together in Gotland. It was on one of the last days, when they had stayed in an inn in Burgsvik. They had spent the day exploring the southern tip of Gotland, and had eaten dinner at a pizzeria before returning to the inn. The evening was particularly beautiful.

She had asked him point-blank about the fatigue. He had studied her face in the glow of the kerosene lamp and realised that her question had been thought out in advance, but he shrugged it off. There was nothing wrong with him. Surely the fact that he used part of his holiday to catch up on lost sleep was to be expected. Linda didn't ask any more questions. But he knew that she hadn't believed him.

Now he realised that he couldn't ignore it any longer. The fatigue wasn't natural. Something was wrong. He tried to think if he had other symptoms that could signal an illness. But apart from the fact that he sometimes woke in the middle of the night with leg cramps, he hadn't been able to think of anything. He knew how close to death he had been. He couldn't put it off any longer. He would make an appointment with the doctor that day.

He started the engine, rolling down the windows as he drove on. Although it was already August, the heat of summer showed no sign of easing. Wallander was on his way to his father's house in Loderup. No matter how many times he went down this road, he still found it hard to adjust to the fact that his father wouldn't be sitting there in his studio, wreathed in the ever-present smell of turpentine, before the easel on which he painted pictures with a recurring and unchanging subject: a landscape, with or without a grouse in the foreground, the sun hanging from invisible threads above the trees.

It had been close to two years now since Gertrud had called him at the police station in Ystad to tell him that his father was lying dead on the studio floor. He could still recall with photographic clarity his drive out to Loderup, unable to believe it could be true. But when he had seen Gertrud in the yard, he had known he could not deny it any longer. He had known what awaited him.

The two years had gone by quickly. As often as he could, but not often enough, he visited Gertrud, who still lived in his father's house. A year went by before they began to clean up the studio in earnest. They found a total of 32 finished paintings. One night in December of 1995, they sat down at Gertrud's kitchen table and made a list of the people who would receive these last paintings. Wallander kept two for himself, one with a grouse, the other without. Linda would get one, as would Mona, his ex-wife. Surprisingly, and to Wallander's disappointment, his sister Kristina hadn't wanted one. Gertrud already had several, and so they had 28 paintings to give away. After some hesitation, Wallander sent one to a detective in Kristianstad with whom he had sporadic contact. But after giving away 23 paintings, including one to each of Gertrud's relatives, there were five paintings remaining.

Wallander wondered what he should do with them. He knew that he would never be able to make himself burn them. Technically they belonged to Gertrud, but she had said that he and Kristina should have them. She had come into their father's life so late.

Wallander passed the turn-off to Kaseberga. He would be there soon. He thought about the task that lay before him. One evening in May, he and Gertrud had taken a long walk along the tractor paths that wound their way along the edges of the linseed fields. She had told him that she no longer wanted to live there. It was starting to get too lonely.

'I don't want to live there so long that he starts to haunt me,' she had said.

Instinctively, he knew what she meant. He would probably have reacted the same way. They walked between the fields and she asked for his help in selling the house. There was no hurry; it could wait until the summer's end, but she wanted to move out before the autumn. Her sister was recently widowed and lived outside the town of Rynge, and she wanted to move there.

Now the time had come. Wallander had taken the day off. At 9 a.m. an estate agent would come out from Ystad, and together they would settle on a reasonable selling price. Before that, Wallander and Gertrud would go through the last few boxes of his father's belongings. They had finished packing the week before. Martinsson, one of his colleagues, came out with a trailer and they made several trips to the dump outside Hedeskoga. Wallander experienced a growing sense of unease. It seemed to him that the remnants of a person's life inevitably ended up at the nearest dump.

All that was left of his father now - aside from the memories - were some photographs, five paintings, and a few boxes of old letters and papers. Nothing more. His life was over and completely accounted for.

Wallander turned down the road leading to his father's house. He caught a glimpse of Gertrud waiting in the yard. To his surprise he saw that she was wearing the same dress she had worn at their wedding. He immediately felt a lump in his throat. For Gertrud, this was a moment of solemnity. She was leaving her home.

They drank coffee in the kitchen, where the doors to the cupboards stood ajar, revealing empty shelves. Gertrud's sister was coming to collect her today. Wallander would keep one key and give the other to the estate agent. Together they leafed through the contents of the two boxes. Among the old letters Wallander was surprised to find a pair of children's shoes that he seemed to remember from his childhood. Had his father saved them all these years?

He carried the boxes out to the car. When he closed the car door, he saw Gertrud on the steps. She smiled.

'There are five paintings left. You haven't forgotten about them, have you?'

Wallander shook his head. He walked towards his father's studio. The door was open. Although they had cleaned it, the smell of turpentine remained. The pot that his father had used for making his endless cups of coffee stood on the stove.

This may be the last time I am here, he thought. But unlike Gertrud, I haven't dressed up. I'm in my baggy old clothes. And if I hadn't been lucky I could be dead, like my father. Linda would have had to drive to the dump with what was left after me. And among my stuff she would find two paintings, one with a grouse painted in the foreground.

The place scared him. His father was still in there in the dark studio. The paintings were leaning against one wall. He carried them to the car. Then he laid them in the boot and spread a blanket over them. Gertrud remained on the steps.

'Is there anything else?' she asked.

Wallander shook his head. 'There's nothing else,' he answered. 'Nothing.'

At 9 a.m. the estate agent's car swung into the yard, and a man got out from behind the wheel. To his surprise, Wallander realised that he recognised him. His name was Robert Akerblom. A few years earlier his wife had been brutally murdered and her body dumped in an old well. It had been one of the most difficult and grisly murder investigations that Wallander had ever been involved in.

He frowned. He had decided to contact a large estate agent with offices all over Sweden. Akerblom's business did not belong to them, if it even still existed. Wallander thought he had heard that it had shut down shortly after Louise Akerblom's murder.

He went out onto the steps. Robert Akerblom looked exactly as Wallander remembered him. At their first meeting in Wallander's office he had wept. The man's worry and grief for his wife had been genuine. Wallander recalled that they had been active in a non-Lutheran church. He thought they were Methodists.

They shook hands. 'We meet again,' Robert Akerblom said.

His voice sounded familiar. For a second Wallander felt confused. What was the right thing to say? But Robert Akerblom beat him to it.

'I grieve for her as much now as I did then,' he said slowly. 'But it's even harder for the girls.'

Wallander remembered the two girls. They had been so young then. They had been unable to fully understand what had happened.

'It must be hard,' Wallander said. For a moment he was afraid that the events of the last meeting would repeat themselves; that Robert Akerblom would start crying. But that didn't happen.

'I tried to keep the business going,' Akerblom said, 'but I didn't have the energy. When I got the offer to join the firm of a competitor, I took it. I've never regretted it. I don't have the long nights of going over the books any more. I've been able to spend more time with the girls.'

Gertrud joined them and they went through the house together. Akerblom made notes and took some photographs. Afterwards they had a cup of coffee in the kitchen. The price that Akerblom came up with seemed low to Wallander at first, but then he realised that it was three times what his father had paid for the place.

Akerblom left a little after 11 a.m. Wallander thought he should stay until Gertrud's sister came to get her, but she seemed to sense his thoughts and told him she didn't mind being left alone.

'It's a beautiful day,' she said. 'Summer has come at last, even though it's almost over. I'll sit in the

Вы читаете One Step Behind (1997)
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату