The Girl with the Sturgeon Tattoo

A Parody

Lars Arffssen

St. Martin's Griffin

ONE
 
FREDAG, JANUARI 7
 
 
63.7% of crimes of bestiality go unreported by their victims.
—SWEDISH TASK FORCE ON VICTIMS OF BESTIALITY, 2009
 
 
 
They lay naked on the ergonomic Dux mattress, limbs entwined like two meatballs. It was three in the afternoon, and already pitch-dark.
“Was it good for you, too?” Professor Dr. Sven Svenssen asked, turning on his side to face his new lover.
The girl nodded, then snapped him across the nose with her female condom. “That,” she said, “was for all the women you’ve anally raped.”
Dazed, the famous scientist rubbed his nostril. “What on earth?”
“And that,” she said, fiercely elbowing him in the liver, “is for touching your little sister in the bathtub.”
“Are you crazy? I don’t have a little sister.” Svenssen swore the three-fingered oath of the Nykterhetsrörelsens Scoutförbund, the Swedish scouting organization he belonged to as a youth, when he learned how to survive on elk scat and shriveled lingonberries.
“And this,” she said, brutally stabbing her iPod charger into his belly button, “is for tying your grandmother to the roof rack of your Volvo.”
“She was already frozen solid!” said Svenssen.
When the throbbing subsided, he eyed his new lover cautiously. She was still glowering at him, but her lips were quivering. He reached out and gave her death-black hair a tentative touch, where the red roots were starting to show. She acquiesced, breathing quietly.
“You’ve obviously had some unpleasant experiences with men,” he said gently.
The girl shrugged and then spat across the room. She wasn’t very ladylike. Nor very talkative. Life evidently had made her hard, Svenssen reflected. But he wasn’t going to pry.
She lit a cigarette and pulled the sheet across her breasts. It occurred to Svenssen that his were substantially larger than hers. Admittedly he had rather ample man-boobs. Her face, though, could be quite beautiful. Caught in the right light, she looked like Anita Ekberg on a hunger strike.
He noticed to his dismay that the girl was using the cigarette to burn little holes in his duvet cover. “Please don’t do that,” he said timidly.
She made a fist, as if to box his ears, but then reached over to his nightstand, searching for an ashtray. She found only books.
“You still read this?” She flipped through an old copy of Pippi Longstocking.
“One never outgrows Pippi,” he said.
“Pippi,” the girl said dismissively, “allowed her father to anally rape her.”
“I don’t recall. Was that in Pippi Goes to School?”
The girl didn’t answer. She grabbed another paperback from Svenssen’s night table. “How about this? Any good?”
It was the latest thriller by Henning Mankell.
“No, I’m afraid it’s trash. You can use it as an ashtray.”
Svenssen watched the girl smoke down her cigarette. Yes, she might be a clinically insane sociopath, he thought, but he was hardly in a position to complain. At six foot three and 185 pounds, Svenssen was a good deal shorter and fatter than his average male compatriot. Moreover, his complexion looked like Wasa crispbread. It had been a long time since he’d had sex without an exchange of thousands of kronor.
“You know, if you enjoyed it, we could do it again,” he said.
“Not now,” the girl said. “My vagina feels like raw Baltic salmon.”
The expression made him wince. She had few social graces. But there was something refreshing about her candor. “I meant, in the future.”
“Maybe.” From her black handbag next to the bed she removed her Ericsson Xperia X10 2.1 smartphone with 720p HD video recording and checked her calendar. “Tuesdays are a possibility.”
Svenssen checked his Ericsson Xperia X2a with 8.1 megapixel autofocus camera. “I’m afraid Tuesdays I play darts. What about Wednesdays?”
The girl shook her head. “Wednesdays I have kickboxing.”
“Thursdays?”
“Krav Maga.”
“Fridays?”
“That’s when I memorize pi.”
After some schedule juggling, they agreed to meet every other Sunday for an hour of semi-consensual intercourse.
“But you must promise to keep this discreet,” she said. “I like to keep a low profile.”
Just then they noticed Svenssen’s neighbor, a seventy-year-old retired stewardess for SAS, observing them from next door through a pair of night-vision binoculars.
Svenssen climbed from the bed and closed the curtains, but not before checking the window thermometer. Minus 37 degrees C. Up a degree from an hour before. Spring was on its way.
He slipped on a linen bathrobe and a pair of clogs and clumped to the kitchen. “Can I offer you some herring?” he called, peering into the fridge. “I have pickled, creamed, fried, kippered, sugarcoated, dollymopped, and licorice-rolled.”
The girl had followed him. She was entirely naked but carried an assault rifle. Where did that come from? he wondered. Had it been in her black daypack?
“Must you?” he said. “It makes me quite nervous.”
She set the rifle down. “Don’t you have any real food?”
Without waiting for an answer, she began rummaging through his cabinets. She had no breasts, no hips, no body fat. Yet she was quite elaborately tattooed. Across the length of her back ran a fastidious reproduction of Rudolph Zallinger’s famous The Age of Dinosaurs mural in Yale’s Peabody Museum. Svenssen recognized it from his graduate student days.
“You like dinosaurs?” he asked.
“These more.”
She had found a box of Twinkies. Svenssen blushed. He had a morbid love of American junk food. The more carcinogens and lethal GMOs, the better. Now he watched in astonishment as the emaciated girl stuffed Twinkie after Twinkie in her mouth, swallowing them whole.
“Hungry?” he asked.
“Mmmwm,” she said, spewing morsels of cake. When she finished, she grabbed her rifle and headed to Svenssen’s study. “C’mon,” she said. “Time to get to work.”
*   *   *
Blomberg smothered himself between Erotikka Berg’s ample and matronly Northern European breasts.
“A kiss for Boo,” he said, “and a kiss for Baa.”
Boo was slightly larger than Baa.
Erotikka squealed with lusty laughter. “I don’t know how you do it, Blomberg. I’m a forty-five-year-old married woman, and you make me feel like a husky in heat.”
Blomberg smiled to himself. His twenty-some-year affair with Erotikka was one of the few pleasures in his life these days. Overweight, underexercised, and hirsute in all the wrong places, he was still an amazing chick magnet, but his career as Sweden’s leading muckraking journalist was in decline. Last June, Blomberg’s magazine, Millennium, was purchased by an American media giant. The new publisher, a Harvard MBA with a 500-kronor-a-day cocaine habit, promised to respect the magazine’s independence, even after he renamed it BLINK! and fired the entire editorial staff. In its place, he hired a team that had previously driven the black salted licorice division of Svenska Fisk AB, producer of the popular Swedish gummy fish, into bankruptcy. Blomberg was asked to drop his multiyear investigation of a vast ring of corruption, prostitution, and ethnic cleansing involving the prime minister and the CEOs of Volvo, Saab, and H&M, and instead to do a story on ABBA’s plans to stage a Christmas reunion concert. Will they or not? Why won’t Anni-Frid say? Blomberg had resigned before he could be fired. Now he wrote his own online blog, Blomsday.
Life in the blogosphere was lonely. His recent piece on former tennis star Matt Wilander’s struggle with Nordic Dullness Syndrome (NDS) had been picked up by TV 4 Fakta and Radio Uppsala, but in general Blomberg missed the excitement of writing for a big newsmagazine with a circulation of over 5,000.
He continued to lavish attention on Boo and Baa. After he and Erotikka had achieved multiple simultaneous orgasms, he stretched in bed and said, “How about a nice cup of coffee?”
Erotikka’s husband Ralf Berg dutifully rose from his corner of the bed and brought Blomberg a steaming mug with three lumps of sugar, just the way he liked it. Then he retrieved a pack of cigarettes and lit one each for Blomberg and his wife.
“Thanks, Ralf.”
“You’re welcome, Mikael.”
“Thanks, Ralf.”
“You’re welcome, Erotikka.”
Erotikka’s husband suspected that Blomberg and Erotikka were having an affair, but he appeared not to mind. He was a firm believer in the Swedish Constitution’s Third Amendment, the Right to Free and Multiple Sexual Partners.
“Now, Ralfie,” said Erotikka, “be a darling and turn on the tele.”
The husband fetched the remote and climbed back into his corner of the bed.
*   *   *
The call had come the previous Thursday, out of the blue. Thor’s day always brought Professor Dr. Svenssen trouble. He had been in his lab, rearranging birchwood test tubes.
“I’d like to talk to Professor Dr. Sven Svenssen.”
“Speaking.”
“We need to talk.” The voice: girlish, sullen.
“That appears to be what we are doing.”
“No, comedian,” the voice said urgently. “Not over the phone.”
They arranged to meet at his apartment. The girl, wearing a Burton hoodie, arrived on a Powell Skull Deck skateboard. Without so much as a word of greeting, she rode the board into his geothermally heated living room and peeled off her clothes. That was before she began to assault him.
Now they sat together in Svenssen’s study at his UKEA Real Teak workstation. The girl sat with her knees pinned to her flat chest. She was still naked. The professor admired the rendering of a stegosaurus on her back.
“Maybe we could start,” he said, “with you telling me your name.”
“Jane Manhater.”
Ah, he thought. A Swedish woman with an American name. Perhaps that explained her temper. Americans were a violent people. Fourteen thousand gun deaths per annum. A lawless, cultureless, energy-guzzling land of religious fanatics, cowboy politicians, and plutocrats who paid less than 90 percent of their income in taxes.
Still, they did give the world the Twinkie.
“And who do you work for?”
“I told you,” the girl named Jane said. “A greeting card firm. Enough questions. Did you look at the file?”
“Yes.”
The file had arrived by courier at his lab. The envelope bore no return address, but inside he found a stickie, perhaps someone’s oversight: Manhater Security: Vigilante Specialist and Counter-Patriarchy Mercenary. At the time he had not been prepared for the file’s contents, the graphic photos of mutilation, the blood and tissue samples.
Shoulders lightly touching, they reexamined the grisly evidence.
“Have you identified a cause of death?” she asked.
He nodded. “Strangulation.”
“Not decapitation?”
“No. That came later. The victim was already dead.”
“Are you certain?”
“Absolutely. She was dead for at least ten hours before they mutilated her.”
“They?”
“Just a figure of speech. It could have been one person. I don’t know.”
The girl glanced at him with her death-black eyes. “Who would do such a thing to a reindeer?”
It was, of course, the same question Svenssen had asked himself. Since becoming chief of Reindeer Forensics at the Royal Pathological Institute in Stockholm in 2003, Svenssen had seen his fair share of reindeer slayings—more than he liked to remember. But nothing quite like this.
“It’s hard to say. Two things are for certain, though. First, whoever is responsible is a pro. Secondly, he or she”—he added pointedly—“had to be unusually strong.”
“How do you know?”
“The victim was strangled by hand.”
Svenssen handed a magnifying glass to the naked bipolar security agent with the American name and the dinosaur mural on her back. “Observe these markings on the neck? They were made by fingers. Obviously the killer wore gloves. Possibly hand-knitted mittens. Believe me, it takes a lot of strength to strangle a full-grown reindeer.”
The girl nodded. She took notes on her palm. Her nails were painted death-black.
“And the rest?”
“Probably done with a buzz saw. Typically a killer will mutilate a body to hide the evidence. But I don’t think so in this case. Otherwise the murderer wouldn’t have left the body in the middle of the Stockholm’s busiest intersection.”
“Right.”
“I would guess this killer took pleasure in being brazen. Or maybe he or she was trying to send a signal.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know. You’re the greeting card expert.” Svenssen felt satisfaction with his sarcasm.
“Anything else?”
“Yes. She was pregnant.”
*   *   *
Erotikka lay on Blomberg’s chest. Together they smoked companionably while Blomberg caressed Boo and Baa.
“Ralf, change the channel to the news, would you?”
“Yes, dear.”
The breaking news included a report on a bike stolen in Gamla Stan. Fortunately it turned out to be a false alarm. A friend of the bike’s owner had borrowed the three-speed without telling his friend. In Norrmalm, a pedestrian was splashed with water while crossing the street. An old man slipped and fell. And in Kungsholmen, an unpublished novelist named Twig Arssen had died of a heart attack at age 50.
Just then Blomberg sat up. “Hey, I knew that guy. We went to journalism school together. He was going to write the Great Swedish Thriller.” Dead at fifty. Ouch. Blomberg made a mental note. Cut back on the fried eel.


 
Copyright © 2011 by Lars Arffssen