The Pyramid brings us the early years of Inspector Kurt Wallander. We see him doing hours on the beat whilst trying to solve a murder off-duty; the beginnings of his fragile relationship with Mona, the woman he has his heart set on marrying; and the reasons behind his difficulties with his father. These thrilling tales provide a fascinating insight into Wallander’s character, from the stabbing of a neighbour to a light aircraft accident, every story is a vital piece of the Wallander series, showing Mankell at the top of his game.

Featuring an introduction from the author, The Pyramid is an essential read for all fans of Kurt Wallander.

Also by Henning Mankell
Young Adult Fiction
Children’s Fiction
THE PYRAMID THE KURT WALLANDER STORIES Translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg with Laurie Thompson Henning Mankell
This ebook is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form (including any digital form) other than this in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Epub ISBN: 9781407013473
Version 1.0
Published by Harvill Secker 2008
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Copyright © Henning Mankell 1999
English translation of the foreword, ‘The Stab’, ‘The Divide’, ‘The Death of the
Photographer’ and ‘The Pyramid’ by Ebba Segerberg copyright © The New Press 1998
English translation of ‘The Man on the Beach’ copyright © Laurie Thompson 2003
Henning Mankell has asserted his right under the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
The English translation of ‘The Man on the Beach’ was first published in the July 2003 issue of Ellery Queen.
First published with the title Pyramiden in 1999 by Ordfronts Förlag, Stockholm
First published in Great Britain in 2008 by
Random House
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road
London SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:
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A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 9781846550973 (hardback)
ISBN 9781846550980 (trade paperback)
To Rolf Lassgård
with great warmth, gratitude,
and not a little admiration.
He has told me so much
about Wallander that I myself
did not know.
About the Book
Also By Henning Mankell
Wallander’s First Case
The Man with the Mask
The Man on the Beach
The Death of the Photographer
The Pyramid
It was only after I had written the eighth and final instalment in the series about Kurt Wallander that I thought of the subtitle I had always sought but never found. When everything, or at least most of it, was over, I understood that the subtitle naturally had to be ‘Novels about the Swedish Anxiety’.
But of course I arrived too late at this insight. And this despite the fact that the books have always been variations on a single theme: ‘What is happening to the Swedish welfare state in the 1990s? How will democracy survive if the foundation of the welfare state is no longer intact? Is the price of Swedish democracy today too high and no longer worth paying?’
And it is precisely these questions that have also been the subject of the majority of the letters I have received. Many readers have had wise thoughts to share. Indeed, I feel confirmed in my impression that Wallander has in a way served as a kind of mouthpiece for growing insecurity, anger and healthy insights about the relationship between the welfare state and democracy. There have been thick letters and slender postcards from places around the world that I have never heard of, telephone calls that have reached me at odd hours, agitated voices that have spoken to me via email.
Beyond these matters of the welfare state and democracy, I have also been asked other questions. Some of them have regarded inconsistencies that many readers have gleefully discovered. In almost all cases in which readers have brought ‘errors’ to light, they have been correct. (And let me immediately add that new inconsistencies will be discovered even in this volume. Let me simply say that what appears in this volume is what should stand. Let no shadow fall upon any editor. I could not have had a better one than Eva Stenberg.)
But most of the letters have posed the following question: what happened to Wallander before the series began? Everything, to set an exact date, before 8 January 1990. The early winter morning when Wallander is awakened in his bed by a telephone call, the beginning of Faceless Killers. I have a great sympathy for the fact that people wonder how it all began. When Wallander appeared on the scene he was forty-two, going on forty-three. But by then he had been a policeman for many years, he had been married and divorced, had a child, and, once upon a time, had left Malmö for Ystad.
Readers have wondered. And naturally I have also sometimes wondered. During these past nine years I have sometimes cleaned out drawers, dug through dusty piles of paper, or searched among the ones and zeros of diskettes.
Several years ago, right after I was done with the fifth book, Sidetracked, I realised that I had started to write stories in my head that took place long before the start of the series. Again, this magical date, 8 January 1990.
Now I have gathered these stories. Some have already been published in newspapers. Those I have gone over lightly. Some chronological errors and dead words have been excised. Two of the stories have never been published before.
But I am not publishing these stories now to clean out my desk. I am publishing this volume because it forms an exclamation mark to the period I wrote last year. In the manner of the crab, it can sometimes be good to go backwards. To a beginning. The time before 8 January 1990.
No picture will ever be complete. But I do think these pieces should be part of it.
The rest is, and remains, silence.
Henning Mankell
January 1999
In the beginning, everything was just a fog.
Or perhaps it was like a thick-flowing sea where all was white and silent. The landscape of death. It was also the first thought that came to Kurt Wallander as he slowly began rising back to the surface. That he was already dead. He had reached twenty-one years of age, no more. A young policeman, barely an adult. And then a stranger had rushed up to him with a knife and he had not had time to throw himself out of harm’s way.
Afterwards there was only the white fog. And the silence.
Slowly he awakened, slowly he returned to life. The images that whirled around inside his head were unclear. He tried to catch them in flight, as one catches butterflies. But the impressions slipped away and only with the greatest of effort could he reconstruct what had really happened . . .
Wallander was off duty. It was 3 June 1969, and he had just walked Mona down to one of the Denmark ferries, not one of the new ones, the hydrofoils, but one of the old faithfuls, where you still had time for a square meal during the passage to Copenhagen. She was going to meet up with a friend, they were going maybe to the Tivoli, and, more likely, the clothes shops. Wallander had wanted to come along since he was off work, but she had said no. The trip was just for her and her friend. No men allowed.
Now he watched the boat chug out of the harbour. Mona would be back in the evening and he had promised to be there to greet her. If the weather was still as fine as it was now, they would take a walk. And then return to his apartment in Rosengård.
Wallander noticed he was becoming excited at the very thought. He straightened his trousers and then crossed the street and walked into the station. There he bought a packet of cigarettes, John Silver as always, and lit one before he even left the building.
Wallander had no plans for the day. It was a Tuesday and he was free. He had been putting in a lot of overtime, not least because of the frequent, large-scale Vietnam demonstrations both in Lund and Malmö. In Malmö there had been a clash with the police. Wallander had found the whole situation distasteful. He was not sure what he thought of the protestors’ demands that the United States get out of Vietnam. He had tried to talk to Mona about it the day before but she had not had any opinion other than that ‘the protestors are trouble-makers’. When Wallander, despite everything, insisted on pointing out that it could hardly be right for the world’s greatest military power to bomb a poor agricultural nation in Asia to devastation – or ‘back to the Stone Age’, as he had read that some high-ranking American military official had said – she had struck back and said that she certainly had no intention of marrying a communist.
That had knocked the wind out of his sails. They never continued the discussion. And he was going to marry Mona, he was sure of that. The girl with the light brown hair, the pointy nose and the slender chin. Who perhaps was not the most beautiful girl he had ever met. But who nonetheless was the one he wanted.
They had met the previous year. Before then, Wallander had been involved for more than a year with a girl named Helena who worked in a shipping office in the city. Suddenly one day she had simply told him that it was over, that she had found someone else. Wallander had at first been dumbstruck. Thereafter he had spent a whole weekend crying in his apartment. He had been insane with jealousy and had, after he had managed to stop his tears, gone down to the pub at the Central Station and had much too much to drink. Then he had gone home again and continued to cry. Now if he ever walked past the entrance to the pub he shivered. He was never going to set foot in there again.
Then there had been several heavy months when Wallander entreated Helena to change her mind, to come back. But she had flatly refused and at last became so irritated by his persistence that she threatened to go to the police. Then Wallander had beaten a retreat. And strangely enough, it was as if everything was finally over. Helena could have her new man in peace. That had happened on a Friday.
The same evening he had taken a trip across the sound, and on the way back from Copenhagen he wound up sitting next to a girl who was knitting. Her name was Mona.
Wallander walked through the city lost in thought. Wondered what Mona and her friend were doing right now. Then he thought about what had happened the week before. The demonstrations that had got out of hand. Or had he failed to judge the situation correctly? Wallander had been part of a hastily assembled reinforcement group told to stay in the background until needed. It was only when the chaos broke out that they had been called in. Which in turn only served to make the situation more turbulent.
The only person Wallander had actually tried to discuss politics with was his father. His father was sixty years old and had just decided to move out to Österlen. He was a volatile person whose moods Wallander found hard to predict. Not least since his father once became so upset he almost disowned his son. This had happened a few years ago when Wallander came home and told his father he was going to be a policeman. His father was sitting in his studio, which always smelled of oil paints and coffee. He had thrown a brush at Wallander and told him to go away and never come back. He had no intention of tolerating a policeman in the family. A violent quarrel had broken out. But Wallander had stood his ground, he was going to join the police, and all the projectile paintbrushes in the world couldn’t change that. Suddenly the quarrelling stopped: his father retreated into acrimonious silence and returned to sit in front of his easel. Then he stubbornly started to outline the shape of a grouse, with the help of a model. He always chose the same motif, a wooded landscape, which he varied sometimes by adding a grouse.
Wallander frowned as he thought of his father. Strictly speaking they had never come to any reconciliation. But now they were on speaking terms again. Wallander had often wondered how his mother, who had died while he was training to be a policeman, could put up with her husband. Wallander’s sister, Kristina, had been smart enough to leave home as soon as she was able and now lived in Stockholm.
The time was ten o’clock. Only a faint breeze fanned Malmö’s streets. Wallander walked into a cafe next to the NK department store. He ordered a cup of coffee and a sandwich, skimmed through the newspapers Arbetet and Sydsvenskan. There were letters to the editor in both newspapers from people who either praised or criticised the actions of the police in connection with the protests. Wallander quickly flipped past them. He didn’t have the energy to read about it. Soon he was hoping not to have to assume any more duties with the riot police. He was going to be a criminal investigator. He had been clear on that from the start and had never made any secret of it. In only a few months he would work in one of the departments that investigated violent incidents and even more serious crimes.
Suddenly someone was standing in front of him. Wallander was holding his coffee cup in his hand. He looked up. It was a girl with long hair, about seventeen. She was very pale and was staring at him with fury. Then she leaned forward so her hair fell over her face and pointed to the back of her neck.
‘Here,’ she said. ‘This is where you hit me.’
Wallander put down his cup. He didn’t understand anything.
She had straightened back up.
‘I don’t think I really understand what you mean,’ Wallander said.
‘You’re a cop, aren’t you?’
‘And you were there fighting during the demonstration?’
Wallander finally got it. She had recognised him even though he was not in uniform.
‘I didn’t hit anybody,’ he answered.
‘Does it really matter who was holding the baton? You were there. Therefore you were fighting against us.’
‘You did not comply with the regulations regarding public demonstrations,’ Wallander said and heard how inadequate the words sounded.
‘I really hate the police,’ she said. ‘I was going to have a cup of coffee here, but now I’m going somewhere else.’
Then she was gone. The waitress behind the counter gave Wallander a stern look. As if he had cost her a guest.
Wallander paid and walked out. The sandwich was left half eaten. The incident with the girl had left him considerably shaken. As if he were wearing his uniform after all, not these dark blue pants, light shirt and green jacket.
I have to get away from the streets, he thought. Into an office, into case-review meetings, crime scenes. No more protests for me. Or I’ll have to take sick leave.
He started to walk faster. Considered whether or not he should take the bus to Rosengård. But he decided he needed the exercise – and also to be invisible and not bump into anyone he knew.
But naturally he ran into his father outside the People’s Park. He was weighed down by one of his paintings, wrapped in brown paper. Wallander, who had been walking with his head down, spotted him too late to make himself invisible. His father was wearing a strange cap and a heavy coat, underneath which he had on some kind of tracksuit and trainers without socks.
Wallander groaned to himself. He looks like a tramp, he thought. Why can’t he at least dress properly?
His father put the painting down and took a deep breath.
‘Why aren’t you in uniform?’ he asked, without a greeting. ‘Aren’t you a cop any more?’
‘I’m off work today.’
‘I thought policemen were always on duty. To save us from all evil.’
Wallander managed to control his anger.
‘Why are you wearing a winter coat?’ he asked instead. ‘It’s twenty degrees Celsius.’
‘That’s possible,’ his father answered, ‘but I keep myself healthy by sweating as much as I can. You should too.’
‘You can’t wear a winter coat in the summertime.’
‘Then you’ll just have to get sick.’
‘But I’m never sick.’
‘Not yet. It’ll come.’
‘Have you even seen what you look like?’
‘I don’t spend my time looking at myself in the mirror.’
‘You can’t wear a winter cap in June.’
‘Just try to take it from me if you dare. Then I will report you for assault. I take it you were there and beat up those protesters?’
Not him too, Wallander thought. It’s not possible. He’s never been interested in politics, even when I have tried to discuss it with him sometimes.
But Wallander was mistaken.
‘Every reasonable person must distance himself from that war,’ his father declared firmly.
‘Every person also has to do his job,’ Wallander said with strained calm.
‘You know what I told you. You never should have become a policeman. But you didn’t listen. And now see what you are doing. Beating innocent little children over the head with a stick.’
‘I haven’t hit a single person in my entire life,’ Wallander answered, suddenly full of rage. ‘And anyway, we don’t use sticks, we use batons. Where are you going with that painting?’
‘I’m going to swap it for a humidifier.’
‘Why do you need a humidifier?’
‘I’m going to swap it for a new mattress. The one I have now is terrible. It makes my back hurt.’
Wallander knew his father was involved in unusual transactions that often involved many stages before the thing he needed finally ended up in his hands.
‘Do you want me to help you?’ Wallander asked.
‘I don’t need any police protection. You could, however, come over some night and play cards.’
‘I will,’ Wallander said, ‘when I have time.’
Playing cards, he thought. It is the last lifeline there is between us.
His father lifted up the painting.
‘Why do I never get any grandchildren?’ he asked.
But he left without waiting for an answer.
Wallander stood looking after him. Thought it would be a relief when his father moved out to Österlen. So that he would no longer risk running into him by accident.
Wallander lived in an old building in Rosengård. The whole area was constantly under the threat of demolition. But he was happy here, even though Mona had said that if they married they would have to find another place to live. Wallander’s apartment consisted of one room, a kitchen and a small bathroom. It was his very first apartment. He had bought the furniture at auctions and various secondhand shops. There were posters on the wall depicting flowers and tropical islands. Since his father sometimes came for a visit, he had also felt compelled to hang one of his landscapes on the wall over the sofa. He had chosen one without a grouse.
But the most important thing in the room was the record player. Wallander did not have many records, and those he did own were almost exclusively opera. On those occasions when he had entertained some of his colleagues, they had always asked him how he could listen to such music. So he had also acquired some other records that could be played when he had guests. For some unknown reason many policemen seemed fond of Roy Orbison.
He ate lunch shortly after one o’clock, drank some coffee, and tidied up the worst of the mess while listening to a recording by Jussi Björling. It was his first record, scratched beyond belief, but he had often thought it was the first thing he would rescue in a fire.
He had just put the record on for a second time when there was a thump on the ceiling. Wallander turned down the volume. The walls in the building were thin. Above him lived a retired woman who had once owned a flower shop. Her name was Linnea Almquist. When she thought he was playing his music too loud she thumped on the ceiling. And he obediently turned down the volume. The window was open, the curtain that Mona had hung up fluttered, and he lay down on the bed. He felt both tired and lazy. He had a right to rest. He started to skim through a copy of Lektyr, a men’s magazine. He carefully concealed it whenever Mona was coming over. But soon he fell asleep with the magazine on the floor.
He was awakened with a start by a bang. He was unable to determine where it had come from. He got up and walked out into the kitchen to see if anything had fallen to the floor. But everything was in its place. Then he walked back into the room and looked out the window. The courtyard between the buildings was empty. A lone pair of blue worker’s overalls was hanging on a line, flapping a little in the breeze. Wallander returned to his bed. He had been torn from a dream. The girl from the cafe had been there. But the dream had been unclear and disjointed.
He got up and looked at his watch. A quarter to four. He had slept for more than two hours. He sat down at the kitchen table and wrote down everything he needed to buy. Mona had promised to buy something to drink in Copenhagen. He tucked the piece of paper into his pocket and closed the door behind him.
He ended up standing in the dim light of the hallway. The door to his neighbour’s apartment was ajar. This surprised Wallander because the man who lived there was extremely private and had even had an extra lock installed this May. Wallander wondered if he should ignore it but decided to knock. The man who lived alone was a retired seaman by the name of Artur Hålén. He was already living in the building when Wallander moved in. They usually said hello to each other and occasionally exchanged a few words if they happened to meet each other on the stairs, but nothing more. Wallander had neither seen nor heard Hålén receive any visitors. In the mornings he listened to the radio, in the evening he turned on the television. But by ten o’clock everything was quiet. A few times Wallander had wondered how much Hålén was conscious of his evening visits, in particular the aroused sounds of the night. But of course he had never asked.
Wallander knocked again. No answer. Then he opened the door and called out. It was quiet. He took some hesitant steps into the hallway. It smelled closed in, a stale old-man smell. Wallander called out again.
He must have forgotten to lock up when he went out, Wallander thought. He is about seventy years old, after all. He must be getting forgetful.
Wallander glanced into the kitchen. A crumpled-up football betting form lay on the wax tablecloth next to a coffee cup. Then he drew aside the curtains that led into the room. He winced. Hålén was lying on the floor. His white shirt was stained with blood. A revolver lay next to his hand.
The bang, Wallander thought. What I heard was a shot.
He felt himself start to get sick to his stomach. He had seen dead bodies many times before. People who had drowned or hanged themselves. People who had burned to death or been crushed beyond recognition in traffic accidents. But he had not grown accustomed to it.
He looked around the room. Hålén’s apartment was a mirror image of his own. The furnishings gave a meagre impression. Not one plant or ornament. The bed was unmade.
Wallander studied the body for a few more moments. Hålén must have shot himself in the chest. And he was dead. Wallander did not need to check his pulse in order to determine that.
He returned quickly to his own apartment and called the police. Told them who he was, a colleague, filled them in on what had happened. Then he walked out onto the street and waited for the first responders to arrive.
The police and emergency medical technicians arrived at almost the same time. Wallander nodded at them as they got out of their cars. He knew them all.
‘What have you found in there?’ one of the patrol officers asked. His name was Sven Svensson; he came from Landskrona and was always referred to as ‘The Thorn’ because once, while chasing a burglar, he had fallen into a thicket and been pierced in his lower abdomen by a number of thorns.
‘My neighbour,’ Wallander said. ‘He’s shot himself.’
‘Hemberg is on his way,’ the Thorn said. ‘The crime squad is going to have to go over everything.’
Wallander nodded. He knew. Every fatal event, however natural it might seem, had to be investigated.
Hemberg was a man with a certain reputation, not entirely positive. He angered easily and could be unpleasant to his co-workers. But at the same time he was such a virtuoso in his profession that no one really dared contradict him. Wallander noticed that he was starting to get nervous. Had he done anything wrong? If so, Hemberg would immediately let him know. And it was for Detective Inspector Hemberg that Wallander was going to be working as soon as his transfer came through.
Wallander stayed out on the street, waiting. A dark Volvo pulled up to the kerb and Hemberg got out. He was alone. It took several seconds before he recognised Wallander.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’ Hemberg asked.
‘I live here,’ Wallander answered. ‘It’s my neighbour who’s shot himself. I was the one who made the call.’
Hemberg raised his eyebrows with interest.
‘Did you see him?’
‘What do you mean, “see”?’
‘Did you see him shoot himself?’
‘Of course not.’
‘Then how do you know it was a suicide?’
‘The weapon was lying right next to the body.’
Wallander didn’t know what to say to this.
‘You have to learn to pose the right questions,’ Hemberg said. ‘If you are to work as a detective. I already have enough people who don’t know how to think. I don’t want another one.’
Then he changed tack and adopted a friendlier tone.
‘If you say it was a suicide it probably was. Where is it?’
Wallander pointed to the entrance. They went in.
Wallander attentively followed Hemberg in his work. Watched him crouch down next to the body and discuss the bullet’s point of entry with the doctor who had arrived. Studied the position of the weapon, the body, the hand. Then he walked around the apartment, examining the contents in the chest of drawers, the cupboards and the clothes.
After about an hour, he was done. He signalled to Wallander to join him in the kitchen.
‘It certainly looks like suicide,’ Hemberg said while he absently smoothed and read the football betting form on the table.
‘I heard a bang,’ Wallander said. ‘That must have been the shot.’
‘You didn’t hear anything else?’
Wallander thought it was best to tell the truth.
‘I was napping,’ he said. ‘The sudden noise woke me up.’
‘And after that? No sound of anyone running in the stairwell?’
‘Did you know him?’
Wallander told him the little he knew.
‘He had no relatives?’
‘None that I’m aware of.’
‘We’ll have to look into the matter.’
Hemberg sat quietly for a moment.
‘There are no family pictures,’ he went on. ‘Not on the chest of drawers in there or on the walls. Nothing in the drawers. Only two old sailing books. The only thing of interest that I could find was a colourful beetle in a jar. Larger than a stag beetle. Do you know what that is?’
Wallander did not.
‘The largest Swedish beetle,’ Hemberg said. ‘But it is nearly extinct.’
He put down the betting form.
‘There was also no suicide note,’ he continued. ‘An old man who has had enough and says goodbye to everything with a bang. According to the doctor he aimed well. Right in the heart.’
An officer came into the kitchen with a wallet and handed it to Hemberg, who opened it and took out an ID card issued by the post office.
‘Artur Hålén,’ Hemberg said. ‘Born in 1898. He had many tattoos. Which is appropriate for a sailor of the old school. Do you know what he did at sea?’
‘I think he was a ship’s engineer.’
‘In one of the sailing logs he is registered as an engineer. In an earlier one, simply as a deckhand. He worked in various capacities. Once he became infatuated with a girl named Lucia. That name was tattooed on both his right shoulder and on his chest. One could say he symbolically shot himself straight through this beautiful name.’
Hemberg put the ID card and wallet into a bag.
‘The medical examiner will have to have the last word,’ he said. ‘And we will do a routine examination of both the weapon and the bullet. But it’s definitely suicide.’
Hemberg threw another glance at the betting form.
‘Artur Hålén did not know much about English football,’ he said. ‘If he had won on this prediction the jackpot would have been his alone.’
Hemberg stood up. At the same time the body was being carried out. The covered stretcher was carefully guided out through the narrow hall.
‘It happens more often,’ Hemberg said thoughtfully. ‘Old people who take their final exit into their own hands. But not so often with a bullet. And even less often with a revolver.’
He was suddenly scrutinising Wallander.
‘But of course this has already occurred to you.’
Wallander was taken aback.
‘What do you mean?’
‘That it was strange that he had a revolver. We have gone through the chest of drawers. But there is no licence.’
‘He must have bought it sometime at sea.’
Hemberg shrugged.
‘Of course.’
Wallander followed Hemberg down onto the street.
‘Since you are the neighbour I thought perhaps you could take care of the key,’ he said. ‘When the others are done they will leave it with you. Make sure no one who is not supposed to enter goes in there until we are completely sure it is a suicide.’
Wallander went back into the building. In the stairwell he bumped into Linnea Almquist, who was on her way out with a bag of rubbish.
‘What is all this commotion?’ she asked irritably.
‘Unfortunately there has been a death,’ Wallander said politely. ‘Hålén has passed away.’
She was clearly shaken by the news.
‘He must have been very lonely,’ she said slowly. ‘I tried to get him to come in for a cup of coffee a few times. He excused himself with the fact that he didn’t have time. But surely time was the only thing he had?’
‘I hardly knew him,’ Wallander said.
‘Was it his heart?’
Wallander nodded.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It was probably his heart.’
‘We’ll have to hope no noisy young people move in,’ she said, and left.
Wallander returned to Hålén’s apartment. It was easier now that the body had been removed. A technician was packing up his bag. The pool of blood had darkened on the linoleum floor. The Thorn was picking at his cuticles.
‘Hemberg said that I should take the keys,’ Wallander said.
The Thorn pointed to a key ring on the chest of drawers.
‘I wonder who owns the building,’ he said. ‘I have a girlfriend who’s looking for a place to live.’
‘The walls are very thin,’ Wallander said. ‘Just so you know.’
‘Haven’t you heard about those new exotic waterbeds?’ the Thorn asked. ‘They don’t creak.’
It was already a quarter past six when Wallander could finally lock the door to Hålén’s apartment. There were still several hours left before he was supposed to meet Mona. He went back to his place and put on some coffee. The wind had picked up. He closed the window and sat down in the kitchen. He had not had any time to buy groceries and now the shop was closed. There was no shop that was open late nearby. It occurred to him that he would have to take Mona out for dinner. His wallet was on the table. There was enough money. Mona liked going out to dinner, but Wallander thought it was throwing away money for no reason.
The coffee pot started to whistle. He poured himself a cup and added three lumps of sugar. Waited for it to cool.
Something was nagging at him.
Where it came from, he didn’t know.
But all at once the feeling was very strong.
He did not know what it was, other than that it had to do with Hålén. In his mind he went over what had happened. The bang that woke him, the door that was ajar, the dead body on the floor inside the room. A man who had committed suicide, a man who had been his neighbour.
Nonetheless something didn’t add up. Wallander walked into the main room and lay down on the bed. Listened in his memory to the bang. Had he heard anything else? Before or after? Had any sounds penetrated his dreams? He searched but found nothing. Still, he was sure. There was something he had overlooked. He continued to go through his memories. But he remembered only silence. He got up from his bed and walked back out into the kitchen. The coffee had cooled.
I’m imagining things, he thought. I saw it, Hemberg saw it, everyone saw it. An old, lonely man who had had enough.
And yet it was as if he had seen something without realising what he was seeing.
At the same time he had to admit that there was something inherently attractive about this idea. That he may have noticed something that had escaped Hemberg. That would increase his chances of advancing to criminal investigator sooner rather than later.
He checked his watch. He still had time before he had to leave and meet Mona at the Denmark ferry. He put the coffee cup in the sink, grabbed the keys and entered Hålén’s apartment. When he reached the main room everything was as it had been when he discovered the body, except that the body itself was now missing. But the room was unchanged. Wallander looked around slowly. How do you do this? he wondered. How do you discover what you see but aren’t seeing?
It was something, he was sure of it.
But he couldn’t put his finger on it.
He walked into the kitchen and sat down on the chair that Hemberg had used. The betting form lay in front of him. Wallander did not know very much about English football. Actually, he didn’t know very much about football, period. If he felt like gambling, he bought a lottery ticket. Nothing else.
The betting form was made out for this coming Saturday, he could see. Hålén had even written out his name and address.
Wallander returned to the room and walked over to the window in order to look at it from another angle. His gaze stopped by the bed. Hålén had been dressed when he took his life. But the bed was unmade. Even though the rest of the apartment was characterised by a meticulous order. Why hadn’t he made the bed? Wallander thought. He could hardly have slept with his clothes on, woken up and then shot himself without making his bed. And why leave a completed betting form on the kitchen table?
It did not make sense, but on the other hand it did not necessarily mean anything. Hålén could have very quickly decided to kill himself. Perhaps he had realised the senselessness of making his bed one last time.
Wallander sat down in the room’s only armchair. It was old and worn. I’m imagining things, he thought again. The medical examiner will establish that it was a suicide, the forensic investigation will confirm that the weapon and bullet match up and that the shot was fired by Hålén’s own hand.
Wallander decided to leave the apartment. It was time to freshen up and change his clothes before leaving to meet Mona. But something kept him there. He walked over to the chest and started pulling open the drawers. He immediately found the two sea logs. Artur Hålén had been a handsome man in his youth. Blond hair, a big wide smile. Wallander had trouble connecting this image with the same man who had lived out his days in Rosengård in peace and quiet. Least of all he felt that these were pictures of someone who would one day come to take his own life. But he knew how wrong his thinking was. People who ended up committing suicide could never be characterised from a given model.
He found the colourful beetle and took it over to the window. On the bottom of the jar he thought he could make out the stamped word ‘Brazil’. A souvenir that Hålén had bought on some trip. Wallander continued to go through the drawers. Keys, coins from various countries, nothing that caught his attention. Halfway under the worn and torn drawer liner he found a brown envelope. Inside was an old photograph, a wedding picture. On the back was the name of the studio and a date: 15 May 1894. The studio was located in Härnösand. There was also the note: Manda and I the day we got married. His parents, Wallander thought. Four years later their son was born.
When he was done with the chest of drawers he walked over to the bookcase. To his surprise he found several books in German. They were well thumbed. There were also some books by Vilhelm Moberg, a Spanish cookbook and a few issues of a magazine for people interested in model aeroplanes. Wallander shook his head in bewilderment. Hålén was considerably more complex than he could have imagined. He walked away from the bookcase and checked under the bed. Nothing. He then went on to the cupboard. The clothes were neatly hung; three pairs of shoes, well polished. It is only the unmade bed, Wallander thought again. It doesn’t fit.
He was about to shut the cupboard door when the doorbell rang. Wallander flinched. Waited. There was another ring. Wallander had the feeling that he was trespassing on forbidden territory. He kept waiting, but when it rang the third time he went over and opened the door.
Outside there was a man in a grey coat. He looked enquiringly at Wallander.
‘Am I mistaken?’ he asked. ‘I am looking for Mr Hålén.’
Wallander tried to adopt a formal tone that would sound appropriate.
‘May I ask who you are?’ he said with unnecessary brusqueness.
The man frowned.
‘And if I could ask the same of you?’ he asked.
‘I am from the police,’ Wallander said. ‘Detective Sergeant Kurt Wallander. Would you now be so kind as to answer my question: who are you and what do you want?’
‘I sell encyclopedias,’ the man said meekly. ‘I was here last week and made a presentation of my books. Artur Hålén asked me to come back today. He has already sent in the contract and the first payment. I was to deliver the first volume and then the gift book that all new clients receive as a welcome bonus.’
He took two books out of his briefcase as if to assure Wallander that he was telling the truth.
Wallander had been listening with increasing amazement. The feeling that something didn’t add up was strengthened. He stepped aside and nodded for the salesman to come in.
‘Has anything happened?’ the man asked.
Wallander ushered him into the kitchen without answering and indicated that he should sit down at the table.
Then Wallander realised that he was now going to deliver the news of a death. Something he had always dreaded. But he reminded himself that he was not talking to a relative, only to an encyclopedia salesman.
‘Artur Hålén is dead,’ he said.
The man on the other side of the table did not seem to understand this.
‘But I spoke to him earlier today.’
‘I thought you said you had spoken to him last week?’
‘I called him this morning and asked if it would be all right for me to come by this evening.’
‘What did he say?’
‘That it would be fine. Why else would I have come? I am not an intrusive person. People have such bizarre preconceptions about door-to-door salesmen.’
It was likely that the man was lying.
‘Let’s take the whole thing from the top,’ Wallander said.
‘What is it that’s happened?’ the man interrupted.
‘Artur Hålén is dead,’ Wallander answered. ‘And that is as much as I can say at this point.’
‘But if the police are involved then something must have happened. Was he hit by a car?’
‘For now that is as much as I can say,’ Wallander repeated and wondered why he had to overdramatise the situation.
Then he asked the man to tell him the whole story.
‘I am Emil Holmberg,’ the man began. ‘I am actually a school biology teacher. But I’m trying to sell encyclopedias to save up for a trip to Borneo.’
‘I’m interested in tropical plants.’
Wallander nodded for him to continue.
‘I walked around the neighbourhood here last week and knocked on people’s doors. Artur Hålén showed some interest and asked me to come in. We sat here in the kitchen. I told him about the encyclopedia, what it cost, and showed him a copy of one of the volumes. After about half an hour he signed the contract. Then I called him today and he said that it would be all right for me to come by this evening.’
‘Which day were you here last week?’
‘Tuesday. Between around four and half past five.’
Wallander recalled that he had been on duty at that time. But he saw no reason to tell the man that he lived in the building. Especially since he had claimed to be a detective.
‘Hålén was the only one who showed any interest,’ Holmberg continued. ‘A lady on one of the upper floors started to tell me off for disturbing people. These things happen, but not too often. Next door to here there was no one home, I remember.’
‘You said that Hålén made his first payment?’
The man opened his briefcase where he kept the books and showed Wallander a receipt. It was dated the Friday from the week before.
Wallander thought it over.
‘How long was he supposed to make payments for this encyclopedia?’
‘For two years. Until all twenty instalments were paid for.’
This makes no sense, Wallander thought, no sense at all. A man who was planning to commit suicide doesn’t agree to sign a two-year contract.
‘What was your impression of Hålén?’ Wallander asked.
‘I don’t think I know what you mean.’
‘How was he? Calm? Happy? Did he appear worried?’
‘He didn’t say very much. But he was genuinely interested in the encyclopedia. I am sure of that much.’
Wallander did not have anything else to ask. There was a pencil on the kitchen windowsill. He searched for a piece of paper in his pocket. The only thing he found was his grocery list. He turned it over and asked Holmberg to write down his number.
‘We will most likely not be in touch again,’ he said. ‘But I’d like to have your telephone number as a precaution.’
‘Hålén seemed perfectly healthy,’ Holmberg said. ‘What is it really that has happened? And what will now happen with the contract?’
‘Unless he has relatives that can take it over, I don’t think you’ll get paid. I can assure you that he is dead.’
‘But you can’t tell me what has happened?’
‘I’m afraid not.’
‘It sounds sinister to me.’
Wallander stood up to indicate that their talk was over. Holmberg stood rooted to the spot with his briefcase.
‘Would I be able to interest you, Detective Inspector, in an encyclopedia?’
‘Detective Sergeant,’ Wallander said, ‘and I don’t need an encyclopedia right now. At least not at the moment.’
Wallander showed Holmberg out to the street. Only when the man had turned the corner on his bike did Wallander go back in and return to Hålén’s apartment. Then he sat down at the kitchen table and in his mind walked back over everything that Holmberg had said. The only reasonable explanation he could come up with was that Hålén had arrived at his decision to kill himself very suddenly. If you could rule out the idea of him being so crazy that he wanted to play a mean trick on an innocent salesman.
Somewhere in the distance a telephone rang. Far too late he realised it was his own. He ran into the apartment. It was Mona.
‘I thought you were going to meet me,’ she said angrily.
Wallander looked at his watch and swore quietly. He should have been down by the boat at least a quarter of an hour ago.
‘I got caught up in a criminal investigation,’ he said apologetically.
‘I thought you were off today?’
‘Unfortunately they needed me.’
‘Are there really no other policemen except you? Is this how it’s going to be?’
‘It was an exception.’
‘Did you go grocery shopping?’
‘No, I ran out of time.’
He heard how disappointed she was.
‘I’ll come get you now,’ he said, ‘I’ll try to hail a cab. Then we can go to a restaurant somewhere.’
‘How can I be sure? Maybe you’ll get called away again.’
‘I’ll be down there as soon as I can, I promise.’
‘I’ll be on a bench outside. But I’m only waiting for twenty minutes. Then I’m going home.’
Wallander hung up and called the cab company. It was busy. It took almost ten minutes for him to get a cab. Between tries, he managed to lock up Hålén’s apartment and change his shirt.
He arrived at the ferry terminal after thirty-three minutes. Mona had already left. She lived on Södra Förstadsgatan. Wallander walked up to Gustav Adolf’s Square and called from a payphone. There was no answer. Five minutes later he called again. By then she was home.
‘If I say twenty minutes, I mean twenty minutes,’ she said.
‘I couldn’t get a hold of a cab. The line to the damn cab company was busy.’
‘I’m tired anyway,’ she said. ‘Let’s get together another night.’
Wallander tried to change her mind, but she was firm. The conversation turned into an argument. Then she hung up. Wallander slammed the receiver into the cradle. A couple of passing patrol officers gave him disapproving looks. They did not appear to recognise him.
Wallander walked over to a hot-dog stand by the square. Then he sat down on a bench to eat and distractedly watched some seagulls fighting over a scrap of bread.
He and Mona did not fight very often but each time it happened it worried him. Inside, he knew it would blow over the next day. Then she would be back to normal. But his reason had no influence on his anxiety. It was there anyway.
When Wallander arrived home he sat down at the kitchen table and tried to concentrate on writing down a systematic account of everything that had happened in the apartment next door. But he didn’t feel he was getting anywhere. On top of this he felt unsure of himself. How do you go about conducting an investigation and an analysis of a crime scene? He realised he lacked too many fundamental skills, despite his time at the police academy. After half an hour he angrily threw the pen down. It was all in his imagination. Hålén had shot himself. The betting form and the salesman didn’t change anything. He would be better off bemoaning the fact that he had not got to know Hålén. Perhaps it was the man’s loneliness that at last became unbearable?
Wallander walked to and fro in the apartment, restless, anxious. Mona had disappointed him. And it had been his fault.
From the street he heard a car drive by. Music was streaming from the open car window. ‘The House of the Rising Sun’. The song had been extremely popular a few years earlier. But what was the name of the group? The Kinks? Wallander could not remember. Then it occurred to him that at this time he normally heard the faint sound of Hålén’s TV through the wall. Now everything was quiet.
Wallander sat down on the sofa and put his feet on the coffee table. Thought about his father. The winter coat and hat, the shoes worn without socks. If it hadn’t been so late he might have driven out to play cards with him. But he was starting to get tired, even though it was not yet eleven. He turned on the television. As usual there was a public television talk show. It took a while before he understood that the participants were discussing the pros and cons of the approaching era. The age of computers. He turned it off. Stayed put for a while before he undressed and went to bed, yawning the whole time.
Soon he had fallen asleep.
Later he could never figure out what had woken him up. But all of a sudden he was wide awake, listening intently to the dim summer night. Something had awakened him, he was sure of it. Perhaps it was a car with a broken tailpipe driving by? The curtain moved gently in the open window. He closed his eyes again.
Then he heard it, right next to his head.
Someone was in Hålén’s apartment. He held his breath and continued to listen. There was a clang, as if someone had moved an object. Shortly thereafter he heard the sound of something dragging on the floor. Someone moving a piece of furniture. Wallander looked at the clock on his bedside table. A quarter to three. He pressed his ear against the wall. He had started to think it was his imagination when he heard another sound. There was no doubt that someone was in there.
He sat up in bed and wondered what he should do. Call his colleagues? If Hålén didn’t have any relatives then surely no one had any reason to be in the apartment. But they weren’t sure of his family situation. And he may have given a spare key to someone they did not know about.