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45

While they were waiting for the expected call, two others came.

The first was from the duty officer in Maardam and concerned information from Inspector Heinemann about another possible link on the basis of bank-account information. It was by no means certain, but there was evidence to suggest that a certain Werner Biedersen had made an unmotivated transaction transferring money from his firm to a private account (with subsequent withdrawals) in the beginning of June, 1976; however, Heinemann had not yet been able to find a withdrawal corresponding to the amount in question.

Mind you-it was admitted-it could well be a question of a gambling debt or a few fur coats for his wife or some mistress, or God only knows what. In any case, the inspector would be in touch again within the next few days.

Good timing, said Reinhart for the second time that evening, but the chief inspector didn't even sigh.

Say something sensible, he said instead, after a few minutes of silence in the darkness.

Reinhart struck a match and went to considerable lengths to light his pipe before answering.

I think we're going to make a child, he said.

A child? said the chief inspector.

Yes.

Who?

Me, said Reinhart. And a woman I know.

How old are you? asked the chief inspector.

What the hell does that have to do with it? said Reinhart. But she'll soon be forty, so it's about time.

Yes, I suppose it is, said the chief inspector.

Another minute passed.

Well, I suppose I ought to congratulate you, said the chief inspector eventually. I didn't even know you had a woman.

Thank you, said Reinhart.

The other call was from Munckel, who reported the result of the preliminary medical examination. Werner Biedersen had been killed by a Berenger-75; three bullets in the chest, fired from a distance of about one meter. Two further bullets below the belt from about ten centimeters. Death had been more or less instantaneous, and had taken place at about ten minutes past nine.

Van Veeteren thanked the caller and hung up.

There was something about that scene, he said after a while.

Reinhart's chair creaked in the darkness.

I know, he said. I've been thinking about it.

The chief inspector sat in silence for some time, searching for words. The clock on the wall between the two rectangular windows seemed to make an effort, but didn't have the strength to strike. He looked at his watch.

Half past one. The ferry must have been moored in Arnholt for at least half an hour by now. They ought to hear from there any minute now.

That scene, he said again.

Reinhart lit his pipe for the twentieth time.

All the women in there International Women's Day, Van Veeteren went on. A man shot below the belt in the toilets by his daughter, dressed as a man a thirty-year-old rape International Women's Day

That's enough, interrupted Reinhart. Let's talk about something else.

All right, said Van Veeteren. Probably just as well. But it was stage-managed, that's obvious.

Reinhart inhaled deeply several times.

It always is, he said.

Eh? said the chief inspector. What do you mean?

I don't know, said Reinhart.

Van Veeteren suddenly seemed to be annoyed.

Of course you do, stop pretending! What the hell do you know, in fact? You and I are sitting here in this godforsaken ramshackle house out in the sticks, in the middle of the night, God only knows where, waiting for well, would you kindly tell me what exactly we are waiting for!

For dotting the i's and crossing the t's, said Reinhart.

The telephone rang and Van Veeteren answered. Reinhart listened in on earphones.

Yes?

Chief Inspector Van Veeteren?

Yes.

Schmidt. Harbor police in Arnholt. We've been through the ship now and

And?

and what you say seems to be right. There is a passenger missing.

Are you sure?

As sure as it's possible to be. Obviously she might have managed to hide away somewhere on board, but we don't think so. We've been pretty thorough. In any case, we'll continue searching when the ferry sets sail again: if she is on board, we'll find her before we get to the next port of call.

He paused, but the chief inspector didn't say anything.

Anyway it's a woman, said Schmidt. She had a first-class ticket, single cabin. She embarked, collected her key from Information, and evidently spent an hour in her cabin.

Do you have her name?

Yes, of course. The ticket and the cabin were booked in the name of Biedersen.

Biedersen?

Yes. But they never ask for ID proof when the passenger pays cash, which she did, so it could be a false name.

Van Veeteren sighed deeply.

Hello? Are you still there?

Yes.

Is there anything else, or can we allow them to set sail? They are over an hour late now.

Of course, said Van Veeteren. Cast off and get under way.

The call was terminated. Reinhart took off the earphones. Crossed his hands behind his head and leaned back, making the chair creak.

Van Veeteren put his hands on his knees and got to his feet with difficulty Walked back and forth over the creaking floorboards before pausing in front of one of the windows. Rubbed the pane with the sleeve of his jacket and peered out into the darkness. Dug his hands down into his trouser pockets.

What do you think she was called? asked Reinhart.

It's started raining again, said Van Veeteren.


| Woman with Birthmark | A NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR



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