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Contents

Cover

About the Book

Also by Henning Mankell

Map

Title Page

Prologue

Part 1: The Eel Hunt

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Part 2: The Void

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Part 3: The Noose

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Part 4: The Thirteenth Tower

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Epilogue

Copyright

About the Book

In woodland outside Ystad, the police make a horrific discovery: a severed head, and hands locked together in an attitude of prayer. A Bible lies at the victim’s side, the pages marked with scribbled annotations. A string of macabre incidents, including attacks on domestic animals, have been taking place, and Inspector Wallander fears that these disturbances could be the prelude to attacks on humans on an even more alarming scale.

Linda Wallander, in preparation to join the police force, arrives at Ystad. Exhibiting some of the hallmarks of her father – the maverick approach, the flaring temper – she becomes entangled in a case involving a group of religious extremists who are bent on punishing the world’s sinners.

Following on from the enormous success of the Kurt Wallander mysteries, Henning Mankell has begun an outstanding new chapter in crime writing.

Henning Mankell

BEFORE THE FROST

TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH BY
Ebba Segerberg

HIS THOUGHTS WERE like a shower of red-hot glowing needles in his head, an almost unbearable pain. He did his utmost to remain calm, to think clearly. The worst thing was fear. The fear that Jim would unleash his dogs and hunt him down, like the terrified beast of prey he had become. Jim’s dogs: they were what he was most afraid of. All through that long night of November 18, when he had run until he was exhausted and had hidden among the decomposing roots of a fallen tree, he imagined that he could hear them closing in.

Jim never lets anyone escape, he thought. He seemed to me to be filled by an endless and divine source of love, but the man I have followed has turned out to be someone quite different. Unnoticed by us, he changed places with his shadow or with the Devil, whom he was always warning us about. The Devil of selfishness, who keeps us from serving God with obedience and submission. What appeared to me to be love turned into hate. I should have seen this earlier. Jim himself warned us about it time and again. He gave us the truth, but not all at once. It came slowly, a creeping realisation. But neither I nor anyone else wanted to hear it: the truth buried between the lines. It was my fault, I didn’t want to see it. In his sermons and in all his teachings he did not only talk of the spiritual preparations we needed to undergo to ready ourselves for the Day of Judgment. He was also always telling us that we had to be ready to die.

He arrested the train of his thoughts and listened. Wasn’t that the dogs barking? But no, it was only a sound inside him, generated by his fear. He went back in his confused and terrified mind to the apocalyptic events in Jamestown. He needed to understand what had happened.

Jim was their leader, shepherd, pastor. They had followed him in the exodus from California when they could no longer tolerate the persecution from the media and the state authorities. In Guyana, they were going to realise their dreams of a life of peaceful coexistence with nature and each other in God. And at first they had experienced something very close to that. But then it changed. Could they have been as threatened in Guyana as in California? Would they be safe anywhere? Perhaps only in death would they find the kind of protection they needed to construct the community they strove for. “I have seen far in my mind,” Jim said. “I have seen much further than before. The Day of Judgment is near at hand and if we are not to perish in that terrible maelstrom we have to be ready to die. Only through physical death will we survive.”

Suicide was the only answer. When Jim stood in the pulpit and mentioned it for the first time there was nothing frightening about his words. Initially parents were to give drinks laced with cyanide to their children; cyanide which Jim had stockpiled in plastic containers in a locked room at the back of his house. Then the grown-ups would take the poison. Those who were overcome with doubt in the final instance would be assisted by Jim and his closest associates. If they ran out of poison, they had guns. Jim would make sure that everybody was taken care of before he put the muzzle to his own head.

He lay under the tree, panting in the tropical heat. His ears strained to catch any sound of Jim’s dogs, those large, red-eyed monsters that had inspired fear in all of them. Jim had told them that everyone in his congregation, everyone who had chosen to follow his path and come to Guyana, had no choice but to continue on the path laid out by God. The path which James Warren Jones had decided was the right one.

It had sounded so comforting. No-one else would have been able to make words like death, suicide, cyanide and weapons sound so beautiful and soothing.

He shivered. Jim has walked around and inspected the dead, he thought. He knows I am missing and he’s going to send the dogs after me. The thought clawed its way out of his mind: the dead. Tears began to run down his face. For the first time, he took in the enormity of what had happened: Maria and the girl were dead, everyone was dead. But he did not want to believe it. Maria and he had talked about this in the small hours: Jim was no longer the same man they had once been drawn to, the one who had promised them salvation and a meaningful life if they joined the People’s Temple. It was Maria who put her finger on it. “Jim’s eyes have changed,” she said. “He doesn’t see us now. He looks past us and his eyes are cold, as if he wants nothing to do with any of us any more.”

They spoke of running away together, but every morning they agreed that they could not abandon the path they had chosen. Jim would become his old self again. He was suffering some sort of crisis and it would soon be over; he was stronger than all of them. And without him they would never have had this brief experience of what seemed to them like heaven on earth.

There was one memory which stood out. It was from that time when the drugs, alcohol and guilt about leaving his little daughter had brought him close to ending it. He wanted to throw himself in front of a truck or train and then it would be over and no-one would miss him. During one of those last meandering walks through town, when he was saying goodbye to all the people who didn’t care one way or another whether he lived or died, he happened to pass by the People’s Temple. “It was God’s plan,” Jim said later. “He had already decided that you would be among the chosen, one of the few to experience His mercy.” He didn’t know what had made him walk up those steps and go into the building that looked nothing like a church. He still didn’t know what it was, even now when he lay among the roots of a tree, waiting for Jim’s dogs to track him down and tear him limb from limb.

He knew he should be making good his escape, but he did not leave his hiding place. He had abandoned one child already; he was not going to abandon another. Maria and the girl were still back there with the others.

What had really happened? They had got up as usual in the morning and gathered outside Jim’s door. It stayed shut, as it so often had in the last days. They had therefore prayed without him, the 912 adults and the 320 children. Then they had left for their various jobs. He would never have survived had he not been one of a team given the task of finding two runaway cows. When he said goodbye to Maria and his daughter, he had no inkling of the terror to come. It was only when he and the other men reached the far side of the ravine that he understood that something was terribly wrong.

They had stopped dead in their tracks at the first sound of gunfire. And perhaps they heard human screams mingled with the chatter of the birds. They had looked at each other and then run back down towards the colony. He had become separated from the other men on the way back – possibly they had decided to flee rather than return. When he emerged from the shady forest and climbed the fence to the fruit orchards, everything was silent. Too silent. No-one was there, picking fruit. No-one at all was to be seen. He ran towards the houses, sure that something disastrous had occurred. Jim must have come out of his house this day with hate, not love, blazing from his eyes.

He had a cramp in his side and slowly shifted position, straining not to make any noise. What conclusion had he come to? As he ran through the fruit orchards, he tried to do what Jim had always taught them: to put his life in God’s hands. He prayed as he ran. Please, God, whatever may have happened, let Maria and the child be safe. But God had chosen not to hear him.

In his desperation he started to believe that the shots he had heard from the ravine were the sounds of God and Jim taking aim at each other. When he came rushing into the dusty main street of Jamestown he half expected to catch the two of them at their duel. But God was nowhere to be seen. Jim Jones was there, the dogs barked like crazy in their cages and there were bodies everywhere. He could see at once that they were all dead. It was as if they had been struck down by a giant fist from the sky. Jim Jones and the six brothers who were his personal assistants and bodyguards had gone round and shot the children trying to crawl away from their parents’ corpses. He ran among the dead, looking for Maria and the child, but without success.

It was when he shouted Maria’s name out loud that he heard Jim calling him. He turned and saw his pastor aim a pistol at him. They were about 20 metres apart and between them, stretched out on the brown-burned ground, were the bodies of his friends, contorted as in their death throes. Jim pulled the trigger, but the shot missed. He ran before Jim had the chance to shoot again. He heard many shots fired and he heard Jim roar in rage, but he had not been hit and he made his stumbling way across the bodies and kept running until it was dark. He didn’t know if he was the only survivor. Where were Maria and the girl? Why was he alone safe? Could one person escape the Day of Judgment? He didn’t know, he only knew that this was no dream. This was all too real.

At dawn, heat began to rise like steam from the trees. That was when finally he realised that no dogs were coming. He crawled out from under the tree roots, shook his aching limbs and stood up. He started back towards the colony. He was dead tired and extremely thirsty. Everything was still very quiet. The dogs are dead, he thought. Jim must have meant it literally when he said no-one would escape judgment. Not even the dogs. He climbed over the fence and started running. The first of the dead he saw were those who had tried to escape. They had been shot in the back.

Then he stopped by the corpse of a familiar-looking man. Shaking, he bent and turned the body face up. It was Jim. His gaze has finally softened, he thought. And he’s looking me straight in the eyes. He had a sudden impulse to strike him, to kick him in the face. But he quelled this violent urge and stood up. He was the only living soul among all these dead, and he could not rest until he found Maria and the girl.

Maria had tried to run; she had fallen forward when they shot her in the back. The girl was in her arms. He knelt beside them and cried. Now there’s nothing left for me, he thought. Jim has turned our paradise into a hell.

He stayed with them until helicopters started circling over the area. He reminded himself of something Jim had told them shortly after they first came to Guyana, when life was still good. “The truth about a person can just as well be determined with the nose as with your eyes and ears,” he had said. “The Devil hides inside people and the Devil smells of sulphur. Whenever you catch a whiff of sulphur, raise the Cross for protection.”

He didn’t know what the future held, if anything. He didn’t want to think about it. He wondered if he would ever be able to fill the void that God and Jim Jones had left behind.

PROLOGUE

Jamestown, November 1978

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PART 1

The Eel Hunt

CHAPTER 1

THE WIND PICKED up shortly after 9.00 on the evening of August 21, 2001. In a valley to the south of the Rommele Hills, small waves were rippling across the surface of Marebo Lake. The man waiting in the shadows beside the water stretched out his hand to discover the direction of the wind. Virtually due south, he found to his satisfaction. He had chosen the right spot to put out food to attract the creatures he would soon be sacrificing.

He sat on the rock where he had spread out a sweater against the chill. It was a new moon and no light penetrated the thick layer of clouds. Dark enough for catching eels. That’s what my Swedish playmate used to say when I was growing up. The eels start their migration in August. That’s when they bump into the fishermen’s traps and wander the length of the trap. And then the trap slams shut.

His ears, always alert, picked up the sound of a car passing some distance away. Apart from that there was nothing. He took out his torch and directed the beam over the shoreline and water. He could tell that they were approaching. He spotted at least two white patches against the dark water. Soon there would be more.

He switched off the light and tested his mind – exactingly trained – by thinking of the time. Three minutes past nine, he thought. Then he raised his wrist and checked the display. Three minutes past nine – he was right, of course. In another 30 minutes it would all be over. He had learned that humans were not alone in their need for regularity. Wild creatures could even be taught to respect time. It had taken him three months of patience and deliberation to prepare for tonight’s sacrifice. He had made himself their friend.

He switched on the torch again. There were more white patches, and they were coming nearer to the shore. Briefly he lit up the tempting meal of broken bread crusts that he had set out on the ground, as well as the two petrol containers. He switched off the light and waited.

When the time came, he did exactly as he had planned. The swans had reached the shore and were pecking at the pieces of bread he had put out for them, oblivious of his presence or by now simply used to him. He set the torch aside and put on his night-vision goggles. There were six swans, three couples. Two were lying down while the rest were cleaning their feathers or still searching for bread.

Now. He got up, took a can in each hand and splashed the swans with petrol. Before they had a chance to fly away, he spread what remained in each of the cans and set light to a clump of dried grass among the swans. The burning petrol caught one swan and then all of them. In their agony, their wings on fire, they tried to fly away over the lake, but one by one plunged into the water like fireballs. He tried to fix the sight and sound of them in his memory; both the burning, screeching birds in the air and the image of hissing, smoking wings as they crashed into the lake. Their dying screams sound like broken trumpets, he thought. That’s how I will remember them.

The whole thing was over in less than a minute. He was very pleased. It had gone according to plan, an auspicious beginning for what was to come.

He tossed the petrol cans into the water, tucked his jumper into the backpack and shone the torch around the place to be sure he had left nothing behind. When he was convinced he had remembered everything, he took a mobile phone from his coat pocket. He had bought the phone in Copenhagen a few days before.

When someone answered, he asked to be connected to the police. The conversation was brief. Then he threw the phone into the lake, put on his backpack and walked away into the night.

The wind was blowing from the east now and was growing stronger.

CHAPTER 2

IT WAS THE end of August and Linda Caroline Wallander wondered if there were any traits that she and her father had in common which yet remained to be discovered, even though she was almost 30 years old and ought to know who she was by this time. She had asked her father, had even tried to press him on it, but he seemed genuinely puzzled by her questions and brushed them aside, saying that she more resembled her grandfather. These “who-am-I-like?” conversations, as she called them, sometimes ended in fierce arguments. They kindled quickly, but they also died away almost at once. She forgot about most of them and supposed that he did too.

There had been one argument this summer which she had not been able to forget. It had been nothing really. They had been discussing their differing memories of a holiday they took to the island of Bornholm when she was little. For Linda there was more than this episode at stake; it was as if through reclaiming this memory she was on the verge of gaining access to a much larger part of her early life. She had been six, maybe seven years old, and both Mona and her father had been there. The idiotic argument had begun over whether or not it had been windy that day. Her father claimed she had been seasick and had thrown up all over his jacket, but Linda remembered the sea as blue and perfectly calm. They had only ever taken this one trip to Bornholm so it couldn’t have been a case of their having mixed up several trips. Her mother had never liked boat journeys and her father was surprised she had agreed to this one holiday to Bornholm.

That evening, after the argument had ended, Linda had had trouble falling asleep. She was due to start working at the Ystad police station in two months. She had graduated from the police training college in Stockholm and would have much rather started working right away, but here she was with nothing to do all summer and her father couldn’t keep her company since he had used up most of his holiday allowance in May. That was when he thought he had bought a house and would need extra time for moving. He had the house under contract. It was in Svarte, just south of the main road, right next to the sea. But the vendor changed her mind at the last minute. Perhaps because she couldn’t stand the thought of entrusting her carefully tended roses and rhododendron bushes to a man who talked only about where he was going to put the kennel – when he finally bought a dog. She broke the contract and her father’s agent suggested he ask for compensation, but he chose not to. The whole episode was already over in his mind.

He hunted for another house that cold and windy summer, but either they were too expensive or just not the house he had been dreaming of all those years in the flat on Mariagatan. He stayed on in the flat and asked himself if he was ever really going to move. When Linda graduated from the police training college, he drove up to Stockholm and helped her move her things to Ystad. She had arranged to rent a flat starting in September. Until then she could have her old room back.

They got on each other’s nerves almost immediately. Linda was impatient to start working and accused her father of not pulling strings hard enough at the station to get her a temporary position. He said he had taken the matter up with Chief Lisa Holgersson. She would have welcomed the extra manpower, but there was nothing in the budget for additional staff. Linda would not be able to start until September 10, however much they might have wanted her to start sooner.

Linda spent the interval getting to know again two old school friends. One day she ran into Zeba, or “Zebra” as they used to call her. She had dyed her black hair red and also cut it short so Linda had not recognised her at first. Zeba’s family came from Iran, and she and Linda had been in the same class until secondary school. When they bumped into each other on the street this July, Zeba had been pushing a toddler in a pushchair. They had gone to a café and had a coffee.

Zeba told her that she had trained as a barmaid, but her pregnancy had put a stop to her work plans. The father was Marcus. Linda remembered him, Marcus who loved exotic fruit and who had started his own plant nursery in Ystad at the age of 19. The relationship had soon ended, but the child remained a fact. Zeba and Linda chatted for a long time, until the toddler started screaming so loudly and insistently that they had to leave. But they had kept in touch since that chance meeting, and Linda noticed that she felt less impatient with the hiatus in her life whenever she managed to build these bridges between her present and the past that she had known in Ystad.

As she was going home to Mariagatan after her meeting with Zeba, it started to rain. She took cover in a shopping centre and – while she was waiting for the weather to clear up – she looked up Anna Westin’s number in the directory. She felt a jolt inside when she found it. She and Anna had had no contact for ten years. The close friendship of their childhood had ended abruptly when they both fell in love with the same boy. Afterwards, when the feelings of infatuation were long gone, they had tried to resuscitate the friendship, but it had never been the same. Linda hadn’t even thought much about Anna the last couple of years. But seeing Zeba again reminded her of her old friend and she was happy to discover that Anna still lived in Ystad.

Linda called her that evening and a few days later they met. Over the summer they would see each other several times a week, sometimes all three of them, but more often just Anna and Linda. Anna lived on her own as best as she could on her student budget. She was studying medicine.

Linda thought she was almost more shy now than when they were growing up. Anna’s father had left home when she was five or six years old and they never once heard from him again. Anna’s mother lived out in the country in Löderup, not far from where Linda’s grandfather had lived and painted his favourite, unchanging motifs. Anna was apparently pleased that Linda had reestablished contact, but Linda soon realised that she had to tread carefully. There was something vulnerable, almost secretive about Anna and she would not let Linda come too close.

Still, being with her old friends helped to make Linda’s summer go by, even though she was counting the days until she was allowed to pick up her uniform from fru Lundberg in the stockroom.

Her father worked flat out all summer, dealing with bank and post-office robberies in the Ystad area. From time to time Linda would hear about one case, which sounded like a series of well-planned attacks. Once her father had gone to bed, Linda would often sneak a look at his notebook and the case file he brought home. But whenever she asked him about the case directly he would avoid answering. She wasn’t a police officer yet. Her questions would have to go unanswered until September.

The days went by. In the middle of one afternoon in August her father came home and said that the estate agent had called about a property near Mossbystrand. Would she like to come and see it with him? She called to postpone a rendezvous she had arranged with Zeba, then they got into her father’s Peugeot and drove west. The sea was grey. Autumn was in the offing.

CHAPTER 3

THE WINDOWS WERE boarded up, one of the drainpipes stuck out at an angle from the gutter, and several roof shingles were missing. The house stood on a hill with a sweeping view of the ocean, but there was something bleak and dismal about it. This is not a place where my father could find peace, Linda thought. Here he’ll be at the mercy of his inner demons. But what are they, anyway? She began to list the chief sources of concern in his life, ordering them in her mind: first there was loneliness, then the creeping tendency to obesity and the stiffness in his joints. And beyond these? She put the question aside for the moment and joined her father as he inspected the outside of the house. The wind blew slowly, almost thoughtfully, in some nearby beech trees. The sea lay far below them. Linda squinted and spotted a ship on the horizon.

Kurt Wallander looked at his daughter.

“You look like me when you squint like that,” he said.

“Only then?”

They kept walking and behind the house came across the rotting skeleton of a leather sofa. A field vole jumped from the rusting springs. Wallander looked around and shook his head.

“Remind me why I want to move to the country.”

“I have no idea. Why do you want to move to the country?”

“I’ve always dreamed of being able to roll out of bed and walk outside to take my morning piss, if you’ll pardon my language.”

She looked at him with amusement. “Is that it?”

“Do I need a better reason than that? Come on, let’s go.”

“Let’s walk round the house one more time.”

This time she looked more closely at the place, as if she were the prospective buyer and her father the agent. She sniffed around like an animal.

“How much?”

“Four hundred thousand.”

She raised her eyebrows.

“That’s what it says,” he said.

“Do you have that much money?”

“No, but the bank has pre-approved my loan. I’m a trusted customer, a policeman who has always been as good as his word. I think I’m even disappointed I don’t like this place. An abandoned house is as depressing as a lonely person.”

They drove away. Linda read a sign by the side of the road: Mossbystrand. He glanced at her.

“Do you want to go there?”

“Yes. If you have time.”

This was where she had first told him of her decision to become a police officer. She was done with her vague plan to refinish furniture or to work in the theatre, as well as with her backpacking trips around the world. It was a long time since she had broken up with her first love, a boy from Kenya who had studied medicine in Lund. He had finally gone back to Kenya and she had stayed put. Linda had looked to her mother, Mona, to provide her with clues about how to live her own life, but all she saw in her mother was a woman who left everything half done. Mona had wanted two children and had only had one. She had thought that Kurt Wallander would be the great and only passion of her life, but she had divorced him and married a golf-playing retired banker from Malmö.

Eventually Linda had started looking more closely at her father, the detective chief inspector, the man who has always forgetting to pick her up at the airport when she came to visit. The one who never had time for her. She came to see that in spite of everything, now that her grandfather was dead, he was the one she was closest to. One morning just after she had woken up she realised that what she most wanted was to do what he did, to be a police officer. She had kept her thoughts to herself for a year and talked about it only with her boyfriend. When she was certain of it, she broke up with her boyfriend, flew down to Skåne, took her father to this beach and told him her news. He asked for a minute to digest what she had told him, which had made her suddenly unsure of herself. She had been convinced he would be happy. Watching his broad back, and his thinning hair blowing in the wind she had prepared for a fight, but when he turned and smiled at her, she knew.

They walked down to the beach. Linda poked her foot into some horse prints in the sand. Wallander looked at a gull hanging almost motionless above the sea.

“What are you thinking now?” she said.

“You mean about the house?”

“I mean about the fact that I’ll soon be wearing a police uniform.”

“It’s hard for me even to imagine it. It will probably be upsetting for me, though I don’t feel that way now.”

“Why upsetting?”

“I know what lies in store for you. It’s not hard to put the uniform on, but then to walk out in public is another thing. You’ll notice that everyone looks at you. You become the police officer, the one who is supposed to jump in and take care of any trouble. I know what that feels like.”

“I’m not afraid.”

“I’m not talking about fear. I’m talking about the fact that from the first day you put on the uniform it will be, inescapably, in your life.”

“How do you think I’ll do?”

“You did well at the training college. You’ll do well here. It’s all up to you when it comes down to it.”

They strolled along the beach. She told him she was going to go to Stockholm for a few days. Her graduating class was having a final party, a cadet ball, before everyone departed across the country to their new posts.

“We never had anything like that,” Wallander said. “I didn’t get much of an education, either. I still wonder how they sorted the applicants when I was young. I think they were interested in raw strength. You had to have some intelligence, of course. I do remember that I had quite a few beers with a friend after I graduated. Not in a bar, but at his place on South Förstadsgatan in Malmö.”

He shook his head. Linda couldn’t tell whether the memory amused or pained him.

“I was still living at home,” he said. “I thought Dad was going to keel over when I came home in my uniform.”

“How come he hated it so much – you becoming a police officer?”

“I think I only worked it out after he died. He tricked me.”

Linda stopped. “Tricked you?”

He looked at her, smiling.

“Well, what I think now is that it was actually fine with him that I chose to be a policeman, but instead of telling me straight out, it amused him to keep me on my toes. And he certainly managed that, as you remember.”

“You really believe that?”

“No-one knew him better than I did. I think I’m right. He was a scoundrel through and through. Wonderful, but a scoundrel. The only father I had.”

They walked back to the car. The clouds were breaking up and it was getting warmer. Wallander looked at his watch as they were leaving.

“Are you in a hurry?” he said.

“I’m in a hurry to start working, that’s all. Why do you ask?”

“There’s something I should look into. I’ll tell you about it as we go.”

They turned on to the road to Trelleborg and turned off by Charlottenlund castle.

“I wanted to drive past since we were in the neighbourhood.”

“Drive past what?”

“Marebo Manor, or – more precisely – Marebo Lake.”

The road was narrow and windy. Wallander told her about it in a somewhat disjointed and confusing way. She wondered if his written reports were as disorganised as the summary she was getting.

Yesterday evening a man had called the Ystad police. He had given neither a name nor a location and spoke with an odd accent. He had said that burning swans were flying over Marebo Lake. When the officer on duty had asked him for more details, the man hung up. The conversation was duly logged, but no-one had followed it up because there had been a serious assault case in Svarte that evening, as well as two break-ins in central Ystad. The officer in charge had decided that it was most probably a hoax call, or possibly a hallucination, but when Wallander heard of it from Martinsson he decided it was so bizarre that there might be some truth in it.

“Setting light to swans? Who would do a thing like that?”

“A sadist. Someone who hates birds.”

“Do you honestly think it happened?”

Wallander turned on to a road signposted to Marebo Lake and took his time before answering.

“Didn’t they teach you that at the training college? That policemen don’t think anything, they only want to know. But they have to remain open to every possibility, however improbable. Which would include something like a report about swans on fire. So, yes, it could be true.”

Linda didn’t ask any more questions. They left the car park and headed down to the lake. Linda trailed behind her father and felt as if she was already wearing a uniform.

They walked round the lake but found no trace of a dead swan. Nor did they see that their progress was all the way observed through the lens of a telescope.

CHAPTER 4

A FEW DAYS later Linda flew to Stockholm. Zeba had helped her make a dress for the ball. It was light blue and cut low across her chest and back. The class organisers had hired a big room on Hornsgatan. All 68 of them were there, even the prodigal son of the year, who had not managed to hide his drinking problem. No-one knew who had blown the whistle on him, so in a way they all felt responsible. Linda thought he was like their ghost; he would always be out there in the autumn darkness with a deep-seated longing to be forgiven and welcomed into their circle again.

On this occasion, their last chance to take their leave of each other and their teachers, Linda drank far too much wine. She wasn’t a novice drinker by any means, but she could usually pace herself. This evening she knew she was drinking too much. She felt more impatient than ever to start working as she talked with student colleagues who had already been able to take the plunge. Her best friend from the training college, Mattias Olsson, had chosen not to go home to Sundsvall but to take a job in Norrköping. He had already distinguished himself by felling a weight-lifting idiot who had run amok from the effects of all the steroids in his body.

There was dancing, and speeches, and occasionally a comic song satirising the teachers. Linda’s dress received many compliments. It would have been an altogether enjoyable evening had there not been a television set in the kitchen.

Someone heard on the late-night news that a police officer had been shot on the outskirts of Enköping. This news quickly spread among the dancing, intoxicated cadets and their teachers. The music was turned off and the television set brought out from the kitchen. Afterwards, Linda thought it was as if everyone had been kicked in the stomach. The party was over. They sat there in their long gowns and dark suits and watched footage of the crime scene as well as images of the officer who had been murdered. It had been a cold-blooded killing as he and his partner tried to question the driver of a stolen vehicle. Two men had jumped from the vehicle and opened fire on the policemen with automatic weapons. No warning shot had been fired. Their intention had clearly been to kill.

Linda was on her way to her Aunt Kristina’s flat when she stopped at Mariatorget and called her father. It was after 3.00 and she could tell that he was barely awake. For some reason that made her furious. How could he sleep when a colleague had just been killed? That was also what she said to him.

“My not sleeping won’t help anybody. Where are you?”

“On my way to Kristina’s.”

“The party went on until now? What time is it?”

“Three. It ended when we heard the news.”

She heard him breathing heavily, as if his body had still not decided to become fully awake.

“What’s that noise in the background?”

“Traffic. I’m looking for a taxi.”

“Who’s with you?”

“No-one.”

“Are you crazy? You can’t run around alone in Stockholm at this hour!”

“I’m fine, I’m not a child. Sorry I woke you.” She hung up on him. This happens way too often, she thought. He has no idea how infuriating he is.

She flagged down a taxi and was driven to Gärdet where Kristina, her husband and 18-year-old son lived. Kristina had made up the sofa bed in the living room for her. Light from the street lamps penetrated the curtains. There was a photograph of Linda with her father and mother on the bookcase. She remembered when the picture was taken; she was 14, it was sometime in the spring and they had driven out to her grandfather’s house in Löderup. Her father had won the camera in some office raffle and then, when they were about to take a family picture, her grandfather had suddenly baulked and locked himself in his studio. Her father had been extremely put out and Mona had sulked. Linda was the one who tried to convince her grandfather to come out and be in the picture.

“I won’t have my picture taken with those two people and their fake smiles when I know they’re about to leave each other,” he said.

She could remember to this day how that had hurt. She knew how insensitive he could sometimes be, and the words still felt like a slap in the face. When she had collected herself she asked him if it was true what he had said, if he knew something she didn’t.

“It won’t help matters if you keep turning a blind eye,” he said. “Go on. You’re supposed to be in that picture. Maybe I’m wrong about all this.”

Her grandfather was often wrong, but not in this case. And he had refused to be in that picture, which they took with the self-timer on the camera. The following year – the last year her parents lived together – the tensions in their home only grew.

That was the year she had tried to commit suicide. Twice. The first time, when she had slit her wrists, it was her father who found her. She remembered how frightened he had looked. But the doctors must have reassured him, since he and her mother said very little about it. Most of what they communicated was through looks and eloquent silences. But it propelled her parents into the last series of violent disputes which finally persuaded Mona to pack her bags and leave.

Linda had often thought it remarkable that she hadn’t felt responsible for the break-up, but in fact she felt she had done them a favour, helping to catapult them out of a marriage that had ended in all but name a long time ago.

He didn’t even know about the second time.

That was the biggest secret she kept from her father. Sometimes she supposed he must have heard about it, but in the end she was sure that he had never found out. The second time she tried to kill herself, it was for real.

She was 16, and had gone to stay with her mother in Malmö. It was a time of crushing defeats, the kind only a teenager can experience. She hated herself and her body, shunning the image she saw in the mirror while strangely enough also welcoming the changes she was undergoing. The depression hit her out of nowhere, beginning as a set of symptoms too vague to take seriously. Suddenly it was a fact and her mother had had absolutely no inkling of what was going on. What had most shaken Linda was that Mona had said no when she pleaded to be allowed to move to Malmö. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with her father, just that she wanted to get out of Ystad. But Mona had been unusually cool.

Linda had left the flat in a rage. It had been a day in early spring when there was still snow lying here and there. The wind blowing in from the sound had a sharp bite. She wandered along the city streets, not noticing where she was going. When she looked up she was on a bridge over the highway. Without really knowing why, she had climbed on to the railing and stood there, swaying. She looked down at the cars rushing past below, their sharp lights slicing the gloom. She wasn’t aware of how long she stood there. She felt no fear or self-pity, she simply waited for the cold and the fatigue spreading in her limbs to get her finally to step out into the void.

Suddenly there was someone by her side, speaking in careful, soothing tones. It was a woman with a round, childish face, perhaps not so much older than Linda. She was wearing a police uniform and behind her there were two patrol cars with flashing lights. Only the officer with the childish face approached her. Linda sensed the presence of others further back, but they had clearly delegated the responsibility of talking that crazy teenager out of jumping to this one woman. She told Linda her name was Annika, that she wanted her to come down, that jumping wouldn’t solve anything. Linda started defending herself – how could Annika possibly understand anything about her problems? But Annika hadn’t backed down, she had stayed calm, as if she had infinite patience. When Linda finally did climb down from the railing and start crying, from a sense of disappointment that was actually relief, Annika had started crying too. They hugged each other and stood there for a long time. Linda told her that she didn’t want her father to hear about it. Nor her mother for that matter, but especially not her father. Annika had promised to keep it under wraps and she had been true to her word. Linda had many times thought of calling the Malmö police station to thank her, but she never got further than lifting the receiver; she had never dialled the number.

She put the photograph back on the bookcase, thought briefly about the police officer who had been killed, and got ready for bed. She was woken in the morning by Kristina, who was getting ready for work. Kristina was her brother’s opposite in almost every particular: tall, thin, with a pointed face and a shrill voice that Linda’s father made fun of behind her back. But Linda loved her aunt: there was something refreshingly uncomplicated about her, and in this way too she was her brother’s opposite. From his perspective, life was nothing but a heap of dense problems, the ones in his private life, unsolvable, all to be addressed with the force and fury of a ravenous bear in his work.

Linda took the bus to the airport shortly before 9.00 in the hope of getting a flight to Malmö. All the papers’ headlines were of the murdered officer. She finally got a plane at noon for Sturup. Her father came to pick her up.

“Did you have a good time?” he said.

“What do you think?”

“How could I know? I wasn’t there.”

“But we talked last night – remember?”

“Obviously I remember. You were very unpleasant.”

“I was tired and upset. A policeman was murdered. It destroyed the whole party atmosphere. No-one was in the mood after that.”

He grunted, but he didn’t say anything. He let her off when they got to Mariagatan.

“Have you found out anything more about this sadist?” she said.

He didn’t understand what she was referring to.

“The bird hater. The burning swans.”

“Probably just a hoax call. Quite a few people live by the lake. Someone would have seen something if it had been true.”

Wallander drove back to the station and Linda went up to the flat. Her father had left a note by the phone. It was a message from Anna: Important. Call soon. Then her father had scribbled something she couldn’t read. She called him at work.

“Why didn’t you tell me Anna called?”

“I forgot.”

“What have you written here? I can’t read your writing.”

“She sounded worried about something.”

“How do you mean?”

“Just that. She sounded worried. You’d better call her.”

Linda called, but Anna’s line was busy. When she tried again there was no answer. At 7.00, after she and her father had eaten, she put on her coat and walked over to Anna’s place. As soon as Anna opened the door, Linda could see what her father had meant. Anna’s expression was changed; her eyes darted anxiously; she pulled Linda into the flat and closed the door. It was as if she were in a hurry to keep the outside world at bay.

CHAPTER 5

LINDA WAS REMINDED of Anna’s mother, Henrietta. She was a thin woman with a bird-like, nervous way of moving and Linda had always been a little afraid of her.

Linda remembered the first time she had played at Anna’s house. She may have been eight. Anna was in another class at school and they had never been sure what had drawn them to each other. It’s as though there’s an unseeable force that brings people together, she thought. At least, that’s the way it was with us. We were inseparable, until we fell in love with the same boy.

Anna’s father had only ever been present in pale photographs. Henrietta had carefully wiped away all traces of him, as if she were telling her daughter that there was no possibility of his return. The few photographs Anna had were hidden away in a drawer, under some socks and underwear. In the pictures he had long hair, glasses and a reluctant stance, as if he hadn’t really wanted to pose for the camera. Anna had shown her the pictures as a mark of deepest confidence. When they became friends her father had already been gone for two years. Anna quietly rebelled against her mother’s determination to keep the flat free of every trace of him. One time Henrietta had gathered up what remained of his clothes and stuffed them in a rubbish bag in the basement. Anna had gone down at night and rescued a shirt and some shoes, which she hid under her bed. For Linda this mysterious father had been a figure of adventure. She had often wished that she and Anna could trade places, that she could exchange her quarrelling parents for this man who had vanished one day like a grey wisp of smoke against a blue sky.

They sat on the sofa and Anna leaned back so that half of her face was in shadow.

“How was the ball?”

I know what she’s doing, Linda thought. Whenever Anna has anything important to talk about she never comes out and says it. It takes time.

“We heard about the murdered police officer in the middle of it and that pretty much ended it right there. But my dress was a success. How is Henrietta?”

“Fine.” Anna shook her head at her own words. “Fine – I don’t know why I always say that. She’s actually worse than ever. For the past two years she’s been composing a requiem for herself. She calls it ‘The Unnamed Mass’ and she’s thrown the thing into the fire at least twice. She managed to salvage most of the papers both times, but her self-esteem is about as low as it would be for a person with only one tooth left.”

“What kind of music does she write?”

“I hardly know. She’s tried to hum it for me – the few times she’s been convinced that what she was working on had any merit. But it doesn’t sound anything like a melody to me. It’s the sort of music that sounds more like screams, that pokes and hits you. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever listen to something like that. At the same time, I can’t help but admire that she hasn’t given up. I’ve tried to persuade her to do other things in life. She’s not fifty yet. But each time she’s reacted like a scalded cat. I wonder if she isn’t a little mad.”

Anna interrupted herself at this point as if she were afraid of having said too much. Linda waited for her to go on.

“Have you ever had the feeling you were going crazy?”

“Every day of the year.”

Anna frowned. “No, not like that. I’m serious.”

Linda was ashamed of her light-hearted comment.

“It happened to me once. You know all about that.”

“When you slit your wrists . . . and when you tried to jump off the overpass. That’s despair, Linda, it’s not the same thing. Everyone has to face up to despair at least once in their life. It’s a rite of passage. If you never find yourself raging at the sea or the moon or your parents you never really have the opportunity to grow up. The King and Queen of Contentment are damned in their own way. They have let their souls become numbed. Those of us who want to stay alive have to stay in touch with our sorrow and grief.”

Linda had always envied Anna’s fanciful way of expressing herself. I would have had to sit and write it all down if I was to come up with anything like that, she thought. The King and Queen of Contentment, forsooth.

“In that case, I suppose I’ve never really been afraid of losing my mind,” she said lightly.

Anna got up and walked to the window. After a while she returned to the sofa. We’re much more like our parents than we realise, Linda thought. I’ve seen Henrietta move in just that way when she’s anxious: get up, walk around and then sit down again.

“I thought I saw my father yesterday,” Anna said. “On a street in Malmö.”

Linda raised her eyebrows. “Your father? You saw him on a street?”

“Yes.”

Linda thought about it. “But you’ve never even seen him – not really, I mean. You were so young when he left.”

“I have pictures of him.”

Linda did the calculation. “It’s been twenty-five years since he left.”

“Twenty-four.”

“OK, twenty-four. How much do you think a person changes in that many years? You can’t know.”

“It was him. My mother told me about his gaze. I’m sure it was him. It must have been him.”

“I didn’t even know you were in Malmö yesterday. I thought you were going to Lund, to study or whatever it is you do there.”

Anna looked at her appraisingly. “You don’t believe me.”

“You don’t believe it yourself.”

“It was my dad.” She took a deep breath. “You’re right. I had been in Lund. When I got to Malmö, I had to change trains, there was a problem on the line. The train was cancelled and I had two hours to kill until the next one. It put me in a foul mood, since I hate waiting. I walked into town without any clear idea of what I was going to do, just to use up some of the unwanted, irritating time. Somewhere along the way I walked into a shop and bought a pair of socks I didn’t even