‘He wanted to know what Clas Greve had said about himself in the interviews he had attended here.’

‘He’s been dead a long time,’ I said. ‘Are they still investigating the case?’

‘Not the murder case. It’s about the Rubens picture. They can’t work out who he stole it from. No one’s come forward. Now they’re trying to trace who he’s been in contact with.’

‘Didn’t you read the paper today? Now they’ve started to doubt whether it’s an original Rubens again. Perhaps he didn’t steal it; he might have inherited it.’


‘What did you say to the policeman?’

‘I gave him our interview report, of course. That didn’t seem to interest him much. He said he would contact us again, if there was anything.’

‘And you’re hoping he will, I suppose?’

Ferdinand gave his squeal of a laugh.

‘Anyway,’ I said, ‘you take care of that, Ferdy. I trust you.’

I could see how he rose and sank, how the responsibility made him grow and the nickname made him shrink. Balance is everything.

Then we were at the end of the corridor. I paused in front of the door and checked the knot of my tie. They were sitting inside, ready for the final interview. The rubber-stamping. For the candidate had already been selected, was already appointed, it was just the client who wasn’t aware of it yet, who thought they still had some say in the matter.

‘Then send the candidate in exactly two minutes from now,’ I said. ‘One hundred and twenty seconds.’

Ferdinand nodded and studied his watch.

‘Just one tiny little thing,’ he said. ‘Her name’s Ida.’

I opened the door and stepped inside.

There was scraping of chairs as they stood up.

‘I apologise for the delay, gentlemen,’ I said, shaking the three hands held out to me. ‘But someone took my parking spot.’

‘Isn’t that wearing?’ the chairman of Pathfinder said, turning to his public relations manager who nodded in vigorous agreement. The shop steward representing the employees was there too, a guy in a red V-necked sweater with a cheap white shirt underneath, undoubtedly an engineer of the saddest variety.

‘The candidate has a board meeting at twelve, so perhaps we ought to get cracking?’ I said, taking a seat at the end of the table. The other end had already been prepared for the man they would, in one and a half hours’ time, happily agree would have to be Pathfinder’s new CEO. The lights had been set up in such a way that he would appear at his most favourable, the chair was of the same kind as ours, but its legs were a bit longer, and I had laid out the leather briefcase I had bought for him, bearing his initials, and a gold Montblanc pen.

‘Indeed,’ the company chairman said. ‘By the way, I have a confession to make. As you know, we very much liked Clas Greve after the interview he gave.’

‘Yes,’ said the public relations manager. ‘We thought you had found the perfect candidate.’

‘He was a foreigner, I know,’ said the chairman, his neck coiling like a snake’s, ‘but the man spoke Norwegian like a native. And we said, while you were escorting him out, that in the final analysis the Dutch have always had a better understanding of the export market than we do here.’

‘And that we might be able to learn from someone with a more international management style,’ the public relations manager added.

‘So when you came back and said you were not sure he was the right man after all, well, we were very surprised, Roger.’


‘Yes, we were quite simply of the opinion that your powers of judgement were wanting. I haven’t said this before, but we were considering withdrawing your commission and contacting Greve direct.’

‘So did you do that?’ I asked with a wry smile.

‘What we’re wondering,’ the public relations manager said, exchanging glances with the chairman and flashing a smile, ‘is how you could spot there was something amiss.’

‘How did you know instinctively what we were utterly blind to?’ asked the chairman, with a loud clearing of the throat. ‘How can anyone be such a good judge of character?’

I nodded slowly. Pushed my papers five centimetres up the table. And slumped into the high-backed chair. It rocked – not too much, only a little. I looked out of the window. At the light. At the darkness that was on its way. A hundred seconds. The room was quite silent now.

‘It’s my job,’ I said.

From the corner of my eye I saw the three of them exchange meaningful nods. And added: ‘Besides, I had already begun to consider a candidate who was even better.’

The three turned towards me. And I was ready. I imagine that is how it feels to be the conductor during the seconds before the concert starts, feeling the eyes of everyone in the symphony orchestra glued to your baton, hearing the expectant audience behind you settle in.

‘That’s why I’ve brought you here today,’ I said. ‘The man you will meet is the new shooting star, not just in the Norwegian but in the international management sky. In the last round I reckoned it would be quite unrealistic to wrench him away from the job he had. He is, after all, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost of the company.’

My gaze shifted from face to face.

‘But without promising too much now, I think I can go so far as to say that I may have unsettled him. And if we should get him…’ I rolled my eyes to suggest a wet dream, utopia, but nevertheless… And the chairman and the public relations manager had predictably and inevitably drawn closer. Even the shop steward who had been sitting with his arms crossed had placed them on the table and leaned forward.

‘Who? Who?’ whispered the public relations manager.

One hundred and twenty.

The door opened. And there he stood, a man of thirty-nine in a suit from Kamikaze in Bogstadveien where Alfa gets a fifteen per cent discount. Ferdinand had dabbed some skin-coloured talcum powder on his right hand before sending him in because, as we know, he suffered from sweaty palms. But the candidate knew what he had to do, for I had instructed him, set the scene down to the last detail. He had dyed his hair an almost imperceptible grey at the temples and had once owned a lithograph by Edvard Munch entitled The Brooch.

‘May I introduce Jeremias Lander?’ I said.

I’m a headhunter. It’s not particularly difficult. But I am king of the heap.

About the Author

Jo Nesbo is a musician, songwriter, economist and author. His first crime novel was published in Norway in 1997 and was an instant hit, winning the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel (an accolade shared with Peter Hoeg, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson). His bestselling Harry Hole novels are a global phenomenon.


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