Thursday 20 June 2019

BLOG TOUR ~ The Wolves At The Door by Gunnar Staalesen

Hi Everyone,

Today is my stop on the Blog Tour for Wolves At The Door by Gunnar Staalesen where I have an extract from his latest novel. I was thrilled to be asked by Anne Cater from Random Things Tours who organised this tour in conjunction with Orenda Books to take part along with some other fab book bloggers. You can find out who else is taking part in this fabulous Blog Tour at the end of this extract so without further ado, here it is:

She didn’t sound very friendly.

I told her who I was and said I had been asked to investigate her late
partner’s death.

She barked: ‘Who by?’
‘I can’t tell you.’
‘Hah! It’ll be that bitch, I bet.’
‘May I visit you at home?’
‘Absolutely not.’
‘Somewhere else then?’
‘I can’t see what the point is. It’s more than a month since it hap-

pened, and the police closed the case ages ago.’

‘Too early maybe?’
‘Too early! What do you mean by that?’
‘There are ... a few loose ends. I can explain when we meet.’ ‘If we meet.’

‘You must be interested in knowing what happened. Or...?’

‘Or what?’
I could have answered: Or perhaps you know already. But I didn’t. I

said: ‘You must’ve asked yourself a few questions afterwards, surely? And your daughter? How did she react to the drama?’
‘You bloody keep my daughter right out of this!’

‘By all means. It’s you I want to talk to.’
‘OK then. But it’ll have to be somewhere with lots of people around.

The café in the square inside Oasen. Could you be there in ... half an hour?’
I did a quick mental calculation. ‘I can jump on a bus. Give me a bit more time in case I’m unlucky with the schedule.
‘Three quarters of an hour. Not a second more.’

‘And how...?’

But she had already hung up. I would have to hope I knew who she

was when I got there.

In fact, catching a bus was the best option. I put my computer on
standby, pulled out the plug of the kettle, slipped on my winter coat and rushed off. The services to Fyllingsdalen went through Olav Kyrres gate and I jumped on a bus at the last moment, so in fact I was able to alight by Oasen within the thirty minutes she had first suggested. I ran through the entrance by the office of the insurance company that had given me plenty of jobs, that was until a few years ago, when my contact moved to pastures new and the link was lost, which meant my financial status sank a few more notches.
A long corridor with a view into one of the supermarket chains in the mall led to the large square in the centre of the massive building. They had planted a few palm trees in large containers to give the impres- sion that you were in the middle of the natural phenomenon the mall was named after. For me, the name Oasen had never appealed. Most of Fyllingsdalen was greener than the brick desert here. But then the shopping centre known as Lagunen was no sheltered idyll either. The choice of names for malls in the Bergen region owed more to a yearning for sunnier climes than what they were: overcrowded ant hills paying their dues to commercialism.
I stood at the entrance to the café that occupied a large part of the square and looked around, obviously searching for someone I knew – or didn’t know. I met the gaze of a robust, dark-haired woman sitting in the middle of the room and wearing black glasses and black clothes, from her jumper to her velvet trousers. She glared at me and I seemed to recognise the voice on the phone in her eyes.
I looked at her with raised eyebrows and she returned a belligerent glare. It had to be her. ‘Svanhild Olsvik?’
She nodded.
There was a free chair at her table. She had an empty cup of coffee in front of her. ‘I’ll go and get a coffee. Would you like a refill?’

She shook her head. ‘I’ll be off soon.’

‘I won’t be a moment.’
I joined the queue at the counter, poured myself a coffee from the

machine and ended up behind an elderly Bergensian lady at the cash till. She was so immersed in her account of her grandchild’s merits that I just elbowed in, threw the money on the counter and said to the listen- ing head that she could keep whatever was left over, which she accepted absent-mindedly, sweeping the money into her apron pocket without even so much as a question as to whether I wanted a receipt.
I hurried back, coffee spilling into the saucer, sat down on the free chair and adopted my most charming expression. ‘I apologise for both- ering you during your working day.’

She shrugged. ‘It’s over.’

‘What’s your job?’
‘Cleaning consultant,’ she answered with a defiant look, in case I

should be so bold as to call her job anything else. ‘I can’t understand why I’m talking to you.’
‘I’ll be as brief as possible. Let’s get straight to the point. Your partner, Mikael Midtbø, died after falling from the tenth floor of the block where you live. The police have called it a suicide. Is that your view, too?’
Her face, if possible, stiffened even more. ‘My view? What do you mean?’
‘Well ... that’s quite a brutal way of taking your life. Most people would choose another method.’

‘What do you mean? That he ...? That someone pushed him off?’ ‘Possibly.’

‘Surely the police would’ve investigated the case further, wouldn’t
they? All they did was to talk to me – twice – and then nothing hap- pened until I received a phone call telling me they’d decided it was suicide.’
‘And you were happy with that?’
‘If there was anyone who wanted to kill him it was that bitch, but he would’ve never let her in after all the trouble she’s caused.’
‘That bitch, as you call her. Are you referring to his ex-wife?’ 

‘She was the one who started all the rumours about him. You can bet your bottom dollar she’s the one who reported him to the police, too. She wanted to make sure she kept the kids. And to do that, she used the dirtiest of all the lies.’
Her face had loosened up now. Muscles twitched, her eyes wandered from side to side and her whole body was in motion. It was obvious that this was a matter that engaged her. She made a powerful impression in all ways. A large woman she may have been, but there was nothing flabby or limp about her. She seemed more like a bundle of muscle, a well-trained heavyweight wrestler. I could truly imagine the energy with which she set about the floors as a cleaning consultant.
‘Right. Did they keep in touch?’
‘Touch! He was banned from visiting his children. If he was ever seen near where they lived in Frekhaug, she would ring the police. And she never showed her face out here of course, as I was trying to tell you.’ She shifted uneasily. ‘But now I’ve got to go.’
‘Wait a minute. If we assume the police are right – in other words, that it was suicide – did you notice anything that pointed in that direc- tion, in the time before he died? Was he depressed, quick-tempered, unstable?’
She pulled a long face. ‘Depressed, quick-tempered, unstable? You talk like a social worker.’
‘ We l l ...’
Then she appeared to remember something. Her expression changed, from aggressive to more thoughtful. ‘Though something did change in him after he received a phone call.’
‘A phone call? Who from?’
‘“Do you believe in demons, Svanhild?” he said. “Get away,” I said. “Demons?” “Yes,” he said. “As much as I believe in the devil and hell,” I said. Then Astrid came home from school and there was no more talk about that, until the evening when she’d gone to bed. “What did you mean about demons earlier today?” I asked him. Then he looked, like, well, scared and he said: “There’s a pastor coming here tomorrow. He can help me,” he said. “A pastor?” I said. “A bloody priest? What do you want with him?” “Well, he insisted,” he said, and so I said he should just ring and cancel, but then he didn’t want to talk about it any more. But I could see it was on his mind for the rest of the evening, even while we were watching a decent action film on TV. And the following day it happened.’
‘He fell to his death?’
‘Yes, but now I’ve really got to go. I must be at home when Astrid comes.’
‘OK. Mm ... did you tell the police this? About the phone call?’
‘I don’t remember. Maybe.’ She stood up, took a big, dark-blue puffer jacket from the back of her chair and put it on. ‘You’d better ask them.’
‘Which school does your daughter go to? Løvås?’
She immediately leaned over me. Towering above me, her girth increased by the puffer jacket, with the nastiest expression I had seen since I was an army recruit, she made an even more aggressive impres- sion than before, bordering on dangerous. ‘That’s got bugger-all to do with you. If you go anywhere near my daughter I’ll fucking well report you. Have you got that?’
‘Loud and clear,’ I said. Sergeant, I added, in my head, but that was where it stayed. No reason for any slips of the tongue.
With long, bouncing strides she disappeared from the café and left in the same direction from which I had entered the mall. I stayed put and finally tasted the coffee, which had died a silent death in the mean- time, and tasted like it.
But now I had something to chew on. I took out my notepad and wrote a single word on it: Pastor. After some deliberation I added a question mark. I wanted to know a bit more about him. 

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