This isn’t what I signed up for.
I sat there in that coffee shop wondering what the hell I was doing there. I came here to start a new life, a better life, not wait outside police stations and consider explanations for DNA on a body and sit in coffee shops full of Swedish teenagers jabbering away, listening to a lawyer explain the case for murder against the guy who was my ticket out of a shit life. What’s that expression about out of the frying pan?
“You don’t remember.” I stated flatly to him when we got home. He hesitated a long time, then nodded.
Anders doesn’t drink the way Daniel does, because he suffers blackouts. Not vague impressions that come flooding back when someone reminds him, complete and total memory blanks from the fifth or sixth drink until the following morning. Throughout his teens and twenties, Daniel and their other friends used to compete to see what insane thing they could convince Anders he had done, and Anders would go around apologizing or offering to pay fines to people who had no idea what he was talking about. So, a couple of years ago, he stopped. He’s far from teetotal and still drinks pretty heavily by American standards, but he has a limit. Usually.
So what we’re dealing with is a suspect who has zero recollection of anything from some way through dinner until I woke up, and inconclusive DNA that suggests they touched each other not long before she died. Which in turn is explained by a story about a drunken pass she made and him shoving her off before storming out to no-alibi land – a story which he doesn’t believe. That’s why he shut me up when I started to tell Torsten about it, he wanted to hear it himself first, but when I repeated what Daniel and Tove told me, he shook his head firmly. “Hanna and I have been like brother and sister since many years.” He said. I was so frustrated and tired and at the end of my tether that I snapped, “for many years.” He looked surprised, then added that she does stupid things when she is drunk, but… he trailed off helplessly.
He was wearing his shoes when I woke up from my night terror. The police found a single set of footprints – his footprints – inside the stuga and concluded that he had rushed inside when he heard me screaming. As he talked, I remembered vaguely noticing how weird it was to see him with shoes on inside and felt cold at the realization that I had forgotten. We have all forgotten. Important things have slipped from all of our minds, because of being drunk, or sleepy, or just not paying attention because we had no idea how important it was. What else have we forgotten? Did one of us see something? Does one of us know?
This isn’t what I signed up for.
“You believe me?” His voice broke into my thoughts. “You trust me? You know that I am innocent.” I looked at him in surprise. Of course I do. That does without saying. I don’t doubt him for a millisecond. His eyes were wide and haunted and bewildered, and I had a sudden recollection of Tove telling me that the Swedish term for naive is “blåögd”, blue eyed.
For the first time, it hit me that someone did this. Someone killed Hanna. Someone who is going to get away with it because the police are focusing on Anders. Is that a lucky break for them, or did they plan it that way?
I told him he should rest, that I was going to go out and do some errands, pick up some groceries. He accepted my explanation without question, lay down on the bed and curled up like a little boy. I stroked his hair, watched him drift off to sleep, then kissed his forehead and slipped out.
I was going to Hanna’s memorial.