Frozen Assets

Heartfelt thanks to all those good people who cheerfully had their patience stretched during the writing of this book. K?rar pakkir, gott folk.

Copyright © 2011 by Quentin Bates

All rights reserved.


FREEDOM TASTED GOOD. To Long Omar Magnusson freedom tasted of hot dogs with ketchup and onions and washed down with a cold can of malt. He thrust out long legs beneath the cafe’s plastic table and belched luxuriously. A woman with a brood of children at the next table turned her head and frowned, but he met her stare and she thought better of saying anything.

“Where are we going now, Ommi?” asked the tubby girl at his side.

“Town. Your place.”

“We can’t go there,” she wailed. “Mum’ll go mad if she sees you. She knows you’re not out for another year.”

“Good behaviour, Selma. Tell her I’ve been a good boy and now I need some fun.”

He drained the can of malt and stood up, shaking his legs. “Come on. There’s stuff to do.”

Selma hauled herself to her feet and trotted towards the door with Ommi towering beside her. As she squealed in surprise, the woman with the brood of children again turned her head in irritation, in time to see a broad hand stretched down to cup a buttock, half under Selma’s short skirt. The woman opened her mouth to speak, but before she had decided what to say, the pair had gone, with Selma’s squeaks receding into the distance.

Thursday 11th

“LAUFEY!” GUNNA CALLED FOR the second time. “Laufey Oddbjorg Ragnarsdottir! School!”

She brushed her teeth hurriedly and examined herself critically in the mirror. Time for a haircut, she thought. Good teeth, strong nose, thick eyebrows … Cupping a hand to lift a mouthful of water, she swirled and spat as Laufey appeared in the mirror behind her.

“Finished, sweetheart. All yours.”

Laufey nodded blearily and said nothing.

Gunna switched on the radio and waited for the kettle to boil while Channel 2’s morning talk show chattered in the background. Laufey shambled back to her room and shut the door behind her.

“If she’s gone back to bed…” Gunna muttered.

The kettle steamed itself to a climax and clicked off as Gunna poured cereal into a bowl.

“Laufey!” she called again. The bedroom door opened and Laufey appeared, dressed and holding her school bag. “You’ll have to be a bit smarter getting up if you’re going to college in Keflavik next year.”

“Reykjanesb?r, Mum. You shouldn’t call it Keflavik any more.”

“Keflagrad they call it at the station, there’s so many foreigners there now.”

“Mum, that’s a bit racist, isn’t it?”

Gunna sighed. “Maybe, but it’s too early in the morning to argue about it. D’you want some breakfast? There’s cereal or skyr.”

Suddenly the radio caught her attention and she turned the volume up quickly.

“A prisoner who absconded recently from Kviabryggja open prison is still at large and is reported to have been seen in the Reykjavik area. Police have issued a description of Omar Magnusson, thirty-six years old. He’s one-ninety-nine in height, heavily built, with medium-length brown hair. He has heavily tattooed forearms and was last seen dressed in jeans and a dark jacket. People are warned not to approach him, but to report any sighting to the police on …”

Gunna spun the volume dial down to zero.

“Friend of yours, Mum?” Laufey asked slyly.

“Yup, most definitely one of mine right now. Actually, he’s from here.”

“A criminal from Hvalvik? Really?”

“He left Hvalvik before we moved here. Come on, I’ve got to go in ten minutes if you want a lift.”

Laufey yawned. “It’s all right. I’ll walk.”

“It’s raining,” Gunna warned.

“S’ all right. I’m meeting Finnur and we’ll walk together.”

“Fair enough. I should be back at five, unless something crops up. I’ll let you know.”

“I might not go to college in Keflavik,” Laufey said suddenly.

“What?” Gunna said, startled.

“I might go to Hafnarfjordur instead. Their psychology department is better. If you’re driving every day now, you could give me a lift in the mornings, couldn’t you?”

Gunna thought for a moment of how early they would need to leave every morning to take Laufey to Hafnarfjordur and still get herself to work on time.

“Psychology? I thought you wanted to do business studies?”

Laufey frowned. “Business studies is so 2007, just not cool any more.”

“We’ll see, sweetheart. We can talk it over tonight. See you later,” Gunna said, sweeping up car keys and her mobile phone.

“YAH, DIDDI. REMEMBER this face, do you?”

A look of alarm spread rapidly across the young man’s heavy features. “Hey, Ommi. Good to see you,” he said, his voice hollow. “Didn’t know you were out yet.”

“I’m not. Not officially,” Ommi leered, dropping a long arm heavily across Diddi’s shoulders and sauntering with him along the deserted street.

“What? Did a runner? So it’s you they’re looking for, is it? Brilliant!”

“Yeah. Where d’you live now, Diddi?”

“Just round there. Not far.”

“Yeah, Diddi, but where?”

Diddi quailed and blanched. “Just up the road.”

Ommi used the hand draped across Diddi’s shoulders to haul him round in a half-circle, slamming him face- first against a raw grey concrete wall, a fist planted squarely over his kidneys. Diddi wanted to yell for help, but

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