He felt his anxiety increase and could almost see Eva Hillstrom in front of him. Suddenly the gravity of the situation struck him. It was very simple. She knew her daughter hadn't written that card. How she knew this was irrelevant. She was sure and that was enough. Wallander got up and stopped in front of the window. Something had happened to them. The question now was what.


That evening Wallander tried to start his new regime. All he had for dinner was some bouillon soup and a salad. He was concentrating so hard on making sure that only the right things found their way onto his plate that he forgot he had signed up for the laundry, and by the time he remembered it was too late.

He tried to convince himself that what had happened could be viewed as something positive. An elevated blood-sugar level was not a death sentence; he had been given a warning. If he wanted to stay healthy, he would have to take some simple precautions. Nothing drastic, but he would have to make significant changes.

When he was done eating, he still felt hungry, and ate another tomato. Then, still sitting at the kitchen table, he tried to make a meal plan for the coming days from his dietary guidelines. He also decided to walk to work from now on. On the weekends he would drive to the beach and take long walks. He remembered that he and Hansson once talked about playing badminton. Perhaps that could still be arranged.

At 9 p.m. he got up from the kitchen table and went out onto the balcony. The wind was blowing softly from the south, but it was still warm. The dog days were here.

Wallander watched some teenagers walking past on the street below. It was hard to concentrate on his meal plans and recommended weight chart. Thoughts of Eva Hillstrom and her anxiety kept returning to him. Her outburst had shaken him. The fear she felt at her daughter's disappearance was plain to see, and it was genuine.

Sometimes parents don't know their children, he thought. But sometimes a parent knows her child better than anyone else, and something tells me that this is the case with Eva Hillstrom and her daughter.

He went back into the flat and left the door to the balcony open. He had the feeling that he was overlooking something that would indicate how they should proceed; something that would lead them to a well-founded, investigative hypothesis, and to determine whether Eva Hillstrom's concerns were justified.

He went out into the kitchen and made some coffee, wiping the table clean while he waited for the water to boil. The phone rang. It was Linda. She was calling from the restaurant where she worked, which surprised him since he thought it was open only during the day.

'The owner changed the hours,' she said in answer to his question, 'and I make more money working in the evenings. I have to make a living.'

He could hear voices and the rattle of pots and pans in the background. He had no idea what Linda's plans for her future were. For a time she wanted to become a furniture upholsterer, then she changed her mind and started exploring the world of theatre. Then that plan also came to an end.

She seemed to read his thoughts. 'I'm not going to be a waitress all my life,' she said. 'But I'm saving some money right now and next winter I'm going to travel.'

'Where to?'

'I don't know yet.'

It wasn't the right time to discuss this in detail, so he mentioned that Gertrud had moved and that her grandfather's house was on the market.

'I wish we had kept it,' she said. 'I wish I had the money to buy it.'

Wallander understood. Linda had been close to her grandfather. There were even times when seeing them together had made him jealous.

'I have to go now,' she said. 'I just wanted to hear how you were.'

'Everything is fine,' Wallander replied. 'I went to the doctor today. He didn't find anything wrong with me.'

'Didn't he even tell you to lose weight?'

'Apart from that, he said that everything was fine.'

'That doctor was too nice. Are you still as tired as you were on holiday?'

She sees right through me, Wallander thought helplessly. And why don't I tell her the truth, that I'm becoming a diabetic, that I may already be one? Why am I behaving as if it were something shameful?

'I'm not tired,' he said. 'That week on Gotland was an exception.'

'If you say so,' she said. 'I've got to go now. If you want to reach me here in the evenings you'll have to call a new number.'

He quickly memorised it. Then the conversation was over.

Wallander took his coffee with him into the living room and turned on the TV. He turned the sound down, then jotted down the phone number she had given him on the corner of a newspaper. He wrote sloppily. No one else would have been able to read the number. It was at that moment that he realised what was bothering him. He pushed his coffee cup away and looked at his watch. It was 9.15 p.m. He wondered briefly if he should call Martinsson, and wait until the following day before making up his mind. He went into the kitchen, got out the phone book, and sat down at the kitchen table.

There were four families called Norman in Ystad, but Wallander remembered seeing the address among Martinsson's papers. Lena Norman and her mother lived on Karinggatan, north of the hospital. Her father was called Bertil Norman and had the title 'CEO' next to his name. Wallander knew that he owned a company that supplied heating systems for pre-fabricated houses.

He dialled the number and a woman answered. Wallander introduced himself, trying to sound as friendly as possible. He didn't want to worry her. He knew how unnerving it was to be called by the police, especially after hours.

'Am I speaking to Lena Norman's mother?'

'This is Lillemor Norman.'

Wallander recognised the name.

'This conversation could really have waited until tomorrow,' he said. 'But there is something I need to know and unfortunately policemen work all hours of the day and night.'

She did not seem particularly concerned. 'How can I help you? Or would you like to speak with my husband? I can get him for you. He's just helping Lena's brother with his maths homework.'

Her answer surprised him. He hadn't realised that schools still had anything called homework.

'That won't be necessary,' he said. 'What I want is a sample of Lena's handwriting. Do you have any letters from her?'

'Well, apart from the postcards, we haven't received anything. I thought the police knew that.'

'I mean an old letter.'

'Why do you need it?'

'It's just routine procedure. We need to compare some handwriting samples, that's all. It's not particularly important.'

'Do policemen really bother calling people at night about such unimportant matters?'

Eva Hillstrom is afraid, Wallander thought. Lillemor Norman, on the other hand, is suspicious.

'Do you think you can help me?'

'I have a number of letters from Lena.'

'One is enough. About half a page.'

'I'll find one. Will someone be by to pick it up?'

'I'll come myself. Expect me in about 20 minutes.'

Wallander went back to the phone book. In Simrishamn he found only one entry for the name 'Boge', an accountant. Wallander dialled the number and waited impatiently. He was just about to hang up when someone answered.

'Klas Boge.'

The voice that answered sounded young. Wallander assumed it was Martin Boge's brother. He told him who he was.

'Are your parents home?'

Вы читаете One Step Behind (1997)
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