“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.