The Redeemer


Don Bartlett




About the Book

About the Author

Also by Jo Nesbo

Title Page



Part One: Advent

Chapter 1: August 1991. The Stars.

Chapter 2: Sunday, 14 December 2003. The Visit.

Chapter 3: Sunday, 14 December. The Bite.

Chapter 4: Monday, 15 December. The Departure.

Chapter 5: Monday, 15 December. The Lighthouse.

Chapter 6: Monday, 15 December. Halvorsen.

Chapter 7: Monday, 15 December. Anonymity.

Chapter 8: Tuesday, 16 December. The Mealtime.

Part Two: The Redeemer

Chapter 9: Tuesday, 16 December. The Snow.

Chapter 10: Wednesday, 17 December. The Doubter.

Chapter 11: Wednesday, 17 December. The Croat.

Chapter 12: Wednesday, 17 December. Hospital and Ashes.

Chapter 13: Wednesday, 17 December. The Ticking.

Chapter 14: The Night of Wednesday, 17 December. The Darkness.

Chapter 15: Early Hours, Thursday, 18 December. The Raid.

Chapter 16: Thursday, 18 December. The Refugee.

Chapter 17: Thursday, 18 December. The Face.

Chapter 18: Thursday, 18 December. The Chute.

Chapter 19: Thursday, 18 December. The Container.

Part Three: Crucifixion

Chapter 20: Thursday, 18 December. The Citadel.

Chapter 21: Friday, 19 December. Zagreb.

Chapter 22: Friday, 19 December. The Miniatures.

Chapter 23: Friday Night, 19 December. The Dogs.

Chapter 24: Saturday, 20 December. The Promise.

Chapter 25: Saturday, 20 December. Forgiveness.

Chapter 26: Saturday, 20 December. The Magic Trick.

Chapter 27: Sunday, 21 December. The Disciple.

Chapter 28: Sunday, 21 December. The Kiss.

Part Four: Mercy

Chapter 29: Monday, 22 December. The Commanding Officer.

Chapter 30: Monday, 22 December. The Silence.

Chapter 31: Monday, 22 December. The Resurrection.

Chapter 32: Monday, 22 December. The Exodus.

Chapter 33: Monday, 22 December. The Shortest Day.

Chapter 34: Monday, 22 December. The Crucifixion.

Part Five: Epilogue

Chapter 35: Guilt

Read on for an extract from The Snowman


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Copyright © Jo Nesbø 2005
English translation copyright © Don Bartlett 2009
Extract from The Snowman © Jo Nesbø 2007
English translation copyright © Don Bartlett 2010

Jo Nesbø has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

‘Alice’ Words & Music by Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan copyright © 2002 Jalma Music Incorporated (ASCAP) Universal Music Publishing MGB Limited Used by permission of Music Sales Limited All rights reserved. International Copyright Secured.

Map drawn by Reginald Piggot

This translation has been published with the financial assistance of NORLA

First published by Harvill Secker 2009
First published with the title Frelseren by H. Aschehoug & Co. (W. Nygaard), Oslo

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

About the Author

Jo Nesbo is a musician, songwriter, economist and author. His first crime novel featuring Harry Hole was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Høeg, Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum). Check out for more information.

Don Bartlett lives in Norfolk and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian novels. He has translated, or co-translated, Norwegian novels by Lars Saaybe Christensen, Roy Jacobsen, Ingvar Ambjørnsen, Kjell Ola Dahl and Pernille Rygg.

About the Book

It is a freezing December night and Christmas shoppers have gathered to listen to a Salvation Army carol concert. Then a shot rings out and one of the singers falls to the floor, dead. Harry Hole and his team are called in to investigate but have little to work with – there is no immediate suspect, no weapon and no motive. But when the assassin discovers he has shot the wrong man, Harry Hole’s troubles have only just begun …


The Redbreast
A report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks Detective Harry Hole’s interest. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. Next, Harry’s former partner is murdered. Why had she been trying to reach Harry on the night she was killed?
A man is caught on CCTV, shooting dead a cashier at a bank. Harry begins his investigation but after a dinner with an old flame, wakes up with no memory of the last 12 hours. Then the girl is found dead and he begins to receive threatening emails: is someone is trying to frame him for her death?
The Devil’s Star
When a young woman is murdered in her Oslo flat and a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star is found behind her eyelid, Harry is assigned the case alongside his long-time adversary Tom Waaler. On notice to quit the force, Harry is forced to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor when it becomes apparent that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands.
The Snowman
On the night the first snow falls, a young mother vanishes from her home. Is there a link between her disappearance and a menacing letter Harry was sent some months before? When a second woman disappears it seems that Harry’s worst suspicions are confirmed: for the first time in his career, Harry is confronted with a serial killer who will drive him to the brink of madness.
The Leopard
Two women are found dead, both drowned in their own blood. Harry initially wants nothing to do with the case but his instincts take over when a prominent MP is brutally murdered. The victims appear completely unconnected to one another, but it’s not long before he makes a discovery: the women all spent the night in an isolated mountain hostel. And someone is picking off the guests one by one …


Who is this that comes from Edom, coming from Bozrah, his garments stained crimson? Who is this, in glorious apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? ‘It is I, who announce that right has won the day, it is I,’ says the Lord, ‘for I am mighty to save.’

Isaiah, 63:1

Part One



August 1991. The Stars.

SHE WAS FOURTEEN years old and sure that if she shut her eyes tight and concentrated she could see the stars through the roof.

All around her, women were breathing. Regular, heavy night-time breathing. One was snoring, and that was Auntie Sara whom they had allocated a mattress beneath the open window.

She closed her eyes and tried to breathe like the others. It was difficult to sleep, especially because everything around her was so new and different. The sounds of the night and the forest beyond the window in Østgård were different. The people she knew from the meetings in the Citadel and the summer camps were somehow not the same. She was not the same, either. The face and body she saw in the mirror this summer were new. And her emotions, these strange hot and cold currents that flowed through her when the boys looked at her. Or when one of them in particular looked at her. Robert. He was different this year, too.

She opened her eyes again and stared. She knew God had the power to do great things, also to allow her to see the stars through the roof. If it was His wish.

It had been a long and eventful day. The dry summer wind had whispered through the corn, and the leaves on the trees danced as if in a fever, causing the light to filter through to the visitors on the field. They had been listening to one of the Salvation Army cadets from the Officer Training School talking about his work as a preacher on the Faeroe Isles. He was good-looking and spoke with great sensitivity and passion. But she was preoccupied with shooing away a bumblebee that kept buzzing around her head, and by the time it moved off the heat had made her dozy. When the cadet finished, all faces were turned to the Territorial Commander, David Eckhoff, who had been observing them with his smiling, young eyes which were over fifty years old. He saluted in the Salvation Army manner, with his right hand raised above his shoulder pointing to the kingdom of heaven, and a resounding shout of ‘Hallelujah!’ Then he prayed for the cadet’s work with the poor and the pariahs to be blessed, and reminded them of the Gospel of Matthew, where it said that Jesus the Redeemer was among them, a stranger on the street, maybe a criminal, without food and without clothing. And that on the Day of Judgement the righteous, those who had helped the weakest, would have eternal life. It had all the makings of a long speech, but then someone whispered something and he said, with a smile, that Youth Hour was next on the programme and today it was the turn of Rikard Nilsen.

She had heard Rikard make his voice deeper than it was to thank the commander. As usual, he had prepared what he was going to say in writing and learned it off by heart. He stood and recited how he was going to devote his life to the fight, to Jesus’s fight for the kingdom of God. His voice was nervous, yet monotonous and soporific. His introverted glower rested on her. Her eyes were heavy. His sweaty top lip was moving to form the familiar, secure, tedious phrases. So she didn’t react when the hand touched her back. Not until it became fingertips and they wandered down to the small of her back, and lower, and made her freeze beneath her thin summer dress.

She turned and looked into Robert’s smiling brown eyes. And she wished her skin were as dark as his so that he would not be able to see her blushes.

‘Shh,’ Jon had said.

Robert and Jon were brothers. Although Jon was one year older many people had taken them for twins when they were younger. But Robert was seventeen now and while they had retained some facial similarities, the differences were clearer. Robert was happy and carefree, liked to tease and was good at playing the guitar, but was not always punctual for services in the Citadel, and sometimes the teasing had a tendency to go too far, especially if he noticed others were laughing. Then Jon would often step in. Jon was an honest, conscientious boy whom most thought would go to Officer Training School and would – though this was never formulated out loud – find himself a girl in the Army. The latter could not be taken for granted in Robert’s case. Jon was two centimetres taller than Robert, but in some strange way Robert seemed taller. From the age of twelve Jon had begun to stoop, as though he were carrying the woes of the world on his back. Both were dark-skinned, good-looking, with regular features, but Robert had something Jon did not have. There was something in his eyes, something black and playful, which she wanted and yet did not want to investigate further.

While Rikard was talking, her eyes were wandering across the sea of assembled familiar faces. One day she would marry a boy from the Salvation Army and perhaps they would both be posted to another town or another part of the country. But they would always return to Østgård, which the Army had just bought and was to be their summer site from now on.

On the margins of the crowd, sitting on the steps leading to the house, was a boy with blond hair stroking a cat that had settled in his lap. She could tell that he had been watching her, but had looked away just as she noticed. He was the one person here she didn’t know, but she did know that his name was Mads Gilstrup, that he was the grandchild of the people who had owned Østgård before, that he was a couple of years older than her and that the Gilstrup family was wealthy. He was attractive, in fact, but there was something solitary about him. And what was he doing here anyway? He had been there the previous night, walking around with an angry frown on his face, not talking to anyone. She had felt his eyes on her a few times. Everyone looked at her this year. That was new, too.

She was jerked out of these thoughts by Robert taking her hand, putting something in it and saying: ‘Come to the barn when the general-in-waiting has finished. I’ve got something to show you.’

Then he stood up and walked off, and she looked down into her hand and almost screamed. With one hand over her mouth, she dropped it into the grass. It was a bumblebee. It could still move, despite not having legs or wings.

At last Rikard finished, and she sat watching her parents and Robert and Jon’s moving towards the tables where the coffee was. They were both what Army people in their respective Oslo congregations called ‘strong families’, and she knew watchful eyes were on her.

She walked towards the outside toilet. Once she was round the corner where no one could see her, she scurried in the direction of the barn.

‘Do you know what this is?’ said Robert with the smile in his eyes and the deep voice he had not had the summer before.

He was lying on his back in the hay whittling a tree root with the penknife he always carried in his belt.

Then he held it up and she saw what it was. She had seen drawings. She hoped it was too dark for him to see her blushes again.

‘No,’ she lied, sitting beside him in the hay.

And he gave her that teasing look of his, as if he knew something about her she didn’t even know herself. She returned his gaze and fell back on her elbows.

‘This is where it goes,’ he said, and in an instant his hand was up her dress. She could feel the hard tree root against the inside of her thigh and before she could close her legs, it was touching her pants. His breath was hot on her neck.

‘No, Robert,’ she whispered.

‘But I made it for you,’ he wheezed in return.

‘Stop. I don’t want to.’

‘Are you saying no? To me?’

She caught her breath and was unable either to answer or to scream because at that moment they heard Jon’s voice from the barn door: ‘Robert! No, Robert!’

She felt him relax, let go and the tree root was left between her clenched thighs as he withdrew his hand.

‘Come here!’ Jon said, as though talking to a disobedient dog.

With a chuckle Robert got up, winked at her and ran out into the sun to his brother.

She sat up and brushed the hay off her, feeling both relieved and ashamed at the same time. Relieved because Jon had spoilt their crazy game. Ashamed because he seemed to think it was more than that: a game.

Later, during grace before their evening meal, she had looked up straight into Robert’s brown eyes and seen his lips form one word. She didn’t know what it was, but she had started to giggle. He was mad! And she was … well, what was she? Mad, too. Mad. And in love? Yes, in love, precisely that. And not in the way she had been when she was twelve or thirteen. Now she was fourteen and this was bigger. More important. And more exciting.

She could feel the laughter bubbling up inside her as she lay there trying to stare through the roof.

Auntie Sara grunted and stopped snoring beneath the window. Something screeched. An owl?

She needed to pee.

She didn’t feel like going out, but she had to. Had to walk through the dewy grass past the barn, which was dark and quite a different proposition in the middle of the night. She closed her eyes, but it didn’t help. She crept out of her sleeping bag, slipped on some sandals and tiptoed over to the door.

A few stars had appeared in the sky, but they would soon go when day broke in the east in an hour’s time. The cool air caressed her skin as she scampered along listening to the unidentifiable sounds of the night. Insects that stayed quiet during the day. Animals hunting. Rikard said he had seen foxes in the distant copse. Or perhaps the animals were the same ones that were out during the day, they just made different sounds. They changed. Shed their skins, as it were.

The outside toilet stood alone on a small mound behind the barn. She watched it grow in size as she came closer. The strange, crooked hut had been made with untreated wooden boards that had warped, split and turned grey. No windows, a heart on the door. The worst thing about the toilet was that you never knew if anyone was already in there.

And she had an instinct that someone was already in there.

She coughed so that whoever was there might signal it was engaged.

A magpie took off from a branch on the edge of the wood. Otherwise all was still.

She stepped up onto the flagstone. Grabbed the lump of wood that passed for a door handle. Pulled it. The black room gaped open.

She breathed out. There was a torch beside the toilet seat, but she didn’t need to switch it on. She raised the seat lid before closing the door and fastening the door hook. Then she pulled up her nightie, pulled down her knickers and sat down. In the ensuing silence she thought she heard something. Something that was neither animal nor magpie nor insects shedding skin. Something that moved fast through the tall grass behind the toilet. Then the trickle started and the noise was obscured. But her heart had already started pounding.

When she had finished, she quickly pulled up her pants and sat in the dark listening. But all she could hear was a faint ripple in the tops of the trees and her blood throbbing in her ears. She waited for her pulse to slow down, then she unhooked the catch and opened the door. The dark figure filled almost the whole of the doorway. He must have been standing and waiting, silent, outside on the stone step. The next minute she was splayed over the toilet seat and he stood above her. He closed the door behind him.

‘You?’ she said.

‘Me,’ he said in an alien, tremulous, husky voice.

Then he was on top of her. His eyes glittered in the dark as he bit her lower lip until he drew blood and one hand found the way under her nightie and tore off her knickers. She lay there crippled with fear beneath the knife blade that stung the skin on her neck while he kept thrusting his groin into her before he had even got his trousers off, like some crazed copulating dog.

‘One word from you and I’ll cut you into pieces,’ he whispered.

And not one word issued from her mouth. Because she was fourteen years old and sure that if she shut her eyes tight and concentrated she would be able to see the stars through the roof. God had the power to do things like that. If it was His wish.


Sunday, 14 December 2003. The Visit.

HE STUDIED HIS reflected features in the train window. Tried to see what it was, where the secret lay. But he saw nothing in particular, apart from the red neckerchief, just an expressionless face and eyes and hair that, approaching the walls of the tunnels between Courcelles and Ternes, was as black as the eternal night of the métro. Le Monde lay in his lap, forecasting snow, but above him the streets of Paris were still cold and deserted beneath impenetrable, low-lying cloud cover. His nostrils flared and drew in the faint but distinct smell of damp cement, human perspiration, hot metal, eau de cologne, tobacco, sodden wool and bile, a smell they never managed to wash out of the train seats, or to ventilate.

The pressure created by an oncoming train made the windows vibrate, and the darkness was temporarily banished by the pale squares of light that flashed past. He pulled up the sleeve of his coat and checked his watch, a Seiko SQ50 which he had received in part payment from a client. There were already scratches on the glass, so he was not sure it was a genuine item. A quarter past seven. It was Sunday evening and the carriage was no more than half full. He looked around him. People slept on the métro; they always did. On weekdays in particular. Switched off, closed their eyes and let the daily journey become a dreamless interval of nothing between the red or the blue lines on the métro map, as a mute connecting line between work and freedom. He had read about a man who had sat like this for a whole day, eyes closed, to and fro, and it was only when they came to clean the carriage at the end of the day that they discovered he was dead. Perhaps he had descended into the catacombs for this very purpose, to draw a blue connecting line between life and the beyond in this pale yellow coffin, knowing he would be undisturbed.

As for himself, he was forming a connecting line in the other direction. Back to life. There was this job tonight and then the one in Oslo. The last job. Then he would be out of the catacombs for good.

A dissonant signal screamed before the doors closed in Ternes. They picked up speed again.

He closed his eyes, trying to imagine the other smell. The smell of urinal blocks and hot, fresh urine. The smell of freedom. But perhaps it was true what his mother, the teacher, had said. That the human brain can reproduce detailed images of everything you have seen or heard, but not even the most basic smell.

Smell. The images began to flash past on the inside of his eyelids. He had been fifteen years old, sitting in the corridor of the hospital in Vukovar, listening to his mother repeat the mumbled prayer to Thomas the Apostle, the patron saint of construction workers, to let God spare her husband. He had heard the rumble of the Serbian artillery firing from the river and the screams of those being operated on in the infants ward, where there were no longer any infants because the women of the town had stopped producing after the siege started. He had worked as an errand boy in the hospital and learned to shut out the noises, the screams and the artillery. But not the smells. And one smell above all others. Surgeons performing an amputation first had to cut through the flesh to the bone, and then, so that patients did not bleed to death, to use something that looked like a soldering iron to cauterise the blood vessels so that they were closed off. The smell of burnt flesh and blood was like nothing else.

A doctor came into the corridor and waved him and his mother in. Approaching the bed, he had not dared to look at his father; he had just concentrated on the big brown hand clutching the mattress and trying, as it seemed, to tear it in two. It could have succeeded, for these were the strongest hands in the town. His father was a steel-bender – he was the person who went on building sites when the bricklayers were finished, put his large hands round the ends of the protruding steel used to reinforce the concrete, and with one quick, practised movement bent the ends of the steel poles and wove them into each other. He had seen his father working; it looked like he was wringing a cloth. No one had invented a machine that did the job better.

He squeezed his eyes shut as he heard his father scream out in pain and anguish: ‘Take the lad out!’

‘But he asked—’


The doctor’s voice: ‘The bleeding has stopped. Let’s get cracking now!’

Someone grabbed him under the arms and lifted him. He tried to struggle, but he was so small, so light. And that was when he noticed the smell. Burnt flesh and blood.

The last thing he heard was the doctor’s voice:

‘Saw, please.’

The door slammed behind him and he sank down onto his knees and continued to pray where his mother had left off. Save him. Maim him, but save him. God had the power to do things like that. If it was His wish.

He felt someone watching him, opened his eyes and was back in the métro. On the seat opposite was a woman with taut jaw muscles and a weary, distant gaze that moved away when it met his. The second hand on his wristwatch jerked forward as he repeated the address to himself. He felt his pulse. Normal. His head was light, but not too light. He was neither hot nor cold, felt neither fear nor pleasure, neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction. The train was slowing down. Charles de Gaulle-Étoile. He sent the woman a final glance. She had been studying him, but if she should ever meet him again, maybe even tonight, she still would not recognise him.

He got to his feet and waited by the doors. The brakes gave a low lament. Urinal blocks and urine. And freedom. As impossible to imagine as a smell. The doors slid open.

Harry stepped onto the platform and stood inhaling the warm underground air as he read the address on the slip of paper. He heard the doors close and felt the draught of air on his back as the train set off again. Then he walked towards the exit. An advertising hoarding over the escalator told him there were ways of avoiding colds. ‘Like hell there are,’ he coughed, stuffing a hand down the deep pocket of his woollen coat and finding the pack of cigarettes under the hip flask and the tin of throat lozenges.

The cigarette bobbed up and down in his mouth as he walked through the glass exit door, leaving the raw, unnatural heat of Oslo’s underground behind him, and ran up the steps to Oslo’s ultra-natural December darkness and freezing temperatures. Harry instinctively shrank. Egertorget. This small, open square was an intersection between pedestrian streets in the heart of Oslo, if the city could be said to have a heart at this time of the year. Shops were open this Sunday as it was the penultimate weekend before Christmas, and the square was teeming with people hurrying to and fro in the yellow light that fell from the windows of the surrounding modest three-storey shops. Harry saw the bags of wrapped presents and made a mental note to buy something for Bjarne Møller whose last day it was at Police HQ tomorrow. Harry’s boss and chief protector in the police force for all these years was at long last realising his plans to reduce his hours and from next week onwards would take over as a so-called senior special investigator at Bergen police station, which meant in reality that Bjarne Møller could do as he liked until he retired. Cushy number – but Bergen? Rain and dank mountains. Møller didn’t even come from Bergen. Harry had always liked – but not always appreciated – Bjarne Møller.

A man dressed head to toe in Puffa jacket and trousers slowly waddled past like an astronaut, grinning and blowing frosted breath from round, pink cheeks. Stooped shoulders and closed winter faces. Harry spotted a pallid-faced woman wearing a thin, black leather jacket with holes in the elbows standing by the jeweller’s, hopping from one foot to the other as her eyes searched in hope of finding her supplier soon. A beggar, long-haired and unshaven, but well covered in warm, fashionable, youthful clothing sat in a yoga position, leaning against a lamp post, his head bent forward as if in meditation, with a brown paper cup from a cappuccino bar in front of him. Harry had seen more and more beggars over the last year, and it had struck him that they all looked the same. Even the paper cups were identical, as though it were a secret code. Perhaps they were creatures from outer space quietly taking over his town, his streets. No worries. Feel free.

Harry entered the jeweller’s shop.

‘Can you fix this?’ he said to the young man behind the counter, passing him his grandfather’s watch. Harry had been given it when he was a boy in Åndalsnes the day they had buried his mother. He had almost been frightened, but his grandad had reassured him that watches were the sort of thing you gave away, and Harry should remember to pass it on. ‘Before it’s too late.’

Harry had forgotten all about the watch until Oleg visited him in his flat in Sofies gate and had seen the silver watch in a drawer while he was looking for Harry’s Game Boy. Oleg, who was ten years old, but had long had the measure of Harry at their shared passion – the rather outdated computer game Tetris – was oblivious to the duel he had been looking forward to, and instead sat fiddling with the watch trying to make it go.

‘It’s broken,’ Harry said.

‘Ooof,’ Oleg answered. ‘Everything can be repaired.’

Harry hoped in his heart of hearts that this contention was true, but he had days when he had severe doubts. Nonetheless, he had wondered in a vague way whether he should introduce Oleg to Jokke & Valentinerne and their album entitled Everything Can be Repaired. However, on reflection Harry had concluded that Oleg’s mother, Rakel, was unlikely to appreciate the connection: her ex-alcoholic lover passing on songs about being an alcoholic, written and sung by a dead junkie.

‘Can you repair it?’ he asked the young man behind the counter. By way of an answer, nimble, expert hands opened the watch.

‘Not worth it.’

‘Not worth it?’

‘If you go to an antiques shop, they have better working watches and they cost less than it would to have this fixed.’

‘Do it anyway,’ Harry said.

‘OK,’ said the young man who had already started examining the internal mechanisms and, in fact, seemed pretty pleased with Harry’s decision. ‘Come back next Tuesday.’

On leaving the shop Harry heard the frail sound of a single guitar string through an amplifier. It rose when the guitarist, a boy with scraggly facial hair and fingerless gloves, turned one of the tuning keys. It was time for one of the traditonal pre-Christmas concerts when well-known artistes performed on behalf of the Salvation Army in Egertorget. People had already begun to gather in front of the band as it took up a position behind the Salvation Army’s black Christmas kettle, a cooking pot which hung from three poles in the middle of the square.

‘Is that you?’

Harry turned. It was the woman with the junkie eyes.

‘It’s you, isn’t it? Have you come instead of Snoopy? I need a fix right away. I’ve—’

‘Sorry,’ Harry interrupted. ‘It’s not me you want.’

She stared at him. Leaning her head to one side, she narrowed her eyes, as though appraising whether he was lying to her. ‘Yep, I’ve seen you somewhere before.’

‘I’m a policeman.’

She paused. Harry breathed in. There was a delayed reaction, as if the message had to follow detours around scorched neurons and smashed synapses. Then the dull glow of hatred that Harry had been waiting for lit up in her eyes.

‘The cops?’

‘Thought we had a deal. You were supposed to stay in the square, in Plata,’ Harry said, looking past her at the vocalist.

‘Huh,’ said the woman standing straight in front of Harry. ‘You’re not in Narco. You’re the guy on telly who killed—’

‘Crime Squad.’ Harry took her by the arm. ‘Listen, you can get what you want in Plata. Don’t force me to drag you in to the station.’

‘Can not.’ She tore her arm away.

Harry repented at once and held up both hands. ‘Tell me you’re not going to do any deals here and I can go. OK?’

She cocked her head. The thin, anaemic lips tightened a fraction. She seemed to see something amusing in the situation. ‘Shall I tell you why I can’t go to the square?’

Harry waited.

‘Because my boy’s down there.’

He felt his stomach churn.

‘I don’t want him to see me like this. Do you understand, cop?’

Harry looked into her defiant face as he tried to formulate a sentence.

‘Happy Christmas,’ he said, turning his back on her.

Harry dropped his cigarette into the packed, brown snow and walked off. He wanted this job off his back. He didn’t see the people coming towards him, and, staring down at the blue ice as if they had a bad conscience, they didn’t see him either, as if they, citizens of the world’s most generous social democracy, were nonetheless ashamed. ‘Because my boy’s down there.’

In Fredensborgveien, beside Oslo Public Library, Harry stopped outside the number scrawled on the envelope he was carrying. He leaned back and looked up. The facade was grey and black and had recently been repainted. A tagger’s wet dream. Christmas decorations were already hanging from some of the windows like silhouettes against the gentle, yellow light in what seemed like warm, secure homes. And perhaps they are indeed that, Harry forced himself to think. ‘Forced’ because you can’t be in the police for twelve years without being infected by the contempt for humanity that comes with the territory. But he did fight against it; you had to give him that.

He found the name by the bell, closed his eyes and tried to find the right words. It didn’t help. Her voice was still in the way.

‘I don’t want him to see me like this …’

Harry gave up. Is there a right way to formulate the impossible?

He pressed his thumb against the cold metal button, and somewhere inside the block it rang.

Captain Jon Karlsen took his finger off the button, put the heavy plastic bags down on the pavement and gazed up at the front of the block. The flats looked as if they had been under siege from light artillery. Big chunks of plaster had fallen off and the windows of a burnt-out flat on the first floor had been boarded up. At first he had walked right past Fredriksen’s blue house; the cold seemed to have sucked all the colour out of the buildings and made all the house fronts in Hausmanns gate the same. It was only when he saw ‘Vestbredden’ – West Bank – scrawled on the wall of a squat that he realised he had walked too far. A crack in the glass of the front door was shaped like a V. V for victory.

Jon shivered in his windcheater and was glad the Salvation Army uniform underneath was made of pure, thick wool. When Jon had gone to be kitted out with his new uniform after Officer Training School, none of the regular sizes had fitted him, so he had been issued some material and sent to a tailor, who blew smoke into his face and said apropos of nothing that he rejected Jesus as his personal redeemer. However, the tailor did a good job and Jon thanked him warmly; he was not used to made-to-measure clothes. That was why he had a stoop, it was said. Those who saw him coming up Hausmanns gate that afternoon might well have thought he was bent over to keep out of the ice-cold December wind sweeping icicles and frozen litter along the pavements as the heavy traffic thundered by. But those who knew him said that Jon Karlsen stooped to take the edge off his height. And to reach down to those smaller than him. As he did now, to drop the twenty-kroner coin in the brown paper cup held by a filthy, trembling hand next to the doorway.

‘How’s it going?’ Jon asked the human bundle sitting cross-legged on a piece of cardboard on the pavement in the swirling snow.

‘I’m in the queue for methadone treatment,’ the piteous person said in a halting, monotonous voice like an ill-rehearsed psalm, while staring at Jon’s black uniformed knees.

‘You should go down to our café in Urtegata,’ Jon said. ‘Warm up a bit and get some food and …’

The rest was drowned in the roar of the traffic as the lights behind them changed to green.

‘No time,’ the bundle replied. ‘You wouldn’t have a fifty note, would you?’ Jon never ceased to be surprised by drug addicts’ unwavering focus. He sighed and thrust a hundred-kroner note in the cup.

‘See if you can find some warm clothes at Fretex. If not, we’ve got some new winter jackets at the Lighthouse. You’ll freeze to death in that thin denim jacket.’

He was resigned to the fact that he was speaking to someone who already knew the gift would be used to buy dope, but so what? It was the same refrain, yet another of the irresolvable moral dilemmas that filled his days.

Jon pressed the bell once again. He saw his reflection in the dirty shop window beside the doorway. Thea said he was a big man. He wasn’t big at all. He was small. A small soldier. But when he was finished the little soldier would sprint down Møllerveien, across the river Akerselva, where East Oslo and Grünerløkka started, over Sofienberg Park to Gøteborggata 4, which the Army owned and rented out to its employees, unlock the door to entrance B, say hello to one of the other tenants he hoped would assume he was on his way to his flat on the third floor. However, he would take the lift to the fourth, go through the loft space to the A building, make sure the coast was clear, then head for Thea’s door and tap out their prearranged signal. And she would open the door and her arms, into which he could creep and thaw out.

Something was trembling.

At first he thought it was the ground, the city, the foundations. He put down the bag and delved into his pocket. His mobile phone was vibrating in his hand. The display showed Ragnhild’s number. It was the third time today. He knew he could not put it off any longer; he would have to tell her. That he and Thea were getting engaged. When he had found the right words. He put the phone back in his pocket and avoided looking at his reflection. But he made up his mind. He would stop being a coward. He would be frank. Be a big soldier. For Thea in Gøteborggata. For his father in Thailand. For the Lord above.

‘Yes,’ came the shout from the loudspeaker above the bells.

‘Oh, hi. This is Jon.’


‘Jon from the Salvation Army.’

Jon waited.

‘What do you want?’ the voice crackled.

‘I’ve got some food for you. I thought you might need—’

‘Got any cigarettes?’

Jon swallowed and stamped his boots in the snow. ‘No, I only had enough money for food this time.’


It went quiet again.

‘Hello?’ Jon shouted.

‘Yeah, yeah. I’m thinking.’

‘If you want, I’ll come back later.’

The mechanism buzzed and Jon quickly pushed open the door.

Inside the stairwell there were newspapers, empty bottles and frozen yellow pools of urine. Thanks to the cold weather Jon did not have to inhale the pervasive, bitter-sweet stench that filled the hallway on milder days.

He tried to walk without making much noise, but his footsteps reverberated on the stairs anyway. The woman standing in the doorway and waiting for him was ogling the bags. To avoid looking him in the eye, Jon thought. She had that same bloated, swollen face that came with many years of addiction, was overweight and wore a filthy white T-shirt under her dressing gown. A stale smell emanated from the door.

Jon stopped on the landing and put down the bags. ‘Is your husband in, too?’

‘Yes, he’s in,’ she said in mellifluous French.

She was good-looking. High cheekbones and large, almond-shaped eyes. Narrow, bloodless lips. And well dressed. At any rate, the bit of her he could see through the crack in the door was well dressed.

Instinctively, he adjusted his red neckerchief.

The security lock between them was made of solid brass and attached to a heavy oak door without a nameplate. While standing outside the block in avenue Carnot waiting for the concierge to open the door, he had noticed that everything seemed new and expensive, the door furniture, the bells, the cylinder locks. And the fact that the pale yellow facade and the white shutters were covered in an unsightly, dirty layer of black pollution served to emphasise the established and solid nature of this district of Paris even more. Original oil paintings hung in the hallway.

‘What do you want?’

The eyes and the intonation were neither friendly nor unfriendly, but contained perhaps a smidgeon of scepticism because of his terrible French pronunciation.

‘A message, madame.’

She hesitated. But acted as expected in the end.

‘Alright. Could you wait here please, and I’ll get him?’

She shut the door and the lock fell into position with a well-oiled click. He stamped his feet. He ought to learn to speak better French. His mother had force-fed him English in the evenings, but she had never sorted out his French. He stared at the door. French knickers. French letter. Good-looking.

He thought about Giorgi. Giorgi of the white smile was one year older than he was, so twenty-eight now. Was he still as good-looking? Blond and small and pretty like a girl? He had been in love with Giorgi, in the unprejudiced, unconditional way that only children can fall in love.

He heard steps coming from inside. A man’s steps. Someone fiddling with the lock. A blue connecting line between work and freedom, from here to soap and urine. The snow would come soon. He prepared himself.

The man’s face appeared in the doorway.

‘What the fuck do you want?’

Jon lifted the plastic bags and ventured a smile. ‘Fresh bread. Smells good, doesn’t it.’

Fredriksen laid a large brown hand on the woman’s shoulder and pushed her away. ‘All I can smell is Christian blood …’ It was said with clear, sober diction, but the washed-out irises in the bearded face told a different story. The eyes tried to focus on the bags of shopping. He looked like a large, powerful man who had shrunk inside. His skeleton and even his cranium had become smaller inside the skin that drooped, three sizes too big, from the malevolent face. Fredriksen ran a grubby finger over the fresh cuts along the bridge of his nose.

‘You’re not going to preach now, are you.’

‘No, actually I wanted—’

‘Oh, come on, soldier. You want something back for this, don’t you. My soul, for example.’

Jon shivered in his uniform. ‘It’s not me who deals with souls, Fredriksen. But I can arrange for food, so—’

‘Oh, you can manage a little sermon first.’

‘As I said—’

‘A sermon!’

Jon stood looking at Fredriksen.

‘Give us a sermon with that wet little cunt-hole of yours!’ Fredriksen yelled. ‘A sermon so that we can eat with a good conscience, you condescending Christian bastard. Come on, get it over with. What’s God’s message today?’

Jon opened his mouth and closed it again. Swallowed. Tried again and this time his vocal cords responded. ‘The message is that He gave His only son, who died … for our sins.’

‘You’re lying!’

‘No, I’m afraid I’m not,’ Harry said, observing the terrified face of the man in the doorway in front of him. There was a smell of lunch and a rattle of cutlery in the background. A family man. A father. Until now. The man scratched his forearm and gazed at a spot above Harry’s head as if someone were there. The scratching made an unpleasant rasping noise.

The rattle of cutlery had stopped. The shuffle of feet came to a halt behind the man and a small hand was placed on his shoulder. A woman’s face with large red eyes peeped out.

‘What is it, Birger?’

‘This policeman has something to tell us,’ Birger said in a monotone.

‘What?’ the woman said looking at Harry. ‘Is it about our son? Is it about Per?’

‘Yes, fru Holmen,’ Harry said and saw the fear steal into her eyes. He searched for the impossible words. ‘We found him two hours ago. Your son is dead.’

He had to look away.

‘But he … he … where …?’ Her eyes jumped from Harry to the man who kept scratching his arm.

Won’t be long before he draws blood, Harry thought, and cleared his throat. ‘In a container by the harbour. What we feared. He’s been dead for a good while.’

Birger Holmen seemed to lose his balance, staggered backwards into the lit hallway and grabbed a hatstand. The woman stepped forward and Harry saw the man fall to his knees behind her.

Harry breathed in and shoved his hand inside his coat. The metal hip flask was ice-cold against his fingertips. He found what he was looking for and pulled out an envelope. He hadn’t written the letter, but knew the contents all too well. The brief official notification of death, stripped of all the verbiage. The bureaucratic act of pronouncing death.

‘I’m sorry, but it’s my job to give you this.’

‘Your job to do what?’ said the small, middle-aged man with the exaggerated mondaine French pronunciation uncharacteristic of the upper classes but of those who strive to belong. The visitor studied him. Everything matched the photograph in the envelope, even the mean-spirited tie-knot and the loose red smoking jacket.

He didn’t know what this man had done wrong. He doubted it had been physical because despite the irritation in his expression his body language was defensive, almost anxious, even in the door to his own home. Had he been stealing money, embezzling? He could be the type to work with figures. But not the big sums. His attractive wife notwithstanding, he looked more like the kind who helped himself to small change here and there. He might have been unfaithful, might have slept with the wife of the wrong man. No. As a rule, short men with above average assets and wives much more attractive than themselves are more concerned with her infidelity. The man annoyed him. He slipped his hand into his pocket.

‘This,’ he said, resting the barrel of a Llama Minimax, which he had bought for just three hundred dollars, on the taut brass door chain, ‘is my job.’

He pointed the silencer. It was a plain metal tube, made by a gunsmith in Zagreb, and screwed to the barrel. The black gaffer tape lashed round where the two parts met was to make it airtight. Of course, he could have bought a so-called quality silencer for over a hundred euros, but why? No one could silence the sound of a bullet breaking the sound barrier, of the hot gas meeting the cold air and the mechanical metal parts striking each other. Pistols with silencers that sounded like popcorn under a lid were pure Hollywood.

The explosion was like the crack of a whip. He pressed his face against the narrow opening.

The man in the photo was gone; he had fallen backwards without a sound. The hall was dark, but in the wall mirror he saw the sliver of light from the door and his magnified eye framed in gold. The dead man lay on a thick burgundy carpet. Persian? Perhaps he had had money after all?

Now he had a little hole in his forehead.

He looked up and met the eyes of the wife. If it was his wife. She was standing in the doorway of another room. Behind her, a large, yellow oriental lamp. She had her hand in front of her mouth and was staring at him. He gave a brief nod. Then he carefully closed the door, put the gun back in his shoulder holster and began to walk down the stairs. He never used the lift when he was making his getaway. Or rented cars or motorbikes or anything else that could malfunction. And he didn’t run. He didn’t talk or shout; the voice could be identified.

The getaway was the most critical part of the job, but also the part he loved best. It was like flying, a dreamless nothing.

The concierge, a woman, had come out of her flat on the ground floor and watched him in bewilderment. He whispered an Au revoir, madame, but she glared back in silence. When she was questioned by the police in an hour’s time, they would ask her for a description. And she would oblige. A man, normal appearance, medium height. Twenty years old. Or thirty perhaps. Not forty anyway, she thought.

He emerged into the street. The low rumble of Paris, like thunder that never came any closer, but never stopped either. He discarded his Llama Minimax in a skip he had chosen for the purpose beforehand. Two new, unfired guns from the same manufacturer awaited his return in Zagreb. He had been given a bulk-purchase discount.

When the airport bus passed Porte de la Chapelle half an hour later, on the motorway between Paris and Charles de Gaulle, the air was full of snowflakes. They settled on the scattered strands of pale yellow straw pointing stiffly upwards to the grey sky.

After checking in for his flight and going through security control, he went straight to the men’s toilets. He stood at the end of the line of white bowls, unbuttoned and sprayed the white urinal blocks at the bottom of the bowl. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the sweet smell of paradichlorobenzene and the lemon fragrance enhancer from J & J Chemicals. The connecting line to freedom had one stop left. He rolled the name on his tongue. Os-lo.


Sunday, 14 December. The Bite.

IN THE RED zone on the sixth floor of Police HQ, the concrete and glass colossus with the largest concentration of police in Norway, Harry sat back in his chair in room 605. This was the office that Halvorsen – the young policeman Harry shared the ten square metres with – liked to call the Clearing House. And that Harry, when Halvorsen had to be taken down a peg or two, called In-House Training.

But at this moment Harry was on his own, staring at the wall where the window might have been if the Clearing House had such a thing.

It was Sunday; he had written the report and could go home. So why didn’t he? Through the imaginary window he saw the fenced-off harbour in Bjørvika where fresh snow lay like confetti on the green, red and blue containers. The case was solved. Per Holmen, a young heroin addict, had had enough of life and had taken his final shot inside a container. From a gun. No external signs of violence; the gun down by his side. As far as the undercover boys knew, Per Holmen did not owe any money. When dealers execute junkies with debts, they don’t usually try to camouflage it as something else. Quite the contrary. A cut-and-dried case of suicide then. So why waste the evening ferreting round a grim, wind-blown container terminal where all he would find was more sorrow and grief?

Harry looked at his woollen coat hanging on the hatstand. The small hip flask in the inside pocket was full. And untouched since he went to the vinmonopol