Authors: Henning Mankell
“Did he tell you about it?”
“I was with him.”
“When he met Palme?”
“I was his chauffeur that day, you could say. I sat in the car outside, waiting for him, after watching him, in his dress uniform and a dark overcoat, vanish through the entrance door to the most exalted dwelling in the land after the royal palace. The visit lasted about half an hour. After ten minutes a traffic cop knocked on the window and said that drop-offs were allowed but parking was forbidden. I rolled down the window and informed him that I was waiting for somebody currently discussing very important business with the prime minister and had no intention of moving. After that I was left in peace. When Håkan eventually came back, there were beads of sweat on his forehead.”
They had driven off in silence.
“We came here,” said Sten Nordlander. “And we sat at this very table. As we got out of the car it started snowing. We had a white Christmas in Stockholm that year. It stayed white until New Year’s Eve. Then it rained.”
Marie returned with her coffeepot. This time they both had their cups refilled. When Sten Nordlander complied with Swedish tradition and popped a cube of sugar into his mouth before taking a sip of coffee, Wallander noticed that he had false teeth. The discovery made him feel sick for a few moments. Perhaps because it reminded him that he should visit the dentist far more often than he did.
According to Sten Nordlander, von Enke gave a detailed account of his meeting with Olof Palme. He had been well received. Palme asked a few questions about his military career, and spoke ironically about his own status as a reserve officer. Palme listened attentively to what von Enke had to
say. And what he had to say was unambiguous. When it came to his relationship with his employer, the Swedish defense forces, von Enke had violated every convention there was. By approaching the prime minister on his own initiative he had burned all bridges with the supreme commander and his staff. There was no going back now. He felt obliged to say exactly what he thought about the whole business. He spoke for over ten minutes before coming to the main point. And Palme listened, he said. With his mouth half open, and looking him in the eye from start to finish. Afterward, when von Enke had reached the end of his diatribe, Palme thought for a while before asking questions. He wanted to know first of all if the military had been certain about the nationality of the submarine, and if it definitely was from one of the Warsaw Pact countries. Håkan responded by asking a different question, Nordlander said. He wondered where else it could have come from. Palme didn’t reply, merely pulled a face and shook his head. When Håkan started to speak about treason and a military and political scandal, Palme interrupted and said this was a discussion that should take place in a different context, not during a private interview with the prime minister. That was as far as they got. A secretary peered discreetly around the door and reminded Palme of another meeting that was scheduled to begin. When Håkan came out he was sweating, but also relieved. Palme had listened to him, he said. He was full of optimism and convinced that things would now start moving. The prime minister doubtless understood what Håkan had said about treason. He would corner his minister of defense and his supreme commander and demand an explanation. Who had opened the cage and let the submarine escape? And above all, why?
Sten Nordlander glanced at his watch.
“What happened next?” Wallander asked after a short pause.
“It was Christmas. Everything stood still for a few days, but just before the New Year, Håkan was summoned to the supreme commander. He was given a stern reprimand for going behind his superior’s back and meeting Olof Palme. But Håkan was bright enough to realize that the main criticism was aimed at the prime minister, who should never have agreed to meet a naval officer who had gone astray.”
“But Håkan must have continued to ferret away? Surely he didn’t give up, despite having been reprimanded.”
“He’s continued ferreting away ever since. For twenty-five years.”
“You are his closest friend. He must have spoken to you about the threats he received.”
Nordlander nodded, but said nothing.
“And now he’s disappeared.”
“He’s dead. Somebody killed him.”
The response came promptly and firmly. Nordlander talked about Håkan’s death as if it were obvious.
“How can you be so sure?”
“What is there to be doubtful about?”
“Who killed him? And why?”
“I don’t know. But perhaps he knew something that eventually became too dangerous.”
“It’s been twenty-five years since those submarines entered Swedish waters. What could be dangerous after all these years? Good lord, the Soviet Union no longer exists. The Berlin Wall has come down. And East Germany? All that belongs to a bygone era. What specters could suddenly emerge now?”
“We think it’s all over and done with, that the final curtain has fallen. But it could be that somebody merely stepped into the wings and changed costume. The repertoire may be different, but everything is being acted out on the same stage.”
Sten Nordlander stood up.
“We can continue another day. My wife is expecting me now.”
He drove Wallander back to his hotel. Just before they parted, Wallander realized he had another question to ask.
“Was anyone else really close to Håkan?”
“No one was close to Håkan. Except Louise, perhaps. Old sea dogs are usually reserved. They like to keep to themselves. I wasn’t really close to him myself. I suppose you could say we were
, if that’s possible.”
Wallander could tell that Nordlander was hesitant about something. Was he going to say it, or wasn’t he?
“Steven Atkins,” said Nordlander. “An American submarine captain. A year or so younger. I think he’ll be seventy-five next year.”
Wallander took out his notebook and wrote down the name.
“Do you have an address?”
“He lives in California, not far from San Diego. He used to be stationed at Groton, the big naval base.”
Wallander wondered why Louise hadn’t mentioned Steven Atkins. But that wasn’t something Wallander wanted to trouble Nordlander about—he seemed to be in a hurry and was revving the engine impatiently.
Wallander watched the gleaming car drive off up the hill.
Then he went to his room and thought about what he had heard. But there was still no sign of Håkan von Enke, and Wallander felt that he wasn’t a single step closer to solving the problem.
The following morning Linda called to ask how Stockholm was. He didn’t beat around the bush but told her Louise seemed to be convinced that Håkan was no longer alive.
“Hans refuses to believe that,” she said. “He’s certain that his father isn’t dead.”
“But deep down he probably suspects it’s as bad as Louise says.”
“What do you think?”
“It doesn’t look good.”
Wallander asked if she had spoken to anyone in Ystad. He knew she was sometimes in touch with Kristina Magnusson privately.
“The internal affairs team has returned to Malmö,” she said. “That probably means they’ll be reaching a decision on your case any time now.”
“I might get the boot,” Wallander said.
She sounded almost indignant when she responded.
“It was incredibly silly of you to take the pistol to the restaurant with you, but if that leads to you getting fired we can assume that several hundred other Swedish police officers will get their marching orders as well. For much worse breaches of discipline.”
“I’m assuming the worst,” said Wallander gloomily.
“When you’ve shrugged off that self-pity we can talk again,” she said and hung up.
Wallander thought she was right, of course. He would probably get a warning, possibly a fine. He picked up the phone again to call her back but thought better of it. There was too big a risk that they might start arguing. He got dressed, had breakfast, and then called Ytterberg, who had promised to see him at nine o’clock. Wallander asked if they had any leads, but they didn’t.
“We got a tip that von Enke had been seen in Södertälje,” said Ytterberg. “God only knows why he should want to go there. But there was nothing in it. It was just a man in a uniform. And our friend wasn’t wearing a uniform when he set off on his long walk.”
“All the same, it’s odd that nobody seems to have seen him,” said Wallander. “As I understand it, lots of people go jogging or walk their dogs in Lill-Jansskogen.”
“I agree,” said Ytterberg. “That’s something that worries us as well. But
nobody seems to have seen him at all. Come at nine o’clock and we can have a chat. I’ll be waiting for you in reception.”
Ytterberg was tall and powerfully built, and reminded Wallander of a well-known Swedish wrestler. He glanced at Ytterberg’s ears to see if there was any of the cauliflower-like disfigurement so common among wrestlers, but he could see no sign of an earlier wrestling career. Despite his bulk, Ytterberg was light on his feet. They hardly touched the ground as he hurried along the hallways with Wallander in tow. They eventually came to a messy office with a gigantic inflatable dolphin lying in the middle of the floor.
“It’s for one of my grandchildren,” Ytterberg explained. “Anna Laura Constance is going to get it for her ninth birthday on Friday. Do you have any grandchildren?”
“I’ve just gotten my first. A granddaughter.”
“Nothing yet. They’re waiting for a name to emerge of its own accord.”
Ytterberg muttered something inaudible and flopped down on his chair. He pointed to a coffeemaker on the windowsill, but Wallander shook his head.
“We are assuming that he’s been the victim of a violent crime,” said Ytterberg. “He’s been missing for too long. The whole business is very odd. Not a single clue. There were lots of people in the woods, but nobody saw anything. It’s the nearest you can get to going up in smoke. It doesn’t make sense.”
“So he deviated from his routine and didn’t go there at all, is that it?”
“Or maybe something happened to him before he got as far as the woods. Whatever the facts are, it’s very odd that nobody saw anything. You can’t just kill a man in Valhallavägen without anyone noticing. Nor can you just drag somebody into a car without a fuss.”
“Could he have disappeared willingly, then, despite everything?”
“That seems to be the obvious conclusion to draw. But then again, nothing else suggests that.”
“You said Säpo had shown an interest in his disappearance. Have they been able to make a contribution?”
Ytterberg screwed up his eyes, looked at Wallander, and leaned back in his chair.
“Since when has Säpo made a sensible contribution to anything at all in this country? They say it’s just routine to take an interest when a high-ranking military officer disappears, even if he did retire ages ago.”
Ytterberg poured himself a cup of coffee. Wallander shook his head again.
“Von Enke seemed to be worried at his seventy-fifth birthday party,” he said.
Wallander had decided that Ytterberg was reliable, so he told him in detail about the episode in the conservatory when von Enke had seemed frightened.
“I also had the impression,” Wallander went on, “that there was something he wanted to tell me. But nothing he said explained his agitation, or seemed a significant confidence.”
“But he was afraid?”
“I think so. I remember thinking that a submarine commander is hardly the type to worry about imagined dangers. Spending so much time under the sea should have made him immune to that.”
“I know what you mean,” said Ytterberg thoughtfully.
An excited female voice suddenly started screeching in the hallway. Wallander gathered that she was objecting vehemently to being “interrogated by a damn buffoon.” Then everything was quiet again.
“One thing gave me food for thought,” said Wallander. “I searched his study in the apartment in Grevgatan and had the impression that someone had been rummaging around in his files. It’s hard to be more precise, but you know what it’s like. You discover a kind of system in the way a person puts his belongings in order, especially the many documents we all accumulate—
the flotsam and jetsam of our lives
, as an old chief inspector once put it to me. But then it breaks down. There are strange gaps. In general everything was very neat, but one desk drawer was a real mess.”
“What did his wife say?”
“That nobody had been there.”
“In that case there are only two possibilities. Either she’s been rummaging around, but for some reason doesn’t want to admit it. It could be simply that she doesn’t want to admit to her curiosity—perhaps she finds it embarrassing, who knows? Or he did it himself.”
Wallander thought hard about what Ytterberg had said. There was something he should have picked up on, a link that suddenly occurred to him, only to fade away again just as quickly. He hadn’t managed to pin it down.
“What about the secret service boys? Säpo?” Wallander wondered. “Could they have something on him? An old suspicion lying in a dusty drawer somewhere that recently became interesting again?”
“I asked them that exact question. And got a very vague answer. It could mean almost anything. It could well be that the man they sent to see me
didn’t know any details. That’s not impossible. We’ve all suspected that Säpo has quite a few secrets they keep to themselves even if they seem bad at staying quiet about what they know.”
“But was there anything on von Enke?”
Ytterberg flung out his arms wide and accidentally hit his coffee cup, which tipped over and spilled. He hurled the cup angrily into the garbage can, then wiped down his desktop and all the soaking wet documents with a towel that had been lying on a shelf behind the desk. Wallander suspected that the coffee cup episode was not a one-off.
“There was nothing at all,” Ytterberg said when he had finished wiping. “Håkan von Enke is a thoroughly honest and honorable member of the Swedish military. I spoke to somebody whose name I forget who has access to the records of naval officers. Håkan von Enke was promoted rapidly, became a commander very quickly. But then things came to a halt. His career leveled off, you might say.”