Henning Mankell is the prize-winning and internationally acclaimed author of the Inspector Wallander Mysteries, now dominating bestseller lists throughout Europe. He devotes much of his time to working with Aids charities in Africa, where he is also director of the Teatro Avenida in Maputo.
Ebba Segerberg teaches English at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri.
Faceless Killers
The Dogs of Riga
The White Lioness
The Man Who Smiled
The Fifth Woman
One Step Behind
The Return of the Dancing Master
Before the Frost
Chronicler of the Winds
Kennedy’s Brain
The Eye of the Leopard
I Die, But the Memory Lives On
Young Adult Fiction
A Bridge to the Stars
Shadows in the Twilight
When the Snow Fell
The wind died down towards evening, then stopped completely.
He was standing on the balcony. Some days he could see a sliver of ocean between the buildings across the way. Right now it was too dark. Sometimes he set up his telescope and looked into the lighted windows of the other flats. But he invariably began to feel as if someone were on to him and then he would stop.
The stars were very clear and bright.
It’s already autumn, he thought. There may even be a touch of frost tonight, though it’s early for Skåne.
A car drove past. He shivered and went back in. The door to the balcony was hard to close and needed some adjustment. He added it to the “to do” list he kept on a pad in the kitchen.
He walked into the living room, pausing in the doorway to look around. Since it was Sunday, the place was immaculately clean. It gave him a feeling of satisfaction.
He sat at his desk and pulled out the thick journal he kept in one of the drawers. As usual he began by reading his entry from the night before.
Saturday, October 4, 1997. Gusty winds, 8–10 metres per second according to the Meteorological Office. Broken cloud formations. Temperature at 6 a.m. 7°C. Temperature at 2 p.m. 8°C.
Below that he had added four sentences: No activity in C-space today. No messages. C doesn’t reply when prompted. All is calm.
He took off the top of the ink pot and carefully dipped the nib in the ink. It had been his father’s pen, saved from his early days as an assistant clerk at a bank in Tomelilla. He himself would use no other pen for writing his journal.
The wind died away as he was writing. The thermometer outside the kitchen window read 3°C. The sky was clear. He recorded that cleaning the flat had taken three hours and 25 minutes, ten minutes faster than last Sunday.
He had also taken a walk down to the marina, after meditating in St Maria’s Church for half an hour. He hesitated, then wrote: Short walk in the evening. He pressed the blotting paper over the lines he had written, wiped the pen and put the top back on the ink pot. Before closing the journal, he glanced at the old ship’s clock on the desk. It was 11.20.
In the hall he put on his leather jacket and his old rubber boots. He checked that he had his wallet and his keys.
Once on the street, he stood for a while in the shadows and looked about him. There was no-one there, as he had expected. He walked down to the left, as he usually did, crossing the main road to Malmö, heading towards the department stores and the red-brick building that housed the Tax Authorities. He increased his pace until he found his normal, smooth late-night rhythm. He walked more quickly in the daytime to get his heart rate up, but the late-night walks had a different purpose. This was when he tried to empty his mind, preparing for sleep and the day to come.
Outside one of the department stores he passed a woman with an Alsatian. He almost always encountered her on his late-night walks. A car drove by at high speed, its radio blaring.
They have no inkling of what’s in store for them, he thought. All these hooligans who drive around damaging for ever their hearing with their obnoxious music. They don’t know. They know as little as that woman out walking her dog.
The thought cheered him up. He thought about the power he wielded, the sense of being one of the chosen. He had the power to do away with the ingrained, corrupt ways of this society and create a new order, something completely unexpected.
He stopped and looked up at the night sky.
Nothing is truly comprehensible, he thought. My own life is as incomprehensible as the fact that the light I see now from the stars has been travelling for aeons. The only source of meaning is my own course of action, like the deal I was offered 20 years ago and that I accepted without hesitation.
He continued on his way, going faster, because his thoughts were exciting him. He felt a growing impatience. They had waited so long for this. Now the moment was approaching when they would open the invisible dams and watch the tidal wave sweep over the world.
But not yet. The moment was not quite here, and impatience was a weakness he would not permit himself.
He turned round and started back. As he walked past the Tax Authority he decided to go to the cash machine in the square. He put his hand over the pocket where he kept his wallet. He wasn’t going to make a withdrawal, just get an account balance and make sure all was as it should be.
He stopped in the light by the ATM and took out his blue card. The woman with the Alsatian was long gone. A heavily loaded truck went by on the Malmö road, probably on its way to one of the Poland ferries. By the sound of it, the muffler was damaged.
He punched in his code and selected “account balance”. The machine returned his card and he put it back in his wallet. He listened to the whirring and clicking and smiled. If they only knew, he thought. If people only knew what lay in store for them.
The paper slip showing his balance emerged from the slot. He felt around for his glasses before he realised he had left them in his other coat. He felt a twinge of irritation at this oversight.
He walked to where the light was brightest, under the street lamp, and studied the slip of paper. There was Friday’s withdrawal, as well as the cash he had taken out on Saturday. His balance was 9,765 kronor. Everything was in order.
What happened next came without warning. It was as if he had been kicked in the chest by a horse. The pain was sudden and violent.
He fell forward, the piece of paper clutched in his hand. As his head hit the pavement he experienced an instant of clarity. His final thought was that he couldn’t understand what was happening to him. A darkness enveloped him from all sides.
A second truck on its way to the night ferry drove past.
Then calm returned to the streets.
It was just after midnight on Monday, October 6, 1997.
When Kurt Wallander got into his car on Mariagatan in Ystad, on the morning of October 6, 1997, it was with reluctance. It was just gone 8 a.m. As he drove out of the city, he wondered what had possessed him to say he would go. He had such a profound dislike of funerals. And yet that was his objective. Since he had plenty of time, he decided against taking the direct route to Malmö. Instead he took the coast road by way of Svarte and Trelleborg. He glimpsed the sea on his left-hand side. A ferry was approaching the harbour.
He thought about the fact that this was his fourth funeral in seven years. First there had been his colleague Rydberg, who died of cancer. It had been a protracted and painful end. Wallander had visited him often at home and finally at the hospital as slowly he wasted away. Rydberg’s death had been a huge blow. It was Rydberg who had made a police officer of him, taught him to ask the right questions. Through watching him work, Wallander had learned how to read the information hidden at the scene of a crime. Before he started working with Rydberg, Wallander had been a very average policeman. It was only after Rydberg’s death that Wallander realised he had become not only a stubborn and energetic detective, but a good one. He still held long conversations with Rydberg in his head when he tackled a new investigation and didn’t know quite how to proceed. Almost every day he experienced a twinge of loss and sadness at Rydberg’s absence. Those feelings would never leave him.
Then there was his father, who had died unexpectedly. He had collapsed from a stroke in his studio. That was three years ago. Even now, Wallander sometimes had trouble grasping the fact that his father wasn’t there any more, surrounded by the smell of turpentine and oil paint. The house in Löderup had been sold. Wallander had driven past it a few times since then and seen that new people had moved in. He had never stopped and taken a closer look. From time to time he went to his father’s grave, always with an inexplicable feeling of guilt. These visits were getting more infrequent. It was getting harder for him to conjure up his father’s face.
A person who died eventually became a person who had never existed.
Then there was Svedberg, one of his own officers, who had died a terrible death only a year ago. That had made him realise how little he knew about the people he worked with. During the investigation he had uncovered a more complicated network of relationships in Svedberg’s life than he would ever have dreamed of.
And now he was on his way to funeral number four, the only one he really didn’t have to go to. She had called on Wednesday, just as Wallander was about to leave the office. It was late afternoon and he had a headache from concentrating on a depressing case involving smuggled cigarettes. The tracks seemed to lead to northern Greece, then went up in smoke. Wallander had exchanged information with both German and Greek police. But still they had not managed to arrest the smugglers. He realised now that the driver of the truck with the smuggled goods probably had no idea what had been in his load. All the same, he would go to jail for a couple of months at least. Nothing else would come of it. Wallander was sure contraband cigarettes landed by every ferry in Ystad. He doubted they would ever put a stop to it.
His day had also been poisoned by an argument with the prosecutor, the man filling in for Per åkeson, who had taken charitable work in the Sudan two years ago and seemed to be in no hurry to come back. Wallander was filled with envy each time he received a letter from åkeson. He had actually done what Wallander had only fantasised about: starting all over again.
Wallander was about to turn 50 and he knew, though he could scarcely admit it, that the decisive events of his life were behind him. He would never be anything but a police officer. The best he could do in the years leading up to retirement was to try to become better at solving crimes, and to pass on his knowledge to the younger generation. But there were no life-changing decisions in wait for him, no Sudan.
He was just about to put his jacket on when the telephone rang. At first he hadn’t known who she was. Then he realised she was Stefan Fredman’s mother. Memories and isolated images from three years ago rushed back in the space of a few seconds. It was the case of the boy who had painted himself to look like a Native American warrior and had revenged himself on the men who had driven his sister insane and filled his younger brother with terror. One of the victims had been the boy’s own father. Wallander flinched at one of the last, most disturbing images: the boy kneeling by his sister’s dead body, weeping. He didn’t know what had happened afterwards, except that the boy had been sent to a secure psychiatric ward rather than prison.
Now Anette, his mother, had called to say the boy was dead. He had thrown himself out of a window. Wallander had expressed his condolences and they had been genuine, though perhaps what he felt was a sense of hopelessness and despair rather than grief. He had not yet understood why she had called him. He stood with the receiver to his ear, trying to recall her face. He had only met her on two or three occasions, in her home in a suburb of Malmö, when he had been struggling with the idea that a 14-year-old boy had committed these heinous crimes. She had been shy and tense. There was something cringing about her, as if she always expected everything to turn out for the worst. In her case it often did. Wallander remembered and wondered if she were addicted to alcohol or prescription medication. But he didn’t know. He could hardly bring her face to mind. Her voice he did not recognise at all.
She wanted Wallander to be at the funeral. There were so few people coming. She was the only one left now, apart from Stefan’s younger brother Jens. Wallander had, after all, been someone who wished them well. He said he’d be there. He had changed his mind the moment he said it, but it was too late.
He rang one of Stefan’s doctors, to try and find out what became of the boy, after his admittance to the psychiatric ward. He was told that Stefan had hardly said a word during the past few years, had shut himself off from the world outside. But the boy who came smashing down onto that slab of concrete on the hospital grounds had worn full-blown warrior warpaint. That disturbing mask of paint and blood held little clue as to who the young person locked inside had been, but it spoke volumes about the violent and largely indifferent society in which he had been formed.
Wallander drove slowly. He had been surprised when he put on his suit that morning and found that the trousers fitted him. He must have lost weight. Since being diagnosed with diabetes the previous year he had been forced to modify his eating habits, start exercising and lose weight. At the beginning he had put himself on the bathroom scales several times a day, until finally he threw them out in a rage.
But his doctor had not relented, and had insisted that Wallander do something about his unhealthy eating habits and his almost complete lack of exercise. His nagging had eventually borne fruit. Wallander had bought a tracksuit and trainers and was taking regular walks. When Martinsson suggested they run together, Wallander had drawn the line. He had established a regular circuit that took about an hour, from Mariagatan through the Sandskogen park, and back. He forced himself out on a walk at least four times a week, and had also forced himself to stay away from his favourite fast-food places. As a result his blood sugar levels had dropped and he had lost weight. One morning as he was shaving, he noticed in the mirror that his cheeks were hollow again. It was like getting his old face back after having worn an artificial padding of fat and bad skin. His daughter Linda had been delighted with the change when she last saw him. On the other hand, no-one at the station made any comments about his appearance. It’s as if we never really see each other, Wallander thought. We work together, but we don’t see each other.
Wallander drove by Mossbystrand, which was empty on this autumn morning. He thought of the time six years ago when a rubber dinghy had drifted ashore here with two bodies in it.
On a whim, he slammed on the brakes and turned round. He had plenty of time. He parked and got out. There was no wind and it was perhaps a couple of degrees above freezing. He buttoned his coat and followed the trail that snaked between the sand dunes to the sea. There was no-one there, but there were tracks of people and dogs in the sand. And horses. He looked out over the water. A flock of birds was flying south in formation.
He still remembered exactly where they had found them. It had been a difficult investigation and had led Wallander to Latvia. He had met Baiba in Riga. She was the widow of a Latvian police officer, a man Wallander had got to know and like.
They had started seeing each other. For a long time he had thought it was going to work, that she would move to Sweden. They had even looked at houses. But then she had begun to draw back. Wallander thought, jealously, that she had met someone else. He even flew to Riga once, without warning her, to surprise her. But there was no-one else, only Baiba’s doubts about marrying another policeman and leaving her homeland where she had an underpaid but rewarding job as a translator. So it had ended.
Wallander walked along the shore and realised that a year had gone by since he had last talked to her. She sometimes appeared in his dreams still, but he never managed to take hold of her. Whenever he approached her or put out his hand to touch her she was gone. He asked himself if he really missed her. His jealousy was gone; he no longer flinched at the thought of her with another man.
I miss the companionship, he thought. With Baiba I managed to escape the loneliness I hadn’t even been aware of.
He returned to the car. I should avoid deserted beaches in the autumn, he thought. They make me depressed. He had taken refuge once in a remote part of northern Jylland. He had been on sick leave due to depression and thought he would never go back to his work as a police officer in Ystad again. It was many years ago, but he could recall in terrifying detail how he had felt then. He never wanted to experience it again. That bleak and blustery landscape had seemed to awaken his deepest anxieties.
He got back into the car and drove on to Malmö. He wondered what the coming winter was going to be like, if there would be much snow or if it would simply rain. He also wondered what he was going to do during the week of leave he was due in November. He had discussed with Linda taking a charter flight to somewhere warmer. It would be his treat. But she was still in Stockholm, studying something – he didn’t know what – and said she really couldn’t get away. He had tried to think of someone else he could go with, but he had practically no friends. There was Sten Widén, who raised horses on a stud farm outside Ystad, but Wallander was not sure he would be such a good travel companion. Widén drank like a fish, and Wallander was struggling to keep his own once considerable alcohol consumption to a minimum. He could ask Gertrud, his father’s widow. But what would they talk about for a whole week? There was no-one else.
He would stay at home and use the money towards a new car. The Peugeot was getting old. It had started to sound pretty odd.
He was in the suburb of Rosengård soon after 10 a.m. The funeral was at 11.00. The church was a modern building. Nearby some boys were bouncing a football off a concrete wall. There were seven of them, three black. Another three also looked as though they might have immigrant parents. The last one had freckles and unruly blond hair. The boys were kicking the ball around with enthusiasm and a great deal of laughter. For a second Wallander felt an overwhelming urge to join them, but he stayed where he was. A man walked out of the church and lit a cigarette. Wallander got out of the car and approached him.
“Is this where Stefan Fredman’s funeral is going to be held?” he said.
The man nodded. “Are you a relative?”
“I didn’t think there would be very many people here,” the man said. “I take it you know what he did.”
“Yes, I know.”
The man looked down at his cigarette. “Someone like him is better off dead.”
Wallander felt himself get angry. “Stefan wasn’t even 18 years old. Someone that young is never better off dead.” He realised he was shouting.
The smoker looked at him with curiosity. Wallander shook his head angrily and turned away. At that moment the hearse drove up. The brown coffin was unloaded. There was only a single wreath on it. He should have brought flowers himself.
Wallander walked over to the boys who were still playing football. “Any of you know of a flower shop around here?” he said.
One of the boys pointed into the distance.
Wallander took out his wallet and held up a hundred-kronor note. “Run over and buy me some flowers,” he said. “Roses. And hurry back. I’ll give you ten kronor for your trouble.”
The boy looked at him wide-eyed, but took the money.
“I’m a police officer,” Wallander said. “A dangerous police officer. If you make off with the money I’ll find you.”
The boy shook his head. “Then why aren’t you wearing a uniform?” he asked in broken Swedish. “You don’t look like a policeman. Not a dangerous one, anyway.”
Wallander got out his police badge and showed it to him. The boy studied it for a while, then nodded and set off. The others resumed their game.
There’s a good chance he won’t be back, Wallander thought gloomily. It’s been a long time since civilians had any respect for the police.
But the boy returned with the roses as promised. Wallander gave him 20 kronor, the ten he’d promised him and ten for actually coming back. He knew he was being overly generous, but it was too late now. A taxi drew up at the church steps and Stefan’s mother got out. She had aged and was so thin she looked ill. A young boy of about seven stood by her side. He looked a lot like his brother. His eyes were wide and frightened. He still lived in fear from that time. Wallander walked over and greeted them.
“It’s just going to be us and the minister,” the woman said.
They walked into the church. The minister was a young man who was sitting on a chair next to the coffin, leafing through a newspaper. Wallander felt Anette Fredman suddenly grab hold of his arm. He understood.
The minister got up and put his newspaper away. They sat down to the right of the coffin. She was still clinging to Wallander’s arm.
First she lost her husband, Wallander thought. Björn Fredman was an unpleasant and brutal man, who hit her and terrified his children, but he had been her husband and the father of her children. He was murdered by his own son. Then her oldest child, Louise, had died. And now here she is, about to bury her son. What’s left for her? Half a life? As much as that?
Someone entered the church behind them. Fru Fredman did not seem to hear anything, or else she was trying so hard to stay in control of herself that she couldn’t focus on anything else. A woman was walking up the aisle. She was about Wallander’s age. Anette Fredman finally looked up and nodded to her. The woman sat down a few rows behind them.
“She’s a doctor,” she said. “Her name is Agneta Malmström. She helped Jens a while back when he wasn’t doing so well.”
Wallander recognised the name, but it took him a moment to remember that it was Agneta Malmström and her husband who had provided him with the most important clues in the Stefan Fredman case. He had spoken to her late one night with the help of Stockholm Radio. She had been on a yacht far out at sea, beyond Landsort.
Wallander heard organ music although he had not seen an organist. The minister had turned on a tape recorder. Wallander wondered why he had not heard any church bells. Didn’t funerals always start with the ringing of church bells? This thought was pushed aside when Anette Fredman’s grip on his arm tightened. He cast a glance at the boy by her side. Should a child his age be attending a funeral? Wallander didn’t think so. But the boy looked fairly collected.
The music died away and the minister began to speak. He started by reminding them of Christ’s words, “Let the little ones come unto me.” Wallander concentrated on the wreath that lay on the coffin, counting the blossoms to keep the lump in his throat from growing.
The service was short. Afterwards, they approached the coffin. Fru Fredman was breathing hard, as if she were in the final few yards of a race. Dr Malmström stood right behind them. Wallander turned to the minister, who seemed impatient.
“Bells,” Wallander said to him. “Why were there no bells? There should be bells ringing as we walk out, and not a recording either.”
The minister nodded hesitantly. Wallander wondered what would have happened if he had pulled out his police badge. They started walking out. Jens and his mother went ahead. Wallander said hello to Agneta Malmström.
“I recognised you,” she said. “We’ve never met, but I’ve seen your face in the papers.”
“She asked me to come. Did she call you too?”
“No, I came of my own accord.”
“What’s going to happen now?”
Dr Malmström shook her head slowly. “I don’t know. She’s started drinking heavily. I have no idea how Jens is going to get on.”
At this point they reached the vestibule where Fru Fredman and Jens were waiting for them. The church bells rang out. Wallander opened the doors, throwing one last look at the coffin. Some men were already carrying it through a side door.
Suddenly a flash went off in his face. There had been a press photographer waiting outside. Anette Fredman held up her hands to shield her face. The photographer turned from her and tried to get a picture of the boy. Wallander put out his arm to stop him, but the photographer was too quick. He got his picture.
“Why can’t you leave us alone?” Fru Fredman cried.
The boy started to cry. Wallander grabbed the photographer and pulled him aside. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he hissed.
“None of your fucking business,” the photographer said. He had bad breath. “I shoot whatever sells. Pictures of a serial killer’s funeral sell. Too bad I didn’t get here earlier.”
Wallander reached for his police badge, then changed his mind and snatched the camera. The photographer tried to pull it out of his hands, but Wallander was stronger. He opened the camera and pulled out the film.
“There have to be limits,” Wallander said, and handed the camera back to him.
The photographer stared at him, then took his mobile from his jacket pocket. “I’m calling the police,” he said. “That was assault.”
“Do it,” Wallander said. “I’m a detective with the CID in Ystad. Inspector Kurt Wallander. Call my colleagues in Malmö and tell them whatever you want.”
Wallander let the roll of film fall to the ground and broke open the casing under his shoe. The church bells stopped ringing. He was sweating and still enraged. Anette Fredman’s shrill plea to be left alone echoed in his head. The photographer stared at the destroyed film. The group of boys were still playing football.
Fru Fredman had asked him to join them for coffee after the service when she called. He had not been able to say no.
“There won’t be any pictures in the paper,” Wallander said.
“Why can’t they leave us alone?”
Wallander had nothing to say. He looked over at Agneta Malmström, but she had nothing to say either.
The flat in the shabby rental building was just as Wallander remembered. Dr Malmström came with them. They sat in silence while they were waiting for the coffee to percolate. Wallander thought he heard a clink of glass from the kitchen.
Jens was on the floor playing quietly with a car. Wallander could see that Dr Malmström found it all as depressing as he did, but there was nothing to say.
They sat there with their coffee cups. Anette Fredman sat across from them with shiny eyes. Dr Malmström tried to discover how she was managing, now that she was unemployed. Fru Fredman answered in vague perfunctory phrases.
“We manage. Things will work out somehow. A day at a time.”
The conversation died away. Wallander looked down at his watch. He got up and shook Anette Fredman’s hand. She burst into tears. Wallander was taken aback. He didn’t know what to do.
“You go,” Dr Malmström said. “I’ll stay with her a little while.”
“I’ll call to see how things are going,” Wallander said. Then, awkwardly, he patted the boy’s head and left.
He sat in the car for a while before starting the engine. He thought about the photographer who was so sure the pictures of a serial killer’s funeral would sell.
I can’t deny that this is how things are now, he thought. But that doesn’t mean that I can understand a single bit of it.
He drove through the autumn landscape to Ystad. It had been a depressing morning.
An easterly wind had picked up. As he walked into the police station, he saw that a belt of cloud was moving in over the coast.
By the time Wallander reached his office, he had a headache. He looked in his desk drawers for some tablets. He heard Hansson walk past his door whistling. Finally, he found a crumpled packet of acetaminophen. He went to the canteen to get himself a glass of water and a cup of coffee. A group of young officers, who had been taken on during the last couple of years, was sitting at one table talking loudly. Wallander nodded in their direction and said hello. He heard them talking about their time at Police Training College. He walked back to his office and watched the two tablets dissolve in the glass of water.
He thought about Fru Fredman. He tried to imagine what the future might hold for the little boy in the impoverished suburb of Rosengård who had played so quietly on the living-room floor. He had seemed to be hiding from the world, carrying within him his memories of a dead father and two siblings, now both dead too.
Wallander drained the glass and immediately felt the headache lifting. He looked at a folder that Martinsson had put on his desk, Urgent as all hell on a red Post-it on the front. Wallander already knew the facts of the case. They had discussed it last week on the telephone while Wallander was at a national police conference on new directions for policing the violence associated with the growing motorcycle gang movement. Wallander had asked to be excused, but Chief Holgersson had insisted. She specifically wanted him on this. One of the gangs had just bought a farm outside Ystad and they had to be prepared to deal with them in the future.
Wallander opened the folder with a sigh. Martinsson had written a concise report of the events. Wallander leaned back in his chair and thought about what he had just read.
Two girls, one 19, the other not more than 14, had ordered a taxi from a restaurant at about 10 p.m. on Tuesday. They had asked to be driven to Rydsgård. One was in the passenger seat. As they reached the outskirts of Ystad she asked the driver to stop, saying she wanted to move to the back seat. When the taxi pulled over to the side of the road, the girl in the back hit the driver on the head with a hammer. The girl in the passenger seat stabbed him in the chest with a knife. They took the driver’s wallet and his mobile and left. The driver was able to make an emergency call on the taxi radio despite his condition.
His name was Johan Lundberg and he was about 60 years old. He had been a taxi driver almost all his adult life. He had given good descriptions of both girls. Martinsson had been able to get their names by using these descriptions while interviewing other people who had been in the restaurant.
The girls had been arrested in their homes. Both were now in custody despite their age, because of the enormity of the crime and the violence involved. Lundberg had been conscious when admitted at the hospital, but his condition had deteriorated. He was now unconscious, and the doctors were unsure of the prognosis. As a motive for the crime, Martinsson reported, the girls had offered only the explanation that they “needed money”.
Wallander made a face. He had never known anything like it – two girls responsible for an act of such pointless brutality. According to Martinsson’s notes, the younger girl had excellent grades at school. The older one was a hotel receptionist and had earlier worked as a nanny in London. She had applied for a place on a foreign-language course at the university. Neither had been in trouble before.
I just don’t get it, Wallander thought. This total lack of respect for human life. They could have killed that taxi driver, and it may even turn out that way. Two girls. If they had been boys I could maybe understand, if only because by now I’m used to it.
He was interrupted by a knock on the door. His colleague Ann-Britt Höglund was in the doorway. As usual she looked pale and tired. Wallander thought about the change in her life since she first came to Ystad. She had been one of the best in her class at Police Training College and had arrived with a great deal of energy and ambition. Today she still possessed a strong will, but she was changed. The paleness in her face came from within.
“Do you want me to come back later?” she said.
“No, not at all.”
She sat down gingerly in the rickety chair opposite him. Wallander pointed to the papers in front of him. “Do you have anything to say about this?” he asked.
“Is it the taxi driver case?”
“I’ve talked to the older girl, Hökberg. She gave me clear and strong answers, answered everything. And seemed to have not a trace of remorse. The other girl has been in custody with the social welfare people because of her age.”
“Can you understand it?”
Höglund paused before answering. “Yes and no. We know that crime has spread down to the ranks of the very young.”
“Forgive me, but I don’t recall a case of two teenage girls attacking anyone with a knife and a hammer. Were they drunk?”
“No. But I don’t know if that should surprise us. Maybe the surprise is that something like this didn’t happen sooner.”
Wallander leaned over the desk. “You’ll have to run that last part by me again.”
“I don’t know if I can explain it.”
“Give it a try.”
“Women aren’t needed in the workforce any more. That era is over.”
“But that doesn’t explain why a young girl would assault a taxi driver.”
“There has to be something more to it than we know. Neither you nor I believe that people are born evil.”
Wallander shook his head. “I cling to that belief,” he said, “though at times it’s a challenge.”
“Just look at the magazines young girls are reading. Now it’s all about beauty again, nothing else. How to get a boyfriend and find meaning for life through his interests and dreams, that sort of thing.”
“Wasn’t that what they were always about?”
“No. Think of your own daughter. Didn’t she have her own ideas about what to do with her life?”
Wallander knew that she was right. “Yes, but that doesn’t get me to the point of knowing why they attacked Lundberg,” he said.
“But you should know. Young girls are slowly starting to see through the messages society sends them. When they work out they aren’t needed, that in fact they’re superfluous, they react just as viciously as boys. And go on to commit crimes, among other things.”
Wallander was quiet. He now understood the point Höglund had been trying to make.
“I don’t think I can explain it any better,” she said. “Shouldn’t you talk to them yourself?”
“Martinsson has suggested it.”
“Actually, I stopped by for another reason. Something I need your help on.”
Wallander waited for her to continue.
“I said I’d give a talk to a women’s club in Ystad. The meeting is on Thursday evening, but I don’t feel up to it any more. There’s too much going on in my life, and I can’t seem to focus.”
Wallander knew that she was in the throes of agonising divorce proceedings. Her husband was constantly away due to his work as an engineer. He was sent all over the world, and that meant that the process was dragging on. It was more than a year since she had first told Wallander about the marriage ending.
“Why don’t you see if Martinsson would do it?” Wallander said. “You know I’m hopeless at lectures.”
“You only have to tell them what it’s like to be a police officer,” she said. “And you’d only need to speak for half an hour to an audience of 30 or so women. Probably there will be questions too. They’ll love you.”
Wallander shook his head firmly. “Martinsson will be more than happy to do it,” he said. “And he has experience in politics so he’s used to this kind of thing.”
“I already asked him. He can’t.”
“The same. There’s only you.”
“What about Hansson?”
“He’d start talking about horse racing after a few minutes. He’s hopeless.”
Wallander saw that he would have to give in. He couldn’t leave her in the lurch. “What kind of women’s club?”
“It started as a book club, I think, which has grown into a society for intellectual and literary activity. They’ve been active for about ten years.”
“Well, I don’t want to do it but, since you’re stuck, I will.”
She was clearly relieved and gave him a piece of paper. “Here’s the name and number of the contact person.” The address was in the middle of town, not far from where he lived. Höglund got to her feet.
“They won’t pay you anything,” she said. “But you’ll get plenty of coffee and cake.”
“I don’t eat cake.”
“If it’s any help, this kind of public service is exactly what the chief constable wants us to be doing. You know how we’re always getting those memoranda about finding new ways of reaching out to the community.”
Wallander thought of asking her how she was getting on in her personal life, but he let it pass. If she had a problem she wanted to discuss with him, she would be the one to bring it up.
“Weren’t you going to go to Stefan Fredman’s funeral?”
“I was just there, and it was exactly as depressing as you might imagine.”
“How is the mother taking it? I can’t remember her name.”
“Anette. She’s certainly been dealt a bum hand in life. But I think she’s taking good care of the one child she has left. Or is trying to, at any rate.”
“We’ll have to wait and see.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“What’s the boy’s name?”
“We’ll have to wait and see if the name Jens Fredman starts popping up in our police reports in about ten years’ time.”
Wallander nodded. There was certainly that possibility.
Höglund left and Wallander went to fetch a fresh cup of coffee. The young officers were gone. Wallander walked to Martinsson’s office. The door was wide open, but the room was empty. Wallander returned to his office. His headache was gone. He looked out of the window. Some blackbirds were screeching over by the water tower. He tried to count them, but there were too many.
The phone rang and he answered without sitting down at his desk. It was someone calling from the bookshop to let him know that the book he had ordered had come in. Wallander couldn’t recall ordering a book, but said that he’d call in to pick it up the following day.
He remembered what the book was as soon as he put the receiver down. It was a present for Linda. A French book on restoring antique furniture. Wallander had read about it in a magazine at the doctor’s surgery. He was still hoping that Linda would return to her idea of restoring furniture for a living, despite her subsequent experimentation with other careers. He had ordered the book and promptly forgotten about it. He pushed his coffee cup aside and decided to call her later that evening. It had been several weeks since they had talked.
Martinsson walked in. He was always in a hurry and seldom knocked. Over the years, Wallander had become steadily more convinced of Martinsson’s abilities as a police officer. His chief weakness was that he would probably rather be doing something else. There had been times when he had seriously considered quitting, the worst one of which was set off by his daughter being attacked at school. The offenders maintained that it was for no other reason than that she was the daughter of a policeman. That had been enough to push him over the edge. But Wallander had eventually been able to talk him out of it. Martinsson’s greatest strengths were that he was both stubborn and sharp. His stubbornness was sometimes overtaken by a certain impatience and then his sharp wits were not enough. Occasionally he turned in sloppy background work.
Martinsson leaned against the door frame. “I tried to ring you,” he said, “but your mobile was turned off.”
“I was in church,” Wallander said. “I forgot to turn it on again.”
“At Stefan’s funeral?”
Wallander told Martinsson what he had told Höglund, that it was as grim as he could have imagined.
Martinsson gestured to the file on his table.
“I’ve read it,” Wallander said. “And I still can’t fathom what drove these girls to take a hammer and a knife and assault someone – anyone – like that.”
“It says it right there,” Martinsson said. “They needed the money.”
“But why such violence? How is he, anyway?”
“Who else?”
“He’s still unconscious and on the critical list. They promised to call if there was any change. It doesn’t look so good, though.”
“Do you understand any of this?”
Martinsson sat down. “No,” he said, “I certainly don’t. And I’m not sure I want to.”
“But we have to. If we’re going to do our jobs, that is.”
Martinsson looked at Wallander. “You know I’ve often thought about quitting. Last time you managed to talk me out of it. Next time it won’t be as easy.”
Wallander was worried. He didn’t want to lose Martinsson as a colleague, any more than he wanted to see Höglund turn up in his office with her resignation. “Maybe we should go and talk to this Hökberg girl,” he said.
“There’s one more thing.”
Wallander sat back in his chair. Martinsson had some papers in his hand.
“I want you to look at this. It happened last night. I was on duty and saw no reason to get you out of bed.”
“Tell me.”
Martinsson scratched his forehead. “A night patrolman called in at around 1 a.m., saying that there was a man lying dead in front of one of the cash machines outside a department store in the town.”
“Which one?”
“The one next to the Inland Revenue.”
Wallander nodded in recognition.
“We drove down to check it out. According to the doctor the man hadn’t been dead long, a couple of hours at the outside. We’ll have the autopsy report in a few days, of course.”
“What had happened?”
“That’s the question. He had an ugly wound on his head, but whether somebody hit him or whether he injured himself when falling to the ground, we couldn’t tell.”
“Had he been mugged?”
“His wallet was still there, with money in it.”
Wallander thought for a moment. “No-one saw anything?”
“Who was he?”
Martinsson looked in his papers. “Name of Tynnes Falk. 47 years old and living nearby. He was renting the top-floor flat at 10 Apelbergsgatan.”
Wallander raised his hand. “10 Apelbergsgatan?”
“That’s right.”
Wallander nodded slowly. A couple of years ago, soon after his divorce from Mona, he had met a woman during a night of dancing at the Hotel Saltsjöbaden. Wallander had been very drunk. He had gone home with her and woken up the next morning in a strange bed next to a woman he hardly recognised, whose name he couldn’t remember. He had thrown his clothes on and left and never saw her again. For some reason, he was sure she had lived at 10 Apelbergsgatan.
“Do you recognise the address?” Martinsson said.
“I just didn’t hear you.”
Martinsson looked at him with surprise. “Was I mumbling?”
“Please go on.”
“He was single, divorced actually. His ex-wife still lives here, but their children are all over the place. A boy of 19 is studying in Stockholm. The girl is 17 and works as a nanny at an embassy in Paris. The ex-wife has been notified.”
“Where did he work?”
“He seems to have worked for himself. Some kind of computer consultant.”
“And he wasn’t robbed?”
“No, but he had just rung up his account balance at the cash machine before he died. He still had the slip in his hand when we found him.”
“And he hadn’t taken out any money?”
“The records say not.”
“Strange. The most reasonable thing would be to assume that someone was waiting for him to withdraw money and then strike when he had the cash.”
“That occurred to me as well, of course, but the last time he made a withdrawal was on Saturday, and that wasn’t even a large sum of money.”
Martinsson handed Wallander a plastic bag with a blood-spattered bank receipt. The time on it said 12.02 a.m. He handed it back to Martinsson.
“What does Nyberg say?”
“That nothing apart from the head wound points to a crime. He probably had a heart attack.”
“Perhaps he had been expecting to see a higher figure than the one he found on the printout,” Wallander said, thoughtfully.
“Why do you say that?”
Wallander wondered too. He stood up. “Let’s wait for the autopsy report. Until then we’ll assume no crime has been committed, so put it aside for now.”
Martinsson gathered up his papers. “I’ll contact the lawyer who was assigned to Hökberg. I’ll let you know when he can be expected here so you can talk to her.”
“Not that I want to,” Wallander said. “But I suppose I should.”
Martinsson left and Wallander walked to the toilets. He should be grateful at least that his days of constantly urinating due to elevated blood sugar were over.
For an hour he kept working on the contraband cigarettes case, while the thought of the favour he had agreed to do for Höglund nagged at the back of his mind.
At 4.02 p.m. Martinsson telephoned to say that Hökberg and her lawyer were ready.
“Who is he?” Wallander said.
“Herman Lötberg.”
Wallander knew him. He was one of the older ones, and easy to work with. “I’ll be there in five minutes,” Wallander said, and hung up.
He walked back to the window. The wind had picked up and the blackbirds were gone. He thought about Mrs Fredman and the boy, playing quietly on the floor. He thought about his frightened eyes. He shook his head and thought instead of the questions he was going to ask the Hökberg girl. Martinsson’s notes told him that she was the one in the back seat who had hit Lundberg on the head with a hammer. Many blows, not just one. As if she had been in a blind rage.
Wallander picked up a notebook and pen and left. Halfway there he realised that he had left his glasses behind. He went back.
There’s really only one question, he thought as he returned to the conference room. Why did they do it? Their saying they needed money isn’t enough. There’s another answer somewhere, a deeper answer that I have to find.