Authors: Henning Mankell
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction, #Suspense, #General, #Mystery, #Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #Hard-Boiled, #Mystery & Detective - General, #Political, #Police, #Police Procedural, #Swedish (Language) Contemporary Fiction, #Wallander, #Kurt (Fictitious character)
Henning Mankell is the prize-winning and internationally acclaimed author of the Inspector Wallander Mysteries, now dominating bestseller lists throughout Europe. He devotes much of his time to working with Aids charities in Africa, where he is also director of the Teatro Avenida in Maputo.
Steven T. Murray has translated numerous works from the Scandinavian languages, including the Pelle the Conqueror series by Martin Andersen Nexe and three of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander novels. He is Editor-in-Chief of Fjord Press in Seattle.
ALSO BY HENNING MANKELL
The Dogs of Riga
The White Lioness
The Man Who Smiled
The Fifth Woman
One Step Behind
The Return of the Dancing Master
Before the Frost
Chronicler of the Winds
The Eye of the Leopard
Die, But the Memory Lives On
Young Adult Fiction
A Bridge to the Stars
Shadows in the Twilight
When the Snow Fell
TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH BY
Steven T. Murray
Published by Vintage 2009 8 10 9 7
Copyright © Henning Mankell 1991 English translation © Steven T. Murray 1997
Map by Reginald Piggot
Henning Mankell has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published with the title
Mordare unte ansikte
by Ordfronts Forlag Stockholm 1991
First published in Great Britain by the Harvill Press 2000
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He has forgotten something, he knows that for sure when he wakes up. Something he dreamt during the night. Something he ought to remember. He tries to remember. But sleep is like a black hole. A well that reveals nothing of its contents.
At least I didn't dream about the bulls, he thinks. Then I would have been hot and sweaty, as if I had suffered through a fever during the night. This time the bulls left me in peace.
He lies still in the darkness and listens. His wife's breathing at his side is so faint that he can scarcely hear it. One of these mornings she'll be lying dead beside me and I won't even notice, he thinks. Or maybe it'll be me. Daybreak will reveal that one of us has been left all alone. He checks the clock on the table next to the bed. The hands glow and register 4.45 a.m.
Why did I wake up? he asks himself. Usually I sleep till 5.30. I've done that for more than 40 years. Why did I wake now? He listens to the darkness and suddenly he is wide awake. Something is different. Something has changed. He stretches out one hand tentatively until he touches his wife's face. With his fingertips he can feel that she's warm. So she's not dead. Neither of them has been left alone yet. He listens intently to the darkness.
The horse, he thinks. She's not neighing. That's why I woke up. Normally the mare whinnies at night. I hear it
without waking up, and in my subconscious I know that I can keep on sleeping. Carefully he gets up from the creaky bed. For 40 years they've owned it. It was the only piece of furniture they bought when they got married. It's also the only bed they'll ever have. He can feel his left knee aching as he crosses the wooden floor to the window.
I'm old, he thinks. Old and worn out. Every morning when I wake up I'm surprised all over again that I'm 70 years old. He looks out into the winter night. It's 7 January 1990, and no snow has fallen in Skåne this winter. The lamp outside the kitchen door casts its glow across the yard, the bare chestnut tree, and the fields beyond. He squints towards the neighbouring farm where the Lövgrens live. The long, low, white house is dark. The stable in the corner against the farmhouse has a pale yellow lamp above its black door. That's where the mare stands in her stall, and that's where she whinnies uneasily at night when something disturbs her. He listens to the darkness. The bed creaks behind him.
"What are you doing?" mutters his wife.
"Go back to sleep," he replies. "I'm just stretching my legs."
"Is your knee hurting again?"
"Then come back to bed. Don't stand there freezing, you'll catch cold."
He hears her turn over onto her side. Once we loved each other, he thinks. But he shields himself from his own thought. That's too noble a word. Love. It's not for the likes of us. Someone who has been a farmer for more than 40 years, who has worked every day bowed over the heavy Scanian clay, does not use the word "love" when he talks about his wife. In our lives, love has always been something totally different.
He looks at the neighbour's house, peering, trying to penetrate the darkness of the winter night. Whinny, he thinks. Whinny in your stall so I know that everything's all right. So I can he down under the quilt for a little while longer. A retired, crippled farmer's day is long and dreary enough as it is.
He realises that he's looking at the kitchen window of the neighbour's house. All these years he has cast an occasional glance at his neighbour's window. Now something looks different. Or is it just the darkness that's confusing him? He blinks and counts to 20 to rest his eyes. Then he looks at the window again, and now he's sure that it's open. A window that has always been closed at night is open. And the mare hasn't whinnied at all.
The mare hasn't whinnied because Lövgren hasn't taken his usual nightly walk to the stable when his prostate acts up and drives him out of his warm bed.
I'm just imagining things, he says to himself. My eyes are cloudy. Everything is as it always is. After all, what could happen here? In the village of Lunnarp, just north of Kade Lake, on the way to beautiful Krageholm Lake, right in the heart of Skåne? Nothing ever happens here. Time stands still in this village where life flows along like a creek without vigour or intent. The only people who live here are a few old farmers who have sold or leased out their land to someone else. We live here and wait for the inevitable.
He looks at the kitchen window once more, and thinks that neither Maria nor Johannes Lövgren would fail to close it. With age comes a sense of dread; there are more and more locks, and no-one forgets to close a window before nightfall. To grow old is to live in fear. The dread of something menacing that you felt when you were a child returns when you get old.
I could get dressed and go out, he thinks. Hobble through the yard with the winter wind in my face, up to the fence that separates our properties. I could see close to that I'm just imagining things.
But he doesn't move. Soon Johannes will be getting out of bed to make coffee. First he'll turn on the light in the bathroom, then the light in the kitchen. Everything will be the way it always is.
He stands by the window and realises that he's freezing. He thinks about Maria and Johannes. We've had a marriage with them too, he thinks, as neighbours and as farmers. We've helped each other, shared the hardships and the bad years. But we've shared the good times too. Together we've celebrated Midsummer and eaten Christmas dinner. Our children ran back and forth between the two farms as if they belonged to both. And now we're sharing the long-drawn-out years of old age.
Without knowing why, he opens the window, carefully so as not to wake Hanna. He holds on tight to the latch so that the gusty winter wind won't tear it out of his hand. But the night is completely calm, and he recalls that the weather report on the radio had said nothing about a storm approaching over the Scanian plain.
The starry sky is clear, and it is very cold. He is just about to close the window again when he thinks he hears a sound. He listens and turns, with his left ear towards the open window. His good ear, not his right that was damaged by all the time he spent cooped up in stuffy, rumbling tractors.
A bird, he thinks. A night bird calling. Suddenly he is afraid. Out of nowhere fear appears and seizes him. It sounds like somebody shouting. In despair, trying to be heard. A voice that knows it has to penetrate thick stone walls to catch the attention of the neighbours.
I'm imagining things, he thinks. There's nobody shouting. Who would it be? He shuts the window so hard that it makes a flower-pot jump, and Hanna wakes up.
"What are you doing?" she says, and he can hear that she's annoyed.
As he replies, he feels sure. The terror is real.
"The mare isn't whinnying," he says, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "And the Lövgrens' kitchen window is wide open. And someone is shouting."
She sits up in bed.
"What did you say?"
He doesn't want to answer, but now he's sure that it wasn't a bird that he heard.
"It's Johannes or Maria," he says. "One of them is calling for help."
She gets out of bed and goes over to the window. Big and wide, she stands there in her white nightgown and looks out into the dark.
"The kitchen window isn't open," she whispers. "It's smashed."
He goes over to her, and now he's so cold that he's shaking.
"There's someone shouting for help," she says, and her voice quavers.
"What should we do?"
"Go over there," she replies. "Hurry up!"
"But what if it's dangerous?"
"Aren't we going to help our best friends?"
He dresses quickly, takes the torch from the kitchen cupboard next to the corks and coffee cans. Outside, the clay is frozen under his feet. When he turns around he catches a glimpse of Hanna in the window. At the fence he stops. Everything is quiet. Now he can see that the kitchen window is broken. Cautiously he climbs over the low fence and approaches the white house. But no voice calls to him.
I am just imagining things, he thinks. I'm an old man who can't figure out what's really happening anymore. Maybe I did dream about the bulls last night. The bulls that I would dream were charging towards me when I was a boy, making me realise that someday I would die.
Then he hears the cry. It's weak, more like a moan. It's Maria. He goes over to the bedroom window and peeks cautiously through the gap between the curtain and the window frame.
Suddenly he knows that Johannes is dead. He shines his torch inside and blinks hard before he forces himself to look. Maria is crumpled up on the floor, tied to a chair. Her face is bloody and her false teeth lie broken on her spattered nightgown. All he can see of Johannes is a foot. The rest of his body is hidden by the curtain.
He limps back and climbs over the fence again. His knee aches as he stumbles desperately across the frozen clay. First he calls the police. Then he takes his crowbar from a closet that smells of mothballs.
"Wait here," he tells Hanna. "You don't need to see this."
"What happened?" she asks with tears of fright in her eyes.
"I don't know," he says. "But I woke up because the mare wasn't neighing in the night. I know that for sure." It is 7 January 1990. Not yet dawn.
The incoming call was logged by the Ystad police at 5.13 a.m. It was taken by an exhausted officer who had been on duty almost without a break since New Year's Eve. He listened to the stammering voice on the phone and thought at first that it was just a deranged senior citizen. But something sparked his attention nevertheless. He started asking questions. When the conversation was over, he hesitated for just a moment before lifting the receiver again and dialling a number he knew by heart.
Kurt Wallander was asleep. He had stayed up far too long the night before, listening to recordings of Maria Callas that a good friend had sent him from Bulgaria. Again and again he had played her
and it was close to 2 a.m. before he finally went to bed. When the telephone roused him, he was deep in an intense, erotic dream. As if to assure himself that he had only been dreaming, he reached out and felt next to him. But he was alone in the bed. Neither his wife, who had left him three months ago, nor the black woman with whom he had just been making fierce love in his dream, was there.
He looked at the clock as he reached for the phone. A car crash, he thought instantly. Treacherous ice and someone driving too fast and then spinning off the E65. Or trouble with refugees arriving from Poland on the morning ferry.
He sat up in bed and pressed the receiver to his cheek, feeling the sting of his unshaven skin. "Wallander."
"I hope I didn't wake you." "No, damn it. I'm awake."
Why do I lie? he thought. Why don't I just tell the truth? That all I want is to go back to sleep and recapture in a fleeting dream the form of a naked woman.
"I thought I should call you "
"No, not exactly. An elderly farmer called and said his name was Nyström. Lives in Lunnarp. He claimed that the woman next door was tied up on the floor and that someone was dead."
Wallander thought rapidly about where Lunnarp was. Not so far from Marsvinsholm, in a region that was unusually hilly for Skåne.
"It sounded serious. I thought it best to call you at home."
"Who have you got at the station right now?"
"Peters and Norén are out trying to find someone who broke a window at the Continental. Shall I call them?"
"Tell them to drive to the crossroads between Kade Lake and Katslosa and wait till I get there. Give them the address. When did the call come in?"
"A few minutes ago."
"Sure it wasn't just some drunk calling?"
"Didn't sound like it."
"Huh. All right then."
Wallander dressed quickly without showering, poured himself a cup of the lukewarm coffee that was still in the thermos, and looked out the window. He lived on Mariagatan in central Ystad, and the facade of the building across from him was cracked and grey. He wondered fleetingly whether there would be any snow in Skåne this winter. He hoped not. Scanian snowstorms always brought periods of uninterrupted drudgery. Car wrecks, snowbound women going into labour, isolated old people, and downed power lines. With the snowstorms came chaos, and he felt ill-equipped to deal with chaos this winter. Anxiety at his wife's departure still burned inside him.
He drove down Regementsgatan until he came out onto Österleden. At Dragongatan he stopped at a red light, and he turned on the car radio to listen to the news. An excited voice was talking about a plane that had crashed on a far-off continent.
A time to live and a time to die
he thought as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He had adopted this incantation many years ago, when he was a young policeman cruising the streets of Malmö, his home town. A drunk had pulled out a big butcher's knife as he and his partner were trying to take him away in the squad car from Pildamm Park. Wallander was stabbed deep, right next to his heart. A few millimetres were all that saved him from an untimely death. He had been 23 then, suddenly profoundly aware of what it meant to be a policeman. The incantation was his way of fending off the memories.