Monday morning fog rolled in over the land in white woolly waves. The two children could hardly see a meter ahead of them as they crossed onto the school grounds. They had to find their way from memory and soon their steps became hesitant and searching. The boy was slightly behind the girl, his school bag in his arms. All of a sudden he stopped.
“Don’t go on without me.”
The girl stopped as well. The fog particles condensed in her hair, and she wiped the droplets from her brow as she patiently waited for her little brother, who was struggling to wrench his bag onto his back. He had spoken Turkish, which he rarely did, and never to her; now he was occupied with the straps and pulling harder on them, but it didn’t help. When he was finally done, he grabbed her hand. She looked around to see if she could spy the other end of the field through the mist.
She said, “Now see what you’ve done.”
“What have I done?”
He tightened his grip and sounded small.
“Nothing. You don’t understand.”
She picked a direction at random and took a few blind steps before she stopped short again. The boy pressed up against her.
“Have we gone astray?”
“It was light at Mother’s.”
“In a little while it’ll be light here too.”
“What does it mean, astray
She didn’t answer him, and tried to convince herself that there was nothing to be afraid of, that the school grounds weren’t particularly large, that they should just keep going.
“We aren’t allowed to go off with strangers. No matter what, we can’t go off with strangers. Isn’t that right?”
She could hear that he was on the verge of tears and she pulled him along behind her in a series of uncertain steps, until she suddenly saw a slight glow diagonally in front of her and steered toward it.
Shortly afterward they were in the corridor in front of the gymnasium. The girl was sitting on a bench, reading, and her brother came running with a ball in his arms.
“Do you want to play ball with me? You’re so good at it.”
“Have you hung your clothes up properly and set your bag down in its place?”
He nodded, wide-eyed, the embodiment of sincerity.
“Come on, go and do it.”
He lumbered off without objection, but was soon back and repeated his desire to play.
“I have something I have to read first. You start and I’ll be there in a bit.”
He glanced skeptically at her book. It was thick.
“Promise you’ll come soon?”
“As soon as I’ve finished this chapter. Go in and play on your own. It won’t be long.”
He ran into the gym and soon she heard the sounds of a bouncing ball. She kept reading. From time to time she closed her eyes and imagined she was a part of the story.
The boy interrupted her.
“There isn’t room to play,” he called out.
“Because some men are hanging up in here.”
“So go around them.”
Suddenly he was in front of her. She hadn’t heard him approach.
“I don’t like the men.”
The girl sniffed the air a couple of times.
“Have you farted?”
“No, but I don’t like the dead men. They’ve been cut up.”
She got up angrily and walked over to the doorway to the gymnasium, her brother at her heels.
Five people were hanging from the ceiling, each suspended by a single rope. They were naked and facing toward her.
“Aren’t they gross?”
“Yes,” she said and closed the door.
She put her arm around the boy.
“Can we play ball now?”
“No, we can’t. We have to find an adult.”
Copyright © 2012 by Lotte Hammer Jakobson and Søren Hammer Jakobson
LOTTE AND SOREN HAMMER are siblings. The Hanging is the first in a series following Detective Konrad Simonsen and his team from the murder squad. They live in Frederiksværk, Denmark.