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Authors: Hakan Nesser

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BOOK: The Weeping Girl
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Oh my God! Moreno thought. He remembers. He’s been doing his homework.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Port Hagen, that’s right.’

Reinhart tried to look innocent again. He’d be good as the wolf in
Little Red Riding Hood
, Moreno thought.

‘If I’m not much mistaken it’s quite close by,’ he said. ‘It must be only ten kilometres or so north of Lejnice. I used to go there when I was a kid. You’d be
able to . . .’

Moreno threw away the newspaper with a resigned gesture.

‘All right,’ she said. ‘Don’t go on. I’ll sort it out. Damn it all, you know as well as I do that Lampe-Leermann is the nastiest, creepiest piece of work that ever
wore a pair of hand-sewn shoes . . . or a signet ring. Apart from anything else he always stinks of old garlic. Note that I said old garlic – I’ve nothing against the fresh stuff. But
I’ll sort it out, you don’t need to strain yourself any more. Damn it all once again! When?’

Reinhart walked over to the flowerpot in order to empty his pipe.

‘I told Vrommel you’d probably turn up tomorrow.’

Moreno stared at him.

‘Have you fixed a time without consulting me?’


Probably
,’ said Reinhart. ‘I said you’d
probably
turn up tomorrow. What the hell’s the matter with you? Aren’t we playing for the same team
any more, or what’s going on?’

Moreno sighed.

‘Okay,’ she sighed. ‘I’m sorry. I’d planned to set off tomorrow morning anyway, so it won’t involve a lot of disruption. In fact.’

‘Good,’ said Reinhart. ‘I’ll ring Vrommel and confirm that you’re coming. What time?’

She thought for a moment.

‘About one. Tell him that I’ll be there at around one, and that Lampe-Leermann shouldn’t be given any garlic with his lunch.’

‘Not even fresh?’ wondered Reinhart.

She didn’t answer. As she was on her way out through the door, he reminded her of how serious the situation was.

‘Make sure you squeeze out of that bastard every bloody name he can give us. Both you and he will get a bonus for every arsehole we can put behind lock and key.’

‘Of course,’ said Moreno. ‘But there’s no need to swear so much. I like the colour of your shoes, though – it makes you look really young again . . .’

Before Reinhart could respond she was out in the corridor.

4

It wasn’t until she was at home and in the shower that she realized it was an omen.

What else could it be? How else could one interpret it? Franz Lampe-Leermann simply turning up out of the blue and attacking her holiday two hours before it started? Surely that was highly
unlikely? Or highly significant, depending on how you looked at it. He had managed to keep out of the way of the police since about the middle of April – that was when they started searching
for him seriously, after a particularly clumsy bank raid in Linzhuisen on Maundy Thursday – and then the stupid idiot goes and gets himself arrested just now! In Lejnice, of all places.

Lejnice. A small, unremarkable coastal town with about twenty to twenty-five thousand inhabitants. Plus a few extra thousands in the summer. And situated, just as Reinhart had said, a mere ten
kilometres away from the place she’d planned to spend the first two weeks of her holiday.

Port Hagen. An even smaller place in the sticks – but little places in the sticks were sometimes attractive places to be, and that’s where Mikael Bau happened to have his holiday
home.

Mikael Bau? she thought. My neighbour and occasional partner.

Occasional? she then thought. Partner? It sounded daft. But any other way of describing it sounded even dafter. Or wrong, at least.

Fiancé? Lover? Boyfriend?

Could you have boyfriends when you were thirty-two?

Perhaps just
my bloke
, she thought in the end. Closed her eyes and started to rub the jojoba shampoo into her hair. She had lived for over two years without
a bloke
since
getting rid of Claus Badher, and they hadn’t exactly been brilliant years – neither for herself nor for those she associated with, she was the first to admit that.

They were not years she would wish to go through again, although she supposed she had learned quite a bit. Perhaps that was how one should look at it. And she didn’t want the years
she’d spent with Claus back either. Good Lord no, that would have been even less desirable.

All in all, seven wasted years, she decided. Five with Claus, two on her own. Was she on the way to building up a totally wasted life? she asked herself. Was that what was really happening?

Who knows? she thought. Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans. She massaged her hair a little longer with the shampoo, then started rinsing all the suds away.

In any case, it was too soon to predict what would become of her relationship with Mikael Bau. At least, she had no desire to predict, not at the moment. It was last winter when she’d
begun to see him: he’d invited her to share his evening meal the same day that his former girlfriend had dumped him – the middle of December it was, during those awful weeks when
they’d been searching for Erich Van Veeteren’s murderer – but it was another month before she’d invited him back. And another six weeks before she’d committed herself
and gone to bed with him. Or
they
had committed themselves. The beginning of March, to be precise. The fourth – she remembered the date because it was her sister’s
birthday.

And they had carried on meeting, of course. Even if she was a detective inspector and he was a welfare officer, they were only human.

That’s how he used to put it. Bollocks to all that, Ewa! Whatever else we are, we’re only human.

She liked that. It was unassuming and sensible. Nothing like what Claus Badher would have said, and the less Mikael Bau reminded her of Claus Badher, the better. That was a simple but
intuitively infallible way of judging things. Sometimes it was best to take an easy way out when it came to your emotional life, she was old enough to see that. Perhaps one ought to do that all the
time, she sometimes thought. Cut out the psychology and live according to instinct instead. And it was nice to be desired, she had to admit.
Carpe diem
, perhaps?

Easily said, harder to do, she thought as she emerged from the shower. Rather like stopping thinking about something on demand. Whatever, Mikael Bau happened to own this old house in Port Hagen.
Or rather, owned it together with four siblings, if she understood it rightly. It was a sort of family jewel, and this year it was his turn to have access to it in July.

Big and dilapidated, he had warned her. But charming, and very private. With running water – sometimes, at least. A hundred metres to the beach.

It sounded like everything a lousily paid police inspector could ask for, and without much pause for thought she had said yes please to the offer of a couple of weeks. Well, no pause at all, to
be honest: it was a Sunday morning in May, they had made love and had breakfast in bed. In that order. Some days were easier to organize than others – hardly an earth-shattering insight.

So, two weeks in the middle of July. With her bloke, by the seaside.

And now Franz Lampe-Leermann!

A five-star bastard of an omen, and incredibly poor timing.

She wondered again what it could mean. But then, perhaps there was no point in trying to find a meaning in everything?

As
the Chief Inspector
used to point out now and again.

After the shower she packed her things, then rang Mikael Bau. Without going into too much detail she explained that she would be arriving at some point in the afternoon rather
than in time for lunch, because something had turned up.

Work? he’d wondered.

Yes, work, she’d admitted.

He laughed, and said that he loved her. He’d started saying that recently, and it was remarkable how ambivalent it made her feel.

I love you.

She hadn’t said that to him. It would never occur to her to say that until she felt sure of it. They’d talked about it. He’d agreed with her, of course – what else could
he have done, for God’s sake? Said that it didn’t matter as far as he was concerned. The difference was that he
was
sure. Already.

How could he be? she’d wanted to know.

He explained that he hadn’t had his fingers burnt as badly as she had, and so felt able to stick his neck out and venture into the unknown rather sooner than she could.

A likely story, Moreno thought. We all have our private relationship with language and words, especially the language of love. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with bad experiences.

But she wondered – had often wondered – what the facts really were with regard to his former girlfriend, Leila. They’d been together for over three years, he’d told her,
and yet the same evening that she’d dumped him he had marched up the stairs to her flat on the next floor, and rung her doorbell. Invited her to dinner – the dinner he’d prepared
for Leila. Just like that. Surely that was a bit odd?

When she asked him about it, he’d blamed the food. He’d prepared a meal for two. You didn’t slave away in the kitchen for an hour and a half, he claimed, and then gobble it all
up yourself within ten minutes. No way.

That brought them round to the question of food.

‘If you can bring a bottle of decent white wine with you, I’ll see if I can find a bit of edible fish for you. There’s an old bloke with a stall in the market square who has
his own little boat and sells his own catch every morning. He has a wooden leg, believe it or not – the tourists take two thousand pictures of him every summer . . . I’ll see what
he’s got to offer.’

‘Okay, let’s do that,’ said Moreno. ‘I’ll assume that you get something tasty. I’ve given you an extra three hours, after all. Incidentally . . .’

‘Well?’

‘No, it doesn’t matter.’

‘Come off it!’

‘Okay. What colour are your flip-flops?’

‘My flip-flops?’

‘Yes.’

‘Why the hell do you want to know what colour my flip-flops are? There must be at least ten pairs in the house . . . Maybe even twenty, but who owns which isn’t at all
clear.’

‘Good,’ said Moreno. ‘I regard that as a good omen.’

Mikael said he hadn’t a clue what she was on about, and suggested that she bought herself an efficient sun hat. She promised to think about it, and concluded the call. He didn’t tell
her again that he loved her, and she was grateful for that.

If somewhat ambivalent.

Reinhart rang later in the evening, and they spent half an hour discussing how to proceed with the interrogation of Lampe-Leermann. It didn’t seem to be all that
complicated in principle, but then again it was important to persuade him to come out with as much information as possible. Lots of names, and especially the key figures.

And it was also important to bear in mind the incriminating evidence, so that in the long run it would be possible to put the big noises in the dock. The question of concessions granted to
Lampe-Leermann in return for his evidence would also need to be taken into account: but both Reinhart and Moreno had been involved in this kind of thing before, and in the end the chief inspector
announced that he was satisfied with the plans.

But if that bastard had said he was prepared to confess all to Inspector Moreno, he’d damn well better do so, Reinhart stressed.

And he’d better have something worthwhile to tell them.

‘Just two things to bear in mind,’ said Reinhart in conclusion. ‘Everything must be recorded on tape. And we must make no specific concessions. Not at this early stage –
Lampe-Leermann ought to understand that.’

‘I’m with you,’ said Moreno. ‘I wasn’t born yesterday. What’s Vrommel like, by the way?’

‘I’ve no idea,’ said Reinhart. ‘He sounds like a corporal on the phone, and I have the impression that he’s redhaired. He could even be a different Vrommel from the
old days.’

‘How old?’

‘Too old for you. Could be your grandfather, at least.’

‘Thank you, Chief Inspector.’

Reinhart wished her good hunting, and said he was looking forward to reading her report in a couple of days’ time – three at most.

‘Report?’ said Moreno. ‘You’ll get a transcript of the interrogation, and I have no intention of getting involved in that. I’m on leave, as you know.’

‘Hmm,’ muttered Reinhart. ‘Is there no idealism left in the force nowadays? What’s the world coming to?’

‘We can discuss that in August,’ said Moreno.

‘If there’s a world left by then,’ said Reinhart.

5

10 July 1999

It was a while before it dawned on her that the girl opposite her was sitting there crying.

Not sobbing. She wasn’t making a fuss about it, the tears just seemed to be coming naturally. Her face seemed callow, clean-cut; her skin was pale and her reddish-brown hair combed back,
held in place by a simple braid. Sixteen, seventeen years old, Moreno guessed: but she knew she was bad at judging the age of young girls. It could be a couple of years either way.

Her eyes were large and light brown, and as far as Moreno could see totally without make-up. Nor were there any dark stripes on her cheeks where the tears had been trickling down in a steady but
not exactly torrential stream. Quietly and naturally. Moreno peered cautiously over the top of her book and noted that the girl was holding a crumpled handkerchief in her hands, which were loosely
clasped in her lap; but she made no effort to stop the flow of tears.

No effort at all. Just cried. Let the tears flow however they liked, it seemed, as she gazed out through the window at the flat, sun-drenched countryside gliding past. The girl had her back to
the engine, Inspector Moreno was facing it.

Grief, Moreno thought. She looks as if she’s grieving.

She tried to remember where the weeping girl had boarded the train. Moorhuijs or Klampendikk, presumably. In any case, one or two stops after Maardam Kolstraat, which is where Moreno had got on.
It was one of those local trains that stops every two or three minutes. Moreno had begun to regret not having waited for the express train instead. That would probably have gone at twice the speed,
and was no doubt the reason why the old boneshaker was almost empty. Apart from an elderly couple drinking tea from a thermos flask a few rows away, she and the girl were the only passengers in the
whole carriage . . . Which made it all the more remarkable that the girl had come to sit opposite Moreno when there were so many empty seats. Very odd.

BOOK: The Weeping Girl
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