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A Harry Hole Novel (6)
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Shots ring out at a Salvation Army Christmas concert in Oslo, leaving one of the singers dead in the street. The trail will lead Harry Hole, Oslo’s best investigator and worst civil servant, deep into the darkest corners of the city and, eventually, to Croatia.
An assassin forged in the war-torn region has been brought to Oslo to settle an old debt. As the police circle in, the killer becomes increasingly desperate and the danger mounts for Harry and his colleagues.
Don’t miss Jo Nesbo’s new thriller, Killing Moon, coming soon!
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK
PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
Translation copyright © 2009 by Don Bartlett
Excerpt from The Snowman copyright © 2007 by Jo Nesbø. Translation copyright © 2010 by Don Bartlett.
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Originally published in Norway as Frelseren by H. Aschehoug & Co. (W. Nygaard), Oslo, 2005. Copyright © 2005 by Jo Nesbø. This translation was originally published in Great Britain by Harvill Secker, an imprint of the Random House Group Ltd., London, in 2009.
Knopf, Borzoi Books and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to Jalma Music for permission to reprint an excerpt from “Alice” written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, copyright © 2002 by Jalma Music (ASCAP). Reprinted by permission of Jalma Music. All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Nesbø, Jo, date–author.
The Redeemer / Jo Nesbø; translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett.—First American Edition.
“This is a Borzoi book.”
1. Hole, Harry (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Police—Norway—Oslo—Fiction. 3. Murder for hire—Norway—Oslo—Fiction. 4. Oslo (Norway)—Fiction. 5. Mystery fiction. I. Bartlett, Don, translator.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover photographs: man © Alexandre Cappellari/Arcangel Images;
Oslo Harbour © Mohamad Itani/Arcangel Images
Design: Henry Steadman
Who is this that comes from Edom, coming from Bozrah, his garments stained crimson? Who is this, in glorious apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, who announce that right has won the day, it is I,” says the Lord, “for I am mighty to save.”
She was fourteen years old and sure that if she shut her eyes tight and concentrated she could see the stars through the roof.
All around her, women were breathing. Regular, heavy, nighttime breathing. One was snoring, and that was Auntie Sara, who had been given a mattress beneath the open window.
She closed her eyes and tried to breathe like the others. It was difficult to sleep, especially because everything around her was so new and different. The sounds of the night and the forest beyond the window in Østgård were different. The people she knew from the meetings in the citadel and the summer camps were somehow not the same. She was not the same, either. The face and body she saw in the mirror this summer were new. And her emotions, these strange hot and cold currents that flowed through her when the boys looked at her. Or when one of them in particular looked at her. Robert. He was different this year, too.
She opened her eyes again and stared. She knew God had the power to do great things, even allow her to see the stars through the roof. If it was His wish.
It had been a long and eventful day. The dry summer wind had whispered through the corn, and the leaves on the trees danced as if in a fever, causing the light to filter through to the visitors on the field. They had been listening to one of the Salvation Army cadets from the officer-training school talking about his work as a preacher on the Faeroe Islands. He was good-looking and spoke with great sensitivity and passion. But she was preoccupied with shooing away a bumblebee that kept buzzing around her head, and by the time it moved off, the heat had made her drowsy. When the cadet finished, all faces were turned to the territorial commander, David Eckhoff, who had been observing them with his smiling, young eyes, which were actually over fifty years old. He saluted in the Salvation Army manner, with his right hand raised above his shoulder and pointing to the kingdom of heaven, amid a resounding shout of “Hallelujah!” Then he prayed for the cadets’ work with the poor and the pariahs to be blessed, and reminded them of the Gospel of Matthew, where it said that Jesus the Redeemer was among them, a stranger on the street, maybe a criminal, without food and without clothing. And that on Judgment Day the righteous, those who had helped the weakest, would have eternal life. It had all the makings of a long speech, but then someone whispered something and he said, with a smile, that Youth Hour was next on the program and today it was Rikard Nilsen’s turn.
She had heard Rikard make his voice deeper than it was to thank the commander. As usual, he had prepared what he was going to say in writing and memorized it. He stood up and recited how he was going to devote his life to the fight, to Jesus’s fight for the kingdom of God. His voice was nervous, yet monotonous and soporific. His introverted glower rested on her. Her eyes were heavy. His sweaty top lip was moving to form the familiar, secure, tedious phrases. So she didn’t react when the hand touched her back. Not until it became fingertips and they wandered down to the small of her back, and lower, and made her freeze beneath her thin summer dress.
She turned and looked into Robert’s smiling brown eyes. And she wished her skin were as dark as his so that he would not be able to see her blush.
“Shh,” Jon had said.
Robert and Jon were brothers. Although Jon was one year older, many people had taken them for twins when they were younger. But Robert was seventeen now and while they had retained some facial similarities, the differences were clearer. Robert was happy and carefree, liked to tease and was good at playing the guitar, but was not always punctual for services in the citadel, and sometimes the teasing had a tendency to go too far, especially if he noticed others were laughing. Then Jon would often step in. Jon was an honest, conscientious boy who most thought would go to officer-training school and would—though this was never formulated out loud—find himself a girl in the Army. The latter could not be taken for granted in Robert’s case. Jon was three-quarters of an inch taller than Robert, but in some strange way Robert seemed taller. From the age of twelve Jon had begun to stoop, as though he were carrying the woes of the world on his back. Both were dark-skinned, good-looking, with regular features, but Robert had something Jon did not have. There was something in his eyes, something black and playful, which she wanted and yet did not want to investigate further.
While Rikard was talking, her eyes were wandering across the sea of assembled familiar faces. One day she would marry a boy from the Salvation Army and perhaps they would both be posted to another town or another part of the country. But they would always return to Østgård, which the Army had just bought and was to be their summer site from now on.
On the margins of the crowd, sitting on the steps leading to the house, was a boy with blond hair stroking a cat that had settled in his lap. She could tell that he had been watching her, but he had looked away just as she noticed. He was the one person here she didn’t know, but she did know that his name was Mads Gilstrup, that he was the grandchild of the people who had owned Østgård before, that he was a couple of years older than her and that the Gilstrup family was wealthy. He was attractive, in fact, but there was something solitary about him. And what was he doing here, anyway? He had been there the previous night, walking around with an angry frown on his face, not talking to anyone. She had felt his eyes on her a few times. Everyone looked at her this year. That was new, too.
She was jerked out of these thoughts by Robert taking her hand, putting something in it and saying: “Come to the barn when the general-in-waiting has finished. I’ve got something to show you.”
Then he stood up and walked off, and she looked down into her hand and almost screamed. With one hand over her mouth, she dropped the object into the grass. It was a bumblebee. It could still move, despite not having legs or wings.
At last Rikard finished, and she sat watching her parents and Robert and Jon’s parents moving toward the tables where the coffee was. They were both what Army people in their respective Oslo congregations called “strong families,” and she knew watchful eyes were on her.
She walked toward the outhouse. Once she was around the corner, where no one could see her, she scurried in the direction of the barn.
“Do you know what this is?” said Robert with the smile in his eyes and the deep voice he had not had the summer before.
He was lying on his back in the hay whittling a tree root with the penknife he always carried in his belt.
Then he held it up and she saw what it was. She had seen drawings. She hoped it was too dark for him to see her blush again.
“No,” she lied, sitting beside him in the hay.
And he gave her that teasing look of his, as if he knew something about her she didn’t even know herself. She returned his gaze and fell back on her elbows.
“This is where it goes,” he said, and in an instant his hand was up her dress. She could feel the hard tree root against the inside of her thigh and, before she could close her legs, it was touching her underpants. His breath was hot on her neck.
“No, Robert,” she whispered.
“But I made it for you,” he wheezed in return.
“Stop. I don’t want to.”
“Are you saying no? To me?”
She caught her breath and was unable either to answer or to scream because at that moment they heard Jon’s voice from the barn door:
“Robert! No, Robert!”
She felt him relax and let go, and the tree root was left between her clenched thighs as he withdrew his hand.
“Come here!” Jon said, as though talking to a disobedient dog.
With a chuckle Robert got up, winked at her and ran out into the sun to his brother.
She sat up and brushed the hay off her, feeling both relieved and ashamed at the same time. Relieved because Jon had spoiled their crazy game. Ashamed because he seemed to think it was more than that: a game.
Later, during grace before their evening meal, she had looked up straight into Robert’s brown eyes and seen his lips form one word. She didn’t know what it was, but she had started to giggle. He was crazy! And she was … well, what was she? Crazy, too. Crazy. And in love? Yes, in love, precisely that. And not in the way she had been when she was twelve or thirteen. Now she was fourteen and this was bigger. More important. And more exciting.
She could feel the laughter bubbling up inside her now, as she lay there trying to stare through the roof.
Auntie Sara grunted and stopped snoring beneath the window. Something screeched. An owl?
She needed to pee.
She didn’t feel like going out, but she had to. Had to walk through the dewy grass past the barn, which was dark and quite a different proposition in the middle of the night. She closed her eyes, but it didn’t help. She crept out of her sleeping bag, slipped on some sandals and tiptoed over to the door.
A few stars had appeared in the sky, but they would disappear when day broke in the east in an hour’s time. The cool air caressed her skin as she scampered along, listening to the unidentifiable sounds of the night. Insects that stayed quiet during the day. Animals hunting. Rikard said he had seen foxes in the distant copse. Or perhaps the animals were the same ones that were out during the day, but just made different sounds. They changed. Shed their skins, so to speak.
The outhouse stood alone on a small mound behind the barn. She watched it grow in size as she came closer. The strange, crooked hut had been made with untreated wooden boards that had warped, split and turned gray. No windows, a heart on the door. The worst thing about it was that you never knew if anyone was already in there.
And she had an instinct that someone was already in there.
She coughed so that whoever was there might signal his presence. A magpie took off from a branch on the edge of the wood. Otherwise all was still.
She stepped up onto the flagstone. Grabbed the lump of wood that passed for a door handle. Pulled it. The black room gaped open.
She breathed out. There was a flashlight beside the toilet seat, but she didn’t need to switch it on. She raised the seat lid before closing the door and fastening the door hook. Then she pulled up her nightgown, pulled down her underwear and sat down. In the ensuing silence she thought she heard something. Something that was neither animal nor magpie nor insects shedding skin. Something that moved fast through the tall grass behind the toilet. Then the trickle started and the noise was obscured. But her heart had already started pounding.
When she had finished, she quickly pulled up her underpants and sat in the dark listening. But all she could hear was a faint ripple in the tops of the trees and her blood throbbing in her ears. She waited for her pulse to slow down, then she unhooked the catch and opened the door. The dark figure filled almost the entire doorway. He must have been standing and waiting silently outside on the stone step. The next minute she was splayed over the toilet seat and he stood above her. He closed the door behind him.
“You?” she said.
“Me,” he said in an alien, tremulous, husky voice.
Then he was on top of her. His eyes glittered in the dark as he bit her lower lip until he drew blood and one hand found the way under her nightgown and tore off her underwear. She lay there crippled with fear beneath the knife blade that stung the skin on her neck while he kept thrusting his groin into her before he had even got his trousers off, like some crazed, copulating dog.
“One word from you and I’ll cut you into pieces,” he whispered. And not one word issued from her mouth. Because she was fourteen years old and sure that if she shut her eyes tightly and concentrated she would be able to see the stars through the roof. God had the power to do things like that. If it was His wish.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2003
He studied his reflected features in the train window. Tried to see what it was, where the secret lay. But he saw nothing in particular, apart from the red neckerchief, just an expressionless face and eyes and hair that, approaching the walls of the tunnels between Courcelles and Ternes, was as black as the eternal night of the métro. Le Monde lay in his lap, forecasting snow, but above him the streets of Paris were still cold and deserted beneath impenetrable, low-lying cloud cover. His nostrils flared and drew in the faint but distinct smell of damp cement, human perspiration, hot metal, eau de cologne, tobacco, wet wool and bile, a smell they never managed to wash out of the train seats, or to ventilate.
The pressure created by an oncoming train made the windows vibrate, and the darkness was temporarily banished by the pale squares of light that flashed past. He pulled up the sleeve of his coat and checked his watch, a Seiko SQ50 that he had received as partial payment from a client. There were already scratches on the glass, so he was not sure it was a genuine item. A quarter past seven. It was Sunday evening and the car was no more than half full. He looked around him. People slept on the métro; they always did. On weekdays, in particular. Switched off, closed their eyes and let the daily journey become a dreamless interval of nothing between the red or the blue lines on the métro map, a mute connecting line between work and freedom. He had read about a man who had sat like this for a whole day, eyes closed, to and fro, and it was only when they came to clean the car at the end of the day that they discovered he was dead. Perhaps he had descended into the catacombs for this very purpose, to draw a blue connecting line between life and the beyond in this pale yellow coffin, knowing he would be undisturbed.
As for himself, he was forming a connecting line in the other direction. Back to life. There was this job tonight and then the one in Oslo. The last job. Then he would be out of the catacombs for good.
A dissonant signal screamed before the doors closed in Ternes. They picked up speed again.
He closed his eyes, trying to imagine the other smell. The smell of urinal blocks and hot, fresh urine. The smell of freedom. But perhaps it was true what his mother, the teacher, had said. That the human brain can reproduce detailed images of everything you have seen or heard, but not even the most basic smell.
Smell. The images began to flash past on the inside of his eyelids. He had been fifteen years old, sitting in the corridor of the hospital in Vukovar, listening to his mother repeat the mumbled prayer to Thomas the Apostle, the patron saint of construction workers, to let God spare her husband. He had heard the rumble of the Serbian artillery firing from the river and the screams of those being operated on in the infants’ ward, where there were no longer any infants because the women of the town had stopped producing after the siege started. He had worked as an errand boy in the hospital and learned to shut out the noises, the screams and the artillery. But not the smells. And one smell above all others. Surgeons performing an amputation first had to cut through the flesh to the bone, and then, so that patients did not bleed to death, to use something that looked like a soldering iron to cauterize the blood vessels so that they were closed off. The smell of burned flesh and blood was like nothing else.
A doctor came into the corridor and waved him and his mother in. Approaching the bed, he had not dared to look at his father; he had just concentrated on the big brown hand clutching the mattress and trying, as it seemed, to tear it in two. It could have succeeded, for these were the strongest hands in the town. His father was a steel-bender—he was the person who went on building sites when the bricklayers were finished, put his large hands around the ends of the protruding steel used to reinforce the concrete, and with one quick, practiced movement, bent the ends of the steel poles and wove them into each other. He had seen his father working; it looked like he was wringing a cloth. No one had invented a machine that did the job better.
He squeezed his eyes shut as he heard his father scream out in pain and anguish: “Take the boy out!”
“But he asked—”
The doctor’s voice: “The bleeding has stopped. Let’s get cracking now!” Someone grabbed him under the arms and lifted him. He tried to struggle, but he was so small, so light. And that was when he noticed the smell. Burned flesh and blood.
The last thing he heard was the doctor’s voice:
The door slammed behind him and he sank down onto his knees and continued to pray where his mother had left off. Save him. Maim him, but save him. God had the power to do things like that. If it was His wish.
He felt someone watching him, opened his eyes and was back in the métro. On the seat opposite was a woman with taut jaw muscles and a weary, distant gaze that moved away when it met his. The second hand on his wristwatch jerked forward as he repeated the address to himself. He felt his pulse. Normal. His head was light, but not too light. He was neither hot nor cold, felt neither fear nor pleasure, neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction. The train was slowing down. Charles de Gaulle–Étoile. He sent the woman a final glance. She had been studying him, but if she should ever meet him again, maybe even tonight, she still would not recognize him.
He got to his feet and waited by the doors. The brakes gave a low lament. Urinal blocks and urine. And freedom. As impossible to imagine as a smell. The doors slid open.
Harry stepped onto the platform and stood inhaling the warm underground air as he read the address on the slip of paper. He heard the doors close and felt the draft of air on his back as the train set off again. Then he walked toward the exit. An advertisement over the escalator told him there were ways of avoiding colds. “Like hell there are,” he coughed, stuffing a hand down the deep pocket of his wool coat and finding the pack of cigarettes under the hip flask and the tin of throat lozenges.
The cigarette bobbed up and down in his mouth as he walked through the glass exit door, leaving the raw, unnatural heat of Oslo’s underground behind him, and ran up the steps to Oslo’s ultra-natural December darkness and freezing temperatures. Harry instinctively shrank. Egertorget. This small, open square was an intersection between pedestrian streets in the heart of Oslo, if the city could be said to have a heart at this time of the year. Shops were open this Sunday since it was the penultimate weekend before Christmas, and the square was teeming with people hurrying to and fro in the yellow light that fell from the windows of the surrounding modest three-story shops. Harry saw the bags of wrapped presents and made a mental note to buy something for Bjarne Møller, whose last day at Police HQ was tomorrow. Harry’s boss and chief protector in the police force for all these years was at long last realizing his plans to reduce his hours, and from next week onward would take over as a so-called senior special investigator at the Bergen police station, which meant in reality that Bjarne Møller could do as he liked until he retired. Cushy setup—but Bergen? Rain and dank mountains. Møller didn’t even come from Bergen. Harry had always liked—but not always appreciated—Bjarne Møller.
A man dressed head to toe in a down jacket and trousers slowly waddled past like an astronaut, grinning and blowing frosted breath from round, pink cheeks. Stooped shoulders and closed winter faces. Harry spotted a pallid-faced woman wearing a thin, black leather jacket with holes in the elbows standing by the jeweler’s, hopping from one foot to the other as her eyes searched, hoping to find her supplier soon. A beggar, long-haired and unshaven, but well covered in warm, fashionable, youthful clothing, sat in a yoga position, leaning against a lamppost, his head bent forward as if in meditation, with a brown paper cup from a cappuccino bar in front of him. Harry had seen more and more beggars over the last year, and it had struck him that they all looked the same. Even the paper cups were identical, as though it were a secret code. Perhaps they were creatures from outer space quietly taking over his town, his streets. No problem. Feel free.
Harry entered the jeweler’s shop.
“Can you fix this?” he said to the young man behind the counter, passing him his grandfather’s watch. Harry had been given it when he was a boy in Åndalsnes, the day they had buried his mother. He had almost been frightened, but his granddad had reassured him that watches were the sort of thing you gave away, and Harry should remember to pass it on. “Before it’s too late.”
Harry had forgotten all about the watch until Oleg visited him in his flat on Sofies Gate and had seen the silver watch in a drawer while he was looking for Harry’s Game Boy. Oleg, who was ten years old, but had long had the measure of Harry at their shared passion—the rather outdated computer game Tetris—was suddenly oblivious to the duel he had been looking forward to, and instead sat fiddling with the watch, trying to make it go.
“It’s broken,” Harry said.
“Ooof,” Oleg answered. “Everything can be repaired.”
Harry hoped in his heart of hearts that this contention was true, but he had days when he had severe doubts. Nonetheless, he had wondered in a vague way whether he should introduce Oleg to Jokke & Valentinerne and their album Everything Can Be Repaired. However, on reflection, Harry had concluded that Oleg’s mother, Rakel, was unlikely to appreciate the connection: her ex-alcoholic lover passing on songs about being an alcoholic, written and sung by a now-dead junkie.
“Can you repair it?” he asked the young man behind the counter. By way of an answer, nimble, expert hands opened the watch.
“Not worth it.”
“Not worth it?”
“If you go to an antique shop, they have better-working watches and they cost less than it would to have this fixed.”
“Do it anyway,” Harry said.
“OK,” said the young man, who had already started examining the internal mechanisms and, in fact, seemed pretty pleased with Harry’s decision. “Come back on Tuesday.”
On leaving the shop Harry heard the frail sound of a single guitar string through an amplifier. It rose when the guitarist, a boy with scraggly facial hair and fingerless gloves, turned one of the tuning keys. It was time for one of the traditional pre-Christmas concerts, when well-known artists performed on behalf of the Salvation Army in Egertorget. People had already begun to gather in front of the band as it took up a position behind the Salvation Army’s black Christmas kettle, a cooking pot that hung from three poles in the middle of the square.
“Is that you?”
Harry turned. It was the woman with the junkie eyes.
“It’s you, isn’t it? Have you come instead of Snoopy? I need a fix right away. I’ve—”
“Sorry,” Harry interrupted. “It’s not me you want.”
She stared at him. Leaning her head to one side, she narrowed her eyes, as though appraising whether he was lying to her. “Yep, I’ve seen you somewhere before.”
“I’m a policeman.”
- On Sale
- Sep 9, 2014
- Page Count
- 512 pages
- Hachette Book Group