Authors: Anne Holt
“In the meantime, we have very little to go on,” the Chief of Police confirmed loudly, as he stood up.
Crossing to an overhead projector, he placed an acetate on the glass plate.
“Up till now, we have interviewed twenty-eight people. We’re talking about people who can be closely connected to the scene of the crime. Staff at the Prime Minister’s office, politicians, government officials and office workers. In addition to the security personnel on the fourteenth as well as the ground floor. And a couple of … visitors. People who visited the Prime Minister yesterday.”
The Chief of Police pointed at a red box on the sheet, filled with names. His hands were trembling. The pen he was using, outlined like a giant pointer on the wall behind him, moved up and down on the acetate and pushed it askew. For a moment or two he fumbled to try to straighten it, but it seemed to have attached itself to the glass, and he abandoned the attempt.
“At this preliminary stage, we have no fixed theories. I repeat: we have no fixed theories. It’s of the greatest importance that we go forward on an extremely broad front. The Security Service will
play a very important part in this work. The method used in this homicide …”
He switched off the projector, using both hands to remove the obstinate acetate. Then, placing another on the glass plate, he switched the machine on again.
“… indicates a high degree of professionalism.”
The acetate showed a diagram of the fourteenth and fifteenth floors in the tower block.
“This is the Prime Minister’s office. As you can see, it can be reached in two ways, either through the outer office and in through here …”
He let the pen smack against a door opening.
“… or via a conference room, through the restroom and in here.”
The pen drew a route on the sheet.
“What both entrances have in common is that, in both instances, you have to pass through this door here …”
Again he dotted the pen on the glass.
“… and that is in full view of the secretary’s desk here.”
The Chief of Police sighed so heavily that the sound reached all the way back to Billy T. and Police Sergeant Tone-Marit Steen. This was followed by a lengthy silence.
“Besides …” the Police Chief said suddenly, his voice breaking in the middle of the word. He coughed hoarsely. “Besides, in order to access the three top floors, the Prime Minister’s section, you have to pass this point.”
His stubby forefinger now covered the entire entrance to the fourteenth floor.
“This is a security gate, where a security guard is always present. True enough, there is of course an emergency exit …”
His finger moved again.
“… here, but there is absolutely nothing to indicate that it was used. The doors are sealed, and the seals have not been broken.”
“Where’s John Dickson Carr and his super-sleuths when you need them?” Billy T. said under his breath, his mouth at Tone-Marit’s ear.
The Chief of Police continued. “For some time now, the tower block has been undergoing extensive renovations, both inside and out. Because of that, scaffolding has been erected on the outside of the building. Naturally, we have checked whether someone could have come in that way, but we haven’t found any evidence of that either. None whatsoever. The windows are intact, the frames untouched. Of course, we are also investigating everything to do with air vents and that sort of thing, but for the moment that seems to be a red herring as well.”
The Security Service Chief had folded his arms across his chest, and was studying something on the desk facing him.
The Police Chief went on. “The weapon has still not been found. So far it looks as though it was a relatively small-caliber gun, probably a revolver. We’ll have more specific answers later today, when a provisional post mortem report will also be available. As things appear now, the time of the murder seems to have been at some point between 18.00 and 18.45. And guys …”
He peered out across the assembly.
“… it should be completely unnecessary to say this, but I’m saying it regardless: if there was ever a time when it was important to keep our cards close to our chests, then this is it. Every single leak to the press or anybody else will be subjected to a thorough investigation, and I mean thorough. I will not accept
leaks; I repeat:
not a single, solitary leak about this case
A murmur of consent rippled through the room.
“The Security Service Chief will make a short statement.”
The man in the beige suit got to his feet and rounded the table where he had been sitting. With a graceful movement, he sat on the tabletop, and once again crossed his arms over his ribcage.
“We’re keeping all possibilities open, as the Chief of Police has suggested. We know that right-wing-extremist groups have engaged in a certain amount of activity recently, and we are aware that this includes drafting so-called death lists. In itself, this is nothing new. Such lists have been in existence for a long time, and Prime Minister Volter featured on them long before she took over the premiership.”
He stood up again and walked back and forth across the floor as he spoke. His voice was deep and pleasant, and his words flowed without pause.
“Neither can we disregard the possibility that the murder has a connection with recent events in the Middle East. The Oslo Agreement is in imminent danger of petering out altogether, and it is well known that Norway is working tenaciously behind the scenes to prevent the whole peace process from collapsing.”
“Now our guys in Security will get to cooperate with their old pals in Mossad again,” Billy T. muttered, almost inaudibly.
Tone-Marit pretended not to hear, and craned her neck to obtain a better view of the man at the front.
“We also have a couple of other possible theories that we are in the process of scrutinizing more closely. It’s not necessary to go into that in any detail here.”
The Security Service Chief stopped, nodding briefly to the Chief of Police as a signal that the meeting was over. The Chief tugged at his grimy collar, and appeared to be longing earnestly to go home.
“Do you still believe all that guff about a lone madman?” Tone-Marit asked as they left the parade room immediately afterward. “Must be an ingenious guy, in that case!”
Billy T. did not respond, but after staring at her for several seconds, shook his head lamely.
“Now I really
get some sleep,” he mumbled.
OSLO POLICE STATION
t was impossible to guess the age of the lady in the black dress with a little scarlet scarf around her neck who sat sipping from a glass of Farris mineral water. Police Sergeant Tone-Marit Steen was impressed: the woman looked refreshed and immaculately turned out, despite having been interviewed until four o’clock that same morning. It was true that her eyes were ever so slightly bloodshot, but her makeup was perfect, and the small movements she continually made released a faint, pleasant waft of perfume into the room. Tone-Marit tucked her arms into her sides and hoped that she did not smell too rank.
“Really sorry to have to bother you again,” she said in a voice that sounded sincere. “But in the circumstances, I hope you appreciate that we regard you as a particularly important witness.”
Wenche Andersen, secretary in the Prime Minister’s office, nodded gently.
“It’s all the same to me. It’s impossible to sleep anyway. It’s the least I can do. Ask away.”
“In order to avoid going through what we covered last night all over again, we’ll do a short resumé of what you said. Stop me if anything is incorrect.”
Nodding, Wenche Andersen cradled her hands in her lap.
“Birgitte Volter had asked to be left in peace, is that right?”
The woman nodded.
“And you don’t know why. She was to have an absolutely routine meeting with Supreme Court Judge Grinde, a meeting that had been arranged a week in advance. No one else came to the office after you last saw Volter alive. But you say here …”
Tone-Marit leafed through the papers, and finally found what she was looking for. “You say that she had seemed troubled recently. Stressed, you say. What do you make of that?”
The woman in black gazed at her, obviously searching for the right words.
“It’s difficult to say, really. I hadn’t got to know her very well yet, you see. She was … dismissive? Irritable? A bit of both. Slightly abrupt, in a sense. More so than she had been before. I can’t say any more than that.”
“Could you … Could you give some examples? About the sort of thing that caused her to become irritable?”
Something resembling a smile crossed Wenche Andersen’s face.
“The newspapers are usually delivered by messenger at quarter past eight. On Thursday there was a delay of some kind, so they did not arrive until almost half past nine. The Prime Minister was so annoyed that she … Well, she swore, not to put too fine a point on it.”
The woman’s cheeks had now acquired two small patches of puce.
“Foul language, in fact. I ran out and bought copies of
“Things like that. Unnecessary things. The kind of thing Prime Ministers don’t usually waste energy on.”
Tone-Marit lifted a half-liter bottle of mineral water and looked enquiringly at the other woman.
“Yes, please,” she answered, holding out her plastic beaker.
The Police Sergeant stared at her for some time, just long enough for the silence to become uncomfortable.
“What was she like, actually?” she suddenly asked. “What kind of person was she?”
“Birgitte Volter? What she was like?” The puce patches grew. “Well … what was she like? She was extremely conscientious. Very hard-working. So, almost like former Prime Minister Gro in that respect.”
Now she smiled broadly, revealing a row of attractive, well-cared-for teeth, with flashes of gold in the molars.
“She worked from early morning till late at night. Really easy to relate to, and always gave clear instructions. Very clear instructions. When something went adrift … with the kind of schedule a Prime Minister has, unexpected things happen all the time, but she always took it in her stride. And then she was quite …”
She was searching for words again, letting her eyes flit around the room, as though the words were hidden somewhere and refused to come into view.
“… warm,” she eventually exclaimed. “I would in fact call her warm. She even remembered my birthday, and gave me a bouquet of roses. She almost always found time to have a natter about this and that.”
“But if you were to say something negative,” the Police Sergeant interrupted. “What would you say then?”
“Well, negative …”
Looking down, the woman fiddled with the edge of her jacket.
“Well, she could be slightly … slightly too … genial? I wasn’t allowed to address her as ‘Prime Minister’, she insisted on being called ‘Birgitte’. That was unusual. And not quite proper, if you ask me. And she could get muddled – when it came to specific things, I mean. Kept forgetting her pass and suchlike. And in the midst of all this geniality, there was something … what should I call it? A kind of reserve? No, now I must be rambling terribly.”
She was now speaking softly, almost whispering, and shook her head dejectedly.
“No, not really. Nothing important.”
Someone knocked at the door.
“Busy!” Tone-Marit called out, and faint footsteps disappeared
along the corridor as she continued. “Let me judge whether it’s of importance.”
The woman looked her straight in the eye as she quickly ran her hand across her hair in a superfluous gesture.
“No, honestly. There’s no more to be said. Apart from one thing that struck me last night. Or, this morning, in actual fact. A while ago. But it doesn’t really have anything to do with this, not really.”
Tone-Marit leaned forward, clutching a pen that she rocked between the forefinger and middle finger of her right hand.
“Last night I was asked to go through the Prime Minister’s office,” Wenche Andersen continued. “To see if there was anything missing, as the police officer put it. That was after Birgitte had been remo … been carried out, I mean. But I had already seen her, of course. Both when I found her and afterward, when she was lying there, or sitting there, I suppose. Across the desk. I had seen her twice. And—”
She stared expressionlessly at the pen tapping on the desktop with that nerve-racking, staccato sound.
Tone-Marit stopped abruptly. “Sorry,” she said, leaning back. “Do continue.”
“So I had seen her twice. And not to boast … in no way, but I am considered to be quite … observant.”
Now the little puce patches were ringed with dark red.
“I notice things. It is extremely necessary in my work. And I noticed that the Prime Minister wasn’t wearing her shawl.”
“Yes, a large, fringed woolen shawl, black with a red pattern. She was wearing it across one shoulder, like this …”
Wenche Andersen untied her own small scarf, unfolded it into a triangle, and placed it over her shoulder.
“Not exactly like that, because it was a shawl of course, and much larger than this little scarf, but you get the idea I’m sure. I’m
not entirely certain, but I think it was fastened with a hidden safety pin, because it never fell off. She liked that shawl and often wore it.”
“And what about this shawl?”
“It wasn’t there.”
“No, she wasn’t wearing it, and it wasn’t in the room when I inspected it. It had vanished.”
The Police Sergeant leaned toward her again; something had kindled a spark in her eyes, and the woman opposite her instinctively drew back in her seat.
“Are you certain she was wearing it that day? Quite certain?”
“I’m one hundred per cent sure. I noticed that it was hanging slightly crookedly, as though she had put it on without looking in a mirror. One hundred per cent. Does it mean anything?”
“Maybe,” Tone-Marit said in a quiet voice. “Maybe not. Can you give a more detailed description?”