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by Bertil Falk

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Chapter 4: A Clue to the Incident

A head appeared, framed by the window, illuminated from behind by the fluorescent tubes on the hallway, and then it disappeared.
— William Gibson

Edvard Sundled was furious. Someone had stolen his dear old Hitler-bubble and smashed it in Malmö, of all places. He was on vacation from the bank and had been thinking of driving down to the continent. Now he was forced to stay at home. Dammit.

When he was inside the door, the telephone rang. It was Barbara. And was she upset!

“Have you heard what happened?”

“Some car thief stole my car. Yes, I’ve heard that.”

He heard her giving a pant in the receiver. “It was Martin. He stole your car. He is lying tattered in the intensive care unit. In Lund, I think.”

“I’ll be damned.” Edvard did not know what to say.

“You didn’t know anything? Didn’t he say anything to you?” There was accusation in her voice.

“He asked if he could use my car. I said no.”

“Didn’t you understand that he’d taken it, when it was gone?”

“Honestly, no. I just got furious and reported it to the police.”

He heard her swift breath. Barbara was agitated. That was for sure. He, too, was taken by surprise.

“Martin had his eye on something, something extra special. I know it.” Her voice was pushy now and he almost had to defend himself. “Yes, yes.”

“He said that everything would come up roses and lollipops and Santa Claus if he took the chance. He said it was a gamble.”

Edvard Sundled thought but did not find anything sensible to say.

“Can’t you see?!” Now she was almost screaming. “Martin took that chance. He stole your car. He went to Malmö and now we see the result. For heaven’s sake, Edvard! Don’t you have any idea of what Martin has been doing?”

Edvard had no idea. He was taken unawares by this shocking news and by Barbara’s fierce attacks. She was attacking him rashly, and her burnished weapons were questions he could not answer.

“We must do something,” he heard her hissing in the handset. “You can’t sneak away. It was your car he took. He was the only man I can think of living with. And now... what? Who did this to him?”

“Did what? Wasn’t it an accident?”

“The car was sabotaged. The brakes didn’t work. The steering gear was broken.”

“How do you know that?”

“I heard it on the radio. The intention was to let him start the car and gather speed. Then it all would break down. And the car broke down on the motorway when he had reached top speed. And one more thing...”

Once more, he heard her breath.

“They’ve found traces of drugs in the car. And you know as well as I do that Martin didn’t do drugs!”

“Drugs?” Edvard Sundled hesitated, and before he said anything, Barbara forestalled him.

“It’s also reported that he’d taken a quick trip to Germany and arrived on the ferry at Trelleborg before he lost control of the car.”

“What kind of job did he do?” Edvard Sundled wondered.

“You mean the gamble?”


There was silence in his ear. Even her breath disappeared. Barbara was changing the phone from one ear to the other. The answer she was to give was too too pregnant.

“The gamble...” she began, “it was probably something that Martin was strictly speaking not in sympathy with. I guess that it was something...” Hesitation in that voice. “Criminal.”

“Any evidence?”

“None, but two indications. Do you remember that night when the three of us discussed the perfect crime? Then you said that if people were sure they would not get caught, they would commit crimes. Martin took the bait. Do you remember?”

Edvard Sundled remembered it well. They had had a very fruitful discussion. He nodded — whatever the use of that was, for Barbara could not see him.

“Martin said a lot of perfect crimes are committed.” He was fishing in his memory. “Perfect criminals work according to totally different principles than unsuccessful felons. Recidivists do the same thing, make the same mistakes, over and over again, always in the same way. Bank robbers always commit bank robberies. Sex murderers always sex murder. Pickpockets pick pockets — always. Rapists rape. Who can forget such a volley of statements? Martin was really on the ball that time.”

“True, true.” Barbara’s voice was impatient. “But that was not what I meant,” she said.

“So what did you mean?”

“I had his conclusion in view. The inference he drew from all he said.”

“I’ll get to that,” Edvard Sundled said. ”If you let me finish what I was going to say. The perfect crime is a one-off affair, well planned. Performed by one single person, who doesn’t boast, who doesn’t splash money about. The perfect criminal is a seemingly normal, ordinary person, who bides his time and then takes the opportunity once and for all. That’s what Martin said.”

“That’s it!” Barbara exclaimed triumphantly. “Exactly like that! Martin had something in progress, some kind of isolated case. It would make it possible for him to marry me and support us for a long time to come.”

Edvard Sundled listened and got more and more amazed. “How do you know? he asked, and it was probably fortunate that Barbara did not see his mouth wide open in amazement after finishing his question.

“Idiot!” Barbara hissed. ”I don’t know. It’s my theory. But I’m quite sure that it holds water, even though I don’t know any details. But I think he got carried away and broke one of the rules in his own recipe for the perfect crime. He ignored what’s probably the most important detail of all. And that’s why he’s now lying where he is.”

“I understand what you’re saying,” Edvard Sundled replied, ”but I don’t get your meaning. What did he ignore, and what kind of crime would have been perfect and unsolved?”

“You must understand...” And now Barbara’s voice was calm and slow, as if she were speaking to a small child. “You must understand,” she repeated, “that the very little we already know is enough for us to guess different possibilities.”

“Like what?”

“The second clue, the traces of drugs in your car. Don’t tell me you kept drugs in your car.”

“Certainly not!”

“Martin could have embarked upon a smuggling project, which means that he got mixed up with other people. He broke the rule about working alone. Don’t work for or with someone else. Be on your own!”

“Is that’s what you think?”

“He probably went to Germany and brought back drugs for some syndicate in Malmö. EDVARD!” Her voice was suddenly sharp like a knife blade. “We must meet at Martin’s apartment.”

* * *

When they arrived at the apartment house half an hour later and saw the police cars, they knew they were too late. Barbara stood pale but composed. Her bleached, bobbed hair peeped out under a beret. She pinched her big nose and made a wry face so that her double cheeks moved. She was 27, a woman’s best age, some say, and she had a feeling that she had lost the man she loved.

Edvard Sundled was ten years older than Barbara. He stood silently by her side. He was bareheaded and cropped like a marine.

“Come,” she said, walked through the street door and up the stairs. Two policemen were standing in front of Martin’s door.

Barbara took out a bunch of keys, looked at the policemen and asked, “What are you doing here?”

“You have the key to this apartment?” one of them asked.

“Evidently. I stay at my fiancé’s place three nights every week.” She put the key in the lock and opened.

“You can cancel the locksmith,” one of the men said in his mobile and turned to Barbara.

“We have permission to search.”

“Be my guest,” Barbara said. She bent down to pick up some mail and newspapers inside the door.

One of the policemen entered. The other one scanned Barbara and asked, “You know what has happened?”

She nodded. “Your colleagues in Malmö called me late last night.”

“A lot has happened since then.”

“That I heard on the radio.”

“Do you want something here?”

She understood that they wanted to do the search alone.

“No,” she said, “but I’ll keep the key. The door will lock when you close it. If you need the key again, you know where you can get it.”

As if she wanted to go, she turned to Edvard Sundled, who had been silent during the short conversation. But she changed her mind and turned to the policemen again. “You won’t find anything here.”

She turned and went. She held Martin’s mail and newspapers in her hand.

“How can you be so sure that they won’t find anything?” Edvard Sundled asked when they were walking towards the cathedral.

“I’m not at all sure of that,” Barbara replied. “Now let’s go to my place and take a look at the mail.”

There was the TV licence fee, a solicitation letter from the Red Cross and a letter that had been returned, stamped “Addressee unknown.” The letter was for Mr. Stenstål, Malmö. Barbara opened it:

“Dear Mr. Stenstål. I have called you a couple of times on the stated telephone number. The assistance says that the name of the holder of the number is secret and they don’t know of any Mr. Stenstål. Even though I don’t know your first name or your address, except that you live in Malmö, I am taking a chance by sending this letter. Your suggestion seems to be most interesting.”

It was signed by Martin.

“This might be the clue we’re looking for,” Barbara said. “I know a private eye in Malmö. He’ll probably able to find out who this Mr. Stenkål is. Or what do you think?”

Edvard Sundled nodded. “I think you’re right. This letter is probably a clue to what happened.”

Continuation pending...

Copyright © 2000 by Bertil Falk

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