REUNION AT 0130
Excerpt from BEHIND THE VEIL
When Donia felt overwhelmed by the exhaustion, she thought of Jasmine and kept going. It was after 23h, and she felt like she’d been on her feet searching for Eryn for days. It wasn’t true, of course, but it felt like it.
She’d taken the late shift back at the precinct even though she’d been acutely aware that the clock was ticking. Someone would notice if she didn’t take an extra shift the way she always did, and Donia couldn’t afford to draw any more attention to herself, to make any more mistakes. Too much was in jeopardy – her career, Eryn’s fate, Jasmine’s life.
Earlier in the evening, Donia had done what digging she could about Eryn’s brother, Kallen Wallace. He hadn’t taken the professional route his sister had, and had an extensive criminal record of low-level crime. No current address or contact information was listed in the police database. She couldn’t access any of the other networks without one of the detectives taking note, which meant that she’d either have to ask someone else to do it, or wait until a later opportunity.
There was no way to know when a later opportunity might present itself, and Jasmine didn’t have that much time. The flu was getting worse, and without Eryn’s cure, Jasmine would be dead by the end of the week.
What little information Donia had found about Kallen Wallace led to an uncomfortable conclusion. She needed to talk to someone who had ties to the extensive criminal network in Jakarta. Someone she could trust to not expose her inquiry, which wasn’t likely to be anyone in her department.
Which meant that she’d needed to talk to her grandfather.
She hadn’t wanted to speak to him at all. No good would come from speaking to a fugitive crime boss like Fajar, but she needed his network.
It took nearly an hour to get a hold of him, ask for the information, and field his many attempts to find out why she wanted to find a low level fence like Wallace as quickly as she could manage, but finally, Fajar had given in.
“I can tell you how to find him, Caledonia,” he’d said with a sigh. “But you’re not going to like it.”
Fajar had directed her to ditch her uniform and don street clothes designed to help her blend in as she moved through the seedier parts of the city. She’d taken his advice.
A bar on one avenue led to an auto-detailing shop on another. Fajar’s network of contacts was widespread across the city, and though she hadn’t done as he’d asked and mentioned his name to aid in retrieving information, the people she’d questioned had answered anyway.
The next stop had been an arcade, then a small bodega, which had led her to a less than attractive motel, then back to another bar. Deep in gang territory, Donia felt the first stirring of concern attempting this alone, but she had to find Eryn, and that meant finding her brother, no matter where the path led.
Now, a half hour past 1am, Donia found herself ona well-lit side street in central Jakarta. It wasn’t bustling like some of the main thoroughfares with packed nightclubs and popular restaurants even at this hour, but there were more than a few pedestrians around visiting pop-up bars and street food vendors.
Halfway down the west side of the block was the shop she was looking for.
The sign outside advertised a fortune teller, but this was where the fence was supposed to be keeping shop.
A digital bell sounded when she opened the door. The shop was small – just deep enough for the door to open all the way and then the counter stretched the width of the tiny room. She closed the door and waited.
The walls of the shop were covered in astrological posters and horoscope charts. The counter itself was made of clear plexiglass, and it housed shelves of crystals, stones and trinkets advertised to improve luck, health and sexual performance.
Donia wished two of those things could be had so easily.
A thin, wiry teenager appeared. His face was tattooed, and his lips, ears, nose and one eyebrow was pierced. He was dressed in black, and frowned at her.
“You want your fortune told?” His tone was incredulous.
“Not really. I want to speak to Kallen.” There was no point in wasting time.
His eyes narrowed.
“Not tonight, kid,” she said in a no-nonsense tone. “I’ve got business, and it needs to be resolved now.”
He looked like he was going to refuse. She didn’t want to resort to dropping names, but she wasn’t about to lower herself to bribing the kid, so the choice was made. “Tell him Fajar advises that he take the meeting.”
The kid’s eyes went wide and then he turned to look at a corner above and behind her. Donia looked in the same direction and saw a small mounted camera.
A door she hadn’t noticed was there opened with a click.
Donia glanced at the kid, then at the camera, and then stepped through the door.
A long, dark hallway painted black and lit by recessed rope lights led to a stairway. She climbed two flights until she finally saw a door at the top of the stairs. It opened as she approached.
A tall man, too thin for the width of his shoulders and the size of his head, greeted her with a frown. “What does Fajar want with me?”
“Fajar doesn’t want to talk to you,” Donia said. “I do.”
As she got closer, she got a better looked at his features lit by the light from inside the room. She was stunned by the resemblance – he had the same jawline as his sister, though his was more pronounced. His features were so similar to Eryn’s they could have been twins.
“And who the hell are you?”
“I’m someone who really needs to find your sister.”
His frown deepened. He stepped back and went to slam the door, but it suddenly stopped. He looked behind it with annoyance as a voice carried out to the hall.
“Don’t bother, Kallen. Believe me, she won’t go away.”
Donia’s heart began to pound at the sound of the voice behind the door.
Kallen stepped out of the way, and Eryn stepped into view.
“Hello, Donia.” Eryn offered a shy smile. “You should probably come inside.”
Donia stood awkwardly as Eryn closed the door, the low thud sealing them all together in the room.
Kallen crossed his arms and stood with clear disapproval, as if the conversation would be quickly resolved and Donia would be sent on her way. Donia had no intention of going anywehre until she’d found a way to get what she came for.
Only Eryn seemed at ease, Donia thought, considering the tension.
“Come in and sit down,” Eryn said, and gestured towards a well-worn couch. “It’s late and you look tired. Cup of tea?”
The moment felt surreal. “Sure,” Donia said, nervous. “Please.”
While Donia stepped toward the couch, she glanced back and forth between Kallen and Eryn as the pair headed for the small open kitchen. Eryn put an old-fashioned kettle over an open flame, seemingly unfazed by Kallen’s anger. Donia was impressed – he was a foreboding man, but his bearing didn’t seem to be affecting his sister any.
She looked around the room while they were otherwise engaged. It was a spacious flat – perhaps the age of the building and the broken-down neighborhood allowed for more space. The walls were decorated with old propaganda posters and large oila nd watercolor paintings on bare, unframed canvas.
Kallen stomped back into the main living room as Eryn returned holding a tray with cups and a small stepping teapot. She leaned over the low coffee table and set the tran ont he flattest surface available in the midst of the stacks of books, tablets, magazines and newspapers.
Donia was surpised the the aroma of Moroccon mint filled the air. It was her favorite. She wasn’t surprised that Eryn had remembered. No, they’d shared enough meals over the last several months – each in her own apartment, seeing each other through the glass that separated them – for them to learn each other’s tastes.
Donia was surprised that there’d been any on hand, and wondered if Eryn had been expecting her.
“Thank you,” Donia said, the small smile she offered Eryn escaping almost against her will.
“You’re welcome.” Eryn sat down in the middle of the couch.
Her gaze stopped all Donia’s thought.
“How’d you find us?” Kallen interrupted the moment.
Donia looked at him, and narrowed her eyes. She was starting to dislike him. “I asked around.”
“Shit,” he mumbled.
Eryn let out a little laugh. She seemed to be the only relaxed person in the room. “Well, I guess you wouldn’t make a very good detective if you couldn’t track me down somehow, but I didn’t think you’d find me so quickly.”
Kallen nearly exploded. “She’s a detective?” He looked like he was ready to kill Donia or bolt – or both.
Donia prepared herself for an attack.
Eryn calmly reached for the teapot and poured Donia’s tea, then her own. “Not yet, but hopefully soon.” She looked at Donia proudly, then returned to her task.
“What is she doing here, Gen?” He glared at her sister. “She’ll arrest us both and we’ll be in deep lockup before first light.”
Eryn’s mood changed, and she set down the teapot with a loud clink. “Kallen, please calm the fuck down.”
Donia had never heard Eryn swear like that before.
“She’s not going to arrest us. She’s not in uniform, it’s the middle of the night, and she’s alone. Think.”
Donia realized that all those things were true, but she was still surprised to hear them. She wasn’t sure she wouldn’t arrest Kallen, but wondered how Eryn could be so sure. Then it occurred to her that Eryn was right – she wasn’t here to arrest anyone. She had other more important issues to resolve.
Donia replayed Eryn’s last words in her mind. “What do you mean so quickly? You knew I’d come looking for you?”
Eryn looked embarrassed, her eyes downcast at the tea cup nestled in her hands on her lap. “Our last conversation didn’t go well. When I had to leave, I couldn’t get word to you, but I thought – hoped – that you would wonder enough about where I’d gone to come looking for me.”
“I did.” It wasn’t the whole truth, but she couldn’t get into that yet. ” I need to talk to you about…” She paused.
“What is it?”
Donia looked pointedly at Kallen, then back at Eryn.
Eryn sighed, and looked at her brother.
He grunted. “You come up here into my house and now you want to toss me out of it?”
“And if you want me to leave without doing exactly that, you’ll back off.”
“Donia,” Eryn said, and reached out to touch her arm to calm her down.
Donia froze, but didn’t drop her eyes from Kallen. He backed down, turned his back on them both, mumbling angrily to himself.
Donia looked down at her arm in shock. She forgot about Kallen, forgot about her fatigue, and almost forgot why she was there in the first place.
Eryn was touching her. Eryn’s soft, warm hand was pressed gently against the skin of Donia’s arm.
She looked at Eryn, and whatever expression was written across her own face made Eryn slowly pull her hand away.
Donia didn’t want her to let go. She wanted Eryn to touch her again, and to ever stop.
She wanted more than that.
Eryn’s entreaty sealed the deal. Kallen sighed.
He walked over to the door., tossing parting words at Eryn. “I’ll be back by noon tomorrow, Gen. Link me if you need something.” He sounded kinder this time when he spoke to his sister, and Donia noticed that Eryn looked back at him with affection.
He nodded, and with one more glare to Donia, left the room.
Donia watched him leave, watched the door close, and stared at it for a moment as the sound of his footsteps down the stairs faded away.
She turned to look at Eryn, and felt the thunder of her heartbeat in her chest.
For the first time ever, they were alone in the same room.
Just the thought was enough to make Donia breath faster.
The fatigue of her search, the fear of Eryn’s whereabouts and Jasmine’s safety, and the heady air of being this close to Eryn all combined to short-circuit Donia’s body. Her legs were trembling, and she felt compelled to ball her hands into fists to keep them for grabbing Eryn and never letting go.
And then she remembered that this woman was not the one she’d thought she knew.
“Should I call you Genevieve now?” Donia guessed that was a low blow to start their first really private conversation, but she was still a little angry with Eryn.
To her surprise, Eryn’s face fell and the mist of tears filled the corners of Eryn’s eyes.
“Oh, no, Donia,” she said with a whisper. “Please don’t.” She reached out slowly, as if fearing Donia would slap her hand away at any moment, and tucked several loose strands of Donia’s hair behind one ear. “I want to be your Eryn.”
Donia was shocked to feel her eyes fill with tears of her own.
Just like that, all the things she’d been trying to hold in escaped with the next breath. The panic, the frustration and anger and helplessness. The fear that Eryn was in danger, and that Donia would never see her again.
“I was so scared for you, Eryn.” Donia closed her eyes, felt tears run down her cheeks as a sob escaped from her chest.
And then Eryn’s arms were around her, pulling her close, wrapping her up, melding her together. “I’m so sorry, Donia,” she whispered in Donia’s ear, and Donia couldn’t seem to stop crying.
With force of will, Donia stifled the sobs and pulled back enough to look at Eryn.
They were only centimeters apart, and she could finally look into her eyes.
Eryn’s eyes were brown – like honey or whiskey. A warm brown that looked at Donia as if she could do no wrong, even though Donia knew that wasn’t true.
Eryn looked at her lips, then in Donia’s eyes again as she brushed away the remains of Donia’s tears with her thumbs.
Without another word, Eryn closed the distance between them and pressed her lips against Donia’s, breathing in Donia’s gasp of wonder.
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