When I got home, Anders was just leaving.
He was showered, shaved, dressed for work. He looked normal, regular Anders I haven’t seen in over a month. For the briefest second, I felt like I had dreamed everything, and things were normal. He was going to go to work and I was going to go to SFI then we’d have dinner and I’d tell him about how I screwed up in Sweden today and he would laugh and promise it would get easier.
But this isn’t Dallas. I blinked and the haunted look snapped back into his eyes and he leaned over and kissed me on the forehead then rested his face against my hair a moment. He said he had cleared going back to work with his boss last week, and he had to try or else he would lose his mind.
“Until the police come and get me anyway.” So he has been waiting for that knock too. I took his face in my hands and told him not to even think about that. I said that it was different this time, there was a murder weapon and probably DNA around the apartment – I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘body’ – that would point to whoever really did this. He had nothing to worry about. He nodded and I think he almost believed me. I almost believed me too.
I expected it to feel weirder to be on the bus going to Daniel’s stuga again. The last time I was on that bus, I was nervous about spending the weekend with Anders’ friends, two of whom had hours or weeks to live. But in fact, it’s just a bus. I didn’t really feel anything other than relief that I recognized the stop without Anders there.
The lane leading from the main road to the stuga is ankle deep in autumn leaves, and in late afternoon the shadows were already gathering. It looks like a different world now, maybe that’s why I wasn’t affected strongly that it was the same place.
I stopped short next to Daniel’s stuga. I wasn’t going to go there, I just wanted to walk that way to get my bearings so as to find the farmer’s house, but I was surprised to see lights on. Painfully conscious of how much I was trespassing, my heart thudding, I crept a little closer. A man suddenly appeared at the window and I shrunk back in terror, but he wasn’t looking at me, he was staring out at the granite grey sea at the end of the yard. At the jetty where the police lay Hanna’s body.
Feeling safe under the canopy of a tree, I looked carefully at the man, and recognized him. Daniel’s father. Had to be. Daniel once told me that he owned the stuga with his siblings and his parents, so they must have gathered here to remember him. Taking in the grief etched on his face, I wondered if it was worse to lose a parent or a child. Either way, you’re never complete again. Even as the years go by and the raw agony becomes a dull, throbbing ache, that gaping hole is always there. I wanted to go and knock on the door, to promise them that it would be a dull, throbbing ache one day, but I didn’t move.
I suddenly realized that I was going to have to walk through the woods in almost darkness, so turned and stole in the direction of the farm. Using my phone as a flashlight, I managed to retrace my and Tove and Hanna’s steps and came out in the same clearing in front of the barn. I couldn’t see any lights on, and wondered if he could have gone to bed – don’t farmers go to bed insanely early? I started to feel stupid – and frightened. I started to panic about whether there was a bus back to Stockholm, what if they stopped in the early evening? Could I intrude on Daniel’s family – or would I stay out here by myself?
My eyes had adjusted to the darkness by now, and I started to make out the different shadowy shapes. There was a main house, and a barn, and another smaller building, some kind of workshop maybe? I could see a truck in front of the main house, and a trailer propped against the barn.
Then the most god awful banshee noise started up, and my insides convulsed with terror.
Cows. A herd of cows in a nearby field were complaining about something or other, and I had almost wet myself. I actually laughed out loud. What the hell did I think I was playing at?
Then a powerful flashlight almost blinded me and an angry voice barked at me in Swedish.