparently, oldest, offering their condolences to the two brothers as they droned by in a procession of black lace and heavy tweed.

  During the first lull in the line, as Mr. and Mrs.

  Henderson VI tried desperately to disentangle Mother

  Henderson’s oxygen line from one of her wheelchair wheels,

  Addison Satterwight turned to glare at his half-brother. He pulled at his tie, betraying his twitchiness. “Told you we

  should have done a private ceremony,” he growled

  disconsolately under his breath.

  Brayden Bainbridge merely smiled serenely in response

  and wondered what the social repercussions would be for

  laughing hysterically at your own dearly departed father’s

  funeral. He thought it might be frowned upon, especially


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  when the object of hilarity was a little old lady slowly

  suffocating because she was too stubborn to take her hand

  off the “Forward” button on her high-tech, pedestrian-

  flattening, motorized wheels.

  “Are you laughing?” Addison asked him incredulously

  through gritted teeth.

  “I’m honest to God trying not to,” Brayden answered in a

  high-pitched, wavering voice as he fought back the laughter.

  He covered the lower part of his face with one hand and

  lowered his head as the line began to move again.

  “Oh, my dear, the grief will pass,” Mrs. Henderson

  soothed as she took Brayden’s free hand and patted it with a sorrowful shake of her head.

  Brayden nodded and closed his eyes, covering his

  snorting with what he prayed was a believable sniffle.

  ADDISON and Brayden sat alone in the back of the Town

  Car, lingering long after the funeral had ended and the other mourners had dispersed. They sat staring past the front

  seats and out the windshield blankly at the darkening

  coastal sky, both of them mentally and physically exhausted after the past several days of hectic scuffling and very public mourning.

  “Ready to go home?” Brayden finally asked his brother

  softly. Addison nodded silently, and Brayden knocked on the window to let Wilkins know they were ready to go.


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  “You want to join me for a drink?” Addison asked, his

  tone of voice saying he knew Brayden would turn him down.

  “Not tonight,” Brayden murmured. “Got a club to run.”

  He sighed, turning to look at his half-brother.

  Addison merely turned his head and leaned his forehead

  against his hand, watching the scenery pass silently.

  ADDISON Satterwight lay back on a wooden lounger and

  watched the iridescent waves beat relentlessly against the

  dark sand, his sweating glass held to his temple. His dark

  hair had become wild and unruly with the long exposure to

  the salty sea air, and his lithe body was draped ungracefully across the wooden lounger.

  “Let’s just… take the boat and go disappear off the edge

  of the world,” he grumbled.

  “I see two problems with that little plan,” Micah Parrish

  remarked happily as he walked up behind Addison and sat

  down on the lounger next to him.

  Addison peered through the darkness at the club’s

  tennis pro and sailing instructor, taking in the blue polo

  shirt and white shorts the man wore. He raised an eyebrow

  at him, briefly leering at the tanned, muscular view for a

  moment before it sank in that Micah was wearing his club

  uniform. “Did you work today?” he asked incredulously.

  “Who were you talking to?” Micah asked without

  answering as he looked out onto the ocean.


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  “The sea,” Addison answered with a distant, slightly

  drunken smile. “Why are you in uniform?”

  “I’ve been working,” Micah responded in an equally

  incredulous tone. “The whole place didn’t get the day off, you know.”

  “Day off,” Brayden Bainbridge drawled darkly from

  where he had been sitting in the shadows, drinking and

  watching his younger brother talk to himself. Micah was

  immediately on his feet with his hands behind his back,

  head lowered as he tried to peer into the shadows for his


  “Jesus, Brayden,” Addison breathed after they had both

  finally spotted him where he sat in the deep shadows of a

  palm tree. “Are you skulking in the shadows?” he asked with a hint of amusement.

  “The only father I’ve ever known is dead,” Brayden

  murmured as he eyed them both. “I’m drowning my

  sorrows,” he said grimly.

  Micah shifted his feet nervously and cleared his throat.

  Brayden raised his chin and narrowed his eyes at the

  man before he could speak. “How were your lessons?” he

  asked deliberately.

  “Uneventful, sir. Mostly the vacationers,” Micah

  answered curtly. “Teaching their debutantes and trust-fund

  babies how to play a little tennis for all the free time in their futures,” he muttered almost under his breath.

  “You seem to be awfully condescending when referring

  to the people who help pay your salary,” Brayden observed


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  coldly. He saw Addison turn his head and sigh audibly, and

  he watched Micah raise his chin defiantly in the silhouette of the moonlight.

  “My apologies,” the man murmured in place of the

  vitriolic comment Brayden had expected from him. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he added with just a hint of sarcasm before half-turning to Addison. He petted him on the top of the

  head and then walked away, down the moonlit path and

  back toward the clubhouse.

  “You’re a real fuck sometimes, you know that?” Addison

  said to Brayden as soon as Micah was out of earshot.

  “You keep talking to the ocean, I’m going to have you

  put away and steal your inheritance,” Brayden responded

  before taking another sip of his drink.

  “Hmph,” Addison offered sulkily, but he didn’t respond


  Brayden smirked triumphantly and sighed contentedly.

  It wasn’t often that Addison couldn’t come up with a

  smartass response to something he said. Even though he

  knew it was the liquor at fault, he still counted it as a point for him on their imaginary chalkboard. He closed his eyes

  and lifted his face to the cool night breeze and tried to enjoy the sound of the ocean.

  The country club pretty much ran itself day to day.

  When they�
��d returned to the club after the funeral, there

  really hadn’t been much for Brayden to do. He just hadn’t

  wanted to go home to a house that would echo his footsteps

  in the darkness. Why Addison hadn’t gone home either,

  Brayden couldn’t guess. He had long ago stopped trying to


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  keep up with his brother’s mind. He’d come out here,

  knowing this was where Addison would eventually show up if

  he was still at the club, and he’d sat down with his drink to wait. Just in case.

  “How long were you sitting there?” Addison asked after a


  “Actually, I was sitting here when you came stumbling

  out,” Brayden answered as he picked up his glass and

  turned it around through the air until the melting ice inside was going in circles.

  “Did you see me face-plant into the sand?” Addison

  asked with a drunken laugh.

  Brayden huffed and answered, “I did. I thought briefly

  about helping you up, but watching you wallow was more

  entertaining, in the end.”

  Addison responded with a disgruntled huff, leaning

  back in the lounger and flailing briefly when the thing almost tipped him out of it. He wound up wearing what was left of

  his melted ice and cursing softly as he brushed at it.

  Brayden chuckled. His half-brother was probably the

  only person in the world who could fall out of a lounge chair that was literally bolted to the deck.

  In the distance of the still night, there was a shuffling

  sound on the wooden boardwalk, as if someone had started

  down the path toward the beach, heard Addison and

  Brayden out there talking, and turned around. Brayden

  knew that the cleaning crew was still out and about, and he figured one of the janitors had expected to find Addison


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  sitting out here alone. One thing Brayden knew about his

  brother was that he was generous with his stash of pot.

  Addison turned to look, peering into the darkness to try

  to see who it had been. He looked back at Brayden,

  shrugged, and then settled back into his chair.

  Brayden watched him, knowing what was running

  through his brother’s mind.

  “Hey, Brayden?” Addison murmured after a long silence

  in which they both sat with their own thoughts. “Why do you think he did it?” he asked softly.

  “Huh?” Brayden asked in feigned confusion. He shifted

  uncomfortably and swirled his drink nervously. He wasn’t

  good at this kind of thing. The less of it he could do, the better off everyone was.

  “Father. He killed himself, didn’t he?” Addison

  responded with a certainty Brayden had rarely heard in his

  capricious brother’s voice. “Why, do you think?”

  Brayden sat up and blinked through the dim light,

  squinting to see past the blurry vision of his whiskey.

  Sometimes Addison still surprised him. “What makes you

  think he killed himself?” he asked, his voice laced with

  morbid fascination.

  “He was in good health his last checkup,” Addison

  pointed out.

  “He was also a heavy drinker, and his kidneys finally

  gave out, man,” Brayden countered as he leaned forward into the light, glancing back down the path with a frown. He


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  wasn’t sure if they were being overheard. He supposed it

  wasn’t really important, though, in the end.

  Addison glanced at him with a shake of his head and

  then looked back out to the sea wordlessly. Brayden sighed

  and flopped back onto the lounger.

  His younger brother had always been the black sheep of

  the family: flighty and hot-headed and restless. He had even taken his mother’s maiden name just to piss off their dad

  when he had turned eighteen. But Addison had never been

  one to come to conclusions hastily, nor was his mind easily changed once he reached a decision. Everyone in Coral

  Gables knew that.

  If Addison believed their father had killed himself, then

  he would believe it until the day he died or someone proved him wrong.

  “MR. BAINBRIDGE, you have a guest waiting at the reception area. Mr. Bainbridge….”

  Brayden looked up at the cleverly hidden speaker when

  the announcement started and then back down at the club

  member with whom he had been chatting for one last word

  and a smile.

  “Excuse me, will you, Mr. Graham? It seems my brother

  is nowhere to be found today, and suddenly I’m needed

  everywhere,” he said in a honey-smooth voice as he shook

  the old man’s hand.


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  “You’re doing a fine job, young man, fine job. It’s as if

  old Reggie were never gone,” Mr. Graham assured him with a

  manly pat to his shoulder before he stuffed his cigar between his thick lips again and turned back to the game of cards he and his cronies had been enjoying.

  Brayden smiled as he straightened and said goodbye to

  the group of some of the club’s oldest, most important

  members. He smiled right up until he had turned away and

  made sure no one could see him. Then the smile dropped off

  into a snarl as he stalked toward the reception area of the country club.

  He glided up to the greeter’s desk and pinned Julie with

  his dark eyes. “How many times must I go over the not using the PA system for anything but emergencies?” he asked

  sarcastically, his voice a soft, threatening growl.

  “I know, sir. I’m very sorry, but—”

  “There are no three strikes here, Julie,” Brayden snarled

  as he held up one finger and pointed it at her threateningly.

  “I… I think you need to see these gentlemen,” the timid

  little brunette stuttered desperately. “I didn’t want to keep them waiting, and no one could find you,” she protested.

  Brayden narrowed his eyes and snarled a little more

  before turning around to head for the Hospitality Room, the room in which all things unwanted were stored: hats, coats, umbrellas, children, non-members.

  He stopped short when he entered the atrociously

  decorated room. It was intended to dissuade anyone from

  staying past their very short period of welcome. It had always 10

  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  worked on Brayden, anyway. He never got used to just how

  ugly it was. Once his eyes had gotten past the pink

  carpeting, the blue flowers on green wallpaper, and the frilly green-and-pink-striped furniture, he saw that Addison had

  indeed disappeared, right into the Hospitality Room. He had apparently been found first and sent here to babysit two men who could be nothing other than police detectives.

  They were different stereotypes, Brayden thought with

  some amusement, but they were stereotypes all the same.

  They were complete opposites. Black and white. Smiling and

  frowning. Casual and uptight.

  The happier of the two wore a crisp white shirt and

  faded jeans, with a badge hanging on a chain around his

  neck. He was a large man, possibly as tall as Brayden

  himself if he’d been standing, and obviously fit as well. His head was complete
ly shaved, making the top of his dark

  head shine with the light from the gaudy art deco chandelier.

  The other one was blond and tanned from hours and

  hours in the sun. Brayden guessed it wasn’t the type of tan one got while lying on a beach. He sported a worn brown suit that seemed to have wilted in the hot Florida summer, and

  he had a badge attached to his belt where it couldn’t be seen unless he pushed back his suit coat to reveal it and his gun.

  A uniformed officer stood near the coat rack in the

  corner, trying not to stare at the green and blue wallpaper.

  Probably trying to keep his corneas from being seared.

  Brayden took them all in quickly and then looked at

  Addison with alarm clear in his dark eyes.


  My Brother’s Keeper | Abigail Roux

  “Gentlemen,” he greeted in a stunned voice as he edged

  further into the room and closed the door behind him,

  glancing again at Addison questioningly.

  “Brayden,” Addison said in a low voice as the two

  detectives stood and turned toward him. His brother’s tone

  and expression were both unreadable, and that more than

  anything made Brayden very nervous. Addison’s thoughts

  and feelings were almost always hanging right out there for all to see.

  “Mr. Bainbridge, thank you for joining us,” the black

  detective said, showing his badge briefly and then sliding it back onto his belt. “I’m Detective Morgan; this is Detective Walker,” he informed Brayden with a wave of his hand at his silent partner. His voice wasn’t as deep as Brayden had

  expected it to be.

  “Is there a problem?” Brayden asked in a still slightly

  stunned voice, looking from the detectives to Addison with a frown.

  “I’m afraid there is,” Morgan answered with a sorrowful

  nod. “It seems that your father may have been murdered,

  Mr. Bainbridge.”

  Brayden blinked stupidly and looked at Addison again

  to see if this wasn’t some sort of sick joke. “Murdered,” he repeated in an incredulous voice.

  “Yes, sir,” Morgan responded. “We’re going to try and

  keep our investigation as far from the eyes of your members as we can, but we expect full cooperation in return for our troubles,” he said sternly.