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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2317295
In which Bel meets his sister and learns why he called her at 2 AM
Nina’s flight doesn’t come in at nine.

It comes in at noon.

Which means Bel probably could have slept in until nine. But he doesn’t know the flight is delayed, so instead he drags himself out of bed at seven-forty-five this morning (he’d hit “snooze” five times), and makes himself walk out the door, get into his car and take the Expressway to Don Mueang International, where he arrives at nine-oh-three.

And waits at Baggage Claim.

For three damn hours.

Nina is only slightly shorter than he is, and she also looks more American, like their dad. She’s got their dad’s gray eyes; and instead of the black hair that Bel inherited from their mom, her hair is brown-ish red—like the kind of red you get from a Clariol bottle(except Bel can’t really judge her for that cause he’s got indigo streaks on either side of his head thanks to that same brand). She lets Bel carry both the roller case and the carry-on she brought with her from baggage claim but won’t let him touch the backpack.

“How was your flight?” Bel’s question is automatic, because that’s what you ask people when you pick them up from the airport. They usually say it was fine, and then they move on.

“Fine,” Nina’s reply is equally automatic, but it sounds almost robotic. She’s holding her backpack like a lifeline and while she looks fine, there’s tiny little details that say she’s not. Her fingers are clenched, and her eyes are darting around the terminal, looking for the exit in a way that doesn’t seem normal to Bel. “Where did you park?”

“Outside, in the parking lot.”

“Hardy-har-har, you know what I mean. The flight was long, so I just want to get to the hotel and shower and sleep.” Nina’s face relaxes ever so slightly.

“You don’t want to call Silo first?” Bel can’t help but tease his sister.

“And why would I want to do that?”

“Maybe he missed you as much as I did?” That gets him a smack upside the head. “Ouch! Well, it’s probably true! Nina, don’t look at me like that just—don’t break his heart ok?”

Nina smiles at him. “Since when did you turn into a romantic?”

“I’m serious, Nina. If you break Silo’s heart, then Gulf will get mad and he’ll take it out on me—and not just as the brother of the girl who hurt the guy he loves!”

“I give you my solemn word that I will not break Silo’s heart while I’m here, so you don’t have to worry about your boss.” Nina’s Bel is still snarky as ever. “Besides, there’s no definite commitment. We’re just dating, and so far as I know it’s the same with Gulf, he’s ok with it; and Silo’s ok with it; and I’m ok with it, so don’t worry about it until you need to, ok?”

“That’s what Gulf and Em said, I just wanted to be sure.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Nina reassures him. “People are allowed to date more than one person if they want to.”

“I know. It’s fine.” Bel lets the subject drop and Nina turns the conversation away from her and onto him.

“How are you? Do you have a boyfriend yet?”

“You ask me the same thing every time you see me, and the answer hasn’t changed.” It’s true; Bel isn’t surprised by the question.

“Well if you can pester me about my dating life, then I can ask about yours.” Nina has been asking ever since he moved back out to Thailand for a gap year—except the gap year turned into three, and Bel isn’t interested in changing that any time soon.

And by changing he means both the extended gap year and his urrent single state. It’s not that Bel isn’t interested in dating, he just doesn’t want to add one more thing to his life list at the moment. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

“When is the answer going to change?”

“Why the hell are you so eager to marry me off all of a sudden?”

“How long have you been single?”

“Maybe I like being single, Nina. Maybe I like spending weekends alone with no one to worry about but myself. Maybe dating is not something I want to think about right now, or maybe ever; and I don't know if that will change, and right now I don’t care, ok? Have you ever thought of that?”

Nina stops walking and turns to look at her brother. Usually, she and Bel banter about dating and social lives and things like that, but Bel isn’t bantering this time. Granted, she did wake him up at two in the morning and he did drive through probably congested traffic to get her; and yes the flight was delayed, but it’s not like Bel to be this annoyed at noon. Unless…

“Bel, I’m sorry I called you so early. I wasn’t thinking. And you know I would have texted you about the flight delay if I could, right?”

“I know.”

“So what’s wrong?”

Bel makes a kicked puppy face. “I ran out of Crio Bru this morning. There was only enough for one cup.”

“Oh, is that all?” Nina’s tone is light, but she understands Bel’s addiction to the brewed cacao, even if she doesn’t particularly like it herself. “I was going to wait until we got to the hotel, but if you want it now—”

“Now?” Bel’s face goes from kicked puppy to eager puppy. If he had a tail, it would probably be wagging like crazy.

Nina takes her carry-on from Bel, opens it, and pulls several pouches of Crio Bru from her carry-on. Both of them know that Bel can just as easily order it online, but both also know that Nina likes to bring something to her brother whenever she visits, so why not his favorite drink? Besides, sometimes shipping from Canada to the US is less expensive than from Canada to Thailand, especially if Bel orders in bulk.

Which he does.

Every time.

This time, Nina’s brought him French Roast, Spanish Roast, and—

“Maple Light?” Bel stares at the light brown pouch with ‘Brews like Coffee, Benefits of Cacao’ across the top and then raises his eyebrows at his sister. “Since when have I liked Light anything?”

He’d told Nina once that milk chocolate tasted too much like fake sugar but dark chocolate tasted the way chocolate was supposed to; and while Nina didn’t really understand what Bel meant, she never bought him anything that said “milk chocolate” or “light chocolate” again. With this one Crio Bru exception.

“It’s maple-flavored and it’s new. There’s one pouch, so if you really don’t like it, then you can toss it.” Nina gives her little brother a hug, knowing this is his way of saying thank you, and that he’ll probably use up the whole pouch in two days and want more—which is why she’s got three more pouches hidden in her roller bag. “Do you feel better now?”

Bel hesitates for a second, then puts his arms around his sister. “Khàawp-khun ná.”

Nina returns his hug. “You’re welcome.”

Bel and Nina are fluent in both Thai and English, having lived in both countries most of their lives due to what their dad did for a living; and most of their conversations switch between both languages—sometimes in mid-sentence. It started off as a game they used to play as kids—a brain exercise their dad called it—but now it comes all too naturally.

“You still have this car?” Nina is staring at Bel’s beloved 2012 white Mazda. The cars that are parked on either side make Bel’s definitely look its age. “Isn’t it like, ten years old now?”

“Eleven, and it still runs, so it’s fine.” Bel takes Nina’s roller bag and carry-on and puts it in the back, but Nina keeps hold of her backpack as she climbs into the passenger seat.

“It’s a hatchback.” Nina’s one of those people that gets snobby about cars.

“I like hatchbacks; and it’s not your car, so shut up.” Bel puts the key in the ignition and heads for the Expressway. This is their second standard greeting: Nina makes fun of his car; and Bel tells her it’s fine; and Nina doesn’t say anything else because they both know it was their dad’s and Bel has no intention of getting a new car until this one stops running.

Which—if Bel has anything to say about it—will be never.

“So,” Bel glances at the backpack on Nina’s lap out of the corner of his eye. It’s on her lap, rather than on the car floor, which means Nina thinks whatever’s in it must be really important. She only let go of it long enough to hand him the Maple Light Crio Bru. “You just decided it was time for a vacation?”

“Not exactly.” Nina opens the front zipper on her pack and is digging through whatever junk girls keep in those damn small pockets. It never ceased to amaze Bel what Nina could shove in there.

“You missed your baby brother?”

“Not exactly.”

Ouch. Bel was only half joking. He did miss his sister, and it was really hard to talk to her when they where in two different time zones, but if Nina had another reason for coming here that wasn’t a vacation…

“Your job makes you really good at the non-answer shit, doesn’t it?”

Nina grins. “Exactly, and if you flip me the bird, I’ll break that finger.”

“That threat stopped working when I was ten.”

“I’m surprised it took you that long to get over it.”

The traffic is slowing, and congestion is getting bad, so Bel has time to take his eyes off the road long enough to glance at his sister. On the surface, Nina’s her no nonsense, snarky little self, but her gray eyes are tense, and whatever she’s got in the front pocket of her backpack is making her twitchy.

“Nina.” Bel pushes just a little bit. If he doesn’t, Nina will dodge answers until they get to the hotel, and Bel isn’t in the mood to play that kind of game for another hour or more. “What’s going on?”

Nina hesitates, her fingers still in the front pocket of her backpack. “I was sent something the other day, delivered by Express. It had your address on it, so I didn’t really think before I opened it. This was inside.”

She pulls a small object from the backpack front pocket and holds it up for Bel to see. Since traffic has not come to a standstill, Bel takes the object, and stares at it. It’s a USB, the kind with enough storage to save both media and text files. It looks pretty ordinary, actually, except for what’s printed on the label:หมาป่าสีเทา.


“Gray Wolf.” Bel says it in English, and Nina nods.

“Yes, it’s about Dad. The traffic’s moving again.”

Bel hands the USB back to his sister and starts to inch forward like the rest of the car’s around him. Jolts of electricity seem to shoot up his spine, and his brain feels like someone’s starting to put it through a blender. Dad’s codename was Gray Wolf. He’d found that out after going through dad’s stuff and finding a bunch of locked drawers and documents he didn’t understand. After a man in a black suit with a government ID had showed up at Bel’s door and told Bel what his dad did for a living—the whole truth, not just the bits and pieces his dad had been allowed to talk about.

After Bel had followed his dad That Night, and stood in shadows, and listened, and seen…

When he’d seen…

“Break, Bel! Break!”

Bel’s reaction is by instinct, and he barely misses rear-ending the car in front of him. Nina is looking at him, and now her eyes aren’t just tense. They’re concerned.

“Are you ok?”

Bel nods. Sometimes Little White Lies are fine; he can deal with it later. “Why wasn’t this in dad’s stuff? Do you remember seeing it last time we went through everything?”

Is it even his?

“Not that I remember.” Nina slips the USB back into her backpack, and then pulls out another one, which she drops onto Bel’s lap. This one is unlabeled. “I made a copy so you could look it over if you wanted.”

It sounds like a suggestion, but it isn’t. Bel is being volun-told. “What if I don’t have a laptop?”

“I’d say we need to work on your lying.”

“Are you going to tell me what I’m looking for?”

Nina shrugs. “If I knew, I would tell you. I don’t know why this was mailed to me, or how whoever it is knows who I am; but what I do know is someone wants the two of us dead.”

“So you came to see me so we’d both be in the same place and make it easier for whoever it is to—ow, what the hell?” Bel rubs his ear where Nina’s flicked it.

“Don’t be stupid. I came because I was worried about you, and you should be, too.”

“Because of what’s on this?” Bel holds up the USB, keeping one hand on the steering wheel and feeling glad that the traffic has stopped again.

“Yes, so we need to find out what that is.”

They’re silent the rest of the way to the hotel. Bel doesn’t park the car when they reach it, he just pulls up to the front entrance, and removes Nina’s bags from the back so the staff can bring them inside.

“You’re not coming?”

Bel holds up the USB. “My sister gave me homework.”

“Because your sister is worried about you.” Nina hugs him. “Please be careful.”

“I’m always careful.”

Nina watches her brother drive off, checks in, goes up to her room, and collapses on the bed. She really should sleep, but she’s got too much to think about, so inside she opens her laptop, inserts the USB and goes through the files for the umpteenth.

There are a lot of them. Redacted reports, photos, the kind of thing she would expect someone like her father to have. But not on a USB that appeared out of nowhere. Something like this should have been stored at Langley, or the US Embassy, not floating around where people could find it.

Or other people could send it to whoever they wanted. For whatever reason they wanted to.

There’s one file Nina keeps returning to: it’s a folder with a padlock icon next to it. Every time she clicks on it, it asks for a password, with the warning that all content will be erased if the password is wrong. This file isn’t on the USB she gave to Bel, just on hers. It’s the only thing she can’t access without help.

It’s why she made the second phone call after Bel hung up on her earlier.

Nina glances at the time on the bottom of her computer screen: 15:15. She’d been looking through this for almost four hours? Nina pressed her fingertips to her eyes, squashing the worry that’s been building up inside her since that package showed up at her apartment two days ago.

And someone tried to push her out of her apartment window less than twenty-four hours later.

Nina’s phone buzzes, and she glances down at the screen. She can’t help but smile a little bit at the text message as she goes downstairs.

SILO: I’m inside—Bamboo Bar. Where the hell are you? I have Thaijitos.

"3. Favor

read from beginning "1. Phone Calls in the Dark
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