Read Bubble: A Thriller Online

Authors: Anders de La Motte

Tags: #Thriller, #Suspense, #Mystery

Bubble: A Thriller (11 page)

“So you’re keen to get back to the firm . . . ?”

She forced out a laugh.

“Well, not just yet, at any rate . . . Have you managed to find out anything?” she added quickly before Nina had time to go on.

“Not really . . .”

Rebecca breathed out silently.

“There’s no record of the revolver in the system. It’s never been reported stolen, nor registered in connection with any crime.”

“Okay, good.”

“But my contact up in Forensics would still like to take it in for some test shots.”

“Okay, what for?”

“Because it’s a .38 caliber manufactured before 1986 . . .”

“What . . . ?”

“Come on, Rebecca, the revolver is at least in theory a potential OPW . . .”

“I’m not with you, Nina . . .”

“An Olof Palme Weapon.”

A short silence followed as Rebecca tried to take in this information.

“But the killer used a .357 Magnum. Holmér went on television and said . . .”

She must have seen the image at least a hundred times over the years. The press conference, with the county police
commissioner confidently waving two powerful revolvers.

“Well, Holmér managed to get most things wrong, including the gun. Look, Rebecca, the .38 and the .357 have the same sized bullets, only their length is different. Some makes of .38 can be used to fire .357 ammunition, which is why Forensics is so keen to test-fire all old guns that match the OPW profile. My friend in Forensics could deal with it next week . . .”

“Okay, sure . . . Listen, I’m going to have to call you back, Nina, I’ve got a call waiting . . . Thanks a million for your help,” she added. “I’ll be in touch next week and we can have lunch together . . .”

She clicked to end the call, put her cell phone down on the desk, and leaned back slowly. Then she opened the desk drawer and took out some sheets of paper. Since her visit to the bank vault she’d found it impossible to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Not until the copy of the contract for the safe-deposit box arrived.

She had been certain it was Henke’s box. And she had been wrong. The agreement had been set up in 1986, and her and Henke’s names had been listed in the section for
other individuals with access to the deposit box.

In other words, Henke probably knew as little about the box as she did.

The reminders about the overdue payments must have been sent to both of them, the only difference being that his stack of unopened mail had probably been seized before he had time to open it. So, the box’s secrets weren’t Henke’s after all, but belonged to the person who was listed as the principal name on the contract. The person who had owned the bunch of keys before Henke inherited it.

Erland Wilhelm Pettersson.

Their father.

♦  ♦  ♦

When he was twenty meters away the bus’s indicator lights began to flash.

He put all he had into it.

The bus pulled away from the stop.

Ten meters left.

Eight.

Five.

The distance stopped shrinking.

Then it began to grow again as the bus picked up speed on the long slope down toward Slussen.

Fuck!

His stomach clenched and he felt the first convulsion and tried to swallow it. Forcing his legs to carry him forward . . .

The square outline of the back of the bus was getting smaller and smaller.

The second retch almost reached his mouth.

The bus disappeared out of sight.

But he couldn’t give up now.

He didn’t manage to catch the third convulsion and had to take a few stumbling steps to avoid throwing up on his sneakers.

The bus must have pulled up outside the underground station at Slussen at least a minute ago, which meant that he was going to get there too late. The bus would already have set off for Skeppsbron and on into the city center.

But he’d just have to take a chance.

He’d seen the Erman look-alike at Slussen station last time, so maybe that’s where he was going this time as well?

With a bit of luck he’d manage to catch up with him before he got inside the ticket hall.

All he needed were a few seconds at close range . . .

He veered off right, up into Götgatsbacken, then forced his aching legs around the corner of the City Museum.

His stomach was letting him know it was ready for a new salvo, but at that moment Ryssgården opened up in front of him and he stopped abruptly. He coughed up a mouthful of bitter vomit from his throat and spat it out from the side of his mouth. His lungs were burning and his heart was thumping so hard that he couldn’t help squinting with pain, but he didn’t take his eyes off the square. He was out there somewhere, among the crowd.

Well, he ought to be.

Unless . . .

He wasn’t . . .

Shit!

His pulse gradually slowed down, which helped the cramps in his stomach subside.

He took a few steps out into the square. Still no sign of the bloke. Either he was already inside the station or he had carried on toward the city center on the bus.

Just his damn luck!

The adrenaline kick was starting to fade and all of a sudden he felt almost faint. He leaned his hands on his knees, gathered another gob of saliva, and spat it out on the cobblestone.

“Disgusting!” someone hissed off to his right, but he ignored it.

The cobblestone beneath his feet seemed to be slowly turning clockwise, as sweat poured down his back, soaking the waist of his trousers and removing the last pale patches on his T-shirt.

He lowered his head a bit closer to his knees to improve the blood flow. He stood like that for a couple of minutes, trying to recover.

When the ground had stopped spinning he straightened up, took a deep breath, and turned around.

And that was when he caught sight of him. Inside the glass box of the lift, just nine, ten meters away. White shirt, smart trousers, and a pale jacket slung casually over one shoulder.

In spite of the unfamiliar clothing, in spite of the fact that the man was clean-shaven, considerably thinner, and seemed perfectly normal, he looked a fuck of a lot like Erman.

Disconcertingly similar, in fact . . .

He needed to get a bit closer, to make absolutely sure.

HP took a few unsteady steps forward, then a few more, but at that moment the lift began to move downward. He sped up, forcing his legs to obey him.

The man’s feet disappeared into the ground, then his legs, torso, and just before his head vanished below street level, HP looked into the man’s eyes.

Holy shit . . .

♦  ♦  ♦

Why on earth did Dad have a secret safe-deposit box with false passports, thousands of dollars in cash, and a large-bore revolver?

If they’d been in a spy novel, the answer would have been obvious, but this was her dad, for God’s sake. A perfectly ordinary Swede with an ordinary job, a flat in Bagarmossen, and a wife and two children.

There were five passports in total spread out on the desk in front of her.

Apart from the South African one, they were from Swit
zerland, Canada, Belgium, and Yugoslavia. They all had various foreign entry stamps in them, mostly from the USA, but there were also some from other countries. On the second-to-last page of the Canadian passport she also found an old black-and-white photograph that was almost stuck between the pages. It showed some sixty or so young men in uniform, posing around a tank. The letters
UN
were painted on the turret in large white capitals.

Blue berets, Cyprus 1964,
someone had written on the back in old-fashioned handwriting that looked so much like her dad’s that her heart skipped a beat.

The focus of the photograph wasn’t great and a lot of the faces were blurred. But one of the men, squatting in the front row, had a very familiar look to his nose and eyes. Had her dad served with the United Nations? And if he had, why hadn’t he ever mentioned it?

She knew he’d been in the reserves when he was younger, that was how he and Uncle Tage got to know each other, and the meetings of the veterans’ association were one of the few things that used to put him in a good mood. But the fact that he might have served abroad and never mentioned it seemed very odd. Okay, so he hadn’t been the talkative type, but at the very least he ought to have had one of those pennants, certificates, or some other souvenir, like the things all her colleagues who had served with the UN usually adorned their offices with.

She had been through her childhood home in her head several times now, but couldn’t recall ever seeing anything like that. Mom’s collection of Spanish bullfighter dolls and jubilee plates were pretty much the only ornaments they’d had in the house, and there had been nothing in Dad’s possessions after his death that gave any clue. Apart from his shirts and suits, a
few bits of heavy furniture, and his worn-out typewriter, his remaining possessions had fit into a plastic bag.

She had pretty much given up any idea that the revolver could have been Dad’s old service weapon. Officers in the reserves in the fifties and sixties had been allocated pistols rather than revolvers, as far as she had been able to find out. Besides, the army would have been in touch if his gun had gone missing. Nothing she had found in the safe-deposit box made any sense, and there was really only one person who could help her come to grips with it.

She pulled the keyboard toward her, logged into her Hotmail account, and opened a new email.

To:
[email protected]

From:
[email protected]

Subject:
UN service

Dear Uncle Tage,

···

I hope you are well.

I have recently come across some things of Dad’s that were stored in a safe-deposit box. Among them is a photograph from a UN mission in Cyprus in 1964.

I didn’t actually know that Dad had served with the UN, and I was hoping you might be able to tell me a bit more?

Feel free to call me!

Best wishes,
Rebecca

♦  ♦  ♦

He raced toward the lift, then realized it was on its way down to the City Museum and changed direction toward the large stone staircase a few meters away.

He took the steps two at a time, pushing some parents with small children out of the way as he rushed for the main entrance. He had lost a bit of time, but there was a long, glassed-in corridor leading from the lift to the entrance to the museum. There was no way the guy would get to the end of the corridor before he did.

The sliding doors had barely opened before he was through them.

Just as he had expected, he got there first.

He took a couple of deep breaths, then began to walk slowly down the long corridor leading toward the shiny lift doors.

His jaw was clenched, and he could feel the blood surging behind his eyelids. Any moment now the lift doors would open and he would be standing face-to-face with Erman.

Because that must have been Erman he saw?

Clean-shaven, nice and clean, and several kilos lighter. But it was still him, for fuck’s sake.

So he clearly hadn’t been burned alive out there in the bush at Fjärdhundra, it didn’t look as if the allergy to electricity that had forced him to lead a low-tech life was bothering him anymore.

Which meant what . . . ?

Well, that was what he was planning to find out the moment the lift doors opened. Possibly rather more violently than the situation demanded . . .

He was clenching and unclenching his fists, and could almost taste the adrenaline on his tongue.

Ten seconds passed.

Twenty.

Thirty.

Okay, so the lift was the slow sort meant for the disabled, but still—it ought to have been there by now.

He hit the lift button, then looked around, wondering for a moment if he should dash back up to the square again.

But suddenly the lift made a pinging sound that almost made him jump out of his shoes.

His heart was doing somersaults in his chest as he raised his fists and got ready.

The doors slowly opened.

8

. . . IT DOESN’T MEAN THEY AREN’T AFTER YOU

“YES, HELLO?”

“Good afternoon, my dear friend, or perhaps it’s morning?”

“Yes, it’s actually morning here. It’s good that you’ve called. Is everything okay?”

“More or less . . .”

“What do you mean? Shouldn’t . . . ?”

“Don’t worry, my dear friend, the pieces are about to fall into place.”

“I hope so. Failure is not an option.”

“So I’ve understood . . .”

♦  ♦  ♦

“My dear Rebecca, how lovely to see you!”

“Hello, Uncle Tage, good to see you too . . .”

She was ten minutes early for their meeting, but of course he was already there.

“I thought you were abroad, when did you get home?” She leaned over the café table and kissed the old man on the cheek.

He still smelled the same. Shaving cream, aftershave, ci
gars, and something else very familiar. Something she liked . . .

“Oh, a few weeks ago. Would you like something? Coffee, tea? No, how silly of me . . . Excuse me!”

He waved the waitress over.

“A cappuccino, please, with lactose-free milk, if that’s possible?” she said.

He smiled at Rebecca, but it took her a few seconds to return his smile.

He didn’t seem to have noticed her reaction.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch before, Rebecca, dear, but since I got home my calendar has been completely full . . . These are hectic times, but of course you know that as well as I do.”

He smiled again, then sipped his coffee.

“Of course,” she mumbled. “Absolutely,” she added in a clearer voice.

The waitress returned with her cappuccino, and she took a quick sip.

“So, how’s your new job, Rebecca? I can imagine it’s rather different from working for the Security Police?”

“It’s good, thanks. We’ve had a bit of trouble getting everything set up—equipment, staff, licenses, and a whole load of other things. The paperwork has taken much longer than I expected.”

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