The Considerate Killer(9)

By: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis

“Okay,” he said and was rewarded with an immediate and happy grin from his new friend.

“Vadim,” the guy said and held out his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Vincent.”

Their eyes met, and Vincent later thought that it had been a kind of love at first sight. Not the romantic kind, not the way he felt about Bea. Of course not. There wasn’t the pull of sexual excitement or dark longings—just an overpowering curiosity and an intense wish to get to know him better. Vadim. The sense of having met a person who was going to take up space in your life. That kind of love.

Of course this wasn’t something he articulated to himself on the spot, more a sort of retroactive rationalization when he thought back on the first meeting of the V-Team.

It was love.

Vincent, Victor, and Vadim.

There was no real transition. One moment she was nowhere, for all intents and purposes did not even exist. In the next . . . she was there. Here. Wherever “here” might be. From somewhere nearby came a quiet voice, somewhat hoarse, which for some reason found it necessary to give her a detailed description of the room.

“. . . it’s still pretty warm here. I’ve taken off my sweater, and I’m still sweating. But it’s probably for your sake that they turn the heat up so high, so that you won’t get cold. It’s actually quite calm and nice, considering. The walls are dark blue, and the curtains are . . . you would probably call them violet, a kind of . . . dark purple. Then there’s some . . . linoleum. I think that’s what it is. On the floor. Sort of . . . charcoal grey. It’s probably practical and easy to clean.”

It was Søren. But why on earth was he sitting there telling her about the flooring?

Where was she?

A nauseating tug of uncertainty went through her. Something had happened, but she didn’t know what. The sounds underlying Søren’s quiet voice shouted “HOSPITAL,” in very large letters, and her headache weighed in at about an eight on the NRS scale—so bad that it was hard to think of anything else—but she had to think. Why couldn’t she remember what had happened?

Head trauma is often accompanied by retrograde amnesia, a textbook voice informed her helpfully from somewhere in her brain’s back catalog. But what head trauma?

She tried to open her eyes, but it was as if there wasn’t room in her eye sockets.

“By the way, Morten and the kids said to give you their love,” said Søren in the middle of his absurd description of the room. “They’ll visit when you’re feeling a bit better. Or . . . you can call them. Soon, right?”

The children. Ida. Anton. She was supposed to pick up Anton after school. Morten would be furious because—

No. Morten didn’t get furious anymore. The divorce had been finalized, and Morten was usually just grumpy, cold and resigned. And besides, he could hardly expect her to pick up Anton when she was in the hospital.

In Viborg. She wasn’t in Copenhagen at all, she was in Viborg, with her mother. She had taken a three-month temp job as a nurse with a local GP: lots of blood work and so-called lifestyle consultations—usually boiling down to “eat less, exercise more, and stop smoking”—and absolutely no drama. Deadly dull, not to put too fine a point to it, and all in order to “be there,” that vague form of caring which consisted mostly of being nearby if something went wrong.

But what had gone wrong now was apparently not her mother’s treatment for the breast cancer her oncologist called, with careful optimism, “one of the less aggressive types.”

A traffic accident? Screeching breaks and shattered glass?

There was a nervous twitch in some inner alarm center, but no clear memory appeared.

“It would be great if you could wake up,” said Søren. “It would be extremely nice to see you. Or feel you. Maybe you could squeeze my hand? Just a little?”

Oh, God. He was sitting there talking like a lonely waterfall because they had told him to. That’s how they always instructed the next of kin—“Talk to her, she might be able to hear you.” This wasn’t exactly wrong; she could in fact hear him, even though establishing control over her eyelids and finer motor functions seemed to be beyond her still. But it was also a tactic that was supposed to give the next of kin a sense of purpose and a job to do, so that they stayed with the patient instead of taking all their desperate worries to the overburdened staff.

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