Tag Archives: Ramshaug

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 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.