Chapter no 3

Anxious People

It’s the day before New Year’s Eve in a not particularly large town. A police officer and a real estate agent are sitting in an interview room in the police station. The policeman looks barely twenty but is probably older, and the real estate agent looks more than forty but is probably younger. The police officer’s uniform is too small, the real estate agent’s jacket slightly too large. The real estate agent looks like she’d rather be somewhere else, and, after the past 1fteen minutes of conversation, the policeman looks like he wishes the real estate agent were somewhere else, too. When the real estate agent smiles nervously and opens her mouth to say something, the policeman breathes in and out in a way that makes it hard to tell if he’s sighing or trying to clear his nose.

“Just answer the question,” he pleads. The Realtor nods quickly and blurts out:

“How’s tricks?”

“I said, just answer the question!” the policeman repeats, with an expression common in grown men who were disappointed by life at some point in their childhood and have never quite managed to stop feeling that way.

“You asked me what my real estate agency is called!” the Realtor insists, drumming her 1ngers on the tabletop in a way that makes the policeman feel like throwing objects with sharp corners at her.

“No I didn’t, I asked if the pevpetvatov who held you hostage together with—” “It’s called House Tvicbs! Get it? Because when you buy an apartment, you want to buy from someone who knows all the tvicbs, don’t you? So when I answer the phone, I say: Hello, you’ve reached the House Tricks Real Estate

Agency! HOW’S TRICKS?”

Obviously the Realtor has just been through a traumatic experience, has been threatened with a pistol and held hostage, and that sort of thing can make anyone babble. The policeman tries to be patient. He presses his thumbs hard against his eyebrows, as if he hopes they’re two buttons and if he keeps them pressed at the same time for ten seconds he’ll be able to restore life to its factory settings.

“Okaaay… But now I need to ask you a few questions about the apartment and the perpetrator,” he groans.

It has been a difficult day for him, too. The police station is small, resources are tight, but there’s nothing wrong with their competence. He tried to explain that over the phone to some boss’s boss’s boss right after the hostage drama, but naturally it was hopeless. They’re going to send some special investigative team from Stockholm to take charge of the whole case. The boss didn’t place the emphasis on the words “investigative team” when he said that, but on “Stocbholm,” as if coming from the capital was itself some sort of superpower. More like a medical condition, the policeman thinks. His thumbs are still pressed to his eyebrows, this is his last chance to show the bosses that he can handle this himself, but how on earth is that going to work if you’ve only got witnesses like this woman?

“Okeydokey!” the real estate agent chirrups, as if that were a real Swedish word.

The policeman looks down at his notes.

“Isn’t this an odd day to have a showing? The day before New Year’s Eve?” The real estate agent shakes her head and grins.

“There are no bad days for the HOUSE TRICKS Real Estate Agency!” The policeman takes a deep breath, then several more.

“Right. Let’s move on: when you saw the perpetrator, what was your 1rst react—”

“Didn’t you say you were going to ask about the apartment 1rst? You said ‘the apartment and the perpetrator,’ so I thought the apartment would be 1rst


“Okay!” the policeman growls. “Okay!” the real estate agent chirrups.

“The a9avtment, then: Are you familiar with its layout?”

“Of course, I’m the real estate agent, after all!” the real estate agent says, but manages to stop herself adding “from the HOUSE TRICKS Real Estate Agency! HOW’S TRICKS?” seeing as the policeman already looks like he wishes the ammunition in his pistol weren’t so easy to trace.

“Can you describe it?”

The real estate agent lights up.

“It’s a dream! We’re talking about a unique opportunity to acquire an exclusive apartment in a quiet area within easy reach of the throbbing heart of the big city. Open plan! Big windows that let in plenty of daylight—!”

The policeman cuts her oP.

“I meant, are there closets, hidden storage spaces, anything of that sort?” “You don’t like open plan apartments? You like walls? There’s nothing wrong

with walls!” the real estate agent replies encouragingly, yet with an undertone that suggests that in her experience, people who like walls are the same sort of people who like other types of barriers.

“For instance, are there any closets that aren’t—?” “Did I mention the amount of daylight?”


“There’s scienti1c research to prove that daylight makes us feel better! Did you know that?”

The policeman looks like he doesn’t really want to be forced to think about this. Some people want to decide for themselves how happy they are.

“Can we stick to the point?” “Okeydokey!”

“Are there any spaces in the apartment that aren’t marked on the plans?” “It’s also a really good location for children!”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“I just wanted to point it out. The location, you know. Really good for children! Actually, well… apart from this whole hostage thing today. But apart from that: a brilliant area for kids! And of course you know that children just love police cars!”

The real estate agent cheerily spins her arm in the air and imitates the sound of a siren.

“I think that’s the sound of an ice-cream truck,” the police officer says. “But you know what I mean,” the real estate agent persists.

“I’m going to have to ask you to just answer the question.” “Sorry. What was the question, again?”

“Exactly how big is the apartment?”

The real estate agent smiles in bemusement.

“Don’t you want to talk about the bank robber? I thought we were going to talk about the robbery?”

The policeman clenches his teeth so hard that he looks like he’s trying to breathe through his toenails.

“Sure. Okay. Tell me about the perpetrator. What was your 1rst reaction when he—”

The real estate agent interrupts eagerly. “The bank robber? Yes! The bank robber ran straight into the apartment in the middle of the viewing, and pointed a pistol at us all! And do you know why?”


“Because it’s open plan! Otherwise the bank robber would never have been able to aim at all of us at the same time!”

The policeman massages his eyebrows.

“Okay, let’s try this instead: Are there any good hiding places in the apartment?”

The Realtor blinks so slowly that it looks like she’s only just learned how to do it.

“Hiding places?”

The policeman leans his head back and 1xes his gaze on the ceiling. His mom always said that policemen are just boys who never bothered to 1nd a new dream. All boys get asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and at some point almost all of them answer “A policeman!” but most of them grow out of that and come up with something better. For a moment he 1nds himself wishing he’d done that, too, because then his days might have been less complicated, and possibly also his dealings with his family. It’s worth pointing

out that his mom has always been proud of him, she was never the one who expressed disapproval at his choice of career. She was a priest, another job that’s more than just a way of earning a living, so she understood. It was his dad who never wanted to see his son in uniform. That disappointment may still be weighing the young police officer down, because he looks exhausted when he focuses his gaze on the Realtor again.

“Yes. That’s what I’ve been trying to explain to you: we believe the perpetrator is still in the apartment.”

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