Authors: Henning Mankell
Wallander thought for a while, his chin resting on his hand, remembering what Sten Nordlander had said about von Enke putting his career on the line. Ytterberg was cleaning his fingernails with a letter opener. Somebody passed by in the hall, whistling. To his surprise Wallander recognized the tune—it was an old hit song from World War II. “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when …” He hummed it quietly to himself.
“How long are you staying in Stockholm?” Ytterberg asked, breaking the silence.
“I’m going back home this afternoon.”
“Give me your phone number and I’ll keep you informed.”
Ytterberg escorted him as far as the door leading to Bergsgatan. Wallander walked toward Kungsholmstorg, flagged down a taxi, and returned to his hotel. He went to his room, hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door handle, and lay down on the bed. He journeyed back in his mind to the birthday party in Djursholm. He thought of it in terms of taking off his shoes and
approaching on tiptoe
his recollections of how Håkan von Enke had behaved and what he had said. He reviewed his memories for anything that didn’t ring true. Perhaps he had been wrong. Maybe what he had diagnosed as fear wasn’t that at all. A person’s facial expression can be interpreted in many different ways. Nearsighted people who screw up their eyes are sometimes mistaken for rude or contemptuous. The man he was trying to track down had been missing now for six days. Wallander knew they had now passed the point where most missing persons are found. After such a long time, they either return or at least show some sign of life. But there was no trace at all of Håkan von Enke.
He simply vanished, Wallander told himself. He went out for a walk and didn’t come back. His passport was at home; he had no money with him; he didn’t even take his cell phone. The phone was one of the points that made Wallander stop and think. It was a riddle that demanded a solution, an answer. Håkan could simply have forgotten the phone, of course. But why do so the morning he disappeared? It seemed implausible and strengthened the probability of the theory that his disappearance was not voluntary.
Wallander prepared for the journey back to Ystad. An hour before the train was due to leave, he had lunch at a restaurant near the station. He passed the time on the train by solving a couple of crossword puzzles. As usual there were a few words he couldn’t figure out, and he was forced to sit there worrying about them. He was back at his house by nine o’clock. When he collected Jussi he was almost bowled over by the dog’s delight at being reunited with him.
Wallander called Martinsson’s direct line at the police station. Martinsson’s recorded voice informed him that he was away all day at a seminar in Lund on illegal immigration. Wallander wondered if he should call Kristina Magnusson, but he decided not to. He solved a couple more crosswords, defrosted the freezer, then went for a long walk with Jussi. He felt bored and restless as a result of not being able to work. When the phone rang he grabbed the receiver. A young woman with a chirpy voice asked him if he was interested in a massage machine that could be stored in a closet and took up very little space even when it was in use. Wallander slammed the receiver down, but then regretted snapping at the girl, who hadn’t done anything to deserve it.
The phone rang again. He wondered if he should answer, but after a pause, he did. There was a crackling noise in the background, as if the call was coming from far away. Eventually he heard a voice.
It was speaking English.
It was a man who asked if he was talking to the right person: he was hoping to reach Kurt, Kurt Wallander.
“That’s me,” shouted Wallander in an attempt to make himself heard through all the background noise. “Who are you?”
It seemed as if contact had been lost. Wallander was just about to replace the receiver when the voice became audible again, more clearly now, nearer.
“Wallander?” he said. “Is that you, Kurt?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“Steven Atkins here. Do you know who I am?”
“Yes, I know,” Wallander shouted. “Håkan’s friend.”
“Has he been found yet?”
“Did you say ‘no’?”
“Yes, I said ‘no.’ ”
“So he’s been missing for a week now?”
“Yes, more or less.”
The line started crackling again. Wallander assumed Atkins was using a cell phone.
“I’m getting worried,” Atkins shouted. “He’s not the kind of man who simply vanishes.”
“When did you last speak to him?”
“On Sunday last week. In the afternoon. Swedish time.”
The day before he disappeared, Wallander thought.
“Was it you who called, or did he call you?”
“He called me. He said he’d reached a conclusion.”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say.”
“Is that all? A conclusion? Surely he must have said something else?”
“Not at all. He was always very careful when he spoke on the phone. Sometimes he called from a public phone.”
The line crackled and faded again. Wallander held his breath; he didn’t want to lose the call.
“I want to know what’s going on,” said Atkins. “I’m worried.”
“Did he say anything about going away?”
“He sounded happier than he had been in a while. Håkan could be very gloomy. He didn’t like growing old; he was afraid of running out of time. How old are you, Kurt?”
“That’s nothing. Do you have an e-mail address, Kurt?”
Wallander spelled out his address with some difficulty, but he didn’t mention that he hardly ever used it.
“I’ll send you a message, Kurt,” Atkins shouted. “Why don’t you come over and visit? But find Håkan first!”
His voice grew fainter again, and then the connection was broken. Wallander stood there with the receiver in his hand.
Why don’t you come over?
He replaced the receiver and sat down at the kitchen table, notepad and pencil in hand. Steven Atkins had given him new information, straight into his ear, from distant California. He thought back through the conversation with Atkins, line by line, point by point. The day before he disappeared, Håkan von Enke called California—not Sten Nordlander or his son. Was that a conscious choice? Had that particular call come from a public phone? Had von
Enke gone out into the streets of Stockholm in order to make that call? It was a question with no answer. He continued writing until he had worked his way meticulously through the whole conversation. Then he stood up, stood some six feet away from the table, and stared at his notebook, like a painter studying what was on his easel from a distance. It was Sten Nordlander, of course, who had given Steven Atkins Wallander’s phone number. That wasn’t especially surprising. Atkins was just as worried as everybody else. Or was he? Wallander suddenly had the feeling that Håkan von Enke had been standing next to Steven Atkins when he made that call to Sweden. Then he dismissed the thought.
Wallander was growing tired of this case. It wasn’t his job to track down the missing person or to speculate about the various circumstances. He was filling his inactivity with specters. Perhaps this was a test run for all the misery he would be bound to endure once he had also gone into retirement?
He prepared a meal, did some cleaning, then tried to read a book he had been given by Linda—about the history of the police force in Sweden. He was dozing off over the book when the phone woke him.
It was Ytterberg.
“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he began.
“Not at all. I was reading.”
“We’ve made a discovery,” said Ytterberg. “I thought you should know.”
“A dead body?”
“Burned to a cinder. We found him a few hours ago in a burned-out boardinghouse on Lidingö. Not that far from Lill-Jansskogen. The age is about right, but there’s no firm evidence that it’s him. We’re not saying anything to his wife or to anybody else right now.”
“What about the press?”
“We’re saying nothing at all to them.”
Wallander slept badly again that night. He kept getting out of bed, starting to read his book then putting it down again almost immediately. Jussi was lying in front of the open fire, watching him. Wallander sometimes allowed him to sleep indoors.
Shortly after six the next morning Ytterberg called. The body they found wasn’t Håkan von Enke. A ring on a charred finger had led to the identification. Wallander felt relieved, and went back to sleep until nine. He was having his breakfast when Lennart Mattson called.
“It’s all over,” he said. “The Employee Administration Board has decided to dock you five days’ pay for forgetting your pistol.”
“Is that all?”
“Aren’t you pleased?”
“I’m more than pleased. So I assume I can come back to work. On Monday.”
And he did. Early Monday morning Wallander was at his desk once more.
But there was still no trace of Håkan von Enke.
The missing person remained missing. Wallander went back to work and was surrounded by smiling faces as his colleagues realized how mild his punishment had been. It was even suggested that they should start a collection to cover his fine, but nothing came of that. Wallander suspected that one or two of those welcoming him back with open arms were in fact concealing considerable schadenfreude, but he made up his mind to ignore that. He was not going to go around looking for potential hypocrites; he didn’t have the time. He would only sleep even worse at night if he lay in bed working himself up about colleagues sneering at him behind his back.
His first serious case was an assault that had taken place on a ferry between Ystad and Poland. It was an exceptionally brutal attack, and a classic situation: no reliable witnesses and everybody blaming everybody else. The assault had occurred in a cramped cabin; the victim was a young woman from Skurup who was making the unfortunate trip with her boyfriend, who she knew was prone to jealousy and couldn’t hold his liquor. During the crossing they had joined up with a group of young men from Malmö who had only one goal in mind: to drink themselves silly.
Wallander conducted the investigation on his own, with occasional help from Martinsson. He didn’t need much in the way of assistance; the perpetrator was no doubt among the men the young woman had met during the crossing—one or more of whom had beaten her up and almost ripped off her left ear.
There were no new developments in the Håkan von Enke case. Wallander spoke almost every day to Ytterberg, who still couldn’t believe that the commander had run away of his own accord. This belief was supported by the facts that von Enke had left his passport at home and that his credit card hadn’t been used. But the main thing was the man’s character, Ytterberg maintained. Håkan von Enke simply wasn’t the kind of man who disappeared. He would never abandon his wife. It didn’t add up.
Wallander spoke frequently to Louise. She was always the one who called, usually at about seven in the evening, when he was at home, eating a sloppily prepared dinner. Wallander could hear that she had reconciled herself to the thought that her husband was dead. In response to a direct question, she told him she was now getting a decent night’s sleep with the aid of sleeping pills. Everybody is waiting, Wallander thought as he replaced the receiver. He seems to be missing without a trace, gone up in the proverbial smoke and disappeared through the chimney of our existence. But is his body really lying hidden somewhere, rotting away? Or is he having dinner at this very moment? On a different planet, under another name, sitting opposite some celebrity we don’t know about?
What did Wallander think? His experience told him that the former submarine commander was dead. Wallander was afraid it would one day be revealed that his death was due to some banal cause, such as a mugging gone wrong. But he wasn’t sure. Perhaps there was still a small chance that von Enke had chosen to disappear, even if they couldn’t see why.
The one who dug in her heels deepest and refused to believe that von Enke had been killed was Linda. He’s not the kind of man anyone can kill, she insisted, indignantly, when she and Wallander met in their usual café while the baby slept soundly in her stroller. But not even Linda could guess why he would want to run away. Hans never called, but listening to Linda’s theories and questions, Wallander had the impression that the two of them were as one in their convictions. But he didn’t ask, didn’t want to interfere; it was their life, nobody else’s.
Steven Atkins started sending long e-mails to Wallander, page after page. The longer Atkins’s messages became, the shorter the replies Wallander managed to produce. He would have liked to write more, but his English was so shaky that he didn’t dare venture into complicated sentence structure. Nevertheless, he learned that Steven Atkins now lived close to the major naval base just outside San Diego in California, Point Loma. He owned a little house in an area populated almost exclusively by ex-servicemen. On the next block, Atkins claimed, there were “enough former sailors to man a submarine, more likely several, right down to the last position.” Wallander asked himself what it would be like to live in a neighborhood filled exclusively with former police officers. He shuddered at the thought.
Atkins wrote about his life, his family, his children and grandchildren, and he even attached pictures of them. Wallander had to ask Linda for help viewing them. They were sunlit photographs, with naval ships in the background, Atkins himself in uniform, and his large family smiling at Wallander. Atkins was bald and slim, and had his arm wrapped around the shoulders of his equally slim and smiling but not bald wife. Wallander
thought the photo looked like an advertisement for dish soap, or some new breakfast cereal. Smiling and waving at him from the computer screen was the ideal, happy American family.
Wallander could see from his calendar that it was now exactly a month since Håkan von Enke had left his apartment in Grevgatan, closed the door behind him, and never returned. Wallander had just had a long phone conversation with Ytterberg. It was May 11, and rain was pouring down over Stockholm. Ytterberg sounded depressed—hard to tell if it was because of the weather or the state of the investigation. Wallander was wondering how he could pin down the right person to charge in connection with that sorry business on board the ferry. In other words, the conversation had been between two tired and distinctly grumpy police officers. Wallander wondered if Säpo was still showing an interest in the disappearance.