cover

About the Book

One frozen January morning, Inspector Kurt Wallander responds to what he believes is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath.

An old man has been beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, both victims of a violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, it unleashes a tide of racism.

Wallander’s life is a shambles: his wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him, and even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly, and drinks his nights away.

But now, with winter tightening and his activities being monitored by a tough-minded district attorney, Wallander must forget his troubles and throw himself into a battle against time and against mounting racial hatred.

Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Also by Henning Mankell

Map

Title Page

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Copyright

About the Author

Henning Mankell (1948-2015) became a worldwide phenomenon with his crime writing, gripping thrillers and atmospheric novels set in Africa. His prizewinning and critically acclaimed Inspector Wallander Mysteries continue to dominate bestseller lists all over the globe and his books have been translated into forty-five languages and made into numerous international film and television adaptations: most recently the BAFTA-award-winning BBC television series Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh.

Driven by a desire to change the world and to fight against racism and nationalism, Mankell devoted much of his time to working with charities in Africa, including SOS Children’s Villages and PLAN International, where he was also director of the Teatro Avenida in Maputo. In 2008, the University of St Andrews conferred Henning Mankell with an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of his major contribution to literature and to the practical exercise of conscience.

Also by Henning Mankell

Kurt Wallander Series

The Dogs of Riga

The White Lioness

The Man Who Smiled

Sidetracked

The Fifth Woman

One Step Behind

Firewall

Before the Frost

The Pyramid

The Troubled Man

Fiction

The Return of the Dancing Master

Chronicler of the Winds

Depths

Kennedy’s Brain

The Eye of the Leopard

Italian Shoes

The Man from Beijing

Daniel

Non-fiction

I Die, But the Memory Lives On

Young Adult Fiction

A Bridge to the Stars

Shadows in the Twilight

When the Snow Fell

The Journey to the

End of the World

Children’s Fiction

The Cat Who Liked Rain

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This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Epub ISBN: 9781407065298
Version 1.0

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VINTAGE
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 2SA

Vintage is part of the Penguin Random House group of companies whose addresses can be found at global.penguinrandomhouse.com

Copyright © Henning Mankell 1991
English translation © Steven T. Murray 1997

Map by Reginald Piggot

Henning Mankell has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this Work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

First published with the title Mördare unte ansikte by Ordfronts Förlag Stockholm in 1991
First published in Great Britain by the Harvill Press in 2000
Published by Vintage in 2011

www.penguin.co.uk/vintage

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

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CHAPTER 1

HE HAS FORGOTTEN something, he knows that for sure when he wakes up. Something he dreamt during the night. Something he ought to remember. He tries to remember. But sleep is like a black hole. A well that reveals nothing of its contents.

At least I didn’t dream about the bulls, he thinks. Then I would have been hot and sweaty, as if I had suffered through a fever during the night. This time the bulls left me in peace.

He lies still in the darkness and listens. His wife’s breathing at his side is so faint that he can scarcely hear it. One of these mornings she’ll be lying dead beside me and I won’t even notice, he thinks. Or maybe it’ll be me. Daybreak will reveal that one of us has been left all alone. He checks the clock on the table next to the bed. The hands glow and register 4.45 a.m.

Why did I wake up? he asks himself. Usually I sleep till 5.30. I’ve done that for more than 40 years. Why did I wake now? He listens to the darkness and suddenly he is wide awake. Something is different. Something has changed. He stretches out one hand tentatively until he touches his wife’s face. With his fingertips he can feel that she’s warm. So she’s not dead. Neither of them has been left alone yet. He listens intently to the darkness.

The horse, he thinks. She’s not neighing. That’s why I woke up. Normally the mare whinnies at night. I hear it without waking up, and in my subconscious I know that I can keep on sleeping. Carefully he gets up from the creaky bed. For 40 years they’ve owned it. It was the only piece of furniture they bought when they got married. It’s also the only bed they’ll ever have. He can feel his left knee aching as he crosses the wooden floor to the window.

I’m old, he thinks. Old and worn out. Every morning when I wake up I’m surprised all over again that I’m 70 years old. He looks out into the winter night. It’s 7 January 1990, and no snow has fallen in Skåne this winter. The lamp outside the kitchen door casts its glow across the yard, the bare chestnut tree, and the fields beyond. He squints towards the neighbouring farm where the Lövgrens live. The long, low, white house is dark. The stable in the corner against the farmhouse has a pale yellow lamp above its black door. That’s where the mare stands in her stall, and that’s where she whinnies uneasily at night when something disturbs her. He listens to the darkness. The bed creaks behind him.

“What are you doing?” mutters his wife.

“Go back to sleep,” he replies. “I’m just stretching my legs.”

“Is your knee hurting again?”

“No.”

“Then come back to bed. Don’t stand there freezing, you’ll catch cold.”

He hears her turn over onto her side. Once we loved each other, he thinks. But he shields himself from his own thought. That’s too noble a word. Love. It’s not for the likes of us. Someone who has been a farmer for more than 40 years, who has worked every day bowed over the heavy Scanian clay, does not use the word “love” when he talks about his wife. In our lives, love has always been something totally different.

He looks at the neighbour’s house, peering, trying to penetrate the darkness of the winter night. Whinny, he thinks. Whinny in your stall so I know that everything’s all right. So I can lie down under the quilt for a little while longer. A retired, crippled farmer’s day is long and dreary enough as it is.

He realises that he’s looking at the kitchen window of the neighbour’s house. All these years he has cast an occasional glance at his neighbour’s window. Now something looks different. Or is it just the darkness that’s confusing him? He blinks and counts to 20 to rest his eyes. Then he looks at the window again, and now he’s sure that it’s open. A window that has always been closed at night is open. And the mare hasn’t whinnied at all.

The mare hasn’t whinnied because Lövgren hasn’t taken his usual nightly walk to the stable when his prostate acts up and drives him out of his warm bed.

I’m just imagining things, he says to himself. My eyes are cloudy. Everything is as it always is. After all, what could happen here? In the village of Lunnarp, just north of Kade Lake, on the way to beautiful Krageholm Lake, right in the heart of Skåne? Nothing ever happens here. Time stands still in this village where life flows along like a creek without vigour or intent. The only people who live here are a few old farmers who have sold or leased out their land to someone else. We live here and wait for the inevitable.

He looks at the kitchen window once more, and thinks that neither Maria nor Johannes Lövgren would fail to close it. With age comes a sense of dread; there are more and more locks, and no-one forgets to close a window before nightfall. To grow old is to live in fear. The dread of something menacing that you felt when you were a child returns when you get old.

I could get dressed and go out, he thinks. Hobble through the yard with the winter wind in my face, up to the fence that separates our properties. I could see close to that I’m just imagining things.

But he doesn’t move. Soon Johannes will be getting out of bed to make coffee. First he’ll turn on the light in the bathroom, then the light in the kitchen. Everything will be the way it always is.

He stands by the window and realises that he’s freezing. He thinks about Maria and Johannes. We’ve had a marriage with them too, he thinks, as neighbours and as farmers. We’ve helped each other, shared the hardships and the bad years. But we’ve shared the good times too. Together we’ve celebrated Midsummer and eaten Christmas dinner. Our children ran back and forth between the two farms as if they belonged to both. And now we’re sharing the long-drawn-out years of old age.

Without knowing why, he opens the window, carefully so as not to wake Hanna. He holds on tight to the latch so that the gusty winter wind won’t tear it out of his hand. But the night is completely calm, and he recalls that the weather report on the radio had said nothing about a storm approaching over the Scanian plain.

The starry sky is clear, and it is very cold. He is just about to close the window again when he thinks he hears a sound. He listens and turns, with his left ear towards the open window. His good ear, not his right that was damaged by all the time he spent cooped up in stuffy, rumbling tractors.

A bird, he thinks. A night bird calling. Suddenly he is afraid. Out of nowhere fear appears and seizes him. It sounds like somebody shouting. In despair, trying to be heard. A voice that knows it has to penetrate thick stone walls to catch the attention of the neighbours.

I’m imagining things, he thinks. There’s nobody shouting. Who would it be? He shuts the window so hard that it makes a flower-pot jump, and Hanna wakes up.

“What are you doing?” she says, and he can hear that she’s annoyed.

As he replies, he feels sure. The terror is real.

“The mare isn’t whinnying,” he says, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “And the Lövgrens’ kitchen window is wide open. And someone is shouting.”

She sits up in bed.

“What did you say?”

He doesn’t want to answer, but now he’s sure that it wasn’t a bird that he heard.

“It’s Johannes or Maria,” he says. “One of them is calling for help.”

She gets out of bed and goes over to the window. Big and wide, she stands there in her white nightgown and looks out into the dark.

“The kitchen window isn’t open,” she whispers. “It’s smashed.”

He goes over to her, and now he’s so cold that he’s shaking.

“There’s someone shouting for help,” she says, and her voice quavers.

“What should we do?”

“Go over there,” she replies. “Hurry up!”

“But what if it’s dangerous?”

“Aren’t we going to help our best friends?”

He dresses quickly, takes the torch from the kitchen cupboard next to the corks and coffee cans. Outside, the clay is frozen under his feet. When he turns around he catches a glimpse of Hanna in the window. At the fence he stops. Everything is quiet. Now he can see that the kitchen window is broken. Cautiously he climbs over the low fence and approaches the white house. But no voice calls to him.

I am just imagining things, he thinks. I’m an old man who can’t figure out what’s really happening anymore. Maybe I did dream about the bulls last night. The bulls that I would dream were charging towards me when I was a boy, making me realise that someday I would die.

Then he hears the cry. It’s weak, more like a moan. It’s Maria. He goes over to the bedroom window and peeks cautiously through the gap between the curtain and the window frame.

Suddenly he knows that Johannes is dead. He shines his torch inside and blinks hard before he forces himself to look. Maria is crumpled up on the floor, tied to a chair. Her face is bloody and her false teeth lie broken on her spattered nightgown. All he can see of Johannes is a foot. The rest of his body is hidden by the curtain.

He limps back and climbs over the fence again. His knee aches as he stumbles desperately across the frozen clay. First he calls the police. Then he takes his crowbar from a closet that smells of mothballs.

“Wait here,” he tells Hanna. “You don’t need to see this.”

“What happened?” she asks with tears of fright in her eyes.

“I don’t know,” he says. “But I woke up because the mare wasn’t neighing in the night. I know that for sure.”

It is 7 January 1990. Not yet dawn.

CHAPTER 2

THE INCOMING CALL was logged by the Ystad police at 5.13 a.m. It was taken by an exhausted officer who had been on duty almost without a break since New Year’s Eve. He listened to the stammering voice on the phone and thought at first that it was just a deranged senior citizen. But something sparked his attention nevertheless. He started asking questions. When the conversation was over, he hesitated for just a moment before lifting the receiver again and dialling a number he knew by heart.

Kurt Wallander was asleep. He had stayed up far too long the night before, listening to recordings of Maria Callas that a good friend had sent him from Bulgaria. Again and again he had played her Traviata, and it was close to 2 a.m. before he finally went to bed. When the telephone roused him, he was deep in an intense, erotic dream. As if to assure himself that he had only been dreaming, he reached out and felt next to him. But he was alone in the bed. Neither his wife, who had left him three months ago, nor the black woman with whom he had just been making fierce love in his dream, was there.

He looked at the clock as he reached for the phone. A car crash, he thought instantly. Treacherous ice and someone driving too fast and then spinning off the E65. Or trouble with refugees arriving from Poland on the morning ferry.

He sat up in bed and pressed the receiver to his cheek, feeling the sting of his unshaven skin.

“Wallander.”

“I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“No, damn it. I’m awake.”

Why do I lie? he thought. Why don’t I just tell the truth? That all I want is to go back to sleep and recapture in a fleeting dream the form of a naked woman.

“I thought I should call you.”

“Traffic accident?”

“No, not exactly. An elderly farmer called and said his name was Nyström. Lives in Lunnarp. He claimed that the woman next door was tied up on the floor and that someone was dead.”

Wallander thought rapidly about where Lunnarp was. Not so far from Marsvinsholm, in a region that was unusually hilly for Skåne.

“It sounded serious. I thought it best to call you at home.”

“Who have you got at the station right now?”

“Peters and Norén are out trying to find someone who broke a window at the Continental. Shall I call them?”

“Tell them to drive to the crossroads between Kade Lake and Katslösa and wait till I get there. Give them the address. When did the call come in?”

“A few minutes ago.”

“Sure it wasn’t just some drunk calling?”

“Didn’t sound like it.”

“Huh. All right then.”

Wallander dressed quickly without showering, poured himself a cup of the lukewarm coffee that was still in the thermos, and looked out the window. He lived on Mariagatan in central Ystad, and the façade of the building across from him was cracked and grey. He wondered fleetingly whether there would be any snow in Skåne this winter. He hoped not. Scanian snowstorms always brought periods of uninterrupted drudgery. Car wrecks, snowbound women going into labour, isolated old people, and downed power lines. With the snowstorms came chaos, and he felt ill-equipped to deal with chaos this winter. Anxiety at his wife’s departure still burned inside him.

He drove down Regementsgatan until he came out onto Österleden. At Dragongatan he stopped at a red light, and he turned on the car radio to listen to the news. An excited voice was talking about a plane that had crashed on a far-off continent.

A time to live and a time to die, he thought as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He had adopted this incantation many years ago, when he was a young policeman cruising the streets of Malmö, his home town. A drunk had pulled out a big butcher’s knife as he and his partner were trying to take him away in the squad car from Pildamm Park. Wallander was stabbed deep, right next to his heart. A few millimetres were all that saved him from an untimely death. He had been 23 then, suddenly profoundly aware of what it meant to be a policeman. The incantation was his way of fending off the memories.

He drove out of the city, passing the newly-built furniture warehouse at the edge of town, and caught a glimpse of the sea in the distance. It was grey but oddly quiet for the middle of the Scanian winter. Far off towards the horizon was the silhouette of a ship heading east.

The snowstorms are on their way, he thought. Sooner or later they’ll be upon us. He shut off the car radio and tried to concentrate on what was in store for him. What did he actually know? An old woman tied up on the floor? A man who claimed he saw her through a window? Wallander accelerated after he passed the turn-off to Bjäre Lake, thinking that it was undoubtedly an old man who was struck by a flare-up of senility. In his many years on the force he had seen more than once how old, lonely people would call the police as a desperate cry for help.

The squad car was waiting for him at the side road towards Kade Lake. Peters had climbed out and was watching a hare bounding back and forth out in a field. When he saw Wallander approaching in his blue Peugeot, he raised his hand in greeting and got in behind the wheel.

Wallander followed the police car, the frozen gravel crunching under the tyres. They passed the turn-off towards Trunnerup and continued up a number of steep hills until they came to Lunnarp. They swung onto a narrow dirt road that was hardly more than a tractor rut. After a kilometre they were there. Two farms next to each other, two whitewashed farmhouses, and neatly-tended gardens.

An elderly man came hurrying towards them. Wallander saw that he was limping, as if one knee was hurting him. When Wallander got out of the car he noticed that the wind had started to blow. Maybe snow was on the way after all. As soon as he saw the old man he knew that something truly unpleasant awaited him. In the man’s eyes shone a horror that could not be imaginary.

“I broke open the door,” he repeated feverishly, over and over. “I broke open the door because I had to see. But she’ll be dead soon too.”

They went in through the damaged doorframe. Wallander was met by a pungent old-man smell. The wallpaper was fusty, and he was forced to squint to be able to see anything in the dim light.

“So what happened here?” he asked.

“In there,” replied the old man. Then he started to cry.

The three policemen looked at each other. Wallander pushed open the door with one foot. It was worse than he had expected. Much worse. Later he would say that it was the worst he had ever seen. And he had seen plenty.

The couple’s bedroom was covered in blood. It had even splashed onto the porcelain lamp hanging from the ceiling. Prostrate across the bed lay an old man with no shirt on and his long underwear pulled down. His face was crushed beyond recognition. It looked as though someone had tried to cut off his nose. His hands were tied behind his back and his left thigh was shattered. The white bone shone against all that red.

“Oh shit,” he heard Norén moan behind him, and Wallander felt nauseated himself.

“Ambulance,” he said, swallowing. “And make it quick.”

Then they bent over the woman, half-lying on the floor, tied to a chair. Whoever had tied her up had rigged a noose around her scrawny neck. She was breathing feebly, and Wallander yelled at Peters to find a knife. They cut the thin rope that was digging deep into her wrists and neck, and laid her gently on the floor. Wallander held her head on his knee.

He looked at Peters and realised that they were both thinking the same thing. Who could have been cruel enough to do this? Tying a noose on a helpless old woman.

“Wait outside,” said Wallander to the old man sobbing in the doorway. “Wait outside and don’t touch anything.”

He could hear that his voice sounded like a roar. I’m yelling because I’m scared, he thought. What kind of world are we living in? Almost 20 minutes passed before the ambulance arrived. The woman’s breathing grew more and more irregular, and Wallander began to worry that it might come too late.

He recognised the ambulance driver, a man called Antonson. His assistant was a young man he had never seen before.

“Good morning,” said Wallander. “He’s dead. But the woman here is alive. Try to keep her that way.”

“What happened?” asked Antonson.

“I hope she’ll be able to tell us, if she makes it. Hurry up now!”

When the ambulance had vanished down the road, Wallander and Peters went outside. Norén was wiping his face with a handkerchief. The dawn was approaching. Wallander looked at his wristwatch. It was 7.28 a.m.

“It’s a slaughterhouse in there,” said Peters.

“Worse,” replied Wallander. “Call in and request a full team. Tell Norén to seal off the area. I’m going to talk to the old man.”

Just as he said that, he heard something that sounded like a scream. He jumped, and then the scream came again. It was a horse whinnying. They went over to the stable and opened the door. Inside in the dark a horse was rustling in its stall. The place smelled of warm manure and urine.

“Give the horse some water and hay,” said Wallander. “Maybe there are other animals here too.”

When he emerged from the stable he gave a shudder. Crows were screeching in a lone tree far out in a field. He sucked the cold air into his throat and noted that the wind was picking up.

“Your name is Nyström,” he said to the man, who by now had stopped weeping. “You have to help me. If I understand correctly, you live next door.”

The man nodded. “What happened here?” he asked in a quavering voice.

“That’s what I’m hoping you can tell me,” said Wallander. “Maybe we could go to your house.”

In the kitchen a woman in an old-fashioned dressing gown sat slumped in a chair crying. But as soon as Wallander introduced himself she got up and started to make coffee. The men sat down at the kitchen table. Wallander noticed Christmas decorations still hanging in the window. An old cat lay on the windowsill, staring at him without blinking. He reached out his hand to pat it.

“He bites,” said Nyström. “He’s not used to people. Except for Hanna and me.”

Wallander thought of his own wife, who had left him and wondered where to begin. A bestial murder, he thought. And if we’re really unlucky, it’ll be a double murder. Something occurred to him. He knocked on the kitchen window to get Norén’s attention.

“Excuse me for a moment,” he said, getting up.

“The horse had both water and hay,” said Norén. “There aren’t any other animals.”

“See that someone goes over to the hospital,” said Wallander. “In case she wakes up and says something. She must have seen everything.”

Norén nodded.

“Send somebody with good ears,” said Wallander. “Preferably someone who can lip-read.”

When he came back into the kitchen he took off his overcoat and laid it on the sofa.

“Now tell me,” he said. “Tell me, and leave nothing out. Take your time.”

After two cups of weak coffee he could see that neither Nyström nor his wife had anything significant to tell. He got the chronology of events, and the life story of the couple who had been attacked. He had two questions left to ask them.

“Do you know if they kept any large sums of money in the house?” he asked.

“No,” said Nyström. “They put everything in the bank. Their pensions too. And they weren’t rich. When they sold off the fields and the animals and the machinery, they gave the money to their children.”

The second question seemed futile. But he asked it anyway. In this situation he had no choice.

“Do you know if they had any enemies?” he asked.

“Enemies?”

“Anybody who might possibly have done this?”

They didn’t seem to understand the question. He repeated it. The two old people looked at each other, bewildered.

“People like us don’t have enemies,” the man replied, sounding offended. “Sometimes we quarrel with each other. About the upkeep of a wagon path, or the location of the field boundaries. But we don’t kill each other.”

Wallander nodded.

“I’ll be in touch again soon,” he said, getting up and taking his coat. “If you think of anything else, don’t hesitate to call the police. Ask for me, Inspector Wallander.”

“What if they come back …?” asked the old woman.

Wallander shook his head.

“They won’t,” he said. “It was probably robbers. They never come back. There’s nothing for you to worry about.”

He thought that he ought to say something more to reassure them. But what? What security could he offer to people who had just seen their close neighbour brutally murdered? Who had to wait and see whether his wife was also going to die?

“The horse,” he said. “Who will feed it?”

“We will,” replied the old man. “We’ll see that she gets what she needs.”

Wallander went outside into the cold dawn. The wind was stronger, and he hunched his shoulders as he walked towards his car. He knew he ought to remain and give the crime-scene technicians a hand. But he was freezing and feeling lousy and didn’t want to stay any longer. Besides, he saw through the window that it was Rydberg who had come with the team’s car. That meant that the technicians wouldn’t finish their work until they had turned over and inspected every lump of clay. Rydberg, who was supposed to retire in a couple of years, was a passionate policeman. He might appear pedantic and slow, but his presence was a guarantee that a crime scene would be treated the way it should be.

Rydberg had rheumatism and used a cane. Now he came limping across the yard towards Wallander.

“It’s not pretty,” Rydberg said. “It looks like a slaughterhouse in there.”

“You’re not the first to say that,” said Wallander.

Rydberg looked serious. “Have we got any leads?”

Wallander shook his head.

“Nothing at all?” There was something of an entreaty in Rydberg’s voice.

“The neighbours didn’t hear or see anything. I think it was ordinary robbers.”

“You call this insane brutality ordinary?”

Rydberg was upset, and Wallander regretted his choice of words. “I meant, of course, that it was particularly fiendish individuals who did this last night. The kind who make their living picking outfarms in isolated locations where lonely old people live.”

“We have to find these people,” said Rydberg. “Before they strike again.”

“You’re right,” said Wallander. “Even if we don’t catch anyone else this year.”

He got into his car and drove off. On the narrow farm road he almost collided with a car coming around a curve towards him at high speed. He recognised the man driving. It was a reporter for one of the big national papers, who always showed up when something of more than local interest happened in the Ystad area.

Wallander drove back and forth through Lunnarp a few times. There were lights in the windows, but no-one was out and about. What were they going to think when they found out?

He was feeling uneasy. Being confronted with the old woman with the noose around her neck had shaken him. The cruelty of it was unthinkable. Who would do something like that? Why not hit her over the head with an axe so it would all be over in an instant? Why torture her?

He tried to plan the investigation in his head as he drove slowly through the village. At the crossroads towards Blentarp he stopped, turned up the heat in the car because he was cold, and then sat motionless, gazing off towards the horizon.

He was the one who would have to lead the investigation, he knew that. No-one else was even possible. After Rydberg, he was the criminal detective in Ystad who had the most experience, despite the fact that he was only 42 years old.

Much of the investigative work would be routine. Examining the scene of the crime, questioning people in Lunnarp and along the escape routes the robbers might have taken. Had anyone seen anything suspicious? Anything unusual? The questions were already running through his mind. But Wallander knew from experience that farm robberies were often difficult to solve. What he could hope for was that the old woman would survive. She had seen what happened. She knew. But if she died, a double murder would be even harder to solve.

He felt uneasy. Under normal circumstances this unease would have spurred him to greater energy and activity. Since these were the prerequisites for all police work, he had imagined that he was a good policeman. But right now he felt uncertain and tired. He forced himself to shift into first gear. The car rolled a few metres. Then he stopped again. It was as if he only now realised what he had witnessed on that frozen winter morning.

The senselessness and savagery of the attack on the helpless couple scared him. Something had happened that shouldn’t have, not here. He looked out of the car window. The wind was rushing and whistling around the doors. I have to get started, he thought. It’s as Rydberg said: we’ve got to find whoever did this.

He drove directly to the hospital in Ystad and took the lift up to the intensive care unit. In the corridor he immediately recognised the young police cadet Martinsson sitting on a chair outside one of the rooms. Wallander could feel himself getting annoyed. Was there really no-one else available to send to the hospital but a young, inexperienced cadet? And why was he sitting outside the door? Why wasn’t he sitting at the bedside, ready to catch the slightest whisper from the brutalised woman?

“Hello,” said Wallander, “how is she?”

“She’s unconscious,” replied Martinsson. “The doctors don’t seem too hopeful.”

“Why are you sitting out here? Why aren’t you in the room?”

“They said they’d tell me if anything happened.”

Wallander noticed that Martinsson was starting to feel unsure of himself.

I sound like a grumpy schoolteacher, he thought. Carefully he pushed open the door and looked in. Various machines were sucking and pumping in death’s waiting room. Tubes undulated like transparent worms along the walls. A nurse was standing there reading a chart.

“You can’t come in here,” she said sharply.

“I’m a police inspector,” replied Wallander feebly. “I just wanted to hear how she’s doing.”

“You’ve been asked to wait outside,” said the nurse.

Before he could answer, a doctor came rushing into the room. Wallander thought he looked surprisingly young.

“We would prefer not to have any unauthorised persons in here,” said the doctor when he caught sight of Wallander.

“I’m leaving. But I just wanted to hear how she’s doing. My name is Wallander, and I’m a police inspector. Homicide,” he added, not sure whether that made any difference. “I’m heading the investigation into the person or persons who did this. How is she?”

“It’s amazing that she’s still alive,” said the doctor, nodding to Wallander to step over to the bed. “We can’t tell yet the extent of the internal injuries she may have suffered. First we have to see whether she survives. But her windpipe has been severely traumatised. As if someone had tried to strangle her.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” said Wallander, looking at the thin face visible among the sheets and tubes.

“She should have died,” said the doctor.

“I hope she survives,” said Wallander. “She’s the only witness we’ve got.”

“We hope all our patients survive,” replied the doctor sternly, studying a monitor where green lines moved in uninterrupted waves.

Wallander left the room after the doctor insisted that he could tell him nothing more. The prognosis was uncertain. Maria Lövgren might die without regaining consciousness. There was no way to know.

“Can you lip-read?” Wallander asked the cadet.

“No,” Martinsson replied in surprise.

“That’s too bad,” said Wallander, and left.

From the hospital he drove to the brown police station that lay on the road out towards the east end of town. He sat down at his desk and looked out of the window, over at the old red water tower.

Maybe the times require another kind of policeman, he thought. Policemen who aren’t distressed when they’re forced to go into a human slaughterhouse in the Swedish countryside early on a January morning. Policemen who don’t suffer from my uncertainty and anguish.

His thoughts were interrupted by the telephone. The hospital, he thought at once. They’re calling to say that Maria Lövgren is dead. But did she wake up? Did she say anything? He stared at the ringing telephone. Damn, he thought. Damn. Anything but that.

But when he picked up the receiver, it was his daughter. He gave a start and almost dropped the phone on the floor.

“Papa,” she said, and he heard the coin dropping into the pay phone.

“Hello,” he said. “Where are you calling from?”

Just so long as it’s not Lima, he thought. Or Katmandu. Or Kinshasa.

“I’m here in Ystad.”

He felt happy. That meant he’d get to see her.

“I came to visit you,” she said. “But I’ve changed my plans. I’m at the train station. I’m leaving now. I just wanted to tell you that at least I thought about seeing you.”

Then the conversation was cut off, and he was left sitting there with the receiver in his hand. It was like holding something dead, something hacked off. That damned kid, he thought. Why does she do things like this?

His daughter Linda was 19. Until she was 15 their relationship had been good. She came to him rather than to her mother when she had a problem or when there was something she really wanted to do but didn’t quite dare. He had seen her metamorphose from a chubby little girl to a young woman with a defiant beauty. Before she was 15, she never gave any hint that she was carrying around secret demons that one day would drive her into a precarious and inscrutable landscape.

One spring day, soon after her 15th birthday, Linda had without warning tried to commit suicide. It happened on a Saturday afternoon. Wallander had been fixing one of the garden chairs and his wife was washing the windows. He had put down his hammer and gone into the house, driven by a sudden unease. Linda was lying on the bed in her room. She had used a razor to cut her wrists and her throat. Afterwards, when it was all over, the doctor told Wallander that she would have died if he hadn’t come in when he did and had the presence of mind to apply pressure bandages.

He couldn’t get over the shock. All contact between him and Linda was broken off. She pulled away, and he never managed to understand what had driven her to attempt suicide. When she finished school she took a string of odd jobs, and would abruptly disappear for long periods of time. Twice his wife had pressed him to report her missing. His colleagues had seen his pain when Linda became the subject of his own investigation. But then she would reappear, and the only way he could follow her travels was to go through her pockets and leaf through her passport on the sly.

Hell, he thought. Why didn’t you stay? Why did you change your mind?

The telephone rang again and he snatched up the receiver.

“This is Papa,” said Wallander without thinking.

“What do you mean?” said his father. “What do you mean by picking up the phone and saying Papa? I thought you were a policeman.”

“I don’t have time to talk to you right now. Can I call you later?”

“No, you can’t. What’s so important?”

“Something serious happened this morning. I’ll call later.”

“So what happened?”

His elderly father called him almost every day. On several occasions Wallander had told the switchboard not to put through any calls from him. But then his father saw through his ruse and started giving false names and disguising his voice to fool the operators.

Wallander saw only one possibility of evading him.

“I’ll come out and see you tonight,” he said. “Then we can talk.”

His father reluctantly let himself be persuaded. “Come at seven. I’ll have time to see you then.”

“I’ll be there at seven. See you.”

Wallander hung up and pushed the button to block incoming calls. For a moment he considered taking the car and driving down to the train station to try and find his daughter. Talk to her, try to rekindle the contact that had been lost so mysteriously. But he knew that he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t want to risk her running away from him for good.

The door opened and Näslund stuck his head in.

“Hello,” he said. “Should I show him in?”

“Show who in?”

Näslund looked at his watch.

“It’s nine o’clock. You told me yesterday that you wanted Klas Månson here for an interview at nine.”

“Who’s Klas Månson?”

Näslund looked at him quizzically. “The guy who robbed the shop on Österleden. Have you forgotten about him?”

It came back to Wallander, and at the same time he realised that Näslund obviously hadn’t heard about the murder that had been committed in the night.

“You deal with Månson,” he said. “We had a murder last night out in Lunnarp. Maybe a double murder. An elderly couple. You can take over Månson. But put it off for a while. The thing we have to do first is plan the investigation at Lunnarp.”

“Månson’s lawyer is already here,” said Näslund. “If I send him away, he’s going to raise hell.”

“Do a preliminary questioning,” said Wallander. “If the lawyer makes a fuss later, it can’t be helped. Set up a case meeting in my office for ten o’clock. Make sure everyone comes.”

Now he was in motion. He was a policeman again. His anxiety about his daughter and his wife would have to wait. Right now he had to begin the arduous hunt for a murderer. He removed the piles of paper from his desk, tore up a football lottery form he wouldn’t get around to filling out anyway, and went out to the canteen and poured himself a cup of coffee.

At 10 a.m. everyone gathered in his office. Rydberg had been called in from the scene of the crime and was sitting in a chair by the window. Seven police officers in all, sitting and standing, filled the room. Wallander phoned the hospital and managed to ascertain that Mrs Lövgren’s condition was still critical. Then he told them what had happened.

“It was worse than you could imagine,” he said. “Wouldn’t you say so, Rydberg?”

“You’re right,” replied Rydberg. “Like an American movie. It even smelt like blood. That doesn’t usually happen.”

“We have to find whoever did this,” said Wallander, concluding his presentation. “We can’t leave maniacs like this on the loose.”

The policemen fell silent. Rydberg was drumming his fingertips on the arm of his chair. A woman could be heard laughing in the corridor outside. Wallander looked around the room. All of them were his colleagues. None of them was his close friend. And yet they were a team.

“Well,” he said, “what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.”

It was 10.40 a.m.

CHAPTER 3

AT 4 P.M. THAT afternoon Wallander discovered that he was hungry. He hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch. After the case meeting in the morning he had spent his time organising the hunt for the murderers in Lunnarp. He found himself thinking about them in the plural. He had a hard time imagining that one person could have been responsible for that blood bath.

It was dark outside when he sank into the chair behind his desk to try and put together a statement for the press. There was a pile of messages, left by one of the women from the switchboard. After searching in vain for his daughter’s name among the slips, he placed them all in his in-tray. To escape the unpleasantness of standing in front of the TV cameras of News South and telling them that at present the police had no leads on the criminal or criminals who had carried the heinous murder of Johannes Lövgren, Wallander had appealed to Rydberg to take on that task. But he had to write and give the press release himself. He took a sheet of paper from a desk drawer. But what would he write? The day’s work had involved little more than collecting a large number of questions.

It had been a day of waiting. In the intensive care unit the old woman who had survived the noose was fighting for her life. Would they ever find out what she had witnessed on that appalling night in the lonely farmhouse? Or would she die before she could tell them anything?

Wallander looked out of the window, into the darkness. Instead of a press release he started writing a summary of what had been done that day and what the police actually had to go on. Nothing, he thought, when he was finished. Two elderly people with no enemies, no hidden cash, were brutally attacked and tortured. The neighbours heard nothing. Not until the attackers were gone had they noticed that a window had been broken and heard the old woman’s cry for help. Rydberg had so far found no clues. That was it.

Old people in the countryside have always been targets for robbery. They have been bound, beaten, and sometimes killed. But this is different, thought Wallander. The noose tells a gruesome story of viciousness or hate, maybe even revenge. Something about this attack doesn’t add up.

All they could do now was hope. All day long police patrols had been talking to the inhabitants of Lunnarp. Perhaps someone had seen something? In crimes of this nature those responsible had often cased the place in advance. Maybe Rydberg would find some clues at the farmhouse after all.

Wallander looked at the clock. How long since he’d last called the hospital? 45 minutes? An hour? He decided to wait until after he had written his press release. He popped a cassette of Jussi Björling into his Walkman and put on the headphones. The scratchy sound of the 1930s recording could not detract from the magnificence of the music from Rigoletto.

The press release ran to eight lines. Wallander took it to one of the clerks to type up and make copies. While this was being done he read through a questionnaire that was to be mailed to everyone living in the area around Lunnarp. Had anyone seen anything out of the ordinary? Anything that could be connected to the brutal attack? He didn’t have much confidence that the questionnaire would produce anything but inconvenience. The telephones would ring incessantly and two officers would need to be assigned to listen to useless reports.

Still, it has to be done, he thought. At least we can satisfy ourselves that no-one saw anything. He went back to his office and phoned the hospital. Nothing had changed. Mrs Lövgren was still fighting for her life. Just as he put down the phone, Näslund came in.

“I was right,” he said.

“What about?”

“Månson’s lawyer hit the roof.”

Wallander shrugged. “We’ll just have to live with that.”

Näslund scratched his forehead and asked how the investigation was going.

“Not a thing so far. We’ve started. That’s about it.”

“I noticed that the preliminary forensic report came in.”

Wallander raised an eyebrow. “Why didn’t I get it?”

“It was in Hansson’s office.”

“That’s not where it’s supposed to be, damn it!”

Wallander got up and went out into the corridor. Always the same, he thought. Papers never end up where they’re supposed to. More and more police work was recorded on computers, but even so there was a tendency for important papers to get lost.

Wallander knocked and went into Hansson’s office. Hansson was talking on the phone. He saw that Hansson’s desk had strewn all over it, hardly concealed, betting slips and form guides from racetracks around the country. It was common knowledge at the station that he spent the best part of his working day calling various horse trainers begging for tips. Then he spent his evenings figuring out all manner of betting systems that would guarantee him the maximum winnings. It was also rumoured that Hansson had hit it big on one occasion, but no-one knew this for certain. And Hansson wasn’t exactly living the highlife.

When Wallander came in, Hansson put his hand over the mouthpiece.

“The forensic report,” said Wallander. “Have you got it?”

Hansson pushed aside a form guide from Jägersrö. “I was just about to bring it over to you.”

“Number four in the seventh race is a sure thing,” said Wallander, taking the plastic folder from the desk.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean it’s a sure thing.”

Wallander walked out, leaving Hansson gaping. He saw by the clock in the corridor that there was half an hour left until the press conference. He went back to his office and read carefully through the doctor’s report.

The brutal nature of the murder of Johannes Lövgren was thrown into even sharper relief, if possible, than when he had arrived in Lunnarp that morning. In the preliminary examination of the body, the doctor had not been able to determine the actual cause of death. There were too many to choose from.

The body had received eight deep stab wounds with a sharp, serrated implement. The report suggested a compass saw. In addition, the right femur was broken, as were the left upper arm and wrist. The body showed signs of burn wounds, the scrotum was swollen, and the forehead was bashed in.

The doctor had made a note beside the official report. “An act of madness,” he had written. “This man was subjected to injuries sufficient to kill him four or five times over.”