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Darker Reflections > Northern Europe > Ride


Posted by: Finland Jul 18 2013, 04:29 PM
It was never the daylight that made him long for the familiar companionship he’d once found in his home city. It wasn’t the sun and blue sky that made him homesick, yearning to walk familiar streets and to laugh over old inside jokes whose roots had long since been forgotten. No, under the warm light of day, he was perfectly content. He was on top of the world and had everything going for him, a man’s man, a lady’s man and a businessman – a three-in-one trinity to be reckoned with. The world would bow to him, the seas would part and the thunderheads would dissipate like vapor rising off a cup of coffee.

But the nighttime was different.

Port cities were so cold at night. The damp chill of sea spray in the air made his bones ache almost as much as his heart. No matter how tightly he bundled himself, that damn moisture permeated its way through his clothes and skin, settling in his core. Under the moon and stars, life was lonely. Even here, bathed in the oscillation of a nightclub’s track lighting and crushed in the wall-to-wall herd that churned and gyrated and grinded in suffocating, decadent unison, it was lonesome.

“Another,” he demanded in an equable tone, and like clockwork, slid his empty tumbler forward to be filled.

“More of the same?” the bartender asked, his eyebrows raised a bit in questioning suspicion of the young man’s sobriety.

“Gin and tonic,” he agreed, shivering. Drinking, even in such great quantities, did little to warm him up. Maybe he’d freeze tonight – turn into a big block of ice.

He scoffed at the thought. As if I’d be so lucky.

His drink arrived with a wedge of lime, just as the first four had, and ended up nearly spilled on the worn wood of the bar as a hand slapped Tino’s shoulder and a loud voice, at least loud enough to be heard over the deafening soundtrack, exclaimed, “There you are! We been lookin’ for you! Come on, Boss-man has a job for us.”

“Job?” the blonde asked, turning on his stool to face the inked brute that now stood before him, slouched sloppily in his drunkenness.

“Yup,” the other responded, pausing to let out something of a hiccup or belch – Tino wasn’t sure which – before explaining, “Shipment came in. C’mon.”

Drink in hand, Tino slid off of his seat and followed his cohort, winding through the women with thick curves and skintight dresses, through the haze of smoke, past the booths full of men arguing over the legitimacy of a poker win, to a back room, partitioned off with curtains. Inside, a black leather sectional had been placed around a long, sleek table, both of them hard to see in the dim lighting. Already, several men were seated at the table, lines of white powder, rolled up bills and dusty razor blades explaining their nefarious purposes. Women, who despite their beauty were anything but ladylike in their low-backed dresses and tissue-thin tops, were seated near them, their glossy lips whispering into the men’s ears.

“Well, well,” one man, nursing a bottle of beer that clearly wasn’t his first, exclaimed. “There’s the kid, now. Tino…” His bear-like hand motioned to the empty spot at the end of the bench. With his nervousness masked as a slight off-kilter stagger by means of liquor, the young blonde approached and sat as directed. Tino had known Ola Magnusson, or “The Boss” as he preferred due to some delusion of grandeur, for nearly four years now, but his bulging muscles and huge, wooly maw remained off-putting. Threatening.

“Here I am,” the Finn agreed, shifting uncomfortably as one of the women across the table slid towards him with a hungry look about her.

“Did Erhard tell you about the job?”

With his lap suddenly full of a barely-clad woman, wet and hot breath that smelled strongly of vodka and fruit against his neck, Tino mumbled in thickly accented Swedish, “Hardly. We have bikes to pick up?”

“Bike,” Magnusson corrected, a rough finger molesting the mouth of his beer bottle. “Mine. She needs fixed up, but I’m gonna be busy. Take care of her for me, will ya’?” His unoccupied hand delved into the pocket of his leather vest, and upon surfacing, held a thickly packed envelope. “I’ve already made a deal with our friend at the docks. He knows what cut he’ll be getting. If he gives you any trouble, you know what to do.”

The young man practically felt himself blanching at the thought. Yes, he knew what to do, but actually doing it was more nerve-wracking than he’d ever admit. Still, he extended his hand to take the envelope.

“The rest of the money is for the repairs. There’s a list of upgrades ‘n repairs that I want in there. You find me a shop that’ll do ‘em, no questions asked, and you’ll get a pay advance.”

Some of the other men in the room chuckled at the jest. Tino did not. “I’ll do it,” he promised, tucking the packet safely away in his own pocket, shooing away the manicured fingers from his lap that had begun to pry at the heavy buckle of his belt.

“Good boy,” the Boss grinned, handing a rolled up bill across the table to the young man.

Tino hated himself for taking it, but knew he had no other choice. With fingers shakily wrapping around the rudimentary pipe and leaning forwards towards the snowy white lines, a stripper still whispering words of encouragement and enticement into his ear, he inhaled. Tino was weak, but what else could he do? He didn’t own himself anymore; the decision wasn’t his to make.



Morning came around with the nauseating pound of a hangover. Sprawled on the floor, half clothed and coated in a disgusting crust of sweat, saliva and alcohol, Tino groaned. Why did the sun have to be so bright? His tongue felt like sandpaper and his eyes burned. Pushing himself into a sitting position, he blinked the sleep away from his vision and peered around the room. He’d made it back home – or to the place he considered his temporary housing – but hadn’t quite made it to his bed, having taken up residence in the bathroom for the night. Perhaps it was for the best, he thought, as he felt the familiar surge of bile rising to the back of his throat.

Every morning was like this recently. The young man would wake up, completely filthy and smelling of smoke and vomit, only to purge seconds later. He’d then strip off his soiled clothes, crawling sorely into the shower, certainly to lather up and make himself presentable, but mainly to stand under the soothing massage of the water, contemplating on the days past and the possibility of a future. No matter which path his mind decided to travel, few of them ended with a favorable result. Even fewer of them resulted in no loss of life. Oftentimes, Tino, his voice masked by the running water, would cry.

Hunger was a rare desire these days, but to keep up his strength, for he still did need to be able to defend himself, he ate according to the clock – once at seven a.m., once at twelve-thirty p.m., and once at eight p.m. There was little left in the fridge, but without a steady income, a few slices of toast and a fried egg would have to do for now. With his belly full and far less upset, Tino grabbed his jacket to head out into the world. The rustling sound of something being crushed in its pocket reminded the young man of his job, and for a moment, he panicked – had he actually forgotten to pick up the bike?

“Vittu!” he cursed in his mother tongue, snatching his keys and helmet off the table and making a mad dash for the stairs. The apartment in which he currently resided was a far cry from luxury, but for the most part, it kept him dry and out of the wind, and the mattress crammed into the sole bedroom was soft enough. Sure, he occasionally had to share his living space with a mouse or cockroach, but there wasn’t much else he could afford.

Bounding down the steps, he breathed a huge sigh of relief as the bike came into view, and along with it, hazy memories of a fairly eventless trip to the port to pick it up last night. Inspecting the envelope assured that he’d given their friend at the docks his fair share, and reassured him that this strange bike was indeed his for now.

Now to find a good garage.

Unfortunately, the shop that Tino had frequented since moving to Sweden had closed last winter, losing the fight against the recession, and he’d yet to find one that he trusted as well. But he did remember that he’d heard someone mention a little place in central Malmö that did good work, so maybe he’d find something promising there.

Or maybe not. What he did find could hardly be described as “promising”. After several hours of cruising around, browsing the storefronts for any sign of a shop that specialized in bikes, he stumbled across a tiny place whose lot could hardly hold more than two bikes at once. But the bike that was out front caught Tino’s eye – it was stunning. An absolutely beautiful piece of machinery. It had been painted a deep candy red with chrome details with a new electronic sequential port fuel injection system and a 125” engine. Tino wondered if it had ever looked like the pile of shit his boss had asked him to deliver. If so, this was exactly the place he needed to be.

Pulling up to the garage door and tripping the weight sensor out front, he pried off his helmet, enjoying the sensation of cool air blowing through his hair, and called out, “Hei! Anyone working here?”

Posted by: Sweden Jul 23 2013, 11:58 PM
Morning started as usual for Berwald. The routine had long ago been set, but it wasn't an unpleasant one. He rose early from bed, heading to the kitchen to get breakfast started. Once the oatmeal was the cooking, it was to the boys' bedroom to wake them up and start the daily chore of getting them ready for school. A single father of two, the normally intimidating blond went about the task with quiet affectionate warmth. Rousing Peter, the oldest, was easy. Getting Larsson out of bed proved just as troublesome as always.

Eventually Berwald had the boys fed, clothed and had double checked they'd had everything they needed for school. With a healthy snack of fruit in each of their backpacks for recess and entrusting Peter their lunch money for the day, the scary looking dad took his children to the bus stop. He waited with them, listening to his boys chatter and bicker, enjoying the morning. Berwald asked if the two of them wanted hugs before getting on the bus, causing Peter to shake his head and make a face, Larsson not far behind in imitating him.

Chuckling, the man did manage to get his youngest with an affectionate one-armed hug, but Peter was quick enough to evade getting publicly embarrassed by his dad and hop on the bus. Larsson was quick to follow his older brother into the long yellow school mobile, promising that Berwald wouldn't get him again. Standing at the stop, the single dad waited until the vehicle had turned the corner of the street before walking back home.

Once home again, the man started opening up the garage he lived above. His lot was small, but with how quick he was at his work, the lack of space was alright. In fact, many of his customers liked that they could often drop their bikes off for minor repairs in the morning and have them ready to go in little more than a couple of hours. Berwald started work at eight and closed his garage to the public by three. Then he would take a break long enough to fetch his kids from the bus stop, make dinner, help both boys in turn with their homework if any was brought home. Then it would be time for either television shows or video games until bed time. He'd tuck both boys in for the night and after he was assured they were sound asleep, Berwald would return to his garage to work on custom orders until he tired.

But for now, the man only wheeled out the two show bikes outside, setting them up to attract business. They were actually due to be picked up any day now, by their respective owners. With the profits from the overhauls though, Berwald had been able to work on the other custom bike he was building in his garage. It was a bit early for hog season yet, so the man still had plenty of time to work on his own projects until his regulars came in for tune ups or upgrades.

Hammering away, shaping a custom gas tank with hands and hammer, Berwald had to pause. His ears had caught the tell tale rumble of an engine and he frowned. Going back to working, a little slower this time, he listened to the noise and by the time his sensor went off with a dull bing, he'd determined someone was riding a piece of junk.

Dropping what he'd been working on and picking up a rag to wipe his hands with, the tall blond was well on his way on investigating who had come calling by the time he heard; “Hei! Anyone working here?”

“Hej,” answered the Swede, throwing the rag over his shoulder. It usually got fairly warm in his shop as he worked, so even though he did wear coveralls, the top part was almost always drawn down with the sleeves tied at his waist. He wore a tank underneath, which happened to be a light grey stained with a few oil and grease stains. His left arm was covered from wrist to shoulder with a sleeve tattoo, the style decidedly Norse with a mix of Celtic. The ink even creeped slightly onto the chest and faded evenly just as the deltoid muscle merged with the pectoral.

“Wha' brings y'ere?” Berwald asked, deep voice steady, yet toneless. His expression was just as stony, but the overall body language was calm, even as the man sized up this guest. “Y'need t'make 'ppointment fer r'pairs.”

His gaze then shifted to the bike the smaller blond before had rode in on. Ecchh... that thing looked like it needed work and lots of it. He was surprised the stranger hadn't gotten arrested riding that thing through town.

Posted by: Finland Jul 31 2013, 04:30 AM
The shop’s proprietor was an absolute bear, all taut muscle and sheer height topped with choppy blonde hair and cold blue eyes that suggested his not-too-distant ancestors must have been direct descendants of Vikings. Quintessentially Swedish, certainly, and probably no more than five years Tino’s senior if his judgment was correct. Tino’s eye was drawn to the ornate sleeve decorating his left arm next, the ink seeming to grow from the heart outwards. Although a quick scan of the design didn’t place any of the symbols as recognizable gang markings, the mechanic unquestionably seemed the type for that sort of activity. Men rarely got that big if they weren’t trying to prove something or stay alive, after all.

The Finn, realizing that he was being looked over in turn, bristled himself up, puffing out his chest and sticking out his jaw as subtly as possible to make himself as intimidating as he could despite the disadvantage of his height. He was not intimidated – he’d seen and even fought much larger men plenty of times before. Magnusson, himself, was just as hulking, if not more so. Incontestably as deadly.

But by the same token, Tino wasn't exactly the poster child for intimidation. He was shorter than the average adult man with soft, blonde hair that would have suited a woman much better. Even when cut shorter, something about it was so... fluffy. Even his voice, in a cruel twist of puberty, had failed to deepen to a nice hearty growl (although, fortunately, it was far from feminine.) Under his clothes, his own tattoos were mostly hidden. A bit of black lettering climbing up the left side of his neck poked out from the collar of his jacket, but the elk antlers spanning the upper part of his back and shoulders were completely hidden. The only one visible as he was currently dressed was the bold text reading 'SISU' on the underside of his right wrist, flashing into view whenever he extended his arm far enough for the sleeve to fall away.

“Wha’ brings y’ere?”

Tino cocked his head, caught off-guard by the mechanic’s slurred clusterfuck of an attempt at speaking. What the hell was wrong with this guy’s accent? Sure, Swedish wasn’t Tino’s first language, but that hardly sounded recognizable as any human language at all. Coupled with the rumbling baritone, it made comprehension virtually impossible.

Before the smaller man had fully decided on what question he’d been asked, the mechanic was already speaking again, his icy gaze locked on the Finn’s bike. “Y’need t’make ‘ppointment fer r’pairs.”

With more definitive syllables, that one had been easier to understand. Tino, at least, felt less like lamenting the fact that he’d never paid attention during his grade school Swedish lessons.

“Appointment,” he quoted, a little grin spreading on his face as he delved into the pocket of his leather jacket. “Right.” Envelope in hand, he searched through the bound stacks of cash, counting them off in hundreds of kronor at a time. The grand sum totaled just slightly less than twenty thousand, a decadent number that made Tino’s mind race at the thought of owning so much at once. No more sleeping with the mice on a sullied and mildewed mattress. No more empty refrigerator. No more taking junk bikes to hulking repair men. He'd buy a bus ticket back to Finland, get himself a modest but clean apartment and make it with some nice girl.

Bills fanned out in prouder display than a peacock tail, the little blonde explained in a tone of faux-innocence, “I think this will more than cover what I want done.” Quoting from his boss’ list, cash still in hand, he proceeded to rattle off the sizeable collection of procedures to be done.

While most mechanics would jump at the chance to earn such huge commission from one customer, Tino noted that the brawny blonde’s expression remained stoic. If he was impressed, he definitely wasn’t showing it. Something about that pissed Tino off somewhere on a deep subconscious level, but working twice as hard, he managed to also keep a cool, calm and collected visage.

“Now,” he concluded, tossing the money and the list of repairs onto some greasy workbench nearby, “I expect progress by the time I come back tomorrow.” And with that, he spun on his heel, assuming that that was that, and that the deal had gone down without a hitch. The morning was young and full of other tasks to be accomplished, and quite frankly, he was worried this guy would try to talk to him again in his weird, backwater drawl.

Posted by: Sweden Sep 2 2013, 04:59 PM
Back to observing the short man with the dingy roadster in his shop, Berwald thought the actions the other made when the small blond notice rather... adorable. It reminded the mechanic of his sons when they'd try to act tough to try and get their way. The only thing that made the taller man wary at all, was the hard look in the other's eyes. Berwald's own eyes narrowed and he shifted his weight when the strange customer started digging inside his leather jacket.

Even when only just a thick envelope was pulled free, the Swede didn't really relax. The sight of the stacks of cash had no relieving effect either. Berwald knew no one except fools or shady people carried that much money on themselves. This... man was certainly part of some gang. A errand boy of sorts, figured the mechanic. Coupled with the show of bravado now that the money was out, an errand boy on good enough terms with his boss to be trusted with that amount of money and not run off with it. Not that impressive a sight, as the taller blond had put down a few dodgy personas in the past with the same attitude.

“I think this will more than cover what I want done.”

When the stranger started listing off the list of mods and repairs, Berwald pulled out a pen and a pad of paper to start jotting them down.

“Now, I expect progress by the time I come back tomorrow.”

Looking up at that statement, the mechanic saw the money and a piece of paper hit his workbench. Putting his pad away, guessing rightly that the paper was the list that had just been verbally rattled off, Berwald walked over briskly to take a look at it. When he heard retreating foot steps hit the floor of his shop and start to recede, the taller man pursued. Half of the things on that list were illegal models and would require many back alley dealings and deliveries that would take a lot of time. Not only that, but he had his boys to think of. He couldn't agree to these sort of deals, if it would bring trouble to his family. Thankfully, he didn't keep any photos his kids down here in the shop for strangers to look at. In fact, the whole space was devoid of any hints of his personal life. It was a lot of money... and it would cost a lot more still.

Dropping a heavy hand on the other man's shoulder to stop him, Berwald stared down silently at the other, grip firming just enough to warn against any attacks, yet not enough to leave any mark or or discomfort.

“Din 'gree t'anythin',” the mechanic spoke up. Now that he had the stranger's attention, he let go, crossing his arms over his chest, but not backing up or giving the small blond any room. “Y'work fer sumone. Wanna know who it is. And y'name,” he added, looking severe.

All the while he was thinking of the profits he could make. It would certainly move him forwards quite nicely towards his goals. He'd be able to do more for his sons, and the bills would certainly become less of a burden. Still... the risks were greater than the rewards. He'd dealt with biker gangs before, on a business level and then a physically violent level when they tried to turn things sour. Berwald wasn't about to put his children's life in danger, nor his.

“Not takin' th'job if y'bringin' trouble wit' it,” he stated, his tone having such a finality to it, that the other blond better have some good answers if anything was to proceed.

Posted by: Finland Sep 24 2013, 12:49 AM
Tino knew right away that he wasn’t leaving the garage alone. Living in a perpetual coked-out state meant constantly being on-edge. His pincushion of a forearm had just started to itch from the paranoia when a vice suddenly tightened around his shoulder. His spine went rigid and his skin caught on fire. His mind exploded like a firework with a million simultaneous thoughts – he was being bitten by a dragon, crushed to death in a trash compactor, squeezed in the clutch of a giant. A million ants were stirring around angrily inside his body all while being sucked into a black hole that was loud with the background radiation .

“Din ‘gree t’anythin’.”

Buried deep in the drug-induced haze, he tried to focus on the Swede. And tried not to focus on the gun calling to him from underneath his coat.

It’s just the mechanic. It’s just the mechanic. It’s just the mechanic.

And just like that, he’d willed the touch away. Without the pressure against his shoulder he felt light, and was certain that he’d float away like a helium balloon. Wheeling around, eyes wide and drool threatening to leak down the corner of his mouth, he stared at the burly blonde. He looked as placid as a winter lake.

“Y’work fer sumone,” he concluded. Lucky guess was all it was, or rather a good observation of the all too apparent signs, but Tino couldn’t help but think the grease-streaked Swede must have been a government agent in on bodysnatching and mind reading. “Wanna know who it is. And y’name.”

Eyes still quivering with the slightest nystagmus, the Finn managed to stammer out a halfway decent response in a mostly understandable accent. “It’s not like you gave me yours, either. Your name.”

The mechanic just maintained his argument, insisting, “Not takin’ th’job if y’bringin’ trouble wit’ it.”

Hallucinations having subsided along with his heart palpitations, Tino felt far more lucid. Maybe even a little cocky if the huff and grin he gave were any indication. No paska…. Jouko,” he fibbed. “My name is Jouko Marttinen.” His hand dipped briefly into his back pocket and returned with a seemingly authentic ID, bearing his photo and his alias. Magnusson had been the one to insist he take on a moniker. You’ve already got that damn accent, Tino had been told. If you say anything during a job, you’re done for; they’ll pick you out of a lineup easily. No point in going around using your real name, too. And that was that. He’d been dubbed Jouko Marttinen. As far as his crew was concerned, Tino Väinämöinen would only exist should Tino Väinämöinen face trouble with the law, in which case their ties would be permanently severed.

“And I don’t know what you mean about trouble,” he insisted, grin becoming nothing short of conniving. Innocently, he pulled at the zip on his jacket, down far enough to show off the waistband of his jeans and the gun tucked inside. “There won’t be any trouble unless you make it, hyvä ?” Showing that he wanted no trouble at the moment, despite how flighty he still felt from having been suddenly grabbed, the Finn pulled the zipper tight to conceal the weapon once more. “I’m just doing my job. And besides,” Tino continued, nearly laughing as he spoke, “by the looks of this place, you could use a little cash advance, juu? It’s – how would you say it? – an offer too good to refuse?”

A faint glimmer of challenge twinkled in his eyes, laugh lines crinkling up the corners as he grinned and awaited a response.

Posted by: Sweden Oct 11 2013, 02:55 PM
Carefully eyeing the stranger in his shop, Berwald looked as calm and dour as when the Finn first came in. As for not giving the other his name, the tall Swede raised a brow. He did have a plaque of his college diploma on the wall, right behind the counter, including all of his certifications. His name was right in the open for any who wished to know what it was. At least, someone possessed of all their senses would have have seen and read them. Which didn't seem to be the case with the fellow before him.

“My name is Jouko Marttinen.”

Stepping closer and squinting to see the ID a bit clearer, Berwald didn't look convinced the name was a real one. As for the card, it looked real enough and with a gentle nudge of his fingers, had his potential customer tilt it. The reflective designs were missing though. The chip also looked like it was just a picture, or sticker. A convincing enough fake, but not something that was swaying anything in the crook's favour.

“And I don’t know what you mean about trouble. There won’t be any trouble unless you make it, hyvä?”

The glimpse of the gun though, made Berwald's demeanour darken even more. So he was dealing with a mob of some sort. When the other took a stab at his establishment, the Swede's brow furrowed. It was true, he could use the money. The question was, would the money be worth risking putting his sons' lives in potential danger? He was already dealing with some drugged up junkie right at this moment. A junkie not afraid to wave a gun around. Then again... it would get him into a better home quicker. His boys were starting to get a bit old to share a room. The one bedroom apartment above his garage had been feeling smaller and smaller every year. He wanted to be able to give his children the same as most of the other kids they went to school with. Peter had been talking a lot about dogs lately too, but they didn't have the space for a pet and the neighbourhood wasn't quite right own a dog in.

Face having grown a bit soft during his weighing of the options, it hardened back up as he made his decision. Picking up the cash he'd been given, the taller man handed it right back, going so far as to stuff it back down the Finn's jacket.

“E'en good offers can be r'fused,” Berwald said, turning his back on the stranger and walking back to the bike he'd been working on. “Might 'ave sh'tty joint, but not tha' desp'rate 'nough t'risk wha' got t'work fer sum kid wit' drug problem n' mob c'nections,” he said, over his shoulder.

“If y'can't b'onest wit' me, not takin' th'job,” he added, plopping back down on his work seat to finish the chrome detail on his current project. “Guess th'question is, 'ow desp'rate y'are t'buy m'skills. N' dun think pullin' tha' gun on me s'gonna work. Can throw this wrench at y'ead faster than y'can draw,” he finished, speaking slowly and evenly. To make good on his threat, he picked up his biggest wrench near at hand and turned slightly to stare at the Finn still standing in his shop.

Posted by: Finland Nov 3 2013, 06:05 PM
Tino watched the mechanic’s expression morph from slightly annoyed to contemplative back to a steely, indifferent glare. He watched as the man approached him, money in hand, reaching out with the free one to grab Tino’s jacket, and shoved the money back into his pocket. The Finn was still trying to decide whether he was more confused about the sudden refusal or perturbed by being touched by this stranger a second time when the other spoke. “E'en good offers can be r'fused,” came the Swede’s final grumbled response, made only more complicated to understand as he turned his back on the potential patron in favor of tinkering with the parts laid out before him. “Might 'ave sh'tty joint,” he continued thankfully with his head turned in the Finn’s direction, “but not tha' desp'rate 'nough t'risk wha' got t'work fer sum kid wit' drug problem n' mob c'nections.”

Grinning, for he loved a good challenge, Tino feigned an offended tone and retorted, “Drug problem? That’s kind of rude of you to assume about someone you hardly know. Especially someone who wants to give you his money.”

Apparently unimpressed, the other added, “If y'can't b'onest wit' me, not takin' th'job. Guess th'question is, 'ow desp'rate y'are t'buy m'skills. N' dun think pullin' tha' gun on me s'gonna work. Can throw this wrench at y'ead faster than y'can draw.”

Yet another dare. The smaller of the two appreciated the challenge in this sort of threat less, though, and his smile faltered. What was this guy’s problem? Most people would have been falling over themselves trying to run to the cash offered, like a dog drooling over a piece of meat held out by its human, but this one was different.

Someone with a sense of morality in this era, the Finn deduced, grin returning. How quaint.

“The truth, right?” Crossing his arms, Tino leaned back, palms against a workbench behind him and shoulders against the wall. “I told you, my name is Jouko Marttinen. My accent’s gotta be proof enough of that. I’ve got no clue what you mean about these mob accusations,” he sighed, rolling his eyes. “I work for myself. Think of me as…” he had to think for a moment to come up with the appropriate word in Swedish before continuing, “an entrepreneur, here in Sweden to make a better life for myself. But business is slow right now, true enough, so consider me a private contractor for the time being. My boss is no one of high repute,” he lied. “Just another businessman and bike aficionado like myself,” came another lie.

Pausing to deal with a mild wave of paranoia, he pulled the money from his pocket and thumbed through the kronor bills that had been crumpled and smudged with grease from the mechanic’s hands when he’d hastily stuffed the envelope back into Tino’s jacket. Straightening them when the drug’s effects had passed, he continued, “As for your services…” Turning to look out the window to the glistening piece of eye candy parked in the front pool, he explained, “You do good work. Anyone with functioning eyes can see that. Let’s make this a transaction that benefits both of us, yes? If I get your incredible talent,” he smiled, holding up the stack, “you get all of this.”

It dawned on him that there was one last stipulation he hadn’t addressed, reminded by the heavy wrench in the Swede’s paw. “There won’t be any need for that,” he added, nodding towards the makeshift weapon, and cautiously, keeping eye contact with the man the entire time, slowly reaching into his coat and taking out his pistol, ejecting the clip so that it fell onto the floor with a clatter. He cocked back the action and sent the chambered bullet flying somewhere behind him and then laid the neutralized gun beside him on the bench. “See? I can be reasonable.”

His smile disappeared and face hardened as he concluded, “Now, let’s talk business.”

Posted by: Sweden Dec 12 2013, 05:56 PM
The Swede snorted at the denial about drugs. He'd seen the signs of addiction before. It wasn't hard to pick them out from the person in his shop. Obviously the stranger hadn't figured out how to quell the most telling of signs. Or cared enough to bother.

Still, Berwald was still going to keep his wrench nicely cradled in his grip. If worse came to worse, he'd have to remember to not throw or swing too hard. It had been quite a while since his rough and tumble days, but there were still times when the tall man forgot his own strength. As much as he didn't want some gang sniffing around his shop or keeping tabs on him, attracting the attention of the law was even less desirable. Not that anything he was doing was illegal (openly, anyway), but he didn't feel like jumping through all the legal hoops of an assault charge. Mind, he could always claim self defence...

Grip tightening on his tool and casually lifting it to rest on his shoulder, in case he did need to throw, Berwald watched Jouko pull out his pistol and empty the clip onto the floor.

“Now, let’s talk business.”

Getting up, Berwald first made his way to his welding table and quickly pulled on one welding glove. Still watching the Finn, he then approached, still armed with his wrench should he need it and retrieved the ejected clip with his gloved limb. Simultaneously shoved both the clip and glove into the deep back pocket of his cover alls, the taller blond settled a comfortable distance from Jouko. Berwald's stance was easy, but he'd unconsciously spaced his feet in a way that meant he expected a fight.

“Come back when y'sober,” the mechanic said, still not lured in by the wad of cash or the seemingly disarmed gun. “Then can talk bus'ness.”

Looking over at the clock, Berwald's brows shot up in slight surprise. It was almost time to go pick up his boys from the bus stop. In no mood to dally any further with his stranger, or to be patient any longer, the big man moved.

Discarding his wrench, he advanced on the Finn, grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him around towards the door. Forcibly making the other walk forwards, it was one of the gentler manhandled exits Berwald had ever imposed on a potential customer. Once both were out, he showed Jouko the hours on the door.

“Shop's closed now,” Berwald shortly explained. “If y'still want t'do bus'ness, come back 'fter eight,” he added, closing up the garage door and locking up. “Sober. Leave th'bike y'need work 'ere or not. S'up t'ya. Bring 'ny friends back wit' ya, or send sum'one else, callin' th'cops.”

Turning back around to face the Finn, he crossed his arms over his chest, waiting for the other to leave. He needed to quickly change anyhow, before picking up his kids. Also to get rid of this shady character. Berwald wanted to make sure the other wouldn't try to follow or stick around.

“R'member. 'fter eight, sober n' not dealin' wit' 'nyone other than ya,” the Swede repeated, leaving no room from argument.

Maybe he'd get take out for dinner tonight, from the deli that was on the walk home.

Posted by: Finland Jan 16 2014, 04:02 PM
The big guy might have been a great mechanic, but Tino wasn’t overly enthralled with the way he felt the need to constantly put his hands on him and shove him around. “Piss off,” he mumbled when he felt the Swede’s fingers digging with great strength into the sensitive skin between his neck and collarbones. “I can walk myself, you know.”

“Shop’s closed now,” the man grumbled. “If y’still want t’do bus’ness, come back ‘fter eight. Sober.”

Tino shot a rather unhappy glance back over his shoulder, which had at least been released, offering a small respite from at least one sensory factor. Where did this guy get off, thinking he had some right to tell another grown man how to live his life?

He was starting to get a serious jonesing for a fix.

“Leave th’bike y’need work ‘ere or not. S’up t’ya.”

The Swede’s back was now turned on him, and for a moment, Tino considered retrieving his loaned clip. He was out of his element in this part of the city, and his knowledge of which gangs ran which parts was rather limited. Without his gun, he was unprotected. One wrong step, and he’d be full of lead.

Approaching the other while his back was turned, however, seemed like a foolish mistake.

“Bring ‘ny friends back wit’ ya,” the man warned, “or send sum’one else, callin’ th’cops.”

Friends. The shorter of the two tried not to scoff.

With a tremendous shrieking, thundering racket, the metal door to the garage screeched in its tracks until the Swede had pulled it securely into place, chained it, and sealed the deal with a rather industrial looking padlock. No easy way to break in, for sure.

“R'member. 'fter eight, sober n' not dealin' wit' 'nyone other than ya.”

“Yeah, yeah,” grumbled the Finn. “I’m not stupid.”

Final demands laid out, the other turned and left for parts unknown to Tino, and Tino, for the first time realizing, was stuck in central Malmö with no good way to get home. How long had he driven that bike around? An hour? Walking would take far too long, and on an empty stomach and rapidly clearing brain, it seemed practically impossible. He checked his wallet. A few kronor; not nearly enough for a bus trip home just to catch it again in the evening to come all the way back to the shop.

A sudden yawn reminded him how constantly exhausted he’d become lately. When the thought arose that it was almost as bad as his first exams week during his first year at the university, he caught himself smiling and immediately shook those thoughts away. Those memories weren’t his, they weren’t Tino’s. They were from some other boy in some other life full of potential and light. Not his.

Across the street, a rather run-down, and what the Finn assumed to be abandoned, building sat slumping in its lot, its whitewashed cinder block walls the only part of it still seeming to be in good shape. Casting careful glances in all directions, Tino skittered across the road when he sure that no eyes were upon him. A quick inspection found one of the windows had already been partially broken out, and when Tino wrapped his hand in his jacket and delivered a good, solid punch, the rest fell away without resistance. The little nick he’d gotten on an unprotected part of his forearm went completely unnoticed.

The inside looked as if it had once been a small convenience store, now empty shelves pushed back against the furthest wall. It was almost disappointing that no food nor even one cigarette had been forgotten when its owners had taken their leave, but no one would be coming to check up on the place, and it was out of the eye of the public; it was a good place to rest. Empty gun in his hand, for the weight and coolness of the metal did provide some sense of comfort, the young man sat himself against a wall, tipped his head back, and fell into a deep, fitful sleep, filled with glimpses into distant worlds.

“I’m Tino,” he’d pronounced happily, the other students listening with varying degrees of interest. “This is my first year. I’m hoping to get work as an electrical engineer once I have my degree, or maybe I’ll go into research and development.” Taking his seat, the student to his left stood and began rattling off the answers to the same questions presented by their professor. The lecture hall was bright and cozy, an inviting atmosphere for education. But it was a bit noisy. Somewhere behind him, the blonde was almost certain he heard a loud car—

Jolting awake, and finding much to his vexation that his nap had left him feeling much worse for the wear, Tino rolled to his knees and poked his head over the windowsill. It had just been a car horn from the street outside. No sunlight was left and the streetlights looked as if they’d already been on for quite some time. It was at least seven, probably later. Hopefully it was past eight.

With a twitch of the finger, it was then he realized he’d taken up the trigger on his gun. With a sigh, he tucked it into his waistband, tugged on his jacket, and stood to brush the dust from his pants.

His body was aching, not only from the poor choice of bed, but also from the craving for something to sate his addiction.

Just get him to take the bike, he reminded himself. Then Magnusson will pay me.

Hurrying back across the street once he’d collected himself enough to move, he knocked hopefully on the door of the shop.

Posted by: Sweden Feb 28 2014, 02:07 AM
Picking up the kids from the bus stop was easy. Asking the boys how their day at school went, Berwald was glad to learn that Larsson hadn't gotten detention and praised his son accordingly. Peter got equal praise when he told his dad about the good grade he had on his spelling test, which the man would have to sign later, so Peter could take it back to school and show the teacher in the morning. Berwald asked if there was homework and both boys groaned, indicating they did. Promising to get the both of them an extra treat if they both did their homework without fuss, the Swede ushered his brood into the deli to settle the matter about dinner.

Three sandwiches, two salads and three cream puff pastries later, all three were on the road home. Dinner was an entertaining affair, both boys fighting to come up with the most sordid story about their school day. With the sandwiches and salad consumed, Berwald held the cream puffs hostage until both boys were done with their homework. He helped Larsson with math and helped Peter drum up ideas for his science project, which would be due a week from now. Doing something about how boats floated was the idea the older boy went with and after some begging, Berwald agreed to help Peter build a boat for his project.

Which caused Larsson to whine about wanting a boat too and it had better be cooler than Peter's. Chuckling, the Swede simply pacified both sons with their desserts. Afterwards, as there still was time before bed, it was time for video games, while dad cleaned up in the kitchen. Once the cleaning was done, it was time to squeeze in baths or showers. Thankfully, that went relatively painless, but getting the boys to bed was just as big a hassle as every other night. Needing to be back in the shop to meet back with this 'Jouko' for eight, Berwald didn't have the luxury of humouring his kids. Putting on his no bullshit taking face, both Peter and Larsson were quick to get into bed, less the quiet wrath of their father fall upon them. They still managed to get Berwald to read them a story though, and after reminding the boys that papa would be in the shop working late again, the tall blond ruffled both heads goodnight.

Glancing at a clock, the mechanic was glad to see he still had time to make himself some coffee before having to head back downstairs. He poured a second mug as an afterthought, and making sure all lights in the apartment were off, except for the hallway night light, Berwald took both mugs and himself down the stair case leading down into the garage of his shop.

Setting the coffee mugs on the counter at the back, he turned on the lights, then looked at the bike the weird youth had dropped off. It was a lot of money, just to fix up one bike. A knock on the front door disrupted his thoughts though, and Berwald lumbered over to go see who it was.

Spotting the same short blond as this morning. The Swede couldn't help but notice the other looked terrible. Maybe getting the extra coffee had been a good idea after all, Berwald thought, unlocking all three dead bolts, and wordlessly letting the other in. He peeked outside afterwards, making sure no one else was lurking about the street, then closed and rebolted the door.

“'ave sum coffee for ya, if y'want it,” Berwald said, finally speaking. He walked back to the counter where the mugs rested, and pushed the one that was Jouko's to the side a bit, picking up his own mug and drinking from it.

“I'll take the job,” he added, going over to the beat up bike. “But it's goin' t'take time. Can't rush gettin' th'parts needed fer th'work,” he explained, drinking from his mug again. He set the mug down on a nearby work table, then went to the desk where he'd locked the gun clip for the Finn's gun.

Taking the clip back out, he approached the other and handed it back. “Dun bring y'gun 'ere 'gain,” Berwald said, looking quite casually relaxed, although there was a hint of a warning in his tone. “Y'can come check on th'progress when y'need to, but prolly can't get started past guttin' th'machine,” he said, going back to pick up his coffee mug.

He drained it, then looked at Jouko to see what the response was.

Posted by: Finland Apr 7 2014, 02:04 AM
For the first few moments of their second rendezvous, Tino was almost convinced that the mechanic had completely forgotten their first, dare he say, less than friendly run-in. Motioning to two mugs whose curling trails of steam wafted over the harsh smells of motor oil and industrial solvent to tantalize the Finn with its familiar scent of a dark roast, he mentioned, “ ‘ave sum coffee for ya, if y’want it.”

And Tino, who was certainly not in his healthiest state of mind, nearly fell for the trick until the Swede moved in to take first choice of cup. The one he didn’t take was surely drugged. If it wasn’t, he would have let the Finn take first choice.

Nice try, he brooded silently, picking at a scab just under the cuff of his sleeve. Bastard.

“No,” he merely grumbled, shifting his weight anxiously between legs and sneaking compulsive glances over his shoulder to the exit of the shop. If the beast’s plan to drug Tino didn’t work, his next move might be to call in reinforcements. The young man would be damned if he let himself get trapped like that. “Just get on with it.”

“I’ll take the job.” The look the tall blond gave to the wreck of a bike seemed to convey otherwise unspoken doubts as he mentioned, “But it's goin' t'take time. Can't rush gettin' th'parts needed fer th'work.”

“Fine,” Tino snapped curtly, grimy fingers tangling in his hair to chase away all the tingling, itching sensations crawling along his scalp. How much time it took was not one of the stipulations Magnusson had given him.

Until he heard the metallic clicking of a lock tumbling and the creak of a drawer being pulled open, the gangster had nearly forgotten that he’d handed over his clip. The weight of his gun was still at his side, albeit significantly lighter, but given his current mental status, his mind was decidedly elsewhere, following powdery lines of Snow White or pushing the plunger on a needle full of speed straight into his bloodstream.

He needed a fix, he noted, looking with mild concern at the little clumps of honey colored hair that had come out between his fingers and under his nails once he’d pulled his hand away. Needed it bad.

Almost in a scolding manner, almost with some sort of paternal concern, but still with enough of a cool intimidation to be threatening, the shopkeeper informed him, “Dun bring y'gun 'ere 'gain.” Not so much defiantly as absentmindedly, Tino immediately pulled out his piece and slid the clip back into place. The other either didn’t notice or didn’t care as Tino got the pistol back into his waistband, and he continued to speak. “Y'can come check on th'progress when y'need to, but prolly can't get started past guttin' th'machine.”

“Whatever,” the young man initially responded, but after a moment’s thought corrected, “I mean fine. Fine, I’ll be by soon. Very soon. Same hour.”

He just wanted to get out of this building, whose walls were seemingly drawing in closer and closer, and back to the others for his payment and a stiff drink.

“Don’t try to contact me,” Tino warned, moving towards the door. “I’ll contact you when I need something. Just get the work done.”

With that, he’d pushed his way through the door and was hurrying down the sidewalk into the Malmö night.



Just as he’d hoped, Tino would be given a hefty reward that night for such quick work. A few of his compatriots had heard of the shop and its golden reputation, although none of them knew many details about the stoic owner or his background. Nonetheless, it was enough to earn the young Finn several rounds of his liquor of choice and a full 8-ball of crank. The rest of the night passed in a series of still frames –stumbling into his apartment, collapsing on the couch, tying the elastic around his arm tight enough to cut off blood flow, jabbing the needle into his bulging vein and getting his fix. Forgetting gangs and bikes and muscular mechanics. Forgetting that world he’d come from, that same world to which he could never be invited back. Forgetting it all, just for a little while.

Posted by: Sweden Apr 7 2014, 03:21 AM
Shrugging off the refusal for coffee (it meant more for him), Berwald paid attention to the other's answers. Not to mention his actions. The kid looked like he'd had a rough couple of days. Looked like he could use a shower maybe too...

“Don’t try to contact me.”

The big man simply raised a brow at that statement, sipping quietly on his mug of coffee. His face twitched faintly with amusement afterwards, wondering how he was supposed to go against that, when the other hadn't provided any contact information at all. It seemed silly to say those words at all.

“I’ll contact you when I need something. Just get the work done.”

“Ja,” answered Berwald, finishing up with his mug of coffee. He moved to go dump the contents of the other mug into the one he'd been drinking from, paused as if thinking about his actions and then simply switched mug. It hadn't been touched or tampered with at all. Why waste a perfectly good brew? It was the only thing the Swede allowed himself to have, no matter the expense. Within reason of course.

After this Jouko left the shop, Berwald mulled over his choice again, as he finished the mug. Staring at the hunk of junk now in his garage, he rubbed at his chin and then sighed. Time to see what was salvageable. The faster he took apart everything, the faster he could get to ordering the parts and materials he'd need for it. Stretching out his arms, he pulled his stool over and got to work. Besides, the Swede figured he could always resell the bike, if the other man never came back for it.

***

Finishing up with putting his boys to bed, Berwald trudged into the kitchen to grab the essentials for making coffee and the wonderful machine that brewed it for him. He had a long night ahead of him, as he'd finally gotten the steel pipes to build a custom exhaust for Jouko's bike. Making sure to grab a mug, he took the stairs down to his workspace, set up the pot to brew up and then headed back up to bring himself down some snacks.

Once he'd settled the food near the coffee and hand started sipping on his first cup, the Swede unlocked the door of his garage. Anyone who had business with him would be free to walk in, as long as the light atop the door shone and the lights behind the glass of the door did as well.

He'd gotten some progress done on the bike, although he hadn't received any of the parts he'd ordered yet. Having gutted the thing down to the frame, he'd separated pars into two piles; a pile of parts to be reused, fixed and polished up, and the other pile was going to be sold for scraps. Berwald had already sold the scrap metal, having a good buyer on hand for it. The frame he'd repaired and refinished. He'd replaced the gas tank as well, since it had been a wonder the previous one hadn't leaked gasoline everywhere, from the layer of rust it had on it. The wheel guards he'd refinished as well, along with the handle bars and the steering mechanism.

Papers filled with designs and equations peppered the wall near it, as well as pieces of painted of scrap metal hanging here and there, serving as colour samples. Walking over to the wall, coffee in hand, Berwald removed the papers with the exhaust designs and put them on a work table. This spot was where he liked to shape and bend metal, his press, grinder and buffer sitting at the left of it. Setting down the coffee and paper on the work surface, Berwald then went to fetch the pipes he'd be using to create his craft. He was just about to get ready, when the door opening diverted his attention towards the portal. Turning slightly, the tall blond looked towards the door to see who was coming in.

Posted by: Finland May 5 2014, 01:43 AM
After the killing of a high-profile boss outside of a night club in Helsingborg, the gang wars had taken precedence on the front of every major newspaper in southern Sweden. It was for that reason that Tino had foregone taking his bike as he made his way to the little shop in Malmö, choosing the safety of his own two feet as transportation and keeping his collar zipped high to conceal the 81 freshly emblazoned on his neck. It had crossed his mind briefly that he might not be able to find the place on his bike after getting so used to trekking to and from it the old fashioned way.

But probably not.

The Finn wasn’t all too keen on having to interact with the murmuring Swede, especially not with the left side of his face still bruised and smarting from a disciplinary thrashing he’d received a few days ago after a mistake involving some supposedly stolen drugs, but the week he’d given the man surely was plenty of time for him to have made some progress on the bike. That progress should soothe things over with Magnusson and get Tino back in the man’s good graces.

Hopefully, he mulled, taking a final drag from his dwindling cigarette.

Ensuring that his pistol was tucked safely out of sight in his belt, the Finn – now Jouko for the next few minutes – stepped into the surprisingly welcoming light of the garage. He couldn’t claim to be completely lucid as the mechanic had insisted, but the acute effects of the alcohol and drugs in his system had dulled enough to leave him fairly sober, perhaps still a bit too languid and thick tongued. With any luck, the Swede wouldn’t notice. Maybe his Finnish accent would distract him enough from the narcotics-induced drawl.

The glinting bits of piping and grease-streaked power tools decorating the walls initially caught Tino’s eye as he stepped through the doorway. He didn’t even know what some of these pieces of machinery were used for, but made a mental note that some of them looked like torture devices. He’d stand well away from those ones.

The mechanic, for being as big as he was, was surprisingly quiet. Tino smirked when he finally spotted the bespectacled man, catching him standing over the stripped down hull of what must have been the work in progress. It hardly looked like the fine specimen on display out front, but then again, it hardly looked like a motorcycle at all now.

“Looks like you’re getting it done, after all,” Tino hummed, absently tracing the tender, bluish flesh around his eye, shivering as his skin rebelled with little electric jolts of pain as he pressed a bit too hard into the bruise. “I take it she’s giving you no trouble so far?” The smaller man paused to rummage through his coat pocket for another smoke, and nudged it unlit between his cracked and grinning lips. “My colleagues, as well, no? That's good.”

Posted by: Sweden May 7 2014, 03:14 PM
Hm, just that guy, thought the Swede to himself. He'd been wondering when 'Jouko' would be showing up again, although he hadn't expected the shiner on the other's face. It only further cemented Berwald's suspicions about the small Finn being in a gang. Looking down at the piece of metal in his hands, he wondered at his wisdom over taking on such a shifty job. There was no going back now though. He'd already spent the cash he'd been paid upfront on materials and supplies, not to mention the parts he'd been required to order.

What little had been left after all of the expenses, Berwald had used to treat his kids with a cheap dinner at a fast food restaurant and movie. He hadn't known if the cash had been laundered or not, thus he'd deemed it prudent to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

“I take it she’s giving you no trouble so far?”

Setting the pipe in his hand, figuring it wouldn't be quite smart to try and bend the steel while distracted with conversation, the taller blond turned to fully face the other, leaning on the table behind him. Hands feeling a bit restless, he opted to cross his arms over his chest.

“Couple parts're bein' delayed fer couple o' weeks,” he answered with a shrug, as if that was a completely expected news. It happened more often than not, considering the vendors he dealt with, yet his customers so far had always felt the wait worth it for the work they received.

“ 'ad t'scrap quite bit though,” he added, pushing off from the counter and walking over to the frame of what was left of the motorcycle Jouko had first brought in.

“My colleagues, as well, no? That's good.”

Frowning at that declaration, Berwald wondered if that was supposed to be a threat or not. Putting one hand on the bike frame by his side, he stared long and hard at the Finn.

“If th'do, pr'tty sure woulda shown on th'faces,” he answered, an sharp edge to his tone, even though he kept his voice even. He cracked his knuckles casually at this, then turned to pick up colour swatches from the wall covered with his design work. They were the kind you could pick up at any paint or home renovation store for free, that had six different hues of the same colour. These he offered to Jouko.

“Need t'know wha' colours need,” Berwald said, in lieu of explanation, any threat or violence gone from his tone and posture. He was all business now. “Can't start paintin' til know. Or detailin',” he added, gesturing to some of the drawn designs on the wall. From all the gathered drawings, it appeared the mechanic was aiming for a wolf kind of theme. So far, the most visibly constructed design was the one where the headlight was nestled inside the beast's maw.

Posted by: Finland Jun 9 2014, 12:52 PM
It was somewhat pleasing to Tino to know that the gentle giant could be riled, or at least seemingly so judging by the gruff way he snapped back his response. “P’tty sure woulda shown on th’faces.”

To the threat, which wasn’t at first completely clear thanks to the Swede’s backwoods, possibly-slightly-brain-damaged truncations, the Finn just puffed out a smoky, humorless laugh. “If that’s what you want to tell yourself, man.” It’s not that the mechanic didn’t look strong. On the contrary, he was truly the picture of physical fitness. Still, Magnusson and his cronies were stronger, and one didn’t simply fight them off singlehandedly and win. Particularly not with those lifted anti-tank weapons they toted about.

But Tino had to hand it to the guy – he was a pretty unflappable fellow. Ruffling his feathers seemed to yield a quite ephemeral reaction, unsatisfying to someone who lived his most recent days to pick fights.

The Swede cracked his knuckles – Tino took note of the threatening gesture – and then moved coolly through his little shop towards one of the back corners wallpapered with blueprints and sketches. The schematics made some part of him miss being around the workshops at his university. His little station in the lab was always filled with parts lists and experimental designs, like the electric motor he’d last been working on when—

Pausing just long enough to work out a coughing fit (Tino hated smoking, really; he would have preferred a strong cup of coffee at the moment), he held up a swatch showing a scale of cool greys. “This one,” he announced, pointing to the penultimate shade. “In like a metallic fleck, you know?” The dark slate color would look nice with chrome. “Maybe with red accents? I don’t know – or blue.” The little Nordic’s eyes and fingers traced the swatches, lingering on a bright almost-orange red. “Maybe something like this…” His eyes roamed to the blueprints again, and then he was lost.

He hadn’t noticed when his mind had strayed so far from the present moment. Before he knew it, his brain was taking him through ideas for projects left unfinished somewhere in his school portfolio. That little electric motor, the plans he’d had for personal-use wind turbines, diagrams and layouts and sloppy hand-written notes scrawled down during 3 a.m. cram sessions….

What had happened to that life, anyway? The passion was still there – he was aching to ask about the mechanic’s notes. He wanted to know what sort of creative mind someone like that inked and muscled beast could have. He wanted to hear about the technical aspects – the wiring, the pistons, the gauges.

Thrusting the paint chips back to the mechanic abruptly, Tino wiped the dumb nostalgia from his expression and hoped his longing looks hadn’t been too obvious. “Well,” he murmured, “My colleague wasn’t very specific. And you’re the expert. Just make it look, fuck...” he hesitated to think of an appropriate word in Swedish, coming up with a lame, “badass. You know what I mean.”

His cigarette had burned to a sad little stump, and Tino didn’t think he had the stomach or the lungs for another one. Forbidding his eyes from gazing upon the wall of schematics, he let them light upon a little container of business cards. “Oxen-stee-arna,” he sounded out. "Ox" sounded just about right. “That’s you, right? You never told me, you know; that’s in bad form for a businessman.”

Posted by: Sweden Jun 29 2014, 11:35 PM
“This one.”

Berwald was quick to reach over, pencil in hand to mark the colour swatch with an 'x'. It was a good grey and using metallics was easy enough. He'd just have to figure out how to get the paint job to look like actual fur, but eyeing the locked cage he kept his paints in, he had a few ideas on how to get the effect he'd be looking for. He'd simply have to experiment until he found a method that worked best.

“Maybe with red accents? I don’t know – or blue.”

Again, the tall Swede marked the swatches the other mentioned. He could use blue for an undertone, and the orange-red would be a neat colour for eyes. Or make the wolf leap from the fire and have the back of the bike covered in flames... that would certainly be interesting as well. Then the eyes could be blue... then again, the blue would look really nice for an under tone.

Needing to figure out how he was going to proceed, Berwald left Jouko to reminisce in peace and go back to his work table. He dug out his box of markers, an expensive collection of copics, as he had yet to find anything with ink that blended as nicely as these.

Next he traced over a sketch he'd liked the best, hands moving quickly and steadily across the paper, the movements practiced and precise.

“Make it look badass,” agreed Berwald, after the Finn started speaking again, already laying down colour on his paper.

“Oxen-stee-arna.”

Pausing in his colouring, the Swede turned to face the other man in his shop. He'd gotten the info he'd needed. What was the other lingering for anyway?

“That’s you, right? You never told me, you know; that’s in bad form for a businessman.”

“Ja, s'me,” the mechanic replied, still nonplussed. “ N' y'ne'er asked, s'far s'member,” he added, turning on his stool fully and capped the marker he held in hand. Besides, why would he give his full name to someone who very obviously was using a fake one? As far as Berwald was concerned, it wasn't needed and those who wanted to know usually found out one way or another.

The Swede stayed relaxed until he noticed the light go on behind the door at the back of the shop.

Fuck.

Practically scurrying for the door, least one of his sons open it and reveal himself to this complete stranger in his garage, he quickly had a hand on the handle. “Don't touch 'nythin',” he fairly growled at the Finn, pairing that with a territorial scowl. He didn't even wait for a reply as the man opened the door and squeezed himself through, using his bulk to hide as much of the opening as possible and closing the door behind him.

His voice came through faintly, as did another younger voice and the sound of steps going up a set of stairs, both things eventually fading out and stopping completely, with the closing of another door somewhere above.

Posted by: Finland Aug 14 2014, 01:54 AM
Tino had just informed the poorly mannered businessman that, as a customer, he shouldn't have to inquire about his name, when the soft, warm glow of a light flooded out from beneath a door to which the Finn hadn't really paid much attention before. This Oxenstierna's reaction was a little overly extravagant, Tino noted, watching as the man's movements became clipped and frantic.

"Don't touch 'nythin'." The order was barked gruffly. This guy must have been a drill sergeant before becoming a mechanic.

Honestly, it was just a light. The Swede wasn't even the one who was bugging out for a fix, so why get so freaked over--

The little blonde smirked, shoving his hands into his pockets and hooking his thumbs through his belt loops. Ah, so that was it - the burly man had some sweet little thing waiting for him in there. No doubt she'd woken up lonely in their bed and had come down the steps in some skimpy translucent little slip of a nightie to give him the 'come hither' look.

What a rude guy, not allowing Tino a peek at a cutie like that. But whatever.

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled, sounding less calm than he was going for. Being bossed around had never been his favorite game, and the intensity with which he needed the good stuff was starting to get to him and really make that musclehead mechanic annoying.

After the proprietor of the shop had disappeared into his residence, Tino took a moment to peruse the shelves, eyeing aerosol cans and pungent solvents that offered silently to take him to a wonderful, far-away world. Itchy fingers dug into his even itchier skin, chasing away subcutaneous spiders. The temptation was strong, but there was something else the biker had in his sights.

Those lines, those smooth pencil strokes and digital print-offs, parts lists, beveled edges, notes on threadcount and--

Tino craved those blueprints as much as he craved a night of sleep in a five star hotel, a good meal, and ten kilos of narcotics. But he wasn't a thief. Never had been. He was an engineer who worked part time as a barista, not a thief, never intended to be a murderer.

The throbbing around his eye socket was becoming unbearable.

Quickly, he pulled out his camera to snap some photos of the blueprints labelled with his name (the hardest part of using an alias was remembering it later), then fled from the shop and out of the reach of his temptations.

Magnusson had been pleased. "Jouko" had earned his payment.

"Oxenstierna?" Tino heard someone ask as he jabbed the needle into his tourniquet-bound skin, pushing down on the plunger once he saw a little flash of red. The rest of the words were jumbled into a language he understood even more poorly than Swedish as the Finn tipped his head back and gave in.

Something about cage fighting.


...

They'd made the front page again. Every kid dreamed of being famous, but Tino supposed infamy was just about the same. Straddling his bike because his apartment's walls had been closing in on him too tightly recently, he thumbed through the newspaper, idly massaging the newsprint between his callused fingers.

People had died this time, but he tried not to think of the bodies piling up. A turf war was like any other war; invaders would become casualties. They should have known their place and stayed away.

Tino didn't get paid when people died. That was the worst of it. Rations were scarce for Magnusson's soldiers, and they had to stay under the radar. Away from their suppliers. Tino was low on the pecking order and had to pick at the carcasses of what was left over.

The days seemed longer during periods of detox. Everything was obnoxiously bright and loud. Smells were stronger, colors were brighter - all of it made Tino want to puke. The boredom of it all, waiting to be called into duty again for weeks on end, was the worst part.

It reminded the Finn that he'd never really made friends in this city. Not in the typical sense, anyway. He'd once known his classmates, but now he could hardly remember the names that matched the faces.

It might have been nice to have an acquaintance.

Well... There is that guy.

A smile of thinning lips spread across his face; he'd learned of Berwald Oxenstierna's past, and getting a little taste of his physican prowess might offer a nice little thrill. Revving up his engine, the blonde peeled off through the city.

Posted by: Sweden Sep 24 2014, 01:38 AM
Just a nightmare, although to Berwald it sounded more on the queer side than horror. After listening to Larsson recount his tale, tucking him back into bed and scaring all the monsters back into their respective corners of the bedroom, the lad finally went back to sleep. Making sure Peter still slumbered soundly and fixing up the blankets around his older son, finally left his apartment, and headed back down into stairwell that lead into his garage.

He was alarmed at first, to find Jouko missing. After scouring his entire shop, the tall mechanic was able to determine nothing had gone missing. Heaving a sigh and then grumbling under his breath, Berwald marched back over to where he'd left off. He still had a set of pipes to finish building after all, that he wanted to get done tonight.


Having a 'rough day' was sort of a good way of putting things into perspective, when it came to Berwald's chain of events. He'd spied a man this morning, watching his home and garage, while the mechanic had popped out to pick up the morning paper. Then, of course, there had been the headline news about the turf war being fought between rival gangs heating up, to add to his worries. Paranoid now, it hadn't been easy to hide his mood from his kids, who'd picked up right on it.

“Is someone trying to beat you up, papa?” Larsson had asked, while waiting for the bus. “I'll beat them up first!” he'd declared, before Berwald could answer, the boy striking a fighting stance clumsily.

“Nej.” answered the tall blond, chuckling at the silly sight. Thanking his boy for trying though, he then ushered both kids on the bus, once it came.

Then there was that had been watching him earlier that morning again, failing quite clearly to blend in at the cafe across the street.

Berwald had had a mind to go over there and rattle the guy up, scare him away or at least find out why the stranger was tailing him at all. He'd simply glared though and turned back towards home. Perhaps he could get some aggression out by bending steel to build the actual head of the wolf, of the bike he was modding.

With the weather nice, he'd left his garage door wide open and turned on his music player to remedy his mood. Of course, he'd had to slice his palm open while cutting the sheets. Thankfully it hadn't looked like stitches would be required, but it would certainly put a damper on his ability to do the fine work.

Perhaps he could work on painting the first coats onto the frame and gas tank. That way his paints would be properly mixed for when he would be ready to finish slapping the rest of the colours onto the hog. With his right hand now patched up, wrapped in a way that almost made it look like he was getting ready for a boxing match, he grabbed his painting overalls, breathing mask and goggles to don on his person.

Next, it was moving the frame with the attached tank and rear tire fin outside, onto the lot. This way, fumes wouldn't stick around in the actual inside part of his property, and his boys wouldn't complain about the smell of the paint after their return school. Loading up his spray bottle with base primer, Berwald had just been about ready to start laying it on, when the sound of an unfamiliar bike reached his ears. Breathing mask still in place, he lifted the goggles onto his head so that he may better stare at the approaching motorcycle and its rider.
Ah, that guy. Just who it would take to make his day worse, what with the recent news. Too bad Berwald was too far into the work to back out now.

Posted by: Finland Sep 26 2014, 03:54 PM
The engine grumbled and sputtered as it died, and Tino lifted his helmet up and off and shook out his sweat-dampened hair, letting the sound of the mechanic’s music hit his ears. He recognized the song; he’d heard it at one of the clubs they often used as a headquarters. For a moment, he leaned back in his seat and took in the set-up. Looks like he’d just interrupted some painting.

“Don’t let me stop you,” he announced in some sort of weak apology. As he let his bike fall over to its kickstand and swung his leg over, he added, “I just came to check on the progress.” When he turned to face the ventilator-masked Swede, a mischievous grin had sprung up on his visage.

Tino slowly paced back and forth around the parts laid out awaiting a coat of paint. The metal had been hammered and buffed out perfectly, almost impossibly smooth to have been the work of human hands. That mechanic was fantastic at his job as Tino confirmed with quiet vois and hyväs.

“Oh, and there was one more thing…” Standing in front of the Swede, Tino stopped and shoved his hands into his pockets. “You didn’t tell me you were some sort of champion cage fighter.” The flame had been sparked.

“We’ve never heard of you in Finland,” he considered, “but my crew—” Damn it. “Colleagues,” he corrected himself without missing a beat, passing off the faux pas as a fault of language barrier before continuing, “seem to know your reputation.”

To make sure that he wasn’t losing the other’s attention, he let himself drop into a deep squat at eye level, cocking his head to the side still with that shit-eating grin. “The Viking, right? They called you something like that?”

Lately, the Finn had been finding it impossible to sit still for more than a few moments at a time. The muscles of his legs gripped and propelled him back onto his feet, and he was back into his track, pacing slowly back and forth like an agitated lion ready to fight. “I can respect that. I’m just wondering what happened. How does a man go from a profession like that – being at the top of his game – to eking out an existence being a mechanic in a tiny little shop added onto the back of his house?”

He was craving confrontation. He wanted to crack this Oxenstierna’s stoic shell and prod at raw nerve. Just a bit more pushing…

“In fact, no one seems to know. Was it a humiliating defeat? Lose to a rookie and get laughed out of the ring?” Tino made a few noises of contemplation. “Or did you kill somebody? Maybe get too riled up and just…” The Finn brought his hands up and mocked the violent motions needed to snap someone’s neck.

Deep down in the part of his mind where his common sense had been hidden and beaten into submission on a day to day basis for the past few years, a weak voice was screaming at him that this man was probably twice his weight and at least a whole head taller and could break out half of his teeth in one punch. Berwald had ice water in his veins, but everyone had their breaking point, and when this guy snapped, blood would be spilled.

But then again, a fight could be that fix that he was looking for. A little rush, a temporary high. He could deal with the consequences later.

“So?”

Posted by: Sweden Sep 28 2014, 01:29 AM

Check on the progress, of course. Too bad working unobstructed was out of the question now. Setting his paint gun down, Berwald went to fetch his piece of sheet metal he used for testing colours. It was also a good way to make sure his equipment still functioned properly. If the nozzle was jammed, he'd be able to find out right away.

When he noticed Jouko checking out the bare frame, the Swede felt quite a fair share of satisfaction at the obvious admiration in the other's face. It always had felt nice to see the awe and amazement in clients' faces, as they looked over the product Berwald presented. Validation for all his hard work.

Oh, and there was one more thing…”

“Hm?” grunted the mechanic, setting his multicoloured metal sheet against the side of his garage. Once he'd straightened out, he found himself face to face with the smaller man.

“You didn’t tell me you were some sort of champion cage fighter.”

Berwald's relaxed demeanour immediately changed. He straightened from his casual slouch, eyes narrowing and staring intently at Jouko. What was this guy getting at, suddenly bringing this out of the blue. Replacing the safety goggles from his face, onto the top of his head and pulling down the mask to hang around his neck, he remained steadily quiet, just listening and observing.

He'd never fought in Finland. Fights were harder to arrange over in the neighbouring country. Besides, there was more money here in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Or had been, since he hadn't been part of that circle in some years.

Crew – that meant he'd been right about Jouko being in a gang. A gang that had most likely seen him fight, if they'd filled in this kid about his violent past. A kid who was very obviously fishing for a fight it looked liked. Berwald never could forget an over confident swagger. Actions which were making the Swede's frown get steadily darker, yet he remained rigidly fixed in place, just following Jouko with his eyes.

As for what he'd been called... he'd had many ring names. Viking had been one of them, but mostly at the very beginning. He'd climbed the ranks quickly though, one of the high rollers making a quip about having the next Gustavus in the ring. Then everyone had begun calling him the 'Lion of the North' and that name had stuck for the rest of his fighting career.

“In fact, no one seems to know. Was it a humiliating defeat? Lose to a rookie and get laughed out of the ring? Or did you kill somebody? Maybe get too riled up and just…”

“Pr'son,” rumbled out the Swede, shoulder squaring up. This kid really was fishing for a fight. He wondered if he could quickly scare the other into backing down. He wanted to keep his record clean. If cops showed up, because he'd gotten caught throwing some punches, what he'd worked for would all be for naught.

Taking a deep breath to help retain his cool, he crossed his arms comfortably across his chest. Ten, nine, eight...

“So?”

...seven, six, five, four...

That grin was still in place and if it didn't look as if it would be leaving Jouko's face. Then he noticed movement across the street and his eyes shifted to take in what had caught his attention.

...three – Fån. That man from the morning again, still watching him. Was this goon with Jouko? Did the other know about his children too? Perhaps a scare tactic might be in order, just to make the junkie think twice about doing anything rash.

Before he'd even thought about it, he'd reached out and grabbed onto one of the Finn's wrists. Using the limb to pull the other in close, he twisted the it behind Jouko's back. A deft sweep with one foot and a push in the right direction, had the other eating the gravel in Berwald's shop yard. Remembering about the gun he'd had shoved in his face the last time, the Swede then quickly immobilized the other arm and shoved a knee into the smaller man's back.

“Ate shrimps like ya fer d'nner in there,” he growled, leaning down on the other for effect. “Dun push y'luck,” he added, letting even more of his weight rest on prone figure. As much as he hated doing it, perhaps even further intimidation was in order. Getting in close, Berwald inhaled deeply just behing Jouko's ear, then emitted a pleased sounding growl.

Posted by: Finland Sep 28 2014, 10:46 PM
The fight Tino had been hoping for came instead as a swift, frank thrashing. He hadn't had time to react to the strong hand gripping roughly at his comparatively delicate wrist, had only just begun to feel the burning pain of bones being clamped down on too tightly and barely sensed the tugging sensation in the rest of his arm before he found himself being unceremoniously chicken-winged. Truthfully, the manner in which the ex-fighter could move was impressive. Even through the thick, protective fabric of his jumpsuit, the man was rippling with muscle from neck to calf; his strength was obvious. His speed, however, was not.

Tino only realized he'd gone facedown when the nerves and tendons in his shoulder alerted him of the rough torsion that threatened to rip the joint out of its socket and when his mouth suddenly tasted of blood and gasoline-soaked gravel. Things seemed to slow down then as he found himself under the mechanic's full weight.

"Ate shrimps like ya fer d'nner in there," came the ominous warning. For the moment, Berwald had him pinned in a manner that made seeing his face all but an impossibility. But if Tino were the mechanic, he would have been smiling. Sneering with a wolf's grin. He could practically hear the mocking in his voice and see the Swede's visage fall dark as he remebered the thrill of the kill and his blood began to pump feral once again.

"Dun push y'luck."

So in kind, Tino grinned back, even as the heavy creature on top of him leaned close enough for his breath to blow like pressurized steam across the shell of his ear. The soft whisper of air deepened into some sort of animalistic rumbling, and the Finn's smile grew wider.

"Impressive," the prey quipped, trying again to blink away the abrasive bits of sand that had hit his eyes when he fell and blinded him with his own tears. Straining his neck as far as possible, he was able to see the beast keeping him pinned and remarked with bloodied lips, "Pity you went into retirement."

Moving underneath the other proved to be a difficult feat. More likely an impossibility in the littler Nordic's current state - he was weak from detoxing and growing weaker from a diet that consisted of what little he could steal or afford. Not that he would have ever proven a fair match for this brute; the Scandinavian was way out of his weight class.

Nonetheless, Tino did his best to demonstrate that he'd like to get up, pressing his back and hips up and into the other as well as he could. The campaign resulted in three or four bucks before his reserves were tapped and, with a grudging sense of resignment, he was forced to wait for the shopowner to choose to remove himself.

If he wasn't sore before, he certainly was now. Oxenstierna's incarceration had certainly proved why the fight hadn't gotten any more heated, much to Tino's disappointment, yet those three little movements had been enough to know that he wasn't getting away without a serious backache.

Of course, if Magnusson were to hear about his bottom bitch trying to pick a fight with the man who was working on his bike, he'd be in for another throttling later. Might as well get warmed up now.

As a token of insurance just in case his outlandish behavior had given the mechanic any reason to reconsider doing the work he needed, Tino slipped in a covert little reminder, commenting, "Spend the money I gave you well? It's been a while, after all." Turning his head, he spat the blood pooled between his lips and bottom teeth onto the ground and watched the thirsty dust absorb it and turn it into little rusty spots.

"There's more, you know. That was just a downpayment." He grinned at his announcement of this latest development; Berwald was probably caught totally offguard. Good.

"More work in it for you, you know, but more cash." Turning his head again, he nodded to his own bike. "It could use some work, and I've got the connections to make sure you live very well for the next several months. But it's all up to you."

Posted by: Sweden Nov 5 2014, 01:34 AM
The way Jouko appeared to completely take the take-down in stride, unnerved Berwald. He obviously wasn't dealing with as big of a rookie he thought he was. The smaller man had been part of whatever gang he was in for a decent amount of time if the physical threat literally weighing down on him, didn't phase the junkie one bit. The Swede was now uncertain of how to beat the bravado out of this one; it wasn't everyday someone didn't openly retreat as soon as Berwald started pulling his intimidation tactics.

“Yeah! Get him, papa!”

At the sound of that familiar young voice, the mechanic froze and rushed to his feet quickly, just in time to catch sight of his boys sprinting down the sidewalk towards the shop. School bags were tossed carelessly aside and before Berwald could stop them both Peter and Larsson were upon Jouko in an attempt to help their dad.

Just as quickly, Berwald had an arm around both youths and hauled them off and away from the gang member, before any harm could befall them. He'd done so with a bit more strength than he'd wanted to in his rush to protect his progeny, as both boys complained about the hold.

“Ow, dad, let go!” grunted Peter, the taller and oldest of the two. He kicked his legs to try and free himself, but his dad's grip was too secure.

“Fuck!” swore Larsson, trying the limp noodle technique. His attempt was a failure as well.

“Language,” growled Berwald in a clipped tone, adjusting his grip and then setting both kids back on their feet a safe distance away from Jouko. “Bags. Inside,” he ordered, pointing at the discarded backpacks, then gesturing towards the garage in one swift and steady motion, causing the boys to start whining in protest.

“But dad-!”

“Papa, we want to help kick his butt!”

“In. Side,” repeated Berwald, glowering quite darkly at both kids. Their mouths snapped shut, they skittered towards their dropped bags, and then raced into the garage, using the door at the back of the shop. Larsson, the braver of the two, lagged behind a bit and tried to hide behind the counter to loiter. That was until he heard his dad's foot steps stomp towards him and with an 'eep!', was up the stairs and into the apartment right behind his brother.

Standing halfway inside his garage, Berwald wondered why his boys were home so early from school. A look at the clock confirmed that they were indeed early, and that he hadn't simply forgotten to pick them up from bus stop. Walking over to the telephone at the desk, he looked for recorded messages; there was indeed one from the school, explaining that due to a broken water pipe all of the children had been sent home, so an inspection and repairs could be done. Classes would be cancelled the next day as well and parents should expect a call on the morrow, to be informed of when classes would resume.

Meanwhile, both Peter and Larsson had set up camp in the apartment window on the second floor and were alternating between making faces at Jouko and gesturing rudely. They ducked down though, once Berwald re-emerged outside to deal with the junkie.

“S'best if y'left,” the tall mechanic ground out, looking both angry and nervous. Scanning the other side of the street, he couldn't find the mysterious man from that morning.

“M'gonna f'nish this job n' then dun want 'nythin' t'do wit' ya or th'pals y'run wit',” Berwald added, giving the road another good look, before turning his gaze on Jouko. Then his face hardened, shoulders squaring and he drew himself to his full height. “Bring 'ny trouble t'm'boys n' th'bike's not th'only thing I'll work o'er,” the mechanic threatened, icy eyes promising a lot of pain, and this time, there was nothing being held back in that stare.

Posted by: Finland Nov 5 2014, 03:59 AM
Simpering humorlessly, Tino pushed himself up on his elbows enough to allow his ribcage room to expand with a breath, then weakly dropped down. Just as he was preparing himself to inform the weight on his back of the dangers of shrugging off his offer so quickly, a mob of tiny voices and quick footfall kicked up a ruckus just down the street.

Craning his neck the other direction, the Finn had just enough time to make out two sets of sneakered feet making a beeline for him before he felt the rubber toes digging into some exposed bit of upper arm not covered by Berwald's body.

"Vittu," he spat, more caught off-guard and peevish than pained or truly angry. Were these kids? Their feet had looked too small and kicks felt to weak to be men. And had they said--

At once, the pressure on his back forcing him into the unforgiving gravel lot was gone.

"Ow, dad, let go!"

The Swede must have taken more out of him with that manhandling than he'd initially thought, Tino decided, because getting off the ground wasn't as easy as he'd anticipated. The Finn sort of rocked to one side to gain enough momentum to roll to his feet, using the cuff of his sleeve to wipe away the gravel embedded in the skin over his jaw.

His ears must have taken a blow, too; there was no way he was hearing correctly.

"Dad?" Berwald was already across the lot, shepherding the little lambs away from the thug sprawled out on his property. With a laugh, the downed biker repeated, "Papa?!"

It explained a lot - why the mechanic always made sure that no one visited his shop during certain hours, why he insisted on giving no glimpses inside the door to his private residence.

"You have kids."

The burly blond wasn't listening, too busy ordering the two boys into the house with their bags and scolding them for their adult-rated language.

With his opponent occupied, the Finn sprang to his feet and did his best to ignore the heaviness he felt in his limbs and the way his muscles didn't respond as quickly as he was sure they once had, instead giving attention to the ache in his shoulder that he was almost certain was the result of an overextended rotator cuff. If nothing else, at least, it would give him something to contemplate other than the feeling of bugs under his skin and the hunger gnawing away from inside his stomach that had come to plague him in recent days.

It was when he'd been rolling his neck, trying to realign his vertebrae, that Tino had seen their little faces appear in the upstairs window. One towheaded one and one ginger, they couldn't have been much older than eight or nine years old. And if their physical appearances didn't show their patrilineage well enough, their spunk certainly did - they were already flicking him off and the Finn thought he could read their lips forming the words "dra åt helvete". A round-cheeked grin was all Tino offered in response.

"S'best if y'left," Berwald cautioned in a tone that gave away more worry than Tino was certain he would have liked to be known. "M'gonna f'nish this job n' then dun want 'nythin' t'do wit' ya or th'pals y'run wit'." Any thoughts that Tino had once had about the impossibility of Berwald striking an even more fearsome silhouette were destroyed when he witnessed how the man morphed into a protective mama bear. "Bring 'ny trouble t'm'boys n' th'bike's not th'only thing I'll work o'er."

Tino wasn't sure he'd ever seen eyes so blue look so fiery.

"Relax, Papa" he carped, pulling his gaze away from the window. "I didn't even know you had kids. I know what you must think about some sort of junkie thug, but I promise I haven't slipped so low as to hurt a child." The Finn reached into his mouth with his middle finger, dug in against the folds of skin between his cheek and jawbone to rake out the pooled blood, and pulled his finger back out to observe the glistening red saliva. "But you think about my offer. Think about what a bonus like that could do for them." Tino punctuated with a nod towards the window. "Sleep on it."

He'd swaggered - to hide the limp he'd picked up - back to his bike, heaving a leg over and plopping himself into the saddle of his metal steed. "Hm, and one more thing, Swede." Lopsided smile returning, Tino cast a glance back over his shoulder. "When you threaten someone's life, you should make sure that's something they value. Me, I'm not scared to die." Mirroring the actions of the children upstairs, the Finn offered a blood-crusted middle finger before roaring down the street.

Posted by: Sweden Feb 12 2015, 02:32 AM

Behind all of the fearsome protectiveness, lied discomfort. An unease crawled across Berawld's back as he listened to Jouko talk, watched the other man swagger back to his bike and climb in the seat. More money would certainly help, but at what cost? The cash would need laundering before Berwald would feel safe dumping it into his savings account. All it would take would be for one cop to come sniffing around and with the mechanic's luck, the pig might just arrest Berwald on the spot for suspicious activities. Once convicted, you always made the top of the suspect ladder. Then he'd lose his business, lose his boys...

Growling that train of thought away, Berwald followed Jouko with his eyes carefully.

"When you threaten someone's life, you should make sure that's something they value. Me, I'm not scared to die.”

Grunting in response to the blatant lack of self preservation, the mechanic watched the motorbike roll away. Then he scanned the street, looking for that weird fellow from earlier, the turmoil of money versus the welfare of his children aggravated by the lack of the stranger's presence. Feeling paranoid, Berwald called it a day and hauled all of his equipment and the unpainted bike back into his garage. He locked up and then headed upstairs, listening to the cheers and jeers from his kids.

They assaulted their papa with questions about Jouko, questions Berwald evasively answered and shifted the subject to school, finally getting to ask about the water pipe.

“Ja, I bet it was totally Peter's fault, because of his big shits!” cackled Larsson, dodging a swipe from his older brother and seeking shelter behind one of his papa's legs.

“Language,” the Swede reminded the younger one, competing with Peter's “Did not!”. He was unable to hide the slight grin at that comment, taking some solace that at least he seemed to be the only one worried about the day's guest.

Which reminded him; he'd have to get someone to watch the boys tomorrow, if he was going to get the paint job finished at all. Looking at the time, he distracted Peter and Larsson with games and picked up the phone to give his parents a call. Grandma and grandpa always liked it when the grandkids visited, Berwald was sure he might even be able to get the kids there tonight. It would certainly help him sleep easier for the time being.

**

The school called the next day to tell Berwald that classes would be cancelled until the following Monday, since repairs would take a little longer than previously assessed. With a sigh, he'd once again called up his parents to tell them the news and his mother reassured him she'd be more than happy to watch over her favourite sailor and crazy pumpkin for another night. Grateful for the weight lifted from his shoulders, Berwald assured his mother he'd have his painting done by evening and would be by to take his kids back in the morning. She tutted and scolded him into at least agreeing to stay for lunch.

One problem solved, the mechanic set himself to tackling the second issue of the day; getting that damn motorcycled painted so that it could dry and be that much closer to being done with dealing with biker gangs. A task that kept Berwald busy well into evening. Job done and with no children to tuck in for the night, the Swede decided it would be nice to go to a bar and do some drinking. He certainly needed a few beers to help him contemplate everything that was going on. Making sure he had enough bus fare on him and a backpack with some essential tools, he started his commute to his preferred biker bar.

Some of the patrons recognized him and greeted him warmly, Berwald giving nods in return and inquiring about the state of their rides, as well as the riders themselves. Exchanging a few favours for cash, the tall blond had two hogs tuned up, a tail light fixed and set appointment for some brake pad changes, withing the first hour of arriving at the bar. Pocket now full of cash, the Swede claimed he was thirsty and that he might check on some of the other bikes if anyone else had any issues with theirs, once the need for beer was quenched.

Grabbing a seat at the bar, he ordered two bottles of lager to start with. One he drained in one go, thanking the bartender and handing over the recently earned money in exchange for the drinks. Grabbing onto the second bottle, Berwald spied a lone table in a corner of the establishment that was currently unoccupied and meandered his way over.

Sitting down with a sigh and taking a sip from the beer in his hand, the Swede settled in for night of deep reflection, observing the crowd inside the bar idly as he thought.

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