|Disclaimers and Warnings
This is fiction. I don't know any of the people portrayed; nor do I know the dogs.
There is no sex in this chapter.
There will be no boyband-members in this chapter. Actually, they will be absent the first couple of chapters as well. (This is a Chris/other tail.)
English is not my primary language. Please be assured that any atrocity committed against your language is absolutely unintentional on my part and I regret deeply if such should occur.
Comments and Criticism
Hope you enjoy.
Hugs from Morgenfryd
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The Tail Of The Tiger
The Winner.The temperature was just a few degrees above zero. Despite the cool air the ten-kilometer bike ride hadn't quite been enough for me to cool down. I was sweating like a pig and my heart was hammering but it hadn't been enough. Not quite.
The idiots of this world were out to get me.
I closed the lock securing my bicycle with a snap and slung my knapsack onto my shoulder.
The run up the stairs to the fifth floor helped a little. The seething had settled to a simmer by the time I walked through the door. Sonja looked up from the papers on the desk. She was the newest investment in Kurt's and my little business, a bookkeeper freeing me to. bungle deals apparently.
She smiled when she saw me. "Hi Mikkel."
"Hi." I dumped the knapsack on my own desk. "I'm taking a shower." I walked past her.
"Sure. How did it go?"
"Piss." That was Kurt's voice from the back room. He was making a bunch of computers ready for delivery the next day. "Why not?" He came out to stand in the doorway.
"Jens Peter Andersen is an idiot, a bloody fool. Forget him."
Kurt gave me a once over. "Go take that shower. You stink." That from a guy that is into really dirty sex.
As I closed the bathroom door behind me I heard Kurt assure Sonja I would be a nicer fellow after my clean up. And of course he was right. By the time I had finished and put clean clothes on my sense of humor had kicked in again. When I saw that Sonja had coffee and iced water ready for me my mood turned almost cheerful.
"Thanks." I hitched a hip on my desk and emptied the glass and poured another. Kurt came out and sat down on my chair swinging his legs onto my desk.
"So? What happened? He found out you like boys and set his dogs on you?"
I smiled and shook my head. "Well, it turned out he didn't know anything about what he had. Heck, all the info he had given me over the phone was wrong, he didn't even know what platform they were using. So he called in his accountant. She didn't know what platform it was either. She got me into the system so I could look around. Everybody has his or her own little odd filing system. A lot of work gets done several times because they don't talk with one another. They don't have time. So, each has her own little system where she knows she can find things. After I had mucked around and talked with the accountant Jens Peter got a little pissed at me and asked if their old system was too complicated for me."
Kurt grinned. "Yeah? What did you say?"
"I was civil. I told him their system was alright, very little upgrading was necessary, and it was their implementation strategy that needed a severe overhaul. You remember how it was at Sylvester's? Same system, almost the same hardware. Same guys that set it up. Last year. Must have been just before they closed the firm."
"But." Kurt laughed. "Man, they could run the national economy on that. What did you say there was - about twenty workstations? They only use it for ordinary business stuff?"
"Uhu. Dan's people are doing the maintenance now. Which the boss didn't know until the accountant told him. The accountant is the local super user. Let me tell you, it was a frigging mess!"
Kurt was still chuckling. "So did he agree to upgrade the implementation strategy?"
I drank a bit of coffee. "Ah. That was about where things began slipping."
"The accountant was still there?" asked Sonja.
I shook my head. "Anyway, he was so damn hard headed that I ended up telling him that there was no technical solution to the trouble his style gave his business. Soon after that he told me to leave, he would find somebody else, somebody professional."
Kurt scratched his nose, eyes crinkling. "Well, I guess I can call my professor and tell him I am going to deliver that paper I postponed."
It was the third almost-secure deal that slipped within a week. We might both have time to finish that paper. Sonja was eyeing me over the rim of her coffee mug. It looked like she wanted to say something but wasn't sure she should.
"Uhm." She bit her lip. "Are you sure your negotiation strategy doesn't need an overhaul?"
I laughed. Kurt laughed so hard he spilled water all over himself. Sonja smiled a relieved smile, then she grinned.
"I am sure it does. Just look at my statistics of this last week." I got up to pour another round of coffee. "Maybe next time you could come with me? I could use some feed back."
She stared at me. "What? Me? I'm not."
"You are great with people. Would you mind?"
"I. Uhm." She looked into her coffee cup.
"Do you want take the lead? Is that it?"
"No!" She looked at me in shock. "I'm not qualified. I am a secretary. You have seen my CV."
"Uhu. You did not put your art exhibits or the parachuting in it."
"Don't look at me like that. There must be something else we can do. I'm too old; you don't want me to. I don't belong in front like that. Kurt should go."
"Kurt will go all nerdy on them and he is too gullible." Kurt crossed his eyes and nodded. "Fifty-two isn't old. Fifty-two is smart, people-smart and situation-smart. In any case, I'd like you to sit down with me and go over what happened today step by step. I want you to tell me what I did wrong. Then maybe we can see about you coming with me next time. I am not going to carry you anywhere if you scream, I promise."
"Meaning he'll gag you before he carry you down the stairs." Kurt got up. He grimaced and pulled the wet shirt away from his belly.
"Contrary to common belief I do not gag the secretary."
Sonja shook her head. "If you really think. We can sit down and go over it. Just don't expect."
"I expect common sense and straight forwardness, alright?"
Sonja nodded. "It has to wait. I made you a list." She pulled her pad in front of her.
"Alright." I leaned back and flung my legs up on the table. "Hit me."
"Your mother called. She said she would drop by and bring some lunch. I promised to call if you couldn't be here. She said it was important. She'll be here in an about hour."
Mother coming here? Bringing lunch? "She didn't say what she wants from me?"
Sonja shook her head. "No. Einar mailed the program modules, he and Klaus have finished the second round of bug tests."
Kurt was busy sneaking off. I knew why. None of us were keen on doing bug tests. "Put that on Kurt's List," I told Sonja. "It's his turn." We really needed a bigger place. It would be nice having proper work space enough for everyone. Klaus and Einar had begun complaining they felt left out having to work at home. At least they had a home; Kurt's and my apartment was all business space.
"Bugger!" murmured Kurt and disappeared towards the back.
"Alright. Jane called. She said she might have found us a new customer for a web site, a co-operative of handcrafts people or something like that. Jane left a phone number; the guy is waiting for your call. Also she has some ideas for the spring site she wants to go over with you-"
Another web site. It was odd. Web sites weren't even what we had set out to make our main field. Lately I had been scrambling studying design principles but none of us could honestly be called professional layouters. Yet it seemed to be what was doing best. Much as I hated to admit it, Kurt was right about upgrading our server - again.
I hung on as Sonja went through her list. We might have lost three deals but that didn't mean there was nothing to do.
About an hour later I was on the phone with a creative clay potter when my mother came in. My mother does not walk. She marches regally, also after carrying large styro foam boxes up the stairs to the fifth floor.
I waved to her and motioned towards the kitchen. She marched the styro foam box into the kitchen, totally ignoring Sonja. Kurt had heard her arrive and walked into the kitchen after her, and I could hear them talking. I finished the phone talk.
Sonja didn't seem the least upset by the rude treatment. She was staring at me. "You and her are a lot alike."
"I certainly hope not."
She blinked. "Alright," she said and returned to the papers on her desk.
I got up. "You about ready for lunch?" I hoped my mother had thought to bring enough for all of us and not just for three.
"Oh. You just go ahead, I'll eat after you guys."
"No. You'll eat with us. Is ten minutes or so alright with you? I'll call."
"Ah. Yes. Ten minutes is fine."
I caught her looking at me when I walked towards the kitchen.
She smiled. "Well, you look alike."
I stuck my tongue out at her and she laughed.
Kurt was leaning against the kitchen counter watching my mother arrange lunch on four plates with quick and sure movements. It was mostly a matter of touching up what Lisbeth, my sister, had made for us.
". Lisbeth found it when she was in France in this absolutely adoring little town where she was staying. She is so fantastic at finding unique local produce. Mikkel-dear, be sweet and set the table. We have it on the menu the next month. Here, try it." She cut a corner off one on the slices of ham and passed it to Kurt.
I began setting the table. Kurt's eyes widened when I spread a tablecloth over it. We never use tablecloths but I figured that I would let mother present Lisbeth's art with least possible fuss.
She carried the plates over and mucked about with the cutlery, not quite satisfied with the way I had placed it. "Flowers, dear." She was back at the counter to arrange the board with cheese.
I thought of the half dead things in my room. Kurt had given up on flowers years ago. "We don't have any. We may have candles." I found a candlestick and started looking for candles.
Kurt scratches his neck. "Uhm. I have some candles in my room. Want me to get them?"
"Yes." I got the beers and sodas out of the fridge. The beer would be too cold.
"You should have taken the beer out, dear. Your little secretary can do that kind of thing."
"Don't mess with my staff, Mommy-honey."
"Oh, dear. No, of course not. I just thought."
"Will this do?" Kurt appeared in the door, holding a candle. "I'm afraid I only have black ones."
At least it looked clean. "Sure, it's fine." Kurt smiled, happy to contribute and blissfully unaware of the horror in my mothers eyes. "I think we are all set?"
My mother nodded and I went to fetch Sonja.
Sonja did just what it took to make everything all right. She stopped in the door and looked, then she breathed a soft and very honest "Oh, it's beautiful. We should have had flowers."
My mother's smile turned downright genuine and she glowed. "Yes. Thank you, dear. It is Sonja, if I remember correctly?"
"Yes, Ms. Svendsen."
"Call me Johanne. Sit down, please, everyone."
The funny thing is that my mother knows her manners around the table and when she is in hostess mode. Which is a good thing when you try to run your restaurant into the snobbier league.
Hence dinner conversation was rather smooth. One could always talk about the food.
Afterwards Sonja and Kurt took their coffee with them and left the kitchen to my mother and me.
"This is good coffee, dear."
I doubted that she had come to talk about coffee. "Yes. Why are you here?" What ever it was, I was sure I would rather be on the phone with a clay potter.
"It's the mocha from that little shop."
"I called my mother yesterday." She pushed an unruly red curl away from her forehead. "She has been in a traffic accident and has a complicated fracture in her right leg."
I drank my coffee and waited. My grandmother lives in Florida and I had seen her only once when I was a kid. It was so long ago that I didn't remember anything but her perfume and terrifyingly stern eyes. She had been in Denmark once when I was a teen, but that had been in the period when I wasn't talking with my mother.
"She is still in hospital. When I called yesterday, Sara, one of her friends picked up the phone. I was quite upset that nobody had thought to call me."
"Sara told me that mother had told them to call no-one. Not even my half-sisters. I called the hospital; Sara gave me the number. Mother said she had not wanted me to get unnecessary upset. It is very strange, Mikkel."
"Yes. One of my half-sisters lives in the same city, the other in a city close by. Why wouldn't she want to call them? Why doesn't she want them to know she is in hospital?"
"Well, kids and parents fight, you know."
She smiled ruefully. "Yes, that is what I thought at first. Then I thought, even when things were. bad between you and me, if one of us had gone to hospital after an accident."
"Uhm. It wouldn't have occurred to either of us not to call or track down the other."
She nodded. "And even if she is that mad at my half-sisters - why wouldn't she call me? I'm not aware we have been on bad terms." She emptied her cup. "There is more."
I poured more coffee while she collected her thoughts.
"I asked mother about her situation. I wanted to know how she was doing and what she was going to do. Her house has a basement and it is split-level. It must dreadful getting around it in a wheel chair. She lives alone and then there are the dogs and the little pups."
"What did she say?"
"That I shouldn't worry and that was that. She got angry with me for sticking my nose where it didn't belong. But Sara had said some things. She and a couple of others have been taking care of the dogs but that's all. She didn't know what mother was going to do about the house or her own care or if she had found a recreational home where she could bring the dogs. Sara didn't know anything. Sara is mother's best friend or she used to be. Now it appears they don't talk about anything but the stupid dogs." My mother does not like dogs.
"So what do you think?"
"I think mother is very unbalanced and she might need help."
". Could she be broke? Perhaps she doesn't want to ask for money."
My mother shrugged. "Could be. We never talk about money."
I poured the last coffee and started another pot. "So you think she would have told you if she had plans for the house?"
"Yes. We talk about things like that. You know how I am about interior decoration."
"Sure you haven't overdosed her?"
"Mikkel!" She tried to look stern but her eyes smiled.
"Anyway, she is interested in nice things too. And we usually talk about it. Once we an entire phone conversation talking about the renovation of her back porch. We usually talk about things we have done or things we are going to do. This time - I couldn't get any information out of her. Other than the dogs and she worries about the pups. I'm worried about her!"
"Phone her again. Maybe you caught her at a bad moment. Maybe there was somebody there she didn't want to listen in or she just was in a bad mood. You've told me she can be moody."
"Of course I will." She was looking into the cup as if it contained a piece of very intimidating modern art. "I just don't think that was it."
"What is it that's so hard to say?"
"If I cannot get an explanation or if things are really bad over there. Will you go?"
"Me?!" I wanted my clay potter back.
"Yes, you. It's either you or me, we are the only blood relatives she has in Denmark."
"Now, now. Shouldn't you try talking with your half-sisters first before any of us goes haring off?"
"I don't know where they live other than one is in Orlando and the other in Tampa. I don't know their last names. They are both married."
"Well, ask Mormor."
"I did. She threw a regular tantrum, it was most uncomfortable."
My mother shook her head.
"Why me? I haven't seen Mormor since I was, what, ten or so. She didn't like me then. Why don't you go?"
"Those three conferences. we got them all. And on top we have weddings and weddings. Really, the next three months are crazy. I cannot leave."
I was so not getting into another debate about my business being more than just a hobby. "Karla can manage for a couple of weeks." Karla is my oldest sister and the chef at the restaurant.
"Karla hosting weddings?" My mother raised an eyebrow at me. I couldn't imagine it either.
"Well, leave the hosting to Pierre. He's good."
"If I ask him to take extra hours I have his crazy wife on the phone again."
"Been squeezing the blood out of him again, have you?" I wondered why Pierre stayed in that job; my mother is a horrible boss. "You would have worked him into the ground if Karina didn't sound the alarm. I hope you remember to thank her for it. Without her you wouldn't have had Pierre today."
"Stay out of my business!" she snapped, her pale blue eyes flashing cold fire.
"Yeah, right." There were old wounds that would act up sometimes. This one made my temper flare and I got mean. "My mother breaks people and it's none of my business. Right. You want me to cover for you, going to the States, when you can bloody well afford to hire enough staff. Pierre and Karla will do just fine provided there is sufficient staff. Or is that what you are afraid of? That they'll do better without you."
Her eyes flashed. "Stop it!"
"Just. Don't. Give me that bullshit about being indispensable. It's not true."
She was fuming now, her eyes blazing and it was a wonder her hair hadn't caught fire. I might have looked a bit like that too.
All right, a lot.
We were both leaning forwards, resting our elbows on the table. Mirror images.
I chewed on my anger, tried to swallow it instead of spitting it out as barbed words. Instead I leaned back, forced my muscles to relax and took a breath or two, trying to think. "Why don't you tell me the real reason for wanting me to go instead of you?" It sounded almost normal.
She got up and began pacing the small kitchen. Four steps one way and four the other. I counted.
We had time out by unspoken agreement.
I drank my coffee, thought seriously of picking up smoking again while she paced back and forth.
I had smoked several virtual cigarettes before she broke the silence.
"She'll probably be out of hospital in three weeks. If she isn't doing anything for herself, whoever of us is there will have to do something. That means either finding a suitable place where she can stay until she can walk or preparing the house for a wheel chair and finding someone who can take care of her. You speak the language; I don't, not well. You can probably fix that house yourself if there aren't workmen to be found at short notice or if she is broke. I can't. You know how to take care of those stupid dogs. I don't."
"Your English isn't bad."
She stopped, leaned against the counter. "I can take meal orders and explain the menu if they don't ask for details."
She began pacing again. I poured myself another cup of coffee.
"I hate flying."
"Yeah? That bad?" To my best knowledge she had never been on a plane.
She shrugged and continued pacing.
"Is there more?"
"Isn't that enough?"
"Not really. I mean, you're smart and you're tough. You'll find a way once you are there. Together we can set up a decent emergency fund and ready a backup plan for more funds. If she is broke then it will be necessary to find some permanent solution. Who-ever helps her with that should be somebody that knows her. As to the fear of flying, we could dope you up." Mother grimaced her dislike at that idea; I continued. "She's your mother far more than she's my grandmother. I don't even know her last name. What expertise that I have and you don't - that expertise can be bought."
She glared but kept the lid on her temper. I had cooled enough to see the situation as almost funny.
"Alright!" She raised her arms and let them fall. "The last time she was here." She kept pacing.
"I didn't meet her."
"But you did. You just don't remember."
"Yeah. The police brought you in while she was visiting. You were on something. I am not sure you even recognized me. We put you to bed and the next day you were gone."
"Uhm. Not exactly a good second impression."
My mother barked a laugh. "No."
"Not exactly a meeting to encourage her to trust me either."
"True." She looked curiously at me. "You never told me why you kept giving the police our address when they picked you up."
"If they had seen the place where I lived, I would have ended up in jail." I could say that much now. It was after all almost ten years ago. I was hit by a sudden urge to know the date when I would be free of that part of my life - at least in terms of the law. What were the statutes of limitation on fencing, drug smuggling and hash trade, anyway? Perhaps only five years. Now, that would be funny. "Anyway, you were telling me about her visit."
"What? Oh. That. She and I, we didn't get along, really."
"So? We don't get along either, really. None of us gets along with Morfar or bio-dad and his side of the family either. Not getting along is a family tradition."
"We're getting along now, aren't we?"
"Yeah. I suppose we are getting better. When we skirt certain subjects."
"So, you two didn't get along. What makes you think she and I will get along?"
She grinned wolfishly. "I am sure you won't."
"Then - why me?"
"Because you always win."
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End of chapter