Cover

Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Authors

Also by Henning Mankell

Title Page

Epigraph

Africa – Sweden: May – August 1993

Prologue

Skåne: 21 September – 11 October 1994

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Skåne: 12 – 17 October 1994

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Skåne: 17 October – 3 November 1994

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Skåne: 4 – 5 December 1994

Epilogue

Copyright

HENNING MANKELL

The Fifth Woman

TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH BY
Steven T. Murray

About the Authors

Henning Mankell has become a worldwide phenomenon with his crime writing, gripping thrillers and atmospheric novels set in Africa. His prizewinning and critically acclaimed Kurt Wallander thrillers are currently dominating bestseller lists all over the globe. His books have been translated into over forty languages and made into numerous international film and television adaptations: most recently the BAFTA-award-winning BBC television series Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh. Mankell devotes much of his free time to working with Aids charities in Africa, where he is director of the Teatro Avenida in Maputo. In 2008 the University of St Andrews conferred on Henning Mankell an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, in recognition of his major contribution to literature and to the practical exercise of conscience.

Steven T. Murray has translated numerous works from the Scandinavian languages, including the Pelle the Conqueror series by Martin Andersen Nexø and three of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series. He founded Fjord Press in Seattle and was Editor-in-Chief from 1981 to 2001.

About the Book

Four nuns and a fifth woman, a visitor to Africa, are killed in a savage night-time attack. Months later in Sweden, the news of the unexplained tragedy sets off a cruel vengeance for these killings.

Inspector Kurt Wallander is home from an idyllic holiday in Rome, full of energy and plans for the future. Autumn settles in, and Wallander prays the winter will be peaceful. But when he investigates the disappearance of an elderly birdwatcher he discovers a gruesome and meticulously planned murder – a body impaled in a trap of sharpened bamboo poles. Then another man is reported missing. And once again Wallander’s life is on hold as he and his team work tirelessly to find a link between the series of vicious murders. Making progress through dogged police work and forever battling to make sense of the violence of modern Sweden, Wallander leads a massive investigation to find a killer whose crimes are the product of new realities that make him despair.

“I saw God in a dream and He had two faces. One was soft and kind like a mother’s face, and the other looked like the face of Satan.”

From The Fall of the Imam, by Nawal El Saadawi

“With love and care the spiderweb weaves its spider.”

African proverb

EPILOGUE

On the afternoon of 4 December, Kurt Wallander spoke with Yvonne Ander for the last time. He didn’t know then that it would be the last, although they didn’t make an appointment to meet again.

They had come to an end. There was nothing more to add. Nothing to ask about, no reply to give. And after that the long and complex investigation began to slip out of his consciousness for the first time. Although more than a month had passed since they captured her, the case had continued to dominate his life. In all his years as a detective, he had never had such an intense need to understand. Criminal acts were always just the surface, and sometimes, once the surface of a crime had been cracked, chasms opened that no-one could have imagined. This was the case with Yvonne Ander. Wallander punched through the surface and immediately looked down into a bottomless pit. He had decided to climb down into it. He didn’t know where it would lead, for her or for him.

The first step had been to get her to break her silence. He was successful when he read again the letters that she had exchanged all her adult life with her mother and kept so carefully. Wallander sensed that it was here he could start to break through her aloofness. And he was right. That was 3 November, more than a month earlier. He was still shattered by the fact that Ann-Britt had been shot. He knew by then that she would survive and even regain full health, but the guilt weighed so heavily that it threatened to suffocate him. His best support during that period was Linda. She came to Ystad, even though she didn’t really have time, and took care of him, forcing him to accept that circumstances were to blame, not him. With her help he managed to crawl through the first terrible weeks of November. Aside from the sheer effort of functioning normally, he spent all of his time on Yvonne Ander. She was the one who had shot and nearly killed Ann-Britt. In the beginning he often felt like hitting her. Later it became more important to try and understand her. He managed to break through her silence and get her to start talking. He knotted the rope around himself and started down into the pit.

What was it he found down there? For a long time he was unsure whether she was insane or not, whether all she said about herself were confused dreams and sick, deformed fantasies. He didn’t trust his own judgement during this time, and he could hardly disguise his wariness of her. But somehow he sensed that she was telling him the truth. Yvonne Ander was that rare type of person who couldn’t lie.

In the last bundle of letters from her mother was one from a police officer in Africa named Françoise Bertrand. At first couldn’t decipher its contents. It was with a number of unfinished letters from her mother. They were all from the same North African country, written the year before. Françoise Bertrand had sent her letter to Yvonne Ander in August 1993. Finally he understood. Yvonne Ander’s mother Anna had been murdered by mistake, and the police had covered the whole thing up. Politics were clearly behind the killing, although Wallander felt incapable of fully understanding what was involved. But Françoise Bertrand had in all confidence written the letter, outlining what had really happened. Without any help from Ander at this point, he discussed with Chief Holgersson what had happened to the mother. The chief listened and then contacted the national police. The matter was thus removed from Wallander’s responsibility. But he read through all the letters one more time.

Wallander conducted his meetings with Yvonne Ander in jail. She slowly came to understand that he was a man who wasn’t hunting her. He was different from the others, the men who populated the world. He was introverted, seemed to sleep very little, and was also tormented by worry. For the first time in her life Ander discovered that she could trust a man. She told him this at one of their last meetings.

She never asked him straight out, but she still believed she knew the answer. He had probably never struck a woman. If he had, it happened only once. No more, never again.

On 3 November Ann-Britt underwent the last of the three operations. Everything went well, and her convalescence could finally begin. During this entire month Wallander set up a routine. After his talks with Ander he would drive straight to the hospital. He seldom stayed long, but Ann-Britt became the discussion partner he needed in order to help him understand how to penetrate the depths he had begun to plumb.

His first question to Ander was about the events in Africa. Who was Françoise Bertrand? What had actually happened? A pale light was falling through the window into the room. They sat facing each other at a table. In the distance a radio could be heard. The first sentences she uttered he didn’t catch. It was like a powerful roar when her silence finally broke. He just listened to her voice. Then he started to listen to what she was saying. He seldom took notes during their meetings, and he didn’t use a tape recorder.

“Somewhere there’s a man who killed my mother. Who’s looking for him?”

“Not me,” he had replied. “But if you tell me what happened, and if a Swedish citizen has been killed overseas, we will take steps to see that justice is done.”

He didn’t mention the conversation he had had a few days before with Chief Holgersson, that her mother’s death was already being investigated.

“Nobody knows who killed my mother,” she continued. “Fate selected her as a victim. Her killer didn’t even know her. He thought he was justified. He believed he could kill anybody he wanted to. Even an innocent woman who spent her retirement taking all the trips she never had the time or the money to take before.”

She made no attempt to conceal her bitter rage.

“Why was she staying with the nuns?” he asked.

Suddenly she looked up from the table, straight into his eyes.

“Who gave you the right to read my letters?”

“No-one. But they belong to you, a person who has committed several atrocious murders. Otherwise I never would have read them.”

She turned away again.

“The nuns,” Wallander repeated. “Why was she staying with them?”

“She didn’t have much money. She stayed wherever it was cheap. She never imagined it would lead to her death.”

“This happened more than a year ago. How did you react when the letter arrived?”

“There was no reason for me to wait any longer. How could I justify doing nothing when no-one else seemed to care?”

“Care about what?”

She didn’t reply. He waited. Then he changed the question.

“Wait to do what?”

She answered without looking at him.

“To kill them.”

“Who?”

“The ones who went free in spite of all they had done.”

He realised he had guessed correctly. It was when she received Françoise Bertrand’s letter that a force locked inside her had been released. She had harboured thoughts of revenge, but she could still control herself. Then the dam broke. She decided to take the law into her own hands.

Later Wallander came to see that there really wasn’t much difference from what had happened in Lödinge. She had been her own citizen militia. She had placed herself outside the law and dispensed her own justice.

“Is that how it was?” he asked. “You wanted to dispense justice? You wanted to punish those who should have been brought before a court of law but never were?”

“Who’s looking for the man who killed my mother? Who?”

She fell silent again. Wallander could see how it had all begun. Some months after the letter came from Africa she broke into Holger Eriksson’s house. That was the first step. When he asked her point blank if it was true, she didn’t even act surprised. She took it for granted that he knew.

“I heard about Krista Haberman,” she said. “That it was the car dealer who killed her.”

“Who did you hear it from?”

“A Polish woman in the hospital in Malmö. That was many years ago.”

“You were working at the hospital then?”

“I worked there several different times. I often talked to women who had been abused. She had a friend who used to know Krista Haberman.”

“Why did you break into Eriksson’s house?”

“I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible, and I was looking for signs that Krista Haberman had been there.”

“Why did you dig the pit? Why the stakes? Did the woman who knew Krista Haberman suspect that the body was buried near that ditch?”

She didn’t answer. But Wallander understood anyway. Despite the fact that the investigation had always been hard to grasp, Wallander and his colleagues had been on the right track without knowing it. Ander had echoed the men’s brutality in her methods of killing them.

During the five or six meetings Wallander had with Ander, he went methodically through the three murders, clearing up details and piecing together the connections that had previously been so vague. He continued to talk to her without a tape recorder. After the meetings he would sit in his car and make notes from memory. Then he would have them typed up. A copy went to Per Åkeson, who was preparing the indictment, which would inevitably lead to a conviction on three counts. Yet the whole time, Wallander knew he was just scraping the surface. The real descent hadn’t even started yet. The evidence would send her to prison. But he wouldn’t find the actual truth he sought until he reached the deepest depths of the pit.

She had to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, of course. Wallander knew it was unavoidable, but he insisted that it be postponed. Right now the most important thing was that he be able to talk to her in peace. No-one objected to this. They understood that she would probably clam up again if she was upset. She was ready to talk to him and him alone.

They went further, slowly, step by step, day by day. Outside the jail the autumn was deepening and drawing them towards winter. Wallander never found out why Eriksson had driven up to get Krista Haberman in Svenstavik and then killed her. Presumably it was because she had denied him something he was used to getting. Maybe an argument turned violent.

He moved on to Gösta Runfeldt. She was convinced that Runfeldt had murdered his wife, drowned her in Stång Lake. And even if he hadn’t done it, he still deserved his fate. He had abused her so severely that she actually wanted to die. Höglund was right when she sensed that Runfeldt had been attacked in the florist’s shop. Ander had found out that he would be leaving for Nairobi and lured him to the shop by telling him that she had to buy flowers for a reception early the next morning. Then she knocked him to the ground. The blood on the floor was indeed his. The broken window was a diversion to fool the police into believing it was a break-in.

Then came a description of what for Wallander was the most terrifying element. Until that point he had tried to understand her without letting his emotional reactions take over. But then he couldn’t go any further. She recounted with utter calm how she had undressed Gösta Runfeldt, tied him up, and forced him into the baking oven. When he could no longer control his bodily functions she took away his underwear and laid him on a plastic sheet.

Later she led him out to the woods. By that time he was quite powerless. She tied him to the tree and strangled him. It was at that moment that she turned into a monster in Wallander’s eyes. It didn’t matter if she was a man or a woman. She became a monster, and he could only be thankful that they had stopped her before she killed Tore Grundén or anyone else on the list she had made.

The list was also her only mistake – she hadn’t destroyed the notebook in which she drew up her plans before she copied them into the ledger she kept in Vollsjö. Wallander never asked her why. Even she admitted it was a mistake. That was the only one of her actions she couldn’t explain. Later Wallander pondered whether she had actually wanted to leave a clue, that deep inside she wanted to be discovered and stopped. Sometimes he thought this was true, sometimes he didn’t.

She didn’t have much to say about Eugen Blomberg. She described how she shuffled the slips of paper. She let chance decide who would be next, just as chance had killed her mother. This was one of the times he interrupted her. Normally he let her speak freely, prompting her with questions when she couldn’t decide how to go on. But now he stopped her.

“So you did the same thing as the men who killed your mother,” he said. “You let chance select your victim.”

“It’s not comparable,” she replied. “All those men whose names I had written down deserved their death. I gave them time with my slips of paper. I prolonged their lives.”

He pursued it no further, since he realised that in an obscure way she was right. Reluctantly he admitted to himself that she had her own peculiar sort of truth.

When he read through the transcripts of the notes he made from memory, he could see that what he had was a confession, but it was also an exceedingly incomplete account. Did he succeed with what he intended? Afterwards, Wallander found it difficult to speak about Yvonne Ander. He always referred people who questioned him to the notes.

As it turned out, what became Yvonne Ander’s last will and testament was her story of the terrifying experiences of her childhood. Wallander was almost the same age as Ander, and he thought time after time that the era he was living in was concerned with one single decisive question: what are we actually doing with our children? She had told him how her mother was frequently abused by her stepfather, who had replaced her biological father. The stepfather had forced her mother to have an abortion. She had never had the chance to have the sister her mother was carrying. She couldn’t have known if it really was a sister – maybe it was a brother – but to her it was a sister, brutally ripped from her mother’s womb against her will one night in the early 1950s. She remembered that night as a bloody hell. When she was telling Wallander about it, she raised her eyes from the table and looked straight into his. Her mother had lain on a sheet on the kitchen table, the abortionist was drunk, her stepfather locked in the cellar, probably drunk too. That night she was robbed of her sister and for all time learned to view the future as darkness, with threatening men lurking round every corner, violence lurking behind every friendly smile, every word.

She had barricaded her memories into a secret interior room. She had been educated, become a nurse, and she had always harboured the vague notion that someday she would avenge the sister she never had, and the mother who wasn’t allowed to give birth to her. She collected the stories from abused women, she tracked down the dead women in muddy fields and Småland lakes, she entered names in a ledger, shuffled her slips of paper.

And then her mother had been murdered.

She described it almost poetically to Wallander. Like a silent tidal wave, she said. No more than that. I knew that it was time. I let a year pass. I planned, completed the timetable that had kept me alive all those years. Then I dug in a ditch at night.

Precisely those words. Then I dug in a ditch at night. Maybe they best summed up Wallander’s experience of his many conversations with Yvonne Ander that autumn. It was like a picture of the time he was living in. What ditch was he digging?

One question was never answered: why she suddenly, in the mid-1980s, changed professions and became a conductor. Wallander had understood that the train timetable was the liturgy she lived by, her handbook. But the trains remained her private world. Maybe the only one; maybe the last one.

Did she feel guilt? Åkeson asked him about that many times. Lisa Holgersson asked less often, his colleagues almost never. The only person besides Åkeson who really insisted on knowing was Ann-Britt Höglund. Wallander told her the truth: he didn’t know.

“Ander reminds me of a coiled spring,” he told her. “I can’t express it better than that. I can’t say whether guilt is part of it, or whether it’s gone.”

On 4 December it was over. Wallander had nothing more to ask, and Yvonne Ander had nothing more to say. The confession was complete. Wallander knew he had reached the end of the long descent. Now he could return to the surface. The psychiatric examination could begin, the defence lawyer could sharpen his pencils, and only Wallander had any idea what would happen.

He knew that Yvonne Ander would fall silent again, with the determined will of someone who has nothing more to say. Just before he left, he asked her about two more things he didn’t have answers to. The first was a detail that no longer had any significance, but he needed to satisfy his own curiosity.

“When Katarina Taxell called her mother from the house in Vollsjö, something was making a banging noise,” he said. “We couldn’t work out where that sound was coming from.”

She gave him a baffled look. Then her face broke open in a smile, the only one Wallander saw in all his talks with her.

“A farmer’s tractor had broken down in the field next to us. He was hitting it with a big hammer to get something loose from the undercarriage. Could you really hear that on the phone?”

Wallander nodded. He was already thinking of his last question.

“I think we actually met once,” he said. “On a train.”

She nodded.

“South of Älmhult? I asked you when we would get to Malmö.”

“I recognised you from the newspapers. From last summer.”

“Did you already know then that we’d catch you?”

“Why should I?”

“A policeman from Ystad gets on a train in Älmhult. What’s he doing there? Unless he’s following the trail of what happened to Gösta Runfeldt’s wife?”

She shook her head. “I never thought about that. I should have.”

Wallander had nothing more to ask. He had found out everything he wanted to know. He stood up, muttered goodbye, and left.

That afternoon Wallander visited the hospital as usual. Ann-Britt was asleep when he arrived, but he spoke to a doctor who told him that in six months she could return to work. He left the hospital just after 5 p.m. It was already dark, just below freezing, no wind. He drove out to the cemetery and went to his father’s grave. Withered flowers had frozen solid to the ground. It was still less than three months since they had come back from Rome. The holiday was vivid in his mind as he stood by the grave, wondering what his father had actually been thinking when he took his night-time walk to the Spanish Steps, to the fountain, with that gleam in his eyes.

It was as if Yvonne Ander and his father could have stood on either side of a river and waved to each other, even though they had nothing in common. Or did they? Wallander wondered what he himself had in common with her. He had no answer.

That night, out by the grave in the dark cemetery, the investigation came to an end for him. There would still be papers he would have to read over and sign, but the case was finished. The psychiatric examination would declare that she was in full possession of her faculties. Then she would be convicted and hidden away at Hinseberg. The investigation of the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death in Africa would also continue. But that had nothing to do with his own work.

The night of 4 December he slept badly. The next day he decided to look at a house just north of town. He was also going to visit a kennel in Sjöbo where they had a litter of black Labrador puppies for sale. The next day he had to go to Stockholm and speak at the police academy. Why he had given in when Chief Holgersson asked him again, he didn’t know. Now he lay awake wondering what the hell he was going to say.

On that restless night, he thought mostly about Baiba. Several times he got up and stood at the kitchen window, staring at the streetlight swaying on its wire.

Just after he had come back from Rome, at the end of September, they had decided that she would come to Ystad soon – no later than November. They would have a serious discussion about whether she should move to Sweden. But her visit had been postponed, first once, then again. Each time there were excellent reasons for why she couldn’t come, not yet. Wallander believed her, of course, but he couldn’t quell his feeling of uncertainty. Was it still there, invisible, between them? A rift he hadn’t seen? If so, why hadn’t he seen it? Because he didn’t want to?

Now she was really going to come. They were supposed to meet in Stockholm on 8 December. He would go straight from the police academy to Arlanda to meet her. Linda would join them in the evening and they would all head south to Skåne the following day. How long she would stay, he didn’t know, but this time they would have a serious discussion about the future, not just about the next time they could meet.

The night turned into a long vigil. The weather had turned warmer and the meteorologists were predicting snow. Wallander wandered like a lost soul between his bed and the kitchen window. Now and then he sat down at the kitchen table and made a few notes, in a futile attempt to find a starting point for the lecture he was going to give in Stockholm. All the time he couldn’t stop thinking about Yvonne Ander and her story. She was constantly on his mind, and occasionally she even blocked out thoughts of Baiba.

The person he thought very little about was his father. He was already far away. At times Wallander had trouble recalling all the details of his lined face. He’d had to reach for a photograph and look at it so that the memory wouldn’t completely slip away. During November he had visited Gertrud. The house in Loderup seemed empty, the studio cold and forbidding. Gertrud always gave the impression of being composed, but lonely.

Maybe he finally slept for a few hours towards dawn or maybe he was awake the whole time. By 7 a.m. he was already dressed. At 7.30 a.m. he drove his car, which sputtered suspiciously, to the police station. It was a particularly quiet morning. Martinsson had a cold; Svedberg had gone to Malmö on an assignment. The hall was deserted. He sat down in his office and read through the transcript of his notes of his last conversation with Yvonne Ander. On his desk there was also a transcript of an interview Hansson had carried out with Tore Grundén, the man she had tried to push in front of the train at Hässleholm. His background contained the same ingredients as all the other names in her macabre death ledger. Tore Grundén had once served time for abusing a woman. Wallander could see that Hansson had made it very clear to Grundén that he had been close to being torn to shreds by the oncoming train.

Wallander noticed that there was some tacit understanding among his colleagues of what Ander had done. That this understanding existed at all surprised him. She had shot Höglund, she had attacked and killed men. Normally a team of policemen wouldn’t be supportive of a woman like Yvonne Ander. It was possible to ask whether the police had a friendly attitude towards women at all, unless they were officers with the special stamina that both Ann-Britt Höglund and Lisa Holgersson possessed.

He scribbled his signature and pushed the papers aside. It was 8.45 a.m.

The day before, he had picked up the keys from the estate agent. It was a two-storey brick house in the middle of a big old garden to the north of Ystad. From the upper floor there was a view of the sea. He unlocked the door and went in. The rooms were empty. He walked around in the silence, opened the terrace door to the garden, and tried to picture himself living there.

To his surprise, it was easier than he had imagined. It was obvious that he wasn’t as attached to Mariagatan as he had feared. He asked himself whether Baiba might be happy there. She had talked about her own longing to get away from Riga – to the countryside, but not too far away, not too isolated.

It didn’t take him long to make up his mind that morning. He would buy the house if Baiba liked it. The price was also low enough that he could manage to get the necessary loans.

Just after 10 a.m. he left the house. He promised to give the estate agent a definite answer within the week. After looking at the house, he went on to look for a dog. The kennel was located along the road to Hoor, right outside of Sjöbo. Dogs barked from various cages when he turned into the courtyard. The owner was a young woman who, much to his surprise, spoke with a strong Göteborg accent.

“I’d like to look at a black Labrador,” Wallander said.

She showed them to him. The puppies were still too small to leave their mother.

“Do you have children?” she asked.

“None that still live at home unfortunately,” he replied. “Do you have to have children to buy a puppy?”

“Not at all. But this breed of dog is better with children than almost any other.”

Wallander explained that he might buy a house outside of Ystad. If he decided to do that, he also wanted to have a dog. One depended on the other.

“I’ll hold one of the puppies for you. Take your time, but not too long. I always have buyers for Labradors.”

Wallander promised to let her know within the week, just as he had promised the estate agent. He was shocked at the price she mentioned. Could a puppy really cost that much? But he knew that he would buy the dog if the house purchase went through.

He left the kennel at midday. When he came out onto the main road, he suddenly didn’t know where he was going. Was he on his way anywhere at all? He wasn’t going to see Yvonne Ander. For the time being they had no more to say to each other. They would meet again, but not now. Per Åkeson might ask him to expand on some of the details but he doubted it. They had more than enough evidence to convict her.

The truth was that he had nowhere to go. No-one really needed him. Without being fully aware of what he was doing, he headed towards Vollsjö and stopped outside Hansgården. Yvonne Ander owned the house, and would presumably continue to do so during all the years she would spend in prison. She had no close relatives, only her deceased mother. Whether she even had any friends was questionable. Katarina Taxell had been dependent on her, had received her support, just like the other women. But friends? Wallander shuddered at the thought. Yvonne Ander didn’t have a single person who was close to her. She stepped out of a vacuum and she killed people.

Wallander got out of his car. The house emanated desolation. When he walked around it, he noticed a window stood slightly open. That wasn’t good. Someone could easily break in. Wallander found a wooden bench and put it under the window, climbed inside and looked around. The window had been left open out of carelessness. He walked through the rooms, and looked at the baking oven with distaste. There was the invisible boundary. Beyond it he would never be able to understand her.

Now the investigation really was over. They had drawn a final line through the macabre list, interpreted the murderer’s language, and found the solution. That was why he felt superfluous. He was no longer needed. When he returned from Stockholm he would go back to the investigation of car smuggling to the former Eastern bloc countries. Not until then would he truly feel real to himself again.

A phone rang in the silence. Only on the second ring did he realise that it was ringing in his jacket pocket. He took it out. It was Per Åkeson.

“Am I interrupting anything?” he asked. “Where are you?”

Wallander didn’t want to tell him where he was.

“I’m sitting in my car,” he said. “But I’m parked.”

“I assume you haven’t heard the news,” Åkeson said. “There’s not going to be a trial.”

Wallander didn’t understand. The thought had never occurred to him, although it should have. He should have been prepared.

“Yvonne Ander committed suicide,” Åkeson said. “Sometime last night. She was found dead early this morning.”

Wallander held his breath. There was still something resisting, threatening to burst.

“She seems to have had access to pills. She shouldn’t have had them. At least not so many that she could take her own life. Spiteful people are going to ask whether you were the one who gave them to her.”

Wallander could hear that this was not a veiled question, but he answered it anyway.

“I didn’t help her.”

“The whole thing had a feeling of serenity about it. Everything was in perfect order. She seems to have made up her mind and carried it out. She died in her sleep. It’s easy to understand, of course.”

“Is it?” Wallander asked.

“She left a letter. With your name on it. I have it here on the desk in front of me.”

“I’ll be there in half an hour,” he said.

He stood where he was, with the silent phone in his hand, and tried to gauge what he was really feeling. Emptiness, maybe a vague hint of injustice.

He checked that the window was closed properly and then left the house through the front door.

It was a clear December day. Winter was lurking somewhere nearby.

Wallander went into Per Åkeson’s office. The letter was lying in the middle of the desk.

He took it with him and went down to the harbour. He walked out to the sea rescue service’s red shed and sat down on the bench. The letter was short.

Somewhere in Africa there is a man who killed my mother. Who is looking for him?

That was all.

Who is looking for him?

She had signed the letter with her full name. In the upper right-hand corner she had written the date and time.

5 December, 1994, 2.44 a.m.

The next-to-last entry in her timetable, he thought. She wouldn’t write the last one herself, the doctor would do that, when he put down the time of her death. Then there would be nothing more. The timetable would be closed, her life concluded.

Her departure was formulated as a question or accusation. Or maybe both.

Who is looking for him?

He tore the letter into strips and tossed them into the water. He remembered that once, several years ago, he had torn up a letter that he had decided against sending to Baiba. He had tossed that one into the water too. There was a great difference. He would see Baiba again, and very soon.

He watched the pieces of paper float away over the water. Then he left the harbour and went to the hospital to visit Ann-Britt.

Something was over at last. The autumn in Skåne was moving towards winter.

PROLOGUE

The night they had come to perform their holy deed was very still.

Afterwards it occurred to the one whose name was Farid, the youngest of the four men, that even the dogs had not made any sound. The men were enveloped by the warm air and barely noticed the faint breezes occasionally wafting in from the desert. They had been waiting since the onset of darkness.

The car that had transported them on the long journey from Algiers and the meeting place at Dar Aziza was old and had bad shocks. They had been forced to interrupt their journey twice, the first time to repair a flat on the left rear tire. They had not even travelled halfway at that point. Farid, who had never before ventured beyond the capital, had sat in the shadow of a boulder and gazed in wonderment at the dramatic shifts in the landscape. The tire’s rubber surface was cracked and worn, and it had blown out slightly north of Bou Saâda. It had taken a long time to unscrew the old nuts and attach the spare. Farid had understood from the muffled exchanges of the others that this delay meant that they would not have time to stop to eat. The journey was finally resumed. Then, shortly outside El Oued, the engine failed. Only after an hour were they able to locate the problem and find a temporary solution. Their leader, a pale man in his thirties with dark hair and the kind of burning eyes found only among those who lived with the call of the Prophet, angrily chided the chauffeur as he bent over the hot engine. Farid did not know the leader’s name, who he was, or where he was from. It was a measure of precaution.

Neither did he know the names of the other two men.

He only knew his own.

Eventually, they continued, the darkness already upon them, and had only water to drink. Nothing to eat.

When they finally reached El Oued, the night was, as mentioned, very still. They had stopped somewhere deep inside the town’s labyrinth of streets, close to a market. As soon as they stepped outside, the car disappeared. Somewhere out of the shadows a fifth man appeared and guided them on. It was only then, as they hurried through the darkness on unknown streets, that Farid began to think in earnest about what would soon take place. With his hand he could feel the slightly curved blade of the knife that rested in a case deep inside the pockets of his caftan.

It had been his brother, Rachid Ben Mehidi, who had first spoken to him of foreigners. They had spent a warm night sitting on the roof of their father’s house, looking out over the glimmering lights of Algiers. Even back then, Farid had known that Rachid was deeply involved in the struggle to change their country into an Islamic state, one that would follow only those laws prescribed by the Prophet. Now he spoke with Farid every evening about the importance of expelling the foreigners from their land. At first Farid had felt flattered that his brother took the time to discuss politics with him, even if at first he did not understand everything Rachid said. It was only later that he realized that Rachid had had another reason for devoting so much time to him. He wanted Farid himself to be part of the fight to drive the foreigners out of the land.

All this had taken place over a year ago. And now, as Farid followed the black-clothed men through the dark and narrow alleyways where the night air was completely stagnant, he was on his way to fulfilling Rachid’s request. Foreigners had to be expelled. But they would not be escorted to the harbours or airports. They would be killed. Then those who had not yet come to this land would decide to stay where they were.

Your task is holy, Rachid had repeatedly told him. The Prophet will be pleased. Your future will be very bright once we have transformed this country according to his wishes.

Farid fingered the knife in his pocket. Rachid had given it to him the night before, when they had said goodbye to each other on the roof. It had a beautiful ivory shaft.

They stopped when they reached the outskirts of the town. The streets opened onto a plaza. The night sky above them was very clear. They stood in the shadow of a long building with stucco walls, roller blinds shuttering its row of closed shops. On the other side of the street was a large stone villa behind an iron fence. The man who had led them here disappeared without a sound. Again they were only four. Everything was very quiet. Farid had never experienced anything like it before. It had never been so quiet in Algiers. In the nineteen years he had lived up to this moment he had never found himself in such stillness as he experienced now.

Not even the dogs, he thought. I can’t even hear the dogs that are out there in this darkness.

Lights were on in a few of the windows of the villa across the street. A bus with broken, flickering headlights came clattering down the street. Then silence fell again.

One of the lit windows went black. Farid tried to guess the time. They had been waiting perhaps half an hour. He was very hungry, having had nothing to eat since the early morning. The two flasks of water they had brought with them were also gone. But he did not want to ask for anything more. It would infuriate their leader. They were there to carry out a holy order and he asked for water?

Yet another light went off, and then, very shortly, the last one. The villa on the other side of the street was now dark. They continued to wait. Then their leader made a sign and they hastened across the street. An old guard posted at the gate was sleeping. He had a wooden stick in his hand. The leader gave him a kick. When the guard awoke, Farid saw the leader hold a knife close to his face and whisper something in his ear. Even in the poor light of the streetlamp Farid could see the fear in the old man’s eyes. The guard stood up and limped away. The gate creaked faintly as they opened it and slipped into the garden. There was a strong scent of jasmine and an herb that Farid recognized but could not remember the name of. Everything was still very quiet. Next to the tall doors of the house was a sign that read “Order of the Sisters of Christ.” Farid tried to think about what this could mean. At the same moment he felt a hand on his shoulder. He jumped. It was the leader who had touched him. For the first time he spoke—so softly that not even the night wind could hear what was said.

“There are four of us,” he said. “Inside there are also four people. They are sleeping one by one in separate rooms on either side of a corridor. They are old and will not offer any resistance.”

Farid looked at the other two men at his side. They were a couple of years older than he was. All at once Farid was sure they had done something like this before. He was the only one who was new. But he did not feel any anxiety. Rachid had assured him that what he was doing was for the sake of the Prophet.

The leader glanced at him, as if reading his thoughts.

“Four women live in this house,” he said. “They are foreigners who have refused to leave our land willingly. Therefore they have chosen to die. In addition, they are Christian.”

I am going to kill a woman, Farid thought. Rachid had not said anything about this.

There could be only one reason for it.

It was of no significance. It made no difference.

Then they entered the house. The front door had a lock that was easy to force with the blade of a knife. Inside, where it was dark and very warm since there was no breeze, they turned on their flashlights and carefully made their way up the wide staircase that wound its way up through the house. In the upstairs corridor there was a single bulb in the ceiling. All was still. There were four closed doors before them. The men unsheathed their knives. The leader pointed to the doors and nodded. Farid knew there was no room for hesitation. Rachid had said that everything had to be done very quickly. He would avoid looking at the eyes. He would look only at the throat and then make his cut firmly and decisively.

Afterwards he could not remember much of what had happened. The woman lying in the bed with a white sheet pulled over her had possibly had gray hair. He saw only a dim outline since very little light came in from the street. At the moment he had pulled the sheet away, she had woken up. But she had no time to scream, no time to understand what was happening, before he slashed her throat and immediately stepped back in order to avoid the blood. Then he had turned around and returned to the corridor. The whole thing had taken less than half a minute. Somewhere inside him the seconds had ticked by. They were just about to leave when one of the men called out in a low voice. The leader stiffened for a moment as if he didn’t know what to do.

There was another woman in one of the rooms. A fifth woman.

She should not have been there. She was a stranger. Perhaps she was visiting.

But she was also a foreigner. That much was apparent to the man who had discovered her.

The leader entered the room. Farid, who was standing behind him, could see that the woman had curled up on the bed. Her fear filled him with nausea. There was a dead body in the bed across from her. The white sheet was drenched with blood.

The leader pulled out his knife and slit the throat of the fifth woman.

Afterwards they left the house as silently as they had come. Somewhere in the darkness, the car was waiting for them. When dawn arrived, they had already left El Oued and the corpses of the five women far behind.

It was May 1993.

The letter arrived in Ystad on 19 August 1993. Since it had an African stamp and must be from her mother, she hadn’t opened it immediately. She wanted to have peace and quiet when she read it. From the thickness of the envelope she could tell there were many pages. She hadn’t heard from her mother in over three months and there must be plenty of news by now. She left the letter lying on the coffee table, deciding to wait until evening. But she felt vaguely uneasy. Why had her mother typed her name and address this time? No doubt the answer would be in the letter. It was close to midnight when she opened the door to the balcony and sat down among all her flowerpots. It was a lovely, warm August evening. Maybe one of the last of the year. Autumn was already at hand, hovering unseen. She opened the letter and started to read.

Only when she had read the letter to the end, did she start to cry. By then she knew that the letter was written by a woman. It wasn’t just the handwriting, there was also something about the choice of words, how the woman had described as mercifully as possible the gruesome truth of what had occurred. There was no mercy involved. There was only the act itself. That was all.

The letter was signed by Françoise Bertrand, a police officer. Her position was not entirely clear, but she was employed as a criminal investigator for the country’s central homicide commission. It was in this capacity that she had learned of the events that took place one night in May in a remote desert town in North Africa.

The facts of the case were clear, easy to grasp, and utterly terrifying. Four nuns, French citizens, had been slaughtered by unknown assailants, their throats slashed. The killers had left no traces, only blood; thick, congealed blood everywhere.

But there had also been a fifth woman, a Swedish tourist, who happened to be visiting the nuns on the night the assailants appeared with their knives. Her passport revealed that her name was Anna Ander, 66 years old, in the country on a tourist visa. With the passport was an open-return plane ticket. Since it was bad enough that four nuns had been murdered, and since Anna Ander seemed to have been travelling alone, under political pressure the police decided not to mention the fifth woman. She was simply not there on that fateful night. Her bed was empty. Instead, they reported her death in a traffic accident and then buried her in an unmarked grave. All traces of her were erased. And it was here that Françoise Bertrand entered the picture. Early one morning I was called in by my boss, she wrote in the long letter, and told to drive out to the convent. By this time the Swedish woman was already buried. Françoise Bertrand’s job was to destroy her passport and belongings.

Anna Ander had supposedly never arrived or spent any time in the country. She had ceased to exist, erased from all official records. Françoise Bertrand found a travel bag that the investigators had overlooked, lying behind a wardrobe. Inside were letters that Anna Ander had begun to write, and they were addressed to her daughter in a town called Ystad in faraway Sweden. Françoise Bertrand apologised for reading these private letters. She had asked for help from an alcoholic Swedish artist she knew in the capital, and he had translated the letters for her. Françoise wrote down the translations as he read them to her, and a picture gradually began to take shape.

Even then she already had pangs of conscience about what had happened to this fifth woman. Not only about the fact that she was brutally murdered in the country that Françoise loved so much. In the letter, she tried to explain what was happening in her country, and she also told something about herself. Her father was born in France but came to North Africa with his parents as a child. There he grew up, and later married a local woman. Françoise, the oldest of their children, had always had the feeling of having one foot in France and the other in Africa. But now she no longer had any doubt. She was an African. And that was why she was tormented by the strife tearing her country apart. That was also why she didn’t want to contribute to the wrongs against herself and her country by erasing this woman, by refusing even to take the responsibility for Anna Ander’s presence. Françoise Bertrand had begun to suffer from insomnia. Finally she decided to write to the dead woman’s daughter and tell her the truth. She forced herself to act in spite of the loyalty she felt to the police force, but she asked that her name be kept secret. I’m telling you the truth, she wrote at the end of her long letter. Maybe I’m making a mistake by telling you what happened. But how could I do otherwise? I found a bag containing letters that a woman wrote to her daughter. Now I’m telling you how they came into my possession and forwarding them to you.

Françoise Bertrand had enclosed the unfinished letters and Anna Ander’s passport.

Her daughter didn’t read the letters. She put them on the floor of the balcony and wept for a long time. Not until dawn did she get up. She went inside and sat motionless at the kitchen table, her head completely empty. But then suddenly everything seemed simple to her. She realised that she had done nothing but wait all these years. She hadn’t understood that before: the fact that she had been waiting, or why. Now she knew. She had a mission, and she didn’t need to wait any longer to carry it out. It was time. Her mother was gone. A door had been thrown wide open.

She stood up and went to get her box with the slips of paper she had cut up, and the big ledger she kept in a drawer under her bed. She spread the folded slips of paper on the table in front of her. She knew there were 43 of them. She started unfolding the slips, one by one.

The cross was on the 27th one. She opened the ledger and ran her finger down the column of names until she reached the right row. She stared at the name she had written there and slowly a face materialised before her. Then she closed the book and put the slips of paper back in the box.

Her mother was dead. She no longer had any doubt. And now there was no turning back. She would give herself a year to work through her grief, and to make all her preparations. She went back out onto the balcony, smoked a cigarette and gazed out over the waking city. A rain storm was moving in from the sea.