Tag Archives: Lillesand

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 9. Looking for grandma

Looking for grandma
June 9th.
The next morning I went online to see if I could track down my paternal grandmother Arlette Johnsen. I was hopeful, but I was prepared to be disappointed. Just because Gerda hadn’t seen any obituaries in any of the local or national papers, didn’t necessarily mean she was alive. She could have died in another part of Norway, or even abroad.
The amazing thing about Norway is that all information about individuals is public. If you want to know somebody’s address of phone number, all you need to do is to make an internet search, or use a smartphone app, and voilà. I often wished it was like that in London the times I managed to misplace work contacts. But with social media, finding people had become easier all over the world. But the crazy thing about this public information thing is that you can even check how much money a person makes by going to the tax registers. It’s perhaps handy if you’re hunting for a millionaire spouse, but otherwise I’m not really a fan of that particular thing.
I found three Arlette Johnsens on 1881. The first one Arlette Frydenlund Johnsen was a photographer in Bergen. The second, Arlette Cathrine Johnsen a private insurance consultant in Oslo. The third one Arlette Johnsen Lund was not my grandmother either, but a school teacher in Bodø.
I did a more general google search and found two of the three Arlettes on Facebook. I added the word obituary to the search, but nothing came up.
I was a little bit at a loss of what to do now. I didn’t like giving up after just ten minutes of detective work, but I really wasn’t sure where to look now. I thought of the possibility that she could be in an old people’s home somewhere. Or even that her addresses and phone number was protected. That can happen if someone for some reason cannot be listed in the main register for several reasons. Celebrities or abuse victims for example had secret phone numbers. I got up and made a cup of tea while I was thinking. Of what to do next. I was stubborn, and I didn’t want to pull in help from Merete or Markus on something which should be that easy.
As the caffeine slowly entered my system, I decided that the best thing I could do after first doing a last search on people called Arlette, was to ring around every old people’s home in Grimstad, Lillesand and Kristiansand.
Not having any luck with the Arlettes, I started phoning twenty minutes later. At first it was awkward. But the more homes I spoke to, the easier it got. There was no Arlette Johnsens or Arlette anything else for that matter. By the time I got to the absolute last home on my list, my hope had gone. I replied a
“Please, could I talk to Arlette Johnsen?” in a flat, tired voice to the cheery “Hello” from the lady on the line.
“Arlette Johnsen. May I ask whose calling?”
“What? I mean, sure. My name is Sandra Martinsen. I am….” I swallowed, not believing that I was soon, perhaps, going to talk to my paternal grandmother. “I’m her granddaughter.”
The woman at the other end of the line was quiet for a couple of seconds.
“Is that so?” she asked finally.
“I didn’t know until recently,” I said. “I am the daughter of her son Frank who disappeared in 1986.”
I wasn’t sure if the nurse, I assumed she was a nurse, knew about that. But it was worth trying.
“I know about Frank,” she said. Arlette talks about him sometimes. On bad days she cries for him and wish he could come visit her.”
Her words made me feel very sad for the grandmother I had yet to meet. At the same time, I was thrilled that she was alive.
“Has, is she getting a lot of visitors?” I asked.
“Sadly no. Arlette is a lovely lady. It’s a mystery to me that such a gentle soul doesn’t have family and friends who care for her.”
“I would really love to see her.”
“I’m sure that’s possible. But let me talk to her first and tell her you called. I will call you back.”
“Sure. I understand. It’s not every day granddaughters pop up like that,” I said with a little laugh.
I gave her the number to Emma’s landline and was grateful that she still had it, though most people had gotten rid of theirs. I really needed to get a Norwegian sim card so I could call and use the internet when out too, I thought. Doing this kind of work without being mobile was slowing me down as it bound me to the house. Calling to and from my British number was just too expensive.
Astrid, the nurse at the home where Arlette lived, called half an hour later.
“I’ve got Arlette here with me. She would like to ask you a few questions.”
“Yes, of course,” I said and sat down on a kitchen chair.
“Hello?”
The voice belonged to an elderly woman and the hello was more like a question than a statement.
“Hi. You must be Arlette Johnsen,” I said with the most reassuring voice I could master.
“I am,” she said. “And you are Sandra, my granddaughter.”
This came out as a statement rather than a question.
“I am,” I said. “I realize how very strange this situation is. I mean, here I call you after having been gone for nearly thirty years without ever contacting you or anything.”
“I understand.” Arlette’s voice was friendly. “I know that you couldn’t possibly have been in touch before. But I am very glad you called now. And I’m positively surprised that you found me. You’re like your father, Frank. He managed to dig up the most impossible things from the most impossible places. He was a journalist. I had a feeling you would find me one day.”
“Oh really?” I was stunned to hear this.
“Yes, absolutely. Where are you now?”
“I’ staying with my aunt Emma in Homborsund.”
“Emma. I remember her. Though I didnn’t really meet her that many times. She wouldn’t know if I’m dead or alive. Most people I know don’t know. Their either dead, or I have no wish to let them know. When can you come?”
Today! I wanted to shout. I looked at the time and realized I’d better come tomorrow instead. I was meeting Emma at her job in a couple of hours to help with the preparations for a summer party that was to be held this coming Friday. The party this year would be extra big as the company celebrated 40 years and the first ever CEO would be there. There would even be guests from abroad who had worked for or with the company in the past and the present. Funny how many round birthdays there had been in the past 8 days, I thought.
“How about tomorrow?” I said.
“Tomorrow would be absolutely delightful. I can’t wait to see you. But tell me one thing. I know my granddaughter Sandra has a tactile birthmark. Can you tell me where yours is?”
“On my neck. I have a tactile birthmark at the back of my neck.”
I almost asked how she knew about it, but realized she must remember it from when I was a baby. I hated that particular birthmark and had wanted to surgically remove it. But I’d been told it wasn’t serious, or damaging enough, so it was still there.
“You really are my granddaughter,” she said sounding relieved. “I’ll see you tomorrow then Sandra at 11:00. We have a lot to talk about.”
I got up to get ready for travelling in to Grimstad. As I looked out of the kitchen window to see the temperature and assess the weather, I could swear I saw someone retract very quickly from my line of vision. Probably the shadows playing a trick on me. Although it made me feel uneasy.

Episode 3. The text message

The text message
June 3rd.
I was paddling. The sun was shining and the sea was calm. Not a single wave. I loved the feeling of my tired core and arm muscles as I kept paddling on and on. I don’t know how long I had been going for, but I was starting to feel very hungry. Emma was supposed to make paella that day. And the thought of the paella made me paddle faster. I had done my favourite round. I could see Nellevine the lighthouse perhaps a hundred meters ahead. Not long now till I was home. But as I approached Nellevine, the sea suddenly started moving under me. First the waves were small, but the closer I got, the bigger the waves. I sat frozen with shock as my ore was yanked away from me as if by a pair of invisible hands. The waves were rhythmical in a strange, disconcerting way, as if the ocean was chanting something.
I was clinging on to the sides of the kayak for dear life. I didn’t want to fall into the water. I knew it would envelop me like a shark dragging its victim to the bottom. But something much worse than me falling out happened. The kayak with me inside started sinking. I was powerless. I would never come back to Emma and her paella now. I would never see Melissa again. I would never…. My frantic thoughts were interrupted as I suddenly understood what the ocean was chanting.
“Sandra, you’re guilty
Sandra you killed her
And for this you will die, die, and die.”
Nellevine’s revenge. I knew it. It was my turn now. I closed my eyes and accepted the inevitable.
I woke up by the sound of music next to my bed. My phone. My heart was beating fast as I reached out to check the caller ID. Deborah. Wiping the sweat off my forehead I replied “Hello” trying to sound awake. What time was it anyway?
“Sandra. What’s up?”
Deborah sounded concerned. Norman told me you’d had to rush off for some family emergency and that you weren’t sure when you’d be back exactly. I just wanted to….” She trailed off “I’m sorry. I hope you don’t mind me calling. It’s just that, you didn’t seem yourself after receiving that phone call. And you’re never usually away, so I was wondering if there’s anything I can do for you?”
“I’m fine Debs,” I replied in what I hoped was a calm, reassuring voice. “As Norman said, I had to go away for a family emergency. I’m in Norway and I’m really not sure when I come back.”
I felt like a parrot only repeating what Deborah had said. “Norway? Wow. Well, I hope whatever it is will sort itself out. It’s boring without you here in the office.”
“I am sorry you know.” I said and meant it. This had happened at the most inconvenient of times. On Friday, the mayor was going to open a new centre for under-aged alcoholics and drug users. A project that had been going on for a while and surrounded by a lot of controversy. We’d worked nonstop and had even been in the office Saturday and Sunday of last week. Something that should probably have clicked in my brain on Sunday suddenly became very clear. For Him to have called me in the office on a Sunday, he must have spied on me to know I was in. Nobody randomly calls an office on a Sunday. And if he had I decided not to dwell on that right now. Though the possible realization wouldn’t let go. Spied on me, did that mean He now knew where I was?”
“Sandra, you there?”
“Yeah, Thanks,” I said with a little laugh. “I’ll keep you posted as and when I know what’s going on. “
“Ok. Cool. Well, take care of yourself and I hope you get to enjoy a little of Norway. And it’s fine. We don’t choose the timing of these things.”
Norman had said the same when I’d rushed to tell him that I had to go. “You’ve worked hard and although it’s a shame you’re not gonna be with us for the opening of the centre, it’s more important you take care of your family back in Norway.” Not many other press secretaries would have reacted like that.
“Thanks. I’ll do my best.”
The time was already a quarter past ten. I wonder why I kept sleeping in so late. Especially because I’d had that awful nightmare. I figured it must have something to do with the long kayak trip I’d been on yesterday. I’d stopped in a quiet little bay and had a swim. I’d had enough sense to pack my bikini in my haste to leave London. And even more so to put it on under the wetsuit. The water had been a little cold at first, but as I swam, I had gotten used to it, and I was refreshed when I lay drying in the sun before paddling back.
Emma had already arrived home when I returned. She’d made us omelettes we’d eaten at the kitchen table, and I had told her what mad Gerda had told me about Nellevine’s revenge.
“Nonsense!” she’d exclaimed and started laughing. “As if she has a hotline to the spirit world. Well, she’s just trying to frighten you for some stupid reason. Don’t take any notice of what she’s saying. Remember, she has quite a few screws loose.”
“But what about the mysterious drownings?” I said. I was prepared to let Nellevine off the hook, but the drownings sounded like she didn’t make them up. Emma had stared pensively in front of her for a while, picking at her tooth with a tooth pick before she said, “I suppose that’s true yes. I wasn’t alive for some of them, and only a little girl when her two ex-husbands disappeared. But everyone was talking about it. I remember that clearly.”
What were they saying?” I asked.
“They all happened close to the lighthouse Nellevine. That’s true. And…. There is one more thing. Apparently they all happened on mid-summer eve. The 23rd of June.”
Emma had again left a note on the kitchen table as I went downstairs. I wasn’t feeling hungry. My stomach was tight and I was tense, so I found some oranges and strawberries and made a smoothie.
Sorry to be a bother, but would you mind going in to Lillesand and change the top I bought in Belinda? I need it in one size bigger. The note said. Next to it stood a fancy blue paper bag with Belinda written in intricate raised silver letters.

I was on the lookout, but didn’t see Gerda as I was walking down towards the jetty and Emma’s motor boat. Despite everything, I was looking forward to taking the boat into Lillesand. Like when I was kayaking, being in the motor boat, feeling the wind in my hair and the smell of petrol filling my nostrils made me feel completely relaxed and care free. I guess I’d been either a fisherman/woman, captain or perhaps even a pirate in my previous life.
I was a little nervous about going to Lillesand in the boat by myself since there had been a few years since the last time, but apart from going a little astray at one point, I got there in one piece. I even managed to moor the boat to the pier, though I did struggle and at one point received questioning looks from a couple of men further along the pier.
It was still early June, but the summer residents from Oslo had already started arriving. The wives of the posh shipping and oil company CEOs, or whatever their stinking rich husbands were doing. They were so easy to recognize. And they all looked more or less the same. Slim bodies as a result of various crazy diets, hours at the gym, and in some cases, I suspected plastic surgery. Tanned from either sun beds or fake tan. Statement jewellery and handbags. And bored looking faces behind skin perfecting makeup and fake smiles.
Belinda was the latest boutique that had opened in Lillesand to cater mainly for these types of women. It was still so newly opened that I could smell the paint as I walked in. The shop was empty except for a middle-aged woman at one of the dress wracks and a young blond woman behind the counter who smiled and got up when I came in. After having changed the top for Emma and bought an overpriced summer dress that looked really good on me, I walked around a bit before I found a café. I ordered a cappuccino and sat at one of the tables outside. I was happy. Enjoying a perfect summer afternoon.
I felt something vibrate in my handbag and I dug out my phone. Probably Emma who wanted to ask me to get something else while I was out.
“”Did I scare you? Well, I’m sorry, but you knew you’d hear from me sometime. I know you’ve travelled. I spoke to one of your neighbours just now. I’ll find out where. We need to talk?
The number was withheld, but I knew who had sent the message. Suddenly, my perfect afternoon felt less perfect.

Episode 2. Nellevine’s revenge

Nellevine’s revenge
June 2nd

The combination of the long journey and the two glasses of white wine must have made me pass out as soon as I’d gone to bed. And when I woke up, it was nearly ten o’clock. I pulled the curtains aside and was instantly hit by bright sunlight that made me squint and pull back a little. I slept in the room that had been mum’s as a girl and then Emma’s. Emma had now moved in to the master bedroom and this room was now the main guest room. It had been redecorated with cream coloured wallpaper and white minimalistic furnishing. Back in the days, there had been a bunk bed in here and the wall paper had been yellow with little pink flowers. I’d seen the old pictures.

I went into the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the sink as I took off my nighty to have a shower. God, I looked awful. You can say a lot of good things about London life. But it giving you a healthy complexion isn’t one of them. Especially if you spend most of the time in the office and take ages to tan, which I do. I looked pale and my cheeks were hollow. I had neglected the gym for a while. There just wasn’t time. But I had grown thin rather than fat. Probably because we’d been working so flat out in the office for the past weeks. The time running up to the summer holidays was always the busiest. But who was I kidding. The phone call, his phone call, from two days ago hadn’t exactly done wonders for my looks either. A crushing feeling came over me at the thought of the phone call. At the thought of why I was here.
I sighed and stepped into the shower. I needed time to think. Or better. Empty my head of all thought. Let my sub consciousness work on it and maybe then I would know how to react. What to do.

Clean and refreshed, I went downstairs to the kitchen to make some breakfast. A note from Emma lay on the kitchen table saying that I could help myself to anything in the fridge and that both the kayak and motor boat was at my disposal should I wish to go somewhere. I made coffee and a brie sandwich and went to sit outside so I could start working on my complexion and take in the atmosphere with all my senses. It was so wonderful to be here, I thought as I leant back. As a child I’d spent every summer in this house. The whole summer while mum was working in London. Grandma had been living here then. But she died when I was fifteen. She’d only been 74, but she’d died happily in her sleep.. And since then, my visits had been less frequent as well as shorter. I sipped my coffee and wondered what I was going to do today. Kayaking, I decided. The sea was calm, the sun was shining and I felt like getting back into shape as well as getting a tan.

I went into the Annex and found a lifejacket and a wetsuit. After having fitted it, I went inside and got my sunglasses and a bottle of water before I found the kayak and started dragging it down the garden path. “Good day. You must be Eline’s daughter.” I looked up and saw Gerda, Emma’s elderly neighbour who she, mum and grandma had told me had more than a screw lose. She’d always been nice to me though. Invited me over for juice and buns as a child and always gave me some change so I could buy sweets. When I got older, we’d mostly had short, but not unfriendly encounters.
“Hi Gerda,” I said and felt a genuine smile coming to my face.
“Off kayaking are you?” she asked.
She was wearing warn boots and a t-shirt that looked like it had seen better days. Her grey perm was meticulous as always. I’d never seen her with another hairstyle.
“Yes. Got to take advantage of the weather,” I replied.
“Would you like a hand carrying that down?” She pointed to the kayak. I figured I could probably do it myself. But she had a determined look in her eyes and though I’d never actually seen her mad side, I could easily believe it was there. Word had it that she’d killed two husbands. I wasn’t sure I believed it. Though they had both disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Amund, whom she was married to now, and had been for as long as I could remember,, was reputed to be senile, but still alive.
“Thanks that would be lovely.” I replied.
She stepped through the hedge parting Emma’s garden from hers and walked towards me. She was in good shape for her age. But I could tell from her stiff walking that she had some sort of knee problem.
“What was your name again?” Gerda asked as she and I approached the beach.
“Sandra,” I said I was ashamed at how exhausted I was already feeling from carrying the kayak. I really needed to get back into shape.
“Sandra. I’m sorry. You know what it’s like. Memories slip.” She laughed a laugh that somehow sent chills down my spine despite the heat.
“But one thing I will never forget is Nellevine’s revenge. Now that is gruesome. I take it you’ve not heard that story?”
We had reached the point where we could put down the kayak. All I needed to do now, was to push to get it out into the water
“No. I’ve never heard that story,” I said. I knew Nellevine was a lighthouse I always paddled, or drove past by motor boat. As far as I knew, Nellevine had been a lady who had first been the wife of one captain, and when he died had remarried the lighthouse keeper. He gave each of the lighthouses names, simply to distinguish them from each other, and the one that watches over the approach to the harbour was called after his wife. It was a common conception in the bay area that Nellevine’s ghost hung around, but that it was a good ghost.
“Of course. But let me tell you about Nellevine’s revenge.”
“You probably know Nellevine to have been a good woman.” Gerda started. “And people say too that her ghost is good.” She looked at me questioningly and I nodded. “That’s quite right,” she said. “Nellevine was and is good through and through. You see, I am in touch. I have spoken to her ghost many many times. And not just her ghost. I speak to a lot of dead people. My parents, my brother and sister, even my two dead ex-husbands.”
I didn’t like the way Gerda spoke and I was keen to get going on the water. But I felt I had no choice but to listen to her story.
One day in 1925 to be precise,, a terrible tragedy happened. A young, newly married woman by the name of Helene Hansen drowned under mysterious circumstances when she was going out to Lillesand in her husbands boat to meat a painter with whom she had an affair. Her husband, a carpenter by the name of Christian Hansen was utterly grief-stricken. They had only been married for six months and they were expecting their first child. Clearly, he did not know about the affair at the time. The day of Helene’s drowning was also a bit of a mystery. There had been no storm, and no reason for her to drown. Well, she wasn’t wearing a life jacket and she wasn’t reputed to be a good swimmer. It had happened so quickly. One minute she was there and the next, she wasn’t. The boat was found floating bottom up, unharmed. She was never found. But drowning could be the only explanation. It happened right near the lighthouse Nellevine, which is curious, because Lillesand is in the completely opposite direction. She must have been dragged there by a supernatural force.
“Then, ten years later, a local teacher, Janne Olsen also drowned. She was out kayaking when it happened. It was in the evening, but it was still light outside and the sea was calm. This also happened outside the lighthouse.. And digging into her life, the police found out that although Janne Olsen was seemingly a respectable young woman, loved by parents and children alike, she had been questioned about the death of one of her pupils five years previously. Also a drowning. The class had been on an outing to learn about local marine life. Some of the boys had gone out swimming, and thinking they were in control, Miss Olsen had not stopped them. She only told them not to swim further than she could see. What she didn’t know was that Tore, one of the boys had a heart failure and wasn’t supposed to swim. You can guess the rest.”
“Then it was my husband Sven in 1955. He went out with the fishing nets, although I told him it would be dangerous. I have grown up around here and I knew a storm would come. But Sven did not listen to me. He just laughed. Said the sea was calm. But I was right wasn’t I? The storm came quickly while he was out. He didn’t come back for the full two days the storm raged along the coastline. His body was washed to shore and found when it was all over. It later came out that Sven wasn’t just going out with the fishing nets. He was also going to meet his other woman. She eventually came to me and confessed everything.
Then, my husband Nils in 1970. Such a handsome man. And we’d just had a baby who had suffered one of those rare crib deaths infants sometimes suffer. Suffocated by its own pillow. Although I have a strange feeling Nils was behind the baby’s death. He always complained about it screaming and disturbing his sleep so that he was tired and performed badly at work. Well. He drowned too And neither he, nor his, my, motor boat were found. But they had last been seen outside the lighthouse Nellevine.”
You see Sandra. Nellevine is a lady who doesn’t like anybody getting away with things they’re not supposed to get away with. You could say crimes that can’t be proven to be crimes because there is either no evidence, or the majority doesn’t see it as a crime. Having a mistress for example, that’s not a crime. But it’s a horrible thing to do. And poor Tore, it could be murder. It was certainly careless. So that’s what Nellevine does. She punishes those who would otherwise get away with their, hmmm, crime is not the right word, misdeed is perhaps a better one.”
I stared at Gerda for a few seconds not sure what to think. Except I was now sure she had at least two screws loose if not more. “Are you sure about this?” I asked hesitantly, not knowing how she’d react if I upset her. “I am as sure as I am sure that something bad is about to happen again very soon. The last act of justice, that’s what I and Nellevine’s ghost like to call them, happened forty-five years ago. And it’s been quiet for a long time. But now…. It’s just a sneaky feeling I have. And I am usually right.”She looked out over the calm sea in front of her with a thoughtful glance. “But don’t you worry yourself dear. I’ve been talking quite enough now. Get out there now and enjoy yourself.”
With a smile she turned on her heel and walked back up to her garden.

I didn’t believe Gerda’s story in the slightest. It was farfetched. At least the part about Nellevine who was long passed away having something to do with it. Although, I made a note to ask Emma about the drownings. And although I was still convinced Nellevine’s ghost was a good one, I couldn’t help but paddle a little faster past her lighthouse towards the open sea.