created by small men. We have conquered empires, thought the smartest thoughts, laid the most beautiful female stars of the screen: in short we have always been on the lookout for the biggest platform shoes. Many an idiot has made the discovery that some blind people are good musicians and that some autistic people can work out square roots in their heads, and this has led them to conclude that all handicaps are a blessing in disguise. Firstly, that is nonsense. Secondly, I am, despite everything, not a dwarf, just marginally under average height. Thirdly, over seventy per cent of all people in the highest management positions are of above-average height in their respective countries. Height also has a positive correlation with intelligence, income and popularity surveys. When I nominate someone for a top job in business, height is one of my most important criteria. Height instils respect, trust and authority. Tall people are visible, they can’t hide, they are masters, all nastiness air-blasted away, they have to stand up and be counted. Short people move around in the sediment, they have a hidden plan, an agenda which revolves around the fact that they are short.

Of course, this is rubbish, but when I propose a candidate for a job I don’t do it because the person in question is the best but because he is the one the client will employ. I provide them with a head that is good enough, placed on the body they want. They are not qualified to judge the first; they can see the second with their own eyes. Like the stinking rich so-called art connoisseurs at Diana’s exhibitions, they are not qualified to give an opinion about the portrait, but they are capable of reading the artist’s signature. The world is full of people who pay serious money for bad pictures by good artists. And mediocre heads on tall bodies.

I steered my new Volvo S80 round the bends, climbing up towards our new, beautiful and somewhat too expensive home on Voksenkollen. I bought it because Diana had this pained expression on her face when we were being shown round. The vein on her forehead that tended to expand when we made love had turned blue and was quivering above her almond-shaped eyes. She had raised her right hand and drawn short strands of fine, straw- coloured hair behind her right ear as if to hear better, to listen carefully to be sure her eyes had not deceived her; that this was the house for which she had been searching. And there was no need for her to say a word; I knew it was. Even as the gleam in her eyes died when the estate agent told us that they already had an offer of one and a half million over the asking price, I knew I had to buy it for her. Because this was the only offering I could make to compensate for talking her out of having the child she wanted. I no longer quite remember the arguments I had used in favour of abortion, just that none of them had been the truth. Which was that even though we were two people with 320 exorbitant square metres, there was no room for a child. That is, no room for a child and me. For I knew Diana. She was, in contrast to me, perversely monogamous. I would have hated the child from day one. So instead I had given her a new start, a home, and a gallery.

I swung into the drive. The garage door had sensed the car a long time ago and opened automatically. The Volvo glided into the chilly darkness and the engine breathed its last as the door slid to behind me. I went out through the side door of the garage and along the flagstone path leading up to the house. It was a magnificent construction, vintage 1937, designed by Ove Bang, the functionalist who considered cost to be less important than aesthetics and was thus one of Diana’s soulmates.

I often thought that we could sell up, move into something a bit smaller, a bit more normal, a bit more practical even. But every time I came home and it was like now, with the low afternoon sun causing the contours to stand out clearly, the play of light and shade, the autumnal forest behind, glowing like red gold, I knew it was impossible. That I couldn’t stop. Quite simply because I loved her and could therefore do nothing else. And with that came the rest: the house, the financial drain of a gallery, the costly and unnecessary demonstrations of my love and the lifestyle we could not afford. All to alleviate her longing.

I unlocked the house, kicked off my shoes and deactivated the alarm within the twenty seconds I had before a bell would go off at Tripolis. Diana and I had discussed the code for a long time before reaching an agreement. She had wanted it to be DAMIEN after her favourite artist Damien Hirst, but I knew that was the name she had given our aborted child, and thus I insisted on a random collection of letters and numbers that could not be guessed. And she had given in. As always, when I stood up to her, tough on tough. Or tough on soft. For Diana was soft. Not weak, but soft and flexible. Like clay where even the slightest pressure leaves a mark. The strange thing was that the more she gave in, the bigger and stronger she became. And the weaker I became. Until she towered above me like a gigantic angel, a firmament of guilt, debts and bad conscience. And however hard I grafted, however many heads I brought home, however much of Stockholm’s central office bonus pot I raked in, it was not enough to bring me absolution.

I walked upstairs to the living room and kitchen, took off my tie, opened the Sub-Zero fridge and helped myself to a bottle of San Miguel. Not the usual Especial but 1516, the extra mild beer that Diana preferred because it was brewed according to purity laws. From the living-room window I looked down on the garden, the garage and the neighbours. Oslo, the fjord, Skagerrak, Germany, the world. And discovered I had already finished the beer.

I fetched another and went down to the ground floor to change for the private view.

Passing the Forbidden Room I noticed the door was ajar. I pushed it open and at once saw that she had laid fresh flowers by the tiny stone figure standing on the low, altar-like table beneath the window. The table was the only furniture in the room and the stone figure looked like a child monk with a contented Buddha smile. Beside the flowers were a pair of small children’s shoes and a yellow rattle.

I went in, took a swig of beer, crouched down and ran my fingers over the figure’s smooth bare head. It was a mizuko jizo, a figure that according to Japanese tradition protected aborted children, or mizuko - meaning a water child. I had brought the figure home after an unsuccessful headhunt in Tokyo. It was the first months after the abortion while Diana was still shattered, and I had thought it might be of some comfort. The salesman’s English had been too poor for me to understand all the details, but the Japanese idea appears to be that when the foetus dies the child’s soul returns to its original fluid state – it becomes a water child. Which – if you mix in a bit of Japanese-style Buddhism – is waiting to be reborn. In the meantime you carry out what is known as mizuko kuyo, ceremonies and simple sacrifices to protect the unborn child’s soul and, at the same time, the parents against the water child’s revenge. I never told Diana about the last part. To begin with, I had been happy, and she had seemed to find comfort in the stone figure. But as her jizo gradually became an obsession and she wanted it in the bedroom, I had to put my foot down. And I said that from then on that she should not pray or make sacrifices to the figure. Although on that particular point I had never been tough. For I knew that I could lose Diana. And that would be unforgivable.

I went into my study, switched on my PC, searched on the Net until I found a high-resolution picture of Edvard Munch’s The Brooch, also known as Eva Mudocci. Three hundred and fifty thousand on the legal market. Hardly more than two hundred on mine. Fifty per cent to the fence, then twenty per cent to Kjikerud. Eighty thousand to me. That was the usual split; hardly worth the trouble and definitely not the risk. The picture was in black and white. 58 x 5 cm. Just right for a piece of A2 paper. Eighty thousand. Too little to pay for the next quarterly instalment of the mortgage. And nowhere near enough to cover the previous year’s deficit on the gallery that I had promised the accountant to pay during November. For some reason the intervals between decent pictures turning up were getting longer and longer, too. The last one, Model in High Heels, by Soren Onsager, had been more than three months ago, and even that had barely brought in sixty thousand. Something would have to happen soon. QPR would have to score a flukey goal, a mishit cross that – deserved or otherwise – would send them to Wembley. That sort of thing happened, I had heard. I sighed and sent Eva Mudocci to the printer.

Champagne was the order of the evening, so I rang for a taxi. After getting in, I just said the name of the gallery, as usual – it was a kind of test of our marketing skills – but, also as usual, the driver just looked at me in the mirror, bewildered.

‘Erling Skjalgssons gate,’ I sighed.

Diana and I had discussed the location long before she had chosen the rooms. I had been keen to make sure it lay on the Skillebekk-Frogner axis since that is where you find the clients with the means to pay and other galleries of a certain niveau. To be located outside the cluster can mean an early death for a new gallery. Diana’s ideal had been the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park in London, and she had been determined that the gallery should not face onto one of the busy thoroughfares, like Bygdoy alle or Gamle Drammensvei, but should be situated in a quiet street where there was room for contemplation. Furthermore, a set-back location emphasised exclusivity, signalled that it was for initiates, connoisseurs.

I had expressed agreement, thinking that perhaps the rent would not have to be ruinous after all.

Until she had added that in that case she would be able to spend money on extra square metres for a salon where there could be receptions after private views. In fact, she had already looked at a vacant site in Erling

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