Authors: Liza Marklund
‘Are you out of your mind?’
The producer’s voice broke, while Annika’s rang out across the room.
‘Karin,’ Annika said, ‘you have given more thought to the mechanisms that control celebrity than anyone else. I think you reached the end of your tether. Everyone saw Michelle Carlsson, but no one saw you.’
Annika locked stares with the producer across the room, over the heads of the mourners.
‘I understand, Karin,’ Annika said. ‘I know why you did it. I understand Cain too. If you’re invisible for too long, you cease to be human. In the end, you’ll do anything just to prove that you exist.’
Karin Bellhorn blinked. Annika saw her falter.
‘The revolver was on the floor,’ Annika said. ‘You picked it up. It was sticky, but you didn’t know why.’
There was no comment from the producer other than the wheezing of her airways.
Annika closed her eyes and let it come to her, channelling the events, feeling them seep into her.
‘You raised the revolver,’ she said. ‘You didn’t feel its weight, only the cold metal. It was weightless, an extension of your arm.’
Karin Bellhorn tried to say something, but words failed her.
‘Michelle stood there, her words cutting you to pieces. You knew that you would die if she continued.’
The producer gaped and stared at her.
‘It was either her or you,’ Annika said. ‘And it was so easy to pull the trigger that you hardly felt it. You looked into her eyes as the impact knocked her backwards, and you saw that she didn’t get it. She died without understanding a thing.’
Karin Bellhorn’s face was now white and she struggled to get air.
‘Later on, you heard the bang and felt the gun recoil, and your mind went blank. You knew what had happened, and you knew that it was wrong. Isn’t that right, Karin?’
Annika’s voice was a whisper floating on the scent of the flowers.
‘I only wanted to make her shut up,’ Karin Bellhorn said.
Anne Snapphane stared at Annika on the monitor, perched up on the windowsill, the heads turning in the crowd, going from Karin to Annika. Backlit by the sun through the window, her body was outlined with a golden halo. Her hair was translucent and glowing.
Anne took a deep breath and noticed that the cramping sensation in her stomach was slowly easing up. Her legs started to shake instead, so she sat down carefully among the bags of tapes, taking shallow breaths. She felt as if she had escaped being pushed off a cliff, even though she had been in free fall.
‘What the hell are you up to?’
Highlander loomed up over the pile of impounded and returned evidence. His face was a mess of make-up, confusion and rage. The silvery tie was no longer on straight.
Anne tried to say something, but couldn’t find her voice and cleared her throat. Looking at the floor, she felt tears well up.
‘I didn’t do it,’ she whispered.
‘Don’t you give me that!’ Highlander said in a voice that was dull with rage. ‘The guys went through every last source in the control room. You bypassed the regular circuit and ran something through the talk box.’
Anne looked up, tears blurring her sight.
‘I didn’t shoot her. I walked around outside the bus, looking for her, but I didn’t do it.’
She bowed her head, the tears falling into her lap. The sound of a footfall in the corridor made her try to pull herself together. She pressed the back of her hand under her nose, swiped away the mucus and tears, then wiped her hand on her jeans and got up, feeling unsteady.
There wasn’t much space by the door, the bags were in the way, and she could see Q’s head bobbing impatiently on the other side.
‘We’ve got to move this garbage.’
‘Careful now!’ Highlander admonished.
The bags flew out into the corridor. Lieutenant Q stood in front of her, pale and determined-looking.
‘Annika tells me you found a reference tape of the intercom circuit that had been running in the bus on the night of the murder.
Anne Snapphane felt a new surge of panic spread from her stomach to her legs and shoot up to her shoulders. She swallowed and nodded.
‘I presume that the conversation we heard in the conference room was that very tape. Am I right?’
‘The engineers have established that the tape was played in this room. I assume that you had something to do with it?’
Anne tried to breathe, bent down, pushed
on the VHS player, and handed the tape to Q.
‘This wasn’t exactly the ideal way to pursue an investigation,’ he said, teeth clenched.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, looking down at the floor but still feeling the scorch of his glare.
The policeman bagged the tape as evidence.
‘I’ll be talking to you again,’ he said as he left the room.
Highlander remained stationed behind the monitors, looking at the jumble of tapes and papers, and straightened his tie. He sighed, smoothed his brow, looked like he was about to say something, but decided not to. Instead, he turned and left the room.
As Anne gazed at his retreating back, she suddenly realized the obvious.
‘We don’t have a producer,’ she said. ‘How are we going to put a show together by Saturday without one?’
Highlander whirled around to face her, panic in his eyes. He flicked his tongue across his lips a few times while thoughts shot through his mind like balls of lightning.
‘Oh, my God,’ he said. ‘What are we going to do?’
‘I’ve located most of the material,’ Anne said in a dull voice. ‘I could run up a rough copy with all the in and out times, and get everything together . . .’
‘Why don’t you do the final cut?’ Highlander asked. ‘You can do it.’
Utterly surprised, Anne inhaled sharply and sat down. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
‘I want a producer’s salary and a company car,’ she said quickly.
They would never be able to afford to demote her again.
Her boss kept looking at her as he slowly exhaled, expressing contempt.
‘Karin always warned me about you, said you’d take over as soon as you got the chance. She was right to keep you in check. How can you even think of using a situation like this?’
‘Well, you should talk,’ Anne countered.
Annika stopped as she reached the light, resting in the whoosh of the doors closing behind her, sealing in the dust and the air-conditioned air of the newsroom. Relief gushed through her system like a waterfall.
She had eight days off ahead of her.
Exhaling, she blinked up at the sun, feeling its warmth. The wind had died down, having blown the low-pressure zone from the Atlantic elsewhere, opening the door to a heat wave from Russia. She pulled off her sweater and let summertime caress her skin and hair. Hitched her bag up on her shoulder and slowly headed for Rålambshovsparken. There was a smell of hot asphalt in the air, for the first time this summer. She took a deep breath of it and had to smile. Mother Nature responded, delirious with longing, with an explosion of aromas, colours and insects.
The paper and Michelle Carlsson were left behind her, and they faded into a haze. The newsroom had been in a void: Torstensson remained in his room, Schyman had continued to be absent-minded. Rumours were flying around about an extra board meeting.
She hadn’t been allowed to write about the memorial service, since she had been involved in the broadcast. Sjölander had interviewed her instead, which was strange, but prudent.
‘Why did you cross-examine Karin Bellhorn from across the room?’ he had asked.
‘Because I knew what the answers would be,’ Annika had replied. ‘And I wanted everyone else to know too.’
That was the truth, and Anne Snapphane had provided her with another reason as well:
‘Thank you,’ Anne had whispered in the corridor behind the conference room. ‘You saved me from becoming a murderer in the minds of everyone around for ever and ever. It wouldn’t have mattered who really did it, people would just remember this: “Hmm, Anne Snapphane, didn’t she get accused of murder on TV?”’
Riddarfjärden surged and fell, the water flashing like the shards of a shattered mirror. Annika rummaged through her bag for her sunglasses. No such luck. As she walked along the edge of the water, positively drunk with joy, she squinted so hard that she missed seeing a poodle on a lead and tripped over it.
Q had been a bit upset, but not as angry as she feared. A public confession was hardly a bad thing, even though it wasn’t legally binding.
In the initial interview, Karin Bellhorn had tried to claim that the gun went off accidentally and that it was unpremeditated, which didn’t quite make sense.
‘She’s going down,’ Q said when he called from his crummy cellphone inside police headquarters. ‘One way or another, she’s going down.’
Annika walked along Kungstorget, passing police headquarters and glancing up at the jail, Kronobergshäktet, at the top of the complex. Where could Karin Bellhorn be? The thought sent a shiver down her legs and a chill up her spine. Darkness welled up in her chest and she swallowed hard to make it go away. She speeded up, her heels tapping along the pavement and the breeze ruffling her hair.
The children were playing outdoors. Ellen was in the sandbox, dressed in a nappy, a shirt and a sun hat. Kalle was on the slide. His feet were bare and he was in high spirits. She saw both of them at the same time – both of them and only them. Two clear-cut figures. Running up to them, her joy at being reunited with them equalled that of her children at being with their mother. She held them and rocked them, both at the same time. Kissed sandy hands and snotty cheeks, the natural thing to do.
She informed the staff that her children would not be coming in for the rest of the week, and probably not the following week either. They all walked slowly down the sunny side of Scheelegatan in the direction of the Co-op store. Ellen was tired and quiet. She snuggled up in her stroller with her thumb in her mouth. Kalle jabbered away. Soon he would get overtired and become cranky. Annika felt as if her feet weren’t quite touching the ground. Utterly present in this moment of being with her children in the summer weather, she floated along. In the cool recesses of the supermarket, she bought chicken and coconut milk, along with ice-cream bars and some beer. Then she raced home to Hantverkargatan while Kalle stood on the kiddy board, crowing with glee. This sense of bliss stayed intact until Kalle dumped fish sauce on the floor and Ellen pooped.
When Thomas unlocked the front door, she felt herself go rigid and the last trace of bliss evaporated. The children had eaten, Ellen had fallen asleep and Kalle had put on his pyjamas. She assessed the kitchen with a quick glance and inspected her son’s appearance before she forced herself to stop.
It wasn’t up to him to judge her or the housekeeping standards, and she shouldn’t hand him the chance to do it.
She was standing in the kitchen when he came in. She saw traces of her own mood surrounding him.
He kissed her on the mouth. His lips were cold.
‘Just you wait, I’ve got lots to tell you.’
‘So have I,’ she said.
He turned away, grabbed Kalle and swung him up high.
Annika read Kalle a story while Thomas reheated some chicken wok in the microwave. It was the recipe with chilli and pickled coriander, the one he had taught her to make. She tucked Teddy in, kissed her son goodnight and caressed his cheek.
She went into the living room, her body and soul feeling empty, and let the breeze from an open window sweep over her bare arms. Sinking down on the couch next to Thomas, armed with potato crisps and the remote control, she inhaled the scent of the city in the summertime. Birch trees and soot, lilacs and exhaust fumes. The sounds were intermittent, a car had time to disappear before the next one passed by, and somehow the noises were more distinct and incisive than usual.
On TV, the Swedish host of
, Magnus Härenstam, gave his guests the answers and they supplied the questions.
Annika leaned back and closed her eyes.
‘I got the job,’ Thomas said.
She looked up at him and smiled.
‘I said they’d give it to you – if they had any brains, that is.’
‘I wasn’t so sure they had.’
‘Well, congratulations. First Seoul, then this. So, what happened?’
‘I did what you told me to do, talked about hardcover booklets and how we had to convince everyone we had always had this position.’
Annika raised her eyebrows in surprise.
‘I thought you thought it was a lousy idea.’
Thomas stared at the TV screen, his face a shade pinker.
‘I didn’t say, like you did, that it’s all in the phrasing,’ he said.
She sat next to him, watching without seeing, hearing without listening. Drinking in the nearness of him, nurtured by his warmth.
Not long after 7:30 Thomas switched channels. They had missed the opening headlines and the top story was already in full swing. The camera showed a view of the Russian Embassy, as taken from inside Torstensson’s office.
Annika sat up straight and leaned forward. The editor-in-chief came into focus, sweating, and there was a painting of a naked woman hanging behind him.
‘Editor-in-chief Torstensson,’ Mehmed began, off camera. ‘Could you please tell me the stance you take at
on economic crime?’
Torstensson cleared his throat.
‘Crime is a blot on society in every democracy,’ Torstensson replied. ‘One of the most important obligations of the press is to investigate criminals at all levels of society and expose them.’
‘And here I thought that’s what the police were supposed to do,’ Annika commented, unknowingly echoing Schyman’s earlier thought.
‘What’s your personal opinion of people who perform insider deals?’
The editor-in-chief’s tongue snaked across his lips and he tried to get more comfortable in his chair.
‘Crime of any nature should be investigated,’ he replied, his eyes wide. ‘It’s a prerequisite of any functioning—’
‘No, that’s not what I was asking about,’ Mehmed said in a calm voice, interrupting him. ‘I was asking for your personal opinion.’