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Authors: Liza Marklund

Lifetime (48 page)

BOOK: Lifetime
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Torstensson paused. He was perspiring profusely.

‘Why are you asking this?’

‘I have received information that you knew, in advance, about a certain outcome that would be made public in the second-quarter report, that is on 20 July last year.’

Annika felt a bit light-headed.
Christ, here we go . . .

Torstensson gulped and shook his head.

‘No,’ he said. ‘That’s not true.’

‘I can assure you that it
is
true,’ Mehmed said. ‘My source is dependable. And since you sold your holdings on the nineteenth, that would make you guilty of insider trading.’

Annika stared at Torstensson’s sweaty face, barely able to breathe. The editor-in-chief’s eyes grew even wider. She could see flashes of thoughts and panic rising in them.

‘By no means is this true,’ he said. ‘I had no knowledge of this.’

‘Then how come you sold your entire holding, 9,200 shares, on 19 July, the day before the report was made public?’

The editor-in-chief shook his head.

‘It was pure coincidence,’ he said. ‘I had been planning to unload them for quite some time.’

‘On 19 July, a Wednesday, you sold your 9,200 shares of Global Future, rated at SEK 412.50, which means you made 3,795,000 kronor. The very next day, Thursday, 20 July, the report for the second quarter was made public and the share price dropped twenty-eight per cent, to SEK 297. That means you would have received 2,732,400 kronor for the same stocks, right?’

Torstensson’s face revealed emotions such as doubt and fear while Mehmed was talking. When he answered Mehmed, his voice was full of restrained contempt.

‘The whole point is to sell in time,’ he said. ‘That’s what playing the stock market is all about.’

‘What a loser,’ Thomas said.

‘You earned over a million kronor by selling on the nineteenth instead of the twentieth,’ Mehmed said.

‘That’s chicken feed,’ Torstensson said.

‘I don’t think your readers would agree. In addition to all this, the parent company declared that they would no longer supply the company with funds, which meant that the share price dropped to virtually zero. You were aware of this as well.’

‘This is slander!’ the editor-in-chief exclaimed, moving as if he intended to get up.

‘By the first of January, the share price for Global Future was 59 kronor, today it’s worth a mere 37 kronor. Your shares would have been worth 340,000 kronor today. Your insider deal made you more than three million kronor.’

‘I’m not going to listen to any more of this,’ Torstensson said, so upset that it was difficult for him to speak.

At that very moment there was a change of perspective. After being locked on Torstensson’s face, the camera moved to an angle that showed Mehmed getting up, walking past the conference table and going over to the bookcase. Another camera came briefly into view, along with a tangle of cables and some people.

‘There’s Schyman!’ Annika exclaimed, pointing at the screen. ‘I saw him, he was standing behind the cameraman. Did you see him?’

Thomas shushed her.

‘Here,’ Mehmed said, pointing at a binder in Torstensson’s bookcase. ‘This contains the minutes of the board meetings of the
Kvällspressen
board of directors, doesn’t it?’

‘How dare you?’ Torstensson shouted and got up. ‘Touch that binder and I’ll have you charged with trespassing.’

‘Wow,’ Annika said. ‘He actually knows the legal classification of a crime.’

Mehmed slipped his hand inside his black denim jacket and pulled a folded piece of paper out of the pocket.

‘That won’t be necessary,’ he said. ‘I have a copy of the minutes of the board meeting held on 27 June last year, and it details that you were present and that you were made privy to this information. I would like to hear your comment.’

Standing in the middle of the room, Torstensson swayed slightly.

‘My comment?’

‘What you were thinking? Feeling? What made you risk everything you’ve built up just to make a killing on the market and earn a million?’

The editor-in-chief yanked off his mike, stepped on it and left the room.

‘Christ,’ Thomas exclaimed. ‘What an amazing scoop! That Mehmed is one hell of a reporter! How did he ever dig this up?’

Feeling sweaty, Annika swallowed.

The news anchor came on screen again and concluded the story.

‘Editor-in-chief Torstensson of
Kvällspressen
resigned this evening after this network’s in-depth news team revealed the details of his insider dealings. The police are now pursuing the matter. An extra board meeting was called, appointing Anders Schyman, a former employee of this network, as
Kvällspressen
’s new editor-in-chief and executive editor. More coverage of this story will be available after the regular news hour, when we will be airing a live broadcast, an in-depth look at the news.’

The news anchor switched to a fresh piece of paper.

‘What a story,’ Thomas said, looking at Annika. ‘I just don’t understand how you people find everything out.’

Annika shushed him. A new segment filled the screen: the conference room at the offices of Zero Television, the thundering gunshot, the jerky camera skipping across the audience, Karin Bellhorn’s beet-red face.

‘For God’s sake,’ she shouted. ‘This is all a fake. Can’t you tell?’

A cut to another angle: Annika could hear her own voice, far away but distinct.

‘Cain and Abel. The most ancient motive for murder in the history of the world.’

A close-up of Karin Bellhorn, leaning forward, looking aggressive.

‘Are you insinuating that I would kill someone out of simple envy?’

The camera shook and then Annika was on screen, perched on the windowsill.

‘Oh, my goodness,’ Thomas said, his mouth full of chips. ‘That’s you!’

‘Absolutely not,’ the Annika on TV said. ‘It’s so much bigger than that.’

‘Turn it off,’ Annika said in a subdued voice.

‘Why?’

‘You don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Karin Bellhorn screamed on TV.

‘Please?’

Thomas turned off the TV.

‘Is it hard to look at yourself?’

Annika nodded.

‘Karin confessed – she did it.’

‘Did you know that she was the one?’

Annika leaned back.

‘For a while there I thought it was Anne.’

They sat there for a while, listening to the sounds of summer, drinking in its light, its scents. Thomas took her hand and kissed her palm.

‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered. ‘I really am.’

She didn’t say anything, just looked down at her thighs.

‘I have behaved . . .’ he began, then swallowed, searching for the right words. ‘Badly. That’s not good. I lost faith in my abilities.’

‘You lost faith in
us
,’ Annika said, glancing at him, seeing that he was in agony.

‘No, it was more than that. Everything – how I should live my life.’

Thomas’s long hair spilled on to his face. Annika saw her own hand reach out and smooth it back. Then she met his gaze, so dark and frightened.

‘But I’ve already made my choices, even though I wasn’t aware of it. I chose you and the children, I chose you nearly four years ago. If you want to get married, if it’s important to you, then let’s do it.’

She shook her head.

‘No,’ she said. ‘I want you to want it too.’

‘I do want it, only I don’t want the blow-out. I’ve done the traditional thing once, and that’s enough.’

She looked up at him and nodded.

‘You can get married at the Swedish Embassy in Seoul, you know,’ Thomas said. ‘I’ve talked to them, there’s an opening for us on 10 September.’

Annika sat bolt upright on the couch and blinked.

‘But I can’t go to Seoul. There’s work and . . . who will take care of the kids?’

‘My parents.’

‘Would they want to?’

‘Well, we’re talking about their grandchildren. And work won’t be a problem – the president of the USA will be arriving on the twelfth to visit Korea. You can be a part of the press delegation when he goes to Panmunjon and the Bridge of No Return on the 39th Parallel, before he heads for the four-way talks in Peking . . .’

Annika shook her head and smiled sadly.

‘It sounds great,’ she said. ‘But the paper would never let me go to Korea on an assignment.’

‘Actually, I called Schyman and involved him in my little conspiracy. He told me you could go to Hawaii if you liked. He must think you’re one hell of a reporter.’

Annika blinked, pieced things together and considered the implications for a few seconds.

Schyman wanted to pay her back. A marriage in return for a position as editor-in-chief.

She jumped up.

‘Would you like another beer?’

Thomas pulled her close and kissed her.

‘Please say yes,’ he said. ‘I want this.’

The phone rang and she disengaged herself from his arms, then went into the kitchen and got a beer out of the fridge. She listened to the rhythmic whoosh of the dishwasher, the sounds of the courtyard through the open window, fans, crying children, a burglar alarm.

Present in the moment, the day that was today, she closed her eyes.

‘Annika? It’s for you.’

She took a couple of breaths and returned to the living room.

‘Annika Bengtzon?’

The voice was familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it.

‘We’ve met a few times during the past few days, out at Yxtaholm and during the service today . . .’

It was Highlander.

‘You’ll have to call the paper,’ she said quickly, glancing at Thomas. ‘I haven’t written anything about the ceremony. If you have anything to add, you’ll have to talk to the night-desk editor.’

‘Oh, no, that’s not why I’m calling,’ the network executive said. ‘You see, the boys in London have seen the tapes from the broadcast today. Have
you
seen it?’

Annika cleared her throat quietly.

‘Well,’ she said, ‘just a bit of it.’

‘I must say that they were very impressed. It’s not often they see a diamond in the rough emerge like that.’

‘What?’ Annika said, placing her hand on her forehead.

‘We’re looking for someone to replace Michelle Carlsson, someone who can take over
The Women’s Sofa
and carry on in the same spirit. We would like to screen-test you for the job – what do you say?’

‘Who? Me?’

Highlander drew a patient breath.

‘We think you have a great deal of charisma. You pop right out of the screen, you have presence. Have you ever considered going for a new career?’

Annika rubbed her forehead and gaped like a fish a few times, looking at Thomas who watched her from the other end of the couch, blinking in surprise.

‘Is this some kind of joke?’ she managed to say.

‘Absolutely not,’ Highlander said, a touch of irritation in his voice. ‘We will be kicking off the autumn season on 10 September, so we need to get moving with the auditions and contracts. By the way, do you have a manager?’

‘Um, no . . .’ Annika said, feeling more and more flustered.

‘Then I could recommend Sebastian Follin, he’s available now that . . . You know.’

Annika ran the idea through her system, immersing herself in what fame had to offer.

Hosting a show. TV. Opening nights. Money. Her own production company. An international career. The mechanisms that control fame, reaching critical mass.

‘I’m sorry,’ Annika said, looking steadily at Thomas. ‘It’s just not possible. You see, I’m getting married on 10 September.’

Highlander’s laugh had a forced ring to it.

‘That should be taken care of rather quickly,’ he said. ‘You’ll have time to tape a show too.’

‘The wedding’s taking place at the Swedish Embassy in Seoul,’ Annika explained.

Anders Schyman, his heart full to overflowing, turned around and left the fish tank. He closed the sliding door, unconsciously anticipating the suction sound of the rubber runners heralding that everything was locked up and ready to go.

It was
finito.

Over with.

Victory was his.

He took a long, deep breath. His lungs felt hard to inflate, they were so filled with relief and the residue of pent-up worry.

He had achieved his end.

Yes. Absolutely.

He exhaled.

Tomorrow, the maintenance crew would be moving his things into the corner office with a view of the Russian Embassy.

Letting his keys drop into his inside pocket, Schyman felt their weight bob by his ribs. Then he looked up at the news desk and the editors.

He met each one’s gaze.

Walking at a measured pace and leaning forward just a bit, he headed for the exit. Editors and reporters, sketch artists and picture editors, photographers and telephone operators – the living organism that was the newsroom followed his every move in a new way.

‘We made some changes in the corporate heading,’ Jansson said as he stood outside the smoking area, holding one arm inside, the cigarette smoke snaking upwards to the fan.

Anders Schyman, editor-in-chief and executive editor, nodded curtly.

‘I’ll be checking back with you by phone around midnight,’ he said.

‘Hard to imagine that there will be any changes now,’ the night-desk editor said, taking a puff on his cigarette and blowing the smoke aimlessly into the smoking area. ‘We’ll run Michelle’s murder as the header and the top story, Barbara Hanson’s interview with you will be on the centre spread, and the editorial will deal with Torstensson’s insider-trading deal.’

Another nod, a wave of his hand. His chest felt constricted.

Tore Brand was staring at the blue light of a TV screen as he passed. TV Plus, a newly scheduled rerun of Michelle Carlsson’s memorial service.

A thought flashed through Schyman’s mind:
I wonder how long she’ll live on.
It would be the measure of her greatness, an assessment measured in decades and centuries.

The immortal ones.

Would Michelle Carlsson be one of them?

He laughed at the absurdity of the thought, a short bark that echoed against the tiled walls of the stairwell. He took the stairs two at a time.

BOOK: Lifetime
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