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Authors: Kjell Eriksson

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #International Mystery & Crime, #Police Procedurals

Open Grave: A Mystery (23 page)

BOOK: Open Grave: A Mystery
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“Then you know that’s what you get when you don’t have money, don’t have a job, and at the same time the bank cancels all of your loans. Do you think the stress goes down when you find out that the same bank is showering its managers with millions of kronor in a bonus program?”

Roos shook his head.

“That you put up with it,” said Sammy Nilsson, with contempt in his voice.

“There’s not much I can do,” Roos objected.

“The best would be if you did as little as possible!”

“I can’t possibly—”

“That is your signature.” Sammy Nilsson hissed at him, waving a piece of paper.

“We have to follow the regulations.”

The policeman stared at the bank clerk, turned on his heels, and left the place in long strides. Lindell, who was taking the opportunity to do some errands in town, had just joined him at the bank, in time to hear the final exchange. She took a breath, sighed, and followed. Sammy Nilsson was waiting for her on the sidewalk.

Lindell did not need to say or ask anything to understand, Sammy had lectured on the way to the bank. It was best to keep quiet, she thought, and followed her colleague.

Sometimes he lost his head. It was as if a fuse blew and then it was hard to get him to calm down. She remembered the investigation when a whole family from Bangladesh was burned inside their home in Svartb
ä
cken, how manic he had become when he had familiarized himself with their background and how work in the textile factories was conducted. The woman had been active in some kind of union and forced to flee from her country, only to fall victim to a racist arsonist. That time Ottosson had been forced to crack down to put an end to Sammy’s lectures and aggressive attitude.

He was sitting with his hands on the steering wheel as Lindell got into the car. She shared his indignation but considered it totally meaningless to take out his fury on an individual bank employee. Perhaps it would have happened anyway. Perhaps the letter from the bank had been the triggering factor that made the otherwise sensible garage owner reach for the moose rifle. This did not concern enormous amounts. Another person, in better balance, would probably have tried to find a solution, but for Bo Lennart Sigvardsson this was the last straw.

“Shall we roll?” she said at last.

Sammy started the car.

“Excuse me,” he said.

“It’s okay,” said Lindell.

“Sometimes I get so angry.”

“I know. That’s why I like you.”

He turned his head and looked at her before he put the car in first gear. The car took off.

“You can drive me home,” said Lindell. “Anders is supposed to pick Erik up.”

“Is it working out?”

Lindell understood that he meant her relationship with Anders Brant. Sammy had followed the drama from close up earlier in the year: the journalist’s return home from Brazil and the solving of two murders that Brant was indirectly involved in. He was also the one who supported her when everything fell apart, when she discovered Brant’s infidelity.

“It’s moving forward,” she said.

“A knife wound like that is nothing to fool around with,” said Sammy. “It takes time.”

“It’s in his head too,” said Lindell. “There’s too much brooding. He’s ashamed of it and tries to cheer himself up. It’s almost touching. Erik is the one who can really get him going. You should see!”

Sammy smiled. Ann likewise, as much at the thought of coming home as that she had such a colleague and friend.

He dropped her off outside her building. It still felt a little exciting to have a new apartment. She was comfortable, and it was close to most everything. In a different way than before she could go out and have a glass of wine, go to a movie or listen to music at Hijazz or Pub 19. Now it didn’t happen that often anyway, but simply the thought that it was possible made life a little lighter and happier.

Before she went home she slipped into the convenience store, picked up a newspaper and some candy for herself. Her increasing desire for sweets worried her a little. Perhaps it was also because she was living with Anders that she had gained weight. She was now eating better, and more, they indulged themselves in good cheese and a lot of other things that obviously had to go somewhere. Anders could put away any amount without it leaving any noticeable traces.

*   *   *

Ann was met by a
jubilant son and a somewhat more subdued man. Erik had a lot to tell as usual. He literally bubbled up with information about everything that had happened since they last saw each other. Mostly it was about numbers and all sorts of mathematical questions. Quite unexpectedly, and from Ann’s perspective equally incomprehensibly, Erik had developed a passion for numbers and along with it mathematics.

Despite her fatigue she could not help but smile at his eagerness. She was sitting at the kitchen table and behind her back Anders was preparing dinner, while on the other side of the table Erik added, divided, and subtracted at a furious speed. In front of him he had a pad of graph paper and in his hand a pencil. Perhaps it was the absent—and for Erik completely unknown—father who had given his son this math gene? thought Ann. He was an engineer, or at any rate introduced himself as one the only time he and Ann met.

Erik was like a player piano. “That’s nice” alternating with “that’s interesting” was all she needed to put in. She wondered to herself what Anders thought about the improbable torrent of words, he who always maintained a person’s right to silence.

“What’s it going to be?” she managed to interject when Erik paused for a few seconds.

“An experiment,” Anders answered. “A Turkish dish with ground beef.”

“Cabbage rolls?”

“Something along those lines,” said Anders, turning around, “but not like Mother’s.”

“Yummy,” said Ann, and smiled at him, but she felt a sting of irritation at being reminded of her mother, even if that had not been his intention.

Her parents constantly gave her a bad conscience. It was now over a year since she visited them in
Ö
desh
ö
g. Her mother’s lamentations were becoming increasingly intense. Although she usually phoned once a week, Ann seldom called, and there were basically three recurring subjects: her father’s increasing senility, Ann’s lack of interest in her parents, and last but not least illnesses and death within their shrinking circle of acquaintances.

Ann sometimes caught herself loathing her own mother. Her father was out of range. He was muddled, had been for a long time, and Ann could no longer be angry at him. Why she felt such antipathy and sometimes outright hatred she did not understand. Her upbringing had not been any more difficult than other people’s and she had fled
Ö
desh
ö
g as soon as it was at all possible.

Perhaps it was the lack of joy? Life stood out as so heavy for her mother, as if positive ideas and cheerful memories were forbidden, almost unseemly. For her there was always something negative to latch onto. Ann realized that it was not easy for her mother, caring for a senile person was no story with a happy ending, even if her father was not aggressive like many others with dementia. But her mother’s downhearted attitude toward life went back many years, long before her husband became confused and sick.

One reason for Ann’s irritation and disinclination to visit her parents was that she recognized herself in her mother. It was hard to admit that to herself but, yes, she too had this trait of despondency and pessimism inside her. An inheritance she would have happily done without.

She did everything to struggle against this personality trait, kept an eye on herself, was aware of the signals for approaching melancholy and destructiveness. It was a struggle, but for the first time in many years she felt she had a proper advantage in the match. Erik, young as he was, was a great help. She did not understand how she would have managed through the difficult time without him. And now Anders, who loved her. She wanted to believe that, she wanted to believe in his quiet assurances.

Perhaps she was the one who could break
his
scourge. She thought so sometimes, when the helpless, tormented face he had worn since his return gave way to the smile that made him beautiful, charming, and active.

For active he could be, both when they made love and when he discussed the state of things in the world.

She shook off these thoughts. Erik had given up and left the kitchen without her noticing. Ann told about the Nobel Prize winner, tried to give a picture of the block in K
å
bo where everyone seemed to be lying in wait for each other, and emphasized the comic aspects.

Anders sat down across from her. She pulled his hand to her, picked off a bit of onion skin that was caught on his wrist, and then looked him in the eyes.

“I like you very much,” she said.

He smiled and got that embarrassed look. She held his eyes, did not let him get away. Now she was strong.

“I like you,” she repeated.

He swallowed.
Say that you love me,
she thought. Now she was weak. A minute passed.

“The cabbage rolls,” he said, pulling back his hand and getting up from the table.

Ann felt a chill spread through her body, the ice-cold of uncertainty that mercilessly brushed aside joy and hope.

But before Anders put the pan in the oven he burrowed his face into the back of her neck and hair and put his arms around her. He mumbled something that Ann could not make out. But that didn’t matter.

 

Twenty-four

Liisa
Lehtonen and
Birgitta von
Ohler
had returned to finish the wallpapering. Agnes had to admit that it seemed to be turning out very nicely. The hall looked more inviting. The professor had mumbled something inaudible before he disappeared into his study. The three women took that as approval.

Liisa was the one in command, she was happy to give orders and took for granted that her opinion should prevail as indisputable. It was a character trait that Agnes had great difficulty with. She was actually accustomed to the professor’s manner, but thought it was somehow unbecoming in a woman who in such an obvious, almost physical way took the initiative and kept it.

Perhaps it was Birgitta’s complaisance that irritated Agnes most. Birgitta who otherwise held her ground well simply acted wishy-washy, though for what reason Agnes did not comprehend. The Finnish woman was not that terrifying. Besides, it was Ohler’s house, so she ought to be a little more respectful, Agnes thought.

She sat down on a chair and listened distractedly to the discussion—perhaps they should take the opportunity to move the furniture in the hall too? She was tired. The night had been difficult. The aches in her hip had tormented her. In addition, the thoughts about the gardener circled like a restless nocturnal bird in her head. The statement he had made about time—that it lives a life of its own and that you cannot rule over it—had shaken her up considerably. It was more than sixty years since she last heard that expression. It was Anna who said it. She often used it to describe how small people were; in any case that was how Agnes understood it, that people did not rule over their own fate.

Her father had heard her say it once and got angry. For him such vague expressions of human wisdom were completely reprehensible. It was God who ruled in everything, over time as well, therefore it could not live a life of its own. It was perhaps due to her father’s fury that Agnes remembered the whole thing so well. Where Anna got the expression from she did not know. Perhaps from Viola, who was full of proverbs and sayings? Or perhaps from Viktor?

It might be a coincidence that the gardener used that particular expression. But Agnes did not believe in chance. Perhaps he was from Roslagen, even Gr
ä
s
ö
? Or perhaps the saying was more common than she had thought. Speculating about time was a very human trait.

No matter how that was, she felt ill at ease. Was it the memory of Aron’s indignation, her terror in the presence of his anger and God’s wrath that called forth the uneasiness? He had thundered in her childhood, not least over Anna’s lack of faith, how she deserted the Ohler house and thereby brought shame on her parental home.

Thoughts of Anna had always come and gone. The absence and uncertainty had often been hard to endure. She and Greta never discussed the fact that they had not heard from their sister in more than half a century. What had become of her? Was she still alive?

Could she go over again and ask the gardener a direct question, whether he possibly came from Gr
ä
s
ö
? No, that would seem impertinent. It would be better to inquire through Associate Professor Johansson. She knew him and harbored great respect for him. He was upright, as her father Aron would have said. The associate professor would take her question the right way, not as a sign of curiosity or desire to snoop.

“What do you think, Agnes?” the Finnish woman interrupted her musings.

Liisa Lehtonen was standing by the old dresser, measuring its width with her hands.

“It will be fine,” said Agnes. “You decide.”

She got up laboriously from the chair.

“I think I have to go down to the pharmacy,” she said.

Birgitta looked at her inquisitively.

“The professor’s prescription,” Agnes clarified. “And then I need a few pain tablets.”

“Do you have aches?”

Yes, what do you think,
was on the tip of Agnes’s tongue but she only nodded. Birgitta came up to her. She was dressed in a yellow overall and had tied a scarf around her head.

She put on a worried face, but Agnes suspected that Birgitta mostly saw an opportunity to interrupt Liisa’s lesson in interior decorating.

“It’s the usual,” said Agnes. “No worries.”

“Do you want me to drive you into town?”

“No, not at all. I also need to go down to Luthagen and order a little meat.”

“You can call,” said Birgitta.

“It’s not the same,” said Agnes. “I want to talk with Jansson himself.”

BOOK: Open Grave: A Mystery
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