Read The Swedish Girl Online

Authors: Alex Gray

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

The Swedish Girl (7 page)

BOOK: The Swedish Girl
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he plane flew through a bank of pale grey clouds blotting out the dull green landscape that had been visible moments before. Henrik Magnusson sat by the window, staring out, too afraid to catch the eye of any person on this flight lest his weeping begin once more. Even the kindly smile from the purser as he had entered the cabin had made him bite his lip to control his emotions, though he wasn’t to know that the woman had given each and every passenger the same friendly greeting.

It was so different from last summer in Glasgow when he and Eva had been doing up the flat during the summer vacation. A year ago they had still been together, spending the Christmas holiday skiing at Klosters, he remembered, seeing once again that flag of blond hair streaming behind her as Eva had swished down the slopes beside him. Even then he’d had such plans for her! After university she would return to live in the family house in Stockholm and he would begin to introduce her to the ins and outs of the Magnusson Corporation. She was destined for great things, Henrik had said proudly to anyone who would listen, never tiring of telling people how much she had meant to him. But now there was a different story that the world would tell about the fate of Eva Magnusson.

As the plane banked, Henrik gripped the armrest, steeling himself not for the landing but for what awaited him beyond the confines of the approaching airport.


Dr Rosie Fergusson picked up her briefcase and pulled her coat from the peg on the back of her office door. It was another lousy day, dark and foreboding as only days in the depth of a Scottish winter could be. Then, remembering the man she was about to meet, the pathologist gave a rueful grin. Bet they have gloomier days than we do, all the way up into the northern climes, she thought. No wonder the suicide rate was so high in places like Sweden if you had to wait months and months for a glimpse of sunshine.

Outside, the rain had stopped and a weak band of light was showing in the east, but the dark clouds above surely held more bad weather, maybe even the first snows, Rosie told herself, pulling the coat collar around her neck as she slipped into the front of the Saab. It was a short ride across town to Glasgow City Mortuary where Rosie kept her other office and where Eva Magnusson’s body lay stored in the wall of refrigerators. The Swede had intimated that he wanted to come straight there from the airport and Rosie remembered the terse email letting her know when he expected to arrive.

God! How she hated this part of her job, meeting the relatives of the dead. For some reason it had become worse since Abby’s birth, something that Solly had tried to explain to her in terms of psychology. Before her pregnancy Rosie had been well able to keep all of her emotions in check, always the consummate professional when dealing with her work. But now it was as if some fairy creature had stolen away her old reserves of… what? Stoicism? Objectivity? Or had she just been a hardened bitch back then? Nowadays the pathologist’s head was filled far more with thoughts about the relatives of the deceased and she seemed to have developed a keen empathy with the bereaved to the extent that she found it difficult sometimes to keep her own tears in check.

As she entered the small parking place at the back of the mortuary, Rosie noticed the familiar blue van, its back doors opened wide and empty indicating that some other fatality would be awaiting her attention this Monday morning. A recent accident, perhaps? A sudden death, more than likely, but not one that had necessitated calling her out in the middle of the night, so probably not murder.

She smiled at the undertakers as the empty trolley passed her. They had a job to do and so had she, and if that job was all about the dead, then so be it. They were owed as much care by the pathologist and her colleagues as any sick patients in hospital, yet a different sort of caring, since it was too late for them to speak of whatever had brought them to this place.

And what had happened to the Swedish girl whose body would shortly be taken to the viewing room? That she had been strangled was quite evident. The death had probably been quick enough, but even those last suffocating seconds must have been terrifying. Whoever had committed this crime must have been strong enough to overcome the girl. Small and slight as she was, she had had youth and vigour on her side, not to mention the adrenalin rush that would have caused her to try to fight back. And the traces of semen… now had that come from the perpetrator? The victim had had sex with someone shortly before her death, a fact that was already written in the pathologist’s report.
Oh, dear Lord
, Rosie sighed, knowing that this was something else she was dreading having to tell the father.


The taxi stopped at the lights, letting Henrik see a different part of Glasgow from the business district with which he was familiar. Everything here looked dark, cold and dreary and, as if to underline his impressions, scraps of litter rose in a gust of wind then fell into gutters already lined with detritus. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. If he had known that parts of the city were like this… he dashed a gloved hand across his eyes. Of course he had known exactly what Glasgow was like, had even argued a little with Eva when she had made her choice to go to Strathclyde. Buying her that flat in Anniesland was meant to have protected her…

The lights changed and the taxi turned into a side street where, facing them, he saw for the first time the High Court of Judiciary in all its glory. Then the cab turned once more and drew up outside a small grey Victorian building. Taking a deep breath, Henrik Magnusson stepped out into the cold of a Scottish December and made his way to the front door of Glasgow City Mortuary.


He was a huge bear of a man, thought Rosie, ushering the Swede down the corridor to the viewing room where Eva Magnusson’s body lay. Apart from his immense height – maybe even taller than Lorimer – she noticed he was a handsome man, his blond hair cut into a smart style, his lambskin coat hugging a body that was strong and muscular. His eyes startled her they were such a vivid shade, making her remember the moment when she had drawn the dead girl’s eyelids down over their unseeing blue. That the Swedish girl’s father had the same eyes should not have unsettled her like this, but somehow it did.

Magnusson had remembered the ordinary courtesies, even at a time like this, removing his heavy leather gloves to shake hands with this woman who had performed the post-mortem examination on his beloved daughter.

She had taken his outstretched hand, told him how sorry she was for his loss, and now that these preliminaries were over they were standing side by side at the window that looked down on the body lying on top of the trolley. A sudden intake of breath and the sense that the man by her side had stiffened was all the reaction that Rosie noticed, though she stole a sideways glance at the bereaved father just to see if he wanted to speak. But there was only silence as he stood there, staring at his daughter; silence and a sense of sheer disbelief. Rosie’s eyes strayed to Magnusson’s fingers as he fiddled with his cuffs, straightening the solid cufflinks as though it was an unconscious habit. It’s stress, she thought
He needs to control even the tiniest things around him right now.

Then, ‘Did she suffer?’ he asked quietly.

‘The post-mortem results suggest a quick death,’ Rosie replied briskly. Her answer had been ready and came perhaps a little too easily to her lips. ‘She would have lost consciousness in seconds,’ she added a little more gently.

He nodded at that, still staring as though unable to take it all in, needing perhaps to see in order to believe.

Then, as though some unspoken decision had been made, Magnusson turned away from the window and began walking back towards Rosie’s office.

‘When can I have her back?’ he asked gruffly and Rosie glanced at him again, noticing him swallowing hard, trying no doubt to refrain from showing any unmanly emotion. It took some men like that, she knew, the ones who didn’t want a stranger to see their grief, while other men simply broke down and wept, sometimes on her shoulder.

‘We’ll let you know, sir, but until the Procurator Fiscal decides that it may be released your daughter’s body will stay here with us,’ she said. ‘There may be a need for further examinations and so we have to keep Eva here in the mortuary.’

‘And now, Dr Fergusson, you will do me the courtesy of telling me exactly what you know about my daughter’s death.’

Henrik Magnusson had stopped right outside Rosie’s office, his blue eyes bearing down upon her and a look on his face that brooked no refusal.

He was a strong man, Rosie thought suddenly, probably ruthless in his business dealings and maybe he considered himself strong enough to hear the plain unvarnished truth that the pathologist was writing in her full report.

‘Come in,’ she said, pulling the door back and indicating a seat on one side of her desk. She eased herself past him and sat behind the desk, a weak light filtering through from the glazed window behind her. Eva Magnusson’s notes were in a file right in front of her, but the pathologist preferred to look this man in the eye as she told him what she had found, not hide behind the safety of an already prepared document.

‘We know a fair bit about what happened,’ Rosie began, ‘but as yet the police have not identified the perpetrator. Nor,’ she added, ‘do we know why anyone might have done this to your daughter.’

For a moment the Swede’s expression was so bleak that Rosie almost put out her hands to clasp his across the desk. But the long habit of professionalism stopped her.

‘Eva suffered manual strangulation from a person unknown,’ she continued. ‘Someone who was wearing gloves.’ She looked at his eyebrows, noticing that they were raised as she spoke.

‘It was a very cold night, so the wearing of gloves might or might not suggest a premeditated attack,’ she added. ‘There was nothing on Eva’s body to suggest that she had managed to resist the attack and, as I told you earlier, she would have lost consciousness very quickly.’

Magnusson nodded, his face still a mask of despair, his fingers twisting and turning the solid gold cufflink at his wrist.

‘There is something else, however,’ Rosie went on, drawing a deep breath before she continued. ‘There is evidence in the post-mortem that shows your daughter had sex some time before her death.’

Magnusson’s eyes widened but although his lips parted slightly, he did not utter a word.

‘We are hopeful of obtaining a DNA match from this trace evidence, naturally,’ she said. ‘But that will not necessarily give us the identity of her assailant.’

The man sat there staring at Rosie, then began to shake his head as though this extra piece of information must somehow be incorrect.

‘Are you trying to tell me my daughter was raped before she was murdered?’ he said thickly.

‘There was no bruising around the vaginal area or anything like her clothes being removed that would have indicated it had not been consensual sex,’ Rosie murmured. ‘Plus the toxicology tests have not given any signs of a drug that might have been administered to render Eva comatose.’

Henrik Magnusson continued to stare at her, his brows drawing together as if he were trying to figure something out.

‘A date-rape drug, you mean?’

Rosie nodded. ‘There was nothing like that in your daughter’s blood tests and only a minimal amount of alcohol,’ she said.

There was silence for a long moment.

‘She did enjoy an occasional glass of champagne,’ Magnusson said at last, his eyes wandering past Rosie as if he could see his daughter once again. And, as his expression softened and the tears filled them, Rosie felt a pain in her chest that came from a desire to let herself weep for this big man’s loss.


think we’ve got him,’ Jo Grant told the detective superintendent, her hands leaning upon Lorimer’s desk, her shining face a picture of anticipation.

‘Thank God for that,’ Lorimer replied, his breath exhaling in a long sigh as he sat back. For each and every one of the few days since Eva Magnusson’s death his DI’s case had been preying on his mind and now he experienced a certain sense of relief. ‘Anyone we know?’ he continued, motioning her to take a seat.

Jo nodded and sat down. ‘DNA results came back this morning,’ she told him. ‘They match the sample we took from one of the students.’ She paused then went on, still regarding him carefully. ‘It’s Colin Young.’

‘Really?’ Lorimer’s eyebrows shot up in surprise as a sudden memory of the student’s troubled face came back. ‘He hadn’t impressed me as the violent type,’ he went on hastily as Jo’s brow wrinkled in a frown of annoyance.

‘There’s absolutely no getting away from these sorts of facts,’ she said. ‘He was definitely the one who had sex with the deceased and…’ She hesitated. ‘I had him weeping in the interview room after only a few questions. Total remorse, if you ask me,’ she added with that firm manner that Lorimer had come to respect.

‘Well, you know the procedure,’ Lorimer said. ‘A Section Fourteen. Bring him in and hope that he’ll confess. Makes it much easier all round than having to go through the entire trial-by-jury scenario.’

He steepled his fingers under his chin, watching Detective Inspector Grant nod in agreement as he considered how so many cases ended up dragging out for months in the courts. They’d both seen it plenty of times, though a lot of hardened criminals were savvy enough to cough up and plead guilty if there was evidence stacked up against them. A guilty plea carried a lesser sentence and they all knew it. But what of a student like Colin Young who had no previous police record? If he had strangled Eva in a moment of rage would he be remorseful enough to get it all off his chest to the police? Or would fear make him try to spin a web of lies concerning the girl’s death? And there was the aspect of the gloves. Lorimer sighed. Did that suggest a premeditated act or had the lad simply worn his gloves on that freezing night?

‘Did you find any gloves among Young’s possessions?’

‘No.’ Jo shrugged. ‘But I bet he was forensically aware enough to ditch them somewhere. All these kids know the score nowadays.
syndrome,’ she added, rolling her eyes to heaven. The much-watched American cop show,
Crime Scene Investigation
had made a huge impact on viewers and the interest in forensic medical science had rocketed.

‘Right, you better get a warrant for his arrest,’ Lorimer said, watching his detective inspector rising from her seat. ‘Good luck.’

‘Thanks, sir. But don’t think I’ll need it,’ Jo replied with a grim smile on her face.


All the way back down the corridor Jo felt a spring in her step. To get a result so quickly was ace! And having a quick collar for a case that had threatened to become high profile was exactly what she had wanted. No having to waste time with the ladies and gentlemen of the press, no fannying about with a whole lot of student interviews and best of all, closure for the poor father. Still, she had to bring the lad in first as a detainee for twelve hours, during which time she’d aim to wring a confession out of him. Pausing by the office door for a moment to gather her thoughts, Jo hoped against hope that Colin Young hadn’t gone and done a runner.


‘You awake, son?’

Colin opened his eyes to the darkness of the room and for a moment he was at a loss to know just where he was. Then, as he recognised the familiar objects of his old bedroom at home – his worn brown desk with the stack of poetry books that had gathered over the years, the wardrobe with the right-hand door that never closed properly, its inside mirror reflecting the narrow band of light from the space between the curtains – he remembered why he was here and all the events of the past few days came flooding back.

‘Is that you, Dad?’ he yawned, flexing his arms before tucking himself back below the duvet once more, huddling sleepily into its warmth.

‘Aye, son.’ There was a pause, then Alec Young moved closer and sat on the edge of the bed.

Colin’s eyes were closed and so he did not see the rush of tender concern that filled his father’s face as he looked down upon his boy. And was he even aware of that small sigh filling the space between them before Alec spoke?

‘Son, there’s a couple of polis here tae see ye. Think ye better get up, eh?’

Colin sat bolt upright, grabbing the edge of the cotton cover to hide the fact that he was naked. ‘What?’ He blinked stupidly. ‘To see
? Why?’

Alec shifted uneasily, looking down at the floor now and not at his younger son. ‘Don’t know, Col. They jist said to get you up. Think they want you to go intae Glasgow again with them.’

Colin shivered as the cool draught from the open doorway reached his skin. ‘Okay. Give me a minute to get dressed. Tell them I’ll be right there,’ he said.

For a moment their eyes met and Colin wondered what was going through the older man’s mind. There was no reassuring smile, just a sort of watchfulness as though his father was appraising him, trying to see something in this boy of his that Alec Young had never seen before.

Then Colin reached out and took his father’s hand, feeling its calloused roughness. ‘It’s all right, Dad. I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m jist helping them, ken?’ he added, slipping back into the familiar vernacular of his childhood.

His dad nodded then sighed. ‘If yer mither wis here…’ he began.

‘Dad,’ Colin said sharply. ‘C’mon. I’ve got to get up. Okay?’

Alec rose from the bed and left the room, closing the door behind him. For a moment there was silence, then Colin could hear the sound of unfamiliar voices coming from the living room.

Gathering up the clothes he had discarded the night before, Colin hastily pulled on a T-shirt, only pausing to rummage through his rucksack for a fresh pair of underpants and clean socks.

Why had they come? They’d said that they wouldn’t be needing him any more, but maybe they had found something…

Colin stopped, his hand on the buckle of his belt, wondering. What if they’d found something in the post-mortem? A shudder went through him.

Trembling, he glanced desperately at the small square window of his room. It had been stuck fast for years except for a couple of inches where you could ease it up for air in the summertime. Bloody death trap, his brother Thomas had said often enough.
Death trap
. The words in his head resonated as though someone had actually spoken them out loud.

His shivers continued as he fastened his belt and yanked a jersey over his head, eyes emerging to stare at the door that separated him from the people who were waiting to take him away.

There was no way out. No way to escape whatever was waiting for him behind that door.

As if in a dream, Colin left his old bedroom behind, the place that was filled with so many childhood memories, then walked into the hall, seeing the ancient carpet, its red and yellow leaf pattern worn and faded now from so many feet over so many years. Nothing had been changed since Mum had died, despite the boys’ efforts to persuade their father to smarten the place up. Now, for the first time, as a vision of his mother’s laughing face came back to him, Colin understood why. It was seeing familiar things like this scabby old hall carpet that kept some of the memories alive for Alec Young.

Behind the living room door Colin could hear the voices and his steps faltered for a moment. His hand turned the door knob and he stepped in to see three faces turned towards him, staring silently as though he had been the subject of a conversation that had abruptly stopped the moment he had entered the room.

Then Colin Young heard words that he had never expected to hear in his life as a uniformed officer stepped forward to enclose his wrist in that cold hard cuff: ‘… detained on suspicion…’

It was all happening too quickly. There was no protest from the father who stood there, arms limp by his sides. Colin tried to see what was in Alec Young’s expression. Mute amazement? Horrified disbelief?

Then the moment had passed and he couldn’t look back to see any more as he was being led out of the front door, leaving his dad behind them.

A small crowd of people had gathered several paces away, watching the little drama, eyes feasting on the handcuffed figure being led towards the police car. Colin searched in vain but there was no friendly face that he recognised amongst their stares. One of the police officers put his hand onto Colin’s head as he was helped into the back seat and clipped into his belt, then the car began to move away from the pavement.

Someone in the crowd called out but the words were lost in the sound of the car’s engine and all Colin could see as he twisted around to look out of the window was his father’s face, white and strained, as he stood framed in the doorway of their home.


Perhaps he could write a poem about it once they realised their mistake, Colin thought. He was sitting at a well-scrubbed Formica-topped table in an interview room that was almost identical to the one he had been in before, but he had nothing with him to write down any thoughts, not even a pencil stub, and his notebook was back home in the rucksack that he’d been carting about for days ever since he had left Merryfield Avenue.

They had arrived at the back of the police station this time and Colin had been led up a sloping metal pathway barred on each side and through a red door to the Charge Bar, where a man behind the counter had asked if he wanted to call his legal representative or not. Colin had shaken his head, still bewildered at the turn of events.

‘You need to have someone with you, son,’ one of the uniformed officers who had taken him from his home explained. ‘We can get you a duty solicitor if you like but if there’s anyone you know, like a family solicitor…?’

Colin had shaken his head and mumbled, ‘We don’t have one…’ and that had made the man bark out, ‘Duty solicitor then, Sergeant!’ Then he had been taken through a maze of corridors until they had reached this interview room.

The uniformed police officer standing guard by the door didn’t look much older than he was, but looking at his closed expression, Colin did not feel inclined to engage the other man in conversation. Detective Inspector Grant would be with him shortly, he had been told, and that must have been at least quarter of an hour ago, Colin thought, glancing at the watch he’d remembered to slip onto his wrist. He fingered the metal strap, recalling the morning of his eighteenth birthday when he had opened up the slim parcel and found it inside. A good-looking grown-up watch, something he’d wanted for ages, something that would last him a lifetime.

Colin hung his head as the thought of a lifetime twisted itself in his brain. Eva. She’d had such plans for the rest of her life, hadn’t she? And now none of them would ever come to pass. He swallowed hard, blinking away these treacherous tears. What on earth would that detective inspector think if she came in and found him crying again?

The sound of the door opening made him look up and there she was. Colin glanced at the police officer, his mind setting out words to describe her as though she were a character in one of his stories. Today she wore a dark charcoal trouser suit, nipped in at the waist, and a pair of high-heeled ankle boots. The open-necked shirt revealed a single line of pearls at her throat.
Pearls are for tears
, he remembered his mum telling him, and the memory of her voice made his throat ache with a renewed desire to weep. Just behind the detective inspector was another woman, older and more careworn, wearing a simple black suit over a black and white striped shirt and carrying a matching black briefcase. She came forward looking at him seriously.

‘I’m Mrs Fellowes, the duty solicitor. You may request to have your own legal representative here if you wish, Mr Young,’ the woman said, standing by the side of an empty chair as though waiting for Colin to make a decision.

‘No, that’s all right,’ he said, an innate politeness making him wish for this stranger to be at her ease. She came around the table and sat in the empty seat next to his – not close, he noticed, but near enough for him to be aware of her presence.

‘You remember me, Mr Young?’ DI Grant had seated herself opposite them after fiddling with a box over near the wall, something that Colin recognised as a recording machine of some kind. Colin nodded. His head felt muzzy as he listened to her words, unable to really make out what they meant. Then a peculiar sensation came over him, as though he were outside looking down on these people instead of being one of the figures himself. Small details seemed to loom large, like the piece of sticking plaster curled around the detective’s index finger where she must have cut herself; the way the lawyer’s hair curled around her tiny shell-like ears, and his own sweating hands clasped tightly together as though ready for prayer.

DI Grant introduced herself and Mrs Fellowes to the tape machine and gave the date and time then turned to face Colin.

‘You know why you’re here?’ she asked.

Colin nodded, letting himself be part of this dreamlike state.

‘Speak for the machine, please,’ she told him crisply.

‘Yes,’ Colin said gruffly, then cleared his throat.

‘Yes,’ he said again, more loudly this time, and as if the utterance of the word had broken a spell, he was suddenly aware of the padded seat pressing against his back and the coarseness of the material under his buttocks as though he had landed from a great height.

‘It’s to do with Eva,’ he continued helpfully.

DI Grant leaned forward slightly. ‘We have had results from our laboratory, Mr Young,’ she began, then gave a small smile of satisfaction. ‘DNA results that show that you were the person who had sex with Eva Magnusson shortly before her death.’

Colin nodded once again.

BOOK: The Swedish Girl
11.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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