|Primary Characters:||Kurt Wallander, Stefan, Lindman, Lisa Holgersson, Linda Wallander
|Warning:||adult themes, m/m
|Description:||After Stefan’s returns to work, his behaviour has changed for the worse. Wallander decides to take some time off. That turns out to be a bad idea. He ends up in more trouble than before.
Wallander got out of his chair and produced a reluctant smile. He wasn’t looking forward to working with Stefan Lindman again. It would be the first time since the unfortunate trip to Estonia. So far, Wallander had been lucky, since initially Stefan was on desk duty and after that was sent on a course.
But now everything was back to normal again, and Lisa Holgersson had decided that Wallander and Stefan would be investigating a complex murder case. Human remains had been found in the woods, by some people out to pick berries. It could hardly get more trivial than that, Wallander thought. An old typical case, similar to ones he’d investigated as a rookie cop, more years ago than he wanted to remember. What was interesting was that it might be a someone who had been missing for almost ten years. An open case which had been puzzling Ystad police since the man had been reported missing at the end of the last century. He wasn’t known to the police as the evening papers used to put it, but there were plenty of potential motives for a murder, if that was the cause of death. At present though they didn’t even know what gender the remains were and it would be a while until they could be identified. It was really just the unofficial police grapevine that claimed this was their missing person.
Wallander hadn’t been part of the original investigation into the disappearance, but he remembered the case very well. Absently he browsed the old case files. Strictly speaking it was a little too soon to update himself on the case, but on the other hand, at this point they didn’t have anything else to go on. He might as well prepare himself in case it was their missing person who was lying on the pathologist’s table, covered by a sheet. Wallander tried not to dwell on the fact that if it was the remains of a foreign national, who was just visiting, or more likely a refugee, they would most likely never know who it was.
What bothered him the most was that he would be working with Stefan. Apart from anything else, he’d been told and noticed for himself that for a while Stefan had been rude to Linda, who had been working with him a few times since Stefan returned to active duty. Unfortunately, this had in no way diminished Wallander’s attraction for the younger man. He was ashamed of himself, but that changed nothing. The thought of his colleague made Wallander close the file and continue out through his door. No use putting the meeting off any longer. When he entered outer office, he noticed that Stefan was at his desk sipping a cup of coffee. Linda was nowhere to be seen, but some of their other colleagues were busy with their own various tasks.
For a second, Wallander was tempted to find an excuse to go out on his own, without Stefan, but he couldn’t very well disobey Lisa Holgersson now that he owed her for saving him from the blackmailer he had stupidly exposed himself to. Taking a deep breath he continued towards Stefan’s table, trying hard to seem unperturbed. Once again, he reminded himself that he didn’t know if Stefan remembered the incident in Estonia.
“Hello. Shall we go and speak to the ex wife?”
Stefan unhurriedly finished his coffee. Slowly he put the cup down again and leaned back in his chair. Instead of replying he merely shrugged.
“Well, come on then. If you’re finished – ”
“Sure. Is there a fire somewhere?”
“No, by all means. If you have something else you’d like to do, I can -”
“No, come on, let’s go.”
This was new. There might have been times in the past when Stefan had avoided replying to questions and just gone with the flow, rather than taking initiatives, but he had always been polite and well aware of his position. It was obvious that he was aiming for a promotion and transfer. At least before this change had come over him. Wallander didn’t know how to deal with the new attitude.
When they got to the parking lot, Stefan didn’t bother consulting his older colleague before heading for the car he preferred to drive, unlocking the door and getting behind the wheel. Wallander didn’t think it was worth fighting over, so he didn’t comment. This would be hard enough as it was.
Silently, they drove out to the missing man’s ex wife. She was home and without complaining showed the two officers into her living room. Wallander conceded that no matter how the missing man had behaved, he definitely had an eye for female beauty. The woman, who was politely studying them, seemed to be about Wallander’s own age and the information he’d studied confirmed his assumption.
Wallander tried to muster some interest in the old case, which clearly wasn’t going anywhere, but was beginning to lose his patience. They weren’t getting any further. Might as well get going. There were a few more people they could speak to before they had to give up once again. He sincerely doubted that they would find the killer after such a long time. Their only hope was that there would be some tangible evidence on the remains or if new facts came to light.
Hastily he thanked the woman and turned towards the exit. He heard Stefan breathe in, as if he was about to object, then he followed Wallander without a word. Wallander was getting nervous. What was Stefan playing at? Did he remember the incident or had the change been caused by a quarrel with Linda? If it hadn’t been for that unfortunate trip to Estonia, he would have asked Stefan, but as it was, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. They returned to the office in silence. Wallander was deep into his thoughts when suddenly he heard Stefan snap at him.
“Aren’t you listening to me? Out there you ignored me completely. I had more questions to ask her, but you just walked out. Don’t you have any respect for me as a professional? It’s obvious that you don’t respect me as a person, but I had thought that you appreciated my professional skills.”
“But Stefan – I don’t understand -”
Stefan fixed Wallander with a gaze that made the older man’s face heat up, but he still didn’t understand. Confused, he remained where he was, while Stefan marched past him, not waiting for a reply. Their colleagues had noticed and were staring curiously at them. Wallander clenched his teeth and hurried past them into his own office. He couldn’t let himself be ruffled like this. It was only a matter of time before Linda or Lisa suspected something.
He was hoping that Stefan would calm down. If not, he didn’t know how to deal with the situation. The worst part was that he couldn’t talk to his daughter anymore. He had been trying hard to work on the relationship with the girl, but now they seemed to be slipping away from each other, rather than getting closer. Wallander cursed his own weakness, but couldn’t think of any way to change the deadlock, without giving himself away to his daughter and most likely the boss too. That couldn’t be allowed to happen. If it did, he’d be forced to resign and move, perhaps abroad.
To get away from it all, Wallander decided to go away over the weekend. Why shouldn’t he treat himself to a weekend in Copenhagen or Malmö? Now that he thought about it, it had been ages since the last time. In the end, he decided to settle for taking some time off, and indulge himself with good food and wine for a few days. There was a hotel he liked, and some restaurants that he would like to visit again. The change would be good for him. When he returned, maybe he would be working with someone else.
He became aware of a painful pounding in his head. Gingerly he tried to turn over. A wave of nausea swept over him and he almost threw up. What was wrong with him? The afternoon sun beat through the window, stinging his eyes. He tried to remember the night before. The hotel. Had he gone out or stayed in the bar? It was hard to focus with his head like this. Again he had to muster all his willpower not to throw up. At the moment moving, even just as far as to the bathroom, was beyond him.
He didn’t know how much time passed. Maybe he dozed off for a while. His head was a little better now, though it still hurt a bit. Even so, he was beginning to realize that his memories of the night before were still sketchy. What was the matter with him? He didn’t drink like this anymore. His health couldn’t handle it anymore, he knew that.
In the end, he managed to sit up. The room was spinning a little, but after a while, his sight stabilised. It was then that he realized something he hadn’t noticed before. Someone was lying next to him in bed. He started and swallowed hard. This was something else he couldn’t allow himself anymore. He forced himself to take a closer look. The only thing visible was a thick head of hair sticking up from under the sheet, which was pulled up all the way to the neck. Whoever it was, was lying face down.
Tentatively, Wallander cleared his throat a little. That wasn’t a good idea. Finally, he managed to quell the nausea, at least a bit. Whoever was lying there, didn’t move and didn’t seem to have heard anything. Wallander considered simply waking his guest up, but another need was getting more urgent and with an effort, he managed to get to his feet. He used the toilet, flushed and leaned on the washbasin. The man staring back at him from the mirror looked more disreputable than a police officer should. If his boss could see him like this – Scowling, he bent over and splashed water into his face.
By now he was beginning to recognize the room. Fortunately, it was his own hotel room. Any time now, his temporary guest should wake up and – Wallander was unpleasantly reminded of his daughter’s thoughtless comment after he’d been foolish enough to get entangled with a blackmailer. You can get something incurable. No matter how he tried, he still couldn’t recall anything of the night before. He didn’t know what had occurred between him and that visitor and if he had kept his wits about him enough to use protection. Why did he never learn his lesson?
Wallander considered getting dressed and going outside for a while. When he returned, surely his visitor would be gone. In any case he decided to get dressed. He looked around for his clothes and found them tossed carelessly on the floor by his side of the bed. His spontaneous reaction was revulsion. He left the garments on the floor and went off in search of the change of clothes he knew he’d brought. What he really wanted was to take a shower, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to get completely undressed. Standing here in his underwear was bad enough.
When he was dressed, he picked up his phone. It was after one thirty in the afternoon. His head still made itself known and he considered calling room service to ask for a glass of water and a couple of aspirins. Only the thought of his visitor made him give up that idea. Suddenly, there was something about the immobile figure that made him wonder. Something was wrong. He bent over the other side of the bed. He couldn’t hear anything. When he took a closer look, he realized with increasing unease that the covers didn’t rise and fall at all, as it should. He should have noticed that a long time ago, if he hadn’t been trying so hard to ignore the immobile figure.
Despite his many years of experience from police work, it took him a while to gather up his courage to pulle down the covers. Face down, naked, was what turned out to be a young man. So young, that Wallander paled, just as much by the fact that the youth wasn’t breathing, as by the fact that he looked barely twenty years old. This time, Wallander couldn’t hold back the nausea anymore. He ran into the bathroom, grateful that he hadn’t closed the lid of the toilet earlier.
Not until his stomach was completely empty did the gagging stop and eventually, he got up, more unsteady than before. He drank water from the tap to get rid of the vile taste in his mouth. He became aware of shivering with cold. Part of his mind cooly noted that shock was setting in. He repressed an impulse to run out of the hotel room to return home or simply drive across the bridge and to the continent and the relative anonymity down there. A police officer couldn’t allow himself the luxury of falling apart like this.
With a hand that felt clammy on the inside, he lifted the receiver and called in his discovery. The man who picked up wasn’t a personal acquaintance, but naturally he knew who he was, and worse, the constable on duty knew who Wallander was. How could he not? When he’d finished the call, Wallander put the receiver down and went to sit on the sofa. Almost right away he got up again and went to get his jacket. It didn’t help. He was still just as cold as he’d been before he’d put it on.
Most likely it didn’t take more than fifteen minutes before his colleagues arrived. To his dismay, Linda had come along and before the forensics team had finished their work, his boss too, showed up. Linda didn’t even pretend to be working. She sat down next to him and tried to distract him while the pathologist was doing her gruesome work and the techs were securing all evidence. At the moment, no clear cause of death had been found. Linda had just managed to get her father to stand up, so she could take him back to headquarters, when Lisa Holgersson walked in. The look in her eyes didn’t bode well. Linda went to stand between her father and the older woman.
“I was going to take dad back to the station -”
“Not until I’ve had a preliminary report.”
“Can’t it wait? You must see for yourself that -”
Lisa Holgersson faltered, casting a penetrating stare at Wallander. The expression on her face didn’t change, but in the end, she nodded.
“You’ll ride with me, so I can question you on the way.”
Barely had they sat down, before their boss exploded.
“What’s got into you, Kurt? Is this some kind of late midlife crisis? That boy can hardly be more than twenty, at the most.”
Linda studied her father with interest. She too, wanted the answers to those questions, but she could tell that the old man was close to breaking. If he were to have a heart attack –
“Well? I thought you learned your lesson the last time something like this happened.”
“I don’t remember anything from last night. When I woke up I had a headache and was dizzy and nauseous.”
Lisa Holgersson snorted.
“You were hung over. That’s not surprising. But that boy -”
She broke off when the phone rang. After some hesitation, during which she studied her passangers, she handed the phone to Linda. Linda glanced inquiringly at her boss, but in the end, accepted the call.
“Linda Wallander. No, she’s driving. I see. Right. I’ll tell her.”
Pensively, Linda terminated the call but held on to the phone for so long her boss coughed meaningfully. In the end it was Wallander who took the phone and handed it to his superior.
“The haven’t found any clear cause of death, so it will have to wait until – the post mortem.”
“Right. Thanks, Linda. Kurt, do you still claim you don’t have any memory of last night?”
“Yes. And before you say anything else, I can’t imagine that I’d – that we – He’s just a boy. I’d never -”
Lisa Holgersson sighed. She couldn’t understand what had got into Wallander. Perhaps he couldn’t be accused of being an ideal cop, but as a homicide detective he definitely had his good points. If he were to let her down now, perhaps he’d better retire. In fact, it might even have to be before she stepped back. Her declining health might force her to do that, before she really wanted to. And if so, she’d been hoping Kurt Wallander would stay on for a few years until a suitable successor could be found. She had been hoping that Stefan Lindman might be the man who would succeed her some day, but lately Stefan had begun to act strangely. And you had to say that he’d shown bad judgment when he entered the relationship with Linda Wallander. Linda was promising too, maybe even more so than Stefan, even though she could use a bit more experience first.
Lisa Holgersson turned into the parking lot and left her car in the usual spot. This wouldn’t be pleasant. She’d have to question Wallander, but since at least for the time being, this wasn’t officially a homicide investigation, she was going to do it a little less formally than usual.
“Are you alright, Kurt?”
“Well, I’d like to – have a shower and so on, but -”
“Not just yet. I’d like to talk to you first. If you’ll wait in your office, I’ll be there in a moment.”
He swallowed again. The vile taste in his mouth was still there and he turned towards the coffee machine. Linda made as if to follow her father, but Lisa Holgersson held her back.
“Linda. Do you have a moment?”
Her boss took her into the office.
Linda glanced in the direction of her father, but her boss quickly closed the door behind them.
“Oh. Right. It seems as if the guy might have been – raped.”
For a second, it looked as if Lisa Holgersson was going to black out. Her face, which already was pale, was twisted into a mask of pain, and Linda took a step towards her boss, who sank into her chair.
“Want me to get you a glass of water?”
“No, it will pass. I just hadn’t expected that.”
“But of course dad hasn’t -”
Linda broke off and bit her lip. As a daughter she might allow herself to be sure of that, but as a police officer, she knew she would have to weigh all possibilities. She knew that if Kurt hadn’t been her father, she would have waited to make up her mind before the forensics team had finished their work.
Lisa Holgersson picked up the receiver and punched in a number.
“Hi. Well, what do you think? Come here and test – Kurt. Yes, it’s to do with the dead body we found. Just a formality.”
The last part she spat out. When she’d hung up, she remained quiet, as if she was miles away in her mind. Linda watched her with concern.
“Excuse me – but – shouldn’t you be on sick leave?”
“Perhaps. But I need to get a grip on this case first. And I’d like you to stay away. As you know we have our hands full right now, but I think you’d better take a few days off. At least if you want to be there for your father, as a daughter, I mean, not as his colleague.”
Linda considered this, then shook her head.
“I’ll try to stay out of the actual investigation, but I don’t want to be stuck at home waiting for information. Let me stay on the job.”
“Alright. But you know the score. Go back to your desk and – you can work with Stefan for the time being.”
“Ok. But – aren’t you going to call for someone to take your place? No offence, but you don’t exactly look -”
To Linda’s surprise, her boss burst out laughing.
“I can imagine, but I’m actually much better. You’d be surprised how – In any case, it’s fine. I’ll take a good look at the case so I know what we’re dealing with, but after that – I should probably step back. Someone else will have to investigate this case if it turns out that -”
Linda clenched her teeth. It couldn’t be true. Her dad was no – She couldn’t even finish the train of thought. It just couldn’t be that way.
Determinedly, Lisa Holgersson walked across to Wallander’s office. This had to be dealt with in a professional way. Regardless of how long she’d known Kurt their personal relationship couldn’t get in the way of work. It was time to confront Wallander with the information about the dead youth. Perhaps the preliminary results of the examination would be finished.
He was behind his desk, but when she walked in, he got up, let her have his chair and sat down in the visitor’s chair. At least he’d thought of that. It might have been a little weird, having to handle an interview, from the visitor’s chair. Before she had time to begin, there was a knock on the door and a young tech walked in. He looked awkward but was able to finish the tests without any trouble. Wallander’s eyes bored into Lisa Holgersson’s, but he didn’t comment, until the young tech had left.
“I see. I suppose you’ve heard the cause of death.”
“Oh. Do you have anything to say about that?”
When the underlying meaning struck him, he tensed up.
“No, of course not. I just assumed that was why you ordered the tests done.”
“I haven’t heard anything about the cause of death yet, but there’s something else – Kurt, the dead boy seems to have been raped.”
It was a while until Wallander was able to fully take in the information. He was still waiting for his boss to get to the point, when suddenly comprehension dawned on him and gasped.
“So now you know why I needed those tests.”
“Yes, but -”
“You still don’t remember anything?”
“No. I checked around five, then I went out for dinner, but after that – I don’t even remember returning to the hotel.”
“Where did you have dinner?”
He told her. She nodded, looking tired. This was the last thing she needed right now. She was getting better, but there were no guarantees and something like this –
“If you don’t have anything else to add, I suppose this will do. Go home. I’ll be in touch when I know more.”
She didn’t add that by then it might be time to arrest him, not just keep in touch, because no doubt he realized that himself. He knew the drill.
Linda insisted on driving Wallander home, and he didn’t feel up to arguing about it. He had no idea why this had hit him. It was a nightmare he was hoping he’d wake from any time. Suddenly all he wanted was to sleep. In the end, Linda agreed to leave him. Usually, he might not have minded her involvement quite as much, but right now it was more than he could take.
Linda returned to the station to wait for the pathologist’s first report. By then, the rumour had spread and everyone who was in was awaiting the new information. Only Linda seemed to notice how tense their boss was. Again, Linda considered encouraging the older woman to go on sick leave, but decided to respect her wishes and just wait.
Well aware of the importance of the preliminary examination of the body, the pathologist had given the case priority, though they were weeks behind on other cases. The autopsy itself wouldn’t be possible to carry out until the following day at the earliest, but there were other, more superficial inspections that could be made immediately. Under normal circumstances, Lisa Holgersson or the primary investigating officer on the case would be present during the post mortem, but this time they didn’t know what they were dealing with. The cause of death might be natural causes – or less likely – suicide – in which case they wouldn’t need to continue the investigation. The pathologist had already ruled out the possibility of the young man being underage. It was probable that he was about twenty years old, and it was deemed out of the question that he could be seventeen or younger.
At last the phone in Lisa Holgersson’s office rang and the silence in the room outside could be compared to the one in the morgue on the medical examiner’s end. Everyone strained their ears to the limit, tensely waiting for the call to end. Fortunately, it was short, but it was still a while until their boss walked out, looking around. She waved at Linda to come into her office. After a moment’s hesitation, she also indicated for Stefan Lindman to join her. Linda frowned. At the moment, she didn’t want to have to work with Stefan. But she was forgetting that she wouldn’t be working this case at all. She assumed that she was to be informed, as a mere courtesy on their boss’ part. Lisa Holgersson’s face had regained some its colour and the look in her eyes was closer to normal. Instinctively, Linda was hoping for good news, but she couldn’t guess what that might be.
“Stefan, I’d like you to take on this case. Is that alright?”
Stefan glared at her.
“Of course. Why shouldn’t it be?”
Lisa Holgersson sighed but forced herself to ignore Stefan’s outburst. They were all upset. It was only natural, with one of their colleagues under investigation.
“A recap: As you might know by now we’re dealing with an unkown male in his early twenties. He was sexually assaulted or at least – had rough sex – you might say. There’s biological material on him and that will be analysed. The lab will work as fast as they can, but we’re looking at at least a couple of days and up to a week, before we know anything for sure. So far we don’t have any clear cause of death, so we’ll have to wait for the blood work. That’s all.”
“Has Kurt been tested?”
“Yes, we’ve taken samples from him and they’re at the lab as we speak.”
“The way it looks right now, it seems -”
Lisa Holgersson trailed off. She didn’t want to say this to Linda’s face. Discussing a colleague like this felt awkward, but Linda would have to learn to be a professional some time, and it might as well be now. With no regard to her own feelings, Lisa Holgersson went ahead as if she was discussing a total stranger.
“There wasn’t any sign Kurt had had sex recently.”
Linda was so relieved she felt dizzy. She had been absolutely sure her father had had sex with the guy, even if he wouldn’t have raped or killed him. This was better than she’d dared to hope for.
Stefan sounded intentionally brusque and unpleasant. Lisa Holgersson recalled that Linda and Stefan had been involved. Perhaps she ought to give this case to someone else, if Stefan couldn’t maintain a professional detachment. Besides, it was odd that he wanted to use something this painful to hurt his ex. It didn’t match the image Lisa had formed of him.
“Go with this for now. We might have to accept help from other disctricts later on.”
His boss nodded feebly. Without another word, Stefan turned and left. Lisa Holgersson glanced inquiringly at Linda who responded to the unspoken question.
“Don’t ask me. I have no idea what’s wrong with him. Early midlife crisis?”
Too late she recalled that her boss had used almost the same words about Wallander. If only her words wouldn’t be misconstrued. But she needn’t have worried. Lisa Holgersson merely nodded again.
“Linda – go home now or carry on with your regular work. I’ll let Stefan try for a while, but I think I’ll have someone from Malmö take over. It will be better that way.”
“What about you? Aren’t you going home too?”
“No, I’ll wait for the report from the post mortem.”
“Right. Just take it easy. Don’t wear yourself out.”
“That’s not for you to worry about, Linda.”
Linda blushed over the snub, and hurried outside. She couldn’t work out what was going on with her father or her temporary partner.
Eventually, Wallander managed to fall asleep, but was awakened by a penetrating sound. He fumbled for the mobile, but when he found it, he realized that wasn’t what was ringing. The noise continued and at last he got up and went to open the front door. It was his boss. Instinctively he flinched, but was able to master the reaction and stepped aside to let her in.
“I thought you’d like to know the results of the post mortem right away.”
He tried to reply, but his throat constricted and he had to cough.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t tell us anything new. We’ll just have to wait for the test results. At least so far it doesn’t look as if we’re dealing with a crime. At least not one committed by you. If this young man died of an overdose, I’d say he’s the one who’s guilty of a crime. It doesn’t look as if you two had sex, but of course that doesn’t prove anything.”
“Well, for instance, you might have intended to, but couldn’t -”
Wallander felt his cheeks heat up, but refrained from commenting directly on the implication.
“He was only twenty. I’d never -”
“But you’ve done that before, haven’t you? Had relations with a younger man, that is.”
“That wasn’t the same. I was out of sorts and I’d been drinking.”
“You’d been drinking now too.”
“Besides, the other one was at least thirty-five.”
“Alright. Let’s leave that for the time being. Oh, by the way, do you have your ID here? A gun?”
“No, no gun, of course not. The ID should be around here somewhere.”
“Excellent. Then give it to me. I want you to stay put.”
“I could stay at my desk.”
“No. At the very least you were on the scene when the victim was found. For the time being you’re our main witness. I’ll be in touch when the test results are in.”
Wallander nodded sombrely. He knew the rules, no matter how much he liked to bend them a little, when it suited him.
When the test results finally came, Wallander was, to some extent, exonerated. He hadn’t had sex with the young man and the cause of death turned out to be an overdose of heroin. There was no evidence that Wallander had supplied the drug and nothing indicated that he’d used any sort of violence against the young man. Even so, Wallander couldn’t dispel the suspicion that he’d picked up a young man to have sex with him. The only thing that spoke in his favour was the he seemed to have been drugged. In addition to the wine he’d had with dinner, and a few pints of Absolut vodka, there were traces of Rohypnol in his bloodstream. Of course there was always the possibility that he’d taken it himself for some reason.
To his relief, he was allowed to return to duty, but there was still a sense of being on trial. It seemed to him that his colleagues were studying him out of the corner of their eyes, wondering. The worst part was that his own daughter quite seriously seemed to believe he’d picked up a boy who was barely out of his teens. Added to that was Stefan’s continued odd behaviour. Wallander was hoping that it wasn’t as he feared that Stefan knew what had happened in Estonia, but the trip might still be connected. If Stefan felt that somehow Wallander had been amiss in his duties and so indirectly been the cause of the gunshot wound that had tormented Stefan, that might be a reason for his younger colleague’s behaviour.
After a while, Wallander and Lisa Holgersson began to hope that the aftermath of Wallander’s weekend at the hotel had faded in people’s memories. Their work continued as always and their colleagues seemed to have finished gossiping about the homicide detective who had been caught with his pants down.
A case of smuggled liquor and cigarettes from the continent kept them busy for almost three months and it was a relief when they finally managed to catch one of the main suspects. One of them was an old acquaintance of the police. Older colleagues had told them that the man had been known to them since his early teens and that he’d now advanced to the head of a lucrative racket. By now he’d been in jail once for dealing narcotics and the second time around for aggravated assault. This time it looked as if they’d manage to get put him away for the extensive smuggling.
Lisa Holgersson listened in on the interrogation. The case primary tried to get the man, a certain Einar Blom, to reveal his connections in Germany and the Netherlands, when suddenly the suspect burst out laughing.
“I have something else to tell you if you’re interested. Just a little gossip about a mutual acquaintance, or in my case a friend of a friend. Your renowned homicide detective, Kurt Wallander.”
The officer in charge of the interrogation studied the suspect. This was typical behaviour from a criminal who was about to be put away for quite some time, an attempt to create a smoke screen, but still – there was no way they could ignore that incident from a few months back. Rohypnol, booze and gay sex. The officer was hoping it wouldn’t be more of the same, perhaps related to that particular occasion. It was bad news if the perps knew embarrassing truths about the police. Looked bad. Made them lose respect.
“Don’t give me that. You were about to tell me about your supplier in Germany. Go on and don’t try any funny business.”
“Funny? So that’s what you call it. But this kind of ‘fun’ might be something the evening papers will pay a couple of thousand for. One of your hotshot cops getting caught with his pants down. But suit yourself. I’ll save it for the reporter from Aftonbladet.”
“Don’t mess with me, Blom. We’ll just -”
“Are you quite sure you’re not interested?”
“In what? You’re just trying to change the subject.”
“Really? So you’re not the least bit interested in hearing that one of your cops – two of, really, though the other one is as famous, went to a gay club in Malmö? I guess not. My mistake. Right. My suppliers as you call them – they’re really secretive guys. And they have these weird names. Something ending in ic or vic. You know, Yugoslavs. When I think about it, I don’t remember their names, but I’ll try. If you can get me a lower sentence, that is.”
Lisa Holgersson felt a tearing pain in her abdomen. She was hoping her troubles weren’t returning. Most of all she wanted to turn on her heel and return to her office, but she needed to hear this. She was hoping they could get Blom to tell them everything and then find a way of making him keep his knowledge to himself. It hit her that Blom had mentioned two officers. Who could the other one be? She had no idea that one of her men might be gay.
“Get a grip, Blom. You remember just fine.”
“I remember that Wallander and a younger guy, a dark, skinny guy, were at this club, dancing and making out like two kids in love.”
“So, Blom, you were at a gay club. Is this a new interest?”
Lisa Holgersson considered going in to put a stop to the interrogation. Blom could get aggressive if he was provoked and a violent incident wouldn’t help solve the case. And sure enough the allegation made Blom furious.
“What the fuck? Are you saying I’m gay? Are you?”
Their smuggler rose so quickly the chair fell backwards. He grabbed the table and the two officers who had been seated on the other side hastily got up and took a step back. The table turned over too, and Blom began to kick and pummel the furniture and the wall, before the two officers had time to tackle him. Lisa Holgersson called two more of her men over and indicated for them to go in and lend a hand. When they had Blom under control she went in too.
“Well? Did you have important information for us or would you rather return to your cell and think things over?”
“What’s it to you, bitch? You have the hots for Wallander? Or is it the other one? Stefan or whatever his name is.”
“Are you saying you’ve seen two of my detectives in a gay club? What were you doing there?”
She just had time to take two steps back, before the spit landed on the floor only an inch or so from her shoes.
“I was there to deliver some merchandise. Are you stupid? I’m a business man, right? Their money is the same as anyone else’s. That’s when I saw those two.”
He sneered at her, as he was being dragged out of the interrogation room. Lisa Holgersson remained standing there for a while. Wallander and Lindman. Interesting. It was possible. Though – much more likely that it was just Wallander and that Blom had happened to hear Stefan’s name and was making the rest up. But if so, who was the man Wallander had been with? Was he really a police officer? Her head was beginning to ache so she decided to go out for lunch. Something occurred to her and she called to the man in charge of the interrogation.
“Hold it. Please don’t tell Linda about this. I’m sure Blom is just raving, but we’d better not spread this kind of crap. Ok? I’ll tell Kurt myself, so he’ll know what’s being said about him.”
“Sure. No problem.”
“Tell Nylén to keep this to himself too.”
On her way out she bumped into Wallander.
“Hey, Kurt. Hold on. Have you eaten?”
“No, I was going to -”
“Good. We can go together. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“Oh? I’ll just go and get a few things in my office. I’ll be right back.”
He clenched his teeth. If this was something else to do with that case a few months earlier – In his office he dumped the papers he’d been carrying and hurried after his boss. They entered the delicatessen, where Lisa Holgersson ordered a salad and Wallander a sandwich. He wasn’t surprised when he heard his boss ask to have her salad to go. Five minutes later, they were sitting in her car, eating.
“Sorry about this, but it’s a bit more private this way. Kurt, there’s something you have to know. I’m sure you know that we’re questioning Blom about the trafficking.”
“He – had some information that wasn’t to do with the case.”
Wallander closed his eyes and swore under his breath. If that fellow Blom knew something about the youth at the hotel –
“He claims to have seen you and Stefan – Lindman, I presume – at a gay club in Malmö. Not on duty – privately. He says you were dancing and -”
She couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence. Hopefully Wallander got her meaning anyway. Judging by the expression on his face, he did.
“That’s not true. I was only in that club – I assume we’re talking about the same place – once and that was definitely in the line of duty. The overdose in the men’s room. Two years ago, or was it three? I have no idea if Stefan’s ever been there. He hasn’t been working here for so long, so I doubt it.”
“I see. Then I’ll say no more about this. But Kurt – I just want to emphasize that if you are in the habit of visiting gay clubs, it’s your business. I just thought you’d like to know what’s being said.”
“I appreciate that, but I don’t go to places like that. Of course not.”
“Right. That will be all.”
“Thanks. Are you alright?”
“I think so, yes. Why? Do I look ill?”
“Not at all. I’m just hoping my problems aren’t making your situation any worse, that’s all.”
“Oh, well, I suppose that’s not your fault, so don’t worry about it.”
“I can assure you that I don’t visit that kind of place or – pick up young men in bars. Not young women either.”
Lisa Holgersson swallowed the last of her salad and put the packaging away.
Wallander’s cheeks heated up. He imagined that his boss was too tactful to point out that the part about young men and bars wasn’t strictly true. After careful consideration, he decided not to comment. What was there to say? The past was the past and fortunately, he was the only one who knew the whole truth.
A few weeks passed and Wallander was beginning to hope that Blom’s lies wouldn’t have reached his colleagues’ ears. In any case, Linda didn’t seem to have heard anything. Lisa Holgersson could be tiresome at times with all her talk about the rule book, but when it really came down to it, he knew he could count on her.
One evening when Linda was working the late shift, she and a colleague were called out to a bar, where a fight had broken out. It soon emerged that the fight had originated in a difference of opinion in relation to a drug deal. They decided to bring the two men deemed responsible for the altercation in to the station. One of them was a young Dane. There seemed to be a concensus that he was the one who had delivered the drugs. Before long, the two men were in separate interrogation rooms, waiting to be questioned. Linda and her partner were sent to deal with the homegrown combatant, while the other two got to work on the Dane. He proved unwilling to discuss his merchandise, but there was something else he was all the more eager to tell them.
“Well, guys? What do you think? Like what you see?”
“You mean the jacket? Very nice. Expensive too, right? How can you afford something like that, Tom?”
“You’d be surprised. I have many friends, many rich, generous friends. Older men. Know what I mean?”
“Let’s get back to the fight -”
“Sometimes I get Swedish clients. Your law against prostitution. Big mistake. It’s a private matter, right? Two people who run into each other and hook up. Sometimes it’s more than two. Like these two Swedes who came to Copenhagen to have some fun. They liked me.”
“That’s not our business. We’re just interested in the drugs you carried.”
“You will be interested when I tell you what kind of work those two do. They’re colleagues of yours. Coppers. You might know them. I think one of them is called Kurt. Older man, handsome. I appreciate an older man, let me tell you. They’re sort of more – experienced. And a younger guy. Stefan. Dark, a real hottie. Do you know them?”
The two officers exchanged glances, suddenly ill at ease. That wasn’t the sort of thing you wanted to know about your colleagues. It was beginning to happen a little too frequently, these days. Maybe Wallander was beginning to get old. Perhaps it was time for him to retire. And Stefan – The allegation made them feel slightly sick. For a second, Mårtensson allowed himself to dwell nostalgically on the good old days, when he’d started out as a cop. Back in those days you never found out that your colleagues were gay. The 70’s. Those were the days.
“Let’s take it from the top. You got here this afternoon and you had -”
The young Dane winked meaningly and changed position on the chair. It was obvious he was laughing at them, but he also didn’t waste the opportunity to pose for them, well aware that it was only annoying them more.
It was a relief when they could finally terminate the interrogation and lock the Dane up. Mårtensson knew he probably ought to inform the boss, but he wasn’t looking forward to it. In any case it could wait. She’d been ill, and it was late. Surely it was soon enough if he told her in the morning?
The sound of the phone ringing helped clear the last traces of the night’s sleep from Lisa Holgersson. She hung up, sighing audibly. That was simply the final straw. If her health had been better, she’d definitely taken early retirement right away. Some of her older colleagues had settled abroad. That might even improve her health. Wallander was turning out to be more trouble than she felt up to. Either he was suffering from a an advanced age related crisis or – slowly her mind began to work again.
They hadn’t been able to identify the poor young man who had been found dead in Wallander’s bed at the hotel. Their lead theory was that he was an Easter European prostitute. Prostitute just like that Dane. The latter was probably four or five years younger than the boy, but the connection was well worth investigating. Besides it was as if something was whispering in the back of her head. There was a gang that worked all over the Öresund region. Their primary interest was drug trafficking, but occasionally they imported a shipment of Eastern European prostitutes of both sexes, and once in a while a truckload of refugees. Wallander had investigated the murder of a strangled teenage girl from Ukraine or Belorus. They had managed to prove the case against one of the worst men behind the sex trade and had been able to put him away for several years. Didn’t he have a brother who was still out there somewhere though? What if –
Lisa Holgersson gulped down the last of her coffee and suddenly it dawned on her that the stomach pains she’d experienced usually occurred when she was under a lot of pressure or had drunk too much coffee. Perhaps they didn’t have anything to do with her earlier troubles. Suddenly she felt much better. First she had to inform Wallander and this time maybe Lindman too. Though what if Wallander just denied the allegations again? Perhaps then she might be able to avoid speaking to Lindman. This was tough enough anyway. On her way out, she punched in Wallander’s number. She had to do this formally. It might not be illegal for a Swedish police officer to buy sex in Denmark in his spare time, but it wouldn’t look good. Not to mention that this sort of thing exposed the man in question to the risk of attempted blackmail. No, she had to satisfy herself that Wallander was innocent, or –
“Hello, Kurt. Can I see you right away? There’s something I need to discuss with you.”
Wallander hung up. Suddenly the smell of coffee made him sick. He pushed the cup away and decided to skip breakfast completely. He just knew some sort of trouble was brewing again. His boss rarely got in touch this early in the morning. When she did, something big was going down and he hadn’t heard about any serious case lately. No, this would be about him and – perhaps Stefan too. He had no idea why these things kept happening to him. It was as if someone knew – but that was out of the question. No one else could know about that.
To his relief Lisa Holgersson had asked to see him outdoors, in a park. That told him it wasn’t a routine matter, but if he had to discuss yet another mortifying incident, it was better to do it far away from the curious gazes of his colleagues. Fortunately the weather was nice but this early in the morning not that many people were out walking. Wallander and his boss almost had the footpath to themselves. He was surprised to see how well Lisa Holgersson seemed to be.
“You seem to be doing fine.”
“Yes, I think so anyway. It feels that way. What about you?”
“What? Yes, I’m fine. What’s this about?”
“Kurt – I’m sorry to have to tell you that we’ve had some new information about – you and Stefan. Last night our people picked up a young Dane who had been in a fight in one of the bars. It’s drug related, but he also seems to be a prostitute. During the course of the investigation he began to hint that he had clients who were working for the Swedish police. He named you and Stefan.”
Wallander stared, aghast.
“Did he mention us by name?”
“Your first names, yes. He also described you.”
“But that’s just not possible. I’ve never -”
“So I assumed, but – as you know this is a little more serious than you and a colleague dancing and – Well, anyway, I have to do this formally. Mårtensson got the date and the time when this meeting supposedly took place and I’d like to know where you were the eighteenth of the last month.”
“Eighteenth? I’ll need to take a look in my organizer. The eighteenth – that must be -”
Frowning, Wallander pondered the accusation. This was a nightmare and it kept getting worse. He just didn’t see what was behind all this, but by now it wasn’t possible to ignore the conclusion that someone was deliberately trying to set him up and Stefan at the same time. Why Stefan? Hopefully it was just because whoever it was knew that they’d been working together, or this person knew about the relationship between Linda and Stefan.
“Fine. Just check it up and come into my office. I won’t speak to Stefan until you’ve confirmed where you were at that time.”
“I’ll get back to you, but I swear that I’ve never -”
“That’s fine, Kurt. I suppose I shall have to believe you. We’d better return to the station.”
Once there, Wallander dragged out his organizer, pulled out drawers and began to rummage through the contents. Somewhere, there had to be copies of the reports that –
In the meantime Lisa Holgersson made few calls. Her suspicions seemed to be perfectly plausible but so far she didn’t have any evidence. She was drumming her fingers against the desktop when the door opened and a dishevelled Wallander burst in.
“Here. I found it.”
“Calm down, Kurt. Let me see that.”
“It’s right here. I was busy with interrogations all evening. Besides, I wasn’t alone for a second until late that night. Remember the case with the drowned man who was found in -”
“Oh, of course. Right. I remember. I was out there, too, at least for a while. And – yes, this seems to be conclusive. Thank you, Kurt. I’ll get back to you.”
“So – you won’t need to tell Stefan about this?”
“We’ll see. Get back to work now. You can take Linda and go out to the field where we found that poor woman yesterday. I’m not convinced that that farmer’s wife is telling the truth. Lean on her a bit, and ask her how she felt about her husband cheating on her. I’m sure there’s more to be found out there. Apparently she’s expert in cutting meat too.”
“Oh, right. Yes, fine. I saw Linda outside.”
When Wallander and Linda had left, Lisa Holgersson took a walk around the outer office to see if Stefan was in. She couldn’t see him, but about fifteen minutes later he showed up and sat down at his desk. Lisa Holgersson went to talk to him.
“Stefan – could you come into my office? There’s something I need to discuss with you before you get on with your work.”
His expression didn’t change and he merely nodded curtly. Throughout the brief questioning, he stubbornly remained standing by the door, refusing to sit down, though his boss suggested it, more than once.
“That’s bullshit. I’ve never -”
“Yes, yes. Even so, I’ll need proof. Just a formality.”
“Me and Kurt sharing a male whore? That’s fucking -”
“That will do. Where were you on the eighteenth of last month? In the afternoon, evening and early that night.”
“The eighteenth? Hold on. I’ll be right back.”
Stefan ran out to his desk where he practically tore his calendar apart and rummaged through his desk drawers. Barely a minute later, he was back in his boss’ office, waving the calendar and a file so close to her face she felt her hair flutter.
“Here. I was in Varberg assisting the Halland police. Remember? I spent the night in a hotel and didn’t return until late the following day. She – that homicide detective up there – Helena Wells – can confirm it. At least until ten thirty in the evening. Will that do?”
“Yes, it looks that way. Good. That will be all.”
“What? That Danish bastard can just get away with slandering me and a colleague?”
“Of course not. We’ll deal with him. You can count on that, but as far as you and Kurt are concerned this is it. Good. Carry on with your work.”
Testily, Stefan turned and tramped through the door. Just as she had suspected. That Belgian or Dutchman who was behind the trafficking case Wallander and Stefan had investigated, must have been behind it all. So that was it. At the moment, she lacked evidence, but she thought she’d have it before the end of the day. Then finally the Wallander situation might settle down.
As far as Stefan was concerned, he didn’t get much work done. Around six when Wallander and Linda returned, he had made up his mind. He waited until their colleagues had disappeared, then made for Wallander’s home. If he wasn’t in, Stefan would wait. This wasn’t working out anymore. He’d have to do something about it.
Wallander was almost certain Linda hadn’t heard anything about the two latest mortifying incidents. It was a relief. Slowly, he began to relax. Linda noticed and smiled at him.
“Want to go out and get a pizza, dad?”
“I don’t think so. Some other time. I’m a little tired. But – today – you did well out there. That farmer’s wife – I don’t know how you did it, but we’ve got her now.”
“Yeah. To think that she was about to feed her rival to the pigs. Clever. But bleh, how gross. Who knows how many farmers have got rid of murder victims by feeding their bodies to the pigs? Bloody hell. I’ll have to get Vegetariana tonight. Are you sure you don’t want any, dad?”
“Yes, I’m fine. I lost my appetite out there. See you tomorrow.”
Wallander unlocked his door and entered his flat. If he was lucky, this persecution would soon be over. He was more or less at the end of his tether. It wouldn’t be long before Stefan – The sound of footsteps on the stairs made whirl around. When he recognized his younger colleague the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Some coincidence.
He stepped aside to let Stefan in. The latter remained standing, his back to the door, a hard to read expression on his face.
Stefan swallowed and glanced around a pleading look in his eyes.
“What is it?”
Stefan didn’t reply. It was as if he was struggling with himself. He opened and closed his mouth, but no sound came. In the end, he gave up, remaining where he was, his back to the door, as if he wanted to turn and leave again. He was so close to Wallander that he felt the scent of the younger man’s aftershave and something else more subtle. Wallander gasped and leaned over and kissed him. After a moment’s hesitation, he pulled Stefan closer and deepened the kiss. They were so close Wallander felt every bone in Stefan’s body. It was exactly as he’d dreamt it would be, all those nights he’d spent awake, obsessed with the thought of the younger man’s body.
“In Estonia – so you were conscious after all?”
“You slept with that – Janne. What the hell was that about?”
“You want me? Do you?”
His mouth felt dry and Wallander had to swallow a few times before he could even collect himself enough to nod. Seconds later they were on his bed.That it was the same one where he’d spent the night with that blackmailer was forgotten. He had other things on his mind. The thoughts of Linda, he managed to repress. Afterwards Wallander couldn’t regret what they’d done. This was what he’d been wishing for ever since Stefan and Linda had been together. Not until now did he realize why he’d reacted so strongly to their relationship. It had been jealousy, pure and simple. He knew he was a coward, but he was hoping they’d be able to hide their relationship from Linda and their other colleagues. It wasn’t something he’d dare to reveal to the world, but neither could he imagine giving this up. He was too old to turn down what might be his only chance of happiness at this age. He lay studying Stefan from under half closed eyelids. This was completely unbelievable, but he wouldn’t question his luck.
“I had no idea you were -”
Wallander sought Stefan’s gaze, but the younger man’s eyes veered a little past him, vacantly somehow. But he answered the question, so he must have heard it.
“I had no idea you felt this way. Not until that time, in Estonia.”
“Me neither. This was the first time.”
“I thought so. All those women -”
“What about you? I could say the same about you. All those women – ”
“I must apologize for behaving the way I did. It was all that business with Janne.”
“Hm. Yes, that – he showed up right after you’d left that restaurant. He hinted that he understood and then – I don’t know what happened.”
“I see. What about Linda?”
“We can’t let her know about this.”
Stefan looked as if he was about to say something, but if so he changed his mind. Too content to pay much attention, Wallander went on.
“We’ll have to be careful, that’s all. Besides, I’d like this to be just between the two of us.”
Stefan nodded sombrely.
Wallander reached for Stefan and neither of them said anything for quite a while. Wallander thought that Stefan’s face had to be the most beautiful one he’d ever seen. Odd really. He never would have guessed, but apparently that was how it was and he wasn’t ashamed of that. Whatever happened, he wouldn’t regret a thing. Then he abandoned all attempts to analyse the situation and let himself be carried away, almost painfully aware of the pounding of the pulse in his body. He didn’t think he’d ever felt this alive and present. At the moment there was no future or past.