Be careful what you wish for when you’re ten years old because it just might come true. I’ve had a complicated relationship with my younger sister Laney since we were kids, but I never wished for her to wind up hospitalized from a falling drone.

Until the ICU nurse called about Laney, my Monday had rocked. Hard to beat clear blue skies and seventy-five degrees on a beautiful late August day in Silicon Valley, and even though my work kept me stuck inside, at least my latest software build appeared to be bug-free and working well.

I hung up to rush to the hospital, only then realizing I’d forgotten to ask the nurse about Laney’s condition. Screwing up phone calls was one of my special skills that only came in handy with telemarketers.

When I reached the hospital, I hurried inside, more concerned than I’d want to admit to Laney. Over the years, our relationship had survived on a steady diet of teasing, and it had only begun to deepen since her husband’s death.

She moved to town a few months ago, so her and her two daughters were around more often. I hadn’t interacted this much with my sister, or young children, in what seemed like ages. I don’t see my own two kids often since they started college across the country, close to where my ex-wife moved. I haven’t fully accepted that they’re old enough for college anyway. I also haven’t fully accepted that I’ve crossed forty.

An unoccupied kiosk responded to my query for Laney with a map to room 512. Darting through the crowded lobby, I hopped into an elevator. As I got off and walked to Laney’s room, the quiet struck me—no loud beeping monitors or garbled announcements over the loudspeaker. An electronic sign reading “L. Tran” glowed next to room 512. Taking a deep breath to slow my rapid heartbeat, I knocked softly. “Hello?”

No answer. I stepped through the door, peeking around a movable privacy partition, and, to my surprise, found an elderly Vietnamese woman sleeping in the only bed.

While I like to tease Laney about her advancing years, she doesn’t turn thirty-eight until next month. She’s also white. About thirteen years ago, Laney married a nice Vietnamese-American man and took his name. A good guy, he always shared a laugh with Laney over people’s reactions when a white woman with long, dark, curly hair and hazel eyes showed up for a dinner reservation under the name Tran.

I did a double-take as it struck me. Why was this old lady in Laney’s bed? Had Laney already died and been replaced?

I calmed my overactive imagination, took another deep breath, and stepped back outside the room to double-check the sign. It definitely listed her name. Was it a mistake or software bug? Annoyed, I rubbed the back of my neck and considered my next move. Down the hall past the elevators, a police officer stood talking to a nurse. Perhaps they’d know how to find Laney.

They paused their conversation as I stepped in front of them. The cop was a few inches taller than me, and although I don’t usually notice men, I paused at his Hollywood-style good looks. He held himself erect in his uniform, crisp, neat, and fitted to his muscular body like it had come straight from the tailor.

I’d like to think my clothes also fit that well. Other people might comment on some gray in my slowly receding hairline and a tendency toward a dad bod, but I saw none of that when I stepped out of my shower each morning. Self-delusion was another of my skills.

Uncle and Ants: A Silicon Valley Mystery, Marc Jedel

We earn a commission from when you make a purchase using the button above.