Authors: Henning Mankell
Wallander interrupted again.
“What about Louise? Has she been faithful?”
That was a question Linda hadn’t asked herself, he could see. She hadn’t yet learned all the possible twists that can take place in an interrogation.
“I can’t believe she hasn’t. She’s not the type.”
“Not a good response. You should never say a person is ‘not the type.’ That exposes you to an underestimation.”
“Let me put it this way: I don’t think she’s had any affairs. But obviously, I can’t be certain. Ask her!”
“I have no intention of doing any such thing! It would be a disgraceful move in the current circumstances.”
Wallander hesitated before asking the next question that came into his head.
“You and Hans must have discussed this over the last few days. He can’t have been glued to his computer all the time. What does he have to say? Was he surprised when Håkan vanished?”
“Why wouldn’t he have been surprised?”
“I don’t know. But when I was in Stockholm, I had the impression that Håkan was worried about something.”
“Why didn’t you say so?”
“Because I tried to banish the thought. I told myself I was imagining things.”
“Your intuition doesn’t usually let you down.”
“Thank you. But I’m becoming less and less sure about that—as I am about so many other things.”
Linda didn’t respond. Wallander studied her face. She’d put on a bit of weight after her pregnancy; her cheeks had become fuller. He could see from her eyes that she was tired. His thoughts turned to Mona, and how she was always angry because he never made any move to help her when Linda woke up crying during the night. I wonder how Linda is really feeling, he thought. When you have a child, it’s as if every heartstring is stretched to the limit. One or two are likely to snap.
“Something tells me you’re right,” she said eventually. “Now that I think about it, I can remember situations, barely noticeable at the time, when he seemed worried. He kept looking over his shoulder.”
“Literally or figuratively?”
“Literally. He kept turning around. I didn’t think about it before.”
“Can you remember anything else?”
“He was very careful about making sure the doors were locked. And he insisted that some lights be left on around the clock.”
“I don’t know. But the desk lamp in his study always had to be on, and the light in the hall next to the front door.”
An old naval officer, Wallander thought, making sure navigational channels were properly illuminated during the night by specific lighthouses.
At that point the baby woke up, and Wallander held her until she stopped crying.
On the train to Stockholm, he continued to think about those lights that had to be kept on. It was something he needed to investigate. Perhaps there was an innocent explanation. The same thing might apply to the disappearance of Håkan von Enke. So far he had no idea how to find that out. But he hoped that no matter what, there would be a plausible and undramatic explanation.
At the end of the 1970s he and Mona had gone on a trip to Stockholm. Wallander seemed to recall that they stayed at the Maritime Hotel in the Söder district, so he called and reserved a room for two nights. When he got off the train he wondered whether he should go to the hotel by subway or take a taxi. He ended up walking, his heavy bag slung over his shoulder. It was still cold, but it was sunny, and no rain clouds were gathering on the horizon.
As he walked through the Old Town he thought about that trip with Mona. It was her idea. She had suddenly realized that she’d never set foot in the country’s capital city and thought it was high time to remedy such a scandalous omission. They spent four days there. Mona had recently gone back to school and so had no income or paid vacation. They arranged for Linda to stay with a classmate for a few days—she was due to begin third grade in the fall. If his memory served him correctly, it was the beginning of August. Warm days, and the occasional thunderstorm followed by oppressive heat that encouraged them to go for walks through the parks, where they could enjoy the shade of the many trees. That was more than thirty years ago, he thought as he approached Slussen and started walking up the hill to the hotel. Thirty years, a whole generation; and now I’m back. But this time on my own.
When he entered the lobby he didn’t recognize it at all. Had it really been this hotel they’d stayed at? He shook off a sudden feeling of unease, dismissed all thought of the past, and took the elevator up to his room on the second floor. He turned down the bedspread and lay down. It had been a tiring journey—he had been surrounded by screeching children, and to make things worse, a party of drunk young men had joined the train at Alvesta. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep. When he woke up with a start he checked the clock and found that he had dozed off for ten minutes at most. He stood up and walked over to the window. What had happened to Håkan von Enke? If he tried to fit together all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, what he had heard from Linda and what he knew from his own experience, what was the result? He didn’t have even the beginnings of a solution.
He had arranged to arrive at Louise’s place at seven o’clock that evening. Once again he decided to walk. As he passed the royal palace, he paused. He had been here with Mona, he was quite sure of that. They had stopped on the bridge where he was now and agreed that their feet hurt. The memory was
so vivid that he could hear their conversation echoing in his ears. There were moments when he was overwhelmed by sadness thinking about how their marriage had collapsed. This was one of them. He looked down into the swirling water and thought about how his life was now centered increasingly on recalling things from the past that he now realized he missed.
Louise von Enke had made a pot of tea. She was visibly suffering from lack of sleep, but she was remarkably composed even so. The living room walls were adorned with paintings of the von Enke family and various battle scenes in muted colors. She saw him looking at the pictures.
“Håkan was the first naval officer in the family. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all army officers. One of his uncles was chamberlain to King Oscar—I don’t remember if it was Oscar the First or Second. The sword standing in the corner over there was awarded to another relative by Karl XIV for services rendered. Håkan always says that his job was to supply the king with suitable young ladies.”
She fell silent. Wallander listened to the ticking of a clock on the mantelpiece above an open fire and the distant hum of traffic in the street outside.
“What do you think happened?”
“I don’t know. I really don’t.”
“The day he disappeared, was there anything that felt unusual? Did he behave any differently from the way he usually did?”
“No. Everything was the same as it always was. Håkan has his routines, even if he’s not a pedant.”
“What about the previous days? The week before?”
“He had a cold. One day he skipped his morning walk. That was all.”
“Did he have any mail? Did anyone call him? Did he have any visitors?”
“He spoke once or twice to Sten Nordlander, his closest friend.”
“Was he at the party in Djursholm?”
“No, he was away then. Håkan and Sten met when they worked in the same submarine—Håkan was in command and Sten was chief engineer. That must have been the end of the sixties.”
“What does he have to say about Håkan’s disappearance?”
“Sten is just as worried as everyone else. He can’t explain it either. He said he’d be pleased to talk to you while you’re here.”
She was sitting on a sofa opposite Wallander. The evening sun suddenly illuminated her face. She moved into the shade. Wallander thought she was one of those women who try to hide their beauty behind a mask of plainness. As if she had read his mind, she gave him a hesitant smile. Wallander took out his notebook and wrote down Sten Nordlander’s telephone number. He noticed that she knew it by heart, and his cell number as well.
They spoke for an hour without Wallander feeling that he’d learned anything he didn’t know already. Then she showed him her husband’s study. Wallander examined the desk lamp.
“So this is the lamp he used to have on all night.”
“Who told you that?”
“Linda mentioned it. This lamp and others.”
She closed the thick curtains as she responded. Wallander could detect a faint smell of tobacco.
“He was afraid of the dark,” she said, brushing some dust off one of the heavy, dark-colored curtains. “He thought it was embarrassing. It probably started while he was in his submarines, but it was much later that he became really afraid, long after he’d stopped going to sea. I had to promise never to mention it to a soul.”
“But your son knows about it? And he in turn told Linda …”
“Håkan must have mentioned it to Hans without my knowing.”
The phone rang in the distance.
“Make yourself at home,” she said as she disappeared through the tall double doors.
Wallander found himself eyeing her in the same way he observed Kristina Magnusson. He sat down on the desk chair made of rust brown wood with a green leather back and seat. He looked slowly around the room. He switched on the desk lamp. There was dust around the switch. Wallander ran his finger over the polished mahogany desktop, then lifted up the blotter. That was a habit he had acquired from his early days as an apprentice of Rydberg’s. Whenever they came to a crime scene containing a desk, that was always the first thing Rydberg did. As a rule there was nothing underneath it. But he had explained, in a way that indicated a mysterious subtext, that even blank space could be an important clue.
There were a few pens and pencils on the desk, a magnifying glass, a porcelain vase in the shape of a swan, a small stone, and a box full of thumbtacks. That was all. He swiveled slowly around on the chair and scanned the room. The walls were covered in framed photographs—of submarines and other naval vessels; of Hans wearing the white cap all Swedes get when they pass their graduation exams; of Håkan in his dress uniform, he and Louise walking through a ceremonial arch of swords raised by the honor guard at their wedding; of old people, nearly all the men in uniform. There was also a painting on one of the walls. Wallander went to study it more closely. It was a Romanic depiction of the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson dying, leaning against a cannon, surrounded by sailors on their knees, all of them crying. The painting surprised him. It was a piece of kitsch in an apartment characterized
by good taste. Why had Håkan displayed it? Wallander carefully removed the picture and examined the back. There was nothing written on it. It’s too late to start making a thorough search of the whole room, he thought. It’s nearly eight-thirty, and it would take several hours. It would make more sense to start tomorrow morning. He went back to one of the two connected living rooms. Louise emerged from the kitchen. Wallander thought he could detect a faint whiff of alcohol, but he wasn’t sure. They agreed that he would come back the following day at nine o’clock. Wallander put on his jacket in the hall and prepared to leave, but suddenly he had second thoughts.
“You look tired,” he said. “Are you getting enough sleep?”
“I manage the odd hour here and there. How can I sleep soundly when I don’t know anything?”
“Would you like me to stay overnight?”
“It’s kind of you to offer, but it’s not necessary. I’m used to being on my own. Don’t forget, I’m a sailor’s wife.”
He walked back to his hotel, stopping for dinner at an Italian restaurant that looked cheap. The food confirmed that assumption. In the hope of avoiding a sleepless night, he took half of one of his sleeping pills. Sadly, this seemed to be one of the few pleasures left to him: beckoning the onset of sleep by unscrewing the lid of the white bottle.
The next day began like his visit the previous evening: with Louise offering him a cup of tea. He could see that she had hardly slept a wink.
She had a message to pass on, from Chief Inspector Ytterberg, who was in charge of the investigation into von Enke’s disappearance. Could Wallander please give him a call. She handed him a cordless phone, then stood up and went into the kitchen. Wallander could see her reflection in a wall mirror; she was standing in the middle of the floor, motionless, with her back to him.
Ytterberg spoke with an unmistakable northern accent.
“It’s a full-scale investigation now,” he began. “We’re pretty sure something must have happened to him. I gathered from his wife you were going to work through his papers.”
“Haven’t you done that already?”
“His wife has been through them without finding anything. I assume she wants you to double-check.”
“Do you have any leads at all? Has anyone seen him?”
“Only one unreliable witness who claims to have seen him in Lill-Jansskogen. That’s all.”
There was a pause, and Wallander heard Ytterberg telling someone to go away and come back later.
“I’ll never get used to this,” said Ytterberg when he resumed the conversation. “People seem to have stopped knocking on doors and just barge in.”
“One of these days the national police commissioner will tell us all to sit in open-plan offices in order to increase our efficiency,” said Wallander. “We’ll be able to hear one another’s witnesses and help out in other people’s investigations.”
Ytterberg chuckled. Wallander decided that he had found an excellent contact in the Stockholm police force.
“One more thing,” said Ytterberg. “In his active days, Håkan von Enke was a high-ranking naval officer. So it’s routine that the Säpo crowd will shove an oar in. Our security service colleagues are always on the lookout for a possible spy.”
Wallander was surprised.
“Are you saying he’s under suspicion?”
“Of course not. But they have to have something to show when next year’s budget comes under discussion.”
Wallander moved farther away from the kitchen.
“Just between you and me,” he said in a low voice, “what do you think happened? Forget all the facts—what does your experience tell you?”