by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Crow fly be my alibi
And return this fable on your wing
Take it far away to where gypsies play
Beneath metal stars by the bridge
Saturday - 6:51 am – The Jensen farm; about twelve kilometers from the outskirts of Ystad….
The sway of the Hawthorns on both sides seemed a bit distracting, which Kurt welcomed. Another phone call before dawn. He left the Saab by the road and began walking down the mud-crusted driveway a hundred meters or so. The rain had let up but the mud made the driveway almost impassable. He sighed. The Rapeseed covered the ground just beyond the trees on both sides of the driveway almost as far as the eye could see. He shuddered at the memory from the not-nearly-distant enough past that still plagued his dreams at night and inserted themselves at the worst times during the day.*(see below)
“Over here,” Anne-Britt called with a wave of the hand. He looked off to his right and nodded. A few steps through a gap In the thicket that lined the driveway, and he paced slowly to the large barn where Anne-Britt and Nyberg stood talking with a tall man in overalls; Jensen, the owner of the farm and the person whose call dragged Kurt out of bed at 5:47 am.
“What have you got,” Kurt said; wincing almost at the prospect of another stare-down with his demons. Cold sober at 7:02 was a huge improvement over the recent past, but even the thought of the task ahead of him made him long for a drink. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes reflexively as Anne-Britt pointed to the dark cavern-like barn just inside the doorway. Nyberg nodded; as if to anticipate Kurt’s reaction.
After what they had seen only months before, the thought of another teen taking her life was still painful for them all, but most of all for Kurt; the witness of the horrific self-immolation of the girl in a field not very far from the one surrounding the farmhouse and barn. He peered into the barely lit barn; the girl’s body had been cut down, and the end of the noose still dangled from a rafter above.
“She’s probably been here since last evening. Cold to the touch, but we won’t know until we get her back to the station. Doc couldn’t make it. He’s stuck already with that accident with the Halberg woman last night.” Nyberg looked away. It was hard enough bearing his own memories, but it had become almost difficult to look at Kurt since the other girl had taken her life.
“She’s about sixteen or so. There’s something else.” Anne-Britt said softly as she beckoned Kurt aside while nodding to Nyberg.
“Why don’t we go sit down and take your statement?” He said to the farmer as he ushered him out of the barn and out of earshot toward the farmhouse. Anne-Britt waited until they were almost to the front porch before she spoke
“The child left a note. Mr. Jensen didn’t see it or maybe just ignored it. I found it in the inner pocket of her jacket. She laid it carefully as if she planned to wear it again.” She gasped at the idea. Was the girl having second thoughts?
“The note is in her own hand, from what I gather. We’ll have to get a sample from her parents. Her… That’s just it.” She shook her head and pointed to the girl’s neck. A fresh rope burn did little to hide what lay beneath.
“I can see,” Kurt half-frowned. He mirrored her gesture and shook his head slightly before blowing out a long breath.
“This is Sweden…not god-damned America,’ he said angrily. Kurt’s eyes began to water. He had a neighbor once with a child just like the girl lying on the cold dirty straw in the barn. He glared at Anne-Britt but his expression changed immediately as he shook his head again. She handed him the identity card she had found in the girls purse.
The Efternamn was no surprise. Many Ericksons in Skane and Ystad; Kurt even had an Erickson for a cousin. But the Forenamn was a shock.
“Lucas Alexander,” he mouthed almost silently. Anne-Britt shuddered at the thought of how things would work out when they visited the parents. Kurt removed that burden alone from her and half-frowned.
“Hard enough, yes? Well, we’ll both go to the home and fetch them for the ID,” he said as he noticed flashing lights down the drive. A few minutes later, the techs had placed a gurney next to the girl’s body.
“Bög,” one of the men said with a chuckle, evoking a scowl from the young woman attendant. Kurt walked up to the man and practically pushed him as he poked his finger at the man’s chest.
“She is someone’s child. Have some respect.” The man backed away, and his flippancy was replaced by a near reverence as he and the woman gently placed the girl in a body bag for transport.
“Arsel….” Kurt said as another attendant joined the two and carried the gurney back to the ambulance at the end of the driveway. Anne-Brit resisted the urge to console her boss and just nodded as he repeated himself. He might have been angry at the ambulance attendant but his outrage and surprisingly intrusive sorrow was reserved solely for the loss of a child who could not live the way she was born and likely found it impossible to live the way she was meant to be……
7:39 am – the Erickson home…
Kurt stood back as Anne-Britt rang the door bell. A few moments later a man’s voice was heard.
“Damn it, who the hell could be calling at….get the damned door, boy!” A moment after that the door opened, revealing a slight looking teen. Anne-Britt stepped back and spoke.
“Excuse me, miss? Are your parents home?” She knew the loud voice probably belonged to the girl’s father, but she was already wrong in her assessment.
“Damn, it, Ulf. Who the hell is at the door?” Anne-Britt’s face grew red in embarrassment. The boy’s face mirrored her own and he turned away.
“I’m sorry. Is that your father? May we speak with him? Is your mother home?” He turned back, his body shaking. Anne-Britt placed her hand on the boy’s arm in assurance.
“Mamma died when we were little. Yes. That’s my father. Pappa? Someone to see you?”
“Can’t you handle it?” His father called out again. Kurt nodded to the young man and stepped past him into the house.
“We’re from the police. Do you have a son….” Kurt paused as he noticed the boy’s face grow pale.
“A son named Lucas?”
“My brother? Is he okay?” The boy’s eyes widened in fear.
“Damn it, what the fuck has that boy been up to now?” The man stepped into the living room from the kitchen. He stank of beer, and not from the night before.”
“I’m afraid there’s been…” Anne-Britt interrupted but Kurt held his hand up; not to overrule her, but to bear the brunt of the man’s already belligerent mood.
“Your son was found in a barn on a farm about fifteen kilometers from here. He apparently hanged himself. I’m very sorry.” The boy gasped.
“Whatever for…what did you say your name was?”
“Detective Inspector Wallander. This is Officer Höglund, …..”
“Killed himself? Well, I wondered when he’d finally do something right.”
“Mr. Erickson? This is your son we’re talking about,” Anne-Britt grew redder, but from the anger rising within her. She went to take a step closer but Kurt stood in her way. He shook his head slightly as if to say, let me handle this. He turned and faced the man.
“You’ll have to come down to the station to identify the body. We’ll also need a sample of his writing; he left a note.
“May I see it?” The boy asked.
“It’s at the station. But in cases like these we need a sample to be sure.”
“Of what. Nobody cared enough to kill him.” Kurt glared at the man and he shook his head and walked down the hall. A minute later he thrust a small notebook into Kurt’s hands.
“Fancied himself a writer.” A notebook; Kurt opened it up. The first page was filled with short poems; laments actually, revealing even in the brief words a life of conflict and sadness.
“Don’t you care that your son likely took his own life,” Anne-Britt blurted out. Kurt let it go; the man needed to hear it and from someone who already cared more than his father ever would. He stared at her for a moment before speaking.
“No. I don’t. Go with these fine police officers down and do whatever they need you to do.” He stared at his son until the boy nodded.
“And don’t expect me to pay anything for whatever it is you do with the body. Let the state pay for his costs. Fjolla... my son? Good day,” he spat and with that he walked back into the kitchen; shutting the door behind him.
“Are you sure it’s Lucas?” The boy bit his lip. Kurt nodded slightly.
“I’m sorry for your loss. Yes. We’re quite sure. You do resemble him,” he added. The boy winced at the reminder, but there was something in his eyes that seemed to go beyond mere grief
“We should…we were….we are….twins.” The boy put his hand to his face to cover his tears. Anne-Britt looked at Kurt for approval and he nodded once again. She stepped close to the boy and drew him into a hug as he began to weep.
“I am so sorry,’ she said softly as the boy continued to cry. A few minutes later the three were in Kurt’s Volvo on the way to the station.
8:12 – the morgue….
Anne-Britt stood next to the boy and used her hand to gesture toward a window which was curtained on the other side of the glass.
“We can wait here. The doctor’s assistant will pull back the curtain, and you can look through the window.” Anne-Britt said, rubbing the boy’s back. He turned to her and smiled.
“May I go in…to say goodbye?” She looked at him and remembered the condition the boy had been in when they discovered him. The doctor and the two assistants had been working all early to late morning, and the body had yet to be attended. Which meant the same clothes.
“I’m not so sure you’d want to see him this way.”
“Was he wearing a ….did he have on a long grey wool skirt and a blue sweater?” He asked timidly, as if he had something for which to be ashamed. Anne-Britt nodded slightly.
“And a dark blue Tam and a brown suede coat?” The boy’s expression turned from timid to horrified. He started to shake and she went to hug him. He pulled away as one of the attendants exited the viewing area. Pushing past the man, he hurried into the room. He walked up to the table and pulled back the sheet, revealing the body of teen-aged boy dressed exactly as he had just described. Falling over the body, he began to scream.
A second later the attendant was trying to coax him away from the table, but with no success. Anne-Britt put her hand on the man’s back, urging him to step away. She leaned closer until her face was nearly in front of the boy’s.
“Come with me, Ulf. Let’s go sit down for a few minutes. You can come right back if you like, okay?” The boy looked at her and his face contorted into what looked to be a mixture of anger and guilt as he shook his head.
“Don’t you understand? Don’t you see?”
“See what, Ulf? What are we missing?”
“That’s just it…that’s just it. It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault.” He fell at her feet and held onto her legs as if to beg for forgiveness. She shook her head in frustration, not knowing what to do. The attendant helped the boy to his feet and they both led him into the break area down the hall. He sat down and rested his head on the table; all the while crying and still saying it was all his fault.
9:14 – the break room….
Kurt stood in the hallway just outside, speaking in a hushed tone.
“He hasn’t said anything other than blaming himself? With a father like they have, maybe he feels responsible. The twin has gender issues? Maybe the father is stuck in the 80’s? Still don’t get how anyone now can be so block headed. But the father is one mean son of a bitch. Who can live with that even when you don’t have identity issues?”
“It’s more than that, Kurt. He knew exactly what his brother was wearing. And he seemed more horrified over the manner of death but he didn’t seem surprised about the suicide. When he was able to get a breath, I had him look at the note. We compared it already, and it fit. But he looked at the note and burst into tears all over again, blaming himself.”
“Has he calmed down enough to answer questions?” Kurt peeked over her shoulder and saw that the boy was drinking some coffee or tea and looked fairly calm.
“I think so. If you don’t mind, I’d….”
“Yes…he already has a rapport. Go ahead.” Kurt waved and smiled weakly and they entered the break room. A few minutes later the boy had a refill on what turned out to be cocoa and Kurt and Anne-Britt were sitting at the table with coffee and hopes of getting some understanding of what had driven the brother to take his own life.
“We had already looked at the note, but you confirmed it. You didn’t seem surprised and yet …”
“I….It’s not what you think.” He began to cry softly.
“We can stop for now, if you need more time,’ she said. He looked at her and shook his head no.
“It’s not what you think. I…. the note….you don’t understand.
“What don’t we understand? This is hard on you. Your brother….”
“No….you don’t get it. You have his ID?”
“Can I see it?” He practically begged. She walked out of the room and returned a few minutes later, holding the identity card. The boy snatched it out of her hand and placed it on the table.
“Can’t you see? Looooook,’ he began to cry again. She and Kurt stared at the card, missing whatever point the boy was trying to make.
“This isn’t his card. It’s MINE! Mine…. Those are my clothes. That was my note from last year….when my father found out and beat us. He hated me but he hated my brother more for protecting me.”
“I’m sorry, Ulf. I’m not understanding.”
“You found my brother. Ulf Anders Erickson. I’m the one who was supposed to die. I’m Lucas Alexander Erickson. Not him.”
“You’re not making sense…you’re upset.”
“No…you…. I got my brother killed. Don’t you understand? I’m Lucas. I’m the freak. I’m the one my father couldn’t stand. And I’m the reason why my brother is dead. It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault.”
Kurt’s eyes widened in realization. The boy’s father was already drunk when they arrived at the house; so out of it that he couldn’t tell which twin was at home and which was away. Not only dismissing the loss of his child, but saying in front of the son he thought had died. Cursing both twins in condemning the one. How utterly painful and sad. He looked at the boy’s face, and he felt uncomfortable.
“The note? You said it was from last year? You tried to kill yourself?” Anne-Britt asked as she rubbed the boy’s arm. He pulled away, as if undeserving of the attention.
“Yes….I took a bottle of my father’s pain pills….. I should never have left the note. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d just gone away and killed myself.”
“Why would your brother have done this?” Kurt asked, hoping he was wrong. He wasn’t.
“He didn’t do this. I never showed anyone the note. He just grabbed the jacket it was in. Don’t you understand? They thought he was me. They killed him thinking it was me….”
“Who killed him? Who killed your brother?”
“My….father owes money…. Gambling….a lot of money. He has two mortgages on the house already…. I’ve….I’ve been….” He shook his head and covered his face.
“They…. I was with someone ….he got killed…. And they saw me….I think they saw me…..Ulfie…. I told him…I was so afraid…. He must have….he took my clothes….they think I’m dead…..he died…oh god he died for me…..” He broke down once again and began to sob in Anne-Britt’s arms. Kurt stood up and noticed Nyberg standing in the doorway.
“Make sure someone is with the boy 24/7 …. Get Nillson if he’s around.”
9:53 am – Kurt’s office….
Anne-Britt stood in the doorway; a sheepish look on her face.
“Kurt? Can I speak with you?” He grunted a yes and she continued.
“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to take the child out to my sister’s place for a few days.”
“That’s not going to happen. You’ve got a material witness in what now looks like a homicide, and having a boy in your care …a teen age boy?”
“That’s not exactly the case, Kurt.” She stepped aside, revealing a teenage girl.”
“I had some extra clothes in my locker. She’s going to need a lot of support, and she has no one now.”
“Oh for Christ’s sakes…. What’s her…. What’s your name?” The girl smiled weakly, trying vainly not to ruin the makeup job she had gotten from Anne-Britt as the tears rolled off her cheeks onto the dull carpet below.
“Inger?” She was so nervous she phrased her name in a question, which Kurt repeated.
“After my mother. I’m sorry for all the trouble. I don’t deserve your help.” She would have walked out of the station but for the bear hug by Nyberg, who shook his head no. Kurt shook his head at Anne-Britt.
“Not at your sister’s and not without help!” He stared at Nyberg who smiled.
“Already on it. There’s a place out on the other side of town. My brother knows a fellow who knows how to lay low. And I never told you that.”
“Change back into your own clothes.” Kurt said almost dismissively. The boy cringed and Anne-Britt went to protest. Kurt held up his hand, interrupting her.
“Not what you think, Officer Höglund.” He stressed the word officer, but his half-smile belied the tone of his voice.
“She’s likely only known as Inger to the men who did this to her brother. She needs to be as non-descript as possible, Anne-Britt. When you’re at the house, she can change back, but for now, let everyone think she’s her brother Ulf.” At the name, the girl winced and put her head down. A moment later Kurt stood next to her. She seemed so small, but it was more her affect than her stature.
“It’s not your fault. And we will find out who did this to your brother.” Kurt rarely guaranteed anything, but he still felt his own guilt from the death of the girl months before; a child whom he couldn’t save, existentialism be damned!
“They…not you… caused this.” He wanted to add ‘your father caused this,’ but the girl already had too much to bear. He nodded to Anne-Britt and she gathered the girl into one last hug before they walked out of the office, closing the door behind them.
Kurt walked back and sat down at this desk. Reflexively, he pulled out the large bottom drawer to his left, but found his own hand-written note; a brief reminder of his recent success that merely said, ‘don’t stop now!’ He closed the drawer and breathed out a heavy sigh as he gazed through his office door window. Anne-Britt was sitting at her desk across from the girl, talking.
“Inger?” Kurt smiled to himself. He dated a girl named Inger when he was a bit younger; before he met his ex-wife. Little did he know that the name would come to mean more than just homage to the boy/girl’s mother….much more.
To be continued…
*from the BBC adaptation,
the season one episode
STRONG CAUTION - DEPICTED SUICIDE
by Emily Barker and the Red Clay
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.