|Primary Characters:||Wallander, Stefan, Linda
|Warning:||m/m kiss, adult themes
|Description:||Wallander and Stefan go to Estonia in connection with a case. There they have to deal with certain unforeseen circumstances.
Kurt Wallander switched to a lower gear, braked and turned the engine off. He and his colleague, Stefan Lindman, got out of the car, closed the doors and walked up the driveway to the house where the man they were looking for lived.
They glanced up at the dark windows. It didn’t look as if Anders Josefsson was in. Just to be on the safe side, Wallander knocked on the door. He wasn’t surprised not to hear any sound from inside. They had already gone to see the man at his place of work, but he wasn’t there. Not because he was on sick leave, which would have been reasonable to assume, in view of what he’d just been through, but because apparently he had been working overtime earlier.
They’d have speak to him later. Currently, Josefsson wasn’t a suspect in the crime they were investigating. If his status should change, they’d have to change their approach.
“Let’s return to the station. You must have some information to look into?”
Stefan Lindman, Kurt Wallander’s daughter’s room mate and – unfortunately boyfriend – or at least ex-boyfriend – nodded.
“Right. We’ll try again later. I think I’ll speak to that chemist now. No need for you to come along. I have some other things to do. See you after lunch.”
Stefan had no objections.
“Ok. Sure. I’ll go over that stuff our colleagues sent us as fast as I can. There might be something in that.”
“Let’s hope so. Ask Linda to help you out if you like. Or -”
“Thanks. But I think I can handle it myself.”
Wallander was wondering about Stefan’s tone. Did it imply that he and Linda had had a falling out? That they weren’t together anymore? If so, that was just fine. He had tried his best to dissuade the two younger officers from having a relation with a colleague. Not that Wallander himself was completely blameless in that department. But once burned, twice shy, as the saying went. Why shouldn’t Linda be able to take advantage of his experiences when it came to that? It was never a good idea to mix business and pleasure. Linda would learn that for herself if she insisted on spending time with Stefan after work.
He would take it up with Linda tonight, or at least before the end of the week. Better check on things before their boss found out about what they’d been up to. Wallander himself used to be the target of Lisa Holgersson’s lectures. If he could, he’d spare Linda that, if possible, though on the other hand – If she was the recipient of a severe dressing down, perhaps she’d get a grip on herself. And it was only too true that young people were more likely to listen to strangers than their own parents. If she heard it from Lisa, maybe she would pull herself together.
When Kurt Wallander and his colleague Stefan Lindman returned to the town and the station, they had no idea that the man they had been looking for would lead them to take a trip to the Baltic states. They still didn’t know whether Josefsson was a suspect, just a witness or – as was becoming more likely – a victim.
Their journey had first taken them to Tallinn, then Tartu, but by now they’d long since left the ‘Estonian’ areas behind and were approaching the Russian border. Narva’s population was almost one hundred percent Russian-speaking, and very few of them knew any Estonian, and only slightly more of them spoke English. None of them seemed to know any Swedish, as many of the people working in the tourist trade did, at least near the coast.
But the police officer Oleg Voronskij at least spoke English passably well, and his younger colleague Pavel Anevskij seemed to be almost fluent in English, with a clear American accent. However, they didn’t seem to be able to offer them much actual help. Pavel showed them around the town, pointed out the area where members of the local organized crime were active, at least some of them and he also recited figures concerning how much money the drug trade, the trade in women and refugees generated in a year.
None of this helped them find their missing person. They had received intelligence from Interpol hinting that Swedish passports were highly valued on the black market, and that imprudent tourists as well as petty criminals trying to muscle in on some mafia boss’ territory, might be eliminated and have their passports taken and sold. Even if this was true, it didn’t help them solve their own case, which was only indirectly linked to Russian organized crime anyway.
The hotel where they ended up was expensive and looked luxurious from the outside, but the rooms were only barely clean and smelled of smoke and unwashed linens. The service might be termed somewhere in from poor to non-existent. The only thing that could be said about the establishment was that they sold liquor at suspiciously low prices.
The food was expensive and bad, the surroundings uninspiring and the mobile reception in that corner of the town fluctuated widely. The hotel’s own phones could at a pinch be used to call for a taxi or to agree on a when to meet with their local police contacts, but they had been warned not to use them for anything sensitive.
When Wallander reported to his superior, he went to the police station. He was wondering if their line was all that safe, but at least it was stable.
Since the trip didn’t produce any results, they received orders to return home. The lead didn’t seem to have given them anything. In any case, Wallander and Stefan were tired of the town. Wallander vaguely recalled something from his school days about a battle taking place here in Narva. Something patriotic and educational, flavoured by the zeitgeist, which had left traces in nationalist literature.
That was it. A Swedish army had beaten a Russian army four times bigger. The Swedish warrior king had emerged victorious from that fight, but six months later the Russians were in possession of the town anyway. How that had happened, Wallander didn’t remember. He did, however, remember that the Russian army had mainly been made up of starving serfs. Naturally the relatively healthy and fit Swedes had beaten them, with their superior physical stamina and most likely better discipline.
So maybe it was just politics behind the evacuation of the town. Not much had changed in three hundred years, Wallander gloomily decided. And sure enough the Russians were still here, though the town was officially a part of of Estonia. Politics all over again. Mass transfers of people in wartime, and others left behind as islands in a different language area, with neighbours neither speaking the same language, sharing the same religion or even belonging to the same cultural groups.
He imagined that if the Russians had their great ethnic homeland to back them up, they might not have been settled quite as securely here. But these musings didn’t have anything to do with his case. He was relieved to be going home, for more than one reason.
Then out of the blue they received a tip from a man who had introduced himself as a detective from Tallinn. Judging by the way he looked and spoke, it seemed to be right, but Wallander was no expert in linguistics. In any case, they’d been told that they might find a body if they went into the woods surrounding a town the name of which was all but impossible to pronounce or even read on the map. In any case it was an isolated wooded area close to the Russian border.
Their informant came along and also provided another officer. The car trip would only take about forty-five minutes anyway. If they left early in the morning, they’d be able to catch the plane back to Tallinn and later back home.
The vehicle waiting for them outside the hotel turned out to be a jeep. It looked as if it might belong to the military, rather than the police, but there were no numbers of the side, which Wallander would have expected if that had been the case.
He was in the front seat, while their informant got in beside Stefan in the back seat. The other one, who still hadn’t spoken at all, and only greeted them with a nod, was driving.
The road was of good quality and that lessened Wallander’s vague reservations somewhat. He didn’t like going this far out into unknown territory. The ground out here wasn’t any more hilly than Scania, but here woods covered the ground as far as the eye could see. From time to time he caught a glimpse of water, when they passed a small lake or other body of water.
They drove quickly and without taking any breaks along the way. In the end their driver stopped by the side of the road, in a spot that didn’t seem to be marked in any way, at least as far as Wallander could see. He had been keeping an eye out through the window the whole time and now and again he’d glimpsed a road sign coming into view then vanishing again. They held text and figures printed in the alphabet he was used to, but above them, much bigger, Russian script was used. The Cyrillic alphabet, wasn’t it?
All that added up, gave an alien impression, though the scenery wasn’t any more exotic than any other terrain Wallander had seen further north. Around Stockholm, for instance.
He and Stefan left the car. Wallander’s knees ached slightly, but Stefan seemed unperturbed. Their driver remained by the car, digging out a cigarette. The other man pointed towards the woods. Wallander glanced down at his indoor shoes and then at the ground beside the road. It looked comparatively dry. Silently, they began to walk.
He didn’t think there was anything suspicious about their guide. The ID he had shown them looked legitimate. Even so something was making Wallander ill at ease. He wasn’t sure why. The weather was fine, and they hadn’t seen any suspicious-looking cars. In fact, they hadn’t seen any car in the past fifteen to twenty minutes. Though the road was wide and relatively well-maintained, there didn’t seem to be much traffic today.
They walked for maybe ten minutes, straight into the woods. The trees standing in thick rows, but it wasn’t too difficult to get through. After a while, their guide stopped and pointed. Someone had put up a tent, which looked vaguely military. It brought back memories from military exercises Wallander had participated in.
Their guide said something and two younger men in uniform stepped outside and gave their reports. At least Wallander guessed as much. Nothing alarming seemed to have occurred. One of the young men vanished back into the tent again, but the other one accompanied them another few metres, this time to the right.
Someone had dug up the ground. Even before they came close enough to look into the grave, the stench of decomposing flesh hit their nostrils. Wallander saw Stefan’s face change colour. The younger man pressed a handkerchief to his nose and mouth. When they got closer the stench grew worse and a cloud of flies billowed up from the grave.
Their guide pointed into the hole.
“Well? Could that be your missing person?”
Wallander bent over and studied on the body. It was lying on its back, without any cover, not even a garbage sack or a tarpaulin. The outer garments, if the man – the body was undeniably male – had had any, had been removed, but other than that, the body was fully dressed.
It was most likely Josefsson. Some animal had damaged the face, but it was still more or less recognizable. They couldn’t be sure until a closer examination had been made. He’d have to make arrangements to have the body shipped home.
“Yes, I believe it is.”
Their guide nodded as if that was the reply he had expected.
While their inspection had taken place, Stefan hadn’t moved any closer. He had stayed at a distance of maybe three or four metres.
Wallander and their Estonian colleague and began walking back to the tent. They were almost there when the silence was broken by a loud bang. It took Wallander a couple of seconds to realize that someone was shooting at them. Their guide didn’t hesitate for quite as long. He threw himself into cover behind a fir tree half a metre or so away.
Wallander followed his example. Stefan was lying face down only a few decimetres away.
“Hey – Stefan. Let’s get away from here.”
No reply. Wallander took a closer look at his younger colleague. Not until now did he notice a dark stain spreading on Stefan’s left shoulder. Wallander held out his hand and grabbed Stefan’s. It was still warm, but that didn’t mean anything, he knew that. if – but he refused to consider that possibility.
He slid closer and pressed his fingers to Stefan’s neck. Just as he felt the slow steady beating of the pulse, he heard a low moan. So the boy was still alive. The shooting was more distant now, as if the shooter had gone after their Estonian colleague. At least for the moment they might be forgotten.
He decided to take advantage of the brief respite they might have. There was no time for a closer examination of Stefan. He just had to hope that the boy wasn’t seriously wounded. He dragged his younger colleague into the cover of some thick shrubbery, which fortunately wasn’t more than half a metre away. To his relief, he noticed that the woods were getting thicker. It wouldn’t be easy walking here, not for their followers.
In any case they couldn’t stay where they were. Stefan was far from fat, but even so he was quite heavy. Reluctantly Wallander admitted to himself that he wasn’t as strong as he’d once been. With an effort he still managed to drag Stefan further into cover.
His task suddenly became easier, when his colleague regained consciousness and was able to help.
“We have to further away from the shooter. How are you? Do you think you can -”
“Sure. It hurts a bit and I’m a little dizzy, but it’s just a flesh wound. I think the bullet went straight through.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
They succeeded beyond expectations. Two hours later Wallander realized that they were hopelessly lost. The only reason he didn’t think they’d strayed across the Russian border was the absence of barbed wire. Presumably they were still on the Estonian side of the border and maybe they had moved in a north-south direction, not east-west. That was good, but they also had to get further west. He didn’t trust these Russian-speaking areas.
In the end, he found what looked like a shelter for hunters, or at least a windbreak. The construction, if you could call it that, didn’t have a door, just three walls and part of a roof. It was mostly made from fir tree branches. The needles had been removed, but that was all.
The ground or the floor – there had been an attempt to make some sort of floor – was covered with fir tree branches and moss. That was all.
Concerned, Wallander glanced at his colleague. Stefan’s facial colour had deteriorated, since he’d first felt the stench from the body in the open grave. Now it was more green than tinged with yellow. His eyes were closed.
“Hey. Stefan. Are you awake?”
The reply was a long time coming, and Wallander decided that it might be time to take a closer look at the wound. He had already tried the mobile, but there was no reception out here. Either there wasn’t any in this part of Estonia or Russia, or the signal was impeded by all the trees.
“Shit. I didn’t know it would hurt this much.”
“So it’s your first time?”
“What do you think? Any idea where we are?”
“No. Judging by the sun, I’d say we’re a bit further south than Narva, but we knew that already.”
Stefan didn’t reply. Wallander bent over his colleague and grabbed his jacket. Though it clearly hurt quite a bit, Stefan didn’t object and helped him remove it. Once the jacket was off the blood stain became more visible.
That stain was far too big. Stefan must have lost quite a lot of blood. The sweater was quite easy to pull off, but the t-shirt gave him trouble. Wallander didn’t want to tear it. After all, there was no telling how long they’d be stuck out here, or how cold it would get at night, but if that was the only way of getting it off –
In the end, he found that it was. Besides, it might have been for the best anyway. They had nothing to use as bandages other than the cotton fabric from the t-shirt.
Stefan had been right. It was no more than a shallow flesh wound, but the bullet had done quite a lot of damage. They had to find a way of keeping the wound clean so there would be no complications. Wallander had never been injured under this kind of circumstances.
He couldn’t help noticing that the sickly colour in Stefan’s face had given place to a deep shade of red. Hesitatingly, he put his hand on Stefan’s forehead. Already the temperature had risen considerably. That didn’t bode well. He had to hope that their Estonian colleagues had made it and would be sending someone to look for them.
Towards dawn Stefan began to rave. It was impossible to make out any words, and it didn’t seem as if he was saying anything in particular. Off and on he screamed so loudly Wallander worried that their attackers would hear them. But nothing happened and Wallander tried to get a little sleep himself, in between outbursts. It didn’t work very well. Stefan’s face appeared on the inside of his eyelids though Wallander tried not to dwell on the gravity of their situation.
In the end, Wallander gave up and sat down at Stefan’s side, keeping an eye on him. He wished that he’d had access to water, but out here there wasn’t any, though he’d seen several bodies of water earlier. If he’d dared to leave Stefan, he would have set out to look for some, but he decided that the risk of getting lost was too great and he couldn’t risk being separated from Stefan.
Later in the day it actually looked as if the fever had broken. Perhaps Stefan’s immune system had kicked in. He was sleeping much more soundly now. Despite the fatigue, Wallander stayed with him and from time to time wiped the sweat from his sleeping colleague’s brow, using pieces of the t-shirt.
Now that his face wasn’t flushed anymore, it was easier to make out Stefan’s traits. He was a handsome young man. Perhaps you couldn’t blame Linda for falling for him. There was something about the boy’s mouth that made Wallander’s gaze stray back to it. The cheekbones gave the face a unique charm and then the eyes –
Afterwards Wallander wanted to blame the fatigue and the other circumstances. The shock after being attacked and above all, Stefan being hit. In any case, Wallander was taken unawares, until he was already bent over Stefan’s face and was lightly touching his cheeks and then –
Their lips met and for a moment all self-criticism and all thoughts of the outside world vanished. Wallander wasn’t prepared for the violence of his reaction. He hadn’t known he felt this way, until it was too late. It didn’t take him long before the insanity of what he’d done hit him. Apart from everything else, there was Linda to consider.
He pulled back, shaken by his own stupidity and the totally unexpected insight that he, who had never before felt the least attraction for another man, was now helplessly in love with his daughter’s boyfriend.
Once he’d collected himself somewhat, he gazed down at Stefan again and had his second shock. The boy’s eyes were open and in them Wallander clearly read that he’d been aware all this time. He knew. Wallander didn’t know what to do. Breathlessly he waited for Stefan’s reaction, but eventually he realized that there wouldn’t be one. When he looked again, Stefan’s eyes were closed again.
Wallander didn’t trust his own voice to even try to say anything, so he just remained in his place until their rescuers arrived around noon.
After their return, Stefan spent the first couple of days in hospital. The few times Wallander saw him there, they were never alone together. During Stefan’s convalescense, Wallander had time to repeatedly consider what would happen when Stefan returned to work. Would they be able to go on working together, or would one of them be forced to request another partner? And if they had to resort to that, how would they explain the sudden change of heart?
But not even when Stefan returned to work, did he say anything. It was as if working side by side with his old colleague didn’t bother him. Wallander was beginning to wonder if maybe he’d misread the look in Stefan’s eyes. Perhaps he’d regained consciousness after – when there wasn’t any danger of him realizing –
Unfortunately, the incident began to get between father and daughter. When Linda saw Wallander again, the minute his plane had set down, the girl had thrown herself into her father’s arms. Showing her emotions like that was highly unusual for her and under any other circumstances, Wallander would have been touched and pleased. This time, his feelings of guilt made him tense up. Linda instantly sensed his reaction and pulled back.
From then on, things turned from bad to worse.
Even before Stefan was back at work, Linda confronted Wallander. He was picking up his keys and mobile phone on his way to a crime scene. When his daughter walked into his office, closing the door behind her, Wallander started and looked up from his desk.
“Dad, what’s going on with Stefan? What happened over there?”
For a second, Wallander went cold. What was Linda talking about? Surely it couldn’t be that incident? He had time to think that she couldn’t possibly have found out about it, then realized that if she had, there was only one explanation. With an effort he forced himself to calm down. Linda must have been referring to something else.
“How do you mean?”
That calm, sure voice usually worked like charm when he used it in the course of his work, but not this time. It was obvious even to him.
“Stefan. There in Estonia. Did he meet anyone?”
“Fucking hell, dad. Don’t you get it? A woman. Did he pick up some tart at one of the hotels? Surely that can’t be so difficult to answer.”
“Oh, I see. Of course not. Not that I know of. Why? Has he mentioned something like that?”
The false carefree attitude sounded fake at least in Wallander’s own ears, and, he suspected, in Linda’s too. She merely chose to ignore it for the time being.
“Use your head. Would I need to ask if he had?”
“Oh. No, of course not. But what gave you that idea? Besides, long before our trip, you told me there was nothing between you andStefan.”
The gaze Linda shot at him seemed impatient, as if that was of no account.
He’d spoken too quickly and now it was too late to do anything about it. Again, his daughter cast him a penetratiing look, then shrugged, not as if she let the matter go, but as if she was archiving it and would get back to it some other time.
She wasn’t falling for that. Something must have happened. When she’d been sitting beside Stefan’s hospital bed, she’d had a strong impression he was hiding something from her. Not that there was anything between them, and hadn’t been for a while. Not since she’d realized that Stefan wasn’t being straight with her. Even so, more than ever she wanted to know what had happened in Estonia.
In any case, she was going to visit Stefan today. The hospital was on the way she was going. More or less, anyway. At least it wasn’t that much of a detour. She could easily find the time to drop by the hospital and be back again before anyone missed her.
Fortunately the visiting hour wasn’t over yet, and the nurse had grown used to Linda coming to see the dark-haired copper who had been admitted for a gunshot wound. That wasn’t entirely unusual, even in the Ystad area, but on the other hand, it was far from routine either, so naturally the staff had taken an interest in the circumstances. Someone had said that Stefan Lindman had been shot by the Russian mob. If so, it was even more exciting.
Linda didn’t even glance at the nurse. She just looked in hastily, to check if Stefan was awake, but he usually was. It was really only a matter of time before he would be going home and it wouldn’t be long until he was back at work. Linda badly wanted to clear this thing up before they’d be working together again.
In any case, Stefan was awake. He was lying there, looking bored. The telly was on but the sound was turned down. He seemed to be following some kind of game. On the bedside table there was a pile of magazines that looked as if they hadn’t been opened. What was Stefan into, really? Anything at all?
He looked up and met Linda’s gaze. He didn’t look exactly pleased to see her, but not displeased either. Besides, she’d long ago stopped expecting his face to light up when he saw her.
She could see his gaze straying to the clock on the wall and when he realized how early it was, he looked vaguely surprised.
Linda walked in and sat down in the chair beside the bed.
“How’s it going?”
“Good. I just want to get out of here and get back to work. This is nothing.”
“It’s your left shoulder. Doesn’t it hurt anymore?”
“Not that much. How are you?”
“I’m cool. Listen, Stefan -”
She broke off, trying to think of a good way to start, but she wasn’t any good at that – finding some subtle way of asking so that Stefan wouldn’t guess what she really wanted to know. But how could she? Anyway, she was good at this kind of thing, at least at work. Why did she have to be so like a copper even in her personal life?
“What really happened?”
Stefan seemed to tense up, desperately looking for something nonchalant and carefree to say. If so, the seconds just ticked by and he couldn’t think of anything. In the end, he must have decided to just counter with another question. That usually did the trick at work.
“In Estonia. Come on. Something must have happened. Give me some credit.”
Stefan avoided falling into that trap. Instead he tackled the main question.
“What could have happened? They shot at us, we lay low for a while, then the colleagues showed up and got us out of there. But of course I can see that you were worried.”
Linda almost snorted out loud. Oh, he did, did he? Of course she had been worried. About both of them. But that had nothing to do with this feeling she had. Something had happened, but maybe her father hadn’t been present at the time. Though she had the impression that they both knew perfectly well what she was after. Maybe it was something to do with work, but she doubted that.
Perhaps they’d had a fight about her and Stefan. Her old man always had to put his nose into everything. Who had asked him to play cop? Or staff manager or whatever. She and Stefan knew the score. They could separate their work from their private lives. In any case it was over. Even so, she would really like to know exactly what the deal was, but apparently she never would.
Once Linda had left, Wallander sank into his chair. At the moment, what he’d been about to do had slipped his mind. He pulled a tissue out of his desk drawer and patted his forehead. How could Linda have guessed that something had happened? Her question had almost given him a stroke. There was no way she could have guessed exactly what had occurred between them, but the mere thought that she was pondering the matter, made Wallander break into a cold sweat.
He had to pull himself together. At the very least he had a job to do. Besides he just couldn’t give Linda any reason to suspect anything was going on. He had to keep projecting an image of unperturbed calm. If such a thing was possible. In any case, he couldn’t stay here wasting time. It was time he returned to normal. If he ignored the whole thing, the emotions it had given rise to and the risk of Linda finding out, surely the unfortunate incident would vanish in the mists of his memory. At least he hoped so.
For the remainder of of the day, he had a feeling of only barely focusing on his work. The rest of him – he didn’t know what it was doing. He was sure that it was only briefly that his thoughts touched on his daughter or Stefan.
Naturally it was even harder once Stefan returned to the station. To begin with, he was only on desk duty, but Wallander knew that it was only a matter of time before his younger colleague was back to his normal duties. Fortunately, as usual these days, Stefan was working with Linda. The few times he wasn’t, Wallander would have to handle somehow. In any case, Wallander was pretty sure Stefan wouldn’t mention the incident if he remembered or if he’d even been fully conscious at the time.
That was all very well, but what Wallander hadn’t expected was the strange feelings that came over him now that he was once again forced to be close to the younger man. Desperately, Wallander tried to tell himself that it was merely some sort of confusion. Perhaps an age-related crisis of some kind. Be that as it may, the fact remained, after what had occurred between them in Estonia, he felt some kind of attraction for Stefan. The mere thought was absurd. Stefan might be an attractive young man – attractive to women – Linda’s foolish behaviour was the best proof of that – but still – Knowing this was a far cry from sharing that attraction.
Stefan himself was behaving as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. It was a relief, but from time to time, Wallander caught himself surreptitiously studying the young man out of the corner of his eye.
On the one hand, it was nerve-wracking having to worry about anyone guessing what had happened, at least Linda, or that Stefan would show any signs of beginning to recall the incident. On the other, it was a daily torment, being close to Stefan and being exposed to his powers of attraction that were now only too tangible, in Wallander’s view.
It was only a little over a week until Wallander was forced to work alongside Stefan again. From time to time, he still worked with Linda or some of the others. The case was more tiring than truly complex. It took much legwork, but very little deduction. That being the case, it was only a matter of time before they solved it. Unfortunately that was no guarantee the case didn’t drag on, and in the meantime, Wallander had to spend day after day in Stefan’s company.
The young man still didn’t give any indication of remembering the incident and his behaviour hadn’t changed since the trip to Estonia.
In the end they finally caught the gang that had been eluding them for almost six weeks. The case was as trivial as it was taxing, but at least it was now over. Once the last reports had been typed in and sent off, all Wallander had to do, was wait for confirmation that the men responsible would be extradited from Norway. He could of course have returned home and waited until the following day for the call or fax from the Oslo police, but after such a drawn out investigation, it was hard to unwind.
Linda and a few of their younger colleagues decided to go to a pub that was popular with some of the older kids and young adults. Wallander assumed that Stefan would join them. Personally, he chose another bar where he was hoping to be left alone to dwell his situation.
His mobile was on and he expected to hear from Oslo around eight at the latest. It was just after half past eight, and he was nursing his third beer, waiting for his appetite to make itself known. When it did, he planned on going half a block away to the restaurant he liked best at the moment.
At the moment, he just wanted his fourth beer and maybe one more. Just this once, that couldn’t do any harm. He was also going to treat himself to half a bottle of wine with his dinner. He had been planning on considering whether he was going to retire as he knew that some of his superiors would prefer he did, but right now he didn’t want to think about anything at all. It was easier that way.
He was beginning to feel more relaxed now and so he wouldn’t forget about work completely, he picked up his mobile phone and studied the display. No missed calls or new messages. Of course he knew that already. Even though he’d set it to mute, vibration, he would have noticed if a call or message had come through. Perhaps he’d have to wait until tomorrow anyway. There would be just as much red tape in Norway as it was here. Nothing to be done about it.
The door opened and closed again, but Wallander didn’t look up. His beer was almost finished. In a little while, he’d order another one, but after that, he really should have something to eat.
He started at the sound of the familiar voice.
“Yeah. You were waiting for the extradition order. They just called. Göransson will be extradited as soon as the paperwork from the prosecutor gets there. Middle of next week, probably.”
“Thanks. Great. You can run along now. I heard that the others were going to the -”
Stefan nodded, but didn’t move. Wallander had an unpleasant feeling his colleague was going to say something, but if so, the young man changed his mind and instead glanced in the direction of the front door. His eyes met Wallander’s again, and the older man braced himself for what he was about to hear, but no matter what Stefan had intended to say, he just nodded again, mumbled something, turned on his heel and left.
Wallander’s gaze followed him until the door closed behind him. With a sigh he emptied his glass and set it down again. He’d definitely have another one and maybe one or two more after that.
When he returned with his fifth glass, he became aware that a younger man was studying him. He was struck by the similiarity between this man and Stefan. They had the same colouring, roughly the same height and build. Something about the young man’s posture and expression made Wallander’s glances linger on him.
The young man got up and walked over to the bar. He placed an order and waited until the bartender served him. When he turned around again, he was carrying two beers. He continued past his own seat and stopped at Wallander’s table.
“Evening. May I join you?”
He set one of the beers down on the table in front of Wallander.
“I couldn’t help noticing that you were drinking this.”
Wallander stared inquiringly at the young man.
Wallander hesitated. He couldn’t see what this man was after.
Without waiting for a reply, the younger man sat down. Janne, apparently. He sipped his beer, then smiled dazzlingly at Wallander.
Wallander finished his own beer and glanced doubtfully at the other one.
“Go on. Be my guest.”
In the end it felt too weird to be sitting here refusing to touch the beer. At least so far, this Janne hadn’t been rude or acted strangely in any way. Even so, Wallander hesitated to accept. Police officers were expected not to accept any freebies. At least while on duty and since this definitely was after hours, that rule didn’t apply, but it still felt odd. Despite that, Wallander had a few sips. It was an excellent beer. His favourite.
Though he really should eat something soon. He recognized the telltale signs of beginning intoxication. It wouldn’t be long now until he was so drunk people would begin to notice. As a police officer, and especially one of his rank, he ought to provide an example to the public. Besides, too much drinking wouldn’t do his diabetes any good. At the moment, though, he wanted nothing more than to relax and forget about his complicated life.
When he’d finished the beer, Janne raised his eyebrow at Wallander who shook his head.
“Thanks, I’m fine.”
Or not. In any case, it was time to go. At least by now, he was beginning to feel pleasantly relaxed. The thought of Stefan and Linda was just a distant cloud on his horizon. At the moment it was easy to ignore the complications that had entered his life along with Stefan
Suddenly, Wallander felt Janne’s hand close on his own.
“It’s cool. I get it. It can happen to anyone.”
Wallander snatched his hand back and squinted at Janne who appeared to be studying him intently.
“A couple of years ago the same thing happened to me. It was my boss. I’d never – I mean, I thought I was into women, but there was something about him. He was like fifteen or twenty years older and like I said, there was something about him that attracted me to him. You know what I mean.”
An increasing sense of unease made Wallander want to get up and leave without replying, but something held him back, listening attentively at what Janne was going to say.
“And that was that. We were together for three or four months. And I’ll tell you it was probably the best relationship I ever had. We were both otherwise involved, but – you know how it is.”
While he was talking, Janne inched closer and suddenly Wallander felt a foot brushing his under the table. Nervously he moved back.
“And you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing to be afraid of. It’s perfectly normal, if you think about it. I know what you’re going through. It’s cool.”
Wallander felt a hand on his knee. His first impulse was to get up and leave. This really was going too far. But somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He realized that a part of him was curious about what would happen next. The thought excited him. Janne wasn’t Stefan, but close enough, and at least he was a man. A younger man. Suddenly that felt extremely exciting and arousing.
A few minutes later, they were leaving the bar together. Wallander’s gaze followed Janne intently. They ended up at Wallander’s. The memories of what happened afterwards were a little hazy in Wallander’s mind, and when he finally woke up, alone, with a pounding headache, it was a while until he recalled the night before.
It all felt just like a confused pipe dream and while Wallander lay in bed, his eyes closed, hoping that the headache would recede, he was beginning to hope that he’d imagined the whole thing. Naturally, he remembered being attracted to Stefan, but surely he couldn’t have let himself be picked up by a man? The fact that from time to time he let himself get carried away with women, was one thing, but this –
When at last he’d managed to force himself to get up, to go into the kitchen for painkillers and from there into the shower, he realized that it was just wishful thinking. By now, the memories from the night before were beginning to return and to his horror, he knew it was all true. He and that Janne, if that was his name, had –
When he’d finished showering, there wasn’t time for more than a cup of coffee on the run. Whatever had happened, he still had a job to do. If he let his midlife crisis affect his work, he might as well retire straight away.
The night before had been a mistake and he certainly wasn’t going to repeat it, but as long as he avoided going out for a couple of weeks, he was sure he’d be able to make himself forget and the risk of running into Janne again would hopefully be minimal. At least he tried to tell himself as much on his way to headquarters.
Towards the end of the following week, Wallander was beginning to feel a little less haunted. His feelings for Stefan hadn’t changed, but at least it seemed as if Linda had given up her inquiries. The incident at the bar had begun to fade a little in his memory. It had been damned foolish of him, but hopefully no real harm was done. Even so he was considering having a few blood tests done, though for the time being, all he wanted was to forget the incident.
The case they were investigating at the moment wasn’t in any way as extensive as the last one, and their work just continued as usual. Fortunately, there were times when they could simply fall back on routine. Despite that, the administrative work began to pile up in Wallander’s computer.
For a long time he’d refused to involve himself with that newfangled stuff, but these days he had been forced to learn the basics and was now relatively proficient in those. Typing in his reports. Sending it to the proper recipient. Check if he’d received an email and if so, reply to it. More often than not, though, he would choose to call the person he needed to contact and couldn’t understand that Linda and Stefan and some of his younger colleagues preferred to send an email or a text message to a person who was in the same room, only a few desks away.
When he’d typed in the last of the report, he turned off the word processing program or at least the window. Linda claimed that there was a big difference, but as long as the text disappeared from sight, after being sent to whomever was supposed to receive it, Wallander didn’t care what happened to it.
He reminded himself that he might as well turn off the email program as well, but it didn’t really matter. As long as he turned the computer off, he’d be rid of the lot. That was if he really turned the computer off and not just the screen, which he’d happened to do several times.
But not only Linda but several other colleagues had thoroughly impressed on him the importance of turning of the entire computer and shown how to do it, so that shouldn’t happen again.
While he made the email program visible again after being hidden or whatever the term was, he saw an email landing in the inbox, which apparently was what it was called. Frowning, he took a closer look at the subject name. Nothing. It was empty. The sender too, appeared to be unknown. Odd. There had to be some error, but he tried to open the email anyway.
Blinking in confusing, he reread the text. It was in plain Swedish, but it still took him a while to decipher the contents.
Hello again, it said.
You seemed to be a little tired when I left, so I thought I’d remind you about our little meeting. If you click the square below, better make it the arrow in the middle, you’ll see a little movie I shot. That should refresh your memory.
Below, there really was a square with what looked like a blurred photo. In the middle was a big arrow and stunned, Wallander clicked it. He didn’t expect anything to happen, because most of the time when he tried to do anything that he hadn’t been practising on for a long time, it didn’t work.
But after a short interval, a shaky, blurred amateur movie began. With a mounting sense of horror, Wallander watched the images flicker by. He recognized the surroundings, which wasn’t surprising, considering the fact that the movie must have been shot at his place, and it didn’t him take many seconds to realize when the had been recorded.
In the little window he saw himself lying on his back in bed, partially undressed. As the movie progressed, so did the undressing. The man doing the undressing kept his back to the camera the whole time. He seemed to be fully dressed, but since he was never seen facing the camera, there was no way of knowing for sure.
By the time most of the garments were either open or had been removed, the man sat down at the foot of the bed. He –
Here Wallander grabbed the mouse and turned the film off. Again, he had to wipe his forehead. It took him a long time to collect himself enough to finish the email.
As you will understand, the public, not to mention your superiors and your colleagues, would be surprised, to say the least, if they saw Ystad police’s most famous homicide detective in this situation. He, that dark guy you’re so attracted to, will probably be a little surprised too. I’m sure you’ll be prepared to go that extra mile to make sure they never see this movie. Ten grand will do. I’ll be in touch later to tell you how I want the money delivered.
Hugs and kisses
Wallander remained where he was, staring at the screen. Slowly the knowledge that he was being blackmailed began to sank in.
“Dad? What are you doing here this late? Are you surfing for porn? Everyone else has gone home.”
Wallander started and turned. His daughter Linda was in the doorway looking into his office.
It was a relief that at least she wouldn’t be able to see the screen.
“What? No, no, of course not. I just sent off my latest report and was just about to turn this damn thing off. What are you doing here so late?”
“I thought you and I could go and get something to eat. If you like, you can come out to my place and we’ll have something there.”
“Oh, right, no, I don’t think so, but we can go out for a pizza or something.”
“Ok. Come on then. I’ll be waiting in the parking lot. Now don’t forget to turn off the whole computer.”
Hastily he turned off the computer, just like Linda and all those others had shown him. Hopefully, it meant all programs would be turned off at the same time.
He switched off the light and walked through the darkened room outside. On his way down, he was wondering if Linda still suspected something. For now, he couldn’t consider the contents of the email. That would only give Linda more food for thought.
As it turned out, he didn’t do a very good job, hiding his shock and confusion.
“Are you alright, dad? You’re not sick again? Are you taking your insulin?”
“That’s private. I really don’t know how you managed to find out about my diabetes. Can’t I keep anything to myself?”
Linda raised her eyebrows.
“So, you have a lot of secrets, dad? I heard that you’re quite a ladies’ man. Do I have any siblings I don’t know about?”
“Not that I know of. I mean, of course not. Well, what do you know? Even in a police station, gossip flies like a flu epidemic.”
“Especially in a poiice station, I’d say.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
“So how are you? Are you alright?”
“Of course. Absolutely. I just need to catch up on my sleep. It’s just work. Nothing else. Maybe I really should consider retiring.”
Linda fixed him with a penetrating stare. Instantly, Wallander regretted adding that last part.
“That doesn’t sound at all like you. You will tell me if something’s wrong, won’t you? I know you think your health is a private matter, but – I’m not just anyone, am I? Don’t forget. You can talk to me, you know. Even if it’s something to do with all those girlfriends.”
Wallander couldn’t help smiling absently at that. He couldn’t afford to alienate Linda. It had taken him years to get this close to her. He couldn’t jeopardize their relationship again.
“Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Me telling you that you can tell me anything you want? Including about boyfriends and anything else private.”
“Maybe you should. But that ought to work both ways, right? Besides, you know better than anyone that there isn’t any boyfriend. Not since -”
She looked away. Wallander’s conscience struck him even though he knew perfectly well that Linda and Stefan had broken up long before he developed these absurd feelings for his younger colleague.
“No girlfriends here either.”
“At the moment, you mean?”
Wallander ignored the question, hoping that his daughter would take the hint and drop the subject. To his relief, she did.
The following day, Wallander began to go over his finances. He could manage ten thousand, but it would hurt. And naturally he knew there were no guarantees the blackmailer would give up his claims, just because he paid him once. Even so, he never once contemplated not paying. That film couldn’t be allowed to be distributed in any form. The mere thought made Wallander break into a cold sweat. That his daughter would see him. – that Stefan would find out – and Lisa Holgersson and all the other colleagues, not to mention the public – was simply unthinkable.
When he had the ten thousand, he waited. Early that evening the next email arrived. It merely said to stay in that evening and await further instructions.
He hurried home to wait there. Around half past ten the phone rang. He recognized Janne’s voice.
“Hello there. I hope you’ve been considering your situation, Kurt. And that you see that I’m serious.”
Wallander bit back all the bitter words waiting on his tongue. He couldn’t afford to provoke this man.
“Good. I’ll be up in a moment. You’ll be alone, I hope, because if not – ”
“I’m the only one here.”
“Great. See you soon.”
Reluctantly, Wallander got up and unlocked the front door, though most of all he’d like to pretend he wasn’t in, or simply run down the stairs, get into the car and vanish. Anywhere, as long as he got away. Momentarily the Öresund bridge flickered before his eyes, but escape wasn’t an option. He had to deal with this, somehow.
A few minutes later, he heard footsteps on the stairs and then a faint knock on the door. Wallander pressed the door handle and pushed the door open.
“Did you miss me?”
Janne blew him a kiss, but the look in his eyes was far from affectionate. There was a touch of amusement, amusement and cockiness, as if he didn’t expect any trouble.
“Let’s do it.”
“You want a quickie before we get down to business? Sure, but in the bedroom. You wouldn’t want me to feel cheap, now do you??”
Icily, Wallander met Janne’s mocking gaze, and eventually the smile on the younger man’s lips faded.
“Right then. Ten grand. If you don’t mind, I’d like the whole amount in cash. You’ll understand. Do you have it here?”
“No, but I can get it by tomorrow.”
“Excellent. See you then. And hey, Kurt – don’t try to stiff me, or else -”
“Where do I hand over the money?”
“Here, of course. See you tomorrow evening at the same time. And then you can have that quickie, for free. I’m not stingy. Love and kisses.”
When the door had slammed shut behind Janne, Wallander kicked the bathroom door. His gaze fell on the phone book, lying on the phone table only a few paces away. He swept the phone book onto the floor, and looked around for something else to vent his anger on.
In the kitchen, one of the kitchen chairs became the target. Before he had time to kick it into splinters, someone banged on the wall from the right. By then, he was so furious, he kicked the kitchen door shut, producing a loud bang. There was another bang from the right wall, and before the noise had abated, the left one as well.
Suddenly, Wallander saw how immature his behaviour was. The anger dissipated and he sank down over the kitchen table, rubbing his eyes. If he acted like damned fool, none of this would have happened. The whole sorry business was his own fault. He’d just have to take the consequences and hope that things didn’t get any worse.
He should have known that when you were hoping things couldn’t get any worse, it was just the beginning of more trouble. Murphy’s law, wasn’t it? Or maybe he was mixing it up with something else.
Each night, since Wallander had handed over the ten thousand to Janne, or whatever the blackmailer’s real name was, Wallander had been waiting for his next call. He knew he’d made the wrong decision. As a professional, he knew that the only way of dealing with blackmailers was to report them to the police. Now he was facing the risk of spending the rest of his life, dreading that Janne’s calls.
Funny how differen’t it was, being a victim of a crime, rather than being a policeman on a case. In such a situation it was hard to think clearly. He’d have to remember that, for future reference. Shamefacedly, Wallander recalled how many times he’d been irritated with victims who had been reacting imprudently to the crime that had been committed against them. Perhaps it wasn’t that hard to understand, after all.
In the end, when the call came it wasn’t from the blackmailer, it was from Linda. Wallander had begun to relax a little, when suddenly, what Linda was saying got through to him.
“Dad – what kind of mess have you got yourself into? I’m coming over to discuss it with you.”
“What are you talking about, Linda?”
He thought he heard an exaggeratedly loud sigh on the other end of the line.
“You being blackmailed, of course. Have you been up to something else?”
The torment in his voice didn’t put his daughter off, at least not to the point that she’d leave him alone.
“I’ll be right over.”
Fifteen minutes later, there was an insistent ringing on the door. This time Wallander was the one to sigh. He unlocked the door and pulled back just in time to let his daughter push past him and into the flat.
Linda ran around for a while, looking as if she was searching for something, then stopped and sat down. She’d unzipped her jacket, but didn’t take it off.
Wallander remained on his feet, watching her uneasily. His worst fears had been realized. He had to ask Linda how she’d found out.
“Linda – that film -”
“Film? Oh, so that was what he had on you. Dad, how could you be so stupid? Didn’t you notice that he was shooting a movie?”
“Listen, Linda – and by the way, how did you find out if you haven’t seen the movie?”
“Stefan told me, of course.”
Stefan? Wallander suddenly felt dizzy. He had to sit down. For a second, his surroundings faded away, then he became aware of Linda standing over him, pressing his head down, between his knees.
“Easy now. Keep your head down for a while. You turned white as a sheet. Maybe I should call an ambulance.”
“No, for crying out loud. Just leave me alone.”
“Perhaps we should put you to bed?”
“Linda, I’m not an invalid. I’m fine now.”
“Right. Anyway, as I told you, Stefan told me that this guy had called and demanded money from him too. But he doesn’t have any, so he called me and asked if I’d heard from the blackmailer too. And I hadn’t. I don’t understand why he called Stefan but I guess he’s seen him in the papers after some case..”
“Yes, maybe. He never mentioned calling anyone else.”
“Ok. So you’re – bisexual? I would never have guessed. Everyone’s talking about what a ladies’ man you are.”
“Yes. I know my name, but now we’re talking about you. I really don’t know how you could be so stupid. I mean to let yourself be blackmailed. That you’re bisexual is actually pretty cool.”
“Linda – I mean, that’s enough. I really don’t want to discuss this any more. At least not – Did that man say that he would make the movie public if Stefan didn’t pay up?”
“Yes, well – I didn’t know that it was a movie, but he was going to go public if Stefan didn’t pay. How much did you give him?”
“That’s none of your – I mean, that’s private.”
Linda’s eyes started darkly at him, and Wallander decided that the damage was already done. He might as well tell her.
“Oh, dad. You must see how stupid that was. Oh, by the way, did you go and get tested?”
“Stop it. This is serious. It’s not like when you were my age. Antibiotics won’t do it anymore. You can get something incurable. Don’t you know that?”
“I am aware of that, yes. No, I haven’t been tested yet. I – don’t know if that will be necessary. The truth is, I don’t remember very much from that night.”
“Oh. And you can’t tell from that movie?”
“I haven’t -”
“You haven’t even watched it? But he might have set you up completely. If you don’t remember anything and – but that’s even more stupid than I thought. Where is it?”
“Where is what?”
Again, Linda glared at her father. He knew he’d been stupid. When he thought about it, he knew very well what she was asking about.
“It’s in that email I got. At work.”
“Come on then. Let’s go. You’ll have to watch it and check what happened. Maybe it’s not even you. He might have suckered you completely.”
“It is me. I recognized the flat and – me. When I – I turned it off before -”
“You have to look. Don’t you see that? Right. So, do you have gay porn hidden away here? Not at work, right? Surely you’re not that stupid. And how long have you been into this stuff? You weren’t involved with any guys when you were still with mum?”
Wallander’s mouth opened and closed while he searched for word that might adequately describe the humiliation he felt. His own daughter was asking him if he was hiding gay porn. If he –
Silently, he counted to ten, first from one, then backwards.
“To begin with: there is no porn here or at work. I’d never -”
“Ok. Great. I thought I’d flip out when I heard – But what about the rest?”
“I’ve never – this was the first time.”
“Oh. Right. So it is true. You know, about waking up one day and just be gay. I never believed in that stuff. Sure it’s cool and so on, but I’ve never felt attracted to any girl.”
Again, Wallander counted slowly to ten. This type of confidences he could have done without.
“I don’t know what happened. I was drunk. Then – I woke up with a killer headache, and some vague memories of – And that, Linda, is all I’m going to tell you. I suppose you’re right. I’ll have to watch the whole movie and find out if – what – but that’s it. We’ll never discuss this again.”
“But we have to. Are you going to go on paying him for the rest of your life? Do you really have that much lying around? If you do, you might want to get your dear daughter a better flat.”
“No, but – Please apologize to Stefan for me. I had no idea -”
“Ok. As long as this guy hasn’t called anyone else. Like the boss.”
“If he has, I’m done for.”
“Not necessarily. You should have told him to go ahead and post that movie on YouTube.”
“YouTube. A site on the internet where you can post home videos. You should have told him to – Maybe I don’t need to say this, dad, but having sex with someone of the same gender isn’t illegal here in Sweden. It’s been legal since, like, before I was born.”
“Of course I know that.”
Wallander hadn’t meant to snapped at his daughter, but at least it didn’t seem to bother her much.
“Take it easy now. We’ll deal with this. I think you’d better tell the boss. Like I said, it isn’t against the law. And those movies are never very hi res. You could just deny everything and say that it’s probably just some old guy who looks a little like you.”
Wallander was beginning to see that he’d been even more stupid than he’d realized. But what Linda didn’t know and what he was hoping she’d never find out, was the part about Stefan. He suspected that Janne had hinted to Stefan about his feelings for him. And naturally Stefan hadn’t been able to bring himself to tell Linda about that.
Though he’d foolishly paid Janne, instead of putting him off, he’d ended up in exactly the situation he’d wanted to avoid. Of course Linda was right. He should have told Janne to – Exactly. And here he was up to his neck in it.
He sighed deeply and swore at length, which made Linda stare.
“Shit. You guys really can swear too. I mean, the older generation. Come on. Lisa is pretty cool. She’ll understand. And Stefan can’t pay that guy anyway. I don’t have anything to spare and I’m guessing you don’t either, right? No, I thought not. Let’s go. The boss will know how to handle this.”
“I suppose we’ll have to. You’re right. I’ve been a fool. In more ways than one.”
“Yeah, yeah. You know, alcohol isn’t good for you.”
“Yes, I know that, but I’m sure you know how it is. Alright, let’s go. Or, well, I’ll just go on by myself. There’s no need for you to -”
“Never mind. It’s cool. I’ll come along and in any case I’ll have to call Stefan. He needs to know that he’s got nothing to worry about.”
“You do that.”
They went to headquarters. There Wallander forced himself to watch the whole movie. As he’d already guessed, it depicted him and that guy Janne. To his relief, he saw that he probably wouldn’t have to worry about infection, but he’d better go and get tested anyway, just to make sure. There was no way of knowing for sure. With a shiver, he considered why Janne hadn’t bothered to use protection. Could it be because he was already infected? Or didn’t the younger generation care about that anymore?
While Wallander watched the movie until the end, cringing inside, Linda didn’t just call Stefan, but Lisa Holgersson as well.
When she arrived, she walked straight into Wallander’s office. She fixed him with a penetrating stare.
“Ok. Tell me all about it, in your own words. For your sake, I hope I didn’t understand Linda correctly just now.”
“I’ve – been such a fool.”
“I got that. Just tell me exactly in what way.”
Wallander felt like a thirteen-year-old who had just been caught smoking in school and was facing the headmaster, trying to explain.
Lisa Holgersson let him finish his story, and didn’t interrupt him even once, though he had to start over a few times. After he’d finished, she considered his account, before speaking again.
“I see. To begin with, I must say I’m surprised. No surprise doesn’t cover it. You of all people -”
“Alright, alright. I suppose I’m going senile. Apparently something like this can happen completely unexpectedly.”
“Oh, you mean your bisexuality? I was referring to your unmitigated stupidity. Senile? That might be true. How could you be such an imbecile you allowed yourself to be blackmailed? After all your years as a police officer. I’m truly flabbergasted, Kurt.”
“Yes. I see that.”
“How much did you give him?”
“Ten thousand. But it was my own money -”
Lisa Holgersson silenced him with a look.
“You know that you must never give in to attempted blackmail. I thought that was the first thing they taught you at the academy. More or less. Well, that’s all in the past now. I’ll just have to limit the repercussions as much as possible. He shot a movie of you? And he’s going to make it public if he doesn’t get – how much more?”
“I – don’t know. He targeted Stefan too.”
“Stefan? Stefan Lindman? What does he have to do with this? Was he there with you when you -”
“No, no. I have no idea why this Janne called Stefan. Linda suggested that he might have seen Stefan in the papers, in connection with a case.”
“Hm. I can’t imagine that, but of course ours is a small disctrict. Everyone knows everyone else. Right. Did Stefan pay up?”
“According to Linda he doesn’t have any money.”
“Or he has a little more sense at his age, than you do now. Ok. Leave this to me. You go back home and stay there until I’ve straightened this out. No, not another word. You’ll do as you’re told. If we’re lucky I might be able to get your money back, but don’t count on it.”
Defeated, Wallander nodded mutely.
“Cheer up. Personally I couldn’t care less about the sexual preferences of my officers, but I’m sure you know how badly this sort of thing reflects on the force. I don’t mean homosexuality, I mean – well, you know what I mean.”
Again, Wallander nodded, unable to make himself reply.
His superior turned and left. He could only hope she’d be able to sort the situation out, when he himself had failed so utterly.
“Are you ready to go?”
Linda’s voice startled him out of his gloomy thoughts and he looked up and met her eyes. Could it get any more mortifying than this? Perhaps if Stefan had remembered what had happened in Estonia and if he’d told Linda, or if the blackmailer had mentioned it to Lisa Holgersson or whoever it was that was in charge of the case. At least now it was all out of his hands and he simply had to accept whatever happened next.
He had expected being at home all day to be boring, but considering the reason for his absence from work, it was worse than he’d expected. The days stretched out before him, dull and empty. If he’d ever been serious about retiring, he was now sure that he’d never be able to stand it.
The weekend he dealt with as he always did, but on Monday, irritation and restlessness had already set in.
In the evening, Linda called and asked him how he was. What could he tell her? He did his best not to snap at her. Whatever he did, he couldn’t risk destroying their new and fragile relationship.
He was walking on eggshells all day the following day, and wondered if he could go out but realized that it probably wasn’t such a good idea. Next he considered going away, to Copenhagen or at least Lund or Malmö, but he had a feeling Lisa Holgersson wouldn’t approve of that. Normally, he did more or less as he pleased, but this time he knew he was in enough trouble and he’d better follow the rules.
When Wednesday had come and gone, he began to worry that the case wouldn’t be solved this week at all, and that he’d be forced to cool his heels at home, for another week. The thought filled him with dread. This was how it would be once he’d retired. He simply had to find some alternative occupation or he’d lose his mind.
The ideas he considered and dismissed weren’t appealing and he couldn’t come to any decision and not because he was exactly in a hurry. In any case, it was something to do.
When the phone rang on Thursday morning, he expected to hear Linda’s voice again, but was stunned to realize it was his boss.
“I think you can relax now. Turns out that your – date – has a considerable rap sheet. When I pointed out to him how long he’d be stuck in jail for even a few of his worst crimes, he suddenly wanted to cooperate. As far as I can understand, that film has been deleted. It was a little tricky, but I’ve been led to believe that the actions I took will be enough.”
“Oh. You mean the camera and all of it has been destroyed?”
“Like I said, you have nothing to worry about anymore. I just hope it will be a lesson to you, Kurt. A man in your position can’t be careful enough. As you know this isn’t just about your own reputation. The whole force might have been affected. Can I trust you to use your common sense in the future?”
“Yes, of course. When can I get back to work?”
“Right now. Today. If you want. No one else here knows and I’ve only involved a handful of people.”
“How many people know?”
“No one knows it’s you, so don’t worry about that. I had some favours to cash in. But just so you know, now you owe me one.”
Wallander fell silent. Was the woman serious? But he’d barely finished the thought, when his superior broke into what could almost be termed a bellow. At least as close as she could get.
“Just follow the rules, that’s all I ask. See you.”
“Thanks a lot. I -”
“Yeah, yeah. That’s alright. If you come in now, I’ll put you on another case.”
“Ok. I’ll be there.”
Afterwards he remained standing gazing blankly ahead until his feet fell asleep. He walked back and forth in the hallway while slowly the blood flow returned to normal. His most acute problems had been sorted. As long as he went to see a doctor – not here but perhaps in Malmö – this whole stupid pointless exercise would be over. Of course, sadly his underlying problem, his feelings for Stefan, hadn’t changed. There was nothing worse than an old fool in love. Who had said that? Or had he made it up himself? In any case, it seemed to be true.
Fortunately that part had escaped the notice of his snooping daughter. At least that was something. Amazing how inquisitive she was. Which had to be an advantage for a copper. If only she didn’t have to put her nose into his private life. On the other hand, she was right in that she wasn’t just anyone. He’d have to get used to not being alone anymore. He should be grateful for that, not whine about his daughter who had chosen to be a police officer and to work down here, probably because she wanted to be closer to her father.
Hastily, Wallander put on his coat, hoping that he wouldn’t have to work with Stefan the next few weeks at least. He’d rather work with Linda, but Lisa probably wouldn’t agree with that. Someone else then.
And now he’d really make sure he didn’t end up in any more trouble. This time was more than enough