Tag Archives: Nellevine

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 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 16. Mysterious eyes

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

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

Episode 7. Death by hanging

Death by hanging
June 7th
When I woke up the next morning, I went on Facebook to find my wall full of well wishes for my birthday. I liked all of them, added a comment to the slightly more original ones and went to look at my private messages. There was only one from Melissa. I had messaged her Friday night to try and relay some of what had been going down here.
“Hi Sandra,
I really really miss you, but I’m glad you are doing well. I think you really needed a break and perhaps this was for the best, even if I know you got scared. Gosh, I thought He was dead too.
How was your birthday? We’ll have a huge celebration when you come back to London.
That family stuff and the mid-summer drownings sounds very crazy and almost made-up, but it’s really giving me the chills. Is all this in any way related to that poor girl who hanged herself in the magic forest? I still remember your grandma sharing that story one dark and stormy evening that last summer she was alive and I came to stay for two weeks.
Have to go. Got a mid-wife appointment, but please keep me posted. And that Markus guy sounds cute. *wink wink*
Mel Xxx”
I sat for a while trying to recollect the story but I couldn’t remember all the details. Something about a teenage girl who had experience a great loss in love and who had ended up hanging herself. I made a mental note to ask Gerda along with all the other stuff I wanted to ask her. I hoped she was home.
I went down and Emma and I made and ate a good Sunday breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh bread, yoghurt, fruit salad, fresh juice and coffee. We decided not to go anywhere, or do anything today. It was Sunday and it was sunny. We wanted to sunbathe.
We had been reading and sunbathing for nearly two hours when I saw Gerda in her garden. I excused myself, and said that I wanted to ask a few questions, put on my sarong and got up. Emma was looking unimpressed, but didn’t say anything. “Off you go then Nancy Drew. I’ll prepare some refreshments for when you’re back.”
Gerda saw me coming towards her garden and she waved and smiled. “Sandra,” she said. “Fancy you visiting a boring old lady on a Sunday like this.”
She beckoned me towards her veranda where her senile husband Amund sat reading a paper. If reading was an accurate way to describe how he seemed to be just staring at the pages with a blank look on his face.
“What can I get you. Coffee, birthday cake?”
“Birthday cake?” I asked and wondered for a moment if she’d somehow found out it had been my birthday yesterday.
“It’s my birthday today,” she said. “Of course I need birthday cake. Don’t you think?”
“Sure, Happy birthday” I said, sounding very unsure to my own ears and wishing I’d brought some flowers. “I’m getting some birthday cake,” she said and marched into the house. “It was my birthday too,” I said when she reappeared with a very plain-looking cake. “Oh, then you must have a big piece.” She cut a huge slice and put it on a plate in front of me. “Old-fashioned marble cake,” she said. I picked it up and took a careful bite out of it. Amund was eating cake and crumbing it all over his newspaper. To my surprise, the cake didn’t taste that bad. I wondered why it was called marble cake, but then a lot of foods had strange names, like the English toad in a hole.
“I am 90 today.” Gerda said as she reappeared with coffee and a jug of water on a tray. “Wow, you look good” I said and meant it. I had assumed she was in her seventies. “Thank you Sandra.” She sat down across from me and rubbed her temples as if she had a headache, or was tired.
“I was quite a beauty in my youth you know. Wasn’t I darling?” She turned to Amund who was now eating cake crumbs from his newspapers. “Don’t do that dear,” she said and took the paper from him to shake the crumbs off. “Beauty.” He said in a very clear voice. “That’s right. I could pick and choose from all the men around Homborsund, Grimstad and Lillesand.” Her eyes were sparkling as she recalled old memories. “My darling Amund proposed to me a number of times, but it took me two husbands to say yes. Isn’t that right?” She stroked his cheek affectionately. “Yes, say yes.” He stared out in front of him with a distant look in his eyes.
“My poor Amud,” Gerda said turning to me. “Still in good physical shape. But mentally…. He used to be so sharp and witty. I miss him. But I still love him the way he is now.”
“That’s lovely,” I said feeling moved. “I’m sure he loves you too,” I added.
“He does, when he remembers who I am.” Gerda made to pour me some coffee, but I shook my head. “I’m too hot for coffee,” I said.
I let a minute or so pass before I asked “There are a few things I was wondering whether you could shed some light over.” “And what’s that dear?” Gerda asked stirring sugar and cream into her coffee. “I know this may be painful for you, but your husband Sven’s mistress.” I stopped, unsure of how best to proceed, but then decided to jump right in. “Is she alive? Arlette Johnsen?”
“She is.” Gerda said slowly. “But where she is, I’m not sure.”
“Then, how do you know she is alive?” I asked.
“When you get to a certain age, you start reading every single obituary. Because the people dying could be, and in some cases are, your friends, estranged relatives and people you’ve known. I was heartbroken when I found out that my Sven had had an affair with Arlette Johnsen. Murder was admittedly on my mind, but I decided that enough people had died and to be the bigger woman. I wasn’t the one who’d had a child out of wedlock after all. So I got over it, though I’ve been looking for her obituary in the local and national papers for the past, I don’t know how many years. Arlette moved to Grimstad with her little bastard son. Sorry dear, I know he was your father. But you must understand I wasn’t a big fan of hers… Not that I have a problem with your father of course. Nobody chooses their parents.”
“And what about the girl who hanged herself I the magic forest?” I asked, helping myself to a glass of water from the jug.
“That is a tragic story I don’t like to think of.”
“I’m sorry,” “I said. I’m sure I can ask…”
“No,” Gerda cut me off. “I should be the one telling you this story. The girl in question was my little sister.
Pernille was a beauty just like me. She also had a lovely singing voice. When she was 16 and I twenty-one, it was decided that she was going to move to Oslo to study music there. The Second World War had just ended and life was slowly resuming back to normal. She was happy. She wanted to perform on world stages and travel. She found this little place too small for someone like her. Yes, she was very proud. But that summer before she was supposed to travel, she also fell in love for the first time ever in her life. The guy was the handsome son of the lighthouse keeper. She did everything she could to get his attention. She serenaded outside his window, making a complete fool of herself, wrote him a love ballad an even had the nerve to ask him to the mid-summer dance. Of course he said no. He was in love with someone else. Namely me. I didn’t have eyes for him. I was engaged to be married to Sven. Still, he told her so that she would leave him alone. She was found dead on mid-summer eve, hanging from a three near the lighthouse torch Ramshaug. She must have been crazier in love than we thought. The lighthouse keeper’s son was the one who found her, because his father had asked him to attend to Ramshaug. He had nightmares ever since and claimed that her ghost was haunting him for decades to come.”
“That’s tragic. And it too happened at mid-summer.” I said. Gerda nodded solemnly. “There is something about mid-summer,” she said. “Something very disconcerting.” She got up, gathering the empty cake plates and I took it as a cue to leave. “Thanks for the chat, and the cake,” I said and descended the steps to the garden.
“Anytime Sandra. Anytime. Please come again.”
I felt someone watching me as I walked towards the separating hedge and turned around. Amund was sitting alone on the veranda. But whereas before his expression had been vacant, it was now crystal clear. He met my eyes and held my glance. I was surprised to see a look of pure hatred and contempt in his face. As if he wanted to kill me right there and then.

Episode 4. Chilling revelations

Chilling revelations
June 4th
The mouthwatering smell of chorizo, chicken and spices greeted me when I came in the door late Thursday afternoon. The message yesterday had left me feeling uneasy and I had ended up going back home in the boat. I spent the afternoon reading. I needed to brush up on my Norwegian. And what better way than to read a good novel? Emma had tons of those, but complained that she rarely got around to reading them. Today, I’d gone out kayaking again and made a proper picnic out of it. I’d gone to the same bay I’d found two days earlier and I’d taken a flask of tea, some sandwiches, a packet of biscuits, sun cream, which I had forgotten the previous time, and the novel I was reading.
“And what’s that you’re making?” I asked excitedly as I walked into the kitchen.
“Jambalaya. And there is a chocolate orange cake in the oven.”
I was absolutely starving. Jambalaya and Emma’s chocolate orange cake were some of my favourite foods. It had also been two things my mum had been good at making. I drew in my breath. Of course.
“We’re celebrating right?”
“Yes. I know it’s a little sentimental of me. It’s not as if I’m doing this every year, but she would have been 60 his year. And I do miss her to be honest.”
I walked over and put my arms around her. “I miss her too.” I said. “Good old mum. You know how we used to row a lot over the silliest things? I know it happened, but I only seem to remember the good times now. And, well, I am sorry she won’t be around for when I potentially get married, have kids, get promoted….”
It worried me slightly that I’d put husband and kids before a job promotion. The die-hard feminists would not be very impressed with me. I wasn’t impressed with me. But if I thought about it, marriage and kids were still things the modern society was expecting women to aspire too. Or was this the postmodern society? Anyway, I was no better than the rest of my friends, most of who were coupled up. Melissa had even got married last year and I was her bridesmaid. Now she had a baby on the way. It all seemed a bit surreal to me. In my head, I was still a carefree teenager. My friends were carefree teenagers too. We were way too young to think of wedding dresses or dirty nappies.
“Speaking of which,” Emma broke the hug and went over to the cooker to turn down the heat. “Anybody in the picture at the moment?” I shook my head. “I split up from my boyfriend six months ago.” “The lawyer?” I nodded. Ronald (Please don’t call me Ron) and I had been together for three years and had lived together for one of them. It had been a very sensible and grown-up relationship with frequent dinners in posh restaurants with his lawyer friends, Sunday morning brunches in the French café around the corner from where we lived, uneventful sex and going on walking holidays together. I was the one who had ended it. Six months after Ronald had moved in with me, he had gone to a work retreat for a weekend when I had to work flat out because of something or rather. He had come back a changed man. No more caffeine, no refined sugar, no junk food. Not that I wasn’t healthy, but without my morning coffee, or a strong cup of black tea, I was just not nice to be around. And what’s wrong with a cheese burger when you have a hangover, or an ice-cream or piece of cake every so often? Had Ronald kept his new ways to himself, it would have been ok. No, scrap that. It would only have taken longer for us to break up. I didn’t like the walking holidays that much. He lectured me about how I needed to change. Ronald also started going to church. That in itself is fine. I’m such a rare thing as a Norwegian catholic, although I’m more of a lapsed one. Still, I love a catholic mass every so often. Ronald however, had gotten into that kind of crazy Pentecostal church who only give Christians a bad name and make them a laughing stock. And he started to preach another way of life to me. I remember the day I’d finally had enough. I’d come home to find that all Ronald’s things had been removed from our bedroom into the spare room. Ronald had come home half an hour later, and seeing my shocked expression, he’d said that “We’re living in sin Sandra. I want to do right by you. So I’m sleeping in the spare room till we marry and can be together as before, but sin free.” Then he had dropped down on one knee and proposed. My answer had been two words. “Get out.” It had practically been very easy since we’d lived in my flat and I was the owner. Though Ronald had taken the break-up hard. He’d been begging me for weeks to take him back. Now though, he’d given up. He was no longer in my life, except I occasionally did receive some mail for him.
“Not since crazy Ronald,” I laughed.
“Better to have nobody than to have someone like that,” Emma replied and opened the oven door. “Why don’t you go upstairs and have a quick shower? Dinner will be ready in ten minutes.”
We started the meal by toasting my mum Eline Martinsen and then we ate in silence. But it was more of a greedy silence than an awkward one. After too much jambalaya, and a dessert consisting of strawberries with lemon juice and pistachio cream, we took our wine out on the veranda. Smells of summer BBQs and the sound of families laughing together wafted towards us. I couldn’t see much though since the hedges gave quite a lot of privacy. We needed to let the food digest before we attacked the cake.
“I often think of how she died.” The words just tumbled out of me all of a sudden. “I sometimes think that if….” I couldn’t finish the sentence out loud. Emma bent forward and put a hand on my forearm. “Sandra, you know as well as I do, that Eline’s death was a tragic accident. It was that drunken man’s fault if we’re gonna start putting blame on anybody.”
The sane part of me knew Emma was probably right. But the irrational part of me, as well as His voice and the image of the text I’d received yesterday spoke louder.
“An accident,” Emma repeated. “Now, will you go inside and make some tea and bring out the cake?” That’s the great thing about Emma. When you’re digging yourself too deep into your mental crap, do something practical.
The cake was just as juicy and delicious as I remembered. And the green strawberry and mango tea complimented it well. “Emma, can you please tell me about my father?”
That too, wasn’t something I had planned to ask there and then, although I had been wondering about it since He had come into mums and my life when I was eleven.
“I don’t know that much really. Did Eline never tell you anything?” I shook my head. “I actually know very little about her life before London. And whenever I asked about my father, she turned away and refused to talk.”
“I was very young. Only a teenager. But Eline worked in a clothes shop in Grimstad which doesn’t exist anymore. She didn’t own the shop, but she was a manager. I think she liked her job a lot. It was more of a boutique shop. Not as posh as Belinda, but it was a good store with imported designer clothes from around Europe. The not so well known, but also not that expensive designers. She was married, but you probably knew that. His name was Frank Mikkelsen.”
“Hold on,” I interrupted. “Mum was married? How come I had no idea?”
Emma stared at me in surprise. “You really had no idea?” I shook my head. “Why has nobody mentioned that?” “I guess everybody thought you knew. And as for Eline, I don’t know. But it’s strange that she never told you. I’m so sorry Sandra, I never meant for you to get to know this way.” I wanted to ask how exactly I was supposed to know, but I held my tongue. It was unfair to Emma. Mum was the person I should have had words with, but she was dead. “I don’t suppose mum had another child too?” I said knowing I sounded more sarcastic than what was fair. “So she didn’t tell you?” Emma said quietly. “She had a boy before you called Sven, who died of a heart failure when he was one year old. Eline was already pregnant with you then. She took it hard, but pulled herself together for your sake. I think in some ways you saved her. Then, when you were one, Frank disappeared. Nobody knew what happened. He just disappeared completely off the face of the earth it seemed. It was too much for Eline. First her son, and then her husband. So she wanted to start a new. She didn’t want to go to Oslo. It was too close she said. People were talking about her. There were mean newspaper articles about her. How she, perhaps, had murdered her son and husband like Gerda had seemingly done with her to ex-husbands. And she was scared that some crazy people in town would make sure social services took you away from her. In Oslo, she could still be tracked down. So she went to London, changed back to her maiden name, Martinsen, and you know the rest.”
I nodded. Mum had run a successful boutique in London for clothes, but had chosen to go for Danish design rather than designers from all over Europe. “They are the only clothes that will fit me. These English designers and brands assume everyone has narrow shoulders,” she used to say.
“Frank Mikkelsen was, is, incidentally the son of Sven Mikkelsen,” Emma continued. “That’s Gerda’s first husband. But Frank was not Gerda’s son. He was the son of Sven’s mistress. The one he allegedly went to see on the day he drowned.”

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.

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.