|Primary Characters:||Marie, Michael, Ditte, Nazim|
|Warning:||violence, adult themes|
|Description:||The group is raiding a house with several suspects. Something goes wrong and people are hurt. And Hallgrim is just like he’s always been.|
Marie Wied, temporarily in charge of the special unit for investigations of international crimes, looked at the clock on the wall. It was ten past eight. The night before, she’d sent messages to the entire group, about an important meeting that would take place at exactly eight in the morning. No one had contacted her and told her they were going to be absent for professional or personal reasons.
Marie herself had been at work just before seven thirty. She needed to see to a few things, before the meeting. Since she was only temporarily in charge, in her boss, Thea Nelleman’s absence, she strongly felt the need to go strictly by the book.
Only minutes after her arrival, their computer expert, Michael Kristensen, showed up. There were times when Marie had the impression that Michael more or less lived in their headquarters, in front of the computer screen. But apparently not today.
She nodded amiably at the younger man. He had been through a lot and there were some who felt he should be dismissed. Marie didn’t share that opionion. Certainly, Michael had made a serious mistake, when he shot an innocent person to death, but it was evident that he’d been manipulated by an American former CIA agent. Or at least as much as anyone could be a former CIA agent. In any case, Michael’s expertise was first class and Marie knew that the majority of their latest cases would never have been solved or at least not within their tight time frame, if it hadn’t been for Michael’s hard work.
Quite soon after his arrival, Nazim Talawi had shown up. Marie guessed that Nazim’s daughter was spending this week with her mother and new stepfather.
Nazim returned her greeting, amiably enough, though looking a bit pensive.
When it was almost eight, Ditte Hansen walked in. She was looking a little harried. Marie could understand that. After what had happened her teenage daughter, it wasn’t at all surprising that Ditte was under a lot of pressure at home and at work.
On the other hand, Villy Frandsen showing up this late, was a bit unexpected. It could only be because his wife’s recent death. Most likely, Frandsen wanted to be at home to make sure his sons left for school on time.
In any case, on the hour, Frandsen appeared in the doorway. He was looking sombre and merely nodded briefly in reply to Marie’s greeting, and those of the others.
Since her lover, Hallgrim Hallgrimsson, still wasn’t present, Marie decided to give him another couple of minutes. He rarely or never spent the night at her place and seemed a bit reluctant to let her spend the night with him. On those few nights, he did sleep with her, he usually sneaked out just before dawn. His behaviour had made Marie feel as if she wasn’t quite welcome at his place either. They would often meet in the evenings, but almost never woke up together.
She didn’t know where he’d been heading when he left her the night before last. After that, she’d only seen him briefly at work. There had hardly been time or opportunity to discuss personal matters. Their current case was far too complex to leave any time for private discussions.
Irritably, Marie snatched her mobile phone out of her desk drawer. No new messages. At least not from Hallgrim. What was he up to? She was beginning to think that perhaps she’d made a mistake, when she’d agreed to try again.
After all, he frequently confronted her at work and sometimes even defied her. He had hardly been able to get away with that kind of behaviour if Thea had still been here. Marie was almost looking forward to her boss’ return. It wouldn’t be long now. Only a few more weeks. On the other hand, this new responsible position was stimulating and she knew it would come in handy for her career.
More angry than irritated by now, Marie decided to start the meeting without Hallgrim. It would serve him right.
She got up and pushed back her chair, to indicate that the meeting had begun.
“Let’s get started. As you all know, we’ve reached a critical point in our investigation. Our suspect might be heading out of the country, so we’ll have to strike immediately. We’ve set a preliminary time for the raid. 2.30.”
Nazim raised his eyebrows. Tonight? Or – He’d better find out for sure.
“Yes. Considering the suspects’ habits, that will give us the best opportunity to catch them unawares. According to what we’ve learned from the surveillance cameras, they’ll be asleep. At least all except one of them. You have all received plans of the building, with all entrances marked.”
For a while, there was silence, while everyone studied their plans. They would be entering through the back door, while simultaneously, a SWAT team would be going in through a side entrance and the front door. Nothing appeared to have been left to chance.
Once all the questions had been answered, Marie decided to drive by the hotel where Hallgrim was living. Of course she could call him, or if he didn’t reply, call reception, but for some reasons, she felt impelled to go in person. It was as if she was expecting something. Deja vu. With Hallgrim, you never knew.
“I’ll be back within an hour. The mobile will be on, so if you need me, just call.”
Her colleagues stared at her in mild surprise, as she closed the door behind her. She had looked grim somehow. Ditte was wondering what was up. If it was something to do with work, surely everyone deserved to know what was going on.
But since Marie hadn’t said anything, they all returned to their respective preparations.
Michael knew that it was generous of Marie to let him work in the field again. Others, like Hallgrim, wanted him out of the group, or maybe fire him entirely. Despite that, Marie let him take part in this important raid. He was well aware of that. Even so, his mind couldn’t dwell on the preparations.
His gaze kept straying to Ditte. Ditte had been absolutely fantastic during the difficult time, after he’d been abducted and subjected to horrific abuse by members of the Russian mafia. Then her own daughter had been assaulted in a similar way. Michael wished he’d been able to be more supportive of Ditte during that difficult time. Instead, he’d been right in the middle of another crisis. This time, it had been entirely his own fault.
Strangely enough, the meaningless violence inflicted on the innocent man was haunting him far worse than what he had been the victim of. He had killed a man. Not a criminal, an entirely innocent person. That was terrible. Somewhere deep down, a feeling that he what had happened to him earlier was something he’d deserved, because he was capable of committing such a horrific crime.
Once again, his eyes strayed to Ditte.
Nervously, she let her gaze roam across the room. This kind of raid was somehow too – big. The thought of participating in a raid that might lead to the death of several people, was unnerving. Besides, she didn’t feel she or Michael belonged in the field. She was a forensics expert and he an IT specialist. In fact, they were all more suited for investigation, rather than direct action. Her gaze fell on Micahel. Their eyes met and to her surprise, Michael looked away.
She was wondering if Michael was as worried about the raid, as she was. Maybe it was too soon to let him out into the field. She should probably discuss this with Marie – But Marie wasn’t here. When she returned, she would need to take Michael’s participation under consideration.
Pensively, she kept watching Michael. What he’d been through in the past months was truly horrible. Such fine young man definitely didn’t deserve to be abused the way he had, and what that rogue CIA agent had done to him was no better. She was wondering what it might be like to have the blood of another human being on her hands. If this raid went wrong somehow, she might find out.
But she didn’t want to dwell on that now. She considered talking to Michael. When the unthinkable had happened to Fie, she hadn’t been able to spend as much time with Michael as she would have liked to. He could have used her support, but she hadn’t been there for him. Perhaps now would be a good time to make it up to him.
Marie felt like a fool, sitting like this in her car, outside Hallgrim’s hotel. She could just as easily have called him. Now here she was, like a jealous wife, waiting for – what exactly? What was she so upset about? His nonchalance towards her at work? Perhaps it was the suspicion that he was cheating on, that was at the back of her mind all the time?
She was about to leave, when the door opened and a young woman walked outside. She seemed to be Michael’s age. Late 20’s. She remained outside the door, as if she was waiting for something. The door opened and Hallgrim came out.
The girl’s face lit up and she took a few steps closer to him. Hallgrim smiled at her, in that charming way of his. Despite the fact that he was flashing it at that girl, Marie felt herself go warm inside.
Helplessly, she was forced to sit and watch Hallgrim pull the girl closer, then kiss her, exactly the way he used to kiss her, Marie.
Right. That was how it was. She’d been expecting that all along, really. Hallgrim simply couldn’t be faithful to any woman. She had been a fool to trust him.
Something froze inside her. She felt a strange mixture of cold rage and a numbing despair.
Outside, Hallgrim pulled away from the girl. A taxi arrived and Hallgrim opened the door for his guest. After one last kiss and a few words to the driver, Hallgrim let her go. He walked over to the parking lot, presumably to get his own car.
A few minutes later, Marie regained control over herself. She turned the key in the ignition and returned to headquarters.
Nazim stared at his mobile phone display. He knew that no text message had come and there wouldn’t be one either. Not from Rakel.
He should have known from the start, but he’d been so delighted, so surprised that one of the jews could be completely indifferent to his ethnic background. The few times they’d had time to meet, had been fantastic. He really believed that if they had actually managed to match their respective schedules, they would have had a chance.
But if anything, Rakel was even more busy than he was and besides, the hours he kept, made it necessary to spend what little spare time he had, with Sanne. There was no reason to be surprised that Rakel wasn’t getting in touch anymore. He shouldn’t have allowed himself such high hopes, when he knew how difficult it was for cops to have functioning relationships.
Even among his closest associates there were too many examples of that. Hallgrim – but his friend wasn’t a suitable example. He and Ditte on the other hand, were typical examples of divorcees. Marie and Michael could have been the poster children for cops who had never been able to even start a permanent relationship.
Frandsen – Nazim had a hunch that his marriage had ended long before his poor wife had died. It was only Thea who seemed to have a successful marriage. But, Nazim reminded himself, her generation might easily have another way of looking at divorce. That didn’t mean her marriage was a happy one.
Sadly, he forced himself to let Rakel go. At least it had been wonderful while it lasted. Perhaps better than any other relationship since his divorce from Lene.
Finally, he was able to force his thoughts away from his personal life. If he were to be able to function during the raid tonight, he’d need to focus.
As soon as Marie walked in, he knew something was wrong. She was upset about something. He waited a moment in case she would say something. If whatever it was had anything to do with their case. But Marie just sat down behind her desk – or rather Thea’s. The look on her face didn’t encourage any attempts to inquire about what had made her mood change.
In any case, Nazim suspected it was something to do with Hallgrim. If so, there was only one thing it could be. Hallgrim had cheated on her again. It was so hard to have to watch his best friend ever treat all the women in his life this badly. Besides there was always the risk that Hallgrim would come after him again and once again set the spiral of destructive behaviour in motion again.
But right now, Nazim couldn’t dwell on all that. He had to keep his mind clear until tonight.
After a while, Marie calmed down. Her personal life might be in shreds, but she wasn’t going to let Hallgrim ruin her career. She had an important job to do, and she was going to do it. Just as well as Thea or Hallgrim would have.
This time, she was going to assign Hallgrim a less prominent position. His tendency to act on his own might jeopardise the entire raid. She had considered giving Nazim Hallgrim’s old position, but if there was a risk that Hallgrim would go off on his own, it was even more likely that Nazim would. It would have to be Frandsen, because neither Ditte nor Michael had the experience or the mentality it would take.
Marie glanced at the clock. Almost lunchtime. Since they had all finished their preparations, they could all get some rest. She rose and called the attention of the others.
“Hey. You can go and have lunch now and go home or whatever you like. Just get some sleep if you can. If there’s nothing more to do in preparation for tonight, you can go.”
She gazed at Michael. It was clear that he wasn’t going anywhere. Fine. It was up to him. As long as he got some rest, he could do it wherever he liked.
Ditte and Frandsen began to pick up their things. Nazim got up and put on his jacket.
Marie felt her irritation increase again. Hallgrim wasn’t coming. He had to be doing it on purpose. To challenge her authority. She would have to deal with him. But not now. If he didn’t show up at all, it was just as well. The others had their orders. They would do fine without him.
It was ten thirty. They were all assembled at a safe distance from the building they were going to raid. The SWAT team were moving into their positions. There was still time to adapt the plan, up until the last moment, when Marie would give their leader the go-ahead for them to initiate the operation. By then, she and her team would be prepared.
To her disappointment, Hallgrim showed up only minutes after half past. He looked annoyingly sure of himself. Arrogant. She was beginning to ask herself how she’d ever found him attractive. Physically, without a doubt, but in other ways? Hardly. She was a strong, independent woman who didn’t need a man like Hallgrim in her life. There was enough of stress and other burdens anyway.
He moved closer and greeted her calmly, as if he hadn’t been well aware of the fact that he’d only a few hours ago been cheating on her with that young blonde. Marie had to take a deep breath to keep herself from confronting him right away.
“I’ve reviewed the plan and it looks as if it would be better if we waited about twenty minutes or so. The paper delivery will begin around that time and since the suspects will be expecting movements in the neighbourhood, they won’t suspect anything.”
Marie took another deep breath. That was exactly why they had made the decision to strike right before that, when the suspects would be completely unaware of anything wrong. Hallgrim knew that. He had had plenty of opportunity to comment on the schedule in the course of earlier meetings. Now suddenly, after being absent all day, he took it upon himself to change her decision.
She pressed her lips together while she kept trying to tell herself that starting a confrontation wasn’t worth it.
“I think we should enter through the side entrance and not the back door. Let the SWAT team handle the back and front of the house. The suspects will be in the two rooms upstairs.”
“Oh, so you know something the rest of us don’t?”
Hallgrim shot her a glance that made her furious. It told her loud and clear that the only reason she felt she could contradict him was the fact that in her opinion they were having a relationship. Suddenly, it wasn’t all that painful to realize that they didn’t. That they never had. She had thought so both times. Hallgrim had slept with her. Period. Better not to dwell too much on that.
“That’s where the bedrooms are.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. The answer is no, on both counts. We’ll stick to the original plan. If we’ll need to make adjustments, we’ll deal with that if and when we have to. You can return to your position now.”
Unbelievable. He seemed to let her edgy tone pass as if it didn’t mean anything. There he was, looking completely innocent, when she knew for a fact that he’d slept with that slut. But fine. From now on he wasn’t anything more than one of the men under her command. The rest she’d have to deal with later. Or possilby never.
At three sharp, Marie told the SWAT team to begin the operation. She waved at her own team and they moved into position. That officially initated the operation. It was hard to keep a clear view of everything, while she was participating in the attack. She’d remember that in the future.
Hallgrim headed the attack as usual. He seemed to feel that he could deal with the chain of command any way he chose. Rather than jeopardizing their safety, Marie remained in her position. A little to the right of her, Nazim was moving ahead, with a grace born of long experience. She was wondering if the night’s assignment reminded him of the situation in Israel/Palestina.
Frandsen seemed just as experienced, but looked a bit harried. This type of direct action wasn’t his scene. In fact, that went for all of them.
Michael and Ditte were a few steps behind her. At least they had been when they set out. Marie knew she couldn’t waste any time looking over her shoulder.
By the time they’d reached the house, the SWAT team was already in. Marie didn’t have time to order Hallgrim to break in the door. He was already on his way inside. She would be forced to deal with him now. No matter how he felt about it, she was the head of their team, until Thea returned. His job was to obey her orders, not make his own decisions like this.
From upstairs came the sounds of gunfire, shouting and heavy boots treading on the floor, making the wooden frame of the house resonate. A faint smell of tear gas wafted down as well. But there shouldn’t ahve been this much gunfire. Somehow, Marie got the impression that there were more of their adversaries or they were more heavily armed than they had anticipated.
Something wasn’t going according to plan. Suddenly Marie caught a movement from out of the corner of her eye. Someone appeared from an unexpected direction. It wasn’t anyone she knew. He was rather tall and stocky and looked as if he had used steroids, in order to build that much muscle. She raised her gun and fired a shot at him, but he slipped away into another room, slamming the door shut behind him.
Marie noted that Michael and Ditte had continued to the left. She gestured for Nazim to come with her, and follow the man who had disappeared into the room on the right.
Suddenly a harsh voice cut through the noise. Next, she saw men or women wearing the SWAT team’s protective gear milling down the stairs.
One of them called something to her. Above the sounds of gunfire and boots pounding on the floor, she heard his warning.
“The house is rigged to explode. We have to get out.”
She had fallen behind. Nazim had vanished in the gloom further to the right and Michael and Ditte were somewhere to the left. Marie noticed that she wasn’t far from the front door. Suddenly Hallgrim was nearby again and so was Frandsen.
Someone looked out from one of the rooms between her and Nazim. He fired off one shot at random. She retreated towards the side entrance. The others followed her example. But the new adversaries were cutting Nazim off from the exit.
At the same time, she heard several shots being fired from the left. Marie heard someone cry out, in a voice that sounded familiar. Michael. Had he been hit? A muffled scream came as if in reply to the first one. Ditte. Hallgrim’s voice spoke straight into her ear.
“We’ll have to retreat.”
Her eyes flashed at Hallgrim. She was the one giving the orders here. But she could see that Frandsen was already on his way outside, along with the SWAT team.
She opened her mouth to say something, but changed her mind and began to fired at the doorway she heard the gunfire from only moments ago. Right before Michael was hit. In the direction where Nazim had disappeared.
She spat out an order for Hallgrim, even if she wasn’t exactly sure if he was even there.
“Get Michael and Ditte out.”
She couldn’t hear his reply. It seemed as if the gunman in the room on the right, across the hallway, had been hit. A muffled scream was followed by silence. No more shots were fired. She dared to move a little closer. Nazim might not know that the house was rigged to explode. She had to get him out.
There was no sign of him anywhere, but there were a few rooms in between her and the one where the other gunman had vanished. She dared to take a quick peek into one of those rooms. There he was. A sound came from the other side of the hallway. Instinctively, she dived into the room where Nazim was lying partially shielded behind an overturned table.
“Did you hear that? The house will blow any second now. We have to get out.”
He nodded sombrely. But the gunfire was more intense now. There was no way they could get out the way they came. Something had gone seriously wrong. Somehow they must have missed the fact that there were more of the suspects and that they were far more heavily armed than their surveillance had led them to believe.
She glanced around the room. It seemed to have been a living room. The table they were lying behind was a small sideboard. Further inside there were two couches, some armchairs and a table. On the other side of them there was a window. it was big enough for them to get out. If they still had time. She had no idea how far the countdown had come. Maybe they didn’t have any time left.
She pointed with her gun towards the window. Nazim nodded again. They began to make their way in that direction. From time to time, they had to lay down cover fire. The suspects were fighting desperately. All that was left for them inside the house, was death and defeat.
At last Marie and Nazim were behind one of the couches. Only a little further to go. Nazim grabbed one of the smaller chairs. It wasn’t a light wooden chair, but not as heavy as one of the armchairs. He threw it at the window, which broke, then turned towards Marie again.
“Get out. I’ll cover you.”
“No. You go first. Quickly.”
He hesitated for a fraction of a second, then began to move again, towards the window. She was already on her feet and only half a step behind. They dived through the window at almost the same moment. On this side of the house, the ground was a little further down than where they had entered. In any case, they ahdn’t even hit the ground when the darkness around them was lit up by an enormous flash.
Marie was wondering why she couldn’t hear the explosion, then realized that she couldn’t hear anything. The explosion must have made her temporarily deaf. The next thing she noticed was a severe jolt. She was thrown forward and down. When she hit the ground, she blacked out.
The heavily armed man had shown up from behind a door, so quickly Michael hadn’t even had time to fire off a shot. He felt something like a blow to his face and something warm splattered down his cheek. His skin stung and he couldn’t completely smother a cry of pain. The moment after, he heard Ditte cry out. But he couldn’t see her. His field of vision was occupied solely by the man who was standing above him, sneering down at him.
Michael realized he’d never get his gun up in time. The man who was standing above him, had an automatic aimed at his chest. This shot he heard. For a while, he didn’t think he was breathing at all. His heart beat almost painfully. But there was no accompanying pain. He wasn’t blacking out.
The man who had been standing above him wasn’t standing anymore. He was lying face down at his feet. A big, dark stain was slowly spreading on the carpet underneath his body. It was only then that Michael realized that Ditte must have fired first.
His train of thought was broken off by a hand pushing him in the back. He could hear Ditte talking to him.
“We have to get out. The house is going to blow. Over there.”
She didn’t wait for a reply, merely pushed him ahead of her towards the window. She fired off on, two, three shots, and the glass fractured into a thousand little pieces.
He felt her arm hitting him, and they were flying through the air towards the ground below. He black out, but he lost his wind and somehow he lost focus for a while. HIs cheek hurt and it felt wet. Someone was lying on top of him, pressing into him. A woman. He came to the conclusion that it had to be Ditte, and gave up trying to analyse the situation. They had managed to get out. Ditte was with him. Someone else would have to deal with the rest.
Slowly Marie came to. For a moment, she didn’t remember anything. She was in a bed that didn’t feel familiar. At last she managed to get her eyes open and she saw that she was in a hospital bed. The memories slowly began to return.
The raid, the gunfire, the explosion. She and Nazim had been in a room together. They had managed to get out through a window. Nazim –
She looked around, knowing that she wouldn’t see him in her room. It was small and there was only one other patient there. Something about the woman seemed familiar.
Marie licked her lips and swallowed. Her mouth was dry, but she didn’t seem to have any trouble talking. The voice came out rather harshly, but otherwise, her voice was normal. Not until then did she remember that quite recently, she hadn’t been able to hear anything. She’d been correct in her guess. The deafness was only temporary. In other ways, she felt alright, under the circumstances. She was a little sore here and there, but that was all.
The woman on the bed next to hers, opened her eyes. Just like Marie had guessed, it was her colleague.
Ditte coughed and looked around for something to drink. At least it looked that way. She found a glass and a pitcher on the bedside table beside her, but she didn’t move, other than turning to face Marie again.
“How are you?”
“I think I’m ok. What about you?”
Ditte didn’t reply for a moment, then she nodded.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with me. Do you know -”
“How did -”
They broke off. They had spoken at once like two teenage girls. It seemed Ditte was going to stick to the chain of command. She looked impatient, but she waited for what Marie had to say.
“What about the others? Nazim? Michael?”
“I was about to ask you the same. Michael was with me when I jumped out the window.”
“Nazim was just ahead of me when we jumped outside.”
Ditte nodded, suddenly looking a little less tense.
Marie didn’t have the patience to wait for the answers to their questions. She reached for the buzzer and pressed it. A minute or so later, a woman in white appeared in the doorway.
“How are you doing?”
“We’re ok. I just wanted to know how our colleagues are doing.”
The woman looked as if she was considering her reply. Marie felt cold. What if someone had been seriously injured? If someone was dead?
“I don’t think anyone was seriously injured, but you’ll have to ask the doctor about that.”
“When will he get here? Or her?”
“I’ll call and check. Any names you’d like me to ask about?”
“Yes Nazim Talawi and Michael Kristensen, for starters. Villy Frandsen. And – Hallgrim ¯ñrn Hallgrimsson.”
“Right. Thanks. Hallgrim’s just fine. He was here earlier to ask about the rest of you.”
The nurse was smiling so delightedly, Marie just knew Hallgrim had flirted with her. And that bastard hadn’t even broken up with her. This time either. If she needed any more proof of his unsuitability as a boyfriend, this was it. He’d never change. She might as well face that fact right away.
A moment later, a woman of about the same age as the nurse, arrived. She seemed to have a full grasp of the situation.
“Four men and a woman had shallow bullet wounds.”
She mentioned their names. Marie didn’t know any of them personally. They had to be members of the SWAT team.
“Hallgrim ¯ñrn Hallgrimsson and Villy Frandsen got away without any injuries at all.”
On mentioning Hallgrim’s name, the doctor’s expression changed. A faint smile spread across her face. Marie had had just about enough of that. Clearly Hallgrim had made another conquest.
“Michael Kristensen’s injuries were similar to yours. Some cuts from shattered glass and temporary deafness. Temporary blindness is another common symptom. Sound familiar?”
Marie blinked and noticed that Ditte did the same.
“I’m fine. Nothing unusual here.”
The doctor nodded as if that was no more than she had expected.
Suddenly, Marie realized that Nazim’s name hadn’t come up yet. She felt chilled. What if –
“What about Nazim?”
“Nazim Talawi? He’s fine. His injuries were on a level with yours and those of Michael Kristensen. They’re on the same ward. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re beginning to wake up just about now. Hey – you shouldn’t move yet. Just to be on a the safe side.”
But she was wasting her breath. Marie was going to make sure Nazim and Michael were ok, before she could get some rest herself.
“I was commanding that operation. It’s my duty to see to it that all the members of my team are doing ok.”
“I should think that’s my job now, right?”
Marie ignored her. In any case, the doctor had given up trying to stop her.
“Where are they?”
To her surprise, Ditte got up as well. The doctor watched them in silence, a faint look of disapproval on her face. Marie noted with satisfication, that she didn’t look too concerned. Clearly, it would be ok for Ditte to move about.
Once they were both standing, the doctor led the way out of the room.
Nazim’s and Michael’s room was only three rooms away, on the other side of the corridor. The doctor went inside too, and began to look through the patients’ charts and performed a cursory physical examination.
They submitted to her care, without protest.
When she was finished, she fixed Marie with a peremptory stare.
“Ten minutes. After that, I’ll assume that you will follow my recommendations”
Ditte opened her mouth to protest. With an exaggeratedly patient smile, the doctor waited to hear what she had to say.
“I have three kids. If my ex hasn’t shown up at my place, there’s a dog too. I have to -”
“Your ex-husband? Jens Hansen?”
“He was here earlier and I think he’ll be back later.”
“He mentioned that he’s looking after the children, but he didn’t say anything about a dog.”
“I see. But it’s his dog, so he’ll have to deal with it anyway.”
“Just remember what I said. Ten minutes.”
She closed the door behind her.
Marie looked from one to the other of her men. They looked about the same as Ditte. There were a number of cuts on their faces, but nothing serious. The relief made her feel weak. It wasn’t until then she remembered Thea. She’d need to speak to her and explain their failure. Besides – and this really annoyed her – she would most likely need to speak to Hallgrim before then, and find out what happened to their suspects. She might be able to bypass the problem by dealing with Frandsen, but strictly speaking, that was part of Hallgrim’s responsibilities.
But all that would have to wait a while. She studied Nazim’s face closely.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. Do you know if Lene has been in touch?”
“Sorry. I just came to. But I’m sure you’ll be allowed to use a phone. I thought Sanne was with Lene all this week?”
“Yes, of course. I just thought that Sanne might be worried.”
In the meantime, Ditte had sat down on the side of Michael’s bed. She was studying him anxiously.
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
She touched his cheek lightly, on the spot where the bullet had brushed him.
“Yes. It’s ok. No problem. By the way, thanks. You -”
Suddenly, the memories washed over Ditte. She had killed someone. Another person was dead because of what she’d done.
Michael saw her expression change and he realized how she must be feeling. Awkwardly, he placed his hand over hers and squeezed it. Somehow, it felt totally inadequate. He wanted to hold her, but hesitated to do it, because of the others. Marie was over by Nazim’s bed, talking, but he was sure they’d notice if he pulled Ditte close and held her. Besides, he wasn’t sure how she’d react to that kind of proximity. For any reason, but especially after what she’d just been through.
Nazim heard what Michael was saying and suddenly recalled how Marie had ordered him to jump out the window ahead of her. If the house had blown up –
“Thanks. When we were -”
“Yes, yes. Of course.”
Marie sounded embarrassed. She had only been doing her job. But even so, there was something that made her want to keep looking into Nazim’s eyes and – Self-consciously, she fidgeted about. More than ten minutes must have passed by now. That doctor might show up again and tell Ditte and her to get out. They might as well go right away.
It would be long until they’d be allowed to walk around for longer periods of time. She’d try to get a moment with each of the team members, one at a time. Hallgrim too. She didn’t see any way of avoiding that.
She turned and began to walk towards the door. In the doorway, she turned and looked at Nazim and Michael.
“Take care. I’ll be back later. You did great, even if things fell apart later on. None of that will reflect on your performance.”
Dumbly, Ditte began to move like a sleepwalker, towards the door. Marie didn’t know what to make of Ditte’s sudden mood swing. Was her age or could it be that the shock had set in? She’d better get her to lie down, and if she didn’t get better soon, she’d have to call the nurse. There should be something they could give her.
As Marie began to feel better, she found that her thoughts turned to Nazim more and more. She didn’t know why that was, but perhaps it had something to do with what they’d just been through together. When you’d been that close to death, maybe it made you feel closer. In any case, Marie began to go across the corridor to Nazim’s ward more and more often in the days that followed.
To begin with she’d had to deal with some pretty tiresome phone calls and a few meetings face to face. One of them was with Hallgrim. Frandsen, too, showed up, to make sure his colleagues were doing as well as he’d been told.
Then things quieted down a bit. For a few days, the patients were left alone. Not until afterwards, did Marie realize how much she owed Hallgrim and to some extent Frandsen. They had dealt with all the tricky phone calls from the media.
That left Marie with time to spend with Nazim. The first day she returned to Nazim and Michael. To her surprise, Michael was sitting on the edge of the bed, and appeared to be going somewhere.
He watched her sombrely. Marie was wondering if something was wrong.
“How is she?”
“Ditte? Well, she seems a little quiet. I guess it’s the shock -”
“Didn’t she tell you that she saved my life in there? One of the suspects was standing over me, aiming straight at me. Ditte shot him. If it hadn’t been for her, I would have been dead.”
That was news to Marie. She hadn’t seen anything of what had happened to Michael and Ditte. At the time she must have been with Nazim, trying to get out.
“Oh. I see. I should try to get someone to deal with her -”
“Hold off on that for a while. I’ll try to talk to her first. You have to admit I have some experience of this kind of thing.”
He smiled bitterly, remembering how completely he’d allowed himself to be manipulated by that American. The entire incident had become imprinted in his memory and though some time had passed since then, he sometimes still woke up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, fighting to catch his breath, after one of the nightmares about what had happened.
Marie nodded. Maybe it would be best to let the whole thing fade a little, before Ditte had to face the debriefing. The physical shock should probably pass first. But she couldn’t allow too much time to pass either. Thinking of Ditte made Marie remember Ditte’s family. Seeing them might prove the best therapy for her.
“What about the kids? Do you think she’ll want to see them?”
Michael hesitated before he replied. He didn’t know how he would have reacted if he’d had children. But he knew how much her kids meant to Ditte.
“I think so.”
Marie turned to Nazim.
“What about you? Would you like Sanne to come here?”
He thought about it. Sanne would worry when she saw him like this. On the other hand, she might worry more if she didn’t get to see him.
“If Lene agrees to it, I’d love to see her.”
“Right. I’ll try to set it up.”
Michael finished dressing, if that was the word for what he’d done. He’d put on a robe and slipped into a pair of slippers.
She watched Michael disappear through the door, then sat down on the chair standing in between the two beds.
Nazim was watching her sombrely.
“I have to thank you for what you did in there. Hallgrim wanted to leave me behind, didn’t he?”
“You know the rules. I was supposed to get him and Frandsen out, since you and Michael and Ditte were cut off from a natural escape route. But I – I just couldn’t leave anyone behind.”
“Hallgrim never did either. In Israel -”
Somehow, Marie sensed that the relationship between Hallgrim and Nazim wasn’t as perfect as she’d once imagined it. To begin with, the two men had seemed to present such a united front. Like brothers. Things were different now, at least she thought so. But she didn’t expect Nazim to tell her anything that personal.
That reminded her that he colleagues most likely still thought she and Hallgrim – The thought depressed her.
But at least in Nazim’s case, her guess turned out to be wrong.
“He’s done it again, right?”
“What do you mean?”
Except she knew perfectly well what he was getting at.
“Hallgrim. He’s let you down again.”
“It’s that obvious?”
“To someone who knows the two of you this well, yes, I think so. I’m sorry. Hallgrim and I have been like brothers, but – I just have to face the fact that you can’t trust him, not completely.”
This surprised Marie. Nazim sounded so defeated. As if Hallgrim had disappointed him for the last time and that he’d now given up all hope of ever being able to trust his friend.
“When I left – on the day of the raid – I sas him with a young blonde girl.”
Nazim nodded wearily. Young, blonde. That was so typical. Hallgrim was constantly looking for a new Johanna, or perhaps himself in various incarnations. Of course there were brunettes and others too, but basically, Hallgrim was always looking for something he couldn’t have.
“I’m really sorry, Marie.”
She shrugged. It was tough, sitting here trying to summarize her relationship with Hallgrim. She realized that it had never been more than a physical thing. Whatever love she’d thought she’d felt might easily have been the product of her own wishful thinking.
“I might as well face it and move on. But – it sounds as if you – ”
She broke off. Was it right of her to pry like this? Nazim and Hallgrim went way back. Looking at it that way, she was just a ephemeral distraction in their longterm friendship.
Nazim hesitated. He knew that he’d never be able to tell her about Hallgrim’s and his – special – relationship. But still, he might be able to explain a little about how he felt. Somehow, he was desperate to hold on to this new intimacy between Marie and himself. He’d always felt a certain attraction for her and after getting to know her better, a growing affection. Hallgrim would probably see it as his way of getting back at him. Taking his woman. But that wasn’t how things worked for Nazim.
“Hallgrim – it’s pretty hard to be his friend. He – tends to wear you out.”
Marie nodded again. That she could understand. She sensed sorrow and disappointment behind Nazim’s words. It made her angry. Nazim seemed to have had enough sorrows in his life, without Hallgrim adding to it all.
Nazim shook his head, not to reject Marie’s sympathy, but as if to say that he’d begun to see where he was with Hallgrim and that he accepted that. Hallgrim wasn’t his whole life and now he might be able to move on without him.
He smiled warmly at Marie. Sitting like this with her, felt nice. It made him react physically and emotionally. He was hoping she wouldn’t want to go just yet. Desperately, he tried to think of something to say, to talk to her about, so she would stay.
Somehow, Marie seemed to feel the same way. They began to talk about this and that. Nothing of very great consequence, but still – it made him feel as if they belonged together, in ways he’d never felt with Rakel.
Maybe – But he couldn’t allow himself to hope too much. If anything happened between them, he wouldn’t allow Hallgrim’s jealousy to ruin it. At last he felt free of Hallgrim’s suffocating proximity. Whatever happened, he didn’t have to let himself get caught up in Hallgrim’s complex emotions.
When Michael knocked on the door, he couldn’t hear anything from inside. He waited a while, then dared to open the door just a crack. Ditte was lying on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Gripped with a sudden anxiety, he closed the distance between the door and her bed and put his hand on hers.
Her eyes were open so he knew she wasn’t asleep.
“How are you?”
Her agonised gaze met his but there was no reply.
He sat down on the side of the bed, causing Ditte to move over just a little.
“Are you dizzy? Or sick?”
After a moment’s delay, the answer came, slowly and hesitatingly. Perhaps she was on some kind of sedative. If so, that was good. Anything that could reduce the feelings of guilt would help.
“No. I’m ok.”
“Good. Don’t you want to sit up?”
Without waiting for a reply, he helped her sit up and arranged the pillows so she could lean comfortably on them. Unresistingly, she let him care for her.
“Marie said would make sure the kids could come and see you.”
To his relief Ditte smiled faintly.
“Ditte. I have to say this. You must remember how I felt when – I’d shot that man. It was – all of that was a mistake, but what you did – don’t you see that I might have been dead, if you hadn’t shot that guy? You had no choice. Ditte – look at me. You saved my life. Are you sorry you did that?”
For the first time since he’d showed up, she appeared to react more strongly.
“Of course not. But -”
Her eyes misted over, and her face began to twitch. Michael pulled her close and held her. It actually felt pretty good, sitting like this. He buried his nose in her hair and inhaled her scent. Bitterly, he recalled the way Ditte looked at him. In her eyes, he was a child, not much older than her daughter, Fie. But it was so unfair. After all he’d been through, he didn’t feel young anymore.
Why couldn’t she see him as a man and not as a young boy? Varf¯ðr kunde hon inte se honom som en man och inte en liten pojke? Ever since they’d first begun to work together, he’d been struggling to hide the attraction he’d felt for her. Right after he’d been abducted and – He’d had therapy at the hospital, but it was Ditte who had made him want to return to life.
Later, after he’d shot that man, Ditte had been busy looking after Fie, but he was sure she would have been able to reach him like Marie couldn’t, even if she’d tried her best.
He would do everything he could to help Ditte get through this. Whether or not she would be able to return his emotions. But still, he was hoping they would be able to ignore other people and pursue a relationship despite the age difference.
Ditte held on to Michael. He would know what she was going through. He was right. She had saved his life. That was why she hadn’t hesitated when his life was at stake. It was just that she couldn’t forget how the suspect had looked as he was lying on the floor, bleeding to death.
She sat, allowing Michael to hold her, leaning into him. It was amazing how soothing it felt, to feel his arms around her and the rest of his body against hers. Besides, his body was so much stronger and more toned than Jens’ had ever been. Despite herself, she began to feel warm inside. But Michael was just a boy.
Or was he? Ditte realized that in all the years they’d worked together, she’d kept telling herself how young he was, partly to repress the physical attraction she’d felt for him. It was ridiculous for a woman her age to be attracted to a man that young. Or was it?
Michael kept trying to tell her he wasn’t a child, like Fie or other teenagers. Her insistence on that, had hurt his feelings and perhaps it was time she stopped hiding behind that excuse.
Without considering the consequences of her actions, she let her mouth seek out his and when their lips met, she allowed herself to just act, not constantly second-guess herself. She felt Michael tense up, but he returned her kiss so passionately, that she momentarily forgot everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours.
The present helped subdue the memory of the blood stain spreading over the carpet at her feet.
At last she regain control over herself. She pulled back and looked at Michael.
His face was lit up by a broad grin. His eyes sparkled and for the first time in a very long time, he looked happy. She bit back what had been on the tip of her tongue and couldn’t help smiling herself.
In the end it was Michael who broke the silence.
“I never thought you’d change your mind.”
“Me neither. You’re so young.”
“Shut up. What difference does it make? I’m not a kid. When I look at your daughter, I see a child, but I’m not. Ask Fie..”
“That’s right. Fie thinks you’re dead hot. So, I know how she feels. But you’re right. She doesn’t look at you as a guy. To her you’re just like the rest of us boring grownups.”
“I told you so. But – did she really say that about me?”
“That you’re dead hot? Yeah, I heard it loud and clear. She wasn’t talking to me, though, but her dad.”
Michael made a face.
“Ok. So what did Jens think?”
“He stared at me kind of strangely.”
“You think he was jealous?”
“You win. We’ll have to see how it goes. I – have to apologize again for going on about you being so young. It was – probably something I used to ignore my own feelings.”
Michael smiled contentedly. This was almost exactly what he’d been hoping for all along.
“Right. But – what about Lukas?”
“Lukas and I aren’t seeing each other anymore. Not since – what happened to Fie. What about you and Ella?”
Michael shook his head.
“It wasn’t working out. Besides, my feelings for you got in the way. It wasn’t fair on her.”
Ditte felt a strange mixture of euphoria and guilt. Was it really fair of her to keep Michael from seeing girls his own age? At the same time, she was proud that he chose her over a pretty young girl. If Jens knew that… But she realized that he would have to know. If so, he’d have to live with it. He was in a new relationship. Why shouldn’t she do the same? Regardless of the man’s age.
At least the children already knew Michael, and liked him. Everything might work out fine. This time, she’d just relax and accept what was happening. Lukas was the same age as she was and it had still ended. Being close in age wasn’t a guarantee that a relationship would work. She’d give this a chance, and see how it worked out. In any case she loved Michael. She’d known that for a long time, but not until now did she dare to accept it.