This can’t be right, I am thinking as I pull up the street. I look around and this place looks like a closed universe of Norse gods and mythology. I check my phone again. No, I got it right. And still, there is a bar called Valhalla, a tattoo parlor with no name but the fierce design of Fenrir and... There it is! Valkyries Bonds.
I go up the place and push the door open. And there, sitting on a desk is her. I haven’t seen her in ages but she hasn’t changed. That’s a lie. There is something different about her. She looks... How do I name it? Not relaxed, she was always cool. Serene. That’s the word. Alert as always but calmer, mellower. I lived to see the day...
I don’t have time to study her more before she realizes I am standing there. She looks up and her eyes meet mine. Instantly, recognition comes over her face. Good, I smile. I was afraid she has forgotten about me.
“Well, I’ll be damned!” She yells.
From the kitchen, another woman emerges gun in hand, ready to kill. Great, now there’s two of them.
“No, Magdalene, it’s cool,” Ava says and gets up to meet me halfway.
Her smile is wide and she opens her arms. I forgot. She may be a cold Russian but she regals the occasional hug when she feels like it. I take the honor and I open my arms too. She is a tall girl but I am still taller than her so when she comes close, I push her to my chest and leave a kiss on her hair.
“WHAT THE FUCK?”
There’s a growl in the air and right after, said air is pushed out of my chest and I am thrown against the nearest wall by what seems to be a locomotive. Before I get the chance to do anything, a fist lands on my face. OK, that’s normal. Ava has a way to have trouble following her.
Another fist is flying my way but you can only sucker punch me once. I move and the fist gets in the wall where my head was. Damn, that guy can punch. I turn to face my attacker and all I have the chance to see is a huge bear of a man that comes at me, grabs me in his arms and cuts the airflow to my body.
“Bjorn, stop!” Ava yells but she is not getting through.
The grip is getting tighter and I know I need to get out of it soon or I’ll faint. I hit the man as hard as I can and he falters but doesn’t let me go. There is a rage fueling him that is unbeatable. I, on the other hand, am not keen on killing someone.
“BJORN!” Ava has had enough.
She grabs the gigantic man by the arm but strong as she might be, she can’t move that giant.
“Bjorn, this is just a friend!”
Nothing. I lean back and headbutt the man and that loosens his grip enough for me to get a breath while I feel blood running from my forehead.
“Bjorn, damn it! Stop now or it’s the guestroom for you tonight!”
Wow, I smile despite the shitty situation. Someone domesticated Ava. No wonder this man is so freakishly strong. It takes one to stomach the she-wolf.
“I’ll deal with you later,” the guy yells at Ava and his eyes spark with fury.
“He is a friend!”
“Oh, so I am supposed to be OK with him groping my wife?” He screams and throws me at the wall, pressing his body against mine.
Wife? What the hell happened to Ava? The woman I knew would never let a man sleep over let alone get married.
“He was not groping, Bjorn.”
“I was not,” I smirk.
“You shut the fuck up and think of your last words,” he turns to me.
“Bjorn, for fuck’s sake! Stop this and hear me out.”
“I will as soon as I kill this motherfucker that has the hots for my woman.”
“I assure you,” I smile at him, “your woman is the last thing for which I have the hots.”
“You have no idea how true that is,” Ava smiles too.
“Yeah? Why the fuck not?” Bjorn is seething now. “You want to tell me my wife isn’t hot?”
“Oh, big guy,” Ava is laughing hard and I join her.
Bjorn looks at both of us as if we went up in flames and seeing a man like him so perplexed is hilarious. His assault slacks but he is not letting me go.
“What the fuck is going on?”
“Big guy,” Ava throws her arms around his thick neck. “Nathan here is gay.”
Quality comedy! I am laughing harder when the bear’s head spins to me fast enough to dislocate it.
“What?” Bjorn says and looks to me up and down.
People do that all the fucking time. As if there is a certain type of men that are gay. If you go by the stereotypes, I look nothing but. I am a big and muscular though leaner than the beast attacking me. I have more women thrown themselves at me than I’d like. So, I understand why he is looking at me in complete disbelief.
“Yeah, man,” I say still winded by the fight and the laughter.
“And you might just be his type,” Ava adds with humor.
Bjorn takes a step back as if he was just told I carry the plague. I roll my eyes. Macho men and their homophobia! Though instead of disgust I still see disbelief in his eyes.
“Are you fucking with me?”
“I can assure you I am not,” I straighten my shirt.
Ava throws her head back and laughs.
“Nathan, this is my husband, Bjorn,” Ava points at the giant bear that seems to have a difficulty believing what Ava just told him. “Nathan here is an old friend.”
The other woman I saw comes to me and hands me a beer and an ice pack for my head. She is eating a banana and checks me out.
“Hi, I’m Magda. Is that true?”
“Pity,” she smiles.
“Magda!” Bjorn growls.
“Yeah, yeah. I am just looking, don’t go to Runner and rat me out,” she says and sits on a desk.
“You are not just telling me that so that I don’t kill you?” Bjorn questions.
“Nope,” I drink from the beer and tip the bottle to Magda.
“OK,” Bjorn takes the ice pack Magda threw at him. “Sorry, man.”
He extends his arm for a handshake. That I didn’t see coming. Most macho men like him avoid me after I tell them I am gay. That’s the main reason I do not go around announcing that. They think that if they touch me, they will be gay too.
“It’s OK, I get it.”
“Nathan and I have gone hunting once or twice together,” Ava explains.
“Twice is more like it,” I smile thinking how Ava and I met.
“Bjorn here is a bit... intense,” Ava says to me.
“You are my Valkyrie, baby,” Bjorn grabs Ava and says over her lips. “No one touches my Valkyrie.”
“Quite aware, big guy.”
They look into each other’s eyes with passion before Ava reaches up and kisses him on the lips. Ava sure has changed through the years. She is still her ferocious self, I can tell but she seems to be happy with the gigantic man before me. I am happy for her though I quite honestly longed for the Ava I knew and had I wild time with.
“Hm,” I cough to get her attention.
Ava leaves one last peck on her husband’s lips and smiles at him.
“Needed anything, big guy?”
“I got what I came here for,” he grabs her by the chin and kisses her deeply.
I shake my head and drink my beer. I am happy for my friend, I am happy for my friend, I am happy for my friend I repeat in my head.
“Nice to meet you, man. And...” Bjorn says leaving Ava looking at him adoringly.
“We’re cool,” I tip the beer his way and finish the bottle.
Bjorn leaves with Ava still looking out the door Bjorn just closed. Magda makes a gagging sound behind her.
“One might think after all that time and a kid you’d be over swooning over your man.”
Kid? How long has it been since I last saw her?
“Bite me, Magda!” Ava comes to me and gives me another hug. “I am so happy to see you again. I was looking for you. Thought you were dead.”
“You know me,” I caress her back. “Too hard to die.”
Ava leans back and takes me in. I do too. Did she have a kid? Doesn’t look like it. She is hot as usual. We have had some good times me and her, burning the night.
“So, what’s up?” Ava asks.
“Could it be that I just missed you?”
“Could be,” she raises a brow, “but you are a workaholic bastard. What do you need?”
“OK, OK,” I admit. “I am working on a case and I hit a dead end. That’s when I thought of you and your skills.”
“I am hurt, Nathan,” Ava smiles.
She is right when she says I am a workaholic and never get offended. The fact I went out to indulge in some fun with her shows that she is more than a go-to girl when things go hard.
“Will you help out an old friend?”
“How deep in shit are you?”
I glance at Magda that is still on the desk looking at us.
“Magda is a Valkyrie, a friend and an associate,” Ava vouches for her.
“OK,” I am eaten by curiosity, “what’s with the Scandinavian shit?”
“I’ll explain over dinner tonight. Now, your problem.”
“There is a certain head of a certain cartel whose kid was abducted. He suspects inside job so he hired me.”
That’s what I do. Pretty much what Ava does, just for the underground. I find people when the people looking for them can’t or won’t go to the police or do it themselves. It’s not pretty but it’s what my father was good at and what he taught me to be good at it too.
Ava nods. She knows exactly what I do. We met when the government and the Mob were looking for the same guy at the same time. Classic rival-to-friends story. That’s when I found out how far her skills go. The tech shit eludes me miserably.
“Sounds dangerous,” Ava says.
“Wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t,” I smile at her but frown when she looks at me seriously.
“Can’t do that anymore, Nathan. I have a family, a kid. I can’t risk anything happening to them.”
She really has changed. Not in a bad way. She has evolved, matured. And in a way, she is even more dangerous.
“Well, shit,” I shrug. “Guess I’ll do it old school.”
“Not necessarily. There is someone I know that can help you.”
“Is he good?”
Ava smiles a big, wide smile.
“You have no idea. Let’s go see him now."