Authors: Henning Mankell
Wallander spent Christmas with Linda’s family. He observed his granddaughter, who still hadn’t been given a name, with admiration and restrained joy. Linda insisted that the girl looked like him, especially her eyes, but Wallander couldn’t see any similarities, no matter how hard he tried.
“The girl should have a name,” he said as they sat drinking wine on Christmas Eve.
“All in good time,” said Linda.
“We think the name will announce itself one of these days,” said Hans.
“Why am I named Linda?” she asked out of the blue. “Where does that come from?”
“You can blame me,” said Wallander. “Mona wanted to name you something different; I can’t remember what. But as far as I was concerned, you were Linda from the very beginning. Your granddad thought you should be called Venus.”
“As you know, he wasn’t always all there. Don’t you like your name?”
“I’ve got a good name,” she said. “And you don’t need to worry. If we get married, I’m not going to change my surname. I’ll never be Linda von Enke.”
“Perhaps I should become a Wallander,” said Hans. “But I don’t think my parents would like that.”
Over the next few days, Wallander spent his time organizing all the paperwork that had accumulated during the past year. It was a routine he had instigated years ago—before ringing out the old year, make room for all the junk that would build up during the one to come.
The evening the verdicts in the arms theft trial were made public, Wallander decided to stay at home and watch a movie. He had invested in a satellite dish and now had access to lots of film channels. He took his service
pistol home with him, intending to clean it. He was behind in his shooting practice and knew he would need to submit to a test by the beginning of February at the latest. His desk wasn’t cleared, but he had no pressing business. I’d better make the most of the opportunity, he thought. I can watch a movie tonight; tomorrow might be too late.
But after he got home and took Jussi out for a walk, he started to feel restless. He sometimes felt abandoned in his house out in the wilds, surrounded by empty fields. Like a wrecked ship, he sometimes thought. I’ve run aground in the middle of all these brown muddy fields. This restlessness usually passed quickly, but tonight it persisted. He sat in the kitchen, spread out an old newspaper, and cleaned his gun. By the time he’d finished it was still only eight o’clock. He had no idea what inspired him, but he made up his mind, changed his clothes, and drove back into Ystad. The town was always more or less deserted, especially on weekday evenings. No more than two or three restaurants or bars would be open. Wallander parked his car and went to a restaurant in the square. It was almost empty. He sat at a corner table, then ordered an appetizer and a bottle of wine. While he was waiting for the food, he gulped down a few glasses. He told himself he was swilling the alcohol in order to put his mind at rest. By the time the food arrived, he was already drunk.
“The place is dead,” said Wallander. “Where is everybody?”
The waiter shrugged.
“Not here, that’s for sure,” he said. “Enjoy your meal.”
Wallander only picked at the food. He dug out his cell phone and scrolled through the numbers in his address book. He wanted to talk to someone. But who? He put the phone down since he didn’t want anyone to know that he was drunk. The wine bottle was empty, and he had already had more than enough. But even so, he ordered a cup of coffee and a glass of cognac when the waiter came to tell him the place was about to close. He stumbled when he got to his feet. The waiter gave him a tired look.
“Taxi,” said Wallander.
The waiter called from the telephone attached to the wall next to the bar. Wallander could feel himself swaying from side to side. The waiter replaced the receiver, and nodded.
The wind was icy cold when Wallander came out into the street. He sat in the backseat of the taxi and was almost asleep by the time it turned into his driveway. He left his clothes in a pile on the floor, and passed out the moment he lay down.
· · ·
Half an hour after Wallander fell asleep, a man hurried into the police station. He was agitated, and asked to speak to the night duty officer. It happened to be Martinsson.
The man explained that he was a waiter. Then he put a plastic bag on the table in front of Martinsson. In it was a gun, similar to the one Martinsson had.
The waiter even knew the name of the customer, since Wallander was well known in town.
Martinsson filled out a criminal offense form, then sat there for a long time staring at the revolver.
How on earth could Wallander have forgotten his service weapon? And why had he taken it to the restaurant?
Martinsson checked the clock: just after midnight. He really should have called Wallander, but he didn’t.
That conversation could wait until tomorrow. He wasn’t looking forward to it.
When Wallander arrived at the police station the following day, there was a message waiting for him at the front desk, from Martinsson. Wallander swore under his breath. He was hungover and felt awful. If Martinsson wanted to speak to him the moment he arrived, it could mean only that something had happened that required Wallander’s immediate presence. If only it could have waited for a couple of days, he thought. Or at least a few hours. Right now all he wanted to do was to close the door to his office, unplug his phone, and try to get some sleep with his feet on his desk. He took off his jacket, emptied an open bottle of mineral water, then went to see Martinsson, who now had the office that used to be Wallander’s.
He knocked on the door and went in. The moment he saw Martinsson’s face he realized it was serious. Wallander could always read his mood, which was important since Martinsson swung constantly between energetic exhilaration and glum dejection.
Wallander sat down in the guest chair.
“What happened? You only write me notes like that if something important has come up.”
Martinsson stared at him in surprise.
“You mean you have no idea what I want to talk to you about?”
“No. Should I?”
Martinsson didn’t reply. He merely continued looking at Wallander, who began to feel even worse than he had before.
“I’m not going to sit here guessing,” he said in the end. “What is it you want?”
“You still have no idea why I want to talk to you?”
“That makes things harder.”
Martinsson opened a drawer, took out Wallander’s service pistol, and put it on the desk in front of him.
“I take it you know what I’m talking about now?”
Wallander stared at the revolver. A shudder ran down his spine, and almost succeeded in banishing his hangover. He recalled having cleaned his gun the previous evening—but then what happened? He groped around in his memory. The gun had migrated from his kitchen table to Martinsson’s desk. But how it had gotten there, what had happened in between, he had no idea. He had no explanations, no excuses.
“You went to a restaurant last night,” said Martinsson. “Why did you take your gun with you?”
Wallander shook his head incredulously. He still couldn’t remember. Had he put it in his jacket pocket when he drove into Ystad? No matter how unlikely that seemed, apparently he must have.
“I don’t know,” Wallander admitted. “My mind’s a blank. Tell me.”
“A waiter came here around midnight,” said Martinsson. “He was agitated because he had found the gun on the bench you had been sitting on.”
Vague fragments of memory were racing around in Wallander’s mind. Maybe he had taken the gun out of his jacket when he’d used his cell phone? But how could he possibly have forgotten it?
“I have no idea what happened,” he said. “But I suppose I must have put the gun in my pocket when I went out.”
Martinsson stood up and opened the door.
“Would you like a coffee?”
Wallander shook his head. Martinsson disappeared into the hall. Wallander reached for the gun and saw that it was loaded. He broke into a sweat. The thought of shooting himself flashed through his mind. He moved the gun so that the barrel was pointing at the window. Martinsson came back.
“Can you help me?” Wallander asked.
“I’m afraid not this time. The waiter recognized you. You’ll have to go from here straight to the boss.”
“Have you already spoken to him?”
“It would have been dereliction of duty if I hadn’t.”
Wallander had nothing more to say. They sat there in silence. Wallander tried to find an escape route that he knew didn’t exist.
“What will happen now?” he asked eventually.
“I’ve been trying to read up on it in the rule book. There will be an internal investigation, of course. There’s also a risk that the waiter—Ture Saage is his name, incidentally, if you didn’t know that already—might leak information to the press. Nowadays you can earn a few kronor if you have the right kind of information to sell. Careless, drunken policemen could well sell a few extra copies.”
“I hope you told him to keep his mouth shut?”
“Of course I did! I even told him he could be arrested if he leaked any details of a police investigation. But I think he saw through me.”
“Should I talk to him?”
Martinsson leaned over his desk. Wallander could see that he was both tired and depressed. That made him feel sad.
“How many years have we been working together? Twenty? More? At first you were the one who told me what to do. You told me off, but you also gave credit when it was due. Now it’s my turn to tell you what to do. Nothing. You could only make things worse. Don’t speak to the waiter; don’t speak to anyone. Except for Lennart. And you need to see him now. He’s expecting you.”
Wallander nodded and stood up.
“We’ll try to make the best of this,” said Martinsson.
Wallander could tell from his tone of voice that he was not particularly hopeful.
Wallander reached out for his gun, but Martinsson shook his head.
“That had better stay here,” he said.
Wallander went out into the hallway. Kristina Magnusson was passing, a mug of coffee between her hands. She nodded to him. Wallander could tell that she knew. He didn’t turn around to check her out as he usually did. Instead he went into a bathroom and locked the door. The mirror over the sink was cracked. Just like me, Wallander thought. He rinsed his face, dried it, and contemplated his bloodshot eyes. The crack divided his face in two.
Wallander sat down on the toilet seat. There was another feeling nagging at him, not just the shame and the fear following what he had done. Nothing like this had ever happened before. He couldn’t recall ever having handled his service issue pistol in a way that broke the rules. Whenever he took it home he always locked it away in the cabinet where he kept a licensed shotgun that he used on the very infrequent occasions he hunted hares with his neighbors. But there was something affecting him much more deeply than
having been drunk. Another sort of forgetfulness that he didn’t recognize. A darkness in which he could find no lamps to light.
When he finally stood up and went to see the chief of police, he had been sitting in the bathroom for over twenty minutes. If Martinsson called to say I was on my way, they probably think I’ve run off, he thought. But it’s not quite as bad as that.
Following two female police chiefs, Lennart Mattson had taken up his post in Ystad the previous year. He was young, barely forty, and had risen surprisingly quickly through the police bureaucracy, which is where most senior officers came from nowadays. Like most active police officers, Wallander regarded this type of recruitment as ominous for the ability of the police force to carry out its duties properly. The worst part was that Mattson came from Stockholm and complained often that he had difficulty understanding the Skåne dialect. Wallander was aware that some of his colleagues made an effort to speak as broadly as possible whenever they had to talk to Mattson, but Wallander refrained from such malevolent demonstrations. He had decided to keep to himself and not get involved in anything Mattson was doing, as long as he didn’t interfere too much in real police work. Since Mattson also seemed to respect him, Wallander had not had any problems with his new boss so far.
But he realized that things had now changed once and for all.
The door to Mattson’s office was ajar. Wallander knocked and went in when he heard Mattson’s high-pitched, almost squeaky voice.
A patterned sofa and matching armchairs had been squeezed into the office with considerable difficulty. Wallander sat down. Mattson had developed a technique of never opening a conversation if it could possibly be avoided, even if he was the one who had called the meeting. There was a rumor that a consultant from the National Police Board had sat in silence with Mattson for half an hour before standing up, leaving the room without a word having been spoken, and flying back to Stockholm.
Wallander toyed with the idea of challenging Mattson by not saying anything. But that would only have made him feel worse—he needed to clear the air as quickly as possible.
“I have no excuse for what happened,” he began. “I accept that it is indefensible, and that you have to take whatever disciplinary steps the regulations specify.”
Mattson seemed to have prepared his questions in advance, since they came out like machine-gun fire.
“Has it happened before?”
“That I’ve left my gun in a restaurant? Of course not!”
“Do you have an alcohol problem?”
The question made Wallander frown. What had given Mattson that idea?
“I’m a moderate drinker,” Wallander said. “When I was younger I suppose I drank a fair amount on the weekend. But I don’t do that anymore.”
“But nevertheless you went out boozing on a weekday evening?”
“I didn’t go out
. I went out for dinner.”
“A bottle of wine and a cognac with your coffee?”
“If you already know what I drank, why are you asking? But I don’t call that boozing. I don’t think any sane person in this country would call it that. Boozing is when you swill down schnapps or vodka, probably straight from the bottle, and drink in order to get drunk, not for any other reason.”