Tintin & co. are Herge's, but the changes made to them are mine. Yes, I'm sadistic that way. No superheroes here, no special powers. They're all ordinary people. The rest of the characters are mine. You wanna use them, ask permission. That way you'll get happy chocolate-dipped strawberries and free promotions in the process.
The style here is. . . different from my previous Tintin episodes. Just to let you know. I'd call it experimental but that wouldn't be true, since it's been tried by other people before. This continues from "Goodnight Girl", which you can find at lovely Luba's website: http://home.att.net/~lubakmetyk/non-x.htm#maelstrom If you're a new reader, no sweat. I think things are pretty self-explanatory in this story below that you won't have to refer to the previous ones. Though you can if you want to. ;)
WARNING: There are sexual implications here. Lots. And much bad language. If you prefer not to read about such things, please feel free to move along. Nobody holds it against you (although what "it" is depends on your imagination).
Thanks to Koolaid for helping out with all things Philippines (isn't he wonderful? Now everybody go thank him too). He provided such a load of information that I wish I could've used them all, and it makes me kinda sorry that I couldn't. Yay Koolaid. Thanks also to Crantz for pointing me in direction of that names website. And to Sascha for letting me finish this on her laptop. ;)
This long overdue fic goes out to Mel because she asked. And asked. And asked. And was amazingly patient throughout the whole time (and I *mean* amazing). Also to Crantz, who always makes me feel welcome whenever I'm on chat. :) This is also for Dr. Benway, who is *good* and has great feedback and makes me wish I can write like him. Not always a bad thing, you know. ;)
From: Tintin <[email protected]> Hi Chang. Just to tell you that I've arrived in Manila safe and sound. Once
again, *stop worrying.* I know you care, and I'm glad that you care, but really,
I'm all right. I can take care of myself (hey, who's the older one around here
anyway?). Don't worry, I won't forget my medication. And about the doctor's
appointment back home, I've already informed the Captain to postpone it for me.
He did kick up a bit fuss about it over the phone -- okay, a lot of fuss, which
makes it fortunate that I'm far across the globe from him -- but I told him as I
told you, the appointment can wait. This can't. If the police reports, eye-witness accounts, and our reseach are correct, our
"Mr. Rasch" should be appearing at an art exhibition next week. I plan to be
there. If I succeed in digging deep enough, we can link him to the Goodnight
Girls cartel and implicate him. I'll keep you posted. I just hope I haven't lost
my touch -- it's been a while since I've been in the reporting business. I almost feel guilty for the adrenaline rush. After this is over, I'll resume the search for my sister. Thanks for helping
out, too. Let me know if you find anything. Hope you do well in your finals, and
let me know how that physics class goes.
Yours ever, Tintin P.S. The Captain insists on coming to Manila too to accompany me. Actually, in
his words, to make sure I don't get into "yet another hair-brained Yeti-hunting
shenanigan, by thundering typhoons." I told him that the Philippines didn't have
Yetis, but he says it's the principle of the thing. I'm meeting him at the
airport in an hour.
To: Chang <[email protected]>
Date: 23:09 Jan 18
From: Tintin <[email protected]>
Hi Chang. Just to tell you that I've arrived in Manila safe and sound. Once again, *stop worrying.* I know you care, and I'm glad that you care, but really, I'm all right. I can take care of myself (hey, who's the older one around here anyway?). Don't worry, I won't forget my medication. And about the doctor's appointment back home, I've already informed the Captain to postpone it for me. He did kick up a bit fuss about it over the phone -- okay, a lot of fuss, which makes it fortunate that I'm far across the globe from him -- but I told him as I told you, the appointment can wait. This can't.
If the police reports, eye-witness accounts, and our reseach are correct, our "Mr. Rasch" should be appearing at an art exhibition next week. I plan to be there. If I succeed in digging deep enough, we can link him to the Goodnight Girls cartel and implicate him. I'll keep you posted. I just hope I haven't lost my touch -- it's been a while since I've been in the reporting business.
I almost feel guilty for the adrenaline rush.
After this is over, I'll resume the search for my sister. Thanks for helping out, too. Let me know if you find anything. Hope you do well in your finals, and let me know how that physics class goes.
P.S. The Captain insists on coming to Manila too to accompany me. Actually, in his words, to make sure I don't get into "yet another hair-brained Yeti-hunting shenanigan, by thundering typhoons." I told him that the Philippines didn't have Yetis, but he says it's the principle of the thing. I'm meeting him at the airport in an hour.
* * *
I think it was the mannequin that did it for me. When you find your best friend lugging a naked plastic doll into the hotel room you're sharing, you start to think that maybe it's time to find new friends.
Right now Lina's rifling through her suitcase searching for clothes for Miss Mann, as she calls our guest. She eventually emerges with a V-neck tank top and a leather miniskirt, and begins dragging them over Miss Mann's voluptuous body.
"Shouldn't you put underwear on her first?" I ask. Which is pretty scary, considering that is my first question about the mannequin. I never even asked Lina where she got it. So much for priorities.
"That would defeat the point of the joke, _magiliw_*," Lina replies, puffing as she jerks the miniskirt over Miss Mann's hips. She straddles Miss Mann to do this, hitching up her bright red formal dress in a very unladylike position. Plenty of stockinged thigh as the mannequin is sandwiched in between her legs. If only I had my camera now. . .
Wait a minute. I do.
I hurry over to my camera bag, where its contents are all arranged in perfectly aligned order. I'm nitpicky that way. Since I can't use my usual equipment for this take -- there's no time to set up lighting and everything -- I grab my digital camera instead.
It's fun using Lina as a subject. She doesn't mind what candid position I catch her in. Having been roommates for the past four years, we practice posing for each other a lot. I think she gets the better end of the deal, though. For my medium, it's only the setting-up that takes a lot of time; the snap of the camera, including extra shots for backup prints, takes up less than a minute. For Lina's medium, though, I have to stay rock-still for longer periods of time. Fifteen minutes if she's just sketching, a couple of hours if she's doing oils. It's extremely uncomfortable to stay still for so long if you're the type who gets pins and needles easily. Guess which type I am.
"Okay, I give up," I say, circling Lina as I click the camera repeatedly. I bend down briefly to catch a good angle. "What's the joke?"
She zips the skirt up Miss Mann's butt and straightens, satisfied. "Edward," she answers matter-of-factly, and raps the mannequin's left leg. "Isn't it lucky I got one with bent knees?"
Before I can answer, Lina tugs on the tank top and makes sure it's pulled down low enough to expose a good part of Miss Mann's plastic pectorals.
An Edward prank. I should have guessed. Lina is not Edward Clayborn's biggest fan. I can't say I blame her. I have known the man for two years now and he still doesn't pronounce my name correctly. He keeps calling me Ann-Jay, prolonging the "Ann" like he's calling for a lost dog. Sometimes, for revenge, I exaggerate my accent and pronounce his name as Oddwood. I don't think he gets it yet.
Edward said he would be picking us up for the pre-exhibition dinner at five. It's six-thirty now. I think I'll stomp on his faux leather shoes when he does get here. Then again, he's the one who ensures our next paycheck. Damn.
Lina has attributed his tardiness to J.O.S., or Jerk Organizer Syndrome. "It's Edward, _magiliw_*," she'd sighed at six o'clock. "Did you expect anything more?"
Right after she'd said that, she had gone out and returned ten minutes later with Miss Mann. Ten minutes. When somebody is able to get a naked mannequin and bring it up to your hotel room without any obstacles, in ten minutes, that's when you know you're dealing with a professional.
Then again, Lina is Pinay, so this is home for her. She probably knew what she was looking for and where to get it. She's familiar with Manila, and knows how to manuever her way around the city. Just like she's manuevering Miss Mann down onto the bed right now and spreading the mannequin's thighs apart. She separates them far enough so that the plastic joints in the groin area are close to cracking, but don't. She anchors the feet with two books from our hotel bedside drawer. The Bible is on the left foot and the Buddhist scripture is on the right.
"Lina, that is obscene."
"It's provocative. There's a difference."
I frown. Then as Lina turns away, I grab a quick snapshot of the spread-eagled Miss Mann, her feet pinned down by religious reading items. I'm sure I can use this photo as a political statement somehow.
Maybe Edward got stuck in traffic. Manila is well-known for being a crowded city, and being stranded in its hot streets isn't the most pleasant feeling in the world. It leaves its victims grumpy, mussy-haired, and sticky under the arms. Edward might be one of these people, and he's going to arrive here in a tux.
Hmm. I can't wait.
I suppose we should spare him a degree of empathy. It can't be easy organizing Thursday's art exhibition, especially considering our new environment. Most of the participating artists have never been to the Philippines, including yours truly. It's unfamiliar territory for us, and some of us are still unnerved by the sheer number of people jostling about in the streets.
We're also unused to the number of security guards all over town who search us on a regular basis. Magdalene Harris, the American oil painter participating in the exhibition, swears that the security guards enjoy groping her. I have my doubts on that theory, considering Magdalene's skin feels like wax paper. Then again I'm not fond of the woman. Besides, Lina says that Caucasians aren't searched as much as the locals are. Something about us looking less likely to be terrorists.
Lina checks her appearance in the dressing table mirror to make sure that her make-up isn't smudged. She glances at my reflection too. "You sure you don't want to change?"
I shake my head. "If they want to call me a bag lady with a poor sense of fashion, let them." Faded long-sleeved shirts are my thing. At least I'm wearing a long skirt for this event.
"They'll probably attribute it to eccentricity."
"No, that comes from living with you."
She grins and touches up her lips. I head for my camera bag to return my digicam, but then it occurs to me that there might be some good shots to take at the dinner tonight. The digicam is small enough to fit in my purse -- or my purse is big enough to fit the digicam, whichever way it goes. In any case, it's worth bringing along.
Lina smooths her dress one last time before nodding at Miss Mann. "So what are you willing to part with for the expression on Edward's face when he sees her?"
I stare at Lina. She looks positively devious. She *is* positively devious. "I'll buy you lunch."
"Fooh. Is that all?"
"It's all I can afford until somebody decides to buy my pieces."
She nods in empathic agreement. We're both nervous about Thursday's outcome. Sure, we love our art, but we also love the money that comes from our art. And in our business, the income is very iffy. Don't let the "if your passion for your work is strong enough, you'll get buyers" thing fool you. You can be passionate all you want but if nobody wants to buy your work, you're broke. Art equipment isn't cheap.
We have good days and bad days. Sometimes, for extra money, I submit my rejects to Hallmark to become greeting card covers. I'm considering making that my life career instead.
"Well," Lina concedes, "if he squeaks, you're throwing in a glass of _halo-halo_."
"Sure. Whatever you say." Whatever this _halo-halo_ thing is. Anything's worth seeing the expression on Edward's face.
Lina cocks her head to one side, then nods in affirmation, as if in answer to a little voice in her head. That's not the part that worries me. The part that worries me is that I want to meet that little voice and ask it if it has an older brother.
"He's here," Lina says. A moment later, somebody raps on the door.
I swear the woman is psychic.
"It's open," she calls.
Edward walks in, his mouth open and about to form words. As soon as he sets his bespectacled eyes on Miss Mann, however, those words consolidate somewhere in mid-trachea and he chokes. Hacking sounds ensue.
Lina smiles winsomely. "_Kamusta_**, Edward," she sings.
Lina never used to speak a lot of Tagalog when we were back in Britain, except for when she calls me "_magiliw_". It's sort of a pet-name that means "dear" or something like that. I think she's speaking a lot of the language now because we're in her home environment. She's planning to visit her family up in Quezon when the exhibition is over. I've agreed to come with her.
Then I catch sight of the man standing behind Edward, who is being given the same wide view as our dear organizer. He wears a tan suit instead of a tux, and has silver-rimmed glasses and a mustache. He looks politely speechless.
Lina spots him a split-second after me, and our mortified gazes meet. We clamp our lips shut and try to assume dignified expressions for the newcomer's benefit, something that's hard to attain considering there's a pantyless mannequin in a take-me position on the bed right in front of us.
"Ahhhh. . ." Edward tries to speak, and fails. He attempts another round. His Harry-Potter-like spectacles droop from the bridge of his nose and he nudges them up with a knuckle. "Ahh. . . Lina. Ann-Jay. This is, this is Mr. Rasch. He's, ahh, he generously contributed to, ahh, Thursday's exhibition. Mr. Rasch, this is, these are some of our artists. Lina Abay, who painted that, ahh, that marvelous piece called --"
"'Golden Fruit,'" says Mr. Rasch, his eyes gleaming. Or maybe it's the light reflecting off his glasses. In any case, I resist wincing on Lina's behalf. 'Golden Fruit' is a provocative nude. I don't know what impression Mr. Rasch is forming based on that painting and this show Lina's just given him, but I'm sure it can't be good for her reputation. Not that she bothers keeping one.
She maintains her composure, however, and holds out her hand. "Pleased to meet you," she says.
He takes her hand, doesn't shake it as much as just holds it. She is the one who finally pulls away.
"Mr. Rasch is, he is the one who purchased the, ahh, painting six months ago," Edward informs us before he succumbs to shock once more.
Lina turns to our visitor with wide eyes of surprise. "So you were the anonymous buyer. Thank you for buying the piece --"
"Thank you for painting it."
"-- oh, yes, you're welcome." She smiles, briefly nonplussed. "I was curious to know who bought that work. Why did you buy it anonymously, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Not at all," Mr. Rasch smiles. His mustache is dark but peppered with gray. A little long, but then again I'm no expert on men's facial hair. I wonder if his upper lip gets tickled everytime he makes a facial expression. He has a British accent, similar to Edward's, although his tan indicates that he spends time in warmer climates.
"It was supposed to be a surprise for a friend," he continues, "who was also bidding for the painting. I purchased it over the phone. As it turned out, I discovered that I liked the piece and decided to buy him something else instead."
"Oh, how flattering." Lina is very good at charming people, which is why she is often present at her showings. She's 40% of the reason why people buy her paintings. Me, I often stay away from my exhibitions. If I absolutely have to go, I go incognito. With my captivating demeanor -- sarcasm present here -- buyers are more likely to edge away from the room and run in direction of the sculpture section.
"It is an enthralling piece," Mr. Rasch goes on. "The subject's pose is fascinating. 'Vulgarity with class,' as my assistant puts it. Very well done. I hang it over my bed."
Oh, _fick_. Poor Lina. I resist an urge to choke, or laugh. At this moment I can't tell. Lina's smile surprisingly manages to stay in place.
Mr. Rasch turns and smiles at me. I think I see Lina breathe a sigh of relief. "And you must be. . ." he begins.
I answer quickly before Edward can butcher my name. "Antje."
"Ahh," he nods, his "ahh" different and more solemn than our organizer's. He smiles and takes my hand; I'm not so sure I want him to. Fortunately he only holds it briefly. "The photographer who goes only by her first name. I wonder why that is. You must tell me one day."
I fix on a Lina-like smile, which I'm sure looks extremely false on me. Edward is already giving me an odd, nervous look. "If you say so, Mr. Rasch."
Mr. Rasch tilts his head, a quizzical expression briefly crossing his face. "You are from Germany? You don't sound like it."
Does he expect me to say "ach" all the time and pronounce syllables with plenty of spittle? How am I supposed to sound?
*Remember, he's a contributor. A good one, according to Edward. Be nice. Now is not the time to reveal your charming personality.*
"I've spent the last six years in Britain," I say. "That could be it."
He nods. "I must tell you how impressed I am with your Political Athropy series. They convey a certain sense of. . . rawness."
"Thank you. It is very kind of you to say so."
Edward finally recovers from his semi-comatose state. "Ahh, yes," he says, and coughs. "We should move along now. The taxi is, is waiting for us and dinner, the dinner will be, it will be starting soon. I, er, I apologize for being late. I had to pick Mr. Rasch up on the way, and traffic was harrowing. . ."
"Don't worry about it, Edward." Lina pats Edward's thin shoulders. I can see him try to suppress an involuntary twitch, and I smile. He's still unnerved by Miss Mann's current exposure.
Mr. Rasch extends his arms to both me and Lina, bowing his head in good-natured gallantry. "Allow me the honor of escorting you lovely ladies to the car."
I hesitate. Lina doesn't make a move either. Finally she places her hand on his elbow, forcing a polite smile, and I've no choice but to do the same. Edward leads the way as we leave the hotel room, locking the door behind us.
There's no reason to be feeling this way. Rasch looks like a typical businessman in his suit, glasses, and balding head. He has said nothing impolite throughout the entire introduction. He has done nothing rude or sexist towards Lina or me, and has been the very picture of courtesy this whole time.
I just don't like the way he looks at Lina.
* * *
Tintin could not recall the last time he had worn a tux. Probably at Syldavia during Ottakar's ascension to the throne, but that was years ago. He didn't remember it feeling so uncomfortable then. He pulled at his collar to loosen his bowtie.
Captain Haddock had managed to get them tickets to the pre-exhibition dinner hosted by the Committee of Fine Arts. The tickets didn't cost a lot, considering the exchange rate of the peso, and besides, the Captain was a wealthy man.
The dinner would provide them with an opportunity to find out more about the mysterious Mr. Rasch -- such as what he looked like, what his personality was like, and why a man who contributed a generous amount to an art exhibition would want to be the ringleader of a prostitution ring.
Tintin frowned at the thought. At least, he hoped Mr. Rasch was the ringleader, but it was possible that the man was just another underling, and the big boss was part of a larger, international operation. If that was the case, Tintin's work would be far from over Already it had taken a while for him and Chang to piece together information based on the case in Malaysia, the one that had involved the kidnapping and forced prostitution of Southeast Asian girls. They had been dubbed, rather unkindly by their kidnappers, the Goodnight Girls.
If this turned out to be something not just confined to Southeast Asia but in fact something even bigger. . . Well, it wasn't going to be easy finding out who was behind the whole thing. But that didn't mean Tintin wouldn't try.
One of the girls they had rescued recalled someone mentioning the name "Mr. Rasch" during her abduction. Tintin didn't know if that was the man's real name or just a pseudonym. In any case, the men arrested by the Malaysian police had confessed the same thing, and more, which helped determined Mr. Rasch as the leader of the cartel, at least in the Southeast Asian region. They eventually traced his current location to the Philippines, where Tintin was determine to incriminate the man.
"They'd better serve whiskey here," the Captain muttered as they approached the Shangri-La Hotel. The dinner was being held in its Presedential Hall. "If they serve wine or champagne or -- blistering barnacles, God forbid -- the poison they call mineral water --"
"Invitations, please?" the head waiter asked solicitiously at the hall entrance.
The Captain grimaced and showed them to him. Tintin took the opportunity to glance at the guest list, written in large letters and displayed at the door.
The throbbing started then. Not a sharp pain, just a dull, incessant throb. Tintin drew in a deep breath and leaned on the cane Haddock had given him. It was the Captain's favorite, ebony with a gold-knobbed head. The Captain used to use it a lot, back in the times when he was finally getting comfortable with his wealth. He had even taken to wearing a monocle then, changing it for a new one every three hours in order to "catch a fresh glimpse of the world." Then one day Nestor, Haddock's butler, showed him how much he spent each month on monocles alone. The Captain was so appalled that he finally succumbed to wearing glasses, something that he'd refused to before because he thought they made him look old.
Tintin could hear the Captain questioning the head waiter about the choice of beverages. He resisted an urge to bend down and rub his knee, since he knew the Captain would automatically notice. Haddock kept a sharp eye on him nowadays, worry creasing wrinkles around his eyes. Instead, Tintin tried to distract himself from the pain by studying each and every name on that list.
Tintin blinked and wondered if his luck had changed. There was a Mr. Rasch on the list, under "Sponsors." He had thought that "Mr. Rasch" as a real name would be too much to hope for, but there it was. This made the investigation so much easier.
His eyes trailed down the list, no longer searching for anything, just an automatic reflex as a result of relief. He perused the names under "Artists," wondering if they featured anyone he knew.
He froze and stared.
The name "Antje" was there. No last name, just "Antje." That didn't necessarily mean anything. According to the notation in parenthesis, the artist was German. It was a common enough German name.
It had been his sister's name, too.
The Captain came up behind him, looking pleased. "The old chap decided to serve whiskey after all, seeing that I asked for it. A good move, I say. You must always strive for what you want. Persuasion is everything." He glanced at Tintin's rigid stance and followed his gaze to the guest list. "You found your Rasch fellow?"
"Yes." It came out in a whisper. "And someone else."
"Who?" The Captain frowned and leaned forward, peering. His eyes fell on the name under "Special Guests" and he instantly reared back. "*Thundering typhoons!* She's here!"
"You know?" Tintin asked faintly.
"Blistering barnacles, I do now! The Milanese Nightingale, hah. More like a peacock to me! The Bianca -- I mean, the Signora -- Bianca Castafiore is here!"
The Captain began pacing, muttering frantically and devising various escape plans to use. Tintin was too numb to share in his panic.
*It's just a name,* he told himself. *It doesn't mean anything. It might not even be her.*
Still, it brought back memories.
* * *
Luckily the dinner is a buffet, so Lina and I manage to give Mr. Rasch the slip while lining up for food. Edward thinks we're going to mingle with the guests. If that's his choice of delusion, well, so be it.
I don't know where this mood is coming from. Maybe it's the fact that I had to sit beside Rasch in the car. Edward sat in front with the driver, and Lina, sneaky creature that she is, sat on the far end of the rear seats so that I was in between her and Rasch. I had to be the one squashed up against that bulk of a man, my calfs leaning against his.
It's not like he behaved like a pervert then, because he didn't. He didn't touch me except for when he was helping me get in and out of the car, and he was a perfect gentleman about it. Then again, I don't think I'm the one he's interested in.
Throughout the trip I kept imagining Rasch lying on his bed, smoking a cigar, while 'Golden Fruit' hung above his head. Then I'd picture his assistant -- a sexy blonde? A well-toned stud? -- coming in and joining Mr. Rasch in bed, admiring the piece of 'vulgarity with class.' They would tumble back and forth across the mattress, and the subject above them, her ankles crossed and her thighs open, would be forced to watch, unable to look away.
I don't usually think this way. Really. I blame the weather. Hot and humid does a lot of things to your imagination.
Maybe the mood comes from something else. Maybe it's the fact that I'll be joining Lina in visiting her family in Quezon after Thursday's exhibition, and family has always been a sore point with me.
. . . I prefer not to think about that.
Lina has gone to get us drinks, but I think she got sidetracked by a sponsor. They're probably busy chatting right now, and if Lina plays her cards right, she'll get plenty of support for Edward's Committee of Fine Arts. Not that it's done purely out of goodwill, of course, because as I said, she is not fond of Edward. But I think she's making up for the stunt she pulled earlier, so that Edward won't be able to rail at her afterwards about Mr. Rasch witnessing Miss Mann in heat.
My gaze travels over the crowd to seek her out. I spot a bright red dress which is probably hers, but then it's blocked by another figure. A built-bodied male. I recognize the color of his suit. Tan.
Mr. Rasch. He's heading towards Lina.
I know I shouldn't worry. Lina can take care of herself, and frequently has. She wears stiletto heels for a reason.
Still. . .
Another face crosses my line of vision, about fifteen feet away, and I try to peer around it. I don't want to let that Rasch out of my sight. But the face refuses to go away, forcing me to look at the person. I prepare my most frigid look so as to throw him off -- I excel in giving "back off" vibes -- but one look into this person's eyes and I freeze.
They're eyes that I recognize all too well, because I have spent the last ten years staring at their paper version on the front page of national newspapers. They're eyes that I have not seen in real life, face-to-face, for ten whole years. Eyes belonging to a man who stands wordless, unmoving, staring back at me, his lips parted but unable to say anything.
I don't want him to say anything. I don't want to hear it. He stands fifteen feet away, but he could have been a whole world away. He often is.
His name is Tintin, and he is my brother. I hate him.
* * *
She recognized him. At least, he could only guess that she did, judging from the hostility apparent on her face. Tintin nearly didn't recognized her himself. She had changed so much from the girl he once knew. The long hair was gone, now it was scruffy-short and darker. She was no longer scrawny, but had gained some weight -- not that she was stout, just firm-boned.
He knew the eyes, though. They hadn't changed at all. Dark, intense, unwavering, always serious. She was the darker-toned sibling while he got the blond hair and blue eyes. She used to joke in private that he was the ray of sunshine and she was the eclipse. Together they would form the midnight sun.
She used to tell him a lot of things in private. Then in public she would resume a flat, uncompromising expression that revealed nothing of what she was like inside. She didn't like showing much of herself to strangers. She didn't trust easily.
The way she was staring at him right now, he could be one of those strangers.
He finally found his tongue, but before he could speak she turned around and vanished amidst the crowd. He wanted to run after her, but she was quick, and he was hampered by his knee. He would have called out to her, but her name, after so long of being unpronounced, felt heavy in his mouth.
He was still shaken by the emotions that had flickered on her face before she'd left. Such intense hatred, but behind that was also. . . betrayal? And hurt. As if he had broken all his promises to her.
A shadow fell across him and he jerked up, but it was only the Captain wielding a shotglass of whiskey. "Loch Lomond," Haddock proclaimed proudly. "They have Loch Lomond in these scattered islands! My life is complete."
When Tintin didn't reply, Haddock lowered the glass. "What is it?" asked the Captain. He glanced around. "Have you seen Rasch?"
"No," Tintin murmured, remembering their purpose for being here. He had nearly forgotten. He should be getting back to work --
No. He had been getting back to work for almost half his life. He had neglected his family for years, never sparing them a word, never *seeing* them, because there was always something more important out there. Always something more urgent to take care of, some life at stake, some mystery afoot. He had always assured himself that he could resume family duties next time. Always "next time" and "in the future."
Only now, as he looked down at his knee and cane, he wasn't sure he'd have a future.
This time he knew what was more important. He stepped in direction of Antje, her tall frame betraying her location easily. He didn't look away from his target. "Captain, could you go find out about Rasch instead? There's someone I have to see."
Haddock frowned, puzzled, but nodded in assent. "Who are you looking for?"
Tintin was already wading through the crowd. "My sister."
He heard a short pause behind him before Haddock finally burst out, "Your *sister?*"
* * *
I'm shaking. I don't want to be shaking. He doesn't deserve that right. I try to push him out of my mind by searching for Lina, but dammit, I'm shaking.
I don't know how long we had stood there staring at each other, but I do know the first word that had popped into my mind. *Bastard.*
Of course, I had to hastily retract the thought, since it's an indirect slur to our mother. I have always thought that the hierarchy of insults is rather unfair, because "bastard" and "son of a bitch" always demean the mom. Unless somebody calls you names like "dickhead," the only person who gets insulted is a woman.
Okay, fine then. He's a dickhead.
The next thought that follows is rather traitorous. *He looks so pale.*
But I don't want to be concerned. I don't want to care. He left us, he left *me* all those years ago, and now suddenly he shows up for. . . what? What is he here for?
Because he couldn't have known that I would be here. We haven't been in contact for ages -- he knows nothing about what I do now, where I live, who I live it with. He doesn't care.
I know all about him, though. I've kept track of him all these years. It's hard to ignore a brother who's always in the news, reporting the outcome of one adventure or another. It's even harder when you've developed an obsession over him, to the extent that you keep a scrapbook of newspaper clippings featuring all his articles and pictures.
We haven't had direct contact with each other in at least four years. Back when I was in high school, he'd sent me sporadic letters, letters that later slowed down to one note a year. Telling me hi, bye, study hard, he's doing fine. I had replied with youthful enthusiasm. By the time I entered college, though, I was the only one who wrote letters, telling him how I was doing. He was much too busy at that point to do something insignificant as writing back to his little sister.
It's funny. Back then I only followed through with high school because he had. I had admired him that much. Then later I worked hard to get into college because he hadn't. Teenage worship had worn down to resentment at that point, and I wanted to be anything other than like him.
I stopped writing during my second year of university. He never contacted me to ask why. I could've been in a coma for all he cared.
At the end of that same year, I dropped out. I left no forwarding address. I guess that was the only form of revenge I could take.
I don't know if he ever discovered that I dropped out. Maybe I don't want to know. Maybe he's spent all these years thinking that I fully graduated from college after all. Maybe he didn't even bother to find out when my graduation date was, or make a note of it in his calendar to attend the commencement ceremony.
Was it so hard for him to remember me? I may not have been as exciting or interesting as Rasta-whatsisname or the many badguys that Tintin's encountered, but we're family. Surely that has to count for something?
Lina, where are you?
Dammit, I don't want to be crying. I *don't.*
I miss him, and I hate him for making me miss him.
* * *
Captain Haddock hadn't expected the dinner affair to be bad. Yes, he and Tintin were supposed to be looking for the Rasch fellow -- he knew that. The plan, roughly, was to find out who Rasch was, head for the man, discreetly ask to talk to him alone, get the police, and arrest him.
Fairly simple enough task, if you asked Haddock.
Of course, life rarely found satisfaction in letting Haddock accomplish simple things. A rescue mission up Kathmandu had led to his being jumped by the Abominable Snowman. Another rescue mission had gotten him under house arrest in Tapiocapolis. It wasn't just rescue missions either. A simple trip back from the cinema led to his being stranded on a raft in the middle of the Dead Sea. His head still hurt from trying to figure out how exactly *that* had happened.
He firmly believed that there had to be a footnote somewhere in Heaven stating, "Do not EVER let Haddock have it easy." It was the only rational explanation for his luck.
Then again, Tintin was always involved in those adventures too, so that should be a big clue as to how Haddock had ended up in those situations in the first place.
This time was supposed to be different. There were no guns or evil megalomaniacs involved, at least not directly. Just find a certain man, arrest him, and amscray.
So much for good intentions.
He was accosted by Signora Castafiore five minutes after Tintin had left him. The woman seemed to have a built-in homing signal for all things Haddock. If she hadn't caught him so off-guard, he would have run screaming from the hall.
Well, maybe. Captains did not scream. They bellowed.
"My dear Hammock!" she cried, almost singing the words a la her opera music. Haddock suppressed a cringe. Her thick hair was pinned up in Princess-Leia-braids, and she was wearing a flamboyant gown that practically shouted 'prima donna.' "_Cara mia_! This is such a surprise, no? What are you doing here?"
Haddock opened his mouth to answer, but Castafiore did not stop to let him. "I was just telling my dear Erma -- Erma? Erma! Where are you? That girl, always getting lost. Good help is so hard to find these days, my dear Hassock -- Hairlock -- uh, Harrock --"
"N' roll, Signora," said Haddock graciously, taking the hand she extended to him. "Harrock n' roll." His eyes discreetly scanned the hall for the nearest possible exit. *If she starts singing the Jewel Song from 'Faust' I'm going to --*
The Signora fluttered her multi-ringed fingers at the Captain. "The organizers, they asked me here to perform my famous Jewel Song from 'Faust'. . ."
"But I had to refuse them. . ."
"My voice, you know. I must take good care of it. Cannot strain what earns one a living, no? It broke the organizers' hearts to hear my reply, but I as themk, what can you do? This voice is insured. I tell them, I will come, but no singing. My concert next month, *there* you will hear my voice. But you silly man, you still have not told me why you are here!" She beamed and scratched at Haddock's beard, cooing. "Keeping secrets from me, my dear Haggot -- er, Harlot?"
Heaven *definitely* had a footnote on him.
"Just visiting, Sigorrah -- I mean, Signora," Haddock replied. "I, uh, they asked me to come too. To make an appearance."
"Ah, the beasts," she sighed. "The price of fame. Everyone always asking you to promote their affairs for them. They think we have no. . . what do you call it? Integrity, yes?"
"Bloodsuckers," Haddock agreed heartily. "I would like to meet one of them, though. We have, uh, issues to discuss. His name is Rasch, would you happen to know him?"
Silly question. Bianca Castafiore knew everybody.
"Rasch?" she asked. "Rasch? Mercy me, let me try to remember. So many people, you understand. One finds it hard to keep so many names in one's head. Oh, yes, Rasch! I do not know him personally, but the organizers speak so well of him. He contributed a large sum towards the exhibition, you know."
"Oh, of course," said Haddock, even though he didn't know.
The Signora searched the crowd, fluttering her fingers as if they could somehow part the throng by magic. "I think I saw him just now. Ah, yes, there he is! You see him, my dear Handfork?"
Haddock craned his neck to see. All he managed to catch was the back of a tan suit disappearing around the corner, with a dark-haired local girl hanging onto the man's arm.
The Signora made a disappointed moue. "Oh dear, he is gone. A pity."
"I'll see if I can catch him." The Captain took Castafiore's hand. "_Grazie_, Signora."
She tittered. "_Prego, cara mia_. You will come to my concert next month, no?"
* * *
Tintin found his sister in the narrow, secluded corridor that led from the Presidential Hall to the restrooms. Antje was leaning against the wall, covering her face, her shoulders shaking as he reached for her. "Antje?" he began.
She whirled around at the sound of his voice, slapping his hand away before it could make contact with her. Her cheeks were streaked with tears, and her eyes flashed with fury.
"How dare you," she hissed, her voice as hard and sharp as glass. "How dare you come back."
Tintin was stunned for a moment. "Antje --"
"Why are you here? Who asked you? How did you get invited?"
"The Captain got us invitations. Captain Haddock, he's --"
"I know who he is. Why did you get them?"
Tintin hesitated for a long moment. "We're tracking down a man, and his name was on this dinner's guest list."
Antje stared at him for endless minutes, and then turned away bitterly. "Of course," she said. "An investigation. I should have known."
"Antje, it's not like that."
"No, it's *exactly* like that. It has always been like that! Go find your man. Leave me alone."
She rested her forehead on the cold wall, refusing to look at him. Tintin started to reach for her, but then drew back, knowing that she couldn't stand his touch. That knowledge hurt.
"I *have* been looking for you, Antje," he said, and for some reason the words felt heavy in his mouth. Like his tongue was being coated in melted sugar, blackish brown and burnt. "I've been looking for you for three months."
*Ever since the diagnosis.*
She did not respond. He tried again. "I didn't forget you. I just. . . didn't know where to look for you, that's all."
Didn't know where his own sister was, whether she was even in the same country or living across the ocean. Might never even have found out if it wasn't for this chance occurrence. He was going to be Brother of the Year, all right.
Antje's voice, when she finally spoke, lost its glass-sharpness. Instead it was soft and broken. "Three months. You didn't go after all."
He didn't understand what she meant.
"Not even a little note in your planner," she went on, although she seemed to be talking mostly to herself. "Could've been in a coma for all you cared."
"That's not true." Tintin stepped forward, closer, and grasped her shoulder with the free hand that wasn't clutching his cane. "That is *not* true."
"I've always wondered," she stated in clipped tones. "Whether you ever called or came to the ceremony. Now I have my answer."
"What are you talking about? Antje, listen to me --"
The Captain picked that moment to arrive. Tintin could have cursed. "There you are!" said Haddock. "Blistering barnacles, Tintin, I've been looking all over for you! I've found our man!" He paused on seeing Antje, then tipped his Captain's hat at her. "Beg your pardon, ma'am. We must be leaving now."
Antje smiled brightly, falsely, at him. "Quite all right, sir. Sailors have their orders, after all."
Haddock looked offended. "I am a Captain, ma'am."
"Captain," Tintin said firmly, "if you could call the authorities and have them apprehend him, please? I need to speak with my sister."
"Your sis. . ." Haddock ended the half-word with an O-shaped mouth. "Oh. How do you do, ma'am."
"Very well, thank you," Antje replied evenly. "Please do not let me keep you. I understand you have a man to catch."
"Dammit, Antje," Tintin began in frustration. "Listen for a minute, will you?"
"If you could talk *later,* Tintin?" Haddock gestured with his head towards a certain direction. "Rasch is outside the hotel as we speak. We don't have much time to catch that bloody platypus before the valet brings him his car!"
"Damn." Tintin scowled.
"Wait a minute," Antje cut in. "Did you say Rasch?"
Haddock nodded. "Yes. He has a local girl with him, so they might be heading towards his home. Or for a seedy motel. Do they have those in the Philippines?"
Tintin saw his sister's eyes widen, her neck, shoulders, and fingers stiffening. If she hadn't been so adverse to contact with him, she would have been clutching Tintin's arm in tight anxiety. Something was wrong. "Antje? What is it?"
"What color was the girl's dress?" she asked.
"Red." The Captain frowned, black bushy brows nearly meeting as one. "Why?"
"He's got Lina." Antje pushed herself away from the wall and headed for the corridor exit. Her running was hampered slightly by her long skirt. "The bastard's got Lina. What are you waiting for? Rasch is getting away!"
Tintin and Haddock glanced at each other in bewilderment before they set off after her. Tintin could ignore the brief burning in his knee because his medication had just kicked in. As long as the painkillers did their job, he could run with only a slight limp, and more importantly, he didn't weigh anybody down.
It helped that Antje was shouldering past anybody who got in her way, thereby leaving a clear path in her wake for Tintin and Haddock to follow. Haddock managed to catch up with Antje and even surpass her, since he wasn't hampered by anything like skirts or pain. Tintin lagged only slightly behind with little need for his cane.
"Hamrock?" Tintin heard Bianca Castafiore call. "Tintin, is that you? Mercy me, what is the matter?"
"Ann-Jay!" a man with Harry-Potter-glasses cried in horror. "What in, what in the world are you doing?"
"Call the police!" both Tintin and Antje yelled. Tintin did not miss the ironic look the Captain cast them over his shoulder.
They reached the hotel entrance steps just as a white BMW -- used as the hotel "limo," judging from the imprinted name on its doors -- departed from the scene. It drove off without a backward glance, and was consumed by the humid darkness.
Haddock tripped on the final step and was sent sprawling on the asphalt driveway. He let loose a slew of curses that involved "double-suctioned octopus" and "bald disfigured tarantula." In other words, typical Captain Haddock profanities.
"_Fick_!" Antje yelled as she tried running after the car. Failing that, she ruined her shoes by kicking them against the asphalt. "_Fick_! _Scheisse_!"
Tintin doubled over, resting on his cane, trying to catch his breath. Beside him, the doorman looked very nervous as he watched Haddock and Antje shout.
"They're a little vexed," Tintin told him, panting slightly. "If you could get us a car or a taxi?"
The doorman bobbed his head quickly as he immediately hailed another hotel limo -- or rather, BMW. "Where do you want to go, sir?"
"Wherever that other car is going."
Haddock and Antje had to desert the driveway in order to let the BMW through. Both them and Tintin got into the car and slammed the doors shut as the doorman rattled off the address to the driver. The driver nodded once before setting off.
"And be quick about it!" the Captain added, clutching his bruised cheek. He was seated in front with the driver. "Speed up! We can't let that no-nuclei parasite escape! Corner him, ram him down if you have to! Can't this matchbox go any faster? Blast that amoeba! Rastafarian! Paracetamol!"
"Sir, you must please be calm," said the driver. "Security might stop us in the road. It will not help if you are drunk."
The Captain was so appalled that he was speechless for a moment. "Drunk! *Drunk!* Me, who only had one drop of whiskey tonight --"
Tintin tuned off from the Captain's rant and turned to look at Antje beside him. The knuckles of her tightly clenched fists were turning white in the dark interior of the car. Her jaw looked like it could have been hewn from stone.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
She nodded curtly. "If that pervert hurts Lina. . ."
"How do you know Rasch?"
She told him. About being part of the exhibition, about Rasch coming with Edward into the room she shared with Lina. Tintin was surprised to find out that Antje's line of work was in photography. The guest list had stated that she was a visual artist, but hadn't said which area. If asked to guess, he would never have correctly predicted her choice of work. There had been no hint during their growing up years that Antje was even remotely interested in photography, let alone make a career of it.
It disheartened Tintin to think that he knew so little of his sister. He had expected her to change, yes, but not this much. He chided himself on his naivete. Reality was so much more different than cautious imaginings. It hurt a lot more, too.
When was the last time he had seen Antje? He tried to count back. Fourteen. She had just turned fourteen when he'd left; he remembered because he had to go for his new job the day after her birthday party. She had been despondent when he'd said goodbye; despondent, but not miserable. She hadn't known then that he would never come back.
He hadn't meant to stay away. At least, not initially. He had been hired by the local newspaper as a junior reporter, and was too busy to come home to visit. He wrote to Antje, however, and continued to write when he was posted to Britain as a foreign correspondent. Eventually he became a British PR -- permanent resident -- in order to gain proper job benefits. And slowly his letters began to dwindle.
It broke his heart everytime he received something from Antje in the mail. Guilt, because he knew he wasn't answering any of the questions she had posed to him in her missives. Guilt, combined with an all-too-brotherly urge to wrap Antje up in their grandmother's handmade quilt to make sure that nobody would ever hurt his little sister.
She wrote about everyday things: the neighbors making comments about her grubby clothes, how the girls at school were getting all the boys. . . Tintin would read the letters, refold them, put them back in their envelopes, and then put them inside the shoebox in his wardrobe where all her other letters were kept. Then he would walk out of his apartment and face murders and suicides and corruption.
That was when he began staying away from home on purpose.
That was when he began sitting down at his desk, pen poised over a blank piece of paper, and just staring at it for an hour because he knew he couldn't write to Antje about what he was doing. He couldn't tell her that American gangsters had taken a contract out on his life, or that he was wanted in Borduria. He couldn't answer his sister's rambles about suburban life with detailed explanations of how he had seen his acquaintances die.
Tintin had known that Antje was growing up. He just hadn't wanted to be the one to make her.
His letters soon became short notes. Sometimes he didn't even write, because there was nothing he could think of that would spare her from the brutality and harshness of his world. He hadn't wanted to be the one to taint her.
Her letters had continued, then started to fade away as well. A few times, once when he was in China and another when he was in Scotland, Tintin had looked at the phone and been tempted to call Antje, just to see how she was doing. Just to hear her voice, because it had been years since he had done that.
But he never called, because he was either on the run or because he was. . . too scared. Of what? Rejection? Change? Or the fact that she might not even need him anymore?
She certainly didn't need him now.
After returning from a complicated adventure with the Captain and Professor Calculus, he'd finally decided to call Antje. He was going to take the first step. He was going to do what he had wanted to do all this time.
But then he got whisked away by the Professor to a launching site, where he spent a few months preparing to be sent to the moon, literally. All his good intentions took a temporary backseat to Calculus's enthusiastic plans. He never could tell the Professor no.
By the time he came back and called Antje's dorm, he found out that she had dropped out of university. No forwarding address had been left.
That was when his world began to shift. That was when the walls started to tumble. His gut had clenched and twisted, making him feel sick. He'd phoned their grandmother who still lived in Germany, who had taken care of them ever since their parents had passed away, but she didn't know anything. Antje hadn't contacted her either.
He'd lost his sister then. Now he had found her, but he didn't know if he could ever get her back.
* * *
When the newspapers had quoted Captain Haddock in their articles, I had thought they were exaggerating when they mentioned words like "ectoplasm" and "knickerbockers." I had thought they were taking liberties with his language just because he claimed to be an old sea-dog.
I'm listening to his spew of words now, and I will say this: I shall never doubt reporters again.
Then again, my brother is one. I haven't seen his articles in the papers for a long time now, but I'm assuming it's because he's directing all his attention towards this case.
So help me God, if Rasch touches Lina. . .
He *has* touched Lina. He'd have to in order to get her into the car with him, alone. But why didn't she stop him, yell, cause a ruckus, something? Lina's perfectly capable of fighting back. She always tells me that knees and elbows serve a purpose in life, and not just to simplify limb movement.
He could have drugged her. He must have drugged her. Maybe Lina took a spiked drink from Rasch, never expecting that the creep would try anything in a crowded hall.
I *knew* he looked at her funny.
"Why are you looking for Rasch?" I ask my brother. "What has he done? Murder, espionage?"
Tintin grimaces. A lock of dark blond hair falls over his forehead, but he doesn't notice it. His eyes, the same blue as they always were, are serious as he measures his words.
*You're the ray of sunshine, I'm the eclipse. Together we form the midnight sun. . .*
I'm so taken aback that I almost don't catch what he is saying. It's been a long time since I sang that little song from our childhood.
"We think he heads a prostitution ring that spans Southeast Asia," he says. "I was in Malaysia when I stumbled upon some girls meant for his cartel. Further research indicated that the ring runs across Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand. Its caters exclusively for tourists, expats -- that is, expatriates -- and people who come to Southeast Asia specially for the purpose of having sex with Asian girls."
"The Asian female stereotype," I say. I think Lina mentioned it to me before. Many Western men get a kick out of banging Asian women, thinking that the women are docile, submissive lotus blossoms. Doing anything the man says, her duty to please his every whim. The heart of man's ideal fantasy.
Some of those idiots even think that Asian women are tighter "down there" because they're born with extra muscles in the nether regions. Lovely to know such forward-thinking people exist around us everyday.
Tintin nods grimly. "Our sources say that he's the leader of the whole thing. He was careless enough to use his real name during transactions with his employees, and their testimonies are enough to land him in jail for a very long time with no hope for parole."
My fingernails bite into my palm, leaving half-moon marks on the flesh. "So that's why he kept looking at her like that."
I nod. "He looked at her too closely, held her hand for too long. He must have an Asian fetish."
"Possible, but not necessarily. Rasch is a businessman. He could be in this just for the money."
I don't want to think so. I want to think that there's something psychologically sick and evil about him, so that they have a reason to lock him up for life.
Tintin ventures hesitantly, "Are you close to Lina?"
"No, I flap about like a headless chicken everytime a total stranger gets abducted." I rein in the sarcasm with effort and look out the window. "She's my roommate. And my best friend."
In front of us, Haddock is urging the driver to go faster. The latter complies just to get Haddock to calm down. I don't think it's working.
"Are you two. . . involved?"
"Involved in what?" I look at Tintin and see the expression on his face. I explode at the concern -- concern that is ten years too late. "*No!* We're best friends! We've been best friends for years! She was there when I needed her, unlike some people." I hate him, I really do. I let ice creep into my tone because dammit, I want him to hurt. "She is the only family I have."
Tintin stills and stares at me for a long moment. I'm the one who finally looks away.
Haddock has stopped shouting as well, which only adds to the silence. I think only a chainsaw can cut through this moment.
Lina was there when I dropped out of university. She's been there for me for the past four years. Tintin only started looking for me three months ago. I guess that was the only time in his schedule that fit.
Why did he bother?
"What happened three months ago?" I ask, although I don't want to speak to him. I need the silence as a buffer, as protection.
"What?" he asks.
"You said you started looking for me three months ago. What happened to make you do it?"
I hear his breathing change as he hesitates, as he tries to word it nicely, and all of a sudden I don't want to know. But the fat is in the fire. What do I have left to lose?
His tone is too calm when he speaks. It's the kind of tone that one uses to convey bad news to the recipient. "Three months ago I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma," he says slowly. I look at him and he takes my expression to mean uncomprehension. "Bone cancer, Antje. I have bone cancer."
For a moment, my world freezes. I think he's still speaking but I'm too numb to catch all the words.
". . . usually treatable form of cancer but. . . spread into. . . surgery or chemo that I. . . six months. . ."
I look at his knee, then at his cane, ebony with a gold-knobbed head. His face, pale for one who has traveled so much, brings out the shadows under his eyes. And it all hits me at once. I start screaming, and I don't scream. I *don't.*
"*Damn you!* How dare you do this? You couldn't even come find me for the sake of finding me. You couldn't even search for me because you wanted to *see* me. You had to wait until you were dying from a disease before you decide to look for me! How dare you. You have no right. *You have no right!*"
The car interior is still ringing with my voice when the driver interjects, "Ma'am, *please.* No drinking in the car!"
I start to shout at him too, but Haddock turns around in his seat and cuts me off, his teeth bared like a bulldog's. "*Stop it,* blast you!" he bellows. "The world isn't about you! Your brother has spent half of the time he has left --" he chokes on the last few words, "-- spent time looking for you, and all you can think of is yourself. You selfish, self-centered --"
"Why did he bother looking for me?" I yell back. "To make sure he passes on with a clean slate? That everything is forgiven so that he can leave with a clear conscience --"
"What makes you think he's done *anything* that requires your forgiveness?" Haddock violently jabs his finger in the air. "That boy has saved hundreds of lives without seeking a reward! He has laid down his life for his friends time and time again, and you *dare* make yourself out to be the martyr?"
"Stop it!" Tintin shouts at us both. "Stop it this instant!"
The car suddenly swerves and spins twice before crashing against the foot of a hill at the side of the road. All our heads jerk to the side like badly played marionettes. Whiplash. Headlights blind me before I hear another sound, either a tinkle or a muffled crash, I'm not sure, coming from outside. Our bodies are still wavering as we raise our heads and glare at the driver.
He glares back, looking frustrated and more than a little justified. "Sirs, ma'am," he says tightly, "we have cornered your car."
I look out my window and see another white BMW with its engine against the foot of the hill. Its driver looks like he's still in shock, his mouth as wide open as his eyes. Rasch and Lina are in the back, blinking and struggling to get their bearings. All of them are unhurt; one of them is making a moaning sound, but I can't tell who.
Then it hits me. We've got them.
Haddock, Tintin and I are suddenly all out of the car, rushing towards the other vehicle. Our driver remains seated where he is; I think he feels it's safer there. Haddock snaps open one of the passenger doors while Tintin opens the other, and I'm the one to catch Lina as they haul Rasch out.
Her eyes are half-lidded; she *has* been drugged. I want to ask how but I don't, because that can wait. Nobody's in any condition for interrogations right now. I just hold Lina and squeeze my eyes shut, telling her that everything is going to be all right, but I'm not sure she is the one I'm trying to convince.
My eyes reopen at the sound of police sirens approaching -- called earlier by the hotel people, no doubt -- and I see Haddock holding Rasch down, Tintin standing at his side. And I realize that Tintin didn't bring his cane along from the car in all the rush. He leans against the BMW, panting, his palm against its metal side, his face ashen. The area around his eyes are tight with strain.
I don't notice the tears until I find Lina's long hair sticking to my cheeks. I'd like to think that they're tears of relief, but even I'm not that good at pretending. There's nothing to be relieved about. Things are still going wrong. They've been going wrong for so long that I'm beginning to wonder if they've ever been right.
Maybe it's just the adrenaline. I hear they do all sorts of things to your hormones.
I want to be angry, I want to be so angry, but all I can feel is sorrow for something -- someone -- that I haven't spoken to in ten years. I want time to hash things out, to scream and shout and fight, to hug and apologize and forgive, to find out what we've lost and see if we still have anything left to gain. But time is not something that either one of us has anymore.
And that hurts, because it's not fair. It's so. Goddamn. Unfair.
If you're gone
Maybe it's time to go home
There's an awful lot of breathing room
But I can hardly move
-- "If You're Gone" by Matchbox Twenty
* magiliw = dear/beloved
** kamusta = what's up
halo-halo = a kind of dessert. Refreshingly yum. ;)