Read The Swedish Girl Online

Authors: Alex Gray

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General

The Swedish Girl (20 page)

BOOK: The Swedish Girl
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Again and again, Maggie’s brow furrowed with the same thought: who would have wanted to kill a lovely girl like that? Okay, Eva Magnusson might have been a bit promiscuous, but then wasn’t that a given in Scandinavian countries? Maggie made a face. Perhaps she’d been reading too much Stieg Larsson lately?

Jealousy was a motive in some crimes, wasn’t it? She looked across at the bookshelves groaning with hardback copies of books that they had accumulated over the years. The gold lettering on the spine of a dark red leather book seemed to wink at her: Shakespeare’s Complete Works. Maggie thought of the tragedy she was teaching to her sixth years:
Othello, the Moor of Venice
. His life had been destroyed by that green-eyed monster, hadn’t it? And who was to say that something lurking in the Swedish girl’s life had not triggered a feeling of passionate enmity on the part of a man who had been overwhelmed by feelings of love only for it to become sour and turn into hate?

CHAPTER 33

H
enrik glanced around the room, noting how tidy it was, and for the first time in his life he felt the need for something – or someone – to clutter the place up, change the minimalist decor into a homelier place. Even the books were hidden behind pale birchwood doors and he knew without having to look that they were arranged in alphabetical order, dusted regularly by the housekeeper, and only brought out when there was something he needed to consult. It had been no different when Eva had stayed at home: her own rooms were kept just as clean and smart, the dressing room next to her bedroom vast enough to keep all the clothes that he bought for her, orderly and colour-coded just as he wished them to be. Behind him on a sideboard there were several decanters ready with drinks, crystal glasses ranged around them. A refrigerator concealed below held an assortment of beers and soft drinks, everything that could be offered to his guest by a perfect host. There were no decorations, no colourful lights to mark the Christmas season; it might have been any night of the year, the thick damask curtains drawn over the windows keeping out any trace of starlight or lamplight.

The white leather sofa creaked beneath his weight as Henrik sat down. A glance at his Cartier watch showed five minutes to eight: the professor had said he would arrive at eight o’clock. What would he want to know? Henrik’s brow creased in a frown. Surely a criminal profiler sought information about the suspect, not the victim? But then, he acknowledged to himself, there were many things that had not impinged on his consciousness before, the psychology of murder being only one of them.

He was out of the chair and striding into the large hallway as soon as the bell rang, his shoulders raised in tension as he anticipated the person waiting in his porch.

‘Mr Magnusson? Solomon Brightman.’

The man with the beard stood beaming up at him, his ungloved hand stretched out in greeting. Henrik took it briefly, surprised at how warm it was given that it was at least minus twelve degrees outside. The man blinked owlishly at him through a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles, but there was a keen intelligence in those dark brown eyes and a kindliness in his face that put the Swede at ease.

‘Come in, please.’ Henrik gestured the psychologist inside. ‘Let me take your coat,’ he added, relieving the man of his long black overcoat and a multicoloured scarf that had to be unwound several times before it could be handed over. The professor wore a neat grey suit and a silk tie decorated with myriad colourful butterflies in flight, an interesting contrast between sober and daring that made Henrik wonder for one fleeting moment if there was some sort of deliberate psychological approach to the man’s choice of clothes.

He opened the sliding door in the hallway to reveal a spacious cloakroom then hung the garments on a wooden hanger before closing the door once more.

‘Please, come in,’ Henrik said, ushering the professor into the room he had prepared for this visit.

‘My! What a pleasant room!’ the professor remarked, looking around him. ‘Our house is perpetually untidy, you know. Abigail, our little one, is at the stage where one toy is dropped on the floor in favour of the next one she fancies,’ he chuckled.

Henrik looked at him, mildly astonished that the psychologist had the temerity to refer to his child when he was still grieving the loss of his own.

‘I’m sorry.’ Solomon put his hand on the tall man’s sleeve. ‘Was that crass of me? You must miss her terribly,’ he added softly, taking off his spectacles and sitting down on the edge of a high-backed chair to rub the fogged-up lenses with the end of his tie.

Henrik swallowed hard and blinked back the tears that had come unbidden to his pale blue eyes. ‘Yes,’ he admitted huskily. ‘I miss her every day.’

‘Nothing can bring her back,’ Solomon Brightman said quietly. ‘But your memories of her may be happier ones when the whole truth about this is revealed.’

‘Will they? I doubt that,’ Henrik said shortly.

The professor shrugged and smiled as though there was something secret and wise that only he knew and somehow Henrik found his mouth forming the ghost of a smile at this quaint Englishman with his dark curly hair and luxuriant beard.

‘May I offer you a drink, Professor?’

Solly watched as Magnusson walked across to a sideboard where several expensive-looking crystal decanters winked in the lamplight.

‘Thank you, but no.’

‘Something soft, perhaps?’

‘I’m fine,’ Solly said, smiling politely as he watched the man pour a large measure of amber liquid into a whisky glass.

‘Do you have any photograph albums of Eva?’ he asked just as the Swede sat down.

‘Yes, of course, but why?’

‘I thought about what we might discuss,’ the professor began, folding his hands across his knees. ‘It struck me that looking over pictures from the time she was young might help me to form the best impression of Eva.’

Henrik placed his glass on the small table beside him, stood up and moved towards a wall of pale wooden cupboards. ‘Yes,’ he murmured. ‘They are all in here.’

The bereaved father was unaware of the sympathetic eyes following his movements as he knelt down and pulled several thick photograph albums from a bottom shelf. Or of the slightly raised dark eyebrow that caught sight of the uniform pile of brown leather books with their dates marked clearly on the spines.

‘Here we are,’ Henrik told his guest, placing the books on a glass coffee table that lay between the sofa and the chair where the professor was perched.

 

The photograph albums lay open now, revealing Eva to the psychologist’s discerning eyes. As Henrik turned the pages, he explained each photograph, smiling as the memories returned, boasting a little, as fathers will do, about his child’s achievements. Solly was shown the Swedish girl as an eight-year-old, beaming her satisfaction as a tall lady pinned the rosette onto her pony’s bridle, or pictured against snow-covered mountains as she grinned into the camera, her blond hair caught up in a bright blue ski band. Then there were the photos of her on holiday: posing on the yacht in Cannes, standing amongst the pigeons in St Mark’s Square and turning her attention from eating a meal somewhere, the grey landscape beyond the restaurant windows a view Solly remembered from Montmartre.

‘Do you have more recent pictures?’

The tall man shook his head. ‘Not like these,’ he said. ‘Only digital images on my computer. I always meant to have them printed off…’ He stopped, dashing a hand across his eyes. ‘Only there never seemed to be time…’

‘Any photos of her with boyfriends?’ Solly asked. ‘You know, at a school prom or something?’

Henrik closed the last album with a snap. ‘Eva was home tutored,’ he said coldly. ‘There were no
proms
.’ He stressed the word as though it was something unpleasant. ‘Nothing like that. And any boyfriends she had would have been photographed by a professional at whatever function they attended. I doubt she kept them.’

Solly frowned. Did he mean the photographs or the boyfriends? ‘I don’t understand,’ he said. ‘Didn’t you know who her boyfriends were?’

Henrik had turned away from him so that Solly could only see the man’s profile; a straight nose and angular chin that was raised as though in disdain.

‘Eva would tell me who was taking her out and if I deemed him suitable then that was as much as I needed to know.’

Solly nodded, wondering just how much information this father had required about any of his daughter’s boyfriends; had the property magnate trawled the internet to see the fellow’s pedigree? Or was there a private detective following Eva around just in case? Nothing would surprise him, he thought, seeing the man’s mouth tighten into a thin disapproving line.

The psychologist took a deep breath before asking the question that had prompted the visit in the first place.

‘And how did you choose her flatmates?’

 

Afterwards, Solly struggled to tell Rosie how he had been overwhelmed with pity for the Swedish man. ‘Barren’ was the word that had kept coming to the forefront of his mind. A house filled with quietness but no sense of peace; an orderly existence but a life that had been ruptured by chaos; a man whose wealth gave him immense power over others but who had been powerless to prevent the destruction of his daughter.

It was well after eleven when Solly closed the door of his hotel bedroom, letting his briefcase fall to the floor and breathing in the warm air once again. He bent down to open the small refrigerator and drew out a bottle of pineapple juice. Magnusson had offered him a drink back at the huge modern house which he had declined politely but now he was so thirsty that he snapped open the bottle, drinking the juice straight down in gulps. The taste seemed to banish something sour that had formed in his mouth and Solly sighed, wondering if whisky or gin did the same for other men after a difficult meeting.

And it had been difficult. Magnusson had been annoyed at first, asking what business the psychologist had questioning his choice of tenants. But gradually he had admitted that there was some sense in Solly’s gentle probing, finding out about each of the students in turn was helping the professor to understand the ways he protected his daughter, wasn’t it? Solly had smiled and nodded, but not confirmed this interpretation of his questions. In truth, what he had wanted to find out was why these young people had been chosen and how he hoped it might tell him more about Eva herself.

Gary Calderwood had been the only one whose background had given him the right to a place at Merryfield Avenue, but even he had been subject to Henrik’s scrutiny.
The right sort of boy
, he had called him, whatever that meant. And Solly, looking at the Swede, had taken it to mean that he had thought of Gary as boyfriend material. And Roger?
Capable, the type who would look out for her
, Henrik had declared firmly. And take her to his bed? Had that been on Magnusson’s agenda? Kirsty, as he had guessed, was the
husmor
, and Colin Young
the boy-next-door
– Eva had called him that herself, Henrik had said, laughing shortly as though struck by the irony of it.

‘Did you select the boys as potential sexual partners for Eva?’

Solly blinked, remembering Henrik’s reaction: it was as though the man had actually hit him, such was the glare from those cold blue eyes and that mouth opened wide in anger. But then Magnusson’s expression had changed to one of anguish, his hands covering his face as he began to wail, ‘Oh my God, my God!’

‘It was my fault?’ he had whispered at last. ‘Putting these young men with her? I gave them a chance to be nice, to enjoy her company and yet…’ He had shaken his head again, speech deserting him.

‘We cannot know for sure if Colin Young took her life,’ Solly had told him, one hand on the man’s shoulder. ‘Kirsty is certain he didn’t and having met him—’

‘You met him? How? Where?’

Solly had gone on to relate the prison visit and how he had taken careful note of the young man’s behaviour.

‘I’m not often a poor judge of character,’ he had stated, ‘and I would have said that Colin is suffering quite a lot as a result of having been wrongly accused of a capital crime.’ Magnusson had listened then, attentive to what Solly had told him.

‘I think the boy was very sweet on your daughter,’ he added at last. ‘In fact, I think in their own way each of the boys may have been a little bit in love with Eva.’

And that, of course, was what this father had wanted, Solly told himself, switching on the small kettle in the hotel bedroom. He had manipulated the students for his own particular agenda, to make sure that if Eva had any sexual relations then they would be with decent young men of his choosing. Solly sighed at the thought: how could any father have imagined that his girl would behave exactly as he demanded, and in a foreign country, far from parental control? Surely, he told himself, it had been asking for trouble to let this girl loose in the mean streets of Glasgow.

As he waited for the water to boil, Solly thought about Rosie and Abby. How different their lives were! To love his daughter was also to give her the freedom to become herself, wasn’t it? A surge of pity filled him then for the dead girl. What sort of life had she endured? All the privileges of wealth had been nothing compared to the freedom to make choices that were truly her own. The overbearing love he had had for his daughter: surely that was what had driven her to seek illicit pleasures, like the affair with her university lecturer. And had there been others: secret lovers taken to satisfy an appetite that sought some sort of fulfilment? Colin, Roger and Gary had been her father’s choice. He stared into space, ignoring the cloud of steam coming from the kettle as the thought came to him at last.

Had the killer been some unsuitable lover? Someone dangerous that Eva had chosen for herself? And had she wanted that spice of danger as an antidote to her father’s choice of bedmates? But why would she sleep with all of her flatmates unless she wanted to? Sheer promiscuity? Or because her father expected it?

BOOK: The Swedish Girl
13.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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