The Considerate Killer(3)

By: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis



“I’m on my way there,” said Søren and let an unspoken question hang in the air.

“Good,” said Morten. “It’s great that someone still has the energy. Tell her that she should call the children as soon as she is able.”

“Aren’t you being a bit harsh?” Søren couldn’t help asking.

“Possibly. But it’s . . . let me see . . . the fifth or the sixth time in the last few years, if you count a few episodes from the Coal-House Camp. She’s been attacked, she’s had radiation poisoning, someone took a shot at her . . . She was the reason my daughter was attacked and kidnapped and . . . and placed in a hole in the ground, in an oil tank where she could have been asphyxiated . . .” Morten’s voice had acquired a tremor, and Søren sympathized. He remembered that particular episode more clearly than he liked, since he was the one who had pulled Ida out of that dark hole in the ground, out of what might otherwise have been a living grave. The expression in her eyes had stayed with him for days.

Morten interrupted his tally with what was clearly a great effort. “Just tell her to call,” he then said. “I won’t tell the children until she can speak to them herself.”

Nina’s mother was more compassionate, though her first reaction was almost identical:

“Oh, no. Not again.”

She apparently knew who Søren was, so although he had never met her—Nina and he had not proceded that far in their hesitant partnering—Nina had at least told her mother that he existed.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “But at least ‘under observation for a fractured skull’ isn’t the same as a fractured skull.”

“No,” said Hanne Borg. “I suppose not.”

“I’ll call as soon as I know more,” he said.

“I can call the hospital myself,” said Nina’s mother. “You just get going. And if you need a bed, I have a spare room.”

She didn’t sound sick, but then, no one said you had to sound like the final act of La Traviata just because you had been diagnosed with cancer.

Finally, he was free to leave. He chose the highway in the end; he didn’t have patience for the alternative. And while kilometer after kilometer disappeared under the Hyundai’s hood, he wondered what he should make of that “next of kin.” It was at once touching and surprising to him that she had thought of him in this way.

They had “dated”—he winced a bit at the adolescent connotations, but what else could you call it?—yet had proceeded no further into the minefield of personal relations. He was not sure what she wanted with him. Sex, yes. Love? He couldn’t quite tell. She didn’t have as much as a toothbrush in his house in Rødovre and no one had so far mentioned cohabitation. Perhaps it was only now that it occurred to him that this was what he wanted—completely and without reservations. To be a couple. Married or not, he didn’t much care which, but to share a home, to live together, to obey and honor and love, until the last breath of life left his feeble failing body.

Feeble. That was precisely the way he felt now, and perhaps the deeper reason he hadn’t pushed harder than he had. He felt more mortal than usual, more decrepit. It was not just the bullet that had made a mess of his lungs and ribcage, and the first convalescence that had taken much longer than he had hoped. He had made it to his feet again, made it back into his chair as group leader in the PET. It had been a struggle, but he could manage. Or he thought so until . . .

Until Torben, at his most boss-like, had put Søren out to grass, sent him home with orders not to return for at least three months. Anger, anger at the unfairness still rumbled inside him. How could Torben have betrayed him in that way?

He hadn’t told Nina. Wrongheaded masculine pride, perhaps. He would have to drop that now, he supposed. If they really were “next of kin.” And if he had to explain why he had been able to drop everything at a moment’s notice to go to Viborg to sit by her bedside.

Assaulted.

He pictured her slight, boyish figure, the dark hair cut so short that it followed the shape of her skull like a soft, auburn shadow. It probably didn’t make much of a difference how long your hair was if someone decided to hit you in the head with a baseball bat, or whatever they had used. All the same, it seemed to him to make her extra vulnerable and the attack more brutal.

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