Chapter no 39

Anxious People

Jim is getting coPee from the police station staProom, but doesn’t have time to drink it because Jack comes rushing in from his interview with Roger, yelling: “We have to get back to the apartment! I know where he’s hiding! In the wall!”

Jim doesn’t honestly know what on earth that’s supposed to mean, but he obeys. They leave the station, get in the car, and drive back to the crime scene with high hopes that everything is going to fall into place the moment they walk in, that they’ll have missed something obvious that will give them all the answers long before the Stockholmers arrive and try to grab the glory for everything.

They’re partly right, of course. They have missed something obvious.


There’s a young police officer posted in the lobby to stop journalists and random outsiders from going inside and snooping about. Jack and Jim know him, because the town is too small for them not to, and if people sometimes make jokes about some young police officers not being “the sharpest knife in the drawer,” this young man isn’t even in the drawer. He barely notices when Jim and Jack pass him, and they look at each other in annoyance.

“I wouldn’t let that one guard a crime scene if it was up to me,” Jack mutters. “I wouldn’t let that one guard my beer while I went to the toilet,” Jim mutters back, without making it quite clear which he thought was more serious.

But it’s the day before New Year’s Eve, and they’re too short-staPed to have the luxury of choice.

They split up to search. First Jack uses his knuckles, then his pocket torch to knock on all the walls. Jim tries to look as though he, too, has some good thoughts and ideas, so he lifts the sofa to see if anyone just happens to be hiding

underneath it. Then Jim runs out of good thoughts and ideas. There are some pizza boxes on the coPee table, so Jim lifts the lid of one of them to see if there’s anything left. Jack’s nostrils Aare to twice their normal size when he sees this.

“Dad, please tell me you weren’t thinking of eating any of that if there’s some left? It’s been sitting there all day!”

His dad closes the lid indignantly. “Pizza doesn’t go bad.”

“If you’re a goat living in a garbage dump, maybe,” Jack mutters, then goes back to carefully knocking, knocking, knocking at various heights on all the walls, 1rst hopefully, then with increasing desperation, palms feeling across the wallpaper like the very 1rst moments after you accidentally drop a key in a lake. His con1dent facade starts to crack slightly as an entire day’s suppressed dissatisfactions 1nally slip out of him.

“No, dammit. I was wrong. There’s no way he’s here.”

He’s standing in front of the part of the wall behind which the gap Roger mentioned ought to be. But there’s no way into it. If the bank robber is in there, someone must have dismantled part of the wall, then sealed him in, and the wall is far too neatly plastered and painted for that. And there wasn’t anywhere near enough time, either. Jack utters a series of expletives combining certain sexual terms with various farmyard animals. His back creaks as he leans against the wall. Jim sees a sense of failure settle on his son’s face, shrinking the distance between his ears and shoulders, so Jim summons up all of his sympathy as a father and tries to encourage him by saying: “What about the closet?”

“Too small,” Jack says curtly.

“Only on the plan. According to that Estelle, it’s actually an entire walk-in closet…”


“That’s what she said. Didn’t I mention that in my notes from the interview?”

“Why haven’t you said anything?” Jack blurts out, already on his way. “I didn’t know it was important,” Jim says defensively.

When Jack sticks his head in the closet to look for a light switch, he hits his forehead on a coat hanger, in exactly the same place where he already has the

large bump. It hurts so badly that he lashes out at the hanger with his 1st. So now his 1st hurts as well. But Jim was right. Behind all the old coats and older suits and boxes full of even older things blocking the front, the closet really is far larger than it appeared on the plan.

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