The five men stared each other down, oblivious to the schemes that were happening outside the dining room.
Ryan stood and glared at his brother.
“Don’t call me despicable,” he said calmly.
“I’ll call you a lying, twisting fiend,” Benjamin retorted.
“Boys, boys, boys…” Dr. Costello struggled to keep a hand on his brood, “Ryan was assisting me, and we know that he only wanted the best for Phillip.”
Andrew let out a bark of a laugh.
“I’m sorry, but I pity you if you believe that, father.”
Dr. Costello scowled.
“It is the truth, even if you do not believe so. What happened to Phillip was unfortunate, but necessary. By sending that lovesick boy off to war, we taught him to harden up.”
“He is lost in heart, and that is all you can say?” Andrew scowled, whilst the other brothers beside him nodded their agreement.
“I have done absolutely nothing wrong!” Ryan retorted.
“That’s what you think, because you are letting evil and greed take hold of you,” Stuart snapped.
“You say you want him to harden up, but really so much that he has now lost his tender self?” Benjamin said.
“What is it in being ‘tender’? Those who were tender never achieved much greatness,” Ryan spat.
Dr. Costello was shocked. Even he was starting to become wary of Ryan’s attitude. It was a way in which he had never seen his son act before. He’d always held Ryan in a high regard, and to have his ideas shattered now was chilling. He was seeing a side to Ryan that he had never thought possible; it seemed evil, but it surely couldn’t be if Ryan was the one speaking such words; it was still the same tone of command that had helped Ryan to rise up the army ranks. Dr. Costello couldn’t piece things together, but there was no way that he would admit that it made no sense to him. Ryan was good, there was no doubt about that in the older man’s mind. Yet, Ryan’s sharpness of tongue, his flaming words, and a possible danger of treason began to cause fear to grow in the doctor’s heart, which he had not foreseen.
And then, there was Ryan the trickster.
“You trust my judgement, don’t you, Father?” He said, eyes wide and pleading innocence.
“Of course.” And any doubt that Dr. Costello had was pushed away instantly.
“So, there. Father trusts me, and Father knows best,” Ryan simpered.
Benjamin rolled his eyes, well aware that his fight for justice was probably over. War was never a good thing, and it was something that Benjamin would never indulge in.
“Listen, brothers, I don’t care what happened, but I do care about my family. Phillip has walked off somewhere (and don’t you say that will do him good), and my wife is currently up their looking after our mother. I came back here to bring good news, and be part of the happiness of my youth, but things have become way too hectic. Goodbye, Father. Goodbye, Ryan. I will see the rest of you some other time, but I don’t think I can bring myself to face you two once again. We shall see how time fairs to mend our rift.”
With that, he stormed out, and headed up towards the bedrooms in which the Mrs. Costellos would be passing the time. Ryan smirked and helped himself to more wine from the decanter in the centre of the table. Andrew and Stuart remained standing, their knuckles glowing white from gripping the table and the top of the wooden chair, respectively.
Stuart, as the eldest, was the next to exhibit authority.
“Look at that, father, there goes one of your sons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve lost Phillip’s trust too. Think about which is more important: the love of your sons who you are losing, or your ‘keeping up appearances’, and Ryan’s trickery, which caused all of this mayhem. That’s all thanks to your selfishness. It won’t be the last you hear of this, you know.” He announced.
“Oh, you bet that this won’t be the last of it! We’ll get to the bottom of Phillip’s distractions,” Ryan snapped, his attitude and tone strangely positive.
“Selfishness?” Dr. Costello gasped, “At least Ryan has the decency to treat me with proper, fatherly, respect.”
Ryan smirked again.
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Stuart snapped back.
Dr. Costello bristled, quickly losing what was left of his patience.
“How dare you, Stuart! I know you’re trying to be independent, but I thought that, as the eldest, you would have the sense to be with my decision.”
“With you? That’s just the thing: this isn’t about taking sides,” Stuart yelled, “This is all about the way you aren’t paying attention to the emotions of your two youngest.
“You’re losing your sons, Father… And if you don’t change, only Ryan will be left.”
“Ryan is more faithful than the five of you! If there’s anybody you should be taking life-lessons from, it’s him, not dainty Phillip.”
“I think this is not at all fair,” continued Stuart.
“Ryan, what do you think?” Benjamin asked, albeit with a tone of malice in his voice.
“Phillip needed a bit of a push. The threats were nothing; just a helping hand to him.”
“Of course. If Ryan says it is true, then we should be bound to believe him.” Dr. Costello nodded, won over again by his son’s smart talking.
“This is ridiculous!”
“Just get out, Stuart. I won’t put up with your insolence any longer. Just go.”
Stuart turned to his brother beside him.
“Fine. I understand that none of this was your fault, Andrew, therefore feel free to contact me at my country house. Whereas, I hereby say that I will never set foot in this house again, unless I have been given proof that they are less harsh.”
So Stuart turned on his heels away from the table and walked out of the room, deeply hurt by his father’s actions. In the silence that followed, the occupants of the dining hall could hear the distant front door slam.
That left Andrew, Ryan and Dr. Costello to scrutinise each other. Andrew sighed.
He shook his head, saying nothing; as his temperament was calmer than that of the elder brothers, Ryan and Dr. Costello, and the temperament of a true, tried and tested doctor, he knew better than to raise his voice in argument.
“There is some cause for worry about Phillip,” he mumbled, looking at neither Ryan nor Dr. Costello.
“I’m glad you agree, Andrew,” Dr. Costello replied, “My sons are in a dire need of a shape up.”
“Oh, are you thinking of turning against us too, Andrew?” Ryan scowled.
“No, I am not, but something terrible has happened to my baby brothers (even you, Ryan, no matter how ‘powerfully in charge’ you feel), and I want to get to the conclusion of this pain that is driving our family apart.”
“Well, you’d better go soon, otherwise Phillip will have vanished again, and your experiments won’t have an experimentee.”
“Very well, Ryan.” Andrew ached inside to tell him that he was not yet defeated, but if Andrew lost his father’s trust too, their would be nobody left to keep a close eye on Ryan, to spy and to make sure that the boy caused no more harm. Andrew needed to be behind the lines.
Ryan glared at Andrew, whilst Dr. Costello seemed rather unsettled too. They were the same mind, in synchronized agreement.
“I don’t know all of what is going on, but I have a dissertation to complete. I’ll be in my study if either of you would like me, but don’t count on my being happy if I am disturbed.”
With that, Andrew stormed out of the dining room, following Phillip and Peter’s back exit into the main part of the building. As he left he shook his head in sadness. Judging by the amount of metaphors that had slipped from all their lips, his family, especially his status-blinded father, were obsessed with the intricacies of war. It was a great worry.
Ryan watched as his brother left the room, noticing the haughtiness in his step. Feeling rather paranoid, Ryan made a mental note to keep an eye out for Andrew. It was just what the latter would have expected from the Lieutenant.
“Well, well, well, we won’t be seeing them in a while,” he said to Dr. Costello, when he was sure that Andrew was out of earshot.
“We had a lucky escape, Ryan; I wouldn’t have liked it if the boys had tried to dig any deeper.”
“Benjamin won’t tell mother the little he knows, will he?”
“No, he won’t want to hurt her any further with knowledge like that. Besides, he doesn’t know enough.”
“And what about the fact that they now know that Phillip was…‘threatened’, to be so melodramatic.” Ryan’s eyes glinted with a little worry as he doubled checked that he was not going to be dragged down.
“It was just one of his exaggerations…” Dr. Costello gave a quick wink. “We’ll survive, Ryan. As long as…well, no, it doesn’t matter.”
“What is it?”
Dr. Costello was still hesitant. He scowled at what seemed like silliness to himself.
“Are we still doing the ‘right’ thing, Ryan?”
Ryan smiled at him.
“Of course, we are, Father. I still agree with your decisions. As I said before, Phillip needs discipline and punishment for his slacking, and you are the one to give it to him.”