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Authors: Liza Marklund

Lifetime (44 page)

BOOK: Lifetime
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He turned his back on Schyman decisively.

‘Not so fast,’ Schyman said, his voice almost a drawl. ‘According to your contract, you have two, or maybe even three months’ notice. I would like to review its terms before I let you go.’

The reporter turned around again, a triumphant smile on his face.

‘I’m going to be working with one of our competitors,’ he said. ‘You can’t force me to work here when I’ve already signed on with another company.’

‘That depends on the company,’ Schyman said, leaning so far back in his chair that it creaked.

Carl Wennergren thrust out his chin and regarded Schyman with raised eyebrows.

‘I’m going to be the new CEO of Global Future.’

Anders Schyman burst into a fit of laughter so intense that he had to lean forward not to fall out of his chair.
Oh my God, the irony of it all.
This was incredible. The reporter was deflated. He blinked a few times and flicked his tongue over his lips.

‘What’s so funny?’

‘I thought Global Future had folded,’ Schyman said once he had pulled himself together.

‘No, not at all. The company is going to be restructured and I’m buying it. I’ve got a damn fine plan to get it back on its feet again.’

‘Good,’ Schyman said and got up. ‘Then you can honour your contract. Global Future isn’t a competitor of this paper.’

‘You’re just jerking me around,’ the reporter shouted, his eyes flashing. ‘You’re only doing this to keep me here.’

Carl Wennergren turned to escape from the fish tank, only to discover that his father was standing in the doorway.

‘Schyman won’t let me go,’ he said, pointing an accusing finger at the managing editor.

‘It’s always a shame when talented people such as yourself choose to leave,’ Anders Schyman said, doing his utmost to keep his voice under control. ‘But if we can’t offer you anything that would make you stay, naturally we will respect your decision to devote yourself to your own company.’

The reporter exhaled in a manner that conveyed contempt and distrust.

‘You are such a goddam toady!’ he said.

Carl walked past his father and headed for the newsroom. Herman Wennergren pulled the door shut a bit roughly. His demeanour was serious. Anders Schyman had to sit down; his legs refused to support him.

‘I’m here at the request of editor-in-chief Torstensson,’ the chairman of the board said, his head bowed and his face blotchy. ‘He is extremely concerned about certain information that had come to the attention of a TV network.’

Anders Schyman acknowledged this with a slight nod.

‘I was present during the interview this morning,’ he said. ‘It was highly unpleasant.’

The chairman of the board went up to the managing editor and gazed down at him with an eagle-like stare.

‘I’ll never know how you arranged this,’ he said, ‘but you should be aware of one thing: I can see your true colours.’

The managing editor looked back at the man, a neutral expression on his face even though his brain had frozen up.

I’ve got to do something. Say something. React. Immediately.

Schyman conjured up every last particle of strength he had and got up with a bounce, swinging his arms as he rose.

‘I’m sure you realize that I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ he said.

Herman Wennergren, the chairman of the board, took one step closer to him, narrowed his eyes and hissed:

‘You are one mean and spiteful bastard!’

‘I’m exactly what this paper needs,’ Schyman replied.

By the time she reached Anne Snapphane’s dry and dusty workplace, Annika was out of breath.

‘So, what did Gunnar say?’

‘The technical director’s mike was on,’ Annika gasped. ‘There was a reference tape set for recording the internal communications, it was meant for Michelle’s documentary, and it ran until 3:12 a.m.’

She picked up the tape. Her entire body had turned to jelly. Anne Snapphane looked up from her monitor.

‘The director’s mike, on the directing console? But that’s right next to the spot . . .’

Annika nodded, suddenly feeling like she wanted to cry.

‘Oh, my God . . .’ she said.

She met Anne Snapphane’s gaze, knowing that they were both thinking the same thing. She handed the VHS tape to her friend and saw her pop it in and rewind it for a few seconds.

The sound came on right at the whooshing noise.

‘Did someone come in?’

The whispering male voice.

‘No, no one, come on . . .’

More whispering, followed by laughs and moans.

Anne turned the volume down as low as possible. Annika felt her cheeks start flaming and, to her embarrassment, there was a throbbing in her groin.

‘We shouldn’t be listening to this,’ she said in a whisper. ‘We really should call the police.’

Anne Snapphane nodded.

They listened for a while longer, still undecided.

Then they heard the man start whispering again, catching something like: ‘Someone’s in the bus . . .’

This was followed by silence and more whooshing. Anne and Annika gaped at each other.

Then they heard a female voice coming from a distance:

‘Your manager is here.’

‘Someone else is inside the bus,’ Anne Snapphane whispered, her eyes wide as saucers.


Scraping and rattling noises, murmurs and giggles.

‘John, they’re here to pick you up, your manager and the driver.’

‘Tell them I’m busy.’

Giggles, the sound of someone drinking followed by a burp.

‘It’s very late. I really think you should go now.’

This was greeted by a hysterical fit of giggles and the male voice murmured: ‘How long has she been here?’ The woman’s voice, now pitched very high, said:

‘You know, I really must ask you to leave now!’

The man’s voice again, slurred:

‘What’s the matter with this bitch?’

Peals of shrill laughter. The other female voice got louder – she must have been closer to the mike.

‘What did you call me?’ said the other female voice.

‘Who cares, let her watch if she wants to . . .’

‘What’s her problem?’

Something rattled, the murmur of voices rose and fell, and then a rustling sound was heard.

‘This is a production area, not a bedroom. It’s in the middle of the night and I want both of you out of here. Now!’

Annika’s stomach turned over as she recognized the voice.

‘Karin,’ she said. ‘It’s Karin Bellhorn.’

‘What’s wrong with you?’

‘This is outrageous! I’m here to let you know that your car is here, and you insult me! Do I have to call security to get you out?’

‘What do you mean? This place doesn’t have any security.’

‘And that’s Michelle’s voice,’ Annika said.

The tape continued to roll. There was a loud crash and the man’s voice said:

‘Is she always like this?’

‘Well yeah, now you know what I mean.’

More giggles, the man said something that they couldn’t make out and the woman who must have been Karin Bellhorn started screaming.

‘Get out! Get out!’

Anne Snapphane nodded, her face ghostly pale, and said:

‘Call Q.’

There was another crash, someone shouted something and then there was a rattling noise followed by the sound of the wind.

‘John! Wait!’

‘Are you going to run after him? Come on, there’s got to be a limit to how much you’re willing to degrade yourself!’

The man’s voice could be heard in the background, faint and trailing off:

‘. . . Fucking crazy bitches . . .’

‘Damn you! Why did you do that? Make him go away like that?’

‘Pull yourself together . . .’

‘What are you doing here, anyway? Why did you come in here?’

‘It’s her,’ Anne said in a low voice. ‘Make the call. Now.’

They looked at each other and saw their own terror reflected on the other person’s face.

Annika got up, feeling oddly weightless, and floated out into the hallway. The technical crew was rigging a set for the live broadcast in the conference room. A few journalists had already arrived and were hanging up their coats. Annika stopped short, retraced her steps a bit and unlocked an emergency exit. It opened up on a flimsy-looking spiral staircase; it was extremely gusty outdoors and the wind whistled melodies through the perforations in the metal structure.

‘I’m busy,’ Q said when he finally answered.

‘It was Karin Bellhorn,’ Annika said. ‘Anne Snapphane’s found a tape to prove it.’

The line was silent for a few seconds.

‘Are you sure of that?’

‘I haven’t heard the whole thing, but Karin’s definitely inside the bus.’

‘What kind of tape are we talking about?’

‘It’s a tape of the internal communications from the bus. It had been running all night and the technical director’s mike hadn’t been switched off.’

‘Why do you think Karin Bellhorn did it?’

‘Because she and Michelle were in a fight after three a.m.’

‘That must be right before the murder took place. Can you hear any gunshot?’

Confused and embarrassed, Annika paused to think.

‘I don’t know, I haven’t heard the whole tape. What did Karin tell you?’

‘John Essex told us that she had been in the bus, so we asked her about it. She admits she was in there, but she claims that she left the bus long before three. However, she told us that she saw Anne Snapphane over by the bus when she went back to her room.’

Annika gasped.

‘That’s not true,’ she said. ‘Anne didn’t do it.’

Q’s voice was very dry as he said:

‘We’ve eliminated most of the suspects. Only three are left: Karin, Anne and John. During our interviews, Anne is the one whose behaviour has been the strangest. She’s been the most evasive and she’s told us the most lies. In addition to all that, she’s exhibited a range of weird physical reactions, like sweating profusely, fainting and acting out.’

‘She’s a hypochondriac, she always thinks she’s going to die,’ Annika explained in a feeble and shaky voice. ‘Do you think I would protect a murderer?’

The policeman didn’t say a word. He just let his sceptical attitude remain in the air.

‘What did Karin tell you?’ Annika asked.

‘That she went to get Essex and that they left the bus together.’

‘And what does he say?’

‘That he doesn’t really remember what happened. Overall, he’s been an arrogant son of a bitch. Are you telling me that Karin Bellhorn was in the bus with Michelle after Essex had left?’


Q was silent for a few moments.

‘Where can I get this tape?’

‘Over at Zero Television. I’m there right now. In a few minutes they will be airing some kind of memorial service for Michelle Carlsson, followed by a press conference.’

‘Is Karin there?’

‘I saw her half an hour ago.’

Q hung up with a click.

For a few minutes, Annika remained on the staircase, letting the breeze ruffle her hair while tenseness made the pit of her stomach clench.

The cemetery was bathed in cold sunshine. Gusts made branches shake, the leaves bobbing and shimmying.

Thomas stood by the window, completely unable to do a thing after the morning’s meeting. He had skipped lunch and downed three cokes and a bottle of Ramlösa mineral water. Every organ in his body was tied up in a knot of despair and longing.

How had he become so inept at life? Why wasn’t he capable of valuing anything consummate and unique? Why was he so blind when it came to seeing Annika and the children in a true light? And how had Eleonor suddenly become the personification of his ideal woman?

He closed his eyes, rubbed the bridge of his nose and forced himself to recall what it had been like.

Her helpless voice:
I don’t know how to work the VCR, Thomas. Help me out, what button do you push?
Her reluctance to go sailing:
It makes me seasick.
To go abroad:
The view here at home is so much better.
To have children:
With all our obligations to the community? Thomas, please!

‘All right if we come in, Thomas?’

He turned around, caught in the act of daydreaming.

‘I have the same view,’ the head of negotiations said, nodding at the window. ‘Only my office is on another floor, higher up. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? And a bit melancholy.’

Thomas smoothed back his hair and indicated two chairs. All three men took a seat. The head of negotiations and the section supervisor for the Developmental Section were facing him on the other side of the desk.

‘That analysis you presented this morning was very interesting,’ the head of negotiations said. ‘We discussed it briefly, and we reached a unanimous conclusion to take this up with the board.’

‘I touched base with the Federation of County Councils,’ the section supervisor for the Developmental Section said. ‘And their immediate response was very positive. It seems like your proposal will be implemented with no friction at all.’

Thomas hid his shaking hands out of view.

‘We will not be able to make a public announcement at the present time,’ the head of negotiations said. ‘But, as we see it, this project would involve a commitment of four years or more. Your office would be two floors down, in the Developmental Section, and you will also be spending a great deal of time at the offices of the Federation of County Councils. Our proposal is that we take you on as a permanent employee here at the Association of Local Authorities, and when the regional development project has been concluded, you can move on to other assignments. Would you be interested in such an arrangement?’

The head of negotiations granted him a smile. Thomas wet his parched lips and cleared his throat.

‘I . . .’ he said. ‘I just have one thing to say . . . Of course. Absolutely. I’m delighted.’

A bark of laughter escaped him, but he quickly put a lid on it.

The men on the other side of the desk beamed.

‘It feels reassuring, Thomas,’ the head of negotiations continued, ‘to have a man like you aboard. Your feet are firmly planted in reality, you are conscientious and committed, the life you lead reflects those of the people you will be researching. I believe, personally, that these aspects are a prerequisite for success in this business. And it has come to our attention that you have received international acknowledgement for your work as well. To be honest, we had no solution at hand for keeping you on, and we would have deeply regretted having to let you go. So this resolution suits us all extremely well.’

BOOK: Lifetime
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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