Authors: Leena Lehtolainen
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Crime Fiction, #Murder, #Women Sleuths
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 1994 by Leena Lehtolainen
English translation copyright © 2013 Owen F. Witesman
Published by agreement with Tammi Publishers and Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency, Helsinki, Finland.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by AmazonCrossing
PO Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013909662
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Maria Kallio..........Acting Sheriff
Jussi Rantanen.......... Sheriff
Järvi ..........Senior Detective
“Timppa” Antikainen ..........Detective
Lasarov ..........Senior Patrol Officer
Hopponen ..........Patrol Officer
Timonen ..........Patrol Officer
Arvo Järvisalo .......... Detective Sergeant
Pekka Koivu..........Maria’s old partner, Detective
Dr. Turunen..........Medical Examiner
Aniliina Flöjt .......... Meritta’s daughter
Meritta Flöjt, née Korhonen ..........Artist, City Councilor
Pentti “Pena” Kallio ..........Maria’s uncle, City Council Chairman
Toivo and Eini Kallio ..........Maria’s parents
Barbro Kivinen ..........Seppo Kivinen’s wife
Seppo Kivinen .......... Real estate developer
Jaana Korhonen .......... Jaska’s sister
Jari “Jaska” Korhonen .......... Guitarist, Maria’s old bandmate
Meeri Korhonen ..........Jaska’s mother
Jarmo “Johnny” Miettinen .......... Personal trainer, Maria’s old crush
Kaisa Miettinen .......... Professional athlete
Tuija Miettinen .......... Johnny’s estranged wife
Mikko .......... Uncle Pena’s cat
Ella Virtanen ..........City Arts Administrator
Matti Virtanen ..........Artist, Ella’s husband
Mårten Flöjt .......... Aniliina’s father, Meritta’s ex-husband
Eeva and Jarmo .......... Maria’s eldest sister and her husband
Saku .......... Eeva’s son, Maria’s nephew
Helena and Petri.......... Maria’s sister and her husband
Antti Sarkela ..........Maria’s boyfriend
Einstein .......... Antti’s cat
I’ve always had a good memory for smells. Sometimes, even years later, I’ll recall the scent of some person or place. When I think of spring, I remember the inviting smell of wet earth. Autumn I know by the heavy, plaintive perfume of wet leaves.
When the wind came from the east, spreading the acrid stench of copper and sulfuric acid from the mine’s tailing ponds we called the Sump, I knew I was home. Ten years ago, before I escaped the rural town of Arpikylä, I barely noticed the smell. Back then I also never noticed the sheer majesty of the Tower, the gray rock of which dominated Arpikylä’s silhouette.
As I walked down Main Street, the Tower hovered over the buildings and trees, a great gray ghost, at once ethereal and ponderous. The hill of exposed, copper-yellow bedrock below it only emphasized the Tower’s menacing darkness. I had to turn my eyes away, toward the blue of the cloudless sky and the green of the birch trees below.
What was I doing here again?
I was actually getting used to being back in Arpikylä. I wasn’t here to stay, after all. This was just a six-month stint, and the first two months were, mercifully, already behind me.
I was getting used to the way life tossed me from place to place without warning. A year ago I graduated from law school and started a job with a small law firm in Espoo. At first the position seemed perfect, but the firm’s business practices gradually began to seem more than a little dubious. Over Christmas vacation, I decided to take a risk and resign, but before I could, the head partner died of a heart attack. As the executor of the estate got down to business, it quickly became clear that the firm was on the brink of bankruptcy. Complete liquidation was the only option, and the remaining partners sent me packing with just a few months severance in my pocket.
Finding a new job seemed impossible. I even humbled myself to the point of calling my old workplace, the Helsinki Violent Crime Unit, where I worked as a police sergeant before training as a lawyer. But they didn’t have anything because the whole office was being dismantled. No one else was hiring either.
Suddenly my life lacked any fixed point of reference, especially since my boyfriend, Antti, had just left for a yearlong postdoc in Chicago. So for a while I just bummed around Antti’s empty apartment, feeling sorry for myself, spending my time exercising and reading. And, yes, I found far too much time for sitting in bars. I was so desperate for a plan, I even thought about going back to graduate school.
When I couldn’t come up with anything better to do, I decided to use the last of my severance to spend a month in Chicago with Antti, which meant my unemployment checks stopped coming.
Midway through my vacation in Chicago, out of the blue, I received a call from the sheriff of my hometown. Sheriff Jussi Rantanen said he had finally decided to finish his degree in forensic science and needed a deputy to stand in for a few months.
My parents and the sheriff were the driving forces behind the local chamber choir, which apparently made the Kallios’ unemployed daughter a perfect candidate for his summer replacement.
I knew I had to start making payments on my student loans at the end of September, and playing sheriff at home for the summer didn’t seem like the worst job imaginable. I figured I could find somewhere to live for a few months. I didn’t consider moving in with my parents for even a second, and I doubted they would have liked that idea either. So I asked Jussi for two weeks to think it over. Finally I called from Chicago to accept his offer, despite Antti’s skepticism.
“Do you know how many times you’ve told me you hate that place? Why would you want to go back there now?” Antti had asked.
“I can handle six months anywhere. And there are good people who live there too. My best friend from school, Ella, works as an arts coordinator for the city. And Koivu is in Joensuu these days, which is only half an hour away.”
There was something more behind me taking the job though. Turning thirty had set off a quarter-life crisis. I wanted to find my roots. Maybe that’s why I wanted to go back to Arpikylä for a while.
Arpikylä. The name of the place—
—was absurd. People said it came from the ragged vein of copper the color of dried blood that ran under the hill at the Old Mine. One of my high school friends, who hated the place even more than I did, said it came from no one getting out without being scarred for life. Of course it was an austere place, as all small towns based around a single industry are. During my first year at the police academy, I remember grimacing when some magazine chose Arpikylä as one of the ten most boring cities in Finland. I promised myself I would never go back.
Although being able to say you were from a place with the word “scar” in the name had a certain cachet. It sounded more interesting than Hyvinkää, Loimaa, or Kokemäki, and somehow more intense: Maria Kallio from Arpikylä, straight from Finland’s Wild East. In recent years the city had been trying hard to build its image as a friendly country town. Unfortunately the campaign slogan sounded forced: “Arpikylä—the city with a heart of copper.” Of course the veins of ore that once allowed the city to flourish had dried out years ago.
From the direction of the Tower, a loud beeping sound began, quickly speeding up. In concern, I stopped to watch. They weren’t going to blow up the Tower, were they? I knew the explosion was supposed to be small, and it was planned to take place far from the Tower. I had signed the permit for it myself, but I couldn’t help watching to make sure the old gray man would survive the jolt.
A pathetically small cloud of dust rose into the air somewhere behind and to the left of the Tower, and a reassuring, steady whistle sounded. The new owner of the Old Mine was renovating the main entrance to run tours of the shafts for visitors. The opening ceremonies were set for the coming Friday.
I waved at the Tower before turning toward the police station. The Tower just glared back as if insulted I could even entertain the idea it might fall over from a little blast like that. For a moment, the Tower looked downright frightening, commanding its environment by casting long, dark shadows over it.