Wallander: The Woman from Malmö



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by Andrea Lena DiMaggio


Based on characters created by Henning Mankell
and the BBC and Swedish series Wallander



Book One - Tvillingar


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

Chapter One: Förtvivlan (Despair)

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 Volvo 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. A girl plagued by manmade demons had taken her life in a self-inflicted inferno. One more child in a sadly long line of children hurt by the human trafficking industry that had firmly entrenched itself in southern Sweden.

“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 that 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 auto 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 on the hay bale there 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. Poppa? 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.

“Nooooo!!!!!!”

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.



Chapter Two – Sorg (Grief)

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?”

“Yes…”

“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 Nillsson if he’s around.”

“Sure thing.”



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.

“Inger?”

“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 nondescript 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.



Chapter Three – Frågor (Questions)

Saturday, 11:46 am, on the road…

The sound of Maria Callas ‘Viloett Aria’ from Tosca filled the Volvo even as the aroma of a very ill-advisedly purchased smoked sausage sandwich wafted around in the car. Kurt grabbed a bite and swigged a mouthful from a very warm bottle of Trocadero. A few minutes on the road and the stress of the morning had him wishing for a sit-down meal and a few drinks instead.

He glanced at the identity card lying on the seat beside him and sighed. Nyberg or any of the others at the station could have handled the follow-up with boy’s father, but none of them were as angry as Kurt, if at all, and he wanted that anger to fuel the investigation; fate be damned. A few minutes after that and he was parked in front of the Erickson house.

A casual stroll to the front door gave Kurt enough time to get ready. He pounded hard on the door, ignoring the doorbell entirely. The loud sound of shuffling and a few choice expletives came from the other side of the door. A few moments later, the door opened and Anders Erickson appeared. The odor of stale beer and cigarettes wafted past Kurt and he stepped back onto the small landing; a bit repulsed and wondering why he hadn’t noticed the smell earlier.

“What the hell do you want?” the man snapped, placing his hand on the edge of the door as if to close it in Kurt’s face. Taking the gesture for exactly as it was intended, Kurt pushed the door fully opened and stepped inside; glaring at the surprised man.

“Your child….”

“Where is that useless boy?” Erickson shook his head in frustration. Either he was inattentive or worse. Kurt noted the smell once again. As upset as he had been when he and Anne-Britt had arrived earlier, his anger welled up at the man’s indifference to both of his children. He paused and remembered the fear that he had seen in the boy earlier, and changed his course in mid-stream, so to speak.

“He’s at the station helping with the investigation into the death of your daughter.

“What? What the hell are you talking about? You said the boy was found dead in a barn. Hung himself?”

“Your child committed suicide.” Kurt resisted the urge to slam the man against the wall and backed up.

“Poppas smutsiga lilla hora.” The man snickered. Kurt resisted the urge to resist the urge and pushed Erickson against the door, closing it to the outside.

“You bastard.” He said, releasing the man’s shirt and pushing away.

“I don’t have to take this from you.”

“You’re right. You don’t. I’m sorry,” Kurt said softly. He wasn’t sorry at all, but he needed Erickson to think that he was just another cop with a temper.

“What do you want from me? The kid was a kucksugare….. he …..”

“Disappointed you?” Kurt feigned concern. Another time and place and the man would be nursing a bruised wrist or rubbing a broken jaw.

“Both of them…they take after that hor that I married. Yeah…” Erickson half frowned and Kurt nodded.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about one, but what about your other kid?”

“Ulf? The saint? Yeah…. At least he’s not a fucking fag like his brother.”

“What is he then, Mr. Erickson?’

“I really …. You need to leave. NOW!”

“Just one more question? Do you know of anyone who would want to kill your child?”

“Get the fuck out of my house!” Erickson grabbed at Kurt’s elbow but stumbled. Kurt stopped the fall and pulled Erikson close enough to fog the man’s glasses with his breath.

“For now, Mr. Erickson, for now.”

Kurt lowered the man into the chair by the door. Erickson flailed a bit; knocking over a picture from atop the television. Kurt reached down and picked up the frame and replaced it on the television; a picture of the two boys with their mother in happier, safer times. Erickson looked over at the picture and Kurt grabbed an empty beer bottle off the table by the door; putting it in his coat pocket. He walked out and across the street. It was only when he got to the car that he realized just what he had seen in the picture.

“Heregud…”



Saturday, 12:45pm, at the Safe House…

Anne-Brit sat in a very worn easy chair across from the equally worn if still utile sofa where Lucas/Inger sat.

“How long will I have to stay here?” The boy had changed into a blue corduroy jumper over a white cowl-neck top. Even without makeup, there was no doubt that the girl had already replaced the boy. Anne-Brit shook her head.

“I don’t know. You’re not safe to go out, even if you dress as your brother.” She cringed at her own words even as she noticed the girl begin to quiver.

“I’m sorry, gullunge. This is hard for you no matter what.”

“I …I wish they had killed me. Ulfie would still be alive and at least my father would have one good son.”

“You….” Anne-Brit began to correct the girl, but thought better and continued.

“You were never a good son?”

“More like a bad girl…a very bad girl. Poppa’s lilla kucksugare. And a bad one at that. I hate myself.” She almost glared at Anne-Brit, as if to expect her to nod in agreement.

“I’m sorry, Inger. I don’t hate you.”

“You pity me. Just as good….” Anne-Brit shook her head no.

“You started to…. You did…..” Even the thought of the child performing such an act left Anne-Brit tongue-tied.

“I sucked cock. For my father…. The good little hore keeps father from being beaten up by….” She began to cry; not weeping but an almost mewl-like whimper.

“He… he knew, didn’t he?”

“Yeah….. Poppa’s fag ….some good it did. Ulfie’s dead and I’m alive. I hate myself. It should have been me and not my brother. It’s not fair.”

“No…it’s not. But that’s not the worst part of it?” She sighed and half-smiled in urging the boy/girl to continue.

“It was never enough. I’ve never been enough….” Inger shook her head and continued.

“I’m such a fuckup…so stupid! I couldn’t even get that right.”

“Your father? He kept gambling even as you paid off his debt.”

“Yeah. What good did that do? And Ulfie dead anyway. I hate myself.”

“You did what you …. He hated you but….”

“His idea? Why wouldn’t it be. I couldn’t be a good boy, but I sure as hell I could be a bad girl, so why not? I’m not sorry for anything but Ulfie. I’m so angry…..”

“I’m sorry you never got to be the girl you were, Inger. That you tried and tried. But you never could please him, no matter what you did? “

“No, but it’s still the same. I’m here and Ulfie’s gone. I wish I was never born.” The urgency of the tragedy continued to play out in real time, which left Anne-Brit conflicted.

“I have to go.” She said as her own life intruded with insistence. She frowned and stood up; giving the girl a squeeze on the shoulder.

“Will you be back?” Anne-Brit nodded almost too enthusiastically.

“Oh, yes, gullunge… I just have my own things ….my kids….you know? But I’ll be by tomorrow.”

“Oh…okay,” Inger sighed; still sitting on the sofa. Nyberg nodded and looked out through the small gap in the curtains; checking to see the officer outside still on guard.

“Listen, Inger?” The girl looked up and tilted her head in question.

“I…..I cannot tell you how sad I am. That you were forced to live such a life. And so much loss with your mother and now your brother….” She paused and turned away, searching for words.

“I’m sad that your brother died. I’m very sad that you think it’s your fault.” She shook her head at the thought of someone so young having to bear so much needless and undeserved guilt. But she smiled even as she set her hand to the doorknob to leave.

“But I am very, very glad that you were born..” Anne-Brit wanted to abandon the role of officer if only for a moment as the mother in her wanted to hug the girl. She just smiled again; instead; a hug from afar, so to speak. And then she was gone.

The girl stared at Nyberg and shrugged. He smiled lamely and produced a deck of cards and proceeded to deal out two hands on the table in front of the sofa. Inger smiled back and picked up the hand; a brief respite from the horror that seemed to lurk just outside the door.




~o~O~o~

Kurt sat in the Volvo with the seat slightly back; his phone was open to the picture of his daughter Linda. The photo was recent, and Linda seemed almost welcoming, unlike the recent past of lectures and such about Kurt and his father. He already felt ill-equipped to deal with his father’s illness, and the guilt made it much worse; another reminder of how he wanted a drink. Wasn’t Alzheimer’s hereditary? He picked up the bottle of Trocadero and took a swig. It was warm and already a bit flat; leaving him musing only a bit for the tavern on the way back to town.

“Inger,” he said almost in a whisper. A woman he had not merely dated, but one of many of his indescrete choices in the past. He stared at Linda’s picture, wondering what an amalgam of the girl might be if blended with the woman in the photo at Erickson’s. His daughter did favor him in some ways, and he could almost see the resemblance if he tried hard enough.

He blinked back a few tears; more from the regret of his continued inability to save everyone, including himself, than from any regrets or even remorse that might linger from his brief time with the woman with whom he cheated. Linda would always be in his corner, so to speak, but would likely be heartbroken if Kurt’s betrayal of her mother came to light.

He sighed. Could the boy…? He shook his head no and started the car and was back on the road in seconds.



The morgue, 2:32 pm….

“You get anything other than what we found? The boy thinks this wasn’t …. That his brother didn’t kill himself after all.” Kurt blew out a frustrated breath. The idea of the boy’s beginnings pulled hard at him already, and he had no real idea what he wanted to know. Would the truth be the one thing that shoved him rudely back to the bottle? And what about the other boy? The girl, actually?

“I’m still on the fence,” Olsen said as he used his glance to direct Kurt to the body under the sheet on the table behind him.

“A sad way to end, no matter what. And here’s something we didn’t expect,” he said as he lifted the sheet. Kurt’s eyes widened as he noted the thin pink lines traversing the boy’s right arm. More to the child than they first thought. As troubled as Inger/Lucas was, Ulf seemed to duplicate his sibling’s emotional pain. Whatever might be causing the crisis the first child faced, the second certainly looked like he could indeed have killed himself. Olsen shook his head slightly.

“There’s more, I’m afraid.” The man pointed to the boy’s chest.

“I’m fairly sure he was getting help from someone. You said the boy dressed up as his sister? I’m not so sure about that, either.” Kurt nodded reluctantly. Whatever the motive might be regarding Ulf’s sacrifice, his own intent went beyond just being a loving brother.

“Tvillingar…. In every way?” Kurt whispered to himself. Olsen nodded slightly as he drew the sheet back over the body.

“How utterly sad.” Olsen said. And Kurt nodded in return while looking away slightly. However the boy’s life had ended, it was every bit as tragic no matter if he had taken his own life or had it stolen from him, since it seemed quite clear that Inger never had a twin brother in the same way that Inger had never been a boy. Did Ulf even have her own name? To live in secret hidden even from the one person in the world who might understand; who would indeed have understood that Ulf was a Karen or an Anne or a Marta.

“Yes….” Kurt muttered. “How utterly sad.”



Chapter Four – Skam (Shame)

Saturday, 6:15 pm, at the safe house…

Nyberg stood at the front window; peering out at the street thru the gap in the window blinds. Inger had changed back into Ulf's shirt and jeans and was sitting on the worn sofa. A barely touched pizza lay in a box open on the table in front of her. She looked up at Nyberg.

“Mind if I ask you a question?” Inger sat with her hands folded in front of her; almost in prayer.

“Yes, I mean, no, I don’t mind. Ask away,” Nyberg said with a half-smile.

“Do you ….do I make you sick?” She winced at her own words.

“Fan nej, kid. Why do you ask?” Nyberg almost sounded hurt.

“Because you don’t look at me. Even after I put the boy clothes back on.” She sighed.

“No, you don’t make me sick. I don’t understand you, but I don’t hate you, Lucas.”

“See. That’s just it. You just called me Lucas. Like you don’t believe me.” Nyberg went to speak but Inger put her hand up.

“No. You don’t believe me. You’re just putting up with me because it’s your job. You don’t want to be here.”

“No, I don’t, but it’s not because of you. I was supposed to go to my sister’s for dinner, but I got the detail here.”

“If you didn’t have to be at your family, would you still be mad?”

“No, kid. I’m not mad. The cable doesn’t work. The fridge is almost empty, and even I’m getting tired of playing cards. I’m bored and I’m not exactly the best person for this detail.”

“Because you don’t like kucksukere?”

“Because I don’t know what to say to make things better for you. I saw your brother. I saw your face at the station when they showed him to you. There’s something else going on, and I think I know what it is, but every time I ask you a question you deflect. I get that. I lost a cousin when I was your age. It hurts. But you… there’s something else, and playing games isn’t going to help.

“I told your …I told Anne-Brit. It’s my fault. My brother would still be here if I wasn’t such a fuck up. I should have killed myself, okay? Are you happy now?” Even with shorter hair and in boys clothes, there was no mistaking the girl in front of him. She almost emitted an aura of sorts, as if no matter how she looked, her true self was forever on display now that she had been revealed. That she began to cry seemed to reinforce Nyberg’s well-entrenched if earnestly held stereotypical views.

“Oh, no. Don’t. I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.” The girl stood up and went to walk past Nyberg into the kitchen. He grabbed Inger’s hand and went to pull her into a hug. She surprised him by stepping closer and kissing him on the lips. Nyberg’s eyes widened in shock as the girl stepped back; her own face a mask of grief mixed with shame.

“I’m….I’m so sorry.” She stood facing him; her fists balled tightly as she shook. He resisted the temptation to hug her and stayed back.

“I…I think I understand. I’m sorry, kid.” He shook his head and the girl took it the wrong way and burst into tears. He stepped only a bit closer and held his hands up slightly in plea.

“No….Luc…Inger. I meant I understand. When I was a kid, my best friend’s brother….he was sort of like you….”

“Like….me? What?”

“A transsexuell? And he…she was put in the same position your father left you. Men have hurt you all your life. That’s what I meant. You’ve been hurt, and I guess you don’t know how to … like you just can’t help yourself. But you’re still a kid, and I’m sorry, okay?”

The girl continued to cry and Nyberg wanted to help, but a hug was the last thing the child needed at that point. A girl dressed as a boy. A teen dressed as an adult. A child dressed just how everyone and everything demanded; too many demands even for a fifteen year old.

“We’re gonna be okay, kid. You and me will be just fine, since I’m old enough to be your ….older brother,” he laughed softly, but the girl winced at the word brother. He shook his head and half-frowned.

“As long as I’m around, you don’t have to do or be anything, okay?” The man looked at her and at himself. She realized that he wouldn’t condemn her for her actions even as he helped her understand. She fell back into the chair next to the kitchen and began to sob. He nodded and frowned.

"I mean it. You can't keep doing what you just did. I'm an adult and you're a child to begin with, and I'm not here for you for that. And you are definitely not here for me for anything. You just did wrong by you, okay?" She continued to weep.

“Yeah, kid. Go ahead and cry. I know.”




Saturday, 6:49 pm in Kurt’s office…

“Dr. Olsen? Would you mind? Can you get a sample of the boy’s DNA to the lab along with these?” Kurt produced two bottles; a Pripps Bla beer bottle and bottle of mostly consumed Trocaderro.

“Any particular reason?” Olsen asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No. Nothing special. Just a hunch….”



Saturday, 8:19 pm at the safe house...

Nyberg opened the door, welcoming in a uniformed woman.

"He....the kid's been pretty quiet. Noting much to say, but you might make a note to call her Inger, you know?" Officer Lidstrom, of all people, would be understanding and sensitive, being the spouse of a nice woman doctor in Ystad. He pointed to the bedroom.

"She's been napping for a bit. Hey, Inger? Reinforcements are here." He knocked on the door. No answer. Another knock brought the same results. He opened the door and peered into the dark room. The light from the hall illuminated the girl's body; face down on the bed. He walked over and touched her shoulder; gaining no response. Leaning closer, he saw an empty pill bottle lying in the girl's open hand.

"Åh kära gud! Lidstrom...call 112!" He turned back and found her moaning; a good sign at least for the moment.

"Stay with me, kid. INGER? STAY WITH ME!!!!"

Oh write me a beacon so I know the way
Guide my love through night and through day




Ystad Lasarett Hospital, Sunday morning, 3:45 am…

“What the hell were you thinking,” Kurt glared at Nyberg. The man stepped back and lowered his head.

“I didn’t think she’d…”

“That’s the problem. You didn’t think. It’s lucky for you…” Kurt stopped in mid-sentence.

“I’m…I’m sorry, Sven.” Kurt put his hand out in apology. Nyberg shook Kurt’s hand and spoke.

“This case is getting to all of us, Kurt. I understand.”

“We’ve got a uniform on guard at her room. They got her in time and she’s okay for now.”

“Well, we’ve lost the safe-house possibility, so it’s due diligence from here on in,” Kurt said almost automatically. He blew out a breath and put his hand out once again; as if the first apology wasn’t effective.

“I get it, Kurt. Something about this kid has affected us all….maybe down to our souls.” Nyberg looked over his shoulder down the hall.

“Anne-Britt…. She’s become a mother to her in just this short time, you know how she is.” Kurt nodded and sighed; hoping his expression was one merely of exhaustion rather than an anxious parent.

“Get some sleep, Sven. Then see me later at the station. We’ve got to get a handle on all of this.” Kurt didn’t wait for a reply but turned and walked down the hall and was into the elevator and gone.




Sunday morning, Kurt’s office, 8:51 am…

Kurt was sitting at his desk. The urge to drink was pulling even as wave of guilt slammed hard against him. He stared at the doorway, as if the girl was going to walk into his office and throw herself at him like any daughter would do for her father. He sighed and picked up the note that Ulfie had in his pocket; a cry for help by both children? To come to such a horrible end; alone and frightened and hopeless but for the one or ones who killed her. What did that poor kid ever do to deserve such a fate?

“Inspector Wallander,” the intercom barked. He looked at it as if he was looking at Nillson, the officer behind the voice.

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry to disturb you, it being Sunday and all, but Mr. Jensen? The guy from the farm…the crime scene?”

“Yes, Nillson, I know…. What does he want?”

“He says he has something he wants to show you. He insisted on seeing you alone? I’m sorry, sir. I tried to put him off…to have someone else…”

“That’s alright. Bring him on up.”

“Yes sir.”

“And Nillson? Thank you!”



A few minutes later….

“Inspector…I hope I got that right….Wallander?” The tall man stood at the doorway; Nillson was already heading back down stairs.

“Yes, Mr. Jensen?”

“I have something…I think you might want to…I know you’ll want to see this.” He pulled a folded piece of paper out of his shirt pocket.

“I’m sorry I read this. It was buried under a hay bale. I just thought it was something …. When I read it…” The man sighed.

“Let’s have it,” Kurt said. Running on fumes, so to speak, made him impatient, and the whole weekend tested more than just his patience. He looked at the paper and shook his head. A second later he read it aloud; as if he could change the words on the paper.

“Dear Lucas… I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you sooner. I know how hard it’s been with Poppa and you.” Kurt paused and shook his head again.

“And you?” he thought. The man was a beast to both of his children and one cannot speak of his own pain? And Kurt once again closed his eyes; oblivious of the man sitting across from him. A picture of three children; imagination taking him where he didn’t want to go. One young woman sitting between two girls; twin sisters. He bit his lip and his voice broke as he continued reading.

“I’m not as strong as you are. This is too hard. What they do? What we do.... For him? I can’t…. Inger? Yes, I know your name. You talk to yourself, you know? And to the cat? I wish I could be a good girl, but I can’t and I’ll never be a good boy. Maybe this will help? Don’t worry. I love you. And I’ll tell Momma about you, okay? Bye. Ulfie”

Kurt’s eyes welled with tears and the paper became a blur. He had begun to love the children and now this? How could he have let this happen? How could he have known? Was that a poor excuse?

“I’m sorry, Inspector? This must be hard for you?”

“What would you know? You don’t even know me,” Kurt said brusquely. His mistake was compounded by his own guilt.

“I’m sorry.” Jensen nodded at the apology.

“My Elsa was not a very pretty girl. Her mother died when she was little, and when she got older she was teased. She ….” The man looked away, fighting back his own tears. Kurt’s eyes widened in sad realization. He shook his head at his own failures as much as in apology for the death of someone he had never even met. Jensen reached across the desk and patted Kurt’s hand like a father would to a frightened child.

“I understand more than you know, Inspector. And I’m sorry for the loss of such a precious soul.”

“Thank you.” Kurt sighed as the man got up to leave. Jensen turned and nodded with a smile that only comes from two knowing that the other knows. A moment later Kurt was alone. And it came to him in an instant.

“What they do? For him?” The girl wasn’t just talking about Inger but about herself. To carry that in silence on behalf of a man who never cared? For a girl who didn’t even know her twin sister existed? He looked around; searching for something that would make the pain go away. His eyes fell upon Linda’s photo. The pain wouldn’t depart, but it eased as his daughter’s image urged him to count his one major blessing. Nevertheless, the moment still was too much, even for a police inspector to handle and he put his head down on his arms on the desk and wept.



Chapter Five – Nytt Liv (New Life)

Ystad Lasarett Hospital, Sunday, 9:22 am….

Anne-Britt sat in a stiff chair next to the bed; her hand reached out in comfort to the teenager lying sideways facing away from her.

“Inger?”

“Don’t call me that. I don’t….”

“It’s who you are, lilla,” she said. The child was little only in the sense of endearment. And no matter how non-descript the hospital gown that surrounded the child, there was no mistaking her for anything but a teenage girl. She went to pull away, but Anne-Britt pulled her over on her back and then stood up. Grabbing the girl’s hands, she squeezed.

“You do….” She paused and looked away; searching for words that would do more than barely soothe the girl’s pain.

“I’m nothing as good as your mother would have been,” she dared to say. But in giving Inger’s mother mention, it was a way of honoring what was past while beginning to face the present.

“I am someone who cares and believes…. You do deserve to live, kära barn.” She would have hugged the girl but the shame in the girl’s expression seemed almost impenetrable.

“Why did I….”

“You survived because it’s not your time, Inger. And I know it’s hard to think of Ulfie and how you’re still here, but you are here and now. And I’m glad.”

“Why? What makes me so important? What did I do to … I’m nothing.” The girl turned her head to the side as tears spilled off her face onto the pillow.

“You did nothing, but you are someone. A child who has seen more pain than anyone should see in lifetime. Someone, lilla.” Anne-Britt smiled and sat down again; still clutching Inger’s hand.

As much as the girl felt compelled to argue, she turned toward Anne-Britt and sighed. One can hit the wall in chasing after self-condemnation as easily as chasing after a dream, and Inger had no strength to deny her own self-worth. Finally, the words that should have been spoken to her all along were now uttered by a near-stranger placed in her path to bring balance to her life.

She began to cry; softly at first as her own doubts were replace by the faith of the woman who held her hand. Faith in God, perhaps, but Anne-Britt showed the girl she had faith in her. The tears began to flow freer and deep sobs came that moved the girl to shudders.

“That’s it, lilla. That’s it.” She wanted to hug her so bad, but like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon, the girl needed to make that last push by herself; establishing her personhood by how she saw herself rather than how Anne-Britt or anyone else viewed her for that matter. One of the nurses walked quickly into the room. Anne-Britt pointed to the girl. Her face had changed from grief to doubt to shame but in an instant had begun to show peace.

“She’s alright,” Anne-Britt said as the girl settled back into the soft comfort of the pillow and wept softly once again. The nurse smiled and nodded before walking out.




The station, Monday, 9:44 am…

Kurt sat once again at his desk; staring at the note. The sounds of Grieg’s Death of Ase came from the CD player on the shelf to his left. A knock came at the door. He lifted his head to see Olsen with a look of consternation spread across his face; bad news? Or just the inevitable.

“We got the tox screen back from the lab. The kid had some Sertraline in her system, but barely above a therapeutic dosage. And there were no signs at all of defensive struggle, Kurt. You know what that means?” Kurt nodded and looked away. Turning back, he half-smiled at Olsen before showing him the note from the girl.

“It looks like she sacrificed herself so they wouldn’t come after her twin….’ Kurt’s voice trailed off as the grief of the moment took him. Was any of this his fault?

“I got the DNA results back. They were kind enough return an old favor after that Larsen case last year.” Kurt’s eyes widened in expectation; hoping to be proven right.

“No match.”

“That’s impossible,” Kurt snapped. Olsen shook his head.

“That’s what I thought so I called up the lab. Neither sample matched the kid, Kurt. I’m sorry, but we don’t know who the father is.” Kurt turned away at the news. Disappointment? Relief? How much psychic energy had he invested in getting to know both children only to learn….what?

“The lab is going to run the results through the system, but neither of the men who provided those samples is the girl’s father.” Olsen stood up.

“I’ll write up a report and have it for you after lunch.” With that he walked out of the office.

Kurt stared at the note. What little control he had maintained up to that point went out the window, so to speak, as he bit his lip and began to cry bitter tears. His eyes fell upon Linda’s photo once again and he shook his head.

She remained an only child. A young woman with a rebellious spirit and a sad commonality with her erstwhile siblings in her own suicide attempt at their age. The girls were orphans. And now one girl was left without any family whatsoever. Kurt’s nostrils flared as anger rose up. He shook his head and read the girl’s note again.

“Maybe this will help?” The words jumped off the page.

His face was a mask of horror. The same overwhelming pain that took him down destructive paths after the other girl killed herself months ago returned. No murder but for the soul…the souls that were destroyed by an uncaring, cruel man. No homicide but for the death he caused by his ignorance and selfishness. And no real accomplishment as Ulfie’s death did nothing to change anything but further proved how utterly wasteful her act had been. Perhaps some relief from the sadness. Some mitigation from her hopelessness and despair. But no one benefited from her death.

And the worst part about it is that she died alone…. Without a name. In that moment, without any real connection in this lifetime to the twins, Kurt became their father. He closed his eyes and wondered how the girls’ mother would see him. A failure in his own life? He was not the son he should be and he still wondered about how badly he had been as a father to his own daughter. But now he cared for the girl on the slab in the morgue and the girl in the bed in the hospital as if they truly had been his own children.

And he thought of Erickson and his indifference and cruelty. Kurt was no saint, but he was filled with anger that many might consider righteous. He stood up from the desk and stared at the note on the desk.

“Jag är ledsen,” he said weakly. Another realization. No name to whom to apologize. Maybe Inger would help with that. But to die alone without a name?

“Jag är ledsen, kära barn,” he repeated before walking out the door.



Erickson’s house, Monday, 10:38 am…

Kurt walked up to the front door; again determined to ignore the doorbell. He banged hard on the door and it gave way; opening up. He stood at the doorway and called out.

“Erickson?” No answer.

‘Erickson, damn it. Come to the door.” Again no answer. Kurt stepped inside the darkened living room; lit only from the dimmed sunlight of the rainy day outside. Blinking a few times he looked around the room. The furniture was in disarray and broken from what looked like a very nasty fight. And then he spotted a hand sticking out from under the overturned couch. He knelt down and pushed the couch off the lifeless body of Anders Erickson.

“Fan dig!” Kurt sad as he stood up. The final ironic disappointment. All the sacrifices the two girls had made for the man had been for naught. Lost innocence and hurtful shame only to be rewarded with the death of a man who never really appreciated how blessed he had been. It was too much. Kurt stood up and punched the wall behind the couch; cracking the plaster and sending a picture crashing to the floor. The frame and glass shattered; leaving the photograph unprotected. Another picture of happier times. Inger Erickson sitting on a bench in a park somewhere; flanked by two adorable little children. Even then they didn’t look like boys. Kurt leaned against the wall and wept harder than at any time in his life.



At the hospital, Monday, 11:51 am…

“Oh dear,” Anne-Britt said. She looked into the room where Inger seemed to be resting peacefully.

“I’m not in a hurry to give her this news,” Kurt said with a sigh. Anne-Britt touched his arm.

“You look a wreck,” she said. She quickly added,

“But it’s a good wreck.” Kurt laughed weakly and smiled.

“I think she’s going to be okay. And my cousin Viveka has a place just outside Malmo. She’s got two girls who just might like a new big sister to keep them company.” Anne-Britt smiled and looked back at the girl and breathed out deeply.

“Yes,” she said. “I think she’s going to be okay.”



Monday, 2:26 pm…

Kurt sat in the Volvo in the parking lot of the McDonalds on Route 9. The rain had let up; revealing a bit of sunlight through a gap in the clouds. He recalled something his father Povel had said to him a while back about how a painting he does is ‘what comes out.” It wasn’t a day for rainbows, but it was a day that was what came out of everything he had been through. He smiled and looked at his phone; bringing up his daughter’s picture once again. He hit the preset and spoke

“Linda? Are you free for dinner? Yes…. I know it’s ….Yes…. Yes, I’d like that. Okay? Broderna M? Six? Yes. Six is just fine. Okay, see you then.” Kurt paused, waiting for Linda to ring off. An awkward silence but still connected.

“Linda? Love you….yes…okay. See you…..” He clicked off and looked at the paper bag sitting on the seat beside him.

“Sorry,” he said in apology as he balled up the bag of fast food and tossed it in the back of the car. Turning on the CD, he put his seat back as Kiri te Kenawa’s artful interpretation of Visi de’arte from Puccini’s Tosca filled the car. He took a swig of warm Bonaque Citron and smiled.




Book Two – Byta (Change)




Only the sunset knows my blind desire for the fleeting
Only the moon understands the beauty of love
When held by a hand like the aura of nostalgia

One year later…

4:32 am at the home of Linda Wallander…

“Mummy?” Klara came running into the bedroom clutching her Smaslug toy dog. Linda sat up and Klara ran to the bed and hopped on, immediately cuddling with her mother. Klara’s nightmares had subsided quite a bit, but the little girl still struggled since Hans’ presence at home was in its waning cycle. Linda pulled Klara close and shook her head at the empty space on the left side of the bed….



That afternoon….

Linda had worked from home all day, looking forward to a welcome weekend retreat that included some alone time while Klara enjoyed a sleepover at a friend’s house.

She stared at the photo on her desk, a family portrait taken not long after Klara’s fourth birthday. The couple was actually happy at one time, but the picture seemed to reveal some of the micro-fractures in their relationship. Yet the little girl in the picture was happy and well-cared for even if things had already begun to fall between the chairs.

Looking back now that she was an adult, the confusion and even anger she felt throughout her teens had disappeared for the most part, tempered by her understanding of her mother’s needs and her father’s weakness. The irony of her own marriage seemed to coax her into a tenuous acceptance while still steeled against the possibility that Hans’ absences were growing longer and with more frequency.

He was no different than a lot of men who deal with loss. His was especially understandable given the circumstances of both their deaths. But he did have a wife who still loved him and a little girl who was missing her father. That had to account for something, hadn’t it? She shook her head and turned away from the photo only to have her attention drawn back.

“You sent the file to Stockholm, Yeah?”

Kurt stood at the doorway to the den, almost cowering. His meds helped slow the inevitable to a near-glacial crawl, but the fear of how things could progress like a wildfire in a field of rapeseed kept their hopes tenuous at best. Linda smiled to herself, trying with little success to keep her husband’s behavior packed away in some existential acceptance.

“Yeah, Dad, I did.” A case that ended up resolved elsewhere for a change still set her off, but she recalled it was Kurt just being thorough, which was another indication of how things were still the same in the midst of change.

She blurted it out like a rebuke, leaving him looking hurt. That look she sadly recalled that came across her Farfar Povel’s face in the same way as his own struggles increased years ago. But Kurt’s frown eased into a grin, like a child who grows patient with his mother’s impatience. And he was still enough of Kurt to know how things worked in the way he occasionally spoke.

“Let’s wrap this up for the day, Linda? You’ve been working too hard ….”

He almost added ‘on my account,’ but neither of them wanted to indulge in guilt, self-identified or otherwise. Learning to work with what is rather than what is wished for is hard enough under the best of circumstances, but the need to fight outweighed the armies that waged against Kurt - and Linda.

“There’s a new inspector who’s been hired… from Malmo. Kim… Svedberg…? No, Svedin? Yeah, Kim Svedin.”

“Terrific. Ever since Ann-Britt stepped away, they seem to think they need a female from someplace else instead of right here in Ystad. What was wrong with Alie?”

“She got married and moved to Amsterdam, Dad.”

“Oh, yeah.” He sighed in frustration. Even the smallest lapse in memory sent a shudder through them both. But the recently relocated Alie Karlsson was just another hardly-there-at-all replacement in a long line. He sighed again. Linda half-smiled and pointed to the pile of papers on her desk.

“I would have forgotten too except the invitation is still here somewhere. I suppose I should just throw it away.” Linda sighed, wanting to forget Alie altogether. In her most recent of protracted estrangements with Hans, a very unheard of self-pity caused her to tumble into a brief if fascinating relationship with Alie.

“She’s the one you…” He resisted the urge to tease even if the relationship wasn’t a sore spot. Even so, Linda turned and glared at him. He started to wince until a smile crossed her face.

“I do miss her from time to time, but no more than Hans when he’s away bangin’ his latest girl to fight his mortality. At least he isn’t buying sports cars or yachts.”

She laughed and Kurt followed suit. It felt good for them to laugh together, life promising what it did.

“Dinner?” Kurt turned his gaze to the door. No eat-in since Linda had been home all day. Nothing special but another example of how he had not yet become the child to her adult, as some unfairly had already inferred.

She sighed. The time enough to be alone would come all too soon, and besides, it was only Friday. Hans’ excursions always seem to conclude at seven sharp on Sunday night, so perhaps a delightful weekend with a novel and laundry would still be in the cards?

“Sure, Dad. Let me close this email and we can head over to Marinan’s, okay?”

“Yeah, after all, I’ve got to watch my diet,” he laughed. A running joke since even trying to stay healthy, the diabetes that was under fair control still remained way down the list of his concerns. She laughed as well since he was still lucid enough to joke about things.

No diving into that ever-present river of fatalism. Kurt was not destined to lose, since in a way, he was already ‘ahead of the game’ but the disease would do what Alzheimer’s does, and that demanded laughter every chance he got. There would be a little bit of laughter and a little bit of crying before this latest case was wrapped up, but mostly, the Wallander family would finally find a measure of satisfaction as well.

Oh whisper me words in the shape of a bay
Shelter my love from the wind and the rain




Chapter One - – Längtar (Longing)


Ystad Police Station...

Linda had just sat down at the conference table for what she expected was a routine morning briefing. Chief Lisa Holgersson stepped next to her, putting her hand on Linda’s shoulder.

“Linda, I’d like to introduce you to our newest team member, Kim Svedin." Linda turned slowly to look past Lisa, expecting to see an average looking man. Instead, she was greeted with a surprise as a somewhat tall, strikingly handsome dark-haired woman extended her hand.

“Hello. Linda? I have a cousin in town here with that name. I don’t suppose you’ve met her?” The small talk was odd, but also oddly inviting as Linda did a quick mental inventory of anyone she knew with her own name. Kim smiled and sat down beside her.

“I’ve heard so much… excuse me, I don’t mean to… You probably get a lot about your father. I’m happy to make your acquaintance. She actually offered her hand a second time.

“I met pretty much the rest of your team Friday afternoon when I arrived. I’m looking forward to working with you…all.” Kim looked away slightly, her face beginning to grow a bit pink. Linda noticed Kim’s uneasiness and became uneasy herself. The moment was interrupted as Lisa sat down at the end of the table, speaking up.

“First, I’d like to welcome Inspector Svedin officially. Kim has been working the past few years in Malmo as a Liaison Officer for Special Crimes. Her expertise is a welcome addition to our team here. With so many changes over the past several months, we hope to see some stability to our workforce….” She paused and looked around the table.

“Excuse me. To you. In the impersonal moments of the job, it’s too easy to forget the personnel. Thank you all for your hard work. To continue, it’s to everyone’s benefit that we have someone here on a full-time basis. Regrettably, sexual crime indeed has increased quite a bit over even the past few years. I wish the need to address that fact.” Lisa paused and sighed.

“The Magnusson girl who went missing last month was found wandering in the center of town, She…” One of the patrol officers interrupted with a wave, catching Lisa’s attention.

“Excuse me, Chief? Wasn’t that the Magnusson boy?” His question was earnest if somewhat misguided.

“She, and yes I meant to stress that, went missing after she was dropped off at home after a trip to Malmo for a support thing… for teens.” Lisa was surprised at the officer’s comment. It was her hope as well as most folks she knew that den goda viljan actually included kids like the girl.

”She was naked except for a blanket and she had been tattooed recently with the word pervers ... I won’t go into any other detail The report is in my office. But suffice to say this kid was subjected to horrific treatment.” Lisa could barely contain the anger and prayed to god the sadness wouldn't come out either. She might be a woman, but her focus had to be at least less emotional than her team. Time enough for rageful tears even if she had been the first person to talk with the poor girl.

”We...” Kim raised her hand cautiously.

”We have seen at least three other such crimes in Malmo with at least two elsewhere. The only thing we know is that the crimes are nearly if not completely identical and that as soon as the crimes stop in one area, they have been committed elsewhere.”

”One ...” Nyberg shook his head in anger before continuing.

”One rapist hurting multiple girls!.” The officer who asked the first question looked sincerely apologetic, but another older officer spoke

”Aren’t these kids just seeking attention..” He didn’t get a chance to finish as Kurt walked into the meeting. A quick glare was followed by words that were as calm as he could mange.

”You need to join the rest of us in the Twenty-First Century, Andersson. Read about brain chemistry and...” He got stuck on a word and Linda winced, wanting to get his attention to mouth the word, but he continued”

”Genetics. Endocrinology.” He sighed, remembering another girl who had moved to Sweden to live with Anne-Britt’s cousin.

”Getting back to the girl in town. Christina! She’s fourteen and has had little support from her step-father despite.... It would seem that the person who did this has been following these girls by their connection with support groups. Which means he knows or can find out where these girls live.

I’ve every confidence in you all, but for this case, I’ve asked Inspector Svedin to take the lead,” She looked in Kim’s general direction, but faced Linda and Kurt, who was leaning against the wall behind her.

”Linda will work...” She paused for effect. ”Alongside Kim. With this case in mind, Kurt has an announcement. Linda winced. They had discussed his retirement, but he hadn’t mentioned anything to her, leaving her confused and even a little bit hurt. He stepped away from the back wall and spoke.
”I’ve been promoted, of sorts. A strictly consulting position within the department. Too old to climb fences but too new to be turned out to pasture.” Lisa sighed, hoping to say the right thing that would not embarrass him,

”We’ve got him for quite some time, people. This case is going to need every one of us,” She made a point to look directly at Andersson.

”We’ve all got our work cut out for us in any event, but keep your eyes and ears open for the sake of other kids here and elsewhere as well. These kids have it bad enough but this is straight from the devil!" She paused to shake off the anger still dwelling under the surface before finishing,

"Let’s have a good day, yeah?” Lisa smiled at Kurt and he returned the gesture. Everyone knew things had changed and would continue to change for him, but his Chief and many of his colleagues were determined to let him know they knew he was ”still there.”

Lisa walked to where Linda and Kim still sat, almost ignoring each other. While Linda would never have resented help from ’outside,’ Kim’s presence now made her feel awkward. She was caught off guard by Kurt’s announcement, even if it was a necessary acknowledgment of his problem.

But moreover, to be paired with a perfect stranger instead of any of her familiar colleagues left her wondering how to make this new thing work in the midst of so much other change. She went to stand up as Lisa approached but she felt her arm being tugged gently.

”I’m sorry you found out this way. Lisa was going to talk with you before the meeting, but I had car trouble and got here just as the meeting was going to start. Please forgive me?”

Kim lowered her gaze ever so slightly and Linda only just then noticed the long, thin scar that stretched up from Kim’s chin to her left ear. And somehow the frustration she was feeling dissipated only to be replaced with a growing curiosity about the woman she was slated to partner with.

”I cannot begin to bless whomever for the decision to send you here, Kim,” Lisa said as Kim and Linda rose.

”And I can’t think of anyone better to work with than Linda. She’s about as good a cop as they come.” Lisa wanted to smooth over any ruffled feathers, but the assignment wasn’t what made the two women feel so awkward, as obvious as it looked. They just didn’t know how to view each other, period.

On So cruel the things I've seen Know now that would scare you
I'll keep that part of me away when I'm near you
Cause life is real enough from this It's almost like a dream
even when I wake up And outside the life goes on




Somewhere outside Malmo…

Quiet night The thought becomes a whisper
Not a word you say could ever hurt me
Screaming streets are so quiet now
They are sleeping Just like we were about to

The sun, while somewhat obscured, peered through a gap in the exhausted rainclouds, bathing the field in a warm glow. The soft wind pushed the rain-covered wild rapeseed into waves that made the field look like an inviting golden lake. And in the midst of that cozy lake, despite that warm sunny glow, stood the cold island of an abandoned farm. Almost påträngande... intrusive.

The barn had long since collapsed under its own weight, leaving only the farmhouse, grey with weathering and boarded up, save for a small window in a gable almost bulging from the attic roof. Apart from the sound of the wind and the occasional call of a grouse or gull, the farm would have been silent but for the screams that came from the attic of the house…



Chapter Two - Besvikelse (Disappointment)

Meanwhile…

You say it's worth it all the troubles
and the worries
Just knowing I'll wake up with you
again tomorrow And I say it's worth it too

Linda looked around, hoping for a brief reprieve from the uncomfortable moment. She scanned the room until she caught Kurt’s eye. He held his hand up to his ear, mimicking a phone call before walking out. She sighed in frustration. First because his quick absence left her having to resume the conversation with Kim… Inspector Svedin.

But her frustration also arose from the hurt feelings from having to learn second hand about her father’s almost de facto retirement. Never more going into the field together. The brief existence of the Wallander ‘team’ had been supplanted by being paired with a perfect stranger.

“Perfect…Just great,” she thought; a cross between a muse and a sarcastic plaint. She turned to discover Kim still sitting quietly; her patience already beginning to annoy. Linda smiled politely, debating whether to follow her father to his office, but Kim placed her hand softly on Linda’s shoulder, almost invasive in her quiet deference.

“Yes?” Linda snapped off the reply but softened quickly.

“I’m sorry, I was just….”

“I know you and your father are a team.” Funny that she should use the present tense.

“I… We expected that this day would come, but…”

“My father….” Kim lowered her gaze only slightly, owing to a sense of commonality rather than her own disappointing struggles.

“Your father…He’s still sharp. Does he joke?” An odd question, but not surprisingly right on target. Linda smiled, authentic rather than polite and cordial for their own sake.

“Poppa just turned sixty, and he enjoys poking fun at the beast in the room.” Kim smiled back, only slightly adding to the already present curve of the scar on her face. Linda tried to avoid looking, but Kim noticed.

“I… it was a long time ago, and that’s all I’ll say… for now.” Linda switched from one awkward stare to another as she noticed Kim’s words were accompanied by a very slight smile. Trust?

“I’ve got to go to my car for some things. Let’s meet in a half hour to talk more?” Kim’s smile had turned swiftly to an angry frown. It wasn’t at all about who offered which idea first for her. Linda noticed that while the position wasn’t personal at all for Inspector Svedin, the crimes and the victims were entirely person for Kim Svedin.



Kurt sat in his car, not so much for privacy as rather to collect his thoughts in a quiet space as he scanned his cell phone for contacts. A moment later he had hit the preset.

“Hello? Anne-Britt? Yes. Kurt….How are you?” He paused as she spoke, almost too politely, but they hadn’t talked since her departure. He listened until her voice seemed almost quiet before getting to the frightening business at hand.

“Your cousin in Malmo? The girl we…you sent to your cousin, yeah? Yes, I know she has a name,” he tried not to be abrupt. He relaxed at Anne-Britt’s next few words.

“What? Sorry?” He listened as his former colleague apologized.

“That’s kind of you… yes I still can remember most things pretty quickly. Still here, I suppose.” He laughed nervously.

“Hang on? One sec?

He looked out the window of the car, almost ignoring the parking lot and the road beyond as if a manager was flashing cues at him from offstage. A face appeared… two actually. The girl and the woman he knew years ago who shared the same name.

“Ah…I remember…After her mother? Inger?” Another pause.

“Yes, she’s doing well? Good. I don’t mean to be short with you but we need to talk…. No, face to face. As soon as…. You’re coming into Ystad for… Yes, lunch tomorrow would be perfect. Yes. At one is fine. See you then.” He heard the phone click and put it on the seat next to him.

Looking in the rear view mirror, he noticed that he had a blemish on his cheek. Rubbing it, he began to laugh softly at the irony of being almost past middle aged and still having a complexion that occasionally hearkened back to his teens. He shook his head and got out of the car and walked back into the station.



The farmhouse…

There was no need for anonymity, the man thought. He felt invincible, as all who share in his rage and hatred do. But he was still cautious enough to stay in the shadows behind the glare of the harsh lamps aimed directly at the girl. She was just waking up….more like being ripped into consciousness after a barely effective retreat from the pain.

“Want to see?” The man rolled an antique mirror over to the bed where the girl was bound. He tilted it at the hinged center, revealing to her a view that he considered comforting. She went to scream, but no words escaped her lips. He didn’t bother to gag her. Not just because no one would hear, but because he had been energized by her screams.

“You can’t fool anyone, little boy,” he spoke in rebuke.

The girl looked at the image that grew larger as he rolled the mirror closer. He had cut off all of her hair, a crude cut that left the remaining hair uneven and ugly while her shorn locks still lay across her body. He had torn the studs from her ears, leaving bloody lobes. Every bit of makeup had been scrubbed off, rough enough to leave a reddish shimmer on her cheeks.

And every part of her was flooded with unspeakable pain, but none so much as the memory of the horrific invasion of the assault. How utterly perverse but welcomed irony, the man thought, that the English word for the plant that warmed the field just outside the house and the crime that destroyed the innocence of the girl inside the house was the same word – rape.

Tears fell even as she still failed to utter a sound. She looked at him in plea, her question unspoken and with not even a whisper or mouthing silently. He glared at her and answered the only question she would have at that moment, since it was the same first question out of all the others.

“Why?”

He paused and stroked his chin in thought as he laughed; the softness of his voice more horrifying that any word he could ever shout.

“I could go into how much I hate you and your kind and why, but really, little boy? I do this mostly just because I can”.



The station, just before noon..

So cruel the things I've seen
Know now that would scare you
I'll keep that part of me away when I'm near you

Linda sat at her desk. She had gone from understanding to impatient to resentful, only to sigh in frustration over everything the day continued to bring. A quick call home got an unexpected answer as Hans picked up the phone instead of Klara’s sitter. Klara apparently was having a great day according to Hans, but he said that almost always if Klara merely wasn’t crying about his absence.

“Din jävla,” she said under her breath. Hans spoke quickly, as if he had called her instead. He revealed nothing and everything when he insisted they had to talk. He barely communicated with her already, and his urgency could only mean one thing. The thought of divorce left her hurt and angry and scared and relieved all in one moment.

But it wasn’t just about Hans and her, but especially about a little girl whose father’s estrangement left her with only two people in the world who actually gave a damn. And that left Linda facing her own beast, as Kim’s father had so brilliantly put it. Soon, even if he lived many more years, her father might depart, likely leaving Linda to raise Klara by herself.

She sighed and turned around just as Kurt reentered the station. He headed to Lisa’s office while virtually ignoring Linda, still having made no time to talk to her.

She felt overwhelmed, and she stood up and quickly retreated to the sanctuary of the ladies room. She quickly entered a stall and sat down and began to sob. The sounds might be insulated to the outside but echoed off the bright, smooth tiles that covered the lavatory walls.

As her sobs subsided, she heard similar sounds coming from the stall to her left.

“Are you okay,” she spoke even as the woman beside her spoke the exact same words, which in turn reverberated in the room like echoes across a deep valley. Their words were quickly replaced by nervous laughter. Linda stood up and exited the stall, coming face to face with Kim Svedin.

“You okay,” she repeated, feeling odd that she didn’t add the woman’s name. It was fairly obvious that Kim was not okay. Her face was red, and not merely from crying. Kim used her jacket sleeve to wipe the mixture of tears and spittle from her face.

“I…. I made the mistake of looking at that girl’s file….” She said, looking back in embarrassment at the open door of the stall. She put her head down and used one hand to lean against the wall, unsteady. Linda squinted a bit only to have her eyes widen quickly in understanding. The quiet shouted at both of them as awkwardness gave way to shame for the past for one woman and feeling ashamed for being so quick to judge by the other.

“When I was fifteen….before…” Kim used her own gaze to eye her body up and down, and Linda’s eyes followed like she was being led on an adventure that Kim had never meant for Linda to undertake. Kim noticed and continued.

“When I was seven, I knew I was different…. My uncle ….noticed it ….and then when I was in Secondary some boys….” So many reasons to feel shame and guilt and none of them legitimate if still wielding a tenacious stranglehold . Kim sighed as her words refused to come forth, leaving her to look at Linda in plea before beginning to sob once again.

Linda wanted to run away and at the same time she wanted to hold Kim in her arms like she held Klara; a mother’s instinct for a woman the same age as her? A woman? Yes, of course…a woman, Linda just reached over and squeezed Kim’s shoulder while wondering how she could possibly work with someone so…weak? No, not weak at all. Kim frowned at herself and spoke in a raspy near whisper.

“I…I’m okay. I hate this, but it’s what I’m stuck with. I guess it’s what my Farfar used to say? He’s a poet among other things, and he says he just writes what comes to him? I’ll do whatever I can to be straight with you, Inspector Wallander.”

The same worldview, so to speak that Linda’s own grandfather used to describe his painting. Kim smiled slightly and Linda realized she wasn’t being formal for the sake of getting along, but rather earnestly wanting to defer to Linda’s place within the department.

“We will find this guy.” A simple if as yet unknowable outcome that served to bring a focus that each had already chosen to embrace. A new team was being forged even as the old one was slowly and gently being pulled apart. Linda could only hope that both teams…or rather an amalgam of both teams would emerge, hopefully leaving Linda and Kurt and Kim able to take what came to them all to stop this horror. Linda nodded and offered her hand to Kim.

“Okay?” Linda paused while Kim considered it. She wiped her face once again before offering her hand in return to Linda.

“Okay!”



11:20 am, just outside of Ystad….

The girl took the crude burlap hood off her head. She was dizzy from the drugs he had forced upon her but still every bit of her cried out in pain.

Through tear-swollen eyelids she peered down at her bare body, overwhelmed with shame. The man had left a blanket by her when he drove off.

“Cover yourself,” he had hissed. She was still too woozy to see anything clearly, which was exactly what he had counted on. It was as if he planned his departure to torture her one last time. Awake soon enough to know he left her but not soon enough to do anything other than shake nakedly in the open night air.

Almost an hour later she staggered down Kristianstadvägen, failing to notice the hospital to her right. As she walked further along, she saw a large delivery truck heading her way. She wiped the tears still remaining on her face before stepping into its oncoming path…



12:42 am…

“Linda? Yeah, it’s me,” Nyberg spoke into the cell phone. His hands shook as he stared at the truck driver sitting in the back of the ambulance.

“Another girl. She jumped in front of an ICA Delivery Rig… No, the driver’s okay but shaken up. He veered into a light pole in front of the Mora Promenaden restaurant and scraped the side of the cab, but he…he’s okay.” Nyberg choked back a relieved sob.

“The girl’s hurt awfully bad nut not from this, the truck missed her. Yeah. She’s alive….”

Cause life is real enough
from this It's almost like a dream
even when I wake up
And outside the life goes on



Chapter Three – Undra (Wonder)

Kurt recalled…

…All the sacrifices the two girls had made for the man had been for naught. Lost innocence and hurtful shame only to be rewarded with the death of a man who never really appreciated how blessed he had been. It was too much. Kurt stood up and punched the wall behind the couch; cracking the plaster and sending a picture crashing to the floor.

The frame and glass shattered; leaving the photograph unprotected. Another picture of happier times. Inger Erickson sitting on a bench in a park somewhere; flanked by two adorable little children. Even then they didn’t look like boys. Kurt leaned against the wall and wept harder than at any time in his life…

When there’s so much darkness closing in
Just swerve around slowly
You’ll find an opening
A light will appear like an animal between the trees

Kurt sat in his car as he waited for Anne-Britt. He stared Linda’s picture on his phone. Like his relationship with his father, reconciliation with Linda had almost come too late. He hit another icon, revealing a somewhat peaceful looking teenage girl. Kurt frowned as he stared, feeling entirely condemned for not keeping touch. The girl had sent him the picture to stay connected with the man she considered her savior, albeit if among more than a few saviors.

Years of neglect and even stark abuse of the girl had been replaced with a loving family, but that didn’t make Kurt feel any better about himself. Learning that he was not her father, as remote as that possibility had always been, the disappointment drove him back into emotional isolation, at least at first. He tried without success to step past his fears to call the girl, and certainly Anne-Britt had tried to encourage Kurt, but realized that Kurt would open up in his own time.

When he finally emerged, he made quick atonement in a way, and had literally thrown himself into being Farfar Kurt for Linda’ daughter Karla. And his presence was helping Linda negotiate the maze of disappointment in her estrangement with her husband Hans.

Barely a father and no longer a husband, Hans was still there in a way since he had refused to divorce Linda. Kurt wondered if that was still the case. His twin disappointments seemed to harass him until he realized he was doing as much as he could for his own daughter and only time would reveal if he could do anything for Inger. He sighed.

“Kurt?”

A voice came through the slightly open window of the Volvo. He turned to his left to find Anne-Brit standing with her arm around a familiar, if a bit more mature girl. He shook his head in surprise at Inger’s presence. At some point he had wanted to talk with her, given her likely friendship with the small imperiled group of girls ‘like her.’ Ann-Britt noticed his surprise and half-smiled.

“I read the papers, Kurt, and I’m online as well.” She glanced at the girl before throwing a teasing glare at him. The girl smiled and shrugged nervously before stepping backward a bit. Anne-Britt tried to urge Inger forward but the girl did not budge until she heard Kurt speak.

“I…I am sorry.”

No need to expand, since both understood and that simply was that. She walked swiftly to the car and put her hand on the door, grazing Kurt’s arm slightly. Anne-Britt stepped closer and motioned, leaving the girl to back away slightly as Kurt exited the car. The touch on his arm was the only sign the girl would offer, but it was closer than any moment that led up to the reunion as they walked to the entrance of the restaurant.

“Kurt? Inger and I were going shopping. Perhaps we can drop by the station to have the talk we all know is needed?” She smiled, leaving him shrugging with a grin. It was a light moment that perhaps foreshadowed a breakthrough? Inger was probably friends with at least two of who now numbered eight victims since the beginning of the year.

“That’s fine. Why don’t you two enjoy lunch and I’ll see you after three or four?” He stood without waiting for the response. Small talk seemed to escape him more each day, but work left him with a purpose and a helpful focus. He laid some cash on the table as Anne-Britt nodded.

“I’ll see you later, yeah? And it’s good to see you….both.” With that he smiled again and walked out. Life continued to be challenging and almost circuitous, but seemed to be coming full circle.



Ystad Hospital Intensive Care…

Kim and Linda stood in front of the wide window looking into the unit. They both had folded their arms in a mixture of dread and impatience. The attending doctor stepped out of the unit. He walked up and nodded slightly.

“She’s out of the woods, at least physically. She has been sobbing since she was brought in… sort of. She hardly uttered a sound. There’s no ID, so it’s up to the Malmo police to get in touch, assuming she’s even from there. With several girls missing in the whole area, she could be from anywhere between here and Malmo or even beyond. The pediatric psychiatrist will be dropping by in a short while to discuss her case with you. Fingerprints may be useless since she’s likely not in the system. We expect…” Dr. Patel faced Kim.

“We expect Malmo will have someone looking for her.” He turned and gazed through the window. Someone had managed to brush what little hair she had left and a kind grandmotherly nurse had gifted some clothing and a stuffed bear that the girl hadn’t stopped hugging since she woke up. The toy was of some solace, but the horror was still etched into each expression as the tears continued to flow.

“No words? Fan dig!.” Linda said, sounding almost exactly like her father.

“What type of man can do this?” It was an assumption that bore little connection to any reality. Kim corrected her with a sigh and a touch on Linda’s shoulder.

“No man did this.” Kim bit her lip and shook her head with what Linda would come to recognize was controlled anger.

“Imagine the worst horror movie you ever saw and multiply it by a thousand… that’s what this girl and all the others have seen face-to-face. I would not hesitate to…”

“We have to stay focused,” Linda said with a wave toward the girl behind the window. Kim half-smiled.

“This is focused, Inspector Wallander,” she blinked her eyes and yawned. The two had been up since the call came into the station the night before.

”I’ll call you when Dr. Nillsson gets back in, and I will certainly call you if the girl’s condition changes. Especially if she says something.” Dr. Patel nodded and returned to the girl’s side.

“Coffee?” Linda used her eyes to glance down the hallway. Kim nodded and they walked out.



Elsewhere…

The man sat at his desk. If his co-workers knew what he was doing, they’d thank him. Some probably would help. But there were those who stood in his way, and would never do…




There you’ll find your pocket of peace
Make a perfect circle, it’s all around you
Put your mark on the map anywhere or nowhere
It’s up to you it’s not too late to find an opening


The hospital coffee bar…

“I wanted to thank you for being so kind,” Kim said almost in a whisper. Linda almost shook her head in disagreement. While things seemed to be smoothing out, she still felt awkward and even a bit resentful that no one, including Kurt, had spoken with her regarding his step back. And the woman who was ostensibly replacing him appeared to have her own agenda; speaking when convenient and either changing the subject or just not talking when it suited her.

“I am convinced that this monster will ramp up this horror. These girls have been terrified, but more and more with each succeeding victim.”

“How many so far?” Linda asked almost reflexively. She wanted to move past her hurt to focus on the cases that were now converging like a flash flood of terror.

“Seven between here and Malmo, with another two further north.

“So he… he’s moving.” Kim nodded and Linda continued.

“Any hits on any of the registries?”

“Nothing concrete. No history anywhere like this in Sweden or Denmark. We’re waiting on others jurisdictions. Nothing in any archive that resembles this….mostly…?” Kim sighed at her own words.

“Mostly?” Linda seemed impatient, but for the first time since she had been paired with Inspector Svedin , she had regained her focus.

“Adult victims; prostitutes for the most part, but localized. Something near Helsinki on a wider scale, but the guy who did it was killed in prison.

“I cannot imagine how much hate fills this man’s soul.” Linda shook her head and Kim replied.

“I’m not sure he has one…”

“One what?” Linda tilted her head slightly in question.”

“A soul. I don’t think this monster has a soul,” Kim breathed out as a scowl crossed her face.

“Does this have?” Linda paused, and her gaze fell upon the scar on Kim’s face.

“NO!” Kim snapped at Linda and went to stand up.

“I’m sorry,” Linda said, absent-mindedly reaching to grab Kim’s hand. Kim pulled back and repeated her reply, but in an almost soft tone.

“No, Inspector Wallander…. Not that.” She stopped at the door and half-smiled.

“The doctor just had the nurse text me. You coming?”

Kim had gone from almost hostile to practically inviting in an instant. As curious as Linda was at the sudden change, she was more annoyed that she was stuck in this pairing, left to negotiate the twists and turns of what little Kim chose to reveal about herself. She wondered if that caution extended to the case…the cases. Kim waved toward the doorway and raised an eyebrow as if to say, ‘Well?” Linda smiled and nodded as she grabbed her purse before they headed back to the ICU.



A few minutes later…

Linda stood almost behind Kim as they talked with Dr. Nillsson. The woman moved her gaze between Linda and Kim and used her arm in a broad gesture to indicate the girl resting somewhat peacefully behind them.

“She’s a fighter underneath it all. This is as sadistic an assault as I’ve ever seen, but she… Now that she’s coming around, she’s not as scared as you’d expect. She still is struggling to speak, but she’s there. It’s like the words are not just stuck, but there’s something in her face that seems to indicate she just hasn’t figured out what to say.

“She’s afraid?” Kim asked.

“No. More like she doesn’t want to say the wrong thing. Almost like she’s not speaking until she’s precise?” Kim shook her head and replied.

“I worked with a girl in Malmo… not one of these…” She realized what she just said and added,

“Not that the trauma is any less painful, but the girl was not transgender. The same need to be precise, however, seemed to steer her first words once she began to speak.” Dr. Nilsson nodded and Linda tilted her head slightly.

“How so?” Kim half-frowned, but her expression was not directed at Linda.

“It was as if…well, she said later, actually, that she didn’t want to make a mistake. Her counselor helped her realize that she was wracked with guilt that she didn’t stop him. That somehow she felt the need to…apologize.” Kim looked through to the girl and her face darkened just a bit.

“Does that sound about right, Doctor?” Linda looked back and forth between the two women. There’s a time, many times, actually where a psychiatrist has to remain objective almost to the point of appearing dispassionate. Dr. Nillsson’s expression almost mirrored Kim’s and now Linda’s.

“Whoever did this…” She paused, searching for her own precision.

“Whoever did this, whatever he said to her as he hurt her? He wants her and all of the others not just to feel pain, but to feel guilt. As if everything isn’t so much… He wants them to believe everything he’s done is their fault.” Dr. Nillsson’s face almost appeared sullen but for the slight flare of her nostrils and the growing angry pink on her cheeks.

“If you don’t mind, Inspector Wallander, I would like to quote you?” Without waiting for a reply, Kim breathed out and spoke,

“Fan Dig!”



In a conference room at the station later that afternoon…

Kurt sat across from Anne-Britt and Inger at the large conference table.

“I’d like to have Linda and Inspector Svedin join us at some point, but I…” He paused. Anne-Britt spoke but hesitated.

“I’m not sure…” Inger waved her left hand slightly.

“It’s okay. I want to help,' Inger replied. Kurt half-smiled in relief. As much as he had wanted to defer to the girl’s needs, the moment demanded a quicker approach.

“It’s okay, sir. I’m not ömtålig.”

“Yes, of course, Kurt said, knowing that Inger was likely one of the strongest persons he had ever met.

“I know two of the girls from school. We… we got stuck in a club we didn’t join, but we need each other? We…” Inger bit her lip as her eyes welled up with tears.

“Ask me anything.” She frowned and her hands gripped the arm of the chair. Kurt nodded.

“I’m going to leave the interview to my daughter… to Inspector Wallander and Inspector Svedin. I just wanted to get your impressions? What you know about your….” Anne-Brit rose up a bit and spoke.

“Were they doing anything to… invite this? Come on, Kurt. Don’t blame the victim?” Kurt resisted the urge to correct her. First, she was as protective as ever. But second, he probably could have been more precise in his question.

“I’m sorry…Inger.” It was almost a struggle to say the girl’s name given his disappointment and her history.

“Do any of your friends have someone who supports them like Carol and her family?” Inger had been with Anne-Britt’s sister and her husband Thomas and their two girls.

“Anneke has her sister and her mom. Her dad is okay, but he lives in Stockholm. Lisa’s family wasn’t there for here until….” Inger sighed heavily. Better-late-than- never was hardly comforting to a child traumatized in such a manner, but it was all her friend had.

“That makes me wonder? With some support, your friends weren’t isolated so much as targeted?” Anne-Britt nodded and Inger looked away slightly.

“None of us is safe,” she said. Having already been through one lifetime of unspeakable hurt and loss, Inger had almost lost the ability to fear save for a deeply instilled healthy sense of caution. Her words were merely an observation by one who had seen way too much in such a short span.

At one time a victim of her father’s abuse, the girl had moved past her own shame and guilt. Fueled by knowledge that her sister and her mother had loved her in their own means of sacrifice, Inger was no longer a victim but a survivor, and a very strong one at that.

“The inspectors were at the hospital and have been briefing the team. They’ll join us shortly,” Kurt said. Inger faced Anne-Britt.

“Can we just talk like friends until they get here?” Anne-Britt turned to Kurt, who nodded almost in hesitation. He’d barely been a good friend to Anne-Britt since she left the police, and he hardly knew the girl sitting across from him.

“My…friends helped me with something. My sister only had her boy name before she died. You remember?” Kurt could never forget that Inger’s sister had despaired of life to take her own in an effort to protect. Ulfie died alone and ashamed and almost unknown. The girl needed more than a nod.

“I remember she loved you very much and I knew then and I know how much you miss her.” Inger lowered her head slightly.

“I… yes, sir. Anne-Britt told me how you paid for her… and that you had them leave her first name blank? My friends…we came up with a name. Johanna.”

It was all the girl could do just to finish before she turned and fell into Anne-Britt and sobbed. Kurt tried to recall what to say and he suddenly realized that he did not need to think, but just remember what it was like for him when his mother passed. He got up and walked around the table. Uncharacteristically, he knelt down on a very stiff left knee, almost genuflecting as he spoke softly to the girl.

“That is a beautiful name.”



In Kim and Linda’s now shared office…

Linda arose from her chair and walked over to shut the office door. She wiped a bit of sleep out of her left eye in a brief effort to avoid the confrontation she feared would arise at her next few words.

“Can I… May I ask you a question?” Confrontation arrived swiftly as her words were curt. Kim looked up from the file splayed across their joined desks.

“Yes,” she said calmly despite the abruptness of Linda’s tone.

“I was wondering, are you angry … are you angry and disappointed with this arrangement? I can handle you being on this case, but it feels like you can’t handle me?”

“Why do you say that?” Questions answering questions do sometimes lead somewhere. She smiled in her now firmly established deferential manner. Which seemed to further frustrate Linda.

“You don’t appear to want to answer questions. I feel like I’m an interloper in my own team. What am I doing wrong.” Kim smiled as Linda finished.

“You’re not doing anything wrong, Inspector Wallander.”

“That’s another thing. You don’t call me by my name. Inspector Wallander?”

“I only want to continue to defer to your own expertise and position within this department. I’m sorry for giving the wrong impression.” Linda folded her arms, almost shouting out how dissatisfied she was with Kim’s answer.

“I’m sorry that I’m here. I’m sorry that you were shoved aside. I am very sorry that I truly am a poor substitute for your father. Mostly and likely this will never get better, I am sorry that my presence is because these girls are being hurt. But no, Linda….” Her voice softened and grew quiet.

“I am not disappointed in you at all.” Linda’s eyes widened as her confusion diminished only somewhat.

“I’m sorry too. I didn’t want to…”

“To put me off? I’m a big girl, Linda. I would have been surprised if you didn’t resent me. But here we are, as you know, Inspector Wallander, with a horrible job to do. I am confident that we shall work well together, but I fear that we cannot work fast enough to prevent this fiend from hurting another child. That is my only disappointment. We need not speak of this again, yeah?” Kim stood and reached over their desks and offered her hand.

“Partners?” Kim smiled at Linda, and while animosity seemed to evaporate, Linda was still left feeling small and even more awkward than before. Nevertheless she shook Kim’s hand, echoing the word.

“Partners.”

“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.

Make a perfect circle it’s all around you
You know that everything lingers for you to follow through
It’s up to you
It’s not too late to find an opening
Do you wanna rediscover or do want it all to be over
Do you want to see the meaning of the circling?



Chapter Four – Tro (Faith)

Kurt’s office... A few days later…

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

“I’m going to drive out to Anne-Britt’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-Britt 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 Marcus 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



Chapter Five – Kärlek (Love)

At Intensive Care, 6:17 AM…

You will find me there among the brave ones
The ones that I can never overcome
I want to be someone you can lay your weight upon
Someone who's saves you someone who holds on
Daring to love….Oh love
And come alive…Alive

Inger sat on the gurney, her legs dangling off the side. The nurse was trying to persuade her to wait, and the girl was in near hysterics. A moment later another nurse had given Inger a sedative through her IV drip and she began to calm down. Kim and Linda approached just behind Dr. Lindstrom. The woman stepped aside and spoke with the nurses while Kim and Linda introduced themselves.

“Inger? I’m Inspector Svedin, and this is Inspector Linda Wallander,” Kim said calmly while urging Linda forward.

“You’re his daughter?” Inger asked with a look of almost suspicion until a smile began to grow.

“Yes. We’re going to get…” She barely got the words out of her mouth when the girl burst into tears. Kim raised her hands slightly and calmly spoke again.

“This is hard, Inger, but I promise…”

“I failed…. Don’t you see? I failed!” Her loud sobs were replaced by near-whimpers as she shook her head.

“I didn’t see him. He was hidden. I was supposed to see him…” Her voice trailed off and Kim looked at Linda in cautious dread. She nodded and Linda spoke.

“What do you mean, ‘supposed to?” He attacked you. This isn’t your fault.” Inger raised her head slightly and the look on her face was that of fear mixed with horrible grief.

“Don’t you see? I failed. I failed my friends…. I failed Johanna…. Everybody. I’m useless, just like my father said. Nothing but a whore.” She went to pull away but Linda grabbed her and hugged her. Resistance soon faded into resignation.

“You’re not a failure, Inger. You’re a brave girl.”

“No… I was supposed to see him…he was right there and I didn’t turn in time and I never saw his face…” She sobbed into Linda’s shoulder. Kim looked at the girl and a sense of horror filled her. She stepped close and placed her hand on Inger’s shoulder.

“You let this happen,” she said in an almost monotone. Linda turned and shot her a glare. Blaming the victim? But Kim shook her head at the silent rebuke and spoke.

“You were…bait?” Simple if altogether tragic for anyone, but Inger had been through a world of horror even before the man attacked her. Inger pulled away from Linda’s shoulder and stared at Kim, as if it should have been apparent to them.

“My sister…. She never even had a name. But she was a good girl. She sacrificed herself so that….I was never as good as her.” She hit herself in the face in punishment but Kim grabbed her before she could continue. She held the girl’s hand and shook her head no. Turning Inger’s head slowly, Kim asked in a near whisper,

“You let this happen so the man could be stopped?”

“All I could see was the room… and his voice. I’ll never forget that voice,” she sobbed as the horror overtook her.”

“Now he can’t be stopped. Some other girl will be hurt because I failed.” Inger continued to sob, and the pain of the girl’s grief hit Kim hard. She put her hand to her mouth and stifled her own cry. Too personal and entirely unprofessional until she saw that Linda’s eyes were also filled with tears. It was as if the needless sacrifice Inger’s sister made in death was almost duplicated in Inger’s act. But Kim gained enough composure to speak.

“NO, Inger. NO. You did not fail. He is evil but he is not perfect. You will succeed and we will stop him. Because of you.”

Kim had absolutely no idea from where her confidence arose. It would have been easy for Linda to caution Kim in that regard, but something was happening. Supernatural? Or just a trust that things would work out because of the bravery of the girl sitting on the gurney…



Meanwhile…

The man had just listened to some nonsense about the task at hand. He wondered if he would have time for his own task as he rose and exited the room. Someday his mission would be seen as much more important, and perhaps he would have others to help see the task completed…



At the station….

“The doctors say she’s as resilient a human being as they’ve ever seen. The nurse will be wheeling her into the same room as our little ‘Tro.” We can head back over after talking with Kurt and Lisa.” Kim lowered her head a bit and continued.

“I’m sorry for the display back there. It was just wrong, and I promise…”

“Which display, Kim?” Linda made a point to use the name rather than the title.

“The emotional outburst over the tragedy that girl lives? Or the promise I wanted to make but didn’t? Human, are we? God Damn the stupid fatalism. I’m sick of no hope, Kim. I’m sick and tired that the universe is just fucked up enough to let things like this happen. I’m tired that my father is dying in front of me. That my husband whores around and then wants to smile at our daughter as if he’s there when he’s not. And I’m sorry I don’t have the courage you have.”

“I…I’m not brave…” Kim spoke in a near whisper as she lowered her head in shame.

“I guess. It must not take courage to be the person you are when everything around you says no you’re not. You must be a coward for giving up your life to help kids like Inger.”

“It’s not like I have a choice,” Kim argued as she looked down at her body.

“I thought you were a woman, but apparently I must be wrong. I can’t argue with that if you deny what we both know. That you’re a brave, beautiful woman who just doesn’t fit in. But you do. My Dad says you’re one of the best cops in Skane, and he hates to give praise…”

“I know he’s a bit cheap that way,” Kim laughed softly as the cloud of doubt seemed to lift if only a bit. Linda continued.

“I never knew growing up how much he was proud of me, but I look back and realize he learned that from his father. But in the time since, he’s unlearned it. He is proud of me.” Linda paused to gauge her partner’s reaction. Kin nodded but it was as if pride and accomplishment were withheld from the woman.

“I think you’re a great cop, Kim.” Linda looked away and paused, searching for just the right words that would go only as far as she intended.

“You’re good. And kind. And…” Linda found herself stepping back in fear. The warmth on her face was giving away the feelings she had hoped her words would hide. Kim smiled and shook her head.

“No, Inspector Wallander. I…. we have a job to do.” She sighed and grabbed her purse, offering no other words but for the clear instruction.

“Coffee first, meeting second and then back to the hospital?” Linda thought she detected at least the beginnings of a grin on Kim’s face before she walked out of the office.

I can be your heroine
If someone lends a hand to hold my heart
This heaving pounding sound I am carrying
It leads me straight it makes me fall apart
Daring to love…Oh love
And come alive…Alive



Kurt’s office…

Kurt sat behind his desk, which he had managed to clear with the help of the new woman working evening dispatch. Lisa Holgersson had just left for a conference call with the Copenhagen police. The immediate decision was that both girls would be given round-the-clock protection during and after their time at the hospital for the foreseeable future.

“I’ll be back in about twenty….” Kim said, eyeing the door. Kurt and Linda nodded almost reflexively even as Kim was already out and gone, with the door closed behind her.

“She’s doing a fine job, yeah?” Kurt said with a half smile. Linda forgot what she had told Kim only forty or so minutes before and snapped at him.

“What about me, Dad?” Kurt laughed softly, leaving Linda even angrier. She went to reply but he waved his hand.

“I would say, it goes without saying, but it would be just like we were when you were growing up. I’m sorry.” He sighed.

“I… I don’t have it all down, yeah?” He pointed to a legal size yellow pad on the desk; a literal representation of his frustration. Linda stared at the pad. Kurt had made a list of things he needed to tell Linda and Kim. Two through six were followed by tasks seemingly related to the case, but number one was followed by a question mark.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” she said as the implication of what was left unsaid hit home. She quickly slid the conversation sideways.

“It’s been nagging at me, Dad. Mattson hardly said a word about anything before he left for his surgery. And Lisa was barely back in the building before Kim showed up.” She looked over her shoulder, wondering if Kim would return early.

“Whose idea was it to pair us up? Yours? Tell me it wasn’t your idea. You and I barely got to work together and now I’m partnered with….” Linda paused and her face grew red.

“No… it’s not because… It’s just that she’s not you. I’m sorry.”

“I know. You’re angry because I made the decision without thinking of talking first with you.” Linda practically glared at him. He smiled weakly and continued.

“This decision was mine alone because…” He looked confused as thoughts and words pushed away from each other for a few moments. Linda took his silence as leave to interject.

“You could at least have given me a heads up, Dad. I felt so left out.” She had steeled herself enough to keep from self-pitiful crying, but there were tears welling in her eyes nonetheless. A look of recognition appeared on Kurt’s face, followed by a sigh. He pointed to blank entry at the top of the list.

“I was supposed to call you at home on the Friday before Inspector Svedin arrived. I… “His expression was a mixture of a great deal of disappointment and only a little bit of confusion. In that single moment, Linda understood why he forgot and painfully more important, why he made the decision.

“Dad?” She leaned across the desk and grabbed his hand.

“Dad?” She repeated. His face quickly returned to the calm demeanor that typically signaled ‘all clear...the beast has departed for the time being.

“Yeah? Oh… I’m sorry. What was I… Svedin needed someone who could work with her. And I needed someone who could work with you.”

“Am I that difficult?” She shook her head. He shook his head no in reply.

“No…well maybe a little, but that’s just you and me. No. I needed someone who was able to pair with you because I can’t.” Linda shook her head again and bit her lip. He smiled and patted her hand.

“I plan to be here as long as I can, but you need someone who can play off strengths and weaknesses just like we do… did.” He shrugged as if the inevitable didn’t really bother him… or Linda.

Both father and daughter sat several minutes in silence until Kim rapped on the door glass. Kurt waved for her to come in but she just opened the door and stood in the doorway.

“I was on the phone with Stockholm. No trans kids reported missing since the first girl was found. It seems the link she has is that she apparently was visiting her cousin in Lund. So far all the girls are from Skane.” They looked at each other and nodded.

“Nothing new but it confirms what we suspected. That this is local. I haven’t heard from Chief Holgersson since her call with Copenhagen, but I’ll bet this isn’t happening there…yet. Oh, by the way? The hospital called to say that the cop we sent over got there at about two this afternoon.” Kim smiled in relief until she noticed Kurt shake his head furiously as he rose from his desk.

“Get someone over there right now!” She went to protest but he cut her off.

“We haven’t formed a detail yet. Call security and get them on lockdown!” He sat down and sighed.

“I guess my meds are working overtime?” He smiled weakly even as Kim had already pulled out her cell phone. Linda had grabbed Kurt’s desk phone and was speaking loudly into the receiver.

“Get the Chief now. We have a situation at the hospital. Yeah, I know she’s on a conference call. Just do it.” Linda hit the disconnect on the phone and called dispatch.

“All available cars to Ystad Hospital. Suspect in sexual abuse case… Yeah. Assume armed and dangerous… Yeah.” She turned to find Kurt nodding almost enthusiastically as his gaze darted back and forth between Linda and Kim.

“See?” He smiled again and pointed to item number six on his list. Over a hastily erased ‘interview support group facilitator’ the Linda noticed the following,

“Praise Linda for initiative.”

“You just wrote that,” Linda said with a nervous laugh. The moment was really almost begging for a bit of levity. Kurt nodded but replied.

“Yeah but I thought of it when I got this pad from the supply cabinet two weeks ago.” It wasn’t really as light-hearted a moment, since he was fighting a beast that seemed to be gaining the upper hand. But sometimes even the most challenging things can bring clarity, even if it’s for someone else.

“I’ll get the car and meet you out front?” Kim ran out and down the hallway. Kurt’s gaze followed her exit.

“You know? I never really liked Hans,” he shook his head.

“What?” was all Linda could manage.

“Really. He’s an arrogant prick. If he wasn’t Karla’s father?”

“Stop it, Dad. Just stop it.”

She almost always handled his gradually diminishing inhibitions. For the most part his comments were lucid and focused, but now more often they were evidence of the nicks and bangs his mind was taking from the Alzheimer’s. And she threw up her hands to drive home her frustration. He either missed the gesture or ignored it,

“Now her? I like her. She reminds me of my sister Katrina.”

“Dad! Stop it. I’ve got to go,” she shouted even as she ran down the hall. A few moments later she got into the waiting car, only to find Kim sitting behind the wheel looking very upset. Kim turned to her even as she started the car.

“I just got off the phone with the first officers at the hospital.” For a split-second Kim’s eyes seemed to flare in rage, but the look was quickly replace by a calm anger as she continued.

“Between the cops and hospital security they’ve searched the whole place. If he was there, he’s gone now.” She closed her right hand into a fist and banged the steering wheel.”

“We’ll get him, Kim,” Linda said. She hadn’t intended to, but she reached over and grabbed the woman’s hand. Kim pulled away suddenly and shook her head.

“They’re missing, Linda. No one has been able to find them. Tro and Inger are gone!” She hit the steering wheel once more before settling down.

“I swear to god. Inspector Wallander. If he’s hurt them…” Tears streamed down Kim’s face.

“I swear to god I will…” She turned her face forward.

“Me too, Inspector Svedin. Me too.” Linda said as Kim put the car in gear and they drove off.

But most of all to be loved
I will fail to take the easy way out
I will tell the truth one more time
Even though it hurts even though I stay in the sheets we have on
I will take a step on the densest darkest ground
Daring to love…Oh love
And come alive… Alive



Chapter Six – Ensam (Lonely)

So many words for the broken heart
It’s hard to see in a crimson love
So hard to breathe
Walk with me, and maybe
Nights of light so soon become
Wild and free I could feel the sun
Your every wish will be done
They tell me

On the way to the hospital, the usually nonexistent traffic had backed up due to an overturned cement truck, their urgency trumped by a supposed inevitability that accidents happen. Perhaps it was almost fate, but really the fault of a tired truck driver who took a corner too fast. Between the mess before them, the bottleneck behind, and two closed side streets, Kim and Linda were forced to get out and walk to the hospital.

“Slow down, Linda called out. Kim continued to walk fast, but relented after a few yards. Linda caught up and walked alongside her.

“They’re sending another car just ahead. I’m sorry, but this can’t wait. She went to resume her pace, but Linda grabbed her arm.

“I know. I just am…. It’s already been a long day, and a few seconds can be spared. Besides, I wanted to talk with you before we get there. With the chaos, we won’t have much time to brainstorm the first few minutes, yeah?” Kim stopped and folded her arms, as if to say, ‘go ahead.’

“Whoever got there? Two things? He had to be in uniform, so that’s at least something to start with.” Kim nodded, but her expression was more than glum. Linda continued.

“Here’s the thing? We only had the meeting at the station this morning. No one else knew about the protective detail. The call out regarding Tro was to police only. You know? The databases and everything else we looked into to find out if there were any reports, but we never posted that the girl was in Ystad. With her injuries, she could easily been sent up to Stockholm. Only hospital personnel knew that Inger and Tro were there together.”

Linda sighed and paused, raising an eyebrow in question. Kim stood quiet for a moment but then began to walk while assuming a slower pace.

“Yeah. The hospital… knew about that…” Her voice tailed off as her eyes squinted a bit in thought.

“No one but you and me and your Dad and Lisa knew about timing of for the detail. I know it’s premature to deduce anything from that, but it’s awfully curious that only a few hours before the detail was to be put in place, the man shows up at the hospital, you know?” Linda nodded and spoke.

“It’s as if he…. Fan dig!’

“Yeah, fan dig! I swear to god…” Kim repeated herself. Linda shook her head.

“If what we ….you may just have to stand in line to deal with him.” It wasn’t a contest, since both women and everyone else were determined to put this evil away like a mad dog. But Kim was still wrestling with herself, and an outlook sadly cemented into place years ago was winning over reason. She absentmindedly reached behind her back for her weapon as she glared in silence…at least until Linda spoke.

“You have come too far and you have become so much more important that your hurt, Inspector Svedin. We… All of us will get this demon. We can only do that if you don’t run ahead, yeah?”

Kim nodded and oddly started to laugh. Linda turned to see what was so funny and Kim pointed to the distance between them. She had stopped walking and Linda was almost ten yards ahead. She went to walk back, but the car sent to retrieve them pulled up with lights and sirens.

“Shall we?” Kim held her arm out to point at the back door of the police car, leaving Linda to pull the door open. She thought about saying, ‘after you,’ but just got into the car and sidled over as Kim got in and closed the door. A moment later they were speeding toward the hospital.




At the hospital…

Police and the few security officers from the hospital stood waiting in the lobby as Lisa Holgersson got an update from one of the sergeants. All exits had been locked down and two officers were standing outside the entrance preventing any entry.

Meanwhile upstairs, Linda and Kim were standing at the nurses’ station with two of the nurses and the attending doctor for the floor.

“No one saw his face? How in heaven did that happen?” Linda shook her head in disbelief.

“He came at change of shift,” Nurse Jensen said.

“I was at the desk. One of the kids on the floor had a bad reaction to his meds, and I was on hold on the phone with Dr. Samuelsson, who was upstairs with another patient.” The woman was practically in tears.

“It’s all my fault. He said he was with the police, and when I looked up he was already halfway down the hallway. I only saw him from the back. I called out to him because I barely heard what he said. He stopped at the corner of the hallway and shouted, ‘I’m here to protect the little girls.’ I thought it was odd that he’d say that…. I couldn't make out his face, so I went to get up but one of the other nurses shouted something about the little boy and I ran to his room. Oh god, what if that devil hurts those girls. I am so sorry…”

The woman began to weep and one of the other nurses grabbed her gently by the arm. Kim stepped close and mirrored the gesture while saying calmly.

“You didn’t do anything wrong. He came at shift change just to take advantage of the very things that happen then. Thank you? Nurse…?

“J…Jensen… Karen Jensen…”

“Thank you, Ms. Jensen.” Kim nodded before turning her attention down the hall. She and Linda walked to the room and looked in.

“Security tapes show he’s about six feet tall, but his cap was pulled low and he had his head down,” Linda said. The room had been searched and a wide ‘crime scene’ tape was stretched across the doorway. Kim shook her head in frustration and leaned back against the hallway wall without looking. Her shoulder dislodged a large art print, sending it crashing to the floor.

“NOOOOO!” a high-pitched scream came from behind a solid door across the hall. Linda tried the door but it was locked. She turned to Kim and then yelled down to the nurses’ station.

“Get security to unlock this closet.” A few moments later a blond-haired woman in uniform ran up and unlocked the door. Cowering underneath some sheets in a large linen cart were Tro and Inger. Rather, Inger was holding the girl in her arms as she kept crying,

‘He’s here… He’s here….” Tro continued to cry. Inger kissed the girl’s forehead and looked up at Kim and Linda. She had been crying as well, but they were not tears of fear, but brave, determined and focused tears She nodded and calmly spoke.

“We heard his voice….we hid….”



A few minutes later the girls had been moved to a room on the floor above. Lisa Holgersson stood with her arms folded in an almost serene pose. No one other than she and Linda and Kim knew what the next step was, but they had assurance from the two nurses and the doctor and the woman from security that no one would be told that the girls were safe.

“Forty minutes in the lobby. I hate this.” Lisa said as she eyed the elevator. It was almost too much to take in, if what they feared was true? Kim nodded and walked into the girls’ room.

Tro sat upright in bed, rocking and swaying.

“My hair… why?” Inger grabbed her hand and pointed to her own hair.

“We can be like sisters, yeah? What’s your name?” The girl stopped swaying, as if being with Inger was the safest place in the world,’

“M….Marta…. my name is Marta.” Inger leaned close and kissed the girl on the cheek, leaving her to sob all the more.

“I’ll keep you safe,” Inger said. Not a sentinel or a bodyguard, Inger would be the person who would help safeguard her new ‘twin’s’ need to be herself.

“I don’t think she can….” Inger said softly as she held the girl in her arms.

“But I can… And I will!” Linda and Kim nodded at Inger simultaneously as Lisa Holgersson glanced upward, praying that their plan would succeed.



The hospital lobby about thirty minutes later...

“I am glad to report that both girls are safe and have actually begun to talk.” A few sighs of relief mixed with murmurs as the police and security staff milled about. Lisa stepped aside and Linda spoke.

“One of the girls is too traumatized to help at this point, but she’s resting safely after this horrible ordeal. The other girl has told us all she knows and we will be using that going forward. To that end, we will resume the original plan of a protective detail. I ask for your continued patience as we sort out schedules and such. Inspector Svedin will be talking with each of our officers here.”

With that, the handful of security personnel was ushered out of the lobby as Kim walked up and waved as she held a clipboard aloft.

“This won’t take long. The ten of you can tell me what hours you’re already assigned so we can make adjustments back at the station.” She used her arm in a broad gesture to have the officers come forward.

“Your detail?” She leaned forward as each spoke.

“Traffic,” the young woman said.

“I was off shift at five, but whatever you need.” The woman smiled. Kim nodded,

“Thanks, Officer Olsen,” Kim said as she eyed the woman’s ID tag. She turned and nodded to Linda, who left the lobby. One by one each officer spoke until only three were left.

“I can help tomorrow if that’s okay? It’s my wife’s birthday,” the thirtyish woman said. Before she had a chance to finish the other two spoke up.

“I’m available,” the younger of the two said.

“I guess I should as well, yeah?” the older spoke. Kim looked down at the clipboard in her hand, but her hand shot up to her ear.

“What?” She said. She covered her ear and paused. A moment later Linda was standing next to Kim, her service weapon out and pointed at the younger of the two.

“Slowly put your hands on your head.” As she spoke, Kim had drawn her own weapon and was pointing it at the young man’s head.

“Go ahead…Give me a reason to use this!” She gestured using her weapon to point to the man’s hands. A moment later, the relative quiet of the moment was interrupted with a shout.

“No! Not him. The other one!” Linda kept her weapon trained on the younger man as Inger appeared from behind, sitting in a wheelchair next to Kim. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she pointed to Sergeant Oskar Andersson, the very same policeman Kurt had chastised at the beginning of the investigation.

“That’s crazy,” he shouted.

“I HEARD YOU!” Inger yelled.

“The boy is crazy,” Andersson said. Kim’s eyes widened in recognition as she moved her aim away from the young officer and pointed her weapon at Andersson’s head.

“You just confessed. No one talked about what these girls said. Even the file from Malmo doesn’t include that the rapist called all of his victims boys. Your hatred betrays you.” Kim’s hand began to shake.

“You should rot in fucking hell!” She bit her lip hard enough to draw blood. Andersson sneered in response.

“I should get a medal for what I do. These pervers little boys who want to fool everyone. They don’t fool me,” he snapped as one of the other officers moved behind him with handcuffs. He lowered his head as if to surrender, but spun around and grabbed the officer’s weapon. With an almost calmness, he flicked off the safety and fired one shot into Inger’s chest before turning the weapon on himself. Before he had a chance to fire, the younger officer…the one who had been accused… tackled Andersson and wrestled the gun away.

“Noooo!” Linda cried out even as Kim was on the floor, cradling Inger in her arms. After a few agonizing moments, the girl’s eyes flickered open. She looked down at her chest and laughed through nervous tears. Pulling apart the front of her pajamas, she pointed to the Kevlar armor that saved her life. Kim looked up at Linda and half-smiled.

“I think she hit her head when the wheelchair fell over.”

“Too close for comfort, Inspector Svedin. I’m glad I thought of the vest.”

“We… thought of it,” Kim replied. Linda grinned a bit but her heart really wasn’t in it as she sat down on the floor and pulled Inger in and began to sob in concert with the girl. Kim slowly stood up. Between the embarrassment of her personal display with the girl and the lack of any personal display by Linda toward her, she sighed deeply before beating a hasty retreat to the Ladies Room…



Shortly thereafter…

Kim walked slowly down the hallway to the girls’ room. Even with the report of Andersson’s capture, Marta/Tro was almost inconsolable. Between both Inspectors and the girl’s new ‘twin,’ she eventually calmed down enough to say she was from Oslo and had been visiting a cousin who moved from Norway to Ystad. She laid back and hugged the toy dog she had gotten until she cried herself to sleep.

“Inspector?” Inger almost whispered as both woman nodded at the same time.

“No one reported her missing, did they?” She looked back and forth until centering on Kim, who shook her head no. Linda went to speak, but Inger interrupted.

“You both saved me. But Inspector Kim knows how we feel, yeah?” She looked over at the sleeping girl.

“Thank you, Inspector Wallander,” Inger said, making sure to emphasize the name.

“I wish I had… Carol and her family are nice, you know, but they’re more like good friends?” She continued moving her focus between Linda and Kim. Linda sighed. Anne-Britt had arrived along with her cousin Carol. Inger was likely only a day or two away from going home. Both women had thanked Linda and Kim and Lisa Holgersson, but Anne-Britt left Linda finally feeling that they were not just sharing Kurt in a way, but sharing respect as well.

“I wish I had a couple of Mom’s just like you. But I’m not a little girl anymore. I don’t think I ever was. Maybe my sis….not me.” Linda sat and looked away at a loss for words. She could sympathize, but Kim could hardly avoid empathizing. But the one thing that bound them together in that moment was an almost inevitable feeling of loneliness. Then again Linda was adamant about moving past the helplessness of the firmly entrenched Swedish mindset.

“To hell with Sartre and Kirkegaard!. To hell with fate! From where I sit…. Sorry about my only-child upbringing? I don’t know anyone who could be a better sister than you. Little girl? Sorry that didn’t work out, but you are a very nice young lady. Maybe you can visit when you’re feeling better and meet my little girl Karla?”

“Really?” Inger’s heart was flooded with so many accusations. She would never be good enough, would she? Kim almost anticipated the girl’s response, having also both desired and felt unworthy of family. She smiled and spoke.

“Can we…. May we both come?” She lowered her head, feeling almost ashamed for having the temerity of wanting to be human. Linda got up from her chair and walked to Inger’s bedside.

“Karla would love that.” She paused and considered how almost generic her answer was. Smiling at Inger, she turned and touched Kim’s arm and said softly but clearly.

“And I would love that too.”

Walk with me, and maybe
Nights of light so soon become
Wild and free I could feel the sun
Your every wish will be done
They tell me

Show me the meaning of being lonely
Is this the feeling I need to walk with
Tell me why I can't be there where you are
There's something missing in my heart



Chapter Seven - Conclusion
Skydd (Shelter)

Oh whisper me words in the shape of a bay
Shelter my love from the wind and the rain

A few weeks later on a Thursday night….

Linda had been awake after several hours of unrest. She lay on her back with her left arm shielding her eyes from the light over the bed. She dropped her arm down and picked up her cell phone from the night table. A brief respite from tears ended as she stared at the phone.

“Fan dig! A text? A text?! He wants a divorce and he sends a text?” She scaled the phone against the bedroom wall, where it fell to the floor in pieces. She noticed a stirring next to her and she sighed.

“Are you sad?” she heard from under the covers. She lifted the comforter.

“Mommy? Are you sad?” Karla said even as her eyes blinked once before she fell back asleep. Linda replied in a whisper, owing more to hoarseness brought out by crying than for Karla’s sake.

“Yes,” she gasped as she looked at the shattered phone. The text was frustrating and infuriating, but only a bit sad. Tears for the marriage ebbed long ago and her sadness was for Karla’s sake since Hans was barely present but now made worse by his decision to move to the United States.

“Mommy is very sad,” she murmured as she struck her thigh hard with a closed fist. Any anger she felt might have been left over from her soon-to-be-ex’s message, but she was more angry at herself…



Linda’s home, Monday of previous week...

Only the sunset knows my blind desire for the fleeting
Only the moon understands the beauty of love
When held by a hand like the aura of nostalgia

Linda sat on the couch in her pajamas, her arms folded in a self hug. Kim stood at a large mirror next to a table by the front door, brushing out her hair.

“That’s it then,” she said almost casually as she looked over her shoulder. Linda squinted and shook her head.

“So sure? You started this,” she snapped. Kim put the brush in her purse and walked to the couch. She resisted the temptation of standing, not wanting to be confrontational. She sat down and grabbed both of Linda’s hands.

“I started it? Yes. Inspector Wallander. But we both wanted this.”

“This? Is that what…” Linda used her hand in gesture back and forth between her and Kim.

“This,” Kim duplicated the gesture, but leaned closer, kissing Linda’s hands.

“I’m… I’m so sorry,” she said, looking away. Both women stared vacantly until Linda pulled Kim’s face around with a gentle tug.

“Me, too.” She sighed and her gaze wandered over to the fireplace. The mantel was almost unadorned other than a small vase and a music box on either side of the family photograph.

“I…” she began to explain, but Kim placed her fingertips light on Linda’s lips.

“Karla needs her father. And you need him to be that. I understand.”

Kim understood all too much. Her mother had stayed with her step-father throughout all of the abuse. Linda only endured a handful of harsh words, but the neglect Hans offered was very abusive in its own way. Too many absences tacitly shouted that Linda was unlovable. That Linda also had a choice to walk away was something Kim understood, but she would never put that burden on her.

“I…” Linda touched Kim’s cheek, her hesitation speaking of wanting to be more.

“We had a good beginning. But we can no longer walk through the same door, yeah? It was a good beginning but only that…” She wanted to add ‘for now,’ but that would only give them both false hope.

“Karla needs what I cannot offer.” Kim put her head down.

“I’m not…. I am not rejecting you.” Linda argued. Kim shook her head furiously.

“No, Linda, I’m rejecting me. I am not complete. I am not authentic. I cannot…”

“But…” Linda went to continue, but Kim shook her head again.

“We have known each other for what, around a month. How can I compete with a marriage.”

“But don’t you love me?” Linda pleaded.

“I like you very much.”

“Like?” Is that all I am to you?” Linda spoke in a forced whisper. Karla was asleep upstairs.

“Remember what you told me your father said about Hans? That he never liked him. First comes liking then love. And since when did I ever say I didn’t love you?”

“But that has to matter, Kim!”

“It matters more than I can say, but not as much as you and what you need.” Linda pursed her lips and her nostrils flared as tears began to stream down her cheeks.

“Walk me to the car?” Linda leaned forward as if to rise but just touched Kim’s arm as she got up.

”Kära en...” Kim walked to the front door but turned. The tears in her eyes mirrored those of Linda’s.’’

”I’ll call you when I get settled in. Remember, Malmo is just a short way from here.” Linda had already put her head down. Kim wanted to rush back to her side, but she cared too much to stay, as crazy as that sounds. Better heartache with no dilemma than less heartache while being torn in two....



Oh write me a beacon so I know the way
Guide my love through night and through day


A few months later at the station…

“Mattson’s recovery is coming along, but he’ll be out for another month, so you’re stuck with me,” Chief Holgersson said with a grin.

“Someone has to keep this place going,” Kurt remarked. He sighed before getting up and standing next to Lisa. She patted him on the back in encouragement.

“I’m not going anywhere, but another step sideways. Just helping out here and with the prosecutor’s office.” Linda shifted uneasily in her seat.

“I haven’t said much….” Kurt paused, searching for a word. If someone asked him about a case he and his late friend and mentor Ryberg had worked on years ago, his answer would have flowed like water. But just recalling a word? His hesitation actually helped him make his point.

“I know all of you care. It’s become clear that…. Well my contributions…. My doctor says I’m doing much better than we could have hoped for, but…”

“We’ll still have you, Kurt. That has not changed.” Lisa said. Linda looked up and sighed in relief. Farfar Povel’s decline was much quicker and she saw very little of that in her father. Still, it was more than disappointing, given everything else she faced.

“Since we…” Lisa paused. Her relationship with Kurt had changed over the years from strictly his boss to a colleague and now almost a protective sister, and her return to the station was frustrating in that it was temporary and likely final. She wanted to honor his position while explaining the decision other’s had made.

“We will have a new… well not so new…addition. No one can replace Kurt.” He poked her arm.

“I’m not dead, Lisa. Just spending more time watching cable and playing Lotto, yeah?” She laughed and nodded.

“No one can act as annoyingly sullen as Kurt… so we are getting someone to supplement our team. I can say that we’ll be gaining…or rather re-gaining a very good cop.”

“Martinsson back from his holiday?” One of the officers quipped.

“Very funny,” Marcus Martinsson said with a laugh of his own.

“Ryberg coming back from the dead?” another older sergeant asked. Lisa hadn’t meant to make the announcement a guessing game, but the lighthearted banter broke the somber mood of Kurt’s departure.

Linda folded her arms. Anne-Britt sat in the back of the room, seemingly having returned to active duty. Both finally recognized the reality that Kurt had room for both a daughter and student. Still, would Anne-Brit assume Kurt’s position?

“Our help is arriving tomorrow, but apart from your speculation, I am confident that she will be a welcome addition to our team. We’ve gotten the go ahead to form a special crimes division. Between the horror with those girls not so long ago and all the crimes that are migrating from the west?

It’s no secret and a disgrace that Malmo is actually know throughout Sweden and even in Europe as the rape capital. To that end, I have asked Inspector Kim Svedin to join our efforts here. She’ll be working with one other transfer, Inspector Otto Nillsson from Stockholm. We have yet to name a department head, but that will be resolved shortly.”

“Let’s have a good day, yeah?” Lisa finished and patted Kurt on the back.

“No…not good enough,” she said and pulled him into an awkward hug.

“Thank you, Kurt Wallander.” He nodded.

“Go ahead? I think it really is best that it come from you.” He nodded again, wincing. She walked out and he turned to face the now dispersing group. A few officers shook his hand. Nyberg was leaning against a doorway and waved. Martinsson nodded. Plenty of time to talk with old friends. Kurt walked over and sat down next to Linda.

“Again? Why can’t you tell me anything, Dad?” She looked back and noticed Anne-Britt talking with Lisa. The two hugged, leaving Linda confused. Anne-Britt walked over to Kurt and Linda.

“I just wanted to stop by to thank you both,” She nodded to Kurt, but uncharacteristically leaned close and kissed Linda on the cheek.

“Thomas and Carol called me last night. Inger is doing much better, and they have gotten permission to foster Marta. The two of them are almost inseparable, and it’s because of you and your partner.” Linda winced at the mention of Kim.

“Anyway, with my kids a bit older, I think work is just the ticket. I’ll be part of a task force operating in Skane .… just until it’s off the ground, yeah?” She nodded at Kurt, as if they shared a secret.

“Thank you again, Linda,” she said before walking out.

“Why don’t you ever tell me anything,” Linda repeated.

“I did. I left you a message that I needed to speak with you on Sunday, but…”

“Oh shit… My phone stopped working and the new plan gave me another number.” Her face reddened. It wasn’t his fault, but god awful stupid fate still seemed to conspire against her.

“I… I know it didn’t end well with Kim. I’m sorry. But she was the only Inspector with both the expertise and the ability to work closely with the new department head.

“Oh…Is that it, Dad? Is Anne-Britt coming back too? Thanks Dad for having my back.” She said bitterly. He shook his head and laughed.

“What’s so funny, Dad. That I’m going nowhere? My marriage is over and I’m raising a seven year old all by myself. This couldn’t possible get worse and you think it’s funny? Sorry, but I have only so much patience, even for you.” She went to get up but he grabbed her arm, gripping it tighter than he had intended.

“Owww. Dad?” She went to pull away but he continued to hold her arm.

“Damn it, Linda… Sit down.” He hadn’t spoken like that to her in months, and even at that it was the beast that dropped by more frequently. This time he was all there and serious, but another grin broke through.

You’rethe head of the new division.”

“What? I’m…. but.” She went to argue even as her own conflicts inserted themselves into the conversation.

“I can’t, Dad. Not with her…No!”

“We… you and I…we have had some …moments.” He looked away but continued to speak even as he turned again to face her.

“I know I haven’t been the father I should have been, and this….” The unspoken but obvious brought tears to his eyes.

“But I have gotten better. I know this is hard, but I am positive this is right. I have a feeling, like my father used to say. We paint the painting that is given to us for the day. This is your painting, Linda. Trust me?”

She stared at him, her mouth slightly open in an uncomfortable gawk, as if she couldn’t believe what he had just said. But even more so, she couldn’t believe that she did actually trust him.

“You’ll be fine,” he said, and held her hands in his.

“You’ll be just fine,” he repeated as he released both her hands at once, leaving Linda with an odd feeling of déjà vu…



That evening…

Linda got out of her Volvo and walked…. Almost plodded toward the front door. Karla was at a sleepover at a friend’s, and Linda looked forward to crashing on the sofa, armed with a bottle of Pinot and junk food. As she turned the corner of the house, she saw a familiar face smiling at her. The woman stepped off the landing and held up a bottle of wine and a bag of carry away.

“You… you didn’t call.” Linda shook her head as she brushed rudely past Kim Svedin as she opened the front door.

“I was…. Busy.” She walked in behind Linda and headed for the kitchen.

“You mind?” Kim held up the food and wine.

“It’s a free country.” Linda muttered as she walked into the kitchen, placing her own wine and food on the counter next to the refrigerator.

“My…I was away for a month to get some help.”

“Drugs?” Linda’s attempt at sarcasm was lost on Kim but she felt the immediate impact of regret.

“I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that.” She tried to quickly move past the moment by turning to pour the wine.

“I…I was so hurt by my own decision…” Kim said quietly. Linda wanted to argue that she was the one that was hurt. She continued to face away. Kim touched her back, evoking a slight shrug.

“I hurt you by…. You argued against fate. I should have listened for my sake.’

“Your sake? I don’t understand.” Linda asked even as she withheld her presence in a way. Kim grabbed Linda’s shoulders and gently tugged her around.

“I loved you and I didn’t tell you. I spent an entire lifetime like you, waiting for words that were there but unspoken. And then I did to you what life has always done to me?” Kim put her head down

“You loved me?” The question itself duplicating the infuriating habit to be tacit instead of clear. The unasked follow up question was answered nevertheless.

“I still love you.” She raised her face and smiled. Linda stepped back a bit, unwilling to trust the moment. Unwilling to trust Kim’s words. But she remembered her father’s words that afternoon.

“You’ll be just fine,” he had said as he released her hands…. The release that seemed to call up another time. After she had married Hans, she had to apologize for not inviting Kurt since the wedding was small and impromptu. After an extended time of barely speaking, they had come to an agreement that they were both right in their own way. She even asked for his blessing, and it had been his answer that came to mind. ‘You’ll be just fine.”

Linda stared into Kim’s eyes. The moment had no business demanding trust, but the heart of the woman before her had every right to request trust. She nodded to herself and grabbed Kim’s face, pulling her in for a kiss.

“Yes,” she said to herself. Just fine.



That night…

Linda stared at the ceiling. Her left arm had assumed its usual place across her forehead, having once again forgotten to turn off the overhead bedroom light. But her right arm was draped around the neck of the barely-asleep woman beside her. She ran her fingers across Kim’s cheek just below her right ear, evoking a contented sigh.

Linda looked at Kim, feeling almost confused and even a bit scared. Without realizing it, she began to talk aloud. Whispers at first that slowly grew under until she asked a question.

“Where does this leave us, Inspector Svedin? What next.” She looked over at Kim and noticed her eyes had opened. Kim grinned at her and spoke softly.

“Partners, Inspector Wallander. Partners…” She cooed a bit while grabbing Linda’s right hand, kissing it before turning over to resume her slumber. Linda smiled to herself before laying down to spoon her lover. She laughed softly and replied,

“Partners….”

Only the sunset knows my blind desire for the fleeting
Only the moon understands the beauty of love
When held by a hand like the aura of nostalgia



Nostalgia
as sung by the composer Emily Barker
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2cKnGZC9iI

Quiet Night
as sung by the composer Anna Ternheim
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmInifeZkzY

The Opening
As performed by the composer
Ane Brun
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI3A-i2INl4

To Let Myself Go
As performed by the composer Ane Brun
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qk-LnXTRRw

Daring to Love
As performed by the composer Ane Brun
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2o0nCLLDUQ

Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely
words and music by
Max Martin and Herbie Chrichlow
As sung by Anna Ternheim
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t2paMM0QT8

E’Strano; Violetta’s Aria
from the Opera La Traviata by
Giuseppi Verdi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPjYYvV7Gdo

The Death of Ase
from the Peer Gynt Suite by
Edvard Grieg
www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aKxf1h5r4g

Vissi de’arte (I Live for Art
)
From the Opera Tosca
By Giacomo Puccini
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_SbJFnKx_8



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