Authors: Henning Mankell
He got out of bed and felt an urge to leave. He didn’t bother to take a shower, but simply dressed and emerged into the large, well-lit apartment. The balcony door was open, the thin curtains flapping gently in the breeze. Talboth was sitting there, cigarette in hand. A cup of coffee was on the table in front of him. He turned slowly to face Wallander, who had the impression that Talboth had heard him coming. He smiled. It suddenly seemed to Wallander that he didn’t trust that smile.
“I hope you slept well.”
“The bed was very comfortable,” said Wallander. “The room was dark and quiet. But I think I should thank you for your hospitality now and take my leave.”
“So you’re not going to give Berlin another day to impress you? There’s an awful lot I could show you.”
“I’d love to stay on, but I think it’s best I set off for home now.”
“I take it your dog needs somebody to look after it?”
How does he know I have a dog? Wallander thought. I’ve never mentioned it. He had a vague impression that Talboth realized immediately he’d said something he shouldn’t have.
“Yes,” said Wallander. “You’re right. I mustn’t take too much advantage of my neighbors’ willingness to keep an eye on Jussi. I’ve spent all summer heading off to first one place, then another. And of course I have a grandchild I want to see as often as possible.”
“I’m glad that Louise had time to enjoy her,” said Talboth. “Children are one thing, but grandchildren are even more meaningful; they are the ultimate fulfillment. Children give us the feeling that our existence has been meaningful, but grandchildren are the confirmation of that. Do you have a photo of her?”
Wallander showed him the two photographs he had brought.
“A lovely little girl,” said Talboth, getting to his feet. “But you must have some breakfast before you leave.”
“Just a cup of coffee,” said Wallander. “I never have anything to eat in the morning.”
Talboth shook his head in disapproval. But he came back out onto the balcony with a cup of coffee—black, the way Wallander always drank it.
“You said something yesterday that I’ve been wondering about,” Wallander said.
“No doubt I said all kinds of things that you’ve been wondering about.”
“You said that sometimes one needed to look for explanations in places diametrically opposed to where one was looking at the time. Did you mean that as a general principle, or were you referring to something specific?”
Talboth thought for a moment.
“I don’t recall saying what you say I did,” he said. “But if I did, it was no doubt meant as a general principle.”
Wallander nodded. He didn’t believe a word of what Talboth said. He had meant something specific. It was just that Wallander hadn’t caught on to what it was.
Talboth seemed on edge, not as calm and relaxed as he had been the previous day.
“I’d like to take a photo of the two of us together,” he said. “I’ll get my camera. I don’t have a guest book, but I always take photographs when I have visitors.”
He came back with a camera, which he balanced on the arm of one of the chairs. He set the timer and came to sit down beside Wallander. When the picture was taken, he took another one himself, this time of Wallander alone. They said their good-byes shortly afterward. Wallander had his jacket in one hand and his car keys in the other.
“Will you manage to find your way out of the city without help?” Talboth asked.
“My sense of direction isn’t all that good, but I’ll no doubt find the right road sooner or later. Besides, there’s a logic in the German road network that puts all the others to shame.”
They shook hands. Wallander took the elevator down to street level and waved to Talboth, who was leaning over his balcony railing. As he left the building, Wallander noticed that Talboth’s name didn’t appear on the nameplate listing all the tenants; it said instead “USG Enterprises.” Wallander memorized the name, then got in his car and drove off.
It took him several hours to find his way out of the city. When he finally
emerged onto the highway, he realized too late that he had missed an exit and was now heading for the Polish border. With considerable difficulty he eventually managed to turn and set off in the right direction. When he passed Oranienburg, he shuddered at the memory of what had happened there.
He arrived back home without any problems. Linda came to visit him that evening. Klara had a cold, and Hans was taking care of her. The following day he was due to leave for New York.
It was a warm evening, so they sat out in the garden, and Linda drank tea.
“How’s business going for him?” Wallander asked as they swung slowly back and forth in the hammock.
“I don’t know,” said Linda. “But I sometimes wonder what’s going on. He always used to come home and tell me about the fantastic deals he’d closed during the day. Now he doesn’t say anything at all.”
A skein of geese flew past. They watched the birds flying south.
“Are they migrating already?” Linda wondered. “Isn’t it too early?”
“Maybe they’re practicing,” said Wallander.
Linda burst out laughing.
“That’s exactly the kind of comment Granddad would have made. Do you realize that you’re getting more and more like him?”
Wallander dismissed the thought.
“We both know he had a sense of humor. But he could be much more malicious than I ever allow myself to be.”
“I don’t think he was malicious,” Linda said firmly. “I think he was scared.”
“Maybe of growing old. Of dying. I think he used to hide that fear behind his malevolence, which was often just a front.”
Wallander didn’t reply. He wondered if that was what she meant when she said they were so similar. That he was also beginning to make it obvious that he was afraid of dying?
“Tomorrow you and I are going to visit Mona,” Linda said out of the blue.
“Because she’s my mother, and you and I are her next of kin.”
“Doesn’t she have her psychopath of a businessman-cum-husband to look after her?”
“Haven’t you figured out that it’s all over?”
“No, I’m not coming with you.”
“I don’t want anything more to do with Mona. Now that Baiba’s dead, I can’t forgive Mona for what she said about her.”
“Jealous people come out with jealous stupidities. Mona’s told me the kind of things you used to say when you were jealous.”
“I’m not going. I don’t want to.”
“But I want you to. And I think Mom wants you to. You can’t just cut her out of your life.”
Wallander said nothing. There was no point in protesting anymore. If he didn’t do as Linda wished it would make both his and her existence impossible for a long time. He didn’t want that.
“I don’t even know where the clinic is,” he said in the end.
“You’ll find out tomorrow. It’ll be a surprise.”
An area of low pressure drifted in over Skåne during the night. As they sat in the car driving east shortly after eight in the morning, it had started raining and a wind was blowing up. Wallander felt groggy. He had slept badly and was tired and irritable when Linda came to pick him up. She immediately sent him back indoors to change his old, worn-out pants.
“You don’t need to be in your best suit to visit her, but you can’t show up looking as scruffy as that.”
They turned off onto the road leading to an old castle, Glimmingehus. Linda looked at him.
“Do you remember?”
“Of course I remember.”
“We have plenty of time. We can stop and take a look.”
Linda drove into the parking lot outside the high castle walls. They left the car and walked over the drawbridge into the castle yard.
“This is among my earliest memories,” said Linda. “When you and I came here. And you scared me to death with all your ghost stories. How old was I then?”
“The first time we came I suppose you must have been four or thereabouts. But that’s not when I told you the ghost stories. I did that when you were seven, I think. Maybe it was the summer when you were about to start school.”
“I remember being so proud of you,” said Linda. “My big, imposing dad.
I like to think back on moments like that, when I felt so safe and secure, and so happy to be alive.”
“I have similar memories,” said Wallander, genuinely. “They were the best years of my life, when you were a little girl.”
“Where does the time go?” Linda wondered. “Do you think like that too? Now that you’re sixty?”
“Yes,” he said. “A few years ago I noticed that I’ve started reading the obituaries in
. If I came across another daily newspaper, I’d read them there as well. I wondered more and more about what had become of my old classmates from Limhamn. How had their lives turned out, compared to mine? I started looking into that, halfheartedly.”
They sat down on the stone steps leading into the castle itself.
“Those of us who started school in 1955 really have lived all kinds of different lives. I think I know what happened to most of my classmates now. Things didn’t go well for a lot of them. Several are dead; one shot himself after emigrating to Canada. A few were successful, such as Sölve Hagberg, who won
Double or Quits
. Most of them have led quiet lives. Good for them. And this is how my life has turned out. When you reach sixty, most of your life is behind you. You just have to accept that, hard though it is. There are very few important decisions still to be made.”
“Do you feel like your life is coming to a close?”
“What do you think at times like that?”
He hesitated before replying, then gave her an honest answer.
“I mourn the fact that Baiba is dead. That we never managed to get together.”
“There are other women,” said Linda. “You don’t have to be on your own.”
Wallander stood up.
“No,” he said. “There aren’t any others. Baiba was irreplaceable.”
They went back to the car and drove the remaining couple of miles to the clinic. It was in a mansion with four wings, and the old inner courtyard had been preserved. Mona was sitting on a bench smoking as they approached her over the cobblestones.
“Has she started smoking?” Wallander asked. “She never used to.”
“She says she smokes to console herself. And that she’ll stop once this is over.”
“When will it be over?”
“She’ll be here for another month.”
“And Hans is paying for it all?”
She didn’t reply to that question because the answer was obvious. Mona stood up as they approached. Wallander noticed with distaste the pale gray color of her face, and the heavy bags under her eyes. He thought she was ugly, something that had never struck him before.
“It was nice of you to come,” she said, taking his hand.
“I wanted to see how you were,” he mumbled.
They all sat down on the bench, with Mona in the middle. Wallander immediately felt the urge to leave. The fact that Mona was struggling with withdrawal symptoms and anxiety was not sufficient reason for him to be there. Why did Linda want him to see Mona in such a state? Was it an attempt to make him acknowledge his share of the guilt? What was he guilty of? He could feel himself growing increasingly irritated while Linda and Mona talked to each other. Then Mona asked if they wanted to see her room. Wallander declined, but Linda went into the house with her.
Wallander wandered around the grounds while he was waiting. His cell phone rang in his jacket pocket. It was Ytterberg.
“Are you on duty?” he asked. “Or are you still on vacation?”
“I’m still on vacation,” said Wallander. “At least, that’s what I try to convince myself.”
“I’m in my office. I have in front of me a report from our secret service people in the armed forces. Do you want to know what they have to say?”
“We might be interrupted.”
“I think a few minutes will be enough. It’s an extremely thin report. Which means that most of it isn’t considered suitable for me or other ordinary police officers to see. ‘Parts of the report are classified as secret,’ it says. Which no doubt means that nearly all of it is classified. They’ve tossed us a few grains of sand. If there are any pearls, they’re keeping them for themselves.”
Ytterberg was suddenly struck by a fit of sneezing.
“Sorry,” he said. “I’m allergic. They use some kind of cleaning substance in the police station that I can’t tolerate. I think I’ll start scrubbing my office myself.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” said Wallander impatiently.
“I’ll read you a section of the report: ‘The material, including microfilm and photographic negatives, and some encrypted text, found in Louise von Enke’s purse contains military material classified as secret. Most of it is particularly sensitive, and was classified as secret precisely so as to avoid it coming into the wrong hands.’ End of quote. In other words, there’s no doubt about it.”
“That the material is genuine, you mean?”
“Exactly. And it also says in the report that similar material has come into Russian hands in the past, as they have used Swedish elimination processes to establish that the Russians are in possession of knowledge they should not have had access to. Do you understand what they mean? Much of the report is written in opaque military jargon.”
“That’s the way our own secret colleagues tend to write—why should the military types be any different? But I think I understand.”
“It’s not possible to avoid the conclusion that Louise von Enke had been sticking her fingers into the military honeypot. She sold intelligence material. God only knows how she came by it.”
“There are still a lot of unanswered questions,” Wallander said. “What happened out there at Värmdö? Why was she murdered? Who was she supposed to meet? Why didn’t that person or those persons take the set of documents she had in her purse?”
“Perhaps they didn’t know it was there?”
“Maybe she didn’t actually have it with her,” said Wallander.
“We’re looking into that possibility. That it might have been planted.”
“As far as I can see, that’s not impossible.”