SET ME AS A SEAL UPON YOUR HEART PART 9

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SET ME AS A SEAL UPON YOUR HEART PART 9

A Murder in the Park

Oskar and Eli are practicing available-light photography on the muted colors in the Old Cemetery Park. When two muggers spot children with expensive cameras on tripods, all they see is an easy score. Approaching from behind, they don't recognize the children until they turn to face the men.

The children smile.

Two days pass before a groundskeeper discovers the muggers' bodies hidden under dense snow-covered shrubbery.
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The Park Case: Day 1

Professor Grigore nods to this or that detective as he makes his way past desks to the chief's office. He smiles at the comfortable familiarity of the setting – the sounds of detectives typing or talking on the phone, the pervasive smell of carry-out food and coffee left too long on the burner.

When he enters the chief's office, he is surprised to see that someone he knows has preceded him. "How have you been, Per?" Professor Grigore asks.

"Fine. Constantin, isn't it?" Detective Inspector Per Morkus asks as he stands and shakes hands with him. Chief Inspector Forsberg comes from behind a large beat-up old desk that's half covered with stacks of case files. "Thanks for coming on short notice, Professor Grigore."

"I am honored. Glad you thought of me."

"Your name comes up often. So, how is it that you two know each other?"

"The good professor attended a seminar I presented here last summer. He asked a lot of hard questions."

"You made a good presentation on the need to gather all of the evidence before forming a theory," Professor Grigore says. "So it is inspector now."

"Yes, I stayed the course long enough to get kicked up another pay grade."

Chief Forsberg says, "Professor Grigore, we have asked you and Inspector Morkus to join us as part of an ongoing investigation. Two men were killed last week in the Cemetery Park in Old Town. The perpetrator used tremendous force, and as you will read in the case file, it appears that no weapon was involved. We have few clues. No motive, no suspects. I thought of Inspector Morkus because of his role in the investigation of the violent murder of two men in Vällingby last May."

Professor Grigore notices that Per winces almost imperceptibly at the mention of the case.

"The extreme violence – the victims' necks were broken – connects the cases. It's a slender thread for asking the inspector to fly down from Stockholm. However, Old Town is an important tourist destination, and a sensational crime like this is bad press. The mayor's office has asked me to give the investigation high priority."

"That being said, the department is hoping the two of you can give us a fresh perspective. The case file is in the next room."

The men follow Chief Forsberg to the room where they find a table, two chairs, and a thick folder. Still standing, Professor Grigore opens the folder.

As soon as he sees the photos, he suppresses an urge to draw in a sharp breath – the photos are of the two muggers who attacked Connor his first evening in Malmö. The men's heads are at an odd angle.

These two will not beat up and rob any more tourists, Professor Grigore thinks. This is undoubtedly the work of the children, so we can rule out Poe's orangutan.

"I infer from the tracks that it snowed the previous evening," Professor Grigore says.

"How so?" Chief Forsberg asks.

"The shoes all seem to be size eleven."

After a pause, the chief laughs. "Yes, these are the footprints of policemen. They even trampled over the footprints of the groundskeeper who found the bodies."

And the footprints of the little perps were already obscured by the snowfall, Professor Grigore thinks.

As the professor slowly flips through the folder, he and Inspector Morkus read that a K-9 unit followed a scent down Slottsgatan to a bus stop at the City Library, but no farther. The stop serves three bus lines – Nos. 1, 4, ands 141. Without a firm time of death, detectives had to question the drivers of every shift on all three lines. A driver on the No. 4 line remembered a few of his regulars, including two of his favorites – the children known as the spooky Limhamn shutterbugs – but none of the drivers remembered anyone who might seem capable of such violence.

Inspector Morkus wonders what the spooky part is about, and he thinks, I don't want to go down that path again! Yet the word spooky nags at him. He writes the driver's name in his notebook.

Observing the inspector's action and wishing to shift attention away from the bus stop, Professor Grigore asks, "What is the story on the victims?" He flips through a few pages of the case file. "Here it is. Hm. Looks as though they may have been up to no good. I see that they have been questioned about the robbery of tourists but were never charged."

"Yes," Chief Forsberg says. "And the suggestion of that M.O. led us to check out tourists who may have been in the park and the area around it. Detectives got descriptions from nearby hotels of tourists who were in town, but nothing out of the ordinary turned up."

"I suppose the detectives inquired about anyone checking out early?" Professor Grigore asks.

"Professor Grigore, you will want to hold that question for Detective Sergeant Lindström, the officer in charge of the investigation. He'll fill you in when he gets here."
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Sergeant Lindström arrives a few minutes later and introduces himself.

"Just to be clear," Inspector Morkus asks, "How did you conclude that there were no weapons involved?"

"There were no marks on the bodies – no wounds, no ligature burns, no bruises. And the autopsies confirmed our observations. The M.E. concluded that the men died instantly from the trauma to their spinal cords."

"Why instantly?" Professor Grigore asks, although he knows what the answer should be.

"The autopsy found no ruptured blood vessels in the throat, indicating that the men did not struggle for air. Additionally, there was no discoloration of their faces."

Professor Grigore smiles at Sergeant Lindström and nods.

"There's no time of death in the file. That has to be frustrating," Inspector Morkus suggests.

"Yes. That and the lack of evidence in general makes this case a bear. But we have a better idea of when the murders took place. A groundskeeper is certain that the bodies weren't there when he worked in that area of the park two days earlier, which gives us a 48-hour window."

"No tracks of a suspect?" Inspector Morkus asks.

"No, just the tracks of the groundskeeper and the first constable at the scene. It snowed after midnight the night before."

Inspector Morkus glances at Professor Grigore and smiles.

"Temperatures have been normal for this time of year; that is, near freezing during the day, well below freezing at night," Professor Grigore says.

"Right, these are the coldest few days of the year, and the cold is why the medicos won't go out on limb with a time of death. The bodies would have cooled quicker than the usual 1 or 2 degrees per hour, and the onset of rigor mortis would have been delayed until the bodies thawed out."

"I would like to focus on the role of the K-9 unit for a moment," Inspector Morkus says. "Will you describe what happened after the unit arrived?"

"Yes, I was on scene when the constable introduced his K-9 to the bodies. Contrary to our expectation – there was the snow, and the crime scene wasn't fresh – the dog immediately started pulling on its leash, almost dragging the constable toward the Slottsgatan entrance of the park. The dog continued down Slottsgatan until he led the out-of-breath handler to a bus stop on Regementsgatan, the stop in front of the City Library."

"As you pointed out, the crime scene wasn't fresh..." Inspector Morkus starts to say.

"Yes, not fresh," Sergeant Lindström says, "and Slottsgatan has a lot of foot traffic. Yet the dog's behavior made it clear – the trail led to the bus stop and no farther."

"How do you know it was not the victims' scent the K-9 unit was tracking?" Professor Grigore ventures.

"In the follow-up investigation, no bus driver recognized the photos of the victims. I would tentatively conclude that we are looking not only for a very powerful person, but a person with a strong or peculiar odor."

Strong or peculiar odor gets Professor Grigore's attention, and he shifts the discussion away from the bus stop again. "How long did it take your team to ID the victims?"

"The victims weren't robbed, so they still had their IDs on them. We recognized them as suspected muggers, especially of tourists, so I assigned a pair of detectives to canvas the hotels near the park. Nothing has turned up."

"Did the team determine if anyone checked out abruptly?" Professor Grigore asks.

"Especially that, and we posted a request at each front desk for guests to come forward if they had seen anything. We also requested copies of photos taken in the park during the three days prior."

"Very thorough," Professor Grigore observes.

"Thank you. Well, gentlemen, do we have anything?"

Inspector Morkus looks expectantly at Professor Grigore. The professor demurs with a slight hand movement, so the inspector answers, "You may find that the lack of evidence is a major clue."

"In that...?" Sergeant Lindström asks.

"The men were evidently surprised by the attack. There's no sign that they fought back, right? That could suggest that they knew the attacker but did not feel threatened."

"Good point," Professor Grigore says. "You may want your detectives to canvas the victims' neighborhood for a man who appears to have the strength required to kill in this manner."

"And," Inspector Morkus says, "it's a peculiar way to kill someone. That would lead me to think of a martial arts expert."

Professor Grigore adds, "Since the men weren't robbed, there is no obvious motive, which could mean an act of self-defense by an intended victim. Or it could support the idea that the men knew their attacker, indicating a personal motive. Payback. A debt. Rivalry over turf. Something along those lines."

"Thank you, gentlemen. This gives me a reason to refocus my team on the victims' neighborhood. Shopkeepers generally have an idea of who the local bad guys are. I'll need to get this organized so I can take out a team tomorrow. We'll meet here at 9:00 a.m. You will accompany us, won't you?" he asks, which, coming from the officer in charge of the investigation, is more of a directive than a request.
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Constantin and Per both know what their own next move will be. As soon as Constantin drops him at his hotel, Per goes straight to his room, rings a colleague in Stockholm, and makes a curious request.
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Constantin drives to a public phone and dials a Copenhagen number.
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After Constantin concludes the phone call, he drives to Sassa's studio in Malmö's fashionable Old Town, parks on the street, and flips down the visor to show the "Official Police Business" sign in case a meter maid comes by.

"Hi, Freja," he says to Sassa's operations manager.

"Hi, Constantin. She's in her office."

Freja stands up and walks ahead of him.

"Sassa, lover boy's here," she announces in a loud voice, knowing it will make them blush – Sassa from girlish pleasure, Constantin because a lifetime of celibate bachelorhood makes it hard for him to think of himself as a lover, not to mention that their 15-year age difference pretty much rules out boy.

But Constantin also knows that Freja's ribbing has a subtext, like when are he and Sassa going to kick the relationship up to another level?

Sassa jumps up from her desk and gives Constantin a big smooch. She doesn't wonder as to whether there is a subtext – Freja and some of the seamstresses are pretty vocal about wanting to know when she and Constantin are going to talk about marriage and children.

Sassa is completely relaxed about it. She already knows they will marry and have children. After all, Constantin is older than she is and comes from a conservative Eastern European culture.

On top of that, she thinks, you only have to see how much Oskar and Eli love him to know what a good father he will be.

Sassa also gets what the holdup is – Constantin's shyness, which is a big part of what won her heart the night she met him at the theater. I guess I'll ask the dear man soon if he wants to talk about it, she thinks. Not knowing how I feel must surely make him uncomfortable. She smiles in anticipation of the talk.

After Constantin's heart stops racing from the big smooch he got, he says, "The department asked me to help out with a case. Maybe for a few days."

Sassa anticipated that because Constantin was on the way to police headquarters when he dropped her at the studio. She knows he won't discuss the case, and she knows it means his hours could be irregular.

"Don't worry, you dear man. I'll take a taxi home or get a ride with one of the girls."

"Good. Thanks. Señor Ávila asked me to drop by the house. Do you and the kids have a play date this week?"

"Not yet. Why?"

"He said the children want to spend some time in Copenhagen."

"He's taking them?"

"One of us will. He said he wants to talk to me about a place where they can stay, and he knows I have contacts there."

"Quite the little adventurers!"

"I would say so, my love. I imagine they will come back with an interesting portfolio. They learn fast and have a good eye, but they are still working on their transition to color photography."

"Say hi to Fernando for me," she says and gives Constantin a big hug.
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Detective Inspector Morkus' curious request was for the photo of Oskar Eriksson that ran on TV and in the newspapers two years ago.
The photo will arrive on an evening flight and be waiting for him at the front desk when he gets up in the morning.

Meanwhile, the inspector makes phone calls to Malmö's bus service until he finds someone who will supply him with the route information and schedule of the driver on the No. 4 bus, the one who mentioned the spooky young photographers. He puts that out of his mind for now and takes the elevator down to the hotel dining room.
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Constantin drives from the studio to Järavallsgatan where he parks his Volvo in the garage next to Mr. Ávila's old Fiat. He lets himself in, and Mr. Ávila takes his heavy coat and hangs it on one of the hooks in the big front room.

"Let me get you a cup of coffee. If this is what the first of February is like in southern Sweden, who needs the North Pole?"

Professor Grigore takes his usual seat at the dining room table while Mr. Ávila goes into the kitchen and returns with two cups. "This will warm you up. Is there something going on? You seem preoccupied."

"Yes. The department asked me to help them with a case today, and it involves the children."

"You have my attention," Mr. Ávila says, his voice even as usual.

"Someone killed two men last week in the Old Cemetery Park. They were the same men who attacked Connor."

"Oh?"

"Yes, and the way they were killed leaves little doubt as to the identity of the perpetrators. Fortunately, the men were not drained of blood, and the children did not leave any clues. They broke the men's necks cleanly and hid the bodies under some shrubbery."

"Okay, the kids will be up soon. They can fill us in."

"You will also need to fill me in on what happened to two men in Vällingby last May. It seems the Malmö chief asked a detective on that case to fly down and join the investigation. The amount of violence in both cases is the link."

"Hm. Were there any other links?"

"No, but as we have discussed, police investigations can be thorough."

"And as Louis Pasteur observed," Mr. Ávila adds, "fortune favors the prepared mind.”

“Yes. A K-9 unit followed a trail from the park to a bus stop in front of the City Library. Detectives interviewed drivers on those routes, and a driver on the No. 4 line offhandedly mentioned the spooky Limhamn shutterbugs."

"Which nicely illustrates police work and luck. But how does that implicate the children?"

"It should not, but the investigator made a note of the driver's name."

"I guess I get that. The case must still be open. Eli went shopping for clothes that night. A sales clerk gave her description to the police."

"Okay, for that reason and for anything else that may come up, I want to take the children to Copenhagen on the fast ferry."

"Where will they stay?"

"You will remember that I excused myself to take care of some business when we all went over to the Tivoli Gardens before Christmas.”

“Sure. I know you sometimes pursue leads or whatever in Copenhagen.”

“Right. And you will recall a conversation we had last summer. In anticipation of the children coming to the attention of Child Protection Services, we identified two quick hideouts we could use to stick them out of sight. My apartment was one place inasmuch as it has a darkroom."

"Yes, I remember the conversation. I said that I was out of my depth about police matters."

"Then you will also recall that I mentioned a couple in Copenhagen's Freetown. They are small-time criminals – marijuana dealers and minor movers of stolen goods – bicycles, scooters, and so on. Since I was working on a more serious case, I agreed to keep their names out of my report in exchange for information. They have since become my informants, a mutually beneficial arrangement."

Mr. Ávila smiles and nods.

"That is where I went when I left the group in Copenhagen before rejoining you at the Tivoli Amusement Park. I took the opportunity to give the couple money to lightproof one of their back rooms."

"That was timely. How long do you think the children will need to stay with them?"

"Until the inspector goes back to Stockholm. That could be anywhere from a few days to a week. Probably sooner rather than later. The case will not progress. The police are looking in the wrong direction."

"I suppose you had a hand in that."

Professor Grigore chuckles. "You and I both showed a knack for misdirection the night we brought Connor here after the children broke up the mugging attempt."

"That's the kids showering now. I'd like to learn more about the Vällingby thing, too. I didn't question them much. When it hit the papers, we had to busy ourselves getting out of town quickly."

"Yes, I remember you said it was a close-run thing."

"It was. A description of Eli was in the news, and the police made a good guess as to Oskar's height and build. But look, what about Sassa? She's sure to ring them to arrange a play date."

"I just left Creations. I told her you are allowing them to do a photo essay in Copenhagen and that they would stay with some people I know. After I get the children settled in Freetown, I will not phone or come here to the house until I am certain that the inspector has gone back to Stockholm. His interest in the bus driver suggests that the Vällingby case is more than casual. Perhaps even an obsession."
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When the children bring their freshly scrubbed faces to the dining room, Eli runs to Professor Grigore, jumps onto his lap, and throws her arms around his neck.

Oskar hangs back and asks, "Does this mean we're going to have classes tonight?"

"No, I am here for another reason. Please do not be alarmed, but the police found the bodies of two men in the Old Cemetery Park. We need to talk about it."
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A half-hour later, Professor Grigore is satisfied that he has the whole story about both cases, the Vällingby teens as well as two men in the park.

He tells the kids, "Good that you left no clues. And you did not drain them of blood because..."

Oskar answers, "Yeah, that was tough. Our second chance at those two. But we weren't hunting. We were shooting film. It was way too early to hunt. There were still lots of people in the park..."

"...and we didn't even have a place ready where we could hide the bodies," Eli says in their usual way of completing each other's thoughts. "If we hunted that way, we would leave bodies all over the place."

"Yeah, like Vällingby," Oskar says.

Eli sticks her tongue out at him and says, "Mmp!"

"Okay," Mr. Ávila says. "Here comes the awkward part. This is too close to home for us to wait for something to happen. Professor Grigore will take you to Copenhagen where you will stay for a few days with a couple he knows. They have already fixed up a room that is safe from sunlight."

"Why?" Oskar asks.

"In case you were playing on the Denmark side of the Sund and missed the midnight ferry," Professor Grigore says.

"What about Sassa?" Eli asks. "Won't she wonder why we can't hang out with her?"

"Yeah," Oskar says, "and what are we supposed to do while we're stuck in Copenhagen?"

"You'll take your cameras, Oskar. And Miss Eli, Professor Grigore told Sassa that you and Oskar asked to spend time in Copenhagen for a photo shoot."

"Yes, and I told her you'll be staying with some people I know. Señor Ávila," he continues, "it would be better if we leave it at that. I start a case and the kids leave the same day? That may be too much of a coincidence for her quick mind, but we will have to somehow deal with it."

"Okay, kids," Mr. Ávila says, "you'll need your backpacks, and get your camera stuff ready. You may want to bring something to read. Should you pack your heavy blankets in case the room has light leaks?"

The children move quickly and efficiently. They are old hands at getting out of a town on short notice.
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On the way to the ferry terminal, Professor Grigore says, "Here are the guidelines I laid out for your hosts. They are the same for you. First, no Q&A."

"What's Q&A?" Eli asks.

"Questions and answers," Oskar says. "What else?"

"They know they are not to mention your appearance nor to ask about it. I told them you will not eat with them and that if you go out it will be at night to take pictures in Copenhagen. They understand that you will need access to your room when you come back late."

"Sounds good," Oskar says.

"Once in your room with the door closed, they are not to disturb you."

"Okay, that's all easy," Oskar says. "Who are these friends of yours?"

"Did I mention no questions?"

"What are we supposed to call them?" Eli asks.

"Their names are Bertie and Axel."

"Are they nice?"

"Yes, Eli, they are a very nice couple."

"Yeah but," Oskar asks, "what did you tell them about us?"

"I told them that you are runaways and that you are under my protection."

"Sort of true," Eli says.

"I can see it, Eli. We ran away from Blackeberg."

"Oh yeah. Twice, really."
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Professor Grigore and the children disembark from the ferry in Copenhagen, and a short taxi ride gets them to Freetown. The professor tells the cabbie to wait or cruise near the entrance of the quaint enclave. The kids' faces brighten when they enter because, in spite of the cold, there are noisy crowds of strolling and partying young people. Street musicians add to the din, and smoke with a distinctive odor wafts through the air.

Professor Grigore leads them through the crowds and down a narrow street. They walk past murals depicting fantasy worlds of fairies, elves, and strange, beautiful birds. As the crowds thin out and the hubbub diminishes, the street becomes a series of winding paths that lead past imaginatively constructed houses. The sound of sitar music, faint at first, grows louder as they walk, and it seems to be coming from a charmingly decorated house they stop in front of. Bertie and Axel come out at once to greet them in their scraggly, snow-covered front garden.

Gyah, Eli thinks. The front door is a painting of Alice looking at a caterpillar that's seated on a large mushroom and smoking a hookah.

Their hosts guide them through a cloud of incense to the blacked-out room. After they check it out, Professor Grigore repeats his guidelines.

Bertie and Axel are comfortable with the underworld drill – What you don't know you can't tell.
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On his walk back to the entrance of Freetown, Constantin feels he can relax a little. Whatever Inspector Morkus does as part of any side investigation, he will not cross paths with the children while they are running around Malmö.

At the ferry terminal, he pays the taxi driver, gives him a modest tip, and waits to board the next hydrofoil to Malmö, where his beloved is waiting for him.
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Sassa is happy when Constantin comes home before bedtime. And relieved. She's somewhat in awe of what she imagines to be this adventurous and possibly dangerous part of his life, and she romanticizes it a bit. She even finds the secretive nature of his police work to be alluring.

She spins an entire fantasy based on the smell of sandalwood incense that she notices when she hangs up the dear man's coat.
§

After Professor Grigore leaves them, the children lose no time in making friends with Bertie and Axel. The four of them settle onto cushions around an ornate glass bong. Brass incense burners send up generous amounts of sandalwood smoke, and a large poster of a blue-skinned Krishna playing a flute hangs on one wall.

"How long have you known the professor?" Bertie asks. She's as plump and high-spirited as Axel is thin and somber.

Eli opens her mouth to speak, but Oskar nudges her with his elbow. Eli shifts a little on her cushion on the floor to be out of reach of any more nudges. "Um, well, I'd rather not say how long." She makes a face at Oskar – Yeah, yeah, no Q&A.

Bertie laughs. "Me and Axel, we've only known the professor for a couple or three years. Seems like longer, don't it Axel?"

Axel grunts.

"We don't really know Danish," Oskar says. "It's good you guys know Swedish."

"A funny kind of Swedish," Axel says.

"Yeah, me and Axel was born in Germany, but our folks moved to Helsinki. It's where we met. You had to learn Finish and Swedish at our high school."

Impressed by the gear the children brought, Bertie says, "All that camera stuff. Did you get it for Christmas?"

"No, Bertie, it's what we..." Oskar starts to say but then clamps his mouth shut.

Following a moment of awkward silence, Eli asks, "Could we go out now? Everything here seems so interesting!"

Axel clears his throat and says, "Um, Freetown's big, and there's some places you can't take cameras."

"Yeah, Axel, go ahead and tell them."

"Yeah. Okay. A biker gang has been taking over the cannabis trade in Copenhagen, and they've pushed into Freetown. A lot of them deal heroin, too."

"What's cannabis trade?" Eli asks.

Oskar turns to her. "Eli, cannabis is something you smoke that – I don't know – makes you feel crazy or something."

"Oh. We don't smoke."

"Figured," Axel says. "Our main street has stalls that sell stuff like that. See, you can't have a camera on that street."

"Axel, all they gotta do is stay out of the places with the big no-cameras signs, right?"

"I know, Bertie, but shouldn't we go around with them?"

"That would be fun," Bertie says. "We can show you lots of groovy stuff!"

Oskar and Eli jump up from their cushions and run to the back room for their camera bags and tripods.

"What about your coats?" Bertie asks.

"Oh yeah, duh," Eli says, and they run back to get them.
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The kids photograph an all-glass house where a party is in progress, but they decline their hosts' offer to go in and meet the owners. They shudder at the thought of a house where, come sunup, every room would be completely exposed to daylight.

They photograph a house built to look as though it were completed in stages as it slid down a hill. Oskar says, "It looks like it's melting!" They photograph a house seemingly built on top of another house, and, especially appealing, one that, as it rises higher, turns into a tree house. Bertie tells them that the residents of Freetown call the unique houses "architecture without architects."

The couple soon leads the kids to a house next to a landing on the broad waterway that runs through Freetown.

A waning gibbous moon has just risen, creating a dramatic contrast with the water reeds and cattails.

Those images and some shots of the house and the mist rising off the water will prove to be their best slides from this first night. And Bertie and Axel get to see the kids in action – burning shot after shot and smoothly changing lenses.

Their hosts introduce the kids to the couple who live there. The grownups all smoke ganja from a bong they pass around. Oskar soon gets giggly just from breathing the smoke in the air, but the smoke has the opposite effect on Eli. It heightens her senses and alarms her that they are becoming careless. She soon tells Bertie and Axel that they are ready to go back to their room.
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When their hosts are asleep, the kids change into black sweats and go out again. They have the long Scandinavian night to move undetected through moonlit, sleeping Freetown. However, a lot of the graffiti – peace signs, revolutionary slogans – and even the large murals, such as the one of a vampire and scenes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, don't lend themselves to low-light photography.

"Oskar, Professor Grigore might not be happy. Except for the shots of the water, a lot of our portfolio is going to suck."

"Yeah. Let's try Copenhagen tomorrow night."
§

A little before 9:00 a.m., Per and Constantin meet with Sergeant Lindström and his team of detectives. They assemble at a yellowing, fly-specked map on the wall of the police station to decide how to best to divide up the two-man teams that will gather information in the victims' neighborhood in one of the rougher parts of Malmö.

Sergeant Lindström assigns Constantin and Per to different teams, and when they all get back in the afternoon, the teams compare notes. There is very little information because the shopkeepers were reluctant to open up, some seemingly out of fear, some out of sullen defiance.

Sergeant Lindström is not happy with the lack of results, but he gets it. While his detectives are all together, he contacts the ranking officer of the constables who regularly patrol the neighborhood. When the teams go out tomorrow, it will be to link up with constables who are known to the residents. With luck, the local merchants will be more willing to talk, and the constables may have valuable information, too.

After Sergeant Lindström makes his report to Chief Forsberg, Constantin drops Per at his hotel and drives to Creations. He and Sassa walk to the nearby coffee shop, the one where they met for their first and only date. Savvy Sassa doesn't ask any questions about the case. She's glad that Constantin is done for the day.
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But the second part of Inspector Morkus' day is just starting. After Constantin drops him at his hotel, the bellhop calls a taxi that takes the detective to a bus stop where he expects to connect with the driver who mentioned the spooky children. When the bus comes, Per waits to be the last to board. He shows the driver his police ID and asks if he would mind answering a few questions.

"Not while the bus is moving. All passengers have to be seated before I can pull out. It's the law," he says, emphasizing the word law, and he thinks, You don't have to speak so slow, like you're talking to an idiot. I understand your fancy Stockholm lingo.

"Okay, look at this photo before you start. Do you know this boy?"

Sometimes a cop gets lucky. Not this time. The driver feels protective of his regular riders, and for reasons of his own, he does not have a warm and fuzzy feeling for the police. Besides, he likes kids better than cops, especially the two kids who always speak politely to him when they get on and off his bus.

"No. Never seen him before."

"You mentioned a pair of young photographers to a detective last week. Isn't the boy in this photo one of them?"

"No."

"Okay, then, where do they usually get off?"

"You have to sit down now. It's a ways from here. When we get to their stop, I'll let you know."

From where Per is sitting, he can't see the smirk on the driver's face.
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A half-hour later, the driver stops at Linnégatan, the street that runs by Limhamns torg.

"They get off here and transfer to the 34. One will come along in a few minutes." As the bus pulls off, the driver thinks – Arrogant bastards act like they're better than us working-class folk.
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When the No. 34 bus arrives, Per shows Oskar's photo to the driver and the result is the same. No surprise there. The kids have never gotten off at this stop and have never ridden the 34.

The false information from driver of the No. 4 bus has cost Per a day, and he's starting to get an attitude about Malmö. In Stockholm, he doesn't encounter the class attitudes he finds in this manufacturing city, which is based mainly on Malmö's declining shipbuilding industry.

But then, he thinks, I don't often encounter workers wearing the red and yellow lapel button with the hammer and sickle of the CP Sweden political party.

And Per begins to question his own actions. "Is this police work, or am I just obsessed with the Vällingby case?"

After a moment he thinks, Constantin seems to have his head on straight. Maybe I'll get a better perspective if I share my thoughts about the Vällingby case with him. I sure can't talk to anyone in the department about vampires, but as a consultant, maybe he'll agree to just listen and keep what I say to himself. He may think I'm loony – Hell, I think I may be loony – but I need to talk to someone off the record. Anyway, he may tell me the evidence doesn't support my theory. He may even offer a theory that I haven't considered.

Per's mouth twists into a mirthless half-smile. I'm imagining an outcome of a conversation that may never take place.
§

Bertie, Axel, and the kids bond and pretty much ignore most of Professor Grigore's guidelines. On this, their second night, they leave the cameras and equipment in their room and just enjoy making friends with a number of the cool Freetown residents. Or as Bertie calls them, their groovy friends.

Eli learns a new word and will drive Oskar crazy with it until groovy loses its novelty for her.

The kids wonder about the laid back attitudes they encounter. The slogans and peace signs painted on walls and the relaxed and friendly people they meet are testaments to an era of peace, love, and good vibes that is alive and well is this little corner of Scandinavia.

And of course residents and visitors alike notice the children as they walk hand in hand, and some smile at the pure simple love of two children for each other. Some may even remember their own first kiss or holding sweaty little hands before cynicism, jealousy, and sex got involved.
.

After Bertie and Axel go to bed, the kids change into their black sweats and leave Freetown to move silently and almost invisibly through the relatively near parts of Copenhagen. The farthest extent of their ramble takes them to the Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park, now closed and dark. Here they take some of their most dramatic shots. Professor Grigore and Mr. Ávila will be pleased at the spectral, snowy scenes of the empty rides, so bright and busy during their trip before Christmas, now studies of desolation and loneliness – at least as framed through the lenses of two young photographers whose artistic sensibilities are accelerating beyond their apparent years.
§

Sergeant Lindström's ideas begin to pay off on the second day of working in the victims' rundown neighborhood. The constables who patrol the neighborhood identify bad guys who may be vulnerable to police pressure or who don't mind talking if a few kronor end up in their pocket.

When the teams report back in the afternoon, Sergeant Lindström is encouraged by the results. He arranges for backup and instructs his detectives to begin bringing people in for questioning when the teams go out tomorrow.
.

It's still relatively early when Constantin drops Per at his hotel. From there, Per telephones the bus service again. This time he gets schedules for the lines that serve communities of south and southwest Malmö, including Limhamn.

Skipping dinner, he rides buses and transfers from line to line, questioning drivers and showing the photo of Oskar Eriksson, but with no success. Oskar's wavy dark-brown hair is nothing like the straight, blond page-boy style in the photo, but at last he finds a driver who knows that a couple of young photographers sometimes get on or off her bus at the Sibbarpsvägen stop.

It's still early evening, so Per walks the neighborhood streets near the stop. Although the young photographers are nowhere to be seen, in less than an hour he has what he wants – the names of real estate agents that he takes from placards at some of the rental houses and multi-family units.

If this were Stockholm, he thinks, I could put a couple of my detectives on this and have reports by evening from every real estate agent in the country. No way I would, of course. It would draw attention to a case that is probably better left alone. If I'm going to proceed, it will have to be on my own.
§

It's after 8:00 by the time Per gets to his hotel, and all of the offices he telephones are closed. He leaves recorded messages identifying himself and requesting that the agents leave messages at his hotel of the names and addresses of anyone from out of town who rented a property in Limhamn during May of last year.

He smiles as he gets a familiar feeling – the feeling of a seasoned hunter who's closing in on his quarry.
§

On the afternoon of the third day of working in the victims' neighborhood, Detective Sergeant Lindström, Constantin, and Per meet in Chief Inspector Forsberg's office.

"Chief, we are holding two men for questioning. There is bad blood between them and one of the victims."

"Are they suspects?"

"No sir, not if their alibis hold up, but we hope what they tell us will point to a suspect." He glances at Constantin and Per as he continues. "Professor Grigore and Inspector Morkus have helped us a great deal, but the investigation has entered a somewhat drawn-out stage."

"In that..."

"We're counting on bringing in more neighborhood bad guys for questioning. A picture of several loose associations of burglars and muggers is emerging. It only remains for us to find a suspect and a motive."

"Very well." Chief Forsberg turns to Constantin and Per. "Do either of you feel you need to remain on the case?"

"No," Per says, "I think it just comes down now to routine police work."

Constantin agrees, they shake hands all around, and Constantin offers to drive Per to his hotel.
.

Constantin notes that Per is unusually quiet. As they approach the hotel, Per asks, "Constantin, do you think you could park and come in? I've got something on my mind I want to run by you."

"Sure, Per. About the case?"

"A different case."
.

It's early and the hotel bar hasn't started to fill up yet. Per leads them to a table far enough from the few patrons to make it unlikely that anyone will overhear their conversation. A cocktail waitress stops chatting with the bartender and walks toward their table, but Per waves her off.

"Constantin, the reason I created the seminar you attended is because of what I learned from a boneheaded mistake I made last May. I jumped to conclusions. No one in the department paid much attention to my mistake, and after my theory led to a dead end, I sent my team of detectives out to collect more evidence. Since you are a consultant, I thought perhaps you would agree to listen – and to keep what I say to yourself."

"Of course, Per. My only contact with the department is the occasional case they ask me to look into."

"Okay, there's more. Once I corrected my mistake and the evidence was in..." Per leans closer to Constantin and lowers his voice slightly. "...it pointed to – this is a part of the case I really need help with – it pointed to a conclusion that I dared not put on record. I felt it would mean the end of my career."

"Per, your career is your business. But unless you are going to tell me about a serious or ongoing crime that you are covering up, there is no reason for me to ever repeat what you tell me."

"Okay. Good. Fair enough."
.

After Inspector Morkus lays it out, Constantin says, "A very orderly and lucid presentation. You want to know if the young girl in Vällingby somehow connects the events you have described."

"Pretty much," Per says.

"Okay, you have identified three areas of focus – the Blackeberg swimming pool, the apartment at Ibsengatan, and the alley in Vällingby."

Per nods.

"The latter two are connected through the type of injuries and the exsanguination of two of the three victims. But it sounds as though the young girl is only in the picture at the Vällingby incident."

"Possibly, but the Ibsengatan apartment had been recently occupied by a man and, reportedly, a young girl."

"Okay, there's a young girl, but why did the man not figure in as the suspect?"

"Because he died in hospital a few days before the victim in the apartment. He opened his hospital window and jumped or fell several stories to his death. The girl was never found, but someone cleaned out the apartment. Hastily."

"Of course you realize what a chilling tale you're spinning. There are details here that I never saw in the Day's News or in the police bulletins that the department is kind enough to send me. But, okay, possibly a girl at both scenes. How do you connect her to the carnage at the pool?"

"The eyewitness was a minor, so not much of his story was allowed into the news, but he said an angel flew through the air and saved the boy who went missing."

"So the boy never turned up?"

"Yes and no. For a day the department feared he was dead. But after we posted his photo on TV, a railway conductor came forward and reported he saw the boy get off a train in Karlstad – with a young girl. There have been no reported sightings since."

"Okay, but the pool still seems to be the weakest connection to the girl in Vällingby. You say the angel at the pool flew? Flew through the air?"

Constantin raises one eyebrow.

"That's what the boy at the pool reported."

"Were the victims drained of blood?"

"Well, no. They were dismembered."

"Cut to the chase. What is the theory that you did not officially present?"

Per's face colors. "That the so-called angel at the pool, the killer at Ibsengatan, and the young girl in the alley were all the same...uh...person. Thing."

Constantin thinks – My God he's good. He put it all together. He studies the inspector's face while he formulates a response. At last he says, "Per, the connection to the pool is weak. Whoever or whatever killed the boys in Blackeberg, it does not sound like a young girl with shopping bags. And I do not see a connection between the pool and the Ibsengatan death."

"This is why I felt the need to run it by somebody. It's all pretty circumstantial, isn't it?"

"Yes, Per, but that does not mean it is not real. The facts are certainly real. And the partial footprint of a child's sneaker in the fresh blood is a troubling detail. Still, I have to say that if your theory were a skirt, it would leave a lot of bare bottom showing.”

Per laughs at that image. "You don't think the Vällingby case has pushed me over the edge, do you? I mean, an angel, possibly a vampire..."

"Emphatically not. I think you are compos mentis, just a good cop confronted with a deep and troubling case. And I cannot suggest an alternative to your vampire theory."

"Do you blame me for not putting the theory in the case file?"

"No. Under the circumstances, neither would I. Not just because it would be embarrassing, but also because it would not have moved the case forward."

And he thinks – Those are among the reasons I did not share my theory when I was on the trail of a different vampire in Lund.

Constantin pushes his chair back to signal the end of their talk. They stand, shake hands, and part. Per walks toward the bank of elevators with a lighter step, relieved that the highly regarded forensics expert didn't laugh at him and certain that the story will go no further.
.

And it won't. Constantin doesn't talk about police business. Didn't in Bucharest, doesn't in Malmö.
.

Per freshens up in his room and goes down to the front desk for his messages. There are a bunch. Among them, the name Fernando Ávila stands out because the dates fit and because he moved from Vällingby.

After what Constantin said, I may be pursuing nothing more than a jumped-up missing-persons case. What if I were to find the Eriksson kid? Then what? The only way I could justify continuing to work on the case would be if I were to produce a vampire, not just a runaway.

Per makes a decision. I'm not going to bother any of these folks.

He files the messages in his travel case and gets ready to go out. At last he can use some of his travel per diem for a nicer dinner than the hotel restaurant offers.
.

The next morning, happy to be on the plane back to Stockholm, Per thinks of one question he wishes he had asked – How did Constantin know about the shopping bags?
§

Although Professor Grigore's consulting work on the park murder case is over, he doesn't know Inspector Morkus' plans. Will he continue to pursue the "spooky Limhamn shutterbugs?" Until the inspector leaves Malmö, the children have to stay with Bertie and Axel in Freetown.

After the talk with Per at the hotel, Constantin drives to Old Town, parks, and walks to Sassa's studio. When he enters her office, she jumps to her feet and greets him with the usual hugs and kisses. "You're off work already?" she asks.

"Yes, my love, and my part of the case is over. Shall we talk about something that is more important?"

"Okay, um…"

"Valentine's Day is just over a week from now. How do you feel about leaving work early and spending my consulting fee on a really expensive dinner?"

"Sure! You mean…"

"Tonight."

"Done, you romantic devil. Let me just square it with Freja."
"Great. I shall make reservations."
§

The next morning, while Sassa showers and gets ready for work, Constantin rings Per's hotel. He finds to his great relief that the inspector has checked out.

He rings Mr. Ávila to tell him the kids can come back to Malmö.

After he drops Sassa at her studio, he rings Bertie and Axel from a pay phone. "How are Oskar and Eli doing?"

Axel says, "Fine."

"Good. Thank you for taking care of them for me. I imagine they are ready to come home."

"Yep."

"As soon as they get up, would you please ask them to take a taxi to the ferry terminal?"

"Will do, professor."
.

After four days in Copenhagen – the last two much like the first – Oskar and Eli are ready to get back to Järavallsgatan and to their pallet in the attic – but especially to their keyboard lessons with Sassa and Ingrid.

When their taxi drops them at the house, they give Mr. Ávila their rolls of slide film to drop off for processing, and they talk excitedly about their adventures in the quaint Freetown enclave. At last Mr. Ávila calls time and starts getting ready for bed.
§

The following morning, Mr. Ávila rings Sassa to tell her the kids are back and eager to see her. "The weather forecast is for snow flurries, so they won't be shooting pictures of the sky tonight. Should I bring them? And what about Ingrid?"
.

Mr. Ávila arrives at Sassa's studio with Ingrid and the kids that afternoon. As Sassa brushes snow off kids' coats and hangs them up, she notices the odor of sandalwood incense.

Small world, she thinks.
.
Spanish for Beginners

Throughout February, the weather proves to be characteristically dicey, so most evenings don't permit roaming the countryside checking out Eli's old hideouts. The children's keyboard lessons with Sassa and Ingrid can be fitted in most anywhere. It's still early in the month when Mr. Ávila decides it's a good time to add Spanish to their curriculum.

He reads want ads but comes up empty. The only offerings he finds are part of school curricula or business groups, such as Berlitz.
On a hunch, he looks up the telephone number of the Limhamn Library. He dials the number, and a librarian tells him that there was a group that used to meet there. Lowering her voice to a library whisper, she adds, "We had to ask them to hold their classes somewhere else because they were too noisy." Resuming her normal tone, she continues, "But I believe they're meeting at a community center now. Let me just…Oh, here it is." The librarian gives him a contact name and phone number.

Mr. Ávila dials the number. After a few rings, a man answers in heavily accented Swedish. Mr. Ávila addresses him in Spanish and asks for details. They are satisfactory. The group meets at night, once a week.

"The lessons are all in Spanish because my Swedish is almost unintelligible," the man confesses.

"What did the librarian mean about the noisy part?"

"I guess Spanish is noisy, and Swedish isn't? I've never thought about it. Or maybe I'm noisy. I'm a former professional soccer player, and I tell the group a lot of soccer stories. I can get pretty excited."

Mr. Ávila asks what team he played for.

"I'm from Barcelona, but I never got to play for FCB," he answers. "I mostly played in Portugal. My name is Quimet Garcia."

"My word! I've been a Barça fan my whole life! You weren’t named after Quimet Rifé were you?"

"Ha ha! Yes. My brothers and I are all named for Barça players."

They talk about soccer until Mr. Ávila gets around to asking, "What do lessons cost?"

"No charge. Community Services pays me a few measly kronor depending on how many people show up each week."

"Well, the price is right," Mr. Ávila says with a laugh. "What time does the group meet? And how do I sign the kids up? They are 12-year-old Swedes, a boy and a girl. Their names are Oskar and Eli, and we'll be moving to Barcelona in a couple of months."

"No problem. Plenty of room for them. The group members begin showing up about 6:00 and stay as long as they want to. Children could liven things up. Most of the members are not young, and they use the group as a kind of social club. Just something to do. But we have a lot of fun."
.

After the children shower and dress, Mr. Ávila asks them to join him at the dining room table. They discuss starting Spanish this week, and they work out the days and hours when they will only speak Spanish at home. Grammar can wait until they get to Barcelona. They won't have time to even scratch the surface of the complex Spanish verb tenses, so Mr. Ávila buys a few videos of conversational Spanish. These will take the place of their English language studies.

Mr. Ávila mentions that the instructor is a former soccer player.

"Great!" Oskar says. "That means we have to play soccer in the backyard so we'll have something to talk about."

"Okay," Eli says. "Let's go play."

"You're goalie," Oskar says. "Too bad you're such a shrimp!"

"Hold it," Mr. Ávila says. "We'll take turns playing el portero and which 'team' is trying to score. Miss Eli, you can be FC Barcelona, and Oskar, you can be Real Madrid."

They run down the hall ahead of Mr. Ávila. Oskar ducks into his bedroom to grab the soccer ball he got for Christmas. Once in the backyard, Mr. Ávila uses trashcans to mark the net and a rake handle to mark the goal line.

Oskar is already familiar with the rules for playing half-court soccer. After Mr. Ávila explains the rules to Eli, they start with Oskar trying to score and Eli defending. Oskar's moves, barely average when he was in middle school in Blackeberg, easily get him past Eli. However, getting the ball past Mr. Ávila is a challenge. When the ball occasionally gets through, Mr. Ávila declares it to be too high or too wide, whether it was or not. The kids are not amused.

But Eli as la portera is another matter. She's so quick and can jump so high that she wears the guys out trying to get the ball past her and into the net. At last Mr. Ávila does a spin move and kicks the ball point blank at Eli's chest. Her instinct is to dodge the ball rather than block it.

Mr. Ávila tries the children's patience further by running around all over the backyard yelling ¡Gooooooooool!

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