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44

She locked the door, and almost immediately the ferry set off. Through the oval, convex porthole she could watch the harbor lights glide past before disappearing. This was her final extravagance: a single cabin up on B-deck. It had cost her more or less everything she had left; but this was no mere whim. This too was a necessity and a logical requirement. She needed to be alone in order to make the final preparations, and there was no other way of ensuring that.

She checked her watch: seven minutes past ten. She sat down on the bed and felt the newly laundered sheet and the warm, red blanket with the shipping line's logo. She unscrewed the bottle and threw the cap into the waste bin, then drank directly from the bottle. Half a liter of cognac. Four star. An inferior sort would have served the same purpose, of course, but there had been just enough money. Four-star cognac. Single cabin with a wine-red blanket and wall-to-wall carpet. The final extravagance, as mentioned.

She had two hours to spare; that was in accordance with her timetable. Calculated from the moment she had seen the police car on the road outside the inn. No matter how efficiently they worked-and hitherto they hadn't exactly displayed much in the way of proficiency-it would be impossible for them to trace her here before midnight. First of all there was the crime scene, and the chaos at the inn; then they would have to find Jelena Wal-gens, conduct a confusing conversation with her, and then drive back to Wahrhejm-she was convinced that this chief inspector wouldn't delegate anything of this nature to his subordinates. Then the telephone call to the ferry… No, anything less than two hours was out of the question.

Half past eleven, to be on the safe side. Ninety minutes in her own cabin on B-deck, that would have to be enough. It felt remarkably satisfying to be able to plan her own demise at last, not only that of others. She tipped the contents of her bag onto the floor. It would be as well to prepare things right away, in case anything went wrong. She found the end of the steel chain, and pulled up her sweater in order to expose her torso. Took another swig of cognac. Lit a cigarette before starting to wind the pliable steel around her waist. Slowly and methodically, round and round, exactly as she'd done it when practicing.

Heavy, but easy to handle. She had chosen the chain carefully. Seven meters long and eighteen kilos. Steel links. Cold and heavy. When she had finished winding she tightened it a little bit more, then fixed it in place with the padlock. She stood up and checked the weight and her ability to move.

Yes, everything was in order.

Heavy enough to make her sink. But not too heavy. She needed to be able to walk. And clamber over the rail.

Another cigarette.

A drop more cognac.

A warm and conclusive wave of intoxication had started to flow through her body. She leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes. Listened to, or rather felt, the vibrations of the heavy engines that were transmitted through her skull like a distant and pointless attempt at communicating. Nothing else. The drink and the smoke, nothing more. And the vibrations.

One more hour, she thought. It will be all over in another hour.

Just one more hour.

The wind took hold of her and threatened to throw her backward. For a moment she was afraid that she might have miscalculated, but then she caught hold of the stair rail and recovered her balance. Stood up straight and closed the door.

The darkness was compact and the wind roared. She slowly worked her way into the wind, down the narrow, soaking-wet passageway along the length of the ship.

Farther and farther forward. The rail was no more than chest high, and there were crossbars to climb up on. More or less ideal, for whatever reason. All that remained was to choose the right place. She continued a bit farther. Came to a staircase with a chain across it; a sign swaying and clanking in the wind indicated that passengers were forbidden to venture up the stairs.

She looked around. No sign of a soul. The sky was dark and motionless, with occasional patches of light. The sea was black; no reflections. When she leaned out and looked down, she could barely make it out.

Darkness. Darkness everywhere.

The muffled vibrations of the ship's engines. Gusts of wind and salt spray. Waves whipped up by the rotating propellers.

All alone. Cold, despite the cognac.

No other passengers had been bold enough to venture out on deck at this time of night. Not in this weather. They were all inside. In the bars. In the wine-red restaurant. At the disco or in their warm cabins.

Inside.

She clambered up. Sat on the rail for a second before kicking off with all the strength she could muster and flinging herself outward.

She entered the water curled up in the fetal position, and the slight fear she had had of being sucked in by the propellers faded away as she was rapidly-much more rapidly than she had been able to imagine-dragged down into the depths.


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