“What deep sighs those were,” he said.
Rebecka grinned. She hadn’t been aware she’d been sighing.
“Sign of age,” she said. “I’ve turned into my grandmother. She was always sighing. And they were very definitely those ‘if only the good
Lord would put me out of my misery’ kind of sighs.”
Tommy Rantakyrö laughed and put a paper bag on her desk.
“Afternoon snack,” he announced. “Raw food balls, one liquorice and one ginger and cinnamon. They’re a cure for sighing.”
“Too right! And now the good Lord won’t have to deliver me from evil quite yet.”
“Not for an hour anyway.”
“How’s it going, reviewing the case backlog?” he asked with a nod at the piles of paper on her desk.
Rebecka gave another of her grandmother’s sighs and raised her hands in supplication. Tommy sighed even louder. They both laughed at the little joke they had come up with and now shared.
Rebecka’s boss Alf Björnfot had taken all his accrued holidays, added a two-month leave of absence and gone off to Alaska. The trip he’d been dreaming of with his grown-up daughter. Seeing bears and fishing for salmon.
Rebecka’s colleague Carl Von Post had been appointed acting chief prosecutor. On the last day of work before his holiday, Björnfot had come into Rebecka’s office and put a yellow Post-it on her notice board.
“TRY NOT TO BE A PAIN”. Written only half in jest.
“Try to get along with Calle,” Björnfot had said. “I know he’s not your favourite person but he’s been here longest, so I’ve got to make him acting chief. But I don’t want anyone ringing me on the warpath and spoiling my trip.”
Von Post’s footsteps could be heard in the corridor. A few seconds later and he appeared in the doorway. Boyishly ruffled hair, neatly pressed shirt and not even a hint of a beer belly.
“Hi there, Tommy,” he said in comradely greeting and patted him a bit too hard on the back. “How’s it going, Martinsson?”
Rebecka froze. There was a difference between her and Von Post, or perhaps between her and the upper class. He was as pleasant as a television presenter to everyone he met, both enemies and allies. She, on the other hand, found it hard to disguise her true feelings and became curt and uptight, her neck stiff and her lips pressed tightly together. She found it difficult to look people she didn’t like in the eye. She despised herself for not being able to play the game. Condemned to being the psychological underdog.
Carl Von Post gave her a knowing smile. She could loathe him for all he cared. It seemed to please him that she failed to respond when addressed.
“How’s it going with the frozen goods?” Von Post asked, turning to Tommy.
“The corpse in the freezer? In the end we commissioned a helicopter that finally managed to land. And picked up both the freezer and the old guy who was dead in the house.”
“What?” Von Post exclaimed. “There were two dead people? Murders?”
“We don’t know yet. They’re both at the medical examiner’s now, so Pohjanen will be ringing when he’s got something to tell us.”
“Good, good. Anything new on that front take it up with me. Martinsson’s got her plate full with—”
“Yea, I know,” Tommy cut him off. “I brought her some goodies to cheer her up. That’s a hell of a pile she’s got to work through.”
Von Post’s smile got even wider.
“It’s really incredibly good for her, you know, to work through the backlog. She didn’t get her position as prosecutor the normal way, did she. I was a trainee prosecutor for nine months and then an assistant prosecutor for two years. So there are certain basics she lacks.”
Rebecka gritted her teeth and stared at Von Post. It was outrageous that he should be talking over her head while making it sound as though she were less qualified than him. In truth she was overqualified, and he knew it. She imagined he lay awake at night tortured by the realisation that she had given up what would be his dream job, a lawyer at Meijer & Ditzinger, for her current position in the Prosecution Service. And he’s bound to think they would welcome me back with open arms if I wanted, she was thinking. Though I’m not sure that’s true.
“Anyway, I really should let you get on,” Von Post said to Rebecka, and gave Tommy an encouraging look.
But Tommy made no move to leave. Rebecka leaned back in her chair and fished a raw food ball from the paper bag.
“Feel like sharing?” she asked Tommy. Von Post vanished down the corridor.
“That guy,” Tommy said. Rebecka gritted her teeth. Do not complain, she admonished herself.
“Screw Von Post,” she said as cheerfully as she could. “These balls are so delicious, shall we share another one? What was that about a corpse in a freezer?”
“Don’t know yet, it looks like it had been there for a long time.”
“No, apparently not. Shame you’re not going to be the lead on this
one, von Post is all psyched about it.”
“So you’re going to have fun together on a freezer murder,” Rebecka said. “Don’t think about me sending shoplifters and taggers and speeders to prison.”
“You’re a terror, you are,” Tommy said with admiration. “You know we all think that.”
“All but one,” Rebecka said, before adding, quick as a flash, “not that I’m bothered though.”
She rooted around the paper bag with exaggerated interest.
“She’ll get over it,” Tommy said. “You know what Mella’s like.”
Rebecka immediately lost interest in the bag and the raw food balls.
“Mella?” she asked.
“Oh hell, you meant Von Post . . .”
Tommy swallowed the rest of the sentence; his eyes turned towards the Post-it note on Rebecka’s wall.
“Mella!” Rebecka exclaimed. “Is Anna-Maria pissed off with me?
“Forget it,” Tommy pleaded. “I thought she’d been in here to complain. Please forget I said anything.”
“Just what have I done to her?” Rebecka said, upset. “I mean, we haven’t even seen one another for . . .”
She dropped the bag on the desk and walked towards the door.
“There’s no need to say anything. It really won’t be that hard to find out.”
She strode noisily along the corridor. Tommy debated whether to rush after her but decided not to.
“No, I’m off home,” he said aloud. “This is about to blow.”
The Sins of Our Father by Åsa Larsson (Translated by Frank Perry) (Quercus Publishing) Out Now £20.00
Forensic pathologist Lars Pohjanen has only a few weeks to live when he asks Rebecka Martinsson to investigate a murder that has long since passed the statute of limitations. A body found in a freezer at the home of the deceased alcoholic, Henry Pekkari, has been identified as a man who disappeared without a trace in 1962: the father of Swedish Olympic boxing champion Boerje Stroem. Rebecka wants nothing to do with a fifty-year-old case - she has enough to worry about. But how can she ignore a dying man's wish? When the post-mortem confirms that Pekkari, too, was murdered, Rebecka has a red-hot investigation on her hands. But what does it have to do with the body kept in his freezer for decades? Meanwhile, the city of Kiruna is being torn down and moved a few kilometres east, to make way for the mine that has been devouring the city from below. With the city in flux, the tentacles of organized crime are slowly taking over . . .