Authors: Henning Mankell
“To make sure she’d be suspected of spying.”
“But she is a spy, isn’t she?”
“It feels like we’re in a labyrinth,” said Wallander. “I can’t find my way out. But let me think about what you’ve told me. How high a priority are you giving this murder just now?”
“Very high. The rumor is that it will feature in some television show about current criminal investigations. The bosses are always nervous when the media turn up with microphones.”
“Send them to me,” said Wallander. “I’m not afraid.”
“Who’s afraid? I’m just worried I’ll turn nasty if they ask me silly questions.”
Wallander sat down on the bench again and thought about what Ytterberg had said. He tried to find things that didn’t add up, without succeeding. He was finding it hard to concentrate.
Mona’s eyes seemed glazed over when she and Linda returned. Wallander realized that she’d been crying. He didn’t want to know what they had been talking about, but he did feel sorry for Mona. He would like to ask her his question as well: How did your life turn out? She was standing in front of him, gray and dejected, shaking, oppressed by forces stronger than she was.
“It’s time for my treatment,” she said. “Thank you for coming. What I’m going through isn’t easy.”
“What does your treatment entail?” Wallander asked in a brave attempt to appear interested.
“Right now I’m meeting with a doctor. His name is Torsten Rosén. He’s had alcohol problems himself. I have to hurry or I’ll be late.”
They said their good-byes in the courtyard. Linda and Wallander drove home in silence. He thought she was no doubt more troubled than he was. Her relationship with her mother had grown stronger once the stormy teenage years were past.
“I’m glad you came with me,” Linda said when she dropped him off.
“You didn’t give me much choice,” he said. “But of course, it was important for me to see how she’s doing, what she’s going through. The question is, will she get better?”
“I don’t know. I can only hope so.”
“Yes,” said Wallander. “There’s only one possibility left: to hope.”
He thrust his hand in through the open window and stroked her hair. She turned the car around and drove off. Wallander watched the car disappearing.
He felt heavyhearted. He let Jussi out of his kennel and tickled him behind his ears before unlocking the front door. He noticed right away that somebody had been in the house. One of the traps he had set had produced a result. On the windowsill next to the front door he had placed a candlestick directly in front of the window’s handle. Now it was standing closer to the pane, to the left of the handle. He paused and held his breath. Could he be mistaken? No, he was quite sure. When he examined the window more closely, he saw that it had been opened from the outside with a narrow, sharp instrument, probably something similar to the tool used by car thieves to open door locks.
He lifted up the candlestick and examined it carefully: it was made of wood, with a copper ring where the candle was inserted. He put it down again just as carefully, then worked his way slowly through the house. He found no other traces of a break-in. They are careful, he thought. Careful and skillful. The candlestick was an uncharacteristic slip.
He sat down at the kitchen table, contemplating the candlestick. There was only one explanation for unknown people breaking into his house.
Somebody was convinced that he knew something he didn’t know he knew. Something based on his notes, or even some object in his possession.
He sat motionless on his chair. I’m getting closer, he thought. Or somebody is getting closer to me.
The next morning he was hustled out of his sleep by dreams that he couldn’t remember. The candlestick on the windowsill reminded him that somebody had been close to where he was now. He went out into the garden naked, first to pee, and then to let Jussi out of his kennel. An early fall mist was drifting in over the fields. He shuddered and hurried back indoors. He dressed, made coffee, then sat down at the kitchen table, determined yet again to try to clarify what had happened to Louise von Enke. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to establish anything but a highly provisional explanation. But he needed to go through everything once more, very carefully, mainly in the hope of finding a reason for the nagging feeling that there was something he’d overlooked. The feeling was even stronger now that, yet again, somebody had been rummaging around in his house. In brief, he had no intention of washing his hands of it all.
But he found it hard to concentrate. After a few hours he gave up, gathered his papers, and went to the police station. Once again he chose to enter via the basement garage, and he came to his office without bumping into anybody. After half an hour spent hunched over his papers, he checked that the hallway was empty and went to the coffee machine. He had just filled his mug when Lennart Mattson appeared. Wallander hadn’t seen his boss for a while, and he hadn’t missed him. Mattson was tanned and had lost weight, something that immediately made Wallander jealous and annoyed.
“Here already?” Mattson asked. “Can’t keep away, huh? Can’t wait to get back to work? That’s how it should be, you can’t be a good police officer if you’re not passionate about your work. But I thought you weren’t due back until Monday.”
“I was just on my way home,” said Wallander. “I needed to get some papers from my office.”
“Do you have a moment? I have some good news that I’d like to share with somebody.”
“I have all the time in the world,” said Wallander, making no attempt to conceal the irony that he knew would pass over Mattson’s head.
They went to the chief of police’s office. Wallander sat down on one of the guest chairs. Mattson opened a folder lying on his neat and tidy desk.
“Good news, as I said. Here in Skåne we have one of the best closure rates in the country. We solve more crimes than almost everybody else. We’ve also
improved the most from the previous year. That’s just what we need to inspire us to even greater things.”
Wallander listened to what his boss had to say. There was no reason to doubt the report. But Wallander knew that interpreting statistics was like pulling rabbits out of a hat. You could always present a statistic as fact even if it was an illusion. Wallander and his colleagues were painfully aware that the closure rate in Sweden was among the lowest in the world. And none of them believed they’d hit rock bottom yet. Things would continue to get worse. Constant bureaucratic upheavals meant an equally constant increase in the negative flow of unsolved crimes. Competent police officers were fired, or diverted into other duties until they were no longer able to make a meaningful contribution. It was more important to check boxes and meet targets than to really get down to investigating crimes and taking crooks to court. Moreover, Wallander and most of his colleagues thought that the priorities were all wrong. The day that police chiefs decreed “minor crimes” must be tolerated, the rug had been pulled out from under the remains of a trusting relationship between the police and the general public. The man in the street was not prepared to shrug his shoulders and merely accept that somebody had broken into his car or his garage or his summer cottage. He wanted these crimes to be solved, or at least investigated.
But that wasn’t something Wallander felt like discussing with Lennart Mattson right now. There would be plenty of opportunities for that during the fall.
Mattson slid the report to one side and looked at his visitor with a troubled expression on his face. Wallander could see that he had sweat on his brow.
“How are you feeling? You look pale. Why haven’t you been getting some sun?”
“The summer hasn’t been all that bad. I made a trip to Crete, so we’d be sure to have some decent weather. Have you ever visited the palace at Knossos? There are fantastic dolphins on the walls there.”
Wallander stood up.
“I feel fine,” he said. “But since it’s sunny today, I’ll take your advice and make the most of it.”
“No forgotten guns anywhere, I hope?”
Wallander stared at Lennart Mattson. He came very close to punching him in the nose.
· · ·
Wallander returned to his office, sat down on his chair, put his feet on his desk, and closed his eyes. He thought about Baiba. And Mona shivering away in her rehabilitation clinic. While his boss gloated over a statistic that was no doubt economical with the truth.
He took down his feet. I’ll make another attempt, he thought. Another attempt to understand why I’m always doubtful about the conclusions I reach. I wish I had more insight into political goings-on; then I would probably be less confused than I am now.
He suddenly recalled something he’d never thought about as an adult. It must have been 1962 or 1963, sometime in the fall. Wallander had a Saturday job as an errand boy for a flower shop in central Malmö. He had been instructed to deliver a bouquet of flowers as quickly as possible to the People’s Park. The prime minister, Tage Erlander, was giving a lecture, and when he had finished a little girl was supposed to hand him the flowers. The problem was that somebody in the local Social Democratic Party office had forgotten to order the flowers. So now there was an emergency. Wallander pedaled away for all he was worth. The flower shop had warned the People’s Park officials that he was on his way, and he was allowed in without delay. The little girl designated to present the flowers received them in time and Wallander received a tip of no less than five kronor. He was offered a glass of soda, and stood with a straw in his mouth, listening to the tall man at the lectern speaking in his strange nasal voice. He used a lot of big words—or at least words that Wallander was unfamiliar with. He spoke about détente, the rights of small countries, the neutrality of Sweden, with its freedom from all kinds of pacts and treaties. Wallander thought he’d understood that, at least, from what the great man had said.
When Wallander came home that evening he went to the room his father used as a studio. He could still remember even now that his father was busy painting in the forest background he used in all his pictures. When he was a teenager Wallander had a good relationship with his father—that might have been the best time in their shared existence. It would be another three, perhaps four years before Wallander came home and announced that he was going to become a police officer. His father had gone through the roof and come close to throwing him out—in any case, he refused to talk to him for quite some time.
Wallander had sat on a stool next to his father and told him about his visit to the People’s Park. His father often muttered that he wasn’t interested in politics, but Wallander eventually realized that this wasn’t the case. His father always voted faithfully for the Social Democrats, was angrily skeptical about the Communists, and always criticized the non-socialist parties for favoring citizens who were already leading a comfortable life.
The conversation with his father that day came back to him now, almost word for word. Earlier, his father had always spoken positively about Erlander, maintaining that he was an honest man you could trust, unlike many other politicians.
“He said that Russia is our enemy,” Wallander said.
“That’s not completely true. It wouldn’t do any harm if our politicians devoted a thought or two to the role America plays nowadays.”
Wallander was surprised by what he said. Surely America represented the good guys? After all, they were the ones who had defeated Hitler and the Nazis’ Thousand-Year Reich. America produced movies, music, clothes. As far as Wallander was concerned, Elvis Presley was the King, and there was nothing to beat “Blue Suede Shoes.” He had stopped collecting everything he could find about Hollywood stars, but still there was nobody to beat Alan Ladd. Now his father was implying that you had to be on your guard where America was concerned. Was there something Wallander didn’t know?
Wallander repeated the prime minister’s words: the neutrality of
Sweden, with its freedom from all kinds of pacts and treaties
. “Is that what he said?” his father had commented. “The fact is, American jets fly through Swedish air space. We pretend to be neutral, but at the same time we play along with NATO and more specifically with America.”
Wallander pressed his father on what he meant, but he didn’t get an answer, only some inaudible mumbling and then a request to be left in peace.
“You ask too many questions.”
“But you’ve always said that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask you if there was something I wondered about.”
“There has to be a limit.”
“Where is it?”
“Right here. I’m making mistakes when I paint.”
“How is that possible? You’ve been painting the same picture every day since long before I was born.”
“Go away! Leave me in peace!”
And then, as he stood in the doorway, Wallander said:
“I got a five-kronor tip for getting the flowers to Elander in time.”
. Learn people’s names.”
And at that precise moment, as if the memory had opened a door for him, Wallander saw that he was totally on the wrong track. He’d been deceived, and he’d allowed himself to be deceived. He’d been following the path dictated by his assumptions instead of reality. He sat motionless at his desk, his
hands clenched, and allowed his thoughts to lead him to a new and unexpected explanation of what had happened. It was so mind-boggling that at first he couldn’t believe he could be right. The only thing that kept him focused was that his instincts had warned him. He really had overlooked something. He had mixed up the truth and the lies and assumed that the cause was the effect and vice versa.
He went to the bathroom and took off his shirt, which was soaked in sweat. When he had given himself a good wash, he went down to his locker in the basement and put on a clean shirt. He recalled in passing having received it from Linda for his birthday a few years earlier.
When he returned to his office he searched through his papers until he found the photograph he had been given by Asta Hagberg, the one of Colonel Stig Wennerström in Washington talking to a young Håkan von Enke. He studied the faces of the two men. Wennerström was smiling coolly, martini glass in hand, facing Håkan von Enke, who looked serious listening to what Wennerström had to say.