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36

I don't know, said the chief inspector. It's just an opinion, but if these three were up to no good together, you'd think that at least some of the others ought to have known about it. So it's more likely that something of this sort would happen toward the end of the course. But then, that's only speculation, pure and simple.

Sounds reasonable, though, said M"unster.

Anyway rapes in 1965. How many have you found?

Two, said M"unster.

Two?

Yes. Two cases of rape reported, both of them in April. The first girl was attacked in a park, it seems. The other in an apartment in Pampas.

Van Veeteren nodded.

How many rapists?

One in the park. Two in the apartment. The pair in the apartment were sentenced, the one in the park got away with it. He was never found.

Van Veeteren leafed through his papers.

Do you know how many rapes have been reported so far this year?

M"unster shook his head.

Fifty-six. Can you explain to me how the hell the number of rapes could shoot up so drastically?

Not rapes, said M"unster. Reported rapes.

Precisely said the chief inspector. How do you rate the chances of tracking down a thirty-year-old unreported rape?

Poor, said M"unster. How do we know it's a matter of rape anyway?

The chief inspector sighed.

We don't know, he said. But we can't just sit here twiddling our thumbs. You can have another job instead. If it gets us somewhere I'll invite you to dinner at Kraus.

Mission Impossible, M"unster thought, and so did the chief inspector, it seemed, as he cleared his throat somewhat apologetically.

I want to know about all births registered by the mother with the father given as unknown. December '65 to March '66, or thereabouts. In Maardam and the surrounding district. The names of the mothers and the children.

Especially girls? M"unster asked.

Only girls.

That evening he went to the movies. Saw Tarkovsky's Nostalgia for the fourth, or possibly the fifth, time. With the same feelings of admiration and gratitude as usual. The masterpiece of masterpieces, he thought as he sat there in the half-empty cinema and allowed himself to be gobbled up by the pictures; and he suddenly thought of what the vicar had said at his confirmation service-a gentle preacher with a long white beard, and there were doubtless many in the congregation who considered him a very close relation of God the Father himself.

There is evil in this world, he had declared, but never and nowhere so much that there is no room left over for good deeds.

Not a particularly remarkable claim in itself, but it had stuck in Van Veeteren's mind and occasionally rose up to the surface.

Such as now. Good deeds? Van Veeteren thought as he walked home after the showing. How many people are there living the sort of lives which don't even have room for nostalgia?

Is that why she's murdering these men? Because she never had a chance?

And room for good deeds? Was that really always available? Who exactly decided on the proportions? And who started off the relentless hunt for a meaning in everything? In every deed and every happening?

Things occur, Van Veeteren thought. Things happen, and perhaps they have to happen. But they don't need to be good or evil.

And they don't need to mean anything.

And his gloom deepened.

I'm an old sod, an old, tired detective who's seen too much and doesn't want to see much more, he thought.

I don't want to see the end of this case that's been occupying me for the past six weeks now. I want to get off the train before we get to the terminus.

What were all those vile thoughts about flushing out and hunting that were so noble and meaningful at the start?

I don't want to get to the point where I'm staring at the bleak and grubby causes of all this, he thought. I know the background is just as ugly as the crimes. Or suspect that, at least, and would like to be spared everything.

A futile prayer, he knew that-but isn't futility the home ground of prayer? What else could it be?

He turned into Klagenburg and wondered briefly if he ought to call in at the caf'e. He failed to reach a conclusion, but his feet passed by the brightly lit doorway of their own accord, and he continued his walk home.

Things happen, he thought. I might just as well have gone in.

And as he lay in bed, there were two thoughts that overwhelmed him and kept him awake.

Something is going to happen in this case as well. Just happen. Soon.

I must think about whether I have the strength to last for much longer.

And then the image of Ulrike Fremdli-Karel Innings's wife-popped up in his mind's eye. Hovered there in the dark mist between dream and reality, between slumber and consciousness, and was gradually interleaved by and combined with Tarkovsky's ruined church and Gorchakov's wading through the water with a flaming torch.

Something's bound to happen.


| Woman with Birthmark | c



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