Authors: Quentin Bates
Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #General
‘You really ought to see a doctor, young man,’ she muttered, but a pile of cash equivalent to a month’s rent was enough to buy her silence.
An additional dent was added to the Megane’s bodywork as Stefán braked hard, stopping the car with a jerk, but not soon enough to save it from scraping the wall of the block of flats as he parked across both the street’s single disabled spot and pavement.
‘Do you mind?’ An elderly man with a dog on a lead said, pointing at the disabled sign. Stefán sneered, pointing at the heavy bandage on his left arm, which stuck out below the arm of his T-shirt.
‘I am disabled,’ he snapped.
‘I don’t see much wrong with your legs.’
‘Take a hike, grandad,’ Stefán said, leaving no doubt as to his frame of mind. ‘Or I can break both your legs and then you can have a disabled spot to yourself,’ he yelled over his shoulder as he delivered a kick to the street door, which was hard enough to shiver the lock and send the door swinging inwards.
Sandra Sigfúsdóttir had not expected to find two grim-faced detectives on her doorstep and she was thoroughly flustered. She quickly put on a video for the children and came back to the kitchen, wringing her hands. Helgi thought she was close to tears and wanted to put an arm around her.
‘You’re married to Logi Gunnarsson, right?’ Gunna said, and watched Sandra’s face cloud over at the mention of his name.
‘The man we’re looking for.’
‘What’s he done?’
‘That’s confidential for the moment, and it may well be that he hasn’t done anything. But we need to get in touch with him as soon as possible.’
Sandra shuddered and Gunna wondered how affection could turn so comprehensively to hatred.
‘I haven’t seen him for three months at least, and I haven’t been able to contact him for a month or so. He never answers the phone when I call.’
‘He doesn’t answer the phone at all, as far as we’re aware. He hasn’t changed numbers?’
Sandra shrugged. ‘He might have done, but I doubt it. All his work comes through that phone number and without it he’d be lost.’
‘I take it you’re separated?’
‘We’d be divorced by now if the bastard would show up to sign the papers.’
‘How long have you been married?’
‘Twelve years, and we were together for two years before that. Everyone warned me about Logi, and I wish I’d listened to them.’
Gunna drummed her fingers on the table. ‘You don’t know where he is now? It’s important.’
‘Important for you or for him?’
‘That’s beside the point.’
‘Well, when you find him, you can tell him that he owes me a pile of money for the business we owned. He sold our business at the perfect time – before the crash – and he still owes me my half of it, and the same goes for the cars we used to have. He sold them both and pocketed the cash.’
‘That’s outside my remit at the moment, but I’ll pass the message on if you can tell me where to find him.’
‘Do you really think I wouldn’t be banging on his door if I knew where he was living?’ Sandra demanded, her voice rising in volume and pitch.
‘You must have some way of contacting him, surely? Suppose something happened to one of the children?’
‘Then I could leave a message with his brother, but they’re not close and they don’t speak to each other very often. Logi’s not close to anyone. He had a difficult childhood, so I suppose it’s not all his fault, but I’m living hand to mouth here with the children and they’re his kids as well.’
Helgi looked at Gunna and pursed his lips, shaking his head as if this was yet another blind alley.
‘How about friends, acquaintances, work mates?’
Sandra sighed. ‘You can try my brother if you like. I’ll bet you he knows where Logi is; not that he’d tell me. I’m only his sister,’ she added with an air of martyrdom in her shrill voice. ‘That’s assuming he doesn’t run for it as soon as he sees the police anywhere near.’
‘What’s his name?’
‘Ah,’ Helgi said with a smile, ‘an old friend of ours.’
Gunna and Helgi found the outer door of the flats hung at a tipsy angle. The lock had been smashed and one of the hinges had come adrift, leaving the door far from square and unlikely to close again without serious surgery.
‘Looks unpleasant,’ Helgi said suspiciously. ‘You want to call for some backup?’
‘I reckon our friend has been and gone,’ Gunna said, squatting by the barrier where a fresh slash of blue had been added to the rough grey concrete of the wall. ‘Give traffic a buzz will you, and let them know that the blue Megane we’re after was on Bergthórugata probably less than half an hour ago, not that it’ll help much as he could be anywhere in the city by now, but it’ll be a reminder at least.’
She took a can of pepper spray from her jacket pocket and kept it in her hand as they climbed the stairs, finding the door to the flat on the second floor had been opened much as the street door had been.
Daníel Sigfússon was a sorry sight. He sat on the floor in the bathroom, a soaked towel held to his face as it absorbed more blood than the water it already held. He sobbed quietly as Gunna eased the towel away from his face and examined the damage.
‘Looks familiar. Stefán?’ she asked and Danni nodded as Gunna fetched a clean towel from the cupboard, dampened it with cold water and handed it to him. ‘An ambulance, if you’d be so kind, Helgi,’ she murmured. ‘Another piece of Stefán’s handiwork for the National Hospital to rebuild. This guy’s so good at nose jobs he could have had a glittering career in plastic surgery.’
She squatted beside Danni and patted his shoulder. ‘There, it’ll be all right,’ she assured him and found that he was shaking. ‘This was Stefán Ingason, right?’
‘How long ago? Half an hour? Less?’
‘And what was he looking for? Logi?’
‘And you told him where to find him?’
Danni shook his head. ‘I don’t know where Logi is. Just that he’s working somewhere in Borgarfjördur. That’s all I know.’
‘So where has Stefán gone?’
‘You told him he’s working in Borgarfjördur?’
‘Who’s he working for?’
‘Phone number? And Logi’s number as well.’
‘I don’t know Pétur’s number. He’s in the phone book.’
Danni shifted, pulled a phone from his pocket and started to scroll through the numbers until Gunna took the phone off him and did it herself as Danni’s eyes widened in fear.
‘Helgi, a real rogues’ gallery here,’ she said. ‘Here we are, Logi and Logi2, better write them both down, and once the ambulance gets here and takes this reprobate away, we can be on our way.’
Helgi looked unusually tired as he put the phone down.
‘No reply from Pétur Halfdáns.’
‘You know anything about him?’
‘I’ve heard the name before. He’s a fairly respected contractor who’s never tried to compete with the big boys, nothing dodgy about him as far as I’m aware. I’ve left a message on his phone and hopefully he’ll get back to me when he’s in range.’
‘And he is out of range,’ Gunna said. ‘I spoke to Unnur at the station in Borgarnes and she says the site he’s working on is in Kaldidalur.’
‘Where?’ Helgi looked baffled as he clicked at his computer. ‘Shit. All the way up there? I’m not surprised there’s no phone coverage. What’s he building up there?’
‘Doing up a farmhouse that was abandoned in 1945. Unnur said it was used by the American army during the occupation, and once the war was over nobody ever went back there. Anyway, it was bought by Saga Valfells and it’s being turned into a recording studio, apparently.’
‘OK, so that’s the story behind it. Fair enough. What next, chief?’
Gunna sat back. ‘I’ve had enough for today. We have an alert out for Stefán and Magnhildur Helgadóttir’s blue Megane, so we’ll see if either of them appear. Aníta Sól is due to be here with her lawyer at ten tomorrow and I have no idea how long that’s going to take considering she’s had a couple of days to cook up a story.’
‘I want you to go back to Sandra and see what else you can get out of her. I’m sure there’s more there than meets the eye.’
‘You don’t want to go up to this place in the back of beyond?’ Helgi asked, squinting at his screen. ‘It’s closer to Hverávellir than it is to Reykjavík.’ He smiled. ‘I could almost nip home to see my sister from there.’
‘Give my regards to Anna Björg if you do,’ Gunna said, and Helgi’s head jerked up to see Gunna’s head down over the paperwork on her desk, leaving him wondering how much she had heard about his last trip alone to his home town in the north. Gunna looked up and he tried unsuccessfully to read her expression, promising himself never to play poker with her.
‘Anyway, Unnur said she’d send a squad car up to Kaldidalur tonight to have a look around. She said as far as she knows there’s a gang from Reykjavík working up there and they travel back and forth every day.’
‘Including Logi Gunnarsson?’
‘I would imagine so.’ She yawned. ‘It’s been a long day, we’ve lost sight of Stefán, and I’m off home. I suggest you do the same and we’ll pick this up in the morning, bright and early.’
Logi followed the van, not trying to keep pace with Tadeusz who wanted to get back to the city as quickly as he could. When he was close enough for the phone coverage to kick in, Logi stopped and sat by the side of the road. He switched on his phone and waited for the connection to establish itself.
He punched in a number and listened to it ring four times before it was answered.
‘Logi? I was wondering if I’d hear from you today.’
‘Been out of range these last few days.’
‘Are you finished this week?’
‘I guess so. You said something about a job that needed doing?’
‘That’s right,’ Rafn said suavely. ‘End of this week?’
‘Should be about right.’
‘Good. Call me when you’re back in town. Short notice is no problem.’
‘What’s the job worth?’
There was silence for a moment. ‘Let’s say a million for your cut.’
‘Half up front?’
He heard Rafn suck a long breath. ‘We don’t work like that. But let’s say a quarter of a million up front as a goodwill gesture.’
‘Cool,’ Logi said. ‘That will do nicely.’
He finished the call, switched the phone off again and drove back along the rutted road to Kaldidalur.
Stefán waited until it was nearly dark. The streets were almost deserted as he parked the Megane between two vans in a cul-de-sac that nobody was likely to visit at this time of night. He cut along a footpath leading from the end of the street to the next one, trying not to look furtive as he let himself into the block of flats and tiptoed up the stairs.
He tapped at the door and put his face close to the peephole until a blue eye appeared on the other side.
Aníta Sól opened the door and he stepped inside, sweeping her into his arms as he did so.
‘What are you doing here?’ she asked, pushing him away. ‘The police think you killed Axel Rútur.’
Stefán’s jaw dropped.
‘Did you?’ Aníta Sól asked.
‘Of course I didn’t. Of course I fucking didn’t,’ he spluttered.
‘They think you and I did it together to get rid of him.’
‘Fucking hell!’ Stefán gulped as the realization swept over him that things had become far more serious than he’d imagined. ‘So they think I’m a murderer? But I didn’t do it, ‘Níta, I swear it, honestly. I was at the gym that evening, you know that, don’t you?’
Aníta Sól shook her head in bewilderment. ‘I don’t know, really I don’t.’
‘If I’d killed Axel Rútur, I’d hardly be here now, would I?’
She thought it over for a moment and her face softened. ‘Well, I suppose not,’ she decided.
He felt in his bones that things would come to a head soon. When the Polish boys had gone back to town, Logi finished the floor he was working on, and with nothing else to occupy his time, he started work on the next one, insulating and covering half of the floor before he decided it was too dark to continue.
He had set up the tent outside, but instead of crawling into it, he brought his bedding roll in and stretched out on the brand-new floor under the window with its smart new frame, though it still didn’t have any glass in it. He dozed off in the silence of the night-time countryside, expecting to wake with the dawn chorus, but instead he was woken by the sound of tyres on the track outside.
Logi was awake instantly. Instead of peering over the window ledge, he stood up and away from the window to look out as the crunch of tyres on the unmade road outside became louder. The car finally came into view and, to his surprise, it wasn’t a thug looking to beat him to a pulp, but a young police officer in a 4x4 squad car who had made the journey to the valley along the narrow road.
He watched as the officer got out of the car and walked around the site in the clear pre-dawn half-light. He examined the stack of boards and insulation under its tarpaulin, and the outsized satellite dish that would be fitted to the end wall to provide internet and TV to the remote house once the interior had been fitted out. He opened the flap of Logi’s tent and peered inside before walking around the site and admiring the view as the dawn came up. Logi watched as he stood and urinated against the pile of scrap wood for burning and then fetched a torch from the squad car. The officer walked around the ground floor and Logi could see the beam of his flashlight flicker against the walls. But with the staircase still outside under a tarpaulin, Logi having hauled the ladder up behind him, the officer didn’t trouble to take a look upstairs, where Logi sat motionless, waiting for him to leave.
The session with Aníta Sól had been exhausting as she continued to tie herself in knots and contradict herself, but Gunna had come to the conclusion that for the most part she was telling the truth.
In the canteen she compared notes with Helgi over her fish and salad while Helgi wrinkled his nose at meatballs that were too spicy for his taste.
‘Any luck with Sandra?’
‘Nothing special. The back story is that she and Logi had a business of their own that was doing pretty well and they sold out not long before the crash and got a pile of money out of it, which they lost in some less than sensible investments. So instead of sitting back and taking it easy, they found themselves pretty skint.’