Authors: Henning Mankell
“His wife committed suicide. That suggests the family was struggling with major problems. Doesn’t it?”
She went to a table and removed a cloth that had been draped over a computer. Wallander was surprised by how agile her fat fingers were as she tapped away at the keyboard. After a few minutes she leaned back and squinted at the screen.
“Håkan von Enke’s career was as normal as can be. He progressed about as far as you might have expected. If Sweden had been dragged into the war, he might have achieved a rank or two higher, but that’s doubtful.”
Wallander stood up and joined her in front of the computer. The stench of perfume was so strong that he tried to breathe through his mouth. He read what it said on the screen, and looked at the photograph that must have been taken when von Enke was about forty.
“Is there anything at all that’s unusual?”
“No. As a young cadet he won a few prizes in Nordic athletics competitions. A good shot, very fit, first place in a few cross-country races. If you consider that unusual.”
“Is there anything about his wife?”
Her fat fingers began dancing again. The coughing fit returned, but she carried on until a photograph of Louise appeared on the screen. Wallander guessed that she was about thirty-five, possibly forty. Smiling. Her hair was permed, and she was wearing a pearl necklace. Wallander studied the text. There was nothing that seemed unusual or surprising at first glance. Hagberg tapped away again and produced a new page. Wallander discovered that Louise’s mother came from Kiev. “In 1905 Angela Stefanovich married the Swedish coal exporter Hjalmar Sundblad. She moved to Sweden and became a Swedish citizen. She had four children with Hjalmar, and Louise was the youngest.”
“As you can see, everything is normal,” said Hagberg.
“Apart from the fact that her roots are in Russia?”
“Ukraine, we would say nowadays, I suppose. Most Swedes have roots outside our borders. We are a mixture of Finns, Dutchmen, Germans, Russians, Frenchmen. Sölve’s great-grandfather came from Scotland, and my grandmother had links to Turkey. What about you?”
“My ancestors were farmers in Småland.”
“Have you looked into your ancestry? Properly, I mean?”
“When you do, you may find something unexpected. Mark my words. It’s always exciting, but not always pleasant. I have a good friend who’s a vicar in the Swedish church. When he retired he decided to do some research into his family roots. He soon discovered two people, direct ancestors, who had been executed within the space of fifty years. One was at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He had been convicted of robbery and murder, and was beheaded. His grandson was conscripted into one of the German armies marching around Europe in the middle of the seventeenth century. He deserted, and was hanged. After that my friend the vicar gave up delving into his roots.”
She stood up with considerable difficulty and gestured to Wallander to follow her into an adjacent room. There were rows of file cabinets along the walls. She unlocked one of the drawers.
“You never know what you might find,” she said as she started searching through the files.
She took one out and placed it on a table. It was full of photos. Wallander didn’t know if she was searching for something specific or just looking through them at random. She stopped when she came to a black-and-white photo and held it up to the light.
“I had a vague memory of having seen this picture. It’s not without interest.”
She handed it to Wallander, who was surprised by what it depicted. A tall, slim man in an immaculate suit and a bow tie, smiling merrily: Stig Wennerström. He was holding a glass in his hand and talking to none other than Håkan von Enke.
“When was this taken?”
“It says on the back. Sölve was meticulous when it came to recording dates and locations.”
Wallander read what was typed on a slip of paper taped to the back of the photograph.
October 1959, Swedish naval delegation visiting Washington, D.C., reception hosted by Military Attaché Wennerström
. Wallander tried to work out what it implied. If it had been Louise standing there it would have been easier to guess a connection, but she wasn’t present. All he could see in the background was a group of men and a waitress dressed in white.
“Did the wives usually accompany their husbands on such trips?” he asked.
“Only when the top brass were out and about. Wennerström often took his wife with him on trips and to receptions, but at that time von Enke was well short of top brass. He presumably traveled alone. If Louise had been with him, he would have needed to pay for her himself. And in any case, she certainly wouldn’t have been present at a reception given by the Swedish military attaché.”
“I’d be interested in knowing if she did make that trip.”
Hagberg suffered another coughing fit. Wallander moved to a window and opened it slightly. The smell of perfume was bothering him.
“It will take a while,” she said when the fit was over. “I need to do some searching. But obviously, Sölve recorded the details of this and all other journeys made by Swedish military delegations.”
Wallander returned to the sofa from the
. He could hear Hagberg humming to herself in a side room as she hunted for the list of those present on various trips to America at the end of the 1950s. It took her almost forty minutes, with Wallander growing increasingly impatient, before she returned with a look of triumph in her eyes, brandishing a sheet of paper.
“Mrs. von Enke was there,” she said. “She is specifically classified as ‘accompanying,’ with some abbreviations that probably indicate that the armed forces were not paying her fare. If it’s important, I can look up the precise meaning of the abbreviations.”
Wallander took the sheet of paper. The delegation, led by Commander Karlén, comprised eight people. Among those “accompanying” were Louise von Enke and Märta Auren, the wife of Lieutenant Commander Karl-Axel Auren.
“Can one copy this?” Wallander asked.
“I don’t know what ‘one’ can do, but I have a photocopier in the basement. How many copies do you need?”
“I usually charge two kronor per copy.”
She headed for the basement. So the von Enkes had been in Washington for eight days. That meant that Louise could have been contacted by somebody. But was that really credible? he asked himself. So soon? Mind you, the Cold War was becoming more intense at the end of the fifties. It was a time when Americans saw Russian spies on every street corner. Did something significant happen during this journey?
Asta Hagberg returned with a copy of the document. Wallander placed two one-krona coins on the table.
“I suppose I haven’t been as much help as you’d hoped,” said Hagberg.
“Looking for missing persons is usually a tedious and very slow process. You progress one step at a time.”
She accompanied him to the gate. He was relieved to breathe in unperfumed air.
“Feel free to get in touch again,” she said. “I’m always here, if I can be of any help to you.”
Wallander nodded, and walked to his car. He was just about to leave Limhamn when he decided to make one more visit. He had often thought about investigating whether a mark he had made nearly fifty years ago was still there. He parked outside the churchyard, made his way to the western corner of the surrounding wall, and bent down. Had he been ten or eleven at the time? He couldn’t remember, but he’d been old enough to have discovered one of life’s great secrets: that he was who he was, a person with an identity all his own. That discovery had sparked a temptation inside him. He would make his mark in a place where it would never disappear. The low churchyard wall topped by iron railings was the sacred place he had chosen. He had sneaked out one fall evening, with a strong nail and a hammer hidden under his jacket. Limhamn was deserted. He had selected the spot earlier: the stones in the section of wall close to the western corner were unusually smooth. Cold rain had started to fall as he carved his initials,
, into the churchyard wall.
Wallander found those initials without difficulty. The letters had faded and were not as clear now, after all those years. But he had dug deep into the stone, and his mark was still there. I’ll bring Klara here sometime, he thought. I’ll tell her about the day when I decided to change the world. Even if it was only by carving my initials into a stone wall.
He went into the churchyard and sat down on a bench in the shade of a tree. He closed his eyes and thought he could hear his own childhood voice echoing inside his head, sounding like it did when it was cracking and he was troubled by everything the adult world stood for. Maybe this is where I should be buried when the time comes, he thought. Return to the beginning, be laid to rest in this same soil. I’ve already carved my epitaph into the wall.
He left the churchyard and went back to his car. Before starting the engine he thought about his meeting with Asta Hagberg. What had it accomplished?
The answer was simple. He had not progressed a single step forward.
Louise was just as big a mystery as she had been before. The wife of an officer, not present in any photographs.
But the unease he had felt ever since meeting Håkan von Enke on his island was still there.
I can’t see it, he thought. Whatever it is that I should have discovered by now.
Wallander drove home. He could cope with the fact that his visit to Asta Hagberg had not produced results, but his sorrow following the death of Baiba weighed heavily on him. It came in waves, the memory of her sudden visit and then her equally sudden departure. But there was nothing he could do about it; in her death he also envisaged his own.
When he had parked the car, released Jussi and allowed him to run off, he poured himself a large glass of vodka and drank it in one swig, standing by the kitchen table. He filled his glass again and took it with him into the bedroom. He pulled down the blinds on the two windows, undressed, and lay down naked on top of the bed. He balanced the glass on his wobbly stomach. I can take one more step, he thought. If that doesn’t lead me anywhere, I’ll drop the whole thing. I’ll inform Håkan that I’m going to tell Linda and Hans where he is. If that means he chooses to remain missing and find himself a new hideout, that’s up to him. I’ll talk to Ytterberg, Nordlander, and Atkins. Then it’s no longer my business—not that it ever was. Summer is almost over, my vacation has been ruined, and I’ll find myself wondering yet again where all the time has gone.
He emptied the glass and felt the warmth and the sensation of being pleasantly drunk kick in. One more step, he thought again. But what would it be? He put the glass on the bedside table and soon fell asleep. When he woke up an hour later, he knew what he was going to do. While he was asleep, his brain had formulated an answer. He could see it clearly, the only thing that was important now. Who other than Hans could provide him with information? He was an intelligent young man, if not especially sensitive. But people always know more than they think they know, observations they’ve made in their subconscious.
He gathered his dirty laundry and started the washing machine. Then he
went out and shouted for Jussi. There was a sound of barking from far away, in one of the neighbors’ newly mown fields. Jussi eventually came bounding up. He had been rolling in something that smelled foul. Wallander shut him in his kennel, got the garden hose, and washed him off. Jussi stood there with his tail between his legs, looking pleadingly at Wallander.
“You smell like shit,” Wallander told him. “I’m not having a stinky dog in my house.”
Wallander went into the kitchen and sat at the table. He wrote down the most important questions he could think of, then looked up Hans’s phone number at work in Copenhagen. When he was told that Hans was busy for the rest of the day with important meetings, he became impatient. He told the girl on the switchboard to inform Hans that he should call Detective Chief Inspector Wallander in Ystad within the next hour. Wallander had just opened the washing machine and realized that he’d forgotten to put in any detergent when the phone rang. He made no attempt to conceal his irritation.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“I’m working. Why do you sound so angry?”
“It’s nothing. When do you have time to see me?”
“It’ll have to be in the evening. I have meetings and appointments all day.”
“Reschedule them. I’ll be arriving in Copenhagen at two o’clock. I need an hour. No more, but no less.”
“Did something happen?”
“Something’s happening all the time. If it was important, I’d have told you already. I just want answers to a few questions. Some new ones, a few old ones.”
“I’d be grateful if it could wait until the evening. The financial markets are in turmoil.”
“I’ll be there at two,” said Wallander.
He replaced the receiver and restarted the washing machine after putting in far too much detergent, though he knew it was childish to punish the washing machine for his own forgetfulness.
He mowed the lawn, raked the gravel paths, lay down in the garden hammock, and read a book about Verdi that he’d bought for himself as a Christmas present. When he emptied the washing machine he discovered that a red handkerchief had been lying unnoticed among the white items, and the color had run, turning everything pink. He started the machine yet again. Then he sat down on the edge of the bed, pricked a fingertip and measured his blood sugar. That was another thing he kept forgetting. But the result was just about acceptable at 146.
While the washing machine was doing its job for the third time, he lay down on the sofa and listened to a newly bought recording of
. He thought about Baiba; his eyes filled with tears and he imagined her restored to life. But she was gone, and would never return. When the music had finished he heated a fish stew he had taken out of the freezer and washed it down with a glass of water. He eyed a bottle of wine standing on the counter but didn’t open it. The vodka he had drunk earlier was enough. He spent the evening watching
Some Like It Hot
, a favorite of his and Mona’s, on television. He had seen the film many times before, but it still made him laugh.