|Primary Characters:||Nazim, Hallgrim, Ditte. Marie|
|Description:||Hallgrim experiences strange emotions for just about all the members of his team. As usual he’s tormented by his bad dreams, but eventually he ends up in a situation where he wants to break free of the old self-desctructive patterns.|
Hallgrim woke up, damp with perspiration. It was a long time until he began to breathe normally again. For once, the dream wasn’t about something that happened long ago or started a long time ago, but was still going on. This time it was a more recent incident which was behind it. And unfortunately, parts of the dream were only too true.
They’d all been there, except for Michael, who had been resting in one of the interrogation rooms. The film which had been emailed to Thea’s computer had started up. Hallgrim had looked away. He’d already seen the appalling movie clip with the little girl who was being sexually assaulted. No reason to watch it again. The mere thought had made him furious and at the same time cold with dread. Suddenly, he’d heard the others call out in astonishment and he’d looked up.
Michael. His younger colleague had been naked. He’d been on all fours, turned towards a likewise naked man who was kneeling in front of him. The expression on Michael’s face had been broken somehow, crushed. His entire posture had been slumped down, desolate.
The scene had made Hallgrim’s throat constrict. He’d felt sick. Still, at the same time, he’d felt intensely aroused.
With burning cheeks, he’d been standing there, quietly, forcing himself to breathe calmly, so no one would notice. He was glad he hadn’t worn the tight pants that day. Although no one was paying any attention to him. No one seemed to have noticed that he was unusually quiet afterwards.
At that moment, he’d felt a strong, violently flaring attraction for Michael. The thought of the younger man lying in a room close by made him feel torn in two directions. On the one hand, he wanted, just like he imagined all the others did, to find the ones responsible, and make sure they were punished – but at the same time, he couldn’t get the thought of Michael’s sexy muscular body out of his mind.
For a second he’d wondered how those men had been feeling – the one who had been standing in front of Michael, and the one who had shown up from the other direction.
Eventually, when Thea had called for the ambulance, Hallgrim had excused himself and gone to the men’s room. He’d been listening shamefacedly towards the corridor outside, but no one had come. When he returned, Michael had been gone and Ditte with him.
A sense of dejection had spread among those present. Hallgrim had seen that both Marie’s and Thea’s eyes had been suspiciously misty and even Frandsen who was normally so calm and balanced, had seemed unusually shaken.
Nazim, as always, had been exceptionally empathic. Sometimes, that actually annoyed Hallgrim. Whenever he encountered great suffering he always felt in two minds about it. Naturally, he felt sorry for the victims, but at the same time, he had his own problems to worry about. Besides, no matter how badly he wanted to catch the ones responsible, there were times when he was hit by anxiety when something reminded him of his own past.
The dream had contained scenes he’d actually experienced, but as always, much was going on that had never happened in real life.
When the dream ended, after Michael had disappeared in the ambulance, he’d suddenly been there himself and he’d been one of the men who had abused Michael. Though he hated himself for it, he’d enjoyed the dream sequence. It had made him feel an intoxicating excitement, which he rarely experienced for very long. Just like with Marie and the others, the fascination and the attraction for them had rapidly turned to restlessness and a longing to get away.
Not even now, could he free himself entirely of the attraction for Michael. It was the first time he’d felt that way about the younger man. For quite a long time now, he’d been able to keep his restlessness in check, then he’d been pulled into the affair with Marie. He supposed he had to be grateful he’d never felt any attraction for Frandsen or Thea.
The attention he’d paid Ditte, in passing, had fortunately ended quickly, without anyone noticing. She just wasn’t his type. The same went for Thea and Frandsen. Marie was something else entirely, and – he was forced to face the truth – Michael was the same type, only male. In a way, he saw himself in Michael.
He went into the bathroom and took a quick shower. It was no use trying to get any more sleep tonight. Fortunately, it was already four thirty. Only an hour until he normally got up. After a cup of coffee, he’d regained some of his self control. When he saw the others, he wouldn’t seem different in any way, he was hoping.
It was lucky he didn’t have to see Michael. Meanwhile, he threw himself into his work with his usual intensity. He could always get through the days. The nights were another matter.
Some times he was only haunted – if that was the word – by people he’d met recently. Marie, other temporary relationships. Other nights he was back in Iceland, in his youth and childhood. Those were the nights he’d rather not sleep at all.
Sometimes he went out running or he spent all night at the office, just so he wouldn’t have to deal with those particular dreams.
Nazim seemed to guess something was going on. For once, Hallgrim snubbed him. Right now he didn’t want his old friend to get pulled into what he was going through. It was difficult enough anyway.
Thea let him finish the narcotics case, but afterwards she asked him to follow up on the Russian organized crime lead. If possible, they’d find the ones who had abducted Michael, and make them pay for what they’d done. Working with Frandsen, Hallgrim began to follow up on each little lead they had. The others were assigned other cases.
When he’d worked late for three nights in a row, Thea cornered him and more or less ordered him to go home and get some sleep. It was the last thing he wanted, but if he’d explained that to her, he’d have had to get into why and that was even worse.
So he went home, reluctantly, and sat down in front of the tv. If he was lucky, he’d be able to get through this night too, with coffee and the late night movie. But the movie was old and he’d seen it several times before. The other shows didn’t interest him. The coffee didn’t help anymore either. When he’d had too much of it, it made him tired instead of alert.
Though he fought it, it was long until he dozed off. This time he met Sergei. It wasn’t the first time, but this time, unlike the others, he didn’t give him any cryptic warnings or threats.
Instead, he was smiling meaningfully, as if he knew what was going on inside Hallgrim’s mind. Since it was a dream, he tried to tell himself, maybe he did. But that didn’t make Sergei a real person. He was just a part of Hallgrim’s own subconscious. Unfortunately, that knowledge didn’t make what Sergei was saying any easier to ignore.
“Why are you fighting it? If you want it, do it. That’s what the dreams are all about, my friend. Give in. If you want him, go for it. He’s asking for it – standing there naked, on all fours, like a cheap, two bit whore. That’s what he is. Give him what he wants. What you want.”
“Why are you fighting it. You want it. I know you do. You want me too, don’t you? Then do it. On your knees. You know that’s what you want. Go on.”
Though he was screaming no inside, Hallgrim’s dream self was getting on his knees in front of Sergei and –
He thought he was screaming, but he didn’t wake up. Instead, the dream changed. He was younger again. Twelve, thirteen years old. His sister was asleep, but he couldn’t sleep. He didn’t want to fall asleep yet. Instead, he went to his mother’s room. She was awake too, lying on the bed, without any covers or sheet covering her. He found her so beautiful. Her hair was spread out on her pillow and the nightgown was so flimsy he could see – She was smiling at him and waving for him to join her.
“Mother’s big man. You’re my big boy, aren’t you? Come here. Sit her with me.”
She was fondling his hair and pulling him closer. Hallgrim felt his cheeks heating up and his heart was pounding much faster. Inside, his anticipation was growing. Something was different tonight. He looked at his mother’s face and he thought she’d never been more beautiful. She was smiling so warmly and invitingly at him and somehow the touch of her hands felt different than before. They were moving so – gently and caressingly. Normally, she only touched him to punish him or to straighten out his clothing or simply to push him aside. She was always so busy.
He leaned closer, but still he was watching her incessantly. His breathing picked up and now his heart was pounding harder. Boom. Boom. Boom. He couldn’t resist pressing his lips against her mouth, which was so red and shiny. He held his breath. Would she push him away? Instead, her lips parted invitingly. The kiss felt different from all the other kisses he’d had from her or his sister or the aunts, who still came to visit them.
Without a word, she made him lie down beside her and her hands began to fondle his body. He felt feverish. An overwhelming sense of exuberance filled hm, but underneath it, something else was lurking, something darker, which he normally associated with Eigilsson.
It was like the time he’d been allowed to stuff himself with shark meat, which was beginning to go bad. He’d been so very hungry, but suddenly, he’d become sick. That was how it felt. The ecstatic elation was transformed into a numbing certainty that he’d done something wrong.
Then the dream changed and he was running across the treeless wilderness. Perhaps he was younger, perhaps older, but for the moment, he was free and the sun was beating down on him more hotly than it usually never did in Iceland. It was just as hot as the summers in Denmark, but at the time, he hadn’t experienced them yet.
When he came closer to the sharp decline towards the sea, he stopped. J—hanna was lying underneath some rocks, sunbathing. She’d removed her blouse and skirt and was lying, her legs slightly apart. Her closed eyes and half open mouth made it seem as if she was asleep or at least half dozing.
Suddenly, Hallgrim knew he was older than that time with his mother. Fifteen perhaps, and his sister fourteen. Or perhaps they were a year or so older. He stood there, quietly and unmoving so she wouldn’t know he was there. When had her body changed so much? It seemed like mere months since she’d been a bony, flat-chested tomboy, who was running around with the other little girls. Suddenly, she looked more like a woman.
Hallgrim couldn’t take his eys off her breasts, that were rising and sinking in time with her breathing. They looked so soft, yet firm and he wanted to lie down beside her and put his hand inside her bra and – He was gripped by a fierce excitement. It felt as if he’d never wanted anything or anyone as much as he wanted her at that moment.
In reality, he’d sneaked off to a sheltered spot and let off steam all alone. Now it was as if Sergei was whispering at the back of his head and so he stretched out beside her. He allowed himself to fondle her breasts lightly. It’s only a dream, he told himself. He let his hand slide in between her legs and he fondled the soft skin between her thighs.
Suddenly her eyes opened, and she smiled invitingly at him. She pulled his face closer and began to kiss him, while her hand found its way in between his legs.
A shadow fell across them and he looked up. Eigilsson was standing there, leering lecherously at him. He was nodding encouringly.
Hallgrim opened his mouth and screamed soundlessly and the dream image broke into a thousand little pieces, flying into the emptiness behind. He could feel himself falling.
When he woke up, he was wondering if he’d been screaming aloud after all. he lay for a while, listening into the silence of the hotel, but if someone had heard him, no one had reacted. By the time he’d reassured himself everything was calm, he noticed that he was lying in a damp, sticky spot. It wasn’t the only wet spot. He must have sweated profusely during the night.
His hand fumbled for his cell phone on the bedside table and when he found it, he saw that it was ten past three. It was a long time until it would be worthwhile getting up, but he got out of bed anyway and went into the bathroom to take a shower. He threw his dirty underwear into the hamper and went to look for a clean set.
When he turned on the tv, there was nothing on the regular channels and he felt no inclination to watch any of the pay-per-view porn channels. What he’d seen in his dreams tonight was more than enough.
If only it had been Marie. But he’d rejected Marie and left her without any explanation or comment. Technically, he’d cheated on her. Though he didn’t want to dwell on it, he had treated her badly. But he never stopped and faced the consequences of his actions. He just kept running, like the night he’d seen his father seduce his girlfriend. Where would he go now? Afghanistan? Iraq? Hadn’t he learned anything since his teens?
To distract himself, he went over some facts for work. Nothing was really urgent, but he might as well get something done, now that he was awake.
At seven thirty, he was sitting at his desk. About five to eight, Nazim walked in. Hallgrim looked up, and their eyes met. He hastily looked away. Nazim knew him better than anyone else, except possibly his sister and he saw too much. Hallgrim didn’t want Nazim to read what was inside him now.
Nazim recognized that look and resignedly he wondered who was next in line. He’s sensed something was about to happen, now that it was over between Hallgrim and Marie. It wasn’t hard to figure out that Hallgrim had slept with the Swedish air hostess while he was in Sweden, but who had caught his interest now?
Nazim felt a tightening in his chest. If only it wouldn’t be him. It wasn’t right and he knew that Hallgrim didn’t have the right to ask that of a friend, but if he did come to him, distressed and desperate, Nazim knew that he’d find it hard to refuse his friend.
“How’s it going?”
“Fine. I’m getting somewhere with the Russians’ car. We have some images from a surveillance camera on the way to the ferry to Sweden.”
“Good. Is there anything I can do?”
He held his breath as he waited for Hallgrim’s reply. Somehow, he felt sure he’d be able to read between the lines and be able to tell what Hallgrim was really after.
“No, it’s ok. I’ll let you know if I need your help.”
Hallgrim’s seeming indifference only allayed Nazim’s fears partially. Even if Hallgrim wasn’t after anyone else right now, that could change fast. So far, he’d kept Nazim at arm’s length, perhaps to punish him for his earlier refusal to play Hallgrim’s complicated games. Sooner or later things would change again, Nazim knew that. In a way, he wished they’d never met, or that they hadn’t become such good friends. He’d saved Hallgrim’s life more than once in Israel and Hallgrim had saved his, at least once. After that, they shared a bond. They were brothers.
When Michael got back from the hospital, the strain got worse for Hallgrim. Fortunately, Michael was staying with Ditte and only showed up at work for a few hours a day. Thea had been bery clear about that. He mustn’t overexert himself.
Then suddenly, he’d been gone again. Back to Sweden. To some girl who’d found him and saved his life. In a way, Hallgrim felt relieved. The intense attraction for the younger man was almost painful, as mixed up with guilt as it was. The dreams didn’t ease up either. Sometimes they weren’t sexual, but there was always a dark, menacing undertone. Most of the time, he couldn’t sense any meaning.
As a last resort, Hallgrim decided to go out, to a bar. Maybe he could find a blonde girl there who could, at least temporarily, calm him down.
He got up to leave. When he passed Frandsen’s desk, he found Nazim standing there, talking to his older colleague.
“That was quick. Off he goes to meet her.”
“Yeah, that was a little unexpected. She must have really made an impression on him.”
“Good for him. I’m really happy for him.”
“Yes, I do hope it will cheer him up a bit.”
Nazim’s dark eyes bored into his friend.
“I’m going out tonight.”
“Oh. Have fun.”
Frandsen glanced hastily at his watch.
“I have to go too. Anna’s free tonight so -”
“Me too. Lene wanted to discuss something important with me. I should have been on my way already. See you guys tomorrow. Villy. Hallgrim.”
Frandsen nodded a greeting and left for the exit. Nazim remained standing for a moment, watching his friend, hesitatingly. Hallgrim was still obsessed with someone. It was obvious. The question was, what did he intend to do. Nazim was hoping it wouldn’t be anything that would make everything worse.
“I have to go now.”
Hallgrim nodded and hurried past him, without a word. So he was still being punished. For once, Nazim was filled with irritation at his friend. Hallgrim wasn’t the only one who had a troubled past.
Nazim had had to watch his uncle being shot to death by the Israeli and his cousin – not that uncle’s son, but the son of one of his mother’s brothers – being lynched by their own people, for falling in love with a Jewish girl. After that, Nazim hadn’t felt at home in his own culture. He’d wholeheartedly made Denmark his home. Sanne wouldn’t be married off for a dowry of slaughtered goat kids. She would grow up in a peaceful, modern country and be allowed to choose her own way in life.
That was why he’d married a Danish woman. Why repeat the mistakes of earlier generations? He wasn’t blind to the darker aspects of the Danish culture. The hostility towards other ethnic groups not the least. But he still felt more at home here than over there. He’d made the decision not to teach his daughter Arabic. What was the use? She would speak Danish and when she was older, English.
The blonde girl wasn’t at all like J—hanna, but that didn’t make any difference. The colour of her hair didn’t matter. At this point, he’d have gone off with a man, if only he’d been able to keep the dreams and memories away for a while. But she’d shown up and she hadn’t been hard to get at all. On the contrary, she’d encouraged him from the start.
They didn’t even bother to get a drink when they’d shut the door behind them. She pulled him along into the bedroom. In the elevator upstairs, she’d rubbed herself against him and she knew exactly how aroused he was. She slipped out of her dress and sank down onto the bed.
For a moment, he was swaying back and forth, until he fell heavily on her and began to fumble with her zipper. After a brief moment of groping, it was over without really beginning. Confusedly he got up with a sense of having been robbed. The look in her eyes placed the blame solely on him.
“Aren’t you a little old for that problem? Or is it just me?”
He tried to think of something to say, but failed. Waveringly, he remained standing over her, pleadingly, and uncomprehendingly.
“Don’t I have the right – equipment – for you? If so, you went to the wrong place.”
“I – sorry. This – I don’t usually -”
“You know what? I don’t give a damn. We all have our problems. I’m no therapist. Piss off.”
When he didn’t move, she raised her voice.
At last, he regained control over his limbs and turned and left. He slammed the door behind him, but the childish gesture didn’t make him feel any better.
He didn’t want to get back to his place. He’d hoped to be able to spend the night with that woman, but here he was anyway. On his own. He couldn’t take it. Desperately, he reached for the phone.
It was a while before he heard any reply.
“Hallgrim? Is anything wrong?”
“No, but -”
“I was asleep. If this isn’t important -”
“Nazim – come here. Can’t you get over here? Or can I come to you?”
Nazim reacted instinctively. Not to his place. If he had to, he preferred to go to Hallgrim’s instead.
“Alright. I’ll be there.”
With a sigh, Nazim terminated the call. Things were turning out exactly the way he’d feared. With Hallgrim this desperate, he just had to go if he asked him. How could he refuse?
At this time of the night it didn’t take him long to drive there. Only about fifteen minutes after Hallgrim’s call, he was parking his car on the street below Hallgrim’s flat. Though normally every parking space in that street was full, he found one diagonally across from Hallgrim’s window.
Something told Nazim that Hallgrim would be standing there, keeping an eye out for him. part of Nazim could sympathise with what Hallgrim must be going through.
Personally, Nazim had managed to put his demons to rest, but he’d paid a high price for it. Maybe what was haunting Hallgrim was worse.
“What is it?”
He didn’t waste any time on small talk. Though he didn’t have much hope of being allowed to go back to his place before dawn, he tried to get to the point. If he was lucky, all Hallgrim would want would be to chat for a while about old times.
“I went with a woman to her place.”
Nazim didn’t know exactly where Hallgrim was going with this, but he knew that whatever it was, it would be a while until they got to the point.
“Things didn’t work out so well.”
“No? Had you been drinking too much?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. That usually doesn’t happen to me.”
That was a bit more than Nazim wanted to know, but he sank down onto the couch beside Hallgrim and prepared himself to listen anyway.
“How old were you the first time?”
That question Nazim really hadn’t expected. He had no idea what that had to do with anything.
“I was twelve.”
Nazim raised his eyebrows. That seemed to be awfully young. He had heard of boys who had been experimenting sexually, with each other. That was how it was here he came from. If someone was caught in the act, with a girl, both kids would most likely be killed. But in Iceland? It seemed unusually early. Though perhaps Hallgrim had had a girlfriend or a female buddy he’d been lucky enough to explore his sexuality with. Nazim had had to wait until he’d come to Denmark to have any luck where that was concerned.
“Oh. I wasn’t as lucky. It was quite a few years later for me.”
“Well, I suppose it was with a girl?”
Nazim didn’t know what to make of Hallgrim’s odd tone.
“My girlfriend – my father took her from me. He seduced her and -”
“I know. I’m sorry. You told me about that a long time ago.”
“Yes, I know. But it wasn’t with her.”
Nazim didn’t know where Hallgrim was heading with this conversation, so he had a hard time guessing what would be the best thing to say. Was he expected to just sit there quietly and listen, or did Hallgrim want him to ask questions?
“Ok. So it was some other girl.”
“Not a girl.”
Nazim raised his eyebrows again. That might explaine a few things. Another boy? Surely, not – a man?
“I really don’t see what difference it makes. Or are you still lovesick for her?”
“It was my mother.”
This left Nazim dumbstruck. If what Hallgrim was telling him was true – it did change everything. And it really explained far more than if Hallgrim had sneaked off into some corner with a friend and played doctor.
“No, you don’t. You don’t understand anything. I slept with my mother. And I – wanted to sleep with my sister.”
“But you didn’t?”
“No, of course not. How could I?”
Nazim really didn’t see why not, if he’d been able to sleep with his own mother. What was the difference?
“J—hanna has never understood what I felt for her.”
For a while, they sat together in silence. Nazim felt shocked. Eventually, his mind began to function again. This really explained a lot. A confused boy with – an incestuous relationship in his past. It might have been stranger if Hallgrim had been able to live a normal, ordinary life.
“How did it happen, Hallgrim?”
“How did you come to – sleep with your mother?”
“I – went to her room and got into bed with her and – I couldn’t help – kissing her.”
Hallgrim glared at Nazim, sudden anger flaring in his eyes.
“What’s your point? You’re trying to say that it was her fault, aren’t you?”
Nazim hesitated. Hallgrim’s sudden aggression was a bad sign. Most of all, he wanted Hallgrim to calm down and preferably go to sleep as well. But the self loathing in Hallgrim’s voice had given Nazim the clue he was seeking. Hallgrim blamed himself. Of course. What boy wouldn’t, if he’d been through what Hallgrim had?
“What are you talking about? I was the one -”
“You? Are you saying she wouldn’t have been able to put a stop to it?”
Hallgrim broke off. He didn’t want to remember anything more. After confessing this much to Nazim, he wanted to retreat, before he mentioned poor Michael. He just couldn’t stop the memories from flooding back. All the times his mother had slapped him for being late for dinner. For not helping her enough around the house. For getting his clothes dirty or answering back or taking food from the pantry.
She would have been able to stop him. A slap to his face would have made him pull back and sent him running back to his room, if she hadn’t followed him there and beaten him, with her bare hands or some object. He could recall too many times when he’d been forced to go to sleep face down, because his buttocks were smarting after a beating.
“Yes. She could. But – she needed me. Eigilsson left her so soon. She was all alone. I was supposed to be her big man. To take care of everything he should have been doing.”
“But not that, Hallgrim. She could have remarried.”
“We were miles from the nearest town. Our neighbors were married or old.”
“It still wasn’t right, Hallgrim, and you know it too. In our work -”
“It was different back then. In the old days, in Iceland, a brother could marry a sister if there wasn’t anyone else available.”
“Like in ancient Egypt?”
“No. Like in very sparsely populated countries.”
“But surely no mother could marry her own son?”
Hallgrim looked away. He knew Nazim was right. No one would have understood. What his mother had done was no different than what any other sex criminal had done to their own or other people’s children. But she was his mother. He loved her. How could he have seen what she’d done as a crime?
“Hallgrim, it wasn’t your fault. You were twelve years old and you were her child.”
“Wasn’t it my fault that I – wanted J—hanna?”
“You didn’t do anything about that. Besides, I think that’s connected somehow, to that other thing.”
“You mean I didn’t get enough and I had to have my sister as well?”
“I’m no shrink, but – I think what happened had an effect on you.”
“I think so too. I just keep running away as soon as things don’t turn out the way I planned. Or as soon as something happens that I can’t handle.”
“That’s not so strange.”
Hallgrim was watching Nazim again. He was the only one he’d always been able to count on. In Israel where they only had each other to trust. Any time a sniper’s bullet could be waiting for them. Explosives could go off anywhere. If they hadn’t had each other, they wouldn’t have been here now. He reached out and put his hand on Nazim’s lower arm and squeezed it.
Nazim smiled back at him, hesitatingly.
Hallgrim moved a little closer. Involuntarily, Nazim tried to pull back, but he had nowhere to go, unless he got up and walked away. That would have been like slapping Hallgrim’s face. He couldn’t do it. Hallgrim closed the distance between their faces and kissed him. For a moment, Nazim let Hallgrim have his way, then he put his hands on his friend’s shoulders and gently pushed him away.
“No. Don’t do this. It’s not right. We’re – brothers.”
Hallgrim pulled him closer and began to kiss him again. Nazim knew it was too late. Resignedly, he let his hand move down Hallgrim’s body and finish it, before Hallgrim got it into his head to go further. When it was over, he held Hallgrim for a while, then he pulled away and got up.
“Hallgrim. This was the last time. I can’t go through this again. It’s not right. You don’t have the right to ask this of me. I know you’re going through a difficult time, but this isn’t the way. If you need to talk, you know you can count on me. But this – I don’t know if you’re looking for a woman or a man, but I’m into women. I think you are too, really. Don’t let the guilt over this thing with your mother and your sister stop you. If you’ll just be honest with yourself you might be able to find someone you can stay with. Now I have to go. Try to get some sleep.”
“Wait. Don’t go. Nazim -”
“No. I can’t stay now. It might be best if we don’t see each other for a while. I have things I need to do too. You’re not the only one with problems.”
“It’s my daughter.”
Hallgrim’s eyes followed Nazim all the way to his door, and later too, though he’d closed the door behind him and gone down to his car.
Wearily, Nazim was staring at his hands, before he forced himself to turn the key and start up the engine. He had promised himself that Hallgrim wouldn’t put him in this situation again and still it had happened, just all those years ago. How could he be a good father to his daughter if he let himself be used like this? Though he had been touched by Hallgrim’s dreadful secret, he knew that what he’d let himself be talked into really hadn’t helped Hallgrim and he’d only managed to degrade himself even more.
When he got to work the following morning, he found out that Hallgrim had gone off to Joensuu in Finland, to follow up on a lead connected with the Russian mafia. It was a relief not to have to face him again so soon.
He sat down at his desk and started his computer. What was he to do?
“How’s it going?”
Ditte’s sympathetic voice told him she must have read something in his posture. He took a deep breath and prepared himself to smile as if nothing was wrong. Empty phrases like ‘I’m just tired’ began to take shape in his mind. But he changed his mind. He might not be able to tell her what had happened at Hallgrim’s place, but Ditte would be sure to understand about Sanne.
Or would she? Nazim recalled how strongly she’d reacted to her ex’s demands for more time with the children. Perhaps she’d feel that the girl would be best off with her mother. And in a way, she was doing well there, even with that other man, but surely she needed her own father too?
“My ex wants custody of Sanne.”
“You mean full custody?”
“Yes. She’s going to remarry and she feels she can offer her a better home, considering what hours I keep.”
“Oh, really? My bastard ex said the same thing. And he works just as much as I do.”
“I don’t know. She might be better off there, but I am still her father.”
“Of course you are. I think your ex is being selfish and unfair.”
“I guess so. But the judge might agree with her.”
“Don’t give up so easily. Do you have a lawyer?”
“No, not anymore. We came to an agreement.”
“But now she’s changed her mind, right?”
Nazim’s tone made Ditte take a closer look at her colleague. Something had definitely changed, only in the past few days. She was hoping nothing else was wrong.
“Have you given up already?”
Nazim thought about it for a while. No, he wouldn’t give up. He couldn’t let his little girl down. She had two parents and she should be allowed to keep them both in her life.
“If you like, I can give you the name of my lawyer. She’s brilliant. I feel sure she can help you too. Even if I couldn’t get out of sending the kids to Jens. But if he’d had his way, I would only have seen them for the holidays. Just because his mother can look after them when he’s at work.”
Ditte’s tone told Nazim how angry she was with her ex. He was just sad, but he was still grateful for her help.
“Thanks. I’d be glad to have that number. I could use a bit of help.”
“There. You’ll see. It will all work out. And if you need someone to testify on your behalf, just ask me.”
He smiled gratefully. Ditte’s offer of help had made him temporarily forget the night before.
Since both Michael and Hallgrim were gone, the rest of them were kept busy and most of the day went by without leaving Nazim any time to dwell on any of the matters that were weighing on him. In the end, the others began to show signs of being about to leave. Marie rushed off and Ditte leaned back in her chair and stretched her back. Thea vanished to a meeting with the minister. Frandsen was still up to his nose in a pile of paper, but other than that, the room was quiet.
Nazim was beginning to think about calling Ditte’s lawyer. He didn’t have anything to lose. How would he be able to get through the weeks without Sanne? She was the most important thing in his life.
He watched Ditte thoughtfully. Eventually, he picked up the phone and began to punch in the number he’d been given that morning. A lawyer would be busy, so it would probably be a while until he got to see her, but he might as well book a meeting as soon as possible. Before Lene and her new guy had time to get to the judge.
To his surprise, someone picked up right away. He glanced at the business card Ditte had given him.
“I’d like to book an appointment with ms Mendelson.”
“Yes. Very well. When did you have in mind?”
“As soon as possible.”
“Oh. Perhaps you could drop by right away? I have some time now.”
It seemed the lawyer was answering her own phone. He’d expected to have to deal with a secretary.
“Yes, that would be fine.”
“I’ll see you -”
He studied the card again and estimated that it should take about twenty minutes or half an hour to get there.
“In half an hour?”
“That will be just fine.”
He terminated the call and again he glanced at Ditte who had got up and was putting on her jacket.
“Want a ride?”
“Thanks, but I have the car. I called your lawyer. She said she could see me right away.”
“That’s great. Good luck.”
“Thanks. I could use it.”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure it will be ok.”
“I hope so. See you tomorrow.”
He hurried outside and picked the shortest route. Just as he had expected, it was difficult to find a parking space in the centre. He ended up having to run for several blocks and arrived breathless and exhausted at the lawfirm. This wouldn’t be the way to make a good impression. He stood, trying to get his breathing back to normal. It had been forty minutes now so he’d better hurry.
The lawfirm was on the second floor and when he entered their reception area, there was no receptionist behind the desk or any secretary. Only two doors were open. He searched for the lawyer’s name and found it on the door which was furthest away from the entrance. He knocked on the doorframe and looked inside.
A young woman was sitting, her face turned away, talking on the phone. All he could see was an abundance of dark hair, barely shoulder length. Other than that, she looked just like any other lawyer. She was wearing a business suit and high heels. However women were able to walk in those things.
The conversation appeared to be coming to an end. She said a few words of goodbye, then hung up.
“Good evening. Are you the one I was talking to on the phone earlier?”
It struck Nazim that he hadn’t said his name. He’d been caught off guard when he’d learned she could see him so soon.
“Yes. Nazim Talawi.”
“Rakel Mendelson. But you knew that already. Please have a seat.”
He was wondering what she’d make of his Arabic name. She spoke without an accent, but he suspected that she would have some kind of connection with Israel. All the jews did, and he knew she had to be Jewish, judging by her name.
He didn’t think he could detect any reaction at all, except maybe some curiosity.
He sat down in the chair she’d indicated and considered what he’d tell her about Sanne and Lene.
“May I ask what this is about?”
“Oh, of course. My wife and I are divorced and we have shared custody of our daughter. Sanne. My wife is getting married again and she wants full custody of Sanne. She feels she can offer her a better home.”
“I see. Well, can she?”
“It is a good home, but so is mine.”
“Of course. So you’ve been in agreement until now? About the custody?”
“Yes. It wasn’t a very bitter divorce. We just grew apart.”
“How old is your daughter?”
“Hm. Are you married or living with someone?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a police officer.”
“Irregular hours, I assume?”
“Yes. But I give my daughter priority.”
“That’s not always possible, though?”
“No, but my ex wife works too. She’s a nurse. And her future husband works too.”
“I’m not saying you wouldn’t be able to look after your daughter. We all have to work. I’m just planning the case. For that I need to know all relevant facts.”
“I haven’t had time to get into all the facts yet, but the way I see it, your ex wife has no right to simply change the terms of your agreement without just cause. Have you had any changes in your work situation?”
He hesitated. Not so long ago he was suspended for a disciplinary matter. But Hallgrim had made sure he was allowed back. The thought of Hallgrim made him clench his teeth. If this lawyer – Rakel – found out about their relationship – But there was no way she could find out, so he forced himself to ignore what had happened.
“I was temporarily suspended. For a disciplinary matter.”
“What was that all about?”
“I – they felt I was working too independently. That I wasn’t following instructions.”
“I see. No excessive use of force?”
“Thank you. As I said, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. If your ex wife tries to get a new trial, I doubt if the judge will accept her reasons.”
He was surprised. Could it really be that easy? A hesitant smile spread across his face.
She interrupted before he had time to thank her.
“The only thing that could cause trouble is if she gets herself a lawyer too and tries to dig up dirt about you. Could that happen?”
He considered her question. No, he didn’t think Lene would do that to him. They still got along well. She wouldn’t stoop to any unfair methods. Though that Torben guy seemed to dislike her relationship with an Arab.
“No, I don’t think so. She isn’t really trying to force this change through. Though her new friend – he seems to react negatively to me – because of my background.”
He might as well bring that up right away. He didn’t think a lawyer would refuse to represent a client merely because of his ethnic background, but you never knew. In this case, things might be different.
“I see. Is he a racist?”
“I’m not sure. He does seem to be a bit – negative. There might be other reasons behind that. Jealousy, for instance, though it’s over between me and Lene, so I really don’t see that that could have anything to do with it.”
“No. Unfortunately, there’s racism more or less everywhere.”
He glanced at her enquiringly. Was she speaking in general terms or was it due to her own personal experience?
“Yes. I’m afraid so. Of course, there are other places where it’s worse.”
Now that he’d begun to wonder about her personal views about things, he took another look at her. She was pretty. That hadn’t occurred to him before, but he liked her energetic and straightforward ways. Perhaps he was reading too much into her appearance, but he didn’t think she’d hide behind glib phrases. She’d say what was on her mind. Privately, naturally. Professionally, he was sure she couldn’t speak too freely.
“That’s true. In any case, I can’t make any definite promises, but I do think we’ll be able to work this out. Oh, I have to ask – how does the girl feel about all this? Is it difficult for her to live with you at times and then sometimes with her mother?”
“I don’t think so. She seems to miss me and she’s looking forward to meeting me, but when she’s going back to Lene – my ex – she’s happy about that too.”
“How does she feel about this new man, her future stepfather?”
“I haven’t heard very much about that. Torben seems to have tried to make a good impression. I think he’s given her a new bicycle, though she already had one, which I had given to her. Of course, they grow so fast at that age.”
“How do you feel about a new grownup coming into her life? Someone who might be prejudiced about you and indirectly her ethnic background?”
He hadn’t had time to think about that. Since he’d actively worked on letting Sanne be a Danish child, it had never occurred to him that she might be treated with prejudice or be exposed to racism. She didn’t even have black hair. It was more medium brown and though her eyes were brown, she looked like any other Danish kid he’d seen. But if Torben was really going to try to slander him, it might be a problem. There was nothing he could do to change his background, no matter how much he wanted to distance himself from much of what his culture stood for.
“If he makes it a problem, I’ll have to worry about it then. I have never imagined that might happen. Not to Sanne. We’d agreed that she would be raised entirely like any other Danish child. She hasn’t learned Arabic and she’s baptized.”
“Let’s hope there won’t be a problem. But if that happens, I could try to get you full custody.”
“I’d never take her from Lene.”
“I understand, but if Sanne is being ill treated by her stepfather – you would be prepared to take over responsibility for her?”
“Of course. But I can’t imagine Lene falling for a man who’s a racist. She’s not like that at all.”
“Well, as I said, let’s hope everything works out. Right. If you’ll just give me some information, I think we’re done for tonight. I’ll be in touch as soon as I know what’s going on. Does your ex – Lene – have a lawyer?”
“Yes. Mr Klausen.”
“Is that a problem?”
“No. I’ve met him in court a few times. He’s good. That’s all I know. Right. I’ll have a word with him and I’ll get back to you.”
Nazim got up and made for the door. Ms Mendelson smiled amiably and he returned her smile. As he was walking down the stairs, it dawned on him that he was looking forward to hearing from her. It would be nice to see her again. Of course, an attractive woman like her would be already be taken, and besides, she wouldn’t be able to date a client. Though when all this was over – But she was Jewish. Many jews hated the palestinians, many of which naturally returned their feelings. Even if he wasn’t like them, he could hardly expect her to view her in the same positive light as he was regarding her.
Hallgrim spent the night at a hotel in Joensuu, after consulting with the local police department. None of them spoke Swedish, so they’d been forced to communicate entirely in English. Not even that flowed very smoothly. Many of them were better at Russian than English, this close to the border. Unfortunately, they turned out not to have much useful information after all. Though of course one had to be grateful for any progress, no matter how slight.
Once he was in the hotel room, after having a light dinner in the dining room, he sank down in front of the tv. All the shows seemed to be equally indecipherable, mainly in Finnish, but some were actually in Russian.
He didn’t dare to try to sleep. Briefly, he considered going out again. In the bar, he’d glimpsed some heavily made up young women. But he thought they might be Russian prostitutes and he hadn’t fallen that far. Besides, what if his colleagues caught him in the act? He had a feeling the Finns viewed prostitution the way the Swedes did. That would be something to try and explain to Thea when he got back.
Perhaps if he went to some other bar – He realized that he was getting tired of the ceaseless chase for another one night stand. None of them was able to make him forget J—hanna or his mother. The thought of this reminded him of the night before. He’d never thought he’d reveal his secret to anyone. But now that he had, he sensed that Nazim was probably the only person he could have shared it with. For a moment, Marie’s face appeared before him, but he managed to push the thought away. He’d ruined everything with Marie.
Once he’d started thinking about Nazim, he realized he’d treated his friend unfairly. Nazim had been right. They were supposed to be brothers, and if you ignored his own broken family situation, that should exclude sexual relations. In normal families. As soon as he got back, he’d have to speak to Nazim and make things well again, unless it was already too late. Nazim wasn’t even bisexual. He’d known him long enough to sure of that. How could he have simply taken it for granted that his friend was there solely for his sake? Their friendship didn’t mean Nazim always had to be available.
In some strange way, the dream about Michael, J—hanna and his mother had freed him of the worst obsession and the encounter with Nazim had opened his eyes. Besides, he’d known all along, deep down, that his meandering from woman to woman had never done him any good. What had happened between him and his mother was still there, somewhere inside him, aching like an open wound. He couldn’t make it undone, but he wished that he had been able to leave it behind and maybe some day, the wound would heal.
Again he thought of Marie. Somehow she’d been different than the others. Maybe she could have been the one to help him put the past behind him, once and for all. But was he prepared to open up to her and tell her about what was really weighing on him? The thought frightened him. What would she think? But he was totally aware that after he’d pushed her away and betrayed her, it wouldn’t be enough to just return and say that he wanted her back. If she was still available.
In the end, he couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore. He was asleep, before he even knew he’d begun to doze off. At first, he was forced to stand and watch how Michael was being subjected to repeated assaults. This time the arousal was missing entirely. Instead, he shared Michael’s pain and he felt tears running down his face. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he was suddenly back in Iceland again. As usual, the dream sequence started out with a sense of freedom. The open spaces drew him in and he was running, his arms behind him. He was laughing out loud from joy. But as always, the shadows crept closer.
Suddenly, Sergei was standing before him, grinning like a wolf. He grabbed Hallgrim’s chin and tilted his face upwards. Hallgrim thought he was going to kiss him and wasn’t sure how he felt about that. But Sergei just subjected him to an intense scrutiny, then let go.
“So that wasn’t what you wanted after all. Go on. You’ll soon know what you really want.”
“I don’t want to. I know what’s going to happen.”
“Only if you want it to. You can change it all, if you want to. You have the power.”
Sergei placed his hand over Hallgrim’s heart.
“You were a worthy opponent. I will miss you.”
Sergei pulled Hallgrim close and held him hard for a moment, then he pushed him away, turning him in another direction, shoving him in the back.
Hallgrim began to walk. The feeling of exhilaration was gone and he walked heavily. He couldn’t see their house yet, but he knew where it was. It wasn’t far now.
Before long, the sun began to shine more warmly and he knew what he’d find beyond those high rocks that blocked the view of their house.
Just like before, J—hanna was lying there, sunbathing. He looked down on her, with mixed feelings. Part of him saw a skinny teenage girl who had been forced to get by almost without any support from her family, at such a sensitive age. Despite that, she’d grown into the strong woman she was now. Hallgrim knew that he loved her, but what had happened had made it hard for him to be close to her. And she was beautiful. As a teenager and as a woman.
Hallgrim wanted to turn and leave, but he knew it wasn’t that easy. Indecisively, he stood, staring at her breasts. Her eyes opened, and their gazes locked. He knew that she understood what he’d been thinking and he felt his cheeks turn red.
She got to her feet and before he could stop her, she gave him a stinging slap. The pain made him stumble. He didn’t think J—hanna was that strong as an adult and definitely not then, as a teenager. But he clung to the pain and accepted it. It was better than the unnatural desire he’d felt before.
He sensed that he must have been confused, after what had happened between him and his mother. Even if he could never hate her for it, he knew it had been wrong. Her fault, not his. He saw himself as the boy he used to be and realized that his emerging sexuality had made him believe it was his mother and his sister he wanted. They were the only women around him. But if only he could have held on for a few more years, he would have met others and everything would have been different.
“Forgive me, J—hanna. I didn’t mean to. I can change. I can stop feeling this way.”
She pulled away and vanished behind the rock. He followed. When he caught up with her, he realized it was the grown up J—hanna now.
“Hallgrim. Don’t be scared. I love you. I know you’ve had a hard time, but things will be different now. Trust me. Let go of the past. No one can change it, but you can be free and enjoy life again. It’s over now.”
He was filled with an euphoria which felt about to erupt from him. J˜hanna put her arms around him and hugged him. To his surprise, he felt no desire anymore. He laughed unrestrainedly. At last she pushed him away.
“Go back now, Hallgrim. The dreams will end soon.”
“Don’t thank me. It was your doing.”
He saw her disappear in the direction of the house. Now he knew their mother wasn’t there anymore. He’d never find her there anymore.
It was time he left Iceland. He turned around and almost ran into Eigilsson.
“There you are, my son. You have been angry with me for a long time now. But you have to understand it was hard for me too. Where would I meet women?”
Hallgrim was filled with a dark rage. Eigilsson who had left them alone. He was the one who had gone away and been able to meet as many women as he wanted. This was just excuses.
“You could meet any women you wanted.”
“But they don’t want me. I’m not handsome and successful like you. You have always been able to get those beautiful women.”
“So you have to steal your own son’s girlfriend? And if you’re not successful, it’s because you always have to take shortcuts. Forged money. Other people’s girlfriends.”
“But you’re young. You can get new girlfriends.”
“Not if you’re always taking them from me. Not if you’re standing there watching when I’m looking at J—hanna that way. You want me to be tied to them so you can take my girlfriends. It was your fault that mother -”
“My fault? How can it be my fault?”
“You left her.”
“We didn’t love each other. I couldn’t stay there cooped up on the farm.”
“But you were our father. You had a responsibility for us.”
“I don’t know if I’m J—hanna’s father.”
“You know you are. Who else would it be? You’re just lying. And in any case, you’re my father.”
“You looked after your mother so I didn’t have to.”
Hallgrim sensed that Eigilsson was mocking him for what had happened. Looked after. What else could he mean, but –
“Asshole. You sick bastard.”
“Which one of us is sick? I’m not the one who’s lusting for my own mother or my sister. Don’t blame your weaknesses on me.”
“I hate you. You’re not a real father. You’re – a monster.”
“I’ve never hit you. My father – You know nothing about monsters. You ought to be grateful. If you knew what he did to me -”
“How do you know? You never talk to me. We never see each other. Ask me. Talk to me.”
And Eigilsson vanished in the haze. Hallgrim was alone on the green, treeless wastes, sobbing.
When he opened his eyes, he didn’t know where he was. He looked around the room and slowly the memories returned. he was in Finland, but today, he was going home – to Denmark. Home. Denmark or Iceland? No, after what had happened, he could never see Iceland as his home. But he was going home to Denmark now. If he hadn’t missed his plane. He managed to find his cell phone and noticed that he’d received a test message from Thea. Had he neglected to report back to her last night? Yes, he seemed he had. It was only about twenty to four in the morning. His plane wasn’t leaving until a quarter past nine. There was plenty of time.
While he was taking a shower, he found that he wanted to see Eigilsson and for once confront him. They needed to talk things through. Some day Eigilsson would be gone too, just like his mother, and then he’d never have a reply to his questions.
Later, over breakfast, his thoughts returned to Marie. Maybe it was too late to work things out again, but suddenly, he knew that he wanted to try. Even if he’d end up having to tell her more about his past than he’d ever done before. Perhaps he should have confided in his wives. It felt funny to think of them in the plural. That wasn’t how he’d planned it. What he really wanted was to just find one who was the right now and stay with her for the rest of his life. He wasn’t like Eigilsson. Not really. Though he had behaved just like his father so far, he didn’t want to continue that way.
Just like he’d told J—hanna in the dream – he could change. If only he wanted to. And he felt strongly that he wanted nothing more than that. To be free of the past. To settle things with Eigilsson. To meet his sister and be able to truly look at her without becoming aroused and wonder what she looked like underneath her clothes. He knew he must have hurt her feelings by pushing her away, every time she’d tried to hug him. To her, it must have looked as if he didn’t care about her at all.
While he was waiting for the taxi to take him to the airport, he called J—hanna. The phone kept ringing for so long he concluded, partially relieved, that she must have turned off her cell phone. In the end, though, someone picked up.
“I just wanted to -”
He hesitated. Nothing had really happened and still so much had changed.
“Nothing. I just missed you. I wanted to hear your voice. Are you ok? Are the two of you?”
“Yes, everything’s fine here. Are you sure you’re alright? You sound so – different.”
“I might be a little different. Maybe I’m growing up.”
“You’ll never grow up, big brother. You never do. You men.”
“No, I guess not.”
“I have to hang up now, but it was nice of you to call.”
Something in her voice told him how surprised she was. He had to remind himself to call more often. Maybe he could ask her if she wanted to come and visit. He thought he’d feel differently about seeing her.
“Take care, little sister.”
“You too, Hallgrimur.”
It wasn’t until afterwards he realized that she’d spoken Danish with him. Like she usually did, because she sensed he preferred it that way. She on the other hand would prefer Icelandic. He would try to remember that in the future. Why should he always get his way?
He’d made up his mind. As soon as possible, he’d go and visit Eigilsson. He didn’t imagine it would be easy to settle things with him, but he knew it would be necessary if he ever wanted to get rid of the ghosts from the past. It was too late to talk things through with his mother, but he hadn’t wanted to go into what really needed to be discussed, and the rest really didn’t matter.
The first thing he did when he got back was to ask Nazim for a private conversation. He didn’t miss his friend’s momentary hesitation, and felt ashamed of himself. It was all his fault. They had promised each other they’d always be there, to cover each other’s backs when the bullets started to fly. And now, Nazim didn’t trust him anymore. Despite that, as always, Nazim forced himself to come through. It made Hallgrim feel even more guilty. But he would make it up to Nazim. Make things well again.
They went out back to talk. In a place where most of the time they’d be sheltered from the winds from the sea. Their colleagues who smoked would go there to have a few fags, but in the icy weather this morning, no one was standing still outdoors.
Hallgrim watched his friend sadly and made a point of keeping his distance.
“You were right. I shouldn’t have – done what I did.”
Nazim studied him closely, almost as if he could tell something had changed.
“I’ve – thought about it and I think I understand now.”
“That’s good. I’m glad you told me. In a way, it all makes sense now.”
“I wasn’t going to tell anyone. But – I think I feel a little better now. When I was able to tell you.”
“That’s great, Hallgrim. Remember what I said. It wasn’t your fault. And – what happened – it doesn’t matter now. I understand. Let’s just move on.”
“Yes. I hope you still want to be my friend – my brother.”
“Of course I do.”
Hallgrim hesitated, then gathered up all his courage and after glancing around furtively, he hugged Nazim hastily. To his surprise and joy, Nazim returned his hug and when they turned to go back inside, he couldn’t resist looking at Nazim again. Their eyes met and he saw that Nazim was smiling. This time, the smile reached his eyes. Hallgrim could hardly believe everything was well again between them. That he’d managed to change, like he’d promised J—hanna in the dream. He promised himself that he would keep that promise.
He ran into Ditte in the corridor. She smiled at them.
“You guys are looking pleased.”
Hallgrim returned her smile.
“Yes. I think this will be a good day.”
“How can you tell? It looks just as dark and cold as it did yesterday.”
Nazim was smiling too.
“Yes, but it’s going to be a beautiful day anyway.”
“Well, I hope you’re right. Besides, I think you are. Tonight, the kids will be back.”
Her mention of the children made Nazim recall the lawyer. Rakel. He was hoping she’d call soon.
Hallgrim stopped Ditte before she disappeared again.
“Hey. Hold on. Is Marie in there?”
“Yes. She’s sitting at her desk.”
After glancing quickly at Nazim again, Hallgrim hurried inside to talk to Marie.
“He seemed to be in a hurry. I thought it was over between them.”
“Me too. But I don’t know. Hallgrim seems different somehow. Maybe he’s discovered that he misses her.”
“Yes, could be it.”
Ditte shrugged. Then she reminded herself to call Lukas that evening. They had talked about going somewhere together, all of them. His kids were about the same age as her two youngest. She was sure they could think of something nice to do.
Hallgrim stopped to look at Marie for a while. She was sitting with her back to him. He was wondering what he was going to say to her. Perhaps it would be best if they talked somewhere away from work. If she agreed to talk to him at all.
Thea caught sight of him and waved for him to join her. He decided to postpone his conversation with Marie for a while.
When he went to make his report ot his boss, he felt Marie’s eyes bore into his back. As soon as Thea let him go, he walked across to Marie’s desk.
She studied him pensively, as if she was considering saying something, but she didn’t.
He swallowed. What could he tell her?
She appeared to change her mind and fired off a question at him.
“Did you find something that can lead us to the bastards who abducted Michael?”
“Not much. I’ll let you see what I have, but -”
She glanced enquiringly at him.
“Can I talk to you – in private?”
“What is it now? I thought we’d said everything that needed to be said. At least you did.”
Her tone wasn’t encouraging, but he didn’t want to give up without at least trying.
This appeared to surprise her. He couldn’t blame her for that. It was rare for him to use such a meek tone. How had been able to get away with treating women that way? It seemed to be time for him to change more than just the way he felt about his family.
“I don’t know what want, but – sure. Is this urgent? Would you like to go into one of the interrogation rooms? Or is it enough if we go out to lunch?”
“We can have lunch. On me.”
“No. I’ll pay my own way.”
“As you like.”
They found a table a little out of the way. Maybe they’d be able to talk here without interruption. Hallgrim glanced uneasily at the other tables. They seemed to be far enough away, but the thought of discussing what he was going to, in such a public place didn’t feel appealing.
“What’s the problem? Don’t you like this place? You used to.”
“Yes, but – there’s just something I wanted to discuss with you and -”
“Is it that private?”
She stared at him wonderingly. Eventually she appeared to come to a decision.
“Then let’s go to my place. Of course, you won’t get anything as appetizing there as you would here.”
“I’m not hungry anyway.”
“Come on, then.”
He looked around her apartment. The memory of the nights they’d spent there together made it harder to focus on what he’d made up his mind to do.
Nervously, she began to set out butter, cheese and bread on the table. She found a bottle of mineral water and a few tomatoes. That seemed to be what she had. While she was busy doing that, Hallgrim was thinking about how to begin. In the end, he thought he’d found a way.
He sat down facing her and began to move the sandwich around his plate, but didn’t make an effort to eat. His throat felt dry, so he took a sip of water instead.
“I’d like to apologize for how I treated you.”
“Really? It’s a little late for that.”
“I know that. But I’m really sorry anyway.”
“Did that Swedish girl dump you?”
“I haven’t been in touch with her since -”
“Since you went to bed with her?”
“Did you tire of her?”
“Marie – I can’t undo what I did. And I know I’ve done this many times before.”
“Hold on a sec. You’ve cheated on me before?”
“Not on you. My – ex wives. Others too.”
“I know it isn’t. But -”
He couldn’t tell her. How could explain how it was? Would she even believe him? She might come to the conclusion he was making it all up to gain sympathy. But he couldn’t see how anyone would want to lie about something like that. Something that shameful and unnatural. Who would want to own up to something like that, unless they had to?
He decided not to tell her about J—hanna. It would be fair to her, and besides, nothing had happened. The way he felt now, she was nothing more or less than his sister. What had happened hadn’t been her fault.
He also realized that it would be impossible to explain his feelings for Nazim and least of all Michael. Besides, those had changed too, since the latest dream.
But what had happened with his mother – if he was going to try at all, he’d have to tell her that. And then there would be no guarantees that she’d want to try again. She might be so disgusted by what he’d done that he might irrevocably destroy his chances, once and for all. But if so, he would have to accept that. He had to open up and share his secret.
He blinked to stop the tears which were burning underneath his eyelids. What would she think of him?
She sounded a little warmer now.
“Whatever it is, you might as well tell me right away.”
“You remember what I told you about Eigilsson?”
“About how he seduced your girlfriend?”
“Sure I remember. I guess you don’t have a very good relationship with your dad. Of course, you’re hardly alone in that.”
Possibly, but he didn’t think that many people had such a bad relationship they had.
“He abandoned my mother and us when I was a child. When J—hanna was a baby.”
“Yes, you told me that too.”
“We had to get by on our own. It was hard. Financially, but also in other ways.”
“Yes, I can imagine.”
“We – were all alone.”
Marie stared at him again. This wasn’t going very well. How could he make her understand?
“Did she beat you?”
The question took him by surprise. In a way, she was close to the truth, but in another way, she was way off.
“Yes, but everyone did back then. It was probably more common in Iceland, than here.”
“Ok. Just tell me.”
“I slept with her.”
He saw Marie’s face lose all trace of colour. Her eyes darkened and she flinched. He felt as if he’d struck her.
“Are you saying -”
“Yes, I had sex with my mother.”
“How old were you?”
“You mean she abused you.”
He wanted to say no. It was my fault. Then he looked on the incident with his grown up eyes. The eyes of the police officer. That was how it had happened. She’d abused him.
“Hallgrim, that was – I never would have been able to guess, but – now that you mention it – don’t be offended – you do fit the profile.”
“Of how abused children behave. As adults they have trouble maintaining normal relations with the opposite sex.”
“Oh. Yes. You’re right.”
“It doesn’t feel very common. At least not – I mean, I’ve been living with the memories all this time, but -”
“No, of course it has to be different anyone who experiences it.”
“I just wanted you to know. Not as an excuse, but – I wanted you to know.”
“Thanks. For trusting me with this.”
“Thanks for – understanding.”
“Oh, I understand. A whole lot, actually.”
He was wondering what her tone implied. Suddenly, he felt that she most likely wouldn’t be able to consider having a relationship with him. She was wondering how to tell him without hurting his feelings too much.
“I understand if you don’t want to see me again. Privately. If you think it’s too – complicated. I just want you to know that I – wish things could have been different between us.”
“Complicated? I find it hard to believe it could get any more complicated than it already was, before you told me. Would you really be willing to work harder at a relationship now that you’ve told me the truth?”
“Yes, I would. I want to change. Everything will be different now.”
She nodded pensively. He could see her gaze moving across him and blushed. She’d be imagining that scene, at least how she thought it had been. With him lying naked by his mother’s naked body –
“Then I guess you’ll have another chance. But this is the last one, Hallgrim. If you betray me again – If you just go off again without letting me know – We’ll take it one day at a time. See how it goes. Don’t promise me anything you can’t keep. Don’t give me a ring. If you’re really serious -”
He met her gaze squarely without shying away.
“I’ve never been more serious. It will be different now.”
She smiled. He thought that she probably didn’t trust him fully yet. But he’d change her mind. This time he wouldn’t throw himself into the next open arms. He’d fight to make their relationship work.
Relieved, he bit into his sandwich. She took a bite out of hers too. It actually looked as she was relaxing a little. He put his sandwich down again and wiped his hands on the napkin she’d laid out, then placed his hand on hers. The one not holding the sandwich. She put hers down as well and squeezed his hand back.
“I was going to go and see Eigilsson.”
“That might be best. Are you going to try to have it out with him too?”
“Yes, but I don’t think I’ll tell him about – what happened. I just want to hear his story. And I doubt if he cares much about how we managed without him.”
“You never know. He might have changed.”
“Not Eigilsson. I’d love to ask you to come along, but I don’t trust him.”
“You don’t think I can handle an old man? I am a cop, you know. You don’t think I’ll fall for his – charm?”
Hallgrim thought about it. No, he didn’t think Eigilsson would succeed in seducing Marie or – if that was what he did – rape her. In fact, it would serve him right if he tried. Hallgrim couldn’t imagine hitting an old man, not even Eigilsson, but if he tried anything with Marie – it really would serve him right if Marie taught him a lesson.
Immediately, he felt ashamed of himself. He mustn’t sit here wishing his father would attempt to rape his girlfriend. Then it hit him. He was sitting here again, thinking of Marie as his girlfriend. The thought made him feel warm inside.
It was true. Things didn’t need to go on as they had. He could break the pattern. Again, he squeezed Marie’s hand and smiled at her. She returned the squeeze and the smile. Finally, he recalled that she’d asked him a question.
“No, I don’t. Ok. If you want to, I’d for you to come along.”
It would feel better that way. Marie would be a support to him, or at least she could console him if the confrontation with Eigilsson went as badly as he expected.
“Then it’s settled. But soon poor Thea won’t have anyone left to put to work. Unless Michael returns.”
“We should get back. And try to get some work done.”
Marie took a few more bites out of her sandwich, then she got up and began to clear the table. Hallgrim hastily joined her. He thought it might be the first time. Not even when he’d been married had he remembered to do his part of the household chores. Just thinking about all the things he’d need to change made him tired. But it was about time.
And he didn’t mind the changes at all. Already, he was feeling free. Free of the dreams. Free of the guilt. Nothing was decided by fate, as in the old sagas. He could choose how he wanted to live his life and where his home was. And his home, that was here, in Denmark, not on Iceland, no matter how beautiful it was.