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Authors: Hakan Nesser

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BOOK: The Weeping Girl
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She really ought to. Why make her mum and Helmut worry unnecessarily?

But then again, there
was
a case for doing that. There certainly was. Why shouldn’t she allow herself to be a bit egoistic?

She was eighteen now, after all.

Why not let them get used to taking the rough with the smooth? she thought. Why not delay the call for an hour or two? Or even all day?

She started whistling, and passed by the phone box.

The woman who opened the door looked very like a maths teacher she’d had for a term when she was in class eight or nine. The same long, horsey face. The same pale eyes.
The same straggling, washed-out, colourless hair. For a moment Mikaela was so certain it was that very same teacher she had the name on the tip of her tongue.

Then she remembered that Miss Dortwinckel had committed suicide one Christmas holiday – by eating half a dozen broken crystal glasses, if rumour was to be believed – and she realized
that it was a case of similar features, no more than that. A certain charisma.

Or lack of charisma, rather. Perhaps our Good Lord had only a limited number of features to choose from – especially when it came to middle-aged women past their sell-by date.

Where do I get all these thoughts from? she wondered. And how can they come so quickly?

‘Well?’

The voice was sharp and unfriendly. Not a bit like that of Miss Dortwinckel, which she could recall quite clearly.

‘Forgive me. My name’s Mikaela Lijphart. I hope I’m not disturbing you, but I would be very grateful if I could have a little chat with you.’

‘With me? Why?’

Now the smell of strong drink hit her. Mikaela automatically stepped half a pace backwards, and had to grab the handrail in order not to fall down the steps.

Eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning? she thought. Drunk already. Why . . . ?

Then it occurred to her that it could have to do with her father. With what her father had said. Could it be that . . . ?

She lost the thread. Or dropped it on purpose. The woman was staring at her.

‘Why do you want to talk to me?’ she asked again. ‘Why don’t you say anything? Are you mentally deficient, or are you one of those bloody hallelujah loonies trying to
recruit new souls? I don’t have a soul.’

‘No . . . Certainly not,’ Mikaela assured her. ‘Please forgive me, I’m just a bit confused – so much has happened in the last few days and I don’t really know
what to do. It’s about something that happened when I was a little girl . . . Only two years old. Something I’m trying to get straight, and I think you might be able to help me. I
don’t live round here. May I come in for a while?’

‘I haven’t tidied up yet,’ said the woman.

‘It’ll only take a couple of minutes.’

‘The home help didn’t come on Friday when she should have done, and as I said, I haven’t tidied up yet.’

Mikaela tried to produce an indulgent smile.

‘I understand. It doesn’t matter – but we could go to some cafe or other if you’d prefer that. The main thing is that I can talk to you.’

The woman muttered something and hesitated. Stood in the doorway swaying back and forth as she sucked in her lips and held on to the radiator.

‘What about?’ she said. ‘What do you want to know?’

‘I’d prefer not to discuss it here on the doorstep. It’s about my father.’

‘About your father?’

‘Yes.’

‘And who’s your father?’

Mikaela thought for two seconds, then said his name. The woman breathed in audibly, and let go of the radiator.

‘Bloody hell!’ she said. ‘Yes, come on in.’

Mikaela had no doubt at all that the home help hadn’t turned up last Friday – nor any other Friday for the last six months. She had never seen a filthier or more
squalid flat. Couldn’t even imagine a worse one. Her hostess ushered her into a cramped kitchen that smelled of tobacco smoke and old fish, and quite a lot more besides. She pushed a pile of
newspapers and advertising leaflets on to the floor so that they could sit opposite one another at the table – separated by a small, sticky area just big enough for two glasses, an ashtray
and a bottle.

Cherry brandy. She filled Mikaela’s glass without asking. Mikaela took a sip of the bright red, lukewarm liquid and almost choked over its strength and sweetness.

The woman emptied her glass in one swig, and slammed it down on the table. Fished out a cigarette and lit it.

Why can’t she at least air the place? Mikaela wondered. Why does she live cooped up in a rubbish dump in the middle of summer? Ugh.

But of course, she hadn’t come to discuss hygiene and home comforts.

‘So, Arnold Maager,’ said the woman. ‘That bloody arsehole.’

‘He is . . . Arnold Maager is my father,’ said Mikaela.

‘So you claim. Tell me what you know.’

Mikaela could feel the tears welling up in her eyes, but she gritted her teeth and managed to hold them in check.

‘Is it okay if I open the window a little bit?’ she asked. ‘I’m allergic to tobacco smoke.’

‘No windows are ever opened in my home,’ said the woman. ‘You were the one who wanted to come in among all the shit.’

Mikaela swallowed.

‘Let’s hear it, then,’ said the woman, pouring herself some more cherry brandy. ‘You first. Let’s do things properly.’

Mikaela cleared her throat, and began talking. She didn’t really have much to say, but she had hardly started before the woman stood up and walked over to the sink, which was piled up with
unwashed crockery, empty bottles and every kind of rubbish you could think of. She rummaged around in a box, with her back towards her guest, and when she turned round she was holding her right arm
straight out, pointing at Mikaela with something.

It was a second before Mikaela realized that it was a pistol.

The cat, she thought. The roof tile.

10

12 July 1999

Monday was overcast, but the high pressure was very much present in the interrogation room at Lejnice police station. Lampe-Leermann was wearing an orange shirt with a
prominent collar and the top three buttons unfastened. The sweat stains under his arms were hardly visible. He smelled strongly of aftershave lotion.

Well, rather that than old garlic, Moreno thought as she sat down opposite him. Observed him closely before saying anything, and decided that on the whole he seemed to be more composed than he
had been on Saturday, and she felt quite optimistic when she started the tape recorder.

It was exactly 13.15 when she did so, and when she finally switched it off after a most productive session, one hour and four minutes had passed.

So, a most productive session, and job done. At least, that was how she assessed it. Whether or not Franz Lampe-Leermann would agree was doubtful: but as far as she could judge she had squeezed
out of him most of what he had to say. Three names that were completely new to the police, half a dozen that were known already, and information that was probably sufficient for the police to start
proceedings against the whole lot of them. And quite a lot more information as well, the value of which she couldn’t be sure about at the moment, but which would most probably lead to more
guilty verdicts. Unless the prosecuting authorities saw things differently, or other things needed to be taken into account – but there was not much point in speculating about that at this
stage.

And she had not made him any significant promises regarding such things as extenuating circumstances or dropping charges against him. Needless to say she had no authority to grant such
concessions anyway – but when all was said and done it was the police who eventually decided what information came into the public domain, and what didn’t.

So, a satisfactory outcome: she could grant herself that much. Reinhart could look after the mopping-up: Inspector Moreno had done all that was required of her, and more besides.

‘Miss Copper is looking pleased with herself,’ said Lampe-Leermann, scratching his hairy chest.

‘That’s because I can now get out of this dump,’ said Moreno.

‘So you wouldn’t fancy a little bit extra, then?’

The implication – or possible implication – made her see red, but she kept control of herself.

‘And what might that be?’

‘A titbit. A little goody to round things off. But I need a fag first.’

Moreno hesitated. Looked at the clock and wondered what the hell he had in mind.

‘What do you mean?’ she asked eventually.

‘Exactly what I say, of course. As always. A titbit. But first a fag. There’s a time and place for everything.’

‘You can have five minutes,’ said Moreno. ‘But make sure you really do have something worthwhile to come out with, otherwise you’ll lose all your bonus points.’

Lampe-Leermann stood up.

‘Don’t worry, young lady. I’m not in the habit of disappointing my women.’

He knocked on the door, and was let out into the smoking yard.

‘It’s about that hack.’

‘Hack?’

‘That journalist. Don’t quibble about words, young lady.’

Moreno said nothing.

‘I’m sitting on a fascinating little story. And I’m sitting on his name . . .’

He tapped the side of his forehead with two fingers.

‘That’s what these negotiations are all about.’

Moreno nodded and glanced at the tape recorder, but Lampe-Leermann made a dismissive gesture.

‘I wouldn’t have thought you’d need to record this. I’d have thought you’d be able to remember it without any assistance.’

‘Come to the point,’ said Moreno. ‘A journalist who knows something?’

‘Exactly. What do you think about paedophiles?’

‘I love them,’ said Moreno.

‘I have a certain amount of sympathy for them as well,’ said Lampe-Leermann, scratching himself under his chin. ‘There’s such a lot of cheap comments written about them .
. . You might think they’re being victimized. And they’re everywhere, of course. Normal decent citizens like you and me . . .’

‘Come to the point!’

Lampe-Leermann looked at her with an expression that was presumably meant to be fatherly understanding.

‘Everywhere, as I said. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – you shouldn’t be ashamed of your inclinations, as my little mum always used to tell me . . . But it’s such a
sensitive subject nowadays, and people are up in arms about what’s been happening. Anyway . . .’

He made a dramatic pause while he stroked his dyed moustache, and it struck Moreno that she’d never seen anything like this. Nor heard. Scumbag was far too complimentary a name for this
creature. She clenched her teeth and kept a straight face.

‘Anyway, I met that hack, and he told me he’d been given ten thousand to keep his mouth shut.’

‘Keep his mouth shut?’

‘Yes.’

‘About what?’

‘Keep his mouth shut about that name. The name of that paedophile.’

‘Who?’

Lampe-Leermann shrugged.

‘I don’t know.
I
don’t know. It’s the hack who knows, but I’m the one who knows the name of the hack. Are you with me, Miss Copper?’

‘Of course,’ said Moreno. ‘And?’

‘It’s his job that makes it interesting. I wouldn’t call it a titbit if it weren’t for the place where he works. This chappie with the inclinations. What do you think,
Inspector?’

Moreno said nothing. But she noted that for the first time since they began the conversation, he had referred to her as Inspector. She wondered if that was significant.

‘He lives in your little nest. How about that, eh? He’s a detective officer . . . One of your crowd.’

He smiled and leaned back.

‘What?’ said Moreno.

Lampe-Leermann leaned forward again. Pulled a hair from out of his right nostril, then smiled once more.

‘I’ll say it again. There’s a paedophile in the Maardam police station. One of your sleuths. He paid my informant ten thousand to keep his gob shut. It would be daft to pay up
if you had nothing to hide, don’t you think?’

What the . . . Moreno thought. What the hell is he saying?

The information was reluctant to register in her consciousness, but somehow it did so in the end. Seeped slowly but inexorably through the defences of her reason and emotions and experiences and
crystallized as a comprehensible message.

Or rather, incomprehensible.

‘Go to hell,’ she said.

‘Thank you,’ said Lampe-Leermann. ‘In due course, perhaps . . .’

‘You’re lying . . . Forget all the brownie points you thought you had amassed. I’ll see to it that you get eight years. Ten! You bastard!’

His smile grew broader.

‘I can see that you are upset. You have no sympathy, eh, you neither? Incidentally I don’t know if he took the money from his own pocket, or if it came from the public purse, as it
were . . . That would depend on his rank, of course, and I don’t know what that is. But the hack does.’

He fell silent. For a brief moment Moreno thought the room was shaking – just a slight swaying, as if the film they were taking part in was short of three frames instead of the full
twenty-four and made a little jump . . . Or how it must feel some distance from the epicentre of an earthquake.

An earthquake?

That could hardly be a metaphor that simply cropped up without reason. She contemplated Lampe-Leermann as he lolled back on the other side of the table. In slightly less civilized circumstances
– they only needed to be
slightly
less – she wouldn’t have hesitated more than a mere second to kill him. If she had the chance. She really would. Like a cockroach under
the heel of her shoe. The thought didn’t worry her one jot.

But then she worried precisely because she hadn’t been worried.

‘Is that all?’ she asked. She tried to make her voice sound so ice-cold that he would realize he could expect no mercy whatsoever.

‘That’s all,’ he said. His smile shrank ever so slightly. ‘I can see that you’ve got the message. Let me know when it’s sunk in.’

Moreno stood up. Went over to the rear door and tapped on it with her bunch of keys. Before she was let out, Lampe-Leermann had time to explain one more detail.

BOOK: The Weeping Girl
2.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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