I woke up early the next morning and Emma and I had coffee and breakfast together. “I can probably knock off early today,” Emma said. “Is there anything you’d like to do?” I stared out of the window. The sky was grey and it looked like it could start raining any minute.
“What’s there to do?” I asked.
“Hmm. How about we go swimming and then eat out somewhere?”
“Ok. But could I get a lift with you now into town? I’d like to go to the library.”
I wanted to check the old newspapers to see if I could find something about the mid-summer murders, and perhaps also somethings about the brother and father I never got to know.
“Sure. Be ready in fifteen and I’ll drop you there.”
The library was full of what I assume to be young primary school children. They sat on chairs around an elderly friendly looking female librarian who were reading out loud to them from a storybook. I decided to go up to the counter and ask for help. The newspapers I was looking for were older than a few years, so they might not be lying around.
A guy around my age looked up from a book he was reading and smiled at me as I approached the counter. He had a cute face with brown eyes and a freckly nose. His hair was dark brown and curled very nicely around his slightly outstanding ears.
“How can I help you?” he asked. His voice was neither high nor deep and he had the sing song dialect of Kristiansand, one of the southernmost towns in Norway.
“Hi,” I said, feeling a smile come over my face. This guy was really quite cute. “I am looking for old newspapers. From 1984 and 85. And…” When was it that Sven Mikkelsen, my grandma had drowned? “Is it possible to find out when somebody drowned in Homborsund?”
I knew my question was very clumsy, but there was no other way to ask that I could think of. The guy smiled and started typing something into a computer.
“What kind of papers are you looking for?” he asked.
“Local papers. And if I can find out when that person died, local papers from that time too.”
“It’s possible to look in the registers and find out when somebody died if you have their name and place of birth or death. But I unfortunately don’t have that access here and now.”
I stood in thought for a while before telling him that if he could find the local papers concerning news from Grimstad and Homborsund from 1984 and 1985, I might be able to find out when the other person had died. Perhaps in the obituaries of baby Sven and Frank, my dad, there was some sort of mention of Sven Mikkelsen and when he drowned.
“Why do I get the feeling you’re playing detective Nancy Drew? He asked smiling. I felt my cheeks go red and answered with a laugh.
“My name is Markus by the way.” He held out his hand and I shook it. “I’m Sandra,” I replied. “I haven’t seen you around here before. Have you just moved?”
“I suppose you could say that. I’m on a break here from London. I live and work there, but here, I’m staying with my aunt in Homborsund.”
“Oh really, that’s interesting,” Markus said. “Have you by any chance heard of the mid-summer murders in Homborsund?”
I stared at him, not knowing quite what to say.
“Yes, I have. In fact, it’s part of what I’m researching.” “Is that so?” Markus got up and walked around the desk towards me. “I’m from Kristiansand originally, but I’ve lived in Grimstad for a few years now. My cousin Merete is working for Grimstad Daily News, the local paper here. And she is doing a feature on the mid-summer murders.” “Oh really? How come?” “I’m not sure. But she mentioned something about it being ninety years since the first murder and forty-five since the last, so it’s a kind of commemoration piece. One of the great mysteries of this area. Plus, it might also just be a summer filler. You know local papers.” He shrugged.
I felt giddy from this information. What a coincidence.
“Would it be possible to link up with her and perhaps get some information?”
“I’m sure that can be fixed. Let me call her. I’m sure she’d be delighted to see you sometime next week. In the meantime, I’ll dig around and see what I can find from 1984 and 1985. Just sit over there and wait for me, or browse the shelves if you like.”
Fifteen minutes later, Markus came over to where I was sitting reading a more current newspaper. “It took a while. And we might not have every single paper produced in 1984 and 85, but this is what I could found. And if you need more, Merete will surely be of help. “He put down the box and sneezed a couple of time. “The archive room was well labeled, but extremely dusty,” he said apologetically. “Now, you let me know if I can do anything else for you. I’ll give Merete a call.”
I started looking systematically through the papers since I wasn’t sure how else to start. The Daily News was just like any other local paper in any other part of the world. News that may have interest to the locals, but a lot of which really wasn’t so much news as page fillers. I have a thing for local papers. Wherever I travel, if I speak the language, which I don’t really do in most countries except France, Italy or Spain, I’m not fluent; I get a local paper and sit at a local café for breakfast if I can. It teaches me stuff about a place that you won’t learn from guidebooks and gives you a little taster of what life is like there.
When I came to December 14th 1984, I found baby Sven’s death notice…
Sven André Mikkelsen, born October 4th 1983, died yesterday December 13th 1984 from a heart failure which was present from birth. Mum Eline, dad Frank, Aunty Emma, Grandma, Josephine and grandma Arlette miss you. Rest in Peace. There was a picture of him. He had looked very similar to me as a baby, except my hair had been a lighter blond. He was fat and looked happy and healthy. I am not usually the sentimental type, but the sight of him, sitting in his baby chair with a spoon in his hand made my eyes water. My brother. I wish I’d known about him at least even if I never got to meet him.
I didn’t find any more interesting article for the first half of 1985, except the news of my birth.
“We are the proud parents to a beautiful daughter, Sandra Mikkelsen and Emma is proud to be an aunt again and grandmas Josephine and Arlette wish their new grand-daughter welcome to life.” Eline and Frank Mikkelsen.
There was a picture of mum and, dad; it was a strange word even to think, and me. Mum looked down on me with a very tender expression. She was wearing a blue summer dress I remembered from when I was little. My dad was very tall with brown hair and blue eyes which looked friendly. He held a protective arm around mum. I was so newborn that I hadn’t yet started to look cute. I was wearing something pink, and had a little white hat on my head. I was sleeping. I put that paper aside with the other paper announcing my brother’s death. I wanted to copy those pages so I had some kind of proof that they had once existed. I wondered if grandma Arlette, Sven Mikkelsen’s mistress was still alive. There was a possibility. I’d look at the 1881 register online when I was finished with the papers.
The disappearance of my dad was first mentioned September 5th 1986
“Police confirm that Frank Mikkelsen 32, who lives in Homborsund with his wife and baby daughter, has been missing since August 30th. He was last seen in his garden by neighbours around 17.00 hours. If anybody knows anything about his movements thereafter or any other helpful leads, please contact the police.”
The next article was published two days later.
“There has still been no sign of the missing Homborsund man Frank Mikkelsen. However, his clothes and driver’s license were found by a Grimstad citizen who wants to remain anonymous as she was driving to visit her brother in Homborsund. “It was pure luck I found it,” the 40-year-old woman says. “I heard a funny sound coming from the car, and wanted to stop and investigate before something serious would happen. I saw something in the bushes nearby, got intrigued and picked it up. I of course went straight to the police.”
Further tips are most welcome.”
There were a few more articles about Frank Mikkelsen still missing that were of no interest and a rather shocking, but short news story that informed me that my mum was currently being questioned by the police about her husband’s disappearance. Two days after that, the paper informed me that Eline Mikkelsen was held in custody, suspected of being behind the disappearance. And then, published on September 29th 1986, I found a very spiteful column/opinion piece that immediately drew my attention.
“Frank Mikkelsen still missing. Could the wife be guilty?
Having your baby son die of a heart weakness and then having your husband disappear just like that less than a year later, sound like some kind of Hollywood drama. Only, this is not Hollywood. And this is not happening on our screen. No ladies and gentlemen, this is Homborsund and this plot is taking place in almost literally, your back garden.
What makes this story even more interesting is that Frank Mikkelsen’s father, the late Sven Mikkelsen was one of the victims of the mid-summer drownings outside Homborsund in 1954 when Frank was only one year old. And born to Sven’s mistress Arlette Johnsen out of wedlock, which in those days was a great shame, Frank did not have it easy as a child.
Many have questioned whether the mid-summer drownings have been all natural. The fact that they all happen on June 23rd, mid-summers eve and in the same place, seems too much of a coincidence.
As Frank’s wife Eline is being held in custody and questioned about her husband’s disappearance, I’m asking myself, and you too dear readers, could she have, for some reason chosen a similar type of disappearance for her husband, but chosen to not do it mid-summer eve as it would draw too much suspicion?
It may seem farfetched, but if I tell you, dear readers, that the late Nils Strand, the final known victim of the mid-summer drownings so far, was Eline’s uncle. And if I tell you that Eline reputedly has an affair, though I won’t mention names as nothing is confirmed, it may not seem that farfetched after all.”
The byline informed me that the article was written by a Karl Lund. And an news story written three days later, declared that my mum was out of custody due to lack of proof.