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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2317601
In which Em and Gulf offer assistance
Em has to tend the bar mostly on her own for two reasons. First, the waitperson Gulf asked to assist her is less then experienced with anything to do with bartending, and second, the waitperson needs to help Em because Bel hasn’t shown up. No calls, no texts, no LINE, nothing. Usually, he arrives at quarter to five, but it’s almost two a.m. now, the restaurant is closing and there has been no sign of Bel, or his boyfriend.

If this hadn’t been the second night in a row, Em wouldn’t be so worried.

And it doesn’t help that it’s still raining.

Normally, Em doesn’t mind the rain. But tonight, it only seems to add to her gloomy mood. She’d got a cryptic voicemail from Silo last night that she might be needed and to wait for Talay’s call. But she hadn’t heard from either her brother or her boyfriend since and that was starting to bug her, too.

“You ok?” Gulf stops by the bar on his way back from escorting the last couple of VIP guests to the door, and locking it for the night. “You look like everyone you know has died.”

“Thanks,” Em is tempted to flick ice at him, but decides not to. It’s not as fun when Bel isn’t watching. “Actually, I was wondering if you’ve heard from Bel.”

“You’re worried about him, too huh?” Gulf checks his phone. “If he’s sick, he always lets me know, but I’ve heard nothing, and I don’t have his boyfriend’s number so I can’t call him. Maybe your boyfriend knows something?”

Em shakes her head. “I doubt it. Talay is closer with Kam than he is with Bel.”

“But since he’s Bel’s boyfriend, you would think Kam would pass on a message from Talay to you, don’t you think?” Gulf asks. “At the very least so you could tell me and I don’t have to fire Bel for a No Show?”

Em’s eyebrows shoot up. “Would you really do that over one No Show?”

“Two,” Gulf holds up two fingers for emphasis. “ At the very least, I have to take disciplinary action. Unless Bel’s dead.”

Before Em has a chance to decide whether or not Gulf is being serious, her phone buzzes. Her forehead puckers at the two texts on the screen:

TALAY: Silo called. I’m waiting for you outside.

SILO: Talay is driving you to my place. NOW.

“Something wrong?” Gulf asks.

“I have to go to Pattaya.” Em shows him the text. “Silo never texts in capitals unless there’s a problem.”

Gulf’s keys are already in his hand. “My car’s out front.”

“You don’t have to. Talay is driving me.”

“Em, if there’s a problem, I want to help you. Text me the address.”

Em shares the location with Gulf, then goes out front where Talay is waiting in the car.

“This is about Bel, isn’t it?”

“Smart girl,” Talay hands a piece of paper over to Em. “Silo sent me with a list. I’m really hoping you have a lot of this at your apartment.”

“Registered Nurse, remember?” Em scans the lines of text as Talay pulls out of the restaurant parking lot. “Do I want to know how bad this is?”

“I think you’ll see when we get there.” Talay says.

Silo is a little taken aback when his sister and her boyfriend and the man he’s dating show up on his doorstep. He lets Em and Talay in, but stops Gulf.

“Don’t remember calling an entourage.”

“You were in trouble,” Gulf shrugs. “When was the last time you slept?”

Silo rolls his eyes. “Why does everyone keep asking me that?”

“Have you looked in a mirror lately?” Gulf retorts, then changes his tone when Silo glares at him. “I want to help you.”

“Em is helping Bel; Talay is helping me. You go home.” Silo starts to close the door, but Em smacks him.

“I think it’s very nice that the guy you’re dating cares about you so much.” She says. “You’re not going to make him drive all the way back to Bangkok tonight, are you?”

“It’s only a two hour drive.” But Silo is hesitant, so Em adds more powder to the fire.

“The least you can do is let him stay overnight. Or… you could make him drive back to Bangkok and I’ll tell him your full name.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Silo’s eyes narrow at his sister.

“Full name?” Gulf looks confused.

“Silicone. You know, like what they use for household sealants,” Talay volunteers, and Silo turns his glare on him. “My girlfriend tells me everything. Gulf should stay. We could always use an extra pair of eyes.”
It’s a weak excuse, but Silo lets Gulf in anyway.

“Thank you, brother mine.” Em plants a sisterly kiss on her older brother’s cheek.

“Yes, thank you ‘brother mine’.”

Gulf copies Em, but he kisses Silo’s lips instead. Silo smacks him. Em rolls her eyes and leaving the three of them to it, goes upstairs to Bel’s room.

“Is there a story behind ‘Silicon’?” Gulf follows Talay and Silo into the library.

“A long one,” Silo sits back at the library table and reopens his laptop. “That you are not going to be told. By anyone.”

“Hey,” Talay raises his hands innocently above his head as he sits next to Silo. “Is it my fault your sister likes me so much she’s told me all your family secrets?”

“Did you know your sister has a nickname for me?” Gulf takes the last empty seat.

Silo looks up from his laptop. “Em?”

“You only have one sister.” Talay says. He turns to Gulf. “What does she call you?”

“Teddybear.” Gulf grins as Talay stares and Silo chokes back a laugh.

“It suits you; you look like one. She calls you that to your face?”

“Not yet. Maybe I’ll let her one of these days. Just not at work.” Gulf is quiet for a minute. “How bad is it? Really?”

Silo says nothing, so Talay pushes.

“Silo, you send texts in all caps for only one reason.”

Silo hesitates. He doesn’t speak until he sees the look on their faces—they will keep asking until he gives them a satisfactory answer.

“Bad. It’s…really bad. Someone tried to kill Bel.”

“Someone did what?” The question comes out of Talay’s mouth while Gulf just stares at Silo, the color draining from his face.

“Tried to cut him in two first,” Silo elaborates. “And when that didn’t work whoever it was put a bullet through him.”

“Shit…” Gulf mutters.

It takes both men a minute to digest this.

“What are you going to do?” Talay finally asks.

“Keep him alive,” Silo is stating the obvious and irritated that he has to do so. “That's why I texted Em.”

“So then ,” Gulf’s forehead wrinkles. “Who’s the next target? You?”

“You don’t have to worry about me,” Silo reassures him. “Because I don't know anything.”

“Oh yeah?” Gulf scoffs. “Does whoever it is know that? First they try to strangle Nina, then they attack Bel, so what’s to stop them from coming after you? Do you have any idea what I’d do if—”

Silo’s kiss shuts him up.

“I said you don’t have to worry about me.”

“I know, but—”

“So don’t.” Silo wraps his arms around Gulf, and Gulf’s arms tighten back.

“You really don’t know anything?” Talay asks.

“Not unless I can open one last file.” Silo turns his gaze back to the laptop. “That’s why you’re here.”

“What do you mean that’s why I’m here? You couldn’t just send it to me like you did with the others?” Talay’s forehead wrinkles as he sees the file on Silo’s laptop screen. “Oh. It’s password protected. And you don’t know what the password is.”

The three of them stare at the window on the screen for a minute. The file is still locked, and above the password request box is a line of red text: two attempts remaining.

“You see my problem.” Silo makes it a statement, not a question. “If I get the password wrong, then all the data is erased.”

“So you want me to try and hack it.” Talay chews on his lower lip. “Why haven’t you tried bypassing the password?”

“I didn’t study computer science.” Silo’s tone implies that his answer is obvious. “You did.”

“You mean because I know what I'm doing and you don’t, when I screw it up and lose everything, Nina will yell at you instead of me.” Talay doesn’t intend for the question to come out as a whine, but it does anyway.
“That’s not what I said.”

“Not out loud, but you didn’t have to. That's what will happen.” In spite of his protest, Talay is already at the laptop and opening a new window so he can download the necessary software. “I want you to know the only reason I’m doing this is because I’m a very good assistant.”

“You are the very best assistant,” Silo deadpans. “And I’ll leave a memo that you should get a very big raise.”

“Sarcasm has been noted and is not appreciated.” Talay would flip Silo the bird, but his fingers are too busy typing and clicking, so he dishes sarcasm right back. “Are you going to fire me if I can’t break the encryption?”

“How about a demotion?”

“Not funny. Give me a sec.”

Both men stop talking. For a moment, there is no sound in the room but the tapping of laptop keys and the clicking of the mouse.

Talay watches the laptop screen.

Silo watches Talay.

Gulf watches them both.

“Aren’t you two making this a little too complicated?” Gulf finally asks.

Silo doesn’t say anything, but Talay throws him an offended look.

“The hell’s that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what I said.” Gulf doesn’t look apologetic. He looks annoyed. “Why do people like you always overthink? You’ve had this thing for I don’t know how many days and spent all that time agonizing on how to open this one little file—”

“Important file,” Silo doesn’t raise his voice, but his eyes are sending a warning to Gulf that he should shut up. A warning Gulf ignores.

“This man who sent you the USB in the first place—”

“Khun Delgado.” Talay provides the name without looking up from the laptop.

“Khun Delgado.” Gulf acknowledges. “Was he a complicated type of person?”

“He worked for Intelligence.” Talay says. “Shit!”

He’s run one of the password cracking software programs and attempts to open the file. The laptop lets out an agitated bleep. New words appear in both the newly opened window and the password request box: Request failed. One attempt remaining.

“So that’s a ‘yes’.” Gulf translates. “Which means he had a tendency to overthink just like the two of you. Except maybe in this one instance.”

Neither Silo nor Talay say anything. Gulf isn’t sure if it’s because they’re annoyed with him, or curious about what exactly he means or both. After a short silence, Gulf reaches over and pulls the USB from the laptop. Silo’s face goes completely blank, but Talay lets out a bleep at the same level of agitation that the laptop made earlier.

“What the hell? You could corrupt it!”

“Maybe Khun Delgado put the password in plain sight.” Gulf holds up the USB so that the label is visible. “What does this say?”

The question is rhetorical and all three of them know it.

“Don’t overthink. Look at the label. The password is ‘gray wolf’.” Gulf puts the USB back on the table. “Now that I’ve recovered it for you—I hope I’m using the right word—you’ve got an empty bedroom upstairs right?”

“Of course .” Silo’s gaze is back on the laptop.

“Then I’m going to use it.”


“Oh,” Gulf can’t resist one parting salvo. “And I’m locking my door.”


“So you’ll have to go to Nina’s room tonight if you want company.”


Gulf gives up and leaves the room, and Talay turns back to Silo.

“You think it could be that easy?”

Silo shrugs. “Gulf’s right, we do tend to overthink.”

“Let’s sleep on it, then.” Talay says. “And I mean both of us should actually sleep. Don’t give me that look. There are beds upstairs and you should use one. I’m going back to Bangkok tonight, but I’ll come back for Em tomorrow.”

“Do that.”

“Do you really think Gulf will lock his door?” Talay can’t resist asking the question.

Silo’s second Look shuts him up. But only for as long as it takes for Talay to walk to the library door. He pauses and turns back to Silo.

“If you don’t want Gulf involved because you’re worried about him, you should tell him that. Because he’s really worried about you, too.”

While Bel had been awake long enough to hear Kam spill his guts to Nina the night before, he’d lapsed into unconsciousness again and temperature spiked during the night. Since neither of them are leaving the room any time soon—for obvious reasons—Nina and Kam have taken turns sponging him down and sleeping. Well, Nina has slept. Kam hasn’t. They both look up as Em comes into the room.

“You’re the Trusted Person Silo called?” It’s Kam who asks the question.

“Were you expecting someone else?” Em can smell the blood as she goes to the bed. “If it helps, I’m an RN and I work in the Trauma Unit when I’m not at the restaurant.”

“You are definitely Silo’s sister.” Kam mutters.

Em gives him a very tiny smile before turning to her patient. Bel’s face is completely colorless, and his eyeballs move restlessly beneath his lids. Em puts the back of her fingers to his forehead and flinches. His skin is completely dry, but it’s burning. She doesn’t speak, but pulls the sheets back, biting her bottom lip as she sees the blood smeared across the sheets. Bel’s clothes are sticking to his shoulder and side, equally stained red, and more blood is leaking through the bandage on his forearm.

“Did you clean his injuries?” Em unzips her medical bag, placing it on the floor next to the bed.

“Not the way you can,” Nina says. She’s seated on the other side of the bed, and she hasn’t let go of Bel’s hand.

Em has pulled several items out of her bag: scissors, gloves, bandages, a needle. She peels Bel’s clothes off carefully, exposing the blood soaked bandages. The hole in Bel’s shoulder is clean, as is the slash across his arm. It’s Bel’s side that makes her worry.

“He’ll need a new shirt,” Em says it hoping at least one of them will leave the room. She only needs the help of one, Bel’s sister or his boyfriend, it doesn’t matter which. The other one could be in the way. Except Em doesn’t want to say that out loud.

“I’ll go,” Nina says, and leaves the room.

Kam hasn’t moved and shows know intention of doing so no matter what anyone says. Em carefully unwraps the bandage around Bel’s side, and sucks in air between her teeth when she sees the wound. It’s a puncture, and blood still oozes sluggishly between the edges of flesh. His skin on either side of the wound is pale, but there’s no sign of infection—at least none that she can see.

“No hospitals.” Kam’s voice is flat and hard, making it clear he’ll throw her out of the room if she does something he doesn’t like. “Bel stays here.”

“I know.” Em keeps her voice neutral, putting on her medical gloves and threading the needle. “The wound in his side is nice and clean—“

“That doesn’t look clean to me.”

“What I mean is that it’s not infected. At least I don’t think it is. So I just need to sew him up.” Em sighs. “I feel like I’m in a soap.”

“Is that supposed to be funny?” But Kam’s lips are twitching in spite of himself.

“This situation doesn’t feel a little bit like that to you?” Em gestures to the bed. “I need you to hold him still. In case he feels the needle.”

Bel’s eyelids flicker as Kam climbs on the bed next to him. At the first poke of the needle, Bel jerks, and Kam’s hands tighten around him. He murmurs soothing nonsense in Bel’s ear as Em sews. The only time Kam moves is to adjust his position so that Em can sew up the hole in Bel’s shoulder.

“I’m leaving antibiotics here just in case.” She says as she ties off the last stitch. “You make sure he takes them.”

Kam nods. Bel is quiet in his arms.

“So are you just protecting him as part of this whole investigation my brother and his sister are doing?,” Em asks, just to have something to say as she wraps fresh bandages around Bel’s stitched up injuries. “Or are you really Bel’s boyfriend?”

Kam is quiet for a minute. “Almost.”

That wasn’t quite the answer she was expecting.

“Does he know that?” Em is genuinely curious.

Kam readjusts his position on the bed again, so that he can cradle Bel against him as Em repacks her medical bag.


The door to Gulf’s bedroom opens. Gulf is awake but he doesn’t move until a warm body slides into the bed behind him and Silo’s voice sounds in his ear.

“Scoot over.”

Gulf scoots over but doesn’t turn to face him. “You’re annoyed with me.”

“You didn’t lock your door.” Silo nuzzles Gulf’s neck. “Anyone could come in.”

“And you did.” Gulf curls into Silo’s body. “But that’s not why you’re annoyed. I told you I wanted to help, but how can I do that if you keep things from me?”

“Look at me,” Silo turns Gulf’s head toward him so that his mouth is inches from Gulf’s. “When you told me you wanted to help, I told you this is dangerous. It still is. You shouldn’t get more involved than you already are.”

“So you’re not annoyed,” Gulf’s fingers tangle in Silo’s hair. “You just worry about me.”

Silo blows kisses along Gulf’s shoulders, then up his jawline to his mouth.

“Let me show you how much.”

"23. More Company

read from beginning "1. Phone Calls in the Dark
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