The Return of the Dancing Master (7 page)

BOOK: The Return of the Dancing Master
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He got up at dawn, quietly, so as not to wake her, and left the building as discreetly as possible. But he didn't go straight back to Allégatan: instead he made a long detour around Ramna Lake and turned towards home only after he'd reached Druvefors. The doctor had said that they would finish all the necessary tests today. He'd asked if he could go away, possibly abroad, before the treatment started, and she said he could do whatever he liked. He had a cup of coffee when he got home, and played back his answering machine. Elena had been worried when she woke up and found that he'd left.
Shortly after ten he went to the travel agent's in Vasterlanggatan. He sat down and started going through the brochures. He'd more or less made up his mind that it would be Mallorca when the thought of Herbert Molin came to him. He knew then and there what he was going to do. He wasn't going to fly to Mallorca. If he did, all he would do was wander around a place where he knew no one, worrying about what had happened and what was going to happen. If he went to Harjedalen, he would be no less alone—since he didn't know anybody up there either—but he would be able to devote his attention to something other than himself and his problems. What he might be able to do, he wasn't sure. Nevertheless, he left the travel agent's, went to the bookshop in the square, and bought a map of the neighboring provinces of Jamtland and Harjedalen. When he got home he spread it out over the kitchen table. He figured it would take him twelve to fifteen hours to drive there. If he got too tired, he could always spend the night somewhere on the way.
In the afternoon he went to the hospital for the final tests. The doctor had already given him an appointment for when he should return to start his treatment. He'd noted it in his diary in his usual sprawling handwriting, as if he were recording some holiday or somebody's birthday. On
Friday, November 19, 8:15 A.M.
When he returned home he packed his suitcase. He looked up the weather on teletext and saw that the temperature in Ostersund was forecast at between 5° and 10° C. He assumed there would be no significant difference between Ostersund and Sveg. Before going to bed it occurred to him that he should tell Elena that he was leaving. She'd be worried if he simply disappeared. But he put it off. He had his cell phone, and she had the number. Perhaps he wanted her to worry?
Maybe he wanted to hurt an innocent party to make up for being the one who was sick?
 
 
The following day, Friday, October 29, he left Borås before 8 A.M. Earlier he'd driven to Bramhultsvagen and taken a good look at the house where Molin had lived. That had been his home as a married man, for a time on his own, and that was the place he'd left when he moved north on his retirement.
Lindman recalled the farewell party for Molin in the canteen on the top floor of the station. Molin hadn't drunk very much—he'd probably been the most sober of all present. Detective Chief Inspector Nylund, who retired the year after Molin, had given a speech: Lindman couldn't remember a word of it. It had been a pretty insipid affair, and had ended early. It was the practice for newly-retired officers to have their colleagues over, as a sort of thank you: Molin had not done so. He'd simply walked out of the police station, and a few weeks later left Borås altogether.
Now Lindman was about to make the same journey. He was following in Molin's tracks, without understanding why Molin had moved—or perhaps fled—to Norrland.
By nightfall Lindman had driven as far as Orsa. He stopped for an evening meal, a greasy steak in a roadside café, then settled down in the backseat of his car. He was worn out, and fell asleep at once. The bandages on his arm were itching. In his dreams, he was running through an endless succession of dark rooms.
 
 
He woke up while it was still dark, feeling stiff and with a splitting headache. He wriggled his way out of the car, and as he was peeing he noticed that his breath was coming out like steam. The gravel crunched under his feet. It was obvious that the temperature was around or even below zero. The previous evening he'd filled a thermos flask with hot coffee. He sat behind the wheel and drank a cup. A truck parked beside him started up and drove off. He switched on the radio and listened to the early news. He felt uneasy. Being dead would mean he could no longer listen to the radio. Death meant many different things. Even the radio would fall silent.
He put the thermos on the backseat and started the engine. It was another 100 kilometers or so to Sveg. He drove out onto the main
road, and reminded himself that he must be on the lookout for elks. It grew gradually lighter. Lindman was thinking about Molin. He tried to sift through what he could remember about him, every conversation, all those meetings, all that time when nothing special had happened. What were Molin's habits? Did he have any habits at all? When did he laugh? When was he angry? He had difficulty remembering. The image was elusive. The only thing he was sure about was that Molin had been frightened that time.
The forest came to an end, and after crossing the Ljusnan River Lindman found himself driving into Sveg. The place was so small that he nearly drove out of it on the other side before realizing that he'd reached his destination. He turned left at the church and saw a hotel sign. He'd assumed it wouldn't be necessary to reserve a room in advance, but when he went to reception the girl behind the desk told him that he'd had a stroke of luck. They had one room, thanks to a cancellation.
“Who wants to stay in a hotel in Sveg?” he said in surprise.
“Test drivers,” the girl told him. “They check in up here and test new models. And then there are the computer people.”
“Computer people?”
“There's lots of that sort of thing just now,” the girl said. “New firms setting up. And there aren't enough houses. The council is talking about building hostels.”
She asked him how long he intended staying.
“A week,” he said. “Maybe longer. Is that possible?”
She checked in the ledger.
“Well, I think so, but I can't promise,” she said. “We're full more or less all the time.”
Lindman left his suitcase in his room and went downstairs to the dining room, where the breakfast buffet was open. Young people were sitting at all the tables, many of them dressed in what looked like flying suits. After he'd eaten he went back to his room, stripped down, removed the bandages from his arm, and took a shower. Then he crept between the sheets. What am I doing here? he wondered. I could have gone to Mallorca. But I'm in Sveg. Instead of walking along a beach and looking at a blue sea, I'm surrounded by endless trees.
 
 
When he woke up, he didn't know where he was at first. He lay in bed and tried to construct some sort of plan. But first he'd have to see the
place where Molin had died. The simplest thing, of course, would be to talk to the detective in charge of the case in Ostersund, Giuseppe Larsson; but something told him it would be better to take a look at the scene of the crime without anybody knowing about it. He could talk to Larsson later, maybe even drive to Ostersund. On the way north he'd wondered if there were any police stationed in Sveg, or did the police have to drive nearly 200 kilometers from Östersund to investigate petty crimes? Eventually, he got up. He had no end of questions, but the crucial thing was to see the scene of the crime.
He dressed and went down to the lobby. The girl who'd checked him in was on the phone. Lindman spread out his map and waited. He could hear that she was talking to a child, no doubt her own, something about coming to the end of her shift shortly and another person taking over, so that she could go home.
“Everything okay with the room?” she asked as she put the receiver down.
“All in order,” Lindman said. “I have a question, though. I haven't come here to see if cars can handle extreme conditions. Nor am I a tourist, or a fisherman. I'm here because a good friend of mine was murdered not far from here last week.”
Her face turned serious.
“The guy who lived out at Linsell? The former policeman?”
“That's the one.” He showed her his police ID, then pointed to his map. “Can you show me where he lived?”
She turned the map around and took a good look at it. Then she pointed to the spot.
“You have to head for Linsell,” she said. “Then turn off towards Lofsdalen, cross the Ljusnan River, and you'll come to a signpost directing you to Linkvarnen. Continue past there for another ten kilometers or so. His house is off to the right, but the road isn't marked on this map.”
She looked at him.
“I'm not really nosy,” she said. “I know lots of people have come here just to gape. But we've had some police from Ostersund staying here, and I heard them describing how to get there over the telephone. Somebody was supposed to be coming here by helicopter.”
“I don't suppose you get much of that sort of thing here,” Lindman said.
“I've never heard of anything of the kind, and I was born in Sveg. When there was still a maternity hospital here.”
Lindman tried to fold his map together, but made a mess of it.
“Let me help you,” she said, flattening it out before folding it neatly.
When Lindman left the hotel he could see that the weather had changed. There was a clear sky; the morning clouds had dispersed. He breathed in the fresh air.
Suddenly he had the feeling that he was dead, and he wondered who would come to his funeral.
 
 
He reached Linsell at around two in the afternoon. To his surprise, he saw a sign advertising an Internet café. The village also boasted a gas station and a general store. He turned left across the bridge and kept going. Between Sveg and Linsell he'd seen a grand total of three cars going in the opposite direction. He drove slowly; there was no hurry. About ten kilometers, she'd said. After seven kilometers he came to an almost invisible side road turning into a dirt road that disappeared into the forest on his right. He followed the badly potholed road for about 500 meters, at which point it petered out. A few homemade signposts indicated that various tracks going off in all directions were for snowmobiles during the winter months. He turned around and returned to the main road. After another kilometer he came to the next turn. It was practically impassable, and after two kilometers came to a stop at a log pile. He'd scratched the bottom of his car several times on stones projecting from the badly maintained road.
When he got to Dravagen, it was obvious that he'd gone too far. He turned around. A truck and two cars passed him in the opposite direction. Then the road was empty again. He was driving very slowly now, with the side windows wide open. He kept thinking about his illness. Wondering what would have happened if he'd gone to Mallorca. He wouldn't have needed to search for a road there. What would he have been doing instead? Sitting in the depths of some dimly-lit bar, getting drunk?
Then he found the road. Just after a bend. He knew it was right the moment he saw it. It led him uphill and into three bends, one right after the next. The surface was smooth and covered in gravel. After two kilometers he saw a house behind the trees. He drove into the parking area at the front and came to a halt. The police tape closing it off was still there, but the place was deserted. He got out of the car.
There wasn't a breath of wind. He stood still and looked around. Molin had moved from his house in Bramhultsvagen in Boras to be in this remote spot in the depths of the forest. And somebody had found
their way here in order to kill him. Lindman looked at the house. The smashed windows. He approached the front door and tried it. Locked. Then he walked around the building. Every window was broken. From the rear he could see water glittering through the trees. He tried the shed door. It was open. Inside it smelled of potatoes, and he took note of a wheelbarrow and various garden implements. He went out again.
Molin was isolated here, he thought. That must be what he'd been looking for. Even in his Borås days he'd longed to be alone, and that's what attracted him here.
He wondered how Molin had discovered this house. Who had he bought it from? And why here, in the depths of the Harjedalen forests? He walked up to one of the windows on the short wall. There was a kicksled parked next to the house wall. He used it as a stepladder to open the broken window from the inside. Carefully he removed the protruding bits of glass and clambered into the house. It struck him that there was always a special smell in places where the police had been. Every trade has its own smell. That applies to us as well.
He was in a small bedroom. The bed was made, but it was covered in patches of dried blood. The forensic examination had no doubt been completed, but he preferred not to touch anything. He wanted to see exactly the same things as the forensic officers had seen. He would start where they had left off. But what did he think he was doing? What did he think he might be able to uncover? He told himself he was in Molin's house as a private citizen. Not as a policeman or a private detective, just a man who had cancer and who wanted to find something other than his illness to think about.
He went into the living room. Furniture had been overturned. There were bloodstains on the walls and on the floor. Only now did he realize how horrific Molin's death must have been. He hadn't been stabbed or shot and fallen dead on the spot. He'd been subjected to a violent attack, and it looked as though he'd been chased and had resisted. He walked carefully around the room. Stopped at the CD player that was standing open. No disc in it, but an empty case beside the player. Argentinean tango. He continued his exploration. Molin had lived a life devoid of ornament, it seemed. No pictures, no vases. No family photographs either.
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