The Physician's Brother

The Physician's Brother

A Story by Platus
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Two brothers try to hide a dark secret. Originally published athttp://freedomfriends.blogspot.com but re-posted here for your enjoyment.

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There was a tingling in the air, a feeling of tremendous dread that permeated the room. The study, despite its mahogany furniture, expensive paintings and rare books, had been the setting of an unspeakable evil.

 

At least that’s what Owen felt when he first stepped through the threshold. At the behest of his brother Kevin, he had returned to his childhood home for the first time in months. And while there was no reason to think so, not yet at least, Owen knew that a dreadful thing had happened in this room. All that there was to do was to discover what.

 

“Brother” said Kevin, wiping brown strands of hair from his pinstripe suit “Thank you for meeting me. I know that you and I have had our difficulties, but I hope that they can be put aside for the greater good”.

 

“You should know better than to doubt me. No matter how distant you become, you’re still my brother,” replied Owen, though part of him didn’t mean it.

 

“Thank you Owen, I knew that I could count on you. But the question is: can I trust you?”

 

“Of course you can trust me. You’re my baby brother; I’d do anything for you”.

 

Kevin looked at Owen, his face as serious as a gravestone, his eyes penetrating Owen’s thin, gangly body, eyes that gazed into his soul.

 

“I don’t know if I believe you Owen. We’ve both said things that can’t be taken back, I don’t think that I even know you anymore, and I’m sure that you don’t know me”.

 

Kevin was right, and Owen knew it. Only months ago there would have been no question, but now.

 

“You can trust me”. Owen said. “Money is nothing, you can always trust me”.

 

“Then I will. Please sit”.

 

Owen nodded and pulled up one of the chairs that waited in front of the desk. Kevin stood up and, after a pause, spoke.

 

“Owen. I’ve done a terrible thing. I need you to help me hide it, lest I drive mother to an even earlier grave”.

 

“Kevin, please. Whatever you’ve done is nothing to me. I’ll forgive your actions, and so will mother”.

 

“Owen” Said Kevin “I’ve killed a man”.

 

Silence filled the room. Owen’s shock was absolute, his brother, his gentle brother, had become a murderer! The very idea, the very idea of the idea, was preposterous. There were few people on earth less likely to kill than his brother.

 

“You lie”. Owen said.

 

“I wish I was Owen. But it’s true, I did kill him. I’ve stowed the body in the closet until we can think of what to do with it”.

 

“We?” replied Owen. “How did I become implicated in this? I’d be an accomplice”.

 

“Not if you help me hide the body. We can make it so that no one will ever find it, no one will ever know. If we do it right then we can make this go away”.

 

By this time Owen had already turned to leave. He was heading straight to the phone to call the police. He was not going to jail for his brother.

 

“Owen, wait! Please listen to me”.

 

“No Kevin, you listen to me! This isn’t right, you’re not right. You’ve murdered someone, can’t you understand that? You’ve brought death into our home. You even have the audacity to hide the body in our father’s study!”

 

“It’s my study now, don’t you remember his will?”

 

“It’s not yours, not until Mother passes”.

 

“And how long do you think that will be? A week? A few days? Her time is almost up Owen, at least let me enjoy what I’ve gotten, what little there may be”.

 

“You’ll get none of it in jail”.

 

“Which is why I need your help, Doctor”.

 

Owen let out a great sigh and sat back down. There he remained, cleaning his glasses, and thinking very dark thoughts. This is why his brother had asked him here, who better to dispose of a body than a trained physician?

 

“At least tell me who he was”. Owen said “I deserve that at least”.

 

“True and you shall get as much”.

 

Kevin breathed a great sigh as he called the incident from memory. Owen could see the pain it brought as it bubbled to the surface.

 

“He was a lawyer”. Said Kevin “Or at least he said he was. He had come a long way to see me. He had heard of the wealth that the oil had brought us, and of the ruthlessness of our father, and had come to see mother”.

 

“What did he want?”

 

“He said that he was representing some of our employees, a group of workers on the drills. He claimed that some people had been injured, that it was our fault, and that he was suing us”.

 

“So you killed him? Surely we’d kept up with all of the regulations; why not simply defeat him in court?”

 

“I would have Owen, believe me, I wanted nothing more.  But he had not come simply to gloat; he had far more nefarious plans than that”.

 

“What kind of plans?”

 

“Well, when we first spoke, I laughed in his face. I knew that he was doomed to failure. The man had asked for an inordinate sum, far more than he deserved, so I politely asked him to leave the premises and to see me in court”.

 

“Then why, Kevin, is he dead?”

 

“Because he tried to blackmail me. He said that he’d found photographs, damaging photographs, the kind that could ruin our reputation forever. He said that he’d give them to the press if we didn’t hand over the money. When he refused to give the pictures up, or tell me where he’d gotten them, I tried to take them by force”.

 

“You tried to kill him”.

 

“No Owen, I didn’t. All I wanted was to protect our family’s honour. I had only given him a light punch, just to break his nose, but then he fell back, and when his head snapped against the marble floor I knew what I had done. It was all that I could do to clean up the mess and hide the body, and then I called you”.

 

So it had been honour that drove Kevin to do it, honour and the protection of wealth. Owen knew all too well what a scandal could do to his dying family. The oil had brought them privilege. The fields of which Kevin spoke had been discovered by the poor entrepreneur that had been their father. The oil had brought their father everything. He’d had money, fame, and love- especially love. Their mother, the heiress to a banking empire, had met their father at a party, the kind of place where more money would be spent on champagne than most people could make in a year. Their love had been driven by an intense inevitability, for there were few others who could match them in terms of wealth or status. It was in this climate that Kevin and Owen had been raised.

 

But this was no time for memories.  Kevin’s actions, though beget by a desire for good, were severe indeed. It would be more damaging than any blackmail Owen could think of.

 

“What of the pictures?” Owen asked.

 

“They’ll cause us no trouble” said Kevin.

 

“You’re wrong; they already have”.

 

“What shall we do then? I cannot go to jail; it would undo all that I have done. You have to tell me how to dispose of the body”.

 

“Let me see it”.

 

Kevin froze, visibly disturbed. A paleness crept across his face, as if the very thought of opening the closet door killed him. Owen, impatient and wanting to view the corpse, began to walk towards the door.

 

“Owen stop!” shouted Kevin, who dashed aside and blocked the door “This will not do. You must not look inside. Not until the very last must you open that door”.

 

Kevin’s ferocity was petrifying. For the first time in his life Owen saw a man who could commit a murder. However there was little to be done, he had to see the body.

 

“Kevin, I have to look”.

 

“Why? Why must you see the grizzly scene? Why can I not spare you the indignity of it all?”

 

“I have to see what state the body is in. What if he is a large man? How would we carry him out? What if he has identity cards on him? We would certainly want to take care of those somehow. You must stand aside”.

 

But Kevin would not have it. Standing between Owen and the door was an implacable man. For reasons that Owen had yet to fully understand, the closet was off limits.

 

“There must be another way that we could do this” Kevin said.

 

“I need more information; if I am going to help you I must learn more about this victim”.

 

“What if I described him to you? Ask me anything, he is burned into my memory”.

 

“Very well, tell me”.

 

Kevin began to describe the man. He spoke quickly and in short bursts. His voice trembled with each syllable. His eyes were the eyes of a man in quick, frantic thought.

 

“He was a short man, balding. His eyes were brown, though I doubt that it matters, and he wore a business suit. He carried a black briefcase which had the photographs, in addition to his ID cards, both of which I’ve destroyed. He has a broken jaw and skull, from the fight”.

 

“I thought that you broke his nose?”

 

“Yes, well, that too. I hit him a couple of times”.

 

“And he didn’t hurt you?”

 

“He was a very scrawny man”.

 

“I see. That should be enough, though I don’t understand your worry. I’ve seen many grizzly things in my life, this would be no worse. Perhaps it is your guilty conscience that compels you”.

 

“Perhaps, I have much to be guilty for. “

 

“Indeed”.

 

It now fell on Owen to concoct a plan for disposing of the body. It had been clever of Kevin to call him here, for he was a master of the human body.

 

Both he and Kevin had been sent to the most elite of private schools. Their education had been the best that their parents could afford, and their parents could afford a lot. Upon finishing high school, Owen studied the sciences and was eventually accepted into medical school. It had been his idea, not his father’s. They had intended for their eldest son to study business and to eventually take over as head of the company. Owen, on the other hand wanted to become a doctor.

 

The differences between them, Owen’s goals and his father’s, were not so great as to drive the family apart. Indeed, in some ways they even strengthened the bond between them. For now there was a doctor in the family, a member of one of the world’s noblest professions, an educated man. Owen could now be self sufficient, though he would never have to be, and the responsibility for managing the business would fall to Kevin.

 

Few learned more about death than Owen had. As he progressed farther and farther in his studies, his interests grew more and more morbid. Parasites, flesh eating bacteria, gangrenous rot, all of these Owen studied. He could not tell what drove him, but these things, these gruesome things, became his passion. He was, in every facet of the word, an expert on death.

 

But death had already occurred. Now the issue was disposing the dead. Without a body, no one could accuse his brother; they would try, but they would fail. This was a certainty. The problem was to get it done perfectly.

 

“What if we incinerated it?” Kevin asked, breaking his brother’s thought.

 

“In what, the fireplace?” Owen replied “we have nothing hot enough. Even crematories leave bones behind, and we simply don’t have time to find a furnace”

 

“What about burying it?” Kevin ventured again.

 

“Where?”

 

“In the woods behind the house, no one goes there”.

 

“No, the conditions aren’t right. It could take decades for the body to rot completely away. Besides, the last thing that we need is for it to stay on our property. It has to be moved”.

 

“Where?”

 

“I don’t know. “

 

Owen collapsed back in his chair and let out a deep sigh. His brother asked too much of him, he could hardly think. Kevin stepped away from the closet door and sat behind the desk. He too was suffering under the stress.

 

After a minute, Owen spoke, “What were in those photographs? Were they really so bad that you had to kill the man?”

 

“I wasn’t trying to”.

 

“But you did. It can’t be helped. I just need to know why”.

 

Again the color fled from Kevin’s face, and again he spoke frantically and without pause. It must have been the stress, or so Owen assumed.

 

“It was mother, she was with another man. The pictures were dated to before father died. In the state she’s in, the scandal was the last thing that she needed”.

 

“Could they have been fakes?”

 

“I don’t know, I didn’t think”.

 

“Well maybe you should have. Maybe you should’ve thrown him out, maybe you should’ve paid him off, maybe you should’ve done something other than killing him!”

 

“I know that! And don’t think otherwise!”

 

“Then why did you kill him?”

 

Kevin didn’t answer, but instead gave Owen a look of intense pain. It was a look that he’s seen before.

 

Owen had returned from medical school only two years ago. His success had been great and was only matched by Kevin’s failure. Business school had not been good to him. Kevin’s dismal grades, his disruptive antics, and his youthful recklessness had all conspired to get him expelled. Now no one in the family could continue the business.

 

Father’s rage had been immense. It had looked as if Kevin would be cut out of the family. This, however, did not happen. What had happened was father’s first heart attack. Though no one accused him, everyone blamed Kevin, especially Kevin himself. He’d stayed by his Father’s side for days while he made his slow recovery. That is what saved him from banishment. Unfortunately for Kevin, as almost anyone could tell you, it was Owen who would get the lion’s share of the estate whenever mother would pass away. As much had been said in father’s will. Kevin’s ownership of the study was simply a cruel joke.

 

Kevin had suffered enough; this murder could ruin what little connection that he still had with the family. If Owen was going to save his brother, he needed to get rid of the body, and he needed to do it now.

 

“What if we cut him to pieces?” Kevin said, at last regaining his composure, “We could cut him into bits and then spread them all over the place. We’d dump him in the forest, throw bits in the ocean, it would take them decades to put him back together”.

 

It was a good idea.

 

“I would need help with the cutting. Would you be willing to do it?” said Owen.

 

“Yes” Kevin replied “I will. Do you have the tools with you?”

 

“Not with me, but there’s a saw and some garbage bags in the shed outside, then we’d just need some plastic to put over the floor, this is going to be a bloody mess”.

 

“Perhaps we should move the body?”

 

Kevin was right. The study was no place for dismemberment. There were papers and furniture everywhere, each a surface that could absorb a deadly drop of blood. There should be no evidence of their transgression.

 

Owen walked towards the closet door. “You’ll have to help me carry him” he said, all the while thinking of where best to do the deed. As his hand reached for the doorknob his mind turned over the plan that they had made, making sure that there were no holes through which evidence could slip. Was it really so foolproof? Was it absolutely impossible for anything to go wrong?

 

“No”. Owen answered himself, pulling his hand away from the doorknob. He turned around and faced his brother, who was standing there, nervously clutching an iron paperweight. It was a big metal sphere, more than heavy enough to do its job.

 

“What’s wrong?” Kevin asked.

 

“We can’t dismember the body. All we’ll do is spread the evidence around. Just one piece, that’s all it will take for them to convict us. We need another plan”.

 

Kevin put down the paperweight and sighed. He looked almost relieved, he must have been afraid of cutting up the body. It was, Owen admitted, messy work.

 

“Then what should we do?” said Kevin “We cannot simply let it sit there in the closet forever. It has to be disposed of now!”

 

“I know that. It’s a liability, it’ll hang us, but that doesn’t mean that we should act rashly. We must be sure that there is nothing left that could convict us”.

 

Owen’s words tasted bitter in his throat. This was not how he’d wanted to reconcile with his brother. This was the first time in, how long had it been? Owen could hardly remember, but it had been a very long time since he and his brother had spoken.

 

&&&

 

Darkness had descended on the household. Father’s funeral had only just ended, and the mourners were already filtering out. They were father’s associates, not friends. They were businessmen, the best kind of people to have at a funeral, as they were the least likely to mourn. They all excused themselves, very politely, and collected their coats, for none had forgotten where they were, and walked straight to their cars, which had been kept waiting by the door. It was the most polite stampede that Owen had ever seen.

 

When the last man had left, Owen retired to the study and found Kevin waiting. Kevin had been bequeathed ownership of the study only the previous day. Its contents were his, as was the room only as long as mother allowed it. Owen could already see signs of his brother’s presence, he had been rummaging.

 

“What have you been up to?” said Owen.

 

“I’ve just been taking inventory; this is all mine you know”. His brother replied.

 

“As you’ve been saying, although I hope that you’ll let me use it occasionally. I’ve yet to read most of these books”.

 

“Obviously, but look at this” Kevin showed Owen a small stack of paper that he’d found, it carried their mother’s signature.

 

“What is it?” Owen asked.

 

“It’s our mother’s will. It was hidden in the safe behind the mirror. Why don’t we have a look?”

 

“Her will? Kevin, put that back! It’s not yours too look at”.     

 

“Oh? It was in the room. If father hadn’t wanted us to find it he’d have hidden it elsewhere”.

 

“I hardly think that he expected to have a second heart attack! Please, put it back”. Kevin wasn’t convinced, in fact quite the opposite. By the time Owen could react, Kevin had already begun reading aloud:

 

“To my sister Margaret: I bequeath my blue Rolls Royce, which she has always adored”

 

“Kevin, stop it!”

 

“To my butler Nigel: I leave a pension, good for ten years”.

 

“Kevin, this is not for our ears!”

 

“To my son Owen: I leave-” Kevin stopped. His voice stammered in shock, and his expression was a mixture of misery and anger. Owen rushed over to him and finished reading:

 

“...I leave sixty-five percent of my monetary wealth”. Kevin had been cut out almost entirely. 

 

&&&

 

Dismemberment was off the table. Yet another method stuck down by reality. Had they been less cautious, they would have already begun the process, they would’ve also been almost assuredly caught.

 

“I never should’ve done this” said Kevin.

 

“That’s quite the understatement! You were stupid, and reckless, and now I have to clean up your mess”.

 

“As usual, eh brother?”

 

“Don’t pull that! Your mistakes are not my fault. You did this to yourself, just like in college, just like with mother’s will, you’ve once again ruined your own life”.

 

“Owen, I asked for help, not contempt. I’ve already swallowed my pride once on your account; don’t make me do it again”.

 

“Swallowed your pride? I’m your brother! This is my mother’s house! What pride must be swallowed for you to invite me here?”

 

“You wouldn’t understand”.

 

“You’re right, I don’t, and I don’t think that I want too. You seem to be doing okay by yourself; you’ve had plenty of good ideas without my help, I think I’m done here”. Owen turned to leave, but Kevin’s pleas held him in place.

 

“Owen!” he said “Please. I need you. If this is what you want, me on my hands and knees, then here you have it. I’m a worthless murderer; I’ve no idea what I’m doing. Please, Owen, help me”. Owen turned and saw his brother kneeling before him, sobbing.

 

“All right” Owen said “I’ll try to think of something”.

 

“Thank you. Thank you so much. You have no idea how important this is if I’m going to get out of this. I desperately need you here”.

 

“You did have good ideas, you don’t need my help”.

 

“Owen, you have no idea how important it is for you to be here”.

 

“Thank you”.

 

Owen thought back to his days as a medical student. So many things that one could do to a body, so many ways to break it down. Some were slow, some fast, some cheap, some expensive, there were many choices. It was like walking through an orchard full of apples, except all of the apples were rotting.

 

Perhaps bacteria could break down the flesh and bone? But that would take too long. What if incineration was the way? Could they find a furnace? No, it was preposterous.  Maybe a wood chipper? No, it wasn’t clean enough.

 

Then Owen knew the answer. It was a technique of perfect simplicity, a clean way to remove the body.

 

He’d first seen the stuff work in medical school. They had been dissecting pig corpses as practice and it was time to finish up. Their work had left the pigs inedible and they needed to be disposed of; Owen had volunteered. He helped lift the carcasses into the back room and placed them in round steel vats.

 

“What’s going to happen to the pigs?” He’d asked his professor.

 

“We’re going to put them through alkaline hydrolysis” the professor responded, in his usual dry voice. “We fill the vats with lye; it’ll break down the bodies into a brown sludge. Once it’s done we’ll dump the vat down the drain”.

 

Disintegration! That was the answer. All they’d need was a vat for the body, and enough lye to do the job. When the body turned to sludge they could just dump it down the drain and dispose of the vat. At last things looked like they’d be all right; it felt like a glass of cool water after walking through a desert, a desert of lies and shattered dreams.

 

&&&

 

In the weeks after father’s death, the brothers had become enemies. Kevin resented the posthumous snub, and Owen was angry at his brother’s arrogance. To top it off, mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. There was a chill in the house. Everyone could feel it, and no one dared speak of it. The family had been broken apart, and the pieces had been ground into dust.

 

“Kevin” said Owen one day, the day he left for good “Please, I want to make things right between us”.

 

“Oh you do?” his brother said “And how do you intend to do that?”

 

“Can’t you at least talk to mother?”

 

“About the will I looked at without her permission? Yes Owen, I think that’s a splendid idea!”

 

“You mock me”.

 

“I mock the stupid”.

 

“Kevin, driving me away does nothing but cost you a friend. I’m the one trying to help you”.

 

“Help me? How have you helped me?”

 

“I’ve spoken about you to mother; I’m trying to get you on her good side”.

 

“Meaningless”.

 

“I’ve made you the beneficiary on my will”.

 

“It does nothing”.

 

“I spoke to the board members about getting you a job”.

 

“As if I’d work for those leeches! They killed father, they and their snobbish foppery. I’ll have nothing to do with them”.

 

“Kevin that’s all that I can do”.

 

“Then you do nothing Owen. I’ll fix this on my own. Goodbye”.

 

And Owen left. He refused to return, not even for his mother. Now she was in her last hours, and Owen had only just returned. At least Kevin had learned how to swallow his pride; it was one good thing that could come of this. Hopefully the whole messy business would be over soon, and they could go back to being brothers.

 

&&&

 

Kevin now had a smile on his face, as if he’d just been freed from a long captivity. The news of a proper plan brought color back to his cheeks. Soon they could leave this dreadful room and mourn in peace. They could live out the last moments of their mother’s life as brothers.

 

“Where will we get it?” Kevin said, taking down notes on a yellow pad.

 

“A hardware store, it’s sold as drain cleaner”.

 

“Interesting”.  Kevin’s scribbling grew frantic as he took down Owen’s every word. He had to get everything just right. Owen just kept rambling and pacing across the room.

 

“We’ll have Nigel pick up a tank and then we can hide it in the old schoolroom, no one goes in there. When the body has been turned to goo, we just dump it down the drain”.

 

“Won’t the tank seem suspicious?”

 

“Sometimes a tank is just a tank. No one will notice”.

 

“I suppose you’re right”. Kevin closed the notepad and placed it under the paperweight. He pushed in the chair, removed his jacket, and leaned on the desk. “I guess it’s time to move the body. We should put it in the schoolroom now while Nigel tends to mother. Will you help me lift him?”

 

Owen agreed. He removed his jacket and glasses, placing both on the desk, and walked towards the closet door. Each stride was more dreadful than the last; each step brought him closer to the horror inside. His brother’s victim was lying there, dead and bloody, his life gushing from a head wound. Owen let out a sigh and took hold of the doorknob. The closet door opened, and its contents were revealed by the light.

 

There was nothing there. Not even dust sullied the empty space. Where had the body gone?

 

The answer came swiftly with a blow to the head. The metal paperweight made short work of Owen’s skull. Had the doctor been alive when his head hit the floor, he’d have felt Kevin’s knife finishing him off. If Owen still lived, he’d have felt the corrosive lye dissolve his body, and would’ve forseen himself getting dumped down the drain. If Owen was still alive, he would have been to his mother’s funeral, and he would have stopped the family fortune from going to his treacherous brother, despite what his own will intended.

 

For Kevin, the last heir, the last apology, the last laugh " it was worth its price in blood.

 

 


 


© 2010 Platus



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Reviews

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are amazing!!!!! What a truly brilliant piece!!!!! You are a wonderful writer!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted 2 Years Ago


WOW!!!!! There are on words I can use to describe this masterpiece. You are an amazing author.

Posted 6 Years Ago


OMG this story is great!! I was wondering where were you going to get the story too; it seemed too linear, but then that awesome twist at the end made me jump from my chair! I loved the way you give some details but is not until the last paragraph that they really make sense. Awesome job on this amazong story!!

Posted 7 Years Ago


Oh my . . . the next to the last paragraph I suspected as much, but only then. Well written.

Posted 7 Years Ago


I loved this! Really original and well-written, loved every minute of it, and the ending... omg, that ending... one of the best endings to a story I've ever read, period.

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

well done very creative

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 23, 2010
Last Updated on January 23, 2010
Tags: Doctor, murder, original work, mystery, hide, hidden, physician


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