Authors: Helene Tursten
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Crime & Thriller, #Fiction - Mystery, #Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Police Procedural, #Sweden, #Murder, #Mystery fiction, #Crime & mystery, #Detective and mystery stories, #Crimes against, #Investigation, #Teachers, #Murder - Investigation - Sweden, #Teachers - Crimes against - Sweden
Table of Contents
ALSO BY THE AUTHOR
Detective Inspector Huss
Copyright © 2003 by Helene Tursten. Pubished by agreement with Alfa-
beta Bokforlag, Stocklholm and Leonhardt & Hoier Literary Agency,
Copenhagen. First published in Sweden under the title
Translation copyright © 2007 by Katarina E. Tucker.
First published in the English language in the United States in 2007
by Soho Press, Inc.
New York, NY 10003
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Tursten, Helene. 1954-
The glass devil / Helene Tursten; translated by Katarina E. Tucker
eISBN : 97-8-156-94775-7
I. Tucker, Katarina Emilie. II. Title.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To Hilmer and Cecilia
Many thanks to Magnus Tuneld at Mactun Data in Karlstad for all his helpful information about computers; Peter Jernfalt for his corrections as to weapon specifications; and both the active and retired police officers whom I have been able to consult.
Everything had seemed perfect. Maybe too perfect; he realized that now. He had been lulled into a sense of security, believing that it would never catch up with him. It really hadn’t seemed like it would. Not until now.
It was, quite simply, terrible bad luck. Nothing else.
In the big city, he was anonymous; he could live in peace. That was the only thing he wanted: to be left alone.
The long walks in the surrounding countryside had helped heal his spiritual wounds. He had started going to the gym again. He’d spent this evening at the gym and given his body a real workout. It felt good. He was on his way to building a new body and a new life.
Everything had been going in the right direction. Then she came into his life.
She was everything he had dreamed about. Long dark brown hair, brown eyes, and a fantastic smile. Her warm, supple body against his when he held her in his arms. . . .
They had known all along that they had to keep it a secret. If her family found out about their relationship, anything might happen. Her father and brothers were capable of taking the law into their own hands. He had asked her several times to be very careful, not to tell
And now it had all fallen apart. She hadn’t had the strength to hold out against her family’s questions. In the end, she had told them everything.
It would be best to move from his house for a while and hope that things would calm down. He would have to live with Mom and Dad for the time being. In reality, he knew that this wouldn’t help. Her family would refuse to understand how much they had loved each other.
He feared retaliation. It would surely come. It was their custom and culture when they believed the family’s honor had been stained. He knew this and didn’t fool himself. Vengeance would come.
HE TURNED in on the small gravel road that led up to the cottage. For what must have been the thousandth time, he swore because there were no streetlights. The municipality saw no reason to spend money on them, since the remaining three houses along the road were also summer cottages. He parked in the little gravel-covered area inside the gate. When he turned off his headlights, he was surrounded by impenetrable darkness. It was after eleven o’clock on this cold night at the end of March. Black clouds had gathered in the sky and it looked like it would rain or snow during the night. There was no light at all here in the forest. The tall trees grew thickly. The small lamp that hung over the front door was lit, but failed to illuminate the parking area.
He got out of the car and stretched. As always, he took a deep breath and filled his lungs with clean forest air. Despite the fact that he should be used to it by now, he felt the silence press against his eardrums. But it wasn’t completely quiet: A gentle breeze swished in the tops of the trees, and a dog barked in the distance. The cars on the highway could be heard like a faint roar, if one really strained to listen. The sound of an approaching airplane could be heard in the distance, coming in for a landing at Landvetter Airport.
His earlier thoughts caught up with him, and he looked around nervously. Everything appeared normal, calm and quiet. He focused his attention on the small Falu-red house, painted the color of baked bricks. It was a winterized summer cottage that his parents owned. He had felt completely safe and secure here. Now he scanned the house nervously. Nothing seemed out of place. Everything looked as it had when he had left it that morning. Then, he hadn’t known how the day would turn out. It had been a complete catastrophe! What wasn’t allowed to happen, had happened.
He removed his gym bag and lunch box from the back seat, as well as a grocery-filled plastic bag, locked the car, and walked toward the front door. Then he took the key ring from his jacket pocket, unlocked the door, and stepped into the small hallway. The light from the outside lamp silhouetted him in the doorway.
God, I really must be visible, he thought. Then he became aware of a faint movement in the deep darkness.
“Who is it? No! Not this way!” he tried to scream. But not a word crossed his paralyzed lips.
The only thing he could make out in the sparsely lit hall was the black hand that held a rifle. The rest of the figure was concealed by darkness. “Gloves,” he had time to think for a second, irrationally pleased with his own deductive ability.
He stared as though hypnotized into the round black eye.
There was a thousandth of a second’s flame.
THE INTERCOM ON DETECTIVE Inspector Irene Huss’s desk beeped.
“It’s Sven. Is Tommy there?”
“No. He’s interrogating a suspect in custody in the Speedy murder case. He probably won’t be back before five at the earliest.”
Criminal Superintendent Sven Andersson snorted into the intercom. “He’ll have his hands full if he’s going to try and soften up Asko Pihlainen. He may not be back until five
Even though the superintendent couldn’t see it, Irene Huss nodded her agreement.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” she asked. She began to hope that she might be able to leave the piles of boring reports which, for some unexplainable reason, had the tendency to pile up on her desk. The fact that she loathed paperwork and gladly put it off may have had something to do with this.
“Come to my office and we’ll talk.”
The superintendent hadn’t finished his sentence before Irene hopped up. If the boss called, she didn’t have to be urged to respond. That she would have to stop writing reports was simply an unfortunate side effect.
Andersson looked contemplative. He leaned back in his chair, which whined under his weight, nodded at Irene, and motioned her to the visitor’s chair. He sat quietly, seemingly at a loss as to how to begin. The silence started to become oppressive. His asthmatic breaths seemed to echo in the room. He pressed the palms of his hands together; his knuckles popped; he rested the lower of his double chins against the tips of his fingers and stared blankly at a point above Irene’s head. Finally, he slapped his hands on the desktop, rose with difficulty, and said, “It’ll have to be you and me. We’ll have to go.”
Without providing any more details, he took his coat from the hook near the door. “We’re leaving immediately,” he called over his shoulder.
Irene went to her office to get her jacket. I’m just like Sammie: Jingle the leash and say the magic word
and I’ll come running eagerly without asking
she thought, ironically.
“FIRST, I was thinking about sending a patrol car, but it’s so damn difficult to get ahold of a free one. And to send it out into the woods around Norssjön. . . . No. It’s better that I take care of it myself,” Superintendent Andersson told her as they drove toward Boråsleden.
Irene was about to point out that he actually wasn’t alone, but she knew her boss and remained silent. She didn’t want to tease him because she really liked him.
“Maybe I should explain,” Andersson said.
“Yes, please,” Irene replied.
She tried not to sound sarcastic. Apparently, she didn’t, because he continued. “My cousin called me. He’s the principal of a charter school here in the city.”
Irene was surprised to learn that Sven Andersson had a cousin. They had worked together for almost fifteen years, and she had never heard about any of his relatives. She had always thought of him as being completely alone. Divorced, no children, no close relatives, no friends. A lone wolf: that was the phrase that popped up when she thought about her boss.
“Georg, my cousin, is very worried. One of the teachers hasn’t been seen at work since yesterday. He doesn’t answer his telephone when they call. No one answers at his parents’ house either. Georg is concerned because apparently this teacher has had a difficult time and may be depressed. It seemed as if he is afraid the guy may have committed suicide.”
“But that’s not a reason to dispatch two inspectors from the Crime Police. Your first idea, to send a patrol car, seems more appropriate,” Irene said.
She cast a sideways glance at Andersson and saw a flush rise from his neck and flare over his round cheeks.
“I’ll decide what’s appropriate,” he snapped.
He turned his head and looked out the side window. Irene cursed her big mouth. Now he was sulking and wouldn’t say another word.
The silence in the car felt heavy. Only the metronomic scraping of the windshield wipers could be heard. Snow mixed with rain had been falling since last night and showed no signs of letting up. Finally, Irene said, “Do you know where we’re going?”
“Yes. Turn down toward Hällingsjö, and after a kilometer
or so there will be a sign for Norssjön. That’s where you turn in, and then I’ll show you the way.”
“How come you know the roads so well?”
“I went there once, for a crayfish party.”
“To the teacher’s home?” Irene asked, surprised.
“No, it was at his parents’ cottage.”
Her sense that something was fishy was confirmed. There were probably several reasons for her boss to have reacted the way he did, but one of them was clear. In some way, he was personally mixed up in this.
A crayfish party at his parents’. . . . Suddenly even
of the superintendent’s were popping up! He spent time with people and attended their parties. Wow! Irene decided not to let the conversation end.
“Then you don’t know the teacher at all?” she continued.
“No. I’ve never met him. Only his sister.”
“Is she also a teacher?”
“I don’t know. She was little then.”
He took a deep breath and turned his face toward Irene. “I know what you’re wondering. It was seventeen years ago. I was recently divorced, and my cousin thought that I needed to get out and meet people. That’s why I ended up at the parents’ crayfish party. They’re acquaintances of Georg and his wife, Bettan.”
Irene pondered. She had to admit that this unexpected trip woke her investigatory instincts. But it wasn’t concern over the teacher’s fate that had stirred them up, but rather sheer curiosity about the superintendent’s personal life. They had known each other so long, and she had never supposed that he had one.
“Have you ever seen them again?” she asked.
So, no lasting friendship had developed.
“What do the teacher’s parents do?”
“The father is a pastor. The mother is probably a housewife. Pastors’ wives probably have a lot of work to do at home. Church coffees and stuff like that,” Andersson said, evasively.
Irene decided to try to find out as much as possible about Andersson’s newly discovered social life. “How was the party? I mean . . . it was held at a pastor’s house. There’s usually quite a bit of drinking at crayfish parties.”
The superintendent broke into a smile. “You can say that again! It ended with the pastor passing out drunk as a skunk in the porch swing. His wife had thrown in the towel several hours earlier and gone to bed inside the house. She seemed to have no tolerance for alcohol at all. The rest of us in the group were pretty drunk.”
“Were there many people there?”
Andersson thought for a moment before he answered, “Nine—no, ten including me. This is where you turn off.”
He pointed, Irene turned off, and Andersson directed her to take another left just after that. “Go straight for a few kilometers, and we’ll reach Norssjön,” he said.
Irene had been driving on autopilot while her brain processed the information she’d received from Andersson.
“Is it a large summer cottage?” she asked.
“No. Pretty ordinary. Georg and Bettan had a camper, so we slept in that. Bettan’s a teacher and works at Georg’s school. She was probably the one who thought of inviting me to the party. It’s better these days since we don’t see each other as often, but she used to try to fix me up with all her boring teacher colleagues.”
“Did it work at that party?” Irene asked
Andersson just chuckled softly.
The road to Norssjön appeared. Snowy woods lined both sides of the narrow asphalt-paved road. Now and then they glimpsed a small glade with a house, or a small gravel lane snaking its way into the vegetation.
“Slowly, now. It’s here somewhere,” Andersson said.
As far as Irene was concerned, everything around them was underbrush and it all looked the same. She was impressed that Andersson had such a good memory after so many years.
“There. Turn,” he said.
A hand-painted sign placed by the main road pointed toward a narrow gravel trail. “Luck Cottage” was written on it in faded blue letters on a white background. There was a barely discernible flower border around the sign.
Irene turned onto the gravel. The road was bumpy and poorly maintained. A thick forest of spruce hemmed them in. Three small cottages popped up between some trees a short distance down the road. Irene started slowing, but the superintendent told her to continue. They drove for about another hundred meters* until the road ended. Irene saw a fence surrounding a house that was painted brick-red. Irene parked the unmarked police car outside the gate.
They got out and stretched. Everything was quiet aside from the rattle of the falling sleet. A relatively new black Skoda was parked inside the open wooden gates. It was remarkably dirty, and there was a star-shaped crack in the windshield. They started toward the cottage on a path of slippery snow- and moss-covered stones. No sign of life could be seen. The superintendent tried the door handle, but the door was locked.
“The outside light is on,” he remarked loudly.
Irene started to walk around the house in order to look through the mullioned windows.
When she looked in through the first window, she spotted him right away.
“Sven!” she called.
The superintendent lumbered over to her. She pointed.
They were looking into a simple kitchen. Through its open door, they could see a man’s body lying on its back in the hall. His legs and lower body weren’t visible, but his upper body and head were. Or what was left of his head. It was enough to determine that he was dead. Under his open jacket, the front of his light-colored shirt was covered with rust-red blood. One hand was resting on the threshold to the kitchen. Inside the threshold was a plastic bag with food. Some of the items had rolled out onto the kitchen floor.
Andersson turned toward Irene with a grim face. “Call for backup. This is no suicide.”