Monthly Archives: June 2015

Episode 23. Finale. Mid-summer

Mid-summer
June 23rd
“Please, sit down on the wooden chairs,” Amund said as he himself went over to the rocking chair. He didn’t appear to be the least senile.
“My little cottage,” he said and gave a sigh of satisfaction. He had lit a pocket torch and I could see that he too was holding a pistol of the same make as the one Laura’ had. I went over to one of the chairs and Merete obliged too, though she looked extremely uncomfortable. The silence lay over the cabin like a too hot, too thick and too heavy blanket.
“Why?” I asked in the end.
“The oldest motive in the world.” Amund replied. “All the murders happened because of love.”
“Why don’t you tell us about them till Laura comes? You know some entertainment before it’s my turn?” I asked.
“Your turn alone?” Amund asked. “You are both going to die tonight. Merete, you know too much. So I’m afraid you and your precious unborn babies will die tonight too. But I guess that didn’t come as a big surprise.”
Merete shook her head, but said nothing.
“I suppose I can entertain you,” Amund said. He drew in a deep breath and began.
I was ten when I first heard of the case of Franz Fransen’s mistress Helene and her drowning under strange circumstances. We were a few children wanting to go out in the boat to amuse ourselves. Among them was I, and Gerda’s older brother Magnus who is long dead. Gerda’s mother was terribly afraid of the sea and she didn’t want us to go. She told us that there were ghosts out there who drowned people. And then she told us about the drowning of her close childhood friend Helene Hansen which had happened right outside the light house Nellevine. That the ghost of Nellevine, a woman who had once lived in Homborsund, ad still haunted it, punished those who did wrongs that couldn’t be judged in the courtroom. As children, we didn’t believe her of course. And we went out in the boat without anything happening. I even forgot about it for a while.
But two years later, when my best friend Tore drowned, and I was weighed down by grief and anger of something so unfair, I remembered it. Janne Olsen was a silly woman and at the time we went out swimming, she was flirting with one of the local fishermen. That’s a part of the story nobody knows. But I saw her. And perhaps Tore hadn’t drowned had it not been for her flirting and had she been watching us like a good teacher. I knew she enjoyed kayaking and would go every evening possible when the weather was nice… So one day, I went to her house with a drill hidden inside my school bag. If anyone would have seen me enter her garden, they’d assume I’d come to give my dear teacher well wishes for the summer. But I had picked a time when most people would be at work. It didn’t take long to drill small holes in the kayak and cover them up so she couldn’t see them. However, the cover I used, paper, would dissolve as soon as it came into water. I had no idea if my plan would work, but it did. Guess she wasn’t such a good swimmer. Her kayak was even found floating bottom up with the holes very visible.
Years later, I fell in love with Gerda. But she wouldn’t know me. She was the most beautiful girl in all of Homborsund and beyond and she had many suiters. Her younger sister was a beauty too and knew it. Objectively speaking, she was even more beautiful than her sister. And this grieved Gerda a lot. I remember finding her crying one day because her sister had kissed a guy she liked. This was just before she got together with Sven. I found the whole thing scandalous, especially because Pernille was so young. But oh, how mature she was. Looked like a fully grown woman at fourteen. I resolved that day to remove from the world everything that would make Gerda unhappy. And I also resolved that she would be mine.
I asked Pernille to meet me in the magic forest. I had turned her down for the mid-summer dance which had greatly saddened her. So when I suggested this private meeting, she was overjoyed. I strangled her of course. It was quick and easy. And then I hung her up in the tree and left her. I made out to find her, and pretended to be distraught about it. And they pitied me.
Sven was easy to kill. I found out about his little mistress before Gerda did and thought it was best to remove him from this world before he would make her unhappy. Better to lose a loved one in death, than to a rival in life. I asked if he would come crab fishing with me. We weren’t exactly close friends, but I knew he didn’t like putting out the nets, though he enjoyed fresh crab, so I played on that. I knew the weather was going to be bad that day. But Sven, who had no suspicion and said yes, willingly came out with me. I initiated a proper man to man talk while we were in the boat. And I coaxed him into telling me about his mistress. I was made to understand that he intended to leave Gerda for her. The weather was starting to worsen and I knew I’d have to hurry if I wanted to get home in one piece. So I hit Sven over the head with a hammer I’d brought along. And then threw him over board.
I thought perhaps Gerda would come to me after the death of Sven. I comforted her a lot and always helped around. But I guess she saw me more as a brother. And she was soon married to the wife beater Nils. Gerda has never been very independent. And she hated staying single for longer than what was necessary or appropriate after Sven died. After Nils had beaten her especially badly one day, she came to me to seek comfort. And that was when our affair started. I wanted Gerda to myself. But divorce in those days, in a place like this, was hard. So Nils had to go too.
I made same process with him. Although I disposed of the boat afterwards.
“So that’s how you did it,” I said in lack of anything else to say.
“Yes.” Amund looked proud. “And I managed to persuade Gerda it must be Nellevine’s ghost who is behind all the murders. She thinks she’s in touch with the ghost herself. But I think she desperately want to believe that something supernatural is behind them. She knows in her heart of hearts that her own mother killed Helene Hansen. And I think she may at least suspect me.”
The door had opened quietly while Amund spoke and Laura stood in the doorway looking at us.
“Having a good time?” she asked sweetly.
None of us answered.
“I’m telling them about my prowess on the murder scene,” Amund said at last with a tone of pride in his voice. “And I’m not done yet. I’m sure Sandra here would like to know why I killed her father and brother.”
I found out that Sven’s mistress had a son because Gerda wanted so badly to adopt him. She never managed to get pregnant again after we’d had our son Carl Christian. My original plan was to murder the mistress and kidnap the baby, but they disappeared on us. I guess they must have asked for their phone number and address to be withheld from the phone register. I later learned that she’d changed her surname, but the son had the father’s name. So when he started working as a journalist in Grimstad, I decided that it would be far better to punish her by killing her child. And when he started looking into the mid-summer murders and put two and two together, it was time to strike. He called me and asked me for an interview, which I of course granted. Only I garroted him from behind before he even knew I was around.
“What about my baby brother?” I asked.
“That one was easy. He did have a weak heart and was in hospital overnight for some checkups. I came to the hospital one day and simply went into the section where he lay; put a pillow over his face and voilà! Your mum was downstairs getting something to eat. I observed that before I went there. My friend worked as a doctor there, so when anybody asked why I was there, I just said I was there to talk over a matter with him.”
I was starting to hate this man more and more. I was trembling with anger and indignation at how he talked about his crimes so easily, so proudly.
“We have to go soon,” Laura interrupted.
“Oh but let them have the last few answers before they die.”
“Make it quick,” Laura said and leaned against the door. An impatient expression on her face.
“We often visited our son in Stockholm. But he didn’t know that he was ours until he was eighteen. Until then, he assumed that we were his aunt and uncle. But when he learned of the circumstances around the adoption, he wanted to move to Norway to spend more time with us. However, we asked him to be very careful as it would look a little bit strange that a supposedly dead baby had come to life so many years later. My son was more like me than I could have hoped. And one day, I entrusted him my secret about the mid-summer murders, and why and how I’d carried them out. In fact, he was there when your father was killed Sandra. And he took a lot of pleasure in watching. Your father was killed because he knew too much, and he asked why I didn’t dispose of your mother too at the time. But your mother had you and went to London. We only knew about London later when you came back for summer holidays. In fact, I did try to kill her once, but she got away. It’s was purely a stroke of luck. On her side that is. I was planning to Garett her like I had your father, but just as I was about to do it, an old friend of hers passed. I didn’t have many other chances, because she stayed away from Homborsund. My son was the one by the way who spread all those false rumours about her having an affair etc. I thought that was very stupid as she might have stayed a little bit closer had he not done so.
Carl Christian, or Christian as we mainly called him, was doing well as a freelancer and asked to be posted to London for some national newspaper. While there he met your mum. It was not by co-incidence and he tried finding out how much she knew, but she’d never let on if she did know anything. He couldn’t of course kill her straight away, so he courted and married her. He liked her very much. But his sense of duty and protection of me was much stronger. And so when he heard the two of you discussing the test drive, he went and tampered with the breaks. The accident was supposed to kill both of you, but alas, you survived.
“Why did you wait twenty years?” I asked. I could see Laura shifting from one foot to another. She was really getting impatient now.
“Some of it was just how it naturally happened, but we also wanted most people to forget the other murders and disappearances so that too many questions wouldn’t be asked. And we wanted her to relax and think herself and you safe”
“And how about Laura? Where does she come in?”
“Laura came to Rune and Mona in May 1999. She became a huge favourite of mine after I discovered that she too had a dark side to her. By that time, I was getting a little weaker and I couldn’t kill like in the old days. I had intentions of doing away with you too. Better a whole family be gone. But I needed Laura’s help. You two were roughly the same age, and she could pretend to befriend you. However, two things went wrong. Laura was too eager to help me and your grandma saved you unknowingly. Also, not long after, Laura was taken into a home.
We wanted to wait a while after the London accident to try and get you once and for all. But you had to be in a state of total calm and no suspicion. We knew that the easiest way to get you to Homborsund was for Christian to call and scare you. And it worked a treat. I asked Gerda to tell you about the mid-summer murders and she did, not of course knowing anything of our plans. But it got you digging. And when your lover boy called Merete to help you, for she was looking into them as well, just out of pure interest, Laura decided to pose as her and befriend you. She was there when Merete got the phone call. She is a photographer, and has worked closely with Merete for a while. And you didn’t know Merete, so you didn’t know what she looked like. Of course, she was Clairvoyant Clara too, but you know that already. Genious Laura. She revealed herself to you so many times, but you were none the wiser. Proves that the best way to hide something is to do it in the open.”
“And I didn’t know she was a psycho who would lock me up and drug me down for three weeks,” Merete said through clenched teeth. “What if I had given birth?”
But Laura only stared at her. “I would have killed your babies,” she said.
“One last thing. I was desperate now. It was 1 o’clock and if I could keep him talking for a little bit longer, I didn’t know what I would do, but my head was working over time trying to find a way we could possibly escape. Time was of the essence.
“Why did Christian die? And did he really assault you Laura?”
“Ys he did. But Amund would never believe me.” She stared at him with hard, cold eyes. So I garroted and hung him up in the same three as Gerda’s sister.
“And for that Laura, I’m not sure if I can forgive you.” Amund said.
“Oh shut up. Let’s take care of our personal business later. We are going to kill these two first.”
Amund got up. “We have to go now. “He said abruptly.
“Are you going to shoot us?” Merete asked in a small voice.
“No. We have something else in stall for you. We want it to look like a Nellevine drowning. So we can’t shoot you.”
“No!” I shouted and spun on my heel to see Laura who had moved quietly from the door towards me extend a noose made from a thin steel wire over my head. A few seconds later, and I would have been dead. I hit her on the arm, and managed to grab it and bend it backwards. She fought against me and at one point the wire hit my hand with a stinging sensation.
“Help! Help” Merete screamed.
“Quiet, all of you. I think I need an explanation.”
The voice had come from the door which had opened quietly without anybody noticing it. Rune stood in the doorway and he was looking confused.
“Dad?” he asked. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere, again.”
Amund, who had not been prepared for the surprise of seeing his adopted son took a few seconds to put his vacant expression on, but he hadn’t fooled Rune.
“Put down the pistol and sit down for goodness sake,” he said.
He went over to his father and took the pistol out of his hands. Laura and I had stopped moving, and slowly he walked over and dragged Laura away from me.

“So Gerda is innocent then?” Emma asked. We were having dinner out at the seafood place Markus had taken me to on our first date. And our dates were there too.
“Seems like it. She knew Amund was hiding something of course and that he was pretending to be senile at times so as not to be suspected. He fooled his son though. But I’m not sure to what extent she knew about everything.
“It’s a pity we can never ask her,” Emma said putting down her fork and leaning back in her chair.
At around noon, we had gotten the news that Gerda had died in her sleep at the hospital.
“Do you wanna go on to somewhere else?” Asked Daniel and put an arm around Emma.
“Let’s go on one of the boats for a drink,” she replied.” “I just wanna go home,” I said to Markus. It had been a long day. Rune had tied Laura to one of the chairs with my help so she wouldn’t be able to run off and we had called the police. Amund, though mentally in tip top shape, wasn’t able to run, so he hadn’t bothered with him. The police had come half an hour later. And then there had been interrogations and explanations. Amund and Laura had both confessed to murdering. In Laura’s case one, and in Amund’s 7 people.
Markus summoned a waiter after having paid the bill; we went out and found a taxi.
“This story is more crazy than a book,” he said when we were sitting down in the back seat. I nodded and put my head on his shoulder.
“Will you be going back to London soon,” he asked. I shook my head.
“I’m taking a sabbatical from work. I have a book to write and a man, a grandma, a dog and a girlfriend to get to know better.”
“Is that so?” he asked and kissed me long and tender on the lips. “That’s a lucky man then.”
We asked the taxi to stop a little away from the house so we could enjoy the evening air and smells of BBQs and the sight of some probably illegal mid-summer fires.
“What do you think is going to happen to Amund and Laura?” I asked.
“I guess they’ll both end up in a mental institution. Laura is still young, so she could end up being released, or put in normal prison. But Amund is so old they’ll probably leave him be there till he passes.”
“And I hope Merete will be fine. I can’t wait to get to know the real one.”
Markus laughed. “She said all was fine when she went for a check-up today. Did you know her twins are going to be identical?”
We had reached the house and I was fishing for my keys in my bag. I was looking forward to my bed and perhaps some of that dessert we never got around to trying a few days ago. I found the keys and unlocked the door. Markus got in first and I followed. But just as I was about to close the door and lock it, I happened to glance out into the garden. And I could swear that by the hedge, stood a lady dressed in a long black coat and an elaborate hat.
“Markus look,” I exclaimed in alarm. But when he turned to where I was pointing, she was gone.

Episode 22. The trap

The Trap
June 22nd.
I had been positively surprised when Merete called to ask if she could come over this evening.
“I want to discuss the last installment of my article series before I send it to the editor later.”
“But don’t you have that ready already?” I asked, remembering that a couple of days before, she had texted me to say that she was finally finished with the writing.
“I need to change a couple of things and since you’ve been in this as deep as me, or even deeper, I want to run the things by you.
She also wanted to take some new pictures of both Nellevine and Ramshaug, and I didn’t really mind as the weather looked as if it would be nice this evening.
I had taken out shrimps from the freezer which was now defrosting and the house smelled of the brownies I’d just baked. I had both been running with Mica and kayaking this morning, so I was taking a shower. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. The three weeks I’d spend here, had certainly done my body good. I had a nice golden tan all over. And although the mirror didn’t show it, I had definitely toned up and got fitter. With a soft, thick bath tower wrapped around me, I went into my room to find something to wear. I settled on a pair of light blue jeans and a white top. After some hair and face touch ups, I went downstairs.
Merete came at 7PM precisely. I had asked her to bring fresh bread since she was coming from town, and she handed me a delicious smelling loaf which was still warm. She looked tired and a little pale, so I ordered her to sit down at the kitchen table and gave her a coke zero.
“Tomorrow its mid-summer,” I said and sat opposite her. “I wonder if this mystery will come to an end then. If we can find the answers to who did everything.”
Merete laughed. “That’s in books,” she said. Her tone annoyed me. She sounded like a grown woman who was talking down to a small child. – Get over it Sandra, I thought. I was in the time right before my period where I have massive cravings for sweet things as well as a very short temper.
“Oh well. It’s not as if I’m really expecting it. But it would be really nice,” I said with a sigh.”
“But at least you know a lot more than what you did before you came here. You didn’t really know anything about your father did you? And you found your paternal grandma. Plus I bet your conscience feel better too now. About your mother I mean.”
I had to admit that she was right. Even if I’d never get all the answers, I knew a lot more about where I’d come from and who my family were. I wanted to ask Emma if she could take me to their graves tomorrow so I could pay my first respects. I was so sorry I’d never known them.
“I guess you go on maternity leave pretty soon,” I said.
Merete nodded. “From next week.”
She hadn’t got any bigger since I had met her two weeks ago. But she was looking so huge already; I hoped she wouldn’t grow anymore in the next three weeks.
We got up after having devoured all the shrimps as well as a lot of the brownies. I tidied up and we went to the hall to put on our shoes.
This evening reminded me a lot of the evening I’d gone out with Markus to meet Christian Holm, only to find him hanged. I was sure something like that wasn’t going to happen this evening, so I felt relaxed and happy walking next to Merete. It was just past 8 o’clock, and taking the pictures of the torches in the evening sun would turn out some great photos.
“Wow, this is beautiful,” Merete said in awe. We had gone through the magic forest. I, with certain apprehensions, and Merete eagerly observing everything looking like she was in deep thought.
“Have you never been out here before?” I asked.
“Of course. I was here the other day, I mean a couple of weeks ago to take some photos for myself.”
She opened her bag, and took out a brand new, expensive digital camera. I had been wanting this exact model for a long time, but hadn’t been able to afford it. She snapped a few pictures of the torch from different angles. Then she snapped some of me in front of the torch. She made me do different poses and we actually had quite a bit of fun. I’m so glad I found her, I thought perhaps for the umpteenth time in the past couple of weeks.
“Let’s go to Nellevine now while the light is still good,” Merete said.
“Do you know why the magic forest is called the magic forest?” Merete asked as we made our way on the bumpy path towards Nellevine.
“No, but it sounds like something out of Harry Potter. Maybe it is the atmosphere of the forest, or maybe things magically disappear in there?”
The atmosphere around us now felt somehow charged. Not magical. Or, I thought to myself, mayb the forest contained an evil magic that made people hang themselves.. I felt a little chilly despite the warm evening. I told myself I was stupid. That this entire mid-summer business had gone completely to my head.
“Are you thinking about something?”
We had reached Nellevine and I noticed that it was almost 9 o’clock.
“Not really,” I said. I didn’t feel like sharing what I’d just been thinking.
“That’s good,” she replied and took a step closer to me.
“”Let me start by taking a picture of you by the torch. You are after all, the last victim of Nellevine’s revenge.”
All the time why she’d been speaking, she had been rummaging in her bag. I presumed for the camera. And she had indeed taken it out. But she had taken out something else too. And I found myself staring right into the barrel of a pistol.
“W.. .What?” I stuttered, not quite believing what I was seeing.
“You heard me Sandra. You heard me very well. Please repeat what I said.”
I swallowed, unable to form the words. Unable to fully comprehend them.
“Hello, I’m waiting” she said in a singing tone.
“Last victim of Nellevine’s revenge?” I said after a while. It came out more like a question than a statement.
“Ten points to Sandra,” she said and snapped a picture.
“I am going to enjoy looking at this in the years to come. That look of terror on the last victim’s face.”
She laughed almost happily and snapped some photos of the torch too before she put the camera away. The pistol however, was still firmly in her hand and still pointing at me.
“Come.” Her voice was brisk and I followed her. After a while, I realized she was taking me back to the magic forest.
“Where are we going?” I asked anxiously. I wondered if there was a way I could call or text Markus, Emma or even the police. But then I remembered to my dismay that I’d left my phone charging at home.
“Call it a holding cell,” she said. “It is not yet mid-summer and for this to be a mid-summer murder, it’s going to have to happen at mid-summer. In a few hours.”
“You’re sick,” I said. “Are you doing this just to get a current ending to your article series?”
“That’s actually a nice idea, but no. I wasn’t planning that. Although it will of course end up in the news section. But you see I’m not a journalist, so I can’t really publish anything.”
This was making less and less sense to me.
“Who are you then, really?” I asked.
“I like to show, not tell. We’re nearly there though.”
After what seemed like an eternity Merete stopped by some trees and pushed me in front of her so she could hold the pistol to my neck.
“Move,” she said and started walking through an opening in the trees to a tiny little cabin. Not loosening the grip or position of the pistol, she dug in her pockets and took out a set of keys and unlocked the door.
The cabin smelled as if it hadn’t been aired or used in a long time and it had two rooms. “Once inside, Merete started pulling her trousers down and her top up towards her breasts. I wanted to turn away, not understanding what she was doing, but she instructed me to watch, or she’d shoot. I watched in astonishment as she reached around to her back and unzipped something. And then, her pregnant belly came off.
“That’s better,” she said and put it on the floor. I could see now that it was a costume prop. She changed into another pair of trousers she had inside the bag and put the maternity trousers and the costume belly away. Then she reached up, and pulled at her hair. I didn’t need her to take the brown contact lenses off to realize who she was, but she took them off anyway. And there, with strawberry blond air and different coloured eyes stood Laura Nilsen, AKA clairvoyant Clara.
“I need to go prepare a few things. But I’ll be back in a few hours to kill you,” she said as casually as if she should have announced that she was going to get some butter from the shop. Then she picked up her bag, and went out the door which she locked
Now that the door was closed and locked, the cabin was completely dark and it was hard to make out anything. But after a while, my eyes grew accustomed to the dark and I could make out a small table, a rocking chair and two hard wooden chairs at opposite sides of the table.
I went over to the door of the other room. It was ajar, so I opened it fully and went in. There was a bed in the room and I could work out somebody laying asleep on it. But whoever it was had her back to me. For I could now see that whoever it was had long wavy hair. I took a couple of steps into the room and knelt in front of the bed.
“Hello,” I said in a soft voice.
The woman didn’t answer, but tried to shift on the bed. Then I saw that her hands were tied behind her back and the rope was fastened to one of the legs on the bedframe.
I started untying the knots around the bedpost. It was a complicated one. Whoever had tied it, had been good a knots. Finally though, I managed to loosen it and then I got to work on the woman’s hands. Those nots were complicated too, but after a few minutes, her hands were free and she turned over to lay on her back.
She was heavily pregnant, as if she was about to pop anytime. Her hair was long, dark brown and wavy and she had a lot of freckles. Slowly she opened her eyes, groaned and put a hand to her temple.
“My head,” she whimpered. “Did you drug me or something? I must have slept for hours.”
“I didn’t,” I said. I came just now and I found you sleeping here. Are you ok?”
“I’m fine except my head. It feels like the mother and father of all hangovers combined. Is she around?”
“Who?” I asked.
“Laura.”
I shook my head. “But she’s coming back though.”
“We need to get out before she does.” The woman swung her legs on the floor and got up. She was a lot taller than me.
“I’m Merete,” she said and held out her hand.
“The real Merete?” I asked.
“I am as real as this place,” she said. I am Merete the journalist who works at Grimstad daily news. I assume you must be Sandra? The girl Markus called me about?”
“That’s me. But how did you end up here? And how long have you been here?”
“I’ll tell you everything later, but we need to get out of here before Laura comes back. She’s crazy.”
“I know that,” I said.
Apart from the door, there was only a very small window in each of the two rooms. They were both too high up and too narrow that we could climb through them.
“I guess we have to kick the door in,” I said with dismay.
“I don’t think I’m able to kick anything at all,” Merete said pointing at her belly. “I’d rather not give birth right here. And then there’s my head.” She rubbed her temple and leaned against the wall.
I gave an exasperated sigh.
“I’m going to give it a try,” I said. “It may not work, but it’s our only option.”
I went over to the door and looked at the lock. It looked very solid and I doubted that I’d managed to kick it open, but what else could I do? I lifted my right foot and kicked once. Then twice. The third kick sent a searing pain through my foot and I backed away wincing.
“You don’t have a hairpin or something?” I asked.
Merete shook her head.
“Only an elastic band I’m afraid.”
I waited a little for the pain to subside. Then, in frustration and anger I threw my whole body at the door which opened. I was so stunned that it took me a while to realize that I was in someone’s arms. I looked up and met Amund Andersen’s blue eyes.
“It’s nearly midnight,” he said. “And officially mid-summer. Let’s go inside and wait for Laura. She shouldn’t be long. He pushed me in and closed and bolted the door.

Episode 21. Bedside confessions

Bedside confessions
June 21st.

Sunday afternoon, I went to visit Gerda in hospital after having driven Arlette home. The BBQ had been nice. Markus had shown up and Daniel too. He was tall and handsome with blond air and friendly grey eyes. He hadn’t been able to take his eyes off Emma all night and whenever they’d got the chance, they’d gone inside together to carry things in or out.
Arlette had really enjoyed herself. She spoke to everybody and told the funniest jokes at the table. She had immediately taken a shine to Markus and Daniel, who had immediately taken a shine to her too.
Mica though, had been the real star of the evening. He basked in the constant attention he got. And Anita couldn’t believe he was the same dog who had just been moping around the week before. We had moved the party in when it got too chilly to sit outside. And the guests hadn’t gone until 1AM in the morning. Markus and Daniel had shared a taxi to Grimstad together. Without saying so, we all thought it was best like that. We had both just started dating. And having our dates over at the same time as Arlette was there was a little awkward even if both Emma and I were grown women.
We had made a bed for Arlette in another small spare room downstairs so that she wouldn’t have to bother with the stairs. The only person I wished had been there was Merete. Both Markus and I had called to invite her. But she hadn’t answered her phone to Markus, and to me she’d come with some excuse that she was tired and anyway had to work on the mid-summer murder installment for tomorrow. I thought she’d sounded rather snappy, but I had accepted her excuse, not dwelling on it any further.

What I hate most about hospitals, believe it or not, is the smell. It seemed to linger everywhere. Even in the reception area which somebody had tried to make look half decent with some flower pots and posters of famous paintings on the walls. It’s hard to describe the hospital smell. It’s not as if it’s strong or pungent, but it sneaks up into your nostrils and has a sort of depressing effect. Slightly sweet and clinical are the most adequate words I can use to describe it.
“I’m here to see Gerda Andersen,” I said to the man behind the reception desk. Even from where I was standing I could see he had the computer opened on his Facebook page. Meeting my eyes, he immediately minimized the browser and went into what I assumed was the patient database or register.
“She’s on the third floor in room 307, heart section.”
I thanked him and went over to the lift. I hoped nobody else was there. Either Sunday afternoon was the perfect family visit to the hospital day, or it was the day the family wanted to chill at home, feeling great, or not so great for having checked in earlier in the week.

I didn’t meet anybody as I entered the heart section. The nurse’s room was empty too. I found room 307 and knocked before opening the door.
It was a single room. Gerda lay on her right aside with her back towards me. I didn’t know if she was sleeping, so I went over and sat down on the chair beside the bed. I had brought a small pot of blue and white flowers which I put down on her bedside table next to a vase containing a few roses.
”“”Hi Gerda,” I said leaning over her.
At first she didn’t stir, but after what seemed like an eternity, she slowly turned her head and looked at me.
“I’m old,” she sighed. “I’m very old. I am tired.”
“You’re in great shape,” I said stroking her hand which was lying on top of the white duvet.
“You’re still a beautiful woman and Amund loves you.”
I don’t know where all the compliments came from. Perhaps it was seeing the old lady lying there, alone and vulnerable looking. Murderer or not.
“He didn’t die you know,” Gerda said and slowly turned around so that she could face me.
“Who didn’t die?” I asked.
“My baby. He didn’t die. But he was Amund’s baby and I was married to Nils. When he was a few months old, Nils started suspecting that something was wrong. That the baby wasn’t his, which of course it wasn’t. But Nils was very handsome, but he was violent. He used to beat me. Once, he beat one of his own children out of me. Amund and I, he had been in love with me since we were school children. But I hadn’t been interested. Not then. The lighthouse keeper’s son. But one day, one day we talked and the talking lead to more. And nine months later, I had a baby. I was afraid of what Nils would do when he found out. I knew it was Amund’s child. Amund knew too. I’d told him. We had carried on our affair.”
“But how did you fake you baby’s death?”
“Oh, it was easy. So easy.” Her eyes were looking at me and they were glittering in the white hospital light.
“Amund’s sister’s baby had died from crib death and Amund saw a chance for our son to get a good life and be safe for as long as it took me to get a divorce from Nils. So he went to his sister who, at first was upset by the request of taking in our son while I buried her baby as the son of Nils and me. But she did accept on the condition that she could adopt him. I was unwilling, but at the time, it was the best thing that could have happened. Nobody else apart from Irene’s own husband, a Swede who soon took her and our son to live in Stockholm, Irene, Amund and I knew about the swap. Because Amund had gotten the news on the same day. So the swap was easy. I cried and cried. I missed my son terribly and I’d had so many miscarriages before getting him. . And my tears were real. Nils told me to shut up and beat me until I cried some more. He said he was happy to get rid of the bastard who could impossibly have been his child. Then, Nils drowned. He didn’t kill my baby, but he would have done. And Nellevine knew.”
“How about Sven?” I asked.
“I loved him for a long time. He was my teenage sweetheart in fact. But then I found out about his affair. I was very shocked to find out about his affair. I thought nothing could separate us. And then he drowned of course. I knew Nellevine had it in for him. Dishonest man he turned out to be. It was after that, I got the mad reputation. But I don’t care really.”
“Who told you about Nellevine’s revenge?” I asked.
“My mother. Because the first one to drown was my father, the artist. After that, we moved back to Homborsund where my mum comes from.”
“I need to ask you this Gerda. Did you ever help Nellevine carry out her revenge?”
I decided that was the best way to ask. Did you kill them? Sounded a tad too forward and rude. I didn’t believe that the ghost was behind it but maybe it I played it like that, she’d tell me.
“Because if you did, I wouldn’t blame you.”
Another thing to say to make her talk. I felt a bit like a bad cop in an American detective thriller drama though, but so be it.
“It’s good to talk about those things you know. And you can tell me.”
Gerda shook her head.
“Nellevine doesn’t need help to carry out her revenge. Besides, why would I kill Sven? Arlette would be the one I’d wanna get rid of.”
At that moment a nurse came in.
“Time to take your medicine and get some rest Gerda,” she said. And turning to me, “I think it’s perhaps best you leave now. Gerda is weak and tired.”

“So your former step-dad was Gerda’s son?” I was sitting next to Markus on the sofa in his apartment. It was a nice bachelor pad which was kept clean and tidy.
“It seems that way.”
“So all the murders are pointing to Gerda except the first one. Of the ones committed here I mean.”
“They do,” I said slowly. Although she made a very good point. Why would she kill her husband whom she loved deeply and not his mistress?”
“She could be lying to you,” Markus said and got up. “Tea?” I nodded.
“I don’t think she was somehow. I can’t really say for sure, but I think Amund may be behind a few of those murders. Think about it. Her father’s mistress was the first one who got killed.” “So what of this Nellevine business? Do you think she is protecting someone?”
“Sure. Who wants to call out their mother as a murderer? But I guess she believes in it in a way too.”
I sipped my tea and sat in thought for a while.
“Amund has bigger motives too to have committed those murders,” I said finally. “In the case of Nils for instance, he had everything to gain. Gerda and he were having an affair; her loveless and abusive marriage to Nils wasn’t something she could get out of easily. I’m guessing he would have made problems for her if she filed for a divorce. And I am not sure a divorce would have been looked upon with friendly eyes back then either.”
“What about the teacher whoWO had killed the child? And what about the other murders,” said Markus. I see your point by the way about Amund.” He added and put an arm around my shoulders.
“The child could have been a friend of Amund’s. I’m not sure. As for other murders, I have a suspicion. But I need some time to prove it. Amund must have an accomplish. Someone who works with him. Because otherwise, how would his son have been hanged? It doesn’t matter how fit he is. I doubt he’d be strong enough to kill someone that much younger and stronger than him alone.””
He pulled me close and kissed me. “I know you will.” He said. “But it’s Sunday night. Let’s think of something else for a while.

Episode 20. The Lighthouse keeper’s son

The lighthouse keeper’s son
June 20th.

I was determined to find out what the mid-summer victims had in common. Apart from committing acts that could not be judged by a court. I needed to find the personal connection between the victims and those who had killed them. I had gone to Grimstad with Emma in the morning so I could buyby a cork board to hang up on the wall over the desk in my room. I had also bought a block of post-it paper and some drawing pins. Now I was back home and I’d just managed to fasten the cork board.
The first thing I did was write all the victims’ names as well as year of death on post it notes.
Helene Hansen 1925, Janne Olsen 1935,
Sven Mikkelsen 1955, Nils Matsen 1960.
I stared at the four names and after a while added
Pernille (Gerdasgerdas sister) 1945. I did not know her surname. And Eline Martinsen 2005.
I hadn’t really thought of my mum as being one of the mid-summer murder victims, both because it happened in London, and thirty years after the last murder by the Nellevine torch. But with all the new evidence that had come to light recently about my now deceaseddiseased stepdad and his likely blood relation to Amund and his family as well as the fact that it had happened at mid-summer, something I hadn’t really thought of, made me do it.

On the row underneath, I wrote the few facts I had about each person as well as questions I needed to find the answer too.
Mistress of painter who lived in Lillesand. Newly married with baby on the way. I wrote underneath Helene Hansen’s name. I had first assumed that Gerda meant painter, as in someone painting houses when she talked about the painter Helene Hansen was allegedly dating. But I also wanted to check out if she’d perhaps meant a painter as in an artist.
Accused of killing pupil Toretore. I wrote below Janne Olsen’s name. She had died in 1935. Had anybody been alive then, who was alive now, that might have known her? Or even been a friend of the deceaseddiseased boy. Grandma Arlette had been three years oldyear-sold in 1935, so she wasn’t likely to have known anyone. Gerda would have been ten at the time. So it was likely. And Amund too, but he would probably not be able to give me any valuable information. His daughter-in-law had eventually found Amund with the help of some other neighbour, a man whom I always saw outside working on his boat, two hours later. He had wanderedwondered off to Nellevine and he had let them walk him home without putting up any resistance. They had taken him with them in to Grimstad to stay with them until they knew what the situation would be with Gerda.

Dead by hanging herself. I wrote under Pernille’s name. I put a question mark on purpose since I really struggled to believe that a girl in the spring of life would do such a thing. Merete had mentioned something about the lighthouse keeper being a Petrus Henriksen. Were any of these children alive? Or perhaps grand-children? It was a well-known enough story that descendants of Henriksen and his son should know about it. If not from their own parents and grandparents, then most certainly from others. Homborsund wasn’t the biggest place in the world and rumours probably spread fast. (Trace Henriksen’s descendants,= I wrote.

Death by drowning, on way to see mistressMistress Arlette Johnsen. I put under Sven Mikkelsen’s name. But apparently the weather had been bad that day, so couldn’t that have been an accident? I decided to call Arlette to ask if the weather really had been so bad that day.
Accused of killing baby. I wrote next to Nils Matsen’s name. That was in 1960 which was… I gasped, but laughed as soon as the thought entered my head. If the baby had been alive, it would have been fiftyfive years old today. Could it be that Christian Home, Karl Lund had been their baby? He had been a few years younger than mum. But then, why did he looks so much like Amund? I don’t even know where the thought came from, but it refused to let go, so I wrote it down with three question marks after.
I didn’t know what to write underneath mum’s name, because to understand why she died, I had to understand the previous murders and who had committed them. I was getting more and more sure however, that she had been killed and that her murderer had been her husband. But exactly why, I couldn’t really put the finger on. He had seemed like a perfect gentleman in the beginning before he started turning strange. But then, he wasn’t the first man who had tried to kill his wife seemingly out of the blue. I’d once seen an interview with the wife of an ex-army officer. Her husband had tried to murder her and her children by putting explosives in the car. But they had survived with major injuries. She never really talked about why he’d done it.
And then, there was his own death only two days previously. Who had done that? And why?
I wrote Christian Holm 2015. No (no mid-summer victim, and pinned it up with the note Why? underneathUnderneath.
I also wrote Sven Mikkelsen Jr. and Crib death? With a question mark underneath.
Finally I wrote, frank Mikkelsen 1986 and disappeared underneath.

I sat on the floor staring up at what I had written. How many murderers was I looking for? And would they somehow be related? One was clear already. I got up, and but a red X next to Christian Holm’s name. But he was dead as well as being a murderer. The question was, if I was looking at someone related to him. I paced up and down the room, until I decided to start from another angle. The victims. Maybe that would give me a better idea.
I decided to start with the newest murder and work backwards. I’d be stuck if I tried to find out who murdered a woman 90 years ago since that person likely would not be alive today. My mother was a clear one already. I looked further down at the other deaths that had two things in common. They could not have proven to be murders and in the case of my father, there was no actual proof that he was dead. There was one more thing too. The deaths were of my immediate blood relatives. It almost seemed as if somebody was trying to wipe out my entire family. Could Christian Home have killed both my father and somehow my baby brother? And was I supposed to have been killed too in that car accident? And what about the time I had met Laura Nilsen and she’d pushed me under? She definitely had a clear connection with both Gerda and Amund.
The two men, my grand-father Sven Mikkelsen and Nils Matsen had both been married to Gerda and there was a remote possibility that Tore had been in her class. But what abouto the first murder? I gave a loud, frustrated sigh and got up. Gerda seemed undeniably guilty of at least two of the murders. And she could have committed two more. She could have hung her sister and she could also have killed my baby brother. If she had somehow been around to see him as a baby. This wasn’t unlikely as I’m sure mum would have come over with him to grandma and grandpa. My grandpa had been a lot older than grandma and had died before I was born. Heart attack, completely unexpected, but definitely not murder. Gerda was after all, known for having a screw or five loose. Maybe she had killed my father too? It wasn’t impossible.

I went down to the kitchen where Emma, who had just arrived back, was unpacking the today’s food shopping.
“You’re looking serious,” she said.
I went over to the fridge and poured myself a glass of ice tea I’d made the night before. I drank slowly, enjoying the sweetness and mixed fruit flavour of the drink.
“I’m just trying to make sense of it all,” I said and poured myself a second glass. “But the first murder happened when my suspect was a baby.”
Emma shook her head.
“I was thinking we could have a little BBQ today. Why don’t you see if Markus is free? I will invite Anita and Lars and Daniel.” She blushed a little at the last name.
“Oooh, so it’s Daniel,” I said. “Please invite him. How did your date go the other day?”
“I’m a bad liar aren’t I”+ Emma sighed.
”Yeah work late my foot,” I said.
“I really like him,” she replied and smiled from ear to ear. “Please can you go outside and hang the seat cushions for the garden chairs up to dry? And then, I really want your help with the food.”
The sun was shining as I entered the garden. I wondered when it had stopped raining. We had stupidly forgotten to take in the cushionss for the chairs the night before, so there were wet. But if this weather persisted, they’d be fine by this evening.
Rune, Gerda’s son was doing something near the hedge and I called over to him.
“How’s Gerda?” I asked. “
“She’s in a stable condition, but not ready to be discharged just yet,” he said. “I’m here to water some flowers. She asked mee.
“Can she take visitors?” I asked tentatively.
“I’m sure she would be happy to see you. I sent your regards. But she’s still weak, so I guess it’s best to keep it short.”
I nodded.
“Sure. I smiled my most dazzling smile and went inside. I wondered if he was mixed up in all of this. I hoped not. He seemed like a decent man.

After chopping salad and marinating meat, I went upstairs to call Arlette. She was over joyed to hear from me.
“It’s so lovely to have someone asking for me after so many years,” she said.
I asked if she wanted to come to our BBQ later. Emma said she’d lend me the car so I could pick her up. “You can stay the night if you want. Too.”
“That would be lovely” she said. Her enthusiasm moved me almost to tears. I wasn’t somebody who had tons of friends, but the few I had were good and steady. And I couldn’t imagine what life without them would be like.
Ok. I’ll be there in an hour or so,” I said.
“Just one thing. Do you know if Henriksen, the lighthouse keeper back in the 1940s have any children or grand-children?”
“Henriksen?” Arlette asked in alarm.
“Yes. That was the lighthouse keeper, wasn’t it?”
“Oh good heavens no. Henriksen was a local greengrocergreen grocer who had a shop in Grimstad. I was friends with his youngest daughter. No. The lighthouse keeper back then was Olav Andersen. He’s the father of Amund Andersen.”
“Did he have any other sons?” I asked.
“Yes. Oscar. But he was my age. And a daughter, Irene”
“And do you know anything about an artist who lived in Lillesand in the 1920s?”
“Arlette was quiet for a while before she said.
“There could have been two. One of them is Atle Johansen. He later moved to Italy where he enjoyed great success. The second one was a guy called Frans Fransen. He was Gerda’s father.”

Episode 19. Gone

Ambulance sirens woke me around noon the next day. Last night had been long and exhausting. The police came half an hour after we called them. They had told us to stay put where we were. We had only gone a short distance away so the hanging corps wouldn’t insult our eyes for more than what was necessary. They had driven us both back to Emma’s. Emma, who had been home, had been surprised to see Markus and me coming back with two police officers, and even more so when I told her why. But she’d calmed down pretty quickly and made us all hot drinks while the police were questioning first Markus, which didn’t take long, and then me which took long. Especially after I told them that the man we’d found was my ex stepfather
They had been very interested to hear about how he had disappeared after my mother’s accident in London ten years previously and how he had just disappeared, only to come back and threaten me ten years later. After three hours, they were done.
I was exhausted when they had left, but too wired to fall asleep. Emma, who took me aside to tell me that she really liked Markus, offered him to stay the night, which he accepted. But he had of course left at the same time as her in the morning to get to work. I had noticed him getting up and even kissing me on the forehead before he left, but I was too tired to remember if we had exchanged any words.
I got up and stretched. I was curious to see what was going on. I drew the curtains aside and looked out of the window. My window faced Emma’s garden and I could also look straight into Gerda and Amund’s garden. When one of them, usually Gerda, was out, I was able to see what she was doing. But I wasn’t seeing anything there, so I put on a dressing gown and went downstairs. I opened the front door.
Four men dressed in white, were carrying a stretcher between them. I wasn’t able to see who lay on it until they turned to put it inside the ambulance.
Gerda was pale and lay completely still with her eyes closed. I was wondering if she could be dead. But then I noticed one of the men bending down to say something to her. – So she must at least be alive, I thought. A middle aged man with silver hair came out of the house with something that looked like a rug sack or an overnight bag over his shoulder. He put it in the ambulance next to the stretcher and stroked Gerda’s hair. Her adopted son, I guessed.
The stretcher was now strapped in place and the ambulance doors closed. The man did not come in the ambulance.
Feeling a bit like a young version of that old snooping woman you always find in crime novels, I retreated inside to get dressed. I wanted to try and catch a word with her son before he left. I gathered he’d go in his own car to the hospital.
Five minutes later, I came out just as he was unlocking the door to his car.
“Excuse me, but may I ask what’s happened to Gerda?”
He turned at the sound of my voice and looked me up and down.
“Who are you? He asked.
“My name is Sandra. I am visiting my aunt who lives here,” I pointed to Emma’s house, “and I’ve spent some time with Gerda.”
I knew I was exaggerating how well I knew Gerda, but I wasn’t doing anything unethical and immoral.
“Yes. She had a nasty fall this morning when she climbed out of her bath tub. I’ve told her countless times to get a shower, but will she listen? Anyway. It was lucky I was coming today to help with something around the house. She appeared to have broken one leg and has a mild concussion. But she’s ninety, so you know, it’s serious.”
I nodded.
“Send her my regards,” I said. “Maybe I’ll come visit her.”
“I will,” he said and entered his car.
“Who is taking care of Amund?” I asked.
“”My wife is on her way,” he said. “But if you don’t mind, can you keep an eye on the house just so he doesn’t disappear before she gets here?”
“No problem. I’ll do that.”
“Thanks very much.” He held out his hand. “I’m Rune by the way.” Then he got into his car, started the engine and drove off.
I felt my stomach rumbling, and went inside to make breakfast. I kept looking out of the kitchen window to see if Amund would try to make a run for it. But so far, he was behaving himself. I couldn’t see him, but I assumed he was inside doing whatever he usually did, which I didn’t know what was. I wondered what it was like being senile, or dement or anything like it. I wondered what their internal world looked like and if they made sense of the outside world at all.
My phone rang and I went upstairs where I just managed to answer it before it went to voicemail. It was DI Tina Karlsen, the female police officer who had interrogated me the night before.
“I hope you’re fine after the shock yesterday,” she said.
“I’m ok. I even managed to sleep a little last night.”
“That’s good. I just called to check if you’re ok really and if you’re at home. I have done a little research on your ex stepfather and I’ve got a few questions for you.”
The doorbell was ringing as I hung up. I had descended the stairs during the conversation and I was on my way into the kitchen to check on Amund again. But the ringing was incessant so I went to open the front door. An elegant lady in a navy blue skirt suit stood outside.
“Are you Sandra?” she asked.
“I am. How may I help?”
“I am Mona, married to Rune.”
I knew what she was going to say before she said it and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“Amund has disappeared.”
My first instinct was to apologize. I had promised Rune to watch the house after all and I had been careless for about a minute. It was typical how things always happened when you weren’t watching for them. Like when takeaway delivery people came at the exact moment you’d gone to the toilet. Although this was of course a lot more serious.
“I watched the house all the time, except when I went upstairs to get my ringing phone.”
Mona stood thinking for a bit, before she said “Well, it’s not your fault. He can’t have gone far and this is not the first time he runs away, so I’ll look for him. Don’t you worry?”
I found it strange how he’d taken the opportunity to disappear in that small gap of time when I wasn’t watching. As if he had been watching me and found the right opportunity to escape. Which again made me wonder if he’d maybe had a clear moment when it happened.
DI Tina Karlsen arrived fifteen minutes later. Shook her head at an offer of coffee, but thanked yes to a glass of water. She had a file with her, not unlike the one Merete used for her work, only this was much bigger.
“Let’s just cut to the chase,” she said and put her glass down on the kitchen table.
“What did you stepdad do in London?” “He was a freelance writer. He was working as a stringer, in this instance meaning London reporter for a couple of National papers. He was also writing for niche magazines in both Norway and the UK. Finance was his area of expertise.”
“Did he often travel to Norway when he lived with you and your mum?”
“Yes, fairly often, perhaps once a month.”
“I see,” DI Karlsen replied slowly. “I know this is a very private and sensitive question, but I really need to know this. Did he ever assault you in any way?”
“No, what do you mean?”
“Sexually.” She looked away for a brief second before fixing her eyes on me.
“Not at all. He was a good stepdad while I was living at home.”
“Ok.” Said Tina. “You see, he was reported to have raped a young woman around your age in 2005. But the case never got solved due to lack of evidence.”
“Really?” I was genuinely surprised.
One thing I have learned to do is to read upside down. Not for any other reason than it being cool. At least I’d thought so as a child. But it had come in handy sometimes. Like now.
“Can you tell me the name of the girl?” I asked, pretty sure she couldn’t as it would be against her professional code of conduct. She shook her head just as I predicted.
“Not at this stage I’m an afraid,” she said.
I had already seen the name though and it sends chills down my spine. The girl had been Laura Nilsen.

Episode 18. The Meeting

I was a little nervous. Tonight would be Markus’ and my third date and I had invited him here since Emma claimed she worked late. Although I suspected that she too had a date. But I had just played along. I figured she’d tell me all about it if it went well, or if it went very badly. I was making dinner for us, and I hoped we take a trip in the motor boat in the summer evening. Mica was laying down and observing me, hoping I’d either give him some food, or accidentally drop some. For dessert, I wanted to make a raspberry Pavlova, but however much I tried, my meringue refused to get crispy.
I looked at my watch, and to my horror realized that Markus would be there in half an hour. And I had neither showered nor changed. Having swam in sea water for the past three days; my hair was stiff and unruly and just needed a wash. I turned down all hobs on the cooker and went upstairs. Mica followed, disappointed at not having gotten anything and to see what I was up to.
Twenty minutes later, I was showered and dressed, but my hair was still wet. I decided to leave it. Make-up was more important. As I went over to the dressing table, I saw the messenger icon blinking on my phone. I pressed on it absent-mindedly while I rummaged through my make-up bag for primer and foundation. I assumed the message would be from Melissa or some of my other London friends, but when I looked to see, it felt like my stomach was plummeting down towards my feet.
“I’ll be in the magic forest at 9PM. Be there. Do us both a favour. You can’t escape anymore.”
I sighed. Why did my ex stepfather have to ruin my evening like that? I did not of course intend to go to the magic forest. He couldn’t force me to do anything. I was innocent and he only wanted to torment me.
“You have to go,” said a small, nagging voice in my head. And deep in my heart I knew the voice was speaking the truth.
Luckily Markus was ten minutes late this time. I am an expert at putting on my make-up very fast, so that also gave me time to blow dry my hair a little bit. When I opened the door to him, he kissed me briefly on the lips before handing me an exclusive looking paper bag. “You told me you love Prosecco, so I brought some. And some chocolate as well. Lindt.”
I smiled and thanked him and gestured for him to come inside. Mica was standing shyly behind me, and Markus bent down to pat him. Mica sniffed him tentatively and apparently decided that he was accepted, because he waved his tail.
“And for you little fellow,” said Markus. “I brought some doggy treats.”
He produced a bag out of a plastic bag and put it down in front of Mica.”
“Give him one,” I said.
Markus opened the bag and Mica greedily ate the two treats Markus gave him.
“You’re friends for life now, I said.
“It smells lovely,” he said as we entered the kitchen.
“I hope you’ll like the food. Unfortunately, the Pavlova I planned for dessert didn’t work out so well.”
He came over to where I was standing by the cooker and put his arms around me.
“I know something that’s better than Pavlova,” he said. “Only if it’s cool with you,” he added quickly.
“You mean the Lindt?” I said teasingly. He slapped me playfully.
“Sure. Of course I mean the Lindt. What did you think?”
I laughed and kissed him. And went to the fridge to open the wine. It was 7PM and a pretty good start to the evening.
I waited till after the dinner to show him the message. The food had tasted nice. And apart from a couple of burned wedges, the rest of the potatoes had turned out perfectly crispy.
“I really don’t want to go,” I said.
Markus looked me in the eyes, his expression was serious.
“Don’t be a coward Sandra. You have to go. The sooner you face him, the better.”
“But it’s going to totally ruin this evening,” I said. Sounding like a suborn child to my own ears.
“It’s not going to ruin everything.” He picked up his wineglass and came around to sit next to me.
“It’s a good thing he wants to see you tonight actually, because I’m here. He can’t harm you as long as there is someone else there.”
“I nodded and put my head on his shoulder.
“It’s 8PM now. Shall we try that Pavlova? I don’t think I can enjoy the other dessert you had in mind just now.”
Even with the soft meringue, the Pavlova actually tasted ok. Afterwards we cleared the table together and walked out into the summer evening.
The smell of BBQ, the laughter of people and the song of the evening birds accompanied us as we entered the path towards the magic forest. There was a chill to the evening. Or maybe I just felt cold for what was ahead. So I had put on a summer jacket. We didn’t talk much, but we held hands. And Markus occasionally squeezed my hand as if to assure me that everything was going to be ok. I would go as far as to say that with the surroundings, this evening walk would have been very romantic had it not been for the fact that I was going to face the man who had made me run away in the first place.
We could see Ramshaug now and my heart started to beat faster. I had prepared exactly what I was going to say in my head. I was gonna tell him to stop tormenting me and make it clear that I had not played any role in my mother’s death. Then I would turn around and leave. We would be back early enough to have a glass of Prosecco perhaps, and one of crazy things that were going on around me would be over.
As we got closer however, something looked as if it was terribly wrong. The torch was lit despite it not being dark outside. Like Nellevine, Ramshaug was automatic nowadays. Surely the light shouldn’t have turned itself on now.
“This is very strange,” I said pointing at the lights. “I don’t like it.”
Markus nodded. Undoubtedly strange yes.” “Do you think perhaps he could have somehow gotten access to the torch?”
“I doubt it,” Markus said. “If he lives abroad and have no relation whatsoever to the lighthouse torches, it’s very unlikely.”
As we got even closer, we could work out a figure among the trees surrounding the torch. So he had arrived. I asked Markus to stop for a moment.
I drew my breath and squeezed his hand.
“You can do it,” he said. “Go now. I’m right here.”
But as I got to the torch, I saw that my ex stepfather wasn’t waiting by the torch as I had expected. In stand, I was met by his dead body hanging limp from a tree. I felt the colour draining from my face and my knees buckle under me.
“Oh God. Oh fuck.”
I looked up to see Markus staring at the corpse. He kept repeating sear words to himself and seemed fixed to the spot.”
“Police. We need to call the police,” I said in a voice that didn’t sound like my own.
Markus just stood there staring. I rose slowly and went over to him. He didn’t look at me until I’d yanked his arm twice.
“Let’s call the police,” I repeated and took my phone out of my pocket. In that instant, I heard a sound behind me that made me turn. Nobody was there except Markus and me. No one that I could see anyway. But I had heard a twig break as if someone had stepped on it. Then, all of sudden, Ramshaug’s light went out.

Episode 17. The woman behind the fortune teller

The woman behind the fortune teller
June 17th
“You’re all set for the babies,” I said. We had decided to meet at Merete’s apartment. She didn’t really have to be at work at a certain time and we wanted the privacy. Her apartment was minimalist in a grey and brown colour scheme which I personally wouldn’t have gone for, but with her choice of furniture; she’d somehow made it work. The nursery had been kitted out with two small beds stuffed animals, and the open wardrobe contained some baby clothes. I noticed she’d chosen gender neutral colours mostly.
“I don’t want to know what they are until they’re born,” she said.
“I’m nervous,” she said.
“Of becoming a mum?”
“Yes. But I was actually thinking of the mid-summer murders article. The first instalment will be published today.”
“But that’s really exciting!” I exclaimed.
We went into the kitchen where Merete started grinding coffee beans.
“But, I am nervous of becoming a mum too. I often wonder whether I’m cut out to be one.”
“Can I ask how old you are?”
“I’m thirty-five. So I’m a big girl who shouldn’t have any issues. It’s just that, I never planned on having babies.”
I knew I had wanted babies from I was quite young. And I had wanted them before I was twenty-five. That was before I knew how young that really was, how much I still wanted to do before I had them, but most importantly I wanted to be in a good stable relationship too. And I had been firmly single at that age. After that, my goal had been thirty. But I never quite felt Ronald (please don’t call me Ron) was somebody I wanted as the father of my children.
“You’ll be fab,” I said. Just don’t over-caffeinate yourself.”
Merete laughed. “You should have seen me before I got knocked up,” she said. “I drank at least ten cups a day. So taking that down to two is pretty amazing of me if I may say so. And I may”.
We were sitting in the living room with coffee and open sandwiches and Merete had her file and laptop on the table in front of her.
“How on earth did you find her using that picture? It wasn’t exactly as if she was trying to show her face very well.”
“Well,” said Merete. I was actually surprised when you sent me the picture. Because one of the first serious interviews I did for this paper, about ten years ago, was about life in a mental institution. And one of the patients I interviewed was this woman.”
“Oh really,” I said and leaned forward as she fired up her laptop so I could see the screen better. She went into a series of file folders, and it didn’t take long before she found the article.
It was entitled “When the world don’t make sense” and told the story of three people who lived in a closed psychiatric ward. They talked openly about their diagnosis, how life had been before they got to the hospital and how they envisaged their future on the outside. It was an informative piece that was an easy read as well as being reflective.
The first guy was a man with schizophrenia. The second was a woman with multiple personalities. She would have been the most intriguing to me had it not been for the third woman. Her name was Laura Nilsen and at the time the article was written, she was twenty-two years old. She had been at the institution for two years. She’ was going in and out of psychosis. And she described that when she was in a bad period, she could become very violent. She said that she’d been one of those children who had grown up in foster homes and been trouble at school. She had done some petty crimes in her teens and had been placed in a home for difficult youth when she was sixteen.
From the age of eighteen, and till she was twenty-one, she had lived in moderately supported accommodation. That meant she was free to come, go and do whatever she needed to do, but that there was staff she could call on if she felt like she was going to have a panic attack, or was otherwise mentally unwell. Because even though this was before her returning psychosis, she had been diagnosed as depressed at the time.
What had landed her in the psychiatric ward in the end was one day when she, unknown to herself, had her first known episode of psychosis coming on. She had been at work. She was a dinner lady at a canteen for some firm and she enjoyed her job. One of the workers had asked her something, she couldn’t remember what it was, although it was probably a perfectly normal question. Instead of answering, she had lifted a heavy pan full of hot soup and thrown it in the face of the poor man who had ended up in hospital with third degree burns. She had been hopeful about the future. She was to move to supported accommodation in a few months and she was already feeling better.
The last question Merete had asked her was if she ever regretted anything she’d ever done under psychosis.
“I regret what happened to that man in the canteen… He did recover eventually I heard. It’s awful to hear what you’ve done to other people when you’re mentally present. A bit like a blackout from drinking too much alcohol, only it’s much, much worse. And I regret one more thing. I once stayed with a foster family where I really enjoyed myself, just before I went to live in the home. Partly because the parents of the dad really loved me as a granddaughter. I especially got on with my foster grandfather or grandpa as he allowed me to call him. He once asked me to carry out a big favour for him that he was too old and no longer strong enough to do. But I never got a chance to do it, because at the time, I just couldn’t. I can’t say what the thing is, but it was to help him fulfil what he called his life mission. If he is still alive when I move out, I will help him do what I couldn’t do before.”
“That’s really odd,” I said.
Merete nodded. “I planned to delete it from the article, but I kept it in there. And the editor said the life mission thing was very touching.”
“I suppose he has a point. Only that way of wording it… I don’t know.” I poured myself a huge glass of water and drank.
“Can I see her picture?”
Merete enlarged the photo belonging to the article. A young woman wearing tracksuit bottom and a t-shirt with long strawberry blond hair look back at me. As Clairvoyant Clara, she must have been using green lenses, because in this picture her eyes were…. I gasped. I had seen her before. One eye was blue and the other one grey. I had put her to the back of my mind, but seeing those eyes made the memories come rushing back.
“What’s wrong?” Merete asked.
I groaned and put a hand in front of my eyes.
“Please, can someone stop this thing?” I said.
“Stop what?”
It was 1999 and the last year grandma was alive. The day in question had been especially hot, so I decided to go for a swim. After a while, I had been joined by a girl who was perhaps a few years older than me. She had asked if she too could swim. I didn’t really mind. Maybe the girl was new in the neighbourhood. Maybe we could become friends? She never gave me her name and I don’t think I gave her mine either. But she told me she was visiting the people who lived in the blue house and pointed towards where Gerda lived. And she said that she was only there for the day.
We ended up playing around in the water, having contests to see who could swim the fastest. And after a while, she proposed we try and see who could stay under water the longest. It was salt water, so I wasn’t keen, but agreed to try it once. She went first. Her lung capacity was amazing, but I remember at one point feeling worried that she hadn’t come up to breathe for air. When her head finally broke the surface, it was my turn. I went under, and immediately felt as if something or someone was trying to hold me there. I struggled, but whoever it was held my head down so hard that I couldn’t get up until the pressure on my head eased and I broke the surface to see Grandma approaching us.
What?” I’d said looking the other girl square in the eyes. But she’d only smiled and said “I was only joking around.”
I had not found the joke funny in the slightest and I’d never seen the girl again either.
“Until Friday. Then you saw her again. And she told you that you might die. Amund was the man she called Grandpa,” Merete concluded.
I nodded, having reached the same conclusion. “I wonder what that life mission was exactly. I guess it doesn’t matter now though. He’s senile and probably doesn’t know his right foot from his left.”
Merete stared at me blankly before nodding.
“Of course he is senile. I forgot that.”
I thought her reaction was rather strange, but decided not dwell on it. She had a lot to think about after all, the soon to be mother.

Episode 16. Mysterious eyes

Mysterious eyes
June 16th
I was running along the road and I was almost out of breath. Mica was running happily alongside me and didn’t seem tired at all.
“It’s unfair you know,” I gasped trying to ignore the increasingly stinging feeling on my right side. I had been very fit not that long ago, but the increase in office hours seemed to have had some effect on my fitness. Before I could run for over an hour. Not exactly marathon fitness, but at least it wasn’t bad. I liked jogging in the London parks in the mornings and I fit it in as often as I could and when the weather was nice. Now, I had been running for twenty minutes and I was ready to collapse. I made a mental note to never let my fitness laps this much again if I could help it.
I slowed down and Mica laid down on the ground next to me. I did some stretching exercises hoping they should enable me to continue my run while he watched me with big trusting brown eyes. Mica had taken so well to living with us that you’d hardly know that only a couple of days earlier; he’d not been a happy chap. And Emma was head over heels in love with him. I must confess I had fallen too. And after the events of the past couple of weeks, it felt nice to have a big strong companion around.
We started running again about five minutes later when my pulse had slowed down and I felt ready to go, but I had to admit defeat after another five minutes when my side started stinging again. I had to work gradually to get back to where I had been, but hopefully it wouldn’t take that long. Not feeling like sitting down and not wanting to leave Mica in the house if I went kayaking, I decided to take a walk out to Nellevine the lighthouse instead.
Emma had been quite alarmed when I had relayed my conversation with Rosa. She blamed herself up and down for not doing a more proper check on the woman. But I calmed her down by telling her she really had had no reason to.
“First of all, it was a bit of fun. And secondly, how could and did you know that this was going to be mixed in with all the other stuff going on?”
She had seen my point in the end, though she made a promise to herself that no more psychics should enter any party she was arranging.
My next step was to try and get a picture of the fake Clara. But that was hard because now that the fake Psychics association page was down, there were no pictures of her online. It was then that Emma got the brilliant idea of sending out a mass e-mail to the people who had been to the party to ask if they could forward any pictures they’d taken to be used in the digital photo album she wanted to create for the celebrations. And she especially asked if anyone had taken pictures of the fortune teller in the white tent. A lot of people came forward with their pictures. A lot of them were similar, so we sat in the evening picking the best ones to put in the album which she would make available on the Hansen & Dale Facebook page. But none of the pictures had been of the fortune teller, unfortunately. Although we had a slight hope that some people would still reply.
The walk out to Nellevine was a rocky and uneven one. And I was almost regretting embarking on it. But Mica enjoyed himself. He stopped and sniffed the flowers, trees and bushes. And in certain places, he marked where he had been so that the next doggy who came along would know that this was his territory. Despite the uneven path of the walk, I began to really enjoy it after a while. The smell of sunshine and flowers, the singing of the birds and the white clouds dotted all over the blue sky lifted my spirits. The clouds also gave me relief from the sun which was actually quite hot. I was thinking of nothing, except that I wanted to go for a swim later. And I was going to suggest to Emma that we’d do a BBQ. And I’d go look for wild strawberries we could eat for dessert, or maybe we could make some jam. The strawberries growing wild on the ground, in the forest, alongside roads and in gardens were my absolute favourite ones. They were small, sweet and had a stronger strawberry taste than the big ones.
My phone vibrated in my pocket and I took it out to see who it was. I was hoping it was a text from Markus. But it was an e-mail from Emma.
“We’re in luck. This just came through. Though it’s not the best quality.”
There was an attachment. My signal here wasn’t great, but I managed to download it. It was a picture of Clairvoyant Clara where she was standing next to the blond woman I’d met in the toilet at the party who thought she’d be the new Elizabeth Gilbert. The blond was dominating the picture. Clara was holding a hand up in front of her face, as if to obscure it. I sent the image to Merete along with the words: “Fake fortune teller naming herself Clairvoyant Clara. Any chance you can try and find out who she is? I’ll do a google picture search, but I have a feeling I won’t find anything of importance.”
Mica had started become impatient drag on the lead, so I sent the e-mail and started walking. We were nearly at the lighthouse. I could see it far away in the distance.
We reached it twenty minutes later. I had allowed Mica to run on a very long lead, because for some reason he had been so keen to get there. He’d run fast as lightning and stopped to see whether I was following whenever the lead was pulled to the max. I’d have wanted him to run freely had it not been for the sign that calfs and sheep were grazing nearby, though I dhadn’t seen any. . I was feeling just a little out of breath after my brisk walk, and I was sweating. I really couldn’t wait for that swim. The lighthouse, I knew, which was really just a torch hadn’t been operated for a while. Not after everything became automatic. Someone perhaps would fix the lights if they didn’t switch on. But there was no lighthouse keeper anymore. I was therefore surprised to find Mica sniffing the air and standing so calmly as if he was listening out for something.
“Let’s go home now,” I said. “It’s hot and there’s nobody there.”
The growl started from deep in Mica’s throat and grew till it became a deep, resounding bark.
“What’s the matter?” I said. As if he could answer me. But he barked again. And even louder than before.
“Mica,” I said, making my voice sound strict. But he wasn’t listening. It wasn’t possible to get any closer to the torch. But Mica looked as if he wasn’t going to accept that. He seemed to desperately want to enter it. Then I too saw something. At first, I thought the sunlight was playing a trick on me but know. I saw faint red light coming from the highest point. And I saw something else. A pair of eyes observing Mica and me. Someone was in there. But who could it be? How many people had the key to the lighthouse? I turned around and ordered Mica to follow me. At first he was unwilling, but when I pulled on his lead and strictly told him to follow me.

It was later in the evening. When I’d come home, I’d had a long swim. Mica, it turned out, was an excellent swimmer in class doggy and he had almost not wanted to get out of the water. Afterwards, I’d taken a shower and prepared for the BBQ. Emma had been delighted at the idea. And we were now sitting in the garden enjoying some strawberries for dessert. I hadn’t managed to pick enough wild strawberries. The few I’d found disappeared mysteriously into my mouth, so Emma had bought some on our way home.
“On days like this, I just can’t imagine myself ever going back to London,” I said.
“Have you thought anymore about that?” Emma asked.
I had told her and Arlette about my ex step-dad and how he had been the cause of my running away from everything. They had said the same thing as Markus. That I needed to face up to him and claim my innocence.
“I really don’t know. I think this south coast life is totally my thing in the summer, but I am a city girl.”
At that moment my phone rang and Merete’s number came up on the screen.
“Sandra,” she said. No introduction, no how are you.
“Who died?” I asked jokingly and sipped my glass of red wine.
“Can you meet me tomorrow? I think I may have found your fortune teller.”

Episode 15. Dead Psychic

Dead psychic
June 15th.
The pace of life slows down considerately on the Norwegian south coast at the height of summer. It’s an attitude that’s not shared to the same degree in the capital for example. Although I was shocked to discover how short a Norwegian working day is compared to a British one. Especially because they’re meant to be the same length. It wasn’t quite the height of summer yet, but we were rapidly approaching mid-summer and it was the unwritten rule at Hansen & Dale that after the yearly summer party, things could slow down. Emma had taken the morning off. She wanted to spend the day with the new addition to the household. Get to know Mica properly. I decided to spend the morning at Grimstad library since Markus had called me the day before, thanked me for a great evening on Saturday and asked if I’d have lunch in town with him on Monday. Since I wanted to do some research on Clairvoyant Clara and since I like to be on the move, I thought it would kill two birds with one stone if I went to town and used the computers there.
The library was empty except for two women who were browsing the shelves. Markus was happy to see me and he gave me a hug and a very quick kiss on the lips before he helped me log into a computer.
“I can probably get off for lunch at around twelve,” he said. “I’ll leave you to do your research, but feel free to shout if there’s anything you need.”
I opened the browser, and googled Psychics, Norway and association. It amused me that there should be an association for psychics, but then, there seemed to an association for everything niche these days. The most specific I’d come across in my work was the African and Caribbean society for the deafblind.
But all I found apart from “Calla clairvoyant today” were warning articles from the Humanist Association, articles on how much Norwegians spent every year calling these so called psychics and about a Norwegian psychic having been fooled by a BBC logo. But I saw nothing like an association. The only thing I got from googling Clairvoyant Clara was the figure in an Isabel Allende novel. Facebook wasn’t helpful either.
“How’s it going?” Markus bent over me and placed a pile of books next to me on the table.
“I think you’ll love these. A couple of books by André Bjerke that will give you the chills and a few more carefully selected by me.”
“You don’t think I have enough chills and creeps in real life?” I said and mocked anger.
Markus laughed. “I put some chicklet there too. In English so you get a break.”
Although I was Norwegian and spoke the language pretty much fluent, English was still my most preferred language and I still felt a little bit like a foreigner in my own Norway whenever I was here. But mum had done her best to speak Norwegian at home. And I’d kept it up when I came to Homborsund in the summer holidays where I read Norwegian books. So my writing was ok as long as I didn’t have to write very complicated things.
“Thanks,” I said. “Now, how do I get hold a psychic who has completely disappeared? And who may be a fake?”
“Thank you for calling The Fortune Tellers. A psychic will soon be with you to conduct your reading.” “Please wait, while a readers becomes available.” We had eventually managed to track down a Clara on the website of a company that would give you a reading by phone. An extensive google search Markus had also participated in since there was so little to do just then, had left us with only this result. And having nothing else to go on, I decided to call and ask questions since it was the only thing I could do at this stage. Mozart’s 40th Symphony was playing in my ear and for some reason that surprised me. I thought the waiting music of a psychics line would be Indian inspired meditation music.
“Hello. My name is Rosa and I’m going to do your reading today. Before we start, are you aware of the cost of this reading?”
“Yes,” I said.
This line made you pay according to how long the reading was, which was fair. The rates were extortionate though, at 15 Norwegian kroners, just over a pound per minute. When I’d called, I’d given a sort of receptionist to whom I’d given my e-mail address for the invoice to be sent to.
“What’s your name and what sort of reading do you wish me to do for you today?”
“I’m calling about another reader, Clara.”
All the readers had only been listed by their first name. There had been six of them in total.
“I am sure I can do your reading as well as she can,” Rosa said patiently.
“It’s just that, Clara did a face to face reading for me on Friday and I’m eager to talk to her about it.”
Rosa sighed at the other end of the line.
“Is this some kind of joke?”
The friendliness was gone from her voice.
“Because if it is, it’s really not funny and in very wicked taste.”
“How?” I asked feeling confused.”
“If you knew Clara at all, you’d not have called to make these untrue claims.”
“But, I really did meet her on Friday,” I said “I’m sorry, but I’m not joking. I live in Grimstad and she was present at a company summer party doing readings for the guests.”
“That can’t possibly be so,” Rosa said quietly. “Because my former colleague Clara who did live in Grimstad, died on June 2nd and was buried this Friday just gone.”
“This really doesn’t make sense,” I said frustrated. We had walked to a popular coffee bar to have lunch and I had just told Markus about the strange phone conversation with Rosa.
“Calm down,” he said and put a hand on mine. “I don’t know how yet, but we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
After the revelation that Clairvoyant Clara had been dead for some time, I had asked Rosa if there was any way I could see a picture of the Clara who had been her colleague. I had given her my e-mail address and she’d promised to send something through when her shift was over. She answered negatively when I asked her whether there could be any other Clara in Grimstad who was a psychic.
“Of course there could be, but even if we psychics have not organized ourselves into any association, we have some idea of the local ones and who they are.” Rosa herself was based in Kristiansand.“
“And we have some idea on a national level too, although we can’t know about everybody of course.”
What had made her think this was a bluff however, was the fake website that was set up to book Clara and the fact that Clara had approached Hansen & Dale.
“Normally, we don’t do company parties. Those so called clairvoyants are usually doing it as a hobby and it’s very clear from who they are. This girl tried to pass herself off as a proper psychic by setting up that website.”
I had ended the conversation by apologizing but Rosa, who had been very cold towards me when she thought I was joking, was fine about it and hoped we found the fake Clara.
“So you see,” Markus said taking a bit out of his cinnamon bun. “We’ll just have to find out who this woman is.”
“Easier said than done,” I said and bit into my own cinnamon bun.
As we turned into the street where the library was, a bike came driving passed, so close that it almost hit Markus. I turned around to see who the reckless biker was. She was obscured by the speed and the helmet, but I was almost sure that I could make out the strawberry blond bob of fake clairvoyant Clara.

Episode 14. Dog chooses owner

Dog chooses owner
June 14th
When I woke up the next morning, I felt better and lighter than I’d done in ages. We hadn’t discussed my predicament any further after entering the restaurant and that was fine with me. I felt safe in the knowledge that I had people around me who would help should things get ugly with my former step dad.
The food had been lovely. We’d shared a seafood platter for starters. The scallops, mussels, shrimps and crab claws had tasted amazing in that way only seafood just taken out of the sea could. Afterwards, I’d eaten fried flatfish with rice, and garden salad with pomegranate vinegar dressing. Markus had chosen a fish risotto. We had talked while we enjoyed the food and wine. And though I know it’s a cliché, it felt like we’d known each other for ages. When the dinner was over, and we’d paid our bills, he helped me get a cab, and kissed me briefly, but passionately on the lips before we parted.
It was only eight o’clock, but Emma was already in the kitchen when I got downstairs. The smell of waffles made my tummy rumble and when I entered the kitchen, Emma already had a few waffles spread out over kitchen paper.
“You’re up early,” I said.
“Good morning. How was your date?”
She’d gone to bed by the time I got home at eleven, probably exhausted from all her hard work with the forty years jubilee the day before.
“Actually, I can tell it went well from your face,” she said and gestured for me to put some more coffee on.
“We can eat some of this waffles now,” Emma said while I set the table. “But the rest, we’re bringing to Arlette. I’m really dying to meet her again. But before we go there, I’m taking us to the dog house.”
“The dog house?” I asked poring myself a cup of strong coffee.
“You remember my colleague Anita from the party?”
I nodded.
“She works for the animal welfare as a volunteer and since she and her partner have a reasonably large house, sometimes takes in stray dogs that need new homes when their kennels are filled up. And since I’d been thinking of getting a dog for a while, I thought I’d come today since she has five staying with her. «That’s exciting,” I exclaimed, reaching for a waffle. I absolutely adored dogs, but I’d never felt it was the right time to have one since I often worked long hours. Emma on the contrary, had not been a dog person at all, so the news that she wanted a dog came as quite a surprise.

The dogs were outside in the garden when we arrived. Anita and a man I assumed was her boyfriend sat on their veranda drinking Fanta with ice cubes and observed the dogs playing. There was a huge German shepherd laying under a tree not joining in at all, a Dalmatian and Irish setter rolling around on the grass, a poodle washing itself and a black Labrador chewing contentedly on a bone.
“Lovely to see you!” Anita got up and walked down the garden path towards us.
The Dalmatian and the setter were all over us as soon as we got inside the gate. The Labrador came to sniff, but the poodle and the German shepherd seemed completely uninterested in us. Emma backed away in horror as the Dalmatian jumped up and tried to lick her face.
“Nessa, down,” Anita commanded in an authoritative voice. “Nessa has been with me for a few weeks now and she’s a completely different dog from the quiet skinny one who had clearly been neglected by her owner.”
Anita Caressed Nessa’s head and Nessa waved her tail before running away to fetch a toy that was lying on the grass.
“This is Belle,” Anita said and patted the Irish setter. The lab is called Max, the poodle Alana and this here, “she walked over to the German shepherd who now appeared to be sleeping. “This is Mica. He came to me a couple of weeks ago and he has been very quiet all the time. He was found in an overheated shed in a back garden. Someone in the neighbouring house called to alert us that the owners had moved without taking the dog.
“That’s awful,” Said Emma and bent down to pat his soft head. He didn’t stir.
“I don’t know who to choose,” Emma said in the end. “What do you think Sandra?”
I passed in my playing fetch with Belle. “I don’t know,” I said. “But it’s going to be your dog, so you’ll have to make the decision.”
“That’s where you’re both wrong,” smiled Anita. The one who will make the decision is the dog.”
“How does that work?” Asked Emma.
“Pat the dogs you haven’t patted yet and then make out as you’re leaving. The dog, who follows you, is yours.”
Emma patted all the dogs in turn, except the poodle that seemed to be interested in only herself. When she was done, she started walking towards the gate. Anita and I watched with excitement as Mica, the German shepherd got up and started following her.
“Turn around,” we said in unison. Emma smiled as she watched Mica stop when she stopped and walk again when she started walking.
“Miracles haven’t ceased to happen,” she said when they’d both reached the gate. She entwined her fingers into his soft long hairs and he leaned his head towards her. “Because I never thought I’d A, get a dog, and B, get a big dog.”

Half an hour later, we were on the road. Anita had given us Mica’s bowl as well as his colour and lead. “The owners had the sense to microchip him. He’s been to the vet, and he’s physically healthy. I’m sure he’ll recover just fine with you mentally. «We were now on our way to Arlette. Mica sat in the back seat and stared out of the window as if he’d never done anything else in his life.
Arlette was sitting on the veranda listening to something through headphones when we arrive. She was overjoyed to see me again. And though she and Emma had only met a few times many years ago, they seemed happy to see each other as well. Even Mica, understanding that Arlette was family, came up to sniff her hand and he let her pat his head before he lied down gently at her feet.
Astrid came out and greeted us and then asked if we wanted something to drink.
“Most curious,” said Arlette after I’d told them about Clairvoyant Clara at the Hansen & Dale summer party. “I too would normally write off those fortune tellers as fake. But she seemed to know a lot of things about you that you could never have told her.”
“Unless,” I said. “And I know this sounds crazy, but maybe she’s in on the whole thing.” “That would be a really strange coincidence,” said Emma. Although the booking of her did happen in a very strange way, because she was the one who called us. She mentioned being a psychic and that her friend worked for us and had told her about the summer party. And would we need a fortune teller? You know, just for fun? I spoke to Hansen Jr about it before I said yes, and he was delighted at the idea. Not because he believed in fortune telling, but because he thought it would be a nice edition the women and children especially would enjoy.”
Sexist, I thought.
“Oh what a stupid man!” Exclaimed Arlette as if she’d read my thoughts.
“Emma laughed and helped herself to another waffle.
“He’s quite old-school in his thinking,” she added.
“Did Clairvoyant Clara give you the name of her friend, or her own real name in relation to that booking?” I wanted to know.
Emma shook her head. But I found her on some National Association of psychics website listed under that name. So I accepted her request to be at our party as it was just a bit of fun anyway.”
”I would check her out thoroughly if I were you,” said Arlette. There is something about this that really stinks and I don’t like it in the slightest.