Authors: Henning Mankell
“I didn’t kill Louise!”
The first crack, Wallander thought. Håkan’s voice is starting to sound shrill. He’s beginning to defend himself.
“I don’t think you did. No doubt others did that. Maybe you received assistance from George Talboth. But she died to prevent you from being exposed.”
“You can’t prove your absurd allegations.”
“You’re absolutely right,” said Wallander. “I can’t. But there are others who can. I know enough to make the police and the armed forces start looking at what’s happened from a different perspective. The spy they’ve long suspected was operating in the Swedish armed forces was not a woman. It was a man. A man who didn’t hesitate to hide behind his own wife as a way of providing himself with a perfect disguise. Everybody was looking for a Russian spy, a woman. When they should have been looking for a man spying for the U.S.A. Nobody thought of that possibility, everybody was preoccupied with searching for enemies in the east. That has been the case for the whole of my life: the threat comes from the east. Nobody wanted to believe that an individual might even consider the possibility of betraying his country in the other direction, to the U.S.A. Anyone who did warn of anything like that was a lone voice crying in the wilderness. You could maintain, of course, that the U.S.A. already had access to everything they wanted to know about our defense services, but that wasn’t the case. NATO, and above all the U.S.A., needed help obtaining accurate information about the Swedish armed forces and also about how much we knew about various Russian military plans.”
Wallander paused. Von Enke continued to look at him with the same lack of expression in his face.
“You provided yourself with a perfect shield when you made yourself unpopular in the navy,” Wallander went on. “You protested about the Russian
submarines trapped inside Swedish territorial waters being set free. You asked so many questions that you were regarded as an extreme, fanatical enemy of Russia. At the same time, you could also criticize the U.S.A. when it suited you. But you knew of course that in fact it was NATO submarines hiding in our territorial waters. You were playing a game, and you won. You beat everybody. With the possible exception of your wife, who began to suspect that everything wasn’t what it seemed. I don’t know why you came to hide here. Maybe because your employers ordered you to? Was it one of them who appeared on the other side of the fence in Djursholm, smoking, when you were celebrating your seventy-fifth birthday? Was that an agreed way of passing a message to you? This hunting lodge was designated as a place for you to withdraw to a long time ago. You knew about it from Eskil Lundberg’s father, who was more than willing to help you after you made sure he was compensated for battered jetties and damaged nets. He was also the man who helped you by never saying anything about the bugging device the Americans failed to attach to the Russian underwater cable. I suspect the arrangement was probably that you would be picked up from here by some ship if it should become necessary to evacuate you. They probably said nothing about the fact that Louise would have to die. But it was your friends who killed her. And you knew the price you would have to pay for what you were doing. You couldn’t do anything to prevent what happened. Isn’t that right? The only thing I still wonder about is what drove you to sacrifice your wife on top of everything else.”
Håkan von Enke was staring at his hand. He seemed somehow uninterested in what Wallander had said. Possibly because he had to face up to the fact that what he had done had resulted in Louise’s death, Wallander thought, and now there was nothing he could do about it.
“It was never the intention that she should die,” von Enke said, without taking his eyes off his hand.
“What did you think when you heard she was dead?”
Von Enke’s reply was matter-of-fact, almost dry.
“I came very close to putting an end to it all. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of my grandchild. But now I don’t know anymore.”
They fell silent again. Wallander thought it would soon be time for Sten Nordlander to come into the room. But there was another question he wanted answered first.
“How did it happen?” he asked.
“How did what happen?”
“What was it that made you into a spy?”
“It’s a long story.”
“We have plenty of time. And you don’t need to give me an exhaustive answer; just tell me enough to help me understand.”
Von Enke leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Wallander suddenly realized that he was facing a very old man.
“It started a long time ago,” von Enke said without opening his eyes. “I was contacted by the Americans as early as the beginning of the 1960s. I was soon convinced of how important it was for the U.S.A. and NATO to have access to information that would enable them to defend us. We would never be able to survive on our own. Without the U.S.A. we were lost from the very start.”
“Who contacted you?”
“You have to keep in mind what it was like in those days. There was a group of mainly young people who spent all their time protesting against the U.S.A.’s war in Vietnam. But most of us knew that we needed America’s support in order to survive when the balloon went up in Europe. I was upset by all those naïve and romantic left-wingers. I felt that I needed to do something. I went in with my eyes wide open. I suppose you could say it was ideology. It’s the same today. Without the U.S.A., the world would be at the mercy of forces whose only aim is to deprive Europe of power. What do you think China’s ambitions are? What will the Russians do once they’ve solved their internal problems?”
“But money must have come into it somehow?”
Von Enke didn’t reply. He turned away, lost in his own thoughts again. Wallander asked a few more questions, to which he received no answers. Von Enke had simply brought the conversation to a close.
He suddenly stood up and walked toward the kitchenette. He took a bottle of beer out of the refrigerator, then opened one of the drawers in the kitchen cabinet. Wallander was watching him carefully.
When von Enke turned to face him, he had a pistol in his hand. Wallander stood up quickly. The gun was pointed at him. Von Enke slowly put the bottle down on the work surface.
He raised the gun. Wallander could see that it was pointing straight at his head. He shouted, roared at von Enke. Then he saw the pistol move.
“I can’t go on any longer,” said von Enke. “I have absolutely no future anymore.”
He placed the barrel against his chin and pulled the trigger. The sound
echoed around the room. As he collapsed, his face covered in blood, Sten Nordlander came storming into the room.
“Are you hurt?” he screamed. “Did he shoot you?”
“No. He shot himself.”
They stared at the man lying on the floor, his body in an unnatural position. The blood covering his face made it impossible to make out his eyes, to see if they were closed or not.
Wallander was the first to realize that von Enke was still alive. He grabbed a sweater hanging over the arm of a chair and pressed it against von Enke’s chin. He shouted to Nordlander, telling him to get some towels. The bullet had exited through von Enke’s cheek. He had failed to send the bullet through his brain.
“He missed,” Wallander said as Nordlander handed him a sheet he had pulled off the bed.
Håkan von Enke’s eyes were open; they had not glazed over.
“Press hard,” said Wallander, showing Nordlander what to do.
He took out his cell phone and dialed the emergency number. But there was no signal. He ran outside and scrambled up the rocky slope behind the house. But there was no signal there either. He went back inside.
“He’ll bleed to death,” said Nordlander.
“You have to press hard,” said Wallander. “My phone isn’t working. I’ll have to go get help. Telephone coverage is sometimes pretty bad here.”
“I don’t think he’ll make it.”
Sten Nordlander was kneeling beside the bleeding man. He looked up at Wallander with horror in his eyes.
“Is it true?”
“You heard what we said?”
“Every word. Is it true?”
“It’s true. Everything I said and everything he said. He was a spy for the U.S.A. for about forty years. He sold our military secrets, and he must have made a good job of it if the Americans considered him so valuable that they didn’t even hesitate to murder his wife.”
“I find this impossible to understand.”
“Then we have another reason to try to keep him alive. He’s the only one who can tell us the truth. I’m going to get help. It will take time. But if you can stop the bleeding, we might be able to save him.”
“So there’s no doubt?”
“None at all.”
“That means he has been deceiving me for years.”
“He deceived everybody.”
· · ·
Wallander ran down to the boat. He stumbled and fell several times. When he reached the water he noticed that the wind was blowing stronger now. He untied the painter, pushed the boat out, and jumped in. The engine started on the first pull. It was so dark now that he wondered if he’d be able to see clearly enough to maneuver his way to the dock.
He had just turned the boat around and was about to accelerate away when he heard a shot. There was no doubt about it, it was a gunshot. Coming from the hunting lodge. He returned to neutral and listened carefully. Could he have been mistaken? He turned the boat around once more and headed for land. When he jumped ashore, he landed short and felt the water flowing into his shoes. The whole time, he was listening for any more sounds. The wind was getting stronger and stronger. He took the shotgun out of his bag and loaded it. Could there be people on the island he knew nothing about? He returned to the hunting lodge, his shotgun at the ready, trying to proceed as quietly as possible, and stopped when he saw the faint light through the gaps in the curtains. There wasn’t a sound, apart from the sighing of the wind in the treetops and the swishing of the waves.
He had just began to advance toward the door of the hunting lodge when another shot rang out. He flung himself down onto the ground, his face pressed against the damp soil. He dropped the shotgun and protected his head with his hands. He expected to be shot dead at any moment.
But nothing happened. Eventually he dared to sit up and pick up his shotgun. He checked to make sure there was no soil in the two barrels. He stood up slowly, then ducked down and headed for the front door. Still nothing happened. He shouted, but Sten Nordlander didn’t respond. Two shots, he thought frantically, and tried to work out what that implied.
He could still see Sten Nordlander’s face when he asked his question.
So there’s no doubt?
Wallander opened the door and went in.
Håkan von Enke was dead. Sten Nordlander had shot him in the forehead. He had then turned the gun on himself, and was lying dead on the floor next to the man who had been his friend and colleague. Wallander was upset; he should have foreseen this. Sten Nordlander had been standing out there in the darkness and heard how Håkan von Enke had betrayed everyone—perhaps most of all the ones who had trusted him and seen him not so much as a fellow officer, but as a friend.
Wallander avoided treading in the blood that had run all over the floor. He flopped down onto the chair where he had been sitting not so long ago, listening to what von Enke had to say. Weariness seemed to explode inside him. The older he became, the more difficult it seemed to be for him to cope with the truth. Nevertheless, that is what he always strove for.
How far had they come since that birthday party in Djursholm? he wondered. If I assume that his conversation with me was part of a plan to persuade me to believe that his wife was a spy, and thus divert any possible suspicions away from himself, it follows that the most important decisions had already been made. Perhaps it was Håkan von Enke himself who had the idea of exploiting me. Making the most of the fact that his son was living with a woman whose father was a stupid provincial police officer.
He felt both sorrow and anger as he sat there with the two dead men in front of him. But what upset him most was the thought that Klara would never get to know her paternal grandparents. She would have to make do with a grandmother on her mother’s side who was fighting a losing battle with alcohol, and a grandfather who was becoming older and more decrepit by the day.
He sat there for half an hour, possibly longer, before forcing himself to become a police officer again. He worked out a simple idea based on leaving everything untouched. He took the car keys out of Sten Nordlander’s pocket, then left the hunting lodge and headed for the boat.
But before pushing it into the water again, he paused on the beach and closed his eyes. It was as if the past had come rushing toward him. The big wide world that he had always known so little about. Now he had become a minor player on the big stage. What did he know now that he hadn’t known before? Not much at all, he thought. I’m still that same bewildered character on the periphery of all the major political and military developments. I’m still the same unhappy and insecure individual on the sidelines, just as I’ve always been.
He pushed the boat out and despite the darkness managed to steer it in to the dock. He left the boat where he had picked it up. The harbor was deserted. It was 2:00 a.m. by the time he sat in Sten Nordlander’s car and drove off. He parked it outside the railway station, having carefully wiped clean the steering wheel and stick shift and door handle. Then he waited for the first early-morning train south. He spent several hours on a park bench. He thought how odd it was, sitting on a bench in this unfamiliar town with his father’s old shotgun in his bag.
It had started drizzling as dawn broke, and he found a café that was already open. He ordered coffee and leafed through some old newspapers
before returning to the railway station and catching a train. He would never go to Blue Island again.
He looked out of the train window and saw Sten Nordlander’s car in the station’s parking lot. Sooner or later somebody would start to take an interest in it. One thing would lead to another. One question would be how he had gotten to the docks and then sailed out to Blue Island. But the man who rented the boat would not necessarily associate Wallander with the tragedy that had taken place in that isolated hunting lodge. Besides, all details would no doubt be classified.