Authors: Liza Marklund
He looked down at the table.
‘Your proposal is interesting,’ the head of negotiations remarked. ‘We’ll discuss it and get back to you as soon as possible, possibly later on today.’
That concluded his audience. He got up, almost tipping over the chair. The secretary caught it and removed his untouched cup of coffee with her other hand.
Thomas turned and headed for the door. His knees were shaking and a phrase was reverberating in his head:
Gunnar Antonsson tightened the strap around the chair, securing it so that it wouldn’t roll around. He stretched and then rubbed the small of his back while his eyes performed their ritual check-off procedure. The zinc cases were stowed and secured, the control panel was set on standby, and the furniture had been tied down. Outside Broadcast Bus No. Five was almost ready for take-off. Once he had cut off the outside power and closed up the hydraulics he could hit the road to Denmark.
Gunnar straightened his collar, smoothed his hair and suddenly felt light-hearted. It was a windy day – fresh breezes would make the entire countryside shimmy as he drove down through Sweden. Cool air, almost like autumn even though there hadn’t been any real summer weather yet, and autumn was his favourite season.
He was walking towards the exit when a face appeared in the doorway. Her eyes were large and beautiful and he smiled instinctively. It was that tabloid reporter, the girl who had been interested in the technical equipment, Annika Bengtzon.
‘On your way to the Continent?’ she said.
Gunnar Antonsson smoothed out his slacks.
‘Ready to go,’ he said.
‘It must be great to just get up and go like that,’ she said.
Gunnar studied the girl. She was excited and slightly out of breath. Something about her was familiar, there was something about her that he recognized, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
‘Can I help you?’
She paused, flushing slightly.
‘Actually, Anne Snapphane sent me. She’s busy with the time codes and didn’t have time to do this herself.’
‘Well, give my best to Anne,’ Gunnar said.
‘I have this tape,’ Annika Bengtzon said, locking her gaze on Gunnar. ‘It’s one of those regular videotapes, and there’s a lot of technical jargon on it, from the last sessions at Yxtaholm. Do you know what’s on it?’
‘Come on in,’ he said, with a welcoming motion. ‘Technical jargon? What exactly do you mean?’
Annika Bengtzon entered and started rooting around in her sizeable bag. A good-looking woman, sexy, big breasts. Gunnar felt a rush of heat to his groin.
‘I’m not quite sure,’ she said, looking a bit embarrassed. ‘I didn’t hear it myself, but Anne told me that someone said: Ready, five seconds to go, camera, cue theme song, start up the video . . .’
‘Oh, that would be the squawk box,’ he said. ‘That’s how the crew talks to each other on the set. I’ve stowed and secured all the equipment, but I could activate a VHS player and listen to it, if you like.’
Annika didn’t move, just shifted her weight back and forth, not really wanting to let go of the tape.
‘What is it you want to know?’ he asked her carefully.
She looked so extremely concerned that Gunnar Antonsson felt uneasy, overcome by a nagging sense of guilt. Had he overlooked something?
‘I want to know who taped this, and why,’ she explained.
‘We make some behind-the-scenes shows, and then we tape the intercom communication too,’ he said calmly.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, we did a special about the Eurovision Song Contest, for example, and to illustrate the work behind the scenes we needed access to the dialogue between the control room and the people on the set, the director’s orders to the cameramen, what was said during the editing process, the stuff you never hear when you see a show. The soundtrack from the show is there too, only it’s submerged in the background.’
‘And it’s a pretty common thing to do?’
Calmer now, Gunnar Antonsson smoothed his hair back. She was a reporter, they were always curious, he certainly knew all about that.
‘We’ve done it for the
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
series,’ he went on. ‘For various benefits, a few documentaries . . .’
‘Michelle,’ she said, her eyes widening. ‘Michelle asked you to tape the intercom dialogue for the last show of the
Summer Frolic at the Castle
series, so she could use it in the documentary she was making of her own life.’
Gunnar Antonsson felt his neck flush.
‘I was a little bit late,’ he said. ‘But that was only because there was a sound glitch up in the music room.’
‘What?’ Annika Bengtzon said and blinked.
‘Michelle wanted to tape the entire session, but I missed the theme song. I’d forgotten about that.’
Gunnar Antonsson squirmed a little and felt his back break out in a sweat.
‘It wasn’t an official order,’ he went on, ‘and I wasn’t going to bill anyone for it either. I just pushed a button, that was all there was to it. It’s not like I was going to bill anyone for my services . . .’
The reporter held up her hand.
‘Absolutely,’ she said. ‘I realize that. But you see, Gunnar, there’s a conversation on this tape, it’s at the very end. How could that have happened?’
The Technical Operations Manager gave the young woman a searching look and noticed how intensely focused she was. So that was what she wanted to know. His uneasiness increased.
‘What do you mean?’
He took a step back as he said this, and he could hear how dismissive he sounded. Annika Bengtzon countered by taking a step forward.
‘At the end of the tape, some people are talking to each other,’ she said excitedly. ‘I would like you to explain how that could have been recorded.’
Something in her eyes made him continue to back away.
‘It’s just not possible,’ he said. ‘The whole set was struck. Every last mike and intercom device was packed. It must be something left over from an old recording.’
The woman looked at him intently.
‘When did you start taping?’
Gunnar Antonsson shut his eyes for a moment, recalling the sound engineer’s cry for help seven minutes before they were scheduled to start the session: ‘Gunnar, there’s a glitch in the music room. Gunnar!’ He had dropped everything and got up there as fast as he could, and the two of them had managed to locate the culprit, a shorted-out cable in the grounds. Afterwards he had hurried back to the bus, soaked through and in a foul mood.
‘We had been taping for twelve minutes by the time I popped a tape into one of the reference machines. I set it for long run and let it roll.’
‘That would make it 7:12 p.m.,’ Annika said. ‘So, did you turn it off?’
He swallowed audibly and scoured his memory.
‘I probably didn’t,’ he said. ‘It stops automatically after eight hours.’
Annika Bengtzon did some calculating and her eyes widened.
‘Those last minutes on the tape took place right after three in the morning! How could those voices have ended up on the tape?’
Puzzled and intrigued, she stared at him. A wave of relief soothed the ache in his gut: he hadn’t done anything wrong. The young woman was obviously just interested in the technical solution to her problem. He turned around and headed for the control room, for the console with all its buttons, levers, lights, mikes and monitors. His gaze swept over the walls, his brow was creased and he felt the back of his neck grow moist.
‘It’s just not possible,’ he said. ‘There must be something wrong. Everything had been dismantled and put away. There wasn’t anything left that could transmit sound. The power had been cut off, the batteries were being recharged . . .’
‘But there was some kind of power on in the bus?’ Annika Bengtzon asked. ‘I mean, the tape was rolling.’
Gunnar shot her a glance. She was no dummy. Stroking his clean-shaven cheeks with one hand, he looked around. Suddenly he caught sight of a tiny red light in the middle of the rack on the wall. He moved in closer, coming up against the console, and pointed.
‘See what?’ the young woman said. He could see her eyes scanning the rows of red, green and extinguished miniature lights.
‘The four-wire unit’s on.’
Slowly, he turned. She was standing very close to him.
‘That’s it. The squawk box was on, so the miked sound went into the general. It happens all the time. Sometimes you get to hear really embarrassing things.’
Annika blinked in confusion and moistened her lips.
‘See all the mikes on the console? The control room crew uses them to communicate with the set. You have to press this button to talk . . .’
He bent over and indicated a centimetre-long black switch located next to one of the microphones.
‘Then the mike transmission will be run through the console, through the general command circuit, and everyone can hear what’s being said. When you’re done, you just release the button and the circuit is broken.’
Gunnar stood up straight and tried to disregard the ache at the small of his back.
‘However,’ he continued, ‘the technical director’s mike is always on. He talks all the time and everybody needs to hear him. You’re supposed to switch it off when the session’s over, but that generally doesn’t happen, so the most amazing comments leak out.’
He shifted his stance, planting his feet further apart.
‘Directors often reserve the right to go crazy after a wrap. They speak their minds about stupid guests, worthless cameramen, silly show hosts, you name it. It can get pretty sticky. Stefan can be very mean. He said terrible things about everyone.’
‘So what’s on the tape?’
‘It could only be something that came in over the director’s mike in the control room.’
‘Events that took place in here, around three in the morning on Midsummer Even?’
‘Thank you so much for your help,’ Annika said and whirled out of the bus.
Gunnar Antonsson watched her disappear and listened to the silence that she had left him with, trying to figure out the emotion she triggered in him.
Chills ran up and down his spine when it hit him.
She reminded him of Michelle Carlsson.
Morning was usually a slow time at the newsroom but today was different. There was more whispering, heads were closer together, eyes were wider. Everyone knew that something was up, but they weren’t sure what. Everyone seemed to know that Torstensson had done a TV interview early that morning, but no one knew what it was all about. Every single person employed by the paper
had received a whispered account about how the editor-in-chief had locked himself in his office and was refusing to take any calls, everyone could see that the managing editor was sitting in his fish tank reading newspapers, apparently untroubled, everyone had heard that Herman Wennergren, the chairman of the board, was on his way in.
Anders Schyman sat on his chair, drained and immobile. Leaning heavily against the backrest, he had spread out a paper in front of him to make it look as though he was busy reading. His digestion was shot; he had already been to the bathroom ten times this morning.
For the fifth time in fifteen minutes he looked at his watch. There was nothing left that he could do. His anthrax file had to have some kind of effect; he could only hope and pray that it would be the right one.
Suddenly the phone rang, a piercing and demanding in-house signal, and he almost flew out of his chair.
‘He’s here,’ Tore Brand at the service desk informed him, hanging up without waiting for a response.
Slowly the managing editor put the phone down, looked out over the sea of newsroom employees and waited for the chairman of the board.
Only the person approaching him now was his son, Carl Wennergren, a quicker and more agile man than his father. Schyman bent over his paper and started breathing through his mouth.
The knock was hard and aggressive. He motioned with a distracted gesture to the reporter to come in.
‘What did you do to Torstensson?’ Carl Wennergren demanded with narrowed, icy blue eyes.
‘Why don’t you ask what Torstensson did?’ Schyman said calmly and turned a page. ‘What do you want?’
‘To make your dreams come true,’ Carl Wennergren said, removing a piece of paper from the inside pocket of his jacket. ‘This is my resignation, effective immediately.’
Anders Schyman felt his pulse begin to race and prayed that it wouldn’t show. He let the paper remain on his desk, not looking at it, not making any attempt to pick it up.
‘Why?’ he asked in a cool and collected voice.
Carl Wennergren was not that good at acting: his hairline was sweaty and the hand that had tossed down the resignation had been a little shaky.
‘You know why,’ he said, his voice strangely both aggressive and subdued.
‘No,’ Schyman said. ‘You tell me.’
He looked up at the tall, blond, broad-shouldered reporter.
A thought flew through his head:
If he starts swinging, I don’t stand a chance.
‘You don’t respect me as a reporter,’ the young man said. ‘You have pets, like that Bengtzon girl. You’re a coward when it comes to ethics. You don’t know enough about the newspaper business. Would you like me to go on? I don’t intend to be abused by you any longer.’
Carl Wennergren’s chin wobbled when he was done, and the significance of the reporter’s words made Anders Schyman’s hands and feet tingle.
He’s resigning because I’m going to take over
, he thought.
Oh, my God – he doesn’t want to stay on here when I’m the big boss. I’ve won, dear Lord, it’s over!
He gasped and covered his face for a brief second, gathering strength.
You might be wrong
, he thought.
This could mean any number of things.
‘Carl,’ he said. ‘You are an enterprising and fearless reporter. Sometimes you’re too hasty, and your judgement isn’t always as good as it should be, but if you’re willing to––’
‘No,’ Carl Wennergren interjected. ‘I don’t want to answer to you any longer. I’ll be clearing out my desk this afternoon.’