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Authors: Jakob Melander

The Scream of the Butterfly

BOOK: The Scream of the Butterfly
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Also in the Lars Winkler series

The House that Jack Built





A Lars Winkler Novel


Translated from the Danish by Charlotte Barslund

Copyright © 2015 Jakob Melander and Rosinate & Co., Copenhagen, Denmark.
English translation copyright © 2015 Charlotte Barslund

First published in Denmark as
in 2014 by Rosinate & Co.
This edition published in Canada in 2015 by House of Anansi Press Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Distribution of this electronic edition via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal. Please do not participate in electronic piracy of copyrighted material; purchase only authorized electronic editions. We appreciate your support of the author's rights.

House of Anansi Press

The lyrics on page 393 are from “When The Music's Over,” words and music by The Doors.© 1967 (Renewed) Doors Music Co. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of Alfred Music.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Melander, Jakob, 1965–
[Serafine. English]
The scream of the butterfly / Jakob Melander ; translated by Charlotte

(A Lars Winkler novel)
Translation of: Serafine.
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN: 978-1-77089-441-9 (bound). ISBN: 978-1-77089-442-6 (html).

I. Barslund, Charlotte, translator II. Title. III. Title: Serafine. English.
IV. Series: Melander, Jakob, 1965– . Lars Winkler novel.

PT8177.23.E53S4713 2015 839.81'38 C2015-904793-5

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015934550

Cover design: Alette Bertelsen

We acknowledge for their financial support of our publishing program the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.


Prøvestenen. Drops of water glisten in the late evening air. The smell of minced beef, onion, and tomato still lingers between the buildings of the Margretheholm Refugee Centre. The residents have gone to bed and all is quiet. A Red Cross worker has just finished his last round. Soon the night shift will take over.

A door slams in the education block behind the main building. Bright voices echo between the red-brick walls, before they're swallowed up by the fog. A child runs down the steps from the education block and then sprints toward the door at the end of the main building.

The corridor inside is dark and deserted. The lights have been turned off in every room. A single, narrow beam of light coming from under the door closest to the exit casts a faint glow across the filthy linoleum floor — the room he shares with his sister Afërdita. Her blue bath slippers are lined up next to a pair of large, lace-up shoes on the mat outside.

Arbën puts his dirty running shoes next to his sister's slippers, then looks up and down the corridor before opening the door without making a sound.

The room is sparse, containing a bookcase with their few belongings and a table below the window. The orange curtain flutters in the draft from the cracked window frame. The floor is sticky under his bare feet; its surface shines in the light from the naked light bulb hanging from the ceiling.

The sound of someone breathing quietly.

Two naked bodies are lying on the bed. A crumpled blanket has been kicked to the end. His sister's eyes are staring at the ceiling. One arm dangles over the edge of the bed, her hand half open. Red flowers bloom on her chest. Dark, sticky leaves run down her arm, across her palm. Her finger forms a bridge between the stab wound in her chest and the pool spreading across the floor. A pair of scissors is buried in the flesh of her neck.

A calm face rests on her chest. The cheeks quiver with every breath. The nose and forehead are smeared with blood. Arbën's hand falls from the door handle and he steps back out into the corridor.

Red bubbles appear at the corner of the man's mouth. Then he looks up and their eyes meet.


[Larva (from Lat.
, “ghost; mask,” to describe an animal, first used by Linné, who considered the larva a masked insect), a stage in the development of many animals after hatching, prior to adulthood. Larvae differ from adults, often having a completely different nutritional biology . . .]

The Great Danish Encyclopedia



Frederiksberg Allé by Sankt Thomas Plads. He parked on the pavement next to the fountain, right outside the police cordon. It was dark and drizzling lightly. Curious onlookers, reporters, and police officers jostled on the sidewalk and crowded around the semicircle of parked cars under the lime trees. The light from the street lamps and the photographers' flashes flickered, bouncing to and fro between the wet tarmac and the underside of the yellow lime leaves. The whole scene lay bathed in a nervous and unreal glow.

“They say his head is almost . . .”

As Lars got out of the car, a woman took a cigarette out of her mouth and started jogging toward him. She was around forty, her hair tied back with a scarf. “Hey, Lars. Have you got a minute —”

He waved his hand to make her go away, held up his badge to a uniformed colleague, and was allowed through the cordon. A press photographer was busy climbing a tree in front of a neighbouring apartment building.

Lars walked through the arched entrance and into the stairwell of number 28. A constant stream of police officers guided the way.

The broad oak door on the second floor opened onto a small hallway with checkered floor tiles. It was full of coats, hat shelves, and shoes. A narrow door to the right led to a guest bathroom with an old-fashioned toilet. Everything was tasteful, but slightly shabby. This was old money — Frederiksberg aristocracy. The house belonged to Kirsten Winther-Sørensen, managing director of her own clothing company, and Mogens Winther-Sørensen, mayor of Copenhagen, long-standing member of the Radical Party, and son of the party's chairman, Merethe Winther-Sørensen, who was currently Denmark's finance minister.

Lars had tried to recall what little he knew about the mayor in the car on the way to the crime scene. Mogens Winther-Sørensen had been the mayor for more than ten years and, as far as Lars could remember, his time in office had been characterized by a pallid pragmatism. The Radical Party, despite its name, was actually at the dead centre of Danish politics. The capital's relationship with the Danish parliament was businesslike and rarely dramatic, irrespective of whether the government at the time was right or left wing. But Lars knew nothing about the man himself and could only just remember what the mayor looked like. While they were still married, Elena had occasionally mentioned Kirsten Winther-Sørensen's clothing line, which was the extent of his knowledge about the mayor's personal life.

Perhaps he should have taken more of an interest in politics? Or his marriage? In the latter case, he had neglected it too long. Elena had left him and moved in with Ulrik in the spring.

Lars went through the hall, and continued straight ahead until he reached the kitchen, where the police photographer was at work on his subject.

A man in his early forties with hints of grey in his dark hair was lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling with a mixture of surprise and pain. His pants had been pulled down around his ankles. His lower body was twisted, his hips at a ninety-degree angle to the floor. His dark, wrinkled genitals flopped over his pale thigh. The head had been almost severed from his body. A pennant of coagulated blood spread across the floor toward the kitchen cupboards. A single, extended spray of red reached from the floor, across the lower cupboards, over an open pizza box with three or four slices remaining — pepperoni, Lars noted, he had yet to have dinner — and up to the ceiling. Allan Raben, Lars's colleague for eight years in the Violent Crime Unit, was kneeling near the kitchen table with a measuring tape, sweating. There were several footprints at the edge of the pool of blood, close to the body. One set of prints — stilettos would be his guess — had trampled in the puddle before disappearing to the left. A soft whimper came from the adjacent room.

“Hi Lars.” Wallid Bint shook his hand. His dark face was half hidden behind his mask, but Lars thought he could still see the gleaming teeth of the assistant from the Institute of Forensic Medicine through the white fabric.

Lars nodded and took a step back to make room. Bint's boss, Frelsén, was bending over the body, his hairnet stuffed into the back pocket of his protective suit. Pale tufts of hair stuck out from his scalp. The chief forensic pathologist now had several bald spots. Why hadn't he noticed that before?

“Frelsén.” Lars greeted the pathologist. “What have we got?”

The pathologist straightened up, tugging at the fingertips of his latex gloves.

“Our killer entered through the front door by picking the lock. The victim was in the middle of an amorous transaction.” Frelsén pointed to the victim's pants. “A single cut with a sharp, heavy object. It took great force. The head has almost been severed from the body, but you don't need me to tell you that.” Frelsén winked. “The upstairs neighbour came home with some friends after a night out and noticed the open door. He knocked and popped his head around, managing to catch a glimpse of the killer, who was leaving through the back door.”

Frelsén gestured over his shoulder toward the door. Low moaning could be heard on the other side. “The second party to the transaction is in there with Sanne and Lisa.” Then he bent over the body once more.

. So she was here too. He hadn't spoken to her since Midsummer's Eve. He had tried calling her a few times, but she never answered her cell phone, and she had recently been away for a month on holiday — with Martin.

“Is there anything to suggest that the murder was politically motivated?” Lars rummaged around in his pocket for his cigarettes. “There's a general election in less than two weeks.” Even he couldn't have failed to notice the timing.

Frelsén snorted with derision.

“Local politics?
local politics?” He shook his head and turned his attention back to the victim.

Allan placed his hands on his knees and stood up to join Lars.

“Was the neighbour able to give us a description of the perpetrator?” Lars continued to fidget with the cigarette packet in his pocket.

Allan rolled up the measuring tape and made a face.

“He didn't have time to see much and could only make out that the killer was wearing dark pants. His friends stayed on the landing. They were fairly drunk at the time and their statements won't be worth all that much.”

Lars left Allan in the kitchen and went into the room next door. A petite, dark-skinned woman with big, backcombed hair and heavy makeup was perched on a low sofa opposite Sanne and Lisa. She was wearing a deep-purple, sequinned dress that rode high up her thighs, revealing long, smooth legs.

He took a seat next to her.

“Lars Winkler, Copenhagen Police.” He nodded quickly to Sanne and Lisa. “What's she saying?”

“Not much.” Lisa scratched her coarse, dark hair. “Her name is Serafine Haxhi, and she arrived from Hamburg today.”

Sanne avoided his gaze, pushing a train ticket across the coffee table. For a moment he felt giddy: her vibrant grey eyes and the dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks wouldn't let him focus.

He put his cigarettes on the table and picked up the train ticket:
Arriving CPH 16:08
. He turned to the slender woman. Her high cheekbones and almond eyes — they were almost too much, too perfect.

“You're not his wife, are you?” Lars said to Serafine in English as he stuck a King's in his mouth. He offered her one while he lit his own.

The woman took the cigarette without looking at him. A row of badly healed scars ran up the inside of her left forearm. She followed his gaze. Then she stuck the cigarette in her mouth and hid her arm beside her thigh. She leaned over the lighter he kept lit between them, and inhaled. She shook her head, blew out smoke, and looked away. Lars put the lighter on the table and nodded toward the kitchen.

“What happened?”

Serafine took another drag of the cigarette while her eyes flitted around the room. She started picking at the hem of her dress, staring out of the window into the night.

“We didn't manage to get anything out of her, either.” Lisa tossed her notebook onto the coffee table, grimacing “We don't even know how they met. There can't be much doubt that she was busy giving him a blow job when the killer arrived.”

Serafine heard the word
blow job
and reacted immediately.

“No sex.” Her fragile body started shuddering. Lars waited until she had calmed down.

“But then why are his pants around his ankles?”

“He came out from the toilet and . . .” She trailed off, stubbing out the cigarette in the ashtray with abrupt, stabbing motions. She took another cigarette from Lars's packet and lit it.

“Your accent. You're not German. Where are you from?”

Allan popped his head around the door just at that moment.

“Bint and Frelsén are done. Do you need them in here?” he glanced behind him. “Otherwise they'll take him away now.”

Lars looked at Sanne and Lisa. Neither of them protested.

“It's okay. We've seen plenty. Is the police photographer happy?”

Allan nodded.

“Frelsén says the post-mortem will be tomorrow morning at nine. By the way, there's someone out here who wants to talk to you.”

Kim A's figure loomed in the doorway, even Frelsén looked tiny in comparison. Lars made his excuses and went out into the kitchen, while Frelsén instructed the paramedics on how to handle the body.

“Kim. What are you doing here?” Lars ignored the outstretched hand.

“I was on my way home when I heard what happened on the radio.” Kim A walked around the paramedics to the back door and out onto the landing.

Lars followed. “So, why are you here?”

Kim A put his hand on Lars's shoulder.

“I'm with PET now — a close protection officer to the minister. I thought she might want me to take a look at things with the election coming up. After all, he is her son.”

Lars positioned himself between the body and Kim A, and watched the paramedics lift up the mayor and put him on the stretcher. A flash went off. A tall, balding man wearing steel-rimmed glasses and army pants stood hunched in the doorway, his camera set to continuous mode.

“Who let you in?” Lars pushed the photographer out into the hallway and summoned a uniformed colleague. “Make sure you get his name and the name of his paper, then escort him downstairs and drive him out to the middle of nowhere.”

“Hey, listen, you can't just —” The photographer rotated the camera in his hand, trying to shoot more pictures from his hip. Lars blocked him.

“You've just contaminated my crime scene. I can do whatever I want. Get out!”

“Off we go!” The other police officer raised his hand and herded the photographer out of the apartment, following him down the stairs. Kim A was leaning against the wall, observing the incident. He chuckled.

“Cheeky, aren't they?”

Lars shook his head. The sound of the photographer's protests echoed through the stairwell.

“Like you said, you're with the Security and Intelligence Service now.” He stuck out his arm, trying to usher his former colleague into the hallway. “I'm going to have to ask you to leave.”

Kim A nodded at the pool of blood on the floor and the white chalk outline marking the position where the body had lain.

“So you have no suspects? How about the prostitute in the next room? Surely she must have seen something?”

“Time to go, Kim.” Lars bundled him out.

Kim A disappeared into the stairwell. Suddenly the large kitchen was empty. Lars went back to Serafine, who had lit yet another cigarette. Lisa was sitting opposite, going through her notes. He could hear Sanne elsewhere in the apartment.

“Serafine.” Lars sat down. “You're coming with us. We need the German authorities to verify the information you've given us.” He turned to Lisa. “Has Bint fingerprinted her?”

Lisa nodded. Serafine turned her head, and stared out the window into the darkness, pressing down over the roofs.

BOOK: The Scream of the Butterfly
2.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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