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Authors: Quentin Bates

Tags: #Fiction, #Crime, #Mystery & Detective, #General

Summerchill (8 page)

BOOK: Summerchill
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‘So you can take your time in the morning, lovebirds,’ a voice hooted from the sofa and the four of them descended into giggles and squawks.

Logi fervently hoped they’d go out soon. He was tired, dusty and he badly wanted a shower and something other than pizza to eat. Brynja and the four women began to make themselves ready to depart, a process that took the best part of an hour as each one visited the bathroom in an open-door sequence that Logi watched with bemusement; one peeing while another fixed her make-up at the big mirror. For a moment he had Brynja to himself in the kitchen. Their on-off relationship had been soured more than once by her weekend antics, when Logi felt like he was watching an overgrown teenager at play.

‘Not too drunk, yeah?’ he said, hugging her and feeling her press herself tight against his chest. ‘Stay in bed all day, shall we?’

‘If you play your cards right. It might mean breakfast in bed.’ She cocked an ear as a car horn tooted outside. ‘Taxi’s here, I expect.’

‘I reckon I can manage that,’ Logi said, hoping that she would be back early enough to escape a serious hangover. ‘Got to help you keep your strength up.’

‘Shit, are you two still at it?’ one of the hard-faced women demanded, appearing in the kitchen with lipstick perfect and hair in a tousled arrangement that looked as if she’d spent the day in a high wind, but which Logi guessed had taken a great deal of time and effort to achieve. ‘Come on Brynja. Some of us have work to do and don’t have a stud waiting for us at home, so let’s hit the town, shall we?’

Sunday

The silver car seemed lonely in the car park outside Reykjavík’s bus terminal. Sigursteinn, one of the traffic officers, peered in through the window and shook his head.

‘Nothing in there,’ he told Gunna as she arrived. ‘Where’s Helgi? It’s his case, isn’t it?’

‘Helgi’s off duty today, so the call came through to me instead. No keys anywhere, I take it?’

‘No such luck. It’s going to be a struggle to shift this thing, especially now the battery’s flat.’

‘In that case, you’d better be patient. I phoned the owner’s girlfriend and she said there’s a spare key, which one of your motorcycle colleagues has gone to collect from her. Give him ten minutes.’

‘Go inside for a coffee, shall we?’

Sigursteinn looked hopeful and Gunna relented. ‘How come you found it here? Did a patrol spot it, or what?’

‘No. Someone must have nudged it because the alarm has been howling half the night – we got a call this morning when the bus station opened. It kept on until the battery died, I guess.’

Inside the bus station Gunna and Sigursteinn spread out and talked to as many of the staff in the shops and kiosks as were awake, trying to work out how long the Outlander had been there.

‘It was here Friday morning, that’s all I know,’ the solid middle-aged woman at the restaurant counter said. ‘It was here when I got to work at six.’

‘You didn’t see anyone park it there?’

‘If I had, I’d have told you, wouldn’t I?’

‘Right enough,’ Gunna murmured to herself and moved on.

Outside, with paper cups of coffee, they compared notes. ‘It was parked late Thursday night, after the last bus had gone,’ Sigursteinn said.

‘We can be fairly sure that whoever put it there wasn’t a passenger on a bus,’ Gunna said, and looked up as the rumble of a motorcycle told her the keys had arrived. The rider took off his helmet and switched off the engine.

‘Nothing like a little jaunt to wake someone up on a Sunday morning, is there?’ he said, handing Sigursteinn the keys.

He clicked the fob and nothing happened. ‘We’d better get a booster pack down here to get this thing started. Can you ask around inside to see if anyone has one?’ he asked the motorcycle officer, who walked towards the entrance.

Sigursteinn used the key to open the car’s driver-side door and walked around to do the same with the passenger door. Gunna peered inside the remarkably tidy car, which looked as if it had just been cleaned, wondering if maybe it had. She sniffed, detecting a sour smell, and flipped open the glove compartment to see a handbook and a bundle of paperwork.

‘Fucking hell!’ She heard Sigursteinn swear, followed by the sound of him retching as she hurried round to the open boot.

Gunna clicked her communicator as she groaned at the sight that met her eyes. ‘Control, ninety-five-fifty.’

‘Ninety-five-fifty, control. G’day, Gunna.’

‘Can I have the cavalry out at BSÍ, if you would be so kind?’

‘Which cavalry would that be?’

‘I need a scene-of-crime team and enough uniforms to cordon off the bus station car park. There’s a body in the back of a car here.’

‘Will do,’ control responded. ‘Ambulance as well?’

‘This guy’s going to need a hearse, not an ambulance. There’s a hole in his head the size of a hundred króna coin and, judging by the smell, he’s been here a few days.’

‘No ambulance needed. No problem. I’ll get a scene-of-crime team out right away.’

‘Thanks,’ Gunna said, pulling out her phone and dialling Helgi’s number as the first patrol car arrived and parked across the entrance to the bus station car park with its lights flashing.



, chief,’ Helgi answered groggily after many rings.

‘Good morning, young man,’ Gunna greeted him breezily. ‘Sleep well?’

‘I was sleeping very well until you called.’

‘In that case, sorry to wake you up. Good news or bad?’

‘Good,’ Helgi grunted.

‘Your missing persons case is no longer a problem.’

‘Oh, that’s good. So he turned up?’

‘He did,’ Gunna said. ‘The bad news is that he’s not at all well and it’s now a murder inquiry.’

Logi woke to Brynja’s rasping snore. He thought back to the night before, when she and two of the other women had fallen out of a taxi after the sun had risen in a clear blue sky. He had packed the other two giggling women back in the taxi and told the driver where to take them before more or less carrying Brynja up the stairs. He deposited her in bed, where she passed out, spread-eagled, hair awry and lipstick smeared, while he decamped to the sofa.

In the kitchen he brewed coffee and then went out to the shop at the end of the street to buy fresh rolls and pastries, returning to find the coffee ready and the snores a note deeper than before. He read the weekend paper, made himself some breakfast and thought about Brynja. He knew she liked him a lot, and when she stayed off the sauce, he liked her well enough. But a woman in her thirties behaving like a teenager once she had a drink inside her was something he struggled to come to terms with. His parents had a problem with the bottle, and as a child he’d dreaded the sight of them getting ready for a dance, knowing that an argument and even a few slaps and thrown plates would be the inevitable outcome. Maybe trying to forge a relationship with Brynja was a lost cause? Perhaps he should cut his losses and run before it got too serious?

He finished his coffee and closed the paper. Logi sat back and stared out of the window, his thoughts drifting back to the night when the big man had called and the Polish boys had bailed him out. Marek would be on his way home to Poland now, and he imagined Tadeusz would also be snoring somewhere, although maybe not as loud as Brynja.

Helgi had never been a great one for shaving, and today Gunna saw him look even more unshaven than usual as he ducked under the tape and jogged across the car park. A small crowd had gathered on the other side of the tape, along with a couple of TV cameras, and she had already called Ívar Laxdal to let him know they had something serious to deal with this sunny Sunday morning.

‘It’s definitely him, is it?’ Helgi asked.

‘I reckon so,’ Gunna said. ‘You’d best take a look. You’re the one who’s been looking at his photo. But it’s his car, all right.’

‘What happened?’

‘The car was parked here late on Thursday night. I reckon it might have stood there for another week or three before anyone paid it any attention. But someone bumped it last night, the alarm started squawking and there was a call this morning. Your boy’s in the boot and there’s a big hole in his head.’

Helgi went pale. ‘Hell. I hate this kind of stuff.’

‘Go on, but be quick.’

He walked quickly over to the car, which two white-suited technicians were examining in fine detail, and peered into the boot from as far away as he could. Axel Rútur Karlsson’s dead eyes glared back at him from his swollen face.

‘That’s not a gunshot, is it?’ Helgi said, hurrying back.

‘I don’t imagine so. A gunshot that big would have taken the back of his head right off. Looks like someone’s jabbed him with the end of a broom handle.’

‘Pretty damned hard to do that kind of damage with a stick.’

‘We’ll have a better idea when the post mortem’s been done.’

‘What next, Gunna?’

‘Relatives.’

‘Shit. I was afraid you were going to say exactly that.’

‘That’s it. Everyone’s least favourite job, but it has to be done. Come on, I’ll hold your hand,’ she said, nodding towards a barrel-chested figure approaching across the grass with a seaman’s rolling gait. ‘The Laxdal’s here. I’ll brief him and then we can go and start asking questions.’

‘Gunnhildur, g’day,’ Ívar Laxdal said curtly. ‘Helgi,’ he nodded. ‘What’s the situation?’

‘Deceased in the back of the Outlander. It’s the deceased’s own vehicle, name of Axel Rútur Karlsson, reported missing on Friday. Helgi’s been investigating. The car was parked here late Thursday night and the alarm went off this morning, so traffic came to see what the problem was. Sigursteinn called me because we had an alert out for the vehicle. That’s about it so far.’

‘Violence?’

‘No question.’

Ívar Laxdal made the same journey as Helgi had done a few minutes earlier and came back with his eyebrows clenched into a tight bar across his forehead.

‘I’ll bet you anything you like that’s been done with a hammer,’ he said. ‘What do I need to know about this character?’

‘We believe he’s been doing some freelance enforcement, debt collecting.’

‘A disgruntled punter? Gunnhildur, what’s your next move?’

‘We break the news to his grieving girlfriend to start with and find out what we can about the man’s movements.’

‘And then we lean on his business partner,’ Helgi broke in. ‘I’m certain the two of them were working together, and if anyone knows where he was going on Thursday night, it’ll be him.’

‘Fine. Go. I’ll keep an eye on what’s happening here.’

They took the Polo Gunna had taken from the car pool that morning to drive through the sunshine along with the hundreds of people out for a Sunday morning drive. The bank holiday weekend was behind them and people were acutely aware that the vagaries of Iceland’s weather meant that any weekend now could be the last one of summer.

‘I wonder if Eiríkur’s in this lot somewhere,’ Helgi said. ‘Off for a Sunday drive to Thingvellir with the family.’

‘Could be. Mind you, he’s a city boy and sometimes I reckon he thinks there’s a passport control at the Hvalfjördur tunnel.’

‘There ought to be. Keep these city types out of the country and on the tarmac where they belong.’

‘And keep us country bumpkins away from the bright lights, you mean?’

‘Well, there is that,’ Helgi admitted. ‘Could you live in Vestureyri again?’

‘Hell, no. There are far too many relatives up there. Hvalvík’s good enough for me, and being a stranger means I don’t have to get involved in anything awkward.’

‘And at least you’re only spitting distance from the city.’

‘Commuting has its advantages.’

‘Come off up here,’ Helgi said, pointing to the approaching turnoff. ‘Go right and then the first left, I think. I keep badgering Halla to move out to somewhere quieter. Selfoss or somewhere, but she won’t have it. Reykjavík born and bred, you see. Can’t imagine life beyond Breidholt.’

‘Like Eiríkur,’ Gunna said. ‘Is that the place there?’

‘That’s it.’

Gunna parked and they got out. Helgi led the way, and as the outside door had been hooked back, they went straight up the stairs. Helgi knocked on the door. A plastic sign made to look like brass proclaimed that ‘Aníta Sól and Axel Rútur live here’ below the door peeper, where a blue eye flashed for a moment before the door swung open.

‘Good morning,’ Helgi offered and Aníta Sól’s hand went to her mouth. ‘Could we come in? This is my colleague Gunnhildur Gísladóttir.’

Aníta Sól stood in the hall with her eyes blank. She was wrapped in a pure white dressing gown that was tight to her throat and she looked at Helgi in confusion.

‘Could we sit down, Aníta Sól?’

‘Axel Rútur?’ she whispered.

‘Please, let’s sit down,’ Helgi said gently. He ushered her firmly into her living room and sat next to her while Gunna sat on the edge of a white leather armchair.

‘Have you found him? Is he all right?’

‘I’m very sorry to have to tell you that we have found him and Axel Rútur is dead. I’d like to offer you all our sympathy.’

Aníta Sól sat and stared into space as the news sank in. Helgi had expected tears but there was no change to her expression.

‘What happened? Was he in an accident?’ she asked finally.

‘We believe he was murdered.’

Aníta Sól gulped and Helgi was relieved to see a tear form at last and begin its journey southwards.

‘Do you have someone who can be with you?’ Gunna asked gently. ‘A parent or a relative, maybe? Would you like me to call them?’

‘Not yet,’ she said hesitatingly, and her eyes flashed from side to side before she looked back down at her feet. ‘Do you know . . . why? Why him?’

Helgi looked at Gunna with questions in his eyes. Gunna looked back at him and shrugged imperceptibly.

‘Aníta Sól, I understand that this is painful for you,’ he began, ‘but we have to ask you some difficult questions. It’s vital that we track down the perpetrator as soon as possible, and to do that we need some information from you. Where was Axel Rútur going when he left here on Thursday evening?’

‘I told you before. I don’t know. He said he’d be back in an hour.’

‘Did he do this frequently?’

BOOK: Summerchill
12.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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