Oh, I have left you waiting way too long. Let`s just say that I am not best friends with my shoulder these days.
Thank you for all your great reviews. It was obvious that you guys know your SVM. Dead to the World is apparently a favorite to several of you *winks*.
Thank you so much to Rascalthemutant who got this (and next chapter) late last night and this morning I had it in my mailbox, corrected and with some great suggestions. She is such a darling!
The first snow came down as little white dots falling slowly outside my window. I was fascinated. We did have snow from time to time in North Louisiana, but definitely never in the beginning of October.
I was working out of Eric’s house to be able to focus on the last details on the PR-plan when Pam called me. She sounded very un-Pam – that’s the best way to describe the panting, nervous Pam I had on the other end of the line.
“Is Eric there?” she almost yelled.
“No, what’s up?” She was all worked up and did a pretty good job at working me up too.
“The police are here, turning the place upside down. They won’t tell us why and Eric disappeared after having been interrogated all morning.”
“Why didn’t you call me before? I’m responsible for PR and this is bad PR!”
“Shit, Sookie. We weren’t allowed near our phones until now that they have removed all kinds of stuff from the premises.” She shouted to someone to try again. “And we really need Eric now. There are reporters standing in line outside and they want to talk to him.”
“Pam, you need to snap out of it. We’ll reverse things. I’ll look for Eric and you go out and talk to the reporters. Tell them that Viking Games is assisting the police in any way we can. Don’t tell them anything else, but try to look calm and give them serious smiles.”
“Serious smiles,” Pam repeated. “What the hell is a serious smile?”
“It’s a smile that shows that you are not worried, but that you are also taking things seriously. If anyone can charm the media, it’s you, Pam!” I knew how important confidence was before jumping into the media-lion’s den.
“Do you have any idea where I should start looking for Eric?”
“No, not really. The secretary overheard him say that he would go for a walk to clear his head, but his car is gone too, so…” She trailed off.
“Don’t worry, Pam. I’ll find Eric and everything will be fine.” I didn’t believe that for a second, but it was important for Pam to hear now.
I had no idea where to look for Eric. Or rather, I had one idea, but it was silly. Since it was the only idea I had, I figured I might as well try it out.
Eric had taken me for a lot of walks in Oslo, but only once had he needed his car to take me somewhere. That was the day he took me nude swimming in a lake in the forest of Oslo. I knew the name of the parking lot and was pretty sure I could navigate from there, so I called a taxi and hoped my hunch was right.
When the taxi stopped at the parking lot by Skullerudstua (and imagine how many times I had to say that to get the taxi driver to understand where I wanted to go), I almost jumped out of the door without paying. Eric`s little THiNK was there, parked in one corner of the parking lot.
I didn`t run through the forest, but it was close. I was pretty glad I had put on my warmer shoes and some thick socks since the snow made the paths all white and wet. I almost slipped a few times and swore a little to myself. In Norwegian, mind you. Oh yes, I had learned to say both faen and dritt and I could even link them together to faens dritt. I smiled to myself.
My smile stiffened when I came to the lake and saw Eric. He had rolled up his jeans and was bare footed. His shoes and socks were nowhere to be seen. I ran towards him.
“Eric!” I yelled. “It’s me!”
He wheeled around then, hissing, his eyes all wild. I stopped so abruptly I swayed where I stood, my hands out in front of me in a gesture of peace.
Why didn’t Eric recognize me? I’d known him for many months.
“Stay back, woman,” he warned me. His voice sounded like his throat was sore, raspy and raw.
“What are you doing here?”
“Who are you?”
“You know darn well who I am, Eric!”
“You know me?” Now he just sounded forlorn. I went over to him and put my arms around his shoulder.
“Of course I know you, Eric. What are you talking about? What happened to you?” I looked down and saw his feet. They were all blue and bloody. “And where are your shoes?”
“I wanted to go swimming.” He looked down too and shrugged as if he just now realized he was cold.
“Oh Eric.” I quickly pulled off one shoe at a time and pulled off my socks and gave them to him. “Put these on. They might help you a little bit until we get you back to your car.”
“My car?” Eric looked really lost.
“Eric, what happened to you?”
Eric shook his head as if he tried to remember. Then he looked at me and the look in his eyes made my blood freeze. “I don`t know. I really don`t.”
I pulled him in for a hug because that was the only thing I could think of doing.
“Let`s get you home,” I said, grabbed his hand and we walked away from the lake and through the forest. I was worried about his naked feet in my socks, and my own sockless ones too to be honest. It was pretty cold to walk around without socks and I could only imagine how freezing Eric`s feet were, but he never complained.
I drew a little breath of relief when I finally spotted the car. When we were both in the car, I started it, put the heater on and called Pam.
“I found him.”
“So bring him down here. The reporters want to talk to him.”
“I can`t.” I looked at Eric. I really didn`t want to upset him, but Pam had to know. “Eric is not…. himself.”
“What do you mean he`s not himself?” Pam lost her cool. “Put him on.”
“I`d rather not. Maybe we could meet back home?” I wanted Pam to see Eric. She was his sister and might know what was wrong with him.
“Sookie, if Eric can`t talk to reporters, he can`t go home. They are there, waiting for a picture of the soon-to-be prison-playboy.” Pam spat out the last word.
“Prison?” I almost yelled. Eric looked at me with frightened eyes.
“I`ll tell you all about it, Sookie. Just come to…” She thought about it for a few seconds. “Meet me at Chow`s place.” She gave me the address and where to find the key. Apparently Norwegians also put their keys under their doormats.
“We’ll be there.”
We hung up simultaneously. Eric was watching me with unblinking blue eyes. His hair was a snarly tangled mess of blond waves and his jeans were dirty. He looked like a lost puppy and I felt so sorry for him.
When we came to Chow`s apartment I took in all the details of Eric`s state. Under the overhead light in the kitchen, Eric looked pretty pitiful. His bare feet were dirty and bleeding.
“Oh, Eric,” I said sadly, and went looking for a pan or a bucket, found it, and filled it with hot water.
The blue jeans were filthy around the hem. “Pull ’em off,” I said, knowing they’d just get wet if I soaked his feet while he was dressed.
With not a hint of a leer or any other indication that he was enjoying this development, Eric shimmied out of the jeans. I tossed them over in the corner, trying not to gape at my landlord and employer, who was now clad in underwear that was definitely over-the-top; a bright red bikini style whose stretchy quality was definitely being tested.
I pointed to one of the straight-back chairs at the kitchen table. Obediently, he pulled it out and sat. I crouched to put the pan on the floor, and I gently guided his big feet into the water. Eric groaned as the warmth touched his skin. I guess that he could feel the contrast even in his state. I found a clean rag and some liquid soap, and I washed his feet. I took my time, because I was trying to think what this was all about.
I then went to the bathroom, found a towel and pulled Eric`s feet out of the water and dried them with gentle strokes. I had found some band-aids and put some on the deeper scratches.
After I had settled him on the couch with a big afghan and a cup of coffee ( I took some liberties in Chow`s house) I heard the door open and Pam and Chow walked in with a tiny woman.
“He is either in some kind of shock or he has entered into a deep depression.” Pam and Eric`s family doctor shook her head after having examined Eric.
Her name was Doctor Ludwig and she was shorter than me, which made her the first person I`d met in Norway who was.
“You can`t be a little more specific?” Pam was annoyed.
Doctor Ludwig didn`t even bother to look at Pam. “If he had broken his leg, I would gladly have shown you an x-ray. Unfortunately things like this,” she pointed to Eric, “aren`t exact science. He needs rest and care.” Doctor Ludwig started putting on her coat.
“So when is he going to be himself again?” Chow asked. He had been standing in the corner during the whole examination.
“When are you really yourself?” And with that philosophical remark, Doctor Ludwig was out the door.
Eric had been holding my hand all the time Doctor Ludwig was examining him. He looked relaxed, but I could feel the tension in his body. I let my thumb run over the back of his hand to soothe him and was rewarded with a little smile.
Pam and Chow looked at each other, then they looked at Eric and finally at me.
“We need to get Eric away and I want you to go with him, Sookie.” Pam had a determined look on her face.
“I can`t just leave. If Viking Games is in trouble, you`ll need someone to handle the PR.” I hadn`t really done any crisis communication before, but I knew all the text books on the subject. I was ready to deal with this.
“You will handle the PR, but you`ll do it through me. Believe me, I would love to take care of my brother,” she patted him on the head like he was some kind of dog. “But I think he would prefer me to look after Viking Games instead. I`ll be the face to the media, you will take care of Eric and Chow will do his best to out the story behind all this mess.”
I had almost forgotten Chow and turned my head in his direction. He gave me a nod and looked back at Pam. No one asked Eric what he wanted.
After some minutes of silence, Pam spoke.
“You guys obviously can`t go to Eric`s apartment or any of his cabins, so you`ll have to hide in my little place in the mountains. Don`t worry, it isn`t registered in my name, so no one will know you are there.”
This was how I came to be sitting behind the wheel of a 4×4 driving up in the mountains near Lillehammer with a now sleeping Eric in the passenger`s seat. The car was Chow`s and the clothes in the bags were mainly Pam`s and some clothes Eric had at Pam`s place. Even the laptop was Pam`s. Pam had assured me that the cabin would be equipped with all kinds of sanitary and beauty products.
“I don`t want to use your old toothbrush,” I had complained, but Pam had just laughed and said that she always kept a stock of unused toothbrushes, creams, soaps and make-up there.
“I never know who I can lure to go with me without notice,” Pam had said with a grin. Pam was an `always prepared`-kind of woman, even if I had never seen her in a girl-scout uniform.
The snow was deeper and deeper the higher up in the mountains we got. I was glad I had the GPS because I honestly wouldn`t have found this from a map. And Eric wasn`t much help even if Pam claimed that he had been to her cabin “every time he needed to screw someone without getting too personal,” as she so eloquently put it. Taking girls to his own cabin, let alone his house, was apparently one step away from asking her to marry him.
I glanced at Eric. He was sleeping with his mouth open snoring lightly.
The last couple of kilometers were on a forest road with deeper snow. I drove rather slowly, but the car still slipped a little in the turns. It was getting dark too.
I drew a breath of relief when we finally came to the cabin and I let my hand gently caress Eric`s cheek to wake him up. He opened his blue eyes and looked at me with confusion and then recognition.
“Sookie…” he said tentatively as if he had never said my name before. Of course he hadn`t said my name since I found him cold and wet by the forest lake, only heard it from Pam and Chow.
I looked at him.
“Come on, let`s get you inside. I`m sure when you have put that police interview behind you…” I could see Eric stiffen when I mentioned the police. “And you relax a bit in front of the fire-place, you`ll be yourself in no time.” I tried to smile my most convincing smile. Eric nodded, but insecurity was written in his eyes.
The cabin was small and very cozy with pine wood walls and floors, homemade little carpets and a huge fire-place by the couches in the living room. From the windows in the living room there was a spectacular view over the lake – the snow and stars making everything look dark blue. It took my breath away.
I looked back at Eric and he looked at me. He smiled tentatively and I smiled back.
“Let`s get us settled in here, Eric.”
I made a fire in the fire-place and Eric went to cook dinner. The cabin wasn`t just stocked with beauty products, someone had also been there today and filled the cabinets and fridge with food.
When we were eating the reindeer casserole Eric had prepared, and I was trying hard to refrain from thinking of Rudolf, I started asking Eric about what had happened to him.
“So what happened to you, Eric?”
He had the saddest look in his eyes when they met mine and it felt like someone took a good hold around my heart and squeezed.
“I`m not sure,” he whispered. “I have large blanks. I can`t remember you or Chow and I can only remember Pam as a kid. I can`t recall anything related to my job and definitely not what happened the last few days. It`s as if my adult life has been taken away from me, and….” he paused and looked down. “And it scares the shit out of me.”
I took his hand over the table and gave it a squeeze.
“It`ll come back to you. A good night`s sleep and you`ll be back in Viking Games fighting with a bloodlust, only seen when the old Vikings made their little trips abroad.”
“Oh, I can`t wait to go berserk on whoever started this crap.” He chuckled, eyes full of life.
And for a moment I felt I had my Eric back. Whoa… my Eric?
No, I didn`t hit Eric over the head to give him amnesia (those amnesias are very rare anyway). A friend of mine, who is a CEO at a major Norwegian company, was put through some of the same stuff I`m having Eric go through, and I`m copying his reactions to it. He couldn`t remember his wife, let alone the rest of us, for days. It was pretty scary! He also tried to hide from the media – the largest newspaper actually came to his cabin in a helicopter to take pictures of a broken man. It was sickening!
I hope you liked this chapter.
Faens dritt means “fucking shit”, by the way 😀