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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Jo Nesbo

Map

Title Page

Part One

1. The Drowning

2. The Illuminating Darkness

3. Hong Kong

4. Sex Pistols

5. The Park

6. Homecoming

7. Gallows

8. Snow Patrøl

9. The Dive

Part Two

10. Reminders

11. Print

12. Crime Scene

13. Office

14. Recruitment

15. Strobe Lights

16. Speed King

17. Fibres

18. The Patient

19. The White Bride

20. Øystein

21. Snow White

22. Search Engine

23. Passenger

Part Three

24. Stavanger

25. Territory

26. The Needle

27. Kind, Light-Fingered and Tight-Fisted

28. Drammen

29. Kluit

30. Guest Book

31. Kigali

32. Police

33. Leipzig

34. Medium

35. The Dive

Part Four

36. Helicopter

37. Profile

38. Permanent Scarring

39. Relational Search

40. The Offer

41. The Blue Chit

42. Beavis

43. House Call

44. The Anchor

45. Questioning

Part Five

46. Red Beetle

47. Fear of the Dark

48. Hypothesis

49. Bombay Garden

50. Corruption

51. Letter

52. Visit

53. Heel Hook

54. Tulip

55. Turquoise

Part Six

56. Decoy

57. Thunder

58. Snow

59. The Burial

60. Pixies and Dwarfs

61. The Drop

62. Transit

63. The Storehouse

Part Seven

64. State of Health

65. Kadok

66. After the Fire

67. Prince Charming

68. Pike

69. Looped Writing

70. Blind Spot

71. Bliss

72. Boy

73. Arrest

74. Bristol Cream

Part Eight

75. Perspiration

76. Redefinition

77. Fingerprint

78. The Deal

79. Missed Calls

80. The Rhythm

81. The Cones of Light

82. Red

Part Nine

83. The End of the World

84. Reunion

85. Edvard Munch

86. Calibre

87. Kalashnikov

88. The Church

89. The Wedding

90. Marlon Brando

Part Ten

91. Parting

92. Free Fall

93. The Answer

94. Glass Noodles

95. The Allies

Epilogue

Read on for an extract from Phantom

Copyright

About the Book

Two young women are found dead, both drowned in their own blood. Then a female politician is found brutally murdered in a city park. The crime scenes offer no clues, the media is reaching fever pitch, and the police are running out of options.

There is only one man who can help them solve the case, but Inspector Harry Hole doesn’t want to be found …

About the Author

Jo Nesbo is a musician, songwriter, economist and author. His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Høeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson). The Leopard is the sixth of Nesbo’s novels to be translated into English and went straight to the top of the bestseller charts in its first week of publication.

Don Bartlett lives in Norfolk and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian literature. He has translated, or co-translated, Norwegian novels by Lars Saabye Christensen, Roy Jacobsen, Ingvar Ambjørnsen, Kjell Ola Dahl, Gunnar Staalesen and Pernille Rygg.

ALSO BY JO NESBO

The Redbreast

A report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks Harry’s interest. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. Next Harry’s former partner is murdered. Why had she been trying to reach Harry on the night she was killed?

Nemesis

A man is caught on CCTV, shooting dead a cashier at a bank. Harry begins his investigation but after a dinner with an old flame, wakes up with no memory of the last 12 hours. Then the girl is found dead and he begins to receive threatening emails; is someone is trying to frame him for her death?

The Devil’s Star

When a young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat and a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star is found behind her eyelid, Harry is assigned the case alongside his long-time adversary Tom Waaler. On notice to quit the force, Harry is forced to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor when it becomes apparent that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands.

The Redeemer

On a freezing December night, one of the singers at a Christmas concert is shot dead. Harry and his team are called in to investigate but have little to work with – there is no immediate suspect, no weapon and no motive. But when the assassin discovers he’s shot the wrong man, Harry find his troubles have only just begun.

The Snowman

On the night the first snow falls, a young mother vanishes from her home. Is there a link between her disappearance and a menacing letter Harry received months before? When a second woman disappears it seems that Harry’s worst fears are confirmed: for the first time in his career, Harry is confronted with a serial killer who will drive him to the brink of madness.

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PART ONE

Read on for the first chapter of

Phantom

Available now

1

The Drowning

SHE AWOKE. BLINKED in the pitch darkness. Yawned, and breathed through her nose. She blinked again. Felt a tear run down her face, felt it dissolve the salt of other tears. But saliva was no longer entering her throat; her mouth was dry and hard. Her cheeks were forced out by the pressure from inside. The foreign body in her mouth felt as though it would explode her head. But what was it? What was it? The first thing she thought when she awoke was that she wanted to go back. Back into the dark, warm depths that had enveloped her. The injection he had given her had not worn off yet, but she knew pain was on the way, felt it coming in the slow, dull beat of her pulse and the jerky flow of blood through her brain. Where was he? Was he standing right behind her? She held her breath, listened. She couldn’t hear anything, but she could sense a presence. Like a leopard. Someone had told her leopards made so little noise they could sneak right up to their prey in the dark. They could regulate their breathing so that it was in tune with yours. Could hold their breath when you held yours. She was certain she could feel his body heat. What was he waiting for? She exhaled again. And at that same moment was sure she had felt breath on her neck. She whirled round, hit out, but was met by air. She hunched up, tried to make herself small, to hide. Pointless.

How long had she been unconscious?

The drug wore off. The sensation lasted only for a fraction of a second. But it was enough to give her the foretaste, the promise. The promise of what was to come.

The foreign body placed on the table in front of her had been the size of a billiard ball, made of shiny metal with punched-out small holes and figures and symbols. From one of the holes protruded a red wire with a looped end, which instantly made her think of the Christmas tree that would need decorating at her parents’ house on 23 December, in seven days. With shiny balls, Christmas pixies, hearts, candles and Norwegian flags. In eight days they would be singing a traditional Christmas carol, and she would see the twinkling eyes of her nephews and nieces as they opened their presents. All the things she should have done differently. All the days she should have lived to the full, avoiding escapism, should have filled with happiness, breath and love. The places she had merely travelled through, the places she was planning to visit. The men she had met, the man she had still not met. The foetus she had got rid of when she was seventeen, the children she had not yet had. The days she had wasted for the days she thought she would have.

Then she had stopped thinking about anything except the knife that had been brandished before her. And the gentle voice that had told her to put the ball in her mouth. She had done so, of course she had. With her heart thumping she had opened her mouth as wide as she could and pushed the ball in with the wire left hanging outside. The metal tasted bitter and salty, like tears. Then her head had been forced back, and the steel burned against her skin as the knife was laid flat against her throat. The ceiling and the room were illuminated by a standard lamp leaning against the wall in one of the corners. Bare, grey concrete. Apart from the lamp, the room contained a white plastic camping table, two chairs, two empty beer bottles and two people. Him and her. She smelt a leather glove as a finger had tugged lightly at the red loop hanging from her mouth. And the next moment her head had seemed to explode.

The ball had expanded and forced itself against the inside of her mouth. But however wide she opened her jaws, the pressure was constant. He had examined her with a concentrated, engaged expression, like a dentist checking to see whether the orthodontic brace was sitting as it should. A little smile intimated satisfaction.

With her tongue she could feel circular ridges around the holes in the ball and that was what was pressing against her palate, against the soft flesh of her tongue, against her teeth, against the uvula. She had tried to say something. He had listened patiently to the inarticulate sounds emerging from her mouth. Had nodded when she gave up, and had taken out a syringe. The drop on the tip had glinted in the torchlight. He had whispered something in her ear: ‘Don’t touch the wire.’

Then he had injected her in the neck. She was out in seconds.

She listened to her own terrified breathing as she blinked in the darkness.

She had to do something.

She placed her palms on the chair seat, which was clammy from her perspiration, and pushed herself up. No one stopped her.

She advanced with tiny steps until she hit a wall. Groped her way along to a smooth, cold surface. The metal door. She pulled at the bolt. It didn’t budge. Locked. Of course it was locked. What had she been thinking? Was that laughter she could hear, or was the sound coming from inside her head? Where was he? Why was he playing with her like this?

Do something. Think. But to think, she would first have to get rid of this metal ball before the pain drove her insane. She put her thumb and first finger in the corners of her mouth. Felt the ridges. Tried in vain to get her fingers under one of them. Had a coughing fit and a panic attack when she couldn’t breathe. She realised that the ridges had made the flesh around her windpipe swell, that soon she would be in danger of suffocating. She kicked the metal door, tried to scream, but the ball stifled the sound. She gave up again. Leaned against the wall. Listened. Was that his wary tread she could hear? Was he moving around the room? Was he playing blind man’s buff with her? Or was it her blood throbbing past her ears? She steeled herself against the pain and forced her mouth shut. The ridges were hardly down before they sprang back and forced her mouth open again. The ball seemed to be pulsating now, as though it had become an iron heart, a part of her.

Do something. Think.

Springs. The ridges were spring-loaded.

They had jumped up when he pulled the wire.

‘Don’t touch the wire,’ he had said.

Why not? What would happen?

She slid down the wall until she was sitting. Cold damp rose from the concrete floor. She wanted to scream again, but she couldn’t. Quiet. Silence.

All the things she should have said to those she loved, instead of the words that had served to fill the silence with those to whom she was indifferent.

There was no way out. There was just her and this unbelievable pain, her head exploding.

‘Don’t touch the wire.’

If she pulled it, the ridges might retract into the ball, and she would be spared the pain.

Her thoughts ran in the same circles. How long had she been here? Two hours? Eight hours? Twenty minutes?

If all you had to do was pull the wire, why hadn’t she already done it? Because the warning had been given by an obvious sicko? Or was this part of the game? Being tricked into resisting the temptation to stop this quite unnecessary pain? Or was the game about defying the warning and pulling the wire, causing … causing something dreadful to happen? What would happen? What was this ball?

Yes, it was a game, a brutal game. And she had to play. The pain was intolerable, her throat was swelling, soon she would suffocate.

She tried to scream again, but it subsided into a sob, and she blinked and blinked, without producing any further tears.

Her fingers found the string hanging from her lips. She pulled tentatively until it was taut.

There was so much she regretted not having done, naturally. But if a life of self-denial would had placed her anywhere else than here, right now, she would have chosen that. She just wanted to live. Any sort of life. As simple as that.

She pulled the wire.

* * *

The needles shot out of the circular ridges. They were seven centimetres long. Four burst through her cheeks on each side, three into the sinuses, two up the nasal passages and two out through the chin. Two needles pierced the windpipe and one the right eye, one the left. Several needles penetrated the rear part of the palate and reached the brain. But that was not the direct cause of her death. Because the metal ball impeded movement, she was unable to spit out the blood pouring from the wounds into her mouth. Instead it ran down her windpipe and into her lungs, not allowing oxygen to be absorbed into her bloodstream, which in turn led to a cardiac arrest and what the pathologist would call in his report cerebral hypoxia, that is, lack of oxygen to her brain. In other words, Borgny Stem-Myhre drowned.

2

The Illuminating Darkness

18 December

The days are short. It’s still light outside, but here in my cutting room there is eternal darkness. In the light from my work lamp the people in the pictures on the wall look so irritatingly happy and unsuspecting. So full of expectations, as though they take it for granted that all life lies before them, a perfectly calm ocean of time, smooth and unruffled. I have taken cuttings from the newspaper, snipped off all the lachrymose stories about the shocked family, edited out the gory details about the finding of the body. Contented myself with the inevitable photo a relative or a friend has given a persistent journalist, the picture of when she was in her prime, smiling as though immortal.

The police don’t know a lot. Not yet. But soon they will have more to work with.

What is it, where is it, whatever it is that makes a murderer? Is it innate, is it in a gene, inherited potential that some have and others do not? Or is it shaped by need, developed in a confrontation with the world, a survival strategy, a life-saving sickness, rational insanity? For just as sickness is a fevered bombardment of the body, insanity is a vital retreat to a place where one can entrench oneself anew.

For my part, I believe that the ability to kill is fundamental to any healthy person. Our existence is a fight for gain, and whoever cannot kill his neighbour has no right to an existence. Killing is, after all, only hastening the inevitable. Death allows no exceptions, which is good because life is pain and suffering. In that sense, every murder is an act of charity. It just doesn’t seem like that when the sun warms your skin or water wets your lips and you recognise your idiotic lust for life in every heartbeat and are ready to buy mere crumbs of time with everything you have accrued through life: dignity, status, principles. That is when you have to dig deep, to give a wide berth to the confusing, blinding light. Into the cold illuminating darkness. And perceive the hard kernel. The truth. For that is what I had to find. That is what I found. Whatever it is that makes a person into a murderer.

What about my life? Do I also believe it is a calm, unruffled ocean of time?

Not at all. Before long I too will be lying on death’s refuse heap, together with all the other role players in this little drama. But whatever stage of decay my body may attain, even if all that remains is the skeleton, it will have a smile on its lips. This is what I live for now, my right to exist, my chance to be cleansed, to be cleared of all dishonour.

But this is only the beginning. Now I am going to switch off the lamp and go out into the light of day. The little that is left.

3

Hong Kong

THE RAIN DID not stop first thing. Nor second thing. In fact, it didn’t stop at all. It was mild and wet week upon week. The ground was saturated, European motorways caved in, migratory birds did not migrate and there were reports of insects hitherto unseen in northern climes. The calendar showed that it was winter, but Oslo’s parkland was not just snowless, it was not even brown. It was as green and inviting as the artificial pitch in Sogn where despairing keep-fit fans had resorted to jogging in their Bjørn Dæhlie tights as they waited in vain for conditions around Lake Sognsvann to allow skiing. On New Year’s Eve the fog was so thick that the sound of rockets carried from the centre of Oslo right out to suburban Asker, but you couldn’t see a thing, even if you set them off on your back lawn. Nevertheless, that night Norwegians burned fireworks amounting to six hundred kroner per household, according to a consumer survey, which also revealed that the number of Norwegians who realised their dream of a white Christmas on Thailand’s white beaches had doubled in just three years. However, also in South-East Asia, it seemed as if the weather had run amok: ominous symbols usually seen only on weather charts in the typhoon season were now lined up across the China Sea. In Hong Kong, where February tends to be one of the driest months of the year, rain was bucketing down and poor visibility meant that Cathay Pacific flight number 731 from London had to circle again before coming in to land at Chek Lap Kok Airport.

‘You should be happy we don’t have to land at the old airport,’ said the Chinese-looking passenger next to Kaja Solness, who was squeezing the armrests so hard her knuckles were white. ‘It was in the centre of town. We would have flown straight into one of the skyscrapers.’

Those were the first words the man had uttered since they had taken off twelve hours earlier. Kaja eagerly grabbed the chance to focus on something other than the fact that they were temporarily caught in turbulence.

‘Thank you, sir, that was reassuring. Are you English?’

He recoiled as if someone had slapped him, and she realised she had offended him mortally by suggesting that he belonged to the previous colonialists: ‘Erm … Chinese perhaps?’

He shook his head firmly. ‘Hong Kong Chinese. And you, miss?’

Kaja Solness wondered for a moment if she should reply Hokksund Norwegian, but confined herself to ‘Norwegian’, which the Hong Kong Chinese man mused on for a while then delivered a triumphant ‘Aha!’ before amending it to ‘Scandinavian’ and asked her what her business was in Hong Kong.

‘To find a man,’ she said, staring down at the bluish-grey clouds in the hope that terra firma would soon reveal itself.

‘Aha!’ repeated the Hong Kong Chinese. ‘You are very beautiful, miss. And don’t believe all you hear about the Chinese only marrying other Chinese.’

She managed a weary smile. ‘Hong Kong Chinese, do you mean?’

‘Particularly Hong Kong Chinese,’ he nodded with enthusiasm, holding up a ringless hand. ‘I deal in microchips. The family has factories in China and South Korea. What are you doing tonight?’

‘Sleeping, I hope,’ Kaja yawned.

‘What about tomorrow evening?’

‘I hope by then I’ll have found him and I’ll be on my way back home.’

The man frowned. ‘Are you in such a hurry, miss?’

Kaja refused the man’s offer of a lift and caught a bus, a double-decker, to the city centre. One hour later she was standing alone in a corridor at the Empire Kowloon Hotel, taking deep breaths. She had put the key card into the door of the room she had been allocated and now all that remained was to open it. She forced her hand to press down the handle. Then she jerked the door open and stared into the room.

No one there.

Of course there wasn’t.

She entered, wheeled her bag to the side of the bed, stood by the window and looked out. First, down at the swarm of people in the street seventeen floors below, then at the skyscrapers that in no way resembled their graceful or, at any rate pompous, sisters in Manhattan, Kuala Lumpur or Tokyo. These looked like termite anthills, terrifying and impressive at the same time, like a grotesque testimony to how humankind is capable of adapting when seven million inhabitants have to find room in not much more than a hundred square kilometres. Kaja felt exhaustion creeping up on her, kicked off her shoes and fell back on the bed. Even though it was a double room and the hotel sported four stars, the 120-centimetre-wide bed occupied all the floor space. And it hit home that from among all these anthills she now had to find one particular person, a man who, all the evidence suggested, had no particular wish to be found.

For a moment or two she weighed up the options: closing her eyes or springing into action. Then she pulled herself together and got to her feet. Took off her clothes and went into the shower. Afterwards she stood in front of the mirror and confirmed without a hint of self-satisfaction that the Hong Kong Chinese man was right: she was beautiful. This was not her opinion, it was as close to being a fact as beauty can be. The face with the high cheekbones, the pronounced raven-black but finely formed eyebrows above the almost childlike wide eyes with green irises that shone with the intensity of a mature young woman. The honey-brown hair, the full lips that seemed to be kissing each other in her somewhat broad mouth. The long, slim neck, the equally slim body with the small breasts that were no more than mounds, swells on a sea of perfect, though winter-pale, skin. The gentle curve of her hips. The long legs that persuaded two Oslo modelling agencies to make the trip to her school in Hokksund, only to have to accept her refusal with a rueful shake of the head. And what had pleased her most was when one of them said as he left: ‘OK, but remember, my dear: you are not a perfect beauty. Your teeth are small and pointed. You shouldn’t smile so much.’

After that she had smiled with a lighter heart.

Kaja put on a pair of khaki trousers, a thin waterproof jacket and floated weightlessly and soundlessly down to reception.

‘Chungking Mansion?’ the receptionist asked, unable to refrain from cocking an eyebrow, and pointed. ‘Kimberley Road, up to Nathan Road, then left.’

All hostels and hotels in Interpol member countries are legally obliged to register foreign guests, but when Kaja had rung the Norwegian ambassador’s secretary to check where the man she was looking for had last registered, the secretary had explained that Chungking Mansion was neither a hotel nor a mansion, in the sense of a wealthy residence. It was a collection of shops, takeaways, restaurants and probably more than a hundred classified and non-classified hostels with everything from two to twenty rooms spread over four large tower blocks. The rooms for rent could be characterised as everything from simple, clean and cosy to ratholes and one-star prison cells. And most important of all: at Chungking Mansion a man with modest demands of life could sleep, eat, live, work and propagate without ever leaving the anthill.

Kaja found the entrance to Chungking in Nathan Road, a busy shopping street with branded goods, polished shopfronts and tall display windows. She went in. To the cooking fumes from fast-food outlets, hammering from cobblers, radio broadcasts of Muslim prayer meetings and tired looks in used clothes shops. She flashed a quick smile at a bewildered backpacker with a Lonely Planet guidebook in his hand and frozen white legs sticking out of over-optimistic camouflage shorts.

A uniformed guard looked at the note Kaja showed him, said ‘Lift C’ and pointed down a corridor.

The queue in front of the lift was so long that she didn’t get in until the third attempt, when they were squeezed up tight in a creaky, juddering iron chest that made Kaja think of the gypsies who buried their dead vertically.

The hostel was owned by a turban-clad Muslim who immediately, and with great enthusiasm, showed her a tiny box of a room where by some miracle they had found space for a wall-mounted TV at the foot of the bed and a gurgling A/C unit above the bedhead. The owner’s enthusiasm waned when she interrupted his sales spiel to produce a photo of a man with his name spelt as it would have been in his passport, and asked where he was now.

On seeing the reaction, she hastened to inform him that she was his wife. The embassy secretary had explained to her that waving an official ID card around in Chungking would be, quote, counterproductive. And when Kaja added, for safety’s sake, that she and the man in the photo had five children together, the hostel owner’s attitude underwent a dramatic change. A young Western heathen who had already brought so many children into the world earned his respect. He expelled a heavy sigh, shook his head and said in mournful, staccato English, ‘Sad, sad, lady. They come and take his passport.’

‘Who did?’

‘Who? The Triad, lady. It’s always the Triad.’

Naturally enough, she was aware of the organisation, but she had some vague notion that the Chinese mafia primarily belonged to the world of cartoons and kung fu films.

‘Sit yourself down, lady.’ He quickly found a chair, onto which she slumped. ‘They were after him, he was out, so they took his passport.’

‘Passport? Why?’

He hesitated.

‘Please, I have to know.’

‘Your husband bet on horses, I am sorry to say.’

‘Horses?’

‘Happy Valley. Racecourse. It is an abomination.’

‘Does he owe money? To the Triad?’

He nodded and shook his head several times to confirm and regret, alternately, this fact of life.

‘And they took his passport?’

‘He will have to pay back the debt if he wants to leave Hong Kong.’

‘He can only get a new passport from the Norwegian embassy.’

The turban waggled from side to side. ‘Ah, you can get a false passport here in Chungking for eighty American dollars. But this is not the problem. The problem is Hong Kong is an island, lady. How did you get here?’

‘Plane.’

‘And how will you leave?’

‘Plane.’

‘One airport. Tickets. All names on computer. Many control points. Many at airport who get money from the Triad to recognise faces. Understand?’

She nodded slowly. ‘It’s difficult to escape.’

The hostel owner shook his head with a guffaw. ‘No, lady. It’s impossible to escape. But you can hide in Hong Kong. Seven million people. Easy to go underground.’

Lack of sleep was catching up on Kaja, and she closed her eyes. The owner must have misunderstood because he laid a consoling hand on her shoulder and mumbled, ‘There, there.’

He wavered, then leaned forward and whispered, ‘I think he still here, lady.’

‘Yes, I know he is.’

‘No, I mean here in Chungking. I see him.’

She raised her head.

‘Twice,’ he said. ‘At Li Yuan’s. He eat there. Cheap rice. Don’t tell anyone I said. Your husband is good man. But trouble.’ He rolled his eyes so that they almost disappeared into his turban. ‘Lots of trouble.’

Li Yuan’s comprised a counter, four plastic tables and a Chinese man who sent her an encouraging smile when after six hours, two portions of fried rice, three coffees and two litres of water she awoke with a jolt, lifted her head from the greasy table and looked at him.

‘Tired?’ he laughed, revealing an incomplete set of front teeth.

Kaja yawned, ordered her fourth cup of coffee and continued to wait. Two Chinese men came and sat at the counter without speaking or ordering. They didn’t even spare her a glance, for which she was glad. Her body was so stiff from sitting on the plane that pain shot through her whatever sedentary position she adopted. She rolled her head from side to side to try to stimulate circulation. Then backwards. Her neck cracked. She stared at the bluish-white neon tubes in the ceiling before lowering her head. And stared straight into a pale, hunted face. He had stopped in front of the closed steel shutters in the corridor and scanned Li Yuan’s tiny establishment. His gaze rested on the two Chinese men by the counter. Then he hurried on.

Kaja got to her feet, but one leg had gone to sleep and gave way under her weight. She grabbed her bag and limped after the man as fast as she could.

‘Come back soon,’ she heard Li Yuan shout after her.

He had looked so thin. In the photographs he had been a broad, tall figure, and on the TV talk show he had made the chair he was sitting on look like it had been manufactured for pygmies. But she had not the slightest doubt it was him: the dented, shaven skull, the prominent nose, the eyes with the spider’s web of blood vessels and the alcoholic’s washed-out, pale blue irises. The determined chin with the surprisingly gentle, almost beautiful mouth.

She stumbled into Nathan Road. In the gleam of the neon light she caught sight of a leather jacket towering above the crowd. He didn’t appear to be walking fast, yet she had to quicken her pace to keep up. From the busy shopping parade he turned off and she let the distance between them increase as they came into narrower, less populated streets. She registered a sign saying ‘Melden Row’. It was tempting to go and introduce herself, get it all over with. But she had decided to stick to the plan: to find out where he lived. It had stopped raining, and all of a sudden a scrap of cloud was drawn aside and the sky behind was high and velvet black, with glittering, pinhole stars.

After walking for twenty minutes he came to a sudden halt at a corner, and Kaja was afraid she had been rumbled. However, he didn’t turn round, just took something from his jacket pocket. She stared in amazement. A baby’s bottle?

He disappeared round the corner.

Kaja followed and came into a large, open square packed with people, most of them young. At the far end of the square, above wide glass doors, shone a sign written in English and Chinese. Kaja recognised the titles of some of the new films she would never see. Her eyes found his leather jacket, and she saw him put the bottle down on the low plinth of a bronze sculpture representing a gallows with an empty noose. He continued past two fully occupied benches and took a seat on the third where he picked up a newspaper. After about twenty seconds he got up again, walked back to the sculpture, grabbed the bottle as he passed, put it into his pocket and returned the same way he had come.

It had started to rain when she saw him enter Chungking Mansion. She slowly began to prepare her speech. There was no longer a queue by the lifts; nevertheless he ascended a staircase, turned right and went through a swing door. She hurried after him and suddenly found herself in a deserted, run-down stairwell with an all-permeating smell of cat piss and wet concrete. She held her breath, but all she could hear were dripping sounds. As she took the decision to go on up, she heard a door bang beneath her. She sprinted down the stairs and found the only thing that could have made a bang: a dented metal door. She held the handle, felt the trembling come, closed her eyes and cursed to herself. Then she ripped open the door and stepped into the darkness. That is to say: out.

Something ran across her feet, but she neither screamed nor moved.

At first she thought she had entered a lift shaft. But when she looked up, she glimpsed blackened brick walls covered with a tangled mass of water pipes, cables, distorted chunks of metal and collapsed, rusty iron scaffolding. It was a courtyard, a few square metres of space between tower blocks. The only light came from a small square of stars high above.

Although there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, water was splashing down onto the tarmac and her face, and she realised it was condensed water from the small, rusty A/C units protruding from the front of the buildings. She retreated and leaned back against the iron door.

Waited.

And, eventually, from the dark, she heard: ‘What do you want?’

She had never heard his voice before. Well, she had heard it on the talk show when they were discussing serial killers, but hearing it in reality was quite different. There was a worn hoarse quality that made him sound older than the forty years she knew he had just turned. But at the same time there was a secure, self-assured calm which belied the hunted face she had seen outside Li Yuan’s. Deep, warm.

‘I’m Norwegian,’ she said.

There was no response. She swallowed. She knew that her first words would be the most important.

‘My name is Kaja Solness. I have been tasked with finding you. By Gunnar Hagen.’

No reaction to the name of his Crime Squad boss. Had he gone?

‘I work as a detective on murder investigations for Hagen,’ she said into the blackness.

‘Congratulations.’

‘No congratulations necessary. Not if you’ve been reading Norwegian papers for the last months.’ She could have bitten her tongue. Was she trying to be funny? Had to be the lack of sleep. Or nerves.

‘I mean congratulations on a well-accomplished mission,’ said the voice. ‘I have been found. Now you can go back.’

‘Wait!’ she shouted. ‘Don’t you want to hear what I have to say?’

‘I’d prefer not to.’

But the words she had jotted down and practised rolled out. ‘Two women have been killed. Forensic evidence suggests it’s the same perp. Beyond that we don’t have any leads. Even though the press has been given minimal info, they’ve been screaming for ages that another serial killer is on the loose. Some commentators have written that he may have been inspired by the Snowman. We’ve called in experts from Interpol, but they haven’t made any headway. The pressure from the media and authorities—’

‘By which I mean no,’ the voice said.

A door slammed.

‘Hello? Hello? Are you there?’

She fumbled her way forward and found a door. Opened it before terror managed to gain a foothold and she was in another darkened stairwell. She glimpsed light further up and climbed three steps at a time. The light was coming through the glass of a swing door, and she pushed it open. Entered a plain, bare corridor in which attempts to patch the peeling plaster had been given up, and damp steamed off the walls like bad breath. Leaning against the wall were two men with cigarettes hanging from the corners of their mouths, and a sweet stench drifted towards her. They appraised her through sluggish eyes. Too sluggish to move, she hoped. The smaller of the two was black, of African origin, she assumed. The big one was white and had a pyramid-shaped scar on his forehead, like a warning triangle. She had read in The Police magazine that Hong Kong had almost thirty thousand officers on the street and was reckoned to be the world’s safest metropolis. But then that was on the street.

‘Looking for hashish, lady?’

She shook her head, tried to flash a confident smile, tried to act as she had advised young girls to do when she had been going around schools: to look like someone who knew where she was going, not like someone who had lost the flock. Like prey.

They returned her smile. The only other doorway in the corridor had been bricked up. They took their hands out of their pockets, the cigarettes from their mouths.

‘Looking for fun then?’

‘Wrong door, that’s all,’ she said, turning to go back out. A hand closed around her wrist. Her terror tasted like tinfoil in her mouth. In theory, she knew how to get out of this. Had practised it on a rubber mat in an illuminated gym with an instructor and colleagues gathered around her.

‘Right door, lady. Right door. Fun is this way.’ The breath in her face stank of fish, onions and marijuana. In the gym there had only been one adversary.

‘No, thanks,’ she said, struggling to keep her voice steady.

The black man sidled up, grabbed her other wrist and said in a voice that slipped in and out of falsetto: ‘We’ll show you the way.’

‘Only there’s not much to see, is there.’

All three turned towards the swing door.

She knew it said one ninety-two in his passport, but standing there in the doorway that had been built to Hong Kong measurements he looked at least two ten. And twice as wide as only an hour ago. His arms hung down by his sides, slightly away from his body, but he didn’t move, didn’t stare, didn’t snarl, just looked calmly at the white man and repeated: ‘Is there, jau-ye?’

She felt the white man’s fingers tense and relax around her wrist, noticed the black man shift weight from foot to foot.

Ng-goy,’ said the man in the doorway.

She felt their hands hesitantly let go.

‘Come on,’ he said, lightly taking her arm.

She felt the heat in her flushed cheeks as they walked out. Heat produced by tension and shame. Shame at how relieved she was, how tardily her brain had functioned in the situation, how willing she had been to let him sort out two harmless drug dealers who only wanted to ruffle her a little.

He accompanied her up two floors and in through the swing door where he positioned her in front of a lift, pressed the arrow for down, stood beside her and focused his gaze on the luminous figure 11 above the lift door. ‘Guest workers,’ he said. ‘They’re alone and bored.’

‘I know,’ she said defiantly.

‘Press G for ground floor, turn right and go straight ahead until you’re in Nathan Road.’

‘Please listen to me. You are the only person in Crime Squad with the appropriate expertise to catch serial killers. After all, it was you who caught the Snowman.’

‘True,’ he said. She registered a movement in his eyes, and he ran a finger along his jaw under his right ear. ‘And then I resigned.’

‘Resigned? Went on leave, you mean.’

‘Resigned. As in finished.’

It was only now that she noticed the unnatural protrusion of his right jawbone.

‘Gunnar Hagen says that when you left Oslo he agreed to give you leave until further notice.’

The man smiled, and Kaja saw how it changed his face completely. ‘That’s because Hagen can’t get it into his head …’ He paused, and the smile vanished. His eyes were directed towards the light above the lift that now read ‘5’. ‘Nonetheless, I don’t work for the police any longer.’

‘We need you …’ She inhaled. Knew that she was skating on thin ice, but that she had to act before she lost sight of him again. ‘And you need us.’

His eyes shifted back to her. ‘What on earth makes you think that?’

‘You owe the Triad money. You buy dope off the street in a baby’s bottle. You live …’ She grimaced. ‘… here. And you don’t have a passport.’

‘I’m enjoying myself here. What do I need a passport for?’

The lift pinged, the door creaked open, and hot, stinking air rose off the bodies inside.

‘I’m not going!’ Kaja said, louder than she had anticipated, and noticed the faces looking at her with a mixture of impatience and obvious curiosity.

‘Yes, you are,’ he said, placing a hand in the middle of her back and pushing her gently but firmly inside. She was immediately surrounded by human bodies closing in on her and making it impossible for her to move or even turn. She twisted her head in time to see the doors gliding to.

‘Harry!’ she shouted.

But he had already gone.

4

Sex Pistols

THE OLD HOSTEL owner placed a thoughtful finger on his forehead under the turban and looked at her long and hard. Then he picked up the telephone and dialled a number. He said a few words in Arabic and rang off. ‘Wait,’ he said. ‘Maybe, maybe not.’

Kaja smiled and nodded.

They sat observing each other from either side of the narrow table that served as a reception desk.

Then the phone rang. He picked it up, listened and put it down without a word.

‘One hundred and fifty thousand dollars,’ he said.

‘One hundred and fifty?’ she repeated in utter disbelief.

‘Hong Kong dollars, lady.’

Kaja did some mental arithmetic. That would be about one hundred and thirty thousand Norwegian kroner. Roughly double what she had been authorised to pay.

* * *

It was past midnight, and almost forty hours since she had slept, when she found him. She had trawled H-Block for three hours. Had sketched out a map of the interior as she moved through hostels, cafes, snack bars, massage clubs and prayer rooms until she arrived at the cheapest rooms and dormitories where the imported labour force from Africa and Pakistan stayed, those who had no rooms, just cubicles without doors, without TVs, without air conditioning and without a private life. The black night porter who admitted Kaja looked at the photo for a long time and at the hundred-dollar bill she was holding for even longer before he took it and pointed to one of the cubicles.

Harry Hole, she thought. Gotcha.

He was lying supine on a mattress, breathing almost without sound. He had a deep frown on his forehead, and the prominent jawbone under his right ear was even more defined now that he was asleep. From the other cubicles she heard men coughing and snoring. Water dripped from the ceiling, hitting the brick floor with deep, disgruntled sighs. The opening to the cubicle let in a cold, blue stripe of light from the neon tubes in reception. She saw a clothes cupboard in front of the window, a chair and a plastic bottle of water beside the mattress. There was a bittersweet smell, like burned rubber. Smoke rose from a cigarette end in an ashtray beside the baby’s bottle on the floor. She sat down on the chair and discovered that he was holding something in his hand. A greasy, yellowish-brown clump. Kaja had seen enough hash the year she worked in a patrol car to know this was not hash.

It was almost two o’clock when he awoke.

She heard a tiny change in the rhythm of his breathing, and then the whites of his eyes shone in the dark.

‘Rakel?’ He whispered it. And went back to sleep.

Half an hour later he opened his eyes wide, gave a start, cast around and made a grab for something under the mattress.

‘It’s me,’ Kaja whispered. ‘Kaja Solness.’

The body at her feet stopped in mid-movement. Then it collapsed and fell back on the mattress.

‘What the hell are you doing here?’ he groaned, his voice still thick with sleep.

‘Fetching you,’ she said.

He chuckled, his eyes closed. ‘Fetching me? Still?’

She took out an envelope, leaned forward and held it up in front of him. He opened one eye.

‘Plane ticket,’ she said. ‘To Oslo.’

The eye closed again. ‘Thanks, but I’m staying here.’

‘If I can find you, it’s only a matter of time before they do, too.’

He didn’t answer. She waited while listening to his breathing and the water that dripped and sighed. Then he opened his eyes again, rubbed under his right ear and hoisted himself up onto his elbows.

‘Got a smoke?’

She shook her head. He threw off the sheet, stood up and went over to the cupboard. He was surprisingly pale considering he had been living in a subtropical climate, and so lean that his ribs showed, even on his back. His build suggested that at one time he had been athletic, but now the wasted muscles appeared as sharp shadows under the white skin. He opened the cupboard. She was amazed to see that his clothes lay folded in neat piles. He put on a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, the ones he had been wearing the day before, and with some difficulty tugged a creased packet of cigarettes out from his pocket.

He slipped into a pair of flip-flops and edged past her with a click of his lighter.

‘Come on,’ he said softly as he passed. ‘Supper.’

It was nearly three in the morning. Grey iron shutters had been pulled down over shops and restaurants in Chungking. Apart from at Li Yuan’s.

‘So how did you wind up in Hong Kong?’ Kaja asked, looking at Harry, who, in an inelegant but effective way, was shovelling shiny glass noodles into his mouth from the white soup bowl.

‘I flew. Are you cold?’

Kaja automatically removed her hands from under her thighs. ‘But why here?’

‘I was on my way to Manila. Hong Kong was only supposed to be a stopover.’

‘The Philippines. What were you going to do there?’

‘Throw myself into a volcano.’

‘Which one?’

‘Well, which ones can you name?’

‘None. I’ve just read that there are loads of them. Aren’t some of them in … er, Luzon?’

‘Not bad. There are eighteen volcanoes in all, and three of them are in Luzon. I wanted to go up Mount Mayon. Two and a half thousand metres. A stratovolcano.’

‘Volcano with steep sides formed by layer upon layer of lava after an eruption.’

Harry stopped chewing and looked at her. ‘Any eruptions in modern times?’

‘Loads. Thirty?’

‘Records say forty-seven since 1616. Last one in 2002. Can be held to account for at least three thousand murders.’

‘What happened?’

‘The pressure built up.’

‘I mean to you.’

‘I’m talking about me.’ She fancied she saw a hint of a smile. ‘I exploded and started drinking on the plane. I was ordered off in Hong Kong.’

‘There are several flights to Manila.’

‘I realised that apart from volcanoes Manila has nothing that Hong Kong doesn’t have.’

‘Such as?’

‘Such as distance from Norway.’

Kaja nodded. She had read the reports on the Snowman case.

‘And most importantly,’ he said, pointing with a chopstick, ‘Hong Kong’s got Li Yuan’s glass noodles. Try them. That’s reason enough to apply for citizenship.’

‘That and opium?’

It was not her style to be so direct, but she knew she would have to swallow her natural shyness. This was her one shot at achieving what she had come to do.

He shrugged and concentrated on the noodles.

‘Do you smoke opium regularly?’

‘Irregularly.’

‘And why do you do that?’

He answered with food in his mouth. ‘So that I don’t drink. I’m an alkie. There, for example, is another advantage of Hong Kong compared with Manila. Lower sentences for dope. And cleaner prisons.’

‘I knew about your alcoholism, but are you a drug addict?’

‘Define drug addict.’

‘Do you have to take drugs?’

‘No, but I want to.’

‘Why?’

‘To numb the senses. This sounds like a job interview for a job I don’t want, Solness. Have you ever smoked opium?’

Kaja shook her head. She had tried marijuana a few times backpacking around South America but had not been particularly fond of it.

‘But the Chinese have. Two hundred years ago the British imported opium from India to improve the trade balance. They turned half of China into junkies just like that.’ He flicked the fingers of his free hand. ‘And when, sensibly enough, the Chinese authorities banned opium, the British went to war for their right to drug China into submission. Imagine Colombia bombing New York because the Americans confiscated a bit of cocaine on the border.’

‘What’s your point?’

‘I see it as my duty, as a European, to smoke some of the shit we have imported into this country.’

Kaja could hear herself laughing. She really needed to get some sleep.

‘I was tailing you when you did the deal,’ she said. ‘I saw how you do it. There was money in the bottle when you put it down. And opium afterwards. Isn’t that right?’

‘Mm,’ Harry said with a mouth full of noodles. ‘Have you worked at the Narc Unit?’

She shook her head. ‘Why the baby’s bottle?’

Harry stretched his arms above his head. The soup bowl in front of him was empty. ‘Opium stinks something awful. If you’ve got a ball of it in your pocket or in foil, the narco dogs can sniff you out even in a huge crowd. There is no money back on baby’s bottles, so no chance of some kid or some drunk nicking it during a handover. That has happened.’

Kaja nodded slowly. He had started to relax, it was just a question of persisting. Anyone who hasn’t spoken their mother tongue for a while gets chatty when they meet a compatriot. It’s natural. Keep going.

‘You like horses?’

He was chewing on a toothpick. ‘Not really. They’re so bloody moody.’

‘But you like betting on them?’

‘I like it, but compulsive gambling is not one of my vices.’

He smiled, and again it struck her how his smile transformed him, made him human, accessible, boyish. And she was reminded of the glimpse of open sky she had caught over Melden Row.

‘Gambling is a poor winning strategy long term. But if you have nothing left to lose, it’s the only strategy. I bet everything I had, plus a fair bit I didn’t have, on one single race.’

‘You put everything you had on one horse?’

‘Two. A quinella. You pick out the two horses to come first and second, regardless which of the two is the winner.’

‘And you borrowed money from the Triad?’

For the first time she saw astonishment in Harry’s eyes.

‘What makes a serious Chinese gangster cartel lend money to an opium-smoking foreigner who has nothing to lose?’

‘Well,’ Harry said, producing a cigarette, ‘as a foreigner you have access to the VIP box at Happy Valley racecourse for the first three weeks after your passport has been stamped.’ He lit his cigarette and blew smoke at the ceiling fan, which was turning so slowly that the flies were taking rides on it. ‘There are dress codes, so I had a suit made. The first two weeks were enough to give me a taste for it. I met Herman Kluit, a South African who earned