Read The Troubled Man Online

Authors: Henning Mankell

The Troubled Man (26 page)

Wallander got out of bed, wrapped a towel around his neck, and looked up Gustaf von Enke on the Internet. There was nobody by that name. At eight o’clock he called Ytterberg, who would be going on vacation the following day. He was on his way to what he expected to be an extremely unpleasant interrogation of a man who had tried to strangle his wife and his two children, probably because he had found another woman he wanted to live with.

“But why did he have to kill the children?” he wondered. “It’s like a Greek tragedy.”

Wallander didn’t know much about the dramas written more than two thousand years ago. Linda had once taken him to a production of
Medea
in
Malmö. He had been moved by it, but not so much that he became a regular theatergoer. His last visit hadn’t exactly increased his interest either.

He told Ytterberg about his call to Niklasgården the previous day.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” said Wallander. “There is no uncle. There’s a cousin in England, but that’s it.”

“It certainly sounds odd.”

“I know you’re about to go away. Maybe you can send somebody else out to Niklasgården to try to get a description of the man?”

“I have a very good cop named Rebecka Andersson,” he said. “She’s phenomenal with assignments like this, even though she’s very young. I’ll speak to her.”

Wallander was just about to end the call when Ytterberg asked him a question.

“Do you ever feel like I do?” he asked. “An almost desperate longing to get away from all this shit that we’re chest-deep in?”

“It happens.”

“How do we manage to survive it all?”

“I don’t know. Some sort of feeling of responsibility, I suspect. I once had a mentor, an old detective named Rydberg. That’s what he always used to say. It was a matter of responsibility, nothing more.”

Rebecka Andersson called at about two o’clock from Niklasgården.

“I understood that you wanted the information as soon as possible,” she said. “I’m sitting on a bench on the grounds. It’s lovely weather. Do you have a pencil handy?”

“Yes, I’m ready to go.”

“A man in his fifties, neatly dressed in suit and tie, very friendly, light curly hair, blue eyes. He spoke what is usually called standard Swedish, in other words, no particular dialect and certainly without any trace of a foreign accent. One thing was obvious from the start: he’d never been here before. They had to show him which room she was in, but nobody seems to have thought that was at all remarkable.”

“What did he have to say?”

“Nothing, really. He was just very friendly.”

“And the room?”

“I asked two members of the staff, separately, to check the room and see if anything had been moved. They couldn’t find any changes. I had the impression that they were very sure about that.”

“But even so, he stayed for as long as an hour?”

“That’s not definite. Assessments varied. They’re evidently not all that
strict when it comes to entering visits and times in their ledger. I’d say he was there for at least an hour, an hour and a half at most.”

“And then what happened?”

“He left.”

“How did he get there?”

“By car, I assume. But nobody saw a car. Then suddenly he simply wasn’t there anymore.”

Wallander thought it all over, but he had no more questions, so he thanked her for her help. He looked out the window and caught a glimpse of the yellow mail van driving away. He went out to the mailbox in his robe and a pair of wooden clogs. There was just one letter, postmarked Ystad. The sender was somebody by the name of Robert Åkerblom. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but Wallander couldn’t remember the circumstances in which he had met the man. He sat down at his kitchen table and opened the envelope. It contained a photo of a man and two young women. When Wallander saw the man, he knew immediately who it was. A painful memory, over fifteen years old, rose up to the surface. At the beginning of the 1990s Robert Åkerblom’s wife had been brutally murdered, an incident linked to remarkable events in South Africa and an attempt to murder Nelson Mandela. He turned the photo over and read what it said on the reverse side: “A reminder of our existence, and a thank-you for all the support you gave us during the most difficult period of our lives.”

Just what I needed, Wallander thought. Proof that despite everything, what we do has significance for a lot of people. He pinned up the photo on the wall.

The following day would be Midsummer’s Eve. Although he didn’t feel great, he decided to go shopping. He didn’t like being in crowded supermarkets, didn’t really like shopping at all; but he had made up his mind that his Midsummer table would be full of appropriate goodies. Sensibly, he had already stocked up on alcohol. He wrote out a shopping list and set off.

The following day he felt better, and his temperature was back to normal. It had rained during the night, but Wallander scanned the horizon and decided that they would be able to sit outside. When Linda and her family arrived at five o’clock, everything was ready. She congratulated him on his efficiency, and took him to one side.

“There’ll be one extra guest.”

“Who?”

“Mom.”

“No. I don’t want her here. You know what happened the last time.”

“I don’t want her to be alone on a night like this.”

“You can take her home.”

“Don’t worry. Try to remember that you’ll be doing your good deed for the day by letting her be here.”

“When’s she coming?”

“I said five-thirty. She’ll be here any minute.”

“It’s your responsibility to make sure she doesn’t drink herself silly.”

“Fair enough. Don’t forget that Hans likes her. Besides, she has a right to see her grandchild.”

Wallander said nothing more. But when he was briefly alone in the kitchen, he took a large swig of whiskey to calm himself down.

Mona arrived, and all went well at the beginning. She had dressed up and was in a good mood. They ate, drank moderately, and enjoyed the fine weather. Wallander noted how nicely Mona played with her grandchild. It was almost like seeing her with Linda again. But the peace didn’t last. At about eleven o’clock Mona suddenly started going on about all the injustices she had suffered in the past. Linda tried to calm her down, but evidently Mona had drunk more than they had realized. Maybe she had a little bottle hidden in her purse. Wallander said nothing at first, merely listened to what she had to say. But there came a point when he couldn’t stand it anymore. He banged his fist on the table and told her to leave. Linda, who wasn’t completely sober either, yelled at him to calm down, saying it wasn’t a big deal. But for Wallander it was a big deal. Now, after all this time, he finally noticed that he no longer missed Mona, and the realization turned into an accusation. It was Mona’s fault that all those years had gone by without his being able to find another woman to live with. He left the table, took Jussi, and stormed off.

When he came back half an hour later, the party was breaking up. Mona was already in the car. Hans, who had drunk only one glass of wine, would drive.

“It’s a shame it turned out this way,” said Linda. “It was a lovely evening. But now I know that Mona’s drinking will always lead to something like this.”

“So I was right after all?”

“If that’s how you want to put it. Maybe she shouldn’t have come. But now we know that she needs help. I didn’t realize until now that my mother is drinking herself to death.”

She stroked his cheek, and they embraced.

“I’d never have survived if it hadn’t been for you,” he said.

“Klara will soon be able to spend time on her own here with you. In a year or so. Time passes quickly.”

Wallander saw them off and cleared away the leftovers and dirty dishes. Then he did something he did only once or twice a year: he dug out a cigar, sat down in the garden, and lit it.

It was starting to get chilly. He began reminiscing. He thought about his former classmates, the ones he’d been at school with in Limhamn. What had they made of their lives? There had been a reunion a few years ago, but he hadn’t made the effort to attend. He regretted it now. It would have put his own life in perspective, seeing what had happened to them.

He sat outside until two. At one point he heard a snatch of music in the distance—it might have been that Swedish Midsummer favorite “Calle Schewen’s Waltz,” but he wasn’t sure. Then he went to bed and slept until late the next morning. He stayed in bed, reading through the books he’d borrowed from the library. He suddenly sat up with a start. He had come to some black-and-white photographs in a book about American submarines and their constant trials of strength with their Russian counterparts during the Cold War.

He stared at the picture and could feel his heart beating faster. There was no doubt about it. The picture was an exact likeness of the cylinder he had taken home with him from Bokö. Wallander leaped out of bed and dragged the cylinder out from behind a bookcase he used for storing old shoes.

He grabbed an English-Swedish dictionary to make sure he didn’t misunderstand anything in the chapter that contained the photograph. It was about James Bradley, who was in charge of submarine command in the U.S. Navy at the beginning of the 1970s. He was known for spending whole nights in his office in the Pentagon, working out new methods of dealing with the Russians. One night, when the building was more or less deserted except for the security guards patrolling the hallways, he had an idea. It was so daring that he knew immediately he would need to go directly to President Nixon’s security adviser, Henry Kissinger. There was a rumor circulating at the time that Kissinger seldom listened to anybody for more than five minutes and never for more than twenty. Bradley spoke for over forty-five minutes. When he drove back to the Pentagon he was convinced he would get the money he needed for the equipment he had in mind. Kissinger had promised nothing, but Bradley had seen that he was deeply impressed.

It was soon decided that the submarine
Halibut
would be used for this top secret project. It was one of the biggest in the U.S. submarine fleet. Wallander was astonished when he read about the weight, the length, the armaments, and the number of officers and crew. There was no reason it couldn’t
be operational year-round, provided it could surface occasionally to load up with fresh air and provisions. The food stores could be refilled in less than an hour in open water, but in order to fulfill its new assignment it needed to be refitted. It had to be provided with a pressure chamber for divers, who would perform the most difficult part of the assignment, deep down at the bottom of the sea.

Bradley’s idea was basically very simple. In order to maintain communications between command bases on the mainland and the submarines armed with nuclear weapons out on patrol from bases in Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Russians had laid a cable over the Okhotsk Sea. Bradley’s plan was to attach a listening device to it.

But there was a big problem. The Okhotsk Sea was over two hundred thousand square miles in area; how would they ever locate the cable? The solution was just as improbably simple as the whole idea.

One night in the Pentagon, Bradley remembered the summers he used to spend as a child by the Mississippi River. That childhood memory solved his problem. At regular intervals along the bank there were notices saying: “Anchoring Forbidden. Underwater Cable.” Apart from the town of Vladivostok, eastern Russia was pure wilderness, so there couldn’t be very many places where an underwater cable could be laid. They have warning notices even in the Soviet Union.

Halibut
set off and crossed the Pacific Ocean undersurface. After an adventurous voyage with several sonar contacts with Russian submarines, they managed to enter Russian territory. Then came one of the most risky moments of the operation, when they needed to sneak into one of the channels between the Kuril Islands. Thanks to the fact that the
Halibut
had been fitted with the most advanced equipment for detecting minefields and sonar links, they succeeded. They located the cable relatively quickly. The problem then was to connect the bugging device to the cable without the Russians’ noticing. After several attempts they finally succeeded, and on board the submarine they could listen in on all messages from the mainland to the Russian submarine captains, and vice versa. As thanks, Bradley was granted an interview with President Nixon, who congratulated him on the success of the operation.

Wallander went outside and sat down in the garden. There was a cold wind blowing, but he found a sheltered spot next to the house. He had released Jussi, who disappeared behind the back of the house. The questions he now asked himself were few and straightforward. How had one of those bugging
cylinders found its way into a Swedish shed behind a boathouse? How was it linked with Håkan and Louise von Enke? This whole business is bigger than I ever imagined, he thought. There is something behind their disappearance that I don’t have the information to understand. I need help.

He hesitated, but not for long. He went back inside and called Sten Nordlander. As usual the connection was bad, but with some effort they were able to understand each other.

“Where are you?” Wallander asked.

“Just off Gävle, in the Gävlebukten. Southwesterly breeze, light cloud cover—it’s spectacular! Where are you?”

“At home. You need to come here. I found something you should look at. Take a flight.”

“It’s that important, is it?”

“I’m as certain as it’s possible to be. It’s somehow connected with Håkan’s disappearance.”

“I must say I’m curious.”

“There’s a chance I’m wrong, of course. But in that case you can be back on your boat tomorrow. I’ll pay for all your tickets.”

“That’s not necessary. But don’t count on seeing me before late tonight. It’ll take me a while to sail back to Gävle.”

It was six o’clock when Nordlander called back. He’d gotten as far as Arlanda, and would be catching a flight from Stockholm to Malmö an hour later.

Wallander got ready to pick him up. He let Jussi stay in the house—his presence would no doubt deter any possible intruders.

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