She awoke. blinked in the pitch darkness. Yawned, and breathed through her nose. She blinked again. Felt a tear run down her face, felt it dissolve the salt of other tears. But saliva was no longer entering her throat; her mouth was dry and hard. Her cheeks were forced out by the pressure from inside. The foreign body in her mouth felt as though it would explode her head. But what was it? What was it? The first thing she thought when she awoke was that she wanted to go back. Back into the dark, warm depths that had enveloped her. The injection he had given her had not worn off yet, but she knew pain was on the way, felt it coming in the slow, dull beat of her pulse and the jerky flow of blood through her brain. Where was he? Was he standing right behind her? She held her breath, listened. She couldn’t hear anything, but she could sense a presence. Like a leopard. Someone had told her leopards made so little noise they could sneak right up to their prey in the dark. They could regulate their breathing so that it was in tune with yours. Could hold their breath when you held yours. She was certain she could feel his body heat. What was he waiting for? She exhaled again. And at that same moment was sure she had felt breath on her neck. She whirled round, hit out, but was met by air. She hunched up, tried to make herself small, to hide. Pointless.
How long had she been unconscious?
The drug wore off. The sensation lasted only for a fraction of a second. But it was enough to give her the foretaste, the promise. The promise of what was to come.
The foreign body placed on the table in front of her had been the size of a billiard ball, made of shiny metal with punched-out small holes and figures and symbols. From one of the holes protruded a red wire with a looped end, which instantly made her think of the Christmas tree that would need decorating at her parents’ house on 23 December, in seven days. With shiny balls, Christmas pixies, hearts, candles and Norwegian flags. In eight days they would be singing a traditional Christmas carol, and she would see the twinkling eyes of her nephews and nieces as they opened their presents. All the things she should have done differently. All the days she should have lived to the full, avoiding escapism, should have filled with happiness, breath and love. The places she had merely travelled through, the places she was planning to visit. The men she had met, the man she had still not met. The foetus she had got rid of when she was seventeen, the children she had not yet had. The days she had wasted for the days she thought she would have.
Then she had stopped thinking about anything except the knife that had been brandished before her. And the gentle voice that had told her to put the ball in her mouth. She had done so, of course she had. With her heart thumping she had opened her mouth as wide as she could and pushed the ball in with the wire left hanging outside. The metal tasted bitter and salty, like tears. Then her head had been forced back, and the steel burned against her skin as the knife was laid flat against her throat. The ceiling and the room were illuminated by a standard lamp leaning against the wall in one of the corners. Bare, grey concrete. Apart from the lamp, the room contained a white plastic camping table, two chairs, two empty beer bottles and two people. Him and her. She smelt a leather glove as a finger had tugged lightly at the red loop hanging from her mouth. And the next moment her head had seemed to explode.
The ball had expanded and forced itself against the inside of her mouth. But however wide she opened her jaws, the pressure was constant. He had examined her with a concentrated, engaged expression, like a dentist checking to see whether the orthodontic brace was sitting as it should. A little smile intimated satisfaction.
With her tongue she could feel circular ridges around the holes in the ball and that was what was pressing against her palate, against the soft flesh of her tongue, against her teeth, against the uvula. She had tried to say something. He had listened patiently to the inarticulate sounds emerging from her mouth. Had nodded when she gave up, and had taken out a syringe. The drop on the tip had glinted in the torchlight. He had whispered something in her ear: ‘Don’t touch the wire.’
Then he had injected her in the neck. She was out in seconds.
She listened to her own terrified breathing as she blinked in the darkness.
She had to do something.
She placed her palms on the chair seat, which was clammy from her perspiration, and pushed herself up. No one stopped her.
She advanced with tiny steps until she hit a wall. Groped her way along to a smooth, cold surface. The metal door. She pulled at the bolt. It didn’t budge. Locked. Of course it was locked. What had she been thinking? Was that laughter she could hear, or was the sound coming from inside her head? Where was he? Why was he playing with her like this?
Do something. Think. But to think, she would first have to get rid of this metal ball before the pain drove her insane. She put her thumb and first finger in the corners of her mouth. Felt the ridges. Tried in vain to get her fingers under one of them. Had a coughing fit and a panic attack when she couldn’t breathe. She realised that the ridges had made the flesh around her windpipe swell, that soon she would be in danger of suffocating. She kicked the metal door, tried to scream, but the ball stifled the sound. She gave up again. Leaned against the wall. Listened. Was that his wary tread she could hear? Was he moving around the room? Was he playing blind man’s buff with her? Or was it her blood throbbing past her ears? She steeled herself against the pain and forced her mouth shut. The ridges were hardly down before they sprang back and forced her mouth open again. The ball seemed to be pulsating now, as though it had become an iron heart, a part of her.
Do something. Think.
Springs. The ridges were spring-loaded.
They had jumped up when he pulled the wire.
‘Don’t touch the wire,’ he had said.
Why not? What would happen?
She slid down the wall until she was sitting. Cold damp rose from the concrete floor. She wanted to scream again, but she couldn’t. Quiet. Silence.
All the things she should have said to those she loved, instead of the words that had served to fill the silence with those to whom she was indifferent.
There was no way out. There was just her and this unbelievable pain, her head exploding.
‘Don’t touch the wire.’
If she pulled it, the ridges might retract into the ball, and she would be spared the pain.
Her thoughts ran in the same circles. How long had she been here? Two hours? Eight hours? Twenty minutes?
If all you had to do was pull the wire, why hadn’t she already done it? Because the warning had been given by an obvious sicko? Or was this part of the game? Being tricked into resisting the temptation to stop this quite unnecessary pain? Or was the game about defying the warning and pulling the wire, causing… causing something dreadful to happen? What would happen? What was this ball?
Yes, it was a game, a brutal game. And she had to play. The pain was intolerable, her throat was swelling, soon she would suffocate.
She tried to scream again, but it subsided into a sob, and she blinked and blinked, without producing any further tears.
Her fingers found the string hanging from her lips. She pulled tentatively until it was taut.
There was so much she regretted not having done, naturally. But if a life of self-denial would had placed her anywhere else than here, right now, she would have chosen that. She just wanted to live. Any sort of life. As simple as that.
She pulled the wire.
The needles shot out of the circular ridges. They were seven centimetres long. Four burst through her cheeks on each side, three into the sinuses, two up the nasal passages and two out through the chin. Two needles pierced the windpipe and one the right eye, one the left. Several needles penetrated the rear part of the palate and reached the brain. But that was not the direct cause of her death. Because the metal ball impeded movement, she was unable to spit out the blood pouring from the wounds into her mouth. Instead it ran down her windpipe and into her lungs, not allowing oxygen to be absorbed into her bloodstream, which in turn led to a cardiac arrest and what the pathologist would call in his report cerebral hypoxia, that is, lack of oxygen to her brain. In other words, Borgny Stem-Myhre drowned.
The Illuminating Darkness
The days are short. It’s still light outside, but here in my cutting room there is eternal darkness. In the light from my work lamp the people in the pictures on the wall look so irritatingly happy and unsuspecting. So full of expectations, as though they take it for granted that all life lies before them, a perfectly calm ocean of time, smooth and unruffled. I have taken cuttings from the newspaper, snipped off all the lachrymose stories about the shocked family, edited out the gory details about the finding of the body. Contented myself with the inevitable photo a relative or a friend has given a persistent journalist, the picture of when she was in her prime, smiling as though immortal.
The police don’t know a lot. Not yet. But soon they will have more to work with.
What is it, where is it, whatever it is that makes a murderer? Is it innate, is it in a gene, inherited potential that some have and others do not? Or is it shaped by need, developed in a confrontation with the world, a survival strategy, a life-saving sickness, rational insanity? For just as sickness is a fevered bombardment of the body, insanity is a vital retreat to a place where one can entrench oneself anew.
For my part, I believe that the ability to kill is fundamental to any healthy person. Our existence is a fight for gain, and whoever cannot kill his neighbour has no right to an existence. Killing is, after all, only hastening the inevitable. Death allows no exceptions, which is good because life is pain and suffering. In that sense, every murder is an act of charity. It just doesn’t seem like that when the sun warms your skin or water wets your lips and you recognise your idiotic lust for life in every heartbeat and are ready to buy mere crumbs of time with everything you have accrued through life: dignity, status, principles. That is when you have to dig deep, to give a wide berth to the confusing, blinding light. Into the cold illuminating darkness. And perceive the hard kernel. The truth. For that is what I had to find. That is what I found. Whatever it is that makes a person into a murderer.
What about my life? Do I also believe it is a calm, unruffled ocean of time?
Not at all. Before long I too will be lying on death’s refuse heap, together with all the other role players in this little drama. But whatever stage of decay my body may attain, even if all that remains is the skeleton, it will have a smile on its lips. This is what I live for now, my right to exist, my chance to be cleansed, to be cleared of all dishonour.
But this is only the beginning. Now I am going to switch off the lamp and go out into the light of day. The little that is left.
The rain did not stop first thing. nor second thing. In fact, it didn’t stop at all. It was mild and wet week upon week. The ground was saturated, European motorways caved in, migratory birds did not migrate and there were reports of insects hitherto unseen in northern climes. The calendar showed that it was winter, but Oslo’s parkland was not just snowless, it was not even brown. It was as green and inviting as the artificial pitch in Sogn where despairing keep-fit fans had resorted to jogging in their Bjorn D?hlie tights as they waited in vain for conditions around Lake Sognsvann to allow skiing. On New Year’s Eve the fog was so thick that the sound of rockets carried from the centre of Oslo right out to suburban Asker, but you couldn’t see a thing, even if you set them off on your back lawn. Nevertheless, that night Norwegians burned fireworks amounting to six hundred kroner per household, according to a consumer survey, which also revealed that the number of Norwegians who realised their dream of a white Christmas on Thailand’s white beaches had doubled in just three years. However, also in South-East Asia, it seemed as if the weather had run amok: ominous symbols usually seen only on weather charts in the typhoon season were now lined up across the China Sea. In Hong Kong, where February tends to be one of the driest months of the year, rain was bucketing down and poor visibility meant that Cathay Pacific flight number 731 from London had to circle again before coming in to land at Chek Lap Kok Airport.
‘You should be happy we don’t have to land at the old airport,’ said the Chinese-looking passenger next to Kaja Solness, who was squeezing the armrests so hard her knuckles were white. ‘It was in the centre of town. We would have flown straight into one of the skyscrapers.’
Those were the first words the man had uttered since they had taken off twelve hours earlier. Kaja eagerly grabbed the chance to focus on something other than the fact that they were temporarily caught in turbulence.
‘Thank you, sir, that was reassuring. Are you English?’
He recoiled as if someone had slapped him, and she realised she had offended him mortally by suggesting that he belonged to the previous colonialists: ‘Erm… Chinese perhaps?’
He shook his head firmly. ‘Hong Kong Chinese. And you, miss?’
Kaja Solness wondered for a moment if she should reply Hokksund Norwegian, but confined herself to ‘Norwegian’, which the Hong Kong Chinese man mused on for a while then delivered a triumphant ‘Aha!’ before amending it to ‘Scandinavian’ and asked her what her business was in Hong Kong.
‘To find a man,’ she said, staring down at the bluish-grey clouds in the hope that terra firma would soon reveal itself.
‘Aha!’ repeated the Hong Kong Chinese. ‘You are very beautiful, miss. And don’t believe all you hear about the Chinese only marrying other Chinese.’
She managed a weary smile. ‘Hong Kong Chinese, do you mean?’
‘Particularly Hong Kong Chinese,’ he nodded with enthusiasm, holding up a ringless hand. ‘I deal in microchips. The family has factories in China and South Korea. What are you doing tonight?’
‘Sleeping, I hope,’ Kaja yawned.
‘What about tomorrow evening?’
‘I hope by then I’ll have found him and I’ll be on my way back home.’
The man frowned. ‘Are you in such a hurry, miss?’
Kaja refused the man’s offer of a lift and caught a bus, a double-decker, to the city centre. One hour later she was standing alone in a corridor at the Empire Kowloon Hotel, taking deep breaths. She had put the key card into the door of the room she had been allocated and now all that remained was to open it. She forced her hand to press down the handle. Then she jerked the door open and stared into the room.
No one there.
Of course there wasn’t.
She entered, wheeled her bag to the side of the bed, stood by the window and looked out. First, down at the swarm of people in the street seventeen floors below, then at the skyscrapers that in no way resembled their graceful or, at any rate pompous, sisters in Manhattan, Kuala Lumpur or Tokyo. These looked like termite anthills, terrifying and impressive at the same time, like a grotesque testimony to how humankind is capable of adapting when seven million inhabitants have to find room in not much more than a hundred square kilometres. Kaja felt exhaustion creeping up on her, kicked off her shoes and fell back on the bed. Even though it was a double room and the hotel sported four stars, the 120-centimetre-wide bed occupied all the floor space. And it hit home that from among all these anthills she now had to find one particular person, a man who, all the evidence suggested, had no particular wish to be found.
For a moment or two she weighed up the options: closing her eyes or springing into action. Then she pulled herself together and got to her feet. Took off her clothes and went into the shower. Afterwards she stood in front of the mirror and confirmed without a hint of self-satisfaction that the Hong Kong Chinese man was right: she was beautiful. This was not her opinion, it was as close to being a fact as beauty can be. The face with the high cheekbones, the pronounced raven-black but finely formed eyebrows above the almost childlike wide eyes with green irises that shone with the intensity of a mature young woman. The honey-brown hair, the full lips that seemed to be kissing each other in her somewhat broad mouth. The long, slim neck, the equally slim body with the small breasts that were no more than mounds, swells on a sea of perfect, though winter-pale, skin. The gentle curve of her hips. The long legs that persuaded two Oslo modelling agencies to make the trip to her school in Hokksund, only to have to accept her refusal with a rueful shake of the head. And what had pleased her most was when one of them said as he left: ‘OK, but remember, my dear: you are not a perfect beauty. Your teeth are small and pointed. You shouldn’t smile so much.’
After that she had smiled with a lighter heart.
Kaja put on a pair of khaki trousers, a thin waterproof jacket and floated weightlessly and soundlessly down to reception.
‘Chungking Mansion?’ the receptionist asked, unable to refrain from cocking an eyebrow, and pointed. ‘Kimberley Road, up to Nathan Road, then left.’
All hostels and hotels in Interpol member countries are legally obliged to register foreign guests, but when Kaja had rung the Norwegian ambassador’s secretary to check where the man she was looking for had last registered, the secretary had explained that Chungking Mansion was neither a hotel nor a mansion, in the sense of a wealthy residence. It was a collection of shops, takeaways, restaurants and probably more than a hundred classified and non-classified hostels with everything from two to twenty rooms spread over four large tower blocks. The rooms for rent could be characterised as everything from simple, clean and cosy to ratholes and one-star prison cells. And most important of all: at Chungking Mansion a man with modest demands of life could sleep, eat, live, work and propagate without ever leaving the anthill.
Kaja found the entrance to Chungking in Nathan Road, a busy shopping street with branded goods, polished shopfronts and tall display windows. She went in. To the cooking fumes from fast-food outlets, hammering from cobblers, radio broadcasts of Muslim prayer meetings and tired looks in used clothes shops. She flashed a quick smile at a bewildered backpacker with a Lonely Planet guidebook in his hand and frozen white legs sticking out of over-optimistic camouflage shorts.
A uniformed guard looked at the note Kaja showed him, said ‘Lift C’ and pointed down a corridor.
The queue in front of the lift was so long that she didn’t get in until the third attempt, when they were squeezed up tight in a creaky, juddering iron chest that made Kaja think of the gypsies who buried their dead vertically.
The hostel was owned by a turban-clad Muslim who immediately, and with great enthusiasm, showed her a tiny box of a room where by some miracle they had found space for a wall-mounted TV at the foot of the bed and a gurgling A/C unit above the bedhead. The owner’s enthusiasm waned when she interrupted his sales spiel to produce a photo of a man with his name spelt as it would have been in his passport, and asked where he was now.
On seeing the reaction, she hastened to inform him that she was his wife. The embassy secretary had explained to her that waving an official ID card around in Chungking would be, quote, counterproductive. And when Kaja added, for safety’s sake, that she and the man in the photo had five children together, the hostel owner’s attitude underwent a dramatic change. A young Western heathen who had already brought so many children into the world earned his respect. He expelled a heavy sigh, shook his head and said in mournful, staccato English, ‘Sad, sad, lady. They come and take his passport.’
‘Who? The Triad, lady. It’s always the Triad.’
Naturally enough, she was aware of the organisation, but she had some vague notion that the Chinese mafia primarily belonged to the world of cartoons and kung fu films.
‘Sit yourself down, lady.’ He quickly found a chair, onto which she slumped. ‘They were after him, he was out, so they took his passport.’
‘Please, I have to know.’
‘Your husband bet on horses, I am sorry to say.’
‘Happy Valley. Racecourse. It is an abomination.’
‘Does he owe money? To the Triad?’
He nodded and shook his head several times to confirm and regret, alternately, this fact of life.
‘And they took his passport?’
‘He will have to pay back the debt if he wants to leave Hong Kong.’
‘He can only get a new passport from the Norwegian embassy.’
The turban waggled from side to side. ‘Ah, you can get a false passport here in Chungking for eighty American dollars. But this is not the problem. The problem is Hong Kong is an island, lady. How did you get here?’
‘And how will you leave?’
‘One airport. Tickets. All names on computer. Many control points. Many at airport who get money from the Triad to recognise faces. Understand?’
She nodded slowly. ‘It’s difficult to escape.’
The hostel owner shook his head with a guffaw. ‘No, lady. It’s impossible to escape. But you can hide in Hong Kong. Seven million people. Easy to go underground.’
Lack of sleep was catching up on Kaja, and she closed her eyes. The owner must have misunderstood because he laid a consoling hand on her shoulder and mumbled, ‘There, there.’
He wavered, then leaned forward and whispered, ‘I think he still here, lady.’
‘Yes, I know he is.’
‘No, I mean here in Chungking. I see him.’
She raised her head.
‘Twice,’ he said. ‘At Li Yuan’s. He eat there. Cheap rice. Don’t tell anyone I said. Your husband is good man. But trouble.’ He rolled his eyes so that they almost disappeared into his turban. ‘Lots of trouble.’
Li Yuan’s comprised a counter, four plastic tables and a Chinese man who sent her an encouraging smile when after six hours, two portions of fried rice, three coffees and two litres of water she awoke with a jolt, lifted her head from the greasy table and looked at him.
‘Tired?’ he laughed, revealing an incomplete set of front teeth.
Kaja yawned, ordered her fourth cup of coffee and continued to wait. Two Chinese men came and sat at the counter without speaking or ordering. They didn’t even spare her a glance, for which she was glad. Her body was so stiff from sitting on the plane that pain shot through her whatever sedentary position she adopted. She rolled her head from side to side to try to stimulate circulation. Then backwards. Her neck cracked. She stared at the bluish-white neon tubes in the ceiling before lowering her head. And stared straight into a pale, hunted face. He had stopped in front of the closed steel shutters in the corridor and scanned Li Yuan’s tiny establishment. His gaze rested on the two Chinese men by the counter. Then he hurried on.
Kaja got to her feet, but one leg had gone to sleep and gave way under her weight. She grabbed her bag and limped after the man as fast as she could.
‘Come back soon,’ she heard Li Yuan shout after her.
He had looked so thin. In the photographs he had been a broad, tall figure, and on the TV talk show he had made the chair he was sitting on look like it had been manufactured for pygmies. But she had not the slightest doubt it was him: the dented, shaven skull, the prominent nose, the eyes with the spider’s web of blood vessels and the alcoholic’s washedout, pale blue irises. The determined chin with the surprisingly gentle, almost beautiful mouth.
She stumbled into Nathan Road. In the gleam of the neon light she caught sight of a leather jacket towering above the crowd. He didn’t appear to be walking fast, yet she had to quicken her pace to keep up. From the busy shopping parade he turned off and she let the distance between them increase as they came into narrower, less populated streets. She registered a sign saying ‘Melden Row’. It was tempting to go and introduce herself, get it all over with. But she had decided to stick to the plan: to find out where he lived. It had stopped raining, and all of a sudden a scrap of cloud was drawn aside and the sky behind was high and velvet black, with glittering, pinhole stars.
After walking for twenty minutes he came to a sudden halt at a corner, and Kaja was afraid she had been rumbled. However, he didn’t turn round, just took something from his jacket pocket. She stared in amazement. A baby’s bottle?
He disappeared round the corner.
Kaja followed and came into a large, open square packed with people, most of them young. At the far end of the square, above wide glass doors, shone a sign written in English and Chinese. Kaja recognised the titles of some of the new films she would never see. Her eyes found his leather jacket, and she saw him put the bottle down on the low plinth of a bronze sculpture representing a gallows with an empty noose. He continued past two fully occupied benches and took a seat on the third where he picked up a newspaper. After about twenty seconds he got up again, walked back to the sculpture, grabbed the bottle as he passed, put it into his pocket and returned the same way he had come.
It had started to rain when she saw him enter Chungking Mansion. She slowly began to prepare her speech. There was no longer a queue by the lifts; nevertheless he ascended a staircase, turned right and went through a swing door. She hurried after him and suddenly found herself in a deserted, run-down stairwell with an all-permeating smell of cat piss and wet concrete. She held her breath, but all she could hear were dripping sounds. As she took the decision to go on up, she heard a door bang beneath her. She sprinted down the stairs and found the only thing that could have made a bang: a dented metal door. She held the handle, felt the trembling come, closed her eyes and cursed to herself. Then she ripped open the door and stepped into the darkness. That is to say: out.
Something ran across her feet, but she neither screamed nor moved.
At first she thought she had entered a lift shaft. But when she looked up, she glimpsed blackened brick walls covered with a tangled mass of water pipes, cables, distorted chunks of metal and collapsed, rusty iron scaffolding. It was a courtyard, a few square metres of space between tower blocks. The only light came from a small square of stars high above.
Although there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, water was splashing down onto the tarmac and her face, and she realised it was condensed water from the small, rusty A/C units protruding from the front of the buildings. She retreated and leaned back against the iron door.
And, eventually, from the dark, she heard: ‘What do you want?’
She had never heard his voice before. Well, she had heard it on the talk show when they were discussing serial killers, but hearing it in reality was quite different. There was a worn hoarse quality that made him sound older than the forty years she knew he had just turned. But at the same time there was a secure, self-assured calm which belied the hunted face she had seen outside Li Yuan’s. Deep, warm.
‘I’m Norwegian,’ she said.
There was no response. She swallowed. She knew that her first words would be the most important.
‘My name is Kaja Solness. I have been tasked with finding you. By Gunnar Hagen.’
No reaction to the name of his Crime Squad boss. Had he gone?
‘I work as a detective on murder investigations for Hagen,’ she said into the blackness.
‘No congratulations necessary. Not if you’ve been reading Norwegian papers for the last months.’ She could have bitten her tongue. Was she trying to be funny? Had to be the lack of sleep. Or nerves.
‘I mean congratulations on a well-accomplished mission,’ said the voice. ‘I have been found. Now you can go back.’
‘Wait!’ she shouted. ‘Don’t you want to hear what I have to say?’
‘I’d prefer not to.’
But the words she had jotted down and practised rolled out. ‘Two women have been killed. Forensic evidence suggests it’s the same perp. Beyond that we don’t have any leads. Even though the press has been given minimal info, they’ve been screaming for ages that another serial killer is on the loose. Some commentators have written that he may have been inspired by the Snowman. We’ve called in experts from Interpol, but they haven’t made any headway. The pressure from the media and authorities -’
‘By which I mean no,’ the voice said.
A door slammed.
‘Hello? Hello? Are you there?’
She fumbled her way forward and found a door. Opened it before terror managed to gain a foothold and she was in another darkened stairwell. She glimpsed light further up and climbed three steps at a time. The light was coming through the glass of a swing door, and she pushed it open. Entered a plain, bare corridor in which attempts to patch the peeling plaster had been given up, and damp steamed off the walls like bad breath. Leaning against the wall were two men with cigarettes hanging from the corners of their mouths, and a sweet stench drifted towards her. They appraised her through sluggish eyes. Too sluggish to move, she hoped. The smaller of the two was black, of African origin, she assumed. The big one was white and had a pyramid-shaped scar on his forehead, like a warning triangle. She had read in The Police magazine that Hong Kong had almost thirty thousand officers on the street and was reckoned to be the world’s safest metropolis. But then that was on the street.
‘Looking for hashish, lady?’
She shook her head, tried to flash a confident smile, tried to act as she had advised young girls to do when she had been going around schools: to look like someone who knew where she was going, not like someone who had lost the flock. Like prey.
They returned her smile. The only other doorway in the corridor had been bricked up. They took their hands out of their pockets, the cigarettes from their mouths.
‘Looking for fun then?’
‘Wrong door, that’s all,’ she said, turning to go back out. A hand closed around her wrist. Her terror tasted like tinfoil in her mouth. In theory, she knew how to get out of this. Had practised it on a rubber mat in an illuminated gym with an instructor and colleagues gathered around her.
‘Right door, lady. Right door. Fun is this way.’ The breath in her face stank of fish, onions and marijuana. In the gym there had only been one adversary.
‘No, thanks,’ she said, struggling to keep her voice steady.
The black man sidled up, grabbed her other wrist and said in a voice that slipped in and out of falsetto: ‘We’ll show you the way.’
‘Only there’s not much to see, is there.’
All three turned towards the swing door.
She knew it said one ninety-two in his passport, but standing there in the doorway that had been built to Hong Kong measurements he looked at least two ten. And twice as wide as only an hour ago. His arms hung down by his sides, slightly away from his body, but he didn’t move, didn’t stare, didn’t snarl, just looked calmly at the white man and repeated: ‘Is there, jau-ye?’
She felt the white man’s fingers tense and relax around her wrist, noticed the black man shift weight from foot to foot.
‘Ng-goy,’ said the man in the doorway.
She felt their hands hesitantly let go.
‘Come on,’ he said, lightly taking her arm.
She felt the heat in her flushed cheeks as they walked out. Heat produced by tension and shame. Shame at how relieved she was, how tardily her brain had functioned in the situation, how willing she had been to let him sort out two harmless drug dealers who only wanted to ruffle her a little.
He accompanied her up two floors and in through the swing door where he positioned her in front of a lift, pressed the arrow for down, stood beside her and focused his gaze on the luminous figure 11 above the lift door. ‘Guest workers,’ he said. ‘They’re alone and bored.’
‘I know,’ she said defiantly.
‘Press G for ground floor, turn right and go straight ahead until you’re in Nathan Road.’
‘Please listen to me. You are the only person in Crime Squad with the appropriate expertise to catch serial killers. After all, it was you who caught the Snowman.’
‘True,’ he said. She registered a movement in his eyes, and he ran a finger along his jaw under his right ear. ‘And then I resigned.’
‘Resigned? Went on leave, you mean.’
‘Resigned. As in finished.’
It was only now that she noticed the unnatural protrusion of his right jawbone.
‘Gunnar Hagen says that when you left Oslo he agreed to give you leave until further notice.’
The man smiled, and Kaja saw how it changed his face completely. ‘That’s because Hagen can’t get it into his head…’ He paused, and the smile vanished. His eyes were directed towards the light above the lift that now read ‘5’. ‘Nonetheless, I don’t work for the police any longer.’
‘We need you…’ She inhaled. Knew that she was skating on thin ice, but that she had to act before she lost sight of him again. ‘And you need us.’
His eyes shifted back to her. ‘What on earth makes you think that?’
‘You owe the Triad money. You buy dope off the street in a baby’s bottle. You live…’ She grimaced. ‘… here. And you don’t have a passport.’
‘I’m enjoying myself here. What do I need a passport for?’
The lift pinged, the door creaked open, and hot, stinking air rose off the bodies inside.
‘I’m not going!’ Kaja said, louder than she had anticipated, and noticed the faces looking at her with a mixture of impatience and obvious curiosity.
‘Yes, you are,’ he said, placing a hand in the middle of her back and pushing her gently but firmly inside. She was immediately surrounded by human bodies closing in on her and making it impossible for her to move or even turn. She twisted her head in time to see the doors gliding to.
‘Harry!’ she shouted.
But he had already gone.
The old hostel owner placed a thoughtful finger on his forehead under the turban and looked at her long and hard. Then he picked up the telephone and dialled a number. He said a few words in Arabic and rang off. ‘Wait,’ he said. ‘Maybe, maybe not.’
Kaja smiled and nodded.
They sat observing each other from either side of the narrow table that served as a reception desk.
Then the phone rang. He picked it up, listened and put it down without a word.
‘One hundred and fifty thousand dollars,’ he said.
‘One hundred and fifty?’ she repeated in utter disbelief.
‘Hong Kong dollars, lady.’
Kaja did some mental arithmetic. That would be about one hundred and thirty thousand Norwegian kroner. Roughly double what she had been authorised to pay.
It was past midnight, and almost forty hours since she had slept, when she found him. She had trawled H-Block for three hours. Had sketched out a map of the interior as she moved through hostels, cafes, snack bars, massage clubs and prayer rooms until she arrived at the cheapest rooms and dormitories where the imported labour force from Africa and Pakistan stayed, those who had no rooms, just cubicles without doors, without TVs, without air conditioning and without a private life. The black night porter who admitted Kaja looked at the photo for a long time and at the hundred-dollar bill she was holding for even longer before he took it and pointed to one of the cubicles.
Harry Hole, she thought. Gotcha.
He was lying supine on a mattress, breathing almost without sound. He had a deep frown on his forehead, and the prominent jawbone under his right ear was even more defined now that he was asleep. From the other cubicles she heard men coughing and snoring. Water dripped from the ceiling, hitting the brick floor with deep, disgruntled sighs. The opening to the cubicle let in a cold, blue stripe of light from the neon tubes in reception. She saw a clothes cupboard in front of the window, a chair and a plastic bottle of water beside the mattress. There was a bitter-sweet smell, like burned rubber. Smoke rose from a cigarette end in an ashtray beside the baby’s bottle on the floor. She sat down on the chair and discovered that he was holding something in his hand. A greasy, yellowish-brown clump. Kaja had seen enough hash the year she worked in a patrol car to know this was not hash.
It was almost two o’clock when he awoke.
She heard a tiny change in the rhythm of his breathing, and then the whites of his eyes shone in the dark.
‘Rakel?’ He whispered it. And went back to sleep.
Half an hour later he opened his eyes wide, gave a start, cast around and made a grab for something under the mattress.
‘It’s me,’ Kaja whispered. ‘Kaja Solness.’
The body at her feet stopped in mid-movement. Then it collapsed and fell back on the mattress.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ he groaned, his voice still thick with sleep.
‘Fetching you,’ she said.
He chuckled, his eyes closed. ‘Fetching me? Still?’
She took out an envelope, leaned forward and held it up in front of him. He opened one eye.
‘Plane ticket,’ she said. ‘To Oslo.’
The eye closed again. ‘Thanks, but I’m staying here.’
‘If I can find you, it’s only a matter of time before they do, too.’
He didn’t answer. She waited while listening to his breathing and the water that dripped and sighed. Then he opened his eyes again, rubbed under his right ear and hoisted himself up onto his elbows.
‘Got a smoke?’
She shook her head. He threw off the sheet, stood up and went over to the cupboard. He was surprisingly pale considering he had been living in a subtropical climate, and so lean that his ribs showed, even on his back. His build suggested that at one time he had been athletic, but now the wasted muscles appeared as sharp shadows under the white skin. He opened the cupboard. She was amazed to see that his clothes lay folded in neat piles. He put on a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, the ones he had been wearing the day before, and with some difficulty tugged a creased packet of cigarettes out from his pocket.
He slipped into a pair of flip-flops and edged past her with a click of his lighter.
‘Come on,’ he said softly as he passed. ‘Supper.’
It was nearly three in the morning. Grey iron shutters had been pulled down over shops and restaurants in Chungking. Apart from at Li Yuan’s.
‘So how did you wind up in Hong Kong?’ Kaja asked, looking at Harry, who, in an inelegant but effective way, was shovelling shiny glass noodles into his mouth from the white soup bowl.
‘I flew. Are you cold?’
Kaja automatically removed her hands from under her thighs. ‘But why here?’
‘I was on my way to Manila. Hong Kong was only supposed to be a stopover.’
‘The Philippines. What were you going to do there?’
‘Throw myself into a volcano.’
‘Well, which ones can you name?’
‘None. I’ve just read that there are loads of them. Aren’t some of them in… er, Luzon?’
‘Not bad. There are eighteen volcanoes in all, and three of them are in Luzon. I wanted to go up Mount Mayon. Two and a half thousand metres. A stratovolcano.’
‘Volcano with steep sides formed by layer upon layer of lava after an eruption.’
Harry stopped chewing and looked at her. ‘Any eruptions in modern times?’
‘Records say forty-seven since 1616. Last one in 2002. Can be held to account for at least three thousand murders.’
‘The pressure built up.’
‘I mean to you.’
‘I’m talking about me.’ She fancied she saw a hint of a smile. ‘I exploded and started drinking on the plane. I was ordered off in Hong Kong.’
‘There are several flights to Manila.’
‘I realised that apart from volcanoes Manila has nothing that Hong Kong doesn’t have.’
‘Such as distance from Norway.’
Kaja nodded. She had read the reports on the Snowman case.
‘And most importantly,’ he said, pointing with a chopstick, ‘Hong Kong’s got Li Yuan’s glass noodles. Try them. That’s reason enough to apply for citizenship.’
‘That and opium?’
It was not her style to be so direct, but she knew she would have to swallow her natural shyness. This was her one shot at achieving what she had come to do.
He shrugged and concentrated on the noodles.
‘Do you smoke opium regularly?’
‘And why do you do that?’
He answered with food in his mouth. ‘So that I don’t drink. I’m an alkie. There, for example, is another advantage of Hong Kong compared with Manila. Lower sentences for dope. And cleaner prisons.’
‘I knew about your alcoholism, but are you a drug addict?’
‘Define drug addict.’
‘Do you have to take drugs?’
‘No, but I want to.’
‘To numb the senses. This sounds like a job interview for a job I don’t want, Solness. Have you ever smoked opium?’
Kaja shook her head. She had tried marijuana a few times backpacking around South America but had not been particularly fond of it.
‘But the Chinese have. Two hundred years ago the British imported opium from India to improve the trade balance. They turned half of China into junkies just like that.’ He flicked the fingers of his free hand. ‘And when, sensibly enough, the Chinese authorities banned opium, the British went to war for their right to drug China into submission. Imagine Colombia bombing New York because the Americans confiscated a bit of cocaine on the border.’
‘What’s your point?’
‘I see it as my duty, as a European, to smoke some of the shit we have imported into this country.’
Kaja could hear herself laughing. She really needed to get some sleep.
‘I was tailing you when you did the deal,’ she said. ‘I saw how you do it. There was money in the bottle when you put it down. And opium afterwards. Isn’t that right?’
‘Mm,’ Harry said with a mouth full of noodles. ‘Have you worked at the Narc Unit?’
She shook her head. ‘Why the baby’s bottle?’
Harry stretched his arms above his head. The soup bowl in front of him was empty. ‘Opium stinks something awful. If you’ve got a ball of it in your pocket or in foil, the narco dogs can sniff you out even in a huge crowd. There is no money back on baby’s bottles, so no chance of some kid or some drunk nicking it during a handover. That has happened.’
Kaja nodded slowly. He had started to relax, it was just a question of persisting. Anyone who hasn’t spoken their mother tongue for a while gets chatty when they meet a compatriot. It’s natural. Keep going.
‘You like horses?’
He was chewing on a toothpick. ‘Not really. They’re so bloody moody.’
‘But you like betting on them?’
‘I like it, but compulsive gambling is not one of my vices.’
He smiled, and again it struck her how his smile transformed him, made him human, accessible, boyish. And she was reminded of the glimpse of open sky she had caught over Melden Row.
‘Gambling is a poor winning strategy long term. But if you have nothing left to lose, it’s the only strategy. I bet everything I had, plus a fair bit I didn’t have, on one single race.’
‘You put everything you had on one horse?’
‘Two. A quinella. You pick out the two horses to come first and second, regardless which of the two is the winner.’
‘And you borrowed money from the Triad?’
For the first time she saw astonishment in Harry’s eyes.
‘What makes a serious Chinese gangster cartel lend money to an opium-smoking foreigner who has nothing to lose?’
‘Well,’ Harry said, producing a cigarette, ‘as a foreigner you have access to the VIP box at Happy Valley racecourse for the first three weeks after your passport has been stamped.’ He lit his cigarette and blew smoke at the ceiling fan, which was turning so slowly that the flies were taking rides on it. ‘There are dress codes, so I had a suit made. The first two weeks were enough to give me a taste for it. I met Herman Kluit, a South African who earned himself a fortune in minerals in Africa. He taught me how to lose quite a lot of money in style. I simply loved the concept. The evening before race day in the third week Kluit invited me to dinner, at which he entertained the guests by exhibiting his collection of African torture instruments from Goma. And that was where I got insider info from Kluit’s chauffeur. The favourite for one of the races was injured, but this titbit was being kept secret because it was going to run anyway. The point was that it was such a clear favourite that a minus pool came into question, that is, it would be impossible to earn any money by betting on it. However, there was money to be earned by hedging your bets with several of the others. For example, with quinellas. But, of course, that would require quite a bit of capital if you were going to earn anything. I was given a loan by Kluit on the basis of my honest face. And a made-to-measure suit.’ Harry studied the glow of his cigarette and seemed to be smiling at the thought.
‘And?’ Kaja asked.
‘And the favourite won by six lengths.’ Harry shrugged. ‘When I explained to Kluit that I didn’t own a bean he seemed genuinely sorry and explained politely that, as a businessman, he was obliged to stick to his business principles. He assured me that these did not include the use of Congolese torture weapons, but quite simply selling debts to the Triad with a discount. Which, he conceded, was not a lot better. But in my case he would wait thirty-six hours before he sold so that I could get out of Hong Kong.’
‘But you didn’t go?’
‘Sometimes I’m a bit slow on the uptake.’
Harry opened his hands. ‘This. Chungking.’
Harry shrugged and went to stub out his cigarette. And Kaja was reminded of the record cover Even had shown her with the picture of Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols. And the music playing in the background, ‘No fu-ture, no fu-ture.’
He stubbed out his cigarette. ‘You’ve heard what you need, Kaja Solness.’
‘Need?’ She frowned. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘Don’t you?’ He stood up. ‘Do you think I babble on about opium and debts because I’m one lonely Norwegian meeting another?’
She didn’t answer.
‘It’s because I want you to appreciate that I am not the man you all need. So that you can go back without feeling you haven’t done your job. So that you don’t get into trouble in stairwells, and I can sleep in peace without wondering whether you will lead my creditors straight to me.’
She looked at him. There was something severe, ascetic, about him, yet this was contradicted by the amusement dancing in his eyes, saying that you didn’t need to take everything so seriously. Or to be more exact: that he didn’t give a flying fuck.
‘Wait.’ Kaja opened her bag and took out a small, red booklet, passed it to him and observed the reaction. Saw incredulity spread across his face as he flicked through it.
‘Shit, looks just like my passport.’
‘I doubt Crime Squad had the budget for this.’
‘Your debts have sunk in value,’ she lied. ‘I got a discount.’
‘I hope for your sake you did because I have no intention of returning to Oslo.’
Kaja subjected him to a long stare. Dreading it. There was no way out now. She was being forced to play her final card, the one Gunnar Hagen had said she should leave to last if the old bastard proved obdurate.
‘There is one more thing,’ Kaja said, bracing herself.
One of Harry’s eyebrows shot into the air; perhaps he detected something in her intonation.
‘It’s about your father, Harry.’ She could hear that she had instinctively used his first name. Convinced herself it was meant sincerely, not just for effect.
‘My father?’ He said this as if it came as something of a surprise that he had one.
‘Yes. We contacted him to find out if he knew where you were living. The long and short of it is he’s ill.’
She looked down at the table.
Heard him exhale. The drowsiness was back in his voice. ‘Seriously ill?’
‘Yes. And I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this.’
She still did not dare to raise her gaze. Ashamed. Waited. Listened to the machine-gun sounds of Cantonese on the TV behind Li Yuan’s counter. Swallowed and waited. She would have to sleep soon.
‘When does the plane go?’
‘At eight,’ she said. ‘I’ll pick you up in three hours outside here.’
‘I’ll get there under my own steam. There are a couple of things I have to fix first.’
He held out his palm. She questioned him with her eyes.
‘For that I need the passport. And then you should eat. Get a bit of meat on your bones.’
She wavered. Then she handed him the passport and the ticket.
‘I trust you,’ she said.
He sent her a blank look.
Then he was gone.
The clock above gate C4 in Chek Lap Kok Airport showed a quarter to eight, and Kaja had given up. Of course he wasn’t coming. It was a natural reflex for animals and humans to hide when hurt. And Harry Hole was definitely hurt. Reports on the Snowman case had described in detail the murders of all the women. But Gunnar Hagen had added what had not been included. How Harry Hole’s ex-partner, Rakel, and her son, Oleg, had ended up in the clutches of the deranged killer. How she and her son had fled the country as soon as the case was over. And how Harry had handed in his resignation and slung his hook. He had been more hurt than she had realised.
Kaja had already handed in her boarding card, was on her way up to the boarding bridge and beginning to consider the formulation of her report on the failed mission when she saw him jogging through the slanted sunbeams that penetrated the terminal building. He was carrying a plain holdall over his shoulder, a tax-free bag and was puffing away furiously at a cigarette. He stopped at the gate. But instead of giving the waiting personnel his boarding card he put down his bag and sent Kaja a despairing look.
She went back to the gate.
‘Problems?’ she asked.
‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘Can’t come.’
He pointed to the tax-free bag. ‘Just remembered that in Norway the allowance per person is one carton of cigarettes. I’ve got two. So unless…’ He didn’t bat an eyelid.
She rolled her eyes heavenwards, trying not to look relieved. ‘Give it here.’
‘Thank you very much,’ he said, opening the bag, which she happened to notice did not contain any bottles, and passing her an opened carton of Camel with one pack already gone.
She walked in front of him to the plane so that he would not be able to see her smiles.
Kaja stayed awake long enough to catch take-off, Hong Kong disappearing beneath them and Harry’s eyes watching the trolley as it approached fitfully with its joyful clink of bottles. And him closing his eyes and answering the stewardess with a barely audible ‘No, thank you.’
She wondered whether Gunnar Hagen was right, whether the man beside her was really what they needed.
Then she was gone, unconscious, dreaming that she was standing in front of a closed door. She heard a lone, frozen bird-call from the forest and it sounded so strange because the sun was shining high in the sky. She opened the door…
She woke with her head lolling on his shoulder and dried saliva at the corners of her mouth. The captain’s voice announced that they were approaching the runway at London Heathrow.
Marit Olsen liked to ski in the mountains. But she hated jogging. She hated her wheezing gasps after only a hundred metres, the tremor-like vibrations in the ground as she planted her foot, the slightly bemused looks from walkers and the images that appeared when she saw herself through their eyes: the quivering chins, the flab that bounced around in the stretched tracksuit and the helpless, open-mouthed, fish-out-of-water expression she herself had seen on very overweight people training. That was one of the reasons she scheduled her three runs per week in Frogner Park for ten o’clock at night: the place was as good as deserted. The people who were there saw as little as possible of her as she puffed her way through the pitch dark between the few lamps illuminating the paths which criss-crossed Oslo’s largest park. And of those few who saw her there were fewer who recognised the Socialist MP for Finnmark. Forget ‘recognised’. There were few people who had ever seen Marit Olsen. When she spoke – usually on behalf of her home region – she did not attract the attention that others, her more photogenic colleagues, did. In addition, she had not said or done anything wrong in the course of the two sessions she had been sitting as a Stortinget representative. At least that was how she explained it to herself. The Finnmark Dagblad editor’s explanation, that she was a political lightweight, was no more than malicious wordplay on her physical appearance. The editor had not, however, ruled out the possibility that one day she might be seen in a Socialist government, as she fulfilled the most telling requirements: she was not educated, not male and not from Oslo.
Well, he might have been right that her strengths did not lie in large, complicated castles in the air. But she had a common touch, she was folksy enough to know the opinions of ordinary men and women, and she could be their voice here among all the self-centred, self-satisfied voters in the capital. For Marit Olsen shot from the hip. That was her real qualification, that was what had taken her to where she was, after all. With her verbal intelligence and wit – which southerners liked to call ‘northern Norwegian’ and ‘gritty’ – she was a sure winner in the few debates in which she had been allowed to participate. It was just a question of time before they would have to take note of her. So long as she could get rid of these kilos. Surveys proved that people had less confidence in overweight public figures; they were subconsciously perceived to be lacking in self-control.
She came to an incline, clenched her teeth and slowed her pace, went into what seemed very much like a walk, if she was honest. Power-walk. Yes, that’s what it was. The march towards power. Her weight was decreasing, her eligibility for office increasing.
She heard the crunch of gravel behind her and automatically her back went rigid, her pulse rose a few further notches. It was the same sound she had heard while out jogging three days ago. And two days before that. Both times someone had been running behind her for close on two minutes before the sound had gone. Marit had turned round on the previous occasion and seen a black tracksuit and a black hood, as though it were a commando training behind her. Except that no one, and especially not a commando, could find any purpose in jogging as slowly as Marit.
Of course, she could not be sure that this was the same person, but something about the sound of the footsteps told her it was. There was just a bit of the slope up to the Monolith, then it was an easy downhill run home, to Skoyen, her husband and a reassuringly unprepossessing, overfed Rottweiler. The steps came closer. And now it was not so wonderful that it was ten at night and the park was dark and deserted. Marit Olsen was frightened of several things, but primarily she was frightened of foreigners. Yes, indeed, she knew it was xenophobia and ran counter to party policy, but fearing whatever is alien nevertheless constitutes a sensible survival strategy. Right now she wished she had voted against all the immigrant-friendly bills her party had pushed, and that she had shot from her notorious hip a bit more.
Her body was moving all too slowly, her thigh muscles ached, her lungs were screaming for air, and she knew that soon she would not be able to move at all. Her brain tried to combat the fear, tried to tell her she was not exactly an obvious victim for rape.
Fear had borne her aloft, she could see over the hill now, down to Madserud alle. A car was reversing out of a garden gate. She could make it, there was little more than a hundred metres left. Marit Olsen ran onto the slippery grass, down the slope, only just managing to stay on her feet. She could no longer hear the steps behind her, everything was drowned out by her panting. The car had backed onto the road now, there was a crash of gears as the driver went from reverse to first. Marit was nearing the bottom, only a few metres left to the road, to the blessed cones of light emitted by the headlamps. Her considerable body weight had a slight start on her in the descent, and now it was relentlessly pulling her forward. Such that her legs could no longer keep up. She fell headlong, into the road, into the light. Her stomach, encased in sweaty polyester, hit the tarmac, and she half slid, half rolled forward. Then Marit lay still, the bitter taste of road dust in her mouth and her grazed palms stinging from contact with gravel.
Someone was standing over her. Grabbed her shoulders. With a groan she rolled onto her side and held her arms over her face in defence. Not a commando, just an elderly man wearing a hat. The car door behind him was open.
‘Are you alright, froken?’ he enquired.
‘What d’you think?’ said Marit Olsen, feeling the anger boil inside her.
‘Hang on! I’ve seen you somewhere before.’
‘Well, that’s a turn-up,’ she said, waving away his helping hand and struggling noisily to her feet.
‘Aren’t you in that comedy programme?’
‘You…’ she said, staring into the dark, silent void of the park and massaging her notorious hip, ‘… mind your own bloody business, grandpa.’
A Volvo Amazon, the last to roll out of the Volvo factory in 1970, had stopped in front of the pedestrian crossing by the arrivals terminal at Gardemoen Airport in Oslo.
A crocodile of nursery children paraded past the car in chafing rain gear. Some of them glanced with curiosity at the strange old car with rally stripes along the bonnet, and at the two men behind the windscreen wipers swishing away the morning rain.
The man in the passenger seat, Politioverbetjent, shortened to POB, Gunnar Hagen, knew that the sight of children walking in hand in hand ought to make him smile and think of solidarity, consideration for others and a society where everyone looked after everyone else. But Hagen’s first association was a search party hunting for a person they expected to find dead. That was what working as the head of Crime Squad did to you. Or, as some wit had written in English on Harry Hole’s office door: I see dead people.
‘What the heck’s a nursery class doing at an airport?’ asked the man in the driver’s seat. His name was Bjorn Holm, and the Amazon was his dearest possession. The mere smell of the noisy but uncannily efficient heater, the sweat-ingrained imitation leather and the dusty rear shelf gave him inner peace. Especially if it was accompanied by the engine at the right revs, that is about eighty kilometres an hour on the flat, and Hank Williams on the cassette player. Bjorn Holm from Krimteknisk, the Forensics Unit in Bryn, was a hillbilly from Skreia with snakeskin cowboy boots, a moon face and bulging eyes which lent him a constantly surprised expression. This face had caused more than one leader of an investigation to misjudge Bjorn Holm. The truth was that he was the greatest crime-scene talent since the glory days of Weber. Holm was wearing a soft suede jacket with fringes and a knitted Rastafarian hat from under which grew the most vigorous, intensely red sideburns Hagen had seen this side of the North Sea and they as good as covered his cheeks.
Holm swung the Amazon into the short-term car park where it stopped with a gasp, and the two men got out. Hagen turned up his coat collar, which of course did nothing to prevent the rain from bombarding his shiny pate. It was, by the way, wreathed by black hair so thick and so fertile that some suspected Gunnar Hagen of having perfectly normal hairgrowth but an eccentric hairdresser.
‘Tell me, is that jacket really waterproof?’ Hagen asked as they strode towards the entrance.
‘Nope,’ said Holm.
Kaja Solness had called them while they were in the car and informed them that the Scandinavian Airlines plane had landed ten minutes early. And that she had lost Harry Hole.
After entering through the swing doors, Gunnar Hagen looked around, saw Kaja sitting on her suitcase by the taxi counter, signalled with a brief nod and headed for the door to the customs hall. He and Holm slipped in as it opened for passengers leaving. A guard made to stop them, but nodded, indeed almost bowed, when Hagen held up his ID card and barked a curt ‘Police’.
Hagen turned right and walked straight past the customs officials and their dogs, past the metal counters that reminded him of the trolleys at the Pathology Institute, and into the cubicle behind.
There he came to such a sudden halt that Holm walked into him from behind. A familiar voice wheezed between clenched teeth. ‘Hi, boss. Regretfully, I’m unable to stand to attention right now.’
Bjorn Holm peered over the unit leader’s shoulder.
It was a sight that would haunt him for years.
Bent over the back of a chair was the man who was a living legend not just at Oslo Police HQ but in every police station across Norway, for good or ill. A man with whom Holm himself had worked closely. But not as closely as the male customs official standing behind the legend with a latex-clad hand partially obscured by the legend’s pale white buttocks.
‘He’s mine,’ Hagen said to the official, waving his ID card. ‘Let him go.’
The official stared at Hagen and seemed reluctant to release him, but when an older officer with gold stripes on his epaulettes came in and nodded briefly with closed eyes, the customs official twisted his hand round one last time and removed it. The victim gave a loud groan.
‘Get your pants on, Harry,’ Hagen said and turned away.
Harry pulled up his trousers and said to the official peeling off the latex glove, ‘Was it good for you, too?’
Kaja Solness rose from the suitcase when her three colleagues came back through the door. Bjorn Holm went to drive the car round while Gunnar Hagen went to get something to drink from the kiosk.
‘Are you often checked?’ Kaja asked.
‘Every time,’ Harry said.
‘Don’t think I’ve ever been stopped at customs.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Because there are a thousand small telltale signs they look for, and you have none of them. Whereas I have at least half.’
‘Do you think customs officers are so prejudiced?’
‘Well, have you ever smuggled anything?’
‘No.’ She laughed. ‘OK then, I have. But if they’re so good, they should have seen that you’re also a policeman. And let you through.’
‘They did see.’
‘Come on. That only happens in films.’
‘They saw alright. They saw a fallen policeman.’
‘Oh yes?’ said Kaja.
Harry rummaged for his pack of cigarettes. ‘Let your eyes drift over to the taxi counter. There’s a man with narrow eyes, a bit slanted. See him?’
‘He’s tugged at his belt twice since we came out. As if there was something heavy hanging from it. A pair of handcuffs or a truncheon. An automatic reaction if you’ve been in patrol cars or in the custody block for a few years.’
‘I’ve worked in patrol cars, and I’ve never -’
‘He’s working for Narc now and keeps an eye open for people who look a bit too relieved after passing through customs. Or go straight to the toilet because they can’t stand having the goods up their rectum any longer. Or suitcases that change hands between a naive, helpful passenger and the smuggler who got the idiot to carry the luggage containing all the dope through customs.’
She tilted her head and squinted at Harry with a little smile playing on her lips. ‘Or he might be a normal guy whose pants keep slipping down, and he’s waiting for his mother. And you’re mistaken.’
‘Certainly,’ said Harry, looking at his watch and the clock on the wall. ‘I’m always making mistakes. Is that really the time?’
The Volvo Amazon glided onto the motorway as the street lights came on.
In the front seats Holm and Solness were deep in conversation as Townes van Zandt sang in controlled sobs on the cassette player. On the back seat, Gunnar Hagen was stroking the smooth pig-leather briefcase he was holding on his lap.
‘I wish I could say you looked good,’ he said in a low voice.
‘Jet lag, boss,’ Harry said, who was lying more than sitting.
‘What happened to your jaw?’
‘It’s a long, boring story.’
‘Anyway, welcome back. Sorry about the circumstances.’
‘I thought I had handed in my resignation.’
‘You’ve done that before.’
‘So how many times do you want it?’
Gunnar Hagen looked at his former inspector and lowered his eyebrows and voice even further. ‘As I said, I’m sorry about the circumstances. And I appreciate that the last case took a lot out of you. That you and your loved ones were involved in a way which… well, could make anyone wish for a different life. But this is your job, Harry, this is what you’re good at.’
Harry sniffed as though he had already contracted the typical homecoming cold.
‘Two murders, Harry. We’re not even sure how they’ve been carried out, only that they’re identical. But thanks to recent dearly bought experiences, we know what we’re facing.’ The POB paused.
‘Doesn’t hurt to say the words, boss.’
‘I’m not so sure about that.’
Harry looked out at the snow-free, rolling, brown countryside. ‘People have cried wolf a number of times, but events have shown that a serial killer is a rare beast.’
‘I know,’ Hagen nodded. ‘The Snowman is the only one we’ve seen in this country during my period of office. But we’re pretty certain this time. The victims have nothing to do with each other, and the sedative found in their blood is identical.’
‘That’s something. Good luck.’
‘Find someone qualified for the job, boss.’
‘I’ve gone to pieces.’
Hagen took a deep breath. ‘Then we’ll put you together again.’
‘Beyond repair,’ Harry said.
‘You’re the only person in this country with the skills and the experience to deal with a serial killer.’
‘Fly in an American.’
‘You know very well things don’t work like that.’
‘Then I’m sorry.’
‘Are you? Two people dead so far, Harry. Young women…’
Harry waved a dismissive hand when Hagen opened his briefcase and pulled out a brown file.
‘I mean it, boss. Thank you for buying my passport and all that, but I’ve finished with photos and reports full of blood and gore.’
Hagen sent Harry a wounded expression, but still kept the file on his lap.
‘Peruse this, that’s all I’m asking. And don’t tell anyone we’re working on this case.’
‘Oh? Why’s that?’
‘It’s complicated. Just don’t mention it to anyone, OK?’
The conversation at the front of the car had died, and Harry focused on the back of Kaja’s head. As Bjorn Holm’s Amazon had been made long before anyone used the term ‘whiplash’, there was no headrest, and Harry could see her slim neck, since her hair had been pinned up, see the white down on her skin, and he mused on how vulnerable she was, how quickly things changed, how much could be destroyed in a matter of seconds. That was what life was: a process of destruction, a disintegration from what at the outset was perfect. The only suspense involved was whether we would be destroyed in one sudden act or slowly. It was a sad thought. Yet he clung to it. Until they were through Ibsen Tunnel, a grey, anonymous component of the capital’s traffic machinery that could have been in any city in the world. Nevertheless it was at that particular moment that he felt it. A huge, unalloyed pleasure at being here. In Oslo. Home. The feeling was so overwhelming that for a few seconds he was oblivious to why he had returned.
Harry gazed at Sofies gate 5 as the Amazon sailed out of view behind him. There was more graffiti on the front of the building than when he had left, but the blue paint beneath was the same.
So, he had refused to take the case. He had a father lying in the hospital. That was the only reason he was here. What he didn’t tell them was that if he’d had the choice of knowing about his father’s illness or not, he would have chosen not to know. Because he hadn’t returned out of love. He had returned out of shame.
Harry peered up at the two black windows on the second floor that were his.
Then he opened the door and walked into the backyard. The rubbish container was standing where it always did. Harry pushed open the lid. He had promised Hagen he would take a look at the case file. Mostly so that his boss would not lose face – after all, the passport had cost Crime Squad quite a few kroner. Harry dropped the file onto the burst plastic bags leaking coffee grounds, nappies, rotten fruit and potato peelings. He inhaled and wondered at how surprisingly international the smell of rubbish was.
Nothing had been touched in his two-room flat, yet something was different. A powder-grey hue, as though someone had just left but their frosty breath was still there. He went into the bedroom, put down his bag and fished out the unopened carton of cigarettes. Everything was the same there, grey as the skin of a two-day-old corpse. He fell back onto the bed. Closed his eyes. Greeted the familiar sounds. Such as the drip from the hole in the gutter onto the lead flashing around the window frame. It wasn’t the slow, comforting drip-drip from the ceiling in Hong Kong, but a feverish drumming, somewhere in the transition between dripping and running water, like a reminder that time was passing, the seconds were racing, the end of a number line was approaching. It had made him think of La Linea, the Italian cartoon figure who after four minutes always ended up falling off the edge of the cartoonist’s line into oblivion.
Harry knew that there was a half-full bottle of Jim Beam in the cupboard under the sink. Knew that he could start where he had left off in this flat. Shit, he had been wrecked even before he got into the taxi to the airport that day several months ago. No wonder he had not managed to drag himself to Manila.
He could go straight into the kitchen now and pour the contents down the sink.
Wondering who she resembled was so much nonsense. He knew who she resembled. She resembled Rakel. They all resembled Rakel.
‘But I’m scared, Rasmus,’ said Marit Olsen. ‘That’s what I am!’
‘I know,’ said Rasmus Olsen, in that muted, congenial voice that had accompanied and comforted his wife for more than twenty-five years through political decisions, driving tests, bouts of fury and the odd panic attack. ‘It’s just natural,’ he said, putting his arm round her. ‘You work hard, you have a lot on your mind. Your brain doesn’t have any spare capacity to shut out that kind of thought.’
‘That kind of thought?’ she said, turning to face him on the sofa. She had lost interest in the DVD they were watching – Love Actually – a long time before. ‘That kind of thought, that kind of rubbish, is that what you mean?’
‘The important thing is not what I think,’ he said, his fingertips poised to touch. ‘The important-’
‘-thing is what you think,’ she mimicked. ‘For Christ’s sake, Rasmus, you’ve gotta stop watching that Dr Phil show.’
He released a silky smooth chuckle. ‘I’m just saying that you, as a member of Stortinget, can obviously ask for a bodyguard to accompany you if you feel threatened. But is that what you want?’
‘Mmm,’ she purred as his fingers began to massage the exact spot where she knew he knew she loved it. ‘What do you mean by what you want?’
‘Give it some thought. What do you imagine is going to happen?’
Marit Olsen gave it some thought. Closed her eyes and felt his fingers massaging calm and harmony into her body. She had met Rasmus when she had been working at the Norwegian Employment Service in Alta, in Finnmark. She had been elected as an official for NTL, a union for state employees, and they had sent her south on a training course to the Sormarka conference centre. There a thin man with vivid blue eyes beneath a fastreceding hairline had approached her the first evening. He had talked in a way that was reminiscent of redemption-happy Christians at the youth club in Alta. Except that he was talking politics. He worked in the secretariat for the Socialist Party, helping MPs with practical office jobs, travel, the press and even, on the odd occasion, writing a speech for them.
Rasmus had bought her a beer, asked if she wanted to dance and after four increasingly slow evergreen numbers with increasingly close physical contact had asked if she wanted to join him. Not in his room, but in the party.
After returning home she had started going to party meetings in Alta, and in the evenings she and Rasmus had long telephone conversations about what they had done and thought that day. Of course, Marit had never said it aloud: that sometimes she thought the best time they had spent together was when they were two thousand kilometres apart. Then the Appointments Committee had rung, put her on a list and, hey presto, she was elected to Alta Town Council. Two years later she was the vice chairperson of Alta Socialist Party, the year after she was sitting on the County Council, and then there was another telephone call, and this time it was the Appointments Committee for Stortinget.
And now she had a tiny office in Stortinget, a partner who helped her with her speeches, and prospects of climbing the ladder so long as everything went to plan. And she avoided blunders.
‘They’ll detail a policeman to keep an eye on me,’ she said. ‘And the press will want to know why a woman MP no one has ever heard of should be walking around with a bloody bodyguard at the taxpayer’s expense. And when they find out why – she suspected someone had been following her in the park – they will write that with that kind of reasoning every woman in Oslo will be asking for state-subsidised police protection. I don’t want any protection. Drop it.’
Rasmus laughed silently and used his fingers to massage his approval.
The wind howled through the leafless trees in Frogner Park. A duck with its head drawn deep into its plumage drifted across the pitch-black surface of the lake. Rotting leaves stuck to the tiles of the empty pools at Frogner Lido. The place seemed abandoned for all eternity, a lost world. The wind blew up a storm in the deep pool and sang its monotonous lament beneath the ten-metre-high diving tower that stood out against the night sky like a gallows.
It was three o’clock in the afternoon when Harry awoke. He opened his bag, put in a set of clean clothes, found a woollen coat in the wardrobe and went out. The drizzle roused Harry enough for him to look moderately sober as he entered the brown, smoky rooms of Schroder’s. His table was taken, so he went into the corner, under the TV.
He looked around. He spotted a couple of faces he hadn’t seen before, hunched over beer glasses, otherwise time had stood still. Rita came and placed a white mug and a steel jug of coffee in front of him.
‘Harry,’ she said. Not as a form of welcome, but to confirm that it was indeed he.
Harry nodded. ‘Hi, Rita. Old newspapers?’
Rita scuttled off to the back room and returned with a pile of yellowing papers. Harry had never been given a clear explanation as to why they kept newspapers at Schroder’s, but he had benefited from this arrangement on more than one occasion.
‘Been a long time,’ said Rita and was gone. And Harry remembered what he liked about Schroder’s, apart from its being the closest taproom to his flat. The short sentences. And respect for your private life. Your return was noted; no elucidation was required.
Harry downed two mugs of the surprisingly unpleasant coffee while flicking through the newspapers in a fast-forward kind of way to furnish himself with a general perspective of what had happened in the kingdom over the last months. Not much, as usual. Which was what he liked best about Norway.
Someone had won Norwegian Idol, a celeb had been eliminated from a dance competition, a footballer in the third division had been caught taking cocaine, and Lene Galtung, daughter of the shipping magnate Anders Galtung, had pre-inherited some of the millions and got engaged to a better-looking but presumably less affluent investor called Tony. The editor of Liberal, Arve Stop, wrote that for a nation wanting to stand out as a social-democratic model, it was beginning to be embarrassing that Norway was still a monarchy. Nothing had changed.
In the December newspapers Harry saw the first articles about the murders. He recognised Kaja’s description of the crime scene, a basement in an office complex under construction in Nydalen. The cause of death was unclear, but the police suspected foul play.
Harry thumbed through, preferring to read about a politician who boasted that he was standing down to spend more time with his family.
Schroder’s newspaper archives were by no means complete, but the second murder appeared in a paper dated a couple of weeks later.
The woman had been found behind a wrecked Datsun dumped at the edge of a wood by Lake Daudsjoen in Maridalen. The police did not rule out a ‘criminal act’, but nor did they reveal any details about the cause of death.
Harry’s eyes scanned the article and established that the reason for police silence was the usual: they had no leads, nada, the radar was sweeping across an open sea of nothingness.
Only two murders. Yet Hagen had seemed so certain of his facts when he said this was a serial killer. So, what was the connection? What was it that the press didn’t say? Harry could feel his brain beginning to pursue the old, familiar paths; he cursed himself for his inability to refrain and continued to leaf through.
When the steel coffee jug was empty, he left a crumpled banknote on the table and went into the street. Tightened his coat around him and squinted up at the grey sky.
He hailed an unoccupied taxi, which pulled into the kerb. The driver leaned across and the rear door swung open. A trick you rarely saw nowadays, and one Harry decided to reward with a tip. Not just because he could step right in, but because the window in the door had reflected a face at the wheel of a car parked behind Harry.
‘Rikshospital,’ Harry said, wriggling to the middle of the back seat.
‘Righto,’ said the driver.
Harry studied the rear-view mirror as they drove off from the kerb. ‘Oh, could you go to Sofies gate 5 first, please?’
In Sofies gate the taxi waited, its diesel engine clattering away, while Harry mounted the staircase with long, quick strides and his brain assessed the range of possibilities. The Triad? Herman Kluit? Or good old paranoia. The gear lay where he had left it before taking off, in the toolbox in the food cupboard. The old, expired ID card. Two sets of Hiatt handcuffs with a spring-loaded arm for speed-cuffing. And the service revolver, a. 38 calibre Smith amp; Wesson.
Returning to the street, he looked neither left nor right, just jumped straight into the taxi.
‘Rikshospital?’ asked the driver.
‘Drive in that direction at any rate,’ Harry answered, studying the mirror as they turned up Stensbergata and then Ullevalsveien. He saw nothing. Which meant one of two things. It was good old paranoia. Or the guy was a pro.
Harry hesitated, then said finally, ‘Rikshospital.’
He continued to keep an eye on the mirror as they passed Vestre Aker Church and Ulleval Hospital. Whatever he did, he mustn’t lead them straight to where he was most vulnerable. Where they would always try to strike. The family.
The country’s biggest hospital was situated high above the town.
Harry paid the driver, who thanked him for the tip and repeated the trick with the rear door.
The facades of the buildings rose in front of Harry and the low cloud cover seemed to sweep away the roofs.
He took a deep breath.
Olav Hole’s smile from the hospital pillow was so gentle and frail that Harry had to swallow.
‘I was in Hong Kong,’ Harry replied. ‘I had to do some thinking.’
‘Did you get it done?’
Harry shrugged. ‘What do the doctors say?’
‘As little as possible. Hardly a good sign, but I’ve noticed that I prefer it like that. Tackling life’s realities has, as you know, never been our family’s strong suit.’
Harry wondered whether they would talk about Mum. He hoped not.
‘Have you got a job?’
Harry shook his head. His father’s hair hung over his forehead, so tidy and white that Harry assumed it wasn’t his hair but an accessory that had been handed out with the pyjamas and slippers.
‘Nothing?’ his father said.
‘I’ve had an offer to lecture at a police college.’
It was almost the truth. Hagen had offered him that after the Snowman case, as a kind of leave of absence.
‘Teacher?’ His father chuckled cautiously, as if any further effort would be the end of him. ‘I thought one of your principles was never to do anything I had done.’
‘It was never like that.’
‘That’s alright. You’ve always done things your way. This police stuff… Well, I suppose I should just be grateful you haven’t done what I did. I’m no model for anyone to follow. You know, after your mother died…’
Harry had been sitting in the white hospital room for twenty minutes and already felt a desperate urge to flee.
‘After your mother died, I struggled to make sense of anything. I retreated into my shell, found no joy in anyone’s company. It was as though loneliness brought me closer to her, or so I thought. But it’s a mistake, Harry.’ His father’s smile was as gentle as an angel’s. ‘I know losing Rakel hit you hard, but you mustn’t do what I did. You mustn’t hide, Harry. You mustn’t lock the door and throw away the key.’
Harry looked down at his hands, nodded and felt ants crawling all over his body. He had to have something, anything.
A nurse came in, introduced himself as Altman, held up a syringe and said, with a slight lisp, that he was going to give ‘Olav’ something to help him sleep. Harry felt like asking if he had something for him, too.
His father lay on his side, the skin on his face sagging; he looked older than he had on his back. He gazed at Harry with heavy, blank eyes.
Harry stood up so abruptly that the chair legs scraped loudly on the floor.
‘Where are you going?’ Olav asked.
‘Out for a smoke,’ Harry said. ‘I won’t be long.’
Harry sat on a low brick wall with a view of the car park and lit up a Camel. On the other side of the motorway he could see Blindern and the university buildings where his father had studied. There were those who asserted that sons always became, to some degree or other, disguised variants of their fathers, that the experience of breaking out was never more than an illusion; you returned; the gravity of blood was not only stronger than your willpower, it was your willpower. To Harry it had always seemed he was evidence of the contrary. So why had seeing his father’s naked, ravaged face on the pillow been like looking into a mirror? Listening to him speak like hearing himself? Hearing him think, the words… like a dentist’s drill that found Harry’s nerves with unerring accuracy. Because he was a copy. Shit! Harry’s searching gaze had found a white Corolla in the car park.
Always white, that’s the most anonymous colour. The colour of the Corolla outside Schroder’s, the one with the face behind the wheel, the same face that had been staring at him with its narrow, slanting eyes less than twenty-four hours before.
Harry tossed away his cigarette and hurried inside. Slackened his pace when he entered the corridor leading to his father’s room. He turned where the corridor widened to an open waiting area and pretended to search through a pile of magazines on the table while scanning the people sitting there from the corner of his eye.
The man had hidden himself behind a copy of Liberal.
Harry picked up a Se og Hor gossip rag with a picture of Lene Galtung and her fiance and left.
Olav Hole was lying with his eyes closed. Harry bent down and put his ear to Olav’s mouth. He was breathing so lightly it was barely audible, but Harry felt a current of air on his cheek.
He sat for a while on the chair beside the bed watching his father as his mind played back poorly edited childhood memories in arbitrary order and with no other central theme than that they were things he remembered clearly.
Then he placed the chair by the door, which he opened a crack, and waited.
It was half an hour before he saw the man come from the waiting area and walk down the corridor. Harry noticed that the squat, robustlooking man was unusually bow-legged; he seemed to be walking with a beach ball stuck between his knees. Before entering a door marked with the international sign for the men’s toilet, he plucked at his belt. As if something heavy was hanging from it.
Harry got up and followed.
Stopped outside the toilet and breathed in. It had been a long time. Then he pushed open the door and slipped in.
The toilet was like the whole hospital: clean, nice, new and too big. Along the main wall there were six cubicle doors, none with a red square above the lock. On the shorter wall four basins, and on the other long wall four porcelain urinals at hip height. The man was standing at a urinal, with his back to Harry. On the wall above him ran a horizontal pipe. It looked solid. Solid enough. Harry took out his revolver and handcuffs. International etiquette in men’s toilets is not to look at each other. Eye contact, even unintentional, is cause for murder. Accordingly, the man didn’t turn to look at Harry. Not when Harry locked the outside door with infinite care, not when he walked over slowly and not when he placed the gun barrel against the roll of fat between the man’s neck and head and whispered what a colleague used to claim all police officers should be allowed to say at least once in their careers: ‘Freeze.’
The man did exactly that. Harry could see the gooseflesh appear on the roll of fat as the man stiffened.
The man lifted a couple of short, powerful arms above his head. Harry leaned forward. And realised at that moment it had been a blunder. The man’s speed was breathtaking. Harry knew from the hours spent swotting up on hand-to-hand combat techniques that knowing how to take a beating was as important as giving one. The art was to let your muscles relax, to appreciate that punishment cannot be avoided, only reduced. So, when the man spun round, with his knee raised, as supple as a dancer, Harry reacted by following the movement. He moved his body in the same direction as the kick. The foot hit him above the hip. Harry lost balance, fell and slid along the tiled floor until he was out of range. He remained there, sighed and looked at the ceiling as he took out his pack of cigarettes. He poked one in his mouth.
‘Speed-cuffing,’ Harry said. ‘Learned it the year I did an FBI course in Chicago. Cabrini Green, digs were the pits. For a white man, there was nothing to do in the evenings unless you wanted to go out and get yourself robbed. So I sat indoors practising two things. Loading and unloading my service pistol as fast as I could in the dark. And speed-cuffing on a table leg.’
Harry levered himself up onto his elbows.
The man was still standing with his short arms stretched up above his head. His wrists were shackled to the handcuffs on either side of the pipe. He stared blankly at Harry.
‘Mr Kluit send you?’ Harry asked, in English.
The man held Harry’s gaze without blinking.
‘The Triad? I’ve paid my debts, haven’t you heard?’ Harry studied the man’s expressionless face. The features could have been Asian, but he didn’t have a Chinese face or complexion. Mongolian maybe? ‘So what do you want from me?’
No answer. Which was bad news, as the man had most probably not come to ask for anything, but to do something.
Harry stood up and walked in a semicircle so that he could approach him from the side. He held the revolver to the man’s temple while slipping his left hand inside the man’s suit jacket. His hand ran over the cold steel of a weapon, then found a wallet and plucked it out.
Harry stepped back three paces.
‘Let’s see… Mr Jussi Kolkka.’ Harry held an American Express card up to the light. ‘Finnish? I suppose you know some Norwegian then?’
‘You’ve been a policeman, haven’t you. When I saw you in arrivals at Gardemoen, I thought you were an undercover narco cop. How did you know I was catching that particular flight, Jussi? It’s alright if I call you Jussi, isn’t it? It feels sort of natural to address a guy with his schlong hanging out by his first name.’
There was a brief throaty noise before a gobbet of spit came whirling through the air, rotating on its axis, and landed on Harry’s chest.
Harry looked down at his T-shirt. The black snus-spit had drawn a diagonal line through the second ‘o’ and it now read ‘Snow Patrol’.
‘So you do understand Norwegian,’ Harry said. ‘Who do you work for then, Jussi? And what do you want?’
Not a muscle stirred in Jussi’s face. Someone shook the door handle outside, swore and went away.
Harry sighed. Then he raised his revolver until it was level with the Finn’s forehead and cocked it.
‘You might suppose, Jussi, that I’m a normal, sane person. Well, this is how sane I am. My father is lying helpless in his sickbed in there. You’ve found out, and that presents me with a problem. There’s only one way to solve it. Fortunately, you’re armed so I can tell the police it was self-defence.’
Harry pressed the hammer back still further. And felt the familiar nausea.
Harry stopped the hammer. ‘Repeat.’
‘I’m in Kripos,’ he hissed in Swedish, with the Finnish accent of which witty speech-makers at Norwegian wedding receptions are so fond.
Harry stared at the man. He didn’t have a second’s doubt that he was telling the truth. Yet it was totally incomprehensible.
‘In my wallet,’ the Finn snarled, not letting the fury in his voice reach his eyes.
Harry opened the wallet and checked inside. Removed a laminated ID card. There wasn’t much information, but it was adequate. The man in front of Harry was employed by Krimpolitisentralen, Kripos for short, the central crime unit in Oslo that assisted in – and usually led – the investigations into murder cases affecting the whole of the country.
‘What the hell does Kripos want with me?’
The Finn uttered a brief sound; it was difficult to determine whether it was a cough or laughter. ‘POB Bellman, you poor sod. My chief. Let me go now, handsome.’
‘Fuck,’ Harry said, inspecting the card again. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’ He dropped the wallet on the floor and made for the door.
The Finn’s shouts faded as the door slid to behind Harry and he walked down the corridor to the exit. The nurse who had been with his father was coming from the opposite direction and nodded with a smile when they were close enough. Harry tossed the tiny key for the handcuffs up in the air.
‘There’s a flasher in the boys’ room, Altman.’
Out of instinct, the nurse caught the key with both hands. Harry could feel the open-mouthed stare on his back until he was out of the door.
It was a quarter to eleven at night. Nine degrees centigrade, and Marit Olsen remembered that the weather forecaster had said it would be even milder tomorrow. In Frogner Park there wasn’t a soul to be seen. Something about the lido made her think of laid-up ships, of abandoned fishing villages with the wind whispering through house walls, and fairgrounds out of season. Fragmented memories of her childhood. Like the drowned fishermen who haunted Tronholmen, who emerged from the sea at night, with seaweed in their hair and fish in their mouths and nostrils. Ghosts without breath, but who were wont to scream cold, hoarse seagull cries. The dead with their swollen limbs, which snagged on branches and were wrenched off with a ripping sound, not that this halted their advance towards the isolated house in Tronholmen. Tronholmen where Grandma and Grandpa lived. Where she herself lay trembling in the children’s room. Marit Olsen breathed out. Kept breathing out.
Down there the wind was still, but up here at the top of the ten-metre-high diving platform you could feel the air moving. Marit felt her pulse throbbing in her temples, in her throat, in her groin, blood streaming through every limb, fresh and life-giving. Living was wonderful. Being alive. She had hardly been out of breath after scaling all the steps of the tower, had just felt her heart, that loyal muscle, racing wildly. She stared down at the empty diving pool beneath her, to which the moonlight lent an almost unnatural bluish sheen. Further away, at the end of the pool, she could see the large clock. The hand had stopped at ten past five. Time stood still. She could hear the city, see car lights in Kirkeveien. So close. And yet too far. Too far away for anyone to hear her.
She was breathing. And was dead nonetheless. She had a rope as thick as a hawser around her neck and could hear the gulls screaming, ghosts she would soon be joining. But she was not thinking about death. She was thinking about life, how much she would have liked to live. All the small things, and the big things, she would like to have done. She would have travelled to countries she hadn’t seen, watched her nephews and nieces grow, seen the world come to its senses.
It had been a knife; the blade had glistened in the light from the street lamp, and it had been held to her throat. Fear is said to release energy. Not in her case, it had stolen all her energy, deprived her of the power to act. The thought of steel cutting into her flesh had turned her into a quivering bundle of helplessness. So when she had been told to climb over the fence, she had not been able to and had fallen to the ground and lain there like a beanbag, tears streaming down her cheeks. Because she knew what was going to happen. She would do everything she could not to be cut and knew she would not be able to prevent it. Because she wanted so much to live. A few more years, a few more minutes, it was the same crazy, blind rationality that drove everyone.
She had started to explain that she couldn’t climb over; she had forgotten that he had told her to keep her mouth shut. The knife had writhed like a snake, sliced her mouth, twisted round, crunched against her teeth and then been pulled out. The blood had gushed at once. The voice had whispered something behind the mask and nudged her forward along the fence. To a place in the bushes where she was pushed through a gap in the fence.
Marit Olsen swallowed the blood that continued to fill her mouth and looked down at the spectator stands beneath her; they, too, were bathed in the blue moonlight. They were so empty, it was a courtroom without spectators or jury, just a judge. An execution without a mob, just the executioner. A final public appearance which no one had considered worth attending. It struck Marit that she lacked as much appeal in death as in life. And now she couldn’t speak, either.
She saw how beautiful the park was, even now in winter. She wished the clock at the end of the pool were working so that she could see the seconds of life she was stealing.
‘Jump,’ the voice repeated. He must have removed his mask, for his voice had changed, she recognised it now. She turned her head and stared in shock. Then she felt a foot on her back. She screamed. She no longer had ground beneath her feet; for one astonishing moment she was weightless. But the ground was pulling her down, her body accelerated and she registered that the bluish-white porcelain of the pool was racing towards her, to smash her into pieces.
Three metres above the bottom of the pool the rope tightened around Marit Olsen’s neck and throat. The rope was an old-fashioned type, made of linden and elm, and had no elasticity. Marit Olsen’s stout body was not checked to any appreciable degree; it detached itself from the head and hit the base of the pool with a dull thud. The head and the neck were left in the rope. There wasn’t much blood. Then the head tipped forward, slipped out of the noose, fell onto Marit Olsen’s blue tracksuit top and rolled across the tiles with a rumble.
Then the lido was still again.
At three o’clock in the morning Harry abandoned his attempts to sleep and got up. He turned on the tap in the kitchen and put a glass underneath, held it there until the water overflowed and trickled down his wrist, cold. His jaw ached. His attention was held by two photographs pinned up over the kitchen worktop.
One, with a couple of disfiguring creases, showed Rakel in a light blue summer dress. But it wasn’t summer, the leaves behind her were autumnal. Her dark brown hair cascaded down onto her bare shoulders. Her eyes seemed to be searching for something behind the lens, perhaps the photographer. Had he taken the photo himself? Strange that he couldn’t remember.
The other was of Oleg. Taken with Harry’s mobile phone camera at Valle Hovin skating rink during a training session last winter. At that time, a delicate young boy, but if he had continued his training he would have soon filled out that red skinsuit of his. What was he doing now? Where was he? Had Rakel managed to create a home for them wherever they were, a home that felt safer than the one they had in Oslo? Were there new people in her life? When Oleg became tired, or lost concentration, did he still refer to Harry as ‘Dad’?
Harry turned off the tap. He was conscious of the cupboard door against his knees. Jim Beam was whispering his name from inside.
Harry pulled on a pair of trousers and a T-shirt, went into the sitting room and put on Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. It was the original, the one where they didn’t compensate for the reel tape in the studio running a tiny bit slow, so the whole record was an almost imperceptible displacement of reality.
He listened for a while before increasing the volume to drown the whispering from the kitchen. Closed his eyes.
He had never heard the name. He could, of course, have rung Hagen and enquired, but he couldn’t be bothered. Because he had a feeling he knew what this might be about. Best to let sleeping dogs lie.
Harry had come to the last track, ‘Flamenco Sketches’, then he gave up. He got to his feet and left the sitting room for the kitchen. In the hall he turned left, emerged wearing Doc Martens boots and went out.
He found it under a split plastic bag. Something akin to dried pea soup coated the front of the file.
Back in his sitting room he sat down in the green wing chair and began to read with a shiver.
The first woman was Borgny Stem-Myhre, thirty-three years old, originally from Levanger, in the north. Single, no children, resident of Sagene in Oslo. Worked as a hairstylist, had a large circle of acquaintances, particularly among hairdressers, photographers and people in the fashion press. She frequented several of Oslo’s restaurants, and not just the coolest. Besides that, she was keen on the outdoors and liked walking or skiing from mountain cabin to mountain cabin.
‘You can take the woman out of Levanger, but you can’t take Levanger out of the woman,’ was the general summary of interviews with her colleagues. Harry assumed the remark came from colleagues who had succeeded in erasing their own small-town upbringings.
‘We all liked her. In this line of business she was one of the few who was genuine.’
‘It’s incomprehensible. We can’t understand how anyone could take her life.’
‘She was too nice. And sooner or later all the men she fell for exploited her. She became a toy for them. She aimed too high, that was basically the problem.’
Harry studied a photograph of her. One in the file of when she was still alive. Blonde, maybe not natural. Run-of-the-mill looker, no obvious beauty, but she was smartly dressed in a military jacket and a Rastafarian hat. Smartly dressed and too nice – did they go together?
She had been to Mono restaurant for the monthly launch and preview of the fashion magazine Sheness. That had been between seven and eight, and Borgny had told a colleague slash friend that she would be at home preparing for a photo shoot the day after, at which the photographer had wanted a ‘jungle meets punk meets eighties look’.
They assumed she would go to the nearest taxi rank, but none of the taxi drivers in the vicinity at the time in question (computerised lists from Norgestaxi and Oslotaxi attached) had recognised the photograph of Borgny Stem-Myhre or had driven to Sagene. In short, no one had seen her after she left Mono. Until two Polish brickies had showed up for work, noticed the padlock on the iron bomb shelter door had been snapped, and gone in. Borgny had been lying in the middle of the floor, in a contorted position, with all her clothes on.
Harry examined the photo. The same military jacket. The face looked as if it had been made up with white foundation. The flash cast sharp shadows against the cellar wall. Photo shoot. Smart.
The pathologist had determined that Borgny Stem-Myhre died somewhere between ten and eleven o’clock at night. Traces of the drug ketanome were found in her blood, a strong anaesthetic that worked fast even when injected intramuscularly. But the direct cause of death was drowning, triggered by blood from wounds in the mouth. And this was where the most disturbing elements came in. The pathologist found twenty-four stab wounds in the mouth, symmetrically distributed and at the same depth, seven centimetres, those that did not pierce the face, that is. But the police were at a loss as to what kind of weapon or instrument had been used. They had simply never seen anything like it. There were absolutely no forensic clues: no fingerprints, no DNA, not even shoe or boot prints, as the concrete floor had been cleaned the day before in preparation for heating cables and floor covering. In the report collated by Kim Erik Lokker, a forensics officer who must have been appointed after Harry’s time, there was a photograph of two grey-black pebbles found on the floor which did not originate from the gravel around the crime scene. Lokker pointed out that small stones often got stuck in boots with heavy-duty tread, and came loose when worn on firmer ground, such as this concrete floor. Furthermore, these stones were so unusual that if they turned up later in the investigation, for example in a gravel path, they might well find a match. There was one addition to the report after it had been signed and dated: small traces of iron and coltan had been found on two molars.
Harry could already guess the conclusion. He flicked through.
The other woman’s name was Charlotte Lolles. French father, Norwegian mother. Resident of Lambertseter, in Oslo. Twenty-nine years old. Qualified lawyer. Lived alone, but had a boyfriend: one Erik Fokkestad who had been quickly eliminated from inquiries. He had been at a geology seminar in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA. Charlotte should have joined him, but had prioritised a serious property dispute on which she had been working.
Colleagues had last seen her at the office on Monday evening at around nine. She had probably never returned home. Her briefcase of papers had been found next to her body behind the abandoned car by the wood in Maridalen. In addition, both parties in the property dispute had been eliminated. The post-mortem report highlighted bits of paint and rust found under Charlotte Lolles’s nails, which fitted with the crime scene report’s mention of scrape marks around the car-boot lock, as though she had been trying to get it open. Closer examination of the lock revealed that it had been picked at least once. But hardly by Charlotte Lolles. Harry formed a mental image of her chained to something locked inside the boot and speculated that that was why she had been trying to escape. Something the killer had taken with him afterwards. But what? And how? And why?
Records of the interview with a female colleague from the law firm included a quote: ‘Charlotte was an ambitious person and always worked late. Although how efficient she was, I don’t know. Always gentle, but not as outgoing as her smiles and Mediterranean appearance would have suggested. Quite private, basically. She never talked about her partner, for example. But my bosses liked her very much.’
Harry could imagine the female colleague serving up one intimate revelation after another about her boyfriend, without getting more than a smile from Charlotte in return. His investigative brain was on autopilot now: perhaps Charlotte had held back from embracing a clingy sisterhood, perhaps she had had something to hide. Perhaps…
Harry studied the photographs. Hard-ish but attractive features. Dark eyes, she looked like… Shit! He closed his eyes. Opened them again. Flicked through to the pathologist’s report. Skimmed through the document.
He had to check Charlotte’s name at the top to make sure he wasn’t reading the report on Borgny for a second time. Anaesthetic. Twenty-four wounds to the mouth. Drowning. No external violence, no signs of sexual interference. The only difference was that the time of death was between eleven and midnight. However, this report had an additional note as well, concerning traces of iron and coltan found on the victim’s teeth. Presumably because Krimteknisk had later realised that it might be relevant since it was found on both victims. Coltan. Wasn’t Schwarzenegger’s Terminator made of that?
Harry realised he was wide awake now and found himself perching on the edge of the chair. He felt the stirrings, the excitement. And the nausea. Like when he took his first drink, the one that made his stomach turn, the one his body desperately rejected. And soon he would be begging for more. More and more. Until it destroyed him and everyone around him. As this was doing. Harry jumped up so quickly he went dizzy, grabbed the file, knew it was too thick, but still managed to tear it in two.
He picked up the bits of paper and took them back to the refuse container. Let them fall down the side and lifted the plastic bags so that the documents slipped right down, to the very bottom. The dustcart would be round tomorrow or the day after, he hoped.
Harry went back and sat down in the green chair.
As night softened into a greyish hue, he heard the first sounds of a waking town. But over the regular drone of the first rush-hour traffic in Pilestredet, he could also hear a distant, reedy police siren gyrating through the frequencies. Could be anything. He heard another siren winding up. Anything. And then another. No, not anything.
The landline telephone rang.
Harry lifted the receiver.
‘Hagen speaking. We’ve just received a mess-’
Harry put down the phone.
It rang again. Harry looked out of the window. He hadn’t rung Sis. Why not? Because he didn’t want to show himself to his little sister – his most enthusiastic, most unconditional admirer. The woman who had what she called ‘a touch of Down’s syndrome’ and still coped with her life immeasurably better than he did his own. She was the only person he could not allow himself to disappoint.
The telephone stopped ringing. And started again.
Harry snatched at the phone. ‘No, boss. The answer is no, I don’t want the job.’
The other end of the line was quiet for a second. Then an unfamiliar voice said, ‘Oslo Energy here. Herr Hole?’
Harry cursed to himself. ‘Yes?’
‘You haven’t paid the bills we sent you, and you haven’t responded to our final demands. I’m ringing to say we are cutting off the electricity supply to Sofies gate 5 from midnight tonight.’
Harry didn’t answer.
‘We will only reconnect when we’ve received the outstanding amount.’
‘And that is?’
‘With fees for reminders and disconnection, plus interest, it’s fourteen thousand, four hundred and sixty-three kroner.’
‘I’m here. I’m a bit out of pocket right now.’
‘The outstanding amount will be recovered by our debt collection agency. In the meantime we’ll have to hope the temperature doesn’t fall below zero. Won’t we?’
‘We will,’ Harry confirmed, and rang off.
The sirens outside rose and fell.
Harry went for a lie-down. He lay there for a quarter of an hour with his eyes closed before giving up, getting dressed again and leaving the flat to catch a tram to Rikshospital.
When I woke up this morning, I knew I had been there again. In the dream it is always like that: we are lying on the ground, blood is flowing, and when I glance to the side, she’s there looking at us. She looks at me with sorrow in her eyes, as if it is only now that she has discovered who I am, only now that she has unmasked me, seen that I am not the man she wants.
Breakfast was excellent. It’s on teletext. ‘Woman MP found dead in diving pool at Frogner Lido.’ The news sites are full of it. Print out, snip, snip.
Before very long the first websites will publish the name. Thus far the so-called police investigation has been such a ridiculous farce that it has been irritating rather than exciting. But this time they will invest all their resources, they won’t play at investigation the way they did with Borgny and Charlotte. After all, Marit Olsen was an MP. It’s time this was stopped. Because I have appointed the next victim.
Harry was smoking a cigarette outside the hospital entrance. Above him the sky was pale blue, but beneath him, the town, lying in a dip between low, green mountain ridges, was wreathed in mist. The sight reminded him of his childhood in Oppsal when he and Oystein had skipped the first lesson at school and gone to the German bunkers in Nordstrand. From there they had looked down on the peasouper enveloping Oslo city centre. But with the years the morning fog had gradually drifted away from Oslo, along with industry and woodburning.
Harry crushed the cigarette with his heel.
Olav Hole looked better. Or perhaps it was merely the light. He asked why Harry was smiling. And what had actually happened to his jaw.
Harry said something about being clumsy and wondered at what age the change took place, when children started protecting parents from reality. Around the age of ten, he concluded.
‘Your little sister was here,’ Olav said.
‘How is she?’
‘Fine. When she heard you were back, she said that now she would look after you. Because she’s big now. And you’re small.’
‘Mm. Smart girl. How are you today?’
‘Well. Very well, actually. Think it’s about time I got out of here.’
He smiled, and Harry smiled back.
‘What do the doctors say?’
Olav Hole was still smiling. ‘Far too much. Shall we talk about something else?’
‘Of course. What would you like to talk about?’
Olav Hole reflected. ‘I’d like to talk about her.’
Harry nodded. And sat silently listening to his father tell him about how he and Harry’s mother had met. Got married. About her illness when Harry was a boy.
‘Ingrid helped me all the time. All the time. But she needed me so rarely. Until she fell ill. Sometimes I thought the illness was a blessing.’
‘It gave me the chance to repay, you understand. And I did. Everything she asked me, I did.’ Olav Hole fixed his eyes on his son. ‘Everything, Harry. Almost.’
His father kept talking. About Sis and Harry, how wonderfully gentle Sis had been. And what willpower Harry had possessed. How frightened he had been but kept it to himself. When he and Ingrid had listened at the door, they had heard Harry crying and cursing invisible monsters in turn. However, they knew they shouldn’t go in to console and reassure him. He would become furious, shout that they were ruining everything and tell them to get out.
‘You always wanted to fight the monsters on your own, you did, Harry.’
Olav Hole told the ancient story about Harry not speaking until he was nearly five. And then – one day – whole sentences just flowed out of him. Slow, earnest sentences with adult words; they had no idea where he had learned them.
‘But your sister is right,’ Olav smiled. ‘You’re a small boy again. You don’t speak.’
‘Mm. Do you want me to speak?’
Olav shook his head. ‘You have to listen. But that’s enough for now. You’ll have to come back another day.’
Harry squeezed his father’s left hand with his right and stood up. ‘Is it OK if I stay in Oppsal for a few days?’
‘Thanks for the offer. I didn’t want to hassle you, but the house does need to be looked after.’
Harry dropped his plan to tell him that the power was going to be cut off in his flat.
Olav rang a bell and a young, smiling nurse came in and used his father’s first name in an innocent, flirty way. And Harry noted how his father deepened his voice as he explained that Harry needed the suitcase containing the keys. He saw the way the sick man in the bed tried to fluff his plumage for her. And for some reason it didn’t seem pathetic; it was the way it should be.
In parting, his father repeated: ‘Everything she asked me.’ And whispered: ‘Bar one thing.’
Leading him to the storage room, the nurse told Harry the doctor wanted to have a couple of words with him. After locating the keys in the suitcase, Harry knocked on the door the nurse had indicated.
The doctor nodded to a seat, leaned back on his swivel chair and pressed his fingertips together. ‘Good thing you came home. We had been trying to get hold of you.’
‘The cancer has spread.’
Harry nodded. Someone had once told him that was a cancer cell’s function: to spread.
The doctor studied him, as though considering his next move.
‘OK,’ Harry said.
‘OK, I’m ready to hear the rest.’
‘We don’t usually say how much time a person has left. The errors of judgement and the psychological strain that ensue are too great for that. However, in this case, I think it is appropriate to tell you he is already living on borrowed time.’
Harry nodded. Gazed out the window. Fog was still as thick down below.
‘Have you got a mobile number we can contact you on should anything happen?’
Harry shook his head. Was that a siren he heard down in the fog?
‘Anyone you know who can pass on a message?’
Harry shook his head again. ‘Not a problem. I’ll ring in and visit him every day. OK?’
The doctor nodded and watched Harry get up and stride out.
It was nine by the time Harry got to Frogner Lido. The whole of Frogner Park measures about fifty hectares, but since the public lido constitutes a small fraction of this and, furthermore, is fenced in, the police had an easy job cordoning off the crime scene; they had simply run a cordon round the entire fence and put a guard in the ticket office. The kettle of crime-correspondent vultures was in flight and they swooped in, stood cackling outside the gate wondering when they would gain access to the cadaver. For Christ’s sake, this was a bona fide MP, didn’t the public have a right to photos of such a prominent corpse?
Harry bought an americano at Kaffepikene. They had chairs and tables on the pavement throughout February, and Harry took a seat, lit a cigarette and watched the flock in front of the ticket booth.
A man sat down on the chair next to him.
‘Harry Hole himself. Where have you been?’
Harry looked up. Roger Gjendem, the Aftenposten crime correspondent, lit a cigarette and gestured towards Frogner Park. ‘At last Marit Olsen gets what she wants. By eight this evening she’ll be a celeb. Hanging herself from the diving tower? Good career move.’ He turned to Harry and grimaced. ‘What happened to your jaw? You look dreadful.’
Harry didn’t answer. Just sipped his coffee and said nothing to alleviate the embarrassing silence in the futile hope that the journalist would twig that he was not desirable company. From the bank of fog above them came the noise of whirring rotors. Roger Gjendem peered up.
‘Gotta be Verdens Gang. Typical of that tabloid to hire a helicopter. Hope the fog doesn’t lift.’
‘Mm. Better that no one gets photos than VG does?’
‘Right. What do you know?’
‘I’m sure less than you,’ said Harry. ‘The body was found by one of the nightwatchmen at dawn, and he rang the police straight away. And you?’
‘Head torn off. Woman jumped from the top of the tower with a rope around her neck, it seems. And she was pretty hefty, as you know. Over a hundred kilos.
‘They’ve found threads that may match her tracksuit on the fence where they reckon she entered. They didn’t find any other clues, so they think she was alone.’
Harry inhaled the cigarette smoke. Head torn off. They spoke how they wrote, these journalists, the inverted pyramid, as they called it: the most important information first.
‘Must have happened in the early hours, I suppose?’ Harry fished.
‘Or in the evening. According to Marit Olsen’s husband, she left home at a quarter to ten to go jogging.’
‘Late for a jog.’
‘Must have been when she usually jogged. Liked having the park to herself.’
‘By the way, I tried to track down the nightwatchman who found her.’
Gjendem sent Harry a surprised look. ‘To get a first-hand account, of course.’
‘Of course,’ Harry said, sucking on his cigarette.
‘But he seems to have gone into hiding. He’s not here or at home. Must be in shock, poor fella.’
‘Well, it’s not the first time he’s found bodies in the pool. I assume the detective leading the investigation has seen to it that you can’t lay your hands on him.’
‘What do you mean, it’s not the first time?’
Harry shrugged. ‘I’ve been called here two or three times before. Young lads sneaking in during the night. One time it was suicide, another an accident. Four drunken friends on their way home from a party wanted to play, see who dared to stand closest to the edge of the diving board. The boy who won the dare was nineteen. The oldest was his brother.’
‘Bloody hell,’ Gjendem said dutifully.
Harry checked his watch as if he had to hurry off.
‘Must have been some strength in that rope,’ Gjendem said. ‘Head torn off. Ever heard the like?’
‘Tom Ketchum,’ said Harry, draining the rest of his coffee in one swig and getting up.
‘Ketchum. Hole-in-the-Wall gang. Hanged in New Mexico Territory in 1901. Standard gallows, they just used too much rope.’
‘Oh. How much?’
‘Just over two metres.’
‘Not more? He must have been a fat lump.’
‘Nope. Tells you how easy it is to lose your head, doesn’t it.’
Gjendem shouted something after him, but Harry didn’t catch it. He crossed the car park north of the lido, continued across the grass and took a left over the bridge to the main gate. The fence was more than two and a half metres high all the way round. Over a hundred kilos. Marit Olsen might have tried, but she did not get over the lido fence unaided.
On the other side of the bridge, Harry turned left so that he could approach the lido from the opposite angle. He stepped over the orange police cordon and stopped at the top of the slope by a shrub. Harry had forgotten an alarming amount over recent years. But the cases stuck. He could still remember the names of the four boys on the diving tower. The older brother’s distant eyes as he answered Harry’s questions in a monotone. And the hand pointing to the place where they had got in.
Harry chose his steps carefully, not wishing to destroy possible clues, and bent the shrub to one side. Oslo Parks’ maintenance planned well in advance. If they planned at all. The tear in the fence was still there.
Harry crouched down and studied the jagged edges of the tear. He could see dark threads. Someone who had not sneaked in, but had forced her way through here. Or was pushed. He looked for other evidence. From the top of the tear hung a long black piece of wool. The tear was so high that the person must have been standing upright to touch the fence at that point. The head. Wool made sense, a woollen hat. Had Marit Olsen been wearing a woollen hat? According to Roger Gjendem, Marit Olsen had left home at a quarter to ten to jog in the park. As usual, he had surmised.
Harry tried to visualise it. He imagined an abnormally mild evening in the park. He saw a large, sweaty woman jogging. He didn’t see a woollen hat. He couldn’t see anyone else wearing a woollen hat, either. Not because it was cold at any rate. But perhaps so as not to be seen or recognised. Black wool. A balaclava maybe.
He stepped out of the bushes with care.
He hadn’t heard them coming.
One man held a pistol – probably a Steyr, Austrian, semi-automatic. It was pointed at Harry. The man behind it had blond hair, an open mouth with a powerful underbite, and when he emitted a grunt of a laugh, Harry remembered the nickname belonging to Truls Berntsen from Kripos. Beavis. As in Beavis and Butt-Head.
The second man was short, unusually bow-legged and had his hands in the pockets of a coat that Harry knew concealed a gun and an ID card bearing a Finnish-sounding name. But it was the third man, the one in an elegant grey trench coat, who attracted Harry’s attention. He stood to the side of the other two, but there was something about the gunman and the Finn’s body language, the way they partly addressed Harry, partly this man. As though they were an extension of him, as though this man was actually holding the gun. What struck Harry about the man was not his almost feminine good looks. Nor that his eyelashes were so clearly visible above and below his eyes, incurring suspicions he used make-up. Nor the nose, the chin, the fine shape of his cheeks. Nor that his hair was thick, dark, grey, elegantly cut and a great deal longer than was standard for the force. Nor the many tiny colourless blemishes in the suntanned skin that made him look as if he had been exposed to acid rain. No, what struck Harry was the hatred. The hatred in the eyes that bored into him, a hatred so fierce that Harry seemed to sense it physically, as something white and hard.
The man was cleaning his teeth with a toothpick. His voice was higher and softer than Harry would have imagined. ‘You’ve trespassed into territory that has been cordoned off for an investigation, Hole.’
‘An incontrovertible fact,’ Harry said, looking around him.
Harry eyed the man, quietly rejecting one potential answer after the other until he realised he simply didn’t have one.
‘Since you appear to know me,’ Harry said, ‘who do I have the pleasure of meeting?’
‘I doubt it will be much of a pleasure for either of us, Hole. So I suggest you leave the area now and never show your face near a Kripos crime scene again. Is that understood?’
‘Well, received but not completely understood. What about if I can help the police in the form of a tip about how Marit Olsen-’
‘The only help you’ve given the police’, the gentle voice interrupted, ‘has been to besmirch its reputation. In my book, you’re a drunk, a lawbreaker and vermin, Hole. So my advice to you is this: crawl back under the stone you came from before someone crushes you with their heel.’
Harry looked at the man, and his gut instinct and his brain concurred: Take it. Withdraw. You have no ammunition to counter with. Be smart.
And he really wished he was smart; he would really have appreciated that quality. Harry took out his pack of cigarettes.
‘And that someone would be you, would it, Bellman? You are Bellman, aren’t you? The genius who sent the sauna-ape after me?’ Harry nodded towards the Finn. ‘Judging from that attempt, I doubt you would be able to crush… er… er…’ Harry struggled feverishly to remember the analogy, but it wouldn’t come. Bloody jet lag.
Bellman interceded. ‘Piss off now, Hole.’ The POB jerked his thumb behind him. ‘Come on. Hop it.’
‘I-’ Harry began.
‘That’s it,’ Bellman said with a broad smile. ‘You’re under arrest, Hole.’
‘You’ve been told three times to vacate the crime scene and you haven’t complied. Hands behind your back.’
‘Now listen here!’ Harry snarled with a niggling feeling that he was a very predictable rat caught in the laboratory maze. ‘I just want-’
Berntsen, alias Beavis, jogged his arm, knocking the cigarette out of his mouth and onto the wet ground. Harry bent down to pick it up, but got Jussi’s boot in his backside and toppled forwards. He banged his head on the ground and tasted earth and bile. And heard Bellman’s soft voice in his ear.
‘Resisting arrest, Hole? I told you to put your hands behind your back, didn’t I? Told you to put them here…’
Bellman placed his hand lightly on Harry’s bottom. Harry breathed hard through his nose without moving. He knew exactly what Bellman was after. Assault on a police officer. Two witnesses. Paragraph 127. Sentence: five years. Game over. And even though this was already as clear as day to Harry, he knew that Bellman would get what he wanted before long. So he concentrated on something else, excluded Beavis’s grunted laugh and Bellman’s eau de cologne from his mind. He thought about her. About Rakel. He put his hands behind his back, on top of Bellman’s hand and turned his head. Now the wind had blown away the fog hanging over them and he could see the slim, white diving tower outlined against the grey sky. Something was dangling aloft, from the platform, a rope perhaps.
The handcuffs clicked gently into place.
Bellman stood in the car park by Middelthunsgate watching them as they drove away. The wind was tugging gently at his coat.
The custody officer was reading the newspaper when he noticed the three men in front of the counter.
‘Hi, Tore,’ Harry said. ‘Got a non-smoker with a view?’
‘Hi, Harry. Long time no see.’ The officer picked up a key from the cupboard behind him and passed it to Harry. ‘Honeymoon suite.’
Harry saw the confusion on Tore’s face when Beavis leaned forward, grabbed the key and snarled, ‘He’s the prisoner, you old git.’
Harry grimaced an apology to Tore as Jussi frisked him and turned up some keys and a wallet.
‘Would you mind ringing Gunnar Hagen, Tore? He-’
Jussi snatched at the handcuffs, cutting into Harry’s skin, and Harry tumbled backwards after the two men heading for the custody block.
Once they had locked him in the two-and-a-half by one-and-a-half-metre cell, Jussi went back to Tore to sign the papers while Beavis stood outside the barred door, peering in at Harry. Harry could see he had something on his chest and waited. And at last it came, in a voice shaking with suppressed fury.
‘How does it feel, eh? You being such a bloody hotshot, catching two serial killers, being on TV and all that? And here you are now, looking at bars from the inside, eh?’
‘What are you so angry about, Beavis?’ Harry asked softly and closed his eyes. He could feel the swell in his body as if he had just come ashore after a long voyage.
‘I’m not angry. But as far as punks shooting good policemen are concerned, I’m furious with them.’
‘Three mistakes in one sentence,’ Harry said, lying down on the cell bed. ‘First of all, it’s “is” not “are”, secondly Inspector Waaler was not a good policeman and thirdly I didn’t shoot him. I pulled off his arm. Here, up by the shoulder.’ Harry demonstrated.
Beavis’s mouth opened and shut, but nothing emerged.
Harry closed his eyes again.
The next time Harry opened his eyes, he had been lying in the cell for two hours, and Gunnar Hagen was standing outside struggling to open the door with the key.
‘Sorry, Harry, I was in a meeting.’
‘Suited me fine, boss,’ Harry said, stretching on the bed with a yawn. ‘Am I being released?’
‘I spoke to the police lawyer, who said it was OK. Custody is detention, not a punishment. I heard two Kripos men brought you in. What happened?’
‘I’m hoping you can tell me.’
‘I can tell you?’
‘Ever since I landed in Oslo I’ve been followed by Kripos.’
Harry sat up and ran a hand through the brush-like bristles on his head. ‘They tracked me down to Rikshospital. They arrested me on a formality. What’s going on, boss?’
Hagen raised his chin and stroked the skin over his larynx. ‘Hell, I should have anticipated this.’
‘That it would leak out that we were trying to run you to earth. That Bellman would try to stop us.’
‘A few main clauses would be nice.’
‘It’s pretty complicated, as I told you. It’s all about cuts and rationalisation in the force. About jurisdiction. The old fight, Crime Squad versus Kripos. Whether there are enough resources for two specialist branches with parallel expertise in a small country. The discussion flared up when Kripos got a new second in command, one Mikael Bellman.’
‘Tell me about him.’
‘Bellman? Police College, brief period of service in Norway before washing up in Europol in The Hague. Came back to Kripos a wonder boy, ready to move upwards and onwards. Nothing but grief from day one when he wanted to employ an ex-colleague from Interpol, a foreigner.’
‘Not Finnish, by any chance, was he?’
Hagen nodded. ‘Jussi Kolkka. Police training in Finland, but has none of the formal qualifications required for police status in Norway. The trade union went ballistic. The solution was, of course, that Kolkka would be temporarily employed on an exchange. Bellman’s next initiative was to make it clear that the rules should be interpreted in such a way that on bigger murder investigations Kripos would decide whether it was their case or the police district’s, not vice versa.’
‘And that is quite unacceptable, goes without saying. We have the country’s largest murder unit here at Police HQ, we decide which cases we take within the Oslo district, what we need help with and where we request Kripos to take control. Kripos was established to offer their know-how to police districts running murder cases, but Bellman has, at the drop of a hat, endowed the department with his emperor status. The Ministry of Justice was drawn into the matter. And they soon saw their chance to do what we have managed to keep a lid on for so long: to centralise murder investigations so that there is one centre of expertise. They don’t give two hoots about our arguments concerning the dangers of standardisation and inbreeding, the importance of local knowledge and the spread of skills, recruitment and-’
‘Thank you, you’re preaching to the converted.’
Hagen held up a hand. ‘Fine, but the Ministry of Justice is working now on an appointment…’
‘They say they’re going to be pragmatic. It’s all about exploiting scarce resources in the most cost-effective way. If Kripos can show that they achieve their best results by being unencumbered by police districts-’
‘-then all the power goes to Kripos HQ in Bryn,’ Harry said. ‘Big office for Bellman and bye-bye Crime Squad.’
Hagen hunched his shoulders. ‘Something of that nature. When Charlotte Lolles was found dead behind the Datsun and we saw the similarities with the girl murdered in the cellar of the new building, there was a head-on collision. Kripos said that even though the bodies were found in Oslo, a double murder is a matter for Kripos, not Oslo Police District, and started their own independent investigation. They’ve realised that the battle for the ministry’s support will stand or fall on this case.’
‘So it’s just a question of solving the case before Kripos?’
‘As I said, it’s complicated. Kripos refuses to share info with us even though they’ve made no headway. Instead they went to the ministry. The Chief Constable here received a call to say that the ministry would like to see Kripos being allowed to run this case until they’ve made up their mind about how to allocate areas of responsibility in the future.’
Harry shook his head slowly. ‘It’s beginning to sink in. You all got desperate…’
‘I wouldn’t use that word.’
‘Desperate enough to dig up the old serial-killer hunter, Hole. An outsider no longer on the payroll, who could investigate the matter on the q.t. That was why I couldn’t say anything to anyone.’
Hagen sighed. ‘Bellman found out anyway, obviously. And stuck a tail on you.’
‘To see whether you seemed to be complying with the ministry’s request. To catch me in flagrante delicto reading old reports or questioning old witnesses.’
‘Or even more effective: to disqualify you from the game. Bellman knows one single mistake would be enough to have you suspended, one single beer while on duty, one single breach of service rules.’
‘Mm. Or resisting arrest. He’s thinking of taking the case further, the prick.’
‘I’ll talk to him. He’ll drop it when I tell him you don’t want the case anyway. We don’t dump police officers in the shit when there’s no point.’ Hagen glanced at his watch. ‘I’ve got work waiting for me. Let’s get you out.’
They walked out of the custody block, across the car park and stopped at the entrance to Police HQ, a tower of concrete and steel presiding over the park. Beside them, attached to Police HQ by an underground culvert, stood the old grey walls of Botsen, Oslo District Prison. Beneath them, the area of Gronland stretched down to the fjord and harbour. The facades were winter-pale and filthy as though ash had rained down on them. The cranes by the harbour stood like gallows outlined against the sky.
‘Not a pretty sight, eh?’
‘No,’ Harry said, breathing in.
‘But there’s something about this town nonetheless.’
Harry nodded. ‘There is that.’
They stood there for a while, rocking back on their heels, hands in pockets.
‘Chilly,’ Harry said.
‘S’pose not, but my thermostat is still set to Hong Kong temperatures.’
‘You’ve got a cup of coffee waiting for you upstairs, have you?’ Harry motioned to the sixth floor. ‘Or was it work? The Marit Olsen case?’
Hagen didn’t answer.
‘Mm,’ Harry said. ‘So Bellman and Kripos have got that, too.’
Harry received the odd measured nod on his way through the corridors of the red zone on the sixth floor. A legend in the building he might have been, but he had never been a popular man.
They passed an office door on which someone had glued an A4 piece of paper saying ‘I SEE DEAD PEOPLE’.
Hagen cleared his throat. ‘I had to let Magnus Skarre take over your office. Everywhere else is bursting at the seams.’
‘No worries,’ Harry said.
They each took their paper cup of the infamous percolated coffee from the kitchenette.
Inside Hagen’s office Harry settled in the chair facing the POB’s desk, where he had sat so many times.
‘You’ve still got it, I see,’ Harry said, pointing with his head to the memento on the desk that, at first sight, resembled a white exclamation mark. It was a stuffed little finger. Harry knew it had once belonged to a Japanese Second World War commander. In retreat, the commander had cut off his finger in front of his men to apologise for not being able to return and pick up their dead. Hagen loved to use the story when he was teaching middle management about leadership.
‘And you still haven’t.’ Hagen nodded towards the hand, minus middle finger, Harry was using to hold the paper cup.
Harry conceded the point and drank. The coffee hadn’t changed, either. Liquefied tarmac.
Harry grimaced. ‘I need a team of three.’
Hagen drank slowly and put down the cup. ‘Not more?’
‘You always ask that. You know I don’t work with large teams of detectives.’
‘In that case I won’t complain. Fewer people means less chance of Kripos and the Ministry of Justice catching wind of our investigations into the double murder.’
‘Triple murder,’ Harry said with a yawn.
‘Hold on, we don’t know if Marit Olsen-’
‘Woman alone at night, abducted, murdered in an unconventional manner. The third time in little old Oslo. Triple. Believe me. But however many there are of us, you can take it from me that we will take bloody good care that our paths don’t cross those of Kripos.’
‘Yes,’ Hagen said. ‘I do know that. That’s why it’s a condition that if the investigation were to be brought to light, it has nothing to do with Crime Squad.’
Harry closed his eyes. Hagen went on.
‘Of course we will regret that some of our employees have been involved, but make it clear that this is something the notorious maverick Harry Hole initiated off his own bat, without the knowledge of the unit head. And you will confirm that version of events.’
Harry opened his eyes again and stared at Hagen.
Hagen met his stare. ‘Any questions?’
‘Where’s the leak?’
‘Who’s informing Bellman?’
Hagen rolled his shoulders. ‘I don’t have the impression that he has any systematic access to what we’re doing. He could have caught a sniff of your return in lots of places.’
‘I know Magnus Skarre has a habit of talking anywhere and anyhow.’
‘Don’t ask me any more questions, Harry.’
‘OK. Where should we set up shop?’
‘Right. Right.’ Gunnar Hagen nodded several times as if that were something they had already discussed. ‘As far as an office is concerned…’
‘As I said, the place is full to bursting, so we’ll have to find somewhere outside, but not too far away.’
‘Fine. Where then?’
Hagen looked out of the window. At the grey walls of Botsen.
‘You’re kidding,’ Harry said.
Bjorn Holm entered the conference room at Krimteknisk in the Bryn district of Oslo. Outside the windows, the sun was relinquishing its grip on the house fronts and casting the town into afternoon gloom. The car park was packed, and in front of the entrance to Kripos, across the road, there was a white bus with a soup dish on the roof and the Norwegian Broadcasting Company logo on its side.
The only person in the room was his boss, Beate Lonn, an unusually pale, petite and quiet-mannered woman. Had one not known any better, one might have thought a person like this would have problems leading a group of experienced, professional, self-aware, always quirky and seldom conflict-shy forensics officers. Had one known better, one would have realised she was the only person who could deal with them. Not primarily because they respected the fact that she stood erect and proud despite losing two policemen to the eternity shift, first her father and later the father of her child. But because, in their group, she was the best, and radiated such unimpeachability, integrity and gravity that when Beate Lonn whispered an order with downcast gaze and flushed cheeks, it was carried out on the spot. So Bjorn Holm had come as soon as he was informed.
She was sitting in a chair drawn up close to the TV monitor.
‘They’re recording live from the press conference,’ she said without turning. ‘Take a seat.’
Holm immediately recognised the people on the screen. How strange it was, it struck him, to be watching signals that had travelled thousands of kilometres out into space and back, just to show him what was happening right now on the opposite side of the street.
Beate Lonn turned up the volume.
‘You have understood correctly,’ said Mikael Bellman, leaning towards the microphone on the table in front of him. ‘For the present we have neither leads nor suspects. And to repeat myself once again: we have not ruled out the possibility of suicide.’
‘But you said-’ began a voice from the body of journalists present.
Bellman cut her off. ‘I said we regard the death as suspicious. I am sure you’re familiar with the terminology. If not, you should.. .’ He left the end of the sentence hanging in the air and pointed to a person behind the camera.
‘Stavanger Aftenblad,’ came the slow bleat of the Rogaland dialect. ‘Do the police see a connection between this death and the two in-?’
‘No! If you’d been following, you would have heard me say that we do not rule out a connection.’
‘I caught that,’ continued the slow, imperturbable dialect. ‘But those of us here are more interested in what you think rather than what you don’t rule out.’
Bjorn Holm could see Bellman giving the man the evil eye as impatience strained at the corners of his mouth. A uniformed woman officer at Bellman’s side placed her hand over the microphone, leaned in to him and whispered something. The POB’s face darkened.
‘Mikael Bellman is getting a crash course in how to deal with the media,’ said Bjorn Holm. ‘Lesson one, stroke the ones with hair, especially the provincial newspapers.’
‘He’s new to the job,’ Beate Lonn said. ‘He’ll learn.’
‘Yes. Bellman’s the type to learn.’
‘Humility’s hard to learn, I’ve heard.’
‘Genuine humility, that’s true. But to grovel when it suits you is basic to modern communication. That’s what Ninni’s telling him. And Bellman’s smart enough to appreciate that.’
On-screen, Bellman coughed, forced an almost boyish smile and leaned into the microphone. ‘I apologise if I sounded a bit brusque, but it’s been a long day for all of us, and I hope you understand that we are simply impatient to get back to the investigation into this tragic case. We have to finish here, but if any of you have any further questions, please direct them to Ninni, and I promise I will try to return to you later this evening. Before the deadline. Is that OK?’
‘What did I say?’ Beate laughed triumphantly.
‘A star is born,’ Bjorn said.
The picture imploded and Beate Lonn turned. ‘Harry called. He wants me to hand you over.’
‘Me?’ said Bjorn Holm. ‘To do what?’
‘You know very well what. I heard you were with Gunnar Hagen at the airport when Harry arrived.’
‘Whoops.’ Holm smiled, revealing both top and bottom sets of teeth.
‘I assume Hagen wanted to use you in Operation Persuasion since he knows you are one of the few people Harry likes working with.’
‘We never got that far, and Harry turned down the job.’
‘But now it seems he has changed his mind.’
‘Uh-huh? What made him do that?’
‘He didn’t say. He just said he thought it was right to go through me.’
‘Sure. You’re the boss here.’
‘You can take nothing for granted where Harry is concerned. I know him pretty well, as you’re aware.’
Holm nodded. He was aware. Knew Jack Halvorsen, Beate’s partner and soon-to-be father of their child, had been killed while working for Harry. One freezing cold winter’s day, in broad daylight, in Grunerlokka, stabbed in the chest. Holm had arrived straight afterwards. Hot blood soaking down into the blue ice. A policeman’s death. No one had blamed Harry. Apart from Harry, that is.
He scratched his sideburns. ‘So what did you say?’
Beate took a deep breath and watched the journalists and photo graphers hurrying out of the Kripos building. ‘The same as I’m going to tell you now. The Ministry of Justice has let it be known that Kripos has priority, and accordingly there is no chance that I can pass on forensics officers to anyone other than Bellman for this case.’
Beate Lonn drummed a Bic pen on the table, hard. ‘But there are other cases besides this double murder.’
‘Triple murder,’ Holm said, and after a sharp look from Beate, he added, ‘Believe me.’
‘I don’t know exactly what Inspector Hole is investigating, but it is definitely not any of these murder cases. He and I are totally agreed on that,’ Beate said. ‘And you are thereby transferred to that case or those cases – of which I know nothing. For two weeks. Copy of first report on whatever you do to be on my desk five working days from now. Understood?’
Inwardly, Kaja Solness was beaming like a sun and felt an almost irresistible desire to do a couple of spins in her swivel chair.
‘If Hagen says OK, of course I’ll join you,’ she said, trying to contain herself, but she could hear the exultation in her voice.
‘Hagen says OK,’ said the man leaning against the door frame with his arm over his head, forming a diagonal in her doorway. ‘So it’s just Holm, you and me. And the case we’re working on is confidential. We start tomorrow. Meet at seven in my office.’
‘Sieben. Seven. O seven hundred hours.’
‘I see. Which office?’
The man grinned and explained.
She looked at him in disbelief. ‘We’ve got an office in the prison?’
The diagonal in the doorway relaxed. ‘Meet up, all systems go. Questions?’
Kaja had several, but Harry had already left.
The dream has begun to appear in the daytime, too, now. A long way off I can still hear the band playing ‘Love Hurts’. I notice a few boys standing around us, but they don’t move in. Good. As for me, I’m looking at her. See what you’ve done, I try to say. Look at him now. Do you still want him? My God, how I hate her, how I want to tear the knife out of my mouth and stick it in her, stab holes in her, see it gush out: blood, guts, the lie, the stupidity, her idiotic self-righteousness. Someone should show her how ugly she is on the inside.
I saw the press conference on TV. Incompetent oafs! No clues. No suspects! The golden first forty-eight hours, the sands are running out, hurry, hurry. What do you want me to do? Write it on the wall in blood?
It’s you who are allowing this killing to go on.
The letter is finished.
Stineeyed the boy who had just spoken to her. He had a beard, blond hair and a woollen hat. Indoors. And this was no indoor hat, but a thick hat to keep your ears warm. A snowboarder? Anyway, when she took a closer look, this was no boy, but a man. Over thirty. At any rate, there were white wrinkles in the brown skin.
‘So?’ she shouted over the music booming out through the stereo system at Krabbe. The recently opened restaurant had proclaimed it was the new hangout for Stavanger’s young avant-garde musicians, filmmakers and writers, of whom there were quite a few in this otherwise business-orientated, dollar-counting oil town. It would turn out that the in-crowd had not yet decided whether Krabbe deserved their favour or not. As indeed Stine had not yet decided whether this boy – man – deserved hers.
‘It’s just I think you should let me tell you about it,’ he said with a confident smile and looked at her with a pair of eyes that seemed much too pale blue to her. But perhaps that was the lighting in here? Strobe lights? Was that cool? Time would tell. He turned the beer glass in his hand and leaned back against the bar so that she had to lean forward if she wanted to hear what he was saying, but she didn’t fall for that one. He was wearing a thick puffa jacket, yet there was not a drop of sweat to be seen on his face under that ridiculous hat. Or was that cool?
‘There are very few people who’ve biked through the delta district of Burma and returned sufficiently alive to tell the tale,’ he said.
Sufficiently alive. A talker, then. She liked that up to a point. He looked like someone. Some American action hero from an old film or a TV show from the eighties.
‘I promised myself that if I got back to Stavanger I would go out, buy myself a beer and accost the most attractive girl I could see and say what I am saying now.’ He thrust out his arms and wore a big white smile. ‘I think you’re the girl by the blue pagoda.’
‘Rudyard Kipling, missie. You’re the girl waiting for the English soldier by the old blue Moulmein pagoda. So what do you say? Will you join me and walk barefoot on the marble in Shwedagon? Eat cobra meat in Bago? Sleep till the Muslims’ call to prayers in Rangoon and wake to the Buddhists in Mandalay?’
He breathed in. She bent forward. ‘So I’m the most attractive girl in here, am I?’
He looked around. ‘No, but you’ve got the biggest boobs. You’re good-looking, but the competition is too fierce for you to be the best-looking of the lot. Shall we be off?’
She laughed and shook her head. Didn’t know whether he was fun or just mad.
‘I’m with some girls. You can try that trick on someone else.’
‘You were wondering what my name was. In case we meet again. And my name’s Elias. Skog. You’ll forget that, but you’ll remember Elias. And we’ll meet again. Before you imagine, actually.’
She slanted her head. ‘Oh yes?’
Then he drained his glass, put it on the bar, smiled at her and left.
‘Who was he?’
It was Mathilde.
‘Don’t know,’ Stine said. ‘He was quite nice. But weird. Talked like he came from eastern Norway.’
‘There was something odd about his eyes. And teeth. Are there strobe lights in here?’
Stine laughed. ‘No, it’s that toothpaste-coloured solarium light. Makes your face look like a zombie’s.’
Mathilde shook her head. ‘You need a drink. Come on.’
Stine turned towards the exit as she followed. She thought she had seen a face against a pane, but no one was there.
It was nine o’clock at night, and Harry was walking through Oslo city centre. He had spent the morning humping chairs and tables into the new office. In the afternoon he had gone up to Rikshospital, but his father was undergoing some tests. So he had doubled back, copied reports, made a few calls, booked a ticket to Bergen, nipped down to the shops and bought a SIM card the size of a cigarette end.
Harry strode out. He had always enjoyed moving from east to west in this compact town, seeing the gradual but obvious changes in people, fashion, ethnicity, architecture, shops, cafes and bars. He popped into a McDonald’s, had a hamburger, stuffed three straws in his coat pocket and continued his journey.
Half an hour after standing in the ghetto-like Pakistani Gronland, he found himself in neat, slightly sterile and very white West End land. Kaja Solness’s address was in Lyder Sagens gate and turned out to be one of those large old timber houses that attracted a long queue of Oslo-ites on the rare occasions one of them was for sale. Not to buy – very few could afford that – but to see, dream about and receive confirmation that Fagerborg really was what it purported to be: a neighbourhood where the rich were not too rich, the money was not too new, and no one had a swimming pool, electric garage doors or any other vulgar modern invention. For the Fagerborger, quite literally the fine burghers, did as they always had done here. In the summer they sat under apple trees in their large shaded gardens on the garden furniture that was as old, impractically large and stained black as the houses from which it had been carried. And when it was transported back and the days became shorter, candles were lit behind the leaded windows. In Lyder Sagens gate there was a Yuletide atmosphere from October through to March.
The gate gave a screech so loud that it made any need for a dog superfluous, Harry hoped. The gravel crunched beneath his boots. He had been as happy as a child to be reunited with his boots when he found them in the wardrobe, but now they were drenched right through.
He went up the porch steps and pressed the bell without a nameplate.
In front of the door was a pair of pretty ladies’ shoes and a pair of men’s shoes. Size forty-six, Harry estimated. Kaja’s husband was big, they seemed to suggest. For, naturally, she had a husband; he didn’t know why he had thought any differently. Because he had, hadn’t he? It was of no consequence. The door opened.
‘Harry?’ She was wearing an open and much too large woollen jacket, faded jeans and felt slippers that were so old Harry could swear they had liver spots. No make-up. Just a surprised smile. Nevertheless she seemed to have been expecting him. Expected that he would like to see her this way. Of course, he had already seen it in her eyes in Hong Kong, the fascination so many women have for any man with a reputation, good or bad. Though he had not made a comprehensive analysis of every single thought process that, in concert, had led him to this door. Just as well he had saved himself the effort. Size forty-six shoes. Or forty-six and a half.
‘I got your address from Hagen,’ Harry said. ‘You live within walking distance of my flat so I thought I would drop by instead of ringing.’
She smirked. ‘You haven’t got a mobile.’
‘Wrong.’ Harry produced a red phone from his pocket. ‘I was given this by Hagen, but I’ve already forgotten the PIN. Am I disturbing?’
‘No, no.’ She opened the door wide and Harry stepped in.
It was pathetic, but his heart had been beating a bit faster while he waited for her. Fifteen years ago that would have annoyed him, but he had resigned himself and accepted the banal fact that a woman’s beauty would always have this modicum of power over him.
‘I’m making coffee. Would you like some?’
They had moved into the living room. The walls were covered with pictures and shelves with so many books he doubted she could have read them all herself. The room had a distinctly masculine character. Large, angular furniture, a globe, a hookah, vinyl records on more shelves, maps and photographs of high, snow-covered mountains on the walls. Harry concluded that he was a great deal older than her. A TV was on, but without the volume.
‘Marit Olsen is the main item on all the news broadcasts,’ Kaja said, lifting the remote and switching off the TV. ‘Two of the Opposition leaders stood up and demanded quick results. They said the government had been systematically dismantling the police force. Kripos won’t get much peace for the next few days.’
‘Yes please to the coffee,’ Harry said, and Kaja scurried into the kitchen.
He sat on the sofa. An open John Fante book lay face down on the coffee table, beside a pair of ladies’ reading glasses. Beside it were photos of Frogner Lido. Not of the crime scene itself, but of the people who had gathered outside the cordon to rubberneck. Harry gave a grunt of satisfaction. Not only because she had taken work home, but because crime scene officers continued to take these photos. It had been Harry who insisted they always photograph the crowd. It was something he had learned on the FBI course about serial killings; the killer returning to the scene of a crime was no myth. The King brothers in San Antonio and the K-Mart man had been arrested precisely because they couldn’t restrain themselves from returning to admire their handiwork, to see all the commotion they had caused, to feel how invulnerable they were. The photographers at Krimteknisk called it Hole’s sixth commandment. And, yes, there were nine other commandments. Harry riffled through the photos.
‘You don’t take milk, do you?’ Kaja shouted from the kitchen.
‘Do you? At Heathrow-’
‘I mean yes, as in yes, you’re right, I don’t take milk.’
‘Aha. You’ve gone over to the Cantonese system.’
‘You’ve stopped using double negatives. Cantonese is more logical. You like logical.’
‘Is that right? About Cantonese?’
‘I don’t know,’ she laughed from the kitchen. ‘I’m just trying to sound clever.’
Harry could see that the photographer had been discreet, he’d shot from hip height, no flash. The spectators’ attention was directed towards the diving tower. Dull eyes, half-open mouths, as if they were bored of waiting for a glimpse of something dreadful, something for their albums, something with which they could scare the neighbours out of their wits. A man holding a mobile phone up in the air; he was definitely taking photos. Harry took the magnifying glass lying on the pile of reports, and scrutinised their faces, one by one. He didn’t know what he was looking for, his brain was empty; it was the best way, so as not to miss whatever might be there.
‘Can you see anything?’ She had taken up a position behind his chair and bent down to see. He caught a mild fragrance of lavender soap, the same he had smelt on the plane when she had fallen asleep on his shoulder.
‘Mm. Do you think there’s anything to see here?’ he asked, taking the coffee mug.
‘So why did you bring the photos home?’
‘Because ninety-five per cent of all police work is searching in the wrong place.’
She had just quoted Harry’s third commandment.
‘And you have to learn to enjoy the ninety-five per cent, too. Otherwise you’ll go mad.’
‘And the reports?’ Harry asked.
‘All we have are the reports on the murders of Borgny and Charlotte, and there’s nothing in them. No forensic leads, no accounts of unusual activities. No tip-offs about bitter enemies, jealous lovers, greedy heirs, deranged stalkers, impatient drug dealers or other creditors. In short-’
‘No leads, no apparent motives, no murder weapons. I would have liked to start interviewing people in the Marit Olsen case, but, as you know, we’re not working on it.’
Kaja smiled. ‘Of course not. By the way, I spoke to a political journalist from VG today. He said none of the journalists at Stortinget knew anything about Marit Olsen having depression, personal crises or suicidal thoughts. Or enemies, in her professional or her private life.’
Harry skimmed the row of spectators’ faces. A woman with sleepwalker eyes and a child on her arm.
‘What do these people want?’ Behind them: the back of a man leaving. Puffa jacket, woollen hat. ‘To be shocked. Shaken. Entertained. Purified…’
‘Mm. And so you’re reading John Fante. You like older things, do you?’ He nodded towards the room, the house. And he meant the room, the house. But reckoned she would drop in a comment about the husband if he was a lot older than her, as Harry guessed he was.
She looked at him with enthusiasm. ‘Have you read Fante?’
‘When I was young and was going through my Bukowski period I read one whose title eludes me. I bought them mostly because Charles Bukowski was an ardent fan.’ He made a show of checking his watch. ‘Whoops, time to go home.’
Kaja looked at him in amazement and then at the untouched cup of coffee.
‘Jet lag,’ Harry smiled, getting to his feet. ‘We can talk tomorrow at the meeting.’
Harry patted his trouser pocket. ‘By the way, I’ve run out of cigarettes. The tax-free Camel cigarettes you took through customs for me…’
‘Just a minute,’ she smiled.
When she came back with the carton Harry was standing in the hall, with his jacket and shoes already on.
‘Thank you,’ he said, taking out one of the packs and opening it.
When he was outside on the steps, she leaned against the door frame. ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but I have a feeling that this was some kind of test.’
‘Test?’ Harry said, lighting a cigarette.
‘I won’t ask what the test was for, but did I pass?’
Harry chuckled. ‘It was just this.’ He walked down the steps waving the carton. ‘O seven hundred hours.’
Harry let himself into his flat. Pressed the light switch and established that the electricity had not been disconnected. Took off his coat, went into the sitting room, put on Deep Purple, his top favourite band in the category can’t-help-being-funny, but-brilliant-anyway. ‘Speed King’. Ian Paice on drums. He sat down on the sofa and pressed his fingertips against his forehead. The dogs were yanking at the chains. Howling, snarling, barking, their teeth tearing at his innards. If he let them loose, there would be no way back. Not this time. Before, there had always been good enough reasons to stop drinking again. Rakel, Oleg, the job, perhaps even Dad. He didn’t have any of them any more. It couldn’t happen. Not with alcohol. So he had to have an alternative intoxicant. He could control intoxication. Thank you, Kaja. Was he ashamed? Of course he was. But pride was a luxury he couldn’t always afford.
He tore the plastic wrapping from the carton. Took out the bottom pack. You could hardly see that the seal on the pack had been broken. It was a fact that women like Kaja were never checked at customs. He opened the pack and pulled out the tinfoil. Unfolded it and looked at the brown ball. Inhaled the sweet smell.
Then he set about his preparations.
Harry had seen all possible ways of smoking opium, everything from the complicated, ritual procedures of opium dens, which were nothing less than Chinese tea ceremonies, through all sorts of pipe arrangements to the simplest: lighting the ball, placing a straw over it and inhaling for all you were worth as the goods literally went up in smoke. Whatever method you chose, the principle was the same: to get the substances – morphine, thebaine, codeine and a whole bouquet of other chemical friends – into your bloodstream. Harry’s method was straightforward. He taped a steel spoon to the end of the table, placed a tiny particle of the lump, no bigger than the head of a matchstick, in the spoon and heated it with a lighter. When the opium began to burn he held an ordinary glass over it to collect the smoke. Then he put a drinking straw, one with a flexible joint, in the glass and inhaled. Harry noted that his fingers worked without a hint of a tremble. In Hong Kong he had regularly kept a check on his dependency level; seen in that light, he was the most disciplined drug abuser he knew. He could predetermine his dose of alcohol and stop there, however plastered he was. In Hong Kong he had cut out opium for a week or two and only taken a couple of analgesic tablets, which would not have prevented withdrawal symptoms from materialising anyway, but which perhaps had a psychological effect since he knew they contained a tiny amount of morphine. He was not hooked. On drugs in general he was, but on opium in particular: no. Though it is a sliding scale of course. Because while he was taping the spoon into position he could already feel the dogs calming down. For they knew now, knew they would soon be fed.
And could be at peace. Until the next time.
The burning hot lighter was already scorching Harry’s fingers. On the table were the straws from McDonald’s.
A minute later he had taken the first drag.
The effect was immediate. The pains, even those he didn’t know he had, vanished. The associations, the images, appeared. He would be able to sleep tonight.
Bjorn Holm couldn’t sleep.
He had tried reading Escott’s Hank Williams: The Biography, about the country legend’s short life and long death, listening to a bootleg Lucinda Williams CD of a concert in Austin and counting Texas longhorns, but to no avail.
A dilemma. That’s exactly what it was. A problem without a proper solution. Forensics Officer Holm hated that type of problem.
He huddled up on the slightly too short sofa bed that had been among the goods he’d brought from Skreia, along with his vinyl collection of Elvis, the Sex Pistols, Jason amp; the Scorchers, three hand-sewn suits from Nashville, an American Bible and a dining-room suite that had survived three generations of Holms. But he couldn’t concentrate.
The dilemma was that he had made an interesting discovery while examining the rope with which Marit Olsen had been hung – or to be more precise, beheaded. It wasn’t a clue that would necessarily produce anything, but nonetheless the dilemma remained the same: would it be right to pass the information on to Kripos or to Harry? Bjorn Holm had identified the tiny shells on the rope during the time he was still working for Kripos. When he was talking to a freshwater biologist at the Biological Institute, Oslo University. But then Beate Lonn had transferred him to Harry’s unit before the report had been written and, sitting down at the computer tomorrow to write it, he would in fact be reporting to Harry.
OK, technically perhaps it wasn’t a dilemma, the information belonged to Kripos. Giving it to anyone else would be regarded as a dereliction of duty. And what did he owe Harry Hole actually? He had never given him anything but aggro. He was quirky and inconsiderate at work. Positively dangerous when on the booze. But on the level when sober. You could rely on him turning up and there would be no messing and no ‘you owe me’. An irksome enemy, but a good friend. A good man. A bloody good man. A bit like Hank, in fact.
Bjorn Holm groaned and rolled over to face the wall.
Stine woke with a start.
In the dark she heard a grinding sound. She rolled onto her side. The ceiling was dimly lit; the light came from the floor beside the bed. What was the time? Three o’clock in the morning? She stretched and grabbed her mobile phone.
‘Yes?’ she said with a voice that made her seem more sleepy than she was.
‘After the delta I was sick of snakes and mozzies, and me and the motorbike headed north along the Burmese coast to Arakan.’
She recognised the voice straight away.
‘To the island of Sai Chung,’ he said. ‘There’s an active mud volcano I heard was about to explode. And on the third night I was there, it erupted. I thought there would just be mud, but, you know, it spewed good old-fashioned lava as well. Thick lava that flowed so slowly through the town that we could blithely walk away from it.’
‘It’s the middle of the night,’ she yawned.
‘Yet still it wouldn’t stop. Apparently they call it cold lava when it’s so sticky, but it consumed everything in its path. Trees with fresh green leaves were like Christmas trees for four seconds until they were turned to ashes and were gone. The Burmese tried to escape in cars loaded with the chattels they had snatched, but they had spent too much time packing. The lava was moving that fast after all! When they emerged with the TV set, the lava was already up to their walls. They threw themselves inside their cars, but the heat punctured the tyres. Then the petrol caught fire and they clambered out like human torches. Do you remember my name?’
‘I said you would remember.’
‘I have to sleep. I’ve got classes tomorrow.’
‘I am such an eruption, Stine. I’m cold lava. I move slowly, but I’m unstoppable. I’m coming to where you are.’
She tried to remember if she had told him her name. And automatically directed her gaze to the window. It was open. Outside, the wind soughed, peaceful, reassuring.
His voice was low, a whisper. ‘I saw a dog entangled in barbed wire, trying to flee. It was in the path of the lava. But then the stream veered left, it would pass right by. A merciful God, I supposed. But the lava brushed against it. Half the dog simply vanished, evaporated. Before the rest burned up. So it was ashes, too. Everything turns to ashes.’
‘Yuk, I’m ringing off.’
‘Look outside. Look, I’m already up against the house.’
‘Relax, I’m only teasing.’ His loud laughter pealed in her ears.
Stine shuddered. He must have been drunk. Or he was mad. Or both.
‘Sleep tight, Stine. See you soon.’
He broke the connection. Stine stared at the phone. Then she switched it off and threw it to the foot of her bed. Cursed because she already knew. She would get no more sleep that night.
It was 6.58. Harry Hole, Kaja Solness and Bjorn Holm were walking through the culvert, a three-hundred-metre-long subterranean corridor connecting Police HQ and Oslo District Prison. Now and then it was used to transport prisoners to Police HQ for questioning, sometimes for sports training sessions in the winter and in the bad old days for extremely unofficial beatings of particularly intractable prisoners.
Water from the ceiling dripped onto the concrete with wet kisses that echoed down the dimly lit corridor.
‘Here,’ Harry said as they reached the end.
‘HERE?’ asked Bjorn Holm.
They had to bend their heads to pass under the stairs leading to the prison cells. Harry turned the key in the lock and opened the iron door. The musty smell of heated dank air hit him.
He pressed the light switch. Cold, blue light from neon tubes enveloped a square concrete room with grey-blue lino on the floor and nothing on the walls.
The room had no windows, no radiators, none of the facilities you expect in a space supposed to function as an office for three people.
Apart from desks with chairs and a computer each. On the floor there was a coffee machine stained brown and a water cooler.
‘The boilers heating the whole prison are in the adjacent room,’ Harry said. ‘That’s why it’s so hot in here.’
‘Basically not very homely,’ Kaja said, sitting at one of the desks.
‘Right, bit reminiscent of hell,’ Holm said, pulling off his suede jacket and undoing one shirt button. ‘Is there mobile coverage here?’
‘Just about,’ Harry said. ‘And an Internet connection. We have everything we need.’
‘Apart from coffee cups,’ Holm said.
Harry shook his head. From his jacket pocket he produced three white cups, and he placed one on each of the three desks. Then he pulled a bag of coffee from his inside pocket and went over to the machine.
‘You’ve taken them from the canteen,’ Bjorn said, raising the cup Harry had put down in front of him. ‘Hank Williams?’
‘Written with a felt pen, so be careful,’ Harry said, tearing open the coffee pouch with his teeth.
‘John Fante?’ Kaja read on her cup. ‘What have you got?’
‘For the time being, nothing,’ Harry said.
‘And why not?’
‘Because it will be the name of our main suspect of the moment.’
Neither of the other two said anything. The coffee machine slurped up the water.
‘I want three names on the table by the time this is ready,’ Harry said.
They were well down their second cup of coffee and into the sixth theory when Harry interrupted the session.
‘OK, that was the warm-up, just to get the grey matter working.’
Kaja had just launched the idea that the murders were sexually motivated and that the killer was an ex-con with a record for similar crimes who knew that the police had his DNA and therefore did not spill his seed on the ground, but masturbated into a bag or some such receptacle before leaving the scene. Accordingly, she said, they should start going through criminal records and talking to staff in the Sexual Offences Unit.
‘But don’t you believe we’re onto something?’ she said.
‘I don’t believe anything,’ Harry answered. ‘I’m trying to keep my brain clear and receptive.’
‘But you must believe something?’
‘Yes, I do. I believe the three murders have been carried out by the same person or persons. And I believe it’s possible to find a connection which in turn might lead us to a motive which in turn – if we’re very, very lucky – will lead us to the guilty party or parties.’
‘Very, very lucky. You make it sound as if the odds are not good.’
‘Well.’ Harry leaned back on his chair with his hands behind his head. ‘Several metres of specialist books have been written about what characterises serial killers. In films, the police call in a psychologist who, after reading a couple of reports, gives them a profile which invariably fits. People believe that Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a general description. But in reality serial killers are, sad to say, as different from each other as everyone else. There is only one thing which distinguishes them from other criminals.’
‘And that is?’
‘They don’t get caught.’
Bjorn Holm laughed, realised it was inappropriate, and shut up.
‘That’s not true, is it?’ Kaja said. ‘What about…?’
‘You’re thinking of the cases where a pattern emerged and they caught the person. But don’t forget all the unsolved murders we still think are one-offs, where a connection was never found. Thousands.’
Kaja glanced at Bjorn who was nodding meaningfully.
‘You believe in connections?’ she said.
‘Yep,’ Harry said. ‘And we have to find one without going down the path of interviewing people, which might give us away.’
‘When we predicted potential threats in the Security Service we did nothing but look for possible connections, without talking to a living soul. We had a NATO-built search engine long before anyone had heard of Yahoo or Google. With it we could sneak in anywhere and scan practically everything with any connection to the Net. That’s what we have to do here as well.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘And that’s why in one and a half hours I’ll be sitting on a plane to Bergen. And in three hours I’ll be talking to an unemployed colleague who I hope can help us. So let’s finish up here, shall we? Kaja and I have talked a fair bit, Bjorn. What have you got?’
Bjorn Holm jerked in his chair as if roused from sleep.
‘Me? Er… not much, I’m afraid.’
Harry rubbed his jaw carefully. ‘You’ve got something.’
‘Nope. Neither forensics nor the detectives on the case have got so much as a lump of fly shit. Not in the Marit Olsen case, nor in either of the other two.’
‘Two months,’ Harry said. ‘Come on.’
‘I can give you a summary,’ said Bjorn Holm. ‘For two months we have analysed, X-rayed and stared ourselves stupid at photos, blood samples, strands of hair, nails, all sorts. We’ve gone through twenty-four theories of how and why he’s stabbed twenty-four holes in the mouths of the first two victims in such a way that all the wounds point inwards to the same central point. With no result. Marit Olsen also had wounds to the mouth, but they were inflicted with a knife and were sloppy, brutal. In short: nada.’
‘What about those small stones in the cellar where Borgny was found?’
‘Analysed. Lots of iron and magnesium, bit of aluminium and silica. So-called basalt rock. Porous and black. Any the wiser?’
‘Both Borgny and Charlotte had iron and coltan on the insides of their molars. What does that tell us?’
‘That they were killed with the same goddam instrument, but that doesn’t get us any closer to what it was.’
Harry coughed. ‘OK, Bjorn, out with it.’
‘Out with what?’
‘What you’ve been brooding about ever since we got here.’
The forensics officer scratched his sideburns while eyeballing Harry. Coughed once. Twice. Glanced at Kaja as if to solicit help there. Opened his mouth, closed it.
‘Fine,’ Harry said. ‘Let’s move on to-’
The other two stared at Bjorn.
‘I found shells on it.’
‘Oh yes?’ Harry said.
‘But no salt.’
They were still staring at him.
‘That’s pretty unusual,’ Bjorn went on. ‘Shells. In fresh water.’
‘So I checked it out with a freshwater biologist. This particular mollusc is called a Jutland mussel, it’s the smallest of the pool mussels and has been observed in only two lakes in Norway.’
‘And the nominations are?’
‘Oyeren and Lyseren.’
‘Ostfold,’ Kaja said. ‘Neighbouring lakes. Big ones.’
‘In a densely populated region,’ Harry said.
‘Sorry,’ Holm said.
‘Mm. Any marks on the rope that tell us where it might have been bought?’
‘No, that’s the point,’ Holm said. ‘There are no marks. And it doesn’t look like any rope I’ve seen before. The fibre is one hundred per cent organic, there’s no nylon or any other synthetic materials.’
‘Hemp,’ Harry said.
‘What?’ Holm said.
‘Hemp. Rope and hash are made from the same material. If you fancy a joint, you can just stroll down to the harbour and light up the mooring ropes of the Danish ferry.’
‘It’s not hemp,’ Bjorn Holm said over Kaja’s laughter. ‘The fibre’s made from the elm and the linden tree. Mostly elm.’
‘Home-made Norwegian rope,’ Kaja said. ‘They used to make rope on farms long ago.’
‘On farms?’ Harry queried.
Kaja nodded. ‘As a rule every village had at least one rope-maker. You just soaked the wood in water for a month, peeled off the outer bark and used the bast inside. Twined it into rope.’
Harry and Bjorn swivelled round to face Kaja.
‘What’s the matter?’ she asked hesitantly.
‘Well,’ Harry said, ‘is this general knowledge everyone ought to possess?’
‘Oh, I see,’ Kaja said. ‘My grandfather made rope.’
‘Aha. And for rope-making you need elm and linden?’
‘In principle you can use bast fibres from any kind of tree.’
‘And the composition?’
Kaja shrugged. ‘I’m no expert, but I think it’s unusual to use bast from several different trees for the same rope. I remember that Even, my big brother, said that Grandad used only linden because it absorbs very little water. So he didn’t need to tar his.’
‘Mm. What do you think, Bjorn?’
‘If the compositon is unusual, it will be easier to trace where it was made, of course.’
Harry stood up and began to pace back and forth. There was a heavy sigh every time his rubber soles relinquished the lino. ‘Then we can assume production was limited and sales were local. Do you think that sounds reasonable, Kaja?’
‘Guess so, yes.’
‘And we can also assume that the centres of production and consumption were in close proximity. These home-made ropes would hardly have travelled far.’
‘Still sounds reasonable, but…’
‘So let’s take that as our starting point. You two begin mapping out local rope-makers near lakes Oyeren and Lyseren.’
‘But no one makes ropes like that any more,’ Kaja protested.
‘Do the best you can,’ Harry said, looked at his watch, grabbed his coat from the back of the chair and walked to the door. ‘Find out where the rope was made. I presume Bellman knows nothing about these Jutland mussels. That right, Bjorn?’
Bjorn Holm forced a smile by way of answer.
‘Is it OK if I follow up the theory of a sexually motivated murder?’ Kaja asked. ‘I can talk to someone I know at Sexual Offences.’
‘Negative,’ Harry said. ‘The general order to keep your trap shut about what we’re doing applies in particular to our dear colleagues at Police HQ. There seems to be some seepage between HQ and Kripos, so the only person we speak to is Gunnar Hagen.’
Kaja had opened her mouth, but a glance from Bjorn was enough to make her close it again.
‘But what you can do’, Harry said, ‘is get hold of a volcano expert. And send him the test results of the small stones.’
Bjorn’s fair eyebrows rose a substantial way up his forehead.
‘Porous, black stone, basalt rock,’ Harry said. ‘I would reckon lava. I’ll be back from Bergen at fourish.’
‘Say hello to Baa-baargen Police HQ,’ Bjorn bleated and raised his coffee cup.
‘I won’t be going to the police station,’ Harry said.
‘Oh? Where then?’
The door slammed behind Harry. Kaja watched Bjorn Holm, who was staring at the closed door with a stunned expression on his face.
‘What’s he going to do there?’ she asked. ‘See a pathologist?’
Bjorn shook his head. ‘Sandviken Hospital is a mental hospital.’
‘Really? So he’s going to meet a psychologist with serial killings as a speciality, is he?’
‘I knew I should have said no,’ Bjorn whispered, still staring at the door. ‘He’s clean out of his mind.’
‘Who’s out of his mind?’
‘We’re working in a prison,’ Bjorn said. ‘We’re risking our jobs if the boss finds out what we’re up to, and the colleague in Bergen. ..’
‘She is seriously out of her mind.’
‘You mean she’s…?’
‘Sectioned out of her mind.’
For every step the tall policeman took, Kjersti Rodsmoen had to take two. Even so, she was left behind as they walked along the corridor of Sandviken Hospital. The rain was pouring down outside the high, narrow windows facing the fjord where the trees were so green you would have thought spring had arrived before winter.
The day before, Kjersti Rodsmoen had recognised the policeman’s voice at once. As though she had been waiting for him to ring. And to make the very request he did: to talk to the Patient. The Patient had come to be called the Patient to give her maximum anonymity after the strain of her most recent murder case as a detective had sent her right back to square one: the psychiatric ward. In fact, she had recovered with remarkable speed, had moved back home, but the press – which was still hysterically pursuing the Snowman case long after it had been cleared up – had not left her in peace. And one evening, a few months ago, the Patient had called Rodsmoen and asked if she could return.
‘So she’s in serviceable shape?’ the police officer asked. ‘On medication?’
‘Yes to the first,’ Kjersti Rodsmoen said. ‘The second is confidential.’ The truth was the Patient was so well that neither medicine nor hospitalisation was required any longer. Nevertheless Rodsmoen had wondered whether she should let him visit her; he had been on the Snowman case and could cause old issues to emerge. Kjersti Rodsmoen had, in her time as a psychologist, come to believe more and more in repression, in shutting things off, in oblivion. It was an unfashionable view within the profession. On the other hand, meeting a person who had been on that particular case might be a good test of how robust the Patient had become.
‘You’ve got half an hour,’ Rodsmoen said before opening the door to the common room. ‘And don’t forget that the mind is tender.’
The last time Harry had seen Katrine Bratt she had been unrecognisable. The attractive young woman with the dark hair and the glowing skin and eyes had gone, to be replaced by someone who reminded him of a dried flower: lifeless, frail, delicate, wan. He had had a feeling he might crush her hand if he squeezed too hard.
So it was a relief to see her now. She looked older, or perhaps she was just tired. But the gleam in her eyes returned as she smiled and got up.
‘Harry H,’ she said, giving him a hug. ‘How’s it going?’
‘Fair to middling,’ Harry said. ‘And you?’
‘Dreadful,’ she said. ‘But a lot better.’
She laughed, and Harry knew she was back. Or that enough of her was back.
‘What happened to your jaw? Does it hurt?’
‘Only when I speak and eat,’ Harry said. ‘And when I’m awake.’
‘Sounds familiar. You’re uglier than I remember, but I’m glad to see you anyway.’
‘Same to you.’
‘You mean same to me, except for the ugly bit?’
Harry smiled. ‘Naturally.’ He looked around. The other patients in the room were sitting and staring out of the window, at their laps or straight at the wall. But no one seemed interested in him or Katrine.
Harry told her what had happened since the last time they’d seen each other. About Rakel and Oleg, who had moved to an unnamed destination abroad. About Hong Kong. About his father’s illness. About the case he had taken on. She even laughed when he said she mustn’t tell anyone.
‘What about you?’ Harry asked.
‘They want me out of here really; they think I’m well and I’m taking up someone else’s place. But I like it here. The room service stinks, but it’s safe. I’ve got TV and can come and go as I want. In a month or two I’ll move back home maybe, who knows.’
‘No one. The madness is intermittent. What do you want?’
‘What do you want me to want?’
She gave him a long, hard look before answering. ‘Apart from wanting you to have a burning desire to fuck me, I want you to have some use for me.’
‘And that’s exactly what I have.’
‘A desire to fuck me?’
‘Some use for you.’
‘Shit. Well, OK. What’s it about?’
‘Have you got a computer with Internet access here?’
‘We have a communal computer in the Hobbies Room, but it isn’t connected to the Net. They wouldn’t risk that. The only thing it’s used for is playing solitaire. But I’ve got my own computer in my room.’
‘Use the communal one.’ Harry put his hand in his pocket and tossed a dongle across the table. ‘This is a mobile office as they called it in the shop. You just plug it into-’
‘-one of the USB ports,’ Katrine said, taking the device and pocketing it. ‘Who pays the subscription?’
‘I do. That is, Hagen does.’
‘Yippee, there’s gonna be some surfing tonight. Any hot new porno sites I should know about?’
‘Probably.’ Harry pushed a file across the table. ‘Here are the reports. Three murders, three names. I want you to do the same as you did on the Snowman case. Find connections we’ve missed. Do you know about the case?’
‘Yes,’ Katrine Bratt said without looking at the file. ‘They were women. That’s the connection.’
‘You read newspapers…’
‘Barely. Why do you believe they’re any more than random victims?’
‘I don’t believe anything, I’m looking.’
‘But you don’t know what you’re looking for?’
‘But you’re sure Marit Olsen’s killer is the same person who killed the other two? The method was completely different, I understand.’
Harry smiled. Amused by Katrine’s attempt to hide the fact that she had scrutinised every detail in the papers. ‘No, Katrine, I’m not sure. But I can hear you’ve drawn the same conclusion as I have.’
‘Course. We were soulmates, remember?’
She laughed, and at a stroke she was Katrine again, and not the skeleton of the brilliant, eccentric detective he had only just got to know before everything crumbled. Harry felt, to his surprise, a lump in his throat. Sodding jet lag.
‘Can you help me, do you think?’
‘To find something Kripos have spent two months not finding? With an outdated computer in the Hobbies Room of a mental institution? I don’t even know why you’re asking me. There are folk at Police HQ who are a lot more computer-savvy than me.’
‘I know, but I have something they don’t. And cannot give them.’
‘The password to the underground.’
She fixed him with an uncomprehending stare. Harry checked no one was within earshot.
‘When I was working for the Security Service, POT, on the Redbreast case, I gained access to the search engine they were using to trace terrorists. They use secret back doors on the Net like MILNET, the American military Internet, made before they released the Net for commercial purposes through ARPANET in the eighties. ARPANET became, as you know, the Internet, but the back doors are still there. The search engines use Trojan Horses that update the passwords, codes and upgrades at the first entry point. Plane ticket bookings, hotel reservations, road tolls, Internet banking, these engines can see the lot.’
‘I’d heard rumours of the search engines, but I honestly thought they were non-existent,’ Katrine said.
‘They do exist. They were set up in 1984. The Orwellian nightmare come true. And best of all, my password is still valid. I checked it.’
‘So what do you need me for? You can do this yourself, can’t you.’
‘Only POT is allowed to use the system, and only in emergency situations. Like Google, your searches can be traced back to the user. If it’s discovered that I or anyone else at Police HQ have been using the search engines, we risk a prison sentence. But if the search were traced and led back to a communal computer in a psychiatric hospital. ..’
Katrine Bratt laughed. Her other laugh, the evil witch variety. ‘I’m beginning to see. Katrine Bratt, the brilliant detective, is not my strongest qualification here, but…’ She threw up her hands. ‘Katrine Bratt the patient is. Because she, being of unsound mind, cannot be prosecuted.’
‘Correct,’ Harry smiled. ‘And you’re one of the few people I can trust to keep your mouth shut. And if you’re not a genius, you’re definitely smarter than the average detective.’
‘Three smashed nicotine-stained fingers up your tiny little arsehole.’
‘No one can find out what we’re up to. But I promise you we’re the Blues Brothers here.’
‘On a mission from God?’ she quoted.
‘I’ve written the password on the back of the SIM card inside the dongle.’
‘What makes you think I know how to use the search engines?’
‘It’s like googling. Even I worked that out when I was at POT.’ He gave a wry smile. ‘After all, the engines were created for the police.’
She released a deep sigh.
‘Thank you,’ Harry said.
‘I didn’t say anything.’
‘When can you have something for me, do you reckon?’
‘Fuck you!’ She banged the table with her hand. Harry noticed a nurse glance in their direction. Harry held Katrine’s wild stare. Waited.
‘I don’t know,’ she whispered. ‘I don’t think I should be sitting in the Hobbies Room using illegal search engines in broad daylight, if I can put it like that.’
Harry got up. ‘OK, I’ll contact you in three days.’
‘Haven’t you forgotten something?’
‘To tell me what’s in it for me?’
‘Well,’ Harry said, buttoning up his coat, ‘now I know what you want.’
‘What I want…’ The surprise on her face gave way to amazement as the meaning dawned on her, and she shouted after Harry, who was already on his way to the door: ‘You cheeky bastard! And presumptuous with it!’
Harry got into the taxi, said ‘Airport’, removed his mobile phone and saw three missed calls from one of the only two numbers he had in his contacts. Good, that meant they had something.
He called back.
‘Lake Lyseren,’ Kaja said. ‘Rope-making business there. Closed down fifteen years ago. The County Officer responsible for Ytre Enebakk can show us the place this afternoon. He had a couple of persistant criminals in the area, but small beer: break-ins and car theft. Plus one who had done time for beating up his wife. He’s sent us a list of men, though, and I’m going to run a check with Criminal Records right now.’
‘Good. Pick me up from Gardemoen on the way to Lyseren.’
‘It’s not on the way.’
‘You’re right. Pick me up anyway.’
The White Bride
Despite the slow speed, Bjorn Holm’s Volvo Amazon was rolling and pitching on the narrow road that snaked between Ostfold’s meadows and fields.
Harry was asleep on the back seat.
‘So no sex offenders around Lake Lyseren,’ Bjorn said.
‘None that have been caught,’ Kaja corrected. ‘Didn’t you see the survey in VG? One in twenty say they have committed what might be termed sexual abuse.’
‘Do people really answer that sort of questionnaire honestly? If I’d pushed a girl too far I think my brain would’ve goddam rationalised it away afterwards.’
‘Is that what you did?’
‘Me?’ Bjorn swung out and overtook a tractor. ‘Nope. I’m one of the nineteen. Ytre Enebakk. Christ, what’s the name of that comic who hails from these parts? The bumpkin with the cracked glasses and moped. What’s his face from Ytre Enebakk. Hilarious parody.’
Kaja shrugged. Bjorn looked into the mirror, but found himself looking down Harry’s open mouth.
The County Officer for Ytre Enebakk was standing by the treatment plant on the Voyentangen peninisula waiting for them as arranged. They parked, he introduced himself as Skai – the Norwegian name for the synthetic leather that Bjorn Holm seemed to hold in such high regard – and they accompanied him to a jetty where a dozen boats bobbed up and down in the calm waters.
‘Early to have boats in the lake, isn’t it?’ Kaja said.
‘There hasn’t been any ice this year, won’t be either,’ the officer said. ‘First time since I was born.’
They stepped into a broad, flat-bottomed boat, Bjorn with greater caution than the others.
‘It’s green here,’ Kaja said as the officer pushed off from the jetty with a pole.
‘Yes,’ he said, peering down into the water and pulling the cord to start the engine. ‘The ropery is over there, on the deep side. There’s a path, but the terrain is so steep that it’s best to go by boat.’ He flicked the handle on the side of the engine forwards. A bird of indeterminate species took off from a tree inside the bare forest and shrieked a warning.
‘I hate the sea,’ Bjorn said to Harry, who could just hear his colleague above the hacking sound of the two-stroke outboard motor. They slipped through the grey afternoon light in a channel between the two-metrehigh rushes. Crept past a pile of twigs that Harry assumed must have been a beaver’s nest and out through an avenue of mangrove-like trees.
‘This is a lake,’ Harry said. ‘Not the sea.’
‘Same shit,’ Bjorn said, shifting closer to the middle of the seat. ‘Give me inland, cow muck and rocky mountains.’
The channel widened and there it lay in front of them: Lake Lyseren. They chugged past islands and islets from which winter-abandoned cabins with black windows seemed to be staring at them through wary eyes.
‘Basic cabins,’ the officer said. ‘Here you’re free from the stress down on the gold coast where you have to compete with your neighbour for the biggest boat or the most attractive cabin extension.’ He spat into the water.
‘What’s the name of that TV comic from Ytre Enebakk?’ Bjorn shouted over the drone of the motor. ‘Cracked glasses and moped.’
The officer sent Holm a blank look and shook his head slowly.
‘The ropery,’ he said.
In front of the bow, right down by the lake, Harry saw an old wooden building, oblong in shape, standing alone at the foot of a steep slope, dense forest on both sides. Beside the building, steel rails ran down the mountainside and disappeared into the black water. The red paint was peeling off the walls with gaping spaces for windows and doors. Harry squinted. In the fading light it looked as if there was a person in white standing at a window staring at them.
‘Jeez, the ultimate haunted house,’ Bjorn laughed.
‘That’s what they say,’ said County Officer Skai, cutting the engine.
In the sudden silence they could hear the echo of Bjorn’s laughter from the other side and a lone sheep bell reaching them from far across the lake.
Kaja took the rope, jumped onto the shore and, being of a nautical bent herself, tied a half-hitch around a rotten green pole protruding between the water lilies.
The others got out of the boat, onto the huge rocks serving as a wharf. Then they entered through the doorway and found themselves in a deserted narrow, rectangular room smelling of tar and urine. It hadn’t been so easy to discern from the outside because the extremities of the building merged into the dense forest, but while the room was barely two metres across it must have been more than sixty metres from end to end.
‘They stood at opposite ends of the building and twined the rope,’ Kaja explained before Harry could ask.
In one corner lay three empty bottles and signs of attempts to light a fire. On the facing wall, a net hung in front of a couple of loose boards.
‘No one wanted to take over after Simonsen,’ Skai said, looking around. ‘It’s been empty ever since.’
‘What are the rails at the side of the building for?’ Harry asked.
‘Two things. To raise and lower the boat he used to collect timber. And to hold the sticks under water while they soaked. He tied the sticks to the iron carriage, which must be up in the boathouse. Then he cranked the carriage down under the water and wound it back up after a few weeks when the wood was ready. Practical fellow, Simonsen.’
They all gave a start at the sudden noise from the forest outside.
‘Sheep,’ the officer said. ‘Or deer.’
They followed him up a narrow wooden staircase to the first floor. An enormously long table stood in the centre of the room. The margins of the room were enshrouded in darkness. The wind blew in through the windows – with borders of jagged glass set in the frames – making a low whistling sound, and it caused the woman’s bridal veil to flap. She stood looking out over the lake. Beneath the head and torso was the skeleton: a black iron stand on wheels.
‘Simonsen used her as a scarecrow,’ Skai said, nodding towards the shop dummy.
‘Pretty creepy,’ Kaja said, taking up a position beside Skai and shivering inside her coat.
He cast a sideways glance, plus a crooked smile. ‘The kids round here were terrified of her. The adults said that at full moon she walked around the district chasing the man who had jilted her on her wedding day. And you could hear the rusty wheels as she approached. I grew up right behind here, in Haga, you see.’
‘Did you?’ asked Kaja, and Harry smothered a grin.
‘Yes,’ said Skai. ‘By the way, this was the only woman known to be in Simonsen’s life. He was a bit of a recluse. But he could certainly make rope.’
Behind them Bjorn Holm took down a coil of rope hanging from a nail.
‘Did I say you could touch anything?’ the officer said without turning.
Bjorn hurriedly put back the rope.
‘OK, boss,’ Harry said, sending Skai a closed smile. ‘Can we touch anything?’
The officer weighed Harry up. ‘You still haven’t told me what kind of case this is.’
‘It’s confidential,’ Harry said. ‘Sorry. Fraud Squad. You know.’
‘That right? If you’re the Harry Hole I think you are, you used to work on murders.’
‘Well,’ Harry said, ‘now it’s insider trading, tax evasion and fraud. One moves upwards in life.’
Officer Skai pinched an eye shut. A bird shrieked.
‘Of course, you’re right, Skai,’ Kaja said with a sigh. ‘But I’m the person who has to deal with the red tape for the search warrant from the police solicitor. As you know, we’re understaffed and it would save me a lot of time if we could just…’ She smiled with her tiny, pointed teeth and gestured towards the coil of rope.
Skai looked at her. Rocked to and fro on his rubber heels a couple of times. Then he nodded.
‘I’ll wait in the boat,’ he said.
Bjorn set to work immediately. He placed the coil on the long table, opened the little rucksack he had with him, switched on a torch attached to a cord with a fish hook on the end and secured it into position between two boards in the ceiling. He took out his laptop and a portable microscope shaped like a hammer, plugged the microscope into the USB port on the laptop, checked it was transmitting pictures to the screen and clicked on an image he had transferred to the laptop before they departed.
Harry stood beside the bride and gazed down at the lake. In the boat he could see the glow of a cigarette. He eyed the rails that went down into the water. The deep end. Harry had never liked swimming in fresh water, especially after the time he and Oystein had skipped school, gone to Lake Hauktjern in Ostmarka and jumped off the Devil’s Tip, which people said was twelve metres high. And Harry – seconds before he hit the water – had seen a viper gliding through the depths beneath him. Then he was enveloped by the freezing cold, bottle-green water and in his panic he swallowed half the lake and was sure he would never see daylight or breathe air again.
Harry smelt the fragrance that told him Kaja was standing behind him.
‘Bingo,’ he heard Bjorn Holm whisper.
Harry turned. ‘Same type of rope?’
‘No doubt about it,’ Bjorn said, holding the microscope against the rope end and pressing a key for high-resolution images. ‘Linden and elm. Same thickness and length of fibre. But the bingo is reserved for the recently sliced rope end.’
Bjorn Holm pointed to the screen. ‘The photo on the left is the one I brought with me. It shows the rope from Frogner Lido, magnified twenty-five times. And on this rope I have a perfect…’
Harry closed his eyes so as to relish to the full the word he knew was coming.
He kept his eyes closed. The rope Marit Olsen was hung with had not only been made here, it had been cut from the rope they had before them. And it was a recent cut. Not so long ago he had been standing where they were standing. Harry sniffed the air.
An all-embracing darkness had fallen. Harry could hardly make out anything white in the window as they left.
Kaja sat at the front of the boat with him. She had to lean close so that he could hear her over the drone of the motor.
‘The person who collected the rope must have known his way around this area. And there can’t be many links in the chain between that person and the killer…’
‘I don’t think there are any links at all,’ Harry said. ‘The cut was recent. And there are not many reasons for rope to change hands.’
‘Local knowledge, lives nearby or has a cabin here,’ Kaja mused aloud. ‘Or he grew up here.’
‘But why come all the way to a disused ropery to get a few metres of rope?’ Harry asked. ‘How much does a long rope cost in a shop? A couple of hundred kroner?’
‘Perhaps he happened to be in the vicinity and knew the rope was there.’
‘OK, but in the vicinity would mean he must have been staying in one of the nearby cabins. For everyone else it’s a fair old boat trip. Are you making…?’
‘Yes, I’m making a list of the closest neighbours. By the way, I tracked down the volcano expert you asked for. A nerd up at the Geological Institute. Felix Rost. He seems to do a bit of volcano-spotting. Travelling all over the world to look at volcanoes and eruptions and that sort of thing.’
‘Did you talk to him?’
‘Just his sister, who lives with him. She asked me to email or text. He doesn’t communicate in any other way, she said. Anyway, he was out playing chess. I sent him the stones and the information.’
They advanced at a snail’s pace through the shallow channel to the pontoon. Bjorn held up the torch as a lantern to light their way through the hazy mist drifting across the water. The officer cut the motor.
‘Look!’ whispered Kaja, leaning even closer to Harry. He could smell her scent as he followed her index finger. From the rushes behind the jetty emerged a large, lone, white swan through the veil of mist into the torchlight.
‘Isn’t it just… beautiful,’ she whispered, entranced, then laughed and fleetingly squeezed his hand.
Skai accompanied them to the treatment plant. Then they got into the Volvo Amazon and were about to set off when Bjorn feverishly wound down the window and shouted to the officer: ‘FRITJOF!’
Skai stopped and turned slowly. The light from a street lamp fell onto his heavy, expressionless face.
‘The funny guy on TV,’ Bjorn shouted. ‘Fritjof from Ytre Enebakk.’
‘Fritjof?’ Skai said and spat. ‘Never heard of him.’
As the Amazon turned onto the E-road by the incinerator in Gronmo twenty-five minutes later, Harry had made a decision.
‘We must leak this information to Kripos,’ he said.
‘What?!’ Bjorn and Kaja said in unison.
‘I’ll talk to Beate, then she’ll pass the message on so that it looks like her people at Krimteknisk have discovered the business with the rope and not us.’
‘Why?’ Kaja asked.
‘If the killer lives in the Lyseren area, there’ll have to be a door-to-door search. We don’t have the means or the manpower for that.’
Bjorn Holm smacked the steering wheel.
‘I know,’ Harry said. ‘But the most important thing is that he’s caught, not who catches him.’
They drove on in silence with the false ring of the words hanging in the air.
No electricity. Harry stood in the dark hall flipping the light switch on and off. Did the same in the sitting room.
Then he sat down in the wing chair staring into the black void.
After he had sat there for a while, his mobile rang.
‘Mm?’ Harry said. The voice sounded as if it belonged to a slender, petite woman.
‘Frida Larsen, his sister. He asked me to ring and say that the stones you found are mafic, basalt lava. Alright?’
‘Just a minute. What does that mean? Mafic?’
‘It’s hot lava, over a thousand degrees C, low viscosity, which thins it and allows it to spread over a wide distance on eruption.’
‘Could it have come from Oslo?’
‘Why not? Oslo is built on lava.’
‘Old lava. This lava is recent.’
He heard her put her hand over the phone and speak. But he couldn’t hear any other voices. She must have received an answer though, because soon afterwards she was back.
‘He says anything from five to fifty years. But if you were thinking of establishing which volcano it comes from, you’ve got quite a job on your hands. There are over one and a half thousand active volcanoes in the world. And that’s just the ones we know about. If there are any other queries, Felix can be contacted by email. Your assistant has got the address.’
She had already rung off.
He considered calling back, but changed his mind and punched in another number.
‘Hi, Oystein, this is Harry H.’
‘You’re kidding. Harry H is dead.’
‘OK, then I must be dead.’
‘Feel like driving me from Sofies gate to my childhood home?’
‘No, but I’ll do it anyway. Just have to do this trip.’ Oystein’s laugh morphed into a cough. ‘Harry H! Bloody hell… Call you when I’m there.’
Harry rang off, went into the bedroom, packed a bag in the light from the street lamp outside the window and chose a couple of CDs from the sitting room in the light from his mobile. Carton of smokes, handcuffs, service pistol.
He sat in the wing chair, making use of the dark to repeat the revolver exercise. Started the stopwatch on his wrist, flicked out the cylinder of his Smith amp; Wesson, emptied and loaded. Four cartridges out, four in, without a speed-loader, just nimble fingers. Flicked the cylinder back in so that the first cartridge was first in line. Stop. Nine sixty-six. Almost three seconds over the record. He opened the cylinder. He had messed up. The first chamber ready to fire was one of the two empty ones. He was dead. He repeated the exercise. Nine fifty. And dead again. When Oystein rang, after twenty minutes, he was down to eight seconds and had died six times.
‘Coming,’ Harry said.
He walked into the kitchen. Looked at the cupboard under the sink. Hesitated. Then he took down the photos of Rakel and Oleg and put them in his inside pocket.
‘Hong Kong?’ sniffed Oystein Eikeland. He turned his bloated alky face with huge hooter and sad drooping moustache to Harry in the seat next to him. ‘What the hell d’you do there?’
‘You know me,’ Harry said as Oystein stopped on red outside the Radisson SAS Hotel.
‘I bloody do not,’ Oystein said, sprinkling tobacco into his roll-up. ‘How would I?’
‘Well, we grew up together. Do you remember?’
‘So? You were already a sodding enigma then, Harry.’
The rear door was torn open and a man wearing a coat got in. ‘Airport express, main station. Quick.’
‘Taxi’s taken,’ Oystein said without turning.
‘Nonsense, the sign on the roof ’s lit.’
‘Hong Kong sounds groovy. Why d’you come home actually?’
‘I beg your pardon,’ said the man on the back seat.
Oystein poked the cigarette between his lips and lit up. ‘Tresko rang to invite me to a get-together tonight.’
‘Tresko hasn’t got any friends,’ Harry said.
‘He hasn’t, has he. So I asked him, “Who are your friends then?” “You”, he said, and asked me, “And yours, Oystein?” “You,” I answered. “So it’s just us two.” We’d forgotten all about you, Harry. That’s what happens when you go to…’ He funnelled his lips and, in a staccato voice, said, ‘Hong Kong!’
‘Hey!’ came a shout from the back seat. ‘If you’ve finished, perhaps we might…’
The lights changed to green, and Oystein accelerated away.
‘Are you coming then? It’s at Tresko’s place.’
‘Stinks of toe-fart there, Oystein.’
‘He’s got a full fridge.’
‘Sorry, I’m not in a party mood.’
‘Party mood?’ Oystein snorted, smacking the wheel with his hand. ‘You don’t know what a party mood is, Harry. You always backed off parties. Do you remember? We’d bought some beers, intending to go to some fancy address in Nordstrand with loads of women. And you suggested you, me and Tresko went to the bunkers instead and drank on our own.’
‘Hey, this isn’t the way to the airport express!’ came a whine from the back seat.
Oystein braked for red again, tossed his wispy shoulder-length hair to the side and addressed the back seat. ‘And that was where we ended up. Got rat-arsed and that fella started singing “No Surrender” until Tresko chucked empty bottles at him.’
‘Honest to God!’ the man sobbed, tapping his forefinger on the glass of a TAG Heuer watch. ‘I just have to catch the last plane to Stockholm.’
‘The bunkers are great,’ Harry said. ‘Best view in Oslo.’
‘Yep,’ Oystein said. ‘If the Allies had attacked there, the Germans would’ve shot them to bits.’
‘Right,’ Harry grinned.
‘You know, we had a standing agreement, him and me and Tresko,’ Oystein said, but the suit was now desperately scanning the rain for vacant taxis. ‘If the sodding Allies come, we’ll bloody shoot the meat off their carcasses. Like this.’ Oystein pointed an imaginary machine gun at the suit and fired a salvo. The suit stared in horror at the crazy taxi driver whose chattering noises were causing small, foam-white drops of spit to land on his dark, freshly ironed suit trousers. With a little gasp he managed to open the car door and stumble out into the rain.
Oystein burst into coarse, hearty laughter.
‘You were missing home,’ Oystein said. ‘You wanted to dance with Killer Queen at Ekeberg restaurant again.’
Harry chuckled and shook his head. In the wing mirror he saw the man charging madly towards the National Theatre station. ‘It’s my father. He’s ill. He hasn’t got long left.’
‘Oh shit.’ Oystein pressed the accelerator again. ‘Good man, too.’
‘Thank you. Thought you would want to know.’
‘Course I bloody do. Have to tell my folks.’
‘So, here we are,’ Oystein said, parking outside the garage and the tiny, yellow timber house in Oppsal.
‘Yup,’ Harry said.
Oystein inhaled so hard the cigarette seemed to be catching fire, held the smoke down in his lungs and let it out again with a long, gurgling wheeze. Then he tilted his head slightly and flicked the ash into the ashtray. Harry experienced a sweet pain in his heart. How many times had he seen Oystein do exactly that, seen him lean to the side as though the cigarette were so heavy that he would lose balance. Head tilted. The ash on the ground in a smokers’ shed at school, in an empty beer bottle at a party they had gatecrashed, on cold, damp concrete in a bunker.
‘Life’s bloody unfair,’ Oystein said. ‘Your father was sober, went walking on Sundays and worked as a teacher. While my father drank, worked at the Kadok factory, where everyone got asthma and weird rashes, and didn’t move a millimetre once he was ensconced on the sofa at home. And the guy’s as fit as a fuckin’ fiddle.’
Harry remembered the Kadok factory. Kodak backwards. The owner, from Sunnmore, had read that Eastman had called his camera factory Kodak because it was a name that could be remembered and pronounced all over the world. But Kadok was forgotten and it shut down several years ago.
‘All things pass,’ Harry said.
Oystein nodded as though he had been following his train of thought.
‘Ring if you need anything, Harry.’
Harry waited until he heard the wheels crunching on the gravel behind him and the car was gone before he unlocked the door and entered. He switched on the light and stood still as the door fell to and clicked shut. The smell, the silence, the light falling on the coat cupboard, everything spoke to him, it was like sinking into a pool of memories. They embraced him, warmed him, made his throat constrict. He removed his coat and kicked off his shoes. Then he started to walk. From room to room. From year to year. From Mum and Dad to Sis, and then to himself. The boy’s room. The Clash poster, the one where the guitar is about to be smashed on the floor. He lay on his bed and breathed in the smell of the mattress. And then came the tears.
It was two minutes to eight in the evening when Mikael Bellman was walking up Karl Johans gate, one of the world’s more modest parades. He was in the middle of the kingdom of Norway, at the mid-point of the axis. To the left, the university and knowledge; to the right, the National Theatre and culture. Behind him, in the Palace Gardens, the Royal Palace situated upon high. And right in front of him: power. Three hundred paces later, at exactly eight o’clock, he mounted the stone steps to the main entrance of Stortinget. The parliament building, like most of Oslo, was not particularly big or impressive. And security was minimal. There were only two lions carved from Grorud granite standing on either side of the slope which led to the entrance.
Bellman went up to the door, which opened noiselessly before he had a chance to push. He arrived at reception and stood looking around. A security guard appeared in front of him with a friendly but firm nod towards a Gilardoni X-ray machine. Ten seconds later it had revealed that Mikael Bellman was unarmed, there was metal in his belt, but that was all.
Rasmus Olsen was waiting for him, leaning against the reception desk. Marit Olsen’s thin widower shook hands with Bellman and walked ahead as he automatically switched on his guide voice.
‘Stortinget, three hundred and eighty employees, a hundred and sixty-nine MPs. Built in 1866, designed by Emil Victor Langlet. A Swede, by the way. This is the hall known as Trappehallen. The stone mosaics are called Society, Else Hagen, 1950. The king’s portrait was painted…’
They emerged into Vandrehallen, which Mikael recognised from the TV. A couple of faces, neither familiar, flitted past. Rasmus explained to him that there had just been a committee meeting, but Bellman was not listening. He was thinking that these were the corridors of power. He was disappointed. Fine to have all the gold and red, but where was the magnificence, the stateliness, that was supposed to instil awe at the feet of those who ruled? This damned humble sobriety; it was like a weakness, of which this tiny and, not so long ago, poor democracy in Northern Europe could not rid itself. Yet he had returned. If he had not been able to reach the top where he had tried first, among the wolves of Europol, he would certainly succeed here, in competition with midgets and second-raters.
‘This entire room was Reichskommissar Terboven’s office during the war. No one has such a large office nowadays.’
‘What was your marriage like?’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘You and Marit. Did you row?’
‘Er… no.’ Rasmus Olsen looked shaken, and he started walking faster. As if to leave the policeman behind, or at least to move beyond the hearing range of others. It was only when they were sitting behind the closed office door in the group secretariat that he released his trembling breath. ‘Of course we had our ups and downs. Are you married, Bellman?’
Mikael Bellman nodded.
‘Then you know what I mean.’
‘Was she unfaithful?’
‘No. I think I can count that one out.’
Since she was so fat? Bellman felt like asking, but he dropped it. He had what he was after. The hesitation, the twitch at the corner of his eye, the almost imperceptible contraction of the pupil.
‘And you, Olsen, have you been unfaithful?’
Same reaction. Plus a certain flush to the forehead under the receding hairline. The answer was brief and resolute. ‘No, in fact I haven’t.’
Bellman angled his head. He didn’t suspect Rasmus Olsen. So why torment the man with this type of question? The answer was as simple as it was exasperating. Because he had no one else to question, no other leads to follow. He was merely taking out his frustration on this poor man.
‘What about you?’
‘What about me?’ Bellman, said, stifling a yawn.
‘Are you unfaithful?’
‘My wife is too beautiful,’ Bellman smiled. ‘Furthermore, we have two children. You and your wife were childless, and that encourages a little more… fun. I was talking to a source who said that you and your wife were having problems a while ago.’
‘I assume that’s the next-door neighbour. Marit chatted quite a bit with her, yes. There was a jealous patch some months ago. I had recruited a young girl to the party on a shop-steward course. That was how I met Marit, so she…’
Rasmus Olsen’s voice disintegrated, and Bellman saw that tears were welling up in his eyes.
‘It was nothing. But Marit went to the mountains for a couple of days to think things over. Afterwards everything was fine again.’
Bellman’s phone rang. He took it out, saw the name on the display and answered with a curt ‘yes’. And felt his pulse and fury increase as he listened to the voice.
‘Rope?’ he repeated. ‘Lyseren? That’s… Ytre Enebakk? Thanks.’
He stuffed the phone in his coat pocket. ‘I have to be off, Olsen. Thank you for your time.’
On his way out Bellman briefly stopped and looked around the room Terboven, the German Nazi, had occupied.
It was one o’clock in the morning and Harry was sitting in the living room listening to Martha Wainwright singing ‘Far Away’, ‘… Whatever remains is yet to be found’.
He was exhausted. In front of him on the coffee table was his mobile phone, the lighter and the silver foil containing the brown clump. He hadn’t touched it. But he had to sleep soon, find a rhythm, have a break. In his hand he was holding a photo of Rakel. Blue dress. He closed his eyes. Smelt her scent. Heard her voice. ‘Look!’ Her hand exerted a light squeeze. The water around them was black and deep, and she floated, white, soundless, weightless on the surface. The wind raised her veil and showed the white feathers beneath. Her long, slim neck formed a question mark. Where? She stepped ashore, a black iron skeleton with chafing, wailing wheels. She entered the house and vanished from sight. And reappeared on the first floor. She had a noose around her neck and there was a man by her side wearing a black suit with a white flower on his lapel. In front, with his back to them, stood a priest in a white cloak. He was reading slowly. Then he turned. His face and hands were white. Made of snow.
Harry awoke with a start.
Blinked in the dark. Sound. But not Martha Wainwright. Harry grabbed the luminous, vibrating phone on the coffee table.
‘Yes,’ he said with a voice like sludge.
‘I’ve got it.’
He sat up. ‘You’ve got what?’
‘The link. And there aren’t three dead. There are four.’
‘First of all, I tried the three names you gave me,’ said Katrine Bratt. ‘Borgny Stem-Myhre, Charlotte Lolles and Marit Olsen. But the search didn’t produce anything sensible. So I put in all the missing persons in Norway over the last twelve months as well. And then I had something to work with.’
‘Wait,’ Harry said. He was wide awake now. ‘Where the hell did you get the missing persons from?’
‘Intranet at Missing Persons Unit, Oslo Police District. What did you think?’
Harry groaned, and Katrine went on.
‘There was one name that in fact linked the other three. Are you ready?’
‘The missing woman is called Adele Vetlesen, twenty-three years old, living in Drammen. She was reported missing by her partner in November. A connection appeared on the NSB ticketing system. On the 7th of November Adele Vetlesen booked a train ticket online from Drammen to Ustaoset. The same day Borgny Stem-Myhre bought a train ticket from Kongsberg to the same place.’
‘Ustaoset’s not exactly the centre of the universe,’ Harry said.
‘It’s not a place, it’s a chunk of mountain. Where Bergen families have built their mountain cabins with old money and the Tourist Association has built cabins on the peaks, so that Norwegians can preserve Amundsen and Nansen’s heritage and trudge from cabin to cabin with skis on their feet, twenty-five kilos on their backs and a taste of mortal fear in the hinterland of the mind. Adds spice to life, you know.’
‘Sounds like you’ve been there.’
‘My ex-husband’s family has a cabin in the mountains. They’re so rich and revered that they have neither electricity nor running water. Only social climbers have a sauna and a jacuzzi.’
‘The other connections?’
‘There wasn’t a train ticket in the name of Marit Olsen. However, a payment was registered on the cash dispenser in the restaurant car on the corresponding train the day before. At 14.13. According to the railway timetable that would be somewhere between Al and Geilo, in other words before Ustaoset.’
‘Less convincing,’ Harry said. ‘The train goes right through to Bergen. Perhaps she was going there.’
‘Do you think…?’ Katrine Bratt started, then faltered, waited and went on in hushed tones. ‘You think I’m stupid? The hotel at Ustaoset booked an overnight stay in a double room for one Rasmus Olsen who, according to the Civil Registration System, is resident at the same address as Marit Olsen. So I assumed that-’
‘Yes, that’s her husband. Why are you whispering?’
‘Because the night porter just walked past, OK? Listen, we’ve placed two murder victims and one missing person in Ustaoset on the same day. What do you reckon?’
‘Well, it’s a significant coincidence, but we can’t exclude the possibility that it’s pure chance.’
‘Agreed. So here’s the rest. I searched for Charlotte Lolles plus Ustaoset, but didn’t get a hit. So I concentrated on the date to see where Charlotte Lolles might have been when the other three were in Ustaoset. Two days before, Charlotte had paid for diesel at a petrol station outside Honefoss.’
‘That’s a long way from Ustaoset.’
‘But it’s in the right direction from Oslo. I tried to find a car registered in her name or a possible partner’s. If they have an AutoPASS and have driven through several toll stations you can follow their movements.’
‘The problem is that she had neither a car nor a live-in partner, not officially anyway.’
‘She had a boyfriend.’
‘It’s possible. But the search engine found a car in a Europark garage in Geilo, paid for by an Iska Peller.’
‘That’s just a few kilometres away. But who’s… er, Iska Peller?’
‘According to the credit card info she’s a resident of Bristol, Sydney, Australia. The point is that she scores high on a relational search with Charlotte Lolles.’
‘It works like this, OK. Based on the last few years, names come up for people paying with a card at the same restaurant at the same time, which suggests that they have eaten together and split the bill. Or for people who are members of the same gym with matching enrolment dates or have plane seats next to each other more than once. You get the picture.’
‘I get the picture,’ Harry repeated, copying her Bergensian intonation. ‘And I’m sure you’ve checked out the make of car and whether it uses-’
‘Yes, I have, and it uses diesel,’ Katrine answered sharply. ‘Do you want to hear the rest or not?’
‘By all means.’
‘You can’t pre-book beds in these self-service Tourist Association cabins. If all the beds are taken when you arrive, you just have to doss down on the floor, on a mattress or in a sleeping bag with your own mat. It only costs a hundred and seventy a night, and you can either put cash into a box at the cabin, or leave an envelope with an authorisation to charge your account.’
‘In other words you can’t see who has been in which cabins when?’
‘Not if they pay cash. But if they’ve left an authorisation, afterwards there would be a transaction on their account between them and the Tourist Association. Mentioning the cabin used and the date the payment was for.’
‘I seem to remember it’s a pain searching through bank transactions.’
‘Not if the engine is given the right criteria by a sharp human brain.’
‘Which is the case, I take it?’
‘That’s the general idea. Iska Peller’s account was charged for two beds at four of the Tourist Association cabins on the 20th of November, each a day’s march from the next.’
‘A four-day skiing trip.’
‘Yes. And they stayed at the last one, the Havass cabin, on the 7th of November. It’s only half a day’s walk from Ustaoset.’
‘What’s really interesting is that there are two other accounts that were charged for overnight stays at the Havass cabin on the 7th of November. Guess whose?’
‘Well, it’ll hardly be Marit Olsen’s or Borgny Stem-Myhre’s since I assume Kripos would have found out that two of the murder victims had recently stayed at the same place the same night. So it must be the missing girl’s. What was her name?’
‘Adele Vetlesen. And you’re spot on. She paid for two people, but there’s no way of knowing who the other person was.’
‘Who’s the other person who paid with an authorisation slip?’
‘Not so interesting. From Stavanger.’
Nevertheless Harry picked up a pen and noted the name and address of the individual concerned and also of Iska Peller in Sydney. ‘Sounds like you rate search engines,’ he said.
‘Yep,’ she said. ‘It’s like flying an old bomber. Bit rusty and slow to get going, but when you’re in the air… my goodness. What do you think of the results?’
‘What you’ve done’, he said, ‘is to locate one missing woman and a woman who presumably has nothing to do with the case at the same place at the same time. In itself, nothing to shout about. But you’ve made it more likely that one of the murder victims – Charlotte Lolles – was with her. And you’ve located two of the murder victims – Borgny Stem-Myhre and Marit Olsen – in the immediate vicinity of Ustaoset. So
‘So, my congratulations. You’ve kept your part of the bargain. Now, as for mine…’
‘Save your breath and wipe that grin off your face. I didn’t mean it. I’m of unsound mind, didn’t you realise?’
She smacked down the receiver.
She was alone on the bus. Stine rested her forehead against the window so that she wouldn’t see her reflection. Stared out into the deserted, pitch-black bus station. Hoping someone would come. Hoping no one would come.
He had been sitting by a window in Krabbe with a beer in front of him staring at her, motionless. Woollen hat, blond hair and those wild blue eyes. His eyes laughed, penetrated, implored, called her name. In the end she had told Mathilde that she wanted to go home. But Mathilde had just started a conversation with an American oil guy and wanted to stay a bit longer. So Stine had grabbed her coat, run from Krabbe to the bus station and got on a bus to Valand.
She looked at the red numbers on the digital clock above the driver. Hoping the doors would shut and the bus would start moving. One minute left.
She didn’t raise her eyes, not even when she heard the running footsteps, heard the breathless voice request a ticket from the driver at the front, nor when he sat down on the seat beside her.
‘Hey, Stine,’ he said. ‘I think you’re avoiding me.’
‘Oh, hi, Elias,’ she said without shifting her gaze from the rainwet tarmac. Why had she sat so far back in the bus, so far from the driver?
‘You shouldn’t be out alone on a night like this, you know.’
‘Shouldn’t I?’ she mumbled, hoping someone would come, anyone.
‘Don’t you read the newspapers? Those two girls in Oslo. And now, the other day, that MP. What was her name again?’
‘No idea,’ Stine lied, feeling her heart rate gallop.
‘Marit Olsen,’ Elias said. ‘Socialist Party. The other two were Borgny and Charlotte. Sure you don’t recognise the names, Stine?’
‘I don’t read newspapers,’ Stine said. Someone had to come soon.
‘Great girls, all three of them,’ he said.
‘Course, you knew them, didn’t you?’ Stine regretted the sarcastic tone immediately. It was fear.
‘Not well though,’ Elias said. ‘But the first impression was good. I’m – as you know – the kind who attaches a lot of importance to first impressions.’
She stared at the hand he cautiously placed on her knee.
‘You…’ she said, and even in that one syllable she could hear herself begging.
She looked up at him. His face was as open as a child’s, his eyes genuinely curious. She wanted to scream, jump up, when she heard the steps and voice up by the driver. A passenger. A man. He came to the back of the bus. Stine tried to catch his eye, to make him understand, but the brim of his hat covered the upper half of his face, and he was busy checking his change and putting the ticket in his wallet. Her breathing was lighter when he took a seat right behind them.
‘It’s incredible that the police haven’t discovered the connection between them,’ Elias said. ‘It shouldn’t be so difficult. They must know that all three women liked to go cross-country skiing in the mountains. They stayed at the cabin in Havass on the same night. Do you think I should tell them?’
‘Maybe,’ Stine whispered. If she was quick perhaps she could squeeze past Elias and jump off the bus. But she had hardly articulated the thought in her mind before the hydraulics hissed, the doors slid shut and the bus set off. She closed her eyes.
‘I just don’t want to be involved. I hope you can understand that, Stine.’
She nodded slowly, her eyes still closed.
‘Good. Then I can tell you about someone else who was there. Someone I’m sure you know.’
‘It smells of…’ Kaja said.
‘Shit,’ Harry said. ‘Cow variety. Welcome to the district of J?ren.’
The dawn light leaked from the clouds sweeping across the springgreen fields. From behind stone walls cows stared mutely at their taxi. They were on their way from Sola Airport to Stavanger city centre.
Harry leaned forward between the front seats. ‘Could you put your foot down, driver?’ He held up his ID card. The driver beamed, gave it some gas, and they accelerated onto the motorway.
‘Are you afraid we’re too late?’ Kaja asked as Harry fell back.
‘Didn’t answer the phone, didn’t turn up for work,’ Harry said, not needing to complete his reasoning.
After he had spoken to Katrine Bratt the night before, Harry had skimmed over what he had noted down. He had the names, telephone numbers and addresses of two living persons who had probably stayed in a cabin in November with the three murder victims. He had checked his watch, worked out it was early morning in Sydney and rung Iska Peller’s number. She had answered and sounded very surprised when Harry broached the topic of the Havass cabin. She hadn’t been able to tell Harry much about the overnight stay because she had been stuck in a bedroom with a high temperature. Perhaps because she had been wearing wet, sweaty clothes for too long, perhaps because skiing from cabin to cabin had been a baptism of fire for an inexperienced langlaufer like herself. Or perhaps simply because flu strikes at random. At any rate, she had only just managed to drag herself to Havass, where she had been ordered straight to bed by her companion Charlotte Lolles. There, Iska Peller had drifted in and out of dream-filled sleep as her body ached, sweated and froze in turn. Whatever had gone on between the others in the cabin, whoever they were, well, she hadn’t picked up anything, as she and Charlotte had been the first to arrive. The next day she had stayed in bed until the others had left, and she and Charlotte were collected on a snow scooter by a local policeman Charlotte had managed to contact. He had driven them to his place where he had invited them to stay overnight as the only hotel was full, so he informed them. They had accepted, but that night they changed their minds and caught a late train to Geilo to stay at a hotel there. Charlotte hadn’t told Iska anything in particular about the night in the Havass cabin. An uneventful night, apparently.
Five days after the skiing trip Iska had left Oslo for Sydney, still with a temperature, and had kept in regular email contact with Charlotte but hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. Until she received the shocking news that her friend had been found dead behind a wrecked car on the edge of a wood by Lake Daudsjoen, just outside the urban sprawl of Oslo.
Harry had explained to Iska Peller with some care, but without beating around the bush, that they were worried about the people who had been in the cabin on the night of the 7th of November and that, after ringing off, he would call the head of Crime Squad in Sydney South Police District, Neil McCormack, whom Harry had worked for on one occasion. McCormack, he said, would require further details from her and – even though Australia was a long way from Oslo – provide police protection until further notice. Iska Peller seemed to accept this with equanimity.
Then Harry had rung the second number he had been given, the number in Stavanger. He had tried four times, but no one had answered. He knew, of course, that this did not mean anything in itself. Not everyone slept with their mobile switched on beside them. But Kaja Solness clearly did. She answered on the second ring, and when Harry said they were going to Stavanger on the first flight and that she should be on the airport express by five past six, she had uttered one word: ‘OK.’
They had arrived at Oslo’s Gardemoen Airport at half past six and Harry had tried the number again, without success. An hour later they had landed at Sola Airport, and Harry rang with the same result. On their way to the taxi queue, Kaja managed to contact the employer, who said that the person they were looking for had not turned up for work at the usual time. She had informed Harry, and he had gently placed his hand on the small of her back and led her firmly past the taxi queue and into a taxi in the face of loud protests, which he met with: ‘Thanking you, and may you have a wonderful day, folks.’
It was exactly 8.16 when they arrived at the address, a white timber house in Valand. Harry let Kaja pay, got out and left the door open. Studied the house front, which revealed nothing. Inhaled the damp, fresh, though still mild Vestland air. Braced himself. Because he already knew. He might be mistaken, of course, but he knew with the same certainty that he knew Kaja would say ‘Thank you’ after being given the receipt.
‘Thank you.’ The car door closed.
The name was next to the middle of the three bells, by the front door.
Harry pressed the button and heard the bell ring somewhere in the house’s innards.
One minute and three attempts later he pressed the bottom bell.
The old lady who opened the door smiled at them.
Harry noted that Kaja instinctively knew who should speak. ‘Hello, I’m Kaja Solness. We’re from the police. The floor above you isn’t answering. Do you know if anyone is at home?’
‘Probably. Even though it’s been quiet there this morning,’ the lady said. And, on seeing Harry’s elevated eyebrows, hastened to add: ‘You can hear everything here, and I heard people last night. Since I rent out the flat I think I ought to keep an ear open.’
‘Keep an ear open?’ Harry queried.
‘Yes, but I don’t stick…’ The lady’s cheeks flushed pink. ‘There’s nothing wrong, I trust? I mean, I’ve never had any problems at all with-’
‘We don’t know,’ Harry said.
‘The best thing to do would be to check,’ Kaja said. ‘So if you have a key…’ Harry knew a variety of set phrases would be whirring around Kaja’s brain now, and waited for the continuation with interest. ‘… then we would like to assist you in ensuring that everything is in order.’
Kaja Solness was a bright woman. If the house owner agreed to the proposal and they found something, the report would say they were summoned. There was no question of them having forced their way in or having ransacked the place without a warrant.
The woman hesitated.
‘But you can also let yourself in after we’ve gone,’ Kaja smiled. ‘And then call the police. Or the ambulance. Or…’
‘I think it’s best if you come with me,’ the woman said after a deep furrow of concern entrenched itself in her brow. ‘Wait here and I’ll fetch the keys.’
The flat they entered one minute later was clean, tidy and almost completely unfurnished. At once Harry recognised the silence that is so present, so oppressive, in bare flats in the morning, when the hustle and bustle of the working day is a scarcely audible noise on the outside. But there was also a smell he recognised. Glue. He spotted a pair of shoes, though no outdoor clothing.
In the kitchenette there was a large teacup in the sink, and on the shelf above tins proclaiming they contained teas of unknown origin to Harry: oolong, Anji Bai Cha. They advanced through the flat. On the sitting-room wall was a picture Harry thought was K2, the popular killing machine of a mountain in the Himalayas.
‘Check that one, will you?’ Harry asked, nodding to the door with a heart on it and walked to what he assumed must be the bedroom door. He took a deep breath, pressed down the handle and pushed open the door.
The bed was made. The room tidy. A window was ajar, no smell of glue, air as fresh as a child’s breath. Harry heard the landlady take up a position in the doorway behind him.
‘So odd,’ she said. ‘I heard them last night, I did. But there was only one person’s steps.’
‘Them?’ Harry said. ‘You’re sure there was more than one person?’
‘Yes, I heard voices.’
‘Three, I would say.’
Harry peered into the wardrobe. ‘Men? Women?’
‘You can’t hear absolutely everything, I’m afraid.’
Clothes. A sleeping bag and a rucksack. More clothes.
‘Why would you say there were three?’
‘After one left, I heard noises from up here.’
‘What sort of noises?’
The landlady’s cheeks flushed again. ‘Banging. As if… well, you know.’
‘But no voices?’
The landlady considered the question. ‘No, no voices.’
Harry walked out of the room. And to his surprise saw that Kaja was still standing in the hall by the bathroom door. There was something about the way she was standing – as though facing a strong headwind.
‘Not at all,’ Kaja said quickly, lightly. Too lightly.
Harry went over and stood beside her.
‘What is it?’ he asked in a whisper.
‘I… just have a tiny problem with closed doors.’
‘OK,’ Harry said.
‘That’s… that’s just how I am.’
Harry nodded. And that was when he heard the sound. The sound of allotted time, of a line running out, of seconds disappearing, a quick, hectic drumming of water that doesn’t quite flow and doesn’t quite drip. A tap on the other side of the door. And he knew he had not been mistaken.
‘Wait here,’ Harry said. He pushed open the door.
The first thing he noticed was that the smell of glue was even stronger inside.
The second was that a jacket, a pair of jeans, pants, a T-shirt, two black socks, a hat and a thin wool jumper were lying on the floor.
The third was that water was dripping in an almost continuous line from the tap into a bathtub filled so full that water was escaping down the overflow at the side.
The fourth was that the water in the bath was red, blood from what he could tell.
The fifth was that the glazed eyes above the taped mouth of the naked, corpse-white person lying at the bottom of the bath faced the side. As if trying to glimpse something in the blind spot, something he hadn’t seen coming.
The sixth was that he couldn’t see any indications of violence, no external injuries that would explain all the blood.
Harry cleared his throat and wondered how he could ask the landlady in the most considerate way possible to come in and identify her lodger.
But he didn’t have to; she was already at the door.
‘OhmyGod!’ she groaned. And then – stressing every single syllable: ‘Oh my God!’ And, finally, in a wailing tone invoking even greater emphasis: ‘Oh my Lord God Almighty…’
‘Is it…?’ Harry began.
‘Yes,’ the woman said with a tear-filled voice. ‘That’s him. That’s Elias. Elias Skog.’
The woman had clasped her hands in front of her mouth, and mumbled through her fingers. ‘But what have you done, dear Elias? A vein?’
‘I’m not sure he did anything,’ Harry said, leading her from the bathroom to the front door of the flat. ‘Could I ask you to ring the police station in Stavanger and tell them to send forensics officers? Tell them we have a crime scene here.’
‘Crime scene?’ Her eyes were large and black with shock.
‘Yes, say that. Use the emergency number, 112, if you like. OK?’
They heard the woman stomping down the stairs to her flat.
‘We’ve got about a quarter of an hour before they get here,’ Harry said. They removed their shoes, put them in the hall and walked into the bathroom in stockinged feet. Harry looked around. The sink was full of long blond hair, and on the bench a tube was squeezed flat.
‘That looks like toothpaste,’ Harry said, bending over the tube, trying not to touch it.
Kaja went closer. ‘Superglue,’ she stated. ‘Strongest there is.’
‘That’s the stuff you shouldn’t get on your fingers, isn’t it?’
‘Works in no time. If your fingers are pressed together for too long, they’ll be stuck. Then you’ll either have to cut them apart or tug until the skin comes off.’
Harry stared first at Kaja. Then at the body in the bath.
‘Bloody hell,’ he said slowly. ‘This can’t be true…’
POB Gunnar Hagen had had his doubts. Perhaps it was the most stupid thing he had done since he came to Police HQ. Forming a group to run an investigation against the ministry’s orders could get him into trouble. Making Harry Hole the leader was asking for trouble. And trouble had just knocked on the door and walked in. Now it was standing in front of him in the shape of Mikael Bellman. And as Hagen listened, he noticed the strange marks on the Kripos POB’s face shining whiter than usual, as if they were illuminated by something red hot inside, cooled fission in a nuclear reactor, a potential explosion that was under control for the moment.
‘I know for certain that Harry Hole and two of his colleagues have been to Lake Lyseren to investigate the murder of Marit Olsen. Beate Lonn from Krimteknisk asked us to carry out a cabin-to-cabin search in the area around an old ropery. One of her officers was said to have found out that the rope used to hang Marit Olsen originates from there. So far so good…’
Mikael Bellman rocked back on his heels. He hadn’t even taken off his floor-length trench coat. Gunnar Hagen steeled himself for what was to follow. Which came in painfully protracted form, with somewhat perplexed intonation.
‘But when we spoke to the officer in Ytre Enebakk, he told me that the herostratic Harry Hole was one of three officers involved in the investigation. Hence, one of your men, Hagen.’
Hagen didn’t answer.
‘I assume you are aware of the consequences of placing yourself above Ministry of Justice orders, Hagen.’
Hagen still didn’t answer, but he met Bellman’s glare.
‘Listen,’ Bellman said, loosening a button on his coat and sitting down after all. ‘I like you, Hagen. I think you’re a good policeman, and I will need good men.’
‘When Kripos has total power, you mean?’
‘Exactly. I could benefit from having someone like you in a prominent position. You have a military academy background, you know the importance of thinking tactically, of avoiding battles you can’t win, of realising when retreat is the best way to win…’
Hagen nodded slowly.
‘Good,’ Bellman said, rising to his feet. ‘Let’s say Harry Hole inadvertently found himself by Lake Lyseren; it was a coincidence, had nothing to do with Marit Olsen. And such coincidences are hardly likely to reoccur. Can we agree on that… Gunnar?’
Hagen flinched involuntarily when he heard his first name in the other man’s mouth, like an echo of a first name he himself had once spoken, his predecessor’s, in an attempt to create a joviality for which there was no basis. But he let it go. For he knew that this was the kind of battle Bellman had been talking about. And that, furthermore, he was about to lose the war. And that the conditions of surrender which Bellman had offered him could have been worse. A lot worse.
‘I’ll have a word with Harry,’ he said and took Bellman’s outstretched hand. It was like squeezing marble: hard, cold and lifeless.
Harry took a swig and unhooked the final joint of his forefinger from the handle of the landlady’s translucent coffee cup.
‘So you’re Inspector Harry Hole from Oslo Police District,’ said the man sitting on the opposite side of the landlady’s coffee table. He had introduced himself as Inspector Colbjornsen, with a ‘c’, and now he repeated Harry’s title, name and affiliation with the stress on Oslo. ‘And what brings Oslo Police to Stavanger, herr Hole?’
‘The usual,’ Harry said. ‘Fresh air, beautiful mountains.’
‘The fjord. Base jumping from Pulpit Rock, if we have time.’
‘So Oslo have sent us a comedian, have they? You’re participating in an extreme sport, I can tell you that much. Any good reason why we were not informed of this visit?’
Inspector Colbjornsen’s smile was as thin as his moustache. He was sporting one of those funny little hats only very old men and super-self-aware hipsters have. Harry was reminded of Popeye Doyle in The French Connection. And guessed that Colbjornsen would not shy away from sucking a lollipop or stopping on his way out of the door with an ‘Oh, just one more thing’.
‘I reckon there must be a fax at the bottom of the in tray,’ Harry said, looking up at the man in the white outfit as he came in. The material of the forensics officer’s overalls rustled as he took off the white hood and plumped down into a chair. He looked straight at Colbjornsen and muttered a local profanity.
‘Well?’ asked Colbjornsen.
‘He’s right,’ the crime scene officer said and nodded in Harry’s direction, without glancing at him. ‘The lad up there has been stuck to the bottom of the bath with superglue.’
‘Has been?’ said Colbjornsen, looking at his subordinate with a quizzical eyebrow. ‘Passive form. Aren’t you a bit premature in ruling out the possibility that Elias Skog did it himself?’
‘And managed to turn on the tap so he would drown in the slowest, most painful manner conceivable?’ Harry suggested. ‘After taping up his mouth so that he couldn’t scream?’
Colbjornsen sent Harry another razor-thin smile. ‘I’ll tell you when you can interrupt, Oslo.’
‘Stuck fast from top to toe,’ the officer continued. ‘The back of his head was shaved and smeared with glue. The same with his shoulders and back. Buttocks. Arms. Both legs. In other words-’
‘In other words,’ Harry said, ‘when the killer was finished with the glueing job, Elias had been lying there for a while and the adhesive had been hardening. He turned the tap a little way and left Elias Skog to a slow death by drowning. And Elias began his fight against time and death. The water rose slowly but his strength was ebbing away. Until mortal fear had him in its grip and gave him the energy for a last desperate attempt to pull himself free. And he did. He freed the strongest of his limbs from the bottom of the bathtub. His right leg. He simply tore it off and you can see the skin left on the bath surface. Blood spurted into the water as Elias banged his foot to rouse the landlady downstairs. And she heard the banging.’
Harry nodded towards the kitchen where Kaja was trying to calm and console the elderly lady. They could hear her bitter sobs.
‘But she misunderstood. She thought her lodger was bonking a girl who had accompanied him home.’
He looked at Colbjornsen, who had turned pale and no longer exhibited any signs of wanting to interrupt.
‘And all the time Elias was losing blood. A lot of blood. All the skin from his leg was gone. He became weaker, more tired. In the end, his determination began to fade. He gave up. Perhaps he was already unconscious from loss of blood as the water rose into his nostrils.’ Harry fixed his eyes on Colbjornsen. ‘Or perhaps not.’
Colbjornsen’s Adam’s apple was running a shuttle service.
Harry looked down at the dregs in the coffee cup. ‘And now I think Detective Solness and I should thank you for your hospitality and return to Oslo. Should you have any more questions, you can reach me here.’ Harry jotted down a number in the margin of a newspaper, tore off a section and passed it over the table. Then he got to his feet.
‘But…’ said Colbjornsen, getting to his feet as well. Harry towered twenty centimetres over him. ‘What was it you wanted with Elias Skog?’
‘To save him,’ Harry said, buttoning up his coat.
‘Save? Was he mixed up in something? Wait, Hole, we have to get to the bottom of this.’ But there was no longer the same authority in Colbjornsen’s use of the imperative form.
‘I’m sure you officers in the Stavanger force are perfectly capable of working this out for yourselves,’ Harry said, walking to the kitchen door and motioning to Kaja that they were leaving. ‘If not, I can recommend Kripos. Say hello to Mikael Bellman from me, if you have to.’
‘Save him from what?’
‘From what we were unable to save him from,’ Harry said.
In the taxi on the way to Sola, Harry stared out of the window at the rain hammering down on the unnaturally green fields. Kaja didn’t say a word. For which he was grateful.
Gunnar Hagen was in Harry’s chair waiting for them when Harry and Kaja stepped into the hot, damp office.
Bjorn Holm, who was sitting behind Hagen, shrugged and gestured that he didn’t know what the POB wanted.
‘Stavanger, I hear,’ Hagen said, getting up.
‘Yes,’ Harry said. ‘Don’t get up, boss.’
‘It’s your chair. I’ll be going soon.’
Harry inferred that it was bad news. Bad news of a certain significance. Bosses don’t hasten down the culvert to Botsen Prison to tell you your travel invoice has been completed incorrectly.
Hagen remained standing, so Holm was the only person in the room to be seated.
‘I’m afraid I have to inform you that Kripos has already discovered that you are working on the murders. And I have no choice but to close the investigation.’
In the ensuing silence Harry could hear the boiler rumbling in the adjacent room. Hagen ran his eyes over them, meeting each gaze in turn and stopping at Harry. ‘I can’t say this is an honourable discharge, either. I gave you clear instructions that this was to be a discreet operation.’
‘Well,’ Harry said, ‘I asked Beate Lonn to leak information about a certain ropery to Kripos, but she promised she would do it in a way that made Krimteknisk appear to be the source.’
‘And I’m sure she did,’ Hagen said. ‘It was the County Officer in Ytre Enebakk who gave you away, Harry.’
Harry rolled his eyes and uttered a low curse.
Hagen clapped his hands together and a dry bang resounded between the brick walls. ‘So that’s why, sadly, I have to command you to drop all investigative work with immediate effect. And to clear this office within forty-eight hours. Gomen nasai.’
Harry, Kaja and Bjorn looked at one another as the iron door closed and Hagen’s hurried footsteps faded down the culvert.
‘Forty-eight hours,’ Bjorn said at length. ‘Anyone want fresh coffee?’
Harry kicked the bin beside the desk. It hit the wall with a crash, spilling its modest contents and rolling back towards him.
‘I’ll be at Rikshospital,’ he said and strode towards the door.
Harry had positioned the hard wooden chair by the window and listened to his father’s regular breathing as he flicked through the newspaper. A wedding and a funeral side by side. On the left, pictures of Marit Olsen’s funeral, showing the Norwegian Prime Minister’s serious, compassionate face, party colleagues’ black suits, and the husband, Rasmus Olsen, behind a pair of large, unbecoming sunglasses. On the right, an article announcing that the shipping magnate’s daughter, Lene, would get her Tony in the spring, with photos of the (A-list) wedding guests who would all be flown in to St Tropez. On the back page, it said that the sun would go down today at precisely 16.58 in Oslo. Harry looked at his watch and established that it was in fact doing that now, behind the low clouds that would not release either rain or snow. He watched the lights coming on in all the homes on the side of the ridge around what had once been a volcano. In a way, it was a liberating thought that the volcano would open beneath them one day, swallow them up and remove all traces of what had once been a contented, well-organised and slightly sad town.
Forty-eight hours. Why? It wouldn’t take them more than two hours to clear their so-called office.
Harry closed his eyes and considered the case. Wrote a last mental report for his personal archive.
Two women killed in the same way, drowning in their own blood, with ketanome in the bloodstream. One woman hanged from a diving tower, with a rope taken from an old ropery. One man drowned in his own bathtub. All the victims had probably been in the same cabin at the same time. They didn’t know yet who else had been there, what the motive behind the murders could be or what had gone on in the Havass cabin that day or night. There was just effect, no cause. Case closed.
He hadn’t heard his father wake, and he turned.
Olav Hole looked renewed, but perhaps that was because of the colour in his cheeks and the feverish glow in his eyes. Harry got up and moved his chair over to his father’s bedside.
‘Have you been here long?’
‘Ten minutes,’ Harry lied.
‘I’ve slept so well,’ Olav said. ‘And had such wonderful dreams.’
‘I can see. You look like you’re ready to get up and leave.’
Harry plumped his pillow, and his father let him do it even though they both knew that it wasn’t necessary.
‘How’s the house?’
‘Fine,’ Harry said. ‘It will stand for ever.’
‘Good. There’s something I want to talk to you about, Harry.’
‘You’re a grown man now. You’ll lose me in a natural way. That’s how it should be. Not how you lost your mother. You were on the verge of going insane.’
‘Was I?’ Harry said, straightening the pillowslip.
‘You demolished your room. You wanted to kill the doctors, those that had infected her, and even me. Because I had… well, because I hadn’t discovered it earlier, I suppose. You were so full of love.’
‘Of hatred, you mean?’
‘No, of love. It’s the same currency. Everything starts with love. Hatred is just the other side of the coin. I’ve always thought that your mother’s death is what drove you to drink. Or rather the love for your mother.’
‘Love is a killer,’ Harry mumbled.
‘Just something someone once said to me.’
‘I did everything your mother asked me to do. Apart from one thing. She asked me to help her when the time came.’
It felt as if someone had injected ice-cold water into Harry’s chest.
‘But I couldn’t. And do you know what, Harry? It has given me nightmares. Not a day has passed when I haven’t thought about not being able to fulfil that wish for her, for the woman I loved above all else on this earth.’
The thin wooden chair creaked as Harry jumped up. He walked over to the window. He heard his father draw breath a couple of times behind him, deep, trembling. Then it came.
‘I know that this is a heavy burden to impose on you, son. But I also know that you’re like me – it will haunt you if you don’t. So let me explain what you do…’
‘Dad,’ Harry said.
‘Can you see this hypodermic needle?’
Everything went quiet behind him. Except for the rasp of his breathing. Outside, Harry saw the black-and-white film of a town with face-like clouds pressing their blurred, leaden-grey features against the rooftops.
‘I want to be buried in Andalsnes,’ his father said.
Buried. The word sounded like an echo from Easters with Mum and Dad in Lesja when Olav Hole, with great earnestness, explained to Harry and Sis what they should do if they were buried in an avalanche and they had constrictive pericarditis, a hardened sac around the heart that prevented it from expanding. An armoured heart. Around them were flat fields and gently sloping ridges; it was a bit like when air hostesses on domestic flights over Inner Mongolia explain how to use life jackets. Absurd, but nevertheless: it gave them a feeling of security, the sense that they would all survive if they just did the right things. And now Dad was saying that wasn’t true, after all.
Harry coughed. ‘Andalsnes… to be with Mum…?’
Harry fell quiet.
‘And I want to lie alongside my fellow villagers.’
‘You don’t know them.’
‘Well, who do we know? At least they and I are from the same place. Perhaps ultimately that’s what it’s about. The tribe. We want to be with our tribe.’
‘Yes, we do. Whether we are aware of it or not, that’s what we want.’
The nurse with the badge bearing the name Altman came in, flashed a quick smile at Harry and tapped his watch.
Harry went downstairs and met two uniformed policemen on their way up. He nodded automatically; it was a convention. They stared at him in silence, as though he were a stranger.
Usually Harry longed for solitude and all the benefits that came with it: peace, calm, freedom. But standing at the tram stop, suddenly he didn’t know where to go. Or what to do. He just knew that being alone in the house in Oppsal would be unbearable right now.
He dialled Oystein’s number.
Oystein was on a long trip to Fagernes, but suggested a beer at Lompa at around midnight to celebrate the relatively satisfactory completion of another day in Oystein Eikeland’s life. Harry reminded Oystein that Harry was an alcoholic, and received the response that even an alcoholic had to go on a bender once in a while, didn’t he.
Harry wished Oystein a safe journey and rang off. Glanced at his watch. And the question arose again. Forty-eight hours. Why?
A tram stopped in front of him and the doors banged open. Harry peered into the invitingly warm, lit carriage. Then he turned and began to walk down towards town.
Kind, Light-Fingered and Tight-Fisted
‘I was in the vicinity,’ Harry said. ‘But I suppose you’re on your way out.’
‘Not at all,’ smiled Kaja, who was standing in the doorway with a thick puffa jacket on. ‘I was sitting on the veranda. Come in. Take the slippers over there.’
Harry removed his shoes and followed her through the living room. They each sat down on an enormous wooden chair on the covered veranda. It was quiet and deserted in Lyder Sagens gate, only one parked car. But on the first floor of the house over the road Harry could see the outline of a man in an illuminated window.
‘That’s Greger,’ Kaja said. ‘He’s eighty now. He’s sat like that and followed everything that’s happened on the street since the war, I think. I like to believe he looks after me.’
‘Yes, we need that,’ Harry said, taking out a pack of cigarettes. ‘To believe someone is looking after us.’
‘Have you got a Greger as well?’
‘No,’ Harry said.
‘Can I have one?’
She laughed. ‘I smoke occasionally. It makes me… calmer, I think.’
‘Mm. Thought about what you’re going to do? After these forty-eight hours, I mean.’
She shook her head. ‘Back to Crime Squad. Feet on the table. Wait for a murder that is trivial enough for Kripos not to whisk it away from under our noses.’
Harry tapped out two cigarettes, put them between his lips, lit both and passed her one.
‘Now, Voyager,’ she said. ‘Hen… Hen… What was the name of the man who did that?’
‘Henreid,’ Harry said. ‘Paul Henreid.’
‘And the woman whose cigarette he lit?’
‘Killer film. Would you like to borrow a thicker jacket?’
‘No, thanks. Why are you sitting on the veranda by the way? It’s not exactly a tropical night.’
She held up a book. ‘My brain is sharper in cold air.’
Harry read the front cover. ‘Materialistic Monism. Hm. Long-forgotten fragments from philosophy studies spring to mind.’
‘Right. Materialism holds that everything is matter and energy. Everything that happens is a part of a larger calculation, a chain reaction, consequences of something that has already happened.’
‘And free will is illusory?’
‘Yep. Our actions are determined by our brain’s chemical composition, which is determined by who chose to have children with whom, who in turn are determined by their brain chemistry. And so on. Everything can be taken back to the big bang, for example, and even further back. Including the fact that this book came to be written, and what you’re thinking right now.’
‘I remember that bit,’ Harry nodded and blew smoke into the winter night. ‘Made me think of the meteorologist who said that if only he had all the relevant variables he could forecast all future weather.’
‘And we could prevent murders before they took place.’
‘And predict that cigarette-cadging policewomen would sit on cold verandas with expensive philosophy books.’
She laughed. ‘I didn’t buy the book myself, I found it on the shelf here.’ She pouted and sucked at the cigarette, and got smoke in her eyes. ‘I never buy books, I only borrow them. Or steal them.’
‘I don’t exactly see you as a thief.’
‘No one does, that’s why I’m never caught,’ she said, resting the cigarette on the ashtray.
Harry coughed. ‘And why do you pilfer?’
‘I only steal from people I know and who can afford it. Not because I’m greedy, but because I’m a bit tight. When I was studying, I nicked loo rolls from the university toilet. By the way, have you thought of the title of the Fante book that was so good?’
‘Text me when you remember it.’
Harry chuckled. ‘Sorry, I don’t text.’
Harry shrugged. ‘I don’t know. I don’t like the concept. Like Aborigines who don’t want their photo taken because they think they’ll lose a bit of their souls, maybe.’
‘I know!’ she said with enthusiasm. ‘You don’t want to leave traces. Tracks. Irrefutable evidence of who you are. You want to know that you are going to disappear, utterly and totally.’
‘You’ve hit the nail on the head,’ Harry said drily, and inhaled. ‘Do you want to go back in?’ He nodded towards her hands which she had put between her thighs and the chair.
‘No, it’s just my hands that are cold,’ she smiled. ‘Warm heart though. What about you?’
Harry gazed across the garden fence, onto the road. At the car standing there. ‘What about me?’
‘Are you like me? Kind, light-fingered and tight-fisted?’
‘No, I’m evil, honest and tight-fisted. What about your husband?’
It came out harder than Harry had intended, as though he wanted to put her in her place because she… because she what? Because she was sitting here and was beautiful and liked the same things as he did and lent him slippers belonging to a man she pretended didn’t exist.
‘What about him?’ she asked with a tiny smile.
‘Well, he’s got big feet,’ Harry heard himself say, feeling an urgent desire to bang his head on the table.
She laughed out loud. The laughter trilled into the dark Fagerborg silence that lay over the houses, gardens and garages. The garages. Everyone had a garage. There was only one car parked in the street. Of course there could be a thousand reasons for it being there.
‘I don’t have a husband,’ she said.
‘So it’s a pair of my brother’s slippers you’re wearing on your feet.’
‘And the shoes on the steps…?’
‘… are also my brother’s, and are there because I suspect that men’s size forty-six and a half shoes have a deterrent effect on evil men with sinister plans.’
She sent Harry a meaningful look. He chose to believe the ambiguity was not intended.
‘So your brother lives here?’
She shook her head. ‘He died. Ten years ago. It’s Daddy’s house. In the last years, when Even was studying at Blindern, he and Daddy lived here.’
‘He died soon after Even. And as I was already living here, I took over the house.’
Kaja drew her legs up onto the chair and rested her head on her knees. Harry gazed at the slim neck, the hollow where her pinned-up hair was taut and a few loose strands fell back onto her skin.
‘Do you often think about them?’ Harry asked.
She raised her head from her knees.
‘Mostly about Even,’ she said. ‘Daddy moved out when we were small, and Mummy lived in her own bubble, so Even became sort of both parents in one for me. He looked after me, encouraged me, brought me up, he was my role model. He could do no wrong in my eyes. When you’ve been as close to someone as Even and I were to each other, that closeness never wears off. Never.’
With a tentative cough, Kaja said: ‘How’s your father?’
Harry studied the cigarette glow.
‘Don’t you think it’s odd?’ he said. ‘Hagen giving us forty-eight hours. We could have cleared the office in two with ease.’
‘I suppose. Now you say so.’
‘Maybe he thought we could spend our final two days doing something useful.’
Kaja looked at him.
‘Not investigating the present murder case, of course. We’ll have to leave that to Kripos. But the Missing Persons Unit needs help, I hear.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Adele Vetlesen is a young woman who, to my knowedge, is not connected with any murder case.’
‘You think we should…?’
‘I think we should meet for work at seven tomorrow morning,’ Harry said. ‘And see if we can do something useful.’
Kaja Solness sucked on the cigarette again. Harry stubbed his out.
‘Time to go,’ he said. ‘Your teeth are chattering.’
On his way out he tried to see if there was anyone in the parked car, but it was impossible without going closer. And he chose not to go any closer.
In Oppsal the house was waiting for him. Big, empty and full of echoes.
He went to bed in the boy’s room and closed his eyes.
And dreamed the dream he so often had. He is standing by a marina in Sydney, a chain is hauled up, a poisonous jellyfish rises to the surface, it is not a jellyfish but red hair floating around a white face. Then came the second dream. The new one. It had first appeared in Hong Kong, just before Christmas. He is on his back staring up at a nail protruding from the wall, a face is impaled on it, a face, a sensitive-looking face with a neatly trimmed moustache. In the dream Harry has something in his mouth, something that feels as if it would blow his head to pieces. What was it, what was it? It was a promise. Harry twitched. Three times. Then he fell asleep.
‘So it was you who reported Adele Vetlesen missing,’ Kaja confirmed.
‘Yes,’ said the young man sitting in front of her at People amp; Coffee. ‘We lived together. She didn’t come home. I felt I had to do something.’
‘Of course,’ Kaja said with a glance at Harry. It was half past eight. It had taken them thirty minutes to drive from Oslo to Drammen after the trio’s morning meeting which had ended in Harry discharging Bjorn Holm. Holm hadn’t said much, had expelled a deep sigh, washed his coffee cup and then driven back to Krimteknisk in Bryn to resume his work there.
‘Have you heard anything from Adele?’ the man asked, looking from Kaja to Harry.
‘No,’ Harry said. ‘Have you?’
The man shook his head and peered over his shoulder, at the counter, to make sure there weren’t any customers waiting. They perched on high bar stools in front of the window facing one of Drammen’s many squares, that is, an open area that was used as a car park. People amp; Coffee sold coffee and cakes at airport prices and tried to give the impression they belonged to an American chain, and indeed perhaps they did. The man Adele Vetlesen lived with, Geir Bruun, appeared to be around thirty, was unusually white with a shiny, perspiring crown and constantly wandering blue eyes. He worked at the place as a ‘barista’, a title that had attracted awe-inspiring respect in the nineties when coffee bars had first invaded Oslo. And it also involved making coffee, an art form which – the way Harry saw it – was primarily about avoiding obvious pitfalls. As a policeman, Harry used people’s intonation, diction, vocabulary and grammatical solecisms to place them. Geir Bruun neither dressed, nor combed his hair, nor behaved like a homosexual, but as soon as he opened his mouth, it was impossible to think of anything else. There was something about the rounding of the vowels, the tiny redundant lexical embellishments, the lisping that almost seemed feigned. Harry knew that the guy could be a die-hard hetero, but he had already decided that Katrine had jumped to a premature conclusion when she described Adele Vetlesen and Geir Bruun as living togther. They were just two people who had shared a city-centre flat in Drammen for economic reasons.
‘Yes, I have,’ Geir Bruun said in answer to Harry’s question. ‘I remember she went to some kind of mountain cabin in the autumn.’ He uttered this as though it were a concept he found fairly alien. ‘But that wasn’t where she disappeared.’
‘We know that,’ Kaja said. ‘Did she go there with anyone, and if so, do you know who?’
‘No idea. We didn’t talk about that sort of thing – it was enough to share a bathroom, if you know what I mean. She had her private life, I had mine. But I doubt she would have gone into the wilds on her own, if I may put it like that.’
‘Adele did very little on her own. I don’t see her in a cabin without a guy. But impossible to say who. She was – if I may be frank – a bit promiscuous. She had no female friends, though she compensated with male friends. Whom she kept apart. Adele didn’t live a double life so much as a quadruple life. Or thereabouts.’
‘So she was dishonest?’
‘Not necessarily. I remember she gave me advice on honest ways to finish with someone. She said that once while she was being shagged from behind she took a photo over her shoulder with her mobile, wrote the name of the guy, sent the photo and deleted the addressee. All in one swift operation.’ Geir Bruun’s face was expressionless.
‘Impressive,’ Harry said. ‘We know she paid for two people in the mountains. Could you give us the name of a male friend, so we could start our enquiries there?’
‘’Fraid I can’t,’ Geir Bruun said, ‘but when I reported her missing, you lot checked who she’d been talking to on the phone over the last few weeks.’
‘Which officers precisely?’
‘I don’t remember any names. Local police.’
‘Fine, we have a meeting at the police station now,’ Harry said, looking at his watch and getting up.
‘Why’, asked Kaja, who hadn’t moved, ‘did the police stop investigating the case? I don’t even recall reading about it in the newspapers.’
‘Don’t you know?’ the man said, signalling to two women with a pram that he would attend to them immediately. ‘She sent a postcard.’
‘Postcard?’ Harry said.
‘Yes. From Rwanda. Down in Africa.’
‘What did she write?’
‘It was very brief. She’d met her dream guy, and I would have to pay the rent on my own until she was back in March. The bitch.’
It was walking distance to the police station. An inspector with a squat pumpkin head and a name Harry forgot as soon as he heard it received them in a smoke-infested office, served them coffee in plastic cups that burned their fingers, and cast long looks at Kaja every time he considered himself unobserved.
He began by delivering a lecture about there being somewhere between five hundred and a thousand missing Norwegians at any one time. Sooner or later they would all turn up. If the police were to investigate every missing person case whenever there was suspicion of a criminal act or an accident, they wouldn’t have time for anything else. Harry stifled a yawn.
In Adele Vetlesen’s case they had even received a sign of life; they had it somewhere. The inspector got up and stuck his pumpkin head into a drawer of hanging files and reappeared with a postcard, which he laid before them. There was a photo of a conical mountain with a cloud around the peak, but no text to explain what the mountain was called or where in the world it was. The handwriting was scratchy, dreadful. Harry could just decipher the signature. Adele. There was a stamp bearing the name Rwanda and the envelope was postmarked Kigali, which Harry seemed to recall was the capital.
‘Her mother confirmed it was her daughter’s handwriting,’ the inspector said and explained that at the mother’s insistence they had checked and found Adele Vetlesen’s name on the passenger list of a Brussels Airlines flight to Kigali via Entebbe in Uganda on the 25th of November. Furthermore, they had carried out a hotel search through Interpol, and a hotel in Kigali – the inspector read out his notes: the Gorilla Hotel! – had indeed had an Adele Vetlesen down as a guest the same night she arrived by plane. The only reason Adele Vetlesen was still on the missing persons list was that they didn’t know precisely where she was now, and that a postcard from abroad did not technically change her status as missing.
‘Besides, we’re not exactly talking about the civilised part of the world here,’ the inspector said, throwing up his arms. ‘Huti, Tutsu, or whatever they’re called. Machetes. Two million dead. Get me?’
Harry saw Kaja close her eyes as the inspector with the schoolmaster’s voice and a string of interpolated dependent clauses explained how little life was worth in Africa, where human trafficking was hardly an unknown phenomenon, and how in theory Adele could have been abducted and forced to write a postcard, since blacks would pay a year’s salary to sink their teeth into a blonde Norwegian girl, wouldn’t they.
Harry examined the postcard and tried to block out the pumpkin man’s voice. A conical mountain with a cloud around the peak. He glanced up when the inspector with the forgettable name cleared his throat.
‘Yes, now and then you can understand them, can’t you?’ he said with a conspiratorial smile directed at Harry.
Harry got up and said work was waiting in Oslo. Would Drammen be so kind as to scan the postcard and email it on for them?
‘To a handwriting expert?’ the inspector asked, clearly displeased, and studied the address Kaja had noted down for him.
‘Volcano expert,’ Harry said. ‘I’d like you to send him the picture and ask if he can identify the mountain.’
‘Identify the mountain?’
‘He’s a specialist. He travels around examining them.’
The inspector shrugged, but nodded. Then he accompanied them to the main door. Harry asked if they had checked whether there had been any calls on Adele’s mobile phone since she left.
‘We know our job, Hole,’ the inspector said. ‘No outgoing calls. But you can imagine the mobile network in a country like Rwanda…’
‘Actually I can’t,’ Harry said. ‘But then I’ve never been there.’
‘A postcard!’ Kaja groaned when they were standing on the square by the unmarked police car they had requisitioned from Police HQ. ‘Plane ticket and hotel record in Rwanda! Why couldn’t your computer freak in Bergen have found that, so we wouldn’t have had to waste half a day in fucking Drammen?’
‘Thought that would put you in a great mood,’ Harry said, unlocking the door. ‘Got yourself a new friend, and perhaps Adele isn’t dead after all.’
‘Are you in a great mood?’ Kaja asked.
Harry looked at the car keys. ‘Feel like driving?’
Strangely enough, none of the speed boxes flashed, and they were back in Oslo in twenty minutes flat.
They agreed they would take the light things, the office equipment and the desk drawers, to Police HQ first, and wait with the heavy things until the day after. They put them on the same trolley Harry had used when they were fitting out their office.
‘Have you been given an office yet?’ Kaja asked when they were halfway down the culvert. Her voice cast long echoes.
Harry shook his head. ‘We’ll put the things in yours.’
‘Have you applied for an office?’ she asked, and stopped.
Harry kept going.
‘You asked about my father,’ he said.
‘I didn’t mean to…’
‘No, of course not. But he hasn’t got much time left. OK? After that I’ll be off again. I just wanted to…’
‘Wanted to what?’
‘Have you heard of the Dead Policemen’s Society?’
‘What is it?’
‘People who worked at Crime Squad. People I cared about. I don’t know if I owe them something, but that’s the tribe.’
‘It’s not much, but it’s all I have, Kaja. They’re the only ones I have any reason to feel loyalty towards.’
‘A police unit?’
Harry started walking. ‘I know, and it’ll probably pass. The world will go on. It’s just restructuring, isn’t it? The stories are in the walls, and now the walls are coming down. You and yours will have to make new stories, Kaja.’
‘Are you drunk?’
Harry laughed. ‘I’m just beaten. Finished. And it’s fine. Absolutely fine.’
His phone rang. It was Bjorn.
‘I left my Hank biography on my desk,’ he said.
‘I’ve got it here,’ Harry said.
‘What a sound. Are you in a church?’
‘Jeez, you’ve got coverage there?’
‘Seems we’ve got a better phone network than Rwanda. I’ll leave the book in reception.’
‘That’s the second time I’ve heard Rwanda and mobile phones mentioned in the same breath today. Tell them I’ll pick it up tomorrow, OK?’
‘What did you hear about Rwanda?’
‘It was something Beate said. About coltan – you know the bits of metal we found on the teeth of the two with the stab wounds in their mouths.’
‘Nothing. What’s that got to do with Rwanda?’
‘Coltan’s used in mobile phones. It’s a rare metal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has almost the entire world supply. Snag is that the deposits are in the war zone where no one keeps an eye on it, so smart operators are pinching it in all the chaos and shipping it over to Rwanda.’
Harry was about to pocket his phone when he noticed he had an unread text message. He opened it. Mt Nyiragongo. Last eruption 2002. One of few volcanoes with lava lake in crater. In DR Congo by Goma. Felix.
Goma. Harry stood watching the drips from a pipe in the ceiling. That was where Kluit’s instruments of torture originated.
‘What’s up?’ Kaja asked.
‘Ustaoset,’ Harry said. ‘And the Congo.’
‘And what’s that supposed to mean?’
‘I don’t know,’ Harry said. ‘But I’m a non-believer as far as coincidences are concerned.’ He grabbed the trolley and swung it round.
‘What are you doing?’ Kaja asked.
‘U-turn,’ Harry said. ‘We’ve still got more than twenty-four hours left.’
It was an unusually mild evening in Hong Kong. The skyscrapers cast long shadows over The Peak, some almost as far as the house where Herman Kluit was sitting on the terrace with a blood-red Singapore sling in one hand and the telephone in the other. He was listening while watching the lights in the queues of traffic twisting and turning like fireworms way below.
He liked Harry Hole, had liked him from the first moment he had clapped eyes on the tall, athletic, but obviously alcoholic Norwegian stepping into Happy Valley to put his last money on the wrong horse. There was something about the aggressive expression, the arrogant bearing, the alert body language that reminded him of himself as a young mercenary soldier in Africa. Herman Kluit had fought everywhere, on all sides, serving the paymasters. In Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Liberia. All countries with dark pasts and even darker futures. But nowhere darker than the country about which Harry had asked. The Congo. That was where they had eventually found the vein of gold. In the form of diamonds. And cobalt. And coltan. The village chief belonged to the Mai Mai, who thought water made them invulnerable. But otherwise he was a sensible man. There was nothing you couldn’t fix in Africa with a bundle of notes or – at a pinch – a supply of Kalashnikovs. In the course of one year Herman Kluit became a rich man. In the course of three he was wealthy beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Once a month they had travelled to the closest town, Goma, and slept in beds instead of on the jungle floor where a carpet of mysterious bloodsucking flies emerged from holes every night and you woke up like a half-eaten corpse. Goma. Black lava, black money, black beauties, black sins. Half of the men in the jungle had contracted malaria, the rest sicknesses with which no white doctor was conversant and which were subsumed under the generic term ‘jungle fever’. That was the affliction Herman Kluit suffered from, and even though it left him in peace for long periods, he was never completely free. The only remedy Herman Kluit knew of was Singapore sling. He had been introduced to the drink in Goma by a Belgian who owned a fantastic house that had reportedly been built by King Leopold in the period when the country was known as the Congo Free State and was the monarch’s private playpen and treasure chest. The house was situated down by the banks of Lake Kivu with women and sunsets so beautiful that for a while you could forget the jungle, Mai Mai and earth flies.
It was the Belgian who had shown Herman Kluit the king’s little treasury in the cellar. There he had collected everything, from the world’s most advanced clocks, rare weapons and imaginative instruments of torture to gold nuggets, unpolished diamonds and preserved human heads. That was where Herman Kluit had first come face to face with what they called a Leopold’s apple. By all accounts it had been developed by one of the king’s Belgian engineers to use on recalcitrant tribal chiefs who would not say where they found their diamonds. The earlier method had been to use buffaloes. They covered the chief in honey, tied him to a tree and brought along a captured forest buffalo, which began to lick off the honey. The point of this was that the buffalo’s tongue was so coarse that it licked off skin and flesh with it. But it took time to catch a buffalo, and they could be hard to stop once they had started. Hence Leopold’s apple. Not that it was particularly effective from a torturer’s angle – after all, the apple prevented the prisoner from speaking. But the effect on the natives who witnessed what happened when the interrogator pulled the string for the second time was exemplary. The next man asked to open wide couldn’t speak fast enough.
Herman Kluit nodded to his Filipina housemaid for her to take away the empty glass.
‘You remember rightly, Harry,’ Herman Kluit said. ‘It’s still on my mantelpiece. Fortunately I do not know if it has ever been used. A souvenir. It reminds me of what there is in the heart of darkness. That’s always useful, Harry. No, I’ve neither seen it nor heard of it being used anywhere else. It’s a complicated piece of technology, you know, with all these springs and needles. Requires a special alloy. Coltan is correct. Yes indeed. Very rare. The person from whom I purchased my apple, Eddie Van Boorst, claimed only twenty-four had been made, and that he had twenty-two of them, one of which was twenty-four-carat gold. That’s right, there are twenty-four needles as well. How did you know? Apparently the number twenty-four had something to do with the engineer’s sister, I don’t recall what. But that may also have been something Van Boorst said to push up the price. He’s Belgian, isn’t he.’
Kluit’s laughter transmuted into coughing. Damned fever.
‘However, he ought to have some idea of where the apples are. He lived in a splendid house in Goma, in north Kivu, by the border to Rwanda. The address?’ Kluit coughed again. ‘Goma gets a new street every day, and now and then half the town is buried under lava, so addresses don’t exist, Harry. But the post office has a list of all the whites. No, I have no idea if he still lives in Goma. Or whether he is still alive, for that matter. Life expectancy in the Congo is thirty-something, Harry. For whites also. Besides, the town is as good as under siege. Exactly. No, of course you haven’t heard of the war. No one has.’
Dumbfounded, Gunnar Hagen stared at Harry and leaned across his desk.
‘You want to go to Rwanda?’ he said.
‘Just a flying visit,’ Harry said. ‘Two days including the flights.’
‘To investigate what?’
‘What I said. A missing persons case. Adele Vetlesen. Kaja will go to Ustaoset to see if she can find out who Adele was travelling with before she disappeared.’
‘Why can’t you just ring up and ask them to check the guest book?’
‘Because the cabin in Havass is self-service,’ said Kaja, who had settled in the chair next to Harry’s. ‘But anyone who stays in a Tourist Association cabin has to sign the guest book and state their destination. It’s compulsory because if anyone’s reported missing in the mountains, the search party will know where to concentrate their efforts. I’m hoping Adele and her companion gave a full name and address.’
Gunnar Hagen scratched his wreath of hair with both hands. ‘And none of this has anything to do with the other murders?’
Harry stuck out his bottom lip. ‘Not as far as I can see, boss. Can you?’
‘Hm. And why should I decimate the travel budget for such an extravagant trip?’
‘Because human trafficking is a priority,’ Kaja said. ‘Hence the Minister of Justice’s statement to the press earlier this week.’
‘Anyway,’ Harry said, stretching upwards and entwining his fingers behind his head, ‘it may well be that other things come to light in the process, things which might lead to us cracking other cases.’
Gunnar Hagen scrutinised his inspector thoughtfully.
‘Boss,’ Harry added.
A sign on an unassuming yellow station building announced that they were in Ustaoset. Kaja checked that they had arrived on schedule, 10.44. She looked out. The sun was shining on the snow-covered plains and porcelain-white mountains. Apart from a clump of houses and a two-storey hotel, Ustaoset was bare rock. To be fair, there were small cabins dotted around and the odd confused shrub, but it was still a wilderness. Beside the station building, almost on the platform itself, stood a lonely SUV with the engine idling. From the train it had seemed as if there wasn’t a breath of wind. But when Kaja alighted, the wind seemed to pierce right through her clothing: special thermal underwear, anorak, ski boots.
A figure jumped out of the SUV and came towards her. He had the low winter sun behind him. Kaja squinted. Light, confident walk, a brilliant smile and an outstretched hand. She stiffened. It was Even.
‘Aslak Krongli,’ the man said, giving her hand a firm squeeze. ‘County Officer.’
‘It’s cold, yes? Not like in the lowlands, eh?’
‘Exactly,’ Kaja said, returning the smile.
‘I can’t join you at the cabin today. There’s been an avalanche. A tunnel’s closed, and we have to redirect traffic.’ Without asking he took her skis, swung them over his shoulder and began to walk towards the SUV. ‘But I’ve got the man who keeps an eye on the mountain cabins to drive you there. Odd Utmo. Is that alright?’
‘Fine,’ said Kaja, who was only too pleased. It meant perhaps she could escape all the questions about why Oslo Police were suddenly interested in a missing persons case from Drammen.
Krongli drove her the five hundred metres or so to the hotel. There was a man sitting on a yellow snowmobile in the icy square in front of the entrance. He was wearing a red snowsuit, a leather hat with ear flaps, a scarf around his mouth and large goggles.
When he pushed up the goggles and mumbled his name, Kaja saw that one eye was a white, transparent membrane, as though there had been a milk spillage. The other eye studied her from top to toe without embarrassment. The man’s erect posture could have belonged to a youngster, but his face was old.
‘Kaja. Thanks for turning up at such short notice,’ she said.
‘I’m paid,’ Odd Utmo said, looked at his watch, pulled down the scarf and spat. Kaja saw the glint of an orthodontic brace between the snus-stained teeth. The gobbet of tobacco made a black star on the ice.
‘Hope you’ve had a bite to eat and a piss.’
Kaja laughed, but Utmo had already straddled the snowmobile and turned his back on her.
She looked at Krongli, who in the meantime had firmly stowed the skis and poles under the straps so they now spanned the length of the snowmobile, together with Utmo’s skis and a bundle of what looked like red sticks of dynamite plus a rifle with telescopic sights.
Krongli shrugged and flashed his boyish smile again. ‘Good luck, hope you find…’
The rest was drowned by the roar of the engine. Kaja quickly mounted. To her relief she saw handles she could hold on to, so that she wouldn’t have to cling to the white-eyed old man. The exhaust fumes surrounded them; then they started with a jerk.
Utmo stood with his knees like shock absorbers and used his body weight to balance the snowmobile, which he guided past the hotel, over a snowdrift into the soft snow and diagonally up the first gentle slope. On reaching the top with a view to the north, Kaja saw a boundless expanse of white spread out before them. Utmo turned with an enquiring nod. Kaja nodded back that everything was OK. Then he accelerated. Kaja watched the buildings disappear through the fountain of snow spraying off the drive belts.
Kaja had often heard people say that snowy plains made them think of deserts. It made her think of the days and nights with Even on his ocean racer.
The snowmobile sliced through the vast, empty landscape. The combination of snow and wind had erased, smoothed over, levelled the contours until they were one huge ocean in which the tall mountain, Hallingskarvet, towered like a menacing monster wave. There were no sudden movements; the weight of the snowmobile and the softness of the snow made all movements gentle, cushioned. Kaja rubbed her nose and cheeks carefully to ensure enough blood was circulating. She had seen what even relatively minor frostbite could do to faces. The engine’s monotonous roar and the terrain’s reassuring uniformity had lulled her into a drowsy state until the engine died and they came to a standstill. She woke up and looked at her watch. Her first thought was that the engine had cut out and they were at least a forty-five-minute drive from civilisation. How far was it on skis? Three hours? Five? She had no idea. Utmo had already jumped off and was loosening the skis from the scooter.
‘Is there something wrong…?’ she began, but stopped when Utmo stood up and pointed to the little valley in front of them.
‘Havass cabin,’ he said.
Kaja squinted through her sunglasses. And, indeed, at the foot of the mountain face she saw a small, black cabin.
‘Why don’t we drive…?’
‘Because people are stupid, and that’s why we have to creep up on the cabin.’
‘Creep?’ Kaja said, hurriedly clipping on her skis as Utmo had done.
He pointed the pole to the side of the mountain. ‘If you drive the scooter into such a narrow valley, sound ricochets to and fro. Loosens new snow…’
‘Avalanche,’ Kaja said. She remembered something her father had told her after one of his trips to the Alps. More than sixty thousand troops had died in avalanches there during the Second World War, and most of them had been caused by sound waves from artillery fire.
Utmo stopped for a moment and faced her. ‘These nature freaks from town think they’re being clever when they build cabins in sheltered areas. But it’s just a question of time before they’re covered in snow, too.’
‘The Havass cabin has been here only three years. This year is the first winter with decent avalanche snow. And soon there’s going to be more.’
He pointed westwards. Kaja shielded her eyes. On the snowy horizon she could see what he meant. Heavy, grey-white cumulus clouds were building giant mushroom formations against the blue background.
‘Going to snow all week,’ said Utmo, unhitching the rifle from the snowmobile and hanging it over his shoulder. ‘If I were you, I’d hurry. And don’t shout.’
They entered the valley in silence, and Kaja felt the temperature fall as they reached the shade and the cold filled the depressions in the ground.
They undid their skis by the black timber cabin, rested them against the wall, and Utmo took a key from his pocket and inserted it into the lock.
‘How do overnight guests get in?’ Kaja asked.
‘They buy a skeleton key. Fits all four hundred and fifty Tourist Association cabins nationwide.’ He twisted the key, pressed down the handle and pushed the door. Nothing happened. He cursed under his breath, placed his shoulder against the door and shoved. It came away from the frame with a shrill scream.
‘Cabins shrink in the cold,’ he muttered.
Inside it was pitch black and smelt of paraffin and a wood-burning stove. Kaja inspected the cabin. She knew the lodging arrangements were very simple. You came, entered details in the guest book, took a bed, or a mattress if it was crowded, lit the fire, cooked your own food in the kitchen where there was a stove and cooking utensils, or – if you used the food provided in the cupboards, you put some money in a tin. You paid for your stay in the same tin or you filled in a bank authorisation slip. All payments were a matter for your own conscience and moral integrity.
The cabin had four north-facing bedrooms with four bunk beds in each. The sitting room faced south and was kitted out in traditional manner, that is, with solid pine furniture. There was a large open fireplace for a homely effect and a wood burner for more efficient heating. Kaja calculated that there was seating space for twelve to fifteen people around the table, and sleeping space for double that if people squeezed up and used the floor and mattresses. She visualised the light from candles and the fire flickering over familiar and unfamiliar faces as conversation covered the day’s skiing and the morrow’s plans over a beer or a glass of wine. Even’s ruddy complexion smiled at her, and he toasted her from one of the darkened corners.
‘The guest book’s in the kitchen,’ Utmo said, pointing to one of the doors. Still standing by the front door with hat and gloves on, he seemed impatient. Kaja was holding the door handle and about to press when an image flashed into her mind. County Officer Krongli. He had looked similar. She had known the thought would reappear, she just hadn’t known when.
‘Can you open the door for me?’ she said.
‘It’s stuck,’ Kaja said. ‘The cold.’
She closed her eyes as she listened to him approach, heard the door open without a sound, felt his astonished gaze on her. Then she opened her eyes and went in.
There was a smell of slightly rancid fat in the kitchen. Her pulse raced as her eyes skimmed over the surfaces, cupboards. She spotted the black, leather-bound register on the worktop under the window. It was attached to the wall by a blue nylon cord.
Kaja breathed in. She walked over to the book. Flicked through.
Page after page of handwritten names, scribbled by the guests. Most had observed the rule and noted down their next destination.
‘In fact, I’d been going to come here over the weekend to check the book for you,’ she heard Utmo say behind her. ‘But obviously the police couldn’t wait, could they.’
‘No,’ said Kaja, thumbing through the dates. November. 6 November. 8 November. She flicked back. And forward again. It wasn’t there. 7 November was gone. She laid the book flat. The jagged edges of the torn sheet stood upright. Someone had taken it.
The airport at Kigali, Rwanda, was small, modern and surprisingly well organised. However, it was Harry’s experience that international airports said little or nothing about the country in which they were situated. In Mumbai, India, there was total calm and efficiency; at JFK in New York, paranoia and chaos. The passport queue took a tiny lurch forward, and Harry followed. Despite the pleasant temperature, he could feel sweat trickling down between his shoulder blades under the thin cotton shirt. He thought again about the figures he had seen at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam where the delayed Oslo plane had landed. Harry had worked up a sweat running through the corridors, the alphabet and the ever larger numbers of the gates to catch the flight to Kampala, Uganda. As corridors crossed he had seen something out of the corner of his eye. A figure that had seemed vaguely familiar. He had been looking into the light and the figure was too far away for him to make out the face. Once on board the plane, the last passenger, Harry had concluded the patently obvious: it had not been her. What were the chances of it happening? There was no chance the boy next to her had been Oleg. He couldn’t have grown that much.
Harry stepped forward to the window, presented his passport, landing card, copy of the visa application he had printed off the Net and the crisp sixty dollars the visa had cost.
‘Business?’ the passport official asked, and Harry met his eyes. The man was tall, thin and his skin so dark that it reflected light. Probably Tutsi, Harry thought. They controlled the national borders now.
‘The Congo,’ Harry said, then used the local name to distinguish the two Congo countries.
‘Congo Kinshasa,’ the passport official corrected.
He pointed to the landing card Harry had filled in on the plane. ‘Says here you’re staying at Gorilla Hotel in Kigali.’
‘Just tonight,’ Harry said. ‘Then I’m going to the Congo tomorrow, one night in Goma and then back here and home. It’s a shorter drive than from Kinshasa.’
‘Have a pleasant stay in the Congo, busy man,’ the uniformed official said with a hearty laugh, smacked the stamp down on the passport and returned it.
Half an hour later Harry filled in the hotel registration card at Gorilla, signed it and was given a key attached to a wooden gorilla. When Harry went to bed it was eighteen hours since he had left his at home in Oppsal. He stared at the fan howling at the foot of the bed. It provided hardly a puff of air even though the blades were rotating at a hysterical speed. He wasn’t going to be able to sleep.
The driver asked Harry to call him Joe. Joe was Congolese, spoke fluent French and rather more halting English. He had been hired by contacts at a Norwegian aid organisation based in Goma.
‘Eight hundred thousand,’ Joe said, guiding the Land Rover along a potholed but perfectly navigable tarmac road winding between green meadows and mountain slopes cultivated from top to bottom. Occasionally, he was charitable and braked so as not to run down people walking, cycling, wheeling and carrying goods at the edge of the road, but as a rule they made a life-saving leap at the very last second.
‘They kill eight hundred thousand in just few weeks in 1994. The Hutus invade their kind, old neighbours and cut them down with machetes because they Tutsis. The propaganda on the radio say that if your husband is Tutsi it is your duty as Hutu to kill him. Cut down the tall trees. Many flee along this road…’ Joe pointed out of the window. ‘Bodies pile up. Some places it is impossible to pass. Good times for vultures.’
They drove on in silence.
They passed two men carrying a big cat bound to a pole by its legs. Children were dancing and cheering beside it and sticking pins into the dead animal. The coat was sun-coloured with patches of shade.
‘Hunters?’ Harry asked.
Joe shook his head, glanced in the mirror and answered in a mixture of English and French: ‘Hit by car, je crois. That one is almost impossible to hunt. It is rare, has large territory, only hunts at night. Hides and blends into environs during the day. I think it is very lonely animal, Harry.’
Harry watched men and women working in the fields. At several points there was heavy machinery and men repairing the road. Down in a valley he saw a motorway under construction. In a field children in blue school uniforms were kicking a football about and shouting.
‘Rwanda is good,’ Joe said.
Two and a half hours later Joe pointed through the windscreen. ‘Lake Kivu. Very nice, very deep.’
The surface of the huge expanse of water seemed to reflect a thousand suns. The country on the other side was the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mountains rose on all sides. A single white cloud encircled the peak of one of them.
‘Not much cloud,’ Joe said as if intuiting what Harry was thinking. ‘The killer mountain. Nyiragongo.’
An hour later they had passed the border and were driving into Goma. On the roadside an emaciated man in a torn jacket was sitting and staring ahead through desperate, crazed eyes. Joe steered the vehicle carefully between the craters in the muddy path. A military jeep was in front of them. The swaying soldier manning the machine gun looked at them with cold, weary eyes. Above them roared aeroplane engines.
‘UN,’ Joe said. ‘More guns and grenades. Nkunda come closer to the city. Very strong. Many people escape now. Refugees. Maybe Monsieur Van Boorst, too, eh? I not see him long time.’
‘You know him?’
‘Everybody know Mr Van. But he has Ba-Maguje in him.’
‘Un mauvais esprit. A demon. He makes you thirsty for alcohol. And take away your emotions.’
The air-conditioning unit was blowing cold air. The sweat was running down between Harry’s shoulder blades.
They had stopped midway between two rows of shacks, in what Harry realised was a kind of city centre in Goma. People hastened to and fro on the almost impassable path between the shops. Black boulders were piled up alongside the houses and served as foundations. The ground looked like stiffened black icing and grey dust whirled up in the air that stank of rotten fish.
‘La,’ Joe said, pointing to the door of the only brick house in the row. ‘I wait in the car.’
Harry noticed a couple of men stop in the street as he exited the car. They gave him the neutral, dangerous gaze that relayed no warning. Men who knew that acts of aggression were more effective without a warning. Harry headed straight for the door without looking either side, showed that he knew what he was doing there, where he should go. He knocked. Once. Twice. Three times. Bollocks! Bloody long way to come just to The door opened a fraction.
A wrinkled white face with questioning eyes stared at him.
‘Eddie Van Boorst?’ Harry asked.
‘Il est mort,’ said the man in a voice so hoarse it sounded like a death rattle.
Harry remembered enough school French to understand that the man was claiming Van Boorst was dead. He tried in English. ‘My name is Harry Hole. I was given Van Boorst’s name by Herman Kluit in Hong Kong. I’m interested in a Leopold’s apple.’
The man blinked twice. Stuck his head out of the door and looked left and right. Then he opened the door a little more. ‘Entrez,’ he said, motioning Harry in.
Harry ducked beneath the low door frame and just managed to bend his knees in time; the floor inside was twenty centimetres lower.
There was a smell of incense. As well as something else, familiar – the sweet stench of an old man who had been drinking for several days.
Harry’s eyes became used to the dark, and he discovered that the small, frail old man was wearing an elegant, burgundy silk dressing gown.
‘Scandinavian accent,’ said Van Boorst in Hercule Poirot English and placed a cigarette in a yellowing holder between his thin lips. ‘Let me guess. Definitely not Danish. Could be Swedish. But I think Norwegian. Yes?’
A cockroach showed its antennae through a crack in the wall behind him.
‘Mm. An expert on accents?’
‘A mere pastime,’ said Van Boorst, flattered, pleased. ‘For small nations like Belgium you have to learn to look outwards, not inwards. And how is Herman?’
‘Fine,’ Harry said, turning to his right and seeing two pairs of bored eyes looking at him. One from a photo above the bed in the corner. A framed portrait of a person with a long grey beard, powerful nose, short hair, epaulettes, chain and sword. King Leopold, unless Harry was much mistaken. The other pair of eyes belonged to the woman lying on her side in the bed with only a blanket draped over her hips. The light from the window above her fell on her small, supple young girl’s breasts. She responded to Harry’s nod with a fleeting smile that revealed a large gold tooth among all the white ones. She couldn’t have been more than twenty. On the wall behind the slim waist Harry glimpsed a bolt hammered into the cracked plaster. From the bolt dangled a pair of pink handcuffs.
‘My wife,’ said the little Belgian. ‘Well, one of them.’
‘Mistress Van Boorst?’
‘Something of that kind. You want to buy? You have money?’
‘First I want to see what you’ve got,’ Harry said.
Eddie Van Boorst went to the door, opened it a crack and peered outside. Shut it and locked up. ‘Only got your driver with you?’
Van Boorst puffed on his cigarette while studying Harry through the folds of skin that gathered when he squinted.
Then he went to a corner of the room, kicked away the carpet, bent down and pulled at an iron ring. A trapdoor opened. The Belgian waved Harry down into the cellar first. Harry assumed it was a precaution based on experience, and did as he was told. A ladder led into pitch darkness. Harry reached solid ground after only the seventh rung. Then a light was switched on.
Harry looked around the room; the ceiling was full height and there was a level cement floor. Shelves and cupboards covered three of the walls. On the shelves were the day-to-day products: well-used Glock pistols, his Smith amp; Wesson. 38, boxes of ammunition, a Kalashnikov. Harry had never held the famous Russian automatic rifle known officially as the AK-47. He stroked the wooden stock.
‘An original from the first year of production, 1947,’ Van Boorst said.
‘Seems like everyone down here has got one,’ Harry said. ‘The most popular cause of death in Africa, I’ve heard.’
Van Boorst nodded. ‘For two simple reasons. Firstly when the Communist countries started exporting the Kalashnikov here after the Cold War, the gun cost as much as a fat chicken in peacetime. And no more than a hundred dollars in wartime. Secondly, it works, no matter what you do with it, and that’s important in Africa. In Mozambique they like their Kalashnikovs so much it’s on their national flag.’
Harry’s eyes stopped at the letters discreetly stamped on a black case.
‘Is that what I think it is?’ Harry asked.
‘Marklin,’ said Van Boorst. ‘A rare rifle. It was manufactured in very limited numbers as it was a fiasco. Much too heavy and large a calibre. Used to hunt elephants.’
‘And humans,’ Harry said softly.
‘Do you know the weapon?’
‘World’s best telescopic sights. Not exactly something you need to hit an elephant at a hundred metres. Perfect for an assassination.’ Harry ran his fingers along the case as the memories streamed back. ‘Yes, I know it.’
‘You can have it cheap. Thirty thousand euros.’
‘I’m not after a rifle this time.’ Harry turned to the shelving unit in the middle of the room. Grotesque white wooden masks grimaced at him from the shelves.
‘The Mai Mai tribe’s spiritual masks,’ said Van Boorst. ‘They think that if they dip themselves in holy water, the enemy’s bullets cannot hurt them. Because the bullets will also turn to H2O. The Mai Mai guerrillas went to war against the government army with bows and arrows, shower hats on their heads and bath plugs as amulets. I am not kidding you, monsieur. Naturally, they were mown down. But they like water, the Mai Mai do. And white masks. And their enemies’ hearts and kidneys. Lightly grilled with mashed corn.’
‘Mm,’ Harry said. ‘I hadn’t expected that such a basic house would have such a full cellar.’
Van Boorst chuckled. ‘Cellar? This is the ground floor. Or was. Before the eruption three years ago.’
Everything fell into place for Harry. Black boulders, black icing. The floor upstairs that was lower than the street.
‘Lava,’ Harry said.
Van Boorst nodded. ‘It flowed straight through the centre and took my house by Lake Kivu. All the wooden houses around here burned to the ground; this brick house was the only one left standing, but was half buried in lava.’ He pointed to the wall. ‘There you can see the front door to what was street level three years ago. I bought the house and just put in a new door where you entered.’
Harry nodded. ‘Lucky the lava didn’t burn down the door and fill this floor too.’
‘As you can see, the windows and doors are in the wall facing away from Nyiragongo. It’s not the first time. The bloody volcano spews lava on this town every ten or twenty years.’
Harry cocked an eyebrow. ‘And still people move back?’
Van Boorst shrugged. ‘Welcome to Africa. But the volcano is bloody useful. If you want to get rid of a troublesome corpse – which is a fairly normal problem in Goma – you can of course sink it in Lake Kivu. But it is still down there. Whereas if you use Nyiragongo… People often think that volcanoes have these red-hot, bubbling lava lakes at the bottom, but they do not. None of them. Apart from Nyiragongo. A thousand degrees centigrade. Drop something down there and, pouf, it is gone. It returns as a gas. It is the only chance anyone in Goma has to reach heaven.’ He broke into a hacking laugh. ‘I witnessed an overenthusiastic coltan-hunter drop a tribal chief ’s daughter on a chain into the crater up there once. The chief wouldn’t sign the papers giving the hunters the right to mine on their territory. Her hair caught fire at twenty metres above the lava. At ten metres above, the girl was burning like a candle. And five metres further down she was dripping. I am not exaggerating. Skin, flesh, it flowed off her bones… Is this what you were interested in?’ Van Boorst had opened a cupboard and taken out a metal ball. It was shiny, perforated with tiny apertures and smaller than a tennis ball. From a slightly larger opening there hung a wire loop. It was the same instrument Harry had seen at Herman Kluit’s house.
‘Does it work?’ Harry asked.
Van Boorst sighed. He stuck his little finger in the loop and pulled. There was a loud bang and the ball jumped in the Belgian’s hand. Harry stared. From the holes in the ball were protruding what looked like antennae.
‘May I?’ he asked, and put out his hand. Van Boorst passed him the ball and watched with great vigilance as Harry counted the antennae.
Harry nodded. ‘Twenty-four,’ he said.
‘Same as the number of apples made,’ said Van Boorst. ‘The number had some symbolic value for the engineer who designed and made it. It was the age of his sister when she took her own life.’
‘And how many of them have you got in your cupboard?’
‘Only eight. Including this piece de resistance in gold.’ He took out a ball which gleamed matt in the light from the electric bulb, then returned it to the cupboard. ‘But it is not for sale. You would have to kill me to get your paws on that one.’
‘So you’ve sold thirteen since Kluit bought his?’
‘And for ever increasing sums. It is a guaranteed investment, Monsieur Hole. Old instruments of torture have a loyal body of followers who are keen to pay, croyez-moi.’
‘I believe you,’ Harry said, trying to press down one of the antennae.
‘Spring-loaded,’ Van Boorst said. ‘Once the wire has been pulled, the victim will not be able to remove the apple from their mouth. Nor will anyone else for that matter. Do not take step two if you want to retract the circular ridges. Don’t pull the wire, please.’
‘Give it to me.’
Harry passed Van Boorst the ball. The Belgian carefully threaded a biro through the loop, held it horizontal and at the same height as the ball and then let go of the ball. As the wire became taut there was another bang. The Leopold’s apple jiggled fifteen centimetres below the biro and the sharp needles sticking out of each of the antennae glistened.
‘A faen,’ Harry swore in Norwegian.
The Belgian smiled. ‘The Mai Mai called the device “Blood of the Sun”. This sweet child has several names.’ He placed the apple on the table, put the biro in the opening where the wire came from, pushed hard, and the needles and antennae retracted with a bang, and the royal apple regained its smooth round shape.
‘Impressive,’ Harry said. ‘How much?’
‘Six thousand dollars,’ Van Boorst said. ‘Usually I add a bit each time, but you can have it for the same price I sold the last one.’
‘Why’s that?’ Harry asked, running his forefinger over the sleek metal.
‘Because you have come a long way,’ Van Boorst said, blowing cigarette smoke into the room. ‘And because I like your accent.’
‘Mm. And who was the last buyer?’
Van Boorst chuckled. ‘Just as no one will ever find out that you have been here, I will not tell you about my other customers. Does that not sound reassuring, monsieur…? See, I have already forgotten your name.’
Harry nodded. ‘Six hundred,’ he said.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Six hundred dollars.’
Van Boorst emitted the same brief chuckle. ‘Ridiculous. But the price you mention happens to be the price of a three-hour guided tour of the nature reserve where there are mountain gorillas. Would you prefer that, Monsieur Hole?’
‘You can keep the royal apple,’ Harry said, taking out a slim wad of twenty-dollar bills from his back pocket. ‘I’m offering you six hundred for information about who bought apples from you.’
He placed the wad on the table in front of Van Boorst. And on the top an ID card.
‘Norwegian police,’ Harry said. ‘At least two women have been killed by the product over which you have a monopoly.’
Van Boorst bent over the money and studied the ID card without touching either.
‘If that is the case I am truly sorry,’ he said, and it sounded as if his voice had become even more gravelly. ‘Believe me. But my personal security is probably worth more than six hundred dollars. If I were to talk openly about all the people who have shopped here my life expectancy would be…’
‘You should worry more about your life expectancy in a Congolese prison,’ Harry said.
Van Boorst laughed again. ‘Nice try, Hole. But the Chief of Police in Goma happens to be a personal acquaintance of mine, and anyway -’ he threw his arms in the air – ‘what have I done after all?’
‘What you have done is less interesting,’ Harry said, taking a photo out of his breast pocket. ‘The Norwegian state is one of the most important providers of aid to the Congo. If the Norwegian authorities ring Kinshasa, name you as a non-cooperative source of the murder weapon in a Norwegian double murder, what do you think will happen?’
Van Boorst was no longer smiling.
‘You won’t be falsely convicted of anything, gracious, no,’ Harry said. ‘You’ll just be on remand, which should not be confused with punishment. It’s the judicious confinement of a person while a case is being investigated and perhaps there are fears that evidence may have been tampered with. But it is prison nevertheless. And this investigation could take a long time. Have you ever seen the inside of a Congolese prison, Van Boorst? No, I suppose there are not many white men who have.’
Van Boorst pulled the dressing gown round him tighter. Eyed Harry while gnawing at the cigarette holder. ‘OK,’ he said, ‘a thousand dollars.’
‘Five hundred,’ Harry said.
‘Five? But you-’
‘Four,’ Harry said.
‘Done!’ Van Boorst shouted, raising his arms into the air. ‘What do you want to know?’
‘Everything,’ Harry said, leaning against the wall and producing a pack of cigarettes.
When, half an hour later, Harry stepped out of Van Boorst’s house and into Joe’s Land Rover, darkness had fallen.
‘The hotel,’ Harry said.
The hotel turned out to be right down by the lake. Joe warned Harry against swimming. Not because of the guinea parasite he would be unlikely to discover until one day a thin worm began to wriggle under his skin, but because of the methane gas that rose from the bottom in the form of large bubbles that could render him unconscious and precipitate drowning.
Harry sat on the balcony, looking down on two long-legged creatures walking stilt-like over the illuminated lawn. They looked like flamingos in peacock costume. On the floodlit tennis court two young black boys were playing with just two balls, both so ragged that they looked like rolled-up socks sailing to and fro across the semi-torn net. Every now and then aeroplanes thundered across the sky, above the hotel roof.
Harry heard the clink of bottles at the bar. It was exactly sixty-eight paces from where he was sitting. He had counted when he entered. He took out his phone and rang Kaja’s number.
She sounded happy to hear his voice. Happy anyway.
‘I’m snowbound in Ustaoset,’ she said. ‘It’s coming down horses and cows here, not cats and dogs. But at least I’ve been invited to dinner. And the guest book was interesting.’
‘The page for the day we’re interested in was missing.’
‘There you go. Did you check if-’
‘Yes, I checked if there were any fingerprints or if the writing had gone through to the next page.’ She giggled, and Harry guessed that she had had a couple of glasses of wine.
‘Mm. I was thinking more of-’
‘Yes, I checked what had been written the day before and after. But almost no one stays more than one night in such basic accommodation. Unless they’re snowed in. And the weather was clear on the 7th of November. But the officer up here has promised me that he’ll check the guest books at the surrounding cabins on the days before and after to see which guests might have stayed over at Havass on their trek.’
‘Good. Sounds like we’re getting warmer.’
‘Maybe. How about you?’
‘Bit cooler here, I’m afraid. I’ve found Van Boorst, but none of the fourteen customers he dealt with were Scandinavian. He was fairly sure. I have six names and addresses, but they’re all known collectors. Otherwise there were a few names he half remembered, a few descriptions, that’s all. There are two more apples, but Van Boorst happened to know they were still in the hands of a collector in Caracas. Did you check out Adele and her visa?’
‘I called the Rwandan consulate in Sweden. I have to confess I expected chaos but everything was bang on the button.’
‘The Congo’s small, straightforward big brother.’
‘They had a copy of Adele’s visa application, and the dates matched. The period covered by the visa is well out of date now, but of course they had no idea where she was. They told me to contact the immigration authorities in Kigali. I was given a number, tried it and was bounced around between offices like a pinball, until I was put through to an English-speaking know-all who pointed out that there was no cooperation agreement with Rwanda in that area, regretted politely that he would have to decline my request and wished me and my family a long and happy life. You haven’t got a sniff of anything, either?’
‘No. I showed Van Boorst the photo of Adele. He said the only woman who had bought anything off him was a woman with big rust-red curls and an East German accent.’
‘East German accent? Does such a thing exist?’
‘I don’t know, Kaja. This man walks around in a dressing gown, has a cigarette holder, is an alcoholic and a specialist in accents. I’m trying to keep my mind on the case and then get out.’
She laughed. White wine, Harry wagered. Red-wine drinkers don’t laugh as much.
‘But I have an idea,’ he said. ‘Landing cards.’
‘You have to give the address of where you plan to stay on your first night. If they hold onto the cards in Kigali and there is further info, such as a forwarding address, perhaps I can find out where Adele went. That might be a lead. For all we know she may be the only person alive who knows who was at the Havass cabin that night.’
‘Good luck, Harry.’
‘Good luck to you, too.’
He rang off. Of course he could have asked her who she was having dinner with, but if that had been relevant to the investigation she would probably have told him.
Harry sat on the balcony until the bar closed and the clinking of bottles stopped, to be replaced by the sounds of lovemaking from an open window above. Throaty, monotonous cries. They reminded him of the gulls at Andalsnes when he and his grandfather used to get up at the crack of dawn to go fishing. His father never went with him. Why not? And why had Harry never thought about it, why hadn’t he instinctively known that Olav didn’t feel at home in a fishing boat? Had he already understood, as a five-year-old, that his father had opted for an education and left the farm precisely so that he wouldn’t have to sit in boat? Nevertheless, his father wanted to return and spend eternity there. Life was strange. Death, at any rate.
Harry lit up a cigarette. The sky was starless and black apart from above the Nyiragongo crater, where a red glow smouldered. Harry felt a smarting pain as an insect stung him. Malaria. Methane gas. Lake Kivu glittered in the distance. Very nice, very deep.
A boom resounded from the mountains, and the sound rolled across the lake. Vocanic eruption or just thunder? Harry looked up. Another clap; the echo rang between the mountains. And another echo, distant, reached Harry at the same time.
He stared, wide-eyed, into the darkness, hardly noticing that the heavens were opening and the rain was hammering down and drowning the gull cries.
‘I’m glad you got away from the Havass cabin before this swept in,’ Officer Krongli said. ‘You could have been stranded there for several days.’ He nodded towards the hotel restaurant’s large panoramic window. ‘But it’s wonderful to see, don’t you think?’
Kaja looked out at the heavy snowfall. Even had been like that, too; he was excited by the power of nature, regardless of whether it was working for or against him.
‘I hope my train will finally get through,’ she said.
‘Yes, of course,’ Krongli said, fingering his wine glass in a way that suggested to Kaja that wining and dining was not something he did that often. ‘We’ll make sure it does. And sort out the guest books from the other cabins.’
‘Thank you,’ Kaja said.
Krongli ran a hand through his unruly locks and put on a wry smile. Chris de Burgh with ‘Lady in Red’ oozed like syrup through the loudspeakers.
There were only two other guests in the restaurant, two men in their thirties, each sitting at a table with a white cloth, each with a beer in front of them, staring at the snow, waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen.
‘Doesn’t it get lonely here sometimes?’ Kaja asked.
‘Depends,’ the rural policeman said, following her glance. ‘If you don’t have a wife or family, it means you tend to gather at places like this.’
‘To be lonely together,’ Kaja said.
‘Yep,’ Krongli said, pouring more wine into their glasses. ‘But I suppose it’s the same in Oslo, too?’
‘Yes,’ Kaja said. ‘It is. Have you got any family?’
Krongli shrugged. ‘I did live with someone. But she found life too empty here, so she moved down to where you live. I can understand her. You have to have an interesting job in a place like this.’
‘And you do?’
‘I think so. I know everyone here, and they know me. We help each other. I need them and they… well…’ He twirled the glass.
‘They need you,’ Kaja said.
‘I believe so, yes.’
‘And that’s important.’
‘Yes, it is,’ Krongli said firmly, looking up at her. Even’s eyes. Which had the embers of laughter in them; something amusing or something to be happy about always seemed to have just happened. Even if it hadn’t. Especially when it hadn’t.
‘What about Odd Utmo?’ Kaja said.
‘What about him?’
‘He left as soon as he had dropped me off. What does he do on an evening like tonight?’
‘How do you know he isn’t sitting at home with his wife and children?’
‘If I’ve ever met a recluse, Officer-’
‘Call me Aslak,’ he said, laughing and tipping back his glass. ‘And I can see that you’re a real detective. But Utmo hasn’t always been like that.’
‘Before his son went missing he was apparently pretty approachable. Yes, now and then he was nothing less than affable. But I suppose he’s always had a dangerous temper.’
‘I would have thought a man like Utmo would be single.’
‘His wife was good-looking, too. When you consider how ugly he is. Did you see his teeth?’
‘I saw he was wearing an orthodontic brace, yes.’
‘He says it’s so that his teeth don’t go crooked.’ Aslak Krongli shook his head, with laughter in his eyes, though not in his voice. ‘But it’s the only way to make sure they don’t fall out.’
‘Tell me, was that really dynamite he was carrying on his snow – mobile?’
‘You saw it,’ Krongli said. ‘Not me.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘There are lots of residents up here who can’t quite see the romanticism of sitting for hours with a fishing rod by the mountain lakes, but who would like to have the fish they regard as their own on the dinner table.’
‘They chuck dynamite in the lakes?’
‘As soon as the ice has gone.’
‘Isn’t that somewhat illegal?’
Krongli held up his hands in defence. ‘As I said, I didn’t see anything.’
‘No, that’s true, you only live here. Have you got dynamite, too, by any chance?’
‘Just for the garage. Which I’m planning to build.’
‘Right. What about Utmo’s gun? Looked modern with the telescopic sights and so on.’
‘Certainly is. Utmo was good at hunting bears. Until he went half blind.’
‘I saw his eye. What happened?’
‘Apparently his boy spilt a glass of acid on him.’
Krongli rolled his shoulders. ‘Utmo is the only person left who knows what happened. His son went missing when he was fifteen. Soon afterwards his wife disappeared as well. But that was eighteen years ago, before I moved up here. Since then Utmo has lived alone in the mountains, no TV, no radio, doesn’t even read the papers.’
‘How did they disappear?’
‘You tell me. There are lots of sheer drops around Utmo’s farm where you might fall. And the snow. The son’s shoe was found after an avalanche, but there was no sign of him after the snow melted that year, and it was strange to lose a shoe like that up in the snow. Some thought it was a bear. Though, as far as I know, there weren’t any bears up here eighteen years ago. And then there were those who reckoned it was Utmo.’
‘Oh? Why’s that?’
‘We-ell,’ Aslak said, dragging it out, ‘the boy had a bad scar on his chest. Folk reckoned he’d got that from his father. It was something to do with the mother, Karen.’
‘They were competing for her.’
Aslak shook his head at the question in Kaja’s eyes. ‘This was before my time. And Roy Stille, who has been an officer here since the dawn of time, went to the house, but only Odd and Karen were there. And they both said the same. The boy had gone out hunting and hadn’t returned. But this was in April.’
‘Not hunting season?’
Aslak shook his head. ‘And since then no one has seen him. The following year, Karen went missing. Folk here believe it was the grief that broke her and she took a one-way ticket off a cliff.’
Kaja thought she detected a little quiver in the officer’s voice, but concluded it must have been the wine.
‘What do you believe?’ she asked.
‘I believe it’s true. The boy was caught by an avalanche. He suffocated under the snow. The snow melted and he was carried into a lake and that’s where he is. With his mother, let’s hope.’
‘Sounds nicer than the bear story, anyway.’
‘Well, it isn’t.’
Kaja looked up at Aslak. There was no laughter in his eyes now.
‘Buried alive in an avalanche,’ he said, and his gaze wandered out of the window, to the drifting snow. ‘The darkness. The loneliness. You can’t move, it holds you in its iron grip, laughs at your attempts to free yourself. The certainty that you’re going to die. The panic, the mortal fear when you can’t breathe. There’s no worse way to go.’
Kaja took a gulp of wine. She put down the glass. ‘How long were you lying there?’ she asked.
‘I thought it was three, maybe four hours,’ Aslak said. ‘When they dug me out, they said I had been trapped for fifteen minutes. Another five and I would have been dead.’
The waiter came and asked if they wanted anything else; he would call last orders in ten minutes. Kaja said no, and the waiter responded by putting the bill in front of Aslak.
‘Why does Utmo carry a gun?’ Kaja asked. ‘As far as I’m aware, it isn’t the hunting season now.’
‘He says it’s because of beasts of prey. Self-defence.’
‘Are there any here? Wolves?’
‘He never tells me exactly what kind of animal he means. By the way, there’s a rumour going round that at night the boy’s ghost walks the plains. And that if you see him, you have to be careful, because it means there’s a sheer drop or an avalanche nearby.’
Kaja finished her drink.
‘I can have drinking hours extended for a bit if you like.’
‘Thanks, Aslak, but I have to be up early tomorrow.’
‘Ooh,’ he said, laughing with his eyes and scratching his locks, ‘now that sounds like I…’ He paused.
‘What?’ Kaja said.
‘Nothing. I suppose you have a husband or boyfriend down south.’
Kaja smiled, though didn’t answer.
Aslak stared at the table, and said quietly, ‘Well, there you go: provincial policeman couldn’t take his drink and started wittering.’
‘That’s alright,’ she said. ‘I haven’t got a boyfriend. And I like you. You remind me of my brother.’
‘Don’t forget I’m a real detective, too. I can see you’re no hermit. There is someone, isn’t there?’
Kaja laughed. Normally she would have left it at that. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was because she liked Aslak Krongli. Maybe it was because she didn’t have anyone to talk to about that sort of thing, not since Even died, and Aslak was a stranger, a long way from Oslo, someone who didn’t talk to her circle of acquaintances.
‘I’m in love,’ she heard herself say. ‘With a police officer.’ She put the glass of water to her mouth to hide a flurry of confusion. The strange thing was that it hadn’t struck her as true until she heard the words said aloud.
Aslak raised his glass to hers. ‘Skal to the lucky guy. And the lucky girl, I hope.’
Kaja shook her head. ‘There’s nothing to skal about. Not yet. Maybe ever. My God, listen to me…’
‘We don’t have anything else to do, do we? Tell me more.’
‘It’s complicated. He’s complicated. And I don’t know if he wants me. In fact, that bit is fairly straightforward.’
‘Let me guess. He’s got someone, and he can’t let go.’
Kaja sighed. ‘Perhaps. I honestly don’t know. Aslak, thank you for all your help, but I-’
‘-have to go to bed now.’ The police officer rose. ‘I hope it all goes sour with your friend, you want to escape from your broken heart and the city and that you could envisage giving this a chance.’ He passed her an A4 piece of paper with a Hol Police Station letterhead.
Kaja read it and laughed out loud. ‘A post in the sticks?’
‘Roy Stille is retiring in the autumn and good officers are hard to find,’ Aslak said. ‘It’s our advertisement for the post. We put it out last week. Our office is in Geilo city centre. Time off every alternate weekend and free dentistry.’
As Kaja went to bed she could hear the distant rumbles. Thunder and snow rarely came as a joint package.
She rang Harry and got his voicemail. Left a little ghost story about the local guide Odd Utmo with the rotten teeth and brace, and about his son who had to be even uglier since he had been haunting the district for eighteen years. She laughed. Realised she was drunk. Said goodnight.
She dreamed about avalanches.
It was eleven o’clock in the morning. Harry and Joe had left Goma at seven, crossed the border to Rwanda without any problems and Harry was standing in an office on the first floor of the terminal building at Kigali Airport. Two uniformed officers were giving him the once-over. Not in an unfriendly way, but to check that he really was who he claimed to be: a Norwegian policeman. Harry put his ID card back in his jacket pocket and felt the smooth paper of the coffee-brown envelope he had there. The problem was that there were two of them. How do you bribe two public servants at once? Ask them to share the contents of the envelope and politely request them not to snitch on one another?
One officer, the same one who had inspected Harry’s passport two days before, pulled his beret back on his head. ‘So you want a copy of whose landing card? Could you repeat the date and the name?’
‘Adele Vetlesen. We know she arrived at this airport on the 25th of November. And I’ll pay a finder’s fee.’
The two officers exchanged glances, and one left the room on the other’s cue. The remaining officer walked over to the window and surveyed the runway, the little DH8 that had landed and which in fifty-five minutes would be transporting Harry on the first phase of his journey home.
‘Finder’s fee,’ the officer repeated quietly. ‘I assume you know it is illegal to try to bribe a public servant, Mr Hole. But you probably thought: Shiit, this is Africa.’
It struck Harry that the man’s skin was so black it seemed like gloss paint.
He felt his shirt sticking to his back. The same shirt. Perhaps they sold shirts at Nairobi airport. If he got that far.
‘That’s right,’ Harry said.
The officer laughed and turned. ‘Tough guy, eh! Are you a hard man, Hole? I saw you were a policeman when you arrived.’
‘You examined me with the same circumspection that I examined you.’
The door opened. The other officer was back accompanied by a woman dressed like a secretary with clickety-clack heels and glasses on the tip of her nose.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said in impeccable English, clocking Harry. ‘I’ve checked the date. There was no Adele Vetlesen on that flight.’
‘Mm. Could there be a mistake?’
‘Unlikely. Landing cards are filed by date. The flight you’re talking about is a thirty-seven-seater DH8 from Entebbe. It didn’t take long to check.’
‘Mm. If that’s the case, may I ask you to check something else for me?’
‘You may ask of course. What is it?’
‘Could you see if any other foreign women arrived on that flight?’
‘And why should I do that?’
‘Because Adele Vetlesen was booked onto that flight. So either she used a false passport here-’
‘I doubt that very much,’ the passport officer said. ‘We check all the passport photos very carefully before they are scanned by a machine that matches the passport number against the international ICAO register.’
‘-or someone else was travelling in Adele Vetlesen’s name and then used their own, genuine passport to pass through here. Which is more than possible, as passport numbers are not checked before passengers board the aircraft.’
‘True,’ the chief passport official said, pulling at his beret. ‘Airline staff only make sure the name and photo match more or less. For that purpose you can have a false passport made for fifty dollars anywhere in the world. It’s only when you get off the plane at your final destination and have to go through checks that your passport number is matched and false passports are revealed. But the question is the same: why should we help you, Mr Hole? Are you on an official mission here and have you got the papers to support that?’
‘My official mission was in the Congo,’ Harry lied. ‘But I found nothing there. Adele Vetlesen is missing, and we fear she may have been murdered by a serial killer who has already murdered at least three other women, among them a government MP. Her name is Marit Olsen – you can verify that on the Net. I’m conscious that the procedure now is for me to return home and go through formal channels, as a result of which we will lose several days and give the killer a further head start. And time to kill again.’
Harry saw that his words had made some impression on them. The woman and the chief official conferred, and the woman marched off again.
They waited in silence.
Harry looked at his watch. He hadn’t checked in on the flight yet.
Six minutes had passed when they heard the click-clack heels coming closer.
‘Eva Rosenberg, Juliana Verni, Veronica Raul Gueno and Claire Hobbes.’ She spat out the names, straightened her glasses and put four landing cards on the table in front of Harry before the door slammed behind her. ‘Not many European women come here,’ she said.
Harry’s eyes ran down the cards. All of them had given Kigali hotels as their address, but not the Gorilla Hotel. He looked at their home addresses. Eva Rosenberg had given an address in Stockholm.
‘Thank you,’ Harry said, noting down the names, addresses and passport numbers on the back of a taxi receipt he found in his jacket pocket.
‘I regret that we can’t be of any more assistance,’ the woman said, pushing her glasses up again.
‘Not at all,’ Harry said. ‘You’ve been a great help. Really.’
‘And now, Mr Policeman,’ said the tall, thin officer, with a smile that lit up his black-as-night face.
‘Yes?’ Harry said in anticipation, ready to take out the coffee-brown envelope.
‘Now it’s time we got you checked in on the flight to Nairobi.’
‘Mm,’ Harry said, looking at his watch. ‘I may have to catch the next one.’
‘I have to go back to the Gorilla Hotel.’
Kaja was sitting in the Norwegian railway’s so-called ‘comfort coach’ which – apart from free newspapers, two cups of free coffee and a socket for your laptop – meant that you sat like sardines in a can instead of in the almost empty economy areas. So when her phone rang and she saw it was Harry, that was where she hurried.
‘Where are you?’ Harry asked.
‘On the train. Passing Kongsberg right this minute. And you?’
‘Gorilla Hotel in Kigali. I’ve had a look at Adele Vetlesen’s hotel registration card. I won’t get away now before the afternoon flight, but I’ll be home early tomorrow. Could you ring your friend, pumpkin head, at Drammen police station, and see if we can borrow the postcard Adele wrote? You can ask him to come to the station with it. The train stops at Drammen, doesn’t it?’
‘You’re pushing your luck. I’ll try anyway. What are we going to do with it?’
‘Compare the handwriting. There’s a handwriting expert called Jean Hue who worked at Kripos before he retired. Get him to the office for seven tomorrow.’
‘So early? D’you think he’ll-’
‘You’re right. I’ll scan Adele’s registration card and email it to you so you can go to Jean’s place with both this evening.’
‘He’ll be happy to see you. If you had any other plans, they are hereby cancelled.’
‘Great. By the way, sorry about the late call last night.’
‘No worries. Entertaining story.’
‘I was a bit tipsy.’
Harry rang off.
‘Thanks for all your help,’ he said.
The receptionist responded with a smile.
The coffee-brown envelope had finally found a new owner.
Kjersti Rodsmoen went into the common room and over to the woman looking out of the window at the rain falling on Sandviken’s timber houses. In front of her was an untouched slice of cake with a little candle on.
‘This phone was found in your room, Katrine,’ she said softly. ‘The ward sister brought it to me. You know they’re forbidden, don’t you?’
‘Anyway,’ Rodsmoen said, passing it over, ‘it’s ringing.’
Katrine Bratt took the vibrating mobile phone and pressed answer.
‘It’s me,’ said the voice at the other end. ‘I’ve got four women’s names here. I’d like to know which of them was not booked on flight RA101 to Kigali on the 25th of November. And to receive confirmation that this person was not in any booking system for a Rwandan hotel that same night.’
‘I’m fine, thanks, Auntie.’
Silence for a second.
‘I see. Ring when you can.’
Katrine passed the phone back to Rodsmoen. ‘My auntie wishing me many happy returns.’
Kjersti Rodsmoen shook her head. ‘Rules say the use of phones is forbidden. So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a phone, so long as you don’t use it. Just make sure the ward sister doesn’t see it, OK?’
Katrine nodded, and Rodsmoen left.
Katrine sat looking out of the window for a while, then got up and went towards the Hobbies Room. The ward sister’s voice reached her as she was about to cross the threshold.
‘What are you going to do, Katrine?’
Katrine answered without turning. ‘Play solitaire.’
Gunnar Hagen took the lift down to the basement.
Down. Downer. Downtrodden. Downsized.
He got out and set off through the culvert.
But Bellman had kept his promise, he hadn’t blabbed. And he had thrown him a line, a top-management post in the new, expanded Kripos. Harry’s report had been short and to the point. No results. Any idiot would have realised it was time to start swimming towards the lifebuoy.
Hagen opened the door at the end of the culvert without knocking.
Kaja Solness smiled sweetly while Harry Hole – sitting in front of the computer screen with a telephone to his ear – didn’t even turn round, just sang out ‘siddown-boss-want-some-crap-coffee?’ as though the unit head’s doppelganger had announced his forthcoming arrival.
Hagen stood in the doorway. ‘I received the message that you were unable to find Adele Vetlesen. Time to pack up. Time was up ages ago, and you’re needed for other cases. At least you are, Kaja Solness.’
‘Dankeschon, Gunther,’ Harry said on the telephone, put it down and swivelled round.
‘Dankeschon?’ Hagen repeated.
‘Leipzig Police,’ Harry said. ‘By the way, Katrine Bratt sends her regards, boss. Remember her?’
Hagen eyed his inspector with suspicion. ‘I thought Bratt was in a mental institution.’
‘No doubt about that,’ Harry said, getting up and making for the coffee machine. ‘But the woman’s a genius at searching the Net. Speaking of searches, boss…’
‘Could you see your way to giving us unlimited funds to mount a search?’
Hagen’s eyes almost popped out. Then he burst out laughing. ‘You’re bloody incredible, Harry, you are. You’ve just wasted half the travel budget on a fiasco in the Congo and now you want a police search operation? This investigation comes to a halt right now. Do you understand?’
‘I understand…’ Harry said, pouring coffee into two cups and passing one to Hagen, ‘… so much more. And soon you will too, boss. Grab my chair and listen to this.’
Hagen looked from Harry to Kaja. Stared sceptically at the coffee. Then he sat down. ‘You’ve got two minutes.’
‘It’s quite simple.’ Harry said. ‘According to Brussels Airlines passenger lists Adele Vetlesen travelled to Kigali on the 25th of November. But according to passport control no one of that name entered the country. What happened is that a woman with a false passport made out in Adele’s name travelled from Oslo. The false passport would have worked without a hitch until she reached her final destination in Kigali, because that’s where it’s computer-checked and the number’s matched, isn’t it? So this mysterious woman must have used her own passport, which was genuine. Passport control officials don’t ask to see the name on your ticket, so any mismatch between passport and ticket is not discovered. So long as no one looks, of course.’
‘But you did?’
‘Couldn’t it just be an administrative oversight? They forgot to register Adele’s arrival?’
‘Indeed. But then there’s the postcard…’
Harry nodded to Kaja, who held up a card. Hagen saw a picture of something akin to a smoking volcano.
‘This was posted in Kigali the same day she was supposed to have arrived,’ Harry said. ‘But first of all, this is a picture of Nyiragongo, a volcano situated in the Congo, not Rwanda. Secondly, we got Jean Hue to compare the handwriting on this card with the check-in card the alleged Adele Vetlesen filled in at the Gorilla Hotel.’
‘He established beyond doubt what even I can see,’ Kaja said. ‘It’s not the same person.’
‘Alright, alright,’ Hagen said. ‘But where are you going with all of this?’
‘Someone has gone to great effort to make it seem as if Adele Vetlesen went to Africa,’ Harry said. ‘My guess is that Adele was in Norway and was forced to write the card. Then it was taken to Africa by a second person who sent it back. All to give the impression that Adele had travelled there and written home about her dream guy and that she wouldn’t be back before March.’
‘Any idea who the impersonator might be?’
‘The immigration authorities at Kigali Airport found a card made out in the name of Juliana Verni. But our friendly fruitcake in Bergen says this name was not registered on any airline passenger lists to Rwanda or at any hotels with modern, electronic booking equipment on the date in question. But she is on the Rwandan passenger list from Kigali three days later.’
‘Would I like to know how you acquired this information?’
‘No, boss. But you would like to know who and where Juliana Verni is.’
‘And that is?’
Harry looked at his watch. ‘According to the information on the landing card, she lives in Leipzig, Germany. Ever been to Leipzig, boss?’
‘Nor me. But I know it’s famous for being the home town of Goethe, Bach plus one of the waltz kings. What’s his name again?’
‘What has this got to do with…?’
‘Well, you see, Leipzig is also famous for holding the main archives of the Stasi, the security police. The town was in the old GDR. Did you know that over the forty years the GDR existed the German spoken in the East developed in such a way that a sensitive ear can hear the difference between East and West Germans?’
‘Sorry, boss. The point is that in late November a woman with an East German accent was in the town of Goma in the Congo, which is just a three-hour drive from Kigali. And I’m positive that, while there, she bought the murder weapon that took the lives of Borgny Stem-Myhre and Charlotte Lolles.’
‘We’ve been sent a copy of the form the police keep when passports are issued,’ Kaja said, passing Hagen a sheet of paper.
‘Matches Van Boorst’s description of the buyer,’ Harry said. ‘Juliana Verni had big rust-red curls.’
‘Brick red,’ Kaja said.
‘I beg your pardon?’ Hagen said.
Kaja pointed to the sheet. ‘She’s got one of the old-fashioned passports with hair colour listed. They called it “brick red”. German thoroughness, you know.’
‘I’ve also asked the police in Leipzig to confiscate her passport and check it has a stamp from Kigali on the date in question.’
Gunnar Hagen stared blankly at the printout. He appeared to be trying to absorb what Harry and Kaja had said. At length he looked up with one raised bushy eyebrow. ‘Are you telling me… are you telling me that you may have the person who…’ The POB swallowed, struggled to find an indirect way of saying it, terrified that this miracle, this mirage might vanish if he said it aloud. But he gave up the attempt. ‘… is our serial killer?’
‘I’m not saying any more than what I’m saying,’ Harry said. ‘For the moment. My colleague in Leipzig is going through her personal data and criminal records now, so we’ll soon know a bit more about Fraulein Verni.’
‘But this is fantastic news,’ Hagen said, sending a gleam from Harry to Kaja, who gave him a nod of encouragement.
‘Not…’ Harry said, with a swig from his cup of coffee, ‘… for Adele Vetlesen’s family.’
Hagen’s smile faded. ‘True. Do you think there’s any hope for…?’
Harry shook his head. ‘She’s dead, boss.’
At that moment the telephone rang.
Harry took it. ‘Ja, Gunther!’ And repeated with a strained smile: ‘Ja, Dirty Harry. Genau.’
Gunnar Hagen and Kaja observed Harry as he listened in silence. Harry rounded off the conversation with a ‘Danke’ and cradled the receiver. Cleared his throat.
‘Yes, you said that,’ Hagen said.
‘No, Juliana Verni is. She was found in the River Elster on the 2nd of December.’
Hagen cursed under his breath.
‘Cause of death?’ Kaja asked.
Harry stared into the distance. ‘Drowning.’
‘Might have been an accident.’
Harry shook his head slowly. ‘She didn’t drown in water.’
In the ensuing silence they heard the rumble of the boiler in the adjacent room.
‘Wounds in the mouth?’ Kaja asked.
Harry nodded. ‘Twenty-four to be precise. She was sent to Africa to bring back the instrument that would kill her.’
‘So Juliana Verni was found dead in Leipzig three days after she flew home from Kigali,’ Kaja said. ‘Where she’d travelled as Adele Vetlesen, booked in at the Gorilla Hotel as Adele Vetlesen and sent a postcard written by the real Adele Vetlesen, probably dictated.’
‘That’s about the size of it,’ said Harry, who was in the process of brewing some more coffee.
‘And you think that Verni must have done that in collusion with someone,’ Hagen said. ‘And this second person killed her to cover the traces.’
‘Yes,’ Harry said.
‘So it’s just a question of finding the link between her and this second person. That shouldn’t be too difficult. They must have been very close if they committed this kind of crime together.’
‘Well in that case I’d have thought it would be pretty difficult.’
‘Because,’ Harry said, smacking down the lid of the machine and flicking the switch, ‘Juliana Verni had a record. Drugs. Prostitution. Vagrancy. In short, she was the type it would have been easy to hire for a job like this, if the money was right. And everything so far suggests that the person behind it won’t have left any clues for us, that he has considered most angles. Katrine discovered that Verni travelled from Leipzig to Oslo. From there she continued to Kigali using Adele’s name. Nevertheless, Katrine did not find so much as a phone conversation between Verni’s mobile and Norway. This person has been scrupulous.’
Hagen shook his head dejectedly. ‘So close…’
Harry sat on the desk. ‘There is another dilemma we have to resolve. The overnight guests at Havass cabin that night.’
‘What about them?’
‘We cannot exclude the possibility that the page torn out of the guest book is a hit list. They have to be warned.’
‘How? We don’t know who they are.’
‘Through the media. Even if it means we would be letting the killer know we’ve picked up his trail.’
Hagen slowly shook his head. ‘Hit list. And you’ve only reached this conclusion now?’
‘I know, boss.’ Harry met Hagen’s eyes. ‘If I’d gone to the media with a warning as soon as we stumbled on the Havass cabin, it might have saved Elias Skog’s life.’
The room went quiet.
‘We can’t go to the media,’ Hagen said.
‘If someone responds to the media alert, perhaps we can find out who else was in the cabin and what really happened,’ Kaja said.
‘We can’t go to the media,’ Hagen said, getting to his feet. ‘We’ve been investigating a missing persons case and uncovered links with a murder case, which is in the Kripos hands. We have to pass the information on and let them take it further. I’ll ring Bellman.’
‘Wait!’ Harry said. ‘Should he take all the credit for what we’ve done?’
‘I’m not sure there will be any credit to share, will there?’ Hagen said, heading for the door. ‘And you can start moving out now.’
‘Isn’t that a trifle hasty?’ Kaja said.
The other two looked at her.
‘I mean, we’ve still got a missing person here. Shouldn’t we try to locate her before we tidy up?’
‘And how were you going to go about that?’ Hagen asked.
‘As Harry said before. A search.’
‘You don’t even know where you should bloody search.’
They looked at the man who had just grabbed the jug from the coffee machine with one hand and was holding his cup under the mud-brown stream with the other.
‘Do you?’ Hagen said at length.
‘Yes, I do,’ Harry said.
‘You’ll get into hot water,’ Harry said.
‘Shut up, and out with it,’ Hagen said, without noticing the contradiction. Because he was thinking, here I am, doing it again. What was it about this tall, fair-haired policeman who always managed to drag others along when he took headlong plunges?
Olav Hole looked up at Harry and the woman beside him.
She had curtsied when she introduced herself, and Harry had noticed that his father had liked that; he was always complaining that women had stopped curtsying.
‘So you’re Harry’s colleague,’ Olav said. ‘Does he behave himself ?’
‘We’re off to organise an operation,’ Harry said. ‘Just dropped by to see how you were.’
His father smiled wanly, shrugged and beckoned Harry to come closer. Harry leaned forward, listened. And flinched.
‘You’ll be alright,’ Harry said in a sudden hoarse voice and stood up. ‘I’ll be back this evening, OK?’
In the corridor Harry stopped Altman and motioned for Kaja to go on ahead.
‘Listen, I was wondering if you could do me a big favour,’ he said when Kaja was out of range. ‘My father’s just told me that he’s in pain. He would never admit that to you because he’s afraid you’ll give him more painkillers, and, well, he has a pathological fear of becoming dependent on… drugs. There’s a bit of family history here, you see.’
‘Thee,’ the nurse lisped and there was a moment of confusion until Harry realised that Altman had repeated ‘see’. ‘The problem is that I’m being shifted between wards at the moment.’
‘I’m asking this as a personal favour.’
Altman screwed up one eye behind his glasses, staring thoughtfully at a point between himself and Harry. ‘I’ll see what I can do.’
Kaja drove while Harry was on the phone to the chief of operations at Briskeby Fire Station.
‘Your father seems like a nice man,’ Kaja said as Harry rang off.
Harry took that in. ‘Mum made him good,’ he said. ‘When she was alive he was good. She brought out the best in him.’
‘Sounds like something you’ve been through yourself,’ she said.
‘Someone made you good.’
Harry looked out of the window. Nodded.
‘Rakel and Oleg,’ Harry said.
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to…’
‘It’s just that when I came to Crime Squad everyone was talking about the Snowman case. About him trying to kill them. And you. But it was already over before the case began, wasn’t it?’
‘In a way,’ Harry said.
‘Have you had any contact with them?’
Harry shook his head. ‘We had to try to put it behind us. Help Oleg to forget. When they’re that young they still can.’
‘Not always,’ Kaja said with a sardonic smile.
Harry glanced at her. ‘And who made you good?’
‘Even,’ she answered without any hesitation.
‘No great romantic passions?’
She shook her head. ‘No XLs. Just a few smalls. And one medium.’
‘Got your cap set at someone?’
She chuckled. ‘Cap set at someone?’
Harry smiled. ‘My vocabulary is somewhat old-fashioned in that area.’
She hesitated. ‘I suppose I’m a bit hung up on a guy.’
‘And the prospects are?’
‘Let me guess,’ Harry said, winding down the window and lighting a cigarette. ‘He’s married and says he’ll leave his wife and kids for you, but never does?’
She laughed. ‘Let me guess. You’re the type who thinks he’s so damned good at reading other people’s minds because he only remembers the times he got it right?’
‘He said you’ve just got to give him some time?’
‘Wrong again,’ she said. ‘He doesn’t say anything.’
Harry nodded. He was about to ask more questions when it struck him: he didn’t want to know.
The mist drifted across the shiny, black surface of Lake Lyseren. Along the banks the trees stood with bowed shoulders like sombre, silent witnesses. The tranquillity was broken by shouted commands, radio communication and splashes as divers toppled backwards off rubber dinghies. They had started on the shore closest to the ropery. The heads of the search-and-recovery teams had sent their divers out in a fan formation, and now they were standing on land, crossing off the squares on the defined search grid they had covered, and signalling with a pull on the lifelines when they wanted the divers to stop or come back. The professional divers, such as Jarle Andreassen, also had wires in the lines which went up to full-face masks, allowing them to stay in verbal contact.
It was only six months since Jarle had taken his rescue course, and his pulse was still up during these dives. And a high pulse meant higher oxygen consumption. The more experienced men at Briskeby Fire Station called him ‘The Float’ as he had to rise to the surface and exchange oxygen cylinders so often.
Jarle knew that there was still good daylight at the top, but down here it was as black as night. He tried to swim at the regulation one and a half metres above the lakebed, yet he still stirred up mud, which reflected the light from his torch and partially blinded him. Even though he knew there were other divers a few metres away on either side, he felt alone. Alone and frozen to the marrow. And there were probably still hours of diving ahead of them. He knew he had less air left than the others and cursed to himself. Being the first fire station diver to change cylinders was fine by him, but he feared he would have to surface before the voluntary club divers as well. He refocused in front of him and stopped breathing. Not as a conscious action to reduce consumption. But because in the middle of his torch beam, inside the swaying forest of stalks that grew in the muddy bed closer to land, he could see a form floating free. A form that did not belong down here, that would be unable to live here. An alien feature. That was what made it so fascinating and at the same time so frightening. Or perhaps it was the light from his torch shining on the dark eyes that made it look as if it were alive.
‘Everything OK, Jarle?’
It was the team head. One of his tasks was to listen to his divers’ breathing. Not just to be sure they were breathing, but to hear if there were signs of anxiety. Or excessive calm. At twenty metres the brain began to store so much nitrogen that the so-called rapture of the deep could emerge, the nitrogen narcosis that meant you began to forget things, that simple jobs became more difficult and could, at greater depths, produce dizziness, tunnel vision and downright irrational behaviour. Jarle didn’t know if they were just yarns that did the rounds, but he had heard of divers who had pulled off their masks with a smile at fifty metres below. So far the only narcosis he had experienced was the cosy red-wine-induced serenity that he enjoyed with his partner late on Saturday nights.
‘Everything’s fine,’ Jarle Andreassen said and started breathing again. He sucked in the mixture of oxygen and nitrogen and heard it rumble past his ears as he released clusters of bubbles that fought their way desperately to the surface.
It was a large red stag. It was hanging upside down, its huge antlers apparently caught on the rock face. It must have been feeding on the bank and fallen. Or perhaps something or someone had chased it into the water. What else would it have been doing there? It had probably got tangled up in the rushes and the long stems of the water lilies, tried to struggle free, with the result that it had only got even more enmeshed in the tough, green tentacles. And then it must have gone under and wrestled on until it drowned. Sunk to the bottom and lain there until the bacteria and the body’s chemistry had filled it with gas and it had risen towards the top again, but the antlers had snagged on the lattice of green plants growing down here. In a few days the gas would have drained from the cadaver and it would have sunk again. Just like a drowned human body. The same thing was as likely to have happened to the person they were looking for, and that was why the body had not been found: it had never floated to the surface. If so, it would be lying down here somewhere, probably covered with a layer of mud. Mud which inevitably swirled upwards as they approached, which meant that even small defined search areas such as this could keep their secrets concealed for all eternity.
Jarle Andreassen took out his large diver’s knife, swam over to the stag and cut the stems obstructing the antlers. He had an inkling his boss would not appreciate that, but he couldn’t bear the thought of this handsome beast being held under water. The cadaver rose half a metre, but then there were more stems holding it back. Jarle was careful not to let his lifeline get snarled in the reeds and made some hurried slashes. Then he felt a pull on the line. Hard enough for him to feel irritation. Hard enough for him to lose concentration for a moment. The knife slipped out of his hand. He shone his torch downwards and caught a glimpse of the blade before it was lost from view in the mud. Cautiously he swam after it. Thrust his hand into the mud drifting up towards him like ash. Groped along the bottom. Felt stones, branches, slippery, rotten and green. And something hard. Chain. Probably from a boat. More chain. Something else. Solid. The contours of something. A hole, an opening. He heard the sudden hiss of bubbles before his brain could formulate the thought. That he was afraid.
‘Everything OK, Jarle? Jarle?’
No, everything was not OK. For even through thick gloves, even with a brain that seemed unable to absorb enough air, he had no doubts about where his hand had strayed. Into the open mouth of a human body.
Mikael Bellman arrived at the lake in a helicopter. The rotor blades whisked the mist into candyfloss as he dashed, bent double, from the passenger seat across the field to the ropery. Kolkka and Beavis followed at a half-run. From the opposite direction came four men carrying a stretcher. Bellman stopped them and lifted the blanket. The stretcher-bearers averted their faces as Bellman leaned over and studiously examined the naked, white bloated body.
‘Thank you,’ he said and let them continue towards the helicopter.
Bellman stopped at the top of the slope and looked down on the people standing between the building and the water. Among the divers divesting themselves of their equipment and dry suits he could see Beate Lonn and Kaja Solness. Further away was Harry Hole, talking to a man Bellman guessed was Skai, the local County Officer.
The POB signalled to Beavis and Kolkka that they should wait, and with lithe, nimble steps, he glided down the slope.
‘Hello, Skai,’ Bellman said, brushing twigs off his long coat. ‘Mikael Bellman, Kripos, we’ve spoken on the phone.’
‘Correct,’ Skai said. ‘The night his people found some rope here.’ He jerked his thumb back towards Harry.
‘And now it seems he’s here again,’ Bellman said. ‘The question is, of course, what he’s doing at my crime scene.’
‘Well,’ Harry said, clearing his throat, ‘firstly, this is hardly a crime scene. Secondly, I’m looking for a missing person. And it does seem as if we’ve found what we were looking for. How’s the triple murder going? Found anything? You got our information about the Havass cabin, did you?’
The County Officer acknowledged a glance from Bellman and absented himself in discreet haste.
Bellman surveyed the lake while running a forefinger along his lower lip as if to rub in some ointment. ‘Alright, Hole, you are aware, are you, that you have just ensured that both you and your superior officer, Gunnar Hagen, have not only lost your jobs but will also be charged with dereliction of duty?’
‘Mm, because we do the job we’ve been entrusted with?’
‘I think the Minister of Justice will be demanding a pretty detailed explanation as to why you initiated a search for a missing person right outside the ropery which supplied the rope that was used to kill Marit Olsen. I gave you Crime Squad people a chance. You won’t get another. Game over, Hole.’
‘Then we’ll have to give the Minister of Justice a pretty detailed explanation, Bellman. Naturally, it will include information about how we found out where the rope came from, how we got onto the trail of Elias Skog and the Havass cabin, how we found out that there was a fourth victim called Adele Vetlesen and how we found her here today. A job Kripos, with all its manpower and resources, failed to carry out over two months. Eh, Bellman?’
Bellman didn’t answer.
‘Frightened it might affect the Minister of Justice’s decision on who is best suited to investigate murders in this country, are you?’
‘Don’t overplay your hand, Hole. I’ll crush you just like that.’ Bellman flicked his fingers.
‘OK,’ Harry said. ‘Neither of us has a winning hand, so what if I pass over the kitty?’
‘What the hell do you mean?’
‘You get everything. Everything we have. We don’t take credit for anything.’
Bellman looked askance at Harry. ‘And why should you help us?’
‘Simple,’ Harry said, plucking the last smoke from the pack. ‘I get paid for helping to catch the killer. That’s my job.’
Bellman grimaced and his head and shoulders moved as if he were laughing, but not a sound issued forth. ‘Come on, Hole, what do you want?’
Harry lit his cigarette. ‘I don’t want Gunnar Hagen, Kaja Solness or Bjorn Holm to take the rap for this. Your prospects in the force won’t be affected.’
Bellman squeezed his full lower lip between thumb and first finger. ‘I’ll see what I can do.’
‘And I want to be part of this. I want access to all the material you have and to resources for the investigation.’
‘That’s enough!’ Bellman said, raising a hand. ‘Are you hard of hearing, Hole? I told you to stay away from this case.’
‘We can catch this killer, Bellman. Right now that should be more bloody important than who’s in charge afterwards, shouldn’t it?’
‘Don’t you…!’ Bellman shouted, but held back when he saw a couple of heads turn in their direction. He took a step closer to Harry and lowered his voice. ‘Don’t you talk to me as if I were an idiot, Hole.’
The wind blew the smoke from Harry’s cigarette into Bellman’s face, but he didn’t blink. Harry shrugged.
‘Do you know what, Bellman? I don’t think this has much to do with power or politics. You’re a little boy who wants to be the hero who saves the day. Simple as that. And you’re scared I’ll ruin the epic. But there’s an easy way of resolving this. What about unzipping and seeing who can piss as far as the divers’ dinghy?’
When Mikael Bellman laughed this time, it was for real, with volume and everything. ‘You should read the warning signs, Harry.’
His right hand shot out, so quickly that Harry didn’t manage to react, struck the cigarette between his lips and knocked it away. It hit the water with a hiss.
‘Smoking kills. Have a good day.’
Harry heard the helicopter take off as he watched his last cigarette floating in the water. The grey, wet paper, the black, dead tip.
Night had started to fall as the diving team’s boat dropped Harry, Kaja and Beate ashore by the car park. There was sudden movement amid the trees followed by camera flashes. Harry instinctively held up an arm, and he heard Roger Gjendem’s voice from out of the darkness.
‘Harry Hole, there are rumours flying around that you’ve found a young woman’s body. What’s her name and how sure are you that this is connected with the other murders?’
‘No comment,’ Harry said, ploughing his way through, half blinded. ‘For the moment this is a missing persons case, and the only thing we can say is that a woman has been found who might be the missing person. As far as the murder cases I assume you’re referring to are concerned, talk to Kripos.’
‘She has to be identified first and relatives informed.’
‘But you’re not ruling out-’
‘As usual, I’m not ruling out anything, Gjendem. Press conference to follow.’
Harry got into the car; Kaja had already started the engine and Beate Lonn was sitting on the back seat. They trundled onto the main road to the flashes of cameras behind them.
‘Now,’ Beate Lonn said, leaning forward between the seats, ‘I still haven’t been given an explanation as to how your search for Adele Vetlesen led here.’
‘Deductive logic, pure and simple,’ Harry said.
‘Goes without saying,’ Beate sighed.
‘In fact, I’m embarrassed I didn’t twig before,’ Harry said. ‘I went round wondering why the killer had made the effort to go all the way out to a disused ropery just for a piece of rope. Especially since that rope – unlike what he could have bought in a shop – could be traced back here. The answer was, of course, obvious. Nevertheless, it was only when I sat looking into a deep African lake that I realised. He didn’t come here for the rope. He must have used the rope for something here – because it happened to be lying around – and then taken it home where he later used it to kill Marit Olsen. The reason he came here was that he already had a body he needed to dispose of. Adele Vetlesen. The local man, Skai, spelt it out for us the first time we came here. This is the deep end of the lake. The killer filled her trousers with rocks, tied up the waist and legs with rope, then dropped her overboard.’
‘How do you know she was dead before she came here? He might have drowned her.’
‘There was a large cut around her neck. It’s my bet the post-mortem will show that there wasn’t any water in her lungs.’
‘And that ketanome is in her bloodstream, the same as with Charlotte and Borgny,’ Beate said.
‘I’m told ketanome is a fast-working anaesthetic,’ Harry said. ‘Strange I’d never heard of it before.’
‘Not so strange,’ Beate said. ‘It’s an old cheapo version of ketalar, which is used to anaesthetise patients with the advantage that they can still breathe by themselves,’ Beate said. ‘Ketanome was banned in the EU and Norway in the nineties because of side effects, so now you generally see it in underdeveloped countries. Kripos considered it a major clue for a while, but got nowhere with it.’
As they dropped Beate off at Krimteknisk in Bryn forty minutes later, Harry asked Kaja to hang on and got out of the car.
‘There was one thing I wanted to ask you,’ Harry said.
‘Oh yes?’ Beate said, shivering and rubbing her hands together.
‘What were you doing at a potential crime scene? Why wasn’t Bjorn there?’
‘Because Bellman assigned Bjorn to special duties.’
‘And what does that mean? Cleaning the latrines?’
‘No. Coordination of Krimteknisk and strategic planning.’
‘What?’ Harry raised his eyebrows. ‘That’s a bloody promotion.’
Beate shrugged. ‘Bjorn’s good. It wasn’t before time. Anything else?’
‘Bye. Oh, by the way, just a moment. I asked you to tell Bellman where we’d found the rope. When did you pass the message on?’
‘You rang me at night, remember, so I waited until the following morning. Why’s that?’
‘No reason,’ Harry said. ‘No reason.’
When he got back into the car, Kaja quickly slipped her phone into her pocket.
‘News of the body’s already on the Aftenposten website,’ she said.
‘They say there’s a big pic of you with your full name and that you’re referred to as “heading the investigation”. And of course they’re linking this case with the other murders.’
‘So, that’s what they’re doing. Mm. Are you hungry?’
‘Have you got any plans? If not I’ll treat you to a meal.’
‘Ooh. Exclusive. Any particular reason you chose that one?’
‘Well, it came to mind when a pal of mine was recounting an old story.’
‘There’s nothing to tell, it’s just the usual adolescence thi-’
‘Adolescence! Come on!’
Harry chuckled. And as they approached the city centre and it started snowing at the top of Ekeberg Ridge, Harry told her about Killer Queen, the darling of Ekeberg restaurant, once the most attractive functionalist building in Oslo. Which today – post renovation – it is again.
‘But in the eighties it was so run-down that people had actually given up on the place. It had become a boozy dance restaurant where you went to tables and asked for the pleasure, trying not to knock over the glasses. And then shuffled round the floor propping each other up.’
‘Oystein, Tresko and I used to go to the top of the German bunkers on Nordstrand beach, drink beer and wait for puberty to pass. When we were seventeen we ventured over to the restaurant, lied about our ages and went in. You didn’t have to lie much – the place needed all the cash it could get. The dance band stank, but at least they played “Nights in White Satin”. And they had a star attraction who guested almost every night. We called her Killer Queen. A female man-o’-war, she was.’
‘A man-o’-war?’ Kaja laughed. ‘Set your cap at?’
‘Yup,’ Harry said. ‘Bore down on you like a galleon in full rig, mean, sexy and dead scary. Equipped like a fairground. Curves on her like a roller coaster.’
Kaja laughed even louder. ‘The local fun-fair, no less?’
‘In a way,’ Harry said. ‘But she went to Ekeberg restaurant pri marily to be seen and adored, I think. And for the free drinks from faded dance-floor kings, of course. No one ever saw Killer Queen go home with any of them. Perhaps that was what fascinated us. A woman who’d had to go down a league or two for admirers, but in a way still had style.’
‘And then what?’
‘Oystein and Tresko said they would each buy me a whiskey if I dared ask her to dance.’
They crossed the tramlines and drove up the steep hill to the restaurant.
‘And?’ Kaja said.
‘We danced. Until she said she was sick of having her feet trodden on and it would be better if we went for a walk. She left first. It was August, hot, and, as you can see, there’s only forest round here. Thick foliage and loads of paths to hidden places. I was drunk, but still so excited that I knew she would be able to hear the tremor in my voice if I said anything. So I kept my trap shut. And that was fine, she did all the talking. And the rest, too. Afterwards she asked me if I wanted to go home with her.’
Kaja sniggered. ‘Oooh. And what happened there?’
‘We can talk about that during the meal. We’re here.’
They came to a halt in the car park, got out and walked up the steps to the restaurant. The head waiter welcomed them at the entrance to the dining area and asked for the name. Harry answered that they hadn’t reserved a table.
The waiter could barely restrain himself from rolling his eyes.
‘Full for the next two months,’ Harry snorted as they left, after buying cigarettes at the bar. ‘I think I liked the place better when water was leaking into the restaurant and rats squealed at you from behind the toilets. At least we could get in.’
‘Let’s have a smoke,’ Kaja suggested.
They walked over to the low brick wall from where the forest sloped downwards into Oslo. The clouds in the west were tinged with orange and red, and the queues of traffic on the motorway glittered like phosphorescence against the blackness of the town. It seemed to be lying there in wait, keeping watch, Harry thought. A camouflaged beast of prey. He tapped out two cigarettes, lit them and passed one to Kaja.
‘The rest of the story,’ Kaja said, inhaling.
‘Where were we?’
‘Killer Queen took you home.’
‘No, she asked if I wanted to go. And I politely declined.’
‘Declined? You’re lying. Why?’
‘Oystein and Tresko asked me that when I got back. I told them I couldn’t just leave when I had two pals and free whiskey waiting for me.’
Kaja laughed and blew smoke over the view.
‘But of course that was a lie,’ Harry said. ‘Loyalty had nothing to do with it. Friendship means nothing to a man if he has a tempting enough offer. Nothing. The truth is that I didn’t dare. Killer Queen was simply in the scariest league of all for me.’
They sat silent for a while. Listening to the hum of the town and watching the smoke curl upwards.
‘You’re thinking,’ Kaja said.
‘Mm. I’m thinking about Bellman. How well informed he is. He not only knew I was coming to Norway, he even knew which flight I was on.’
‘Perhaps he has contacts at Police HQ.’
‘Mm. And at Lake Lyseren today Skai said that Bellman had rung him about the rope the same evening that we’d been at the ropery.’
‘But Beate says she didn’t tell Bellman about the rope until the morning after we’d been there.’ Harry followed the glow of tobacco on its flight over the slope. ‘And Bjorn has been promoted to coordinator for forensics and strategic planning.’
Kaja stared at him in surprise. ‘That’s not possible, Harry.’
He didn’t answer.
‘Bjorn Holm! Would he have kept Bellman informed about what we were doing? You two have worked together for so long, you’re… friends!’
Harry shrugged. ‘As I said, I think…’ He dropped his cigarette onto the ground and crushed it with a swivel of his heel. ‘… friendship means nothing to a man if he has a tempting enough offer. Do you dare join me for today’s special at Schroder’s?’
I dream all the time now. It was summer and I loved her. I was so young and thought that if you wanted something enough it was yours to have.
Adele, you had her smile, her hair and her faithless heart. And now Aftenposten says they have found you. I hope you were as foul on the outside as you were on the inside.
It also says they’ve put Inspector Harry Hole on the case. He was the one who caught the Snowman. Perhaps there’s hope, perhaps the police can save lives after all?
I’ve printed out a photo of Adele from the Verdens Gang website and pinned it on the wall, next to the torn page from the Havass cabin guest book. Including mine, there are only three more names now.
The Special AtSchroder’s was bubble and squeak served with fried eggs and raw onions.
‘Nice,’ said Kaja.
‘The cook must be sober today,’ Harry agreed. Then he pointed. ‘Look.’
Kaja turned and looked up at the TV Harry was indicating.
‘Well, hello!’ she said.
Mikael Bellman’s face filled the screen, and Harry signalled to Rita that they wanted the volume up. Harry studied the movements of Bellman’s mouth. The soft, quasi-feminine features. The gleam in the intense brown eyes beneath the elegantly formed eyebrows. The white patches, like sleet on his skin, didn’t disfigure him, quite the contrary, they made him more interesting to look at, like an exotic animal. If his number were not ex-directory, as was the case with most detectives, his phone would be full of lusting and love-lorn texters afterwards. Then the sound came on.
‘… at Havass cabin on the night of the 7th of November. So we are appealing to those of you who were there to come forward to the police as quickly as possible.’
Then the newsreader returned and there was a new item.
Harry pushed his plate away and waved for coffee. ‘Let me hear your thoughts about this killer now that we’ve found Adele. Give me a profile.’
‘Why?’ Kaja asked, sipping water from her glass. ‘From tomorrow we’ll be working on other cases.’
‘Just for fun.’
‘Does profiling of serial killers come under your definition of fun?’
Harry sucked on a toothpick. ‘I know there’s a good answer to that, but I can’t think of it.’
‘So who is he?’
‘It’s still a he, first off. And still a serial killer. I don’t necessarily think Adele was number one.’
‘Because it was so flawless that he must have kept a clear head. The first time you kill you’re not so clear-headed. Besides, he hid her so well that we definitely were not intended to find her. That suggests he may be behind many of the present missing persons statistics.’
‘Come on. You just said that he made a good job of hiding Adele Vetlesen. The first of the murder victims we know anything about. How do the other murders develop?’
‘He becomes bolder, more self-assured. He stops hiding them. Charlotte is found behind a car in the forest and Borgny in a cellar beneath a city centre office block.’
‘And Marit Olsen?’
Kaja mulled this over. ‘It’s too overblown. He’s lost control, his grip is going.’
‘Or…’ Harry said, ‘… he’s gone up to the next level. He wants to show everyone how clever he is, so he starts exhibiting his victims. The murder of Marit Olsen in Frogner Lido is a huge scream for attention, but there are few indications of failing control in the execution. The rope he used was at worst careless, but otherwise he left no clues. Disagree?’
She deliberated and shook her head.
‘Then there’s Elias Skog,’ Harry said. ‘Anything different there?’
‘He tortures the victim with a slow death,’ Kaja said. ‘The sadist in him reveals itself.’
‘A Leopold’s apple is also an instrument of torture,’ Harry said. ‘But I agree with you that this is the first time we’ve seen sadism. At the same time, it’s a conscious choice; he reveals himself, he doesn’t let others do it. He is still directing the show, he’s in charge.’
The coffee pot and cups were dumped down in front of them.
‘But…’ Kaja said.
‘Doesn’t it jar a bit that a sadistic killer would leave the crime scene before he can witness the victim’s sufferings and final death? According to the landlady, she could hear banging noises from the bathroom after the guest had gone. He ran off… funny, eh?’
‘Good point. So what have we got? A fake sadist. And why does he fake it?’
‘Because he knows we’ll try to profile him, the way we’re doing now,’ Kaja said eagerly. ‘And then we’ll go looking for him in the wrong places.’
‘Mm. Maybe. A sophisticated killer, if so.’
‘What do you think, oh, venerable wise one?’
Harry poured the coffee. ‘If this is really a serial killer, I think the murders are well spread out.’
Kaja leaned across the table, and her pointed teeth glistened as she whispered: ‘You think it might not be a serial killer?’
‘Well, there’s a signature missing. Usually, there are special aspects of the murder that trigger a serial killer, and thus certain things that recur throughout. Here we have no indications that the killer did anything sexual during the killing. And there’s no similarity in the methods used, apart from Borgny and Charlotte both being murdered with a Leopold’s apple. The crime scenes are quite different, and so are the victims. Both sexes, different ages, different backgrounds, different physiques.’
‘But they have not been selected at random; they spent the same night in the same cabin.’
‘Precisely. And that’s why I’m not absolutely convinced we’re up against a classic serial killer. Or, rather, not one with a classic motive to kill. For serial killers, the killing itself is generally enough of a motive. If, for example, the victims are prostitutes. It doesn’t really matter whether they are sinners, just that they are easy prey. I know of only one serial killer who had criteria for the selection of individual victims.’
‘I don’t think a serial killer chooses his victims from a random page of a cabin guest book. And if anything happened at Havass to give the killer a motive, we’re not talking about classic serial murders. Besides, the move to show himself was too quick for the usual serial killer.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He sent a woman to Rwanda and the Congo to cover up a murder and at the same time to buy the murder weapon for the next. Afterwards he killed her. In other words, he went to extremes to hide one murder, yet for the next one, a few weeks later, he did absolutely nothing. And for the next murder again, he’s like a matador shoving his bollocks in our faces with a flourish of his cloak. This is a personality change at fast-forward speed. It doesn’t make sense.’
‘Do you think there could be several killers? Each with a different method?’
Harry shook his head. ‘There is one similarity. The killer doesn’t leave any clues. If serial killers are rare, one that kills without leaving any clues is a white whale. There is only one of them in this case.’
‘Right, so what are we talking here?’ Kaja threw up her arms. ‘A serial killer with multiple-personality disorder?’
‘A white whale with wings,’ Harry said. ‘No, I don’t know. And anyway, it doesn’t matter. We’re only doing this for fun. It’s a Kripos case now.’ He drained his coffee. ‘I’m going to take a taxi to the hospital.’
‘I can drive you.’
‘Thank you but no. Go home and prepare for new and interesting cases.’
Kaja heaved a weary sigh. ‘The business with Bjorn…’
‘Must not be mentioned to a soul,’ Harry completed. ‘Have a good sleep.’
Altman was leaving Harry’s father’s room at Rikshospital when he arrived.
‘He’s asleep,’ the nurse said. ‘I gave him ten milligrams of morphine. You can sit here, no problem, but he’s unlikely to stir for several hours.’
‘Thank you,’ Harry said.
‘That’s OK. I had a mother who… well, who had to put up with more pain than was necessary.’
‘Mm. Do you smoke, Altman?’
Harry saw from the guilt-ridden reaction that Altman did, and invited him to join him outside. The two men smoked while Altman, first name Sigurd, explained that it had been because of his mother that he had specialised in anaesthesia.
‘So when you gave my father an injection just now…’
‘Let’s say it was a favour from one son to another,’ Altman smiled. ‘But I cleared it with the doctor, naturally. I would like to keep my job.’
‘Wise,’ Harry said. ‘Wish I were as wise.’
They finished their cigarettes, and Altman was about to go when Harry asked: ‘Since you’re an anaesthetics expert, could you tell me how a person might get hold of ketanome?’
‘Oh dear,’ Altman said. ‘I probably shouldn’t answer that.’
‘It’s OK,’ Harry said with a wry smile. ‘It’s about the murder case I’m working on.’
‘Aha. Well, unless you work with anaesthetics, ketanome is very hard to get hold of in Norway. It works like a bullet, almost literally – the patient is knocked flat. But the side effects – ulcers – are nasty. In addition, the risk of a cardiac arrest with an overdose is high. It’s been used for suicide. But not any more. Ketanome was banned in the EU and Norway some years ago.’
‘I know that, but where would you go to get ketanome?’
‘Well, ex-Soviet states. Or Africa.’
‘The Congo, for example?’
‘Definitely. The producer sells it at dumping prices since the European ban, so it ends up in poor countries. It’s always like that.’
Harry sat by his father’s bedside watching his frail pyjama-clad chest rise and fall. After an hour he got up and left.
Harry decided he would postpone making a call until he had unlocked the house, put on ‘Don’t Get Around Much Any More’ – one of his father’s Duke Ellington records – and taken out the brown clump. He saw that Gunnar Hagen had left a message, but he had no intention of listening to it as he knew roughly what it was about. Bellman would have been nagging him again: from now on they were not allowed to touch the murder case however compelling their excuses. And Harry was to report for normal duties if he still wanted a job with the police. Well, perhaps not the last part. It was time to head off on his travels. And the travels should start here, now, tonight. He took out the lighter with one hand while the other brought up the two texts he had received. The first was from Oystein. He suggested ‘a gentlemen’s night out’ in the not too distant future, with an invitation to Tresko, who was probably the most well-to-do of the three. The second was a number Harry didn’t recognise. Harry opened the message. I see from the Aftenposten website that you’re in charge of the case. I can help. Elias Skog talked before he was glued to the bath. C.
Harry dropped the lighter, which hit the glass table with a loud bang, and he felt his heart race. During murder cases they always got loads of people ringing in with tip-offs, advice and hypotheses. People who were willing to swear they had seen, heard or been told all sorts, and couldn’t the police spare them a moment to listen? Often it was the same old voices again and again, but there were always some new, mixed-up windbags. Harry was quite certain that this was not one of them. The press had written a lot about the case; readers possessed a considerable amount of information. The general public had not been told that Elias Skog had been glued to the bath, however. Or been given Harry’s ex-directory mobile number.
Harry had turned down Duke Ellington and sat with the phone in his hand. This person knew about the superglue. And had his number. Should he check the name and address of the caller, perhaps even have the person arrested because there was a chance he might frighten him off? On the other hand, whoever it was expected an answer.
Harry pressed ‘return call’.
It buzzed twice, then he heard a deep voice. ‘Yes?’
‘This is Harry Hole.’
‘Nice to talk to you again, Hole.’
‘Mm. When have we spoken before?’
‘Don’t you remember? Elias Skog’s flat. Superglue.’
Harry felt the carotid artery in his neck throb, cramp the space in his throat.
‘I was there. Who am I speaking to, and what were you doing there?’
The other end went quiet for a second and Harry immediately concluded the person had rung off. But then the voice was back with a drawn-out ‘Oh, sorry, I may have signed off the message with just C. Did I?’
‘Yes, you did.’
‘I generally do. This is Inspector Colbjornsen. From Stavanger. You gave me your number, remember?’
Harry cursed himself, realised he was still holding his breath and let it out in a long hiss.
‘Are you there?’
‘Uh-huh,’ Harry said, grabbing the teaspoon on the table and scraping off a bit of the opium. ‘You said you had something for me?’
‘Yes, I have. But on one condition.’
‘It stays between us.’
‘Because I don’t want that prick Bellman coming over here thinking he’s God’s gift to criminal investigations. He and fucking Kripos are trying to get a monopoly over the whole country. Far as I’m concerned he can go to hell. The problem is my bosses. I’m not allowed to touch the bloody Skog case.’
‘So why come to me?’
‘I’m a simple lad from the provinces, Hole. But when I see in Aftenposten that you’ve been given the case I know what’s going to happen. I know you’re like me, you won’t just lie down and die, will you.’
‘Well…’ Harry said, looking at the opium in front of him.
‘So if you can use this to outsmart the smart-arse and it leads to Bellman’s plans for the evil empire being shelved, accept it with my blessing. I’ll wait until the day after tomorrow before sending Bellman my report. That gives you a day.’
‘What’ve you got?’
‘I’ve spoken to folk in Skog’s circle, which was small, as he was an oddball, unusually intense and travelled around the world on his ownsome. Two persons in all. The landlady. And a girl we traced via the phone numbers he had rung in the days leading up to his death. Her name is Stine Olberg, and she said she spoke to Elias the night he was killed. They were on the bus leaving town, and he said he’d been to the Havass cabin at the same time as the murdered girls in the newspapers. He thought it was strange no one had discovered they’d all been to the same cabin and he’d been wondering about whether to go to the police. But he was reluctant because he had no desire to get involved. And I can understand that. Skog had been in trouble with the police before. He’d been reported for stalking on two occasions. He hadn’t done anything illegal, to be fair to him. He was, as I said, just the intense type. Stine said she had been frightened of him, but that evening it was the opposite: he was the one who had seemed frightened.’
‘Stine had pretended not to know who the three murder victims were, and then Elias had said that he would tell her about someone else who had been there, someone he was sure she did know. And this is the really interesting bit. The man is well known. At least a B-list celebrity.’
‘According to Elias Skog, Tony Leike was there.’
‘Tony Leike. Should I know who that is?’
‘He lives with the daughter of Anders Galtung, the shipping magnate.’
A couple of newspaper headlines flashed in front of Harry’s inner eye.
‘Tony Leike is a so-called investor, which means he has become rich and no one quite understands how, just that it certainly wasn’t by dint of hard work. Not only that, he’s a real pretty boy. Hardly Mr Nice Guy, though. And this is the crunch. The guy’s got a sheet.’
‘Sheet?’ Harry asked, affecting incomprehension to imply what he thought of Colbjornsen’s Americanisms.
‘A record. Tony Leike has a conviction for violent assault.’
‘Mm. Checked the charge?’
‘Years ago Tony Leike beat up and maimed one Ole S. Hansen on the 7th of August between 11.20 and 11.45 p.m. It happened outside a dance venue where Tony was living with his grandfather. Tony was eighteen, Ole seventeen and of course it was over a piece of skirt.’
‘Mm. Jealous kids fighting after drinking is not exactly unusual. Did you say violent assault?’
‘Yes; in fact, there was more. After Leike had knocked down the other boy, he sat on him and carved up the poor lad’s face with a knife. He was permanently scarred, though the report said it could have been much worse if people hadn’t dragged Leike off.’
‘But no more than the one conviction?’
‘Tony Leike was known for his temper and was regularly involved in brawls. At the trial a witness said that at school Leike had tried to strangle him with a belt because he had said something less than flattering about Tony’s father.’
‘Sounds like someone should have a long chat with Leike. Do you know where he lives?’
‘On your patch. Holmenveien… wait… 172.’
‘Right. West End. Hm. Thanks, Colbjornsen.’
‘Not at all. Erm, there was one other thing. A man got on the bus after Elias. He alighted at the same stop as Elias, and Stine says she saw the man following him. But she couldn’t give a description because his face was hidden by a hat. Might be of some significance, or not.’
‘So I’m counting on you, Hole.’
‘Counting on what?’
‘You doing the right thing.’
Harry sat listening to the Duke. Then he grabbed the phone and looked up Kaja’s number. He was about to press the call button but hesitated. He was doing it again. Dragging people down with him. Harry tossed the phone aside. There were two options. The smart one, which was to ring Bellman. Or the stupid one, which was to go it alone.
Harry sighed. Who was he kidding? He had no choice. So he stuffed the lighter in his pocket, wrapped up the ball in silver foil, put it in the drinks cabinet, undressed, set the alarm for six and went to bed. No choice. A prisoner of his own behaviour patterns whereby in reality every action was a compulsive action. In that sense, he was neither better nor worse than those he pursued.
And with this thought he fell asleep with a smile on his lips.
The night is so blessedly still, it heals your sight, clears your mind. The new, old policeman. Hole. I’ll have to tell him that. I won’t show him everything, just enough for him to understand. Then he can stop it. So that I don’t have to do what I do. I spit and spit, but blood fills my mouth, over and over again.
Harry arrived at Police HQ AT a quarter to seven in the morning. Apart from the security guard on reception there was no one around in the large atrium inside the heavy front doors.
He nodded to the guard, swiped his card in the reader by the gate and took the lift down to the cellar. From there he loped through the culvert and unlocked the room. He lit the day’s first cigarette and rang the mobile number while the computer booted up. Katrine Bratt sounded sleepy.
‘I want you to run those relational searches of yours,’ Harry said. ‘Between a Tony Leike and each of the murder victims. Including Juliana Verni from Leipzig.’
‘The Hobbies Room’s free until half past eight,’ she said. ‘I’ll get going this minute. Anything else?’
Harry hesitated. ‘Could you check on a Jussi Kolkka for me? Policeman.’
‘What’s he about?’
‘That’s the point,’ Harry said. ‘I don’t know what he’s about.’
Harry put down the phone and set to work on the computer.
Tony Leike had one conviction, that was correct. And according to the register he had been in trouble with the police on two other occasions as well. As Colbjornsen had indicated, both were for physical violence. In the first instance the charge had been withdrawn, in the other the case had been dropped.
Harry googled Tony Leike and got a number of hits: minor newspaper mentions – most of which were connected with his fiancee Lene Galtung – but there were also some in the financial press where he was referred to alternately as an investor, a speculator and an ignorant sheep. This last, in Kapital, was a reference to Leike belonging to the flock that mimicked a lead sheep, the psychologist Einar Kringlen, in everything he did: from buying shares, mountain cabins and cars to his choice of the right restaurant, drink, woman, office, house and holiday destination.
Harry searched through the links until he stopped at an article in a financial newspaper.
‘Bingo,’ he mumbled.
Tony Leike was clearly able to stand on his own two feet. Or in his own two mining boots. At any rate the Finansavisen wrote about a mining project with Leike as the entrepreneur and enthusiast. He was photographed alongside with his colleagues, two young men with side partings. They were not wearing the standard designer suits, but overalls and work clothes, sitting on a pile of wood in front of a helicopter and smiling. Tony Leike wore the biggest smile of them all. He was broad-shouldered, long-limbed, dark, both his skin and his hair, and he had an impressive aquiline nose that in conjunction with his colouring made Harry think that he must have at least a dash of Arab blood in his veins. But the reason for Harry’s restrained outburst was the headline: KING OF THE CONGO?
Harry continued to follow the links.
The yellow press were more interested in the imminent wedding with Lene Galtung and the guest list.
Harry glanced at his watch. Five past seven. He rang the duty officer.
‘I need assistance for an arrest in Holmenveien.’
Harry knew very well that he didn’t have enough to ask the police solicitor for an arrest warrant.
‘To be brought in for questioning,’ Harry said.
‘I thought you said arrest? And why do you need assistance if it’s only-?’
‘Could you have two men and a car ready outside the garage in five minutes?’
Harry received a snort by way of response, which he interpreted as a yes. He took two puffs of his cigarette, stubbed it out, got up, locked the door and left. He was ten metres down the culvert when he heard a faint noise behind him which he knew was the landline ringing.
He had come out of the lift and was on his way to the door when he heard someone shout his name. He turned and saw the security guard waving to him. By the counter Harry saw the back of a mustard-yellow woollen coat.
‘This man was asking for you,’ the receptionist said.
The woollen coat turned. It was the type that is supposed to look as if it is cashmere, and on occasion it is. In this case, Harry assumed it was. Because it was filled out by a broad-shouldered, long-limbed man with dark eyes, dark hair and possibly a dash of Arab blood in his veins.
‘You’re taller than you appear in the photos,’ said Tony Leike, exhibiting a row of porcelain dental high-rises and an outstretched hand.
‘Good coffee,’ said Tony Leike, looking as if he meant it. Harry studied Leike’s long, distorted fingers wrapped around the coffee cup. It wasn’t contagious Leike had explained as he had proffered his hand to Harry, just good old-fashioned arthritis, an inherited affliction that – if nothing else – made him a reliable meteorologist. ‘But, to be frank, I thought they gave inspectors slightly better offices. Trifle warm?’
‘The prison boiler,’ Harry said, sipping his coffee. ‘So you read about the case in Aftenposten this morning?’
‘Yes, I was having breakfast. Almost choked on it, to be honest.’
Leike rocked in his chair, like a Formula One driver in a bucket seat before the start. ‘I trust what I say can remain between us.’
‘Who is us?’
‘The police and me. Preferably you and me.’
Harry hoped his voice was neutral and did not reveal his excitement. ‘The reason being?’
Leike took a deep breath. ‘I don’t want it to come out that I was in the Havass cabin at the same time as the MP, Marit Olsen. For the moment I have a very high media profile because of my impending wedding. It would be unfortunate if I were to be linked with a murder investigation right now. The press would be on to it and that might… things would emerge from my past that I would prefer to be dead and buried.’
‘I see,’ Harry said innocently. ‘Of course, I will have to weigh up a number of factors and for that reason cannot promise anything. But this is not an interview, just a conversation, and I don’t usually leak this kind of thing to the press.’
‘Nor to my… er, nearest and dearest?’
‘Not unless there is a reason for it. If you’re afraid it will be made public that you were here, why did you come?’
‘You asked people who were at the cabin to come forward, so it’s my civic duty, isn’t it?’ He sent Harry a questioning look. And then pulled a face. ‘Christ, I was frightened, wasn’t I. I knew that those who were there that night were next for the chop. Jumped in my car and drove straight here.’
‘Has anything happened recently to make you concerned?’
‘No.’ Tony Leike scented the air thoughtfully. ‘Apart from a break-in through the cellar door a few days ago. Christ, I should get an alarm, shouldn’t I.’
‘Did you report it to the police?’
‘No, they only took a bike.’
‘And you think serial killers do a spot of cycle-nicking on the side?’
Leike shook his head with a smile. Not the sheepish smile of someone who is ashamed of having said something stupid, Harry thought. But the disarming, winning smile that says ‘you got me there, pal’, the gallant congratulation from someone used to their own victories.
‘Why did you ask for me?’
‘The papers said you were in charge, so I thought it only natural. Anyway, as I said, I was hoping it would be possible to keep this between as few people as possible, so I came straight to the top.’
‘I’m not the top, Leike.’
‘Aren’t you? Aftenposten gave the impression you were.’
Harry stroked his jutting jaw. He hadn’t made up his mind about Tony Leike. He was a man with a groomed exterior and bad-boy charm that reminded Harry of an ice-hockey player he had seen in an underwear ad. He seemed to want to present an air of unruffled, worldly-wise smoothness but also to come across as a sincere human being with feelings which could not be hidden. Or perhaps it was the other way round; perhaps the smoothness was sincere and the feelings were pretence.
‘What were you doing at Havass, Leike?’
‘Skiing of course.’
‘On your own?’
‘Yes. I’d had a few stressful days at work and needed some time off. I go to Ustaoset and Hallingskarvet a lot. Sleep in cabins. That’s my terrain, you could say.’
‘So why haven’t you got your own cabin there?’
‘Where I would like to have a cabin you can’t get planning permission any more. National park regulations.’
‘Why wasn’t your fiancee with you? Doesn’t she ski?’
‘Lene? She…’ Leike took a sip of coffee. The kind of sip you take in mid-sentence when you need a bit of thinking time, it struck Harry. ‘She was at home. I… we…’ He looked at Harry with an expression of mild desperation, as though pleading for help. Harry gave him none.
‘Shit. No pressure then, eh?’
Harry didn’t answer.
‘OK,’ Leike said as though Harry had given a response in the affirmative. ‘I needed a breather, to get away. To think. Engagement, marriage… these are grown-up issues. And I think best on my own. Especially up there on the snowy plains.’
‘And thinking helped?’
Leike flashed the enamel wall again. ‘Yes.’
‘Do you remember any of the others in the cabin?’
‘I remember Marit Olsen, as I said. She and I had a glass of red wine together. I didn’t know she was an MP until she said.’
‘There were a few others sitting around I barely greeted. But I arrived quite late, so some must have gone to bed.’
‘There were six pairs of skis in the snow outside. I remember that clearly because I put them in the hall in case of an avalanche. I remember thinking the others were perhaps not very experienced mountain skiers. If the cabin is half buried under three metres of snow you’re in a bit of a fix without any skis. I was first up in the morning – I usually am – and was off before the others had stirred.’
‘You say you arrived late. You were skiing alone in the dark, were you?’
‘Head torch, map and compass. The trip was a spontaneous decision, so I didn’t catch the train to Ustaoset until the evening. But, as I said, they are familiar surroundings, I’m used to finding my way across the frozen wastes in the dark. And the weather was good, moonlight reflecting off the snow, I didn’t need a map or a light.’
‘Can you tell me anything about what happened in the cabin while you were there?’
‘Nothing happened. Marit Olsen and I talked about red wine and then about the problems of keeping a modern relationship going. That is, I think her relationship was more modern than mine.’
‘And she didn’t say anything had happened in the cabin?’
‘What about the others?’
‘They sat by the fire talking about skiing trips, and drinking. Beer perhaps. Or some kind of sports drink. Two women and a man, between twenty and thirty-five, I would guess.’
‘We just nodded and said hello. As I said, I had gone up there to be alone, not to make new friends.’
‘It’s quite dark in these cabins at night, and if I say one was blonde, the other dark, that might be way off the mark. As I said, I don’t even remember how many people were there.’
‘One of the women had a kind of west coast dialect, I think.’
‘Stavanger? Bergen? Sunnmore?’
‘Sorry, I’m not much good at this sort of thing. It might have been west coast, could have been south.’
‘OK. You wanted to be alone, but you talked to Marit Olsen about relationships.’
‘It just happened. She came over and sat down next to me. Not exactly a wallflower. Talkative. Fat and cheery.’ He said that as if the two words were a natural collocation. And it struck Harry that the photo of Lene Galtung he had seen was of an extremely thin woman – to judge by the latest average weight for Norwegians.
‘So, aside from Marit Olsen, you can’t tell us anything about any of the others? Not even if I showed you photos of those we know to have been there?’
‘Oh,’ Leike said with a smile, ‘I think I can do that.’
‘When I was in one room looking for a bunk to crash out on, I had to switch on the light to see which was free. And I saw two people asleep. A man and a woman.’
‘And you think you can describe them?’
‘Not in great detail, but I’m pretty sure I would recognise them.’
‘You sort of remember faces when you see them again.’
Harry knew that what Leike said was right. Witnesses’ descriptions were way out as a rule, but give them a line-up and they rarely made a mistake.
Harry walked over to the filing cabinet they had dragged back to the office, opened the respective victims’ files and removed the photographs. He gave the five photos to Leike, who flipped through them.
‘This is Marit Olsen, of course,’ he said, passing it back to Harry. ‘And these are the two women who were sitting by the fire, I think, but I’m not sure.’ He passed Harry the pictures of Borgny and Charlotte. ‘This may have been the boy.’ Elias Skog. ‘But none of these were asleep in the bedroom. I’m sure about that. And I don’t recognise this one either, he said, passing back the photo of Adele.
‘So you’re unsure about the ones you were in the same room with for a good while, but you’re sure about those you saw for a couple of seconds?’
Leike nodded. ‘They were asleep, weren’t they.’
‘Is it easier to recognise people asleep?’
‘No, but they don’t look back at you, do they. So you can stare unobserved.’
‘Mm. For a couple of seconds.’
‘Maybe a bit longer.’
Harry put the photos back in the files.
‘Have you got any names?’ Leike asked.
‘Yes. As I said, I was the first up and I had a couple of slices of bread in the kitchen. The guest book was in there and I hadn’t signed in. While I was eating I opened it and studied the names that had been entered the night before.’
‘Why?’ Tony rolled his shoulders. ‘It’s often the same people on these mountain skiing trips. I wanted to see if there was anyone I knew.’
‘No. But if you give me the names of people you know or think were there, maybe I can remember if I saw them in the guest book.’
‘Sounds reasonable, but I’m afraid we don’t have any names. Or addresses.’
‘Well then,’ Leike said, buttoning up his woollen coat. ‘I’m afraid I can’t be of much help, can I. Except that you can cross my name off.’
‘Mm,’ Harry said. ‘Since you’re here, I’ve got a couple more questions. So long as you have time?’
‘I’m my own boss,’ Leike said. ‘For the time being, anyway.’
‘OK. You say you have a murky past. Could you give me a rough idea of what you mean?’
‘I tried to kill a guy,’ Leike said without embellishment.
‘I see,’ Harry said, leaning back in his chair. ‘Why was that?’
‘Because he attacked me. He maintained I’d stolen his girl. The truth was that she was neither his girl nor wanted to be, and I don’t steal girls. I don’t have to.’
‘Mm. He caught you two in the act and hit her, did he?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’m trying to understand what sort of situation may have led to you trying to kill him. If you mean it literally, that is.’
‘He hit me. And that was why I did my best to kill him. With a knife. And I was well on the way to succeeding when a couple of my pals dragged me off him. I was convicted for aggravated assault. Which is pretty cheap for attempted murder.’
‘You realise that what you’re saying now could make you a prime suspect?’
‘In this case?’ Leike looked askance at Harry. ‘You kidding me? You lot have a bit more nous than that, don’t you?’
‘If you’ve wanted to kill once…’
‘I’ve wanted to kill several times. I assume I’ve done it, too.’
‘It’s not so easy to see black men in the jungle at night. For the most part you shoot indiscriminately.’
‘And you did that?’
‘In my depraved youth, yes. After paying for my crime, I went into the army and from there straight to South Africa and got a job as a mercenary.’
‘Mm. So you were a mercenary in South Africa?’
‘Three years. And South Africa is just the place where I enlisted; the fighting took place in the surrounding countries. There was always war, always a market for pros, especially for whites. The blacks still think we’re smarter, you know. They trust white officers more than their own.’
‘Perhaps you’ve been to the Congo, too?’
Tony Leike’s right eyebrow formed a black chevron. ‘How so?’
‘Went there a while back, so I wondered.’
‘It was called Zaire then. But most of the time we weren’t sure which bloody country we were in. It was just green, green, green and then black, black, black until the sun rose again. I worked for a so-called security firm at some diamond mines. That was where I learned to read a map and compass from a head torch. The compass is a waste of time there, too much metal in the mountains.’
Tony Leika leaned back in his chair. Relaxed and unafraid, Harry noted.
‘Talking of metal,’ Harry said, ‘think I read somewhere that you’ve got a mining business down there.’
‘What sort of metal?’
‘Heard of coltan?’
Harry nodded slowly. ‘Used in mobile phones.’
‘Exactly. And in games consoles. When world mobile phone production took off in the nineties my troops and I were on a mission in the north-east of the Congo. Some Frenchmen and some natives ran a mine there, employing kids with pickaxes and spades to dig out the coltan. It looks like any old stone but you use it to produce tantalum, which is the element that’s really valuable. And I knew that if I could just get someone to finance me I could run a proper, modern mining business and make my partners and myself wealthy men.’
‘And that was what happened?’
Tony Leike laughed. ‘Not quite. I managed to borrow money, was screwed by slippery partners and lost everything. Borrowed more money, was screwed again, borrowed even more and earned a bit.’
‘A few million to pay off debts. But I had a network of contacts and some headlines, as of course I was counting chickens before they hatched, which was enough to be adopted into the circle where the big money was. To become a member, it’s the number of digits in your fortune that counts, not whether there’s a plus or minus in front.’ Leike laughed again, a hearty ringing laugh, and it was all Harry could do to restrain a smile.
‘Now we’re waiting for the big coup because it’s time for coltan to be harvested. Yes indeed, I’ve said it for long enough, but this time it’s true. I’ve had to sell my shares in the project in exchange for call options so that I could pay my debts. Now things are set fair, and all I have to do is get hold of money to redeem my shares so that I can become a full partner again.’
‘Mm. And the money?’
‘Someone will see the sense in lending me the money against a small share. The return is enormous, the risk minimal. And all the big investments have been made, including local bribes. We have even cleared a runway into the jungle so that we can load directly on to freight planes and get the stuff out via Uganda. Are you wealthy, Harry? I can see if there’s any chance for you to have a slice of the action.’
Harry shook his head. ‘Been to Stavanger recently, Leike?’
‘Hm. In the summer.’
‘Not since then?’
Leike gave the question some thought, then shook his head.
‘You’re not absolutely sure?’ Harry asked.
‘I’m presenting my project to potential investors, and that means a lot of travelling. Must have been to Stavanger three or four times this year, but not since the summer, I don’t think.’
‘What about Leipzig?’
‘Is this the point where I have to ask whether I need a solicitor, Harry?’
‘I just want you eliminated from the case as soon as possible, so that we can concentrate on more relevant issues.’ Harry ran his forefinger across the bridge of his nose. ‘If you don’t want the media to catch wind of this, I assume you won’t want to involve a solicitor, or to be summoned to formal interviews, etc?’
Leike nodded slowly. ‘You’re right, of course. Thank you for your advice, Harry.’
‘Sorry,’ Leike said, with genuine regret in his voice and face. ‘Never been there. Should I have been?’
‘Mm. I also have to ask you where you were on certain days and what you were doing.’
Harry dictated the four dates in question while Leike wrote them into a Moleskine notebook.
‘I’ll check as soon as I’m in my office,’ he said. ‘Here’s my number by the way.’ He passed Harry a business card with the inscription Tony C. Leike, Entrepreneur.
‘What does the C stand for?’
‘You tell me,’ Leike said, getting to his feet. ‘Tony’s only short for Anthony of course, so I thought I needed an initial. Gives a bit more gravitas, don’t you think? Think foreigners like it.’
Instead of taking the culvert, Harry accompanied Leike up the stairs to the prison, knocked on the glass window and a guard came and let them in.
‘Feels like I’m taking part in an episode with the Olsen Gang,’ Leike said when they were standing on the gravel path outside old Botsen Prison’s fairly imposing walls.
‘It’s a little more discreet like this,’ Harry said. ‘You’re beginning to become a recognisable face, and staff are arriving for work now at Police HQ.’
‘Talking of faces, I see someone has broken your jaw.’
‘Must have fallen and hit myself.’
Leike shook his head and smiled. ‘I know something about broken jaws. That one’s from a fight. You’ve just let it grow together again, I can see. You should go and have it seen to, it’s not a big job.’
‘Thanks for the tip.’
‘Did you owe them a lot of money?’
‘Do you know something about that, too?’
‘Yes!’ Leike exclaimed, his eyes widening. ‘Unfortunately.’
‘Mm. One last thing, Leike-’
‘Tony. Or Tony C.’ Leike flashed his shiny masticatory apparatus. Like someone without a care in the world, Harry thought.
‘Tony. Have you ever been to Lake Lyseren? The one in Ost-?’
‘Yes, of course. Are you crazy!’ Tony laughed. ‘The Leike farm is in Rustad. I went to my grandfather’s there every summer. Lived there for a couple of years, too. Fantastic place, isn’t it? Why d’you want to know?’ His smile vanished at once. ‘Oh, shit, that’s where you found the woman! Bit of a coincidence, eh?’
‘Well,’ Harry said, ‘it’s not so unlikely. Lyseren is a big lake.’
‘True enough. Thanks again, Harry.’ Leike proffered his hand. ‘And if any names crop up to do with the Havass cabin, or someone comes forward, just ring me and I’ll see if I can remember them. Full cooperation, Harry.’
Harry watched himself shake hands with the man he had just decided had killed six people in the last three months.
Fifteen minutes had passed since Leike left when Katrine Bratt rang.
‘Negative on four of them,’ she said.
‘And the fifth?’
‘One hit. Deep in digital information’s innermost intestinal tract.’
‘You’ll like it. On the 16th of February Elias Skog was called by a number that is not registered in anyone’s name. A secret number, in other words. And that could be the reason that Oslo-’
‘-Police haven’t seen the link before. But inside the innermost intestines-’
‘By which you mean on Telenor’s internal, highly protected register?’
‘Something like that. The name of one Tony Leike, Holmenveien 172, turned up as the invoiced subscriber for this secret number.’
‘Yess!’ Harry shouted. ‘You’re an angel.’
‘Poorly chosen metaphor, I believe. Since you sound as if I’ve just sentenced a man to life imprisonment.’
‘Talk to you later.’
‘Wait! Don’t you want to hear about Jussi Kolkka?’
‘I’d almost forgotten about that. Shoot.’
Harry found Kaja in crime squad, in the Red Zone on the sixth floor. She perked up when she noticed Harry standing in the doorway.
‘Always got an open door?’ he asked.
‘Always. And you?’
‘Closed. Always. But I can see you’ve thrown out the guest’s chair. Smart move. People like to chew the fat.’
She laughed. ‘Doing anything exciting?’
‘In a way,’ he said, entering and leaning against the wall.
She placed both hands against the edge of her desk, pushed, and she and the chair sailed across the floor to the filing cabinet. There, she opened a drawer, pulled out a letter and presented it to Harry. ‘Thought you’d like to see this.’
‘What is it?’
‘The Snowman. His solicitor has applied for him to be transferred from Ullersmo to a normal hospital for health reasons.’
He perched on the edge of the desk and read. ‘Mm. Scleroderma. It’s progressing fast. Not too fast, I hope. He doesn’t deserve that.’
He looked up and saw that she was shocked.
‘My great-aunt died of scleroderma,’ she said. ‘A terrible disease.’
‘And a terrible man,’ Harry said. ‘Incidentally, I quite agree with those who say that the capacity to forgive says something about the essential quality of a person. I’m the lowest grade.’
‘I didn’t mean to criticise you.’
‘I promise to be better in my next life,’ Harry said, looking down and rubbing his neck. ‘Which, if the Hindus are right, will probably be as a bark beetle. But I’ll be a nice bark beetle.’
He looked up and saw that what Rakel called his ‘damned boyish charm’ was having an effect. ‘Listen, Kaja, I’ve come here to make you an offer.’
‘Yes.’ Harry heard the solemnity in his voice. The voice of a man with no capacity to forgive, no consideration, no thoughts for anything except his own objectives. And plied the inverted persuasion technique that had worked for him far too often. ‘Which I would recommend you decline. I have, you see, a tendency to destroy the lives of those I become involved with.’
To his astonishment, he saw that her face had flushed scarlet.
‘But I don’t think it would be right to do this without you,’ he continued. ‘Not now that we’re so close.’
‘Close… to what?’ The blushes had gone.
‘Close to apprehending the guilty party. I’m on my way to the police solicitor now to request a warrant for his arrest.’
‘Oh… of course.’
‘I mean, arrest whom?’ She heaved herself back to the desk. ‘For what?’
‘Our killer, Kaja.’
‘Really?’ He watched her pupils grow, slowly, pulsating. And knew what was going on inside her. The blood rush before bringing down, felling the wild animal. The arrest. Which would be on her CV. How could she resist?
Harry nodded. ‘His name is Tony Leike.’
The colour returned to her cheeks. ‘Sounds familiar.’
‘He’s about to marry the daughter of-’
‘Oh yes, he’s engaged to the Galtung girl.’ She frowned. ‘Do you mean to say you have evidence?’
‘Circumstantial. And coincidences.’
He saw her pupils contract again.
‘I’m sure this is our man, Kaja.’
‘Convince me,’ she said, and he could hear the hunger. The desire to swallow everything raw, to have a pretext for taking the craziest decision of her life so far. And he had no intention of protecting her against herself. For he needed her. She was media-perfect: young, intelligent, a woman, ambitious. With an appealing face and record. In short, she had everything he did not have. She was a Jeanne d’Arc the Justice Ministry would not want to burn at the stake.
Harry breathed in. Then he repeated the conversation he had had with Tony Leike. In detail. Without wondering at how he was able to reproduce what had been said word for word. His colleagues had always considered this ability remarkable.
‘Havass cabin, Congo and Lake Lyseren,’ Kaja said after he had finished. ‘He’s been to all the places.’
‘Yes, and he’s been convicted for violence. And he admits his intention was to kill.’
‘The really great bit comes now. He rang Elias Skog. Two days before he was found murdered.’
Her pupils were black suns.
‘We’ve got him,’ she said softly.
‘Does the we mean what I think it does?’
Harry sighed. ‘You realise the risks of joining me in this? Even if I’m right about Leike, there’s no guarantee that this arrest and a successful prosecution of the case are enough to tip the balance of power in Hagen’s favour. And then you’ll be in the doghouse.’
‘What about you?’ She leaned across the desk. Her tiny piranha teeth glistened. ‘Why do you think it’s worth the risk?’
‘I’m a washed-up cop with little to lose, Kaja. For me, it’s this or nothing. I can’t do Narc or Sexual Offences, and Kripos will never make me an offer. But for you personally this is probably a poor decision.’
‘My decisions usually are,’ she said, serious now.
‘Good,’ Harry said, standing up. ‘I’ll go and get the solicitor. Don’t run away.’
‘I’ll be here, Harry.’
Harry pivoted straight into the face of a man who had clearly been standing in the doorway for some time.
‘Sorry,’ the man said with a broad smile. ‘I’d just like to borrow the lady for a while.’
He nodded towards Kaja, laughter dancing in his eyes.
‘Be my guest,’ Harry said, giving the man his abbreviated form of a smile, and strode off down the corridor.
‘Aslak Krongli,’ Kaja said. ‘What brings a country boy to the big bad city?’
‘The usual, I suppose,’ said the officer from Ustaoset.
‘Excitement, neon lights and the buzz of the crowd?’
Aslak smiled. ‘Work. And a woman. Can I buy you a cup of coffee?’
‘Not right now,’ Kaja said. ‘Things are happening, so I have to hold the fort. But I’d be happy to buy you a cup in the canteen. It’s on the top floor. If you go ahead, that’ll give me time to make a phone call.’
He gave her a thumbs up and was gone.
Kaja closed her eyes and drew in a long, quivering breath.
The police solicitor’s office was on the sixth floor, so Harry didn’t have far to walk. The solicitor, a young woman who had obviously been taken on since Harry last visited the office, peered over her glasses as he stepped in.
‘Need a blue chit,’ Harry said.
‘And you would be?’
‘Harry Hole, Inspector.’
He presented his ID card even though he could see from her somewhat frenetic reaction that she had heard of him. He could just imagine what, and decided not to go there. For her part, she noted down his name on the search and arrest warrant and scrutinised his card with exaggerated squints, as though the spelling were extremely complicated.
‘Two crosses?’ she asked.
‘Fine,’ Harry said.
She put a cross against ‘arrest’ and ‘search’ and leaned back in her chair in a way that Harry bet was a copy of the you’ve-got-thirty-seconds-to-persuade-me pose she had seen more seasoned solicitors adopt.
Harry knew from experience that the first argument was the weighty one – that was when solicitors made up their minds – so he started with the call Leike made to Elias Skog two days before the murder. This despite Leike’s assertions when talking to Harry that he didn’t know Skog and hadn’t spoken to him at the cabin. Argument number two was the assault conviction which Leike admitted was attempted murder, and Harry could already see that the blue chit was in the bag. So he spiced up proceedings with the coincidences of the Congo and Lake Lyseren, without entering into too much detail.
She removed her glasses.
‘Basically, I’m sympathetic,’ she said. ‘However, I need to give the matter a little more thought.’
Harry cursed inwardly. A more experienced solicitor would have given him the warrant there and then, but she was so green she didn’t dare without consulting one of the others. There should have been an ‘in training’ sign on her door, so that he could have gone to one of the others. Now it was too late.
‘It’s urgent,’ Harry said.
She had him there. Harry made an airy gesture with his hand, the kind that is supposed to say everything, but says nothing.
‘I’ll make a decision straight after lunch…’ She pointedly peered down at the form. ‘… Hole. I’ll put the blue chit in your pigeon hole, if it gets clearance.’
Harry clenched his teeth to make sure he didn’t say anything hasty. Because he knew she was behaving in a proper manner. Naturally, she was overcompensating for the fact that she was young, inexperienced and a woman in a male-dominated world. But she showed a determination to be respected; from the outset she demonstrated that the steamroller technique would not work on her. Well done. He felt like grabbing her glasses and smashing them.
‘Could you ring my internal number when you’ve made up your mind?’ he said. ‘For the moment my office is quite a distance from the pigeon holes.’
‘Fine,’ she said graciously.
Harry was in the culvert, about fifty metres from the office, when he heard the door open. A figure came out, hastily locked up after himself, turned and began to hurry towards Harry. And stiffened when he caught sight of him.
‘Did I startle you, Bjorn?’ Harry asked gently.
The distance between them was still over twenty metres, but the walls cast the sound towards Bjorn Holm.
‘Bit,’ said the man from Toten, straightening the multicoloured Rasta hat covering his red hair. ‘You creep up on folk.’
‘Mm. And you?’
‘What about me?’
‘What are you doing here? I thought you had enough to do in Kripos. You’ve been given a wonderful new job, I hear.’ Harry stopped two metres from Holm, who was obviously taken aback.
‘Not sure about wonderful,’ Holm said. ‘I’m not allowed to work on what I like best.’
‘Forensics. You know me.’
‘Eh?’ Holm frowned. ‘Coordination of forensics and strategic planning, what’s that s’posed to be when it’s at home? Passing on messages, calling meetings, sending out reports.’
‘It’s a promotion,’ Harry said. ‘The start of something good, don’t you think?’
Holm snorted. ‘Know what I think? I think Bellman’s put me there to keep me out of the loop, to make sure I don’t get any first-hand info. Because he suspects that if I do, he’s not sure he’ll get it before you.’
‘But he’s mistaken there,’ Harry said, standing face to face with the forensics officer.
Bjorn Holm blinked twice. ‘What the fuck is this, Harry?’
‘Yes, what the fuck is it?’ Harry heard the anger making his voice tight, metallic. ‘What the fuck were you doing in the office, Bjorn? All your crap has gone now.’
‘Doing?’ Bjorn said. ‘Fetching this, wasn’t I.’ He held up his right hand. It was clutching a book. ‘You said you’d leave it in reception, remember?’
Hank Williams: The Biography.
Harry felt the shame flood into his cheeks.
‘Mm,’ Bjorn mimicked.
‘I had it with me when we moved out,’ Harry said. ‘But we did a Uturn halfway down the culvert and came back. Then I forgot all about it.’
‘OK. Can I go now?’
Harry stepped aside, and listened to Bjorn stomping down the culvert between curses.
He unlocked the office.
Flopped into the chair.
The notebook. He flicked through. He hadn’t taken any notes from the conversation, nothing that would pinpoint Tony Leike as a suspect. Harry opened the drawers in the desk to see if there were any signs of someone having rifled them. It all looked untouched. Could Harry have been wrong after all? Could he hope that Holm was not leaking information to Mikael Bellman?
Harry glanced at his watch. Praying the new police solicitor ate quickly. He struck an arbitrary key on the computer and the screen came to life. It was still showing the page with his last Google search. In the search box the name shone out at him: Tony Leike.
The Blue Chit
‘So,’said Aslak Krongli, twirling his coffee cup. Kaja thought it looked like an egg cup in his large hand. She had taken a seat opposite him at the table closest to the window. The police canteen was situated on the top floor and was of standard Norwegian design, that is, light and clean, but not so cosy that people would be tempted to sit for longer than necessary. The great advantage of the room was its view of the town, but that didn’t seem to interest Krongli much.
‘I checked the guest books at the other self-service cabins in the area,’ he went on. ‘The only people who had written in the book that they were planning to spend the next night at Havass cabin were Charlotte Lolles and Iska Peller, who were in Tunvegg the night before.’
‘And we already know about them,’ Kaja said.
‘Yes. So in fact I have only two things that might be of interest to you.’
‘And they are?’
‘I was speaking on the phone to an elderly couple who were at the Tunvegg cabin the same night as Lolles and Peller. They said that a man had turned up in the evening, had a bite to eat, changed his shirt, then went on his way heading south-west. Even though it was dark. And the only cabin in that direction is Havass.’
‘And this person…’
‘They barely saw him. Seemed as if he didn’t want to be seen, either; he didn’t take off his balaclava or his old-fashioned slalom goggles, not even when changing his shirt. The wife said she thought he might have had a serious injury at one time.’
‘Why was that?’
‘She could only remember thinking this, couldn’t say why. Nevertheless, he might have changed direction when he was out of sight, and skied to another cabin.’
‘Suppose so,’ Kaja said, checking her watch.
‘Anyone come forward in response to your crime alert, by the way?’
‘No,’ Kaja said.
‘You look as though you mean yes.’
Kaja’s eyes shot up at Aslak Krongli, who reacted by holding up his palms. ‘Country clod in town! Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that.’
‘Alright,’ Kaja said.
They both inspected their coffee cups.
‘You said there were two things I might be interested in,’ Kaja said. ‘What’s the second?’
‘I know I’m going to regret saying this,’ Krongli said. The quiet laughter was back in his eyes.
Kaja guessed immediately which direction the conversation was going to take and knew he was right: he would regret it.
‘I’m staying at the Plaza and wondered if you would like to have dinner with me there tonight.’
She could see by his expression that her own was not difficult to read.
‘I don’t know anyone else in town,’ he said, contorting his mouth into a grimace that might have been intended as a disarming smile. ‘Apart from my ex, that is, and I daren’t ring her.’
‘Would’ve been nice…’ Kaja began, and paused. Conditional past. She saw that Aslak Krongli was already regretting his approach. ‘… but I’m afraid I’m otherwise engaged.’
‘Fine, this was short notice.’ Krongli smiled, threaded his fingers through his unruly, curly hair. ‘What about tomorrow?’
‘I… er, I’m pretty busy these days, Aslak.’
Krongli nodded, apparently to himself. ‘Of course. Of course you’re busy. The man who was in your room when I arrived is perhaps the reason?’
‘No, I’ve got new bosses now.’
‘It wasn’t bosses I had in mind.’
‘You said you were in love with a policeman. And it seemed to me he didn’t have much difficulty persuading you. Less than me anyway.’
‘No, no, that wasn’t him! Are you out of your mind? I… erm, must have had too much to drink that night.’ Kaja could hear her own inane laughter and felt the blood rising up her neck.
‘Oh well,’ Krongli said, finishing his coffee, ‘I’ll have to go out into the big, cold city. I suppose there are museums to visit and bars to patronise.’
‘Yes, you have to make the most of the opportunity.’
He arched an eyebrow and his eyes shed tears and laughed out loud. The way Even’s had at the end.
Kaja accompanied him out. As he shook her hand, she couldn’t help herself. ‘Ring me if it gets too lonely and I’ll see if I can slip away.’
She interpreted his smile as gratitude for allowing him the chance to decline an offer or at least to decide not to take her up on it.
Standing in the lift to the sixth floor, Kaja was reminded of what he had said, ‘… didn’t have much difficulty persuading you.’ How long had he actually been standing there by the door eavesdropping?
At one o’clock the telephone in front of Kaja rang.
It was Harry. ‘I’ve finally got the blue chit. Ready?’
She could feel her heart beating faster. ‘Yes.’
‘Vest and a weapon.’
‘Delta will take care of weapons. They’re ready in a vehicle outside the garage, just have to go down. And bring the blue chit from my pigeon hole, would you?’
Ten minutes later they were in one of Delta’s blue twelve-seaters heading west through the city centre. Kaja listened to Harry explaining that he had rung Leike half an hour earlier at the building where he rented an office and they had said he was working off-site today. Harry had called his home number in Holmenveien, Tony Leike had answered and Harry had rung off. To lead the operation, Harry had specifically requested Milano, a dark, squat man with massive eyebrows, who did not have a drop of Italian blood in his veins, despite his surname.
They passed through Ibsen Tunnel, and rectangles of reflected light slid over the helmets and visors of the eight elite officers who appeared to be in deep meditation.
Kaja and Harry sat on the rear seat. Harry was wearing a black jacket with POLITI written in large yellow letters at the front and back, and had taken out his service revolver to check that there were bullets in all the chambers.
‘Eight men from Delta and a blender,’ Kaja said, referring to the blue light rotating on the roof of the MPV. ‘Sure this isn’t a bit over the top?’
‘It has to be over the top,’ Harry said. ‘If we want to attract attention to the person who initiated this arrest, then we need a bigger party factor than usual.’
‘Leaked it to the press?’
Harry clocked her.
‘If you want attention, I mean,’ she said. ‘Imagine it, Leike, the celebrity, being arrested for the murder of Marit Olsen. They would pass up on the birth of a princess for that.’
‘And what about if his fiancee is there?’ Harry said. ‘Or the mother? Are they going to be in the papers and on live TV, too?’ He jerked the revolver and the cylinder clicked into place.
‘What are we going to do with the big party factor then?’
‘The press come later,’ Harry said. ‘They question the neighbours, passers-by, us. They find out what a magnificent show it was. That’ll do me. No innocents involved, and we get our front page.’
She sent him a sideways glance as the shadows of the next tunnel passed over them. They crossed Majorstuen and went up Slemdalsveien, past Vinderen, and she saw him staring out of the window, at the tram stop, a naked expression of torment on his face. She felt an urge to place a hand over his, to say something, anything, that could remove that expression. She looked at his hand. It was holding the revolver, squeezing it, as though it was all he had. This could not go on, something was going to burst. Had already burst.
They climbed higher and higher; the town lay beneath them. They crossed the tramlines and then the lights began to flash behind them and the barrier was lowered.
They were in Holmenveien.
‘Who’s coming with me to the door, Milano?’ Harry shouted to the passenger seat at the front.
‘Delta 3 and Delta 4,’ Milano shouted back, turning and pointing to a man with a large figure 3 chalked onto the chest and back of his combat suit.
‘OK,’ Harry said. ‘And the rest?’
‘Two men on each side of the house. Procedure Dyke 1-4-5.’
Kaja knew this was code for the formation. It had been borrowed from American football, and the aim was to communicate quickly without anyone else understanding, in case they had managed to tune into the radio frequencies that Delta used. They came to a halt a couple of houses down from Leike’s. Six of the men checked their MP5s and jumped out. Kaja saw them move up through the neighbours’ large gardens of brown, withered grass, bare apple trees and the tall hedges they had a proclivity for in west Oslo. Kaja checked her watch. Forty seconds had gone when Milano’s radio crackled. ‘Everyone in position.’
The driver released the clutch, and they drove slowly towards the house. Tony Leike’s recently acquired home was yellow, single storey, impressively large, but the address was more resplendent than the architecture, which lay somewhere between functionalist and a wooden box, as far as Kaja could judge.
They stopped outside two garage doors at the end of a shingle drive leading to the front door. Several years back, during a hostage crisis in Vestfold where Delta had surrounded a house, the hostage-takers had escaped by strolling down a path from the house into the garage, starting up the house owner’s car and simply driving off, to the open-mouthed amazement of the heavily armed police bystanders.
‘Stay back and follow me,’ Harry said to Kaja. ‘Next time it’s your turn.’
They got out and Harry immediately made for the house with the two other policemen one step behind and to the side, in a triangle formation. Kaja could hear from his voice that his pulse was accelerated. Now she could see it in his body language too, from the tenseness of the neck, from the exaggeratedly supple way he was moving.
They went up the steps. Harry rang the bell. The other two had positioned themselves at each side of the door, backs against the wall.
Kaja counted. Harry had told her in the car that in the FBI manual it said you had to ring or knock, shout ‘Police!’ and ‘Please open up!’, repeat and then wait ten seconds before you entered. The Norwegian police had no such precise instructions, but that didn’t mean there weren’t guidelines.
On this afternoon in Holmenveien, however, none of them were in evidence.
The door burst open. Kaja automatically recoiled a step when she saw the Rasta hat in the doorway, then saw Harry’s shoulders swivel and heard the sound of fist on flesh.
The reaction had been instinctive; Harry had simply not been able to prevent it.
When Forensics Officer Bjorn Holm’s moonlike face had appeared in Tony Leike’s doorway and Harry had seen the other officers in full swing behind him, he realised in a flash what had happened and everything went black.
He just felt the punch register along his arm into his shoulder and then the pain in his knuckles. Opening his eyes again, he saw Bjorn Holm on his knees in the hall with blood streaming from his nose into his mouth and dripping from his chin.
The two Delta officers had leapt forward and pointed their weapons at Holm, but were obviously in a state of bewilderment. They had probably seen his familiar Rasta hat before and were aware the other men in white were crime scene officers.
‘Report back that the situation is under control,’ Harry said to the man with the figure 3 on his chest. ‘And that the suspect has been arrested. By Mikael Bellman.’
Harry sat slumped in the chair with his legs stretched out as far as Gunnar Hagen’s desk.
‘It’s very simple, boss. Bellman found out we were about to arrest Tony Leike. For Christ’s sake, they’ve got the public prosecutor’s office right across the street, in the same building as Krimteknisk. All he had to do was amble over and pick up a blue chit from one of the solicitors. He was probably done in two minutes, while I waited for two fucking hours!’
‘You don’t need to shout,’ Hagen said.
‘You don’t need to, but I do!’ Harry shouted, banging the armrest. ‘Shit, shit, shit!’
‘You should be happy Holm’s not going to report you. Why did you hit him anyway? Is he the leak?’
‘Anything else you wanted, boss?’
Hagen looked at his inspector. Then he shook his head. ‘Take a couple of days off, Harry.’
Truls Berntsen had been called a lot of things in his childhood. Most of the nicknames were forgotten now. But he had been given a name soon after he finished school in the early nineties that had stuck: Beavis. The cartoon idiot on MTV. Blond hair, underbite and grunted laugh. OK, maybe he did laugh like that. Had done ever since primary school, especially when someone was given a beating. Especially when he was given a beating. He had read in a comic that the guy who made Beavis and Butt-Head was called Judge; he couldn’t recall the first name. But at any rate, this Judge guy said he imagined that Beavis’s father was a drunkard who beat his son. Truls Berntsen remembered he had just thrown the comic on the floor and left the shop, laughing this grunt laughter.
He had two uncles who were in the police force, and he had managed to satisfy the entrance requirements by the skin of his arse and with two letters of recommendation. And scraped through the exam with at least one helping hand from the guy at the next desk. It was the least he could do; they had been pals since they were small. Sort of pals. To be honest, Mikael Bellman had been his boss since they were twelve years old when they met on the large building site that was being blown up in Manglerud. Bellman had caught him trying to set fire to a dead rat. And had shown him how much more fun it was to stuff a stick of dynamite down a rat’s throat. Truls had even been allowed to light it. And since that day he had followed Mikael Bellman wherever he went. When he was given permission. Mikael knew how to do all the things Truls did not. School, gym lessons, talk so that no one would give you any shit. He even had girls; one of them was older and had tits Mikael was allowed to stroke as much as he liked. There was only one thing Truls was better at: taking a beating. Mikael always backed down when any of the bigger boys found it hard to accept that the show-off had outdone them in the art of badmouthing and went for him with clenched fists. Then Mikael shoved Truls in front of him. For Truls could take a beating. He had plenty of training from home. They could knock him about until blood was drawn, but he still stood there with his grunted laugh, which just made them even wilder. But he couldn’t stop himself, he simply had to laugh. He knew that afterwards he would receive a pat on the shoulder from Mikael, and if it was a Sunday, Mikael might say that Julle and TV were having another race. So they would stand on the bridge below the Ryen intersection, smell the sun-baked tarmac and listen to the Kawasaki 1000cc engines revving up as the cheerleaders screamed and shouted. And then Julle’s and TV’s bikes would tear down Sunday’s traffic-free motorways, pass beneath them and on to the tunnel and Bryn, and they might – if Mikael was in a good mood and Truls’s mother was working a shift at Aker Hospital – go and eat Sunday lunch with fru Bellman.
Once Mikael had rung the bell at Truls’s house and his father had shouted that Jesus had come to collect his disciple.
They had never argued. That is, Truls had never retaliated if Mikael was in a stinking mood and took the piss out of him. Not even at the party when Mikael had called him Beavis and everyone had laughed, and Truls had instinctively known that the name would stick. He had retaliated only once. The time Mikael had called his father one of the drunks from the Kadok factory. Then Truls had gone for Mikael with a raised fist. Mikael had curled up with an arm over his head, told him to take it easy, laughed and said he was just joking, he was sorry. But afterwards it was Truls who had been sorry and apologised.
One day Mikael and Truls had gone into one of the petrol stations where they knew Julle and TV stole fuel. Julle and TV filled the Kawasaki tanks from the self-service pumps while their girls sat at the back with their denim jackets casually tied around their waists covering the number plates. Then the boys jumped on their bikes and rode off full throttle.
Mikael gave them the full names and addresses of Julle and TV, but of just one of the girls, TV’s girlfriend. The owner had looked sceptical, wondering whether he hadn’t seen Truls’s face before on a CCTV camera; at any rate he resembled the lad who had stolen a jerrycan of petrol not long before the empty workmen’s shed at Manglerud went up in flames. Mikael had said he didn’t want any reward for the information, he just wanted the guilty parties held responsible for their actions. He assumed the owner was aware of his social duty. The grown-up man had nodded, somewhat surprised. Mikael had that effect on people. As they left, Mikael said he was going to apply to Police College after school and Beavis should consider doing the same – there were even policemen in his family.
Later, Mikael had got together with Ulla, and they hadn’t seen so much of each other. But after school and Police College they had been employed by the same police station in Stovner, a real east Oslo suburb with gang crimes, burglaries and even the odd murder. After a year Mikael had married Ulla and been promoted. Truls, or Beavis, as he had been called from day three, roughly, reported to him and the future had looked good for Truls and radiant for Mikael. Until some knucklehead, a civilian temp in the salaries office, had accused Bellman of smashing his jaw after the Christmas dinner. He had no proof, and Truls knew for certain that Mikael had not done it. But in all the hubbub Mikael had applied for a move anyway, been accepted at Europol, moved to the head office in The Hague where he soon became a star, too.
When Mikael returned to Norway and Kripos, the second thing he did was to ring Truls and ask: ‘Beavis, are you ready to blow up rats again?’
The first was to employ Jussi.
Jussi Kolkka was a an expert in half a dozen martial arts whose names you forget before they have been fully articulated. He had worked at Europol for four years, and before that he had been a policeman in Helsinki. Jussi Kolkka had been forced to resign from Europol because he had crossed the line during an investigation into a series of rapes targeting teenage girls in southern Europe. Kolkka had, it was said, beaten up a sex offender so badly that even his brief had had trouble recognising him. But he had no trouble threatening Europol with a lawsuit. Truls had tried to get Jussi to tell him the gory detail, but he had just stared into the distance without speaking. Fair enough, Truls wasn’t the talkative type, either. And he had noticed that the less you speak, the greater the chance people will underrate you. Which was not always a bad thing. Nevertheless. Tonight they had reason to celebrate. Mikael, himself, Jussi and Kripos had won. And in Mikael’s absence they would have to call the shots themselves.
‘Shut up!’ shouted Truls, pointing to the TV attached to the wall above the bar at Kafe Justisen. And heard his own nervous grunted laugh when his colleagues actually did what he said. There was silence around the tables and the bar. Everyone was staring at the newsreader, who looked straight into the camera and announced what they had been waiting for.
‘Today Kripos arrested a man suspected of killing six people, including Marit Olsen.’
Cheers broke out, mugs of beer were swung, silencing the newsreader until a deep voice with a Finnish-Swedish accent boomed ‘Shut up!’
The Kripos officers obeyed and focused their attention on Mikael Bellman who was standing outside their building in Bryn with a furry microphone thrust into his face.
‘This person is a suspect, will be interviewed by Kripos and thereafter appear in court for a preliminary hearing,’ Mikael Bellman said.
‘Does that mean you believe the police have solved this case?’
‘Finding the perpetrator and getting him convicted are two different things,’ Bellman said with a tiny smile at the corners of his mouth. ‘However, our investigation at Kripos has uncovered so much circumstantial evidence and so many coincidences that we considered it appropriate to make an immediate arrest as there was a risk of further crimes and a tampering of evidence.’
‘The man you have arrested is in his thirties. Can you tell us any more about him?’
‘He has a previous conviction for violence; that is all I can say.’
‘On the Internet there are rumours circulating about the man’s identity. Suggesting he’s a well-known investor who among other things is engaged to the daughter of a famous shipowner. Can you confirm these rumours, Bellman?’
‘I don’t think I have to confirm or deny anything except that we at Kripos are fairly confident that we will soon have this case solved.’
The reporter turned to the camera for an outro, but was drowned out by the round of applause at Justisen.
Truls ordered another beer as one of the detectives got up onto a chair and proclaimed that Crime Squad could suck his dick, at least the tip, if they said pretty please. Laughter resounded around the packed, sweaty, fetid room.
At that moment the door opened and in the mirror Truls saw a figure fill the entrance.
He felt a strange excitement at the sight, a tremulous certainty that something was going to happen, that someone would be hurt.
It was Harry Hole.
Tall, broad-shouldered, lean-faced with deep-set bloodshot eyes. He just stood there. And although no one shouted for the crowd to shut up the silence spread from the front to the back of Justisen, until a last shh was heard to quieten two garrulous forensics officers. When the silence was total, Hole spoke.
‘So you’re celebrating the job you succeeded in stealing from us, are you?’
The words were low, almost a whisper, and yet every syllable reverberated around the room.
‘You’re celebrating having a boss who’s prepared to step over dead bodies – those that have piled up outside and those that will soon be carried from the sixth floor at Police HQ – just so that he can be the Sun King of fucking Bryn. Well, here’s a hundred-krone note.’
Truls could see Hole waving a note.
‘You don’t have to steal this. Here, buy yourselves beer, forgiveness, a dildo for Bellman’s threesome…’ He screwed up the note and tossed it onto the floor. From the corner of his eye he could see Jussi was already moving. ‘… or another snitch.’
Hole lurched to the side to gain balance, and it was then that Truls realised that the guy – despite enunciating with the diction of a priest – was as stewed as a prune.
The next moment Hole performed a half-pirouette as Jussi Kolkka’s right hook hit him on the chin, and then a deep, almost gallant bow, as the Finn’s left buried itself in his solar plexus. Truls guessed that in a few seconds Hole – when he had got some air back in his lungs – was going to spew. In here. And Jussi was obviously thinking the same, that he would be better outside. It was a wonder to see how the tubby, almost log-shaped Finn lifted his foot high with the suppleness of a ballerina, placed it against Harry’s shoulder and gently pushed so that the crumpled detective rocked backwards and through the door whence he had come.
The drunkest and youngest of them howled with laughter, but Truls grunted. A couple of the older ones yelled, and one screamed that Kolkka should bloody well behave himself. But no one did anything. Truls knew why. Everyone here remembered the story. Harry had dragged the uniform through the dirt, shat in the nest, taken the life of one of their best men.
Jussi marched towards the bar, po-faced, as if he had carried out the rubbish. Truls whinnied and grunted. He would never understand Finns or Samis or Eskimos or whatever the hell they were.
From further back in the room a man had stood up and made his way to the door. Truls hadn’t seen him at Kripos before, but he had the circumspect eye of a policeman under all that dark, curly hair.
‘Tell me if you need any help with him, sheriff,’ someone shouted from his table.
Three minutes later, when Celine Dion had been turned back up and the chatting had resumed its previous levels, Truls ventured forth, put his foot on the hundred-krone note and took it to the bar.
Harry had his breath back. And he spewed. Once, twice. Then he collapsed again. The tarmac was so cold it stung his ribs through his shirt and so heavy he seemed to be supporting it and not vice versa. Blood-red spots and wriggling black worms danced in front of his eyes.
Harry heard the voice, but knew that if he showed he was conscious it would be open season for a kicking. So he kept his eyes closed.
‘Hole?’ The voice had come closer and he felt a hand on his shoulder.
Harry also knew that the alcohol would have reduced his speed, accuracy and ability to judge distances, but he did it anyway. He opened his eyes, twisted over and aimed for the larynx. Then he collapsed again.
He had missed by half a metre.
‘I’ll get you a taxi,’ the voice said.
‘Will you fuck,’ Harry groaned. ‘Piss off, you bloody bastard.’
‘I’m not Kripos,’ the voice said. ‘My name’s Krongli. The County Officer from Ustaoset.’
Harry turned and squinted up at him.
‘I’m just a bit pissed,’ Harry said hoarsely and tried to breathe calmly so that the pain wouldn’t force the contents of his stomach up again. ‘No big deal.’
‘I’m a bit pissed, too,’ Krongli smiled, putting an arm around Harry’s shoulders. ‘And, to be frank, I have no idea where to get a taxi. Can you stand upright?’
Harry got one and then two legs beneath him, blinked a couple of times and established that at least he was vertical again. Semi-embracing an officer from Ustaoset.
‘Where are you sleeping tonight?’ Krongli asked.
Harry looked askance at the officer. ‘At home. And preferably on my own, if that’s alright with you.’
At that moment a police car pulled up in front of them, and the window slid down. Harry heard the tail end of some laughter and then a composed voice.
‘Harry Hole, Crime Squad?’
‘Sme,’ Harry sighed.
‘We’ve just received a phone call from one of the Kripos detectives requesting that we drive you home safe and sound.’
‘Open the door then!’
Harry got onto the back seat, lolled against the headrest, closed his eyes, started to feel everything rotating, but preferred that to watching the two in the front ogling him. Krongli asked them to ring him at a number when ‘Harry’ was safely home. What the hell gave him the idea he was his pal? Harry heard the hum of the window and then the pleasant voice from the front seat again.
‘Where do you live, Hole?’
‘Keep going straight ahead,’ Harry said. ‘We’re going to pay someone a visit.’
When Harry felt the car set off, he opened his eyes, turned and saw Aslak Krongli still standing on the pavement in Mollergata.
Kaja lay on her side staring into the darkness of her bedroom. She had heard the gate open and now there were footsteps on the gravel outside. She held her breath and waited. Then the doorbell rang. She slipped out of bed, into her dressing gown and over to the window. Another ring. She opened the curtains a fraction. And sighed.
‘Drunken police officer,’ she said out loud in the room.
She put her feet into slippers and shuffled into the hall towards the door. Opened it and stood in the doorway with crossed arms.
‘Hello there, schweedie,’ the policeman slurred. Kaja wondered if he was trying to perform the drunkard sketch. Or if it was the pitiful original version.
‘What brings you here so late?’ Kaja asked.
‘You. Can I come in?’
‘But you said I could get in touch if I was too lonely. And I was.’
‘Aslak Krongli,’ she said. ‘I’m in bed. Go to your hotel now. We can have a coffee tomorrow morning.’
‘I need a coffee now, I reckon. Ten minutes and we’ll ring for a taxi, eh? We can talk about murders and serial killers to pass the time. What do you say?’
‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘I’m not on my own.’
Krongli straightened up at once, with a movement that made Kaja suspect he was not as drunk as he had seemed at first. ‘Really? Is he here, that policeman you said you were so hung up on?’
‘Are they his?’ the officer drawled, kicking the enormous shoes beside the doormat.
Kaja didn’t answer. There was something in Krongli’s voice, no, behind it, something she hadn’t heard there before. Like a low-frequency, barely audible growl.
‘Or have you just put the shoes there to frighten off unwanted visitors?’ Laughter in his eyes. ‘There’s no one here, is there, Kaja?’
‘The policeman you’re talking about, Harry Hole, came a cropper earlier this evening. Turned up at Justisen as drunk as a skunk, picked a fight and got one. A patrol car passed by to give him a lift home. So you must be free tonight after all, eh?’
Her heart beat faster; she was no longer cold under the dressing gown.
‘Perhaps they drove him here instead,’ she said and could hear her voice was different now.
‘No, they rang me and said they had driven him way up the hill to visit someone. When they found out he wanted to go to Rikshospital and they strongly advised against it, he just jumped out at the traffic lights. I like my coffee strong, OK?’
An intense gleam had come into his eyes, the same Even used to get when he wasn’t well.
‘Aslak, go now. There are taxis in Kirkeveien.’
His hand shot out and before she could react he had grabbed her arm and pushed her inside. She tried to free herself, but he put an arm around her and held her tight.
‘Do you want to be just like her?’ his voice hissed in her ear. ‘To cut and run, to scram? To be like all you bloody lot…’
She groaned and twisted, but he was strong.
The voice came from the bedroom where the door stood open. A firm, imperious man’s voice that, under different circumstances, Krongli might have recognised. As he had heard it only an hour earlier at Justisen.
‘What’s going on, Kaja?’
Krongli had already let go and was staring at her, with eyes wide and jaw agape.
‘Nothing,’ Kaja said, not letting Krongli out of her sight. ‘Just a drunken bumpkin from Ustaoset who’s on his way home.’
Krongli backed towards the front entrance without a word. Slipped out and slammed the door. Kaja went over, locked it and rested her forehead against the cold wood. She felt like crying. Not out of fear or shock. But despair. Everything around her was collapsing. Everything she had thought was clean and right had finally begun to appear in its real light. It had been happening for some time, but she hadn’t wanted to see. Because what Even had said was true: no one is as they seem, and most of life, apart from honest betrayal, is lies and deceit. And the day we discover we are no different is the day we no longer want to live.
‘Are you coming, Kaja?’
Kaja pushed off from the door through which she would so much have liked to flee. Went into the bedroom. The moonlight fell between the curtains and onto the bed, onto the bottle of champagne he had brought with him to celebrate, onto his naked, athletic torso, onto the face she had once thought the most handsome on this earth. The white patches on his face shimmered like luminous paint. As if he were aglow inside.
Kaja stood in the doorway looking at him.Mikael Bellman. To outsiders: a competent, ambitious POB, a happily married father of three and soon-to-be head of the new Kripos leviathan that would lead all murder investigations in Norway. To her, Kaja Solness: a man she had fallen in love with from the moment they’d met, who had seduced her with all the arts at his disposal, plus a few others. She had been easy game, but that wasn’t his fault, it was hers. By and large. What was it Harry had said? ‘He’s married and says he’ll leave his wife and kids for you, but never does?’
He had hit the nail on the head. Of course. That’s how banal we are. We believe because we want to believe. In gods, because that dulls the fear of death. In love, because it enhances the notion of life. In what married men say, because that is what married men say.
She knew what Mikael would say. And then he said it.
‘I have to be off. She’ll start wondering.’
‘I know,’ Kaja sighed and, as usual, did not ask the questions that always popped up when he said that: Why not stop her wondering? Why not do what you’ve said for so long? And now a new question emerged: Why am I no longer sure I want him to do this?
Harry clung to the banisters on his way up to the Haematology Department at Rikshospital. He was soaked in sweat, frozen, and his teeth were chattering like a two-stroke engine. And he was drunk. Drunk on Jim Beam, drunk and full of devilry, full of himself, full of shit. He staggered along the corridor; he could already make out the door to his father’s room at the end.
A nurse’s head poked out from a duty room, looked at him and was gone again. Harry had fifty metres to go to the door when the nurse, plus a skinhead male nurse, skidded into the corridor and cut him off.
‘We don’t keep medicines on this ward,’ the skinhead said.
‘What you are saying is not only a gross lie,’ Harry said, trying to control his balance and the chattering of his teeth, ‘but a gross insult. I’m not a junkie, but a son here to visit his father. So please, move out of my way.’
‘I apologise,’ said the female nurse who seemed quite reassured by Harry’s immaculate pronunciation. ‘But you smell like a brewery, and we cannot allow-’
‘A brewery is beer,’ Harry said. ‘Jim Beam is bourbon. Which would require you to say I smell like a distillery, froken. It’s…’
‘Nevertheless,’ the male nurse said, grabbing Harry by the elbow. And let it go just as quickly when his own hand was twisted round. The nurse groaned and grimaced with pain before Harry released him. Harry rose to his full height and eyeballed him.
‘Ring the police, Gerd,’ the nurse said softly without letting Harry out of his sight.
‘If you don’t mind, I’ll deal with this,’ said a voice with a suggestion of a lisp. It was Sigurd Altman. He was walking with a file under his arm and a friendly smile on his face. ‘Have you got time to come with me to where we keep drugs, Harry?’
Harry swayed back and forth twice. Focused on the small, thin man with the round glasses. Then he nodded.
‘This way,’ said Altman, who had already continued walking.
Altman’s office was, strictly speaking, a storeroom. There were no windows, there was no noticeable ventilation, but there was a desk and computer, a camp bed, which he explained was for night shifts, so that he could sleep or be roused whenever needed. And a lockable cabinet Harry assumed contained a range of chemical uppers and downers.
‘Altman,’ Harry said, sitting on the edge of the bed, smacking his lips loudly as though they were coated with glue. ‘Unusual name. Only know one person called that.’
‘Robert,’ said Sigurd, sitting on the only chair in the room. ‘I didn’t like who I was in the little village where I grew up. As soon as I got away I applied to change my surname from a much too common -sen. I justified my application by saying, as was the truth, that Robert Altman was my favourite director. And the case officer must have had a hangover that day because it was passed. We can all do with being reborn once in a while.’
‘The Player,’ Harry said.
‘Gosford Park,’ Altman said.
‘Ah, a masterpiece.’
‘Good, but overrated. Too many themes. The direction and editing make the plot unnecessarily complicated.’
‘Life is complicated. People are complicated. Watch it again, Harry.’
‘How’s it going? Any progress on the Marit Olsen case?’
‘Progress,’ Harry said. ‘The guy who did it was arrested today.’
‘Jeez, well, I can understand you celebrating.’ Altman pressed his chin to his chest and peered over his glasses. ‘I have to confess I’m hoping I can tell my grandchildren that it was my information about ketanome that cracked the case.’
‘By all means, but it was a phone call to one of the victims that gave him away.’
‘Poor all of them, I assume. So why the haste to see your father right now, tonight?’
Harry put his hand in front of his mouth and produced a noiseless belch.
‘There is a reason,’Altman said. ‘However drunk you are, there’s always a reason. On the other hand, that reason is none of my business, so perhaps I should keep my mou-’
‘Have you ever been asked to carry out euthanasia?’
Altman shrugged. ‘A few times, yes. As an anaesthetic nurse, I’m an obvious choice. Why?’
‘My father asked me.’
Altman nodded slowly. ‘It’s a heavy burden to place on someone. Is that why you came here now? To get it over with?’
Harry’s gaze had already wandered around the room to see if there was anything alcoholic to drink. Now it did another round. ‘I came to ask for forgiveness. For not being able to do it for him.’
‘You hardly need forgiveness for that. Taking a life is not something you can demand of anyone, let alone of your own son.’
Harry rested his head in his hands. It felt hard and heavy, like a bowling ball.
‘I’ve done it once before,’ he said.
Altman’s voice sounded more surprised than actually shocked. ‘Carried out euthanasia?’
‘No,’ Harry said. ‘Refused to carry it out. To my worst enemy. He has an incurable, fatal and very painful disease. He is slowly being suffocated by his own shrinking skin.’
‘Scleroderma,’ Altman said.
‘When I arrested him, he tried to make me shoot him. We were alone at the top of a tower, just him and me. He had killed an unknown number of people and hurt me and people I love. Permanent damage. My gun was pointing at him. Just us. Self-defence. I didn’t risk a thing by shooting him.’
‘But you preferred him to suffer,’ Altman said. ‘Death was too easy for him.’
‘And now you feel you’re doing the same with your father, you’re making him suffer rather than allowing him release.’
Harry rubbed his neck. ‘It’s not because I hold with the principles of the sanctity of life or any of that bullshit. It’s weakness, pure and simple. It’s cowardice. Christ, you haven’t got anything to drink here, have you, Altman?’
Sigurd Altman shook his head. Harry wasn’t sure if it was in answer to his last question or the other things he had said. Perhaps both.
‘You can’t just disregard your own feelings like that, Harry. You, like everyone else, are trying to leapfrog the fact that we are governed by notions of what’s right and wrong. Your intellect may not have all the arguments for these notions, but nonetheless they are rooted deep, deep inside you. Right and wrong. Perhaps it’s things you were told by your parents when you were a child, a fairy tale with a moral your grandmother read, or something unfair you experienced at school and you spent time thinking through. The sum of all these half-forgotten things.’ Altman leaned forward. ‘Anchored deep within is in fact a pretty apposite expression. Because it tells you that you may not be able to see the anchor in the depths, but you damn well can’t move from the spot, that’s what you float around and that’s where your home is. Try and accept that, Harry. Accept the anchor.’
Harry stared down at his folded hands. ‘The pain he has…’
‘Physical pain is not the worst thing a human has to deal with,’ Altman said. ‘Believe me, I see it every day. Not death, either. Nor even fear of death.’
‘What is the worst then?’
‘Humiliation. To be deprived of honour and dignity. To be disrobed, to be cast out by the flock. That’s the worst punishment, it’s akin to burying a person alive. And the only consolation is that the person will perish fairly quickly.’
‘Mm.’ Harry kept eye contact with Altman. ‘You don’t have anything in that cupboard to lighten the atmosphere, do you?’
Mikael Bellman had been dreaming about free fall again. Climbing solo in El Chorro, the fingerhold that isn’t, the mountain wall racing past your eyes, the ground accelerating towards you. The alarm clock ringing at the last moment. He wiped the egg yolk from his mouth and looked up at Ulla standing right behind him and filling his cup with coffee from the cafetiere. She had learned to recognise the precise moment when he was ready to eat, and it was then and not a second before that he wanted his coffee, boiling hot, poured into the blue cup. And that was only one of the reasons he appreciated her. Another was that she kept herself in such good shape that she still attracted admiring glances at the parties they were invited to more and more often. Ulla had, after all, been Manglerud’s undisputed beauty queen when they got together, he had been eighteen, she nineteen. A third reason was that Ulla, without making any great fuss about it, had set aside her dreams of further education so that he could prioritise his job. But the three most important reasons sat around the table arguing about who should have the plastic figure in the cornflakes box and who should sit in front today when she drove them to school. Two girls, one boy. Three perfect reasons to appreciate the woman and her genes’ compatibility with his.
‘Will you be late again tonight?’ she asked, furtively stroking his hair. He knew she loved his hair.
‘It might be a long session,’ he said. ‘We’re starting with the suspect today.’ He knew that over the course of the day the papers would publish what they already knew: that the arrestee was Tony Leike. But he had made it a principle never to reveal confidentialities even at home. That also enabled him to explain overtime regularly with ‘I can’t talk about that, darling’.
‘Why didn’t you question him yesterday?’ she asked while buttering the children’s bread for their packed lunches.
‘We had to gather more facts. And finish searching his house.’
‘Did you find anything?’
‘Afraid I can’t be that specific, darling,’ he said and gave her the regretful confidentiality look so as not to reveal the fact that she had actually put her finger on a sensitive point. Bjorn Holm and the crime scene officers hadn’t found anything during the search that could have linked Leike to any of the murders. Fortunately, for the moment, however, that was of minor importance.
‘Softening him up in a cell overnight won’t hurt,’ Bellman said. ‘It’ll just make him more receptive when we start. And the first part of the questioning is always the crunch.’
‘Is it?’ she asked, and he could tell she was trying to sound interested.
‘I have to be off.’ He got up and kissed her on the cheek. Yes, he certainly did appreciate her. The thought of forgoing her and the children, the framework and infrastructure that had enabled him to rise through the ranks, through the classes, was of course absurd. To follow the impulses of his heart, to throw up everything for love or whatever it was, was utopian, a dream he could think and talk about, with Kaja as a listener. But if you were going to dream, Mikael Bellman preferred dreams that were grander than that.
He inspected his front teeth in the hall mirror and checked his silk tie was straight. The press were bound to be out in force.
How long would he be able to keep Kaja? He thought he had detected some doubts in her last night. And a lack of enthusiasm in their lovemaking. But he also knew that as long as he was heading for the top, as he had been doing so far, he would be able to control her. It wasn’t that Kaja was a gold-digger with clear objectives of what he, as overall boss, could do for her own career. It wasn’t about intellect; it was pure biology. Women could be as modern as they liked, but when it came to submitting to the alpha male they were still at primate level. However, if she was beginning to entertain doubts because she thought that he would never renounce his wife for her sake, perhaps it was time to give her some encouragement. After all, he needed her to feed him with inside info about Crime Squad for a while yet, until all the loose ends were tied, until this battle was over. And the war won.
He went over to the window while buttoning up his coat. The house they had taken over from his parents was in Manglerud, not the best area of town, if you asked the West Enders. But those who had grown up here had a tendency to stay; it was a quarter with soul. And it was his quarter. With a view over the rest of Oslo. Which would also soon be his.
‘They’re coming now,’ the uniformed officer said. He stood in the doorway of one of the new interview rooms at Kripos.
‘OK,’ Mikael Bellman said.
Some interrogators liked to have the interviewee led to the room first, to keep him or her waiting, to make it clear who was in charge. So that they could enjoy the great entrance and go in hard straight away while they had them at their most defensive and vulnerable. Bellman preferred to be seated and ready when the suspect was ushered in. To mark his territory, to announce who owned the room. He was still able to keep the suspect waiting while he skimmed through his papers, able to feel the nervousness mounting in the room and then – when the time was ripe – raise his eyes and shoot. But these were the fine details of interview techniques. Which, naturally, he was happy to discuss with other competent chief interrogators. Again, he checked that the red recording light was switched on. Fiddling with technical equipment after the suspect had arrived could spoil the preliminary establishing of status.
Through the window he saw Beavis and Kolkka enter the adjacent office. Between them walked Tony Leike, whom they had brought from the custody block at Police HQ.
Bellman took a deep breath. Yes, his pulse was a bit higher now. A mixture of aggression and nerves. Tony Leike had declined the opportunity to have a solicitor present. In essence, of course, that was an advantage for Kripos, it gave them greater latitude. But at the same time it was a signal that Leike considered he had little to fear. Poor sucker. He can’t have known that Bellman had proof that Leike had rung Elias Skog immediately before he was murdered. Someone whose name Leike had claimed he didn’t even know.
Bellman looked down at the papers and heard Leike entering the room. Beavis closed the door behind him as he had been instructed.
‘Take a seat,’ Bellman said without looking up.
He heard Leike do what he was told.
Bellman stopped at an arbitrary piece of paper and stroked his lower lip with a forefinger while slowly counting to himself, from one upwards. The silence quivered in the small enclosed room. One, two, three. He and his colleagues had been sent on a course in the new interrogation methods they were being instructed to use – so-called investigative viewing – the point of which, according to these ungrounded academic types, was openness, dialogue and trust. Four, five, six. Bellman had listened quietly – after all, the model had been chosen at the highest level – but what sort of characters did these people actually think Kripos interviewed? Sensitive but obliging souls who tell you everything you want to know in exchange for a shoulder to cry on? They insisted the methods the police had used hitherto, the traditional nine-step American FBI model, was inhuman, manipulative, and it made innocent people confess to crimes they hadn’t committed and was therefore counterproductive. Seven, eight, nine. OK, so say it put the odd suggestible chicken in the coop, but what was that compared with the grinning scum who strolled away, killing themselves with laughter at ‘openness, dialogue and trust’?
Bellman pressed his fingertips together and raised his eyes.
‘We know you rang Elias Skog from Oslo, and that two days later you were in Stavanger. And that you killed him. These are the facts we have, but what I am wondering is why. Or didn’t you have a motive, Leike?’
That was step one of the nine-step model drawn up by the FBI agents Inbau, Reid and Buckley: the confrontation, the attempt to use the shock effect to land a knockout punch straight away, the declaration that they knew everything already, there was no point denying guilt. This had one sole aim: confession. Here Bellman combined step one with another interviewing technique: linking one fact with one or several non-facts. In this case he linked the incontestable date of the phone call with the contention that Leike had been to Stavanger and he was a killer. Hearing the proof for the first claim, Leike would automatically conclude that they also had concrete proof for the others. And that these facts were so simple and irrefutable that they could jump straight to the only thing left to answer: why?
Bellman saw Leike swallow, saw him bare his white milestone-sized teeth in an attempted smile, saw the confusion in his eyes and knew that they had already won.
‘I didn’t ring any Elias Skog,’ Leike said.
Bellman sighed. ‘Do you want me to show you the listed calls from Telenor?’
Leike shrugged. ‘I didn’t ring. I lost a mobile phone a while back. Maybe someone rang him using that?’
‘Don’t try to be smart, Leike. We’re talking about your landline.’
‘I didn’t ring him, I’m telling you.’
‘I heard. According to official records, you live alone.’
‘Yes, I do. That is-’
‘Your fiancee sleeps over now and then. And sometimes you get up earlier than her and go to work while she’s still in your apartment?’
‘That happens. But I’m at hers more often than not.’
‘Well, now. Has Galtung’s heiress daughter got a more luxurious pad than you, Leike?’
‘Maybe. Cosier, at any rate.’
Bellman crossed his arms and smiled. ‘Nonetheless, if you didn’t call Skog from your house, she must have done. I’m giving you five seconds to start talking sense to us, Leike. In five seconds, a patrol car on the streets of Oslo will receive orders to drive with sirens blaring to that cosy little pad of hers, cuff her, bring her here and allow her to phone her father to tell him you’re accusing her of ringing Skog. So that Anders Galtung can gather the meanest pack of hardbitten solicitors in Norway for his daughter, and you have got yourself a real adversary. Four seconds, three seconds.’
Leike shrugged again. ‘If you reckon that’s enough to issue an arrest warrant on a young woman with a perfect, unblemished record, go ahead. But I somehow doubt it would be me who gained an adversary.’
Bellman observed Leike. Had he underrated him after all? He was more difficult to read now. Anyway, that was step one over. Without a confession. Fine, there were eight left. Step two in the nine-step model was to sympathise with the suspect by normalising actions. But that presupposed he knew the motive or he was working with something he could normalise. A motive for killing all the guests who had happened to stay over at a skiing cabin was not self-evident, over and above the obvious truism that most serial killers’ motives are hidden in the psyche where the majority of us never go. In his preparations Bellman had therefore decided to tread lightly on the sympathy step before jumping straight into the motivation step: giving the suspect a reason to confess.
‘My point, Leike, is that I’m not your adversary. I’m just someone who wants to understand why you do what you do. What makes you tick. You’re clearly an able, intelligent person; you only have to look at what you’ve achieved in business. I’m fascinated by how people set themselves objectives and pursue them regardless of what others think. People who set themselves apart from the madding crowd of mediocrity. I may even say that I can recognise myself in that bracket. Maybe I understand you better than you think, Tony.’
Bellman had asked a detective to ring one of Leike’s stock exchange buddies to find out whether Leike preferred his first name pronounced as ‘Toeuny’, ‘Tony’ or ‘Tonny’. The answer was ‘Tony’. Bellman hit the right pronunciation, caught his eye and attempted to hold it.
‘Now I’m going to say something perhaps I shouldn’t, Tony. Because of a number of internal issues we can’t devote a lot of time to this case, and that is why I would like a confession. Normally we wouldn’t offer a deal to a suspect with such overwhelming evidence against him, but it would expedite procedures. And for a confession – which, in fact, we do not even need to obtain a conviction – I will offer you a reduced sentence, which will be considerable. I am afraid I’m restricted by the legal framework with regards to offering a specific figure, but let’s just say between you and me that it will be con-sid-er-able. Alright, Tony? It’s a promise. And now it’s on tape.’ He pointed to the red light on the table between them.
Leike subjected Bellman to a long, reflective look. Then he opened his mouth. ‘The two who brought me in told me your name was Bellman.’
‘Call me Mikael, Tony.’
‘They also said you were a very intelligent man. Tough, but trustworthy.’
‘I think you will discover that to be borne out, yes.’
‘You said considerable, didn’t you?’
‘You have my word.’ Bellman felt his pulse rising.
‘Alright,’ Leike said.
‘Good,’ said Mikael Bellman lightly, touching his lower lip with thumb and forefinger. ‘Shall we start at the beginning?’
‘Fine,’ Leike said, taking from his back pocket a piece of paper that Truls and Jussi must have let him keep. ‘I was given the dates and times by Harry Hole so this should be quick. Borgny Stem-Myhre died somewhere between 10 and 11 p.m. on the 16th of December in Oslo.’
‘Correct,’ Bellman said, sensing an incipient exultation in his heart.
‘I checked the calendar. At that time I was in Skien, in the Peer Gynt Room, Ibsen House, where I was talking about my coltan project. This can be confirmed by the person who hired the room and roughly one hundred and twenty potential investors who were present. I assume you know it takes about two hours to drive there. The next was Charlotte Lolles between… let’s see… it says between eleven o’clock and midnight on the 3rd of January. At that time I was having dinner with a few minor investors in Hamar. Two hours by car from Oslo. By the way, I took the train, and I tried to find the ticket, but sadly without any luck.’
He smiled in apology to Bellman, who had stopped breathing. And for a second Leike’s milestone teeth appeared between his lips as he concluded: ‘But I hope that at least some of the twelve witnesses present during the dinner may be regarded as reliable.’
‘Then he said there was a possibility he could be charged with the murder of Marit Olsen, because even though he had been at home with his fiancee he had, in fact, also been alone for two hours skiing on the floodlit course in Sorkedalen that evening.’
Mikael Bellman shook his head and stuffed his hands even deeper into his coat pockets as he examined The Sick Child.
‘At the time when Marit Olsen died?’ Kaja asked, inclining her head and looking at the mouth of the pale, presumably dying girl. She generally concentrated on one thing whenever they met at the Munch Museum. Sometimes it could be the eyes, another time the landscape in the background, the sun or simply Edvard Munch’s signature.
‘He said that neither he nor the Galtung woman-’
‘Lene,’ Kaja corrected.
‘-could remember exactly when, but it could have been quite late, it usually was because he liked to have the course to himself.’
‘So Tony Leike could have been in Frogner Park instead. If he was in Sorkedalen he would have passed through the toll stations twice, on the way out and back in. If he’s got an electronic pass on his windscreen the time is automatically recorded. And then-’
She had turned and stopped abruptly when she met his frigid eyes.
‘… But of course you’ve already checked that,’ she said.
‘We didn’t need to,’ Mikael said. ‘He hasn’t got an AutoPASS, he stops and pays cash. And so there is no record of the journey.’
She nodded. They strolled on to the next picture, stood behind a few Japanese tourists who were noisily pointing and gesticulating. The advantage of meeting at the Munch Museum in the week – apart from the fact that it lay between Kripos in Bryn and Police HQ in Gronland – was that it was one of those tourist destinations where you were guaranteed never to meet colleagues, neighbours or acquaintances.