Bjorn stepped out of bed determined to drive the ghost of his final dream out and away. And by opening the curtains he did just that. It was snowing, and the sight came as a big surprise to him since the sky had been clear and cloudless all night long.
Every little green patch that had been uncovered by the mild weather over the last couple of days were once again covered, and the thick snow drift made everything once again appear completely colourless, as if the landscape was some sort of black and white image. But the sight was refreshingly bright in its sombre greyness, and as far as his dream was concerned, it did the trick. Gone was the uncomfortable feeling at the pit of his stomach, and had it not been for a light hangover, he would have felt just fine.
Gone too was the claustrophobic sense that the barracks was some sort of soulless monster. Sounds of his colleagues coming home during the night, and the occasional sound of a voice in the corridor, and people walking about, had put life back into his immediate surroundings.
Bjorn's morning routine went without incident, and once back in his uniform, and with his hand gun strapped to his side, he felt positively eager to go down and meet his colleagues chatting in the kitchen. Grabbing the paper copy of the Gazette and the leaflet explaining the stall owners' position on their conflict with Pedro, Bjorn walked down the stairs and into the living room where he dropped off the reading material before going over to the kitchen where Bjorn was greeted by Thomas and Geir who were sitting over at the far end of the dining table.
"Good morning!" Thomas said with a smile. "How do you feel?"
"Fine thank you," Bjorn answered, not feeling like mentioning his light hangover. "Where's everybody? I was sure I heard more voices than just the two of you."
"That must have been John... He just left for bed. You just missed him... And Espen was here too, but he's now in the glass cage."
Bjorn grabbed a plate, a cup, a glass and a knife for himself before sitting down with the two men. The table was set with bread and spreads, a carton of juice and a thermos with coffee. But there was no sign of Ante's signature breakfast. No eggs, no bacon and no freshly cut fruit.
"So where is Ante?" Bjorn asked, curious to hear what Thomas and his other colleagues had been up to in the village after he left.
"Well, as I told Geir just now, he got completely smashed by the end of the night, and we ended up taking a taxi back here. He was in no state to drive, and neither were anyone else."
"And who was your driver? Not Igor by any chance?"
"Well, actually yes. And you should have seen Ante making a fool of himself, praising Igor for his fine driving. He gets so sentimental when he gets drunk."
"So he is up sleeping off his hangover?"
"Yeah, just like every time we've been out with him."
Bjorn poured himself some juice, and out of politeness to Geir he asked him if things had gone smoothly during the night.
"Sure!" Geir answered, trying to come across as important. "Not much happening... But we can't all be out partying, you know."
"No, that's true," Bjorn answered sincerely. "Very generous of you and John to have taken the whole night watch yesterday."
"Yeah, we really appreciate it," Thomas added. "But one of these days, you should really go down and experience the nightlife yourself. It will give you a different perspective on the place."
"I don't know..." Geir said hesitantly, clearly a little uncomfortable with the gentle persuasion. "Some of us have to watch this place too, you know."
"I can stay here every now and again," Thomas suggested. "I don't have to go down every weekend."
"Really?" Geir asked. "Well... I'll think about it... But if Frank turns up in a body bag, I'm sure as hell not going down there on anything but business."
Bjorn looked at Thomas, confused by Geir's last remark.
"Well... I'm sure he's fine," Thomas answered with a smile. Then turning to Bjorn, he explained that Frank had suddenly disappeared completely, and that Espen, Ante and himself had given up finding him by the time they drove back to the checkpoint with Igor.
"So you just left him there?" Bjorn asked in disbelief.
"What could we do? It was six o'clock, the casino was closing, and we were kicked out... We brought his jacket with us though."
"Oh... That's good of you... So he might be roaming around in this weather without his jacket?"
"We're pretty sure he's safely in bed with one of those girls he was dancing with," Thomas retorted. "And what good would his jacket be if he can't get hold of it anyway?"
Bjorn shook his head. Then pouring some coffee for himself, he started chuckling. "So Romeo has been out sleeping with the enemy, has he?"
"That was our assessment too," Thomas said with a sly smile before taking a sip of his coffee.