The Considerate Killer(2)By: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis
“Yes?” Søren automatically reached for his notebook. There was an official quality to the unfamiliar voice at the other end of the line that triggered his professional instincts. He had been a policeman for most of his adult life, and an intelligence officer in the Danish PET for nearly fifteen years, and he was quite used to meticulously registering the details of other people’s disasters. But the next words shattered his expectations and froze his hand in midair above the pad.
“Next of kin to Nina Borg?”
Next of kin. Oh, God. She’s dead. Only dead people have “next of kin.”
“Yes,” he said hoarsely.
“I’m calling from Viborg General Hospital. Nina Borg has been hospitalized here following an assault, and unfortunately she is unconscious.”
Not dead. It was not only the dead, he thought with relief; patients had “next of kin” as well. But—assault? Unconscious?
“What happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know the circumstances,” said the voice carefully. “It’s a police matter. But I can tell you that she is on Ward A24, our ICU, under observation for a fractured skull. If you go to the ward’s reception desk . . .”
“I’m in Copenhagen,” he said. “It’ll take me a few hours to get there.” Tirstrup? Billund? No, Karup. Karup had to be the closest airport. Or was it faster simply to get in the car and drive? Unconscious. That could mean all kinds of things. “Can’t you tell me a little more now?” he asked and thought of the long drive across Fyn, and then Jutland, or the unbearable wait in the airport, without knowing, without having any idea how . . .
“I’m in administration,” said the voice, not without a certain degree of compassion. “Unfortunately, I only know what it says in the papers. Observation for a fractured skull.”
Observation—that sounded somewhat reassuring. If the skull had been seriously smashed, then it wouldn’t just be “observation,” would it?
“I’ll be there,” he said.
Then he remembered that he wasn’t the only one with a stake in this. There were people who had a greater right, a closer relationship to Nina than he did. Children. Family.
“Has her husband—I mean her ex-husband been informed? And her mother?”
Nina was in Viborg because of her mother. Because of her mother’s illness. In fact, why had they called him? Only now did he realize that this was odd. If Nina wasn’t conscious, then how did they know . . . ?
“This is the only number I have been given,” said the voice. “It was in her diary under ‘in case of emergency.’”
“I’ll call the others,” said Søren.
• • •
He called the ex-husband first. It took a little while to find the number, time he felt he could ill afford. His instincts clamored for him to throw himself behind the wheel and just drive. But Morten was the father of her children.
There was an odd echo in the background of the call. Clattering steps, shouts, the shrill sound of sneakers squealing against a gym floor. Handball? Badminton?
Søren explained. For several seconds, there was silence on the line, except for the sports backdrop.
“Oh, damn it. Not again. What am I supposed to tell the children?”
Søren assumed it was a rhetorical question. He was amazed at the anger in Morten’s voice, as if this was something Nina had done on purpose to hurt her family. But the key to that anger had to lie in the “not again.” It was Morten who had initiated the divorce. He was the one who could not live with Nina’s involvement in other people’s disasters and the danger in which she repeatedly put herself—sometimes along with her family—as a consequence of what her daughter called her “save the world” gene. In the end, Morten had felt that he had no choice but to rescue Ida and Anton from Nina’s personal war zone.
“She didn’t exactly do it on purpose,” said Søren.
“No,” said Morten and did not sound particularly mollified. “It’s never on purpose. She just can’t help herself.”