My Last Day Without You
Chapter 10: Run

by Quinn D.K.

"I fucked up. I fucked everything up."

Ezra was barely aware that he was back inside his sister's townhouse, staring blankly at her carpeted floor as Violet quickly arranged a platter of Indian food in front of him.

"You need to eat something. And you didn't fuck anything up."

"Vi, I saw his face. I saw how done he was. I should've fought harder for him. Or maybe I fought too hard. I should've-" The heat behind his eyes came back. It stung this time, vicious and sudden. Ezra collapsed into something - faintly guessed it was Violet's shoulder - and surrendered to the tears he'd been working so hard to contain.

"Sorry," Ezra muffled into the fabric of her shirt.

Violet stroked his hair. "Don't be. It's okay."

When Ezra was ready, they ate. Violet watched him carefully, the way a nurse observed her patient. "If you want to talk about it..."

Ezra swallowed his mouthful of lamb biryani. After a beat, he went through the whole argument. He chose his words delicately - careful not to make himself sound like he was in the right, or to vilify Henrik. Rhubarb jumped into his lap after he finished.

Violet pet the grinning the animal as she mulled over the fight in her mind. "Okay, so he's a dick."


"Sorry, but any man who stomps all over my baby brother's heart doesn't hold very high esteem with me. If he wasn't four times my size I'd wring his damn neck."

Rhubarb stared up at Ezra with sad, yearning eyes. He's only mimicking his owner, he thought.

"Okay, fine," Violet allowed, "He was only acting like a dick in that particular moment. But did it seem... over? This is it, goodbye, wham-bam thank you ma'am?"

"Driving away without even saying a word seemed pretty final to me."

Violet's eyes drifted to the ceiling and her mouth tightened. Her 'thinking' face. "Dickish behavior aside, I honestly don't think he was mad at you. He was mad at the situation, which doesn't excuse anything. But something was triggering him."

"He said something like... 'This isn't the first time this has happened'. But I don't know what he meant."

Her thinking face deepened. "Did Henrik ever talk about his last boyfriend?"

"Do you ever talk about exes on a first date, Vi?"

"I'm just asking. Xavier mentioned it was touchy subject for him. I think..." Violet drifted off but came to a silent conclusion in her mind. She reached under the sofa for her laptop. "Here. The Grayson Sibling Detective Agency is re-opening after a long, long hiatus."

Ezra laughed despite his dour mood. Inspired by a well-worn VHS copy of Harriet the Spy, he and his sister had started a junior detective agency in their childhood. It didn't amount to more than rummaging through the ravine behind their house with a pair of dollar store magnifying glasses, but it felt authentically noir to them.

"What are we looking up?"

"I'm YouTubing Henrik." She pulled up a list of hockey videos with titles like 'Compilation of Henrik Ford Goals (COMPLETE)', 'Henrik Ford's 7 Career Hat Tricks', and 'The Viking's Ultimate Highlights'. There were numerous interviews and fan tributes. Each video tallied at least thousands of views - several with hundreds of thousands.

"Very celebrated career," Violet whistled. "I don't entirely know what some of these words mean, but I'm assuming they're all good."

He almost grinned at a video called 'Henrik Ford's Top 5 Hockey Fights'. The man was quite the prolific brawler, it seemed. Ezra made a note to watch that video when he felt better.

"Look at this one. It's from a year ago." Violet clicked a link - 'Henrik Ford Shuts Down Reporter (Awkward!)'. She read the video description text. "The Viking gets defensive with a reporter at post-game presser following game 2 of the Western Conference Finals."

The video began in a conference room with Henrik, Taggert, and a couple other players seated at a long table in front of an audience of reporters and photographers.

"What do you say in response to being called a hero and role model in the LGBT community?" asked a muffled off-screen voice.

Henrik - who was sporting longer hair but a shorter beard - glared at the off-screen reporter. He whispered to Taggert before leaning into his microphone. "If your questions aren't about the game we just won, I invite you to leave. That's the politest I'm going to be about it."

A cold, awkward chill swept over the room. Violet hit stop.


"Yeah. Yikes."

She pointed at one of the recommended videos. "Wait, look at this." She clicked a link called 'Shunned ex Patrick speaks out about Henrik Ford'.

Ezra's eyes widened at the screen. "Shunned ex?"

"No one comes out of the closet without a few skeletons following behind..." Violet trilled in that gossip-y tone of hers.

The video loaded to reveal the set of Dateline, where Lester Holt sat across from a handsome man around Henrik's age, a tanned, well-coiffed business type with sharp, serious eyes. The caption beneath his name read 'PATRICK WILLIAMSEN, 30'.

"I think this is what we've been looking for." Violet paused the interview before it could start. "You ready for this?"

He stared at Patrick's face. The man looked unsettling, hyper-focused, like a sniper trailing his prey. Ezra didn't like to judge based on appearances, but it was hard to imagine this was someone Henrik was ever romantic with.

With a tense nod, he let his sister press play.


"Sit up straight. You slouch like a caveman."

Henrik corrected his posture as Marta, the severe Public Relations woman that management had flown in straight from New York, watched him with through vintage cat-eyed glasses. She marched across his hotel room with short, calculated steps.

"Femme effrayant," Xavier suppressed a whispered giggle in his ear. They'd both been sitting on his bed and listening to Marta speak for the past five minutes as Taggert observed silently.

"Now," Marta said with raised finger, "At the start of the conference, I feel that one general, catch-all statement of remorse upfront before questioning will be the most effective approach. Mr. Taggert?"

"Agreed," their coach said.

"Mr. Ford," her eyes snapped to Henrik, "Tell me how you'll start."

He scratched the back of his neck. "I don't really know how."

Marta's face pinched. "Mr. Ford, it's my job to enhance public perception of you and the Portland Knights. But I won't be the one in front of the microphone in half an hour. The words have to start from you."

Henrik sighed. "I would like to sincerely apologize..."

"Shoulders, Mr. Ford."

He straightened them out. "I would like to sincerely..."

"No, no, no. You're so stiff. You're like a cadaver."

"First you're a caveman, now you're a corpse," Xavier snickered.

Henrik cleared his throat and tried again. "I would like to sincerely apologize for the events that myself and Ezra Grayson-"

"Wrong." Marta took off her glasses and rubbed at her tight, drawn face. "All wrong. You are not to mention Ezra's name at any point. Do you understand? You do not wave a lit match around gasoline."

"Listen to her, Ford," Taggert added. "No 'E' word tonight."

Henrik looked at his shoes pressing into the hotel room carpet. "Why don't you just tell me what to say, then?"

Marta checked her watch. "At this point, I don't think we have any other choice."

"That was a joke."

She ignored that. "I'll jot down the messaging for you on a flashcard and you'll read from that. Understand?"

It didn't feel productive to argue, so he nodded as grudgingly as possible. Marta took her purse and left. A silent Taggert followed soon after.

Xavier rose from the bed and stretched. "Who knew Ilsa She Wolf of the SS was still alive and kicking after all these years?"

Henrik bent until his bearded face was in his hands. The last hour had been catastrophic. He wanted so badly to decompress and process - but time kept ticking forward and the only way he could keep up was to stumble along.

"Hank. Talk to me."

"What's the point? They're just gonna tell me what to say."

"You know you don't have to do this."

"Not if I want to close out the season, Xav. We're right on the edge of playoffs. If our sponsors pull out because of me... fuck. I don't know what I'll do. I'll be letting down our men. Our fans. Everyone."

Xavier paced, listening. "But what about you?"

"What I want doesn't matter."

"C'est des conneries! I saw your face when we were driving away from Ezra. I've never seen you look that way before and I never want to see it again. You've only ever done what's best for the team but the moment you get what you want - what you really, truly want - you tear yourself away from it. And I'm tired of watching it. You think you're the only one being torn down today? Think about who you left back on that driveway in North York. You couldn't even turn around to face him. So don't say it doesn't matter. Just stop the bullshit, Hank!"

Henrik's face lifted from his hands. Xavier had never talked to him like that before. Hell, none of his teammates had. He was the usually the one doling out the hard truths. "I don't know what to do, Xav." His words dwindled in the air, lost, hopeless.

"Do you still care about him?"

"Of course I do." Thinking about Ezra's face as he turned to leave, the last words they exchanged... it gutted him. Destroyed him. But he had to push it back. He couldn't break down so soon before a presser.

"Then don't walk away from him, Hank."

Henrik looked up to find his own quiet desperation reflected on his best friend's face. "What if he doesn't want me to come back to him?"

Xavier thought for a second. "If your beard hasn't scared him off already..."

Henrik tried not to smirk but the impulse was too strong. He flung a pillow at Xavier, who narrowly dodged it.

"I'm gonna take a quick shower," Henrik said. "I'll meet you in the conference room?"

"I don't think Taggert wants me down there. But promise me you'll think about what you're going to do? And that you'll think very, very carefully?"

Henrik squared his large shoulders. "I will."

Xavier nodded, "Good," and watched him step into the bathroom. Not long after, he heard the sound of running shower water. Xavier started to leave but the sight of Henrik's phone on the bed made him stop.

Without thinking, he grabbed it.


By the time the video reached its end, Ezra had a major headache. His comparison of Henrik's ex-boyfriend Patrick to a sniper was inaccurate - the man was more like a shark, devouring every question with a wide, unsettling grin full of gleaming white teeth. Every few seconds, Patrick adjusted his tie, smoothed out his hair or readjusted the lines of his trim silk jacket. He seemed to relish his time in the spotlight and grew increasingly agitated as his Dateline interview drew to a close.

Patrick talked a lot but revealed very little. The most intimate thing he disclosed was that he and Henrik they argued a lot - about the future, about Henrik pretending to be straight for the public, about their mismatched personalities and careers. The only interesting thing about Patrick, frankly, was that he briefly dated a closeted athlete.

"He seems... slimy," Violet said at the end of the video. "Like if he took off that jacket there'd be nothing but green scales underneath."

Ezra was too distracted to be properly amused. "So this is who Henrik thought I turned out to be. Some gross, weasely asshole who was willing to sell him out the second I saw dollar signs." He slumped against the couch at the horrible thought of it.

"You told him you rejected NBC's offer."

"He was still upset."

"He didn't have the right to be upset."

"That's not fair to him, Vi."

"What, now you're defending the man who broke your heart?"

Ezra looked away, agitation and a horrible, crushing emptiness enveloping him. Rhubarb yipped and sprung off Ezra's lap as he left the room.

"Hey, Ez..." Violet said weakly at the image of her brother disappearing into the hall. The headache she'd been nursing since this whole debacle began had only increased in pressure, threatening to push entirely through her skull. She only wanted her brother to be happy - seeing him so upset and hopeless made her hurt in a way she never felt before.

As she dug into her purse for a bottle of Ibuprofen, something vibrated on her coffee table. Ezra's phone. She saw Henrik's name on the caller ID and her stomach flared with an intense anger. Before she knew what she was doing, Ezra's phone was in her hands and then pressed tight against her ear.

"Unless you're calling to apologize to my baby brother - the boy who stayed by my side night and day when I was hospitalized with pneumonia, who wouldn't hurt a fly, who gets horribly upset when he sees dogs tied outside on the street in the hot sun - then I don't want to hear what you have to say right now."

"But-" a male voice started.

"You've dealt with some shit in your past. I get that. But that doesn't excuse the way you treated him. In fact, what I'd like to do is find a stepladder, climb onto it, and then fight you. And if that doesn't work, I'll fight youwith the stepladder. In high school I totally knocked out the front teeth of a girl in field hockey so don't think I'm not capable of-"

"Violet," Xavier interrupted from the other line. "It's me. It's not Hank."

Her eyes went wide, her voice quietly conspiratorial. "Why are you calling from Henrik's phone?"

"Why are you answering Ezra's phone?"

Violet pivoted toward the hall and scanned for signs of her brother. Rhubarb tilted his confused face. "Just tell me what's going on."

Xavier took a breath before he answered. "I have an idea."

Henrik looked down at his pants and frowned.

After showering he changed into a new sweatshirt but found all his trousers had been thrown into his suite's laundry. The only pair left was the suit pants he'd worn all day during his escapades with Ezra. To wear them now was foreign and weird. The residue of a past life clung to them.

Strolling through the hotel corridor toward the elevator, he felt like Frankenstein's monster - casual up top and stiffly formal below. His fingers brushed the wool material and a rush of senses flooded him: Ezra's hands trailing his body, the tip of his tongue navigating the zipper, those eager eyes piercing through him, so intense and curious and green. The memories were just as vivid now as when Ezra first crossed his line of sight in that damn cafe.

Fuck. The events back at Violet's townhouse locked him a vice he couldn't shake loose. He had been locked in 'hockey' mode during that argument, his reactions swift and curt, his instincts telling him to dodge, weave, escape. Run. He didn't have a 'boyfriend' mode yet - didn't have the capacity to reflect and listen. And it cost him big time.

"Captain!" a jovial voice shook Henrik out of his thoughts. He turned to find the smiling faces of two Portland Knights players, Nicholas McCullough and Lukas Bjornlund. They were younger than him and definitely moved and spoke at a pace that reflected their eager youth. He clasped shoulders with Lukas and affectionately slapped the back of Nicholas' buzzed scalp - a little ritual of theirs.

"Fuckin' hell," Nicholas shook his head, "Been a pretty wild day for you, big guy."

"Can't believe out of everyone on the team, you're the one that all this shit happens to." Lukas mimicked his brain exploding beneath his long blond hair.

"I know, right? Shy, grumpy, press-hating Viking of all people."

"Of all people," Lukas echoed, "Woulda thought Xavier'd be the one to land on TMZ first. That seal is broken now."

"Remember that four day yacht trip he took with that Victoria's Secret girl?" Nicholas guffawed and punched Lukas in the shoulder, both of them momentarily forgetting who they were speaking to. "Taggert was fucking pissed."

Henrik couldn't exactly blame his men for feeling a certain 'charge'. It had been the most press the Knights had gotten all season, even if it was the wrong kind of attention.

The elevator dinged. Henrik stepped inside and held the door open. "You boys coming down to the conference room?"

Nicholas shook his head. "Taggert didn't want anyone else at the table tonight."

"We're gonna watch the TSN broadcast from our rooms."

Henrik suppressed a worried grunt. He didn't need the thought of his teammates bearing witness to his PR-mandated apology coiling through his already stormy mind. After bidding his teammates farewell, Henrik let the elevator door close and tried to relax.

"Ground floor, please." A female voice behind him. Henrik nearly jumped half-way up the elevator wall. Marta stood in the corner of the carriage and scribbled something onto a flashcard. "I said, 'Ground floor', Mr. Ford. I'm assuming we're both heading to the same place."

"Jesus, you scared me." He pressed the lobby button.

"Wouldn't be the first time a client has told me that. Regardless, your timing is fortunate. I'm just putting the finishing touches on your apology. It's intentionally brief. I'm well aware that professional athletes aren't comfortable with reciting long passages of speech. But it's heartfelt and point driven. Here."

She handed him the card. His forehead wrinkles deepened as he scanned Marta's neat, tight handwriting:

'I recognize that my conduct today has been unprofessional. I really want to apologize to the organization, my coach, my team and especially the city of Toronto and the fans. I take full accountability for my actions. This is something that never should have happened and I promise it will never happen again.'

Henrik repeated one particular line to himself: This is something that never should have happened. He was about to sit in front of a microphone and say to the world that he and Ezra should never have met. Never should have crashed that Zamboni during their first kiss, never should have played Strip Truth or Dare, never should have opened themselves up to the possibility of being happy together...

Marta watched him think. "Is this a reasonable statement, Mr. Ford? Let me remind you that any answer aside from an affirmative one will put you in the crosshairs of your organization's sponsorships." When he said nothing, she sighed with great difficulty. "Your teammates, Nicholas and Lukas - how would they perform after the suspension of their stalwart captain? How much would your entire team suffer without your leadership? I may not appear to know anything about your sport, Mr. Ford, but I know enough. I know that the Knights have made it to playoffs every season since you've joined them. That's a very impressive ten year streak. I know you are proud. And, I suspect, proud to a fault."

Henrik fought the overwhelming desire to crumple the flashcard between his fist.

She continued, "You are not being asked to martyr yourself tonight. You are simply expected to perform damage control. You've already been told, numerous times, what might be at stake if you do not. And allow me to remind you that you have put yourself in this rather uncomfortable position. Not anyone else."

Ding. The elevator doors parted to reveal the hotel lobby. Marta left without looking at him. "I'll meet you in the conference room, Mr. Ford."


Ezra intended to get in a short nap as Violet drove him to Starbucks.

The whole day had drained him to the point where he could barely lift his chin, so when his sister pitched the idea of grabbing coffee to take their minds off things, he jumped at the chance. He knew the Knights' conference would be airing soon and he wanted to be far away from a television set when it happened.

So when Ezra woke up in the passenger seat of his sister's car and saw the massive outline of the swanky, ultra-luxurious Fairmont Royal York Hotel outside his window, he thought he was still dreaming.

"Vi?" he called, still in a groggy half-sleep. The sun had just set and the city was cast in a darkening purple glow that threw off his internal clock. "I don't think there's a Starbucks here."

His sister pulled into a side street off the hotel and stopped by the curb. She was tenser, tighter than she looked at the start of their drive. "No, there's not."

"Why did we drive all the way downtown for coff-" His words skidded to a halt when he saw Xavier, incognito in a hoodie and sunglasses, waving them over from the hotel's side entrance.

"Don't freak out," Violet said in a tone that completely, utterly freaked him out.

"What are- why are- why did you- what is-?" Ezra struggled against a seatbelt that suddenly felt way too tight against his chest.

"Xavier and I think you should talk to Henrik."

"When the hell did you decide that?"

"Ez, listen to me-"

"No, no. Get me out of here. Now."

"You need to talk to him. I know you didn't like the way you two left things."

"Are you kidding right now? His conference is going to start any minute. Anything I say is just going to lead to an awful ultimatum. I don't want Henrik choosing his career over me!"

"You're not forcing an ultimatum on him. That's not what's going to happen."

"You don't know that."

"What's the alternative here? Doing nothing and letting him disappear from your life?"

He found the seatbelt clasp and released it. It didn't stop him from feeling strangled and confined. "I've been fighting all day for what I thought was right. I fought PopViral, it got me nowhere. I fought Taggert, it got me nowhere. I can't fight with Henrik. I have to pull back before I make it worse."

Violet leaned against the wheel. "Ez." Her golden brown hair curtained her tired face. "I just don't want to see you like this anymore."

When he looked at her, he was surprised to find tears in her eyes. She never once cried in front of him. Ever. "Vi..."

"I don't know the right thing to do here either, okay?" She wiped at her eyes, annoyed at her naked display of emotion. "I just didn't want you closing yourself off and running the other way. You actually have a choice."

Her hand found his and held it. The gesture was small but it warmed him, opened something inside him he'd been trying to wedge shut.

"I can't tell you what to do, as much as I want to sometimes." She blackened the back of her thumb with tear-wet mascara. He almost smiled. "I'll support any decision you make. Honest."

"I know."

Violet eased off the wheel and composed herself. "Only you can decide what's worth fighting for, Ez."

"I know."

Her grip on his hand tightened. Not enough to hurt, but enough to let him recognize the urgency in her following words. "So what's it going to be?"


Ezra waved to knowledge Violet as she peeled away from the hotel and drove off in search of a parking space. Xavier greeted him by the curb with a genial pat on the back. "Everything okay, my friend?"

"I don't know yet," Ezra answered honestly. He hoped his brave-face was convincing. "Does Henrik know that I'm...?"

"No. But it's best that he doesn't."

The brave-face crumbled. "I don't know if I can do this."

"Please, you came all the way here."

"What am I supposed to say?"

"Speak from your heart. Hank - he is Swedish, his compétence in such matters is close to zero." He held the door open. With much reluctance, Ezra stepped inside. Xavier led him through a nondescript maze of corridors - meant for hotel employees and maintenance personnel, if he had to guess.

"I don't want him to think I'm making him choose me over hockey."

"He wont think that."

"Are you and my sister hooked into the same hive mind, by any chance?"

The corridor opened into the Fairmont's lobby, a magnificent palace of expensive marble and art-shrouded walls. Xavier stopped. "Do you want to talk to Hank?"

"I do. But I'm scared that it'll push him away."

"You're worrying too much. Speak from your heart, like I said. Be true." He pointed to an opening in the lobby directly across from them. "The presser is in the big conference room down there, but Hank's in the meeting room a few doors before it. He's by himself. Just go to him, my friend. And talk."

Ezra's palms began to sweat. He pushed passed his mountain of uncertainty and moved. He crossed the lobby, dodging important and rich looking men and women until he was in the opposite hall, and then in front of the meeting room door. It hung slightly ajar, offering Ezra a view of the small space inside. A tall, bearded man sat at the round table with his back to the door.


Trembling, he nudged the door open another inch. His mouth went dry. Henrik studied some kind of card while he rubbed the side of his scalp, completely oblivious to the world around him. Ezra drew in a courageous breath and tried to speak-


Tried again-

Henrik. It's me. Turn around.

And again-

Please don't leave. We can figure this out. Please just... just...

But the words didn't come out. Flashes of that terrible fight rang through his mind, appearing so quickly they merged into a painful kaleidoscope: Henrik coldly shaking his head, turning away from his touch, disappearing as Ezra called to him, that car driving away as he desperately cried out-

"Mr. Ford! Are you decent?"

A woman's high, controlled voice called from behind a corner in the hall. Ezra backed away as Henrik's head turned, dark brown hair connecting to an even darker beard as the corner of his grey eye caught the light. Ezra's pace quickened and he half-ran away from the room, through the hall, back to the lobby.

He threw a quick glance behind him and saw a high powered business woman, probably some Public Relations shill, knocking at the door he stood by moments before. "Mr. Ford?" the woman repeated, "The conference is starting."

A handful of men with press badges and notebooks flew right by Ezra and ran down the hall, nearly knocking the PR woman off her high heels. "Come on, come on," he heard one of them bark, "We gotta get in before the Viking speaks."

That was it. That was all the convincing Ezra needed to get the hell out of there. It wasn't safe for him to talk to Henrik - he didn't know what to say or how to say it. He didn't know what would come after 'I miss you', and that ambiguity scared him.

"Ezra..." Xavier appeared from the crowd.

"I can't do this," Ezra shook his head as he tore toward the exit. Xavier tried to keep up. "I can't be the one to make him choose. I can't tell him I'm more important than his career.

"Please. You're making a mistake. He's making a mistake."

"Maybe that's how we're supposed to leave it, then," Ezra said as all the heat in his body went to his face. Xavier's footsteps fell quiet behind him. Pushing through the revolving front doors, he escaped onto the street. The financial district.

The same area he and Henrik first laid eyes on each other.

That cafe where we met... it's right down the street. Ezra looked to the night sky and tried not to fall apart.

He only had a few quiet moments to himself before his phone rang. Oh, god. What now? The number was private. "Hello? Vi?"

"Ezra," a strange voice answered. A man. "This is Patrick Williamsen. I'm calling you from Portland. I believe you and I have a gentleman in common."


Henrik walked the short distance from the meeting space to the large ballroom the hotel had repurposed as a hub of TSN camera crews, reporters and photographers. Marta led him and stopped just short of entering the double doors.

"Mr. Ford," she said with a quick nod. "Any nervousness of yours must vanish here at the door. Your apology will not sound authentic otherwise. Is that clear?"

"Yes," Henrik said, as expressionless as a statue.

"Do you have your flashcard with you?"

His finger traced the outline of the card in his pocket. "Yes."

"Are you afraid?"

Henrik looked at her. Her unblinking eyes stared back from beneath her vintage frames. "Yes."

"And what frightens you, Mr. Ford?"

"You really want me to tell you?"

"I wouldn't ask if I didn't want to know." Marta took off her glasses and folded them. Oddly, it made her seem human for the first time since meeting her.

Henrik breathed deep and uneasy. "I don't like... being emotional in front of reporters. They pick at weakness. I don't want them seeing me that way."

"Okay. Being vulnerable in front of the press is your big fear. Maybe your greatest fear. Would that be accurate of me to say?"


Marta pointed a manicured fingernail at the flashcard in his pocket. "Speaking those words won't make them think less of you. It'll correct the way they think about you. All you have to do is show them the kind of man you are. Understand?"

Henrik nodded. "Yes."

Marta grinned but it was blink-and-you'll-miss-it quick. "Man of few words. Somewhat refreshing." She held open the ballroom door for him. "Best of luck, Mr. Ford."

Henrik walked into the makeshift conference room and was immediately blinded by a tidal wave of flashing camera lights and voices calling his name. Blinking the fireworks from his eyes, he found his way to the press table where Coach Taggert sat before a row of microphones. Behind them, a blue backdrop of logos including the Portland Knights and their various corporate sponsors.

"People, people," Taggert warned from his microphone. "Questions don't start until we're well and ready."

Henrik took a seat and found himself staring into a huge room packed with inquisitive faces. Camera people, reporters, lighting crew, suited old men from the National Hockey League he recognized but didn't know the names of - all of them unabashedly stared as if he was a lion prowling into full view inside a zoo habitat.

Henrik straightened his posture and drew in a breath.

Here we go.

End of Chapter 10
To Be Continued

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