“Was that great
Oleg’s enthusiastic voice drowned out the spitting fat in the kebab shop, which was crowded with people after the concert at the Oslo Spektrum. Harry nodded to Oleg, who was standing in his hoodie, still sweaty, still moving to the beat as he prattled on about the members of Slipknot by name, names Harry didn’t even know since Slipknot CDs were sparing with personal data, and music magazines like MOJO
didn’t write about bands like that. Harry ordered hamburgers and looked at his watch. Rakel had said she would be standing outside at ten o’clock. Harry looked at Oleg again. He was talking nonstop.
When had it happened? When had the boy turned eleven and decided to like music about various stages of death, alienation, freezing and general doom? Perhaps it ought to have worried Harry, but it didn’t. It was a starting point, a curiosity that had to be satisfied, clothes the boy had to try on to see if they fit. Other things would come along. Better things. Worse things.
“You liked it, too, didn’t you, Harry?”
Harry nodded. He didn’t have the heart to tell him the concert had been a bit of an anticlimax for him. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was; perhaps it just wasn’t his night. As soon as they had joined the crowd in the Spektrum, he had felt the paranoia that used to regularly accompany drunkenness but that during the last year had come when he was sober. And instead of getting into the mood, he had had the feeling he was being observed, and stood scanning the audience, studying the wall of faces around them.
“Slipknot rules,” Oleg said. “And the masks were übercool. Especially the one with the long, thin nose. It looked like a . . . sort of . . . ”
Harry was listening with half an ear, hoping Rakel would come soon. The air inside the kebab shop suddenly felt dense and suffocating, like a thin film of grease lying on your skin and over your mouth. He tried not to think his next thought. But it was on its way, had already rounded the corner. The thought of a drink.
“It’s an Indian death mask,” a woman’s voice behind them said.
“And Slayer was better than Slipknot.”
Harry spun around in surprise.
“Lots of posing with Slipknot, isn’t there?” she continued. “Recycled ideas and empty gestures.”
She was wearing a shiny, figure-hugging, ankle-length black coat buttoned up to her neck. All you could see under the coat was a pair of black boots. Her face was pale and her eyes made up.
“I would never have believed it,” Harry said. “You liking that kind of music.”
Katrine Bratt managed a brief smile. “I suppose I would say the opposite.”
She gave him no further explanation and signaled to the man behind the counter that she wanted a Farris mineral water.
“Slayer sucks,” Oleg mumbled under his breath.
Katrine turned to him. “You must be Oleg.”
“Yes,” Oleg said sulkily, pulling up his army trousers and looking as if he both liked and disliked this attention from a mature woman.
“How d’ya know?”
Katrine smiled. “ ‘How d’ya know?’ Living on Holmenkollen
Ridge as you do, shouldn’t you say ‘How do you know?’? Is Harry teaching you bad habits?”
Blood suffused Oleg’s cheeks.
Katrine laughed quietly and patted Oleg’s shoulder. “Sorry, I’m just curious.”
The boy’s face went so red that the whites of his eyes were shining.
“I’m also curious,” Harry said, passing a burger to Oleg. “I assume you’ve found the pattern I asked for, Bratt. Since you’ve got time to come to a gig.”
Harry looked at her in a way that spelled out his warning: Don’t tease the boy.
“I’ve found something,” Katrine said, twisting the plastic top off the Farris bottle. “But you’re busy, so we can sort it out tomorrow.”
“I’m not so busy,” Harry said. He had already forgotten the film of grease, the feeling of suffocation.
“It’s confidential and there are a lot of people here,” Katrine said. “But I can whisper a couple of key words.”
She leaned closer, and over the fat he could smell the almost masculine fragrance of perfume and feel her warm breath on his ear.
“A silver Volkswagen Passat has just pulled up outside. There’s a woman sitting inside trying to catch your attention. I would guess it’s Oleg’s mother . . . ”
Harry straightened up with a jolt and looked out the large window toward the car. Rakel had wound down the window and was peering in at them.
“Don’t make a mess,” Rakel said as Oleg jumped into the backseat with the burger in his hand.
Harry stood beside the open window. She was wearing a plain, light blue sweater. He knew that sweater well. Knew how it smelled, how it felt against the palm of his hand and cheek.
“Good gig?” she asked.
“What sort of band was it, actually?” She looked at Oleg in the mirror. “Those people outside are a bit oddly dressed.”
“Quiet songs about love and so on,” Oleg said, sending a quick wink to Harry when her eyes were off the mirror.
“Thank you, Harry,” she said.
“My pleasure. Drive carefully.”
“Who was that woman inside?”
“A colleague. New on the job.”
“Oh? Looked as if you knew each other pretty well already.”
“You . . . ” She stopped in midsentence. Then she slowly shook her head and laughed. A deep but bright laugh that came from down in her throat. Confident and carefree at the same time. The laugh that had once made him fall in love.
“Sorry, Harry. Good night.”
The window glided upward; the silver car glided off.
Harry walked the gauntlet down Brugata, between bars with music blaring out of open doors. He considered a coffee at Teddy’s Softbar, but knew it would be a bad idea. So he made up his mind to walk on by.
“Coffee?” repeated the guy behind the counter in disbelief.
The jukebox at Teddy’s was playing Johnny Cash, and Harry passed a finger over his top lip.
“You got a better suggestion?” Harry heard the voice that came out of his mouth; it was familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.
“Well,” said the guy, running a hand through his oily, glistening hair, “the coffee’s not exactly fresh from the machine, so what about a freshly pulled beer?”
Johnny Cash was singing about God, baptism and new promises.
“Right,” Harry said.
The man behind the counter grinned.
At that moment Harry felt the mobile phone in his pocket vibrate. He grabbed it quickly and greedily, as though it were a call he had been expecting.
It was Skarre.
“We’ve just received a missing-persons call that fits. Married woman with children. She wasn’t at home when the husband and children returned a few hours ago. They live way out in the woods in Sollihøgda. None of the neighbors have seen her and she can’t have left by car because the husband had it. And there are no footprints on the path.”
“There’s still snow up there.”
The beer was banged down in front of Harry.
“Harry? Are you there?”
“Yes, I am. I’m thinking.”
“Is there a snowman there?”
“How should I know?”
“Well, let’s go and find out. Jump in the car and pick me up outside Gunerius shopping center, on Storgata.”
“Can’t we do this tomorrow, Harry? I’ve got some action lined up for tonight, and this woman is only missing, so there’s no immediate hurry.”
Harry watched the foam coiling its way down the outside of the beer glass like a snake.
“Actually . . . ,” Harry said, “ . . . there’s one hell of a hurry.”
Amazed, the bartender looked at the untouched beer, the fifty-krone note on the counter and the broad shoulders making off through the door as Johnny Cash faded out.
. . .
“Sylvia would never have simply left,” said Rolf Ottersen.
Rolf Ottersen was thin. Or, to be more precise, he was a bag of bones. His flannel shirt was buttoned all the way up, and from it protruded a gaunt neck and a head that reminded Harry of a wading bird. A pair of narrow hands with long, scrawny fingers that continually curled, twisted and twirled protruded from his shirtsleeves. The nails of his right hand had been filed long and sharp, like claws. His eyes, behind thick glasses in plain, round steel frames, the type that had been popular among seventies radicals, seemed unnaturally large. A poster on the mustard-yellow wall showed Indians carrying an anaconda. Harry recognized the cover of a Joni Mitchell LP from hippie Stone Age times. Next to it hung a reproduction of a well known self-portrait by Frida Kahlo. A woman who suffered, Harry thought. A picture chosen by a woman. The floor was untreated pine, and the room was lit by a combination of old-fashioned paraffin lamps and brown clay lamps, which looked as if they might have been homemade. Leaning against the wall in the corner was a guitar with nylon strings, which Harry took to be the explanation for Rolf Ottersen&rsqu...
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