|Primary Characters:||Julie, Jimmy, Viktor, Lasse
|Description:||Someone from Jimmy’s past turns up to haunt him again. Julie senses his state of mind and wants to know what’s wrong. Eventually, he opens up to her and she finds out the truth about his time in jail.
Jimmy pulled the jacket to and put his collar up. It was getting really cold by now. He half ran across the yard at the back of the hotel. The door to the kitchen was open and the light from inside looked inviting. When he got closer he noticed someone leaning on the wall just a little distance from the door. Of course. Lasse would be here and was having a smoke before his work day began in earnest.
That voice. Jimmy shivered, though his jacket had a thick lining and after the run across the yard he’d begun to sweat.
“That guy Lasse – is he the one – calling the shots here?”
“What are you doing here?”
Jimmy realized that his voice didn’t sound very impressive. He coughed, hoping his next words wouldn’t come out more like a whisper.
“I’m sure you can be a little more polite to me. Now that you’re a respectable citizen with a job and everything. How are you, Viktor? Thank you very much, I’m fine. How are you, Jimmy, my boy?”
“I said – what are you doing here?”
Jimmy had snatched his hands out of his jacket pockets and was prepared for – whatever Viktor might be planning. Suddenly the latter pounced, grabbed him and managed to push him up against the wall. His face was so close Jimmy felt the stubble scratching his cheek and Viktor’s breathing burning his skin. Viktor held him like that for a while, despite Jimmy’s struggle to break free. In the end, he panicked and kneed Viktor in the groin.
A long string of curses erupted from the darkness. Jimmy retreated towards the door. Despite everything, he’d rather Lasse noticed what was going on, even if it meant having to be even more ashamed of his background. If necessary, Lasse could send for the guards. But Viktor didn’t seem to have anything else planned, at least nothing physical.
“If I were you, I’d fucking watch out, Jimmy. You can’t treat me like this. See you. Enjoy yourself – enjoy your work.”
Finally someone was calling his name from inside the kitchen.
“Jimmy? Is that you? What are you doing out there all this time? We’re waiting for you.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Out of breath and with burning cheeks, Jimmy slipped through the doorway, trying to get past Lasse’s bulk, but it was hopeless. He felt Lasse’s gaze bore into him and he looked away, for all the good it did him.
“What’s going on? Anything wrong?”
“No, not at all. I was just hurrying a bit, because it was so cold.”
“Right. You were hurrying and that’s why you’re almost late. Ok. But hey – if it’s anything to do with the hotel, I’m sure you realize you have to tell me.”
“Yes, I know that, but really, it’s nothing.”
Lasse nodded, but it was obvious he was far from convinced.
“So you say. Oh, well. Go on then. For starters, you can cut the salad.”
After that, he was kept busy until lunch, when Jimmy had a brief time to himself. He had no appetite, but he took the opportunity to consider Viktor’s visit.
He’d known Viktor was out of jail. They’d had another run-in before, just after Viktor’s release. Viktor hadn’t been exactly friendly, but then he never was. Jimmy had begun to hope that he’d never see his former cellmate again. Viktor showing up again could only mean he was planning something. What if whatever it was might be aimed at the hotel? The only thing Jimmy could think of was that Viktor wanted something from him – or that his plans had something to do with the hotel.
If so, Lasse was right. He had to report it. If there was a robbery and he might have done something to prevent it, he’d be considered an accessory. But going to Adam to tell him about it was out of the question. Adam wouldn’t be asking him too much about Viktor, but still – Jimmy dreaded ending up in a situation like that. Perhaps he could tell Lasse, but that would have the same result. Lasse might ask him about Viktor and what would he tell him?
He really had incredibly bad luck. He had a good job and a nice place to work in and then Viktor had to show up. It was almost as if someone had told Viktor where he was – or – Jimmy almost felt sick – or Viktor had had someone keep an eye out for him. In any case, once Viktor had got his hands on him, he wouldn’t let go.
The first couple of months in jail, Jimmy had been lucky. The guy he shared a cell with was due for parole and had been full of plans for the future. He hardly bothered to get Jimmy in line, only enough so he wouldn’t get in his face.
Things changed drastically when they put him in with Viktor. From the start, he’d noticed what cold, hard eyes Viktor had. When they were alone together, Viktor had grabbed him around the neck, choking him and just like this morning, shoved him up against the wall. He’d remained like that for so long Jimmy had panicked and begun to struggle to get air. He’d kicked and flailed around and tried to break free, but Viktor hadn’t budged.
Then at last he’d let go. Jimmy was coughing and retching, almost throwing up. For a long time, he’d been hunched over, gulping down air. But Viktor wasn’t through with him yet. He’d grabbed Jimmy’s upper arms and pushed him up against the wall again. He had stayed like that for a while, watching Jimmy expressionlessly. Without warning he’d punched Jimmy in the belly. This time he’d sunk to the floor. The pain was so bad he’d almost blacked out.
“Hey, kid. Just so you know – I’m in charge here. If you want something, you come to me. When I want something – I’ll let you know. Is that clear? One more thing – you don’t know anything. Got it? If the screws ask you don’t know anything and you haven’t seen or heard anything. You hear me?”
“Good. Hopefully we won’t need to have this conversation again. But if you’re too stupid to get it right away – I can run it by you again.”
“No, it’s cool. I get it.”
After that Viktor hadn’t said anything else for a while, he’d just stood there watching Jimmy with those eyes that still appeared in Jimmys worst dreams. It wasn’t just what he’d said, it was how he said it. And the rest. What he never talked about, but did anyway.
“Jimmy? Are you alright?”
Jimmy started and dropped his plate and fork. Shamefacedly he bent over and began to pick up the pieces.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. Someone’s asking for you.”
Jimmy’s face lost all trace of colour and momentarily Lasse was afraid the kid would pass out. Was he sick or something? A thought struck Lasse and he grabbed Jimmy’s wrist hard, pulling him to his feet. Before Jimmy realized what the other man was doing, Lasse yanked the white coat off Jimmy and pulled up his sleeve. He studied the crook of the younger man’s arm carefully.
Instantly, Jimmy’s face regained its colour and he snatched his arm back.
“You could have asked.”
“And you would have told me the truth?”
“Yes, I would.”
Lasse studied Jimmy carefully. Maybe he was right. It was possible Jimmy valued his job far too much to do something as stupid as do drugs, or doing drugs again, if that’s what he’d been doing in the past.
Jimmy had regained some of his self control.
“Besides, that doesn’t prove anything. The crook of my arm? You can inject practically anywhere. Want me to tell you where?”
“That won’t be necessary. I know it might not always show on the outside. Hold up your hand, palm up.”
“If you don’t trust me, wny don’t you go and see the boss and ask him to order a blood test.”
“Just do as I tell you.”
Jimmy’s eyes narrowed, holding his hand up, with exaggerated calm, just a little too close to Lasse’s face. His hand didn’t shake at all.
“Anything else you want me to do?”
His tone was bordering on rudeness, considering the fact that Jimmy was speaking to his boss.
Lasse grabbed Jimmy’s chin and stared into his eyes. Jimmy almost panicked again, but somehow he managed to keep himself under control. He glared back defiantly. In the end, Lasse let go of him.
“Ok. I apologize, but I do have a responsibility to the management.”
“Let them run tests on me if you don’t trust me.”
“If you like. As far as I’m concerned, this is over. But if something happens, and I find out that you’re involved, I’ll personally make sure you’re punished.”
The thought that Lasse didn’t trust him hurt. He had thought they were getting to know each other and at least respect each other. Lasse, who he admired so much.
Jimmy went back to picking up the pieces of the broken plate, but Lasse wouldn’t let him continue.
“I told you, there’s a visitor for you.”
Once again, Lasse noticed that sickly colour. Even if it wasn’t to do with drugs, something was wrong. What if the kid really was sick? But Lasse didn’t think so. It was more likely that he was worried about something. It might be something completely personal, and if so, it was Jimmy’s business, but if it was something to do with work –
“Go on, I’ll get you something else.”
His throat was dry and Jimmy had to clear his throat before he regained control over his voice.
“Who – who is it?”
Jimmy hurried back into the kitchen again. Only a few paces in, he caught sight of Julie standing by the doorway. He was so relieved he amost felt dizzy. Not Viktor. Julie.
She was smiling and Jimmy began to relax a little. Even so, he realized he must have looked tense.
“What do you mean?”
“Aren’t you glad to see me?”
“Yes. What’s up?”
Julie took a good look. Jimmy didn’t seem to be pleased at all, but she had a feeling it was nothing to do with her arrival.
“I was just passing by and I thought I’d look in and see how you were doing.”
“I’m doing great. Nice to see you again.”
“Hey, why don’t we get together in the bar after work? I mean when you’re finished here.”
Jimmy considered. At the moment, now that Viktor’s return was on his mind, it was hard to focus on his personal life, but he didn’t want to miss the chance of seeing Julie in private. Besides, if he flat out refused, she’d be wondering what was wrong.
“I’d love to.”
“So, when do you finish today?”
“Right. Then I’ll see you in the bar?”
After yet another of Julie’s warm smiles, she disappeared again. All through the day, it seemed to Jimmy as if he was being watched and monitored, though it might have been his imagination. When Lasse gave him a good dressing-down, that was usually enough. He didn’t pick on you all the time. At least he didn’t hold a grudge.
When Jimmy finally was finished doing the dishes and had put them away, it was almost a quarter past six. He was hoping Julie wouldn’t have tired of waiting and left again. After one last look at Lasse, he hung up the white coat and dried his hands.
When he got to the bar, Julie wasn’t there. A dull sense of disappointment filled him. She hadn’t waited. He might as well go. He needed to think about what had happened anyway. Just as he was about to leave, Nikolai waved at him.
“Hey, Jimmy. Have a seat. Julie asked me to tell you that she’s going to be a little late. Some trouble with the bookkeeping. She promised she’d give Adam a hand.”
Caught off guard, Jimmy dropped down on one of the bar stools. So she hadn’t ignored him after all. Maybe he’d have a beer and relax a bit while he was waiting.
Without asking, Nikolai poured him a Carlsberg and he took a sip. After that, Nikolai got busy on the other end of the counter. There seemed to be a minor problem that a member of Nikolai’s staff couldn’t handle on his own. Jimmy took another sip and felt himself begin to relax a little. Someone sat down next to him. He didn’t look up, just kept watching Nikolai and the other guy who seemed to be arguing about something.
“Good looking guy.”
Jimmy choked and began to cough and retch. Viktor again. What was he going to do now?
“That blond. It’s one of the owners, right? Nikolai? Yes, that’s his name. Like I said, good looking guy. But weak. He wouldn’t last a day inside. Though – he might get himself a protector. That’s how it works in there. As you know, Jimmy, my friend.”
“What do you want?”
“Nothing. Why should I want anything? I’m just here to have a beer, like you, Jimmy.”
“And when you’ve had it, you’re going to leave. There’s nothing for you here.”
“No? That’s where you’re wrong. I actually have some business to discuss with the blond over there. Little Nikolai.”
“What sort of business?”
“It’s nothing to do with you. Take it easy now. Don’t get jealous. I haven’t forgotten you.”
“Get out of here.”
“What did I tell you about that attitude, Jimmy? Don’t be so grouchy. When was the last time you got any? I thought you were doing that brunette. Nikolai’s sister. That’s a hot babe. I wouldn’t mind a bit of that myself. Maybe you can’t handle her? Not man enough for a classy girl like that? Better leave the likes of her to the men, Jimmy my friend.”
“Stay the hell away from Julie – and Nikolai too.”
“Temper, temper. You’re definitely not getting enough, my friend. How about the boss? Adam. I think he’d get a bunch of admirers in jail too. Quite hot if you like the type. Though not exactly tough. There might be trouble. He’d have to find a protector as fast as he could. Well, you know what happens otherwise.”
“What do you want, Viktor?”
“I told you, a beer – and – a guy can always take a look around and – think. You’re awfully inquisitive these days, Jimmy. Getting above yourself, aren’t you? Is it that guy Lasse who – takes care of you now? You think he could protect you? Don’t be too sure. He looks a bit tougher, but he’s getting old – and fat. If he got in my face, there might be trouble. So don’t get too cocky, Jimmy. I might be offended. And you wouldn’t want that, now would you?”
Before Jimmy could think of an answer, Nikolai returned. He served Viktor a beer and to Jimmy’s dismay, Nikolai seemed prepared to discuss business with Viktor. Jimmy didn’t know what to do. How could he tell Nikolai that Viktor wasn’t reliable? If he challenged Viktor like this, in public, he didn’t know what would happen.
Julie walked in. She caught sight of Jimmy and her face lit up.
“There you are. Shall we -”
She indicated a table a little out of the way. To Jimmy’s relief, he’d be almost out of sight of the bar and definitely out of earshot there. He got up and followed her.
“Nikolai – one more for Jimmy and one – White Lady for me.”
“Ok, sis. Coming up. Hold on. I’ll be right back.”
This was it. As soon as Nikolai returned to their table, Jimmy would be able to warn him. In the meantime, he decided to speak to Julie. The last thing he wanted was for Julie to start wondering about his time in jail, but he didn’t think she’d be able to guess what it was really like in there.
“Excuse me, but – that guy at the bar -”
“Yeah, what about him?”
“He says he’s got some kind of business to discuss with Nikolai. I’m guessing he’s got booze to sell. But you can’t trust him.”
Julie studied Jimmy so intently he felt his cheeks heating up. What was she thinking? He felt a nervous flutter at the pit of his stomach.
“Where do you know him from?”
“I – ”
“Never mind. Tell me later. I have to speak to Nikolai before he does something stupid. You are sure of this, right?”
“Yes, definitely. He -”
“Ok. I believe you.”
Nikolai was just putting the glasses on their table and was about to turn around and return to the bar, when Julie stopped him.
“Nikolai – what does that guy want?”
“Sell something, apparently. Booze.”
“Tell him you already have a supplier. Don’t do any business with him.”
Nikolai’s eyes widened in surprise. Most of the time, Julie didn’t have anything to do with the running of the bar. She just wasn’t interested. The bar had always been his area.
“I’ll explain later. Just don’t trust him. Tell him no.”
Nikolai hurried back to the bar. Julie followed him with her eyes.
“Is he aggressive?”
“I – don’t know. No. At least not in public.”
“Are you sure? Maybe I should get some of the guards here.”
“Not now, but – you’d better ban him.”
“Right. So, tell me. Who is he?”
“He’s a bank robber.”
Jimmy started. It felt like a slap on the face.
“Yeah, except -”
“Ok, I get it. Was it the same bank job you were involved in?”
“No. But we did time together.”
“I see. Thanks for the warning. I’ll make sure the guards have their orders. He didn’t give you a hard time, did he?”
“He showed up this morning and hung around for a bit, but he didn’t really do anything.”
“Good. Listen, let’s go somewhere else. Unless you’re too tired?”
“No, that’s ok.”
“So, come. That guy seems to have given up.”
Viktor got up and after casting a dark look in Jimmy’s direction, he left, seemingly unperturbed. At least he didn’t make any trouble.
When Jimmy and Julie passed the bar, Julie stopped and Jimmy almost walked into her. She gazed intently at her younger brother.
“How did it go? Did he accept your no without making any trouble?”
“Yes, but he looked quite pissed off. What was that all about?”
“Jimmy told me that he’s no reliable supplier. We won’t be doing any business with him.”
“Is that all?”
“Well, that’s enough, isn’t?”
“Sure. If you say so, sis. And hey, thanks for the warning, Jimmy.”
Julie hesitated, then decided to let Nikolai know right away.
“I’m going to tell the guards that he’s not welcome here anymore. If you see him anyway, just call the guards. He’s not the kind of person we want here.”
“Understood. Who is he anyway? Organized crime? He sounded Danish, but -”
“He’s a known criminal, so like I said, we can’t have anything to do with him.”
“Ok. That’s cool.”
Julie took Jimmy to another room, smaller than the restaurant and the bar too, which was used by private parties. Tonight it was empty and the lights had been out. Julie sat down at a table by the wall at the far end. Jimmy followed suit.
“No one will come here tonight.”
“No, there’s no wedding or anything else booked this week or so. At least I haven’t seen anything on my schedule.”
“No, I don’t think there’s anything booked until Christmas. Jimmy, are you alright? You seem to be – shaken up about something. Was it because that guy – what’s his name anyway?”
“Is it because of him?”
Jimmy didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t deny his reaction as he had to Lasse. It hadn’t been fair to Lasse who had been good to him, but what else could he have done? When it came to Julie – it was the same, really, but – if they were going to have a relationship, shouldn’t he be more honest with her? He could always admit that the meeting with Viktor had upset him. He didn’t feel the same need to keep up a cool front in front of Julie. The trouble was, she most likely wouldn’t settle for just that. She’d want to know more and then –
“It was kind of unexpected, running into him here. I – I’d rather not be reminded of – that time.”
“When you were in prison?”
“I want you do know that we – all of us – trust you. What happened, that was then. I know you’re a different person now.”
He began to relax. She hadn’t asked him anything else. It was such a relief. Besides, her words made him happy. That was exactly what he’d been hoping she’d say, but he hadn’t dared to believe she would.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“I’m glad to be here.”
“When does your shift start tomorrow?”
“Well, I was just thinking that – if you like, I could come over to your place. It would be great not to have to sleep here, at least for one night. With mom this close – I’m sure you can understand how I feel.”
He had relaxed too soon. Suddenly, Jimmy knew that he wasn’t ready to have Julie spend the night with him. Not now, not when Viktor had shown up like this. It reminded him too much of those days – that he’d done all he could to forget.
Julie noticed right away that her suggestion wasn’t a hit. Why didn’t Jimmy want her to spend the night anymore? Had it just been something temporary – or – Her first reaction was disappointment. She had thought she could rely on Jimmy’s feelings for her, but maybe he’d just been interested in something temporary – or he’d simply tired of her. Maybe he’d just had to do without sex for so long he was grateful for any offer, from anyone, within reason. How could she know if he wouldn’t have been just as content to sleep with say – Louise?
Jimmy saw her expression change and felt like an asshole. He wanted to pull her close and reassure her that his feelings hadn’t changed, but if he did, he’d have to explain his reaction and he just couldn’t. On the other hand, he couldn’t hurt her feelings like this either. He watched her miserably, unable to think of anything to say.
“If you don’t want that – I’ll just go upstairs. It’s getting late and -”
She got up, but her eyes never left him.
Without thinking, Jimmy too got up and grabbed her hands.
“No. Wait. I’d love for you to come over. It’s just that -”
What could he tell her? He couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t either a lie or – gave too much away.
Julie studied him closely. He did look miserable. Maybe she’d misunderstood him, but if he really wanted to continue the relationship, he owed her honesty. She couldn’t be in a relationship with someone she couldn’t trust one hundred percent.
“Ok. Tell me all about it. From the start. What’s bothering you?”
“I told you -”
“That it’s because of that Viktor guy. Right. But why? What’s he done to you?”
“We did time together.”
“Ok. In the same cell?”
Jimmy hesitated. He didn’t know where Julie was going with this, but whatever it was, he was sure he wouldn’t be able to tell her what she wanted to know. Still, he had to tell her something. If he didn’t, she’d lose patience with him and leave.
“What did he do? Did he beat you?”
“Yeah. To keep me in check. Because he was the boss.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did he beat you all the time?”
“No, the first night.”
“I see. Were you badly injured?”
“No. The screws would have noticed and – but of course it hurt.”
“Of course. So what was it? If it wasn’t the beating?”
He’d spoken too quickly. As if he hadn’t even considered the question. Julie wouldn’t believe him and she’d keep asking.
“Stop. That’s all I have to say. You have no idea what it’s like in jail so don’t -”
“Oh? I think I know a bit more than you think.”
“Jimmy, I’m not stupid. I can tell you’re in shock. What’s that about? Something that happened recently or is it because of what happened in jail?”
“What do you mean what happened in jail? I never said -”
He fell silent.
“So it’s nothing recent, it’s something old?”
“There’s nothing going on.”
“He’s not blackmailing you?”
“Of course not. It’s ok now. You got rid of him. I don’t think he’ll try again.”
“Good. But that doesn’t explain how you feel. Jimmy – did he rape you?”
“Of course not. I think you’ve watched too many American movies.”
But he refused to meet her gaze. Hi hands were nervously toying with a straw, left behind on the table.
“It doesn’t just happen in the movies and not just in the US either.”
“I see. You seem to know a whole lot about life in prison, but you don’t know as much as you think.”
“Then explain. If you want us to have a relationship, we have to be honest to each other. I told you what happened to me, that time. And I can tell there’s something you don’t want to tell me. What?”
“Nothing you want to know.”
“Sure I do. Jimmy, I love you. Don’t you think I’ll be able to handle – whatever it is you’ve done?”
Her tone made it clear that she wouldn’t accept his silence. In desperation, he raised his voice.
“Ok. When I’ve explained this, you’ll see that I’m not someone you’d want to – be in a relationship with.”
“That remains to be seen.”
“He was my protector. Do you know what that means?”
“Protector? I’m guessing it doesn’t mean pimp -”
“No, quite the opposite. No one else could – just him. Do you see what that means?”
“I think so. I don’t think that’s so different from rape, but – How could you think this would change anything?”
Jimmy sank down on the chair again. He’d never thought any further than to this revelation. The day Julie knew what he was, what he’d done, he wouldn’t be able to count on her anymore. She’d look at him and be disgusted and she’d never want anything to do with him again. But that’s not what she was saying. She seemed completely serious. Sad, but serious about what she was telling him.
“Jimmy – the only thing I need to know is if you still want to be in a relationship with me.”
He stared at her in surprise.
“Of course I do. But – how can you want to be involved with someone like me? You – the hotel owner’s daughter?”
Julie began to laugh. Jimmy stared at her. What was so funny?
“If only you knew half the story about my father the hotel owner – who, by the way, wasn’t my father at all, and not really the owner of the hotel either, you’d know that – you’ll do just fine.”
“What? Erik Faber wasn’t your dad? So, who was it?”
Julie studied him reflectively.
“That Jens -”
“But how -”
“It’s a long story.”
“So Erik Faber didn’t own the hotel?”
“He co-owned it with mum, but it belonged to her from the start, or my grandparents. Dad just became the manager because he married mum. In any case, what does my job have to do with anything? I’m just an actress, and not a very good one either. It’s got nothing to do with you and me. As long as we love each other -”
“Of course I love you too.”
“Right. That’s all that matters. Just promise me you’ll tell me if that guy Viktor shows up again. I’ll make sure he can’t get up to anything. Don’t worry, this won’t affect your work here.”
“So, shall we go over to your place now? I don’t think can handle sneaking you up to my room upstairs. The last time, I was seventeen and I was rebelling against mum and dad – Erik. I ended up in trouble.”
“Erik caught us and threw the guy out. Besides, John – the caretaker – was there, watching, looking ominous. I yelled and cursed and argued with mum and the other grownups and probably made a total fool of myself. And the guy never dared to spend the night here again.”
“Erik’s not here anymore, but I guess John or your mum might show up. That wouldn’t be much fun. Of course we can go to my place.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. It has been kind of weird, moving back to mum again at my age.”
“I’d never be able to handle that. My mum – shit – let’s change the subject.”
“Ok. I’ll just turn out the lights and so on.”
As they passed through the door, Jimmy couldn’t resist putting his arm around her. She really was something else. Despite what had happened to her in the US, she was still so brave and never for a moment hesitated about dealing with a guy like Viktor. She had no idea what he was capable of, but still – it had been impressive. Even more incredible – she didn’t seem the least bit disgusted by what he’d just told her. It really didn’t change anything about her feelings for him.
He pulled her closer and kissed her. She returned the kiss and the look in her eyes made him want to hurry back home. Despite everything, the meeting with Viktor hadn’t ruined anything. He wouldn’t let that bastard win.
Julie was quite happy about what she’d achieved. At last she knew where she was with Jimmy. If that guy Viktor showed up again, she’d make sure he’d regret it. She only felt contempt for the bloody coward. He’d taken advantage of Jimmy in jail and she suspected he was mostly responsible for the way Jimmy had lost his self confidence. She hated to see how little he was worth in his own eyes. She’d change that. Given a little time, she’d make sure the last memories from inside would pale. She wouldn’t give up until he was completely free of the past.
It might be her imagination, but it was as if the walls were radiating an encouraging vibration. Sometimes the hotel was a safe and welcoming place. This was her home, after all.