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Why did you give Heinemann the job of sifting the background? wondered Reinhart. I mean, he needs a week in order to have a shit.

Could be, said Van Veeteren. But at least he's meticulous. Let's start without him. Somebody pour out the coffee. Miss Katz promised to serve us something tasty.

Sounds good, said Rooth.

Let's start with the scientific guff, said the chief inspector, distributing a set of photocopies. I don't think you'll find anything sensational there.

The seven detectives present each read through the brief reports from the pathologist and the forensic team (all apart from Van Veeteren, who had already digested them, and Rein-hart, who preferred to fill his pipe); and the consensus was that sure enough, they didn't contain anything new. Generally speaking, they merely confirmed what was already known-cause of death, time of death (now made more precise, assigned to the period between 2345 and 0115), the weapon (a 7.65-millimeter Berenger, ninety-nine percent certain to be the same gun used for the murder of Ryszard Malik). No fingerprints had been found, no trace of anything unusual; the piece of metal used to jam the lock was made of stainless steel, available all over the place and impossible to trace.

All right, said Van Veeteren. Let's record the crap, so that Heller can use it as a lullaby to send him into dreamland over the weekend.

He started the tape recorder.

Run-through of the case of Rickard Maasleitner, Friday, February second, three-fifteen p.m. Those present: Van Veeteren, M"unster, Rooth, Reinhart, Moreno, deBries, and Jung. Reinhart and deBries first.

Pass, said Reinhart.

We've got nowhere, deBries explained. We've interviewed over seventy people at number 26 and the building opposite. Nobody's seen or heard a squeak. The light over the front door of 26B had blown out, by the way, so it would have been hard to get an image of the murderer anyway.

Did he smash that as well? asked Moreno.

Probably not, but it's hard to say. It's been out of order for the past six days.

Nothing else? asked Van Veeteren.

No, said Reinhart. The transcripts of the interrogations are at your disposal if you want something guaranteed to send you to sleep over the weekend.

Good, said Van Veeteren. Well done.

Thank you, said deBries.

The rest of the meeting proceeded in more or less the same way. As far as the character and general reputation of the deceased was concerned, a number of reports came up with the same conclusion. Rickard Maasleitner was a shit. A bully and a self-centered know-it-all of the very worst sort, it seemed. Even so, it was difficult to see that anybody would have had sufficient cause to kill him. As far as was known he hadn't had any affairs-indeed, it was not at all clear if he'd had a single relationship with a woman since his divorce eight years earlier. He might possibly have resorted to prostitutes occasionally, but this was pure speculation that couldn't be confirmed or disproved. He had no debts. No commitments. No shady deals.

And nobody had been close to him.

His former wife had nothing positive to say about him, nor had anybody else. His children were naturally a bit shocked, but any sorrow they might have felt would no doubt be able to be assuaged successfully, according to both amateur and professional diagnoses.

Both of Rickard Maasleitner's parents were dead, and one could be forgiven for thinking that his last real ally had been buried three years ago, in the shape of his mother.

A right bastard! was Reinhart's summary of the victim's character. He sounds so awful, it would have been interesting to meet him.

Van Veeteren switched off the tape recorder.

A good finishing line, he explained.

Wouldn't it be possible to track down the weapon? Jung asked.

Van Veeteren shook his head.

DeBries, tell the assembled masses how one goes about getting hold of a gun. You've been looking into this.

By all means, said deBries. Pretty straightforward, in fact. You get in touch with somebody who gives the impression of being just outside the reach of the law-some seedy-looking type hanging around the Central Station or Grote Square, for instance. You say you need a gun. He tells you to wait, and a quarter of an hour later he comes back with an envelope. You slip him a hundred guilders for his services, then you go home and open the envelope. The instructions are inside. You have to send money-let's say a thousand guilders-to a general delivery address. M"uller, General Post Office, Maardam, for instance. You do as bidden, and a week or so later you receive a letter with a key inside it. It's for a safe-deposit box at the Central Station. You go there, open the box, and presto!-you find a little box containing a gun

Then all you need to do is get off your ass and start killing, said Van Veeteren.

A sound method, said Rooth again.

Devilishly clever, said Reinhart. But we have to assign Stauff or Peters'en to the job of looking into that. Just to be sure.

Van Veeteren nodded. Reached over the table and took a cigarette out of deBries's pack.

And what are the rest of us supposed to do, then? asked M"unster.

Jung, said the chief inspector, when he'd finally managed to light his cigarette. Could you go and search for Heinemann? It'll be a real mess if we can't nurse a single horse over the winning line.

Sure, said Jung, rising to his feet. Where is he?

Van Veeteren shrugged.

Somewhere in the building, I assume. In his office, if you're lucky.

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