Bjorn waved goodbye to Ante as he passed by in the back seat of Igor´s car. Then he held out a hand to get a sense of how hard it was raining.
Standing on the ledge by the front door, he was reasonably sheltered by the small
cape protruding overhead, and with a slight breeze coming from the north he could easily light himself a cigarette as it was practically wind still where he was standing, facing the hills to the south.
Bjorn took a few deep puffs of his cigarette, started thinking about Frank´s idiotic adventure and was by way of associations suddenly reminded of the boat taxi that he had to inform Frank about. He felt a sting of shame as he thought of the boat taxi. The service was so obviously out of line with the regulations that he should have seen it immediately, just like Geir did. However, there was also something equally obvious about the great benefit of the service to the people of Kirkenes and Lundby. And this had somehow obscured the fact that it was way out of line as far as the regulations were concerned. He had seen the benefit to everyone, while he should have seen, in his capacity as boarder guard, the violation of protocol and regulations.
Bjorn felt incompetent, and he worried for a moment that the incompetence was structural in the sense that it had something to do with his personality, rather than commitment. Ante had just accused him of being a lousy observer, not for not seeing stuff, but for not seeing the right kind of stuff. And Bjorn had to admit that there was some truth to what Ante had said, and he wondered as he stood there with his cigarette in hand, if he could hope to get better at seeing the right kind of stuff, or if he was in fact a hopeless case incapable of improving his observational skills.
Bjorn tossed the butt of his cigarette, still glowing, out on the wet slushy mess covering the parking lot. It hissed briefly as it hit the ground, and disappeared promptly as it rolled off to the side into the tracks carved into the wet snow by the tires of Igor´s car. Then he turned back into the stuffy warmth of the barracks.
"The second door to the right," Bjorn thought to himself as he climbed the stairs. Then he knocked on the door and waited for John to open, which John did after first asking "who´s there?"
John made no effort to be friendly, and looked at Bjorn blankly as he explained why he would like to swap his night watch with John.
"And what´s in it for me?" John asked, evidently not in a mood to change anything.
"Ah... I don´t know. It´s not like I got an awful lot for taking the night shift in the first place," Bjorn answered.
"Really? What did you get?"
"Five hundred MG."
"He paid you funny money?" John asked, genuinely surprised.
"Yeah... I spent it last night. All of it. So it was not really funny money to me since I needed it anyway."
"Sure... But five hundred MG? What is that?"
John made a quick calculation of the corresponding amount in "real money", but knowing the exact exchange rate Bjorn corrected John with the actual amount, which was slightly more than John´s estimate.
"Still, that´s almost half of what I got," John said. "I think you´ve been had."
"Really?" Bjorn asked, feeling a sting of anger for having been conned into taking the night shift too cheaply.
"Yeah... You have to be careful with Ante... Offer him an inch and he´ll take an arm, if you know what I mean," John added.
"But I like Ante," Bjorn protested.
"Not so much anymore, I bet," John said with a malicious smile.
"No... But I´ll talk to him. I´m sure its some stupid prank or something... Anyway, will you swap my night shift with the one you got tonight?"
"For the right compensation... sure."
"Well, then I´ll just leave it as it is," Bjorn said, feeling angry with John for having no desire to help him out for free.
Bjorn thanked John for nothing, and turned around, fuming and frustrated from repeatedly feeling like a dupe and a failure. Then to his surprise, John called after him.
"It´s all right Bjorn!" John said. "I´ll swap your night watch for mine. Make sure to note it on the fridge, will you?"
"Really?" Bjorn asked suspiciously.
"Yeah sure... You go ahead and note it down, and I´ll take your night watch tomorrow."