Tag Archives: Mid-summer

Afterword

I’ve written a novel in just over a month and that’s a fact I’m quite shocked by. But I’m proud too and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the story as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
The fact that it got done on time is actually quite a miracle. I wrote this story under less than favourable living conditions in Lagos. And both food poisoning, a record high of mosquito bites and some other tropical ailments at times made the process rather irksome. Due to irregular power supplies which also destroyed two laptop chargers, I wasn’t always sure whether the episodes would be done on time.

The next step now, is to edit the episodes. Improve the language, get rid of inconsistencies and strengthen some of the weaker points. And when that’s done, I’m hoping to get this thing published.

A list of thanks are of course in order. First and foremost I need to thank my secretary Elisabeth who invited me to her home in Homborsund where she took me to all the places you’ve read about in the story. Elisabeth also helped with historical facts, proof reading and publishing the episodes when I had no internet access. Thanks too, to my people in Lagos who went to the market to buy new laptop chargers and generally made sure I was fed, hydrated and medicated,making it physically possible to write.

Nellevine, the house ghost in Elisabeth’s hous,in Homborsund for being the inspiration to the story needs thanks, or else, she’ll haunt me forever, in an unpleasant way I’m sure. I have felt her presence too. And I’m not the only one.I sometimes had the feeling she was feeding me the story and helping my circumstances, turning them in my favour.

Last, but not least, I would like to thank my readers around the world for getting hooked on the story and encouraging me to continue when I didn’t have the inspiration.

All the places featuring in the story are real, but I have allowed some artistic freedoms when it comes to eateries and other places in Grimstad and Kristiandsand. The characters as well as the mid-summer drownings are pure figments of my overly active imagination.

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 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 8. Dinner by the sea

Dinner by the sea
June 8th
I was due to meet Merete down by the harbor at 3pm. Since I wasn’t sure how long it would take to cycle to Grimstad, I left home at 2 after a morning trip in the kayak and a shower. I arrived with a few minutes to spare, so I rested on a bench while watching more and more people coming from work and down to the pier to enjoy the sunny summer weather. Markus had told me Merete was short with light brown hair and that she was visibly pregnant. I didn’t see anyone fitting that description when 3 o’clock came, but 15 minutes later, I saw someone that must be her come running towards where I was sitting. Her face was red and flushed from the running and her hair was messy, but otherwise she looked nice in a cute sort of way in her maternal summer dress. To say that she was visibly pregnant was an understatement. She looked like she was about to pop there and then.
“You must be Sandra,” she said and held out her hand. “I’m sorry I’m late. I was in a meeting that took much longer than anticipated.”
“That’s fine,” I smiled and got up. “You’re here now. And as for me, I have the whole afternoon and evening at my disposal.”
She led the way to a small café that was situated towards the far end of the pier. “My friend owns this place,” she said. “The food here is amazing.” We sat down at an outside table, and soon afterwards, a girl who looked to be in her teens came out and placed menus on our table. I decided to go for a Greek salad with additional chicken and garlic bread and Merete went for the Caesar Salad.
She took down our orders shyly before disappearing back inside.
“So, my mid-summer murder series will start a week before mid-summer and run every day up till then,” Merete began.
“What made you want to write about it?” I asked.
“My mother comes from Homborsund and she mentioned the mid-summer murders once It must have been about two years ago. We were watching this documentary about The Flying Dutchman. How some people have seen this long disappeared ship in a certain place, or even disappeared and there disappearances had been linked with the Flying Dutchman. Mum told me then about the drownings outside Nellevine the lighthouse. I’ve always been a sucker for ghost stories and I wanted to write about it. But it took this long before it’s finally going to happen. You know, other work getting in the way. And the research of course.”
Merete bent down as far as her belly would allow and picked up her shoulder bag. She took out a silver iPad and a notebook.
“I’m going to split it all into several topics,” she began. “First, it’s the obvious who were the victims? The second one is what did they have in common? That’s a particularly interesting one. Considering there were two women and two men who died over a forty-five year time period. It seems very random, yet I’m thinking they must have something more in common than their way of death.
Following on from that question, we have to think of motives. The murders have been attributed to a ghost in the lighthouse. But of course that can’t be the case. I mean do you believe in ghosts?”
The question was rhetorical, so I didn’t answer. Only shrugged my shoulders slightly. I didn’t exactly believe in ghosts. But I somehow believed that the dead lived on. I could swear that when I was facing a difficult situation, or was at my wit’s end in some way, I got telepathic guidance from my mum. But I thought there was no point in mentioning that. I didn’t believe ghosts could commit such systematic drownings though. That would be impossible.
“Only in one out of the four cases was there bad weather the day that a victim drowned. Another clear indication that this is done with human intervention.
The fourth topic will be speculating in whether all of them were murders, and how many of them, if they all are, could have been committed by one and the same person. For instance, the first one could have been some kind of accident which was then ceased on by whoever then wanted to kill somebody else later.
Finally, there is the conclusion piece. What do we know so far? Can we guess who’s maybe done it? How did they get away? Is this truly the end of the mid-summer murders?
I’m not expecting a real conclusion to the story. Most people who were alive around the time of the first murders are long dead or have disappeared from both Homborsund and the people’s register. So this whole thing is more like an entertainment piece containing facts. And if you have any more ideas for a couple more topics, please tell me. I’d ideally like to have seven, but don’t want to overkill the story.”
Our food came. And the smell of garlic and roasted chicken made me realize how ravenous I was.
“I like the idea,” I said. “The whole factual entertainment thing. And who knows? Maybe people will come forward with tips once they start reading the articles. Maybe somebody’s old relative told them something or maybe some of the elderly people still alive can add pieces to the puzzle.”
“I’m thinking the same. Although I’m not really gambling on it,” Merete replied and sipped her sparkling water.
“What do the police reports say? Have you had any access to them?”
She nodded. “They are all questioning the possibility of murder, but there is just no proof to back it up. So although people have been detained and questioned, the police had to let them go in the end.”
We sat eating for a while before she added.
“I only wish I could speak to Gerda Henriksen. After all, she lost two husbands.”
“And she lost her sister,” I said.
“What? Really?”
“You don’t know?” I asked surprised. Merete shook her head. “But I suppose you can tell me all about it now.”
I told her the tragic story Gerda had told me about her young sister Pernille who, lost in unrequited love had ended her promising life in the magic forest.
“It also happened at mid-summer” I concluded. Enjoying seeing how she abandoned her food to scribble franticly in her notebook.
“This is awesome,” she said resuming her eating. “I will definitely include this in the article. I’ll even give it its own topic and relate it back to the other murders. I mean, although it’s a suicide, it’s interesting that she chose to do it exactly at mid-summer’s eve.”
“Unless,” I sipped my own sparkling water thoughtfully. “Unless this too is a murder masked as a suicide.”
“What makes you think that?” Merete asked.
“It’s just a gut feeling I have,” I said. “Mainly it is the mid-summer thing. It seems to co-incidental. And then there is the fact of the hanging. I too have been a rejected teenager. I know what it feels like. You want to die, but you don’t actually want to die. Unless of course you’re mentally ill, or suffer from depression. I guess they didn’t have that diagnosis back then. I don’t know. But assuming she was a mentally healthy sixteen-year-old, hanging yourself when a boy doesn’t want you is a little on the extreme side.
But it’s not only those two things. It’s also the fact that it happened where there is a lighthouse torch. The other deaths are also lighthouse related. Maybe the murderer was indirectly trying to shift this too on Nellevine?”
“I see where you’re coming from,” Merete said slowly and scribbled something in her notebook. “I’ll do some research on Pernille too. But as I said, I can’t get an interview with Gerda. She refuses point blank to talk to me.”
“That’s strange,” I said. “She seems happy to talk to me.”
“In that case, can you ask her a few questions from me?”
“Sure. Write them down, and I’ll slip them in to a casual neighbourly chat.”
“Great. Thanks a lot. I will find out who the lighthouse keeper at the time was and that way, find out who the son was who Pernille was in love with and who also found her.”
We waved the teenage waitress over to ask for the bill and while we waited, we exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers. I promised to write up everything Gerda had told me so far and Merete promised to give me any new information she came across.
“It’s nice to have someone else on board,” she said. “I nodded.
“I am so happy we meet too. This is very much a family drama for me. And I want to try and get to the bottom of this if I possibly can. Without your help, I’d probably have a harder time finding information.”
“I could say the same,” she said as we got up and walked towards where I’d locked my bike.
I’d told her about why this was so interesting to me while we’d enjoyed a coffee, after the meal.
“May I ask when you’re popping?”
She laughed.
“It’s about six weeks away according to my due date. But I’m huge because I’m having twins. So who knows?”
As I freed my bike, I felt as if somebody was watching me. Merete had continued walking as she lived within walking distance of the harbor, so I was alone. I turned, certain it was my overly active imagination. The old lady I thought I’d seen in the garden two days earlier was standing there looking right at me. She was wearing a long black silk dress and a black hat that seemed more appropriate for an autumn day. The brim of the hat was large and I couldn’t see her face properly. But her eyes, deep blue and intense, were looking straight into mine.

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 1. The escape.

Welcome to my mid-summer thriller. I’ve had the idea of writing this for a while and now seemed like the right time. The concept of mid-summer has always felt a little magic to me. Perhaps because in Scandinavia, we have several legends surrounding that time of year. Homborsund, and Nellevine, who are both real, also have a strange appeal to me. And I wanted to combine them all in a thriller to be published here. This is the result. Enjoy every day in June up to mid-summer eve which is June 23rd.

The escape
June 1st
It was only when I saw the signs of Grimstad bus station I realized I’d been holding my breath. Not literally. It takes a super human to actually hold your breath from London to Oslo and then the five hours from Oslo to Grimstad. And heaven knows I’m not a super human. But that’s how it felt. I let the tension that had built up in me since I got that fatal phone call at work yesterday go. I rolled my shoulders, nearly hitting the middle-aged, bespectacled man reading a newspaper next to me. I was safe now. Nobody could find me here. Only my best friend Melissa knew Aunt Emma and her paradise house by the sea which was situated in Homborsund which was in between Grimstad and Lillesand. And Melissa would never tell anyone. She was on my side. Even though I wasn’t sure whether she did right in being on my side.
“We have now reached Grimstad,” the driver announced in a distinct southern Norwegian dialect. I got up to get my small suitcase down from the overhead locker, and only then, did the man next to me notice my presence.. I realized he must have been sleeping behind that newspaper. “Excuse me, I’m getting off.” My Norwegian felt rusty after not having been used for years, except for the times I spoke to Aunt Emma.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Is this Grimstad?” I smiled and nodded while he kindly helped me to get my suitcase down. “I must have been sleeping. This job makes me dog tired.” I didn’t get to ask what job he was doing, because at that moment the bus stopped and the doors opened.

The name Grimstad literally means ugly town. But I love Grimstad. Especially in the summer when it’s buzzing with tourists and rich people from Oslo who escape to their south coast homes and sailboats and the often better summers here. The entire south coast is in fact a summer paradise. I’ve heard it’s quiet and rather boring in the winter. I’m sure it’s true though I struggle to believe this place even having a winter.
“Sandra, over here!” I turned to see Aunty Emma waving and I started jogging towards her.
Aunt Emma is my mum’s fifteen years younger sister. I don’t really call her aunt at all. She hates it. Says it makes her feel old. She is forty-five, but looks a lot younger with chestnut brown wavy hair down to her shoulders and huge green eyes. She’s single, but was married once when I was little. She never talks about her ex-husband though. Only says that she’s much happier now alone. She was even thinking of getting a dog, but hadn’t yet decided what kind. “How was your trip?” she asked as we were driving home from the bus station. “Smooth, no delays,” I replied as I watched the postcard perfect houses in different colours with their newly painted fences and trimmed hedges passing by. I opened the window and drew in the sea air.
“It was quite unexpected, but lovely of you to come.” I closed the window and turned to her. I wasn’t in the mood for a conversation now. I needed my own space. I needed to figure out what to do now. “Can we please not talk, about why I’m here?” I asked. Emma took her eyes from the road and scrutinized my face. I could tell she wanted to say a lot. But in the end she sighed and said “It’s ok. But whatever it is, you’re gonna have to deal with it at some point. I’m here to talk whenever you want to.”

It was nearly 9 PM when we got to the house. But it was still light outside and it would be light for a good while yet. So after having carried my suitcase up to the guest room, we packed a basket with shrimps, white bread, mayonnaise lemon and white wine and went down to the small private peer where we sat down. We were quiet at first, just pealing the prawns and throwing the head and shells into the sea where they were soon picked up by greedy screaming seagalls. Then we talked about non-committal things. Emma’s job as the HR person at an oil firm which enjoyed. And my job as one of the press officers for the London mayor which I was less keen on.
“Have you applied for anything else then?” Emma asked refilling both our wineglasses. “I’m looking around,” I replied. I couldn’t tell her that returning to London was not an option. Not after yesterday’s phone call. It had come in at 3PM. That time when it’s the hardest not to fall asleep at your desk and that time everyone’s avoiding the tea round, yet everyone’s desperate for a cuppa. The most desperate one will end up doing it, taking orders from the colleagues about milk, sugar type of tea and so on. Yesterday it had been me. I was writing a press briefing about an upcoming event and my heart wasn’t into it. Deborah, who sat next to me, had called med back from the kitchen. We often answer each other’s office phones, and take down messages for each other, so I’d been very surprised when she’d called me over. “Sandra.” A voice said after my breezy “Hello Sandra speaking.”I froze. I hadn’t heard that voice in ten years. In fact, I had been convinced that the voice’s owner was dead. Long dead. But I would always recognize it. “Sandra, you can’t run from this any longer. You can’t.” Then a laughter that made the blood ring in my ears.I know you did it. You’re guilty Sandra. Guilty.” Then, a click and then silence. I knew then I had to run away. Far far away. London was the last place I wanted to be and the last place I should be.