Tue
Jun 5 2012 1:00pm

The Princess of Burundi: First in Series Excerpt

Kjell Eriksson

The Princess of Burundi by Kjell ErikssonAn excerpt of The Princess of Burundi, the first novel in the Ann Lindell series by Kjell Eriksson.

This spellbinding thriller opens when a young father fails to show up for supper on a snowy night just before Christmas. His is not the only sinister disappearance, and before the final breathtaking climax, a secret killer terrorizes an entire frightened town.

If you enjoy this excerpt, don’t forget to enter for a chance to win the entire Ann Lindell series!

 

Chapter 1

The plate trembled, knocking over the glass. The milk flowed out over the waxed tablecloth like a white flower.

Typical—we have almost no milk left, she thought. She quickly righted the glass and wiped up the milk with a dishrag.

“When is Dad coming home?”

She twirled around. Justus was leaning up against the doorpost.

“I don’t know,” she said, throwing the dishrag into the sink.

“What’s for dinner?”

He had a book in his hand, his index finger tucked in to mark the page he was reading. She wanted to ask him what it was, but then she thought of something and walked over to the window.

“Stew,” she said absently. She looked out at the parking lot. It had started to snow again.

Maybe he was working. She knew he had talked to Micke. He always needed extra workers for his snow-removal crew, and it had been coming down for days now. John wasn’t afraid of heights, either.

Berit smiled at the memory of how he had climbed the drainpipe to her balcony long ago. It was only on the second floor, but still. He could have broken his neck if he had fallen. Just like his father, she thought, and her smile faded.

She had been furious with him, but he had just laughed. Then he had scooped her up in a tight embrace, with a strength you would never have thought John’s slender body was capable of.

Later—clearly flattered—she liked to tell the story of his climb and his persistence. It was their earliest and most important shared memory.

Snow removal. A small tractor drove across the parking lot and pushed even more snow up over the heavily laden bushes by the edge of the lot. Harry was the driver. She recognized him by his red cap.

Harry was the one who had set Justus to work, giving him a summer job when no one else was hiring. Lawn mowing, clearing out trash, weeding. Justus complained, but he had been bursting with pride at his first pay­check.

Berit’s gaze followed the snowplow. Snow was falling thickly. The or­ange signal light revolved on the roof of the tractor. Darkness settled in over the buildings and the parking lot. The light was flung to the far cor­ners of the grounds. Harry was certainly busy. How many hours had he had to work the past few days?

“This weather’s going to send me to the Canary Islands,” he had shouted to her the other day when they met outside the front door.

He had leaned on his shovel and asked her about Justus. He always did.

She turned and meant to say hello from Harry but Justus had already gone.

“What are you doing?” she cried out into the apartment.

“Nothing,” Justus yelled back.

Berit assumed he was sitting in front of the computer. Ever since August, when John had dragged home the boxes, Justus had sat glued to the screen.

“The kid has to have a computer. He’ll be left behind otherwise,” John had said when she complained at the extravagance.

“How much did it cost?”

“I got it cheap,” he had told her, and quickly showed her the receipt from the electronics store when he caught her look. That accusing look, the one he knew so well.

She looked around the kitchen but there was nothing else to be done. Dinner was ready. She went back to the window. He had said he would be back around four and it was close to six now. He usually called if he was de­layed, but that had been mostly when he was doing a lot of overtime at the workshop. He had never liked to work late, but his boss, Sagge—Agne Sagander—had a way of asking that made it hard to say no. It always sounded as if the order in question were going to make or break the company.

He had grown more quiet after he was fired. John had never been one to talk much, of course—Berit was the one who supplied the conversation— but he became even less talkative after he was let go.

He had cheered up only this fall. Berit was convinced that it had to do with the fish, the new aquarium he had been talking about for years and that had become a reality at last.

He had needed all that work with the fish tank, had spent a couple of weeks in September on it. Harry had given him a hand with the final assem­bly. He and Gunilla had come to the grand opening. Berit had thought it silly to inaugurate a fish tank but the party had been a success.

Their closest neighbor, Stellan, had looked in, as had John’s mom, and Lennart had been sober and cheerful. Stellan, who was normally quite re­served, had put an arm around Berit and said something about how cute she looked. John had just smiled, though he usually was sensitive about things like this, especially when he had had a drink or two. But there was no rea­son to be jealous of Stellan.

Harry had finished clearing the parking lot. The flashing orange signal flung new cascades of light across the path to the laundry facilities and com­munal rooms. Snow removal. Berit had only a vague idea of what this task involved. Did they still climb up on the roof like in the old days? She could remember the bundled-up men from her childhood with their big shovels and ropes slung in great loops over their shoulders. She could even recall the warning signs they posted in the courtyard and on the street.

Was he over at Lennart’s? Brother Tuck, as John called him. She didn’t like it. It reminded her of the bad old days. She never knew what to make of it: Lennart’s loquacious self-assurance and John’s pressed silence.

Berit was only sixteen when the three of them met. First she got to know John, then Lennart. The brothers appeared inseparable. Lennart, tossing his long black hair off his face, unpredictable in his movements, always on the go, picking nervously, chattering. John, blond, thin-lipped, and with a gentleness about him that had immediately appealed to her. A scar across his left eye created an unexpected contrast with the pale skin in his slightly androgynous face. The scar was from a motorcycle accident. Lennart had been driving.

Berit had been unable to understand how John and Lennart could be brothers. They were so different, both in appearance and in manner. Once she had gone so far as to ask Aina, their mother, about it. It had been toward the end of the crayfish party, but she had only smiled and joked about it.

It didn’t take long for Berit to figure out that the brothers didn’t always make their money in traditional ways. John worked at the workshop off and on, but it seemed to Berit that this was more to keep up appearances, espe­cially with regard to Albin, his father.

John had a criminal bent. Not because he was evil or greedy, but simply because a conventional lifestyle didn’t seem to be quite enough for him. It was something he had in common with many of the people around him, teenagers who appeared well adjusted on the surface but who drifted around the eastern parts of Uppsala most evenings and nights in anxious herds. They picked pockets, snatched purses, stole mopeds and cars, broke into basements, and smashed shopwindows as the spirit moved them.

A few, like John and Lennart, were permanent fixtures. Others came and went, most of them dropping out after six months or a year.

Some took classes at the Boland School in order to become painters, con­crete workers, mechanics, or whatever other professions were open to working-class youths in the early seventies. Others took jobs straight out of middle school. None of them continued with more formal academic subjects at the high school level. They had neither the will nor the grades for that.

Most of them lived at home with their parents, who were not always the ideal people to prevent substance abuse, theft, and other illegal activities. They had enough of their own problems and often stood by, quite power­less to do anything to stop their offspring. They were awkward and embar­rassed when dealing with the welfare workers, psychologists, and other social officials, confused by the bureaucratic language, their own inadequa­cies, and their intense sense of shame.

“If I hadn’t had them, it would all have gone to hell,” John had said once.

It was only when he was getting regular work at the factory that he started to move away from life on the streets and the gangs. Regular work, a new sense of being appreciated, decent wages, and then Berit.

Lennart delivered groceries by day and hung out at the pool hall in Sivia at night. John was there too. He was the better player of the two, though that hardly bothered Lennart, who spent most of his time on the flipper ma­chines down below.

That was where Berit met them. She had come with a girl named Anna-Lena, who was in love with a boy who frequented the place.

She fell in love with John at first sight. He snuck around the pool table with the cue in his hand and played with intense concentration, something that appealed to Berit. He rarely said anything.

His hands were slender. She studied his fingers splayed on the green mat, his gaze focused along the stick, serious. It was the seriousness she noticed. And eyelashes. His gaze, the intense gaze.

She wasn’t sure what made her start thinking about the pool hall. It had been years since she had been there. It was probably because she had been thinking about Brother Tuck, and about how John was probably with him. She didn’t want to call. They were probably drinking. Sometimes John felt he had to have a real session with Lennart. It didn’t happen very often nowadays, but when his mind was made up nothing could stop him. Not even Justus. The boy knew it, knew his father deep under the skin, and his protests were never particularly loud or long-lived.

Once, when Justus was about twelve, John let himself be talked out of it and came home. Justus had called his uncle himself and demanded to speak to his father. Berit was not allowed to listen; Justus had locked himself in the bathroom with the portable phone. John came home after half an hour. Staggering, but he came home.

It was as if these occasional evenings with his brother functioned as a temporary return to his former existence. These drinking sessions kept the brothers close. Berit had no idea what they talked about. Old times, their childhood in Almtuna, or something else?

They didn’t have much common ground. They cleaved to each other be­cause of their shared past. Berit sometimes felt something akin to jealousy when confronted with this world that was largely foreign to her. Their child­hood, the early years, appeared to be the only source of joy when they were talking. Even Lennart’s voice, normally void of emotion, grew warm.

And Berit stood outside all of this. Her life with John didn’t count, or so it seemed to her. She entered his life when everything turned, when his childhood reached a definitive end. She wasn’t there in the early, light-filled days, the happy years that would be remembered and retold.

“When is he coming?”

“Soon,” she replied, shouting.

She was grateful that Justus was in his bedroom.

“He’s probably clearing snow somewhere. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

She expected him to say something else, but he didn’t. She wanted to hear his voice, but he didn’t say anything. What is he doing, thinking? Did she dare leave the kitchen and go to his room? But the half-darkness of the kitchen was all she could handle. No light, no quick flickering characters on a computer screen, no questioning looks from Justus.

“Maybe you can help Harry,” she shouted. “Make a little extra.”

No response.

“He’ll probably need some help with the basement stairs.”

“I don’t give a shit about his snow.”

Justus had suddenly reappeared in the doorway.

“It’s not just his snow,” Berit said gently.

Justus snorted and stretched out a hand to the light switch.

“No, don’t turn it on!”

She regretted it the instant she said it.

“It’s just that it’s cozy with a little darkness. I’ll light some candles in­stead.”

She felt his gaze from the doorway.

“You should make a little money,” she said.

“I don’t need any. And Dad has money, anyway.”

“Of course, but not a lot. You’ve been talking about buying a camera.”

Justus gave her a dismissive look. Was it a look of triumph?

“No harm in asking him, though, is there?” she continued.

“Nag, nag, nag,” he said and turned on his heel, in that way that only he could, and went back to his room.

She heard him slam his door and the creaking of the bed when he threw himself on it. She walked back over to the window. Harry and his tractor had disappeared. A number of lights were on in the building across the way. She could see families around the dinner table. A bluish TV light flickered in a few others.

A shadow moved next to the parking garages and she almost shouted with joy, but as she kept watching no John appeared. Had she only imag­ined it? If you walked down between the rows of garages you eventually came out by the garbage cans, but there was no one there. No John. Berit stared out into the darkness. Suddenly she glimpsed the figure again. She had seen someone for a moment, a man in green, but it wasn’t John.

Who was it? Why had he waited before emerging by the garbage cans? It occurred to her that maybe it was Harry’s brother, who used to help him with the snow removal. No John. The short moment of relief was replaced by loneliness.

The potatoes on the stove were still lukewarm. She turned the burner with the stew to its lowest setting. He’ll be here soon, she told herself, and cupped her hands around the pot.

She called Lennart at half past seven. He answered on the fifth ring and sounded sober. He hadn’t heard from John in several days. “He’ll turn up,” he said lightly, but she could hear the concern in his voice.

Berit could imagine him restlessly shuffling back and forth in the hall.

“I’ll make a couple of calls,” he said. “He’s probably just having a few beers with someone.”

Berit hated him for those words. A few beers. She hung up.

She called John’s mother, but did not mention that he was more than a few hours late. She had called in the hope that he had looked in on her and been detained. They chatted for a while as Berit walked around the apartment.

Lennart called at a quarter past eight.

“Why’d you hang up on me?” he started, and she could hear that he had a few drinks in him. That’s when she knew.

“Where can he be?” Now her desperation broke out.

Justus came out of his room.

“I’m hungry,” he said.

She gestured to him to calm down and finished talking to Lennart.

“Do you have any idea where Daddy can be?” she asked.

She knew she shouldn’t be letting it get the upper hand, but the anxiety made her tremble. Justus made an awkward movement with his hand.

“I’ve no idea, but he’ll be here soon,” he said.

Berit started to cry.

“Mom, he’ll be here!”

“Yes, he’ll be back soon,” she said and tried to smile, but it was mostly a grimace. “I just get so worked up when he doesn’t call and let me know. The potatoes are ruined.”

“Can’t we eat in the meantime?”

She was suddenly furious. Because she interpreted Justus’s words as somehow disloyal, or because of an intimation that something terrible had happened?

They sat down at the kitchen table. Harry and his tractor reappeared in the courtyard, and Berit was about to say something again about snow re­moval but stopped when she saw his face.

The potatoes were pasty and the meat tender but lukewarm. Justus cleared the table in silence. She watched his mechanical movements. The jeans, which were two sizes too big, hung from his thin thighs and nonexis­tent butt. His fashion and music tastes had been changing lately, from a penchant for soft English pop, which Berit had often been able to appreci­ate, to a noisy, jerky rap music that sounded only discordant and angry to her ears. His taste in clothing had changed accordingly.

She looked at the clock on the wall. Nine. Now she knew it would be late. Very late.


Chapter 2

He was watching the bus driver. She was all over the place, first pulling too close to the car in front and driving much too fast, then slamming on the brakes.

“Women drivers,” he mumbled.

The bus was half full. An immigrant was sitting directly in front of him, probably a Kurd or an Iranian. Sometimes it seemed to him as if half of all the people he saw were svartskallar, the derogatory term for dark-haired foreigners. Gunilla sat three seats away. He smiled to himself when he saw her neck. She had been one of the prettiest girls in the class with her long blond wavy hair and shining eyes. Those silky tendrils had given her a fairy­like appearance, especially when she laughed. Now her hair had lost all its former luster.

The bus approached the roundabout at high speed, and the resulting sharp deceleration forced a passenger near the door to lose his balance and lunge forward. His shoulder bag swung around, hitting Gunilla in the head, and she turned. She looks the same, but different, he thought when he saw her startled and somewhat annoyed expression.

He had seen her in this posture countless times, her body half-turned and her head craning around. But at school there had often been something indolent and teasing about her, as if she were inviting the gaze of others, though not Vincent. She had never invited him to do anything, had hardly even registered his presence.

“You gave me nothing,” Vincent mumbled.

He felt sick to his stomach.

Get off so I don’t have to see you anymore, he thought. The Iranian had a bad case of dandruff. The bus careened on. Gunilla had gained weight. Her girlish languor had been replaced by a heavyset fatigue.

Get off! Vincent Hahn bored his eyes into her head. When the bus passed the building that in his day had been Uno Lantz’s junk store but now housed modern offices, he had an idea. Sick, so fucking sick, he thought. But damned good.

He laughed out loud. The Iranian turned and smiled.

“You have dandruff,” Vincent said.

The Iranian nodded and his smile widened.

“Dandruff,” Vincent said more loudly. Gunilla and a handful of the other passengers turned around. Vincent lowered his head. He was sweat­ing. He got off at the next stop and remained standing in one place after the bus continued down Kungsgatan. He looked down at his feet. He always got off too early. My poor feet, he thought. My poor feet. Poor me.

His feet led him down Bangårdsgatan to the river and then down toward Nybro bridge. He stopped there, his arms hanging passively at his sides. Only his eyes moved. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry. Only Vincent Hahn could take his time. He stared down into the black water. It was December 17, 2001. How cold it is, he thought as the sweat on his back started to freeze.

“The poor Talibans,” he said. “Poor everyone.”

The foot traffic behind him grew heavier. More and more people were walking over the bridge. He lifted his head and looked toward the Spegeln movie theater. A large collection of people had gathered on the street out­side. Was it a protest of some sort or had there been an accident? A woman laughed loudly. He realized that the theater was simply showing a popular movie. Laughter. As people moved across the street it looked like a laughing demonstration.

The cathedral clock struck six and he checked his wristwatch. Vincent smiled triumphantly at the clock tower, which was fifty-five seconds too fast. The cold and the chilly breeze from the river finally drove him to cross the street and make his way to the central square, Stora Torget.

“It was so bad I didn’t dare . . .” he heard someone say, and he turned around to catch the rest. He would have liked to find out what it was. What was it that had been so bad?

He stopped and stared at the back of the person he thought had uttered those words. Soon it will be even worse, he wanted to shout. Much, much worse.


Chapter 3

Ola Haver was listening to his wife, an amused smile on his face.

“Who are you laughing at?”

“No one,” Haver said defensively.

Rebecka Haver snorted.

“Go on, please. I’d like to hear the rest,” he said, and stretched out his hand for the salt shaker.

She shot him a look as if she were deciding whether or not to go on telling him about the situation at her workplace.

“He’s a threat to public health,” she said, pointing at the photograph in the county-administration newsletter.

“Surely that’s taking it a bit far.”

Rebecka shook her head while she again tapped her finger on the bearded county-politician’s face. I wouldn’t want to be under that finger, Haver thought.

“This is about everyone in our community, the aged, the weak, the ones who neither dare nor have the ability to speak up for themselves.”

He had heard this particular line of reasoning before and was starting to get sick of it. He salted his food a second time.

“Too much salt isn’t good for you,” Rebecka said.

He looked at her, put down the salt shaker, grasped his spoon, and ate the rest of his overly hard-boiled egg in silence.

Haver stood up, cleared the table, and put his coffee cup, saucer, and egg cup in the dishwasher, hastily wiped down the kitchen counter, and turned off the light over the stove. After these habitual actions he usually checked the temperature on the outside thermometer but this morning he remained standing in the middle of the kitchen. Something stopped him from moving over to the window, as if he were restrained by an invisible hand. Rebecka looked up briefly but went back to her reading. Then he knew. After check­ing the thermometer he would bend down and kiss his wife on the top of her head, say something about how much he liked her. The same routine every morning.

This time he hesitated, or rather it was his body that hesitated, that re­fused to take those two paces to the window. This discovery confused him.

Rebecka had stopped reading and was watching him with a kind of professional attentiveness, ingrained after many years of hospital rounds. He made a gesture as if to close the door to the dishwasher, but it was al­ready shut.

“How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” he said. “I was just thinking.”

“Do you have a headache?”

He made a sweeping motion with his hand as if to brush this aside. Dur­ing the fall he had suffered recurrent attacks of blinding pain in his fore­head. It had been several weeks since the last attack. Had she noticed the reason for his hesitation? He didn’t think so.

“Our division is getting a new guy today,” he said. “From Gothenburg.”

“Strip him of his gun,” Rebecka said tartly.

He didn’t bother to reply; suddenly he was in a hurry. He left the kitchen and disappeared into the next room, which they used as an office.

“I’m going to be late,” he said, from halfway inside the closet. He threw on a sweat suit, shoes, and a sweater that Rebecka had made for him. He pulled out a bag from the clothing store Kapp Ahl from under some boxes, shut the door to the closet, and quickly walked out through the kitchen.

“I’m going to be late,” he repeated, and hesitated in the hallway for a few seconds before he opened the front door and stepped out into the chilly December morning. He took a few deep breaths, setting off with his head down.

December. The time of darkness. For Rebecka—or so it seemed—the darkness was heavier than it had been in years. Haver couldn’t remember her ever having been so low. He had been watching her strained attempts to put on a good face, but under the frail exterior her seasonal depression, or whatever it was, tugged at the thin membrane of control stretched over her pressed features.

A few snowflakes fluttered down. He met Josefsson from apartment 3, who was out with his poodle. This neighbor, who admired police officers and was always full of effusive praise for members of his profession, smiled and said a few words about the winter that was now upon them. Josefsson’s enthusiastic cheeriness always rubbed him the wrong way. Haver mumbled something about having to work.

He thought about Rebecka. She should start working again. She needed to have people around, the stress of the ward, regular contact with patients and colleagues. Their small evening talks when she and Haver would tell each other what had happened at work that day had been replaced by a sullen atmosphere and a tense anticipation of what would happen next. They needed something new, an injection of new energy. Since child num­ber two, Sara, their relationship had lost much of its spice.

Haver now felt as if the routines at work were mirrored by a kind of somnambulism at home. There was a time when he had felt a physical joy at the thought of coming home, a longing for Rebecka, just to be close to her.

Was she the only one who had changed? Haver had thought about this. Sammy “Rasbo” Nilsson, a colleague in the Homicide Division, said it was a sign of his age.

“The two of you have entered into a middle-age crisis, the time when couples realize that life isn’t going to get any better,” he had said, smiling.

“Bullshit,” Haver had cut him off. Now he wasn’t so sure. He loved Re­becka, had done so from the very first. Did she love him? He had discov­ered a new, critical expression on her face, as if she were looking at him with new eyes. Sure, he worked a lot more now that Ann Lindell was on mater­nity leave, but there had been times when he had worked at least as much and back then it had never bothered her.

The cell phone rang.

“Hello, it’s me,” said Chief Ottosson. “You can forget about target prac­tice today. We have a body.”

Haver froze. Josefsson’s poodle barked in the distance. It had probably met up with the female Labrador from apartment 5.

“Where?”

“In Libro. A jogger found it.”

“A jogger?”

The sun was barely peeking over the horizon. Were there really people up and running this early, in this weather?

“Forensics is on its way,” said Ottosson.

He sounded tired and distant, as if he were almost bored, as if a jogger coming across a dead body were a routine occurrence.

“Homicide?”

“Most likely,” said Ottosson, but he corrected himself immediately. “Definitely. The body is mutilated.” Haver now heard the note of hopeless­ness in the chief’s voice.

It was not tiredness but despair at the human capacity for evil that made the thoroughly nice Ottosson sound so distracted.

“Where is Libro?”

“Right where you drive out of town, on the right-hand side after the county storage facility.”

Haver thought hard as he was unlocking the car door, trying to recall what the rest of Börjegatan looked like.

“The car-inspection facility?”

“Farther. It’s where the county dumps its snow.”

“Okay, I know where that is. Who else?”

“Fredriksson and Bea.”

They finished the conversation. He had told Rebecka he would be late and he would be, for sure, but now for a completely different reason from the one he had imagined fifteen minutes ago. The local police-union meet­ing would be replaced with a strategy session at work or some such busi­ness. The union would have to wait, as would his scheduled practice session at the shooting range.

John Harald Jonsson had bled copiously. The originally light-colored jacket was now deeply stained with blood. Death had probably come as a relief. He was missing three fingers from his right hand, severed at the sec­ond joint. Burn marks and blue-black contusions on his neck and face bore witness to his suffering.

Forensic technician Eskil Ryde was standing a few meters from the body, staring in a northerly direction. Haver thought he looked like Sean Connery with his stern features, stubble, and receding hairline. He was gazing out over the Uppsala plains as if expecting to find answers out there. Actually he was watching a Viggen fighter jet.

Beatrice and Fredriksson were crouched down. The wind was blowing from the west. A colleague in uniform was putting up police tape. There was an indefinably sweet smell in the air that made Haver turn around.

Fredriksson looked up and nodded at Haver.

“Little John,” he said.

Haver had also recognized the murdered man immediately. A few years ago he had cross-examined him in a case involving his brother, Lennart, who had named John as his alibi witness. A nice guy, as far as Haver could recall, a former small-time thief who had never resorted to violence. Not surprisingly, John had corroborated his brother’s claims. He was lying, of course, Haver had always been convinced of that, but even so he had never been able to disprove Lennart Jonsson’s alibi.

They had talked about fish, Haver remembered. Little John had a pas­sion for tropical fish and from there it wasn’t too great a step to fishing.

“What a fucking sight,” Beatrice sighed, getting to her feet with effort.

Ottosson’s car pulled up by the side of the road. The three police officers watched their chief talk to some of the curious onlookers who had already gathered by highway 272, about fifty meters away. He gestured with his hand to show that they couldn’t park their cars along this stretch of road.

“Where is the jogger?” Haver asked, looking around.

“In the emergency room,” Bea said. “When he ran out onto the road to flag down a car he slipped badly. He may have broken his arm.”

“Has anyone questioned him?”

“Yes; he lives in Luthagen and runs here every morning.”

“What was he doing out here in the snow?”

“He likes to run on the bicycle trail, apparently. But first he does some stretches and moves in from the road. At least that was his explanation.”

“Did he see anything?”

“No, nothing.”

“He’s probably been here all night,” the forensic technician said, indicat­ing the body.

“Tire tracks?”

“All over,” Beatrice said.

“It’s a dump, for Pete’s sake,” Fredriksson said.

“Got it,” Haver said.

He took a closer look at Little John. He was severely bruised, the victim of someone who was extremely thorough or enraged, or both. The burn marks—most likely from a cigarette—were deep. Haver bent over and stud­ied Little John’s wrists. Dark red marks bore witness to them having been tightly bound.

The stumps on his hands where the fingers had been removed were blackened. The cuts were neatly made, probably with a very sharp knife or scissors. Maybe pliers.

Ottosson came jogging over and Haver went up to meet him.

“Little John,” he said simply, and the chief nodded.

He looked unexpectedly alert. Perhaps it was the brisk temperature.

“I heard he had been mutilated.”

“What did Little John know that was so important?”

“What do you mean?”

“I think he was tortured,” Haver said, then suddenly he thought of the murdered man’s tropical fish. Piranhas. He shivered.

Ottosson sniffed. A sudden gust made them look up. Haver’s thoughtful mood from the morning remained. He felt unenterprising and unprofes­sional.

“A protracted struggle,” he said.

Ottosson took out a checkered handkerchief and blew his nose loudly.

“Damned wind,” he said. “Found anything?”

“No. He was probably brought here by car.”

“It’s open,” Ottosson stated, nodding in the direction of the raised bar­rier. “I come by this way fairly often and I never see anyone turn in here, other than in the winter when the county trucks dump snow here.”

Haver knew that Ottosson had a cabin near the city and thought he had heard that it was on Gysingevägen somewhere.

Ottosson suddenly turned around and spotted Fredriksson and the forensic technician, who were talking next to the body. Bea had left the pair and was wandering around nearby.

“Why did you come out here?” Haver shouted at his back.

Ottosson didn’t usually turn up so quickly at the scene of a crime.

“I booked Little John when he was sixteen. It was his first contact with us.”

“How old did he get?”

“He was forty-two,” Ottosson said and continued to his car.


Copyright © 2011 by Kjell Eriksson


Already a huge star in Europe and the Nordic countries, Kjell Eriksson has American critics raving also. His next novel in the series, The Cruel Stars of the Night, is forthcoming soon from Thomas Dunne Books. Eriksson lives in Sweden.

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2 comments
Chena Life
1. Beans628
I have to go and find this book now! I only read the excerpt above and I NEED to know what's happened! Gah!
Neliza Drew
2. nelizadrew
I bought this a year ago. Now I have to move it up in the TBR pile.
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