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Authors: Henning Mankell

The Troubled Man (49 page)

BOOK: The Troubled Man
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He slept well that night, to his surprise.

Linda called the next morning as he was having breakfast. The window was wide open; it was a lovely warm day. Wallander was sitting naked on his kitchen chair.

“What did Ytterberg have to say about Håkan getting in touch?”

“I haven’t spoken to him yet.”

She was shocked.

“Why not? If anybody should know that Håkan isn’t dead, surely it’s him.”

“Håkan asked me not to say anything.”

“You didn’t tell me that yesterday.”

“I must have forgotten.”

She realized immediately that his reply was both hesitant and evasive.

“Is there anything else you haven’t told me?”


“Then I think you should call Ytterberg the moment we finish this conversation.”

Wallander could hear the anger in her voice.

“If I ask you a straightforward, honest question, will you give me a straightforward, honest answer?” she asked.


“What’s behind all this? If I know you, you have an opinion.”

“Not in this case I don’t. I’m just as bewildered as you are.”

“But the suggestion that Louise was a spy is just ridiculous.”

“Whether it’s plausible or not is not something I can judge. The police found those items in her purse.”

“Somebody must have planted them there. That’s the only possible explanation. She certainly wasn’t a spy,” Linda asserted once more.

She paused. Perhaps she was waiting for him to agree. He heard Klara screaming in the background.

“What’s she doing?”

“She’s in bed. But she doesn’t want to stay there. Incidentally, that’s something I’ve been wondering: What was I like at her age? Did I cry a lot? Have I asked you that before?”

“All babies cry a lot.”

“I was just wondering. I think you see yourself in your children. Anyway, you’re going to call Ytterberg today, I hope?”

“Tomorrow. But you were a well-behaved child.”

“Things got worse later, when I was a teenager.”

“Oh yes,” Wallander said. “Much worse.”

When they hung up, Wallander remained seated. That was one of his worst memories, something he rarely allowed to bubble up to the surface. When she was fifteen, Linda had tried to take her own life. It probably wasn’t all that serious, more of a classic cry for help, a desire to attract attention. But it could have ended very badly if Wallander hadn’t forgotten his wallet and returned home. He had found her, slurring her words, with an empty jar of pills by her side. The panic he felt at that moment was something he had never experienced again. It was also the biggest failure of his life—not having realized how bad she felt as a vulnerable teenager.

He shook off the painful memory. He was convinced that if she had died, he would have taken his own life as well.

He thought back to their conversation. Her absolute certainty that Louise couldn’t have been a spy made him think. It wasn’t a matter of proof, but of conviction. But if she’s right, Wallander thought, what is the explanation? Despite everything, was it possible that Louise and Håkan were somehow working together? Or was Håkan von Enke such a cold-blooded liar that he talked about his great love for Louise in order to ensure that nobody would think what he said wasn’t true? Was he behind her death and now trying to send investigators in the wrong direction?

Wallander scribbled a sentence in his notebook:
Linda is convinced that Louise is innocent
. But deep down he didn’t believe it. Louise was responsible for her own death. That had to be the case.

Shortly before two Wallander rang the bell outside the glass front door of the exclusive offices at Rundetårn in Copenhagen. A busty young lady let him in
through the whispering doors. She called for Hans, who appeared in reception without delay. He looked pale and tired. They passed by a conference room where an argument was taking place between a middle-aged man speaking English and two fair-haired young men speaking Icelandic. Their interpreter was a woman dressed entirely in black.

“Hard words,” Wallander said as they passed by. “I thought finance people had pretty discreet conversations?”

“We sometimes say that we work in the slaughterhouse industry,” Hans said. “It sounds worse than it is. But when you work with money, your hands get covered in blood—symbolically speaking, of course.”

“Why are they arguing so vehemently?”

Hans shook his head.

“Business. I can’t say what exactly, not even to you.”

Wallander asked no more questions. Hans took him to a small conference room made entirely of glass—even the floor—and apparently hanging on the outside wall of the office building. Wallander had the feeling of being in an aquarium. A woman, just as young as the receptionist, came in with a tray of coffee and Danish pastries. Wallander placed his notebook and pencil by the side of his cup as Hans served the coffee. Wallander noticed that his hands were shaking.

“I thought the days of the notebook were past,” said Hans when he had filled both cups. “Aren’t police nowadays only issued cassette recorders, or perhaps video cameras?”

“Television series are not always a true reflection of our work. I do use a tape recorder sometimes, of course. But this isn’t an interrogation; it’s a conversation.”

“Where do you want to start? I really do have just this one hour. It was extremely difficult to rearrange things.”

“It’s about your mother,” Wallander said firmly. “No work can be more important than finding out what happened to her. I take it you agree with me on that?”

“That isn’t what I meant.”

“Okay, let’s discuss what this is all about. Not what you meant or didn’t mean.”

Hans stared hard at Wallander.

“Let me say from the start that my mother couldn’t possibly have been a spy. Even if she could act a bit secretive at times.”

Wallander raised his eyebrows.

“That’s something you never said before when we talked about her. That she could be secretive.”

“I’ve been thinking since we last spoke. I do find her increasingly puzzling. Mainly because of Signe. Can you imagine a more outrageous deceit than concealing from a child that he has a sister? I sometimes regretted being an only child. Especially when I was very young, before I’d started school. But there was never anything evasive in her answers. Now it seems to me that she answered my childish longing with ice-cold indifference.”

“And your father?”

“He was never at home in those days. At least, I remember him as being mostly absent. Every time he came through the door, I knew he would soon be leaving again. He always brought me presents. But I didn’t dare enjoy being with him. When his uniform was taken out to be aired and brushed, I knew what was going to happen. The following morning he would leave.”

“Can you tell me more about what you regard as secretive behavior on your mother’s part?”

“It’s hard to pinpoint. Sometimes she seemed preoccupied, sunk so deep in her own thoughts that she grew angry if I happened to disturb her. It was almost as if I’d caused her pain, as if I’d stuck a pin in her. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but that’s how I remember it. Sometimes she would close her notebooks, or quickly slide something over the paper she was working on when I came into the room.”

“Was there anything your mother did only when your father wasn’t at home? Any routines that suddenly changed?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“You’re answering too quickly. Think about it.”

Hans stood up and gazed out the windows. Through the floor Wallander could see a street musician down below strumming away at a guitar with a hat in front of him on the sidewalk. No sound of music penetrated the glass. Hans returned to his chair.

“What I’m about to say now is nothing I could swear to,” he said. “It could be my imagination, my memory playing tricks. But now that I think about it, when Håkan was away she often talked on the phone, always with the door closed. She didn’t do that when he was at home.”

“Didn’t talk on the phone or didn’t close the door?”


“Go on.”

“There were often papers lying around that she worked on. I have the feeling that when Håkan came home the papers were no longer there—there were flowers on the tables instead.”

“What kind of papers?”

“I don’t know. But sometimes there were drawings as well.”

Wallander gave a start.

“Drawings of what?”

“Divers. My mother was very good at drawing.”


“Various dives, different phases of individual dives. ‘German leap with full twist’ or whatever they say, that sort of thing.”

“Can you remember any other kind of drawings?”

“She sometimes drew me. I don’t know where those drawings are, but they were good.”

Wallander broke a Danish pastry in two and dunked one half in his coffee. He looked at his watch. The musician under his feet was still playing his silent music.

“I’m not quite finished yet,” said Wallander. “Let’s talk about your mother’s views. Political, social, economic. What did she think about Sweden?”

“Politics were not a topic of conversation in my home.”


“One of them might say, ‘The Swedish armed forces are no longer capable of defending our country’ or something of the sort. The other might reply to the effect that it was the fault of the Communists. And that would be it. Either of them could have said either of those things. They were conservative, of course—we’ve spoken about that already. There was no question of voting for any party other than the Moderates. Taxes were too high. Sweden was allowing in too many immigrants who went on to cause chaos in the streets. I think you could say they thought exactly as you would expect them to.”

“There was never any exception to that, then?”

“Never, not that I can recall.”

Wallander nodded and ate the other half of the Danish.

“Let’s talk about your parents’ relationship with each other,” he said when he’d finished chewing. “What was that like?”

“It was good.”

“Did they ever argue?”

“No. I think they really loved each other. That’s something I thought about afterward—that as a child I never had the slightest fear that they would divorce. That thought never even occurred to me.”

“But surely no couple ever lives together without the occasional conflict?”

“They did. Unless they argued when I was asleep and I didn’t hear them. But I find that hard to believe.”

Wallander had no more questions. But he wasn’t ready to give up.

“Is there anything else you could say about your mother? She was kind and she was secretive, perhaps mysterious, we know that now. But to be perfectly honest, you seem to know surprisingly little about her.”

“I’ve come to see that,” said Hans, with something that Wallander interpreted as painful honesty. “There were hardly ever any moments of real intimacy between us. She always kept me at a certain distance. She comforted me if I hurt myself, of course. But with hindsight I can see now that she found that almost troublesome.”

“Was there any other man in her life?”

That was not a question Wallander had prepared in advance. But now that he’d asked it, it seemed an obvious one.

“Never. I don’t think there was any disloyalty between my parents. On either side.”

“What about before they got married? What do you know about that time?”

“I have the feeling that because they met so early in their lives, neither of them ever had anybody else. Not anyone serious. But of course, I can’t be certain.”

Wallander put his notebook in his jacket pocket. He hadn’t written down a single word. There was nothing to write. He knew as little now as he had before he’d arrived.

He stood up. But Hans remained seated.

“My father,” he said. “I gather he’s called you. So he’s alive, but he doesn’t want to put in an appearance, is that it?”

Wallander sat down again. The guitar player under his feet had moved on.

“There’s no doubt that he was the one who called. He said he was well. He gave no explanation of his behavior. He just wanted you to know that he was alive.”

“He really said nothing about where he was?”


“What impression did you get? Was he far away? Did he call from a landline or a cell phone?”

“I can’t say.”

“Because you don’t want to, or because you can’t?”

“Because I can’t.”

Wallander stood up again. They left the room made of glass. When they passed by the conference room, the door was closed but the people inside were still arguing loudly. They said their good-byes in reception.

“Did I help at all?” Hans asked.

“You were honest,” Wallander said. “That’s the only thing I can ask for.”

“A diplomatic answer. So I wasn’t able to give you what you were hoping for.”

Wallander made a resigned gesture. The glass door opened, and he waved as he left. The elevator took him silently down to the lobby. He had parked his car in a side street off Kongens Nytorv. Since it was very hot, he took off his jacket and unbuttoned his shirt.

Suddenly he had the feeling he was being watched. He turned around. The street was full of people, but he didn’t recognize any of the faces. After a hundred yards he stopped in front of a shopwindow and contemplated some expensive ladies’ shoes. He sneaked a look back along the section of street he’d just come from.
A man was standing, looking at his wristwatch. Then he moved his overcoat from his right arm to his left
. Wallander thought he remembered him from the first time he’d looked around. He turned back to the ladies’ shoes. The man passed behind his back. Wallander recalled something Rydberg had said.
You don’t always need to be behind the person you’re shadowing. You can just as well be in front of him
. Wallander set off and counted a hundred steps. Then he stopped again and turned around. Now there was nobody who attracted his attention. The man with the overcoat had vanished. When Wallander reached his car he looked around one last time. The people he could see, coming and going, were totally new to him. He shook his head. He must have been imagining things.

BOOK: The Troubled Man
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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