Authors: Henning Mankell
When he eventually got up, he let Jussi out and made breakfast. He devoted the rest of the morning to his papers. For the first time, this very morning, he believed that what he was writing was in fact a sort of “life story,” a testament. This is what his life had been like. Even if he lived for another ten or fifteen years, nothing would change very much. But he did wonder, with an empty feeling deep inside himself, what he would do after retiring as a police officer.
There was only one answer, and that was Klara. Her presence always cheered him up. She would be there for him when everything else was over.
He finished his story that morning in May. He had nothing more to say. A printout was lying on the table in front of him. Laboriously, one word at a time, he had reconstructed the story of the man who had tricked him into thinking that his wife was a spy. Wallander too was a part of the story, not just the person who had written it down.
He had never found explanations for some of the loose ends. What he had perhaps spent most time thinking about was the question of Louise’s shoes. Why were they standing neatly next to her body on Värmdö? Wallander eventually came to believe that she had been killed somewhere else and didn’t have her shoes on at the time. Whoever placed them by her side hadn’t really thought about what he was doing. Wallander also didn’t have an answer to where Louise had been during the time she was missing. She had presumably been held prisoner until somebody decided she had to die for the sake of Håkan von Enke.
The other continuing mystery as far as Wallander was concerned was the question of the stones. The stone he had seen on Håkan von Enke’s desk, the stone he had been given by Atkins, and the one he had noticed on George Talboth’s balcony table. He gathered they were some sort of souvenirs, taken
from the Swedish archipelago by people who shouldn’t have been there among the little islands and rocks. But he couldn’t explain why von Enke’s had eventually disappeared from his desk. There were several possibilities, but he was reluctant to choose any of them.
He had occasionally spoken to Atkins on the phone. Listened to him crying when he talked about his lost friend. Or rather, friends, as he always corrected himself. He didn’t forget Louise. Atkins had said he would come to the funeral, but when it actually took place, in the middle of August, he never showed up. And he never contacted Wallander again after that. Wallander sometimes wondered what Atkins and Håkan von Enke had talked about the many times they’d met. But he would never know.
There was another question he would have liked to ask Håkan and Louise. Why had one of his desk drawers been such a mess? Did he intend to go to Cambodia if he was forced to flee? Nor did he know why Louise had withdrawn 200,000 kronor from the bank. He didn’t find the money when the Stockholm apartment was cleaned out. It had simply disappeared, without a trace.
And why had Sten Nordlander decided to kill Håkan von Enke and then himself?
The dead had taken their secrets with them.
At the end of November, when Wallander was at a conference in Stockholm, he rented a car and drove out to Niklasgården. He was accompanied by Hans, who still hadn’t been able to bring himself to visit his unknown sister. It was a moving moment for Wallander, watching Hans at the side of Signe’s bed. He also thought about the fact that Håkan von Enke had always visited his daughter regularly. He could rely on her, Wallander thought. He had dared to trust her with his most secret documents.
He spent a long time wondering whether he should give a name to what he had written. In the end he left the title page blank. The manuscript amounted to 212 pages in all. He leafed through it one last time, stopping occasionally to check that he hadn’t gotten something wrong. He decided that despite everything, he had come as close to the truth as possible.
He decided to send the material to Ytterberg. He wouldn’t sign it but would mail it to his sister, Kristina, and ask her to forward it to Stockholm. Ytterberg would naturally know that it must have been Wallander who had sent it, but he would never be able to prove it.
Ytterberg is an intelligent man, Wallander thought. He will make the best possible use of what I have written. He’ll also be able to work out why I chose to send it to him anonymously.
But Wallander was aware that even Ytterberg might not be able to convince a higher authority to investigate further. The U.S.A. was still the Great Redeemer as far as many Swedes were concerned. A Europe without the U.S.A. would be more or less defenseless. It could be that nobody would want to face up to the truth that Wallander was convinced he had established.
Wallander thought about the Swedish soldiers who had been sent to Afghanistan. That would never have happened if the Americans hadn’t asked for them. Not openly, but behind the scenes, just as their submarines had hidden themselves in Swedish territorial waters in the early 1980s with the approval of the Swedish navy and Swedish politicians. Or as CIA operatives were allowed to capture two suspected Egyptian terrorists on Swedish territory on December 18, 2001, and have them returned in humiliating circumstances to their home country, where they were imprisoned and tortured. Wallander could imagine that if Håkan von Enke were to be unmasked, he would be hailed as a hero, not as a despicable traitor.
Nothing, he thought, is certain. Not the way in which these events are interpreted, nor what the rest of my life will be like.
The May morning was fine but chilly. Around noon he went for a long walk with Jussi, who seemed to be back in good health. When Linda arrived, without Hans but with Klara, Wallander had finished straightening up the house and checking that there weren’t any papers lying around that he didn’t want her to see. Klara had fallen asleep in the car. Wallander carefully carried her indoors and laid her down on the sofa. Holding her in his arms always gave him the feeling that Linda had returned in another guise.
They sat down at the kitchen table to drink coffee.
“Did you clean?” Linda asked.
“I’ve done nothing else all day.”
She laughed and shook her head. Then she turned serious again. Wallander knew that all the problems Hans had been forced to cope with had been shattering for her as well.
“I want to start work again,” she said. “I can’t go on much longer just being a mom.”
“But there are only four more months of your maternity leave …”
“Four months can be a very long time. I’m getting very impatient.”
“That’s something you inherited from me. Impatience.”
“I thought you always said that patience was the most important virtue for a police officer.”
“But that doesn’t mean that patience is something you’re born with—you have to learn it.”
She took a sip of coffee and thought over what he had said.
“I feel old,” Wallander said. “I wake up every day feeling that everything is going so incredibly fast. I don’t know if I’m running after something or away from something. I just run. To be completely honest, I’m scared stiff of growing old.”
“Think of Granddad! He just kept on going as usual and never worried about the fact that he was growing old.”
“That’s not true. He was scared of dying.”
“Sometimes, maybe. But not all the time.”
“He was a strange man. I don’t think anyone can compare themselves to him.”
“You had a relationship with him that I lost when I was very young. I sometimes think about the fact that he always had a better relationship with Kristina. Maybe it’s just that he found it easier to get along with women? I was born the wrong sex. He never wanted a son.”
“That’s ridiculous, and you know it.”
“Ridiculous or not, that’s what I keep thinking. I’m scared of old age.”
She reached across the table and stroked his arm.
“I’ve noticed that you get worried. But deep down you know there’s no point. You can’t do anything about your age.”
“I know,” said Wallander. “But sometimes it feels like complaining is all you can do.”
Linda stayed for several hours. They talked until Klara woke up, and with a broad smile on her face she ran over to Wallander.
Wallander suddenly felt terrified. His memory had deserted him again. He didn’t know who the girl running toward him was. He knew he’d seen her before, but what her name was or what she was doing in his house he had no idea.
It was as if everything had fallen silent. As if all colors had faded away, and all he was left with was black and white.
The shadow grew more intense. And Kurt Wallander slowly descended into a darkness that some years later transported him into the empty universe known as Alzheimer’s disease.
After that there is nothing more. The story of Kurt Wallander is finished, once and for all. The years—ten, perhaps more—he has left to live are his own. His and Linda’s, his and Klara’s; nobody else’s.
In the world of fiction it is possible to take many liberties. For instance, it is not unusual for me to change a landscape slightly so that nobody can say: “It was exactly there! That’s precisely where the action took place!”
The thought behind this is of course to stress the difference between fact and fiction. What I write
have taken place as I narrate it. But it didn’t necessarily do so.
There are many shifts of that type in this book, between what actually happened and what might conceivably have happened.
Like most other authors, I write in order to try to make the world more understandable. In that respect, fiction can be superior to factual realism.
So it doesn’t matter whether or not there is a nursing home somewhere in central Sweden called Niklasgården. Nor does it matter if there is a banquet hall on Östermalm in Stockholm where naval officers congregate. Or a café just outside Stockholm that serves the same purpose, where a submarine officer by the name of Hans-Olov Fredhäll might turn up. And Madonna didn’t give a concert in Copenhagen in 2008.
But the most important things in this book are built on the solid foundation of reality.
Many people have helped me in doing the necessary research. I thank them all most gratefully.
However, the responsibility for the contents right up to the final period lies with me. Completely, and with no exceptions.
Gothenburg, June 2009
Internationally best-selling novelist and playwright Henning Mankell has received the German Tolerance Prize and the U.K.’s Golden Dagger Award and has been nominated for a
Los Angeles Times
Book Prize three times. His Kurt Wallander mysteries have been published in thirty-three countries and consistently top the best-seller lists in Europe. He divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he has worked as the director of Teatro Avenida since 1985.