/ Language: English / Genre:thriller / Series: Detective inspector Joona Linna

The Nightmare

Lars Kepler

Lars Kepler

The Nightmare



A cold shiver runs down Penelope Fernandez’s spine. Her heart beats faster and she darts a look over her shoulder. Perhaps she feels a sense of foreboding of what’s to come as her day progresses.

In spite of the television studio’s heat, Penelope’s face feels chilled. Maybe the sensation is left over from her time in makeup when the cold powder puff was pressed to her skin and the peace-dove hair clip was taken out so they could rub in the mousse that would make her hair fall in serpentine locks.

Penelope Fernandez is the spokesperson for the Swedish Peace and Reconciliation Society. Silently, she is being ushered into the newsroom and to her spotlighted seat across from Pontus Salman, CEO of the armaments manufacturer Silencia Defense AB. The news anchor Stefanie von Sydow is narrating a report on all the layoffs resulting from the purchase of the Bofors Corporation by British BAE Systems Limited. Then she turns to Penelope.

“Penelope Fernandez, in several public debates you have been critical of the management of Swedish arms exports. In fact, you recently compared it to the French Angola-gate scandal. There, highly placed politicians and businessmen were prosecuted for bribery and weapons smuggling and given long prison sentences. But here in Sweden? We really haven’t seen this, have we?”

“Well, you can interpret this in two ways,” replies Penelope. “Either our politicians behave differently or our justice system works differently.”

“You know very well,” begins Pontus Salman, “that we have a long tradition of-”

“According to Swedish law,” Penelope says, “all manufacture and export of armaments are illegal.”

“You’re wrong, of course,” says Salman.

“Paragraphs 3 and 6 of the Military Equipment Act,” Penelope points out with precision.

“We at Silencia Defense have already gotten a positive preliminary decision.” Salman smiles.

“Otherwise this would be a case of major weapons crimes and-”

“But, we do have permission.”

“Don’t forget the rationale for armaments-”

“Just a moment, Penelope.” Stefanie von Sydow stops her and nods to Pontus Salman, who’s lifted his hand to signal that he wasn’t finished.

“All business transactions are reviewed in advance,” he explains. “Either directly by the government or by the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products, if you know what that is.”

“France has similar regulations,” says Penelope. “And yet military equipment worth eight million Swedish crowns landed in Angola despite the UN weapons embargo and in spite of a completely binding prohibition-”

“We’re not talking about France, we’re talking about Sweden.”

“I know that people want to keep their jobs, but I still would like to hear how you can explain the export of enormous amounts of ammunition to Kenya? It’s a country that-”

“You have no proof,” he says. “Nothing. Not one shred. Or do you?”

“Unfortunately, I cannot-”

“You have no concrete evidence?” asks Stefanie von Sydow.

“No, but I-”

“Then I think I’m owed an apology,” says Pontus Salman.

Penelope stares him in the eyes, her anger and frustration boiling up, but she tamps it down, stays silent. Pontus Salman smiles smugly and begins to talk about Silencia Defense’s factory in Trollhattan. Two hundred new jobs were created when they were given permission to start production, he says. He speaks slowly and in elaborate detail, deftly truncating the time left for his opponent.

As Penelope listens, she forces aside her anger by focusing on other matters. Soon, very soon, she and Bjorn will board his boat. They’ll make up the arrow-shaped bed in the forecabin and fill the refrigerator and tiny freezer with treats. She conjures up the frosted schnapps glasses, and the platter of marinated herring, mustard herring, soused herring, fresh potatoes, boiled eggs, and hardtack. After they anchor at a tiny island in the archipelago, they’ll set the table on the afterdeck and sit there eating in the evening sun for hours.

Penelope Fernandez walks out of the Swedish Television building and heads toward Valhallavagen. She wasted two hours waiting for a slot in another morning program before the producer finally told her she’d been bumped by a segment on quick tips for a summer tummy. Far away, on the fields of Gardet, she can make out the colorful tents of Circus Maximus and the little forms of two elephants, probably very large. One raises his trunk high in the air.

Penelope is only twenty-four years old. She has curly black hair cut to her shoulders, and a tiny crucifix, a confirmation present, glitters from a silver chain around her neck. Her skin is the soft golden color of virgin olive oil or honey, as a boy in high school said during a project where the students were supposed to describe one another. Her eyes are large and serious. More than once, she’s heard herself described as looking like Sophia Loren.

Penelope pulls out her cell phone to let Bjorn know she’s on her way. She’ll be taking the subway from Karlaplan station.

“Penny? Is something wrong?” Bjorn sounds rushed.

“No, why do you ask?”

“Everything’s set. I left a message on your machine. You’re all that’s missing.”

“No need to stress, then, right?”

As Penelope takes the steep escalator down to the subway platform, her heart begins to beat uneasily. She closes her eyes. The escalator sinks downward, seeming to shrink as the air becomes cooler and cooler.

Penelope Fernandez comes from La Libertad, one of the largest provinces in El Salvador. She was born in a jail cell, her mother attended by fifteen female prisoners doing their best as midwives. There was a civil war going on, and Claudia Fernandez, a doctor and activist, had landed in the regime’s infamous prison for encouraging the indigenous population to form unions.

Penelope opens her eyes as she reaches the platform. Her claustrophobic feeling has passed. She thinks about Bjorn waiting for her at the motorboat club on Langholmen. She loves skinny-dipping from his boat, diving straight into the water, seeing nothing but sea and sky.

She steps onto the subway, which rumbles on, gently swaying, until it breaks out into the open as it reaches the station at Gamla Stan and sunlight streams in through the windows.

Like her mother, Penelope is an activist and her passionate opposition to war and violence led her to get her master’s in political science at Uppsala University with a specialty in peace and conflict resolution. She’s worked for the French aid organization Action Contre la Faim in Darfur, southern Sudan, with Jane Oduya, and her article for Dagens Nyheter, on the women of the refugee camp and their struggles to regain normalcy after every attack, brought broad recognition. Two years ago, she followed Frida Blom as the spokesperson for the Swedish Peace and Reconciliation Society.

Leaving the subway at the Hornstull station, Penelope feels uneasy again, extremely uneasy, without knowing why. She runs down the hill to Soder Malarstrand, then walks quickly over the bridge to Langholmen and follows the road to the small harbor. The dust she kicks up from the gravel creates a haze in the still air.

Bjorn’s boat is in the shade directly underneath Vaster Bridge. The movement of the water dapples the gray girders with a network of light.

Penelope spots Bjorn on the afterdeck. He’s got on his cowboy hat, and he stands stock-still, shoulders bent, with his arms wrapped closely about him. Sticking two fingers in her mouth, she lets loose a whistle, startling him, and he turns toward her with a face naked with fear. And it’s still there in his eyes when she climbs down the stairs to the dock. “What’s wrong?” she asks.

“Nothing,” he answers, as he straightens his hat and tries to smile.

As they hug, she notices his hands are ice-cold and the back of his shirt is damp.

“You’re covered in sweat.”

Bjorn avoids her eyes. “It’s been stressful getting ready to go.”

“Bring my bag?”

He nods and gestures toward the cabin. The boat rocks gently under her feet and the air smells of lacquered wood and sun-warmed plastic.

“Hello? Anybody home?” she asks, tapping his head.

His clear blue eyes are childlike and his straw-colored hair sticks out in tight dreadlocks from under the hat. “I’m here,” he says. But he looks away.

“What are you thinking about? Where’s your mind gone to?”

“Just that we’re finally heading off together,” he answers as he wraps his arms around her waist. “And that we’ll be having sex out in nature.”

He buries his lips in her hair.

“So that’s what you’re dreaming of,” she whispers.


She laughs at his honesty.

“Most people… women, I mean, think that sex outdoors is a bit overrated,” she says. “Lying on the ground among ants and stones and-”

“No. No. It’s just like swimming naked,” he insists.

“You’ll have to convince me,” she teases.

“I’ll do that, all right.”

“How?” She’s laughing as the phone rings in her cloth bag.

Bjorn stiffens when he hears the signal. Penelope glances at the display.

“It’s Viola,” she says reassuringly before answering. “ Hola, Sis.”

A car horn blares over the line as her sister yells in its direction. “ Fucking idiot.”

“Viola, what’s going on?”

“It’s over. I’ve dumped Sergei.”

“Not again!” Penelope says.

“Yes, again,” says Viola, noticeably depressed.

“Sorry,” Penelope says. “I can tell you’re upset.”

“Well, I’ll be all right I guess. But… Mamma said you were going out on the boat and I thought… maybe I could come, too, if you don’t mind…”

A moment of silence.

“Sure, you can come, too,” Penelope says, although she hears her own lack of enthusiasm. “Bjorn and I need some time to ourselves, but…”


the pursuer

Penelope stands at the helm. An airy blue sarong is wrapped around her hips and there’s a peace sign on the right breast of her white bikini top. Spring sunlight pours through the windshield as she carefully rounds Kungshamn lighthouse and maneuvers the large motorboat into the narrow sound.

Her younger sister, Viola, gets up from the pink recliner on the afterdeck. For the past hour, she’s been lying back in Bjorn’s cowboy hat and enormous sunglasses, languidly smoking a joint.

Five times she tries to pick up a matchbox from the floor with her toes. Penelope can’t help smiling. Viola walks into the cockpit and offers to take the wheel for a while. “Otherwise, I’ll go downstairs and make myself a margarita,” she says, as she continues down the stairs.

Bjorn is lying on the foredeck, a paperback copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses put to use as his pillow. Penelope notices that the railing near his feet is rusting. The boat was a present from his father for his twentieth birthday, but Bjorn hasn’t had the money to keep it up. It was the only gift his father ever gave him, except one time when his father paid for a trip. When Bjorn’s father turned fifty, he invited Bjorn and Penelope to one of his finest properties, a five-star hotel called Kamaya Resort on the east coast of Kenya. Penelope endured the resort for two days before she took off to join Action Contre la Faim at the refugee camp in Kubbum, Darfur.

Penelope reduces speed from eight to five knots as they reach the bridge at Skuru Sound. They’ve just glided into the shadows when Penelope notices the black rubber boat. Pressed against the concrete foundation, it’s the same kind the military uses for their coastal rangers: an RIB with a fiberglass hull and extremely powerful engines. Penelope has almost passed beneath the bridge when she notices a man hunched in the darkness, his back turned. She doesn’t know why her pulse starts to race at the sight of him; something about his neck and the black clothes he wears bothers her. She feels he’s watching her even though he sits turned away.

Back into sunshine, she starts to shiver; goose bumps cover her arms. She guns the boat to fifteen knots. The two inboard engines drone powerfully, and the wake streams white behind them as the boat takes off over the smooth surface of the water.

Penelope’s phone rings. It’s her mother. For a moment Penelope fantasizes that she’s calling to tell Penelope how wonderful she’d been on TV earlier, but she snaps back to reality.

“Hi, Mamma.”

“Ay, ay.”

“What’s wrong?”

“My back. I’ll have to go to the chiropractor,” Claudia says, loudly filling a glass with tap water. “I just wanted to learn if you’ve talked to your sister.”

“She’s on the boat with us,” Penelope replies, listening to her mother gulp the water down.

“She’s with you… how nice. I thought it would be good for her to get out.”

“I’m sure it is,” Penelope says quietly.

“What do you have to eat?”

“Pickled herring and potatoes, eggs-”

“Viola doesn’t like herring. What else do you have?”

“I’ve made a few meatballs,” Penelope says patiently.

“Enough for everyone?”

Penelope falls silent as she looks out over the water. “I can always skip them myself,” she says, collecting herself.

“Only if there aren’t enough,” her mother says. “That’s all I’m trying to say.”

“I understand.”

“Am I supposed to be feeling sorry for you now?” her mother demands with irritation.

“It’s just that… Viola is not a child-”

“I remember all the years I made you meatballs for Christmas and Midsummer and-”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten them.”

“All right then,” her mother says sharply. “If that’s the way you want it.”

“I’m just trying to say-”

“You don’t have to come for Midsummer,” Claudia snaps.

“Oh, Mamma, why do you have to-”

Her mother has hung up. Penelope shakes with frustration.

The stairs from the galley creak and a moment later Viola appears, a margarita in hand. “Was that Mamma?”

“Yes, it was.”

“Worried I wouldn’t get enough to eat?” Viola can’t hide a smile.

“Believe me, we have food on board,” Penelope says.

“Mamma doesn’t believe I can take care of myself.”

“She worries about you.”

“She never worries about you,” Viola points out.

“I can take care of myself.”

Viola takes a sip of her drink and looks out through the windshield.

“I saw you on TV,” she says.

“This morning? When I met Pontus Salman?”

“No, it was… last week,” Viola replies. “You were talking to that arrogant man with the aristocratic name-”

“Palmcrona,” Penelope says.

“Palmcrona, right.”

“You can’t believe how angry he made me! I could feel my face turning beet red, and the tears strated coming and I couldn’t stop them. I felt like jumping up and reciting Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ to his face, or like running out and slamming the studio door behind me.”

Viola’s only half listening. She watches Penelope stretch as she opens the roof window. “I didn’t realize you’ve started to shave your armpits,” she says.

“Well, these days I’ve been in the media so much that-”

“Vanity, pure vanity!” Viola says with a laugh.

“I didn’t want people to dismiss me as a dogmatist just because I have some pit hair.”

“What about your bikini line, then?”

“Well, that’s not going so well…”

Penelope pulls aside her sarong and Viola laughs out loud.

“Bjorn likes it,” Penelope says with a little smile.

“He can’t talk, not with those dreads of his.”

“I imagine you shave everywhere you have to,” Penelope says sharply. “Just to please your married men and your big-muscled idiots and-”

“I know I have bad taste in men.”

“You have good taste in most other areas.”

“I’ve never amounted to much, though.”

“If you’d just finished school, gotten good grades…”

Viola shrugs. “I actually got my equivalency.”

The boat plows gently through the water, green now, reflecting the surrounding hillsides. Seagulls follow overhead.

“So, how did it go?”

“I thought the exam was easy,” Viola says, licking salt from the edge of her glass.

“So it went well?”

Viola nods and puts her glass down.

“How well?” Penelope nudges her sister in her side.

“One hundred percent.” Viola looks down modestly.

Penelope laughs with happiness and hugs her sister hard.

“Do you realize what this means? Now you can be anything you want! You can go to whichever university you want and study anything you like! You can pick anything at all! Business, medicine, journalism!”

The sisters laugh and their cheeks flush. Penelope hugs her sister so hard that the cowboy hat falls off. She smoothes Viola’s hair and pats it into place just as she used to do when they were small. She removes the clip with the peace dove from her hair and slides it into her sister’s, smiling contentedly.


a boat adrift in jungfrufjarden bay

With roaring engines, Penelope steers toward the bay. The bow arches up; white, frothy water parts behind the stern.

“You’ve lost your mind, girl!” Viola yells as she pulls the hair clip loose, just as she used to do when she was little and her mother almost had her hair done.

Bjorn wakes up when they stop at Goose Island for an ice cream. Viola insists on a round of miniature golf, too, so it’s late in the afternoon when they set out again.

On their port side, the bay spreads out like a grand stone floor. It is breathtaking. The plan is to anchor at Kastskar, a long, uninhabited island with a narrow waist. On the southern side, there is a lush cove where they’ll anchor the boat and swim, grill, and spend the night.

Viola yawns. “I’m going below to take a nap.”

“Go ahead.” Penelope smiles.

Viola walks down the companionway as Penelope stares ahead. She reduces the speed and keeps her eye on the depth sounder as they glide in toward Kastskar. The water is shoaling quickly from forty meters to five.

Bjorn enters the cockpit and kisses Penelope’s neck.

“Would you like me to start dinner?” he asks.

“Viola needs to sleep for an hour or so.”

“You sound just like your mother right now,” he says softly. “Has she called you yet?”

Penelope nods.

“Did you have a fight?”

Tears spring to her eyes and she brushes them from her cheeks with a smile.

“Mamma told me I wasn’t welcome at her Midsummer celebration.”

Bjorn hugs her.

“Ignore her.”

“I do.”

Slowly and gently, Penelope maneuvers the boat into the innermost part of the cove. The engines rumble softly. The boat is so close to land now that she can smell the island’s damp vegetation. They anchor, let it drag, and go in toward the shore. Bjorn jumps onto the steep, rocky ground holding the line, which he ties around a tree trunk.

The ground is covered in moss. He stands and looks at Penelope. A few birds in the treetops lift off as the anchor winch clatters.

Penelope pulls on her jogging shorts and her white sneakers, jumps on land, and takes Bjorn’s hand.

“Want to check out the island?”

“Isn’t there something you want to convince me about?” she asks hesitatingly.

“The advantages of our Swedish general-access rights,” he says.

She smiles and nods as he pushes her hair off her face and lets his finger run over her high cheekbone and her thick black eyebrows.

“How can you be so beautiful?”

He kisses her lightly on the mouth and begins to lead her inland, until they reach a small meadow surrounded by tight clumps of high wild grasses. Butterflies and small bumblebees flit over the wildflowers. It’s hot in the sun and the water shimmers between the trees on the north side. Bjorn and Penelope stand still, hesitate, study each other with shy smiles, then turn serious.

“What if someone comes?” she asks.

“We’re the only ones on this island.”

“Are you sure?”

“How many islands exist in Stockholm’s archipelago? Thirty thousand? Probably more,” he says.

Penelope slips out of her bikini top, kicks off her shoes, and pulls off her shorts and bikini bottom at the same time so that she’s standing completely naked in the grass. Her initial feeling of embarrassment gives way to pure joy. There’s something remarkably arousing about the cool sea air against her skin and the warmth that simultaneously arises from the earth.

Bjorn looks at her and mumbles that he’s not sexist, but he does want to just look at her for another second. She’s tall; her arms are muscular yet still have a soft roundness to them. Her narrow waist and sinewy thighs make her look like a playful ancient goddess.

Bjorn’s hands shake as he pulls off his T-shirt and his flower-patterned swimming trunks. He’s younger than she is. His body is still boyish, almost hairless.

“Now I want to look at you,” she says.

He blushes and walks over to her with a smile.

“So I can’t look at you?”

He shakes his head and hides his face in her neck and hair.

They begin to kiss standing still. They hold each other tightly. Penelope is so happy she has to force a huge grin from her face so that she can keep kissing. She feels Bjorn’s warm tongue in her mouth, his erection, his heart beating faster and faster. They find a spot between the tufts of grass and stretch out. With his tongue he searches for her breasts and their brown nipples. He kisses her stomach, he opens her thighs. As he looks at her, it strikes him that their bodies have begun to glow in the evening sun, as if illuminated. Everything now is gentle. She’s wet and swollen as he licks her slowly and softly until she has to move his head away. She whispers to him, pulls him to her, steers him with her hand until he slides inside her. He’s breathing heavily into her ear and she stares straight up at the rosy sky.

Afterward, she stands up, naked in the warm grass, and arches toward the sky. She takes a few steps and peers between the trees.

“What is it?” Bjorn asks, his voice thick.

She looks back at him, sitting naked on the ground and smiling up at her.

“You’ve burned your shoulders.”

“Happens every year.”

He gently touches the pink spots.

“Let’s go back-I’m hungry,” she says.

“Let me swim for a bit.”

She pulls her bikini bottom and shorts back on, puts on her sneakers, then stands with her bikini top in her hand. She allows her gaze to wander over his hairless chest, his strong arms, the tattoo on his shoulder, his careless sunburn… and his light, playful look.

“Next time, you’re on the bottom,” she says.

“Next time,” he repeats cheerfully. “You’re stuck on me-I knew it!”

She laughs and waves at him dismissively. She hears him whistle to himself as she walks through the forest toward the tiny, steep beach where they’ve anchored.

She stops for a moment to put on her bikini top before she continues down to the boat.

On board, Penelope wonders whether Viola is still sleeping in the aft cabin. She thinks she should start a pot of fresh potatoes and some crowns of dill and then wash up and change for the evening. Strangely, the deck near the stern is totally damp as if from a rain shower. Viola must have swabbed the deck for some reason. The boat feels different somehow. Penelope can’t say what it is, but all at once she has goose bumps. The birds suddenly stop singing and everything is silent. Penelope is now aware of every one of her movements. She walks down the stairs. The door is open to the guest cabin and the lamp is lit, but Viola is not there. Penelope notices her hand shakes as she knocks on the door to the tiny toilet. She peers inside and returns to the deck. Looking ashore, she can see Bjorn walking down to the water. She waves to him, but he’s not looking her way.

Penelope opens the glass doors to the salon.

“Viola?” she calls softly.

She goes down to the galley, takes out a pot, puts it on the element, and returns to the search. She peers into the large bathroom, then the main cabin where she sleeps with Bjorn. Looking around in the dark cabin, at first she thinks that she sees herself in a mirror.

Viola is sitting on the edge of the bed, her hand resting on the pink pillow from the Salvation Army.

“What are you doing in here?”

As Penelope hears her own voice, she’s also realizing that nothing is as it should be. Viola’s face is cloudy white and wet; her hair hangs down in damp streams.

Penelope takes Viola’s face in her hands. She moans softly, then screams right into her sister’s face, “Viola? What’s wrong? Viola! ”

But she already understands what’s out of place and what’s wrong. Her sister is not breathing, her sister’s skin is not giving off warmth. There is nothing left of Viola. The light of life has been snuffed out.

The narrow room tightens around Penelope. Her voice is a stranger’s. She wails and stumbles backward, knocking her shoulder hard on the doorpost as she turns to run up the stairs.

Up on the aft deck, she gulps down air as if she’s suffocating. She glances about, ice-cold terror filling her bones. One hundred meters away on the beach, she spots a man in black. Somehow Penelope understands how things fit together. She knows this is the man who was underneath the bridge in the military inflatable. This was the man who had his back turned when she passed by. And she knows this is the man who killed Viola-and is not finished.

From the beach, the man waves to Bjorn, who’s now swimming twenty meters from shore. He’s yelling something to Bjorn. Penelope rushes to the steering console and rummages in the tool drawer. She finds a Mora knife and races back to the stern.

She sees Bjorn’s slow swimming strokes and the water rings around him. He’s looking at the man in confusion. The man is waving, motioning for him to come over. Bjorn smiles an uncertain smile and begins to swim toward land.

“Bjorn!” Penelope screams as loud as she can. “Swim to sea!”

The man on the beach turns toward her and begins to run toward the boat. Penelope cuts off the rope, slips on the wet stern deck, leaps back up, and runs to the steering console and starts the motor. Without looking around, she raises the anchor and engages the gear in reverse at the same time.

Bjorn must have heard her, because he turns away from land and starts to swim toward the boat instead. As Penelope steers in his direction, the man in black changes course and starts running toward the other side of the island. Intuitively, she knows that’s where he’s pulled his inflatable ashore, at the northern inlet.

And she knows without a doubt that there is no possible way for them to speed away from it.

Motor rumbling, she steers toward Bjorn, and as she gets closer, she slows and stretches a boat hook toward him. The water is so cold, and he looks exhausted and so frightened. His head keeps bobbing under the surface. She jabs the boat hook his way and accidentally strikes his forehead. He starts to bleed.

“Hold on to it!” Penelope cries out.

The black inflatable is rounding the island. She can clearly hear the roar of its motor. Bjorn grimaces in pain, but after several attempts, he finally manages to wrap his elbow around the boat hook, and Penelope hauls him as quickly as she can to the swimming platform. He reaches the edge and holds on. She lets go of the boat hook and it drops into the water and drifts away.

“Viola is dead!” she screams, and hears the panic and despair in her own voice.

As soon as Bjorn grabs the ladder tight she runs back to the steering console and hits the gas.

He climbs over the railing and she hears him yell that she should steer straight across to the island of Orno and its spit.

She can hear the rubber boat draw closer. She turns in a tight curve and the boat thuds heavily underneath the hull.

Penelope can’t speak, she can only whimper. “That man killed Viola!”

“Watch out for the rocks!” Bjorn warns through chattering teeth.

The inflatable has rounded Stora Kastskar and is now picking up speed on the smooth open water.

Blood runs down Bjorn’s face.

They are swiftly reaching the large island. Bjorn turns to see that the rubber boat is now only three hundred meters behind.

“Head for the dock!”

She hits reverse, and shuts off the motor as the prow of the boat slams the dock with a crunching sound. The waves of their wake race toward the rocky shore and roll back, making the boat tip to the side. Its ladder breaks to pieces. Water sloshes over the railing. Penelope and Bjorn jump off and race across the dock toward land as the rubber boat roars closer. Behind them they can hear the hull knock against the dock in the swells. Penelope slips and steadies herself with her hand, then clambers up the steep rocks that edge the forest. The motor of the rubber boat falls silent and Penelope knows their head start is insignificant. She rushes into the trees with Bjorn. They head deeper into the woods as her thoughts whirl in panic and her eyes dart back and forth for a place where they can hide.


the swaying man

Paragraph 21 of the police law states that a police officer may enter any building, house, room, or other place if there is reason to believe that a person has died, is unconscious, or is otherwise unable to call for help.

The reason Criminal Assistant John Bengtsson has received the assignment to examine the top-floor apartment in the building at Grevgatan 2 on this Saturday in June is that Carl Palmcrona, the general director of the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products, has not appeared at work and has missed an important meeting with the foreign minister.

This is certainly not the first time that John Bengtsson has had to enter buildings to search for deceased or injured persons. He remembers silent, fearful parents waiting in the stairway while he enters rooms to find young men barely alive after heroin overdoses, or worse, murder scenes: women in their living rooms, battered to death by spouses as the TV drowns out the sound.

Bengtsson carries his breaking-and-entering tools and his picklock through the entry door and takes the elevator to the top floor. He rings the bell and waits. He examines the lock on the outer door. After a while, he hears shuffling. It sounds as if it is coming from the stairwell one floor below. It sounds as if someone is sneaking away.

Bengtsson listens for a moment, then tries the door handle. The door swings open silently.

“Anyone home?” he calls out.

Nothing. He drags his bag over the threshold, wipes his feet on the doormat, closes the door behind him, and steps into a large hallway.

Gentle music can be heard from one of the rooms so he continues in that direction, knocks at the door, and enters. It’s a large drawing room, sparsely furnished-three Carl Malmsten sofas, a low glass coffee table, and a tiny painting of a ship in a storm on the wall. An ice-blue sheen comes from a music system with a modern flat, transparent design. Meandering, melancholy music comes from the speakers.

Across the room is a set of double doors. Bengtsson swings them open to reveal a salon with tall Art Nouveau windows. The late-spring light is broken by the multiple small panes at the top.

A well-dressed man swings in the middle of the white room.

John Bengtsson stands quietly in the doorway and stares at the dead man for an eternity before he notices the laundry line fastened to the ceiling-lamp hook.

The body seems poised at the moment of a jump into the air. His ankles are stretched and his toes point to the ground. He’s hanged-but there’s something that does not fit. Something is not as it should be.

Bengtsson cannot step through the double doors; he must keep the crime scene intact. His heart pounds and he feels the heavy rhythm of his pulse. He finds he cannot look away from the swaying man in the empty room.

The whisper of a name begins to echo in Bengtsson’s brain: Joona. I have to talk to Joona Linna immediately.

There is no furniture in this room. Just the hanged man, who, in all probability, is none other than Carl Palmcrona, the general director of ISP.

The rope is fastened to the center of the lamp hook emerging from the rosette in the center of the ceiling.

There’s nothing for him to climb on, Bengtsson thinks.

The ceiling height must be at least three and a half meters.

Bengtsson calms himself, collects his thoughts, and registers everything he sees. The hanged man’s face is as blanched as damp sugar and John Bengtsson can see only a few blood spots in the wide-open eyes. The man is wearing a thin overcoat, a light gray business suit, and black leather-soled oxfords. A black briefcase and a cell phone lie on the parquet floor a short distance from the pool of urine that has collected directly underneath the body.

The hanged man suddenly shakes.

Bengtsson takes a sharp breath.

A heavy thud from the ceiling above. The sounds of a hammer in the attic. Someone walks across the attic floor. Another thud and Palmcrona’s body shakes again. The sound of a power drill. Silence. Someone calling for more cable: “Cable reel.”

Bengtsson notices how his pulse begins to slow as he turns to walk away from the salon. He sees the outer door is open and he stops, sure he’d closed it. He knows he could be wrong. He leaves the apartment, but before he reports to his department, he picks up his cell phone and calls Joona Linna at the National Criminal Investigation Department.


the national homicide squad

First week of June. For several weeks the people of Stockholm have been waking up much too early. The sun rises at three thirty a.m. and remains bright almost the entire night. The weather has been unusually warm. The exuberant bird cherries and lilacs bloomed at the same time. Dense sprays of buds spread their aroma from Kronoberg Park all the way to the entrance of the National Police Board headquarters.

The National Police Board, Sweden’s only centrally operating police organization, is responsible for combating serious crime at both the national and international level.

The head of the National Criminal Investigation Department, Carlos Eliasson, is standing by the low window on the fifth floor, scanning the view over Kronoberg Park while pressing the phone to his ear and dialing Joona Linna’s number. Once again, he hears his call connect to voice mail. He sets the phone down and glances at the clock.

Next door, a tired voice tries to deal with a European arrest warrant and the Schengen Information System.

Petter Naslund enters Carlos’s office and, clearing his throat carefully, leans against a streamer that declares: WE MONITOR, MARK THE SPOT, AND DISTURB.

“Pollock and his guys will be here soon,” Petter says.

“I can tell time,” says Carlos.

“The sandwiches are ready,” Petter says.

Carlos suppresses a smile and asks, “Have you heard they’re recruiting?”

Petter’s face turns red as he looks at the floor, collects his thoughts, and looks up again. “I would… Can you think of anyone better who would work well in the National Homicide Squad?”

There are five experts who make up the National Homicide Squad. The Commission, as they’re known, works systematically using a methodology known by its initials, PIGC, Police Investigation of Grave Criminality. The burden they carry is enormous. They are in such demand, they barely have time to get to the police station for a meeting.

The paradise fish in Carlos’s aquarium calmly make their turns. As he reaches for fish food, the phone rings.

“They’re on the way up,” says Magnus in reception.

Carlos tries one last time to reach Joona Linna by phone, then gets up, checks himself quickly in the mirror, and goes to welcome his guests. Just as he reaches the elevator, the doors soundlessly slide open. Seeing the entire Commission together makes an image flash in his mind: a Rolling Stones concert he attended a few years back with some of his colleagues. The band on the stage looked like relaxed businessmen, and just like the National Homicide Squad, they were all dressed in dark suits and ties.

Nathan Pollock steps out first, his distinctive silver hair in a ponytail. Following him is Erik Eriksson. He likes eyeglasses decorated with diamonds, hence the nickname “Elton.” Behind him saunters Niklas Dent, next to P. G. Bondesson, and walking behind all of them is Tommy Kofoed. Kofoed is the forensic technician. He’s hunchbacked, and stares sullenly at the ground.

Carlos shows them to the meeting room, where Operating Commander Benny Rubin is already sitting at the round table, waiting for them, a cup of coffee before him. Tommy Kofoed takes an apple from the fruit basket and bites in loudly. Nathan Pollock looks at him with a smile and shakes his head slightly. Kofoed stops right in the middle of a chew.

“Welcome,” Carlos begins. “It’s good we can get together. There are several serious issues on the agenda.”

“Shouldn’t we wait for Joona Linna?” asks Tommy Kofoed.

“Well…” drawls Carlos.

“That man does just what he pleases,” Pollock says quietly.

“Hey, come on now,” Tommy Kofoed says defensively. “Give the man his due. The Tumba murders last year? He had them all figured out and I still don’t know how he did it.”

“Against all fucking logic,” Elton says with a smile.

“I’d say I’m fairly well versed in forensics,” Tommy Kofoed continues, “but Joona walked in, took a look at the blood spatters… He knew right away when each murder had occurred… Amazing…”

“It’s true, it’s true. He could see the whole picture,” Pollock says. “The degree of violence, the level of force, the stress level, how the footprints found in the apartment lagged more, which showed more exhaustion than those in the locker room.”

“Fucking awesome,” Tommy Kofoed mutters.

Carlos clears his throat, returns to his informal agenda.

“The Coast Guard called this morning,” he tells them. “An old fisherman found a dead woman.”

“In his nets?”

“No, he saw a large motorboat drifting with the current near Dalaro. He rowed out, boarded the vessel, and found her sitting on her berth in the fore.”

“That doesn’t sound like something for us,” Petter Naslund says, and smiles.

“Was she murdered?” asks Pollock.

“Probably a suicide,” answers Petter quickly.

“There’s no need to make snap judgments,” Carlos says as he helps himself to a slice of sugar cake. “But I wanted to bring it up.”

“Anything else?”

“We had a request from the police in West Gotaland,” Carlos says. “The form is on the table.”

“I won’t be able to take it on,” Pollock says.

“I know how busy you are,” Carlos says, slowly sweeping crumbs from the table. “Let’s skip to the other end of the agenda: recruiting someone for the NHS.”

Benny Rubin looks around with a sharp glance and explains that the leadership is aware of the heavy workload, and they therefore, as a first step, have allocated funds for expanding the Commission by one fulltime position.

“What does everyone think?” Carlos asks.

“Shouldn’t Joona Linna be here?” asks Tommy Kofoed. He leans forward and takes one of the wrapped sandwiches.

“I’m not sure he’ll make it,” Carlos says.

“What about a bite before we get into this?” says Elton, reaching for the tray.

Tommy Kofoed methodically unwraps the plastic from his salmon sandwich, peels back the bread, plucks off a sprig of dill, squeezes lemon juice over the salmon, and reassembles his sandwich.

Suddenly the door to the meeting room swings open and Joona Linna steps in. His short-cut blond hair stands straight up.

“Syo tilli, pojat,” he says in Finnish.

“That’s right!” Nathan Pollock laughs. “Eat your dill, boys!”

Nathan and Joona grin at each other. Tommy Kofoed’s cheeks turn red and he shakes his head with a smile.

“Tilli.” Nathan Pollock repeats the Finnish word and laughs out loud as Joona walks past Tommy and sticks the dill back onto his sandwich.

“Let’s get back to the meeting,” says Petter.

Joona shakes hands with Nathan, then takes an empty chair, slinging his black jacket over the back as he sits down.

“Please pardon my being late,” he says.

“Let me welcome you as a guest of this meeting,” says Carlos. “We were just bringing up recruiting. I believe I’ll hand the floor over to Nathan.”

“All right, and I want everyone to know that I’m not alone in this,” Nathan Pollock begins. “Rather… we’re all in agreement. Joona, we’re hoping that you’ll come on board with us.”

The room falls silent. Niklas Dent and Erik Eriksson nod. Petter Naslund is a dark silhouette in the backlight.

“We’d really like to have you,” Tommy Kofoed ventures.

“I appreciate the offer,” Joona answers as he runs his hand over his hair. “You’re hardworking guys, and you’ve proved your mettle. I respect your work…”

Everyone around the table smiles.

“But as for me… I just can’t be tied down to your strict methodology. To any strict method of investigation,” he explains.

“We know, we understand,” Kofoed says quickly. “The way we work is a little rigid, but it’s shown…”

Kofoed falls silent.

“We just wanted to ask,” says Nathan Pollock.

“It’s just not the way I work,” Joona explains.

To a man, they look down at the table; someone nods. Joona’s cell phone rings and he excuses himself to answer it. He stands up from the table and leaves the room. A minute later he returns and slides his jacket off the chair.

“Sorry. I would like to stay, but-”

“Something serious?” asks Carlos.

“That was John Bengtsson from Routine Patrol,” Joona says. “He’s just found Carl Palmcrona.”

“Found?” asks Carlos.

“Hanged,” Joona answers. His eyes gleam like gray glass.

“Who is Palmcrona?” asks Nathan Pollock. “I can’t place the name.”

“He’s the general director for ISP,” Tommy Kofoed says quickly. “He makes the final decisions on Swedish arms exports.”

“Isn’t everything at ISP classified?” asks Carlos.

“True,” Kofoed answers.

“So let the guys at Sapo take it.”

“I’ve just promised Bengtsson I’d come in person,” Joona answers. “There’s something not quite right about the scene.”

“What?” Carlos asks.

“He said… well, I really have to see it myself.”

“Sounds interesting,” Tommy Kofoed says. “Can I come?”

“If you want,” Joona answers.

“I’ll come, too, then,” Pollock says swiftly.

Carlos tries to remind them about the meeting in progress but sees it is pointless as the three men get up and walk out into the cool hallway.


how death came

Twenty minutes later, Detective Inspector Joona Linna parks his black Volvo on Strandvagen and gets out to wait for his colleagues from the National Criminal Investigation Department. They pull up moments later in a silver-gray Lincoln Town Car and together they walk around the corner and enter the building at Grevgatan 2.

While they ride the ancient, rattling elevator to the top, Tommy Kofoed asks what information Joona’s already been given.

“The National Inspectorate of Strategic Products had put out a bulletin that Palmcrona was missing,” Joona says. “He has no family and none of his colleagues knew him socially, but when he didn’t show up for work, the police were asked to investigate. John Bengtsson went to Palmcrona’s apartment and found him hanging. But he’s not sure it’s a suicide.”

Nathan Pollock’s weather-beaten face frowns in concentration.

“Why does he suspect something’s wrong?”

The elevator stops and Joona slides the gate open. Bengtsson is waiting at the door of the apartment.

“This is Tommy Kofoed and Nathan Pollock from the CID,” Joona says.

They shake hands quietly.

“So the door was unlocked when I arrived,” John tells them. “I heard music and found Palmcrona hanging in one of the large rooms. Over the years, I’ve cut down a number of people, but this time… I mean… perhaps it is suicide, but given Palmcrona’s position in society, I thought I’d better check it all out.”

“You did the right thing to call,” Joona agrees.

“Checked out the body?” Tommy asks in his sullen fashion.

“I didn’t even enter the room,” John replies.

“Good,” Kofoed mumbles, and he begins to lay protective mats on the floor.

Minutes later, Joona and Nathan Pollock are able to walk into the hallway. John Bengtsson is waiting for them next to a blue sofa. He points toward the double doors that are ajar and reveal a well-lit room. Joona continues walking across the protective mats and pushes the doors wide open.

Warm sunshine pours into the room through high windows. Carl Palmcrona is hanging in the center of the spacious room. Flies creep over his white face and into his eye sockets and open mouth to lay their small, yellowish eggs. They buzz around the pool of urine as well as the sleek black briefcase on the floor. The narrow laundry line has cut into Palmcrona’s throat, forming a deep red furrow. Blood has flowed out and down his shirtfront.

“Executed,” Tommy Kofoed declares as he pulls on protective gloves.

Every trace of sullenness has vanished, and he smiles as he goes down on his knees to begin photographing the hanging body.

“We’ll probably find injuries to the cervical vertebra,” Pollock says pointing.

Joona glances up at the ceiling and back to the floor.

“Obviously it’s a statement,” Kofoed says triumphantly and keeps the flashing camera focused on the corpse. “I mean, the killer didn’t bother to hide the body but wants to say something instead.”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Bengtsson exclaims just as eagerly. “The room is empty and there are no chairs or ladders to climb on.”

“So the question is, what does the killer want to say?” Tommy Kofoed says as he lowers the camera to peer at the body. “Hanging is connected to treason and betrayal. Think of Judas Iscariot who-”

“Just a second,” Joona says mildly.

They see him point at the floor.

“What is it?” asks Pollock.

“We’re looking at a suicide,” Joona replies.

“What a typical suicide!” Tommy Kofoed laughs. “He flaps his wings and flies-”

“The briefcase,” Joona says. “If he set it upright, he’d reach the noose.”

“But he couldn’t have reached the ceiling,” Pollock points out.

“He could have fastened the noose beforehand.”

“I think you’re wrong.”

Joona shrugs and says, “Keep in mind the music and the knots…”

“Let’s take a look at the briefcase,” Pollock says.

“Let me just secure the area first,” says Kofoed.

They watch Kofoed, his bent, short body, as he creeps forward and rolls out over the floor a sheet of black plastic film with a bottom layer of thin gelatin. Then he carefully presses on the film with a rubber roller.

“Can you get me a couple of bio-packs and a large container?” he requests as he points to his collection bag.

“Wellpapp?” asks Pollock.

“Yes, thanks,” Tommy says as he catches the packs that Pollock throws in a high arch to him.

He secures any biological traces on the floor and then waves Pollock into the room.

“You’ll find the marks of his shoes on the outer edge of the briefcase,” Joona says. “It has fallen over backward and the body has swung diagonally.”

Pollock says nothing, just walks over to the leather briefcase and gets on his knees beside it. His silver ponytail falls forward as he leans down to put the briefcase on its edge. Obvious light gray marks are clearly visible on the black leather.

“So it’s so, then,” Joona remarks quietly.

“Fucking awesome,” Tommy Kofoed says, and his whole tired face smiles up at Joona.

“Suicide,” Pollock mutters.

“Technically speaking, yes,” Joona says.

They stand looking at the body for a while.

“What do we really have here?” asks Kofoed. He’s still smiling. “Someone high up, with a job deciding who can export military equipment, who decides now to take his own life.”

“Not our department,” sighs Pollock.

Tommy Kofoed rolls off his gloves and gestures at the hanging man.

“Joona? What’s the deal with the knots and the music?” he asks.

“It’s a double sheet bend,” Joona says and points to the knots around the lamp hook. “I connect it to Palmcrona’s long naval career.”

“And the music?”

Joona stops and looks at him meditatively.

“What do you think?” he asks.

“Well, I know it’s a sonata for violin. Early nineteenth century or-”

He is interrupted by the doorbell. The four of them glance at one another. Joona starts to walk back to the hallway and the rest follow but stop before they can be seen from the landing.

At the front door, Joona considers a quick view through the peephole but decides against it. He can feel air stream through the keyhole as he presses down the door handle. The heavy door swings open. The landing is dark. Joona’s hand goes for his pistol as he checks behind the open door. A tall woman is caught in a faint gap of light by the handrail. She has huge hands. She’s probably about sixty-five years old. She’s completely still. Her gray hair is cut in a short, girlish pageboy style, and there’s a large, skin-colored bandage on her chin. She looks Joona right in the eye without a hint of a smile.

“So have you cut him down yet?” she asks.


helpful people

Joona had thought he’d have time to make the National Criminal Investigation Department meeting at one o’clock.

But he’d wanted to have lunch with Disa first. They were to meet at Rosendal’s Garden on Djurgarden. Joona arrived early and had to wait for a while in the sunshine. He idly watched the mist hovering over the small vineyard. Then he saw Disa coming, her cloth purse slung over her shoulder. Her narrow, intelligent face was closely sprinkled with late-spring freckles and her hair flowed free over her shoulders, loosed from its customary tight braids. She’d prettied up in a dress patterned in small flowers; on her feet were sandals with wedge heels.

Carefully they hugged each other.

“Hi,” Joona said. “You look great.”

“You, too,” said Disa.

Together they went to the buffet to choose their food and then sat down at an outdoor table. Joona noticed that her nails wore a new coat of polish. Usually they were short and ragged, embedded with the dirt Disa picked up in her work as an archaeologist. Joona’s gaze wandered away from her hands and out over the orchard.

“Queen Kristina received a leopard as a present from the Count of Kurland. She kept it here at Djurgarden.”

“I didn’t know that,” Joona said absentmindedly.

“I read in the palace accounts that the Royal Treasury paid forty daler in silver coins, the cost of a serving girl’s funeral. She was ripped apart by that leopard.”

Disa leaned back in her chair and picked up her glass.

“Stop talking so much, Joona Linna,” she said.

“Sorry,” Joona said. “I just…”

He fell silent again, suddenly exhausted.

“What’s up?” She was suddenly concerned.

“Please, just tell me more about the leopard.”

“You look so sad.”

“I was thinking about my mother… It’s been one year today since she passed away. I went to lay a wreath at her grave.”

“I miss Ritva very much,” Disa said.

She put her fork down and sat quietly for a while.

Finally she said, “Do you know what she said the last time I saw her? She took my hand and told me that I should seduce you and make sure I got knocked up.”

Joona laughed. “I can believe that!”

The sun sparkled in Disa’s quiet, dark eyes. “I told her that I didn’t believe that would happen. Then she told me I should leave you and never look back.”

He nodded but was at a loss for words.

“And then you’d be all alone,” Disa continued. “A large, lonely Finn.”

He stroked her fingers.

“I don’t want that,” he said.

“Don’t want what?”

“Don’t want to be a large, lonely Finn.”

“And I now want to use my teeth on you. Bite you hard. Can you explain that? My teeth always start to itch when I look at you,” Disa said with a smile.

Joona reached out to touch her face. He knew he was already late to the meeting with Carlos Eliasson and the CID, but he kept sitting there across from Disa, making small talk and thinking at the same time that he should go down to the Nordic Museum to look at the Sami bridal crown.

While he was waiting for Joona Linna, Carlos Eliasson had told the National Criminal Investigation Department about the young woman who’d been found dead on a motorboat in the Stockholm archipelago, and Benny Rubin noted for the record that there was no rush to begin an investigation and that they should wait for the Coast Guard’s findings.

Joona had come in a little later but had hardly taken part in the meeting when a call came from John Bengtsson of Routine Patrol.

Joona and John had a history together over the years. They’d played floorball more than a decade before. John Bengtsson was popular, but when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, a lot of his friends had fallen away. Although he was now fully recovered, like other people who’d had a brush with death, he had a slight air of fragility, of a depth of understanding, about him.

Joona had stood in the hallway outside the conference room listening on the phone to John’s slow recitation. His voice was filled with the tiredness that comes immediately after high stress. He described how he’d just found the general director for the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products hanging from the ceiling in his home.

“Suicide?” asked Joona.



“Can’t you just come over?” John asked. “I can’t decide what I’m seeing. The body is hanging way too high above the floor, Joona.”

He’d taken Nathan Pollock and Tommy Kofoed along. Joona had just explained that this was a suicide when the doorbell had rung at Palmcrona’s home. In the darkness of the landing, a woman was standing and holding two plastic grocery bags in her large hands.

“So have you cut him down yet?” she asked.

“Cut him down?”

“Director Palmcrona,” she replied matter-of-factly.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Excuse me, I’m just a housekeeper and I thought…”

Obviously she was troubled, and she turned away to start walking down the stairs. She was stopped in her tracks by the answer to her first question.

“He’s still hanging there.”

“I see.” She turned toward him with a blank face.

Joona asked, “Did you see him earlier today?”


“How did you come to ask whether we’d taken him down, then? Did you see anything unusual?”

“A noose from the ceiling in the small salon,” she answered.

“So you saw the noose?”

“Yes, indeed.”

“But you weren’t afraid that he might use it?”

“Dying’s not a nightmare.” She was holding back a smile.

“What did you just say?”

The woman just shook her head.

“How do you think he died, then?”

“I think he tightened the noose around his neck,” she replied in a low voice.

“How did he manage to get the noose around his neck?”

“I don’t know… maybe he needed help.”

“What kind of help?”

Her eyes rolled toward the back of her head and for an instant, Joona thought she was going to faint. Instead, she steadied herself with a hand on the wall and then she met his gaze.

Softly, she said, “There are always helpful people around.”


the needle

The police station’s swimming pool is large and blue, almost completely still. Lit from below, its light dances across the walls and ceiling of the natatorium, and all that breaks the stillness is the steady movement of Joona Linna swimming laps, one after the other.

While he swims, idle thoughts tumble over and over in his head: Disa’s face when she told him her teeth itched when she looks at him.

Joona touches the edge of the pool, turns underwater, and kicks off again. He doesn’t realize he’s picking up speed when the memory of Carl Palmcrona’s apartment on Grevgatan comes to him. Once again, he sees the hanging body, the pool of urine, and the flies on the body’s face. The dead man had been wearing his coat and shoes and yet had taken the time to turn on music.

Actions both impulsive and yet planned, not that unusual when it comes to suicide.

Joona’s swimming even faster now, picking up more speed as he kicks off another lap. He sees himself walking back through Palmcrona’s hallway and opening the door after the unexpected ringing of the doorbell. The tall woman in the darkness of the landing. The impression of her large hands. The fact she was hiding behind the door.

Breathing heavily, Joona pulls up to the edge of the pool and steadies himself, resting his arms on the plastic grille over the gutter. His breathing slows but he can feel the heavy increase of lactic acid in his shoulder muscles. A group of policemen in bathing suits walk into the pool area carrying two rescue dummies: one a child and the other an overweight adult.

Dying’s not a nightmare. The large woman had smiled when she said that.

Joona heaves himself out of the pool. He’s filled with nervous tension. The Carl Palmcrona case won’t leave him alone. For some reason, the empty, light-filled room keeps coming back into his mind: the languid violin music and the slow buzzing of the flies.

Joona knows in his gut that it is a suicide and is not a case for the CID. Still, he feels the urge to run back to the apartment, to take another look and examine it minutely to make sure he’s missed nothing.

Initially he’d thought that shock had confused the housekeeper, fogged her mind, and made her suspicious, causing her to speak in that strange, disjointed way. Now Joona tries thinking in reverse. Maybe she wasn’t confused at all. Maybe she wasn’t shocked in the least but was answering his questions as clearly as she could. Edith Schwartz had hinted that Carl Palmcrona may have had help with the noose: that there were helpful hands, helpful people. In any case, she’d insinuated he was not alone in meeting his death. He was not the only person responsible.

Something is not right.

But he can’t put his finger on why he thinks that.

Joona walks through the door to the changing room and unlocks his locker. He picks up his cell phone and calls Nils Ahlen, “The Needle.”

“I’m not done yet,” The Needle says instantly.

“It’s about Palmcrona. What was your first impression, even if-”

“I’m not done yet.”

“Even if you’re not done-”

“Come by on Monday.”

“I’m coming over now.”

“At five o’clock, me and the missus are going to check on a sofa at the furniture store.”

“I’ll be there in twenty-five minutes,” Joona says, and disconnects the phone before The Needle can protest again that it’s too soon.

After Joona has showered, dressed, and come out of the changing room, he can hear the laughter from the children’s swimming class.

He wonders what’s behind the death of a man as important as the general director for the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products. When it came to the export of military equipment in Sweden, this was the one person who made all the final decisions regarding Sweden’s export of arms, and now he’s found hanged.

What if I’m wrong? What if he really was murdered? Joona says to himself. I have to talk to Pollock before I go see The Needle. Maybe Pollock and Kofoed have had a chance to look at the material evidence by now.

Joona strides through the hallway, runs down a staircase, and calls his assistant, Anja Larsson, to see if Nathan Pollock is still at the station.


all about hand-to-hand combat

Joona’s thick hair is still wet as he opens the door to Lecture Hall 11 where Nathan Pollock is lecturing a special training group on handling hostage situations and rescue operations. Projected on the wall behind Pollock is the anatomy of a human body, and seven weapons are lined up on a table. They range from a small silver SIG Sauer P238 to a matte-black automatic carbine from Heckler amp; Koch equipped with a 40 millimeter grenade thrower. Pollock is demonstrating an attack technique on a young police officer. He holds a knife close to his body, then suddenly rushes the officer and marks his throat. He turns back to the group.

“The problem with a cut like this is that the enemy can still scream. He can still move, and since only one artery is cut, it’ll take some time for him to bleed to death,” Pollock tells them.

He walks up to the young officer again and puts his arm around the officer’s face so that his elbow covers the officer’s mouth.

“If I do this instead, I can cover the scream, control his head, and slice open both arteries with one cut.”

Pollock lets the young officer go just as Joona Linna enters the room. The young officer wipes his mouth and returns to his seat. With a big grin, Pollock tries to wave Joona over, but Joona shakes his head.

“I just need a word with you,” Joona says quietly.

A few of the police officers swivel their heads as Pollock walks over to Joona and shakes hands. The shoulders of Joona’s jacket are dark from the water dripping from his hair.

“Tommy Kofoed took shoe prints from the Palmcrona scene,” Joona says. “I must know-did he find anything else unusual?”

“I didn’t realize there was a rush on it,” Nathan says. He also keeps his voice low. “Of course we photographed all the impressions on the foil, but we haven’t had time to analyze the results. I absolutely have no overview yet-”

“But you saw something,” Joona states.

“It seems that maybe… when I entered the photos into the computer… there could have been a pattern… it’s too early-”

“Just tell me what you think-I have to run.”

“It looked like two different sets of shoe prints in two circles around the body,” Nathan tells him.

“I’m going to see The Needle. Why don’t you come with me?” Joona asks.

“Right now?”

“I have to be there in twenty minutes.”

“Damn, I can’t.” Nathan gestures to the class. “I’ll keep my phone on in case you have to get back about something.”

“Thanks,” Joona says, and turns toward the door.

“Hey… could you just say hi to this gang for a second?” Nathan asks.

The entire class has already turned to look at them. Joona waves.

Nathan raises his voice. “May I introduce Joona Linna? He’s the one I was telling you about. I’m trying to talk him into giving you some insight into hand-to-hand combat.”

The room is silent and everyone is staring at Joona.

“Most of you know more about hand-to-hand combat than I do,” Joona says with a small smile. “But one thing I do know is when you’re in a fight for your life, no rules apply. It’s not a game-it’s a real fight.”

“Listen up,” Nathan says, his voice hard.

“In a real fight, you’ll only win if you keep thinking. Be flexible. Take advantage of anything and everything that comes your way,” Joona continues calmly. “Maybe you’re in a car or on a balcony. Maybe in a room filled with tear gas. Maybe there’s broken glass covering the floor. There could be weapons all around. Is it a short fight? Or will you have to conserve your strength? Don’t waste time with fancy jump kicks or be cool with round kicks.”

A few laugh.

“And accept the idea of pain. When you’re in close combat without a weapon, you may have to take a real pounding to win as quickly as you can.” Joona finishes. “That’s about it… I really don’t know much more than that about this stuff.”

He bows his head faintly and turns to leave the lecture hall. Two of the officers clap. The door closes and the room falls silent. Nathan Pollock is smiling to himself as he comes back to the table.

“I originally meant to save this for another class,” he says as he taps on the computer. “This film is a classic-it’s the hostage drama from Nordea Bank headquarters on Hamngatan nine years ago. There are two robbers. Joona Linna has already gotten the hostages out. He’s also already taken down one of the robbers, the one who had an Uzi. There’d been a violent firefight. The other robber is hiding and still has a knife. They had spray-painted all of the security cameras, but missed one. Anyway, I’ll play it in slow motion because the whole thing happens in just a few seconds.”

Pollock clicks again, and the film starts in slow motion. It’s a grainy video shot from directly overhead and showing the interior of the bank. At the bottom right of the image, a counter ticks off the seconds. Joona moves smoothly sideways with his arms out, holding his pistol high. It almost looks like he’s underwater, his movements are so slow. The robber is hiding behind the open door to the safe. He holds a knife. Suddenly he rushes out with long, fluid strides. Joona points his service pistol toward the robber, directly at his chest. The robber doesn’t hesitate. Joona is forced to pull the trigger. “The pistol clicks but a faulty bullet is lodged in the barrel,” narrates Pollock.

The grainy film flickers. Joona retreats as the man with the knife leaps at him. The whole thing is spooky and silent. Joona ejects the magazine and reaches for a new one. There is no time. Swiftly he reverses the useless gun until the barrel becomes an extension of his forearm.

“I don’t get it,” says a female officer.

“He’s transforming the pistol into a tonfa,” Pollock explains.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a kind of stick or baton. American police use something similar.

Obviously, your reach is lengthened and if you must strike, the impact is intensified.”

The man with the knife has reached Joona. Almost in slow motion, he strikes at Joona’s abdomen, the blade glittering in a half arc. His other arm is up and turns with his body. Joona does not look at the knife at all. He moves straight into the robber and instantly strikes him in the throat, right under the Adam’s apple, with the shaft of his gun.

As if in a dream, the knife falls slowly, swirling to the ground. The man goes to his knees, clutching his throat, and then falls forward.


the woman who drowned

Joona Linna is in his car, driving toward the Karolinska Institute, the medical research center in Solna, a suburb north of Stockholm. He’s thinking about Carl Palmcrona’s hanging body, the tight laundry rope, the urine on the floor.

To the picture in his mind, Joona adds two sets of shoe prints on the floor circling the dead man.

This case is not over.

The department of forensic medicine is in a redbrick building set among the well-tended lawns on the large campus of the Karolinska Institute.

Joona swings into the empty visitors’ parking lot. He sees that the chief medical officer, Nils Ahlen, The Needle, has driven his white Jaguar over the curb and right onto the manicured lawn next to the main entrance.

Joona waves at the woman sitting in reception, who answers with a thumbs-up. He continues down the hallway, knocks at The Needle’s door, and goes right in. As usual, The Needle’s office is completely barren of anything extraneous. The blinds have been drawn but sunshine still filters in between the slats. The light is bright on white surfaces but disappears into the gray areas of brushed steel.

As if to match his environment, The Needle wears white aviator glasses and a white polo shirt underneath his lab coat.

“I just put a parking ticket on a white Jaguar outside,” Joona says.

“Good for you.”

Joona pauses in the middle of the room, his serious gray eyes darkening.

“So how’d he really die?”

“You’re talking about Palmcrona?”


The telephone rings and The Needle hands the autopsy report to Joona.

“You didn’t need to come all the way here to find that out,” The Needle says before he picks up the phone.

Joona sits down on a white leather chair. The autopsy on Carl Palmcrona’s body is complete. Joona flips through the file and eyes a few entries at random:

74. Kidneys weigh 290 grams together. Surfaces are smooth. Tissues are gray-red. Consistency is firm and elastic. Renal capsule is clear.

75. The ureters have normal appearance.

76. The bladder is empty. Mucous membrane is pale.

77. The prostate is normal size. Tissues are pale.

The Needle pushes his glasses up his narrow, hooked nose and finishes his phone call. He looks up.

“As you see,” he says, yawning, “nothing unusual. Cause of death is asphyxiation, that is, suffocation… but with a successful hanging we’re not talking about your typical meaning of suffocation. Rather, here we have closure of artery supply.”

“So the brain dies when the flow of oxygenated blood is stopped.”

The Needle nods. “That’s right. Artery compression, bilateral closure of the carotids. It happens unbelievably quickly, of course. Unconsciousness within seconds-”

“But he was alive before the hanging?” Joona asks.


The Needle’s narrow, smooth face is gloomy.

“Can you determine the drop?”

“I imagine it was a matter of decimeters. There aren’t any fractures of the cervical vertebra or at the base of the skull.”

“I see…”

Joona is thinking of the briefcase with Palmcrona’s shoe prints. He opens the file again and flips to the external examination: the investigation of the skin of the neck and the measurement of the angles.

“What’s bothering you?”

“Could the same rope have been used to strangle him before the hanging?”


“Why not?”

“Well, first of all there is just one line and it’s perfect.” The Needle starts to explain. “When a person is hanged, the rope or line cuts into the neck and it-”

“But a killer might know that,” Joona says.

“But it’s practically impossible to reconstruct… you know, with a successful hanging, the line around the neck is like the point of an arrow with the edge on the upward side, right at the knot-”

“Because the weight of the body tightens the loop.”

“Exactly. And for the same reason the deepest part must be precisely across from the edge.”

“So hanging was the cause of death.”

“No doubt about it.”

The tall, thin pathologist gently gnaws his lower lip.

“But could he have been forced to kill himself?” Joona asks.

“There are no signs of it on the body.”

Joona shuts the file, drums on it with both hands, and thinks about the housekeeper’s statement that other people had been involved in Palmcrona’s death. Was it just confused rattling on? But what about the two sets of shoe prints Tommy Kofoed had found?

“So you’re absolutely sure of the cause of death?” Joona stares into The Needle’s eyes.

“What did you expect?”

“I expected this,” Joona says slowly, tapping the autopsy. “Exactly this. But still, something’s not right.”

The Needle smiles thinly.

“Take it and use it as bedtime reading.”

“Fine,” Joona agrees.

“Still, I’m sure you can just let go of this one… it’s nothing more dramatic than a suicide.”

The Needle’s smile disappears and he drops his gaze. Joona’s eyes are still sharp and focused.

“You’re probably right.”

“Of course I’m right,” The Needle replies. “And I can speculate a little more if you want… Palmcrona was probably depressed. His fingernails were ragged and dirty. He hadn’t brushed his teeth for several days and he hadn’t shaved.”

“I see.”

“You can take a look at him if you’d like,” The Needle prompts.

“No, that’s not necessary,” Joona answers and slowly stands up.

The Needle leans forward, a note of expectancy in his voice as if he’d been waiting for this moment.

“Something more exciting came in this morning. Do you have a few minutes?”

The Needle stands up as well, and gestures Joona to follow him along the hall. A light blue butterfly has managed to get into the building and it flutters in front of them.

“Has the other guy quit?”


“The other guy who worked here, the one with the ponytail…”

“Frippe? No way in hell we’d let him quit. He has a few days off. Megadeth was playing the Globe yesterday. Entombed was the lead-in act.”

They walk through a dark room between autopsy tables of stainless steel, hardly noticing the strong smell of disinfectant. They continue walking to a much cooler room where bodies are being stored in chilled lockers, waiting to be examined by the department of forensic medicine.

The Needle opens the door and turns on the ceiling lamp. The fluorescent light flickers once or twice before it’s fully on and can illuminate the white-tiled room and the long autopsy table covered in plastic. The table has double sinks and gutters for drainage.

The Needle uncovers the body lying on the table.

It is a beautiful young woman.

Her skin is tanned and her long hair winds in a thick, shimmering mass across her forehead and shoulders. She seems to look into the room with an expression of both doubt and amazement. There’s an almost mischievous tilt to the corners of her mouth, as if she had been a person who easily smiles and laughs. However, any light in those large, dark eyes has long gone. Small brownish yellow specks are starting to appear.

Joona moves closer for a better perspective. She can’t be more than nineteen or twenty years old. Not that long ago, she’d been a child still sleeping in bed with her parents. Then she was an adolescent schoolgirl and now she’s dead.

A line, like a smile painted in gray, curves for about thirty centimeters across the woman’s collarbone.

“What’s this?” Joona points at it.

“No idea. Maybe from a necklace or the top of a blouse. I’ll take a closer look later.”

Joona peers more closely at the quiet body. He sighs at the familiar wave of melancholy he feels when he faces death, the colorless vacuum.

Her fingers and toes had been painted with a light, almost beige, rose.

“So what’s the story?” Joona finally asks after a minute of silence.

The Needle gives him a serious look and light reflects from his glasses as he turns back to the body.

“The Coast Guard brought her in,” he relates. “They found her sitting on the bunk down in the forward cabin of a large motorboat. It was abandoned and drifting in the archipelago.”

“She was already dead?”

The Needle looks at him and his voice becomes almost melodic.

“She drowned, Joona.”


The Needle nods, and his smile almost vibrates.

“She drowned on a boat that was still afloat,” he says.

“I assume someone found her in the water and brought her on board.”

“If that was the case, I wouldn’t waste your time.”

“So what’s going on?”

“There are no marks of water on the body itself-I’ve sent her clothes to be analyzed, but I know the National Forensic Laboratory won’t find a thing.”

The Needle falls silent and flips through his preliminary report. He sneaks a look at Joona to see if he’s at all curious. Joona stands completely still and then his expression shifts. Now he looks at the corpse with an expression that is awake and alert. He takes up a pair of latex gloves and pulls them on. The Needle is happily content to see Joona leaning over the body to lift her arms, first one, then the other, for closer examination.

“There’s no trace of violence on her,” The Needle almost whispers. “I don’t understand it at all.”


in the cabin

The glistening white motorboat is docked at the Coast Guard harbor on Dalaro Island, tied up between two police boats.

Joona Linna drives through the tall steel gates leading to the harbor area, then carefully along the gravel road, past a small garbage truck and a lifting frame with a rusty winch. He parks, gets out of the car, and walks closer, to get a good look at the boat.

A boat has been found adrift and abandoned, Joona thinks. On the bunk in the forecabin sits a girl who drowned. The boat is not filled with water, but the girl’s lungs are. Brackish salt water.

From a distance, Joona can see the bow is heavily damaged, with deep scratches running along the side from a major collision. The paint is scraped off, and fiberglass dangles in thin shreds.

He calls the Coast Guard.

“Lance,” a perky voice replies.

“Am I speaking with Lennart Johansson?” Joona asks.

“That’s me.”

“I’m Joona Linna from the National Criminal Investigation Department.”

There’s silence on the other end. Joona can hear the sounds of waves lapping.

“That pleasure boat you found,” Joona says. “I’m wondering if it was taking on water.”

“Why do you ask?”

“The bow is damaged.”

Joona begins to walk again, heading toward the boat as he listens to Lennart say, dismissively, “Dear Lord, I wish I had a crown for every drunk who’s trashed a-”

“I need a look at it,” Joona says.

“Let me brief you on what usually goes down,” Lennart Johansson says. “A group of drunken teenagers from… who knows, maybe Sodertalje… steal a boat, pick up a few chicks, drive around listening to music and partying, and then they ram into something. There’s a big bang as they crash and the girl lands in the water. The guys turn the boat around to find her, pull her on board, and when they realize she’s dead, they panic and take off.” He falls silent and waits for a reaction.

“Not a bad theory.”

“Okay,” Johansson says happily. “If you agree, you don’t have to make the trip out here to Dalaro Island.”

“Too late,” Joona says, and heads straight to the Coast Guard boat.

A Combat Boat 90 E is one of the two boats next to the pleasure boat. A man, about twenty-five, with a bare, tanned chest stands on deck, a phone to his ear.

“Suit yourself,” he says in English. He switches back to Swedish. “You have to call ahead for any sightseeing.”

“I’m here now. And I believe I’m looking right at you, if you’re the one standing on one of the Coast Guard’s shallow-draught-”

“Do I look like a surfer?”

The grinning young man looks up and scratches his chest.

“Pretty much,” Joona answers.

They each put their phones away and walk toward the other. Lennart Johansson buttons up a short-sleeved uniform shirt as he walks down the gangplank.

Joona gestures “hang loose.” Johansson’s white teeth shine in a big smile.

“I go surfing any time there’s more than a ripple. That’s why they call me Lance.”

“I get it,” Joona says drily.

The two walk over to the boat and stop on the dock by the gangway.

“It’s a Storebro 36 Royal Cruiser,” Lance says. “A good boat, but obviously it’s come down a bit. Registered to Bjorn Almskog.”

“Have you contacted him?”

“No time yet.”

They take a closer look at the damage to the boat’s bow. It looks recent, since there’s no algae mixed with the fiberglass shreds.

“I’ve called a technician-he’ll be here soon.”

“She’s gotten a proper kiss,” Lance says.

“Who’s been on board since it was found?”

“Nobody,” Lance answers quickly.

Joona smiles and waits patiently.

“Well, I have, of course. And Sonny, my colleague. And the ambulance guys who removed the body. Our own forensic technician, though he used protective mats and clothing.”

“Is that everyone?”

“Plus the guy who found the boat.”

Joona doesn’t answer but looks down into the shimmering water and thinks of the girl lying on the table in The Needle’s autopsy room.

“Is your technician completely finished?” he finally asks.

“He’s done with the floor and he’s filmed the scene where she was found.”

“I’m going on board.”

A narrow, well-used gangplank stretches between the dock and the boat. Joona climbs on board and then stands for a while on the rear deck. He slowly looks around, letting his eyes focus on each object one by one. This scene will never be the same again, fresh and new. Each detail he registers might be one that makes a crucial difference. Shoes, an overturned lounge chair, a bath towel, a paperback that has yellowed in the sun, a knife with a red plastic handle, a bucket with a rope, beer cans, a bag of charcoal for grilling, a tub with a wet suit, bottles of sunscreen and lotion.

He looks in through the large window and makes out the salon with the steering console and the decor of lacquered wood. From a certain angle, fingerprints shine on the glass doors when the sunlight passes over them: finger marks from hands that have pushed the door open and pushed the door shut or held on when the boat was in motion.

Joona steps into the little salon. The afternoon sun glistens on the varnish and chrome. There’s a cowboy hat and sunglasses on the sofa, which is covered with marine-blue pillows.

Outside, the water laps against the hull.

Joona lets his gaze wander from the dull floor in the salon and down the narrow stairs toward the bow. It’s as dark as a deep well down there. He sees nothing until he turns on his flashlight. The light shines down the glossy, steep passageway with an icy, dim light. The red wood shines as wet as the inside of a body. Joona continues down the creaking steps and thinks about the girl. He imagines her sitting alone on the boat, then deciding to take a dive from the bow. She hits her head on a stone, gets water in her lungs, but nevertheless manages to get back on board, takes off her wet bikini, and puts on dry clothes. Perhaps she feels tired and goes to her bed, not realizing that her injury is serious, a damaged blood vessel that leaks into her brain.

But in that case, The Needle would have found traces of the brackish water somewhere on her body.

This scenario is wrong.

Joona keeps going down the stairs, passes the galley and the head, and goes toward the large berth.

There’s a lingering sense of her death in the boat even though her body has been moved to the pathology department in Solna. The impression is the same no matter where he looks. It’s as if everything here stares back at him, as if it has had its fill of screaming, fighting, and sudden silence.

The boat creaks and appears to tilt toward the side. Joona waits for a second and listens before continuing into the forecabin.

June light streams through the small windows near the ceiling onto a double bed with a pointed head, formed along the bow. This is where she was sitting when she was found. A sport bag is open on the floor and a dotted nightgown has been unpacked. Just inside the door, there’s a pair of jeans and a thin cardigan. The owner’s shoulder bag hangs from a hook. The boat rocks again and a glass bottle rolls across the deck above Joona’s head.

Joona photographs the shoulder bag from various directions. The flash makes the room shrink as if the walls, ceiling, and floor were coming closer together for a moment.

Joona carefully lifts the bag from its hook and carries it with him up the stairs, which moan under his weight. He hears a metallic clink from the outside. When he reaches the salon, he sees an unexpected shadow in front of the glass doors and takes a step back into the stairwell, into the shadows and darkness.


an unusual death

Joona Linna stands stock-still, just two feet from the dark stairwell. From this angle, he can make out the lower edge of the glass doors and some of the rear deck. A shadow falls over the dusty glass; then a hand appears. Someone is moving very slowly. A split second later, Joona recognizes Erixson’s face. Sweat is dripping from it as Erixson puts gelatin foil over the area beside the door.

Joona carries the shoulder bag into the salon. Carefully, he turns it upside down and empties it onto the hardwood table. He flips a red wallet open with his pen. There’s a driver’s license in the scratched plastic pocket. He looks more closely and sees a beautiful yet serious face revealed in the flash of an automatic photo booth. She’s sitting slightly back as if she’s looking up at the observer. Her hair is black and curly. He recognizes the girl on the autopsy table at the pathologist’s: the straight nose, the eyes, the South American features. “Penelope Fernandez,” he reads. Somehow it sounds familiar.

In his mind, he sees again the pathology lab and the naked body on the table in that tile-covered room, the girl’s relaxed expression, the face beyond sleep.

Outside, Erixson’s moving the bulk of his huge body one decimeter at a time as he takes up fingerprints along the railing: painting with magnetic powder, lifting the prints with tape. He dries off a wet area, carefully drops SPR solution on it, and then photographs the impressions that slowly are revealed. The entire time, he sighs as if every movement is torture and he’s just used up the last of his strength.

Joona peers along the deck and sees the bucket and its rope next to a gym shoe. From below, the earthy smell of potatoes reaches his nose.

He looks back down at the driver’s license and the tiny photograph. He looks at the young woman’s mouth and her slightly parted lips. A niggling thought comes; something is not quite right.

He feels that he’s seen something important and was just about to put his finger on it when it slides away.

Joona startles as the phone in his pocket vibrates. He pulls it out and sees The Needle is calling.

“Joona,” he answers.

“This is Nils Ahlen, chief medical officer, in Stockholm.”

Joona can’t help smiling. They’ve known each other for twenty years and he’d recognize The Needle’s voice whether he introduced himself or not.

“Did she hit her head?” Joona asks.

“No,” The Needle answers, surprised.

“I thought that she might have hit her head on a stone.”

“No-nothing like that. She drowned. That’s the cause of death.”

“You’re absolutely sure?”

“I’ve observed froth inside her nostrils, mucosal tears in the throat, most likely due to strong gag reflexes, and there are bronchial secretions in both the trachea and the bronchi. The lungs have the typical appearance found in a drowning. They’re filled with water and have gained weight and, well…”

Silence falls between them. Joona hears a scraping sound as if someone is shifting a metal pedestal.

“There’s a reason you called,” Joona says.

“Yes, there is.”

“Can you tell me about it?” Joona asks patiently.

“She had a high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol in her urine.”



“But that’s not what caused her death.”

“Hardly,” The Needle says with suppressed excitement. “I expect you are on the boat right now reconstructing events… and there’s a piece of the puzzle you might not know.”

“Her name is Penelope Fernandez.”

“How nice to meet her,” mumbles The Needle.

“What was the piece of the puzzle?”

“Well…” The Needle’s breath is audible in the receiver.

“Tell me.”

“It’s still not a normal death.”

The Needle falls silent again.

“What did you notice?”

“Nothing in particular. It’s just a feeling…”

“Bravo,” says Joona. “You’re beginning to sound like me.”

“I know, but… It’s clear that this could be a case of mors subita naturalis, that is, a hasty but natural death… There’s nothing to contradict this, but if this is a natural death, it’s a very unusual natural death.”

They end the call but The Needle’s words echo in Joona’s head. Mors subita naturalis. There is something mysterious about Penelope Fernandez’s death. She was not found in the water and lifted on board; then she would have been lying on the deck. But perhaps the person who found her wanted to treat the body with respect. But why not just carry her to the sofa in the salon? Of course she might have been found by someone who loved her and wanted to put her in a setting where she would have been comfortable-in her own room and her own bed.

Perhaps The Needle was wrong. Maybe she had been rescued, helped on board, helped to her room. Perhaps her lungs had already been seriously injured and she was beyond saving. Perhaps she was feeling ill and wanted to lie down and be left alone.

But why no trace of seawater on her body or clothes?

There’s a freshwater shower on board, Joona thinks, and tells himself it’s time to search the rest of the boat and take a good look at the berth in the stern, the bathroom, and the galley. There is still quite a bit to examine before the entire picture can become clear.

When Erixson stands up and moves his enormous body, the boat rocks again.

Joona’s attention is again drawn to the bucket with the rope. It’s next to a tub where a wet suit had been flung. A pair of water skis is lying along the railing. Joona’s eyes wander back to the bucket. The rope tied to the handle. The round zinc edge of the washtub shines like a crescent moon in the sun.

A realization washes over him and, with icy clarity, Joona is able to picture what took place. He waits, and lets his heart calm back down. He lets the entire scenario repeat in his mind once more and he is now completely sure it’s correct.

The woman named Penelope Fernandez was drowned in the washtub.

In his mind, Joona sees again the mark he’d noticed in the pathology lab: the mark on the skin over her collarbone, the one that reminded him of a smile.

She was murdered and then she was put down on the bed.

Now his thoughts whirl as adrenaline rushes through his system. She was drowned in the brackish water and then carried onto her bed.

Not a common killing. Not a common killer. A voice wells up from deep inside him, becoming more and more clear. More and more demanding. It repeats four words, louder and faster each time. Leave the boat now! Leave the boat now! Joona peers at Erixson through the window. He’s putting a swab into a paper bag, sealing it with tape, and marking it with a ballpoint pen.

“Peek-a-boo.” Erixson smiles.

“Let’s go ashore,” Joona says calmly.

“I don’t like boats because they keep moving all the time, but I’ve just started with-”

“Take a break,” Joona says.

“What’s gotten into you?”

“Just come with me and don’t touch that cell phone.”

They scramble ashore and Joona leads Erixson far away from the boat, as quickly as he can, before they stop. He feels a heat in his face while a kind of calmness spreads through his body-a weight in his legs and calves.

Quietly he says, “I believe there’s a bomb on board.”

Erixson plumps down on the edge of a cement piling. Sweat pours from his forehead.

“What are you talking about?”

“This is not normal, this murder,” Joona says. “There’s a risk that-”

“Who said anything about murder?”

“Just wait and listen to me,” Joona says insistently. “Penelope Fernandez was drowned in that washtub on deck.”

“Drowned? What the hell?”

“She was drowned in seawater in that washtub and then she was put on the bed,” Joona says. “And I believe the next step was to sink the boat.”


“Because then the seawater in her lungs would be natural if she was found in a sunken boat.”

“But the boat didn’t sink,” Erixson protests.

“That’s what made me think. Logically there is an explosive on board the boat, which for some reason or another did not go off.”

“It’s probably in the fuel tank then, or the gas cylinders for the galley,” Erixson says slowly. “Let’s clear the area and call in the bomb squad.”


the reconstruction

At seven that evening, five sour-faced men meet in Hall 13 at the department of forensic medicine at the Karolinska Institute. Detective Inspector Joona Linna intends to open a criminal investigation into the death of the woman found in a drifting pleasure craft in Stockholm’s archipelago. Although it’s a Saturday, he’s called his immediate superior Petter Naslund and Chief Prosecutor Jens Svanehjalm for a reconstruction. He plans to convince them that this is truly a murder investigation.

One of the lighting fixtures in the ceiling is blinking on and off and the cold light bounces off the walls of shining white tiles.

“I have to change the starter,” The Needle says softly.

“You sure do,” Frippe says.

Petter Naslund mutters something inaudible from where he’s standing, pressed against the wall. The strong angles of his wide face seem to move with the flickering light. Next to him, Jens Svanehjalm is waiting. His boyish face reveals his irritation. He appears to be weighing the risk of placing his leather briefcase on the floor or leaning against the wall in his well-tailored suit.

The strong stench of disinfectant permeates the room. Strong lamps with directable beams are mounted to the ceiling above a bench made from stainless steel, which has two faucets and a deep sink. The floor is covered with a light gray plastic mat. A zinc tub just like the one on the boat sits in the middle of the bench and is already half filled with water, but again and again, Joona Linna carries more water to it from the faucet on the wall.

“It’s not a criminal offense to be found drowned on a boat,” Svanehjalm says sarcastically.

“Exactly,” says Petter.

“This could just be an unreported drowning incident,” Svanehjalm continues.

“The seawater in her lungs is the same the boat was in,” says The Needle. “But there’s no water on her clothes or on the rest of her body.”

“That is odd,” Svanehjalm agrees.

“There must be a rational explanation,” Petter says with a wry smile.

Joona empties a last bucket of water into the tub, sets the bucket down, looks up at the other four men, and thanks them for taking the time to come.

“I know it’s the weekend and everyone wants to be home,” he begins. “Yet, I believe I’ve noticed something important.”

“Of course, we always come when you tell us that,” Svanehjalm says as he finally decides to put his leather briefcase on the floor between his feet.

“The suspect gets on the boat,” Joona begins. “He goes down the stairs to the forecabin and sees Penelope sleeping. He returns to the afterdeck and begins to fill the tub using a bucket with a long rope attached.”

“Five or six buckets at least,” says Petter.

“And only when the tub is filled does he wake Penelope. He leads her up the stairs and across the deck and then he drowns her in the tub.”

“Why? And who would do something like that?” asks Svanehjalm.

“I don’t know yet. Perhaps it was to torture her with fake drowning, waterboarding-”

“Revenge? Jealousy?”

Joona cocks his head and says thoughtfully, “This person doesn’t feel like your average killer. Perhaps the suspect wanted information from her or to force her to tell or confess to something until he finally held her under enough that she could no longer resist the urge to draw a breath.”

“What does the chief pathologist say?” asks Svanehjalm.

The Needle shakes his head.

“If she’d been drowned,” he says, “I would have found signs of force on her body, bruises and the like-”

“Can we all wait with the objections for a moment?” Joona says. “First I would like to show you how it happened. As I see it. How the events play out in my head. And then, once I’m finished, I would like us all to go and look at the body to prove my theory.”

“Why can’t you do things like everyone else? Just tell us,” demands Petter.

The chief prosecutor warns, “I have to be home soon.”

Joona looks at him with an ice-cold glint in his eyes-and a trace of a smile.

“Penelope Fernandez,” he begins. “At first she was sitting on deck and smoking some pot. It was a warm day and she became tired and decided to take a nap. She goes to bed and falls asleep still wearing her denim jacket.”

He gestures to Frippe, The Needle’s young assistant who is waiting in the open door.

“Frippe here will help.”

Frippe steps into the room with a big smile. His dyed black hair hangs in locks down his back. His worn leather pants are full of rivets, and he is carefully buttoning his jacket over his black T-shirt with its picture of the hard-rock group Europe.

“Watch me,” Joona says softly. Behind Frippe’s back he quickly grips both sleeves of Frippe’s jacket in one hand while with the other he grabs his long hair.

“Now I have complete control,” Joona says grimly. “And I guarantee there won’t be a single bruise on him.”

Joona levers the young man’s arms higher behind his back. Frippe moans and leans forward.

“Take it easy!” he laughs.

“You’re much larger than the girl, of course,” says Joona. “Still, I believe I can dunk your head into the tub.”

“Don’t hurt him,” says The Needle.

“I’ll only ruin his hairstyle,” says Joona.

“Not a chance,” grunts Frippe.

It’s a silent struggle. The Needle looks nervous and Svanehjalm appears troubled. Without too much effort, Joona forces Frippe’s head underwater and holds him there for a slight moment, then lets him go and steps back. Frippe gets up, staggering, and The Needle hurries to him with a towel.

“You could have just told us how it went,” The Needle says with irritation.

As Frippe towels off his hair, they troop together into the next room, into the strong smell of decay. One of the walls is covered with three rows of stainless-steel refrigerated boxes. The Needle opens box 16 and pulls out a drawer. The body of the young woman is lying on the narrow gurney. She’s naked and has no color. A brown network of arteries can be seen on the pale skin of her neck. Joona points at the thin, curved line over her breastbone.

“Take off your shirt,” Joona says to Frippe.

Frippe unbuttons his jacket and pulls off his T-shirt. On his chest they can see a light rose mark from the edge of the tub. It’s curved like a smiling face.

“I’ll be damned,” Petter says.

The Needle steps nearer to peer closely at the roots of the woman’s hair. He takes out a small pocket flashlight and aims it directly at the pale skin of her scalp.

“I don’t need a microscope to see how someone has held her head tight by using her hair.”

He turns off the flashlight and drops it back into his pocket.

“In other words…” Joona waits.

“In other words, you’re right, of course,” says The Needle, and claps his hands.

“Murder,” Svanehjalm pronounces, sighing.

“Impressive,” remarks Frippe as he catches some black hair dye that has run down his cheek.

“Thanks,” says Joona, but he sounds distracted.

The Needle looks at him.

“What now, Joona?” he asks. “What do you see?”

“It’s not her,” Joona says.


Joona looks up at The Needle and then points to the body before them.

“This woman is not Penelope Fernandez. This is someone else.”

Joona meets the chief prosecutor’s eyes. “This dead woman is not Penelope. I’ve seen Penelope’s driver’s license and it doesn’t match. I’m absolutely sure.”

“But what-”

“Perhaps Penelope Fernandez is also dead,” Joona says. “We just haven’t found her yet.”


a party in the night

Penelope tries to breathe slowly, but the air tears at her throat. She slides down the cliff, ripping off sheets of moss as she squeezes between the branches of the spruce trees. She shakes with fright and creeps closer to the tree trunks, where the darkness of night is already gathering. As she thinks of Viola, she begins to whimper. Bjorn is ahead of her, already sitting perfectly still underneath the spruce trees, his arms wrapped tightly around himself. He’s mumbling something over and over.

They’ve been running in panic, not looking, stumbling over objects, falling, getting up again, clambering over fallen trees. They’ve ripped open sores on their legs, their knees, their hands, but they’ve let nothing stop them.

Penelope has no idea how close their pursuer might be, if he’s caught sight of them again or even decided to give up and go away. Perhaps he’s found a spot to wait them out. They’re fleeing for their lives, but Penelope has no idea why.

Perhaps it’s all a mistake, she thinks. A horrible mistake.

She feels nauseous, feels like she’s going to throw up, but swallows resolutely.

“Oh God, oh God,” she whispers to herself. “We can’t go on like this. We have to get help. They’ll find the boat soon and then they’ll come looking for us-”

“Shhh!” Bjorn shushes her, visibly, shockingly terrified.

Her hands tremble uncontrollably as images flash through her head. She blinks so that she won’t have to see them, but the visions keep flashing back: Viola dead; eyes wide-open, face wet, sitting on the bed, hair dripping in streams.

Penelope knows instinctively that the man on the beach, yelling out to Bjorn at sea, was the one who killed her sister. She’d reacted the instant she’d understood. If she hadn’t, they’d both be dead.

When they fled the boat, they’d carried nothing with them, not even a cell phone. Scrambling up the bank, Penelope had turned around only once to see the man in black tying the rubber boat to the pier.

Penelope and Bjorn had run, side by side, into the spruce forest, darting around trees and skirting outcroppings; Bjorn’s voice was a series of painful gasps as the soles of his naked feet tramped over sharp brush. And when he’d seemed to slow down, Penelope had pulled him with her, knowing their pursuer was not far behind. All the while she could hear herself crying as she ran, in a voice she’d never heard before.

A thick branch whacked her thigh and brought her to a stop. Her breath ripped at her. She moaned and with shaking hands pushed her way under low-hanging branches with Bjorn close beside her. Her legs throbbed. She kept going straight ahead. She heard Bjorn behind her and kept plunging deeper into the dark forest without turning around.

From far outside herself, Penelope contemplated the fact that thoughts change when panic sets in. Fear is not constant. Now and then there’s room for rational thought. It’s like silencing a racket to discover a quiet space in your head, which gives you a clear overview of your situation. Then the noise returns and your thoughts race in circles until the only impetus is to run.

Penelope kept expecting to find people. There had to have been hundreds of people out and about on Orno Island that evening. The south end of the island is developed; there had to be people there. There had to be help.

For a moment, Penelope and Bjorn hid between tightly spaced spruce trees, but after only a few seconds, their fear overwhelmed them and they began to flee again. Even as she ran, Penelope could feel the presence of her pursuer. She thought she could hear his long, swift strides. He wouldn’t stop. If they couldn’t find help, he would catch up.

The ground was rising again. Stones loosened underneath their feet and tumbled down the slope.

There must be people nearby. There must be a house. Hysteria swept through Penelope and she felt the need to just stop and scream as loud as she could. Silently, she ran on.

Bjorn coughed behind her, strangled for breath; coughed again.

What if Viola wasn’t really dead? What if she just needed help? Somehow Penelope knew she was having these thoughts to ward off the terrible truth. Viola was dead, but thinking that was unbearable: an empty dark space she refused to comprehend and didn’t even want to make the attempt to understand.

They kept climbing up another steep slope between yet more spruce trees, around more huge branches, lingonberry bushes, and craggy rocks. She used her hands to steady herself until she finally reached the crest. Bjorn was right behind her. He tried to tell her something, but instead just gasped for breath. He took her hand to start down the other side, which now sloped toward the western shore. They could see the light of water between the dark trees. It wasn’t far.

Penelope slipped and slid over the edge of a small cliff. She fell freely and hit the ground hard. Struggling to get up, she wondered whether she’d broken something. Then she realized she was hearing music and laughter. She leaned against the damp cliff side for support so she could stand up. She wiped her lips and studied her bloody hand.

Bjorn reached her and pulled her along. He pointed. There was a party going on somewhere ahead of them. They took each other’s hands and stumbled shakily to a run. Colored lights, strung on trellises around a wooden patio, twinkled between the dark trunks of trees.

They slowed to a cautious walk, looking carefully around.

People were sitting at a table outside a beautiful summerhouse painted Falun red. Penelope wondered if it was the middle of the night. The sky was still light, but dinner must have ended a while ago. Wineglasses and coffee cups were scattered about along with crumpled napkins and empty potato-chip bowls.

A few partygoers were singing together, while others refilled their glasses from boxes of red wine and chatted. Tendrils of wavy warm air still rose from the grill. Any children must have already been put to bed, snuggled in the house underneath cozy blankets. To Bjorn and Penelope, they seemed like denizens of another planet-a planet where calm, happy people lived safely together under a giant glass dome.

Only one person stood outside of that charmed circle. He lurked at the side, facing the forest as if he expected visitors. Penelope stopped dead and silently gripped Bjorn’s hand. They dropped to the ground and crept behind a low spruce. Bjorn’s eyes were scared and uncomprehending, but Penelope was absolutely sure what she’d seen. Their pursuer had read their minds and gotten ahead of them. He knew they couldn’t resist the lights and the sounds of the party. Like moths to a flame, they’d be drawn here. So he’d waited. He’d want to catch them just inside the darkness of the trees. He hadn’t worried about any screams. He knew the people at the party wouldn’t think to investigate anything so strange until it would be too late.

When Penelope dared look up again, the man was gone. She shook from shock. Perhaps he’d changed his mind and believed he’d made a mistake. She searched around with her eyes. Maybe he’d gone somewhere else.

Hope had just started to creep into her mind. Then she saw him again, closer.

He was a dark form blending into a tree trunk not far from them.

He was calmly unpacking a set of black binoculars with green lenses.

Penelope pressed closer to Bjorn and fought her mindless instinct to leap up and start running again. Instead, she coolly watched the man as he lifted his binoculars to his eyes. He must have night-vision goggles or a heat sensor, she thought.

When the man’s back was turned, Penelope pressed Bjorn’s hand and, bent double, she pulled him away from the house and the music and back deep into the forest. After a while, she felt safe enough to straighten up. They began to run diagonally across a slope, a gently rounded reminder of the ancient glaciers that once ground northern Europe under ice. They kept going-through tangled bushes, behind a huge boulder, over a rocky crest. Bjorn grabbed a thick branch and hurried as carefully as he could down the slope. Penelope’s heart thudded in her chest and her thigh muscles screamed. She tried to breathe quietly, but could not. She slid down a rocky cliff, pulling damp moss with her, and landed on the ground next to the deep shade of a spruce. She looked at Bjorn. All he had on were his knee-length swimming trunks. His body was a pale blur and his lips almost disappeared in his white face.


the identification

It sounds as if someone is bouncing a ball against the wall beneath Chief Medical Officer Nils Ahlen’s window. The Needle is waiting with Joona Linna for Claudia Fernandez. They don’t have much to say, so they keep quiet. Claudia Fernandez had been asked to appear at the department of forensic medicine early that Sunday morning to identify the body of a dead woman.

When Joona had to phone to tell her they feared her daughter, Viola, was dead, Claudia’s voice sounded unnaturally calm.

“No, that can’t be. Viola is out in the archipelago with her sister,” she’d said.

“On Bjorn Almskog’s boat?” Joona asked.

“Yes. I called Penelope and asked her to take her sister with them. I thought Viola needed to get away for a while.”

“Was there anyone else on the boat?”

“Bjorn, of course.”

Joona had fallen silent and waited a few seconds to force away the heaviness in his heart. Then he’d cleared his throat and said, very softly, “Mrs. Fernandez, I would like you to come to the department of forensic medicine’s pathology office in Solna.”

“Why?” she’d asked.

Now Joona is sitting on an uncomfortable chair in the office of the chief medical officer. Wedged in the corner of the frame of The Needle’s wedding picture is a tiny photo of Frippe. From a distance they keep hearing the ball thud against the wall. It is a lonely sound. Joona remembers how Claudia Fernandez had caught her breath when she finally understood that her daughter might indeed not be alive. They’d arranged for a taxi to pick her up from her town house in the Gustavsberg neighborhood. She should arrive here any minute.

The Needle had tried for some small talk but gave up when Joona did not respond. Both of them wish this moment would soon be over.

Hearing steps in the hallway, they rise from their chairs.

To see the dead body of a loved one is merciless-everyone’s worst fear. The experts say it is a necessary step in the process of grief. Joona has read that once an identification is made, there’s a certain kind of liberation. One can no longer sustain wild fantasies that the person is still alive. These kinds of fantasies and hopes only lead to frustration and emptiness.

Those are nothing but empty words, Joona thinks. Death is horrible and it never gives you anything back.

Claudia Fernandez is now in the doorway. She’s a woman of about sixty, frightened. Traces of worry are etched on her face. She huddles as if chilled.

Joona greets her gently.

“Hello. My name is Joona Linna and I’m a detective inspector. We spoke on the phone earlier.”

The Needle introduces himself almost soundlessly as he briefly shakes the woman’s hand and then turns away to shuffle through some folders and files. It must seem he is a cold person, but Joona knows he’s deeply moved.

“I’ve been calling and calling, but I can’t reach my girls,” Claudia says. “They should-”

“Shall we go in?” The Needle interrupts, as if he hadn’t heard her words.

Silently they walk through the familiar hallway. With each step Joona feels as if air is being squeezed from his body. Claudia is in no rush. She walks slowly a few paces behind The Needle, whose tall silhouette precedes them. Joona turns and tries to smile at Claudia, but then he has to turn away from the expression in her eyes. The panic, the pleading, the prayers-her attempts to make a bargain with God.

It feels as if she is being dragged in their wake as they enter the morgue.

The Needle mumbles something to himself in an angry tone. Then he bends down and unlocks the stainless-steel locker and pulls out the drawer.

The young woman’s body is covered with a white cloth except for her head. Her eyes are dull and half closed, her cheeks a little sunken, but her hair is still a black crown about her beautiful face. A small, pale hand is half uncovered along her side.

Claudia Fernandez reaches out her hand, carefully touches the hand of her daughter, and begins to whimper. It comes from deep within, as if in this moment part of her is breaking to pieces.

She begins to shake. She falls to her knees. She holds her daughter’s lifeless hand to her lips.

“No, no,” she’s crying. “Oh God, dear Lord, not Viola. Not Viola…”

From a few feet behind, Joona watches her shoulders shake as she cries; he hears her despairing wail crescendo and then gradually fall away.

She wipes at the tears streaming down her face, breathing shakily as she slowly gets back up on her feet.

“Can you positively confirm that this is Viola Fernandez?” The Needle says gruffly.

His voice stops and he quickly clears his throat, angry at himself.

Claudia nods her head and gently moves her fingertips over her daughter’s cheek.

“Viola, Violita…”

She draws back her shaking hand and Joona slowly says, “I’m very, very sorry for your loss.”

Claudia looks faint but reaches out a hand to the wall for support. She turns her face away and whispers to herself.

“We were going to the circus on Saturday. I bought tickets as a surprise for Viola…”

They all look at the dead woman: her pale lips and the arteries in her throat.

“I’ve forgotten who you are,” Claudia says in confusion. She looks at Joona.

“Joona Linna,” he says.

“Joona Linna,” the woman says with a thick voice. “Let me tell you about my daughter Viola. She is my little girl, my youngest, my happy little…”

Claudia looks at Viola’s white face and it seems as if she might fall to one side. The Needle pulls over a chair, but Claudia waves it away.

“Please forgive me,” she says. “It’s just that… my eldest daughter, Penelope, had to endure so many terrible things in El Salvador. When I think about what they did to me in that jail, when I remember how frightened Penelope was, how she’d cry and scream for me… hour after hour… but I couldn’t answer her, I couldn’t protect her…”

Claudia meets Joona’s eyes and takes a step toward him. Gently he puts an arm around her, and she leans heavily against his chest, trying to catch her breath. She moves away again, not looking at her daughter’s body, gropes for the chair back, and then sits down.

“My greatest joy was that Viola was born here in Sweden. She had a nice room with a pink lamp in the ceiling, toys and dolls. She went to school. She watched Pippi Longstocking on television… I don’t know if you can understand, but I was proud that she never needed to be hungry or afraid. Not like us, not like Penelope and me. We wake up at night and are frightened that someone will come into our house and hurt us…”

She falls silent and then whispers, “Viola was happy, just happy…”

Claudia leans forward to hide her face in her hands as she weeps. Joona lays a hand gently on her back.

“I’ll go now,” she says, even though she’s still crying.

“There’s no hurry.”

She manages to contain herself, but then her face twists again into tears.

“Have you talked to Penelope?” she asks.

“We haven’t been able to reach her,” Joona says in a low voice.

“Tell her that I want her to call me because-”

She stops suddenly. Her face turns pale. Then she looks up again.

“I just thought that she might not be answering me when I call because I… I was… I said some horrible things, but I didn’t mean anything, I didn’t mean anything-”

“We have already started a helicopter search for Penelope and Bjorn Almskog, but-”

“Please, tell me that she’s alive,” she whispers. “Tell me that, Joona Linna.”

Joona’s jaw muscles tense as he reassures her by the pressure of his hand and says, “I will do everything I can to-”

“She’s alive, tell me that,” Claudia whispers. “She must be alive.”

“I will find her,” Joona says. “I know that I will find her.”

“Tell me that Penelope is alive.”

Joona hesitates and then meets Claudia’s black eyes as a few lightning sensations sweep through his heart. A number of unseen connections click in his mind, and suddenly he hears his own voice answer, “She’s alive.”

“Yes,” Claudia whispers.

Joona looks down. He’s not able to recover the thought behind the certainty he’d felt that prompted him to ignore caution and tell Claudia that her eldest daughter was still among the living.


the mistake

Joona follows Claudia Fernandez to the waiting taxi and helps her in. Afterward he stands motionless until the taxi disappears around a curve in the driveway. Only then does he dig in his pocket for his cell phone. When he realizes he must have forgotten it, he strides back to the forensic department and quickly enters The Needle’s office, takes The Needle’s phone, and sits in The Needle’s chair. He dials Erixson’s number and waits while the call goes through.

“Let people sleep,” Erixson drowsily answers. “It’s Sunday, you know.”

“Confess that you’re at the boat,” Joona says.

“Yes, I am,” Erixson confesses.

“So there was no explosive,” Joona says.

“Not your average bomb, no. But you were still correct. This boat could have gone up at any second.”

“What do you mean?”

“The power cables’ insulation is seriously damaged in one spot because of crimping. Someone stuffed an old ripped seat cushion behind the cables, too. Very flammable. So it’s not that the leads are making contact-that would trip the circuit breaker. But they are exposed. If you kept running the engine, eventually you’d cause a discharge, with an electric arc running between the two power cables.”

“What happens then?”

“The arc would reach a temperature above three thousand degrees Celsius and it would ignite the seat cushion back there,” Erixson continues. “Then the fire would find its way to the hose from the fuel pump, and bang!”

“A quick process?”

“Well, the arc could take ten minutes to form, maybe longer, but after that, everything would happen fast-fire, more fire, explosion-and then the broken boat would fill with water and sink, fast.”

“So if the motor was started, there would soon be a fire and an explosion sooner or later?”

“Yes, but the fire wouldn’t necessarily be considered arson.”

“So the cables were damaged by accident and the sofa cushion just happened to be lying there?”

“Of course.”

“But you don’t believe that.”

“Not for a second.”

Joona pictures again the drifting boat. He clears his throat and says thoughtfully, “If the killer planned all this-”

“He’s not your normal killer,” Erixson finished.

Joona repeats the thought to himself once the conversation ends. Again he agrees. The average murderer is motivated by passion, by greed, by anger. Emotions are almost always involved even to the point of hysteria. Only later does he fumble to cover his tracks and fabricate an alibi. This time it appears the killer had followed a sophisticated strategy right from the start.

And still, something went wrong.

Joona stares into space, grabs a legal pad from The Needle’s desk, and writes Viola Fernandez on the first page. He circles her name and then writes Penelope Fernandez and Bjorn Almskog beneath it. The women are sisters. Penelope and Bjorn are in a relationship. Bjorn owns the boat. Viola asks if she can come with them at the last minute.

Joona feels the road to finding the motive behind this murder is long. He’s still internally convinced that Penelope Fernandez is alive. It’s not just a wild hope or an attempt to give comfort. It’s intuition. Based on what, he cannot say. He’d caught the thought in flight, but lost it again before he could capture it and pin it down.

If he followed the usual procedures put forth by the CID, suspicion would immediately fall on Viola’s boyfriend or perhaps on Penelope and Bjorn since they were on the boat. Speculation would include alcohol and drugs. Perhaps a fight. Perhaps a serious drama stemming from jealousy. Before too long, Leif G. W. Persson would be sitting on a couch in a television studio explaining that the suspect was a close acquaintance and probably a boyfriend or ex-boyfriend.

What is the point behind making the fuel tank explode? Where’s the logic behind this plan? Viola is already dead, drowned in the zinc tub on the afterdeck. The killer carries her downstairs and leaves her on the bed.

Joona realizes too many ideas are coming at once. He puts on mental brakes and begins to find structure in the evidence he’s gathered, tries to find questions that still need answers.

He circles Viola’s name again and starts over.

What he knows now is that she was drowned in a tub and placed on a bed in the forecabin and that Penelope Fernandez and Bjorn Almskog have still not been found.

But that’s not all, he tells himself, and flips to a new page.

He writes the word “Calm” on the paper.

There was no wind and the boat was found drifting near Dalaro Island.

The boat’s bow had been damaged in a serious collision. Joona expected the technicians had likely already found evidence, perhaps even making some plaster casts for possible matches.

Joona throws the legal pad against the wall and shuts his eyes.

“Perkele,” he swears in Finnish.

Something has slipped through his fingers again. He had been just about to grasp it. He’d instinctively realized something, almost understood something, but then-it was gone.

Viola, he thinks. You died on the afterdeck. Why were you moved after your death? Who moved you, the killer or someone else?

If someone were to find her lifeless on the deck, that person would still try to bring her back to life. They’d call in an SOS alarm-that’s what people do. And if they realized she was already dead and it was too late, that she wouldn’t be coming back to life, then they wouldn’t just leave her lying there. They’d want to carry her inside and put a blanket over her. However, a body is awkward to move, even with two people. Yet the distance was hardly more than five meters, just in through the glass doors and down the stairs.

Even one person could manage that. It’s possible.

But you don’t carry her down the stairs and through the narrow hallway and then set her on the bed in the cabin.

Someone would only do that to stage some sort of setup: that she’d be found drowned on her bed in a water-filled boat.

“Exactly,” Joona mumbles and stands up.

He looks out through the window and sees an almost blue beetle crawling along the white ledge. Raising his gaze, he sees a woman on a bicycle disappear behind the trees-and, suddenly, he recovers the missing element he’d dropped.

Joona sits back down and drums the table. It was not Penelope they’d found in the boat, but her sister, Viola. But Viola was not on her own bed. She was on Penelope’s. The murderer made the same mistake I did, Joona thinks as shivers travel down his spine.

He thought he’d killed Penelope Fernandez. That’s why he’d put her on the forecabin’s bed. This is the only explanation that makes sense.

Joona jumps as the office door bangs open. It’s The Needle, pushing it open with his shoulder and backing in with a long, flat box in his arms. On the front there’s the image of large flames and the text proclaims Guitar Hero.

“Frippe and I are going to-”

“Quiet!” Joona barks.

“What’s up?” The Needle asks.

“Nothing. I just have to think.”

Joona gets up from the chair and strides out without another word, through the foyer, not even hearing the words said by the woman with the dazzling eyes in reception. He comes into the heat of the sun and stands quietly on the lawn by the parking lot.

A fourth person, unknown to either Penelope or Viola, killed Viola, Joona thinks. He mistook one sister for the other. This must mean that Penelope was alive when Viola was killed, or he wouldn’t have made that mistake.

Perhaps Penelope really is still alive, Joona thinks. Or her body is somewhere in the archipelago, on an island or deep beneath the sea. But we can hope that she’s still alive and if she is, we will find her very soon.

Joona strides quickly to his car even though he has no idea where he will go. He spots his cell phone up on its roof; he must have put it there when he locked the car door. He picks up the sun-warmed phone and calls Anja Larsson. No answer. He climbs in, automatically fastens the seat belt, but makes no next move. He just sits and tries to find the flaws in his reasoning.

The air is suffocating, but the heady aroma of the lilac bushes next to the parking lot eases its way into his nostrils and chases away the smell of decaying corpses from the pathology lab.

The cell phone in his hand rings. He looks at the display and answers.

“I’ve just talked to your doctor,” Anja says.

“Why have you been talking to him?”

“Janush says that you’ve not come in to see him,” she says accusingly.

“I really haven’t had the time.”

“But you’re taking your medicine?”

“It tastes terrible,” Joona jokes.

“But seriously… he called me because he was worried about you,” she says.

“I’ll talk to him.”

“But not until you’ve solved this case, right?”

“Do you have a pen and paper?”

“Go ahead, ignore me,” she says.

“The woman found on the boat is not Penelope Fernandez.”

“It’s Viola, I know. Petter told me.”


“You were wrong, Joona.”

“Yes, I know-”

“Say it, Joona!” she laughs.

“I’m always wrong,” he says.

There’s a moment of silence between them.

“Don’t joke about it,” she says.

“Have you found out anything about the boat or Viola Fernandez?”

“Viola and Penelope are sisters,” Anja replies. “Penelope and Bjorn are in some kind of relationship, and that’s lasted four years so far.”

“Yes, that’s about what I’ve guessed.”

“So I see. Do you want me to bother to continue?”

Joona doesn’t answer. Instead, he leans his head back on the headrest and sees that the windshield is covered with some kind of tree pollen.

“Viola wasn’t supposed to go on the boat with them,” Anja continues. “But she’d had a fight with her boyfriend, Sergei Yarushenko, that morning, and when she called to cry on her mother’s shoulder, it was the mother who suggested Viola go with her sister on the boat trip.”

“What do you know about Penelope?”

“I’ve actually focused on the victim, Viola, since-”

“The murderer believed he was killing Penelope.”

“What are you saying, Joona?”

“He made a mistake. He was going to hide the killing in a fake boating accident. He didn’t realize he’d put Viola on her sister’s bed.”

“Since he’d mixed up the sisters.”

“I need to know everything you have on Penelope Fernandez and her-”

Anja cuts Joona off. “She’s one of my idols. She’s a peace activist. She lives on Sankt Paulsgatan 3.”

“We’ve put out a search bulletin on her and Bjorn Almskog,” Joona says. “The Coast Guard is flying two helicopters in the area around Dalaro, but they should coordinate with the maritime police.”

“I’ll take a look at what’s going on,” Anja says.

“Someone should track down Viola’s boyfriend, and also the fisherman who found the boat. We’ve got to get everything together as fast as we can-the evidence from the boat, the results from the National Forensic Lab-”

“Do you want me to give Linkoping a call?” Anja asks.

“I’ll talk to Erixson. He knows them and we’re going together to look at Penelope’s apartment.”

“It sounds like you’ve taken over the investigation. Right?”


an extremely dangerous man

The skies are still bright, but the air is heavy and damp, as if a thunderstorm is looming.

As Joona Linna and Erixson park outside the old fishermen’s supply shop, Joona’s cell phone rings. It’s Claudia Fernandez. He ducks into a shady spot before answering.

“You told me I could call,” she says weakly.

“Of course.”

“I know you tell this to everyone, but I thought… my daughter Penelope. I mean… I have to know if you find something, even if she…”

Claudia’s voice fades away.

“Hello? Claudia?”

“I’m here. Sorry,” she whispers.

“I’m a detective,” Joona says. “I’m trying to find out whether there is criminal activity behind these events. The Coast Guard is searching for Penelope.”

“When will they find her?”

“Well, they’re flying over the area in helicopters right now. They’re searching by sea and land. Since that takes longer, they start with the helicopters.”

Joona hears that Claudia is muffling her crying.

“I don’t know what I should be doing… I… I need to know what I can do or whether I should keep talking with her friends.”

“The best thing you can do is stay home,” Joona says. “Penelope might try to contact you and then-”

“She won’t call me,” says Claudia.

“I think she-”

“I’ve always been too hard on Penny. I’m always angry at her. I don’t really know why. I… I don’t want to lose her. I can’t lose Penelope, I…”

Claudia’s sobs are now loud in the receiver. She tries to control herself; fails. With a barely audible apology, she ends the call.

Right across from the fishermen’s supply shop is Sankt Paulsgatan 3, where Penelope Fernandez lives. Joona walks over to Erixson, who is staring into a shop window. The shop used to display photos of the fisherman who caught the largest salmon in the Stockholm River that week. Now the windows are crowded with hundreds of Hello Kitty items. The entire shop provides an amazingly stark contrast to the dirty brown walls of the building’s exterior.

“Little body, large head,” Erixson says as Joona comes up to him. Erixson points at the Hello Kittys.

“They’re rather cute,” Joona admits.

“Me-I’m totally backward. Small head on a large body,” Erixson jokes.

Joona gives him an amused glance as he opens the wide entrance door. They walk up the stairs and look at the nameplates, the illuminated buttons for turning on the ceiling lights, and the overflowing garbage cans. In the stairwell, it smells like sunshine, dust, and green soap. Erixson takes hold of the shiny wooden handrail so hard that its screws and mounting brackets creak as he climbs, panting, while trying to keep up with Joona. They make it to the fourth floor at the same time and look at each other. Erixson’s face is quivering from the effort. He nods while wiping the sweat from his forehead and whispers to Joona, “Sorry about that.”

“It’s humid today.”

There are stickers near the doorbell. Antinuclear, fair trade, and the peace symbol. Joona gives Erixson a brief glance, then puts his ear to the door. His eyes narrow.

“What is it?”

Joona presses the doorbell while still listening. He waits another moment before he pulls his picklock from his inner pocket.

“Maybe it was nothing,” Joona says as he carefully jimmies the simple lock.

He eases open the door, then changes his mind and softly closes it again. He waves Erixson to the side. He’s not sure why. They hear the melody from an ice-cream truck outside. Erixson frowns and taps his cheek nervously. Joona’s arms feel cold, but then he calmly opens the door and steps inside. Newspapers, ads, and a letter from the Left Party litter the rug. The air is unmoving and smells stale. A velvet curtain hangs in front of a closet. There’s a hissing sound, perhaps from the pipes, and somewhere something’s ticking.

Joona has no idea why his hand is reaching for his holstered weapon. He touches it with his fingers where it’s resting underneath his jacket, but leaves it there. His eyes go to the bloodred curtain and then to the kitchen door. He holds his breath as he tries to look through the ribbed, glass-paned door to the living room.

Joona takes another step although his instinct is to turn around and leave. He feels he should have called for reinforcements. A dark shadow glides across the other side of the glass. A wind chime made with hanging rods sways soundlessly. Joona sees the dust specks in the air change direction in an unfelt breeze.

He is not alone in Penelope’s apartment.

There’s someone in the living room. He can feel it. He casts one look at the kitchen door and then everything happens at once. A floorboard creaks; a series of rapid clicks keeps a rhythm all its own. The door to the kitchen is half open and in the gap between the hinges Joona spots movement. He presses against the wall as if he were in a train tunnel, his heart beating fast. Someone else is sneaking along in the dark hallway; Joona sees a back, a shoulder, an arm. The figure slides closer and then whirls around. The knife is like a white tongue. It’s leaping up, piercing in an angle so unusual Joona can’t parry the blade. Its sharp edge slices through his clothes, hitting the leather of his holstered weapon. Joona swings at the person but hits thin air. Swish. He hears the knife a second time and throws his body to the side. The blade has come from directly above this time. Joona hits his head on the bathroom door. A long sliver of wood curls down as the knife hits the door.

Joona slides down and simultaneously releases a wide kick. He connects, perhaps on the intruder’s ankle. He rolls away, pulling out his pistol and releasing the safety in the same movement. The outer door is open now. Footsteps sound running down the stairs. Joona scrambles to his feet and is ready to chase after the man, but he stops. There’s a humming sound behind him. He knows immediately what is going on and runs into the kitchen. The microwave is on. Behind its glass door, it’s giving off sparks. The control knobs of the four burners on the old gas stove are turned fully open and gas is blasting into the room. With a feeling that the flow of time has slowed down, Joona leaps to the microwave. The timer clicks menacingly, the sparking sounds keep increasing. A spray can of insect poison is rotating inside the microwave.

Joona grabs the electric plug and yanks it out. The ticking stops. The gas hisses loudly until Joona turns off the stove. The chemical smell is nauseating. He yanks open the kitchen window and then looks in on the spray can in the microwave. Its belly is grotesquely swollen. Joona thinks it could still explode at the slightest touch.

He leaves the kitchen and quickly surveys the rest of the apartment. The other rooms are empty. The air is still heavy with gas.

Erixson’s lying on the floor beside the stairwell, a cigarette in his mouth.

“Don’t light that!” Joona yells.

With a smile and a weak wave of his hand, Erixson replies, “It’s chocolate.”

He coughs weakly and Joona can see that there’s a pool of blood beneath him.

“You’re bleeding,” Joona says.

“No big deal,” Erixson replies. “I’m not sure how he did it, but he sliced my Achilles tendon.”

Joona calls for an ambulance and then crouches next to Erixson, whose face is pale and whose cheeks glisten from sweat. He looks nauseated.

“He cut me while he ran past. It was so quick… like being attacked by a fucking spider.”

They fall silent. Joona remembers the lightning-fast movements behind the kitchen door and how the blade of the knife moved effortlessly, with a life of its own. He’d never seen anything like it before.

“Is she in there?” Erixson pants.


Erixson smiles, relieved. Then he’s serious again.

“Was he going to blow the place to hell anyway?”

“Looks like it. He’s good at getting rid of evidence,” Joona answers sarcastically.

Erixson fumbles at the paper on his chocolate cigarette but drops it. He closes his eyes for a minute. By now his cheeks are ash-white.

“I take it you didn’t see his face either,” Joona says quietly.

“No,” Erixson mumbles. “We saw something, though. There’s always something we notice in spite of ourselves.”


the fire

The medical crew from the ambulance reassures Erixson that they’re not going to drop him.

“I can walk,” Erixson protests and shuts his eyes.

His chin shakes each step down.

Joona goes back into Penelope Fernandez’s apartment. He opens all the windows to clear the air and then sits down on the apricot-colored sofa. It is very comfortable.

If the apartment had exploded, it would have looked like an unfortunate accident caused by a gas leak. The case would have been closed.

Joona lets his memory expand. No fragment of observation ever completely disappears. It simply must be retrieved just like the seas heave flotsam and jetsam up onto the beach.

But what was it?

He had seen nothing. Just a quick, blurred movement and a knife blade.

That’s what I saw! Joona realizes. I saw nothing!

This lack is exactly what is nudging his intuition.

We’re dealing with a pro here, a contract killer, a hit man, a grob.

There aren’t many in the world.

This was not the first inkling he’s had, but now he’s thoroughly convinced. The killer in the hallway is the same man who murdered Viola. There was certainly time to do both. He’d planned to kill Penelope and sink the cruiser as if it were an accident; then he’d use the same method here. This is a killer who wants to remain invisible. He wants to kill under the radar of the police.

Joona looks around slowly. He tries again to assemble the parts of the puzzle into a whole.

He hears children playing in the apartment above his head. They’re rolling marbles over the floor. They’d have been in the middle of an inferno right now if Joona hadn’t been able to pull the plug in time.

This was a cold-blooded, driven attack, Joona thinks, and the man behind it was not some hate-filled right-wing activist. Penelope Fernandez might be involved in the peace movement, sure, and those groups did, ironically, resort to violence sometimes. But this man was different: a highly trained professional at a level well above any of the amateur groups.

So why were you here? Joona wonders. What does a hit man have to do with Penelope Fernandez? What is she mixed up in? What’s going on beneath the surface?

Joona reviews those unusual knife movements. The technique was obviously meant to circumvent the usual police and military defensive training. His skin prickles as he realizes that the first cut would have sliced into his liver if he hadn’t carried his pistol under his right arm. The second cut would have gone straight into his brain if he hadn’t thrown himself backward.

Joona gets up from the sofa and walks into the bedroom. He studies the well-made bed and the crucifix over the headboard.

A hit man believed he’d killed Penelope, and his intention was to make it seem like an accident… but the boat never sank.

Either the killer was interrupted or he left the scene of the crime intending to return and complete his assignment. He must never have intended that the Coast Guard would find the boat adrift with the drowned girl on board. Something had gone wrong or the plans had to be drastically changed. Maybe he was given new orders. At any event, a day and a half after killing Viola, he was here in Penelope’s apartment.

You must have had a strong reason to come here. What was your motive behind this major risk? Is there something here that connects you or your client to Penelope?

You did something here. You got rid of fingerprints or you erased a hard drive or destroyed an answering machine or you came to get something.

That’s what you wanted, but then I showed up and wrecked your plan.

Or maybe your plan was to destroy something in the fire? That’s a possibility, Joona thinks.

Joona wishes he had Erixson with him now. He needs a forensic technician; he doesn’t have the right tools and might even destroy evidence if he searched the apartment on his own. He could contaminate DNA or miss invisible evidence.

Joona walks to the window and looks down at the street. He sees empty tables by a sandwich cafe.

He really must head back to the police station and talk to his boss, Carlos Eliasson. He must ask to be assigned as the leader of the investigation and call in another forensic technician now that Erixson will be on sick leave.

Joona’s telephone rings just as he’s made the decision to play by the rules and go talk to both Carlos and Jens Svanehjalm and put together an investigative group.

“Hi, Anja,” he says.

“I want to go to the sauna with you,” Anja says.

“Why the sauna?”

“Well, why not? Can’t we take a sauna together? You could show me how real Finns use the sauna.”

“Anja,” he replies slowly, “I’ve lived almost my entire life in Stockholm.”

Joona starts walking through the hallway to the outer door.

“I know, I know. You’re a Swede with Finnish heritage. How boring is that? Why couldn’t you be from El Salvador? Have you read any of Penelope Fernandez’s opinion essays in the newspaper? You should see her-the other day she scolded the entire Swedish weapons export industry on television!”

Joona can hear Anja’s light breaths in the receiver as he leaves Penelope Fernandez’s apartment. There are bloody marks on the stair from the ambulance crew’s shoes. A shiver runs down his back as he remembers his colleague sitting there, legs splayed, as the color drained from his face.

Joona believes the hit man is still under the impression he killed Penelope Fernandez, so he thinks that part of his contract is done. The other half was to get into the apartment for some reason. When the killer figures out Penelope’s still alive, he’ll be back on the hunt in a hurry.

“Bjorn and Penelope were not living together,” Anja is saying.

“I figured that out,” he replies.

“Even so, they could still be in love-just like you and me.”

Joona walks into strong sunshine. The air has grown heavier and even more humid.

“Can you give me Bjorn’s address?”

He hears Anja’s fingers fly over the keyboard. Small clicking sounds.

“Almskog, Pontonjargatan 47, third floor.”

“I’ll go there before I-”

“Wait a second!” Anja said. “Not possible. Listen to this… I’ve just cross-checked this address… there was a fire in the building on Friday.”

“Bjorn’s apartment?”

Anja replies, “Everything on that floor is gone.”


a wavy landscape of ashes

Detective Inspector Joona Linna walks up the stairs, then stops and stands still, looking into a completely black room. The acrid stench is sharp. Not much of the inner, non-weight-bearing wall is left. Black stalactites hang from the ceiling. Charcoaled stumps of shelves stick up among a wavy landscape of ashes. In several places there are holes straight through the double floors to the room beneath. It’s no longer possible to determine which part of this apartment floor had been Bjorn Almskog’s.

Plastic sheets in the windows keep out the sun and present a strange green face to the street.

Nobody had been injured in the fire at Pontonjargatan 47 because most people had been at work. The first call had come into Emergency Central at 11:05 a.m. Even though the Kungsholm fire station was relatively close-by, the fire had been so fierce that four apartments were completely destroyed.

Joona mulls over his conversation with Fire Inspector Hassan Sukur. Sukur had said it was “strongly indicated” that the fire had started in Lisbet Wiren’s apartment. She was Bjorn Almskog’s eighty-eight-year-old neighbor. She’d gone out to convert a small winning on a lottery ticket into two new tickets, and couldn’t remember if she’d left her iron on. The fire had spread rapidly, and all signs pointed back to her apartment and the iron on her ironing board.

Joona surveys all the blackened apartments on this level. Nothing is left of any of the furniture in the rooms except individual twisted metal fragments, parts of a refrigerator, a bed frame, a sooty bathtub.

Joona turns and walks back down. The walls and ceiling of the stairwell are smoke damaged. He stops at the police tape, turns, and looks back up at all the blackness.

As he bends to go under the plastic tape, he notices that the fire inspectors have dropped a few DUO bags, used for preserving volatile liquids, on the floor. He continues past the green-marble entrance hall and out the main door onto the street. As he heads toward the police station, he calls Hassan Sukur again. Hassan answers at once and turns down the background sound from his radio.

“Have you found traces of flammable liquids?” Joona asks. “You’d dropped some DUO bags on the floor and I was wondering-”

“Let me give you some facts. If you pour flammable liquid on something, that’s the first thing to burn-”

“I know, but it was-”

“I, on the other hand, I am one who always finds whatever there is to find,” Hassan continues. “It often runs into gaps between the floorboards or into the double floor, or the fiberglass, or the underside of the double floor, which might have survived the fire.”

“But not at this site,” Joona says as he continues walking down the hill on Handverkargatan.

“Nothing at all,” Hassan replies.

“But if you knew where traces of flammable liquid might collect, you might be able to avoid detection.”

“Of course… if I were a pyromaniac, I would never make a mistake like that,” Hassan says cheerfully.

“But in this case you’re sure the iron brought on this blaze?”

“Yes, it was an accident.”

“So,” Joona states, “case closed.”


the house

The darkness of night is giving way to morning, even in the forest. Penelope and Bjorn move back toward the beach together but angle farther south, away from the house where the party had been. Away from their pursuer.

As far from their pursuer as they possibly can go.

Spotting another house between the trees, they start to run again. It’s about half a kilometer away, maybe even a little less. They hear the roar of a helicopter overhead somewhere but the sound fades as it moves on.

Bjorn looks dizzy; Penelope fears he won’t be able to keep running much longer. His bare feet are raw.

A branch breaks behind them. Perhaps underneath a human boot.

Penelope begins to run as fast as she can through the forest.

As the trees thin out more, she can see the house again. It’s just one hundred meters away. Lights in the window reflect on the red paint of a parked Ford.

A hare leaps up and jumps away over moss and twigs.

Panting and terrified, Penelope and Bjorn run up the gravel driveway and clamber up the stairs to the house. They spring inside.

“Hello? We need help!” Penelope screams.

The house is warm from yesterday’s sunshine. Bjorn, bare-chested and white with cold, is limping and leaves tracks of blood on the floor as he limps in. Penelope hurries from room to room, but the house is empty. The people who live here probably attended last night’s party and are sleeping it off at the neighbors’, Penelope realizes. She goes to the window and, hiding behind the curtains, peers outside. There’s no movement in the forest or over the lawn. Perhaps the man has lost their trail. Perhaps he’s still waiting at the other house. She returns to the hallway where Bjorn sits on the floor examining the open wounds on his feet.

“We have to find you a pair of shoes.”

He looks up at her as if he no longer understands human speech.

“It’s not over. You have to find something to put on your feet.”

Bjorn slowly begins to rummage in the closet and pulls out beach shoes, rubber boots, and old bags.

Penelope creeps past the windows in search of a phone. She looks on the hall table, in the briefcase by the sofa, in the bowl on the coffee table, and among the keys and papers on the kitchen counter.

She hears something outside. She freezes to listen.

Maybe it was nothing.

The first rays of the morning sun shine through the windows.

Crouching low, she hurries into the large bedroom, pulls open dresser drawers. Tucked among the underwear, she finds a framed photograph, a studio portrait of a man, a wife, and two teenage daughters. All the other drawers are empty. Penelope yanks opens the closet and pulls out a black hoodie for herself and an oversized sweater for Bjorn.

She hears the faucet run in the kitchen and hurries there. Bjorn is leaning over the sink, cupping handfuls of water. He’s found a pair of worn-out sneakers a few sizes too large.

This is crazy, Penelope thinks. There must be people all around here; we have to find someone who can help us.

Penelope hands Bjorn the sweater when someone knocks on the door. Bjorn smiles, surprised, and pulls it on while mumbling something about their luck turning. Penelope wipes her hair back from her face, and is almost at the door when she sees the silhouette through the frosted glass.

She stops abruptly and observes the shadowy form in the windowpane. Her hand no longer reaches out to open the door. She knows that stance; that head and shoulders. That’s the man in black.

All the air rushes from her lungs. She backs toward the kitchen slowly, her body tense and ready to run. Staring at the glass pane, she can see the blurred outline of a face-a face with a small chin. She feels dizzy, stumbles backward over bags and boots, and reaches to steady herself against the wall.

She finds Bjorn next to her, holding a carving knife with a wide blade. His cheeks are pale and his mouth is half open. He’s staring at the pane of glass, too. Penelope backs into a table as the door handle slowly turns down. Suddenly she races into the bathroom, blasts on the water, and yells loudly, “Come in! Door’s open!”

Bjorn jumps and his pulse pounds in his head. He holds the knife out in front, ready to attack, when he sees the door handle ease back up. Their pursuer has let go. The silhouette disappears. A few seconds later, they hear footsteps crunching on the gravel path around the house. Bjorn looks stiffly to the right. Penelope emerges from the bathroom and Bjorn points to the window in the TV room. They move away into the kitchen as the man crosses the wooden deck. The footsteps reach the veranda door. Penelope tries to put herself in the killer’s head. Are the angle and the light enough to show the shoes tossed out of the closet and Bjorn’s bloody footprints? The wooden deck creaks again near the back stairs. Bjorn and Penelope creep along the floor and then roll right next to the wall underneath the window. They try to lie still and breathe silently. They can hear that the man has reached the kitchen window, can hear his hands touch the windowsill. They realize he’s peering inside.

In the reflection of the window in the oven door, Penelope can see him look from side to side. If he stares at the oven, she thinks, he’ll see them too.

The face in the window disappears and they hear steps on the wooden deck yet again. This time, the steps are continuing along the paved path toward the front of the house. As the front door is opened, Bjorn dashes to the kitchen. He quietly sets the knife on the counter as he turns the key in the lock, pushes the door open, and rushes out.

Penelope follows at his heels. They’re running through the garden in the cool morning air, across the lawn, past the compost pile and into the forest. Fear forces Penelope to keep up her stride as it lashes the panic in her chest. She ducks underneath thick branches and leaps over low bushes and rocks. Soon she hears Bjorn’s panting beside her. And behind them, she senses their pursuer: a man attached to them like a dark shadow.

He’s following them to kill them.

She remembers a book she read. A woman from Rwanda was telling how she’d managed to survive the genocide by hiding in the woods and running every day. She ran the entire time the killings were going on. Her former friends and neighbors were hunting her with machetes. We imitated the antelopes, she’d written. We who survived in the jungle lived by imitating the flight of the antelopes from their hunters. We ran in unexpected ways, split apart and kept changing directions to confuse our pursuers.

Penelope knows that she and Bjorn should be smarter. They’re running without a plan, which will help their pursuer but not them. She and Bjorn are not clever. They want to go home, they want to find help, they want to contact the police. Their pursuer knows all this. He understands them and knows they want to find safety in the company of other humans or find a way to reach the mainland.

Penelope snags her shorts on a branch and rips a hole in them. She staggers a few steps but keeps going. She feels the pain as a burning loop around her leg.

They must not stop. She tastes blood in her mouth. Bjorn stumbles through a thicket. They have to circle a muddy, water-filled gap left by an uprooted tree.

In her flight next to Bjorn, a memory springs up unbidden. She had been as frightened then as she is now. It was in Darfur. She remembers the look in people’s eyes. Some eyes showed people so traumatized they could not go on. Others refused to give up the fight and kept going. What should have been children came to Kubbum one night. They held loaded guns. She would never forget the fear she felt that night.


the security service

The main office of Sweden’s Security Service, Sapo, is on the fourth floor of the National Police Board headquarters. Its main entrance is on Polhemsgatan. The room smells of dust and warm lightbulbs, and pale light falls into the room from a small window facing the courtyard. A whistle can be heard from the exercise yard of the jail, located on the roof of the building. The head of the department of security is Verner Zanden. He’s a tall man with a pointed nose, coal-black eyes, and a deep bass voice. He sits now on a chair behind his desk with his legs wide apart, and he’s holding up a calming hand. Standing in this unusually depressing room is a young woman named Saga Bauer. She’s an investigator and her group’s antiterrorism expert. Saga Bauer is just twenty-five years old. Stripes of green, yellow, and red cloth are braided into her long blond hair. She looks like a wood sprite standing in the stream of light in a dark forest. She carries a large-caliber pistol in a shoulder holster under her unzipped exercise hoodie. NARVA BOXING CLUB has been printed on it.

“I’ve led this entire effort for more than a year,” she’s pleading. “I’ve been on stakeout for twenty-four hours at a time-”

“This is something entirely different,” her boss says with a smile.

“Please, please… You can’t just bypass me again!”

“Who says I’m doing that? A technician from CID is seriously wounded and an investigator has been attacked. That apartment could have exploded and-”

“I know. I need to get over there now-”

“I’ve already sent Goran Stone.”

“Goran Stone? I’ve been here for three years and I haven’t closed a case yet! This is my field of expertise! Goran knows nothing at all about-”

“He did a good job with the underground tunnel case.”

Saga swallows hard and then she replies, “That was also my case. I found the link to-”

“But it got dangerous and I still believe I made the right call.”

Saga’s cheeks turn red. She struggles to collect herself. “I can do this. This is what I’ve been trained for-”

“Yes, but I’ve made a different call.”

Verner sighs and props his feet up on the wastebasket next to his desk.

“You know my record. Affirmative action had nothing to do with my being accepted here,” Saga says, as calmly as she’s able. “I wasn’t part of a quota. I was top of my class in all the tests. I was best at sharpshooting. I have investigated two hundred and ten different-”

“I just don’t want anything to happen to you,” Verner says softly, and his coal-black eyes meet hers.

“But I’m not a doll, I’m not a princess, or some elf!”

“But you are so… so…”

Verner lifts his hands helplessly.

“All right, what the hell, let’s do it. You be the lead preliminary investigator. But Goran Stone is part of it and I want him to keep an eye on you.”

“Thanks,” she says, relieved.

“But this is a big deal. Remember that,” he warns. “Penelope Fernandez’s sister has been killed execution-style and Penelope is missing-”

“And we’ve noted increased activity among the left-wing extremist groups,” Saga says. “We want to know if the Revolutionary Front is behind the theft of explosives in Vaxholm.”

“The most important thing is if there is an immediate threat,” Verner emphasizes.

“Right now the radicals are sounding more threatening,” Saga continues, a little too eagerly. “I’ve just been in contact with Dante Larsson at Military Intelligence and Security, and he says there will probably be acts of sabotage this summer.”

“Right now just concentrate on Penelope Fernandez,” Verner demands.

“Of course,” Saga answers swiftly. “Of course.”

“The technical investigation might be a cooperative effort between the National Criminal Investigation Department and us, but, basically, keep them out of it.”

Saga nods and waits a moment before she asks one last question.

“I want to bring this investigation to its conclusion. It’s important to me because-”

“Right now, you’re in the saddle,” he says. “But at this moment we don’t know where it’s leading or where it will end. We don’t even know how it began.”


the incomprehensible

Along Rekylgatan in the town of Vasteras, there’s a shiny white apartment building. The people in the area enjoy being close to Lillhagen School, the soccer fields and tennis courts.

A young man is leaving from Door 11. He’s carrying a motorcycle helmet. His name is Stefan Bergkvist and he’s almost seventeen years old. He attends an automotive vocational school and lives with his mother and her partner. He has long blond hair and sports a silver ring in his lower lip. He’s wearing a black T-shirt, saggy jeans ripped at the cuffs from being walked on, and skate shoes.

In no hurry, he saunters to the parking lot. He hangs his helmet on the bar of his motocross cycle and slowly drives down the sidewalk next to the building. He continues alongside the double train track, then underneath the Norrleden viaduct and into a large industrial area. He finally stops near a construction shed covered in silver-and-blue graffiti.

Stefan and his friends like to meet here. They compete on their own motocross track that they built along the train-track embankment. They drive over various sidings and then circle back along Terminal Road. They started coming here after they stumbled upon a key to the construction shed buried in thistles by the back wall. The shed hadn’t been touched for ten years or more, forgotten after all the renovation work.

Stefan climbs off his motorcycle, retrieves the hidden key, and unlocks the padlock underneath its cap. He pushes aside the steel boom and shoves open the wooden door to the shed, closing the door behind him. He checks the time on his phone and sees that his mother has called. He doesn’t realize that he’s under surveillance from across the train tracks. A sixty-year-old man idles near a Dumpster that belongs to a nearby industrial building. He’s wearing a gray suede jacket and light brown trousers.

Stefan walks over to the small kitchen and picks up a bag of chips lying in the sink. He pours the last crumbs into his palm and licks them up.

Light enters the shed from two windows covered with bars. The glass is dirty.

Stefan is waiting for his friends. He flips through an old magazine found among others scattered on a drawing table. On the front cover, a headline screams: JUST THINK! PEOPLE PAY ME TO LICK MY PUSSY!

The man in the suede jacket saunters from his spot and passes the high lattice poles with their looping electric lines. He crosses the brown grass on the embankment and walks over its double train tracks. He continues until he reaches Stefan’s motorcycle. He releases the kick-stand and quietly wheels the motorcycle to the front.

He glances around once before he lays the motorcycle on its side and shoves it with his foot until it blocks the door. He opens the gas tank and lets the gasoline run out. It leaks underneath the shed.

Stefan is still flipping through the magazine. He looks at the faded photos of women in jail. A blond woman is sitting with her legs open, showing her pussy to a jailer. Stefan is immersed in the picture until he’s interrupted by a rustling sound outside. He thinks he hears someone walking around and closes the magazine quickly.

The man in the suede jacket has pulled out the red gasoline can stashed by the boys in the brush next to the shed. He now begins to empty it all around the perimeter. Only when he reaches the back does he hear the shouts from within. The boy is banging on the door and is trying to get it open. He hears the boy’s footsteps before the boy’s face appears at one of the dirty windows.

“Hey, open the door! This isn’t a joke!” the boy says in a high voice.

The man in the suede jacket continues around the shed, emptying the last of the gasoline. Then he puts the container back where it had been hidden.

“What are you doing?” the boy yells.

He then throws his whole body against the door and tries to kick it open, but it doesn’t give. He tries to call his mother on his cell phone. Her phone is off. His heart is thudding with panic as he goes from one filthy window to the next.

“Have you lost your mind?” he yells.

As the boy recognizes the stinking smell of gasoline vapor, terror seizes his body and his stomach cramps.

“Hey! Hello?” he yells with fear in his voice. “You know I’m in here!”

The man takes a match from his pocket.

“What do you want? Please! Tell me what you want!”

“It’s not your fault,” the man says. “But a nightmare must be reaped.” He hasn’t raised his voice at all. He strikes the match.

“Let me out!” the boy screams.

The man throws the match into the grass soaked in gasoline. It makes a sucking sound, as a sailboat’s sail does when it fills with wind. Light blue flames burst up with such force that the man has to step backward. The boy is screaming for help. The fire quickly circles the shed. The man takes a few more steps backward. He feels the heat on his face; he hears the terrible screams.

In a few seconds, the whole shed is ablaze. The glass panes behind the bars shatter from the heat along the walls.

The boy’s screams are even higher when the heat ignites his hair.

The man walks calmly away. He crosses the train tracks again and then stands by the industrial buildings to watch the torch that had once been an old shed. A few minutes later, a freight train arrives from the north, rolling slowly along its tracks, wheels now scraping and creaking as the row of brown wagons passes the high flames. As the man disappears along Stenby Road, the wind catches his suede jacket, lifting it high behind him. Underneath, he is completely dressed in black.


the forensic technicians

Although it’s the weekend, the head of the National Criminal Investigation Department is in his office. He’s never been particularly welcoming to unexpected visitors. There’s a BUSY sign in red, lit up on his door, which is shut.

Joona knocks on it as he pushes it open.

“I have to know the minute the maritime police find anything,” Joona says.

Carlos Eliasson pushes a book across the desk. “Both you and Erixson have been attacked. That’s traumatic. You need a break. You need to take care of yourselves.”

“We do take care of ourselves.”

“They’ve finished the helicopter search,” Carlos says.

Joona stiffens.

“Finished! How much area did they cover?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who’s in charge of the operation?”

“We have nothing to do with it,” Carlos says. “It’s under the direction of the maritime police.”

Joona says sharply, “It would be awfully nice to know whether we’re dealing with one murder or three.”

“Joona, you’re not on this. I’ve handed it over to Jens Svanehjalm.

We’re putting together a team with Sapo. Petter Naslund and Tommy Kofoed will be on it from our side and-”

“What’s my job?”

“To take the week off.”


“Then you get to teach a week at the Police Training Academy.”


“Don’t be so obstinate,” Carlos says. “Fuck you.”

“Fuck me?” Carlos Eliasson exclaims. “I’m your boss.”

“Maybe Penelope Fernandez and Bjorn Almskog are still alive,” Joona argues roughly. “His apartment is burned out; hers would have been if I hadn’t gotten there on time. I believe the killer is looking for something they have and I believe he drowned Viola trying to get it out of her-”

“Thank you very much,” Carlos barks. “Thank you for your input. We have… no, give me a minute here. I know that you’re finding this hard to accept, but there are other police officers than you, Joona. And most of them are highly competent, I assure you.”

“I agree,” Joona says slowly, a sharp edge to his voice. “And you ought to look out for them, Carlos.”

Joona studies the brown spots on his shirtsleeves. Erixson’s blood.

“What are you implying?”

“I’ve met the killer. I think we’ll lose some men before this is done.”

“I know he surprised you,” Carlos says more softly. “And I know this has been tough.”

“All right, then,” Joona says gruffly.

“Tommy Kofoed will be in charge of the investigation and I’ll call Brittis at the Police Training Academy. She will welcome you as a guest teacher all next week,” Carlos concludes.

As Joona leaves the police station, the heat hits him hard. Pulling off his jacket, he senses someone coming up behind him. Someone has emerged from the shadows of the park. Joona turns and sees that it’s Claudia Fernandez.

“Joona Linna,” she calls in a tense voice.

“Claudia, how are you doing?” he asks gravely.

Claudia Fernandez’s eyes are bloodshot and her face looks tortured.

“Find her. You must find my girl,” she says, and thrusts a thick envelope at him.

Joona opens it. It’s stuffed with money. He pushes it back to Claudia, but she refuses.

“Please, take my money. It’s everything I have,” she says. “But I’ll find more. I’ll sell the house. Just find her.”

“Claudia, I can’t take your money,” he says quietly.


“We are already doing everything we can.”

Joona puts the envelope back in Claudia’s hands. She holds it away from her body. She murmurs that she will return home and wait next to the phone. Then she holds him back and tries to explain. “I told her that she was no longer welcome in my home… she won’t call me.”

“You had an argument. That’s not the end of the world, Claudia.”

“But how could I ever have said such a thing?” She hits her forehead with her fist. “What kind of a person says that to her own child?”

“Sometimes words just slip out…”

Joona’s voice dies away. He forces away fragments of memory that have been stirred up.

“I can’t stand it,” she says quietly.

Joona takes Claudia’s hand in his and repeats that he’s doing everything he can.

“Of course you must get your daughter back,” he whispers to her.

She nods, and they break apart to walk away in different directions. Joona hurries down Bergsgatan and squints at the sky as he heads to his car. It’s sunny, but also hazy and still extremely humid. Last summer he would have been sitting at the hospital, holding his mother’s hand. They spoke to each other in Finnish, as they usually did. He told her that they’d take a trip to Karelia as soon as she was feeling better. She had been born in a small Karelian village, one of the few not burned down by the Russians during the Second World War. His mother had replied that Joona ought to go to Karelia with someone special instead.

Joona buys a bottle of Pellegrino at Il Caffe and drinks it all before he climbs back into his overheated car. The steering wheel is hot to the touch and the seat almost burns his back. Instead of heading over to the Police Training Academy, he returns to Sankt Paulsgatan 3 and to Penelope Fernandez’s apartment. He recalls the remarkable speed and precision of movement, as if the knife his assailant had used had come alive.

The entrance is cordoned off with blue-and-white police tape marked DO NOT CROSS and CRIME SCENE in bold letters.

Joona flashes his badge to the uniformed officer on duty, then shakes his hand. They’ve met before but never worked together.

“Hot today.”

“You’re telling me,” the officer replies.

“How many technicians on the scene?” Joona asks, nodding toward the stairwell.

“One of our guys and three from Sapo,” the officer answers cheerfully. “They’ve trying to find DNA from the perp.”

“They’re not going to find any,” Joona says, almost to himself, as he starts up the stairs.

Standing in front of the apartment door on the fourth floor is Melker Janos, an older officer whom Joona remembers from his own training days as a stressed and unpleasant superior. At that time, Melker was rising in his career, but then came a bitter divorce and periodic alcohol abuse, which resulted in his step-by-step demotion until he landed back on patrol.

When he sees Joona, he greets him sourly and opens the door for him with an exaggeratedly servile gesture.

“Thanks,” Joona says. He doesn’t wait for a response.

Tommy Kofoed is just inside the door, moving around hunched and morose. He doesn’t even reach Joona’s chest anymore, but when their eyes meet, Kofoed’s face breaks into a wide grin.

“Joona, great to see you. I thought they were sending you over to the Police Training Academy.”

“I took a wrong turn.”

“How wonderful!”

“Have you found anything?”

“We’ve secured all the shoe prints in the hallway,” Tommy replies.

“Yes, they’ll all match my shoes.” Joona grins as they shake hands.

“And the attacker’s,” Kofoed protests. “He was moving around in an awfully peculiar way, wasn’t he?”


There are mats all over, protecting the floor from evidence contamination. A camera has been set up on a tripod and the lens is focused on the floor. A strong lamp with an aluminum reflector lies in the corner, its cord wrapped around the base. The technicians are scanning for invisible shoe prints using raking light, a kind of light which shines parallel to the floor, then they lift the prints electrostatically. They’ve marked the intruder’s path from the kitchen through the hall.

Joona doubts they will connect these prints with his assailant. The man would have certainly destroyed any shoes, gloves, and clothes he was wearing. He’s probably burned them.

“Tell me, how did he run, exactly?” asks Kofoed as he points to the markings. “There… there… across there… and then nothing before here… and here.”

“You’ve missed a shoe print,” Joona says with a small smile.

“What the hell?”

“There.” Joona points.


“On the wall.”

“What the fuck!”

A faint shoe print can be seen about seventy centimeters above the floor, outlined on the light gray wallpaper. Tommy Kofoed calls another technician over and asks him to take a gelatin print.

“Can I walk on the floor now?” Joona asks.

“Sure. Just keep off the walls,” a frustrated Kofoed replies.


the object

In the kitchen, there’s a man wearing jeans and a light brown blazer with leather patches on the elbows. He’s stroking his blond mustache, talking loudly and pointing at the microwave oven. As Joona walks inside, he observes a technician in a mask and protective gloves pack the misshapen spray can into a paper bag, wrapping the open end of the bag twice. Then he tapes the bag shut and writes on it.

“Joona Linna, right?” the man with the mustache says. “If you’re as good as they say, you ought to come work for us.”

They shake hands.

“Goran Stone, Sapo,” the man says contentedly.

“Are you in charge of the initial investigation?” asks Joona.

“Yes, I am. Or rather, formally, it’s Saga Bauer. For the sake of statistics,” he adds and grins.

“I’ve met her. She seems capable-”

“Isn’t that right?” Goran Stone laughs out loud and then snaps his mouth shut.

Joona glances out the window. His mind is back to the drifting boat. What kind of contract had the killer been given, and why? He knows it’s much too soon to draw any type of conclusion, but still, a tentative hypothesis is not a bad thing. Joona leaves the kitchen and heads for the bedroom. The bed is made. The cream bedcover is smoothed. Saga Bauer from Sapo is standing in front of a laptop on the windowsill while also talking on her cell phone. Joona remembers her from a counterterrorism seminar.

Joona sits down on the bed and tries to reorder his thoughts yet again. Three people on a boat. He visualizes Penelope and Viola standing before him and in his mind he places Bjorn next to them. All three of them could not have been on the boat when Viola was killed, otherwise the killer would have gotten the right person. At sea he would have just killed all three, put them on their beds, and sunk the boat. So they were not at sea. They’d docked the boat somewhere.

Joona stands up again and walks into the living room. He lets his eyes wander over the flat-screen TV on the wall, the red plaid blanket folded over the arm of the sofa, the modern table with copies of Ordfront and Exit fanned on top.

He walks over to a bookshelf that covers an entire wall. He stops and thinks about the boat. He visualizes the apparently crimped cables in the engine room, which were supposed to have generated an electric arc within a few minutes; the seat cushion stuffed behind the cables in order to catch fire more easily; the loop in the rerouted fuel line. Why hadn’t the boat sunk? They had probably not run the engine long enough.

These were not coincidences: Bjorn’s apartment is set on fire. The same day, Viola is murdered, and if the boat had not been abandoned, there would have been an explosion in the fuel tank. Then the killer tries to ignite a gas explosion in Penelope’s apartment.

Bjorn’s apartment. The boat. Penelope’s apartment.

He’s searching for something either Penelope or Bjorn possesses. He started by searching Bjorn’s apartment and when he didn’t find what he was looking for, he set the apartment on fire. Then he followed the boat and when he’d searched it and couldn’t find what he was looking for, he tried to force Viola to talk. When she couldn’t reveal anything useful, he headed to Penelope’s apartment.

Joona borrows a pair of latex gloves from a box and goes back to the bookshelf. He peers at the layer of dust in front of the books and sees there is none in front of some of the volumes. He concludes that someone has pulled out those books recently, perhaps sometime during the past several weeks.

“I don’t want you here,” Saga Bauer says behind him. “This is my investigation.”

“I’ll be going,” he says softly, “but there’s one thing I have to find first.”

“Five minutes,” she says.

He turns to look at her. “Can you have these books photographed?”

“Already done,” she snaps.

“From above so you can see the dust,” he says, not troubled at all.

She realizes what he’s getting at. She doesn’t change her expression, but simply takes a camera from a technician and photographs every shelf she can reach before she tells Joona that he can look at the books on the five lower shelves.

Joona takes out Karl Marx’s Das Kapital and looks inside. Flipping through it, he notices the underlined passages and notes written in the margins. He looks at the gap between the books but sees nothing. He replaces the book. Then his eyes range over a biography of Ulrike Meinhof, a worn-out anthology called Key Texts of Political Feminism, and the collected works of Bertolt Brecht.

Joona looks at the next shelf down. Three books have obviously been taken out of the bookshelf recently since there’s no dust in front of them. One of them, The Cleverness of Antelopes, is a collection of witness reports from the genocide in Rwanda. Another is Pablo Neruda’s poetry collection Cien sonetos de amor. The last is The Roots of Swedish Racial Ideas in the History of Ideas.

Joona flips through each one. When he reaches The Roots of Swedish Racial Ideas in the History of Ideas, a photograph falls out. It’s a black-and-white picture of a serious young woman with braided hair. He recognizes Claudia Fernandez. She can’t be more than fifteen years old, and the resemblance to her daughter is remarkable.

Who would keep a photograph of one’s mother in a book on racial biology? Joona wonders to himself as he turns the photograph over.

On the backside of the photo, someone has written a line: Don’t go far off, not even for a day. It’s in pencil.

Joona takes out Neruda’s poetry collection again. He flips through it until he finds the entire verse:

No estes lejos de mi un solo dia, porque como, porque, no se decirlo, es largo el dia, y te estare esperando como en las estaciones cuando en alguna parte se durmieron los trenes.

The photograph should have been in the Neruda collection.

If the killer had been looking through the books, this photo could have fallen out.

He was standing right here, Joona thought. He was looking at the dust in front of the books just as I am doing now and he was quickly flipping through the ones pulled out the past few weeks. He notices a photograph has fallen out of one of the books and is on the floor. He automatically picks it up and sticks it back, but into the wrong book.

Joona closes his eyes.

That’s what happened, he thinks. The hit man was looking through the books.

If he knows what he’s looking for, then the object must be small enough to be hidden between the pages of a book.

What could it be?

A letter? A will? A photograph? A confession? Maybe it was a CD or a memory stick or a SIM card?


the child on the staircase

Joona leaves the living room and peeks into the bathroom, now in the process of being photographed in minute detail. He continues along the hallway and out the door of the apartment. He stops in front of the tight grillwork that covers the elevator shaft.

There’s a nameplate on the apartment door next to the elevator. Nilsson. Joona knocks and waits. Finally, he hears footsteps from inside. A plump woman of around sixty opens the door a crack and looks out.


“Hello, I’m Joona Linna, a detective inspector, and I-”

“But I told you before, I didn’t see his face.”

“Have the police already visited you? I didn’t know that.”

She opens the door wider and two cats hop down from the telephone table to disappear deeper in the apartment.

“He was wearing a Dracula mask,” the woman says impatiently, as if she’s said this a number of times before.


“Who?” the woman repeats, muttering, and goes inside her apartment.

After some time she returns with a yellowed newspaper clipping.

Joona takes a look at the twenty-year-old article describing a flasher who wore a Dracula mask and who groped women living in the Sodermalm district.

“He wasn’t wearing a stitch down there-”

“But this is not-”

“Not that I was looking, of course,” she continued. “But I’ve already talked to you about this over and over again.”

Joona looks at her and smiles. “I actually intended to ask you about something completely different.”

The woman’s eyes widen. “Well, why didn’t you say so?”

“I was wondering if you know your neighbor, Penelope Fernandez, who-”

“She’s like a grandchild to me,” the woman says. “So sweet, so kind, so pleasant-”

She stops herself short. “Is she dead?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because the police only come over to ask unpleasant questions,” she replies.

“Did you notice any unusual visitors during the past couple of days?”

“Just because I’m old, doesn’t mean I pry into other people’s business.”

“No, I mean, perhaps you might have noticed something.”

“I have not.”

“Has anything else unusual happened lately?”

“Absolutely not. That girl is hardworking and dutiful.”

Joona thanks her for her time saying he might come back with a question some other time. Then he moves aside so the woman can shut the door.

There are not many more apartments on the fourth floor. He begins to climb the stairs. Halfway up, he finds a child sitting on the steps. It looks like a boy approximately eight years old. His hair is short and he’s wearing jeans and a worn Helly Hansen sweater. He has a bag with a bottle of Ramlosa mineral water. Its label is almost worn completely away. He also has half of a French roll.

Joona pauses in front of the child, who is looking at him in a shy way.

“Hello there,” Joona says. “What’s your name?”


“My name’s Joona.”

Mia is a girl. Joona notices she has dirt on her chin and around her tiny neck.

“Do you carry a gun?” she asks. “Why do you ask?”

“You told Ella that you were from the police.”

“That’s right. I’m a detective inspector.”

“So you have a gun?”

“Yes, I do,” Joona says. “Would you like to shoot it off?”

The girl looks at him astonished.

“You’re joking.”

“Yes, I’m joking,” Joona says with a smile. The child laughs.

“Why are you sitting on the staircase?” he asks.

“I like it. You can hear stuff.”

Joona sits down next to the child.

“What kind of stuff have you heard?” he asks calmly.

“Right now I just heard you were from the police and I heard Ella lying to you.”

“What was she lying about?”

“That she likes Penelope,” Mia says.

“She doesn’t like Penelope?”

“She sticks cat poop through Penelope’s mail slot.”

“Why would she do something like that?”

“I dunno.” The girl shrugs her shoulders and fiddles with the bag on her lap.

“Do you like Penelope?”

“She says hi to me.”

“But you don’t know her?”

“Not really.”

Joona looks around. “Do you live in the stairwell?”

The girl gives a slight smile back. “No, I live on the second floor with my mom.”

“But you like to hang out on the stairs.”

Mia shrugs. “Most of the time.”

“Do you sleep here sometimes?”

The girl picks at the label on the bottle. “Sometimes.”

“Last Friday,” Joona says slowly. “Early in the morning, Penelope left home. She took a taxi.”

“No luck,” the girl says quickly. “She missed Bjorn by, like, a second. He got here right after she left. I told him that she just left.”

“What did he say?”

“No big deal, he said. He was just going to pick something up.”

“Pick something up?” Mia nods.

“Sometimes he lets me borrow his phone so I can play games on it. But he was in a hurry. He just went inside and came right back out. Then he locked the door and ran down the stairs.”

“Did you see what he picked up?”


“What happened after that?”

“Nothing. I went to school. Quarter to nine.”

“And after school, in the evening. Did anything happen then?”

Mia shrugged. “Mom was gone so I was inside and I ate some macaroni and cheese and watched TV.”

“What about yesterday?”

“Mom was gone again so I was home.”

“So you didn’t see anyone coming or going?”


Joona takes out one of his business cards and writes a telephone number.

“Look at this,” he tells Mia. “Here are two good telephone numbers. One is my own number.”

He points at the number on the card, which is also imprinted with the police insignia.

“Call me if you need help or if someone is doing something mean to you. And the other number is the Child Hotline. See, I’ve written it down: 0200-230-230. You can call them whenever you want and talk about anything you want.”

“Okay,” Mia whispers as she takes the card.

“Don’t throw that card away, now, the minute I turn my back,” Joona says. “Keep it, because even if you don’t want to call someone now, you might want to later on.”

“When he came out, Bjorn had his hand on his stomach,” Mia said. She demonstrated.

“Like he had a tummy ache?”

“Yeah. Just like he had a tummy ache.”


a palm

Joona knocks on the other doors, but all he finds out is that Penelope was a quiet and somewhat shy neighbor who took part in the annual cleaning days as well as the yearly meetings, but not much else. Once he’s done, he slowly climbs the stairs back to the fourth floor.

The door to Penelope’s apartment is open. A Sapo technician has just dismantled the lock from the outer door and bagged the bolt in plastic.

Joona goes in but stays in the background to watch the forensic investigators work. He’s always enjoyed hanging around to see how systematically they photograph everything, collect evidence, rigorously note every aspect of what they find. It’s ironic how the investigation itself will destroy the crime scene, contaminating layer by layer, even as it progresses. No piece of evidence or a key to reconstructing what has happened must be lost.

Joona lets his gaze wander over Penelope Fernandez’s tidy apartment. Why had Bjorn Almskog come here? He had arrived the minute Penelope left. Joona could almost picture him hiding outside the entrance to the building waiting for her to leave.

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but maybe he did not want to run into her.

Bjorn had hurried in, met the child sitting on the stairs with no time to speak to her, explaining he just had to pick something up, and had only stayed a few minutes.

Perhaps Bjorn did pick up something, just as he told the little girl. Perhaps he’d forgotten the key to the boat or something else that fit in a pocket.

Perhaps he left something behind instead. Perhaps he only had to take a look at something or make sure of a piece of information or write down a telephone number.

Joona walks into the kitchen and looks around.

“Have you checked the fridge?” he asks.

A young man with a goatee looks up, surprised, at Joona.

“Are you hungry?” he asks in a strong Dalarna accent.

“It’s a good place to hide something,” Joona replies drily.

“We haven’t gotten to it yet,” the investigator says.

Joona returns to the living room. He notes that Saga is still off in a corner of the room talking on her cell. Tommy Kofoed is placing a strip of tape with picked-up fibers onto OH film. He looks up.

“Finding anything unexpected?” Joona asks.

“Besides a shoe print on the wall?”

“Nothing else?”

“The important stuff is at the lab in Linkoping.”

“Can we get their results in a week?”

“If we give them enough hell, sure,” Tommy says, shrugging. “Right now I’m going to look at the cut from the knife blade and make a mold of the edge.”

“Don’t bother,” Joona says.

“So you were able to see the blade? Was it carbon steel?”

“No, the blade was a lighter color. Perhaps sintered tungsten carbide. Some people prefer it. But, actually, nothing’s going to really help.”

“What won’t help?”

“This entire crime scene investigation,” Joona says. “We won’t find DNA or fingerprints. Nothing will lead to the suspect.”

“So what should we do?”

“I believe the killer came for something here. And I believe he was interrupted before he could find it.”

“So maybe it’s still here?”

“Entirely possible,” Joona replies.

“But you have no idea what it could be.”

“It fits inside a book.”

Joona’s granite eyes meet Kofoed’s brown ones. Goran Stone from Sapo is photographing the bathroom door, the edges of the door, the frame, and the hinges. Then he sits down on the floor to photograph the bathroom’s white ceiling. Joona reaches to open the living-room door, about to ask Goran to take a photo of the magazines in the living room, when the flash goes off. The brightness startles him. Things go black for a second. Four white points prick the darkness and then a light blue iridescent palm print emerges. Then they’re gone. Joona looks around, unable to determine where they’d been.

“Goran!” Joona calls loudly, his voice penetrating through the thick glass door. “Take another picture right there!”

Everyone freezes in the apartment. The man by the outer door shoots Joona a curious look. The tech guy with a Dalarna accent sticks his head into the hallway from the kitchen. Tommy Kofoed takes off his face mask and scratches his neck. Goran Stone is still sitting on the floor, now looking very interested.

“Like you did just now,” Joona says. “Take a photo of the ceiling.”

Goran shrugs and lifts his camera to take another photo of the bathroom ceiling. There’s a flash, and Joona’s pupils shrink in protest. Tears come to his eyes. He closes them and still sees a black triangle. He realizes that it is a glass pane in the door transformed into a negative image.

The middle of the square shows four white spots and next to them floats a light blue palm print.

He knew that’s what he’d seen.

Joona blinks and walks close to the door. The remains of four pieces of tape form a square, and right next to it is the palm print.

Tommy Kofoed steps up next to him.

“A handprint,” he says.

“Can you lift it?” Joona asks.

“Goran,” Kofoed says. “We need a picture of this.”

Goran gets up and is humming as he stands by the door, camera ready. He peers at the handprint.

“Yes, somebody was here and wasn’t too clean either,” he says contentedly as he takes four pictures.

Then Goran moves aside and waits as Tommy Kofoed treats the palm print with cyanoacrylate to bind the salt and moisture. Then he uses Basic Yellow 40.

Goran waits a moment and then takes two more pictures.

“Now we got you!” Kofoed whispers to the print as he carefully lifts it with a stiff sheet of plastic.

“Can you check it out right away?” Joona asks.

Tommy Kofoed carries the print to the kitchen. Joona remains behind to inspect the pieces of tape left on the glass pane. Caught under one is the torn corner of a piece of paper. Whoever left the palm print had no time to be careful but just ripped the paper free.

Joona takes a closer look at the ripped corner. It’s not normal paper, he realizes immediately. It’s shiny paper-the kind photographs are printed on.

A special photograph had been taped up here to be looked at over and over. Then someone was in such a hurry, they couldn’t take the time to be careful but just ran up to the door, leaned on the glass with one hand, and ripped the photo off with the other.

“Bjorn,” Joona says.

Bjorn came here to get this photograph. He wasn’t holding his stomach because he had a stomachache but because he was hiding a photograph underneath his jacket.

Joona turns his head to the side so he can study the palm print in the reflection. He can barely make out the thin lines of the palm.

The papillary lines of a human’s palm or fingers will never change or grow old and are totally individual. Compared to DNA, even the fingerprints of identical twins differ.

Quick steps come stamping up behind him.

“Stop whatever you’re doing right now, damn it!” Saga Bauer snarls. “This is my investigation! You’re not even fucking supposed to be here!”

“I only want to-”

“Shut the fuck up, Joona Linna!” she shouts. “I was on the phone with Petter Naslund! There’s nothing for you to do here and you don’t even have permission to be here!”

“I know. I’ll leave soon,” he says soothingly as he turns his gaze back to the glass pane.

“Damn it, Joona!” she says, but curiosity has taken over a bit and her voice is calmer. “You can’t just come in here and start messing with pieces of tape!”

“There was a photograph taped to the glass,” he answers, unperturbed. “Someone has pulled it off. Leaned over to steady himself with his hand while he pulled off this photograph.”

She still looks at him with irritation, and Joona notices a white scar that cuts straight through her left eyebrow.

“I am perfectly capable of running this investigation,” she reiterates with clenched teeth.

“Chances are the print came from Bjorn Almskog,” Joona replies as he starts toward the kitchen.

“Wrong direction, Joona.”

He ignores her and walks right in.

“This is my investigation!” she yells futilely at his back.

The technicians have set up a work station in the middle of the room. Two chairs, a table with a computer on it, a scanner, and a printer. Tommy Kofoed is standing behind Goran Stone, who is connecting his camera to the computer. They’ve entered the palm print and are doing the initial fingerprint comparison.

Saga comes in right behind Joona.

“What do you see?” Joona asks them, not paying attention to Saga.

“Don’t you speak to him!” Saga says quickly.

Tommy Kofoed looks up. “Don’t be ridiculous, Saga,” he says. “Sorry, this isn’t our guy. This is from the boyfriend, Almskog.”

“Lucky he’s already in the suspect register,” Goran Stone says.

“What do you have on him?” Joona asks.

“Rioting and harming an officer,” Goran replies.

“The worst kind of criminal,” Tommy jokes. “He probably took part in a demonstration.”

“You think that’s funny,” Goran growls. “Not everyone on the force finds left-wing shenanigans and sabotage amusing.”

“Speak for yourself,” Kofoed replies.

“The search-and-rescue effort speaks for it self,” Goran says with a grin.

“What’s that all about?” Joona asks. “I haven’t been able to follow the operation-what’s happened?”


the extremists

When Joona Linna slams open the office door, Carlos Eliasson, head of CID, jumps and dumps too much fish food into the aquarium.

“Why is there no ground search?” Joona demands harshly. “There are two lives at stake and we don’t have any boats out looking?”

“The maritime police make their own decisions, as you well know,” Carlos replies coolly. “They’ve covered the area by helicopter and have decided that the two are either dead or they don’t want to be found… neither of which demands an all-out rush to search further.”

“They have something the killer wants to get his hands on and I actually believe-”

“It’s useless to guess, Joona. We don’t know what happened. Sapo happens to believe these two young people have gone underground and by now could be on a train to Amsterdam-”

“Cut it out,” Joona says forcefully. “You can’t listen to Sapo when-”

“It’s their case.”

“Why? Why is it their case? Bjorn Almskog has no criminal record at all unless it’s become a felony to disturb the peace! These accusations mean absolutely nothing! Nothing at all!”

“I was talking to Verner Zanden and he’s already told me that Fernandez has some connections to left-wing extremist groups.”

“That may be so, but I’m absolutely certain there’s more going on here. This murder is about something else entirely.”

“Of course! Of course you’re absolutely certain!” Carlos yells back.

“I can’t put my finger on it yet, but the killer I met in Penelope’s apartment was a real pro and not some kind of-”

“Sapo believes that Penelope and Bjorn were planning some kind of sabotage.”

“You’re telling me that Penelope is a terrorist?” Joona asks, incredulous. “Have you read what she’s written? She’s a complete pacifist.”

“Yesterday a member of the Brigade was caught by Sapo as he was making his way to Penelope’s apartment.”

“I have no idea what kind of organization the Brigade is supposed to be.”

“It’s a militant movement on the left, loosely connected to the Antifascist Faction and the Revolutionary Front, but it’s freewheeling. They’re close to the ideology of the Red Army Faction and want to be as operative as Mossad.”

“Though you know that’s not true,” Joona says.

“Maybe you don’t want it to be true, but so what?” Carlos says. “Meanwhile, we will search further for those two. We’re going to chart the currents and determine the direction the boat was drifting so we can start dragging the water or maybe send some divers down.”

“Well, good,” Joona mutters.

“All that’s left is to decide if or why they were killed, or else why they went into hiding.”

Joona opens the door to the hallway. He stops and turns toward Carlos again. “What happened to that man from the Brigade?”

“He was released,” Carlos answers.

“Did they find out why he was there?” Joona asks.

“He was just dropping by.”

“Dropping by.” Joona sighs. “That’s all Sapo found out?”

“You are not going to start investigating the Brigade,” Carlos says with new worry in his voice. “I hope you understand me?”

Joona leaves and pulls out his cell as he strides down the hallway. Behind him, he can hear Carlos yelling “That’s an order! ” and “Don’t tread on Sapo’s toes! ” Joona keeps going. He finds Nathan Pollock’s number.

Nathan picks up.

“What do you know about the Brigade?” asks Joona as the elevator doors open.

“Sapo has been trying to infiltrate and keep an eye on all the militant left-wing groups in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo for the past few years. I don’t think the Brigade is all that dangerous, but Sapo seems to believe they have weapons and explosives. At any rate, most of their members have been to reform school and have been convicted of violent crimes.”

The elevator is rushing down.

“From what I understand, Sapo hauled someone in for trying to enter Penelope Fernandez’s apartment. Someone with a direct connection to the Brigade.”

“His name is Daniel Marklund,” Nathan replies. “He belongs to the inner circle.”

“What do you know about him?”

“Not much,” Nathan answers. “He has a suspended sentence for vandalism and hacking.”

“Why Penelope’s place?”

The elevator stops and the doors open.

“Don’t know. He had no weapon,” Nathan tells him. “Demanded a lawyer when we started asking questions. He answered nothing and was let go later the same day.”

“So we know nothing.”


“Where can I find him?” Joona asks.

“He has no home address. According to Sapo, he lives with other members of the inner circle at the Brigade’s main headquarters near Zinkensdamm.”


the brigade

While Joona Linna walks purposefully to the garage underneath Radhus Park, he thinks about Disa, and desire for her wells up from deep within him. He wants to touch her slender arms, smell her soft hair. He finds a strange kind of peace listening to her talk about her archaeological discoveries: shards of bone not connected to any crime and the remains of humans who finished their lives many centuries ago.

Joona decides to call her. He’s been much too busy lately. He continues down into the garage and between the parked cars. There’s a flicker of movement behind one of the concrete pillars. Someone is waiting beside his Volvo. The figure is partially hidden by a garbage truck-he can almost make it out. Nothing can be heard over the loud racket from the large fans.

“That was fast!” Joona yells.

“Teleporting,” replies Nathan Pollock.

Joona stops, closes his eyes, and presses his fingers against his temples.


“I haven’t been sleeping much.”

They get into the car and close the doors. Joona turns the ignition key and a tango by Astor Piazzolla comes from the speakers. Pollock turns the volume up a bit: it sounds like two violins echoing each other.

“You didn’t get this from me, you know,” Nathan says.


“I’ve just heard from Sapo that they are going to use Marklund’s attempt to break into Penelope’s apartment as an excuse for conducting a raid of the Brigade’s headquarters.”

“I’ve got to get to Marklund before that happens.”

“Then you’d better hurry.”

Joona backs out, turns, and drives up the ramp.

“How much of a hurry?” He turns left onto Kungsholmsgatan.

“They’re on their way now.”

“Show me the entrance to the Brigade’s headquarters and then you can head back to the station and pretend you don’t know anything,” Joona says.

“What’s your plan?”


Nathan laughs.

“Well, the plan is to find out why Marklund went to Penelope’s apartment,” Joona explains. “Maybe he knows something about what’s going on.”


“It’s no coincidence the Brigade tried to break into her apartment just now. That’s what I believe. Sapo thinks that the extreme left is planning some kind of attack, but-”

“They always think that. It’s their job,” Pollock says, smiling.

“Anyway, I’m going to talk to Daniel Marklund before I drop this case.”

“Even if you get there before Sapo’s boys, do you think the Brigade wants to talk to you?”


waiting for the swat team

Saga Bauer presses thirteen bullets into the magazine and then shoves it into her large black Glock 21. Sapo is about to storm the Brigade’s headquarters.

Saga is in a minivan parked at Hornsgatan, just outside the Folk Opera. She’s with three colleagues; all are dressed in civilian clothes. In fifteen minutes they’ll head over to Nagham Fast Food and wait for the SWAT team.

For the past month, rumors have come back to Sapo that left-wing extremists are on the move. Perhaps it’s more than rumors, but Sapo’s best strategists have now decided many of these groups have joined forces to plan something really big, perhaps some explosive sabotage. Given the recent theft of explosives from a military facility on Vaxholm Island, they believe it’s a real possibility.

The strategists have also connected the murder of Viola Fernandez and the attempt to blow up Penelope Fernandez’s apartment to this planned attack.

Sapo believes the Brigade to be the most militant and violent of the left-wing fringe groups. Daniel Marklund belongs to their innermost circle, and Sapo’s logic follows that since he tried to break into Penelope Fernandez’s apartment, he might be the assailant who attacked Detective Inspector Joona Linna and his technician.

Goran Stone is smiling as he puts on his heavy protective vest.

“Let’s go get those fucking cowards!”

Anders Westlund laughs but can’t hide his nervousness. He says, “Shit, I hope they resist. I really want to take out one of those communists!”

Saga Bauer is replaying the memory of Daniel Marklund being caught outside Penelope Fernandez’s apartment. Verner Zanden had assigned Goran Stone to the interrogation. Stone had come on strong to startle something out of Marklund, but that strategy had backfired. Marklund had requested legal representation and then clammed up.

The car door opens and Roland Eriksson slides in carrying a bag of marshmallow banana candy and a can of Coca-Cola.

“Damn, I’m jittery. I’ll shoot the second I see a gun,” Roland says, and they can hear the stress in his voice. “Things can go so fast and the only chance you have is to shoot them first-”

“We will follow my plan,” Goran Stone says firmly. “But if shooting breaks out, you don’t have to aim for the legs.”

“Shove it right into their mouths,” Roland yells.

“Take it easy,” Goran says.

“My brother’s face-”

“We know all about it, Roland, shut the fuck up,” Anders says. He’s also very nervous.

“A firebomb right to the face!” Roland repeats in a loud voice. “Eleven operations later and he can-”

“Can you handle this?” Goran asks sharply.

“Sure, what the fuck!”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m fine,” Roland answers quickly. He looks out of the window and scrapes his thumbnail sharply over the lid of his tin of snuff.

Saga Bauer opens the door slightly to let some air into the van. She accepts this is the right time for a raid and there’s no reason to wait. Even so, she still wants to understand the connection to Penelope Fernandez. What was her role in the Brigade? And why was her sister killed? Too much was still not clear. She desperately wants to talk with Daniel Marklund again, look him right in the eye and ask a few direct questions. She’d tried to bring this up with her boss. She wants answers before they go in on this raid. Especially if there is a question about who will be alive afterward.

This is still my investigation! she thinks angrily as she climbs out of the van into the suffocating heat of the sidewalk.

“The SWAT team will go in here and here.” Goran Stone stabs his finger on an architectural drawing of the building. “We’re here and maybe we’ll have to get in through this theater-”

“Where the hell did Saga Bauer go?” Roland asks.

“Maybe she got her period and needed a Tampax!” Anders says with a smirk.


the pain

Joona Linna and Nathan Pollock park on Hornsgatan and quickly scan a bad printout of the picture of Daniel Marklund. Then they get out, make their way through the heavy traffic on the street, and enter the door of a small theater. The Tribunal Theater is an independent theater group-with income-pegged ticket prices. Plays from Oresteia to The Communist Manifesto have been performed within its walls.

Joona and Nathan continue swiftly down the wide staircase and over to the combined bar and box office. A woman with a silver ring in her nose and straight hair dyed black smiles at them. They nod in a friendly way but walk right past her without a word.

“You guys looking for someone?” she yells as they start walking up a metal staircase.

“Yes,” Pollock says, but his voice is low.

They enter a messy office crowded with a copier, a desk, and a bulletin board from which newspaper clippings hang down. A thin man with matted hair and an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth sits in front of a computer.

“Hi there, Richard,” Pollock says.

“Who are you?” asks the man absentmindedly as he returns his gaze to his screen.

They continue past the actors’ dressing rooms-past racks of carefully hung costumes and makeup stations. A bouquet of roses droops on one of the tables.

Pollock takes a quick look around and then points. They walk up to a steel door with a stenciled sign: ELECTRICAL ROOM.

“It’s supposed to be in here,” Pollock says.

“In the electrical room of a theater?”

Pollock doesn’t answer but picks the lock as fast as he can. They look inside a cramped space with an electrical meter, a cupboard for props, and stacks of boxes. The ceiling light doesn’t work. Joona clambers over paper bags filled with old clothes. There is a new door behind some extension cords hung across the ceiling. Joona pushes it open and finds a hall with bare cement walls. Nathan Pollock follows him. The air is stagnant and it smells like garbage and damp dirt. In the distance, they can hear the faint backbeat of music. On the floor, there’s a flyer featuring Che Guevara with a lit fuse at the top of his head.

“The Brigade’s been hiding out here several years now,” Pollock says softly.

“I should have brought some cake for our little visit,” Joona replies.

“Promise me you’ll be careful.”

“The only thing I worry about is whether Daniel Marklund will be here.”

“He’ll be here. He’s almost always here.”

“Thanks for your help, Nathan.”

“Maybe I should go in with you anyway?” Pollock asks. “You’ll have only a few minutes before Sapo storms the place. It could get dangerous.”

Joona’s gray eyes narrow. “I’m just dropping in for a little chat.”

Nathan starts heading back to the theater and coughs as he closes the steel door behind him. Joona stands alone in the empty hallway for a moment. He draws his pistol and checks that the magazine is full before he slides it back in his holster. He starts to walk toward another steel door at the other end of the hall.

He loses a few precious seconds as he picks the lock.

Someone has scratched “The Brigade” in tiny letters, not more than two centimeters high, into the blue paint on the door.

Joona presses down the handle and the door slowly opens. He’s met by loud, screeching music; it sounds like an electronically reprocessed version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” The shrieking guitars have a dreamlike, surging beat. They drown out everything.

Joona closes the door behind him and keeps going, half running, into a space filled with junk. Mounds of books and magazines reach the ceiling. Although it’s dark in the room, Joona can tell the heaps of books are not just random but have been created as a kind of labyrinth leading to other doors. He quickly makes his way through it to a dimly lit area. The path forks there and he keeps going to the right, but swiftly backtracks. He thinks he saw hasty movement out of the corner of his eye. He’s not sure, though.

Joona walks on, squinting to see something more. A bare bulb sways at the end of its ceiling cord. Over the music, Joona suddenly hears a roar. Someone is screaming behind walls that dampen the sound. Joona stops, walks back, and looks into a thin passage where a stack of magazines have slid down and now are scattered across the floor.

Joona’s head is starting to hurt. He thinks he should have had something to eat. He should have taken something with him. A few pieces of dark chocolate would have been enough.

He steps over the magazines and reaches a spiral staircase leading down to the floor below. He can smell sweet smoke in the air. Holding tightly to the rail, he tries to sneak down as quietly as possible, but he cannot silence his shoes on the metal steps. On the lowest rung, he stops before a velvet curtain that has been drawn shut. He puts his hand on his holstered pistol.

The music is fainter here.

A plastic clown lamp with a red bulb for a nose is in the corner, and more red light leaks through a gap in the curtain. Joona tries to get a glimpse through it, but the gap is too small. He hesitates, then steps quickly through the curtain and into the room. His pulse thuds and his headache pounds as he sweeps the space with his eyes. On the cement floor, there’s a double-barreled shotgun and an open box of cartridges. The shells have lead slugs, the kind that would leave considerable damage. Sitting on an office chair is a young, naked man, smoking; his eyes are shut. This can’t be Daniel Marklund, Joona thinks. A blond girl with bare breasts lounges on a mattress, leaning back against the wall, an army blanket around her hips. She meets Joona’s gaze, blows him a kiss, and then, unconcerned, takes a sip of beer from a can.

From behind the only open door comes another scream.

Joona keeps his eye on the two as he picks up the shotgun, points the opening of the barrels down, and then steps hard on the barrels until they’re bent.

The woman puts down her beer can and scratches her armpit absentmindedly.

Joona gently lays the shotgun back on the floor. He continues past the woman and into a hallway with a low ceiling of chicken wire and fiberglass. Heavy cigar smoke hangs in the air. Intense lamplight shines right in his face, and he shields his eyes with his hand. The end of the hallway is obscured by strips of white industrial plastic. Blinded, Joona can’t see what’s going on. He can glimpse movement and he can hear an echoing voice filled with fear and terror. Someone close at hand suddenly screams loudly. It’s a deep-throated scream followed by rapid gasps. Joona makes it past the blinding lamp and now can see into the room behind the thick plastic.

Veils of smoke swirl through the air. A short, muscular woman in black jeans and a hoodie stands before a man dressed only in underwear and socks. His head is shaved, and on his forehead, there’s a White Power tattoo. He’s bitten his tongue and blood runs down his chin, throat, and thick stomach. “Please,” he begs.

The woman raises a smoking cigar overhead, then brings it down, pressing its glowing end right onto the tattoo. The man screams. His thick stomach and hanging breasts shake. He’s pissing himself. A dark spot spreads over his blue underwear and the urine runs down his naked legs.

Behind the curtain of protected plastic, Joona has pulled out his gun. He tries to spot if anyone else is in the room but he can’t see. He’s about to yell… then his gun falls from his hand to the floor.

It clatters against the concrete and slides to a stop next to the plastic. Joona looks down at his own hand, seeing it shake, and in the next moment, feeling the horrendous pain flood in. He loses all sight and feels only a heavy, breaking movement inside his forehead. He throws out a hand against the wall in an attempt to stay upright. He fears he’s about to lose consciousness. Still, he can hear the voices behind the curtain.

“Just admit what the fuck you did!” the woman with the cigar is yelling.

“I don’t remember,” the neo-Nazi cries.

“What did you do?”

“I bullied some guy.”

“Confess exactly what you did!”

“I burned his eye out.”

“That’s right! You used a cigarette to burn out the eye of a ten-year-old boy!”

“Yes, but I-”

“What did he do to you?”

“We followed him from the synagogue and down to…”

Joona doesn’t notice that what he’s grabbed is a fire extinguisher, a big one, and it’s coming down with him. He no longer has any sense of time or of where he is. The pain in his head and a fierce ringing in his ears is all he knows.


the message

Behind the dark veils of pain, Joona can feel her hand on his back.

“What’s going on?” asks Saga Bauer in a low voice. “Are you hurt?”

He tries to shake his head but is in too much pain to speak. It feels as if a hook is being drawn through his brain: down through the skin, the cranium, the brain membranes, and the heavy, floating brain fluid.

He drops to his knees.

“You’ve got to get out of here,” says Saga.

He feels her lifting his face but he can’t see anything. His entire body is bathed in pearls of sweat that pour from his armpits, his neck, his back.

Saga is hunting through his clothes. She thinks he’s having an epileptic fit and is trying to find some kind of medicine in his pockets. Joona realizes she’s opening his wallet and looking for the sign of a flame, the symbol for epileptics.

The pain starts to recede. Joona wets his mouth with his tongue. He looks up. His jaws are tense and his whole body aches from the migraine attack.

“You guys can’t go in there yet,” he whispers. “I have to-”

“What the hell happened here?”

“Nothing.” Joona picks his gun up from the floor.

He gets to his feet and staggers as fast as he can through the plastic curtains and into the room. It’s empty. An emergency exit sign is lit on the other side. Saga has followed him and she questions him with a look. Joona opens the emergency door and sees a steep half set of stairs leading to a steel door at street level.

“Perkele,” he swears in Finnish.

“Talk to me!” Saga says angrily.

Joona always pushes the direct cause of his illness as far from his consciousness as possible. There was an incident many years ago… it keeps giving him this pulsing pain, this pain so severe that he almost passes out. But he refuses to think about the incident.

What the doctor says is that this is an extreme form of migraine with a physical cause. The antiepileptic drug Topiramate is the only medicine that seems to help. Joona is supposed to take it daily, but when he’s working and needs a clear head, he stops. Not only does it make him tired, it dulls his mind. He knows he’s playing a game of roulette. Without the medication, he might manage for weeks without a migraine, yet another time he’ll be hit by one after only a few days.

“They were torturing a guy… a neo-Nazi, I think, but-”


“With a cigar,” he answers as he turns around and heads back into the hallway.

“What happened?”

“I… couldn’t…”

“But Joona,” Saga says tentatively. “Maybe… if you’ve got a physical problem, you shouldn’t be working… operatively, that is…”

She puts her hand to her face.

“What a shitty situation,” she whispers.

Joona walks toward the room with the clown lamp and hears Saga’s footsteps behind him.

“And why in the hell are you even here?” she asks to his back. “Sapo’s SWAT team is going to raid this place any moment. If they see that weapon in your hand, they’ll shoot first and ask questions later… it’ll be dark, there’ll be tear gas-”

“I have to speak to Daniel Marklund,” Joona says stubbornly.

“You’re not supposed to even know about him!” she exclaims as she follows him up the spiral staircase. “Who told you about him?”

Joona starts down another hallway, but stops when he sees Saga gesture a different way. He follows her, but pulls out his gun when she starts to run. They both turn a corner, and Joona hears her yell something.

Saga has come to a halt in a room with five computers. In one corner stands a man with dirty hair and a beard. He matches the picture of Daniel Marklund in Joona’s mind. His lips look dry. He’s licking them. He holds out a Russian bayonet knife in one of his fists.

“Police,” Saga says, flashing her ID. “Put down the knife.”

The young man shakes his head and waves the knife in the air in front of him, flashing the blade in different directions.

“We just need to speak with you,” Joona says as he holsters his gun.

“So speak.”

Joona walks closer, looking into the young man’s frightened eyes, totally ignoring the knife being waved directly at him. He ignores its sharpened point.

“Daniel, you’re really not good at this,” he says with a smile.

Joona can smell the scent of gun grease on the blade.

Daniel is waving the bayonet knife in faster circles and wears a look of concentration. He growls, “Don’t think only Finns are good at-”

Lightning fast, Joona grabs the young man’s wrist, twists it, and takes away the knife. He gently puts it down on the table.

The room is silent. The men look at each other, and then Daniel Marklund shrugs.

“Usually I only deal with the computers,” he says apologetically.

“They’re going to raid us any moment,” Joona says urgently. “Tell us why you went to Penelope Fernandez’s place.”

“Just dropping by to say hi.”

“Daniel,” Joona says darkly. “This knife business could lead you to a prison term. But right now I have more important things on my plate. Don’t waste my time.”

“Does Penelope belong to the Brigade?” Saga asks quickly.

“Penelope Fernandez?” Daniel Marklund smiles. “She’s against us. She’s made that perfectly clear.”

“So what’s the connection?” Joona asks.

“What do you mean, she’s against you?” Saga puts in. “Is there a power struggle going on?”

“Doesn’t Sapo know anything?” asks Daniel with a tired smile. “Penelope Fernandez is a complete pacifist. She’s a firm believer in democracy. So she doesn’t like our methods-but we like her.”

He sits down on a chair in front of two computers.

“Like her?”

“We respect her.”

“Why?” asks Saga. “Why should you-”

“You guys really don’t know how much some people hate her, do you? Why don’t you just Google her name? People have said some really brutal things about her, and there are always people who go too far.”

“What do you mean, ‘go too far’?”

Daniel gives them a testing look. “You do know she’s disappeared, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Saga replies.

“That’s good,” he says. “Though I really don’t expect the police to make much effort to find her. That’s why I went over to her place. I wanted to check her computer to see who might be behind this. I mean, there was a group, the Swedish Resistance, who sent a message to their members this past April telling them to kidnap ‘the communist whore Penelope Fernandez’ and make her into a sex slave for the movement. But take a look at this.”

Daniel Marklund clicks a few keys on one of his computers and turns the screen to Joona.

“This one is connected to the Aryan Brotherhood.”

Joona takes a quick glance through a vulgar chat page about Aryan penises and how they are supposed to execute Penelope.

“But I don’t think these groups are involved,” Joona says.

“Not them? Then who? The Northern Brotherhood?” Daniel speculates, now eager to help. “You need to get going! It’s not too late!”

“How do you know?”

“You guys are always so slow. This time I caught a message on her mother’s answering machine. That’s got to give you an edge. You’re not too late yet.”

“You caught what?” Joona asks.

“She tried to call her mother yesterday morning,” the young man answers as he scratches through his dirty hair.

“Penelope called?”

“Yes, it was her.”

“What did she say?” Saga asks breathlessly.

“Sapo doesn’t have a monopoly on listening in to phone calls.” Daniel gives a crooked smile.

“What did Penelope say?” Joona repeats, raising his voice.

“People are after her,” Daniel says.

“Exactly what did she say?”

Daniel gives Saga Bauer a glance and asks, “How much time do we have left?”

Saga looks at her watch. “Three or four minutes. Maybe.”

“Then listen to this,” Daniel says as he clicks a few keys on the second computer.

There’s a hiss in the speakers and then there’s a click and Claudia Fernandez’s voice-mail message comes on. Three brief tones are heard followed by crackling noises due to a very bad connection. Underneath all the noise, one can hear a faint voice. A woman’s voice. It’s hard to make out what she says. A few seconds later, a man yells, “Get a job!” Then the connection is gone.

“Let me try again with the filters on,” Daniel mumbles.

“We’re running out of time,” Saga warns.

Daniel moves a dial, looks at crossing sound curves, and replays the recording.

“This is Claudia Fernandez. I can’t answer the phone right now, but please leave a message and I’ll call back as soon as I can.”

The three tones sound different this time. The crackling is now a weak, metallic crinkling in the background.

And Penelope’s voice is clear.

“Mamma, I need help. People are after me-”

“Get a job!” a man’s voice says, and then it’s silent.


real police work

Saga Bauer looks at her watch and says they have to go. Daniel Marklund makes a halfhearted joke about manning the barricades, but there is fear in his eyes.

“We’re going to hit you hard,” Saga says. “Hide that knife. Don’t make any resistance. Give up at once, hands high, and don’t make any sudden moves.”

She and Joona leave the tiny room.

Daniel watches them go, and still sitting in the desk chair, dumps the bayonet knife into the wastebasket.

Joona and Saga wend their way through the labyrinthine headquarters of the Brigade and exit onto Hornsgatan. Saga rejoins Goran’s task force. They’re gathered in Nagham Fast Food and are chowing down on french fries. Their eyes are shining and hard as they wait for orders.

It comes two minutes later as fifteen heavily armed security police pour from four black trucks. The SWAT team forces all the entrances open and floods the inside with tear gas. Once they trample in, they find five young people sitting on the floor with their hands over their heads. They’re led outside cuffed with plastic strips.

The security police take the Brigade’s weapons into custody: one old military pistol, a Colt, as well as a decorative rifle, a shotgun with its barrels bent, and a carton of cartridges. Additionally four knives and two throwing stars. They were fairly poorly armed.

Driving along Soder Malarstrand, Joona picks up his cell phone and calls his boss. After two rings, Carlos answers, pressing the Talk button with his pen.

“How do you like the Police Training Academy, Joona?” he asks.

“Not there.”

“I know, since-”

“Penelope Fernandez is still alive.” Joona interrupts him. “She’s running for her life.”

“Who says so?”

“She says so. She left a message on her mother’s answering machine.”

Carlos’s end of the connection falls silent. Then he draws a deep breath.

“Okay. She’s alive. All right… what else do we know? She’s alive, but-”

“We know that she was alive thirty hours ago at the time she made the call,” Joona says. “And that someone is after her.”


“She wasn’t able to say, but-if it’s the same man I ran into, we absolutely don’t have any time to lose.”

“You’ve said you believe this man is a professional killer.”

“I’m absolutely sure of that. The man who attacked Erixson and me was a professional hit man… a grob.”

“A grob?”

“Serbian for ‘grave.’ These guys are expensive. They usually work alone. They’re well paid to follow orders precisely.”

“It all seems a bit far-fetched.”

“But I’m right,” Joona says doggedly.

“You always say that, but how has Penelope gotten away from this kind of killer? It’s been two days,” Carlos says.

“If she’s still alive, it’s because his priorities have shifted.”

“You still think he’s searching for something?”

“Yes,” Joona replies.

“What is it?”

“Don’t know for sure, but maybe a photo…”

“Why do you think so?”

“That’s my best theory at the moment.” Joona quickly relates what he found at Penelope’s apartment: the books taken out of the shelf, the picture with the lines of poetry, Bjorn’s quick visit and how he held his hand over his stomach when he was leaving, the palm print on the glass door, the bits of tape, and the corner of a photograph.

“So you think the killer is after that photo?”

“I believe he started in Bjorn’s apartment. When he didn’t find what he was looking for, he poured out gasoline and turned the neighbor’s iron on high. The alarm went to the fire department at five after eleven that morning and before they could even get the fire under control, the entire floor had been destroyed.”

“That evening he kills Viola.”

“He probably assumed that Bjorn had taken the photograph on the boat so he followed them, went on board, drowned Viola, and then searched the entire boat with the intention of sinking it afterward. Something made him change his mind. He left the archipelago, returned to Stockholm, and searched through Penelope’s apartment-”

“You don’t think he found the photograph, do you?” asks Carlos.

“Either Bjorn has it on his person or it is hidden at a friend’s place or in a safe-deposit box. Any place at all, really.”

Silence on the line. Joona can hear Carlos breathe deeply.

“But if we find it first,” Carlos says, thinking out loud, “and this killer finds out we have it, then all of this is over.”

“That’s right,” Joona says.

“Because… if we on the force, we the police, see it, then it’s not a secret anymore. It will cease being something to kill over.”

“I only hope it’s that easy.”

“Joona, I can’t… I can’t take this case away from Petter, but I presume-”

“-that I’ll be busy lecturing at the Police Training Academy,” Joona says.

“That’s all I need to know,” Carlos says with a laugh.

On the way to Kungsholm, Joona checks his voice mail and finds a number of messages from Erixson. In the first, Erixson says he can keep working from the hospital. Thirty minutes later, he asks if he can’t be part of the work on the ground, and twenty-seven minutes later he yells that he’s going crazy without anything to do. Joona calls him and after two rings, he hears Erixson’s tired voice go “Quack.”

“So I’m too late?” Joona asks. “You’re already crazy?”

Erixson hiccups as a reply.

“I don’t know what you know,” Joona says. “But we’re in a big rush. Yesterday morning Penelope Fernandez left a message on her mother’s answering machine.”

“Yesterday?” Erixson was immediately alert.

“She said someone was chasing her.”

“Are you on the way here?” Erixson asks.

There’s noise on the line and Erixson asks someone to leave him alone. Joona hears a woman’s strict voice telling him it’s time for physical therapy and Erixson hissing back that he’s on a private call.

Erixson pumps Joona for information, and Joona obliges. He explains that Penelope and Bjorn were not together in the apartment on Sankt Paulsgatan the night before Friday. She was picked up by taxi at exactly 6:40 a.m. and was driven to the television station to be part of a debate. A few minutes after the taxi left, Bjorn entered the apartment. Joona tells Erixson about the palm print on the glass door, the tape, and the corner ripped from a photograph. He says he’s convinced that Bjorn had waited for Penelope to leave the apartment so he could get the photo quickly without her knowledge.

“And I believe that the person who attacked us is a hit man and he was looking for that photograph when we surprised him.”

“Maybe so,” Erixson whispers.

“It wasn’t his priority to kill us. He just wanted to get out of the apartment,” Joona says.

“Otherwise we would be dead.”

“We can conclude that the hit man doesn’t yet have this photograph,” Joona continues. “If he’d found it on the boat, he wouldn’t have bothered with Penelope’s apartment.”

“And it’s not at her place because Bjorn had already taken it.”

“My theory is that his attempt to blow up the place means that the man behind all this doesn’t really need the photo in his hand, he just wants it destroyed.”

“But why would such a photograph hang on the door of Penelope’s living room? And why is it so damned important?” asks Erixson.

“I have a few theories,” Joona says. “Most likely Bjorn and Penelope took a photograph of something and left it in plain sight because they didn’t realize that it was documenting evidence and what that evidence really meant.”

“That’s right,” Erixson chortles.

“As far as they knew, the photo wasn’t something they needed to hide, let alone that someone would murder for it.”

“But then Bjorn changes his mind.”

“Maybe he figured something out. Maybe he realized that it’s dangerous and that’s why he went to get it,” Joona says. “There’s still a great deal we don’t know. Now we’ve just got to slog along through routine police work.”

“Exactly!” Erixson exclaims.

“Can you gather everything you can find-all the telephone calls made this past week? All text messages? All bank withdrawals? All that stuff: receipts, bus tickets, meetings, activities, working hours-”

“I sure as hell can!”

“On the other hand, maybe you should just forget about all that,” Joona says. “Isn’t it time for your physical therapy?”

“Are you pulling my leg?” Erixson says, hardly able to hold back his indignation. “What is physical therapy anyway but hidden unemployment?”

“But you really ought to rest,” Joona teases. “Maybe another tech guy-”

“I’m flipping out just sitting here!”

“You’ve only been on sick leave for six hours.”

“I’m climbing the walls!”


the search

Joona is driving east toward Gustavsberg. I ought to call Disa, he thinks. Instead, he calls Anja.

“I need Claudia Fernandez’s address.”

“Mariagatan 5,” she replies immediately. “Not far from the old porcelain factory.”


Anja stays on the line.

“I’m waiting,” she says, her voice teasing.

“What are you waiting for?” he asks softly.

“For you to tell me that we have ferry tickets to Finland. We’ll rent a cottage with a wood-fired sauna next to the water.”

“Sounds good,” Joona says hesitantly.

The weather is now gray and hazy and extremely humid as Joona parks his car in front of Claudia Fernandez’s house. Joona steps out and smells the bitter scent of currant bushes and elf-cap moss. He stands still for a moment, lost in a memory. The face he’s conjured up fades as he rings the doorbell. The nameplate looks like it came from a woodshop class. “Fernandez” is in letters childishly burned into the wood.

The doorbell’s melodic ring echoes inside the house. He waits. After a few moments, he hears approaching footsteps.

Claudia has a worried expression as she opens the door. Seeing Joona, she steps back into the hallway knocking a coat loose from its hanger.

“No,” she whispers. “Not Penny-”

“Claudia, please, I don’t have bad news,” Joona says quickly.

Claudia can’t stay upright and collapses to the floor among the shoes, underneath the coats. She breathes like a frightened animal.

“What’s happened?” she asks in a fearful voice. Joona bends forward, down to her.

“We don’t know much yet, but yesterday, Penelope tried to call you.”

“She’s alive,” Claudia whispers.

“So far,” Joona answers.

“Thank you, dear Lord. Thank you, thank you!” Claudia whispers again.

“We caught a message on your answering machine.”

“On my… no, that’s not possible,” she says as she gets up with his help.

“There was a lot of static. We needed an expert to recover her voice,” Joona explains.

“The only thing I heard, there was a man who told me to get a job!”

“That’s the one,” Joona says. “Penelope is speaking first, but it’s barely audible.”

“What does she say?”

“She says she needs help. The maritime police want to organize a search-group chain.”

“But to trace the phone-”

“Claudia,” Joona says soothingly. “I must ask you a few questions.”

“What kinds of questions?”

“Why don’t we sit down?”

They walk through the hallway and into the kitchen.

“Joona Linna, may I ask you something?” she says timidly.

“You can ask, but I might not be able to answer.”

Claudia puts coffee cups on the table for them both. Her hand shakes slightly. She sits across from him and stares at him for a long time.

“You have a family, don’t you?” she asks.

It’s dead quiet in the light-filled, yellow-painted kitchen.

Joona finally fills the silence. “Do you remember the last time you were at Penelope’s apartment?”

“Last week. A Tuesday. She helped me hem a pair of pants for Viola.”

Claudia’s mouth trembles.

“Think carefully, Claudia,” he says, leaning forward. “Did you see a photograph taped up on her glass door?”


“What did the photo show?” Joona asks, trying to keep his voice calm.

“I don’t know. I didn’t pay attention.”

“But you’re sure you saw a photograph?”

“Yes.” Claudia nods.

“Perhaps there were people in the picture?”

“I don’t know. I thought it had something to do with her job.”

“Was the picture taken inside or outside?”

“No idea.”

“Try and picture it in your mind.”

Claudia shuts her eyes. She shakes her head. “Sorry, I can’t.”

She looks down, thinks, and shakes her head again. “The only thing I remember thinking is that it was odd that she’d hung that photo on her door because that’s not particularly attractive.”

“Why do you think it had something to do with her job?”

“I don’t know,” Claudia whispers.

Joona’s cell phone rings inside his jacket. He picks it up, sees that it’s Carlos, and answers, “I’m here.”

“I just talked to Lance at the maritime police on Dalaro. He says they’ve arranged an organized search starting tomorrow. Three hundred people and almost fifty boats have agreed to join.”

“That’s good,” Joona says. He watches Claudia get up and walk into the hall.

“And then I called Erixson to see how he was doing,” Carlos says.

“He seems to be doing okay,” Joona says neutrally.

“Joona, I have no idea what you’re up to, but Erixson warned me that you’re about to be right again.”

Once the call is finished, Joona follows Claudia out into the hall. She’s put on her coat and is pulling on rubber boots.

“I heard what that man said on the phone,” Claudia says. “I can help look. I can look all night if-”

She opens the door.

“Claudia, you must let the police handle this.”

“My daughter called me and needs my help.”

“I know it’s hard to sit and wait-”

“But, please, can’t I go with you? I won’t be in the way! I can make food and answer the phone so you won’t have to worry about that.”

“Is there anyone who can stay here with you? A relative or a friend?”

“I don’t want anyone else here! I just want my Penny!”



Erixson holds a map on his lap as well as a large folder he acquired by getting a messenger to deliver it to his hospital room. He’s cooling himself with a whirring face fan while Joona pushes him in his wheelchair through the hospital corridors.

His Achilles tendon has been sutured, and instead of a cast, his foot is fixed inside a special boot with toes pointing down. He mutters that all he needs is a ballet shoe on the other foot and he’ll be ready to perform Swan Lake.

Joona nods in a friendly way toward two elderly ladies sitting on a sofa and holding hands. They giggle, whisper to each other, and then wave at him as if they were schoolgirls.

“On the same morning they headed out on the boat,” Erixson was saying, “Bjorn bought an envelope and two stamps at Central Station. He had a receipt from Pressbyran in his wallet, which we found on the boat. I forced the security company to send along the tape from the security camera. It really does look like he’s mailing a photograph, just as you’ve said all this time.”

“So who is he sending the photograph to?” asks Joona.

“We can’t read the address on the envelope.”

“Maybe to himself.”

“But his apartment is so burned out he doesn’t even have a door,” Erixson says.

“Call the post office and ask them.”

As they enter the elevator, Erixson starts some strange swimming movements with his arms. Joona looks at him calmly but doesn’t ask any questions.

“Jasmin tells me it’s good for me,” Erixson explains.

“Who’s Jasmin?”

“My physical therapist. She looks like a sweet little cupcake, but she’s hard as nails: Keep quiet, stop complaining, sit up straight. She even called me a little potbelly.” Erixson smiles shyly as they step into the hallway.

They turn into a room set aside for meditation. It has a simple altar with a smooth wooden cross hung on a meter-long stand above it. There is also a tapestry on the wall, a Christ figure surrounded by a series of light-colored triangles.

Down the hall, Joona pulls from a storage closet a large set of flip charts and markers that he’d stashed earlier. Back in the meditation room, he sees Erixson has already pulled down the Christ tapestry and draped it over the cross that’s now propped in a corner.

“All that we know is that at least one person is willing to kill for this photograph,” Joona says.

“Yes, but why?”

Erixson pulls out a glue stick from his supplies and adheres Bjorn Almskog’s bank-account withdrawals to the wall. He also sets up lists from each phone call, copies of bus tickets, receipts from Bjorn’s wallet, and notes from the voice mails they’d collected.

“This photograph must reveal something so important someone is desperate to keep it a secret,” Joona says, as he takes out a marker and begins to write a timeline on the largest flip chart.

“Right,” Erixson answers.

“Let’s just stop him by finding this photo,” Joona says.

06:40 Penelope takes a taxi from her apartment

06:45 Bjorn arrives at Penelope’s apartment

06:48 Bjorn leaves the apartment with the photograph

07:07 Bjorn mails the photograph from the Pressbyran at Central Station

Erixson rolls up to look carefully at each point while he peels the wrapper and foil from a chocolate bar.

“Penelope Fernandez leaves the television studio and calls Bjorn ten minutes later,” he says, pointing to the list with the phone calls. Her strip of transportation coupons is stamped ten thirty. Her little sister, Viola, calls Penelope at ten forty-five. Penelope is probably already with Bjorn at the marina on Langholmen.”

“But what does Bjorn do in the meanwhile?”

“That’s what we need to find out,” Erixson says contentedly and cleans his fingers with a white handkerchief.

Erixson rolls his wheelchair along the wall and points to another strip of transportation coupons.

“Bjorn leaves Penelope’s apartment with the photograph. He takes the subway and at seven minutes after seven he buys the envelope and two stamps.”

“And mails the letter,” says Joona.

Erixson clears his throat and continues. “The next piece of evidence is a transaction on his Visa card. He pays twenty crowns to Dreambow Internet Cafe on Vattugatan at seven thirty-five.”

“Five minutes after seven thirty,” Joona says as he writes this on the chronology.

“Where in the hell is Vattugatan?”

“It’s a fairly small street,” Joona says. “It’s in the old Klara Quarter.”

Erixson nods and continues. “I’m guessing that Bjorn continues on the same stamp to Fridhemsplan. After that we have a phone call from his landline in his apartment. It was an unanswered call to his father, Greger Almskog.”

“We’ll have to ask his father about it.”

“The next piece of evidence is a new stamp on the coupon strip for nine o’clock. Apparently, he took the number 4 bus from Fridhemsplan to Hogalindsgatan on Sodermalm. From there he went to the boat at Langholmen Harbor.”

Joona fills in the last notes on his paper and then steps back to take a good look at the timeline of that morning.

“So Bjorn is in a real hurry to get that photograph,” Erixson says. “But he doesn’t want to run into Penelope so he waits until she’s left, rushes inside, takes it off the glass pane, leaves the apartment, and heads to Central Station.”

“I want to look at all the security tapes,” says Joona.

“After that, Bjorn heads to a nearby Internet cafe, stays there about half an hour at most, and then goes-”

“That’s it,” Joona says.

“What’s it?”

“Both Bjorn and Penelope already have Internet access at home.”

“So why’d he go to an Internet cafe?”

“I’ll head there now,” Joona says, already walking out of the room.


deleted data

Detective Inspector Joona Linna turns onto Vattugatan from Brunkeberg Square behind the City Theater. He parks, gets out, and hurries through an anonymous metal door and down a steep cement walkway.

It’s quiet at the Dreambow Internet Cafe. The floor has been freshly scrubbed. The scent of lemon and plastic hangs in the air. Shiny Plexiglas chairs have been pushed below the small computer tables. Nothing moves except the patterns on the monitors. A plump man with a pointed black goatee leans against a high counter, sipping coffee from a mug with the inscription “Lennart means Lion.” His jeans are baggy and a shoelace hangs untied from one of his Reeboks.

“I need a computer,” Joona says before he’s even reached the man.

“Get in line,” the man jokes as he makes a sweeping gesture toward the empty seats in the room.

“I need a specific computer,” Joona continues. “A friend of mine was here this past Friday morning and I need to use the same computer he did.”

“I don’t know if I can give out-”

Joona bends over and ties the man’s loose lace. “It’s extremely important.”

“Let me take a look at Friday’s log,” the man says, an embarrassed flush coming to his cheeks. “What’s his name?”

“Bjorn Almskog,” Joona says.

“He used number five, the one in the corner,” the man says. “I need to see your ID.”

Joona hands over his police ID, and the man looks confused as he writes it all down in the log.

“Go ahead and start surfing.”

“Thanks,” Joona says in a friendly way as he walks over to computer number 5.

Joona takes out his cell phone and places a call to Johan Jonson, a young man in the CID’s department for cyber crimes.

“Just a mo,” answers a ragged voice. “I’ve just swallowed a piece of paper… an old tissue… I blew my nose and at the same time breathed in to sneeze and… no, I really don’t have the energy to explain everything. Who am I talking to?”

“Joona Linna, detective inspector with the National Criminal Investigation Department.”

“Oh, damn. Hi, Joona, what a surprise.”

“You’re already sounding better.”

“Yes, I’ve swallowed it.”

“I need to see what a guy was doing on a computer this past Friday.”

“Say no more!”

“I’m in a hurry. I’m sitting in an Internet cafe.”

“Are you on the same machine he used?”

“Right in front of me.”

“Much easier. Much easier. Try to find History. It’s probably been erased. That’s what they do after each user, but there’s always something left on the hard drive. All you have to do is… or really, the best thing to do is to take the thing away and bring it along to me so I can go through the hard drive with a program I’ve designed for-”

“Meet me in a half an hour in the meditation room at Saint Goran’s Hospital,” Joona says as he unplugs the computer, takes it under his arm, and heads toward the exit.

The man with the coffee mug stares at him, astonished, and tries to block him.

“Hey, wait! The computer can’t leave the premises!”

“It’s under arrest,” Joona says in his friendliest manner.

“What’s it suspected of?”

The man’s pale face stares at Joona as Joona waves at him with his free hand and walks out into the bright sunshine.


the connection

The parking lot in front of Saint Goran’s Hospital is hot and the air is thick and muggy.

Inside the meditation room, Erixson easily maneuvers his wheelchair around what has truly been converted into a base of operations. Erixson has accumulated three phones, which now all ring at once.

Joona carries in the computer and puts it on a chair. Johan Jonson is already there. He looks to be about twenty-five years old. He wears an ill-fitting black tracksuit, has a shaved head and thick eyebrows that grow straight across his face. He comes up to Joona shyly. He shrugs off the shoulder strap of his red computer bag, and shakes Joona’s hand.

“Ei saa piettaa,” he says, while he pulls out a thin laptop. Erixson pours some Fanta from his thermos into small, unbleached paper cups.

“Usually I put the hard disk in the freezer for a few hours if it’s wobbly,” Johan says. “Then I plug in an ATA/SATA contact. Everyone has a different method. I have a pal over at Ibas who uses RDR and he doesn’t even meet his clients in person-he just sends all the shit over an encrypted phone line. Usually you can save most stuff, but I don’t want to just get most of it-I want it all! That’s my way, getting each and every crumb, and then you need a program like Hanger 18…”

Johan Jonson throws his head back and pretends to laugh like a mad scientist: “MWA-HA-HAH!”

“I’ve written it myself,” he continues. “It works like a digital vacuum cleaner. It picks up everything and arranges it according to time down to every microsecond.”

He sits down on the altar rail and connects the two computers. His own computer clicks faintly. Typing commands at a furious pace, he studies his screen, scrolls down, reads some more, and types in a new set.

“Is this going to take a while?” Joona asks after a few minutes.

“Who knows?” Johan replies. “Not more than a month.”

Johan swears to himself and writes a new command and then observes the blinking numbers.

“I’m just joking,” he says after a while.

“I realized that.”

“In about fifteen minutes we’ll know how much can be retrieved,” Johan continues. He looks down at the piece of paper where Joona has written the time and date for Bjorn Almskog’s cafe visit.

“The history is usually erased in batches, which can be difficult…”

Fragments of old graphics pass over the sun-bleached screen. Johan shoves a piece of snuff underneath his lip without paying any attention to it. He wipes his hands on his pants and waits with half his attention on the screen.

“They’ve done a good job cleaning this one,” he says. “But you can’t erase everything. There are no secrets anymore… Hanger 18 finds places no one knows exist.”

Johan’s computer begins to beep and he writes something down as he reads through a long table of numbers. He writes something else and the beeping stops at once.

“What’s that?” Joona asks.

“Not much. It’s just hard to get through all the modern firewalls, sandboxes, and faked virus protection. It’s amazing that a computer can even work at all with all these preventive measures.”

Johan shakes his head and licks a bit of snuff away from his upper lip.

“I’ve never even had one antivirus program and-hey, look out.” He interrupts his own lecture.

Joona comes closer to look over Johan’s shoulder.

“What do we have here? What do we have here?” Johan says in a singsong voice.

He leans back and rubs his neck as he starts writing with his other hand. He presses ENTER and smiles to himself.

“Here we are.”

Joona and Erixson stare at the screen.

“Just give me a second… this is not easy. It’s coming out in small bits and fragments.”

Johan hides the screen with his hand and waits. Slowly letters and pieces of graphics appear.

“Look here, the door’s opening… now we’ll be able to see what Bjorn Almskog was up to.”

Erixson puts the brakes on his wheelchair and leans far forward so he can see the screen.

“Damn it all, this is just a few dashes.”

“Look in the corner.”

“Okay. He’s used Windows,” Erixson says. “Very original.”

“Hotmail,” Joona says.

“Logging in,” says Johan Jonson.

“Now things are getting interesting,” says Erixson.

“Can you see a name?” Joona asks.

“It doesn’t work like that; you can only move through time,” Johan says as he scrolls down.

“What’s that?” Joona points.

“Now we’re in the folder for sent mail.”

“Did he send something?”

On the screen there are graphic fragments of advertisements for cheap trips to Milano, New Y k, Lo dn, P ris. Farthest down in the corner, a light gray tiny number, a time: 07:44:42 a.m.

“Here we have something,” says Johan Jonson.

Other fragments are appearing on his screen: rec I contact ith

“Ads to connect with people.” Erixson grins. “I’ve tried those, and they never work…”

He falls silent at once. Johan has carefully scrolled past incomprehensible graphic garbage and stops. He pushes back from his machine with a big grin.

Joona takes his spot and peers at the monitor to read what’s at the center of the screen:

Carl Palmcr

Ck ph graf. Rec I contact withi

Joona feels hair rising on the back of his neck. Palmcrona, he thinks again and again as he writes down what he sees on the screen. He tries to think clearly and breathe calmly. The small stab of an oncoming migraine comes and then goes.

Erixson stares at the screen and swears to himself.

“Are you absolutely sure Bjorn Almskog wrote this?” Joona asks.

“No doubt about it,” replies Johan Jonson.

“Absolutely sure?”

“If he was at this computer at this point in time, he wrote this e-mail.”

“So it is definitely from him,” Joona tells himself, wanting to make sure, but his thoughts already zoom away. “What the fuck,” Erixson whispers.

Johan Jonson scans the address field fragments scattered over the screen: “crona@isp. se.” He drinks Fanta straight out of the thermos. Erixson leans back into his wheelchair and closes his eyes for a moment.

“Palmcrona,” murmurs Joona again, his voice tense in concentration.

“This is fucking crazy,” Erixson says. “What the hell does Carl Palmcrona have to do with all this?”

Joona silently walks out the door, concentrating on his thoughts and leaving his colleagues behind. He walks quickly down the stairs and out of the hospital into strong sunshine. He hurries across the parking lot to his black car.

Lars Kepler

The Nightmare

37 collaborating units

Joona Linna heads straight to Carlos’s office, full of the news about Carl Palmcrona. To his surprise, the door to Carlos’s office is wide open. Carlos is looking out the window.

“She’s still standing there,” he says.


“The mother of those girls.”

“You mean Claudia Fernandez?” Joona asks as, in turn, he goes to look out the window.

“She’s been standing there for an entire hour.”

Joona can’t see her. A father in a dark blue suit is walking past. He’s wearing a king’s crown on his head and holding the hand of a little girl dressed in a pink princess dress. But then, almost directly across from the National Police Board, he sees a slumped woman next to a dirty Mazda pickup truck. It’s Claudia, staring intently at the foyer of the police building.

“I went outside and asked her if she wanted someone in particular. I thought maybe you’d forgotten a meeting with her.”

“No,” Joona says quietly.

“She said she was waiting for her daughter, Penelope.”

“Carlos, we have to talk.”

But before Joona can say anything, there’s a light knock at the door and Verner Zanden, the head of Sapo’s department of security, comes in.

“Nice to see you again,” the tall man says as he shakes Carlos’s hand. Verner greets Joona, then looks around the room and behind his back.

“Where the hell did Saga go?” he asks in a deep bass voice.

Saga Bauer slowly steps through the door. The tension in her thin body almost seems to reflect the silvery shimmer of Carlos Eliasson’s aquarium.

“I didn’t realize you hadn’t kept up.” Verner smiles benevolently.

Carlos turns to Saga but he looks uncertain, as if he can’t decide how to interact with a young woman who looks so much like… like an elf, he thinks. He decides to simply take a step back and open his arms in a welcoming gesture.

“Welcome,” he says, a strange shrill tone in his voice.

“Thanks,” she says.

“You’ve already met Joona Linna.”

Saga just stands still. Her hair is a shimmering mass down to her waist, but her eyes are hard and her jaw is clamped shut. The sharp scar through one of her eyebrows glimmers chalk-white on her face.

“Please feel right at home,” Carlos says, and he almost sounds pleasant.

Saga sits down stiffly next to Joona. Carlos sets a shiny paper folder on the conference table. It is titled “Strategies for Collaborating Units.” Verner lifts his hand jokingly as if he were a schoolboy asking permission to speak before his deep bass fills the room.

“Formally, the entire investigation is in Sapo’s hands. However, without the services of the National Criminal Investigation Department and Joona Linna, we wouldn’t have had this breakthrough.”

Verner points at the folder and Saga’s face turns bright red.

“Perhaps this is not such a ‘breakthrough,’ ” she mumbles.

“What?” Verner says loudly.

“All Joona found was a palm print and a piece of a photo.”

“And you… along with him, yes, you found out that Penelope Fernandez is still alive and someone is hunting her. Of course it’s not just Joona alone…” He tries to soothe her.

“This is sick,” Saga yells and shoves all the paperwork onto the floor. “How the hell can you guys sit here and heap praise on him! He wasn’t even supposed to be there! Someone even spilled the beans about Daniel Marklund-”

“But he did find out,” Verner says.

“But this is all highly classified! What the fuck!”

“Saga,” Verner says in rebuke. “You were also not supposed to be there!”

“True! But if I hadn’t, everything would have-”

She stops herself short.

“Can we continue more calmly now?” Verner asks.

Saga looks at her boss before she turns to Carlos and says, “Forgive me. I’m sorry I lost my temper.”

She bends down and begins to pick up the papers from the floor, her forehead still covered with angry red dots. Carlos tells her to leave them, but Saga picks them all up, shuffles them into their proper order, and puts them back on the table.

“I’m really very sorry,” she says again.

Carlos clears his throat and says tentatively, “We hope that you might come to appreciate Joona’s contribution. Perhaps enough to allow him to join your investigation.”

“No! Seriously,” Saga turns to her boss. “I don’t want to seem so negative, but I don’t see why you’re making such a big deal about him. We would have found all the evidence he did. You talk about breakthroughs, but I don’t think that-”

“I agree with Saga,” Joona says slowly. “I’m sure that eventually you would have found it all without my help.”

“Maybe so,” Verner says.

“Is that it, then?” Saga asks, keeping her voice under control as she stands up.

“But then there’s one thing that you don’t yet know,” Joona continues calmly. “Bjorn Almskog secretly contacted Carl Palmcrona on the same day Viola was killed.”

The room falls completely silent. Saga slowly sinks back into her chair. Verner leans forward and visibly collects his thoughts before he clears his throat. “So, Carl Palmcrona’s suicide and the murder of Viola Fernandez might be connected?” he asks in his booming bass.

“Joona?” Carlos asks.

“Yes, I believe there’s a connection between these two deaths.”

“This is much bigger than we thought,” Verner says, almost in a whisper. “This is very big…”

“Good work, Joona!” Carlos exclaims with a forced smile.

Saga Bauer has crossed her arms tightly across her chest. She’s looking at the floor and the small red spots are reappearing on her forehead.

“Joona,” Carlos says carefully, “I can’t go over Petter’s head, so he’ll still be in charge of our own investigation, but I can let you work on loan to Sapo.”

“What do you think, Saga?” Joona asks softly.

“Perfect,” Verner answers immediately.

“It’s up to me,” Saga answers defiantly. “I’m still the one in charge of this case.”

She gets up and leaves the room at once.

Verner excuses himself and hurries after her.

There’s an icy glitter in Joona’s gray eyes.

Carlos is still in his chair. He clears his throat yet again and says, “She’s young and you have to try… I mean… be nice, watch out for her.”

“I believe she is entirely capable of taking care of herself,” Joona replies.


saga bauer

Saga Bauer is distracted, thinking about Carl Palmcrona, and she barely manages to move her face, even slightly. She’s seen the hit coming from the side, but too late. A low hook that passes over her left shoulder and hits her ear and chin. She’s rocked. Her head protector has slipped to the side again and she can hardly see a thing. Still, she knows the next blow is on its way and sinks her chin and protects her face with both hands.

It’s a hard hit followed by one to her upper ribs. She stumbles backward onto the rope. The referee rushes over but Saga has already figured a way out of the trap. She moves to the side and toward the middle of the ring and at the same time she is weighing her opponent: Svetlana Krantz from Falkoping, a wide woman around forty years old with sloped shoulders and a Guns N’ Roses tattoo. Svetlana is breathing with her mouth open and is hunting Saga with elephantine steps; she believes she’s on the way to a knockout.

Saga dances softly backward, whirling like an autumn leaf over the ground. Boxing is so easy, she thinks, and a wave of joy fills her chest. She stops and smiles so broadly that her mouth guard almost falls out. She knows Svetlana is her match, but she had planned to win on points and not a knockout. However, when Svetlana’s boyfriend howls that Svetlana should turn the blond cunt’s face into mush, Saga changes her mind.

Svetlana is moving too quickly around the ring. Her right hand is eager, almost too eager. She is so convinced that she’s going to beat Saga that she’s no longer concentrating. She’s already decided to end the match with one or more direct right-hand blows. She’s thinking that Saga is already so groggy she won’t be able to land a punch. But Saga Bauer is not weakened. Instead, she zeroes in on her concentration. Saga dances a bit in place as she waits for her opponent to rush forward. She holds her hands over her face as if in defense only. At the perfect moment, Saga executes a surprising shoulder-and-foot combination so that, stepping to the side, she glides away from her opponent’s line of attack. Saga is now beside her and uses all her momentum for one blow-right into Svetlana’s solar plexus.

She feels the edge of Svetlana’s breast shield through her glove as Svetlana’s body simply folds in half. Saga’s next blow glances off Svetlana’s head, but the third is a clean, hard uppercut right to the mouth.

Svetlana’s head snaps backward. Sweat and snot spray out. Svetlana’s dark blue mouth guard flies away and her knees give out. She falls straight to the mat and rolls over once, remaining still for a second before she starts to move again.

After the match, Saga Bauer pads around the women’s dressing room feeling the tension run out of her body. There’s a taste of blood and tape in her mouth. She’d had to use her teeth to undo the fabric tape around her glove’s lacing. She looks at herself in the mirror and wipes away a few tears. Her nose is throbbing. She’d been thinking of other things during the match: her conversation with her boss and the head of the National Criminal Investigation Department and the decision that she was supposed to work with Joona Linna.

Inside her locker door is a sticker with the name Sodertalje Rockets and a picture of a rocket that looks like an angry shark.

Saga’s hands shake as she pulls off her shorts, pelvic protection and underwear, a black tank top, and the bra with the breast shield. Shivering, she steps into the showers and turns on the stream of water. Water pours over her neck and back. She forces her mind to think of things other than Joona Linna as she spits blood-tinged saliva into the floor drain.

There are about twenty women in the dressing room when she returns. A round of KI aerobics must have just let out. Saga doesn’t notice them stop and stare at her in disbelief.

Saga Bauer is astonishingly beautiful, beautiful in a way that makes people weak in the knees. Her face is perfectly symmetrical and free of makeup, her eyes remarkably large and sky blue. Even with her pumped-up muscles and recent bruises, at five feet seven she’s finely shaped; most of the women in the dressing room would take her to be a ballet dancer, not an elite boxer or an investigator with Sapo’s security department.

Or they’d see her as an elf or a fairy princess, like Tuvstarr the valiant princess, able to stand fearlessly before the huge, dark troll in the paintings of the legendary artist John Bauer. John Bauer had two brothers: Hjalmar and Ernst. Ernst was Saga’s great-grandfather. She never met him, but she still remembers well the tales her grandfather told about his own father’s grief when his brother John, wife Esther, and their baby son drowned one November night on Lake Vattern just a few hundred meters from the harbor of Hastholmen. Three generations later, John Bauer’s painting seems to have miraculously come to life in Saga.

Saga Bauer knows that she’s a good investigator, even though she’s never brought an investigation to its conclusion. She’s used to having her work pulled out from under her or being excluded after weeks of hard work. She’s used to being overprotected and overlooked for dangerous assignments. Used to it. But that doesn’t mean she likes it.

She did very well at the Police Training Academy; after that, she went to the Security Service to be trained in counterterrorism and there rose to the rank of investigator. She’s worked on both investigative and operational duties, and all the while, she’s never neglected continuing education and she’s always kept to a tough physical-training routine. She runs daily, boxes at least twice a week, and not a week goes by where she fails to make the shooting range with her Glock 21 and an M90 sharpshooter rifle.

Saga lives with a jazz musician, a pianist named Stefan Johansson, whose group won a Swedish Grammy for their sorrowful, improvisational album A Year Without Esbjorn. When Saga gets home from work or training, she’ll lie on the sofa, eating candy, watching a movie with the sound off, while Stefan plays the piano for hours at a time.

Leaving the gym, Saga spots her opponent waiting by the concrete plinths.

“I just wanted to congratulate you and say thanks for a good match,” Svetlana says.

Saga stops. “Thanks.”

Svetlana turns red. “You’re amazingly good.”

“So are you.”

Svetlana looks toward the ground and smiles.

Garbage is caught in the twigs of square-cut bushes meant to decorate the entrance of the parking lot.

“You taking the train?” Saga asks.

“Yeah, I guess I better start walking.”

Svetlana picks up her bag, but then stops. She wants to say something else but has trouble letting it out. “Saga… hey, I’m sorry about what my guy said,” she finally says. “I don’t know if you heard… but he’s not coming to any more of my matches.”

Svetlana clears her throat and then starts walking again.

“Wait a minute,” Saga says. “If you’d like, I can give you a ride to the station.”


farther away

Penelope cuts across the slope at an angle. She slips on the loose stones, slides; her hand shoots out to balance her and it gets cut. She cries out; pain shoots from her wrist. Her shoulders and back burn too. She can’t stop coughing. She forces herself to look behind, into the forest, between the tree trunks; she dreads catching sight of their pursuer again.

Bjorn helps her up, muttering something as he does. His eyes are bloodshot and haunted.

“We can’t stay still,” he’s whispering.

Where is the pursuer? Is he close-by? Has he lost them? Not that many hours ago, they were lying on a kitchen floor while he was looking in the window. Now they’re running up through a spruce thicket. They can smell the warm scent of the pine needles and they keep going, hand in hand.

There’s a rustling and, crying out in fear, Bjorn takes a sudden step to the side and gets a branch in the face.

“I don’t know how much longer I can take this,” he says, panting.

“Don’t think about it.”

They slow to a walk. It is hard to ignore the pain in their knees and feet. Through brushwood and rotting piles of leaves, they keep going, down into a ditch, up through weeds, and finally they find themselves on a dirt track. Bjorn looks around and whispers to her to follow. He starts running south, toward the more inhabited area of Skinnardal. It can’t be far. She limps a few steps and then begins to run after him. The track curves around a grove of birches and, once past the white trunks, they suddenly see two people. There’s a woman barely out of her teens, dressed in a short tennis dress, talking to a man standing by a red motorcycle.

Penelope zips up her hoodie and sucks in air through her nose to steady her breath.

“Hi,” she says.

They’re staring at her. It’s easy to see why: she and Bjorn are bloody and dirty.

“We’ve had an accident,” she says. “We need to borrow a phone.”

Tortoiseshell butterflies flutter over the goosefoot and horsetail growing in the ditch.

The man nods and hands his phone to Penelope.

“Thanks,” Bjorn says, although he keeps his eyes glued on the road and into the forest.

“What happened?” the man asks.

Penelope doesn’t know what to say. Tears begin to stream down her cheeks.

“An accident,” Bjorn says.

“Oh my God,” the woman in the tennis dress hisses to her boyfriend. “She’s that bitch.”


“The bitch on TV the other day who was criticizing our Swedish exports.”

Penelope doesn’t hear. She tries to smile engagingly at the young woman as she taps out Claudia’s number. But her hands are shaking too hard and she hits the wrong number. She has to stop and try again. Her hands shake so fiercely she’s afraid she’ll drop the phone. The young woman is whispering into her boyfriend’s ear.

She plants herself in front of Penelope. “Tell me something. Do you think that hardworking people, people working sixty hours a week, are supposed to pay for people like you to just say whatever the hell you want on some television program?”

Penelope can’t comprehend why the young woman is so angry. She’s unable to concentrate on her question. Her thoughts whirl as she anxiously scans the area between the trees while she hears the signal go through. The ringing crackles. It sounds far away.

“So real work’s not good enough for you?” The woman is really working herself up.

Penelope pleads with Bjorn with her eyes to help her out here and calm the woman down. She sighs as she hears her mother’s voice on the answering machine.

“This is Claudia Fernandez. I can’t answer the phone right now, but please leave a message and I’ll call back as soon as I can.”

Tears run down her cheeks and her knees are about to buckle. She’s so tired. She holds up her hand toward the woman in a plea.

“We paid for our phones with our own money we earned ourselves,” the young woman says. “You do the same. Pay for your own damn phone…”

The line is breaking up. Penelope moves away in search of a better signal but it only gets worse. It cuts out and she’s not sure she’s even gotten through as she starts to speak.

“Mamma, I need help. People are after us-”

The woman yanks the phone from Penelope’s hand and tosses it back to the young man.

“Get a job!” he yells.

Penelope sways in shock. She watches the woman climb onto the motorcycle behind the man and wrap her arms around his waist.

“Please!” Penelope calls after them. “Please- ”

Her voice is lost in the roar of the motorcycle as it speeds away, spitting gravel. Bjorn and Penelope start to run after them, but the motorcycle disappears down the track to Skinnardal.

“Bjorn,” Penelope says as she stops running.

“Keep running,” he yells.

She’s out of breath. This is a mistake, she thinks. He stops and looks at her. Then he starts walking away.

“Wait! He understands how we think!” she yells after him. “We have to outwit him!”

Bjorn walks more slowly and then turns to look at her. He keeps on walking backward.

“We’ve got to get help,” he pleads.

“Not yet.”

Bjorn slowly comes to a stop and then returns. He takes her by the shoulders.

“Penny, I’m sure that it’s only ten minutes or so to the first house. You can do it. I’ll help-”

“We have to get back in the woods,” Penelope says. “I know that I’m right.”

She pulls off her hair band and throws it on the road in front of them and heads back into the woods, away from habitation.

Bjorn looks behind him down the road, then reluctantly follows Penelope. Penelope hears him behind her. He catches up and takes her hand. They’re now running side by side but not all that fast. A small inlet of water bars their way. They wade across for approximately forty meters, the water coming up to their thighs. Out of the water, they start to jog again in shoes that are completely soaked.

Ten minutes later, Penelope slows down. She stops, takes a deep breath, lifts her gaze, and looks around. Somehow she no longer senses the cold presence of their pursuer. Bjorn asks, “When we were in the house, why’d you yell for him to come in?”

“He’d have just come inside anyway-but he didn’t expect a voice.”


“Up to now, he’s been one step ahead of us,” she continues. “We’ve been scared and he knows how fear makes people stupid.”

“Still, even stupid people don’t say, ‘Come on in,’ ” Bjorn says, and a tired smile crosses his face.

“That’s why we can’t head toward Skinnardal. We have to zigzag, change our direction all the time, keep deep in the forest, and head toward nothing at all.”


She observes his exhausted face and his white, dry lips.

“I think we have to think it out now. Try new ideas. I believe that we have to… instead of heading for the mainland… we have to keep going farther out into the archipelago and away from the mainland.”

“No one in their right mind would do that.”

“Can you keep going?” she asks softly.

He nods and they begin to move again, farther into the forest, farther away from roads, from houses and people.


the replacement

Axel Riessen unbuttons the cuff links from his stiff shirtsleeves and puts them in the bronze bowl on his dresser. The cuff links were an inheritance from his grandfather, Admiral Riessen. This design is civilian, however, a heraldry design consisting of two crossed palm leaves.

Axel studies himself in the mirror next to the closet door. He loosens his tie and then walks to the bed and sits down on the edge. The radiator hisses and he thinks he can make out snatches of music coming through the wall.

The music is coming from his younger brother’s apartment in their shared family mansion. One lone violin, Axel thinks as his mind gathers the fragments he’s heard into a whole. It’s the Bach Violin Sonata in G Minor, the first movement, an adagio, but played much more slowly than conventional interpretations. Axel hears not only the musical notes but also every single overtone as well as an accidental bump against the body of the violin.

His hands long to take up a violin. His fingers tremble when the music changes tempo. It’s been a long time since he’s let his fingers play with the music, running over the strings and up and down the fingerboard.

When the telephone rings, the music in his head falls silent. He gets up from the bed and rubs his eyes. He’s very tired and hasn’t slept much for the past week.

Caller ID reveals that the call is coming from Parliament. Axel clears his throat before he answers in a calm voice.

“Axel Riessen.”

“I’m Jorgen Grunlicht. As you may know, I’m the president of the Government Panel for Foreign Affairs.

“Good evening.”

“Please excuse me for calling so late.”

“I was still awake.”

“They told me you might be,” Jorgen Grunlicht says. He hesitates before continuing. “We’ve had an extra board meeting just now where we decided to try to

recruit you for the post of general director for the ISP.”

“I understand.”

There’s silence on the other end. Grunlicht adds hastily, “I assume you know what happened to Carl Palmcrona.”

“I read about it in the newspaper.”

Grunlicht clears his throat and says something that Axel can’t understand before Grunlicht raises his voice again. “You are already aware of our work and-if you accept our nomination-could get up to speed fairly quickly.”

“I’d have to resign my UN post,” Axel replies.

“Is that a problem?” Grunlicht’s voice seems worried.

“No, not really-I’ve been taking some time off anyway.”

“We’ll be able to discuss the terms, of course… but there’s nothing that’s off the table,” Grunlicht says. “You must already know we would like you on board. There’s no point in keeping that a secret.”

“I need to think about it.”

“Can you meet us tomorrow morning?”

“You’re in a hurry.”

“We’ll take, of course, the time needed,” Grunlicht replies. “But it must be said that after what happened… there have been hints from the economics minister about a matter already delayed-”

“And that would be?”

“Nothing unusual, just an export permit. The preliminary report was positive and the Export Control Committee has completed its work, the contracts have been signed. Unfortunately, Palmcrona wasn’t able to sign it.”

“His signature was required?”

“Only the general director can approve exports of defense materiel or products of dual usage,” Jorgen Grunlicht explains.

“But can’t the government approve certain business transactions at times?”

“Only once the general director of the ISP has decided to turn the matter over to the government.”

“I understand,” says Axel.

For eleven years, Axel Riessen served as a war materiel inspector in the old system for the Foreign Office before being assigned to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. At fifty-one, he still looks youthful. His hair, flecked with gray, is still thick. His features are regular and friendly, and the tan he picked up recently on vacation in Cape Town gives him a healthy glow. It had been an exceptional vacation: he’d sailed solo along the breathtaking, rugged coast.

Axel walks to his library and settles into his reading chair. He closes his eyes and starts to reflect on the fact that Carl Palmcrona is dead. He’d read the obituary in the morning edition of Dagens Nyheter. It was not clear what had happened, but he’d gotten the impression the death was unexpected. Palmcrona had not been ill, that much was clear. He thinks back to some of the times they’d met through the years and recalls when they’d worked together on how to combine the Military Equipment Inspection Committee with the Governmental Strategic Export Control Committee. In the end, a new agency would emerge: the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products.

And now Palmcrona is dead. Axel remembers the tall, pale man with his military air and a sense of loneliness about him.

Axel starts to worry. The rooms are too quiet. He stands up and looks around the apartment, listening for sounds.

“Beverly?” he calls in a low voice. “Beverly?”

She doesn’t answer and fear rises in his mind. He walks quickly through the rooms and heads for the hallway to put on his coat when he hears her humming to herself. She is walking barefoot over the rugs in the kitchen. When she sees his worried face, her eyes widen.

“Axel,” she says. “What’s wrong?”

“I was just worried that you’d left,” he mutters.

“Out into the dangerous world.” She smiles.

“I’m just saying there are people you can’t trust out there.”

“I don’t trust them,” she says. “I just look at them. I look at their light. If it shines around them, I know that they’re nice.”

Axel never knows what to say when she says things like that, so he just tells her he’s bought some chips and a big bottle of Fanta.

It seems as if she’s stopped listening. He tries to read her face, to see if she is restless or depressed or closed off.

“So are we still going to get married?” she asks.

“Yes,” he lies.

“It’s just that flowers make me think of Mamma’s funeral and Pappa’s face when-”

“We don’t need to have flowers,” he says. “Though I like lilies of the valley.”

“Me, too,” he says weakly.

She reddens contentedly and he hears her pretend to yawn for his sake.

“I’m so sleepy,” she says as she leaves the room. “Do you want to go to sleep?”

“No,” Axel says, but only to himself.

Parts of his body want to stop dead, but he gets up and follows her, clumsily and strangely slow, over the marble floor that leads along the hallway, up the stairs, through two large rooms, and finally into the suite where he retires in the evening. The girl is skinny and short and doesn’t even come up to his chest. Her hair is frizzy. She shaved it last week, but it’s begun to grow out again. She gives him a quick hug and he can smell the odor of caramel from her mouth.



It’s been ten months since Axel Riessen met Beverly Andersson, and that only came about because of his acute insomnia. Ever since he experienced a traumatic event thirty years ago, he’s had difficulty sleeping. As long as he took sleeping pills, he was able to manage, but he slept a chemical sleep without dreams and without real rest. At least he slept.

Eventually he had to keep increasing the dosage. The pills caused a hypnotic noise that drowned out his thoughts, but he loved his medication and he usually mixed it with expensive, well-aged whiskey. One day, after twenty years of high consumption, Axel’s brother found him unconscious in the hallway, blood flowing from both nostrils.

At Karolinska Hospital, he was diagnosed with severe cirrhosis of the liver. The chronic cell damage was so serious that, after the usual medical tests, he was placed on the waiting list for a liver transplant. He was in blood group O and his tissue type was unusual, so the number of possible donors was fairly slim.

His younger brother could have donated a partial liver if he hadn’t suffered from such severe arrhythmia that his heart could not have endured an operation.

The hope of finding a liver donor was nearly nonexistent, but if Axel refrained from drinking and using sleeping pills, he would not die. As long as he took regular doses of Konakion, Inderal, and Spironolakton, his liver functioned and he lived a normal life.

Except that he never slept more than an hour or two at night. He was admitted to a sleep clinic in Gothenburg and underwent a polysomnography and had his insomnia officially diagnosed. Since medication was out of the question, he was given advice about meditation, hypnosis, self-suggestion, and sleep techniques. None of this helped.

Four months after his liver collapsed, he was awake for nine days straight and had a psychotic episode.

He had himself voluntarily admitted to the private psychiatric hospital Saint Maria Hjarta.

There he met Beverly. She was just fourteen years old.

As usual, Axel had been lying awake and it was about three in the morning. It was totally dark outside. She just opened his door. She was like an unhappy spirit who walked all night through the hallways of the psychiatric hospital. Perhaps all she was looking for was a person she could be with.

He was in bed, sleepless and disconsolate, when the girl came into his room and stood in front of him without a word. Her long nightgown brushed against the floor.

“I saw there was light in this room,” she whispered. “You’re giving off light.”

Then she crawled into his bed. He was still sick from lack of sleep and he didn’t know what he was doing. He grabbed her tiny body hard, too hard, and pressed her to him.

She said nothing. She just lay there.

He buried his face in the back of her neck. Then he fell asleep.

It was as though he had plunged deep into the waters of sleep and found dreams. He slept only a few minutes that first time. Every night after that, she came to his room. He would hold her tightly and then, covered with sweat, he’d fall asleep.

His psychological instability slowly dissipated like condensation from a mirror. Beverly stopped wandering through the hospital hallways all night.

Axel Riessen and Beverly Andersson left Saint Maria Hjarta Hospital with a silent and desperate agreement. Both of them understood that this close-knit arrangement had to be a secret. As far as the outside world could see, Beverly Andersson was temporarily housed in one of the apartments in Axel Riessen’s mansion until a student apartment opened up.

Beverly Andersson is now fifteen and had been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. She has no sense of boundaries between herself and other people. She also has no self-defense mechanism.

In past eras, girls like Beverly might be locked up in mental institutions permanently or they might be forced to undergo sterilization or a lobotomy to control their lack of morals and unrestrained sexuality.

Girls like Beverly often still follow the wrong people home and trust people who are not worth their trust.

Beverly is lucky she found me, Axel Riessen would reassure himself. I am not a pedophile, do not want to harm her or make money off her. I just need her next to me so I can sleep. Without sleep, I’ll be destroyed.

She often talks about their getting married once she’s old enough.

Axel Riessen lets her spin her fantasies of marriage because it makes her happy and calm. He convinces himself that he’s protecting her from the outside world, but he also knows that he’s using her. He’s ashamed, but can’t figure out any other alternative. He’s afraid of returning to relentless insomnia.

Beverly walks out of the bathroom with a toothbrush in her mouth. She nods toward the three violins hanging on the wall.

“Why don’t you ever play them?” she asks.

“I can’t,” he replies with a smile.

“Are they just going to hang there? Why don’t you give them to someone who can play them?”

“I like these violins. Robert gave them to me.”

“You hardly speak about your brother.”

“We have a complicated relationship.”

“I know he makes violins in his workshop,” she says.

“Yes, that’s what he does… he also plays in a chamber orchestra.”

“Maybe he can play for us at our wedding?” she asks as she wipes toothpaste from the corner of her mouth.

Axel looks at her and hopes that she doesn’t pick up on the mechanical way he answers as he says, “What a good idea.”

He feels exhaustion flowing over him like a wave, over his body and his brain. He walks past her and into the bedroom and sinks down on the edge of the bed.

“I’m very sleepy. I…”

“I feel very sorry for you,” she says in total seriousness.

Axel shakes his head.

“I just need to sleep,” he says. All at once, he feels as if he’ll burst into tears.

He stands up again and picks out a nightgown in pink cotton.

“Please, Beverly, why don’t you wear this one?”

“Sure, if you want me to.”

She pauses to look at a large oil painting by Ernst Billgren. A fox is wearing clothes and sitting in an armchair in some upper-middle-class home.

“I hate that picture,” she says.

“You do?”

She nods and starts to undress.

“Can’t you change in the bathroom?” he asks.

She shrugs and as she pulls off her pink top, Axel moves away so that he won’t see her nude. He walks over to the painting of the fox, looks at it, then takes it down to set it, facedown, on the floor.

Axel’s sleep is stiff and heavy, his jaw clenched. He’s held the girl very tightly. Suddenly he startles awake and lets her go. He sucks in air like a drowning man. He’s sweating and his heart is pounding from fear. He turns on the lamp on the nightstand. Beverly sleeps as relaxed as a child, mouth open and a little sheen on her forehead. Axel starts to think about Carl Palmcrona again. The last time they’d met, they mingled with the nobility at a meeting in Riddarhuset. Palmcrona had been drunk and aggressive. He’d gone on and on about the UN weapon embargoes and finished his tirade with those strange words: If everything goes to hell, I’ll pull an Algernon so I won’t reap my nightmare.

Axel turns off the lamp and lies down again while he tries to understand what Palmcrona meant by saying “pull an Algernon.” What was he talking about? What kind of nightmare was he thinking about? And did he really say that strange I won’t reap my nightmare?

What had happened to Carl-Fredrik Algernon? It was a mystery in Sweden. Up until his death, Algernon had been the military-equipment inspector for the Foreign Office. One January day he’d had a meeting with the CEO of Nobel Industries, Anders Carlberg. He’d told Carlberg that their investigation had turned up information that one of the members of the conglomerate had smuggled weapons to countries in the Persian Gulf. Later that same day, Carl-Fredrik Algernon had fallen in front of a subway train in Central Station in Stockholm.

Axel’s thoughts slip away and become increasingly blurred, circulating around accusations of arms smuggling and bribery concerning the Bofors Corporation. He sees a man in a trench coat falling backward in front of an oncoming train.

The man falls slowly, his coattails flapping.

Beverly’s soft breathing catches him up, calms him, and he turns toward her to wrap his arms around her again.

She sighs as he pulls her closer to him.

Sleep comes to him in the softness of a cloud. His thoughts fade away.

For the rest of the night, he still sleeps restlessly and wakes again at five in the morning. He’s been holding on so tightly to Beverly, his arms are cramped. Her stubbly hair tickles his lips. He wishes desperately that he could take his sleeping pills instead.


national inspectorate of strategic products

At seven in the morning, Axel walks out onto the terrace he shares with his brother. He has that eight o’clock meeting with Jorgen Grunlicht in Carl Palmcrona’s old office at the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products.

The air is already warm but not yet humid. His younger brother, Robert, has opened the French doors to his apartment and come out to sit on a lounge chair. Robert hasn’t shaved yet and just lies there with his arms hanging limply. He’s staring up into the chestnut tree’s foliage, still damp from the morning dew. He’s wearing his worn-out silk bathrobe, the same one their father used to wear every Saturday morning.

“Good morning,” Robert says.

Axel nods without looking at his brother.

“I’ve just repaired a Fiorini for Charles Greendirk,” Robert says in an attempt at conversation.

“He’ll be happy, I’m sure,” Axel says. He sounds down.

“Something bothering you?”

“Yes, a bit,” Axel admits. “I might be changing jobs.”

“Well, why not?” Robert says, though his thoughts are already elsewhere.

Axel looks at his brother’s kind face with its deep wrinkles, and at his bald head. So many things could have been different between them.

“How’s your heart?” he asks. “Still pumping away?”

Robert puts his hand on his chest before he answers. “Seems to be.”

“That’s good.”

“What about your poor old liver?”

Axel shrugs and turns back into his apartment.

“We’re going to play Schubert this evening,” his brother calls out.

“How nice.”

“Maybe you could…”

Robert falls silent and looks at his brother. Then he changes the subject.

“That girl in the room upstairs-”

“Her name is Beverly.”

“How long is she going to be living here?”

“I don’t know,” Axel says. “I’ve promised her that she can stay until she finds a student apartment.”

“You always want to rescue birds with broken wings.”

“She’s not a bird, she’s a human being,” Axel says.

Axel opens the tall French doors to his own apartment and watches the reflection of his face glide past on the curved glass surfaces as he steps inside. Once behind the curtain, he silently observes his brother. He watches Robert get up from his lounge chair, scratch his stomach, and walk down the stairs from the terrace to the small garden and workshop. As soon as Robert is gone, Axel returns to his room and gently wakes up Beverly, who is still asleep with her mouth wide open.

The National Inspectorate of Strategic Products is a government agency that was established in 1996 to take over responsibility for all matters concerning arms exports and dual-usage items. Its offices are on the sixth floor of a salmon-pink building located at Klarabergs Viaduct 90. After riding up in the elevator, Axel sees that Jorgen Grunlicht is already waiting for him, nodding impatiently. Grunlicht is a tall man with a blotchy face: irregular patterns of white patches contrast with his reddish skin.

Grunlicht slips his identification card in and keys in the code to admit Axel. They walk to Carl Palmcrona’s office. It’s a corner suite with two huge windows overlooking a cityscape of southbound roads behind Central Station and across from Lake Klara and the dark rectangle of city hall.

Despite its exclusive location, there’s something austere about the ISP offices. The floors are laid with synthetic carpet and the furniture is simple and neutral in pine and white-its neutrality almost an intentional reminder of the morally dubious nature of arms exports, Axel thinks with a shudder. This is the national agency entrusted with the responsibility of making sure that Swedish weapons do not wind up in war zones and dictatorships. But Axel can’t help feeling that under Carl Palmcrona’s directorship, the ISP began to drift off course. It was less inclined to cooperate with the United Nations, and more likely to behave like the proactive Export Council. Axel is not a pacifist. He is well aware that arms exports are vital for Sweden’s balance of trade. But he believes that the Swedish neutrality policy must be protected as well.

He looks around Palmcrona’s office. Being there so soon after his death feels macabre.

A high-pitched whine is being emitted from the light system in the ceiling. It sounds like an inharmonious overtone from a piano. Axel remembers he once heard the same overtone on a recording of John Cage’s first sonata.

Closing the door behind them, Grunlicht asks Axel to take a seat. He appears tense in spite of his welcoming smile.

“Good that you could come so quickly,” he says, handing over the folder with the contract.

“Of course.”

“Go ahead and read through it,” Grunlicht says as he sweeps his hand over the desk.

Axel sits in a straight-backed chair and puts the folder back down on the desk. He then looks up.

“I’ll take a look at it and get back to you next week.”

“It’s a very good contract, but this offer won’t last forever.”

“I know you’re in a rush.”

He looks at Grunlicht’s pale, expectant face.

Axel knows there is no one in this country with a track record that can equal his own. This is perhaps the greatest argument for him to take the position. If he says yes, it will enable him to prevent some idiot from getting control over arms exports. He can stay committed to limiting the spread of weapons-and stay in Sweden with Beverly.

Grunlicht leans forward and says, with a shadow of guilt in his voice, “I know I’m pushing you, Axel, and I’m sorry for that. But the situation is a bit urgent. Palmcrona left several urgent matters hanging, and the companies are about to lose their deals, and-”

“Why doesn’t the government take over for the time being?”

“Sure,” Grunlicht says with a thin smile. “They can certainly take over, but they would still need advice, preferably from you.”

Silence fills the room. It’s as if feathers were falling all around them.

“I hear what you’re saying,” says Axel slowly. “But I’m still…”

Grunlicht slides the folder directly in front of Axel. “I just got off the phone with the prime minister. He asked if you were on board. You really should look at the agreement we’ve produced for you. It’s a pretty-”

“I believe you,” says Axel, “but you should know that I’ve been sick.”

“Who has not?”

“I mean, I have-”

“We know all about it,” says Grunlicht.

Axel lowers his eyes. “Of course.”

“But we also know that the problems are a thing of the past. ISP is an authority based on trust. You have worked against the flow of weapons to war zones, and that is precisely what ISP stands for. There is only one name at the top of the government’s list-and it is yours.”

As Axel reaches for the agreement, he wonders if it is possible that they know everything about him-except for Beverly.

Opening the folder, he tries to push away the gut feeling that this is a gold-plated trap.

He reads through the contract carefully. It’s very good, almost too good. Often he feels a slight blush as he reads through it.

“Welcome aboard,” Grunlicht says, as he hands Axel a pen.

Axel thanks him and signs his name. He stands up, turns his back to Grunlicht, and looks out the window. The three crowns of city hall are erased by the haze.

“Not a bad view, is it? Better than mine from the Foreign Office,” says Grunlicht over his shoulder.

Axel turns toward him as he continues.

“You’ve got three cases at the moment. The one with Kenya is under the greatest time pressure. It’s a big, important piece of business. I advise you to look at it right away. Carl has already done the preliminary work, so…”

Grunlicht falls silent and pushes another document toward him. He watches Axel closely with a strange gleam in his eye. Axel has the feeling that if Grunlicht could, he’d put the pen in Axel’s hand and hold it there while he signs.

“You’ll be a fine replacement for Carl.”

Without waiting for an answer, Grunlicht heads out of the door. “Meeting with the expert group this afternoon at three,” he calls as he goes.

Axel is left standing alone in the room. A heavy silence descends around him. He sits back down at the desk and begins to glance through the document that Carl Palmcrona had left unsigned behind him. It seems perfectly well-prepared. It deals with the export of one and a quarter million units of 5.56? 45 millimeter ammunition to Kenya. The Export Control Committee had voted for a positive recommendation. Palmcrona’s preliminary decision had also been positive. Silencia Defense AB was a well-known, established firm. But without this last step of the general director’s signature on the permission form, the actual export could not take place.

Axel leans back and suddenly Palmcrona’s mysterious words come back to him: I’ll pull an Algernon so I won’t reap my nightmare.


a cloned computer

Goran Stone smiles at Joona Linna, removes an envelope from his briefcase, opens it, and holds out a key in his cupped palm. Saga Bauer stands right next to the elevator, looking downcast. All three of them are outside the apartment of Carl Palmcrona at Grevgatan 2.

“Our technicians come tomorrow,” Goran says.

“Do you know what time?” asks Joona.

“What time, Saga?” asks Goran.

“I believe-”

“Believe? You should know exactly,” Goran says.

“At ten o’clock,” Saga says in a low voice.

“And did you give them my orders to start with the Internet and telephone system?”

“Yes, I-”

Goran silences her with a wave of his hand as his phone rings. He takes a few steps down the stairs to answer, stepping into a niche next to the window with reddish brown panes.

Joona turns to Saga and asks quietly, “Aren’t you in charge of this case?”

Saga shakes her head.

“What happened?” he asks.

“Don’t know,” she says in a tired voice. “It always happens this way. Counterterrorism isn’t even Goran’s specialty.”

“So what are you going to do about it?”

“There’s nothing to do…”

She falls silent as Goran finishes his phone call and returns to where they’re standing. Saga suddenly holds out her hand for the key to Palmcrona’s door.

“I want the key,” she says.


“I’m in charge of this investigation,” she states firmly.

“What do you say about all this?” Goran says jokingly as he smiles at Joona.

“This is nothing against you, Goran,” Joona says. “But I was just in a meeting with the higher-ups and I accepted an offer to work under Saga Bauer-”

“Oh, she can come along,” Goran says hastily.

“As the one in charge of the investigation,” Saga says again.

“Are you guys trying to get rid of me-or what the hell is this all about?” Goran says, looking both surprised and injured.

“Well, you can come along, if you want,” Joona answers calmly.

Saga takes the key from Goran’s hand.

“I’m going to call Verner,” Goran says as he heads back down the stairs.

They listen to his footsteps and then how he speaks to his boss. The tone rises and his voice sounds increasingly upset until they hear him yell “Fucking cunt! ” until it echoes.

Saga tries to stifle a smile as she turns to focus on the job. She puts the key in the lock, turns it twice, and opens the heavy door.

The police tape banning access to the apartment has been removed now that there no longer is any suspicion of a crime having been committed. The investigation was halted as soon as Nils Ahlen’s autopsy report was concluded. As Joona had suspected, it confirmed a suicide: Carl Palmcrona hanged himself using a laundry line made into a noose and hung from the ceiling lamp of his home. The crime scene investigation was broken off and no analysis was performed on any evidence sent to the National Forensic Laboratory in Linkoping.

But now it had been revealed that the day before, Bjorn Almskog had sent him an e-mail.

Later that same evening, Viola Fernandez had been killed on Bjorn Almskog’s boat.

Saga and Joona walk into the hallway and notice there’s been no mail delivery. They walk through the large rooms. Sunlight floods in through the windows and the smell of green soap lingers in the air. The red tin roof of the building across the street reflects the light, and from the bay window they can see the shimmering waters of Nybroviken Bay.

The forensic technician’s protective mats have been removed and the floor underneath the ceiling lamp in the empty salon has been scrubbed.

They step lightly across the creaking parquet floor. There seems to be no lasting impression of Palmcrona’s suicide. Now the place appears merely uninhabited. Joona and Saga both feel that the large rooms, almost empty of furniture, are now filled with a quiet sense of peace.

“The housekeeper’s still taking care of the place,” Saga says as she realizes what’s behind the change.

“Exactly,” Joona says and then smiles. The housekeeper has been there to clean the apartment, air out the rooms, carry in the mail, and change the linens.

Both of them understand that this is not unusual after a sudden death. People refuse to accept that their lives are going to change. Instead, they keep on with the old routine.

The doorbell rings. Saga looks a little concerned, but she follows Joona back to the hallway. The outer door is opened by a man with a shaved head and dressed in a black, baggy tracksuit.

“Joona told me to toss my hamburger aside and get over here pronto,” says Johan.

“This is Johan Jonson from our computer tech division,” Joona explains.

“Joona drive car,” Johan says with an exaggerated Finnish accent. “Road swerve, Joona no swerve.”

“Saga Bauer is an investigator with Sapo’s security department,” Joona continues.

“We work, we no talk, right?” asks Johan Jonson.

“Cut that out,” says Saga.

“We have to look at Palmcrona’s computer,” Joona says. “How long will it take?”

They start walking toward Palmcrona’s home office.

“You want to use it as evidence?” asks Johan.

“Yes,” says Joona.

“So you want me to copy the data?” asks Johan.

“How long will it take?” Joona repeats.

“You’ll have time to tell a few jokes to our colleague from Sapo,” Johan answers without moving.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Saga asks, irritated.

“By the way, are you dating anyone?” Johan asks with a shy smile.

Saga looks Johan straight in the eye and makes a definite nod. Johan looks down and mumbles something before he quickly follows Joona into Carl Palmcrona’s office.

Joona borrows a pair of protective gloves from Saga and flips through the mail in the in-box on the desk but doesn’t see anything special. There’s not much to see. A few letters from the bank and the accountant, some information from the governmental offices, test results from a back specialist at Sophia Hospital, and the minutes of the spring condo association meeting with ballot results.

They go back into the room where soft music had surrounded the hanging body. Joona sits down on a Carl Malmsten sofa and carefully waves his hand across the narrow ray of ice-blue light emanating from the music system. At once, the music of a single violin starts streaming through the speakers. A fragile melody sounds in the highest register, but carrying the temperament of a nervous bird.

Joona looks at his watch and then leaves Saga by the music system to walk back to the home office. Johan Jonson is no longer there. He’s sitting with his own computer at the kitchen table.

“Did it work?” asks Joona.


“Could you copy Palmcrona’s data?”

“Of course. This is an exact copy,” Johan answers as if the very question is incomprehensible.

Joona walks around the table to look at the monitor.

“And his e-mail?”

Johan opens the program.

“Ta-da!” he says.

“We’ll go through everything from the past week,” Joona continues.

“Let’s start with the in-box.”

“Yes, let’s.”

“Do you think Saga likes me?” Johan asks.

“No,” Joona says.

“Love often begins with an argument.”

“So try pulling her hair.” Joona grins and then he points at the screen. Johan opens the in-box and smiles.

“Jackpot!” he says in English. “Voitto! ” he adds in Finnish.

Joona sees three messages from skunk@hotmail. com.

“Open them,” he says.

Johan clicks on the first one and instantly Bjorn Almskog’s e-mail covers the entire screen.

“Jesus Christ Superstar,” whispers Johan in English.


the e-mails

Saga Bauer comes up behind Joona and Johan as they read the e-mail through again.

“Find something?” she asks.

The men nod and keep reading.

“Let’s see the next,” Joona says, and Johan eagerly clicks on another e-mail from skunk@hotmail. com. They read it through twice, and repeat the routine one last time as Saga tries to read over Joona’s shoulder.

“So you can see,” says Joona at last, “on the second of June, Carl Palmcrona received a blackmail letter sent by Bjorn Almskog from an anonymous e-mail address.”

“So that’s what this is about: blackmail,” Saga says.

“But I’m not sure that’s the whole story,” Joona replies.

He then reports what he has found out about Carl Palmcrona’s final days.

On June 2, Palmcrona and Gerald James of the Technical-Scientific Advisory Committee had gone to the munitions factory of Silencia Defense in Trollhattan. That morning, he’d received an e-mail from Bjorn Almskog, but had probably not read it until evening, because he did not reply until six twenty-five. In his reply, Palmcrona warns the extortionist of terrible consequences.

At lunchtime the next day, not having heard back from Bjorn, Palmcrona sends a second e-mail to Bjorn, this time saying that he’s resigned to the consequences he’d warned of earlier. It was at that point that he’d probably attached the noose to the ceiling lamp and had asked his housekeeper to leave him in peace. Once she’d gone, he’d turned on the music, walked into the smaller salon, placed his briefcase on end, climbed onto it to put the noose around his neck, and then kicked the briefcase away.

It was after Palmcrona’s death that Bjorn’s second e-mail arrived in Palmcrona’s in-box, and the day after that, a final e-mail.

Joona sets the five e-mails in sequence on the table, so that he and Saga can read through the entire correspondence.

The first e-mail from Bjorn Almskog is dated Wednesday, June 2, at 11:37 a.m.:

Dear Mr. Palmcrona

I am writing to inform you that I’ve come into possession of an awkward original photograph. It shows you sitting in a private box and drinking champagne with Raphael Guidi. Since I understand that this photograph could bring trouble to you, I am willing to sell it to you for the sum of one million crowns. As soon as you place the money in transit account 837-9 222701730, the photograph will be sent to your home address and all correspondence will be deleted.

Greetings from a “skunk”

The reply from Carl Palmcrona is dated Wednesday, June 2, at 6:25 p.m.:

I do not know who you are, but I do know you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. You must have absolutely no clue.

I warn you, therefore, that this is a very serious matter and I ask that you send me this photograph before it is too late.

On Thursday, June 3, at 2:02 p.m., clearly not having heard from Bjorn, Palmcrona sends a second reply:

It is already too late. We are both dead men.

Bjorn sends a response to that two hours later:

All right, I’ll do as you ask.

And Bjorn Almskog sends a third e-mail the following day, Friday, June 4, at 7:44 a.m.:

Dear Mr. Palmcrona

I’ve sent the photograph. Forget I even tried to contact you.

Greetings from a “skunk”

After reading through the e-mails twice, Saga looks up at Joona.

“So Bjorn Almskog wants to sell a compromising photograph to Palmcrona. It’s obvious that Palmcrona believes him but also that the photograph is much more dangerous than Bjorn imagined. Palmcrona warns Bjorn that he’s not going to hand over any money and even seems to believe the mere existence of this photograph threatens both their lives.”

“So what do you think happened next?” asks Joona.

“Palmcrona waits for an answer by e-mail or by regular mail,” Saga says. “When there’s no reply, he sends his second message warning that they both will die.”

“And then Palmcrona hangs himself,” says Joona.

“When Bjorn shows up at the Internet cafe and reads Palmcrona’s second e-mail-’It is already too late. We are both dead men’-he gets scared and replies he’ll do just what Palmcrona asked.”

“Without knowing that Palmcrona is already dead.”

“Right,” Saga says. “It is already too late and anything Bjorn can do now will be in vain.”

“He seems to panic after receiving Palmcrona’s second e-mail. He gives up any idea of blackmail and now just wants to get out.”

“But the problem is, the photograph in question is taped to Penelope’s door.”

“So he doesn’t have a chance to get at it until she leaves for the TV studio,” Joona continues. “He waits outside, watches Penelope leave in a taxi, rushes in, sees the little girl on the stairs, gets into the apartment, rips the photo from the glass door, takes the subway, mails the photo to Palmcrona, and then sends Palmcrona an e-mail. Then he goes to his apartment on Pontonjargatan 47, packs for the boat trip, takes the bus to Sodermalm, and hurries to his boat anchored at Langholmen Harbor.”

“So what makes you think that this is bigger than common blackmail?”

“Because Bjorn’s apartment was completely destroyed by a fire barely four hours after he’d left it,” Joona replies.

“I’ve stopped believing in coincidences when it comes to this investigation,” Saga says.

“Me, too,” Joona says with a grin.

They look at the correspondence again and Joona points at Palmcrona’s two e-mails.

“He must have contacted someone between his first and second e-mail,” he says.

“The first is a warning,” Saga says. “The second one says it’s already too late and they’re going to die.”

“I believe that Palmcrona called someone for advice when he received the blackmail letter. He was scared to death, but he was hoping to get help,” Joona says. “Only when he realizes that there’s no help to be had does he write the second e-mail where he tells Bjorn that they will both die.”

“We’ll have to put someone on his telephone lists,” Saga says.

“Erixson’s already on it.”

“What else?”

“Who’s the person mentioned in Bjorn’s first e-mail?” Joona says.

“Raphael Guidi?”

“Do you know about him?”

“He was named after the archangel Raphael,” Saga says. “He’s an Italian businessman who deals in weapons contracts for the Middle East and Africa.”

“Weapons contracts,” Joona repeats.

“Raphael has been in the business for thirty years and he’s built a private empire. There have been rumors, of course, but never anything concrete. Interpol’s looked but never found anything on him.”

“Would it be unusual to find Palmcrona in Raphael’s company?”

“Not at all,” she replies. “It’s part of his job. But toasting something in champagne? I don’t know.”

“But you wouldn’t kill someone, murder someone, because of that,” Joona says.


“That photograph must reveal something else, something much more dangerous.”

“If Bjorn mailed it, it must have arrived here, in the apartment,” Saga says.

“I looked through the mail in his in-box but-” Joona cuts himself off mid-sentence. Saga gives him a look.

“So, what is it? What are you thinking?”

“There are only personal letters in the box. No ads. No bills,” he says. “The mail had already been sorted when it arrived here.”


riding down the highway

The housekeeper, Edith Schwartz, has no telephone. She lives forty-six kilometers north of Stockholm just outside of Knivsta. Joona is in the passenger seat next to Saga, who’s driving at a reasonable clip down Sveavagen. They leave Stockholm’s central area at Norrtull and get on the highway near Karolinska Hospital.

“Sapo has finished going through the crime scene at Penelope Fernandez’s apartment,” Saga is telling him. “I’ve gone through all the material, and based on that, it’s perfectly clear she has no connection to left-wing groups. On the contrary, she’s distanced herself from them and is an avowed pacifist. She actively argues against their methods. I’ve also gone through what little information we have on Bjorn Almskog. He works at Debaser, which is a club located at Medborgarplatsen. He’s not politically active but was arrested once at a street party organized by Reclaim the City.”

They quickly pass between the flickering black fence posts along North Cemetery and Haga Park’s wall of greenery.

“I’ve also looked through our archives,” Saga continues. “Everything we have on both the left-wing and right-wing extremists in Stockholm. It took me most of the night. Of course, most of this is classified as top secret, but there’s one thing you need to know: Sapo made a mistake here. Neither Penelope nor Bjorn have ever been involved in sabotage or anything remotely resembling sabotage. They’re almost laughably innocent.”

“So you’re dropping that angle?”

“Like you, I’m convinced that we’re investigating something in another league entirely, far above either left- or right-wing local extremists… a league that’s perhaps even beyond Sapo and the National Criminal Investigation Department for that matter. I’m talking about Palmcrona’s death. Connect that with the fire in Bjorn’s apartment and Viola’s murder… this is something else again entirely.”

Saga falls silent. Joona thinks back to the housekeeper’s strange manner as she looked at him and asked if he’d cut Palmcrona down yet.

He’d said to her, “What do you mean by that?”

She’d said, “Excuse me, I’m just a housekeeper and I thought…”

He’d asked her if she’d seen anything unusual.

“A noose from the ceiling in the small salon,” she’d answered.

“So you saw the noose?”

“Yes, indeed.”

Of course she did, Joona thinks as he watches the highway unroll before them. “Yes, indeed,” she’d said. The housekeeper’s forceful expression-in words and manner-reverberates in his head. So does the look she gave him when he’d told her she would have to go down to the police station to give a statement. He’d thought that would alarm her, but it hadn’t at all; she’d just nodded.

They’re now passing Rotebro. Joona was involved in an old case there in which they’d dug up ten-year-old remains in a garden while looking for Erik Maria Bark’s son, Benjamin. It had been winter then. Now wildflowers and greenery soften the rust-brown railroad tracks and brighten the way around the parking lot and on toward the town houses and larger homes.

Joona decides to call Nathan Pollock at the National Criminal Investigation Department. After a few rings, he hears Nathan’s nasal voice.

“Nathan here.”

“You and Tommy found circles of footprints beneath Palmcrona’s body.”

“That investigation was shut down,” Nathan answers as Joona hears him typing on a computer.

“Right, but now-”

“I already know,” Nathan said. “I’ve just talked to Carlos and he told me about the new developments.”

“So can you take another look?”

“I’m already doing that,” Nathan says.

“Sounds good. When will you have some results?”

“Now,” Nathan replies. “They’re from Palmcrona and his housekeeper, Edith Schwartz.”

“Nobody else?”

“No one.”

Saga is keeping a steady speed of 140 kilometers an hour. They’re heading north on European Route 4.

Earlier that morning, Joona and Saga had gone to the police station to listen to the recorded interrogation of Edith Schwartz while simultaneously following John Bengtsson’s handwritten notes.

Joona reviews the questions and answers in his memory. After the standard formula statements informing Edith that there was no suspicion of a crime, they requested whether she could shed some light on the reasons behind Carl Palmcrona’s death. Silence. Then Joona and Saga could hear the sounds from the ventilation system, the creaking of a chair, and the scratching of a pen on a sheet of paper. John Bengtsson had decided that due to Edith Schwartz’s apparent disinterest, he would let her speak first.

At least two minutes passed before she spoke. Two minutes is a long time to sit before a police officer’s desk while a tape is running.

Finally, she asked, “Did Director Palmcrona take off his coat?”

“Why do you ask that?” John Bengtsson replies in a friendly manner.

She said nothing. Another half minute went by. Finally, John ended the silence by asking, “Was he wearing his coat the last time you saw him?”

“Yes, he was.”

“Earlier, you told Detective Linna that you’d seen a noose hanging from the ceiling.”

“That’s correct.”

“What did you think he was going to use the noose for?”

She did not answer.

“How long was the noose hanging there?”

“Since Wednesday,” she said calmly.

“So you saw the noose hanging from the ceiling on the evening of June second, went home, returned the next morning, the third of June, saw the noose still hanging there, met Palmcrona, left the apartment, and then returned on the fifth of June at two p.m. when you met Detective Linna.”

The notes state she shrugged her shoulders at this point.

“Could you tell us something about those four days?” he asked.

“I come to Director Palmcrona’s apartment every morning at six. I am only allowed to use my key early in the morning, since Palmcrona sleeps until six thirty. He keeps regular hours and he never sleeps in, not even on Sunday. I grind the coffee beans in the hand grinder, cut two slices of brown bread, and spread extra salted margarine on them before I place two slices of truffle-filled liver pate and pickles along with one slice of cheddar cheese to one side. I set the table with starched linen and the summer porcelain. I must remove all advertisements and the sports section from the morning papers and place them, folded, on the right side of his plate.”

With minute detail she ran through the entire preparation of Wednesday’s ground-veal patties in cream sauce as well as her preparations for Thursday’s lunch.

When she got to the point where she returned to the apartment with food for the weekend and rang the doorbell, she fell silent again.

“I understand that this might be difficult for you,” John Bengtsson said after some more time had passed. “But I’ve been listening to your every word for quite a while. You have gone through Wednesday and Thursday but not once have you said anything that might touch on Palmcrona’s unexpected death.”

She said nothing.

“I ask you to search your memory again,” John Bengtsson said with great patience. “Did you know that Carl Palmcrona was dead when you rang the doorbell?”


“Did you or did you not ask Detective Linna whether he had been cut down yet?” John asked, irritation creeping into his voice.

“Yes, I did.”

“Had you already seen him dead?”

“No, I had not.”

“But what the hell!” John’s irritation burst forth. “Can’t you just tell me what you know? What made you ask whether we’d taken him down or not? You were the one who asked that! Why did you ask if you didn’t even know that he was dead?”

John Bengtsson noted that he’d unfortunately allowed himself to be provoked by the woman’s stolid avoidance of direct answers and that after he’d cursed, she’d closed up like a clam.

“Are you accusing me of a crime?” she asked coolly.


“Then I believe that we’re finished.”

“We would really like your help…”

“I remember nothing else,” she said as she got up from the chair.

Joona looks at Saga. Her eyes are fixed straight ahead.

“I’m thinking about the interview with the housekeeper,” he says.

“Me, too.”

“John got fed up with her attitude and thought she was contradicting herself. He assumed that she knew that Palmcrona was dead when she rang the bell and we answered.”

“Right,” Saga says, still not taking her eyes from the road.

“But she was speaking the simple truth. She really did not know that he was dead. She believed he might be, but wasn’t sure,” he continues. “That’s why she said no to his statement.”

“Edith Schwartz sounds like an unusual woman.”

Joona says, “I believe she’s trying not to lie but still keep something secret from us.”


the photograph

Neither Joona nor Saga believe they’ll be able to get anything important from Edith Schwartz, but perhaps she can reveal where the photograph might be. They need it to solve this case.

Saga turns west onto Route 77 underneath the highway viaduct on the way to Knivsta, then almost immediately turns off onto a small gravel road paralleling the highway.

Low spruce forests line fallow fields. The masonry edge of a manure pool has broken and its tin roof is hanging lopsidedly.

“We should be there,” Saga says with a glance at the GPS.

They slowly roll up to a rusty boom and stop. As Joona gets out, he hears the dull drone of traffic on the highway. Twenty meters along, they can see a one-story house of dirty yellow brick. Decorative shutters are screwed on, and moss covers asbestos cement sheeting on the roof.

As they approach the house, they hear an unusual whirring sound. They glance at each other and move cautiously toward the outer door of the house. A rattling noise is coming from out back; then they hear the metallic whine again, coming closer. Racing around the house comes a German shepherd, mouth gaping wide. He slams to a stop a meter away from Saga, jerked back onto his hind legs by a long leash. He shuffles back a little, crouches, and begins to bark. He tosses his head from side to side to set himself free. As he jumps, the leash slides along a wire line with a whining, rattling sound.

The dog turns to rush at Joona but is choked back again. He barks dementedly but stops the second he hears a voice from inside the house.

“Nils!” a woman commands.

They hear the floor creak inside and a moment later the door opens. The dog scurries back behind the house and the whirring sound disappears with him.

“We need to talk to you,” Joona says.

“I’ve already told the police everything I know,” she replies.

“May we come inside?”


Joona glances past her into the dark interior of the house. The hall is littered with pots and pans, plates, a gray vacuum-cleaner hose, clothes, shoes, and a rusty crayfish pot.

“We can stay outside,” Saga says reassuringly.

Joona glances at his notes. It’s routine to go over details from an interrogation to catch any discrepancies or even catch someone out in a downright lie they no longer remember correctly. “What did Palmcrona have for dinner on Wednesday?”

“Ground-veal patties in cream sauce,” she says.

“With rice?” asks Joona.

“With potatoes,” she replies. “Always boiled potatoes.”

“At what time did Palmcrona return to his apartment on Thursday?”

“At six in the evening.”

“What were your duties when you left Palmcrona’s apartment on Thursday?”

“He gave me the evening off.”

Joona looks directly into her eyes and decides there’s no point in beating around the bush. He goes straight to the point.

“Did Palmcrona fix the noose already by Wednesday evening?”

“No,” says Edith.

“That’s what you told our colleague, John Bengtsson,” Saga said.

“That’s incorrect.”

“Your interview was recorded,” Saga wants to say, but she finds herself so irritated, she decides to keep quiet.

“Did you ask Palmcrona any questions about the noose?” Joona asks.

“We never discussed private matters.”

“But isn’t it odd to just leave a man with a noose hanging from his ceiling?” asks Saga.

“Well, what could I do? Stay around and watch him?” Edith replies with a small smile.

“That’s true,” Saga agrees calmly.

For the first time, Edith inspects Saga. Without embarrassment, she runs her eyes from Saga’s fairy-tale hair caught back in a colorful headband to her clear face and down to her jeans and running shoes.

“Well, I must say, I find this a bit confusing,” Saga says. “You told our colleague that you saw the noose on Wednesday, but just now, you said the opposite.”

Joona checks his notebook for Saga’s earlier question.

“Edith,” Joona says, “I believe I understand what you’ve said.”

“That’s good,” she replies.

“Concerning the question of whether Palmcrona hung up the noose on Wednesday, you said no-because Palmcrona wasn’t the one who put it up.”

The old woman gives Joona a hard look. Then she says firmly, “He tried, but he couldn’t do it. His back was too stiff from his operation last winter… so he asked me to.”

Silence falls again. The trees surrounding them are completely still in the heat of the day.

“So you were the one who tied a laundry line into a noose and hung it from the ceiling?” Joona asks.

“He tied the knot and held the ladder when I climbed up,” she says.

“Then you put the ladder away, went back to your normal duties, and went on home after washing up the dishes from Wednesday’s dinner,” Joona says.

“That’s right.”

“You came in the following morning,” he continues. “You began the day as usual by making his breakfast.”

“Did you know that he wasn’t already hanging from the noose yet?” Saga asks.

“Well, I took a peek into the small salon,” Edith answers.

The shade of a sarcastic smile appears for a split second on her closed face.

“You’ve already told us that he’d eaten breakfast as he usually did, but that he didn’t go to work Thursday morning either.”

“He was in the music room for at least an hour.”

“Was he listening to music?”

“Yes, he was.”

“Right before lunch, he placed a call,” Saga says.

“Well, that I don’t know. He went into his office and closed the door, but before he came to eat his lunch of boiled salmon, he asked me to order a taxi for two o’clock.”

“Was he planning to go to Arlanda Airport?”

“Yes, he was.”

“And at ten minutes to two, someone called him?”

“Yes, he’d already put on his coat and he answered the hall phone.”

“Did you hear what he said?” Saga asks.

“ ‘It’s not a nightmare to die,’ ” replies Edith.

“I’ve asked you what he said,” Saga repeats.

“Now you’ll have to excuse me,” Edith says shortly and begins to close the door.

“Just a second,” Joona says.

The movement of the door stops and Edith frowns at him through the gap without reopening it.

“Did you sort Palmcrona’s mail today? Do you have it here?” Joona asks.

“Of course.”

“Please bring us everything that’s not an advertisement,” Joona requests.

She nods, walking into the house, leaving the door ajar, and returns with a blue bowl filled with mail.

“Thank you,” Joona says as he takes the bowl.

Edith closes the door completely and they hear her locking it behind her. A few seconds later, they hear the whirring of the dog’s tether again. They hear his aggressive barking behind them as they walk to the car and climb in.

Saga starts the engine, then puts the car into gear and turns it around. Joona puts on protective gloves to sort through the letters in the bowl and then pulls out a manila envelope with a handwritten address. He opens it carefully and just as carefully slides out the photograph for which at least two people have died.


the fourth person

Saga Bauer pulls onto the shoulder of the road and parks. The grass in the ditch is so tall it brushes the passenger-side window. Joona Linna remains absolutely still as he contemplates the photograph.

There’s something fuzzy on the upper edge of the picture, but in general, it is perfectly sharp. Probably the camera was hidden and the photograph taken secretly.

There are four people sitting in the large box of a concert hall. Three men and one woman. Their faces are clearly visible. Only one person is turned away, but even that face is not hidden.

There’s champagne in a chiller and the table has been set so they can converse and eat and still listen to the music.

Joona recognizes Carl Palmcrona right away. He holds a champagne flute. Saga can identify two of the other people.

“That one is Raphael Guidi, the weapons dealer mentioned in the blackmail letter,” she says as she points to a man with thin hair. “And the one looking away is Pontus Salman, the head of Silencia Defense.”

“Weapons,” Joona says.

“Silencia Defense is a well-known company.”

Under the spotlight, onstage behind the men, a string quartet can be seen: two violins, a viola, and a cello. The musicians are all men. They sit in a half circle, their faces calm in concentration. It’s hard to tell if their eyes are closed or slightly open, whether they are looking at their music or simply following the different parts.

“Who is the fourth person, the woman?” Joona asks.

“Let me think and it’ll come to me,” Saga replies as the wheels turn in her mind. “I do recognize her, but… damn…”

Saga’s voice fades as she stares at the woman in the picture.

“We have to find out who she is,” Joona says quietly.


Saga starts the car and, at the same time she bumps back onto the road, she has the answer. “That’s Agathe al-Haji,” she says. “She’s the military adviser to President Omar al-Bashir.”



“How long has she been his adviser?”

“Fifteen years or so. I can’t really remember.”

“So what’s going on in this picture?” Joona muses.

“I have no idea. I mean… the fact that the four of them are meeting is not so strange. Perhaps they are discussing business proposals,” Saga speculates. “These kinds of meetings happen all the time. This could be a first encounter. You meet, explain your intentions, and maybe ask for ideas, even a preliminary decision, from Carl Palmcrona.”

“And his positive reaction could mean that the ISP will most likely give export permission in the end?”

“Exactly. It would be a good indication.”

“Does Sweden usually export war materiel to Sudan?” asks Joona.

“No, I don’t think so,” she answers. “We should ask an expert. I believe that China and Russia are the largest exporters to Sudan, but I’m not so sure anymore. There was a peace pact made in Sudan in 2005 and I imagine that the export market was opened after that.”

“So what does this picture tell us? Why would Carl Palmcrona take his own life because of it? I mean, they met in public in a concert-hall box.”

In silence they keep driving south on the dusty highway while Joona goes over the photograph again and again, turns it over, notices the torn corner, and thinks.

“So this actual photograph cannot be dangerous to anyone,” he states.

“Not if you ask me.”

“Did Palmcrona take his own life because he realized that the person who took this picture could expose something? Maybe the photograph is just a warning? Maybe Penelope and Bjorn are more important than the picture?”

“We don’t know a damn thing.”

“Yes, we do,” Joona says. “The problem is that we don’t know how to connect the dots. We’re still guessing at the orders for this hit man. It looks like he was only trying to find this photograph to destroy it and that he killed Viola because he thought she was Penelope.”

“Perhaps Penelope took the shot,” Saga suggests. “Even so, this killer wasn’t content with just her murder.”

“Exactly. We don’t know which one comes first: Is the picture a link to the photographer, who is the true threat? Or is the photographer the link to the photograph, the primary threat?”

“The first attack was on Bjorn’s apartment.”

They say nothing for a few minutes. They’ve almost gotten back to the police station when Joona takes another close look at the photograph. The four people in the box, the food, the four musicians onstage, the instruments, the heavy curtain, the champagne bottle, the champagne flutes.

“Looking at this photograph,” Joona says, “I see four faces. One of them must be behind the murder of Viola Fernandez.”

“Right. Palmcrona is dead, so we can probably exclude him. So that leaves three… and two of them are out of our reach, so we can’t question them.”

“We’ve got to interview Pontus Salman,” Joona says.


the bridal crown

It is difficult to find a real human at Silencia Defense AB. All outside lines lead to the same labyrinth of automated menus and recorded information. Finally, Saga decides to bypass it all with the number 9 and the star key. She is connected to the company secretary. She ignores this person’s questions and goes right to what she wants. The secretary says nothing for a moment and then tells Saga that she must have gotten the wrong number and that everyone has gone out for lunch.

“Please call back tomorrow morning between nine and eleven and-”

“Tell Pontus Salman to be ready for a visit from Sapo at two this afternoon,” Saga says in a loud, firm voice.

“I’m sorry,” the secretary says. “He’s in meetings all day.”

“Not at two o’clock,” Saga answers sweetly.

“Yes, his appointment book says that-”

“Because at two o’clock, he is meeting with me,” Saga says.

“I will forward your request.”

“Thank you very much,” Saga replies. She meets Joona’s eyes across the desk.

“Two o’clock?” he confirms. “Yes, indeed.”

“Tommy Kofoed would like a look at that photo,” Joona says. “Let’s stop by his office after lunch, before we head out.”

While Joona is having lunch with Disa, the technicians at the National Forensic Laboratory are enlarging the photograph.

The face of one person in the box is specifically being blurred so as to be unrecognizable.

Disa is smiling to herself as she removes the inset from the rice cooker. She holds it out to Joona and watches him as he moistens his hands to check if the rice is cool enough to form into small patties.

“Did you know that Sodermalm used to have its own Calvary?”

“Calvary like Golgotha or cavalry like horses?”

“A place for executions.” Disa nods as she opens Joona’s kitchen cabinet, finds two glasses, pours white wine into one and water into the other.

Disa looks relaxed. Her freckles have turned darker and she’s put her disheveled hair into a loose braid. Joona washes his hands and takes out a new kitchen towel. Disa goes up to him and puts her arms around his neck. Joona answers her embrace by putting his face next to hers and breathing in the scent of her hair even as he feels her hands gently caressing his back and neck.

“Let’s go ahead,” she whispers. “Let’s try.”

“Maybe,” he says in a low voice.

She holds him tightly, very tightly, and then she eases from his arms.

“There are times I get really mad at you,” she mutters as she turns away.

“Disa, I am who I am, but I-”

“I am very happy that we’re not living together,” she says, and then she leaves the kitchen.

He hears her lock herself in the bathroom and wonders whether he should follow and knock on the door, but he also knows that she really wants to be left alone, so he just continues making lunch. He picks up a piece of fish, places it on his palm, and then spreads a line of wasabi onto it.

A few minutes later, Disa comes back. She stands in the doorway and watches him finish making the sushi.

“Do you remember,” she says, laughing, “how your mother always took the salmon off the sushi and fried it before she put it back on the rice?”

“Of course.”

“Should I set the table?”


Disa carries plates and chopsticks to the big room, stops next to the window, and looks down at Wallingatan. A grove of trees lights up the view with its green late-spring leaves. Her eyes wander over the pleasant area all the way to Norra Bantorget where Joona Linna has been living for the past year.

She sets the off-white dinner table, returns to the kitchen to take a sip of wine. The wine has lost the crispness from being chilled. She dismisses the sudden urge to sit down on the lacquered wooden floor under the table and have lunch, eating with their hands as if they were still children.

Instead, she says, “I’ve been asked out.”

“Asked out?”

She nods and feels she wants to be a little bit mean, even though she doesn’t really.

“Tell me about it,” Joona says calmly as he carries the tray with sushi to the table.

Disa picks up her glass and says in an easy tone, “It’s just that there’s a man at the museum who’s been asking me out to dinner for the last six months.”

“Do people still ask people out to dinner these days?”

Disa smiles somewhat crookedly. “Are you jealous?”

“I don’t know. Maybe a little,” Joona says as he walks over to her. “It’s always pleasant to be asked out to dinner.”

“That’s right.”

Disa pushes her fingers through a bit of Joona’s thick hair.

“Is he good-looking?”

“Actually, yes he is.”

“How nice.”

“But you know that I really don’t want to.” Disa smiles.

He doesn’t answer and turns his head away.

“You know what I want,” Disa says softly.

Joona’s face is now a little pale. She sees a sheen of sweat on his forehead. He slowly turns his face back to her. His eyes have darkened until they’re as black and hard as an abyss.

“Joona?” she asks. “Forget about it. I’m sorry-”

It looks like Joona starts to say something and begins to take a step when his legs buckle.

“Joona!” Disa cries and knocks her glass off the table as she hurries to his side. She holds him closely and whispers that it will be over soon.

After a few minutes, Joona’s face relaxes bit by bit from its tight expression of pain.

Disa gets up to sweep the broken glass off the floor. Then they sit at the table and eat in silence.

After a while, Disa says, “You’re not taking your medicine.”

“It makes me sleepy. I have to think. It’s important to think clearly right now.”

“You promised me that you’d continue with it.”

“I will, I will,” he reassures her.

“It’s dangerous not to. You know that,” she whispers.

“As soon as I’ve solved this case, I’ll start taking it again.”

“What if you never solve it?”

At a distance, the Nordic Museum appears to be a fancy image carved in ebony, despite being built of sandstone and limestone. It’s a Renaissance dream of elegance with its many towers and pinnacles. The museum was planned as an homage to the sovereignty of the Nordic peoples, but by the time it was inaugurated one rainy day in the summer of 1907, the union between Sweden and Norway had dissolved and the king was dying.

Joona walks swiftly through the enormous great hall of the museum and stops only after he’s climbed the stairs. He collects himself, then walks slowly past the lighted display cabinets. Nothing there catches his eye. He keeps going, his thoughts bound in memories and the sadness of loss.

The guard has seen him coming and has set a chair out for him next to one particular display case. Joona Linna takes his seat and lifts his eyes to the Sami bridal crown before him. The eight points of the crown are like linked hands, and the crown shines softly in the light behind the thin glass. Inside himself, Joona can hear a voice, and he sees a face smiling at him as he sits behind the wheel of his car. He is driving. It rained that day, but now the sun is reflecting in the puddles on the road so brightly, it’s as if they’re lit by fires below. He turns toward the backseat to make sure that Lumi has been buckled in properly.

The bridal crown appears to have been made from light branches of leather or braided hair. He drinks in its promise of love and joy and remembers how his wife looked: her serious smile, her sand-colored hair brushing her face.

“How are you doing today?” the guard asks.

Joona looks up at the guard in surprise. The man has been working here for many years. He’s middle-aged with stubble on his cheeks and tired eyes.

“I really don’t know,” Joona replies as he gets up from the chair.


the blurred face

Joona Linna and Saga Bauer are in the car on their way to the interview with Pontus Salman in Silencia Defense’s main office. They’re bringing the photograph that the technicians at the National Bureau of Investigation have enlarged. Quietly they travel south on Highway 73, which runs like a dirty track down to Nynashamn.

Two hours ago, Joona had been looking again at the four people sitting in the box: Raphael with his calm face and balding pate; Palmcrona with his weak smile and steel-framed glasses; Pontus Salman with his placid, almost boyish demeanor; and Agathe al-Haji with her wrinkled cheeks and intelligent, heavy gaze.

“I have an idea,” Joona had said slowly, catching Saga’s eye. “If we could reduce the picture quality and touch it up so that Pontus Salman is no longer identifiable…”

He falls silent as he follows his internal train of thought.

“What would we achieve?” asks Saga.

“He doesn’t know that we have a sharp original picture-right?”

“How could he? He’d expect us to make the photo more in focus, not the opposite.”

“Exactly. We’ve done all we could to identify the four people in the picture and we’ve figured out three. The fourth is somewhat turned away and the face is too blurry.”

“You’re thinking we should give him the chance to lie,” Saga says. “To claim that he wasn’t there and that he hasn’t met Palmcrona, Agathe al-Haji, and Raphael.”

“If he denies he was there, then the meeting itself was the secret.”

“And if he starts to lie, we have him in a trap.”

They pass Handen and then turn off at the Jordbrolanken exit. They roll into an industrial area surrounded by silent forest.

The head office for Silencia Defense is located in a dull-gray impersonal concrete building. Joona takes a good look at it, with its blacktinted windows. He thinks again about the four people in the photo, which unleashed a chain of violence leading to a dead young girl and the sorrow of her mother. Perhaps Penelope Fernandez and Bjorn Almskog are also dead by now because of this picture. Joona steps out of the car and his jaw tightens. Pontus Salman, one of the people in this enigmatic photograph, is inside this building right now.

The original photograph is safely in the hands of the National Forensic Laboratory in Linkoping. Tommy Kofoed has created a copy that appears old and worn like the original. One corner is missing and tape remains are seen on the others. Kofoed has rendered Pontus Salman’s face and hand blurry so that it appears that Salman was moving at the moment the photograph was taken.

Salman will think that he’s in luck-he alone is unrecognizable. Nothing connects him to the meeting with Raphael Guidi, Carl Palmcrona, and Agathe al-Haji. The only thing he needs to do is deny that it’s him. It’s not a crime to not recognize oneself in a blurry picture and to not remember meeting certain people.

They start toward the entrance.

If he denies it, we’ve caught him in a lie and we know he wants to keep something secret.

The air is oppressively hot and humid.

Saga nods seriously at Joona as they walk through the shiny, heavy entrance doors.

And if Salman starts to lie, Joona thinks, we’ll make sure he continues to lie until he’s so entangled he can’t get free.

The reception area is large and cold.

When Pontus Salman looks at the photograph and says that he can’t identify the people in it, we’ll say that it’s unfortunate that he can’t help us, Joona continues to think. We’ll get ready to leave and then we’ll stop and ask him to take one more look with a magnifying glass. The technician has left a signet ring visible on the hanging hand. We’ll ask Pontus Salman if he recognizes the clothes, the shoes, or the pinkie ring. He’ll be forced to lie again, and then we will have reason to bring him in for questioning and press him harder.

Behind the reception desk, there is a lighted red emblem emblazoned with the company name and a serpentine logo encircled by runes.

“ ‘He fought as long as he had a weapon,’ ” Joona says.

“Can you read runes now?” asks Saga skeptically.

Joona points at the sign with the translation as he walks to the reception desk. A pale man with thin, dry lips is ensconced behind the desk.

“Pontus Salman,” Joona says shortly.

“Do you have an appointment?”

“Two o’clock,” Saga says.

The receptionist shuffles through some papers, flips to one, and reads.

“Yes, that’s right,” he says as he raises his eyes. “Unfortunately, Pontus Salman sends his regrets. He cannot make this meeting.”

“We received no notice of a cancellation,” Saga says. “We must talk to him-”

“I am very sorry.”

“Please call him. Tell him we’re here,” Saga says.

“I’ll try, but I believe… he’s in a meeting.”

“On the fourth floor,” Joona inserts.

“The fifth,” the receptionist corrects automatically.

Saga sits down in one of the reception chairs. The sun streams in through the windows and spreads like fire in her hair. Joona remains standing as the receptionist lifts his phone to his ear and taps a number. The busy signal sounds and the receptionist shakes his head.

“Hang up,” Joona says. “We’ll just surprise him instead.”

“Surprise him?” the receptionist repeats uncertainly.

Joona simply walks to the glass door beyond the reception desk and opens it.

“You don’t even need to tell him we’re coming,” Joona says. Saga gets up from the chair and follows Joona.

“Wait!” the man calls out. “I’ll try to-”

They keep walking through the hallway and into an open elevator. They punch the button for the fifth floor. The door closes and the elevator moves silently upward.

Pontus Salman is waiting for them when the doors open. He is about forty years old and there is a worn, tired look to his face.

“Welcome,” he says drily.


Pontus Salman looks them over.

“A detective and a fairy-tale princess,” he says.

As they follow Salman through a long hallway, Joona runs through their plan in his mind.

Joona feels a cold shiver down his back-as if Viola Fernandez is opening her eyes right then in her cold box, watching him expectantly.

The hallway is lined with dark-tinted glass, creating an aura of timelessness. The office itself is fairly large and contains a desk of elm wood and a light gray sofa group around a black glass coffee table.

They each take one of the stuffed chairs. Pontus Salman smiles cheerlessly and forms a steeple with his hands. Then he asks, “Why are you here?”

“You know that Carl Palmcrona of ISP is dead?” asks Saga.

Salman nods. “I heard it was a suicide.”

“Our investigation into that is not yet finished,” Saga says in a friendly manner. “We’re following up on a photograph we found. We want to find out who these people are around Palmcrona.”

“Three of them are clear, but one person is blurry,” Joona says.

“We’d like some of your employees to take a look, too. Perhaps someone will recognize him. One hand, for instance, is a little sharper.”

“I understand,” Salman says and purses his lips.

“Maybe someone can tell who it is from the context,” Saga says. “It’s worth a try.”

“We’ve visited Patria and Saab Bofors Dynamics,” Joona says. “None of them knows.”

Pontus Salman’s tired face shows nothing at all. Joona wonders to himself if Salman takes pills to keep calm and self-confident. There’s something remarkably lifeless in his eyes-a lack of expression and contact-as if something inside has slid away, leaving him with no connection to anything at all.

“You must think this is important,” Salman says, crossing one leg over the other.

“Indeed we do,” Saga says.

“May I see this unusual photograph?” Pontus Salman asks in his easy but impersonal manner.

“Besides Palmcrona, we’ve identified the weapons dealer, Raphael Guidi,” Joona says. “We’ve also identified Agathe al-Haji, who is the military adviser for President al-Bashir… but no one recognizes this fourth person.”

Joona takes out the folder, and then hands over the photograph in its protective plastic cover. Saga points to the blurred person. Joona watches her concentrate on Salman to register every nuance, every nervous signal in his body if he lies.

Salman moistens his lips and, even though his cheeks turn pale before he smiles, he taps the photograph and says, “But that’s me!”

“It’s you?”

“Yes,” he says with a laugh, revealing small, childlike front teeth.


“We had a meeting in Frankfurt,” he continues with a pleased smile. “We were listening to a wonderful… well, I don’t remember what they were playing… maybe Beethoven…”

Joona tries to understand this unexpected confession. He clears his throat.

“You’re absolutely sure?”

“Of course,” Salman says.

“Well, that solves that puzzle,” Saga says warmly with no hint of their miscalculation.

“Maybe I should get a job at Sapo,” Salman jokes.

“If I may ask, what was this meeting about?” asks Joona.

“I can talk about it now.” Salman laughs and looks directly at Joona. “This photo was taken in the spring of 2008. We were discussing a shipment of ammunition to Sudan. Agathe al-Haji was negotiating on behalf of the government. The area needed to stabilize after the peace agreement in 2005. The negotiations were fairly far along, but all our work went up in smoke in the spring of 2009, of course. We were shaken, yes, you understand… and since then, we’ve had no contact with Sudan.”

Joona looks at Saga since he has no idea what happened in the spring of 2009. Saga is wearing a neutral expression, so he decides to ask another question.

“How many meetings did you have?”

“Just the one,” he answers. “And even I can see how it appears odd that the director of ISP is accepting a glass of champagne.”

“You think?” Saga asks.

“There was nothing to celebrate. But perhaps he was just thirsty,” Salman says with a smile.


the hiding place

Penelope and Bjorn have no idea how long they’ve remained hidden within this deep crevice on the face of a cliff. They simply couldn’t run any farther. Their bodies were beyond exhausted and they’d taken turns sleeping and keeping watch.

In the beginning, it seemed as if their pursuer had anticipated every move they’d made, but now the sense of his immediate presence was gone. For some time, he’d been noticeably quiet. That clammy feeling on their backs, the chilling sensation of someone running right behind them, had disappeared the moment they made the unpredictable choice of heading for the center of the forest and away from humankind and the mainland.

Penelope is uncertain if her mother’s answering machine caught any of her words. But soon someone will find Bjorn’s boat, she thinks. After that, the police will start looking for us. All they need to do is stay hidden long enough from their pursuer.

Although the rounded rock surface above is covered in moss, the crevice in the cliff is bare stone and in many spots clear water is dripping. It had been hot when they first found this spot, and they had lapped the water and decided to stay for the rest of the day. Toward evening, as the sun sank behind the shadow of the trees, they’d fallen asleep.

Dreams and dozing memories are mixed in Penelope’s mind. She hears Viola play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on her tiny violin with stickers on the fingerboard to show where the fingers should go. She watches Viola put on pink eye shadow and pinch her cheeks in front of the mirror.

Penelope gasps when she wakes up.

Bjorn is sitting wide awake with his arms around his knees and trembling.

This is the dawn after the third night and they can’t bear it any longer. They are hungry and weak. They leave their hiding place and begin to walk.

It’s almost morning when Penelope and Bjorn come to the water’s edge. The sun’s red rays form glowing streaks along the long veils of clouds. The water is still in the morning calm. Two mute swans glide beside each other on the surface, paddling quietly away.

Bjorn extends his hand to lead Penelope to the water. His legs wobble with fatigue. He slips, then steadies himself on a rock as he gets back up. Penelope looks stiffly straight ahead with an empty gaze as she takes off her shoes, ties the laces together, and hangs them around her neck.

“Come on,” Bjorn whispers. “We’re just going swimming. Don’t think about it. Just keep swimming.”

Penelope wants to ask him to wait. She’s not sure she can do this, but he’s already wading into the water. She shivers and looks out toward the island opposite them and farther out in the archipelago.

She wades in and feels the cold water around her calves and then her thighs. The bottom under her feet is rocky and slippery but soon disappears deeper underwater. She has no time to hesitate but glides into swimming as she follows Bjorn.

Her arms ache and her clothes drag on her as she starts to swim to the far shore. Bjorn is already way ahead.

It’s a major effort. Every stroke feels unendurable as every muscle cries out for rest.

The island of Kymmendo is a sandy beach on the other side. Penelope kicks with exhausted legs, fighting to stay afloat. The first rays of sun over the treetops are blinding. They hurt her eyes and she stops swimming. She’s not cramping up but her arms can do no more; they’re giving up. In just a few seconds, her wet clothes start to drag her below the surface before her arms obey her commands again. When she breaks the surface and gasps for air, she’s terrified. Adrenaline pumps through her body and she sucks in more air, but she has lost her direction. She sees only ocean. Desperately she treads water and swirls around just keeping herself from wild screams. Finally she spots Bjorn’s bobbing head, barely above the surface of the water, about fifty meters ahead. Penelope starts to swim again, but she’s not sure she’ll ever make it to the other island.

The shoes around her neck hinder her strokes and she tries to get rid of them, but the laces tangle in her crucifix. Then the thin chain of her crucifix snaps and everything sinks to the bottom of the sea.

She swims onward, feeling her heart pound in her chest. It takes a moment or so to realize she can see Bjorn staggering up onto land. He’s looking back for her when he should be finding cover. For all they know, their pursuer could be on the north shore of Orno Island, searching for them through his binoculars.

Penelope slows down more and more. She feels the weight and the slowness in her legs as the lactic acid spreads through them. She can barely swim at all. Bjorn looks fearful. He wades back into the water toward her. She is almost ready to give up, but takes one stroke after another. At last she feels the ground beneath her feet. Bjorn is in the water beside her and he wraps his arm around her and pulls her close and then up onto the pebble-filled sandy beach.

“Hide,” Penelope whispers hoarsely.

He helps her past the beach and in among the spruce trees, until they can no longer see the ocean. They fall down on some moss and blueberries and hug, as much to warm themselves as to comfort each other.

“We can’t keep this up,” Penelope says through chattering teeth, her face pressed into his chest.

“We’ll help each other.”

Eventually they get back up, steadying each other, and walk again on stiff legs in silence as they make their way east. Twenty minutes later, they emerge on the other side of the island. The sun is high in the sky now; the air is getting warmer. Penelope stops short when she sees a tennis ball lying in the high grass of a meadow. Its greenish-yellow color is completely foreign to her. She glances up and sees the tiny red house. It’s almost completely hidden behind a tight hedge of lilac bushes. The curtains in all its windows are closed and there’s a hammock without pillows in the arbor; the lawn is overgrown and a broken branch from the old apple tree lies across the path of gray paving stones.

“Nobody’s home,” Penelope whispers.

They sneak closer, prepared to hear a dog bark or someone yell. They spy through the gaps between the curtains and continue around to the front and try the door. It’s locked.

“I’ll break a window,” Bjorn says. “We have to rest.”

Next to the wall, there’s a clay pot holding a tiny bush with narrow pale green leaves. Penelope smells the sweet scent of lavender. She bends down to pick up one of the stones from the pot. This stone is plastic and underneath it, there’s a little lid. She opens it and takes out the key before she puts the fake stone back.

Inside, the hall floor is made of pine. Penelope feels her legs shake. They’re about to give way. The wallpaper is a plush medallion pattern. Penelope is so tired and hungry that the house appears unreal-a gingerbread house from a fairy tale. Covering the walls are framed photos. Bjorn and Penelope recognize many faces from popular Swedish television programs: Siewert Oholm, Bengt Bedrup, Kjell Lonna, Arne Hegerfors, Magnus Harenstam, Malena Ivarsson, Jacob Dahlin.

They walk through the house, past the living room and into the kitchen. They cast a look around with worried eyes.

“We can’t stay here,” Penelope whispers.

Bjorn goes to the refrigerator and opens the door. The shelves are filled with fresh food. The house is not abandoned after all. Bjorn grabs some cheese, a log of salami, a quart of milk. Penelope finds a baguette and a box of breakfast cereal in the pantry. They rip the bread apart and pass the cheese back and forth between them as they eagerly bite off chunks. Bjorn gulps milk straight from the carton. It runs from the corners of his mouth down his throat. Penelope gnaws the salami and follows that with handfuls of breakfast cereal. Taking the milk carton from Bjorn, she swigs so much she chokes, then drinks some more. They grin nervously at each other, moving away from the window as they devour the food before finally slowing down.

“Let’s find some warm clothes before we have to leave again,” Penelope says.

As they search the house, they feel the warmth of the food expanding inside. Their blood seems to flow more freely, even as their stomachs ache.

There’s a wall-size wardrobe with mirrored doors in the master bedroom. Penelope rushes forward and pushes half of the door to one side.

“What’s this?”

There are gold jackets, black glittering cummerbunds, a golden tuxedo, and a medium-length fluffy fur coat. Penelope’s eyebrows lift as she rummages through banana hammocks of all kinds: see-through, tiger-striped, camouflage, and stretch-fabric G-strings.

She slides open the other wardrobe door and finds simpler clothes: sweaters, jackets, pants. She searches quickly and pulls out some items. Unsteadily, she takes off her soaked clothes.

She catches sight of her naked self in the mirror. She’s black and blue all over and her hair dangles in black strings. Her face is marked with scratches and bruises across her cheekbones. Blood still seeps from one of the gashes on her thigh and her hip is scraped from the fall down the cliff.

She pulls on a pair of pin-striped trousers and a T-shirt with the saying “Eat more oatmeal!” and a hoodie over that. The hoodie is so long, it hangs to her knees. She warms up enough so that her entire body wants to relax. She suddenly bursts into tears, but stops them, smudging away the tears from her cheeks. She goes into the hall to look for shoes. There she finds a pair of blue sailor boots that fit. Back in the bedroom, Bjorn, even though he is wet and muddy, has pulled on a pair of lilac velour pants. His feet look horrible. They are covered with dirt and wounds; he leaves bloodstains wherever he walks. He pulls on a blue T-shirt and a narrow-cut blue leather jacket with wide lapels. Penelope begins to cry again, her tears now streaming out in waves. She can no longer hold them back. It’s as if all the anguish and terror are now making their way out.

“What’s going on?” she sobs.

“I have no idea,” Bjorn whispers.

“We haven’t even seen his face. What does he want from us? What the hell does he want? Why is he after us? Why does he want to hurt us?”

She jerks the sleeve of her sweater across her face.

“I think,” she says, “I mean… what if… what if Viola has done something bad, something stupid? You know her boyfriend, Sergei, the guy she broke up with, he must be connected to something criminal… maybe… all I know is that he worked as a bouncer.”


“I’m just saying, Viola, she’s so… maybe she’s done something wrong.”

“No, it’s not her,” Bjorn whispers.

“What do you mean? We don’t know anything! You don’t have to comfort me.”

“There’s something I have to-”

“He… the man who was after us… maybe he just had something to tell us. No, I know, that’s ridiculous… I mean, I don’t know what I mean.”

“Penny,” Bjorn says seriously. “Everything that’s happened is my fault.”

He looks at her. His eyes are bloodshot, and his cheeks burn red against his pale skin.

“What are you saying now?” she asks in a deadly quiet voice.

He swallows awkwardly before he explains.

“I’ve done something incredibly stupid, Penny.”

“What? What have you done?”

“That photograph,” he answers. “It’s all because of that photograph.”

“Which photograph? The one of Palmcrona and Guidi?”

“That’s the one. I got in touch with Palmcrona,” Bjorn answers honestly. “I told him I wanted money for the picture, but-”

“You didn’t,” she whispers.

Penelope stares at him and instinctively steps backward, managing to knock over the bedside table with its water glass and clock radio.


“No! No! No! Just shut the hell up!” she’s screaming. “I don’t get it! What the fuck are you trying to tell me? You can’t mean it… you couldn’t have… have you lost your mind? You tried to blackmail Palmcrona? Where was your mind?”

“Listen to me! I regretted it at once. I know it was wrong! He got the picture. I mailed him the picture.”

The room falls silent. Penelope tries to comprehend what Bjorn has told her. Confused thoughts circle through her mind, and she fights to understand Bjorn’s confession.

“That picture belonged to me,” she says slowly. She’s still trying to control her thoughts. “It might be extremely important. Maybe an incredibly important photograph. I was given it in confidence. Someone may be able to explain-”

“I needed money. I didn’t want to have to sell my boat,” Bjorn whispers. He looks like he’s about to cry.

“I still don’t get it-you mailed the picture to Palmcrona?”

“But I had to, Penny. I know it was yours and that it was wrong to send it, but I had to give him the picture.”

“But I’ve got to get it back!” she says desperately. “Don’t you understand? What if the person who sent it to me wants it back? This is big. It’s dealing with Swedish arms exports. This isn’t about your money or lack of it… this has nothing to do with you or me… this is way beyond just us, Bjorn.”

Penelope looks at him in despair. Her voice rises until she’s practically shrieking.

“This is about the lives of human beings! You betrayed me.” With those words her voice falls heavily. “I am so angry with you, I could hit you. This is something I just can’t deal with now.”

“But, Penny, I didn’t know,” he whines. “How was I supposed to know? You never tell me anything. All you said was this picture would embarrass Palmcrona. You never said-”

She interrupts him. “What does that matter?”

“I only thought-”

“Shut the fuck up!” she screams. “I don’t want to listen to your idiotic excuses! You tried to blackmail someone-you’re a greedy little bastard! I don’t know you at all. And you sure as hell don’t know me!”

She falls silent and they stand facing each other. A seagull screams as it flies over the water and then there are other seagulls adding their screams as complaining echoes.

“We have to get out of here soon,” Bjorn says without energy.

Penelope nods and then they hear the click as the outer door opens. Instinctively they move together deeper into the bedroom. They hear the heavy footsteps of a man. Bjorn tries to open the French doors, but they’re locked. Penelope tries unlatching the windows, but she already knows it’s way too late.


the winner

“What the hell are you doing here?” the man in the doorway demands in a hoarse voice.

Penelope understands immediately that he’s the owner of the house-not their pursuer. He’s short, broad, slightly chubby. His face seems familiar, as if he’s someone she once knew.

“Are you drug addicts?” he asks with interest.

His face clicks into place. They’ve broken into Ossian Wallenberg’s house. He was a beloved television celebrity, last on the air ten years ago. He hosted many popular variety shows: Golden Friday, Up the Wall, Lion Evening. And he had contests on his shows: games, and prizes, and special guests. Every Golden Friday ended the same way. Ossian would lift up his guest. He’d be smiling and his face would turn red. Penelope remembered that as a child, she’d once seen him pick up Mother Teresa. The delicate old woman had looked completely terrified. Ossian Wallenberg was known for his golden hair, his extravagant clothes-and his studied viciousness.

“We’ve been in an accident,” Bjorn says. “We have to notify the police.”

“I see,” Ossian says indifferently. “I only have a cell phone here.”

“That’s okay. Please, we need to borrow it. We’re desperate.”

Ossian takes out his cell phone, looks at it, and then closes it again.

“What are you doing?” Penelope practically yells.

“I do whatever I want to do,” Ossian replies.

“Look, we really need to borrow your phone,” she says.

“Then you’ll need my PIN number.” Ossian smiles.

“What game are you playing?”

Ossian leans on the doorjamb and observes them for a while.

“Just think, a pair of drug addicts have found their way to little old me.”

“We’re not-”

“No one cares,” says Ossian.

“Let’s go,” Penelope tells Bjorn.

But Bjorn seems incapable of moving. His cheeks and lips are white and he supports himself with one hand on the wall.

“Sorry that we broke into your house,” he says. “We’ll pay for everything we took. But really, we have to use your phone right now. Like she said, it’s a desperate situation-”

“And what’s your name?” Ossian interrupts, smiling.


“You’re looking handsome in my jacket, Bjorn, but why not the tie as well? I’ve got a tie that matches the suit perfectly.”

Ossian walks to his wardrobe and takes out a blue leather tie. Playing along, Bjorn submits to having it tied around his neck.

“You should call the police!” Penelope says. “Tell them that two drug addicts have broken into your house and you caught them in the act.”

“That’s no fun,” Ossian replies.

“So what do you want?” Penelope asks desperately.

Ossian steps back and studies his intruders.

“I don’t like her,” he says to Bjorn. “But you, on the other hand, you have style. My jacket really looks good on you. Let her keep that ugly sweater, right? She looks like Helge the Owl. She doesn’t even look Swedish. She looks like a-”

“Cut it out,” Bjorn says.

Ossian walks close to Bjorn and shakes his finger in his face.

“Be good,” he teases.

“I know who you are,” Penelope says.

“I’m glad,” Ossian says with a smile.

Bjorn looks at her and then back at Ossian. Penelope collapses onto the edge of the bed and tries to breathe calmly.

“Wait a minute,” Ossian says. “I know you, too… I’ve seen you on TV. I recognize you.”

“I’ve been on some political debates-”

“And now you’re dead.” Ossian smiles.

Her entire body tenses. What strange words. She tries to understand what he’s talking about while she looks for a way to escape. Now Bjorn slides down along the wall to the floor, completely white and unable to say a word.

“If you don’t want to help us,” Penelope says, “then we’ll just leave and find someone who will.”

“Of course I want to help you! Of course!”

Ossian walks out into the hallway and returns with a grocery bag from which he takes a carton of cigarettes and an evening newspaper. He tosses the paper on the bed and leaves for the kitchen with the cigarettes. On the front page, Penelope sees a picture of herself, a larger picture of Viola, and one of Bjorn. Over Viola’s picture is the word DEAD and over their pictures is the word MISSING.

BOAT DRAMA-THREE FEARED DEAD! screams the headline.

Penelope can see her mother in her mind’s eye: terrified and broken by sorrow-perhaps completely frozen, her arms wrapped around her body, just as she’d done when they had been arrested.

The floor creaks as Ossian returns.

“Let’s play a game!”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m really in the mood for a game! A competition!”

“A competition?” Bjorn whispers uncertainly.

“You can’t tell me that you don’t know what a competition is?”

“Of course, but-”

Penelope studies Ossian and realizes they’re in a precarious position. No one knows that they’re still alive. He could even decide to kill them, since everyone else believes they’re already dead.

“He’s testing his power over us,” Penelope says.

“Will you hand over your phone and your PIN number if we play?” asks Bjorn.

“Only if you win,” Ossian answers, and smiles at them with glittering eyes.

“What happens if we lose?” asks Penelope.


the messenger

Axel Riessen walks to his kitchen window and looks out over the rosebushes, past the iron fence, down the street, and toward the wide staircase of Engelbrekt Church.

The instant he’d signed his name to the employment contract, he’d taken over all of the late Carl Palmcrona’s duties and responsibilities.

It felt very good, it felt right. First thing I do, he told himself, is begin a collaboration with the United Nations as regards the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

He smiles to himself and marvels at how life can take strange turns. Then he remembers Beverly. His stomach flutters with worry. One time she’d told him that she was going to the store, but four hours later, she still hadn’t returned. He’d gone out to search for her. He’d finally found her sitting in a wheelbarrow outside of the Observatory Museum. She was confused, smelled like alcohol, and her underwear was missing. Someone had stuck gum in her hair.

She said she’d run into some boys in the park.

“They were throwing stones at an injured dove,” Beverly explained. “So I thought that I’d give them my money so they’d stop. But I only had twelve crowns. That wasn’t enough. They wanted me to do something else instead. They told me they would stomp the dove to death if I didn’t.”

She became quiet and tears came into her eyes.

“I didn’t want to do it, but I felt so sorry for the dove.”

Axel takes out his cell phone and calls Beverly’s number.

As the signal roams, he looks down the road, past the building that once housed the Chinese embassy, and down to the dark house where the Catholic network Opus Dei has its main headquarters.

His own building is an enormous mansion he and his brother, Robert, share. It is situated on Bragevagen in the middle of Larkstaden, an exclusive district between Ostermalm and Vasastan. All the houses there look alike, as if they were children produced from the same family.

The Riessen residence has two apartments, one on each side. Each one is three stories tall and is completely separate from the other.

Their father, Erloff Riessen, has been dead for twenty years. He was the Swedish ambassador to France and then England, while his brother, Torleif Riessen, had been a famous pianist who’d performed at Symphony Hall in Boston and the Grosser Musikvereinssaal in Vienna. The noble house of Riessen always ran to two professions, diplomats and classical musicians, and the two were strangely similar: they demanded absolute obedience and submission.

The father and mother, Erloff and Alice Riessen, decided on a logical agreement: from childhood Axel should devote himself to music while his younger brother, Robert, would be trained in his father’s profession as a diplomat. This arrangement was turned upside down when Axel made the greatest mistake of his life. He was seventeen years old when he was forced to leave the music profession. Instead, he was sent to a military academy while Robert now trained as the family musician. Axel accepted his punishment, even thought it was fair, and since that day, he vowed never to pick up the violin again.

Axel’s mother never again spoke with him.

After nine rings, Beverly answers the phone, coughing.


“Where are you?” Axel demands.


She must have turned her face from the receiver because he couldn’t understand her next words.

“I can’t hear you,” he says, even more frightened. His voice is sharp and forced.

“Are you angry with me?”

“Just tell me where you are,” he pleads.

“You’re going on and on!” she says and laughs. “I’m here in my apartment, of course. Are you all right?”

“I was just worried.”

“Silly, I was just about to watch a show on Princess Victoria.” She hangs up and he feels that ongoing worry. There is a vague tone to her voice.

He looks at the phone and wonders if he should dial her again. He jumps when the phone starts to ring.


“Jorgen Grunlicht here.”

“Hello,” Axel says with a little surprise in his voice.

“How was your meeting with the team?”

“It was fairly fruitful,” Axel replies.

“You made Kenya the priority, I hope.”

“As well as the final user certificate from the Netherlands,” Axel says. “There was a lot on the table and I’m waiting to decide where I stand. I need to research a little more-”

“But Kenya,” Grunlicht says. “Have you signed the export form yet? Pontus Salman is on my back wondering why it’s still held up. You understand that this is a damned big piece of business already way behind schedule. ISP had given them a positive preliminary decision and they’ve gone ahead with production, a damned large shipment already sent from Trollhattan to the docks in Gothenburg. The owner is sending a container ship from Panama tomorrow. They’ll unload their cargo during the day and then the next day they can load the ammunition.”

“Jorgen, I understand all this. I’ve gone over the paperwork and sure… I’ll sign it, but I’ve just started this job and I need to be thorough.”

“I, myself, went through the whole business,” Jorgen says in a brusque manner. “There’s nothing unclear about it.”

“No, but-”

“Where are you now?”

“I’m at home,” Axel says, even more mystified.

“I’ll send the paperwork by messenger,” Jorgen says shortly. “The messenger will wait while you sign it. Then we won’t lose any more time.”

“That’s not really necessary. I’ll look at it tomorrow,” Axel protests.

Twenty minutes later, Axel goes to the door at the persistent ring of the messenger sent by Jorgen Grunlicht. He’s greatly troubled by Grunlicht’s obstinacy. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to delay this piece of business.


the signature

Axel opens the door and greets the bike messenger. The warm evening air sweeps into the house along with the pounding music from the end-of-the-year party at the School of Architecture.

Axel takes the folder and yet feels awkward about signing the contract in front of the messenger. He feels he would look like he’s caving in under a bit of pressure.

“Just a minute,” he says and gestures for the messenger to wait in the hallway.

Axel walks through his side of the house, through the library, and into the kitchen, past its granite counters, the glossy black cabinets, and up to the double-door refrigerator with its ice machine. He takes out a mini-bottle of mineral water and drinks straight from it as he loosens his tie. He sits on a high stool next to the bar counter and opens the folder.

Everything is neat, tidy, and appears to be in order. Every appendix is in its proper place: the opinion of the Export Control Committee, the classification, the preliminary decision, the copies for the Foreign Office, and the tender notice. He scans the document concerning export permission and flips to the line where the general director for the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products is supposed to sign his name.

A chill shivers through his body.

This is really big business. It appears to be a routine matter only delayed by the tragic suicide of Carl Palmcrona, but it is clear that it seriously affects his country’s trade balance. He understands that Pontus Salman’s situation is so precarious that this delay might drive his company under if drawn out much longer.

But while he understands this, Axel also understands that he is being pressured to approve export of ammunition to Kenya without being given the opportunity to personally weigh the decision.

Axel makes a decision and immediately feels much better.

He’ll devote his attention to this matter over the next few days-and only then will he sign the approval.

He will sign, he’s pretty sure of that, but he can’t sign now. He doesn’t care if they get angry or upset. He is the person who must make the decision: he is now the general director for the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products.

He doodles a smiley face and draws a one-word dialogue bubble on the signature line.

Axel returns to the hall wearing a stern expression and hands the folder back to the messenger. Then he goes upstairs and into the salon. He’s wondering if Beverly is really upstairs or if she didn’t dare tell him that she had sneaked out.

What if she sneaks out and then disappears?

Axel picks up a remote for his music system and selects a mix of David Bowie’s earliest work. His music system looks like a shiny sheet of glass. It’s wireless and the speakers are completely invisible and set into the walls.

He goes to the elaborate liquor cabinet, opens its embossed doors, and considers the gleaming bottles. He hesitates before he picks up a numbered whiskey bottle of Hazelburn from the Springbank Distillery, one located in Scotland’s Campbeltown region. Axel once visited the area and had marveled at the hundred-year-old barrels. They were well worn, painted in clear red, and still in use. He pulls out the cork and breathes in the scent of the whiskey: deep earth and dark like a thunderstorm. Then he pushes in the cork again and slowly returns the bottle to the cabinet. The music system is playing a song from Hunky Dory. David Bowie sings:

But her friend is nowhere to be seen.

Now she walks through her sunken dream,

To the seat with the clearest view,

And she’s hooked to the silver screen.

The door to his brother’s apartment slams shut. Axel looks out through the enormous panorama windows with their view of the overgrown garden. He wonders if Robert is going to stop by and at the same moment, he hears the knock on his door.

“Come in,” Axel calls out.

Robert marches in looking disturbed.

“I realize that you play that crap in order to drive me crazy, but-”

Axel smiles and starts to sing along:

Take a look at the Lawman,

Beating up the wrong guy.

Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know:

He’s in the bestselling show…

Robert does a few dance steps and walks over to the open liquor cabinet. He takes a look at the bottles.

“Go ahead and help yourself,” Axel says drily.

“Could you take a look at my Strosser-can I turn off the music for a moment?”

Axel shrugs. Robert hits STOP.

“The Strosser is finished?”

“I was up all night,” Robert says with a broad smile. “I attached the strings early this morning.”

There’s a moment of silence between them. A long time ago, their mother had been adamant that Axel would be a famous violinist. Alice Riessen had been a professional musician and played for ten years as second violin in the Stockholm Opera’s chamber music orchestra. She’d openly favored her firstborn son.

Everything fell apart when Axel, at the Royal College of Music, had become one of the three finalists in the Johan Fredrik Berwald Competition for young soloists. It would have been a straight shot from there into the world’s elite.

But after the competition, Axel had entered the Military Academy in Karlberg. Robert had enrolled in the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. He never became a star violinist. On the other hand, he plays in a chamber orchestra and now owns a renowned atelier where he takes orders for stringed instruments from around the world.

“Show me your violin,” Axel says after a while.

Robert nods and goes to get the instrument. It’s a beautiful violin with a fiery-red lacquer and a bottom of tiger-striped maple.

He stands before his brother and begins to play a trembling strain from a Bela Bartok piece inspired by a journey through the Hungarian countryside. Axel has always liked Bartok, who as an open opponent of Nazism was forced to flee his native land. Axel admires Bartok’s ability to be deeply thoughtful yet able to create short bursts of pure joy. Or to write melancholy folk music amid the ruins of a great catastrophe, Axel thinks as Robert finishes the piece.

“It sounds very good,” Axel says. “But you should move the sound post slightly as there’s a dead spot that-”

Robert’s face shuts down.

“Daniel Strosser said that he wanted… a sound like this,” Robert says. “He wants the violin to sound like a young Birgit Nilsson.”

“Then you should absolutely move the sound post,” Axel says with a smile.

“You don’t understand! I just wanted you to-”

“Otherwise it’s an excellent instrument,” Axel hurries to add.

“You hear the sound-dry and sharp and-”

“I’m not saying it’s a bad violin,” Axel continues impassively. “I’m only saying that there’s a spot in the sound that is not alive-”

“Alive? This is a Bartok performer buying this violin,” Robert says. “We’re talking about Bartok, and that’s not the same thing as David Bowie.”

“Maybe I heard wrong,” Axel responds quietly.

Robert opens his mouth to answer when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Robert’s wife, Anette.

She opens the door and smiles when she sees Robert holding his violin.

“So you were trying out the Strosser?” she asks expectantly.

“Yes,” Robert says harshly. “But Axel doesn’t like it.”

“That’s not true,” Axel says. “I’m sure his customer will be perfectly satisfied. What I was saying might just be a figment of my imagination-”

“Oh, Robert, don’t listen to him,” Anette says with irritation. “What does he know?”

Robert now just wants to leave and take his wife with him to avoid a scene, but she turns to Axel.

“Confess that you just imagined a fault,” she demands.

“There is no fault in it. Just an adjustment of the sound post that-”

“And when was the last time you played? Thirty years ago? Forty? You were nothing more than a child then. You owe Robert an apology.”

“Let it go,” Robert says.

“Say you’re sorry,” Anette demands.

“All right. I’m sorry,” Axel says. He feels his cheeks flush.

“You don’t want Robert to have the fame his new violin deserves.”

“I’m sorry.”

Axel turns his stereo back on very loud. Ziggy Stardust drops into rotation. The music sounds like two guitars that haven’t been tuned properly and a singer who is searching for the right note: Goodbye love, goodbye love…

Anette mutters something more about Axel’s lack of talent, but Robert tells her to just shut up as he pulls her out of the room. Axel raises the volume even higher and the drums and bass guitar turn the music around: Didn’t know what time it was and the lights were low oh oh. I leaned back on my radio oh oh.

Axel shuts his eyes and feels how they burn in the dark. He is already very tired. There are times when he can sleep for half an hour and at other times he can’t sleep at all, even when Beverly is in bed next to him. At those times, he wraps himself in a blanket and goes to sit on the glassed-in veranda with its view of the beautiful old trees in the garden. He will sit there until the dampened light of dawn appears. Of course, Axel understands completely what is wrong with him, and he closes his eyes and thinks back again to the day when his whole life changed.


the competition

Penelope and Bjorn study each other with tired, serious eyes. Through the closed door, they can hear Ossian Wallenberg singing “Do You Want to See a Star?” like Zarah Leander as he’s rearranging the furniture.

“We can take him on,” Penelope whispers.

“Maybe so.”

“We’ve got to try.”

“And what then? Are we going to torture him to get his PIN number?”

“I think he’ll give it to us once we’re in control,” Penelope says.

“What if he doesn’t?”

She sways from exhaustion as she walks to the window and begins to loosen the hooks. Her fingers are tender and swollen. Her fingernails are broken and embedded with dirt and clay and scabs.

“Maybe we can head farther up the beach,” she says.

“Good,” he says. “Go ahead.”

“I’m not going to leave you behind.”

“I can’t keep going, Penny,” he says, and he doesn’t look at her. “My feet-I can’t run anymore. At the most, maybe I could walk for another half hour.”

“I’ll help you.”

“Maybe there’s no one else with a phone on the whole island. We don’t know. We haven’t the slightest idea.”

“I don’t want to be part of his disgusting-”

“Penny, we have to contact the police. We have no choice: we have to use his phone.”

Ossian throws open the door with a grin. He’s wearing a leopard-patterned jacket with only a loincloth beneath. Ceremoniously he leads them to an enormous sofa. The curtains are still closed and he’s moved the other furniture to the side to open a big space in the living room for him to move freely. The little man steps into the spotlight formed by two floor lamps, stops, and turns.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Time flies when you have fun on a Friday evening!” he announces, winking. “We’ve reached the competition segment of our show and tonight we welcome this evening’s special guest, known from her appearances on television. She’s a shitty communist and she has an underage lover. This is a truly mismatched couple, if you ask me. A hag and a young man with a well-sculptured torso.”

Ossian winks again, and flexes his arm for the imaginary camera.

“Everybody ready?” he calls, jogging in place. “Do you have your approval buttons? I present: Truth or Consequences! Ossian challenges-the Hag and the Cutie!”

He spins an empty bottle on the floor. It rotates a few times and points to Bjorn.

“Cutie!” Ossian calls, smiling. “Cutie is the first man to play! Here’s the question! Are you ready to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”

“Absolutely,” Bjorn says with a sigh.

A drop of sweat falls from the tip of Ossian’s nose as he opens an envelope and reads out loud, “Who do you think about when you’re making love to the Hag?”

“Very funny,” says Penelope.

“Will you give me the phone if I answer?” asks Bjorn.

Ossian pouts like a child and shakes his head.

“No, but if our audience believes you, you’ll get the first digit of the PIN number.”

“And if I choose Consequence?”

“You’ll compete with me and the audience will decide,” Ossian says. “Time is running out. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Five, four, three, two…”

Penelope watches Bjorn in the wash of the strong lamplight: his dirty face, his stubble, his greasy hair. His nostrils dark with dried blood and his eyes so exhausted and bloodshot.

“I think about Penelope when we have sex,” Bjorn says.

Ossian boos and makes a disgusted grimace as he jogs in the lamplight.

“You’re supposed to tell the truth,” he shrieks. “That’s not even close! No one in the audience would ever believe that you think about the Hag when you’re sleeping with her. That’s one, two, three negative points for the Cutie!”

He spins the bottle again and it stops almost at once, pointed toward Penelope.

“Oh, oh, oh!” Ossian yells. “A special case! What does this mean? That’s right! Consequence directly! Direct to go! I’ll open the box and see what the Hippo has to say!”

Ossian picks up from the table a tiny hippopotamus made of dark lacquered wood. He holds it to his ear as if he’s listening and he nods.

“You mean the Hag?” he asks. He listens again. “I understand, Mr. Hippo! Yes indeed, thank you so very much!”

Ossian replaces the hippopotamus and turns to Penelope with a smile.

“The Hag will compete with Ossian! The area is Striptease! If you can turn on the audience better than Ossian can, you’ll get all the numbers of the PIN code-otherwise the Cutie will have to kick you in the ass as hard as he can!”

Ossian jumps up and down in front of his music system and hits a button so that the song “Teach Me Tiger” comes on.

“One time I lost this competition against Loa Falkman,” Ossian says in a stage whisper while he swings his hips in time to the music.

Penelope gets up from the sofa and takes a step forward. She stands there wearing sailor boots, the pin-striped trousers, and the hoodie.

“So you just want me to take off my clothes,” Penelope says. “Is that what this is all about? You just want to see me naked?”

Ossian stops singing and his mouth puckers in disappointment. He looks at her coldly before he replies.

“Do you believe I’d ever be interested in looking at a refugee whore’s tiny cunt? That’s easy enough to order on the Internet.”

Ossian hits her hard. She sways and almost falls, but manages to keep her balance.

“You need to be polite when you’re talking to me,” he says seriously.

“All right,” she mumbles.

A funny little smile distorts his mouth as he explains.

“I’m someone who often competes with celebrities from television… and I’ve seen you there, though I hurried to change the channel.”

She looks at his excited, flushed face.

“You’re not going to give us the phone, are you?”

“I promise I will. Rules are rules. You’ll get it after I get what I want.”

“You know we need help and you’re using that to-”

“Yes, of course, I’m using it!” he screams.

“All right, then, let’s say we strip for a while and then I get the phone.”

Penelope turns away from Ossian and pulls off the sweater and T-shirt. Her scrapes and wounds are discolorations in the strong light. Her body is covered in bruises and dried dirt. She turns around but keeps her arms over her breasts.

Bjorn claps and whistles although he looks sad.

Ossian’s face is sweaty, staring at Penelope. Then he stands in the lamplight in front of Bjorn. He rolls his hips and then whips off the loincloth and twirls it around. He lets it run between his legs before he throws it at Bjorn. Ossian kisses the air in front of Bjorn and makes an “I’ll call you” gesture.

Bjorn claps and whistles louder and keeps clapping as he sees Penelope edging near the fireplace to pick up the iron poker from its rack. The ash shovel next to it sways and clangs slightly against the large tongs.

Ossian is dancing in glittery gold underwear.

Penelope holds the poker with both hands as she walks up behind Ossian, who is rolling his hips at Bjorn.

“Get on your knees, Cutie,” Ossian whispers. “Get down and give it to me.”

Savagely Penelope brings up the heavy poker between his legs as hard as she can. There’s a loud smack and Ossian falls, screaming with an unearthly sound. He holds himself and writhes around on the floor, howling. Penelope walks over to the music system and gives it four vicious strokes, smashing it to bits while the music squeals to a stop.

Ossian is panting and moaning as he lies on the floor. Penelope walks over to him and he squints up at her with fearful eyes. She stands there looking impassively down. The heavy poker sways slightly in her right hand.

Penelope says calmly, “Mr. Hippo tells me that you’ll give me the phone and the PIN number right now.”


the maritime police

It’s extremely humid in Ossian Wallenberg’s summerhouse. Bjorn keeps getting up from a chair to look out the window at the ocean and the dock. Penelope is on the sofa with the phone in her hand, waiting for the police to call her back. They had taken her emergency call and had promised to call back once the maritime police boat got closer. Ossian is sitting in an armchair with a large whiskey glass in front of him. He watches them. He’s taken painkillers and says, depressed, that he’ll live.

Penelope keeps looking at the phone and notices that the signal is weaker but still strong enough to take a call. Anytime now they should be returning her call. She leans back. The humidity is suffocating. The T-shirt she’s wearing is damp with sweat. She closes her eyes and begins to think about the time she was in Darfur: the oppressive heat as she traveled to Kubbum by bus in order to join Jane Oduya and her work with Action Contre la Faim.

She’d been on her way to the barracks, which was the organization’s administration center, when she stopped. She’d glimpsed some children playing a strange game. It looked like they were putting clay figures in the road so that the passing vehicles would crush them. She walked closer. They laughed out loud whenever one of their clay figures was smashed.

“I killed another one! This one is an old man!”

“I killed another Fur!”

One of the children ran into the road and put out two clay figures. One was large and one was small. As a cart rolled past, the little one was crushed beneath its wheels.

“The kid died! That whore kid died!”

Penelope walked over to the children and asked them what they were doing. But they didn’t answer, just ran away instead. Penelope stared down at the clay fragments left on the burnt-orange dirt road.

The name Fur had been given to the people in the area of Darfur. This ancient African tribe was now being slaughtered because of the Janjaweed terror.

For centuries the African people had been farmers, and there had always been conflict between the farmers and the remaining nomadic tribes; that conflict seemed to have gone on since the beginning of time. But now oil had been discovered under the ground in Darfur, and the African tribes that farmed this soil seemingly forever were being shoved aside. Oil production drove everything-including the genocide. On paper, the old civil war was over, but the Janjaweed continued systematic raids. They would kill the men, rape the women, and then burn down the village.

Penelope watched the Arab children run away, and then she gathered up the remaining clay figures. Someone called out “Penny! Penny!”

She jumped, fearful, but then turned to see Jane Oduya standing and waving to her. Jane was fat and short. She wore faded jeans and a yellow jacket. Penelope could hardly recognize her. Her face had aged so much in just a few short years.


They hugged each other tightly.

“Don’t talk to those children,” Jane said. “They’re like so many others. They hate us because we are black. I don’t understand it. They just hate black skin.”

Jane and Penelope walked toward the refugee camp. The odor of burned milk overlay the stench of latrines. The blue plastic UN tarps were everywhere and used for everything: curtains, windshields, blankets. Hundreds of the Red Cross’s white tents shook in the wind coming across the open land.

Penelope followed Jane into the large hospital tent. Jane cast a glance through the plastic window to the surgical unit.

“My nurses have become good surgeons,” she said. “They can now perform amputations and the easy operations on their own.”

Two thin boys, about thirteen years old, brought in a large box with material for dressing wounds and set it down carefully. As they approached Jane, she thanked them and asked them to assist the women who were just arriving. The women needed water to wash their wounds.

The boys were soon back with water in two large plastic jugs.

“They used to belong to the Arab militia, but everything is quiet now. Without ammunition and weapons parts, equilibrium has set in. People have time on their hands and some have decided to help out here. We have a school for boys, many of whom used to be part of the militia.”

A woman on a cot moaned. Jane went to her and stroked her face. She didn’t seem to be more than fifteen years old but was greatly pregnant. One of her feet had been amputated.

An African man of about thirty, with a beautiful face and muscular shoulders, hurried over to Jane with a small white bottle.

“Thirty new doses of antibiotics!”

“Are you sure?”

He nodded, beaming.

“Good work!”

“I’m going to go and lean on Ross some more. He said that we might get a box of blood-pressure cuffs this week.”

“This is Grey,” Jane said. “He’s actually a teacher, but I couldn’t keep going without him.”

Penelope extended her hand and met the man’s laughing eyes.

“Penelope Fernandez.”

“Tarzan,” he replied as he gave her a gentle handshake.

“He wanted to be called Tarzan the minute he came here,” said Jane, laughing.

“Tarzan and Jane.” He smiled. “I’m her Tarzan.”

“I finally agreed to let him call himself Greystoke,” Jane said. “Everyone found Greystoke too hard to pronounce, however, so now he has to be content with the name Grey.”

A truck honked outside the tent. They stepped quickly out. Reddish dust, kicked up by the tires, swirled in the air. On the bed of the truck lay seven wounded men. They’d been shot in a village farther west when a firefight broke out over a well.

Surgery took up the rest of the day. One of the men died. At one point, Grey stopped Penelope and held out a water bottle to her. Penelope shook her head, but he smiled calmly and said, “You have time to drink.” She thanked him, drank the water, then helped him lift one of the wounded men onto a cot.

That evening, Penelope and Jane sat on the veranda of one of the living quarters of the barracks. The day had exhausted them. They’d eaten a late dinner. It was still fairly hot. They chatted and watched the road between the houses and the tents, watched the people going about the last chores of the day before nightfall.

Deep night brought an uneasy quiet. At first, Penelope could hear people going to bed: the rustling near the latrines and the small, almost silent movements in the darkness. Soon everything was totally quiet. Not even the sound of a crying baby.

“Everyone is still afraid that the Janjaweed will pass through here,” Jane said as she collected the plates.

They went inside, locked the door, and barricaded it. They said good night, and Penelope headed to the guest room farthest down the hallway.

Two hours later, she woke with a jerk. She’d fallen asleep, fully dressed, on the guest bed. She lay still, listening to the powerful night, not remembering what had awakened her. Her heart had begun to calm when she suddenly heard a scream outside. Penelope stood to one side of the barred window to look out into the night. The moon shone down over the road. She could hear angry voices. Three teenage boys walked in the middle of the street; without a doubt, they belonged to the Janjaweed militia. One had a pistol. Penelope grasped that they’d been yelling about killing slaves, about an old African man who usually grilled sweet potatoes and sold them for two dinars apiece while sitting on his blanket outside the UN storehouse.

The boys had gone up to the old man and spat in his face. Then the thin boy had raised his pistol and shot the old man in the face. The bang had reverberated eerily between the buildings. That’s what had jarred Penelope from her sleep. The boys had yelled, grabbed up some sweet potatoes, and eaten them while they kicked the rest into the dust beside the dead man.

They kept sauntering along the road, looking around. Then they headed for the barracks where Penelope and Jane lived. Penelope held her breath as she listened to them thump around the veranda, yelling excitedly as they banged on the door.

Penelope gasps for breath and opens her eyes. She must have fallen asleep on Ossian Wallenberg’s sofa.

Thunder rumbles in the background. The skies have turned dark.

Bjorn is standing at the window. Ossian is sipping his whiskey.

Penelope looks at the phone-no one has called.

The maritime police should have been here by now.

The claps of thunder are approaching. The ceiling light goes out and the fan in the kitchen stops. The power is out. The patter of rain starts gently on the roof and shutters, then increases until it seems the skies simply burst open and let the rain pour down.

All cell-phone coverage disappears.

Lightning flashes and lights the room for a second. A crash of thunder follows it.

Penelope leans back to listen to the rain. She feels the cooler air streaming inside through the windows and starts to doze off again when she hears Bjorn say something.

“What?” she asks.

“A police boat,” he repeats. “I see a police boat.”

Penelope quickly leaps up and looks out. The seawater seems to boil from the massive downpour. The large, official-looking launch is already close and heading for the dock. Penelope glances at the phone. No reception yet.

“Hurry up,” Bjorn says.

He tries to force the key in the lock of the French door. His hands are shaking. The police launch glides in next to the dock and blares a warning note.

“It doesn’t work,” Bjorn says. “This is the wrong key.”

“Oh, dear, oh, dear,” Ossian smirks. He takes out his key chain. “Why don’t you try this one instead.”

Bjorn fumbles with the door key, gets it into the lock, turns it, and hears the tumblers click open.

It’s hard to see the police launch through the rain. It has already started to move away from the dock when Bjorn manages to open the door.

“Bjorn!” Penelope yells.

They can hear the motor thud and white water churns up behind the launch. Bjorn waves wildly and runs through the rain as fast as he can down the gravel pathway to the dock.

“Up here!” he yells. “We’re over here!”

Bjorn doesn’t even notice how drenched he’s getting as he races down onto the dock. There is an underwater thud as the launch reverses its engines. Bjorn can barely make out the figure of a police officer in the wheelhouse. A new flash of lightning brightens the sky. It looks like the police officer is talking into his sea-to-shore radio. Rain pounds down on the roof of the launch and waves beat against the beach. Bjorn waves both arms. The launch turns back and bumps gently leeward-side against the dock.

Bjorn grabs onto the wet ladder and climbs aboard onto the foredeck, then clatters down a set of stairs to a metal door. The launch rocks in a swell. Bjorn staggers a second and then opens the door.

A sweet metallic smell fills the wheelhouse-oil and sweat.

The first thing Bjorn spots is a police officer, tanned from his work, lying on the floor with a bullet hole between eyes that are wide open. The pool of blood beneath him has dried almost black. Bjorn gasps, stunned, and looks around at a normal-looking clutter of belongings, magazines, raincoats. He hears a voice outside. It’s Ossian: his voice carrying over the pounding engine. He’s limping along the gravel pathway, a yellow umbrella over his head. Bjorn’s blood pounds in his head. He’s made a mistake. This is a trap. He fumbles for the door handle, dazedly seeing the splatter of blood on the inside of the windshield. The stairs to the sleeping quarters behind him creak and Bjorn fatally freezes, staring back at his nemesis. His pursuer wears a uniform. His face is alert, even curious. It’s already much too late to flee, but Bjorn spots a screwdriver from above the instrument panel as a last-resort defense. The man climbs up casually, holding on to the railing, and blinks in the stronger light. He looks through the windshield to the beach. The rain pounds down. Bjorn stabs for his heart and stumbles, suddenly not comprehending what has just happened. The man’s blow has numbed his arm from the shoulder down. It feels as if his arm no longer exists. The screwdriver clatters uselessly down and rolls behind an aluminum toolbox. The man now holds on to Bjorn’s useless arm and pulls him forward. Then another blow folds Bjorn’s body in on itself and he kicks Bjorn’s feet out from under him. The killer guides his fall so that his face takes the full force of his momentum against the footrest at the steering wheel. Bjorn’s neck is snapped by the collision. He feels nothing at all but does see strange sparks-small lights that jump about in darkness and then slow down and become more and more pleasant to watch. A quiver passes over his face, which he does not feel, and then he is dead.


the helicopter

Penelope stands at the window. The skies flash bright from lightning and thunder rolls over the sea. The rain pours down. Bjorn has disappeared into the wheelhouse of the police launch. She watches Ossian limp down toward the water, a yellow umbrella over his head. The metal door of the wheelhouse opens and a uniformed police officer steps out onto the foredeck, hops onto the dock, and ties up the boat.

Not until the policeman begins to walk up the gravel path does Penelope see who it is.

Her pursuer does not bother to answer Ossian’s greeting. His left hand snakes out to clutch Ossian under the chin.

Penelope’s phone drops from her hand unnoticed.

With professional ease, the man in uniform turns Ossian’s face to one side, slides a dagger into his own right hand, turns Ossian’s face farther awry, and then, in seconds, sends the dagger into Ossian’s neck right above the atlas vertebra and directly into the brain stem. The yellow umbrella falls to the ground and rolls down the slope. Ossian is dead before his body touches the earth.

The man strides closer. A pale flicker of lightning illuminates his face and Penelope meets his eyes. Before the darkness falls again, she can see the worried expression on his face, his exhausted, sad eyes, and his mouth, disfigured by a deep scar. The thunder rolls. The man never pauses. Penelope stands by the window, absolutely paralyzed. Her breaths come quick, but she can’t flee.

The rain batters the window frames and the glass panes. The world outside seems far away. Suddenly the man is silhouetted by a bright yellow light that seems to brighten the dock, the water, even the sky. As if a massive oak tree had sprouted from the boat behind him, a column of fire shoots up with a bellow. Metal scraps fly into the air. The cloud of fire grows and pulsates with an eerie, internal flickering. Its heat sets nearby brush, even the dock, afire. The explosion pounds against the house.

With shattered glass falling around her, Penelope is finally able to act. She whirls around, running so fast she just races up and over the sofa and down the hallway with all its signed portraits. Out the back door and over the ragged lawn. She slips but keeps going, through the pounding rain along the trampled path, around the grove of birches, and out onto a meadow. A family with children-all dressed in bright yellow rain gear, life vests, and carrying fishing poles-is braving the downpour. Penelope runs straight between them and down to the sandy beach. She’s out of breath and feels she might faint. She has to stop, and yet she can’t. Instead, she drops down behind a small wheelbarrow and vomits into the nettles. She whispers the Lord’s Prayer. Thunder rumbles from far away. Shakily she rises to a crouch, wiping the rain from her face with her sleeve, to peer back across the meadow. The man is rounding the birch grove. He pauses next to the family group and they immediately point in her direction. She ducks, creeps backward, sliding down the shallow cliff to run close to the water. Her footsteps leave a white track behind her in the churned-up wet sand. A long pontoon bridge seems to offer the only distance she can reach, and she runs along it as far as she can. She hears the thud of helicopter blades and keeps on running. It takes only a quick glance to see her pursuer heading straight for her. At the far end of the bridge, a man is being winched down from the sky, from a rescue helicopter. He lands there, waiting for her. The water around him is whipped up in concentric circles from the wash of the helicopter’s blades. Penelope runs straight to him. Quickly he fastens a harness to her, shouting instructions, and then circles his hand in a gesture to the aircraft above them. They are lifted free from the bridge, swept to one side close over the water as the line lifts them toward the helicopter. Penelope’s view of the beach is almost immediately blocked by the encroaching spruce trees, but just before that moment, she sees her pursuer go down on one knee. He’s setting down a black backpack and swiftly assembling something. He’s out of her sight then; she sees only the tight tops of trees and the turbulent surface of the sea.

A short bang. She hears a crash overhead. The cable jerks and Penelope’s stomach turns over as the man cabled to her yells something to the helicopter pilot. The helicopter swerves crazily. Horror sweeps over Penelope. The pilot has been shot. Instinctively, with no thought at all, she jerks at the security harness, wriggles free, and simply drops away.

She can see the helicopter stall in the air, tip to one side, and flip over. The cable with her rescuer still dangling on it is entangled in the large rotor. She plunges through the air, unable to look away. The machine rattles deafeningly, and, with a two-part bang, the enormous rotor blades are ripped from the axle. Penelope falls about twenty meters before she smacks into the water. She sinks down deep, semiconscious with the impact and the cold. It is a long time before she’s able to move. Reaching the surface, her lungs react automatically and her body takes a deep breath. Almost without sight, she dully looks around. Then she begins to swim away from the island and out into the open sea.



Joona Linna and Saga Bauer departed quietly from Silencia Defense after their short meeting with Pontus Salman.

Pontus Salman had ruined their trap by immediately identifying himself and pinpointing the date: 2008 in a concert hall in Frankfurt.

There had been discussion of a shipment of ammunition to Sudan, he’d explained, a plan well advanced before it was broken off in the spring of 2009. Salman seemed to assume that Joona and Saga were well aware of what had happened then.

He’d added that this had been the only meeting concerning Sudan and that now, of course, any continued business arrangements were out of the question.

“What was he talking about?” Joona asks. “Do you know what happened then?”

Before they’ve even swung out onto Nynashamn, Saga has phoned Simon Lawrence at Sapo.

“I presume you’re not calling me for a date,” Simon says humorously.

“You’re an expert on North Africa. What happened in Sudan in the spring of 2009?” Saga says.