Authors: Henning Mankell
“We didn’t know much about the countries on the other side of the sea. We sometimes pretended the Baltic states didn’t exist. We were cut off from our nearest neighbors. And they were cut off from us. But then that rubber dinghy came ashore, and the investigation took me to Latvia, to Riga. I went behind the iron curtain that no longer exists. The world was different then. Not worse, not better, just different.”
“I’m going to have a baby,” said Linda. “I’m pregnant.”
Wallander held his breath, as if he didn’t understand what she’d said. Then he stared at her stomach, hidden behind her leather suit. She burst out laughing.
“There’s nothing to see. I’m only in the second month.”
Looking back, Wallander remembered every detail of that meeting with Linda, when she told him her staggering news. They walked down to the beach, leaning into the howling wind. She answered his questions. When he arrived back at the police station an hour late, he had almost forgotten all about the investigation he was in charge of.
Shortly before the end of that day, just as it was beginning to snow again, they finally found pictures of the two men who had probably been involved in the arms theft and brutal murder. Wallander summed up what they all knew: that they had taken a big step toward solving this case.
When the meeting ended and everybody was gathering together their papers, Wallander felt an almost irresistible urge to tell them about the great joy he had just been gifted with.
But he said nothing, of course.
He wouldn’t allow his colleagues to come that close to his private life, not ever.
On August 30, 2007, shortly after two in the afternoon, Linda gave birth to a daughter, Kurt Wallander’s first grandchild, at Ystad Hospital. The delivery was normal, and also punctual—on the exact day predicted by her midwife. Wallander had taken the precaution of being on vacation at the time, and he spent the day trying to mix a bucket of cement in order to repair cracks under the porch roof next to the front door. It wasn’t all that successful, but at least it kept him occupied. When the phone rang and he was informed that from now on he was entitled to call himself Granddad, he started crying. The feeling took him by surprise, and for a while he was utterly defenseless.
It wasn’t Linda who called, but the baby’s father, financier Hans von Enke. Wallander didn’t want to reveal how emotional he was, so he merely thanked von Enke for the news, sent his greetings to Linda, and hung up.
Then he went for a long walk with Jussi. Skåne was still luxuriating in the heat of late summer. There had been thunderstorms during the night, and now, after the rain, the air was fresh and easy to breathe. At last Wallander was able to admit to himself that he had often wondered why Linda had never before expressed a desire to have children. Now she was thirty-seven years old, in Wallander’s opinion far too late in life for a woman to be a mother. Mona had been much younger when Linda was born. He had kept an eye on Linda’s relationships from a discreet distance; he had preferred some boyfriends to others. Occasionally he had been convinced that she had finally found the right man—but then it was suddenly all over, and she never told him why. Even though Wallander and Linda were very close, there were certain things they never discussed. One of the taboo subjects was having children.
That day on the windswept beach at Mossby Strand was the first he had heard about the man she was going to have a child with. It was a complete surprise to Wallander, who had thought his daughter wasn’t even in a steady relationship at the time.
Linda had met Hans von Enke through mutual friends in Copenhagen, at a dinner to celebrate an engagement. Hans was from Stockholm, but had been living in Copenhagen for the last couple of years, working for a finance company that specialized in setting up hedge funds. Linda had found him somewhat self-important, and had been annoyed by him. She informed
him, rather fiercely, that she was a simple police officer, badly paid, and had no idea what a hedge fund was. It ended up with them going for a long evening stroll through the streets of Copenhagen, and deciding to meet again. Hans von Enke was two years younger than Linda, and didn’t have any children either. Both of them had decided from the very start, without saying as much but nevertheless being quite clear about it, that they were going to try and have children together.
Two days after the revelation, Linda came in the evening to Wallander’s house with the man she had decided to live with. Hans von Enke was tall and thin, balding, with piercing bright blue eyes. Wallander immediately felt uncomfortable in his presence, found his way of expressing himself off-putting, and wondered what on earth had inspired Linda to take a shine to him. When she had told him that Hans’s salary was three times as big as her father’s, and that in addition he received a bonus every year that could be as much as a million kronor, Wallander had concluded depressingly that it must be the money that attracted her. That thought annoyed him so much that the next time he saw Linda he asked her outright. They were sitting in a café in the middle of Ystad. Linda had been so angry that she had thrown a roll at him and stormed out. He had hurried after her and apologized. No, it had nothing to do with the money, she explained. It was genuine and all-consuming love, something she had never experienced before.
Wallander made up his mind to try hard to view his future son-in-law more sympathetically. Via the Internet and with the aid of the bank manager who handled his modest affairs in Ystad, Wallander found out as much as he could about the finance company Hans worked for. He discovered what hedge funds were, and many more details alleged to be the basis of a modern finance company’s activities. Hans von Enke invited him to Copenhagen and took him on a tour of his opulent offices at Rundetårn. Afterward, Hans invited him to lunch, and when Wallander returned to Ystad he no longer had the feeling of inferiority that had affected him at their first meeting. He called Linda from the car and told her that he had begun to appreciate the man she had chosen.
“He has one fault,” said Linda. “He doesn’t have enough hair. Otherwise he’s okay.”
“I’m looking forward to the day when I can show him my office.”
“I’ve already shown him. Last week when he was here visiting. Didn’t anybody tell you?”
Needless to say, nobody had said a word about it to Wallander. That evening he sat at his kitchen table, pencil in hand, and worked out Hans von Enke’s annual salary. He was astonished when he saw the final figure. Once
again he had a vague feeling of unease. After all his years in the police force, his own salary was barely 40,000 kronor per month. He regarded that as a high wage. But he wasn’t the one getting married. The money might or might not be what would make Linda happy. It was none of his business.
In March Linda and Hans moved in together in a big house outside Rydsgård that the young financier had bought. He started commuting to Copenhagen, and Linda carried on working in Ystad. Once they had settled in, Linda invited Kurt to dinner at their place the following Saturday. Hans’s parents would be there, and obviously they would like to meet Linda’s father.
“I’ve spoken to Mom,” she said.
“Is she coming too?”
“I think she’s unwell.”
“What’s the matter with her?”
Linda looked long and hard at him before answering.
“Too much booze. I think she’s drinking more than ever now.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know.”
Wallander accepted the invitation to dinner to meet Hans von Enke’s parents. The father, Håkan von Enke, was a former commander in the Swedish navy and had been in command of both submarines and surface vessels that specialized in hunting down submarines. Linda wasn’t sure, but she thought that at one time he had been a member of a team that decided when military units were allowed to open fire on an enemy. Hans von Enke’s mother was named Louise and had been a language teacher. Hans was an only child.
“I’m not used to mixing with the nobility,” Wallander said somberly when Linda finished speaking.
“They’re just like everybody else. I think you’ll find you have a lot to talk about.”
“You’ll find out. Don’t be so negative.”
“I’m not being negative! I just wonder …”
“We’ll be eating at six o’clock. Don’t be late. And don’t bring Jussi. He’ll just make a nuisance of himself.”
“Jussi’s a very obedient dog. How old are they, Hans’s parents?”
“Håkan will be seventy-five shortly; Louise is a year or two younger. And Jussi never takes any notice of what you tell him to do—you should know
that, since you’ve failed to train him properly. Thank God you did better with me.”
She left the room before Wallander had time to reply. For a moment or two he tried to get annoyed by the fact that she always had to have the last word, but he couldn’t manage it and returned to his papers.
It was drizzling unseasonably over Skåne on Saturday when he set off from Ystad to meet Hans von Enke’s parents. He had been sitting in his office since early morning, yet again, for who knows how many times, going through the most important parts of the investigation material concerning the death of the arms dealer and the stolen revolvers. They thought they had identified the thieves, but they still had no proof. I’m not looking for a key, he thought. I’m hunting for the slightest sound of a distant tinkling from a bunch of keys. He had worked his way through about half of the voluminous documentation by three o’clock. He decided to go home, sleep for an hour or two, then get dressed for dinner. Linda had said Hans’s parents were sometimes a bit formal for her taste, but given that, she suggested her father wear his best suit.
“I only have the one I wear at funerals,” said Wallander. “But perhaps I shouldn’t put on a white tie?”
“You don’t need to come at all if you think it’s going to be so awful.”
“I was only trying to make a joke.”
“You failed. You have at least three blue ties. Pick one of those.”
As Wallander sat in a taxi on the way back to Löderup at about midnight, he decided that the evening had turned out to be much more pleasant than he had expected. He had found it easy to talk to both the retired commander and his wife. He was always on his guard when he met people he didn’t know, thinking they would regard the fact that he was a police officer with barely concealed contempt. But he hadn’t detected any such tendency in either of them. On the contrary, they had displayed what he considered to be genuine interest in his work. Moreover, Håkan von Enke had views about how the Swedish police were organized and about various shortcomings in several well-known criminal investigations that Wallander tended to agree with. And he in turn had an opportunity to ask questions about submarines, the Swedish navy, and the current downsizing of the Swedish defense facilities, to which he received knowledgeable and entertaining answers. Louise von Enke hardly spoke but sat there for most of the time with a friendly smile on her face, listening to the others talking.
After he had called a cab, Linda accompanied him as far as the gate. She held on to his arm and leaned her head on his shoulder. She did that only when she was pleased with him.
“So I did okay?” asked Wallander.
“You were better than ever. You can if you make an effort.”
“I can what?”
“Behave yourself. You can even ask intelligent questions about things that have nothing to do with police work.”
“I liked them. But I didn’t get to know her very well.”
“Louise? That’s the way she is. She doesn’t say much. But she listens better than all the rest of us put together.”
“She seemed a bit mysterious.”
They had come out onto the road and stood under a tree to avoid the drizzle, which had continued to fall all evening.
“I don’t know anyone as secretive as you,” said Linda. “For years I thought you had something to hide. But I’ve learned that only a few mysterious people are in fact hiding something.”
“And I’m not one of them?”
“I don’t think so. Am I right?”
“I suppose. But maybe people sometimes hide secrets they don’t even know they have.”
The taxi headlights cut though the darkness. It was one of those bus-like vehicles becoming more and more common with cab companies.
“I hate those buses,” said Wallander.
“Don’t start getting worked up now! I’ll bring your car tomorrow.”
“I’ll be at the police station from ten o’clock on. Go in now and find out what they thought of me. I’ll expect a report tomorrow.”
She delivered his car the following day, shortly before eleven.
“Good,” she said as she entered his office, as usual without knocking.
“What do you mean, ‘Good’?”
“They liked you. Håkan had a funny way of putting it. He said: ‘Your dad is an excellent acquisition for the family.’ ”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
She put the car keys on his desk. She was in a hurry since she and Hans had planned an outing with his parents. Wallander glanced out the window. The clouds were beginning to open up.
“Are you going to get married?” he asked before she disappeared through the door.
“They very much want us to,” she said. “I’d be grateful if you didn’t start nagging us too. We want to see if we’re compatible.”
“But you’re going to have a baby?”
“That will be fine. But being able to put up with each other for the rest of our lives is a different matter.”
She disappeared. Wallander listened to her rapid footsteps, the heels of
her boots clicking against the floor. I don’t know my daughter, he thought. There was a time when I thought I did, but now I can see that she’s more and more of a stranger to me.
He stood by the window and gazed out at the old water tower, the pigeons, the trees, the blue sky emerging through the dispersing clouds. He felt deeply uneasy, an aura of desolation all around him. Or maybe it was actually inside him? As if he were turning into an hourglass with the sand silently running out. He continued watching the pigeons and the trees until the feeling drifted away. Then he went back to his desk and continued doggedly reading through the reports piled high in front of him.