Outrage

An Inspector Erlendur Novel

An Inspector Erlendur Series (Volume 7)

Arnaldur Indridason

Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books

OUTRAGE (Chapter 1)

He dressed himself in black jeans, a white shirt and a comfortable jacket, put on a pair of smart shoes he had had for three years, and considered the venues in the city centre that one of the women had mentioned.

He mixed himself two stiff drinks, which he drank as he watched TV and waited until it was time to go into town. He didn't want to set off too early - someone might notice him hanging around in a half-empty bar and he wanted to avoid that. The most import ant thing was to melt into the crowd, to go unnoticed, to be like everyone else. He mustn't be memorable in any way, must not stand out. In the unlikely event that anyone asked him about his movements that evening, he would say he had been at home all night, watching TV. If everything went according to plan, no one, anywhere, would remember his presence.

When the time was right he drained his glass and left. He was slightly tipsy. He walked from his home near the city centre through the autumn darkness towards the bar. The town was already buzzing with weekend revellers. Queues were forming at the most popular venues, bouncers were flexing their muscles and people were wheedling for admission. Music could be heard in the street, and food smells from restaurants mingled with the alcoholic fumes seeping from the bars. Some people were drunker than others. He despised them.

He had only a short wait before he made it inside. It wasn't one of the most fashionable places, but it was crammed all the same. That was fine. He had already been on the lookout for girls or young women on his way through town: preferably not much over thirty, preferably not stone-cold sober. It was all right if they'd had a bit to drink but he didn't want them too drunk.

He kept a low profile. He patted his jacket pocket once more, to be sure he had it. He had touched the pocket lightly several times on the way, knowing that he must be one of those neurotic types who were forever checking whether they'd locked the door, forgotten their keys, whether the coffee maker was definitely switched off or a hotplate had been left on. He was obsessive like that - he recalled reading about it in some magazine. Another article had been about a different compulsion of his: washing his hands twenty times a day.

Most people were drinking half-litres of beer, so he ordered the same. The bartender hardly glanced at him, and he took care to pay cash. He found it easy to blend in. Most of the customers were about his age, out with friends or colleagues. The drinkers raised their voices to be heard over the heavy rap beat of the music and the din was deafening. He took a leisurely look around, observing groups of women sitting and standing together. Other women were with boyfriends or husbands, but there was no one who appeared to be alone. He left without finishing his drink.

At the third place he spotted a woman he recognised - he thought she was probably about thirty and she seemed to be on her own. She sat at a table in the smoking area, surrounded by other smokers, but she was clearly not with them. He observed her from a distance as she sipped a margarita and smoked two cigarettes. The bar was packed, but no one who approached her seemed to know her.

Two men spoke to her but she shook her head and they left. A third man loomed over her, apparently unwilling to take no for an answer.

She was a brunette with a pretty face, a bit heavyset but nicely dressed in a skirt and a short-sleeved T-shirt and with a beautiful shawl around her shoulders. Across the T-shirt the words San Francisco were stencilled, with a little flower growing up out of the letter F.

She managed to shake off her persistent suitor, who made an angry remark and left.

He gave her time to settle down before he approached her. 'Have you been there?' he asked. The brunette looked up. She couldn't place him.

'To San Francisco?' he added, pointing at the shirt.

She looked down at her breasts.

'Oh, this?' she asked.

'It's a delightful city,' he said. 'You should go sometime.'

She looked at him, debating whether to tell him to push off like she'd told the others. Then she seemed to remember meeting him before.

'There's so much going on there,' he said. 'In Frisco. A lot to see.'

She smiled.

'Fancy meeting you here,' she said.

'Yes, nice to see you. Are you here alone?'

'Alone? Yes.'

'So, what about Frisco? You must go.'

'I know, I've...'

Her words were drowned out by the noise. He passed his hand over his jacket pocket and leaned over her.

'The airfare's not cheap,' he said. 'But I mean...I went there once, it was great. A delightful city.'

He used certain words deliberately. She was looking up at him, and he imagined her counting on the fingers of one hand how many young men she had met in her life who would use a word like delightful.

'I know. I've been.'

'Oh. Well, then. May I join you?'

She hesitated for a moment, then moved over to make room for him.

Nobody took any notice of them in the bar, nor when they left a little over an hour later and headed back to his place, taking deserted side streets. By then the drug was working. He had offered her another margarita, and as he'd returned from the bar with her third drink he'd slid his hand into his jacket pocket to palm the pill and slipped it into her glass. They were getting along fine, and he was sure she would give him no trouble.

The Criminal Investigation Department received the notification two days later. Elínborg was on duty and she called out the team. When she arrived at the scene traffic police had already closed off the road, in the Thingholt district, and the forensics officers were just pulling up. She saw a representative of the Regional Medical Officer get out of his car. At the start of a case only forensics team members were permitted to enter the flat, to carry out their investigations. They 'froze' the scene, as they put it.

Elínborg made the necessary arrangements as she waited patiently for the forensics team to give her the go-ahead. Journalists and other media reporters were gathering, and she observed them at work. They were pushy - some were even rude to the police who were keeping them away from the crime scene. One or two of the TV reporters looked familiar: a vacuous quiz-show host who had recently transferred to the news, and the presenter of a political chat show. She had no idea why he should be down here with the news teams. Elínborg recalled her early days with the CID, when she'd been one of only a handful of women detectives: back then the reporters had been much more polite, and far fewer. She preferred the press journalists. Print-media people were less rushed, less overbearing and less self-important than the TV reporters toting their video cameras. Some of them could even write.

Neighbours stood at their windows or had stepped out into their doorways, arms crossed in the autumn chill, puzzlement on their faces; they had no idea what had happened. Police officers had started questioning them: had they noticed anything unusual on the street, or specifically at the house, anyone coming or going? Did they know the resident? Had they been inside?

Elínborg had once rented a flat in Thingholt, long before it had become fashionable. She had liked living in this historic area on the hillside above the old town centre. The houses, which varied in age, encapsulated a century of the history of building and architecture in the city: some had been humble labourers' cottages, others had been grand villas built by wealthy entrepreneurs. Rich and poor, masters and workers, had always lived there in harmony side by side until the district had started to attract young home-buyers with no interest in settling in the sprawling new suburbs that were stretching into the upland heaths, and who preferred to make their homes close to the heart of the city. The artistic and fashionable classes moved into the old timber-framed houses, and the splendid mansions were bought up by the super-wealthy and nouveau riche. They wore their downtown postcode like a badge of honour: 101 Reykjavík.

The head of forensics appeared at the corner of the house and called to Elínborg. He reminded her to be careful, and not to touch anything.

'It's nasty,' he said.

'Oh?'

'Like an abattoir.'

The entrance to the ground-floor flat was at the rear, facing the garden, and was not visible from the road; a paved path led round to the back of the house. As she entered the flat Elínborg saw the body of a young man lying on the living-room floor. His trousers were around his ankles and he was wearing nothing but a blood-soaked T-shirt with the words San Francisco stencilled on it. A little flower was growing up out of the letter F.

OUTRAGE. Copyright 2008 by Arnaldur Indridason.