Wallander - The Woman from Malmo - 4


by Andrea Lena DiMaggio

Based on characters created by Henning Mankell
and the BBC and Swedish series Wallander
- the story takes place after this author's Wallander - Tvillingar

To let myself go
To let myself flow
Is the only way of being

There's no use telling me
There's no use taking a step back
A step back for me


“Can you meet me over at the conference room with your dad? I need a moment.”

“Sure,” Linda said. She smiled and walked out of the office, leaving Kim to her thoughts. Off-putting would barely describe her demeanor. One might have worried about Inspector Svedin’s almost cloying behavior. But she knew from experience it was almost easier to push people away with sweetness, however authentic.

Kim did want to work with Linda, but she also feared that the partnership was already too close for comfort. She wasn’t disappointed at all in her new partner. Kim Svedin was disappointed in herself because as much as she tried not to, Kim was falling in love with Inspector Linda Wallander.

The Woman from Malmo
Chapter 4 – Tro (Faith)

Kurt’s office... A few days later…

“I’m going to drive out to Anne-Brit’s cousin’s place tomorrow. The girl they’ve been fostering, you know?” Kurt said without looking up.

“Inger,” a voice at the door spoke softly, but when he raised his head he found that it was Inspector Svedin instead of Linda. He removed his reading glasses and wiped the sleep from his eyes as if that might help him understand why the newest member of the team knew the girl’s name. Kim noticed his expression and spoke.

“I gather Chief Mattson might have mentioned a bit about me before he went on medical leave?” Kurt nodded absentmindedly. Lisa Holgersson had returned on an interim basis, but Mattson had been the one to bring Kim on board before he left. If Mattson had indeed provided him with such information, he likely had it written down, since even the most benign of information might be capricious enough to get lost in the ether or actually be at a recollection’s notice or at least a slip of paper. He looked around on his desk for his notebook. Kim noticed and spoke,

“I have a close friend who runs the girls’ support group.” Even Kurt could bring to memory that names are confidential outside the group, and his eyes closed slowly to push past the day’s fog to make sense.

“I visited once a few years ago, Chief Inspector,” she said, leaving Kurt even more perplexed until his eyes widened in clarity. A quick memory jolted him as he recalled the death of one of the Inspectors – Svenburg – who had been murdered by a man who adopted a female persona on and off to commit his crimes. But Kurt settled in slowly and his mind walked him past that to the week he had met the girl Inger through the suicide of her sister. Girls like Inger were girls.

“You too?”

His question was as polite as could be expected from a man suffering the ebbs and flows of dementia. He smiled and nodded as if Kim might have admitted to being a collector of stamps or a dog lover.

“Yes. By the way, one of the girls in my friend’s group ... no last names, please... Kim smiled slightly as she formed her next thought.

“The girl – Inger -mentioned a nice man and his friends who saved her.” She smiled at the words ‘nice man,’ recalling that her own father had been able to be what some describe as a ‘good dementia’ all the way up to his passing. Kurt was finding it easier if still somewhat difficult to withhold his frustrations. Spending more time with his granddaughter had helped him to be as nice as was humanly possible. And hearing Inger’s name seemed to reinforce what success he still had.

‘I’m glad....no, sorry...I’m relieved that someone is working this case knows how these girls feel.” He was still moving his attention back and forth between her and his desk, and did not notice the brief frown that flashed across her face. At one time she might have resented what could have been taken as presumption, but remembering that Inger had been brought to a place of being herself with the presence of Anne-Brit and her cousin’s family and Kurt as well.

“Yes,” she said slowly, debating whether or not to reveal more of herself. No need to burden him with too much information, at least at the moment, she thought. She went with only what he inferred.

“It’s so hard to be a teen to begin with, yeah? Add to that gender issues and often without any or with little family support.” It was almost a muse until Kurt replied, perhaps with too much information.

“Linda was so troubled at that age. Mona and I fought constantly and she was in the middle. She ... we nearly lost her...” Kurt paused and Kim raised her hand in caution.

“It’s... Please? Let’s change the subject?” He looked at her quizzically until insight dragged a grin out for display.

“Oh, right. The girls are vulnerable maybe three or four times over any kid that age.” Kim nodded. Of course it was important not to be too personal, but she really also wanted to know as little as possible about Linda unless she heard it from Linda herself.

“The literature is helpful but it’s also important to get your perspective, yeah?”

“As a transsexual, Chief Inspector?” She hadn’t meant to cut him off but her words were still abrupt.

“As a woman police inspector who has insight because of her own experience.” He smiled, which barely diffused her frustration until he finished.

“We all bring our own perspectives into our work here, Inspector Svedin. I know what it’s like to lose a parent to the same beast that resides in my house,” he said with a slight frown. Linda knows the pain of a broken family. You know what these girls have felt. Yes, I read your file. As much as it might have felt wrong to share your entire history, as an adult.....” He paused and his face almost contorted in frustration until Kim interjected.

“Survivor, Chief Inspector,” she spoke almost dispassionately out of reflex, wanting to be as professional as possible. He waved slightly.

“Yes.... Kim,” he said. The mention of her name almost startled her.

“It sometimes helps not to leave home at home. You’re here because, as much of a very good police woman as you are, your life may be a big part of how we...” He paused, but it was not dementia but clarity that finished his thought.

“How we defeat this evil.” She noticed almost a look of disgust appear until he finished.

“For that and for the facts that I can no longer do what I used to.... And that you’re one damn fine Inspector...why you are here.” He returned his attention to his desk in a continued effort to locate his notebook and didn’t notice Kim leave the office.

Years before....

“How does that feel?” The woman smiled at the girl. She was looking down and away slightly, almost avoiding the question.

“I think it’s hard when there are people in your life who don’t get along.”

“No, sorry, Linda but you’re doing it again. Your life. Your feelings. How did the arguing make you feel?” The woman was insistent, but the half-smile was not judgmental, and coaxed Linda ‘into herself,’ as the group was frequently reminded.

“I think...” She caught herself and paused. She wanted to keep control but that never worked.

“They argued.... and I felt like things...” Dr. Arnesson smiled but also held her upturned right hand out just a bit and waved.

“I felt like... I couldn’t do enough to... I know that wasn’t the case...”

“You know that now, Linda, but how did you feel then? You used a word last time. Do you remember?” Linda looked puzzled. She was honestly trying to get in touch with her emotions. Dr. Arnesson noticed her struggle.

“We always feel even if we don’t know how.” A girl sitting across from Linda spoke softly, even as she raised her hand slightly to seek permission to share.

“I know that my... I never told anyone what my cousin did, but my feelings...” The girl pulled back her sweater sleeves and gazed at the scars across her wrist. Linda’s eyes were drawn to the barely perceptible scars hidden by her blouse.

“I felt. It hurt so bad and I never told anyone until I told my sister a couple of months ago.” She sighed as if she had transgressed by adding to the moment.

“You’re exactly right, Anneke.” Dr. Arnesson nodded slightly in encouragement and returned her attention to Linda without another word. Linda took a breath.

“I guess...” She paused and frowned before continuing. The need to be right for everyone’s sake was slowly being replaced with an understanding about being ‘right’ about own her needs.

“The word you used?” Dr. Arnesson prompted her with yet another half-smile. Linda nodded and continued.

“It felt like I couldn’t fix things with my mom and dad. And I couldn’t get them...” She paused and another girl asked,

“You couldn’t keep them together?” Linda laughed softly and the girl leaned toward her a bit.

“No...Actually I couldn’t get them to separate. They were fighting all the time about everything and I wanted it so bad to stop. But it felt like things would never change. They stayed together for my sake. I felt so....the word I used - helpless.” Dr. Arnesson nodded slightly but offered no other prompt. Linda resumed.

“It felt like if I.... it was my fault and the only way to feel better....” Her voice trailed off and Anneke turned to Dr. Arnesson shook her head no, but not in rebuke. The girl smiled and spoke softly.

“It’s okay, Linda.” The calm kindness in the girl’s voice seemed to lift Linda out of her impasse. Linda raised her head and everyone would note later that it was the first time Linda wept openly. She sighed and completed the sentence nearly all of the girls had said in one way or another.

“It hurt so much....I…it felt like I couldn’t trust life…. No faith that life would get any better. The only way was to not feel at all.” She put her hand to her face in needless but understandable shame...

The present...

Kim sat at her desk, staring almost blankly at an old photo in her wallet. Linda knocked on the open door.

“Chief Holgersson says Martinsson is busy mentoring the new guy and can only drop by to help next week. She felt a buzzing from her jacket pocket and pulled out her cell phone. “I just got a call from the hospital.”

“Yeah, me too. The girl is speaking. I was just about to text you.”

“My car?” Linda held up her keys. Kim stood and touched her hip, feeling her gun in place under her jacket. Linda tilted her head in question.

“Something I always do, I suppose. You never know.” Linda nodded. One of the first indications that alerted everyone to her father’s illness was when he left his loaded service weapon at a restaurant, which resulted in a brief suspension and a small loss of pay. That was the easy part. The implications were much harder to accept, but he seemed to be making peace with each succeeding loss. Kim noticed Linda’s expression and added,

‘We’re of course supposed to be armed, but it’s also because one case I was assigned to early after the academy? A rapist went to the hospital and tried to finish his evil. You...Like waves... They just keep coming...” She sighed a bit before finishing.

“Give us a second to grab some coffee on the way out?” She smiled and Linda nodded in agreement, but her face was almost blank.

“No hurry,” Linda said as she followed Kim down the hall.

Years before...

There's no use telling me
There's no use taking a step back
A step back for me

To let myself go
To let myself flow
Is the only way of being

“So much that it still hurts...” The boy sat on the edge of the couch. The man leaned closer but still seemed a bit distant. Barely a year past the assault, the boy grew less and less in the moment, but still felt damaged.

“Yes,” the man nodded with a slightly glum look on his face. The boy went to speak and the man smiled, but added,

“What did you say last time about those boys?”

“That.... they kept shouting and laughing. You and me...I said it was theirs to own...” a long pause prompted the man to help.

“Own what?”

“The guilt?” He looked at the man, seeking approval. But that had to come from inside..

“The guilt. I did nothing except...” Another pause as a few tears began to well in his eyes; tears of insight and release.

“I just was...” The end of the thought almost seemed to get stuck and needed a push from behind and within. The boy looked away and shrugged. A moment later he changed the subject, but only slightly.

“Lars...My...” The hesitation was almost always present. The man nodded once.

“It’s okay. Use whatever you need to say how you feel.”

“My step-father....hated me right from the start, but...” The man offered no prompt. The boy was moving forward even if he seemed stuck.

“He hit you.”

It wasn’t quite a question but it seemed to urge the boy forward like the family member who sit in the stands and root for the kid running on the track. Even now, almost on the verge of the rest of his life, he starved for that hope... And even so, the man and others had come alongside of him to replace the ones who never cheered for the race the boy’s life had become. A marathon with spectators that seemed to instill tro, a faith not so much in god but a faith in himself and perhaps in life itself.

“It was when I first told them. Momma had already married Lars and Poppa wasn’t...”

“You hadn’t yet gone to live with him.” Another urge from the ‘stands.”

“He told me he wanted me to but they wouldn’t let him... even before Lars left Momma.... because....”

“What was the word he used?” The first ‘real’ question still helped the boy, as painful as the memories promised to become.

“Pervers,” the boy flinched, as if his stepfather was standing in front of him with his arm raised to strike. Other images quickly flooded the moment. The abuse directed toward his mother simply because she had brought the boy into the world.

The boy began to cry, almost too softly for the moment, but actually a testimony to his progress as the sobs subsided quickly. He rubbed his cheek. At seventeen, between the work of the doctors and the passage of time, the long thin scar had almost retreated, finally leaving the inner repair time and strength to heal.

“But?” Short but entirely on target. The man smiled at the boy.

“I’m who I am.” The boy gazed down and actually smiled at himself in approval.

“Yes you are.”

“I think that’s why....” He began to cry once again. Multiple wounds to the soul don’t always heal at the same pace.

“He hurt you because he could. Not because of who you are, right?” The boy had already come to that conclusion months ago, but needed to be reaffirmed.

“Am I doing okay? I want to be who I am. But...but I’m afraid they’ll say no because of...” He looked down at himself, taking inventory. The small contour under his windbreaker gave testimony at least to his unique uniqueness, to coin a phrase.

“You will say everything they need to hear, and I will make sure I’m right there with you.” The man smiled. The boy was about as brave as anyone he’d ever known, but it was the boy’s tenacity and resolve that gave the man a confidence that everything would work out in the boy’s favor.

“Have you considered my suggestion?” The boy looked down at himself and back at the man.

“Poppa says that his job has him going to Malmo in December. And soon University next year where I can begin again? You’ll keep in touch?” The boy returned his gaze to his body. The royal blue high school windbreaker and light blue plain tee shirt were unremarkable. The man followed the boy’s gaze further down and noticed that unlike some kids his age, the boy’s ....rather the girl’s skirt was almost calf-length. Navy blue corduroy over black boots.

“Plenty of time before you go. And you’ve already begun to begin again. Same name I suppose. It fits either way, and it suits you.” The man smiled warmly as the newish girl spoke with an almost burgeoning confidence.

“Yes, the middle name is new, after my Mormor, Poppa’s mother... Anna. But I’m still Kim Svedin...

The house...

The wind that squeezed through the chinks in the attic wall could have felt cooling for the girl, had she been awake. But just like all the others, she had passed out from the onslaught of pain inflicted by the man. Soon... not just yet, but soon he would take no care in concealing who he was. That would be of little comfort to the girl on the table other than that up to this point, his anonymity insured her survival.

“Weakling. You’re pitiful, little boy,” he snarled. His only disappointment is that his cruelty was always staunched when the subject was too distracted or unconscious from the pain. Each succeeding opportunity left him more and more frustrated since he had nothing with which to keep them awake. More and more physical cruelty resulted in quiet murmurs and weeping without screams. He glared at the girl and shook his head before walking down the attic stairs...

At the hospital...

The girl had been transferred out of intensive care and was on the med surgical floor to recover from her wounds. Kim and Linda walked to the nurses’ station where a tall woman in a lab coat was speaking with one of the nurses. The woman turned and offered her hand.

“Ingrid Danielsson. I’m the attending. Dr. Nillsson is with her, but she’ll join us in a few moments.

“She’s speaking?” Linda asked with a half-smile. The woman returned the expression to them both.

“I’m afraid it’s not much. Hopefully enough to at least learn where she’s from and who she is? She said the word ‘house’ but she was in near hysterics. She’s done nothing much other than clutch the toy dog. She’s hummed a tune I’m not familiar with as if the dog was real. Other than that? I take it her description has been broadcast?”

“Yes, but no one has reported a missing...”Kim frowned in frustration. In an effort to protect the girl, the detail of her transgender ‘status’ had not been included. Kim could only hope that no matter who her family was, her absence was enough to get some... any report of a specific missing child. At that moment, Dr. Nillsson appeared.

“She’s at least more restful. I debated how much to sedate her, but with the support we’re providing, I believe she can handle whatever she remembers. But for now, it’s just ‘house,’ though she was much calmer after she had repeated it this last time. It’s too easy to see her as just a nameless victim. One of the night nurses has taken to calling the girl Tro... with a trust... a faith, I suppose that we’ll see an end to this? I’m sorry. Even doctors struggle with objectivity. My niece... her name is Astrid, but it used to be Sven.”

“I have an idea, but certainly it would have to be approved?” Linda spoke, but she automatically looked to Kim for approval. Kim nodded, but added,

“Go ahead, Inspector Wallander.” Linda almost lapsed into questioning the formality, but at once reminded herself that it was really Kim’s way of affirming her partner.

“There’s a girl... from a case my father worked on a few years ago. She’s transgender.” Kim nodded and added only the girl’s name.

“Inger?” Linda wondered how Kim knew the girl’s name. It hadn’t occurred to her that Kim likely knew several girls like Inger, and she shook her head in frustration. Hadn’t she gotten past the surprise of Kim’s history? She was open-minded, wasn’t she? She continued.

“The girl... Inger... Is staying at the home of a former colleague’s relative... unofficial foster care? According to what my Dad told me. Inger knows the girls from the support group in Malmo. She might know this girl?”

“Wouldn’t the group already be missing someone?” Dr. Danielsson asked. Kim spoke up.

“Not necessarily. The group isn’t all that old, and kids come and go for different reasons. She might not have attended or been at the meeting on a night that Inger was absent.” She paused and Linda nodded.

“Even so, she may have heard something? My dad spoke to her last week, and he says she’s very determined to help.”

“It sounds like a good plan,” Dr. Nillsson remarked and all four women nodded. A nurse walked up to Dr. Danielsson and spoke.

“Please excuse me? I have a meeting to be at, and normally I’d arrive late, but I called the meeting in the first place.” She laughed, evoking a smile from Linda, which in turn evoked a non-displayed frustrated frown from Kim. Dr. Nillsson spoke.

“I will update you both by text if anything changes, and I hope that the girl? What’s her name again?” Linda looked at Kim as if to seek permission. The look she received back was almost impatient, as if to say, ‘Well? Go ahead.’

“Inger... Inger Erickson.” Dr. Nillsson used her hand in a gesture to indicate she understood before walking away. Linda turned and faced Kim.

“Did I do something wrong?” Kim shook her head, wondering how she could fit a real life of her own into a world that didn’t clash. She smiled and sighed.

“No...Inspector Wallander.... You didn’t do anything wrong. We’re all good.”

Two days later in a darkened McDonalds parking lot on the outskirts of Lund, just before 3 am...

The girl stood shivering behind the dumpster. The night was almost unseasonably cold. She looked around, but saw that apart from a streetlamp further down the block, the only light was an almost eerie glow from inside the restaurant. She started walking down the street, the dirty blanket’s edge dragged behind her like some bizarre royal train.

After walking almost two miles, between the emerging sun and more streetlights, she noticed a brightly lit building. She walked across the street and walked up the few steps to the front door of what appeared to be an all-night restaurant. Opening the door, she was unnoticed at first. The waitress was just walking in from the kitchen and her attention was focused on a large man sitting at the other end of the counter. A man to her left looked up and saw her. Standing up quickly, he rushed to her side.

“Oh god, kid?” He practically shouted as she collapsed in his arms. The waitress hurried to their side.

“I called emergency. Get her into the booth,” she said, pointing to her right. A few moments later the girl had downed a bottle of water and was alert. A few minutes after that a patrol car pulled up and two officers – a man and a woman – walked into the restaurant and up to the booth. The girl looked up, as if she had been expecting them.

“What happened? Who did this?” The woman cop asked as an EMT van pulled up. Even with her still clutching the dirty blanket, between the reports and the girl’s appearance, they already feared the worst. The girl began to cry, but as the waitress drew closer to comfort her, she saw that the girl was angry and didn’t’ appear sad at all.

“Who did this,” the woman cop repeated. The girl shook her head and bit her lip.”

“Can you tell them your name, honey,” the waitress asked. The girl looked at her and at everyone around the booth and said calmly,

“Inger.... Inger Eriksson.”

There's no use telling me
There's no use taking a step back
A step back for me

To let myself go
To let myself flow
Is the only way of being

Next: Kärlek (Love )

To Let Myself Go
As performed by the composer
Ane Brun

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