Larsson pulled onto the side of the road and stopped. He switched off the engine, got out of the car, and waited until a truck had driven past on its way up north. Then he unzipped his fly and peed. Of all the joys that life had to offer, peeing at the side of the road was the best. He got back into the car, but before starting the engine, he tried to think objectively about what he now knew concerning the death of Molin. Slowly and deliberately, he tried to let everything he'd seen and read in various reports filter through his mind and find their own way into appropriate pigeonholes. Something among that information might provide a lead. They had found no trace of a motive. Nevertheless, it was obvious that Molin had been subjected to protracted and savage violence. Frenzy, fury, Larsson thought. That's what it's all about. Perhaps this furious frenzy is in fact the motive. Fury and a thirst for vengeance.
There was something else that suggested he might be on the right track. Everything gave the impression of having been carefully planned. The guard dog had had its throat cut. The murderer had been equipped with whips and tear gas cartridges. That can't have been coincidental. The fury must have been an outburst within the framework of a meticulous plan.
Fury, thought Larsson. Fury and vengeance. A plan. That means that whoever killed Molin had most probably been to the house before, possibly on several occasions. Somebody should have noticed strangers hanging around in the vicinity. Or maybe the opposite applied: nobody had noticed anything. Which would mean that the murderer, or murderers, would have been friends of Molin.
But Molin didn't have any friends. That was something Mrs. Tunberg had been very clear about. Molin didn't have a social life. He had been a recluse.
Larsson went over what had happened one more time. He had the feeling that the attacker had been on his own. Somebody had turned up at the isolated dwelling, armed with a whip made from an unidentified animal hide and a tear gas pistol. Molin had been killed with ruthless and planned sadism, and the body had been abandoned naked at the edge of the forest.
The question was: had Molin simply been murdered? Or was it an execution?
Expert reinforcements would have to be brought in. This wasn't just a run-of-the-mill murder case. Larsson was increasingly persuaded that they were faced with an execution.
It was 9:40 by the time Larsson drove up to Molin's house. The crime scene tape was still in place, but there was no sign of a police vehicle. Larsson got out of his car. There was quite a wind blowing now. The swishing sound from the forest imposed itself upon the autumn morning. Larsson stood quite still and slowly looked around. The forensic unit had found traces of a car parked exactly where he was standing now: the tracks didn't correspond to Molin's ancient Volvo. Every time Larsson came to the scene of the murder, he tried to imagine exactly what had happened. Who had clambered out of this unknown car? And when? It must have been during the night. The pathologists still hadn't been able to establish the precise time of death. Even so, the writer of the preliminary report had hinted in carefully chosen words that the assault could well have taken place over an extended period of time. He couldn't say how many strokes of the whip Molin had received, but the beatingâwith pausesâmight well have gone on for several hours.
Larsson rehearsed yet again in his head the thoughts that had occurred to him during the drive out from Ostersund.
Fury, and the thirst for revenge. A solitary murderer. Everything meticulously planned. No killing on the spur of the moment.
The phone rang. He started. He still hadn't gotten used to the fact that he could be reached by telephone anywhere, even in the middle of the forest. He retrieved his cell phone from his jacket pocket and answered.
He'd lost count of the number of times he'd cursed his mother for giving him his first name after hearing an Italian crooner at a concert in Ostersund's People's Park one summer night as a young girl. He'd been teased ruthlessly throughout his school years, and now, every time anybody called him and he said his name, whoever was at the other end of the line always paused to consider.
He listened. The man at the other end said his name was Stefan Lindman, and that he was a police officer. He was calling from Boras. Lindman went on to say that he'd worked with Molin and was curious about what had happened. Larsson said he'd call him back. He'd had cases when reporters had pretended to be police officers, and he didn't want to run that risk again. Lindman said he appreciated that. Larsson couldn't find a pencil, and instead marked the phone number in the gravel with the toe of his shoe. He called back, and Lindman answered. He might be a reporter nevertheless, of course. What he should do was call the station in Boras and ask if they had an officer by the name of Stefan Lindman. Even so, the way the man at the other end of the line expressed himself suggested to Larsson that he was telling the truth, and he tried to answer Lindman's questions. But it wasn't easy to do so on the phone. In any case, reception was not good, and he could hear the forensic team approaching.
“I've got your number,” Larsson said. “And you can get hold of me at this number or at the station in Ostersund. Meanwhile, is there any thing
? Did Molin feel he was under threat? Any information could be of value. We don't have much to go on. No witnesses, no apparent motive. Nothing at all, really. We're ready to clutch at any straw.”
He listened to the response without comment. The police crime scene van drove up to the house. Larsson concluded the call, and made the number he'd traced in the gravel more obvious with the toe of his shoe.
The policeman who'd phoned from Boras had said something important. Molin had been scared. He had never explained why he was uneasy, but Lindman had no doubt. Molin had been scared all the time, wherever he had been, whatever he had done.
There were two forensic officers, both of them young. Larsson liked working with them. They were full of energy, meticulous, and efficient. Larsson watched them enter the house they were destined to investigate and try to take in the blood splattered over the walls and floor. As the young men donned their coveralls, Larsson began once more to think about what had happened.
He was clear about the main outline. It started with the death of the dog. Then the windows had been smashed, and tear gas canisters shot in. It wasn't the tear gas canisters that had broken the windows. They had found some cartridges from a hunting rifle outside the house. The man who carried out the attack had been methodical. Molin was asleep
when it all startedâat least, it looked as if he'd been in bed at the time. He was naked when his body was found at the edge of the forest, but his sweater and pants were found soaked in blood at the bottom of the steps leading down from the front door. From the remnants they had found of the tear gas canisters it would seem that the place must have been filled with gas. Molin had run out of the house with his shotgun. He'd also managed to fire a few shots. Then he'd been stopped in his tracks. The gun was discarded on the ground. Larsson knew that Molin must have been more or less blind when he left the house. He would also have had great difficulty breathing. So Molin had been hounded out of his house, and had been incapable of defending himself as he staggered from the door.
Larsson picked his way carefully into the room leading off the living room. It contained the biggest riddle of all. In a bed lay a bloodstained doll, life-size. He thought at first it was some kind of sex toy used by lonely Molin, but the doll had no orifices. The loops on its feet suggested that it was used as a dancing partner. The big question was: why was it covered in blood? Had Molin moved into this room before the tear gas made it impossible for him to stay in the house? Even so, that wouldn't have explained the blood. Larsson and the other detectives who had spent six days going through the house with a fine-toothed comb still hadn't come up with a plausible explanation. Larsson was going to spend this day trying to work out once and for all why the doll was covered in blood. There was something about the doll that worried him. It concealed a secret and he wanted to know what it was.
He left the house to get some fresh air. His cell phone rang. It was the chief of police in Ostersund. Larsson told him the current state of affairs: that they were hard at work, but they hadn't found anything new at the scene of the crime yet. Mrs. Tunberg was in Ostersund, talking to Artur Nyman, a detective sergeant and Larsson's closest colleague. The chief of police was able to inform Larsson that Molin's daughter, who was in Germany, would soon be on her way to Sweden. They'd also been in touch with Molin's son, who worked as a steward on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.
“Any news about his second wife?” Larsson wondered.
The first wife, the mother of his two children, had died some years ago. Larsson had spent several hours looking into her death, but she'd died of natural causes. Besides, Molin and his first wife had been divorced for nineteen years. His second wife, a woman Molin had been married to while living in BorÃ¥s, was proving difficult to trace.
Larsson went back into the house. He stood just inside the door and scrutinized the dried bloodstains on the floor. Then he took a couple of steps sideways and looked hard at them again. He frowned. There was something about the marks that puzzled him. He took out his notebook, borrowed a pencil from one of the forensic officers, and made a sketch. There were nineteen footprints in all, ten made by a right foot and nine by a left foot.
He went outside. A crow was disturbed and flew off. Larsson studied his sketch. Then he fetched a rake he knew was in the shed, and smoothed out the gravel in front of the house. He pressed his feet down into the gravel to reproduce the pattern he'd sketched in his notebook. Stepped to one side and studied the result. Walked all the way around, examining the marks from different angles. Then he carefully stepped into the footprints, one after the other, moving slowly. He did it again, faster now, with his knees slightly bent. The penny dropped.
One of the forensic officers came out onto the steps and lit a cigarette. He stared at the footprints in the gravel. “What are you doing?”
“Testing a theory. What can you see here?”
“Footprints in the gravel. A replica of the ones we have inside the house.”
The other officer came out. He had a thermos flask in his hand.
“Wasn't there a disc in the CD player?” Larsson asked.
“That's right,” said the man with the flask.
“What kind of music was it?”
The technician handed the flask to his colleague and went inside. He was back in a flash.
“Argentinean stuff. An orchestra. I can't pronounce the name.”
Larsson walked around the footprints in the gravel once again. The two forensic officers watched him as they smoked and drank their coffee.
“Does either of you dance the tango?” he said.
“Not normally. Why?”
It was the man with the thermos flask who answered.
“Because what we have here are tango steps. It's kind of like when you were little and went to dancing classes. The teacher used to tape footprints onto the floor, and you had to follow them. The steps are tango steps.”
To prove his theory Larsson started to hum a tango tune that he
didn't know the name of. At the same time he followed the footprints in the gravel. The steps fitted.
“What we have on the floor in there is a set of tango steps. Somebody dragged Molin around and placed his blood-soaked feet on the floor as if he'd been attending a dancing class.”
The forensic officers stared at him incredulously, but knew he was right. They all went back into the house.
“Tango,” said Larsson. “That's all it is. Whoever killed Molin invited him to dance a tango.”
They contemplated the footprints in silence.
“The question,” Larsson said, when he spoke again, “is who? Who invites a dead man to dance with him?”
indman began to have the feeling that his body was being drained completely of blood. Even though the laboratory assistants were very gentle with him, he felt increasingly weary. He spent many hours at the hospital every day, having blood drawn for testing. He also talked to the doctor on two more occasions. Each time he had lots of questions, but never got around to asking any of them. In fact, there was only one question he really wanted answered: was he going to survive? And if that question couldn't be answered with any degree of certainty, how much time did he, for sure, have left? He'd read somewhere that death was a tailor who measured people for their final suit, invisibly and in silence. Even if he did survive, he had the feeling that his lifespan had already been measured out. It was much too early for that.
The second night he went to Elena's in Dalbogatan. He hadn't phoned in advance as he usually did. The moment she saw him in the doorway, she knew something was wrong. Lindman had tried to make up his mind whether or not to tell her, but he wasn't sure right up to the moment he rang the doorbell. He barely had time to hang up his jacket before she asked him what was wrong.
“I'm sick,” he'd said.
“I've got cancer.”
That left him with no more defenses. He might as well tell the truth now. He needed somebody to confide in, and Elena was his only choice. They sat up long into the night, and she was sensible enough not to try to console him. What he needed was courage. She brought
him a mirror and said, Look, the man on her sofa was very much alive, not a corpse, that was how he should approach the situation. He stayed the night, and lay awake long after she had gone to sleep.