|Primary Characters:||Kurt Wallander, Stefan Lindman, Frank Bork, Linda Wallander
|Description:||Stefan helps Frank Borg out with a stakeout. He should have known Borg is bad news.
Wallander found that Stefan’s behaviour in connection with the case where they had to work wtih Frank Borg was seriously annoying him. Frank Borg was the opposite pole of the spectrum compared to Wallander. Wallander might not be entirely averse to bending the rules a little, mainly when he was near the end of a case, but Borg’s methods were a disgrace to the force. In addition, Wallander realized that there was a grain of jealousy in his reaction. He didn’t like to see Stefan watching someone else with such admiration.
Stefan’s reaction was defiance. If his methods didn’t suit Wallander, why did he choose to ignore orders from a superior, especially a woman, Stefan imagined. Despite that Wallander was expecting younger colleagues, or rather all his colleagues to obey his orders. That just didn’t add up.
Ever since Stefan and Wallander had initated their sexual relations, Stefan had constantly been tormented by feelings of guilt towards Linda. They were still gnawing away inside him. Some day, he promised himself, he’d be the boyfriend Linda deserved. Wallander didn’t own him.
In any case he refused to stop working with Frank Borg. Borg respected him. Even if the trust between them had suffered recently, when Borg had planted a gun beside the dead criminal Stefan had been forced to shoot, Borg had been acting out of loyalty. There was something about Frank Borg that Stefan appreciated, though he didn’t approve of all his methods. Excess violence against the suspects, for one. The first time Stefan had seen Borg seemingly without any compunction assault a suspect in the men’s room, Stefan had flinched, but Borg’s explanation made sense. There were times when crossing a line might be justified, in a good cause. At least Stefan thought so. He knew that Wallander would hardly agree and worse, Linda wouldn’t either, but their work had paid off, right?
So despite Stefan’s mixed emotions about his work with Frank Borg, he couldn’t refuse, when the older cop called and asked him to come on a stakeout with him. That the surveillance was for a case Borg wasn’t even working on, officially, hardly came as a surprise. He had been suspended early in the course of the investigation, but that had merely encouraged Borg. It gave him more time to close the case. The perps wouldn’t be allowed to get away, just because an old copper had suddenly had cold feet.
Stefan sat in the rusty old car in which Borg had picked him up, waiting outside a warehouse on the outskirts of Malmö. They had already been there for almost four hours and Stefan, who had recently finished another case back in Ystad, was drowsy.
Borg glanced at him, smiling benevolently.
“You go on and sleep for a while if you want, kid. I’ll handle this. I’ll wake you if we get some action.”
“Thanks. I didn’t get to bed until three thirty in the morning, so I’m pretty worn out..”
“Sure. No problems.”
Borg reached for the thermos and poured some more coffee into his mug.
Stefan didn’t know how long he’d been asleep when he felt Borg’s hand on his shoulder. He started, then remembered where he was.
Without taking his eyes off the warehouse across the street, Borg filled him in.
“There. Can you see him? In the doorway? Once he’s in the yard, we’ll get him.”
Stefan nodded, though he knew Borg couldn’t see him. Not that it mattered. Borg was counting on him and he wouldn’t let him down. Those creeps were supplying school kids with drugs from Russia, and this was their chance to shut them down. It hadn’t been more than three weeks since a sixteen-year-old girl had ended up in a coma after taking some pills these people had sold her. No more kids would die from that tainted crap from the east.
Stefan launched himself from the car, following Borg across the street. When they’d entered the yard fronting the warehouse, he realized that their opponent wasn’t just the twenty-year-old kid they’d glimpsed. Three more men had left the building. This made it two against four, and at least two of them looked as if they were on steroids. Those odds didn’t seem to bother Borg though. If anything, Stefan had the impression that his colleague was upbeat.
Stefan was ashamed of himself when he saw Borg picking out the seemingly strongest of their opponents for himself, leaving him the skinny teenager and the older man who was of slight build and didn’t seem to be in very good shape. But there was no time for him to stop and think. The older man turned on his heel and doubled back across the yard.
It was clear that Borg wasn’t going to be able to go after the old man himself, so Stefan ran into the yard, scanning it for his opponent There. He caught up with the older man who really wasn’t in very good shape. Unfortunately, he was holding wooden board and Stefan only barely managed to avoid it. He felt it brush by, but it didn’t make contact with him. It was obvious that the old man wasn’t strong enough for this confrontation and Stefan didn’t have time to get creative. He just sprang, grabbed the old man around the waist with one arm, gripping the old man’s wrist with the other. He twisted hard and his opponent dropped the board. When he’d pushed the old man up against the wall, all the fight had left him and Stefan was able to put the cuffs on him. He used them to lock the old man’s arms around a lamp post and was about to turn and check how Borg was doing.
Something hit him in the back. He guessed that it must be the board, wielded by the teenager. Stefan lost his wind and fell to his knees. Helplessly he waited for the next blow, but it didn’t come. Sounds from behind him hinted that a new fight had broken out. He managed to get up and saw Borg fighting the teenage boy. Behind them, the two other suspects were lying immobile on the ground. It was too dark to make out how badly injured they were, but it was clear that Borg wasn’t going to show his new opponent any mercy.
“Hey. Frank. The kid’s had it. Just cuff him.”
Borg didn’t show any signs of wanting to stop. He kept kicking the boy in the abdomen and when he fell over, Borg was on him, raining kicks on the now unmoving body.
“Frank. Come on. That’s enough. I got the old man.”
Slowly Stefan’s words began to get through to Borg. He twisted the kid’s arm behind his back until he whimpered in pain, but that was all.
“Just cuff him.”
Hastily, Borg did as his colleague asked him, then turned his back on the boy, indifferent to what injuries he might have sustained. He studied Stefan intently.
“Are you alright? I saw the gutless little shit hitting you with a board. In the back.”
He whirled around, aiming a vicious kick at the kid, but when Stefan put his hand on his arm, Borg gave in.
“Hey, Frank. I’m alright. Want to call it in?”
“What? Sure. I’ll do it. Just go sit in the car while we’re waiting. Take it easy. Better let a doctor take a look at your back.”
“No, I’m fine. I just got the wind knocked out of me.”
“Right. I’ll sort this. Go on and get some rest.”
Stefan hadn’t meant to stay in the car for more than a couple of minutes, but he must have been more tired than he was aware of and suddenly he came awake with a start, to find Borg starting up the engine.
“Did I wake you? Just go back to sleep. I’ll take you home.”
“What? All the way to Ystad? There’s no need for that. I’ll -”
“No problem. It’s cool. I can’t sleep now anyway. We got those bastards. Yeah? We got them.”
Stefan nodded, not nearly as upbeat as Borg. The explosion of violence had made him ill at ease, not excited. Borg on the other hand, was clearly too wired to be able to sleep for hours. That might have something to do with all the coffee he’d guzzled during the course of the evening and night. Stefan glanced at the clock and saw that it was half past one. They had been staking that place out for at least five hours. He didn’t know what time it was by the time the fight had ended, but he must have been sleeping for at least an hour too.
When they pulled up in his driveway, Stefan had dozed off again, but the cool night air made him come to and this time he felt a little more alert.
“Want to come in and have a few beers?”
“Yeah, sure, if you’re not too tired.”
“No, it’s fine. I have a couple of beers in the fridge.”
“Nice. You should have seen me knocking out those two bodybuilders. They weren’t expecting a guy of my age to get them like that. Fuck, they looked surprised. I shoved one of them into the other and knocked him out with his own pal. Exactly like in a movie, right. It was insane. I wish I’d shot a movie of it and saved for later. To watch when I’m older, yeah?”
Borg babbled on, not really expecting a reply. Stefan pulled off his jacket and asked Borg to take a seat, then continued into the kitchen. When he returned, he had two opened beer bottles in his hand.
Borg knocked back the whole bottle, more or less, in one long gulp. He wiped his chin with the back of his hand, belched and leaned back into the couch, making himself comfortable.
“You wouldn’t happen to have another one, would you?”
“Sure. Want a sandwich or something?”
“No, I’m cool. Just the beer.”
The next one didn’t vanish quite as quickly, but close enough.
Borg grinned at Stefan.
“Hell, that old bore Wallander should have seen this.”
The sound of his superior’s name filled Stefan with a deep sense of unease. No, Wallander definitely shouldn’t have seen this. Though he admired Borg he knew deep down that his tactics were wrong. This wasn’t the way to do police work. In any case, it wasn’t for this kind of thing he’d become a police officer.
Borg noticed nothing of his colleague’s mood change. He leaned against Stefan, putting his arm around him, boxing him on the left arm.
“At least I can count on you, Stefan. Exactly the sort of mate everyone should have.”
Borg moved closer, studying Stefan’s face intently. Stefan caught the beer on his breath and a faint whiff of sweat. Suddenly, Borg leaned even closer and kissed Stefan on the mouth. Stefan tensed up and pulled away. His reaction didn’t seem to bother Borg, he just took the beer bottle from Stefan’s hand and finished the last of it.
After putting the empty bottle on the table, his let his hand move down to his crotch, rubbing himself, completely unselfconsciously. It was as if he was barely aware of where he was or with whom.
When Stefan stiffly got up and faced Borg, the latter’s expression didn’t change. Not even when Stefan, with some effort – the back was still aching – kneeled before him, did Borg seem the least bit surprised. He merely opened his belt buckle, pulled down the zipper and parted his pants a little. While it was going on, he rested his head on the back of the couch, gazing, through half-closed lids, without really seeing anything, up at the ceiling. From time to time he pressed his hands to the back of Stefan’s head.
Neither of them heard the key being turned in the lock nor the heavy, dragging footsteps approaching across the living room floor.
When Borg at last looked up and met Wallander’s gaze above Stefan’s head, his face twisted into a leer.
“Well, if it isn’t Kurt. How nice to see you here. Sit. I’m all done, so if Stefan doesn’t mind -”
Stefan was already up, meeting Wallander’s gaze. It made him shrivel up inside. For a second Wallander glared at Borg, then he turned on his heel and left the way he’d come.
Stefan vanished into the bathroom and from there into his own room. Eventually, Borg stretched out on the couch and fell asleep. When he woke up, he couldn’t see his host anywhere and for that matter, never looked for him either. He just made his way out to the car and drove back home. A little booze never did any harm.
When Stefan woke up, he considered calling in sick. That would at least postpone the meeting with Wallander for a while, but he realized that it would only get worse the longer he waited. Reluctantly he called Linda and asked her to give him a ride to work, though facing Linda was the last thing he wanted at the moment. Shit. All along he’d been meaning to disentangle himself from the mess with Wallander, and now this happened. He just had to face the truth, he’d never be the guy Linda deserved. No matter how hard he tried, he was just dragged further and further into the mire.
When she arrived, Linda studied him in that penetrating way he’d learned to fear. She saw too much, but at this point, he didn’t have much of a choice unless he wanted to call a cab. That would only attract his colleagues’ attention and make them wonder what he’d been up to the night before.
“Are you alright?”
He hadn’t meant to snap at Linda, but her interest made him nervous. If she had a chance to question him she’d suspect something and he just couldn’t stand that. Just as long as Linda didn’t know, maybe he’d be able to take it.
She didn’t say anything else, but he felt her eyes on him all the way to headquarters. The minute they walked in, he found that Wallander wasn’t going to leave him alone and he wasn’t surprised when he heard Wallander’s first words.
“Linda. There’s been a case of arson here, in central Ystad. Can you handle it on your own? I need to have a word with Stefan.”
Stefan could see Linda hesitating. He was hoping that she’d just do as she was told and get going. If she stayed, she might get a hint of what was going on his life. To his relief, she kept quiet and left again, gazing reflectively at him and Wallander.
“Come into my office, Stefan.”
There was hardly anything else he could do, so Stefan trailed behind him, dragging his feet. He might as well get it over with.
“I’ve just spoken to one of our colleagues in Malmö. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I distinctly remember telling you not to have anything to do with that Frank Borg. I also remember clearly that you promised me to get your act together. Am I right so far? Now what do I hear? You and that one-man team of vigilantes Frank Borg have been out all night kicking the crap out of some suspects. Our colleague’s words. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“You know that gang of drug dealers, selling their crap to school kids, in Malmö? We got one of their leaders and three of his henchmen.”
“That’s all very well, except for the fact that one of you – I assume it was Borg – put those three younger guys in the hospital. One of them with a fractured skull. The older man – you were the one who got him, right? – seems to be doing a little better.”
“Just a minute. I wasn’t finished yet. You’re on desk duty until we’ve cleared up this mess. I’ll work with Linda for a while.”
“But, Kurt -”
“No buts. You’ll do as I tell you. And one more thing – what I saw at your house – how do I interpret that?”
“Kurt, I -”
“Never mind. It doesn’t matter. I must have been out of my mind to let myself get dragged into – Forget it. Ok, you can go.”
“I said you can go. Well?”
The chill in Wallander’s eyes made Stefan’s mouth go dry, but in a way, Wallander was right. It didn’t matter now. Stefan clenched his teeth, trying not to betray any emotions, leaving Wallander’s office. If the merest hint of a rumour got out among his colleagues, he was finished. Strangely enough, he felt a little better afterwards. He refused to dwell on the events of night, but the thought of him and Wallander being finished with each other, was actually a relief. It was better this way. He’d never intended to get dragged into something with Wallander or Borg and he still didn’t know what had made him do what he had, but at least it was over. At last. The best he could hope for was that Linda would never guess any of it.
Linda returned an hour or so later, reeking of smoke, looking as if she was going to continue questioning Stefan, but the second Wallander caught sight of her, he whisked her away. They disappeared and didn’t return until late in the afternoon. By now she seemed to have given up on her attempts to get Stefan alone, at least for the moment.
Despite everything, he wanted to talk to her. He still missed her, as he had ever since the bizarre relationship with Wallander had begun, but for her sake, as well as for other reasons, it was better if he kept his distance Nothing else was safe. And he was used to being alone.