Chapter 17: Pictures Of You

Author: Mallory Keaton
Date: 17th September 1997

"I never knew Patrick could paint!," Erica exclaimed.

"Many of us has a hidden artistic talent," said Mikka. "I am good at carving reindeer antlers."

"You're also a gun-wielding lunatic," Erica said, although not aloud.

The paintings were pretty good, in a Francis Bacon way, although the positions depicted made the Kama Sutra look like Nanny's Illustrated Nursery Rhymes. But this was no time for high culture.

"Mikka, get that fucking gun out of my face. What the fuck are you doing here? Shouldn't you be stuck on an ice floe on the other side of the world?"

"I could ask you the same, Aussie bitch."

As she preferred to walk in the same neighbourhood as the truth, Erica said she had come to retrieve a borrowed book from her friend, Patrick. Mikka's reply was a bombshell. Two days before, in Lappeenranta, Mikka had received a voicemail from Flikka saying he was in trouble and giving Patrick's address. She had come straight here. Since then, there had been no Mikka-Flikka communication.

"Did Flikka talk to you?" Mikka asked brusquely.

Something seriously fucked-up was going on, Erica sensed, but if she told Mikka her adored brother was dead, the crazy bitch might blow her head off. Erica decided there were nicer neighbourhoods.

"I haven't heard anything of Flikka in a long time, not since he understudied in that Renny Harlin film. Why did he come here?"

"I think he wanted to get far away from home," said Mikka. "He was mixed up in some . . . bad business and I think someone followed him here."

Mikka was in full flow now.

"See, you thought we were the Brady family when you came to stay in Lappeenranta, Aussie girl, but that is not the truth. Our family the family - looks after some big time . . . how do I say . . . import/export business. The sleighmaking is just a front."

Looking out into the dirty Darlinghurst lane, Erica felt as flat as gum on a shoe that's walked all over town. But the fat lady hadn't sung, and she thought she'd detected a weak spot.

"Mikka, you look tired. Why don't you go to my friend's place and get some rest. Just say I sent you and he'll look after you. Then we can meet up later and work out a plan to find Flikka. Take my moisturiser, too. Those planes are so dehydrating!"

She gave Mikka Rex's address. She knew Pretty Boy would be home getting his beauty sleep this time of the day.

When Mikka was out the picture Erica bypassed the Bacons for the Andy Grove. Tilting Andy to one side, she entered her birthdate in the safe's number pad. Predictably, the safe opened, revealing a diskette marked "Ch. 1 10 "and some drug stuff. She grabbed the diskette, then took a cab to the city, calling into the Cosmopolitan office on the way. After the obligatory ego massage, Trudee agreed to meet her at the Speed Bar across the road.

Erica forced her lips to form a smile as Trudee walked in, late as always. Over a macchiato, she interrogated the Trudester about her Finnish experiences. It turned out Trudee hadn't stayed with the Laakksonens but with another family in Lappeenranta.

"But I knew of the Laakksonens. My host father, Jukka-Pekka, used to say never walk near their cars, in case they blew up, and not to hassle the kids at school, in case we disappeared. I never thought anything of it."

So it was true. Her idyllic image of the Laakksonens of Lappeenranta was fake. Erica consoled herself with one cheering thought: it would make a great book. Better still, she had the first ten chapters in her handbag.