Read I Can See in the Dark Online
Authors: Karin Fossum
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Crime, #Travel, #Europe, #Scandinavia (Finland; Norway; Sweden)
Riktor doesn’t like the way the policeman comes straight into the house without knocking. He doesn’t like the arrogant way he observes his home.The policeman doesn’t tell him why he’s there, and Riktor doesn’t ask. Because he knows he’s guilty of a terrible crime.
But it turns out that the policeman isn’t looking for a missing person. He is accusing Riktor of something totally unexpected. Riktor doesn’t have a clear conscience, but this is a crime he certainly didn’t commit.
Karin Fossum began her writing career in 1974. She has won numerous awards, including the Glass Key Award for the best Nordic crime novel, an honour shared with Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo, and the
Los Angeles Times
Book Prize. Her highly acclaimed Inspector Sejer series has been published in more than thirty countries.
In the Darkness
Don’t Look Back
He Who Fears the Wolf
When the Devil Holds the Candle
Calling Out For You
The Water’s Edge
THERE’S NOTHING BEAUTIFUL
about her, and she has no control. She can’t control her eyes, which dart about, or roll up into her head, so that only the glistening whites are visible. Or her body, which does what it likes. Her skin is stretched tight over her joints, the veins giving her a greenish pallor, and she’s as thin as a small bird. Children shouldn’t look like this. Children should be plump, pink and warm, soft as rubber and full of sparkling life. I assume her condition was caused by an injury during birth.
She’s about nine or ten and confined to a wheelchair.
Her mother calls her Miranda, a daft name, well, in my opinion anyway. Her hair is very fine and fair, and gathered in a knot at the top of her head. Her hands move about restlessly, white, claw-like hands that are in-capable of doing anything. You’d think she was attached to an electric current. That someone was switching it on and off, sending shocks through her delicate body. I get very twitchy watching little Miranda. Worn out by all these spasms, this constant agitation, I feel like screaming. If she really were powered by electricity, I’d want to pull the plug. I’d enjoy seeing her jerking body relax.
Miranda can’t speak. She only makes noises and unintelligible exclamations; I can’t understand any of it, even though I’ve had plenty of experience with all sorts of helplessness. I’ve worked in nursing homes for more than seventeen years.
I often see Miranda here, because they come to the park by Lake Mester every day without fail. Like me, they follow a routine, something they can cling to, a groove that feels safe. The young mother takes care of the little thing; she hasn’t any choice. One heady moment with a man has turned into a lifelong burden. If anyone else comes into the park, she glances up quickly, but without any anticipation of adventure. What kind of man would approach this pair, willingly take on these problems, the ever-present child, ceaselessly gesticulating and yammering all day long?
Carrying the child about.
Wheeling the child around.
Never watching her run across the floor.
I go to the park at various times of the day because I work shifts, and I’m often free when others are at work. I’ve been coming here a long time, and I take note of all the other people who enjoy sitting on the benches admiring the fountain and its splashing water. The sound of the water has a strangely analgesic effect. For those of us who live with pain. I don’t sleep much, and the nights are long and agonising. I try to maintain my grasp of reality, and I don’t think people notice anything peculiar about me, either here in the park or where I work at Løkka Nursing Home. My manner is calm and friendly, and I do what I’m told; I simply mimic the others who stay within the norm. It’s easy. I talk like them, laugh like them, tell funny stories. But with all the feeble elderly people under my care, things often slide out of control. Especially for those who can’t speak, or haven’t the strength to complain.
Maybe they think: I don’t want to live, I don’t want to die. Life becomes so impossible as it nears its end. They just lie there clutching at a duvet, sightless, voiceless and unable to hear. Without any desire for the dregs of life, and full of fear for death.
I like sitting in the park and watching the people. They look so vulnerable on the green benches in the sun, with their eyes fixed on the lovely fountain. Three dolphins, each spouting a jet of water from its mouth. The park is small and pretty, quite intimate in its way, but the benches are hard and have armrests of cast iron. I almost envy Miranda her wheelchair and the pillow at her back. And the rug over her legs in the evenings, when it gets chilly. Her mother chain-smokes. She throws the butt on the ground and immediately lights another, inhaling so hard her cheeks are sucked in. She, too, is fettered to that chair with its large wheels. But there
something between them, I think, as I watch them surreptitiously. A frail bond, because it’s needful, because they have to fulfil these roles, play this game, mother and child.
Sometimes I go to the park and find it deserted, but I love sitting there alone on my green bench. The park is my own little kingdom then, and I’m in complete control. I’m responsible for everything. I make the water tinkle, I make the flowers bloom, and if I wish, I make the birds sing. I force the wind softly through the leaves, I chase the clouds across the sky, and if I’m in a good mood, I’ll add a butterfly or a woolly bumblebee.
I think about Miranda’s mother a lot. Occasionally she glances at me, entreatingly, like a beggar.
Take me away from all these problems, the glance says. I want a different life.
That’s what everyone wants, surely.
AT THE ENTRANCE
to the park, just as you turn in along a narrow, paved path, there is a beautiful sculpture.
I’m not well travelled, but I’ve never seen anything like it, never seen anything so lovely and so riveting as this sculpture. I’ve never seen anyone cry the way she’s doing. She’s on her knees, she’s succumbed to it completely, weighed down with suffering and grief. Her hands hide her face, her long hair has fallen forwards, her shoulders are hunched in hopeless despair. It’s heartening that an artist has got to grips with the anguish we all feel. Our sorrow about life itself, the torment of existence, braving each of its seconds and minutes, tolerating the gaze of others. There are plenty of other wonderful sculptures. Beautiful women with outstretched arms, athletic men, chubby, laughing children.
But give me
Give me the truth about human beings and life.
She’s cast from gilded bronze which has a lovely lustre. When the sun streams through the leaf canopy she turns warm and golden like an ember. In winter her body is as cold as ice, with its round shoulders and the narrow back, through which vertebrae protrude like marbles beneath the skin. When no one is looking, I stroke her slender body, her long legs, her slim ankles.
But my thoughts constantly return to Miranda.
She needs help with everything the whole time, I often think about that, help from morning to night, every hour, all round the clock. Help when she’s thirty and when she’s forty. At some point her mother won’t be there any more, and who will look after her then? It’s just this sort of helpless case that ends up at the nursing home where I work, that ends up at Løkka. Then, they’re handed over to me with all my quirks and fancies, my outbursts and attentions. Within me lurks an evil little devil, who occasionally asserts himself, he’s impossible to avoid, because sometimes the temptation is too great. I’d never have believed it of Riktor, people would say in all their ignorant innocence, if they knew the truth about me and the things I’m capable of. I can see right through people, I can see what’s concealed in their innermost, shadowy recesses. And when it comes to evil, I can believe anything of anybody.
OUR WARD SISTER
Anna Otterlei is an exception.
The well-being of the patients is much more than a career choice, it’s her life’s mission, or so it seems, and she’s quite inexhaustible. She’s loving, self-sacrificing and serene, she cares and comforts, she nurses and soothes. She’s constantly in their rooms, sitting on a chair by the bed, speaking softly and confidingly, stroking their cheeks with a warm hand. She finds out what they need and what they dream of, she shares the sorrows of a lifetime which will soon be at an end. She partakes in their fear of death, that final, slow descent into darkness. Personally, I can’t be bothered. If you extend a hand, you only receive tears and despair in return, these are doors I don’t want to open, I have enough of my own as it is. I’ve enough of my own pounding heart, with all the whisperings in the corners, evil tongues that know, perhaps, what I really am.
Sometimes at night, a lorry drives into my bedroom; it comes roaring through the door and parks next to my bed. Its diesel engine goes throbbing on until dawn. I’m worn out by the time I finally put my feet on the floor. On the other side of the bed. Silence frightens me even more, because I’ve lived my whole life in this din, with these voices and this noise.
But then there’s my angel, Sister Anna. She’s lovely, but she’s also sharp, like a cake with sweet icing and a bitter little berry in the middle. She’s the one I’m most cautious with. The rest of the staff on the ward aren’t clever enough to see through me, they haven’t the sensitivity for unravelling human riddles. And I am one such human riddle.
If only I had a woman! A woman like Sister Anna, with her beauty and her wisdom, her indomitable desire to be good. She’s blonde and bosomy and beautiful, with a high, arched brow and plump cheeks, like a small, well-nourished child. Lips red as cherries, a neck like a swan’s, eyes that seem to gaze down from on high, with the barest twinkle in them. She’s about the same age as me, in her early forties. And although she’s constantly looking in my direction, it’s not with any desire or yearning. I have none of the qualities women dream of. But I like being near her, catching the scent and the warmth of her; she warms like a stove. She shines like a sun. She sails like a ship. Truly, she’s a woman after my own depraved heart.
Everyone has virtues, everyone has a talent, everyone has a right to respect. That’s how we human beings like to think. But rotten individuals do exist and, I have to admit it, I’m one of them; a rotten individual who in certain situations can turn spiteful, to the extent that I become almost unhinged. But I find no difficulty in aping other people, aping politeness and friendliness and kindness. It’s restraining the bad impulses that’s tough. I often think of the things that might happen if I really lost control, and that does happen from time to time.
But then there’s Sister Anna, pretty little Anna, she is the angel in the human story. Sometimes, when she comes along the corridor, I go weak and wobbly at the knees. But the joy of kissing Anna’s cherry-red lips will never be mine. I know too much about the commerce of love.
I LIVE AT
Jordahl on the outskirts of town, I have a small red house half an hour’s walk from the park by Lake Mester. It was built in
, with that typical end-of-war restraint, spartan, simple and practical. Living room and kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, and that’s all. Two old, wrought-iron stoves that purr throughout the winter, a large, covered veranda where I sit and watch the people who pass by. It’s easy to maintain, with heavy furniture that has no decorative refinement. There’s a forest at the back of the house, of spruce and birch. The house used to have a lovely lawn in front, but now it’s completely overgrown. Occasionally, during the summer I cut it with a scythe, and I enjoy playing the Grim Reaper. I feel at home in the part.