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Invisible Smoke

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The last leg of their journey went off without a hitch, and Serena found herself exhaling with relief when their baggage had come off the carousel without any damage or any piece being missing. The number of connections that they had made had worried her about that, though she was prepared to buy new clothing if that had been a necessity. "All right, let's find our driver."

"Driver?" Cameron asked, looking a bit befuddled.

"Yes. You didn't seriously expect us to try and wrangle a taxi or public transportation when we arrived, did you? There was no way I would feel comfortable navigating that on a full day of airplane travel, so I called ahead and arranged a driver for us during our length of stay. This will be safer for us in the long run, too."

He nodded absently, as if still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that she had planned so many steps ahead, and she wondered if he had just assumed that things would magically fall together once they were on another continent. Shaking her head a little, Serena took the lead down the concourse, knowing that the children would follow after her like ducklings. It wasn't until she saw her name being held up on a tablet that she truly relaxed, and she raised her hand as she made her way over to the man. "Doctor Campbell?"

"Yes, that's me. I also have Cameron and Charlotte Dunn with me, they should be on your manifest as well."

He tapped around on the tablet, nodding a little as he checked off all their names. "All right, are you ready to head to your hotel?"


Before she could say anything else, the driver had taken hold of her suitcase and then grabbed Charlotte's as well. "I'm Shermarke, and I'll be guiding you on your stay here. From the email that was sent to me, I take that you are not here on a pleasure trip?"

"That is the case. My best friend was working with the military and Doctors Without Borders, and apparently there was an incident a few weeks ago, and she was declared missing in action, presumed dead. Her children didn't like the intel that they were given, feeling like there was more to the story than what their family friend had told them. I agreed that we should come and find out more for ourselves. I know that it won't be an easy thing to do, but I'm hoping that we can get a little more closure than what we currently have."

He nodded solemnly, and Serena felt a sudden kinship with the man, as if he knew what it was like to lose someone close to him and that he understood why they had made such a long journey to a different continent. "I heard about that incident. There are still four people who are unaccounted for. Is that why you're heading to the base in a few hours?"

"Yes," she replied as they reached his vehicle. Cameron helped him load the luggage in the boot while she and Charlotte climbed inside. Serena chose to sit in the front of vehicle, since she wanted to continue building a rapport with Shermarke. "Do you mind hanging around the hotel for a few hours whilst we get settled in and changed? I know that you declined the offer of a room there while we are here."

"I live five minutes from the hotel, so I'll just head over as soon as you text me, if you don't mind."

"That will be fine," she replied as he began to drive. "I do have a question, though. Is what I'm currently wearing considered appropriate? I tried to pack conservatively, since I couldn't find too many answers on the internet, and I don't want to offend anyone whilst we're here."

"You look fine, Doctor. But thank you for asking, since there are some people who wouldn't take cultural mores into consideration." Serena relaxed a little as she nodded, relaxing back into the seat and watching the city pass them by as he drove. "All right, here we are. Would you like help with your baggage?"

"No, I think that we have it. But thank you, though. I'll text you in a few hours, when we're ready to head to the base. Though I'll need your number." He nodded and pulled out a business card, giving it to her. "Perfect. We'll see you soon."

Getting out of the vehicle, she waited for Cameron and Charlotte to join her at the front of the vehicle. Cameron managed to get all their bags over to her side, and she grabbed the handle of hers and began to make her way inside, knowing that they would be right behind her. There was a pleasant looking woman standing behind the front desk, and Serena went over to her, a small smile on her lips as she reached her. "Hello, I'm Serena Campbell. I believe that you have two rooms reserved for me?"

The woman gave her a small nod as she typed on the keyboard, and then looked up at her once more. "Yes, however, both rooms only have one bed." Serena glanced back at Cameron and Charlotte, hoping that that wouldn't be an issue for them.

"That will be fine, we're all family, after all," she replied as she dug out her credit card and a copy of her passport, knowing that it would need to be on file. The woman quickly entered her information before giving her credit card back and then handing over two keycards.

"Your rooms are on the fifth floor, at the end of the hallway. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to call down to the front desk, and I'll take care of it."

"Thank you," she murmured before turning and heading over to Cameron and Charlotte. "Let's get on the lift, and then I'll tell you about our next adventure."

Cameron frowned a little as he lifted their bags, Charlotte carrying her own. "What do you mean adventure?" he asked as she pressed the up button on the lift.

"Well, it seems that while there are two rooms available for us, there is only one bed in each room. So…one of us is sharing a bed."

"I'll share with you, Serena. I haven't had to share with my brother since we were babies, and it would feel awkward now." She laughed a little as she nodded in agreement. "Besides, it will be nice to pretend…"

Her words drifted off, and Serena wondered what she had been about to say. Not wanting to pry, she just stepped closer to Charlotte, allowing her to dictate what would happen next. Unsurprisingly, she took hold of Serena's free hand and threaded their fingers together as the lift continued upwards. Finally, they reached the fifth floor, and she stepped out, not letting go of Charlotte's hand as they walked to the end of the hall. "Here, Cam, you take the room next to us, we'll take the one on the corner."

"Fine by me," he replied as he took the keycard from her hand and swiped it in his lock before entering his room.

"He needs to sleep," Charlotte said offhandedly as Serena let them into their room. "Ooh, that is a large bed. I won't have to worry too much about kicking you during the night." Serena chuckled as she brought her bag over to the bed, sinking down onto it before flopping onto her back and staring up at the ceiling. A few moments later, the bed dipped beneath Charlotte's slight weight, and she turned her head to look at the young woman, giving her a questioning look. "He gets short like that when his sleep isn't good, or he hasn't gotten enough. I don't think that he was completely comfortable on the overnight flight like we were. And…what I was going to say in the lift is, well, you're my last connection to my mother, and I just want to be close to you. Because you knew her so well."

"I don't feel like I did."

"You loved her, she loved you. I'd say that you knew her very well. So, in a way, I feel closer to her when I'm near you. Even though she's not here, a piece of her still rests in you." Charlotte turned her face so that she was looking up at the ceiling, reaching out for Serena's hand as she let out a deep sigh. "Do you want to shower first?"

"I think so, yes." Serena squeezed her hand before letting go and sitting up. Opening her suitcase, she rummaged around in it for her toiletries bag and a fresh outfit before going into the bathroom. Setting her things on the sink, she went over to the shower and took a good look at the controls before she got in, knowing that it was likely to be different from her shower at home. Once she was satisfied with the workings of it, she stripped off her clothes and let them fall into a pile on the floor as she stepped into the shower and began to wash the grime of travel from her body, hoping that they could find out what happened to Bernie as quickly as possible. And yet, she knew that she would relish every moment spent with Cameron and Charlotte, growing closer to them as they spent time together in Mogadishu.