"Brian, can you come get me please!" came the distressed voice of my sister Frances down the phone.
"Sure, Frances ... what's up?" I asked, though I suspected I knew.
"It's Keith. He's been drinking. He's throwing things. Oh, Brian, please, please hurry ... please!"
There was a loud crash in the background of the phone call and a distant voice saying, "C'mere bitch!" before the phone went dead.
My name's Brian (yeah no kidding). I'm in my early forties and recently divorced. I work in a brewery in the South of England and am currently struggling to make ends meet, mostly due to the Child Support Agency taking away a goodly sum of money to support my kids. I don't have a problem supporting my kids, but what the CSA thinks I need to live on and what I think I need to live on are not even close. I've frequently gone hungry the last couple of days before payday as there's too much month left at the end of the money and I'm discovering the delights of pasta a la ketchup at other times. No, I'm not a spendthrift, it's just I got saddled with loans taken out to pay for my ex's adult education courses plus the car and the CSA don't take that sort of debt into account. I got rid of the TV, the phone and even switched to a top up meter for gas and electricity and on a good month I just manage without sitting in the dark going hungry. I had been heading for a good month till I got the call from Frances ... now I needed to use the car and I wasn't sure if I had enough fuel to get to work and back after picking her up.
Still, a five mile walk would do me good...
Frances is my big sister. She's eight years older than I am and married to Keith. Initially as kids we didn't get on that great because of the gap between us and her being expected to look after me as older siblings often are. Not that we fought, it was more I got in the way as we got older and I suspect at times our parents used me as a sort of chaperone. Still, we'd grown and gone our separate ways, keeping in touch via our parents mostly, despite living only fifteen miles apart. She'd married Keith, had two kids who had grown and flown the coop, one abroad and one to Scotland. It looked from the outside that she'd done well for herself.
"It was during an infrequent family get together at a picnic in a park that I'd caught Keith and Frances having a ... well row doesn't cover it, as it implies words. Call it an incident. I'd wandered to the loos when I caught Keith with his hand around Frances' throat and his other fist bunched as if to hit her, there had been no signs of discord at the picnic so I was a bit confused. Other than that Keith had been drinking from a hip flask, I could think of no reason for the seemingly drunken tirade coming from his lips.
"Oi, behave!" I said loudly and watched him drop his hands to glare at me.
"Mind your own, Brian. This is between Frances and me!" he stated.
"It becomes my business if I see you doing that," I said, not willing to back down.
Seeing that I wasn't about to give way, Keith simply muttered something along the lines of 'this isn't over' and stalked off, clearly unwilling to try anything on with me. The reason for that is I'm very strong from heaving beer barrels out of my way to fix leaks and in my youth played rugby a lot and have a pretty good physique, though sadly not much in the way of personal charm in keeping my ex happy.
"You OK, Frances?" I asked.
"Yes, Brian." she answered miserably. "He's a bad drunk and you might just have made things worse by embarrassing him."
"Christ sis, why put up with it then?"
"Because when he's sober he's good to us."
"And he's mostly sober?"
"Yes... ," she answered, before wandering off to seek him out.
The rest of the picnic was fine with Keith being charm himself, though avoiding my gaze at all times. I heard later that Frances had a fall on the stairs when she got home, hurt herself quite badly, I did wonder...
After that I made it my business to keep an eye on Frances and the kids until the kids were old enough to fly the nest as it were. I had the feeling that Frances constant wearing of long sleeved tops covered a multitude of sins. But getting her to open up or admit there was a problem wasn't easy. Eventually the problems in my own marriage caught up with me and my watch slipped, though I did call Frances or texted her frequently enough to let her know I was still around.
Recently I'd been picking up 'vibes', for want of a better word, from Frances that Keith's drinking was becoming a real problem. Though, as ever, her stubborn pride and unwillingness to give up on her marriage wouldn't let her call me up to help ... well, until tonight that was.
It took me twenty minutes to get to Frances' house and all was in darkness. Still I went up and knocked at the door only to have my knuckles push it open and I could see where it had been forced, perhaps kicked open. The hallway looked OK, but the living room looked trashed, broken furniture and ornaments, same with the kitchen though their knife rack had a blade missing which really put me on my guard. I kept calling out 'Frances' but heard no replies so decided to try upstairs.
The master bedroom was totally trashed, someone, presumably Keith had slashed clothing and broken anything in sight, even the mattress. The guest room was similarly destroyed, however the spare room door was closed and I could see a glimmer under the threshold. I pushed it open, struggling a bit as it was blocked by something and found my sister ... it wasn't good. She appeared to have been beaten to within an inch of her life, bruising, cuts, contusions, though no sign of any broken bones, thank God. Her eyes were swollen shut and bloody drool had cascaded down her chin onto her torn upper clothing whose exposed places also showed bruises, both new and old.
"I'm here, Frances," I said softly, as I knelt to examine her.
"Don't know where he is, be careful," she slurred through a split lip.
"I'm taking you to casualty. Then pressing charges," I said.
"No, just take me somewhere safe Brian, please."
"Sis, you need medical attention!" I said firmly.
"No, please, I will walk out if you do!"
"Christ! OK, but if it gets worse I'm calling an ambulance ... deal?"
I tried helping her to her feet, but it was clear that she could not even stand upright, so I gingerly picked her up in my arms and was surprised at how light she was. I struggled down the stairs and out of the front door. I nearly put my back out manoeuvring her into the passenger seat of my car before locking her in. I then returned to the house and grabbed any personal stuff of hers I could find including her hand bag before returning to the car and dumping it into the back seating area. It was then that I spotted Keith swaggering up towards me looking plain mean and dangerous, holding a kitchen knife.
"So the bitch did call for help," he sneered.
"Fuck off Keith, before I do to you what you did to her," I replied calmly.
"Fucking high and mighty brother from the failed marriage thinks he can take me 'cos of what I did to his cunt of a sister?" he said almost hysterically.
I stood and looked at him and the words stopped as he realised knife or not I was planning murder upon him.
"Take the useless cunt and keep her then, I've no further use for her," He said and staggered off.
I watched him go carefully until I judged him far enough away so that I could get going in the car without him intercepting us. I was tempted to simply run him over, but common sense and caution prevailed. I was pretty certain that I was under some sort of observation from the neighbours.
I got ten minutes down the road when the low fuel lamp started blinking furiously on the dashboard.
"Damn!" I muttered.
"Sup?" slurred Frances.
"Need fuel, but I've got no cash."
"Hanbag ... take money in purse ... use that," she moaned then closed her eyes again.
I pulled in at a petrol station and reached back to nab the handbag and got her purse out. I was amazed to find over £500 in various denominations but chose only to take a small amount out to put a little fuel in the car then popped into the store attached to the forecourt and get some bread, butter, cereal and milk to tide Frances over till things got settled. I also got a top up on my gas and electric meter cards as I figured the first thing I'd need to do with Frances, assuming she was up to it, would be to run her a bath or shower.
Ten minutes later we were at my flat and I was faced another problem. Carrying Frances up two flights of stairs. It was an awful experience for us both, Frances because every jolt and bump made her cry out in agony and for me because of the distress it was causing me to hear her cry out. Still we got there and I somehow managed to get the key in the lock and the door opened. I carried her into the bedroom and laid her gently on the bed. If anything she looked even worse than when I'd found her. The swellings around her injuries had grown and I doubted she could even see out of her eyes, so bad was it.
"I'm going to have to undress you so I can clean you, sis," I said softly.
.... There is more of this story ...