spent the rest of that winter evening on the frozen bench, feeling more abandoned than ever before. But then another feeling had crept over him. Relief. At least he now knew where things stood.

A motorboat sped out of the harbour. Wallander got up. He needed to find a lavatory again.

They called each other from time to time, but gradually that had stopped too. Now they hadn't been in touch for over six months. One day when he and Linda were walking around Visby she had asked if things with Baiba were finally over.

'Yes,' he replied. 'It's over.'

She had waited for him to continue.

'I don't think either of us really wanted to break it off,' he had told her. 'But it was inevitable.'

When he got home, he lay down on the sofa to read the paper but fell asleep almost immediately. An hour later he woke up with a start in the middle of a dream. He had been in Rome with his father. Rydberg had also been with them, and some small, dwarf-like creatures who insisted on pinching their legs.

I'm dreaming about the dead, he thought. What does that mean? I dream about my father almost every night and he's dead. So is Rydberg, my old colleague and friend, the one who taught me everything I can claim to know. And he's been gone for almost five years.

He went out to the balcony. It was still warm and calm. Clouds were starting to pile up on the horizon. Suddenly it struck him how terribly lonely he was. Apart from Linda, who lived in Stockholm and whom he saw only occasionally, he had almost no friends. The people he spent time with were people from work. And he never saw them socially.

He went into the bathroom and washed his face. He looked in the mirror and saw that he had a tan, but the tiredness still shone through. His left eye was bloodshot. His hairline had receded further. He stepped on the scales, and noted that he weighed a couple of kilos less than he had at the start of the summer, but it was still too much.

The phone rang. It was Gertrud.

'I just wanted to let you know that I made it safely to Rynge. Everything went well.'

'I've been thinking about you,' Wallander told her. 'I should have stayed there with you.'

'I think I needed to be alone with all my memories. But things will be fine here. My sister and I get along well. We always have.'

'I'll be out to see you in a week or so.'

After he had hung up the phone rang again immediately. This time it was his colleague Ann-Britt Hoglund.

'I just wanted to hear how it went,' she said.

'How what went?'

'Weren't you supposed to meet with an estate agent today to discuss selling your father's house?'

Wallander recalled that he had mentioned it to her the day before.

'It went pretty well,' he said. 'You can buy it for 300,000 kronor if you like.'

'I never even got to see it,' she replied.

'It feels quite strange,' he told her. 'The house is so empty now. Getrud has moved and someone else will buy it. It'll probably be used as a summer house. Other people will live in it and not know anything about my father.'

'All houses have ghosts,' she said. 'Except the newest ones.'

'The smell of turpentine will linger for a while,' Wallander said. 'But when that's gone there will be nothing left of the people who once lived there.'

'That's so sad.'

'It's just the way it is. I'll see you tomorrow. Thanks for calling.'

Wallander went to the kitchen and drank some water. Ann-Britt was a very thoughtful person. She remembered things. He would never have thought to do the same if the situation had been reversed.

It was already 7 p.m. He fried some Falu sausage and potatoes and ate in front of the TV. He flipped through the channels, but nothing seemed interesting. Afterwards he took his cup of coffee and went out onto the balcony. As soon as the sun went down, it grew cooler, and he went back in again.

He spent the rest of the evening going through the things he had brought back from Loderup earlier that day. At the bottom of one of the boxes there was a brown envelope. When he opened it he found a couple of old, faded photographs. He couldn't recall ever having seen them before. He was in one of them, aged four or five, perched on the hood of a big American car. His father was standing beside him so he wouldn't fall off.

Wallander took the photograph into the kitchen and got a magnifying glass from one of the kitchen drawers.

We're smiling, he thought. I'm looking straight into the camera and beaming with pride. I've been allowed to sit on one of the art dealer's cars, one of the men who used to buy my father's paintings for outrageous prices. My father is also smiling, but he's looking at me.

Wallander sat with the snapshot for a long time. It spoke to him from a distant and unreachable past. Once upon a time he and his father had been very close, but all that had changed when he decided to become a policeman. In the last few years of his father's life, they had slowly been retracing their steps back to the closeness that had been lost.

But we never made it this far, Wallander thought. Not all the way back to the smile I had as I sat on the hood of this gleaming Buick. We almost got there in Rome, but it still wasn't like this.

Wallander tacked the photo to his kitchen door. Then he went back out onto the balcony. The clouds had come closer. He sat down in front of the TV and watched the end of an old movie.

At midnight he went to bed. He had a meeting with Svedberg and Martinsson the next day, and he had to go to the doctor. He lay awake in the darkness for a long time. Two years ago he had thought about moving from the flat on Mariagatan. He had dreamed of getting a dog, of living with Baiba. But nothing had come of it. No Baiba, no house, no dog. Everything had stayed the same.

Something's got to happen, he thought. Something that makes it possible for me to start thinking about the future again.

It was almost 3 a.m. before he finally fell asleep.


The clouds started clearing during the early hours of the morning. Wallander was already awake at 6 a.m. He had been dreaming about his father again. Fragmented and unconnected images had flickered through his subconscious. In the dream he had been both a child and an adult. There had been no coherent story. Recalling the dream was like trying to follow a ship into fog.

He got up, showered, and drank some coffee. When he walked out onto the street he noticed that the warmth of summer still lingered and that it was unusually calm. He drove to the police station. It was not yet 7 a.m., and the corridors were empty. He got another cup of coffee and went into his office. For once his desk was virtually free of folders and he wondered when he'd last had so little to do. During the past few years Wallander had seen his workload increase in proportion to the diminishing resources of the police force. Investigations were rushed or ignored altogether. Often a preliminary report resulted in a suspected crime going uninvestigated. Wallander knew that this would not be the case if only they had more time, if only there were more of them.

Did crime pay? That age-old question was still open to debate. Even those who felt that crime now had the upper hand were hard-pressed to pinpoint the moment when the tables had turned. Wallander was convinced that the criminal element had a stronger hold in Sweden than ever before. Criminals engaged in sophisticated financial dealings seemed to live in a safe haven, and the judicial system seemed to have capitulated completely.

Wallander often discussed these problems with his colleagues. He noticed that civilian fears at these developments were growing. Gertrud talked about it. The neighbours he ran into in the laundry talked about it. Wallander knew their fears were justified. But he didn't see any signs of preventive measures being taken. On the contrary, the reduction of numbers within the police force and judicial personnel continued. He took off his coat, opened the window, and looked out at the old water tower.

During the last few years, vigilante groups had been on the rise in Sweden, groups like The Civilian Guard. Wallander had long feared this development. When the justice system started to break down, the lynching mentality

Вы читаете One Step Behind (1997)
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