|Primary Characters:||Sara Lund, Jens Peter Raben, Colonel Jarnvig
|Description:||Jens Peter Raben’s condition is deteriorating, after Strange/Perk claimed he had been the one to kill the little girl in Afghanistan. The Colonel, who is also Raben’s ex-father-in-law is concerned and asks Sara Lund to find out for sure who killed the little girl. She too has suffered because of Strange’s actions and at first she’d unwilling to help.
The night nurse heard muffled cries from one of her patients’ rooms and since she was about to go on the next round, she decided to investigate. The noise came from Jens Peter Raben’s room, which didn’t surprise her at all. Lately, that particular patient had taken a turn for the worse. Since it wasn’t considered necessary for the nurses to know what was behind such changes, she had no idea of what was causing the man’s deterioration. All she needed to do was keep an eye on him and report any serious changes to his doctor.
She looked in, cautiously, because she knew war veterans could be a bit tricky, and sometimes downright dangerous, and found that Raben was tossing and turning on his bed, mumbling something that sounded like ‘no’, which didn’t tell her much more than she already knew. Briefly, she considered waking him, but decided that it might even do more harm than good. After a while, he settled down and seemed to go into a deeper sleep mode. Such a shame with these young war veterans. To have their lives ruined when they’d only been trying to serve their country. At least that was what the papers said. The nurse herself was a bit of a pacifist so she didn’t really approve of participating in any war.
The following morning, when the nurse’s shift had ended and the day shift was present, Raben had a visitor. It wasn’t, as he kept telling the staff, his wife and son, but an older man by a different name. He had a military bearing so most of the staff assumed it was his commanding officer, which as it happened, was true as far as it went, but that wasn’t the whole truth. The old man was in fact Raben’s father-in-law – or to be specific – ex-father-in-law, Colonel Jarnvig.
Raben sat in a chair, looking more than half asleep. Jarnvig sighed. His son-in-law – or rather ex-son-in-law, wasn’t getting any better. In fact, since the latest development, he had grown far worse. It was sad. The police investigation should have helped him, particularly since it had actually exonerated him and he was no longer facing any criminal charges. Instead, Raben had sunk deeper into his depression. Though as Jarnvig well knew, the depression was just the top of the iceberg. With cases like this one, and he’d seen far too many over the years, PTSD could be far more serious. Sadly, Jarnvig patted the younger man’s hand. It took Raben far too long to react to the touch and at first it looked as if he was going to snatch his hand away. After staring at the old man for a very long time, the movement ceased and that was the only reaction Jarnvig could discern.
At least that was a little cheering. The boy recognized him. He was, after all, despite the failed marriage between him and Jarnvig’s daughter, still one of his boys. Jarnvig was wondering if today would be a good day to tell Raben that Louise wasn’t going to come back again. She’d told her father that clearly. No more visits. Raben couldn’t expect to see his son either. At least in that, Jarnvig agreed with his daughter. There was nothing to be gained from letting the little boy, Jonas, see his father like this. But Louise – even if the marriage was over and – by now Jarnvig knew this too – her new relationship too, she could at least be kind enough to come and see Raben once in a while. As he well knew, though, there was no changing his daughter’s mind once it was made up.
After a few more minutes of consideration, Jarnvig decided that he would wait to tell Raben. Bad news could always wait. The poor boy had enough to worry about without being told to his face that his ex-wife had abandoned him.
To Vibeke Lund’s – Sara Lund’s mother’s – relief, her daughter had chosen to return to Gedser. After nearly being killed by her partner, Sara was better off out there. It was safer and calmer. It seemed Sara felt that way too. Though Sara was known to keep quiet about her personal life, Vibeke had heard it said that her daughter refused to speak to her former boss, Lennart Brix. It was even rumoured that Ruth Hedeby had tempted Sara with a promotion, but it seemed Sara had turned it down.
Sara too, was experiencing bad dreams, but she would never have mentioned that to her mother. She even kept it from the police psychologist, because – it was her own business, after all.
Night after night, she was standing there emptying her clip into the man she had believed was her partner. A man she had even been close to. Some nights, she was lying on the ground, feeling Strange’s bullets eat into her. She could still feel her body jumping from the impacts. Even several weeks after the incident, the bruises had caused her pain every time she accidentally brushed them against something. In fact, even now, she thought she felt a certain phantom pain at times. Occasionally, the dreams went further – but she wouldn’t dwell on them now. She had to get on with her life.
Over the following weeks, Raben kept getting worse. Since the Colonel was now considered Raben’s next of kin, he had been informed that there didn’t seem much hope for recovery any more. So Raben’s upcoming release had been cancelled until further notice.
On his ‘better’ days, Raben would be rambling on about his self-loathing and feelings of guilt. Jarnvig knew all about that. He had heard it all before, from Raben, and similar stories from other men under his command.
Today, he happened to notice something new. When he once again patted Raben’s hand, to make him calm down, the young man snatched his hand back and the movement made his sleeve pull up a little. Jarnvig frowned and squinted at the splash of red he saw on the lower arm. What was that? Surely they didn’t inject that far down on the arm? Or take blood samples either. Raben had calmed down again, so Jarnvig gently took hold of the wrist and took a closer look. That looked very much like a cut. Made with a knife? That couldn’t be right. Why would anyone –
Since Raben was now back to his usual state – more or less catatonic – Jarnvig risked touching the other arm as well and to his dismay found two more cuts, similar to the one on the left arm. He couldn’t leave that unreported. When the visiting hour was over, he asked to speak to anyone in charge and was shown into the resident psychiatrist’s office. Jarnvig would have settled for seeing one of the nurses, but was gratified that they took his request seriously.
The woman was somewhere in between his age and Raben’s. Maybe about fortyfive or so. She didn’t look like a fool, but Jarnvig would reserve his judgment until they’d spoken for a while. He’d seen all sorts of people in the medical profession.
”How do you do, sir. I understand you wanted to see me about your son-in-law, Jens Peter Raben?”
”That’s right. Today I noticed that he had three cuts on his arms. Red stripes that look painful. As if they’d gone septic. What’s going on? My son-in-law doesn’t seem to be active enough to be injured and surely he shouldn’t be while hospitalized.”
The psychiatrist – a Dr Jensen – frowned. Clearly this was the first she’d heard of the matter.
”I see. I haven’t heard anything about injuries – but I’ll have one of the nurses check it out.”
”Good. I just thought it was odd.”
Dr Jensen nodded. Jarnvig didn’t move. He was hoping the staff would investigate right away. Why put it off?
Eventually, his meaning seemed to sink in and Dr Jensen lifted the receiver and spoke to the person on the other end of the line. A nurse, hopefully.
”Nurse Elling will take a look.”
Jarnvig nodded, then nothing happened for a while. He was concerned about Raben. Not only was his condition getting worse, but now this – Poor boy.
Ten minutes or so later, the nurse walked in. She glanced inquiringly at the visitor, then when her superior nodded encouragingly she went on with her report.
”Yes. I found several cuts on the patient’s lower arms and a few on his upper arms as well. Injuries consistent with self-harm.”
Jarnvig winced. Self-harm? Raben was really in a bad way. These people needed to work harder to help him.
”I’m sorry, sir. We’ll put him under closer watch and – we’ll need to adjust the dosage.”
Jarnvig wasn’t sure the latter would help. Already, it looked as if Raben was asleep all day as well as, presumably, all night. On the other hand, when would the boy find the time or energy to cut himself?
”How could he get his hands on anything sharp? It shouldn’t be possible in here.”
”I’m sorry. We’ll look into that. Perhaps during meals – In any case, don’t worry about it. We’ll deal with the situation.”
”Are you – I mean – do you talk to him? Are you aware of his feelings of guilt? Has he said anything that might help during your sessions?”
”As I’m sure you’ll understand, Colonel, I’m unable to go into anything we’ve discussed during our sessions.”
”Alright. But I really need you to do something. I have come here in the past weeks and seen my son-in-law sink deeper into apathy. Now he’s cutting himself out of feelings of guilt. Help him.”
”We will, Colonel. We will.”
He was hoping she had reason for her self-confidence. Jarnvig felt as if they had all let the poor boy down. He remembered far too well how he had looked ten years ago when he’d first met the boy. So young, so hopeful, so innocent. And now – Naturally the war had played its part, but so much else had gone wrong.
He thanked the staff and left, still sombrely contemplating Raben’s situation.
The following week, Jarnvig slowly and reluctantly walked into the visitor room to see Raben again. This time, his bad news couldn’t wait. What confounded bad luck. At least Raben seemed relatively lucid today.
”Hello, my boy. I have something to tell you.”
It looked as if there was awareness in the young man’s eyes, so the Colonel went on, hoping he was right.
”I’m afraid it’s bad news. Jonas – has been in a fight in school. He has hurt another boy quite badly, I’m afraid. I’m really sorry.”
As usual, anything the Colonel told Raben took excrutiatingly long to sink in. Today was no exception. Finally, Raben’s impassive face changed expression. A look of horror spread across his rather handsome features.
”No. Not – it’s my fault. He’s – getting like me.”
To Jarnvig’s distress, Raben began to cry. The news had devastated him. Too late, the Colonel began to regret telling the younger man. It might have been time enough when – if – the boy was feeling better.
”I’m sorry. I’ll find out more and try to -”
Yes, what could he try to do that the child’s mother and the school staff weren’t already doing? For some time now, he had been concerned about the child’s mental health. Clearly, his concerns had been justified. But he doubted the father had anything to do with it. His guess would be other family members, like his late wife or –
”Try to calm down, my boy. I’ll see to it.”
Again, he patted Raben’s hand but this time there was no reaction at all. It was as if Raben hadn’t even noticed the touch.
When he left the hospital that day, Jarnvig felt even more burdened by his concerns for his family.
He had long since learned that Louise wasn’t interested in any news about her ex-husband, so he didn’t bother trying to tell his daughter about Raben’s reaction. Besides, Louise was as concerned about their child in her own way so nothing good would come of twisting the knife in the wound. She wouldn’t welcome her old father’s interference anyway.
In the early hours of the following morning, the Colonel was woken by the sound of his phone ringing. When he caught sight of the display, he knew it wouldn’t be good news. He sighed and accepted the call. What else would be wrong?
He listened gravely to the voice outlining the new development, then terminated the call. Shaking his head, he got out of bed, got dressed and left. His former son-in-law had somehow managed to escape from the hospital. The search was in full swing, but Jarnvig didn’t think those idiots from the hospital, even with the help of the local police would be able to find Raben. But he rather thought he could. After all, these days, there was hardly anyone else who knew the boy better. He didn’t even need to think. The military base would be Raben’s first – and most likely only – choice.
At this time of night, it didn’t take him long to reach the base. After passing through the checkpoint he parked the car, then went off on foot. The barracks would be where Raben was heading, if he wasn’t very much mistaken. It was where he’d been stationed during basic training and later too. His home for so many years. He couldn’t think of more than one reason for Raben to come here. If only he wouldn’t be too late.
The door was unlocked, but that wasn’t all that odd. Such a well guarded installation could afford to leave some doors unlocked. No unauthorized entry would be allowed. Silently he made his way upstairs, then onto the roof. At least he couldn’t see any way that Raben had been able to get his hands on any weapon. But the building was five stories high. No weapon would be needed.
He wasn’t surprised when he found his son-in-law standing on the edge of the roof, looking out over the compound. When he heard the sounds of someone approaching, he whirled around. The Colonel took a deep breath. Raben was standing far too close to the edge. Any sudden movement and he would risk falling.
”It’s just me, Jens. Take it easy.”
Jarnvig had never been completely happy about the relationship between Raben and his daughter, but before that, he had been one of his boys. He couldn’t let the boy down now.
”Don’t come any closer.”
”It’s alright. I won’t. Please step away from the edge. Let’s talk.”
Again, Jarnvig had the impression his words took unnaturally long to reach Raben’s ears or at least to be processed in his brain. Even then, the young man didn’t move.
”Yes, let’s talk. Strange – Perk – told me that – I killed a little girl out there, in Afghanistan. Did you know that?”
No, the Colonel had never been told all the details of that complex case, but he wasn’t surprised. Strange – Perk – had killed an entire family of civilians out there. But that Raben would have done something similar – no, Jarnvig couldn’t believe that.
”Obviously he was lying.”
”How do you know? You weren’t there. I was.”
A cold hand clutched at Jarnvig’s heart. Surely Raben hadn’t – but PTSD could do strange things to people. He forced himself to remain outwardly calm. If he could only get the boy to step away from the edge –
”I don’t know.”
Tears were streaming down Raben’s face and it was twitching oddly in the scarce light. The sun wouldn’t be up for at least another hour yet.
”And even if I didn’t – you have no idea – there were other times. I – almost – went too far.”
”But you didn’t?”
”I could have.”
”I understand. War does that to you. It’s not your fault.”
”Oh, but it is. At least if I killed that little girl.”
”But you didn’t. Perk did.”
It was as if Raben couldn’t hear Jarnvig. He was too caught up in his internal struggle.
”Come away from the edge, please. We can talk for as long you like.”
Raben’s whole body was shaken by the sobs and Jarnvig was afraid that any additional movement would cause the boy to overbalance and fall five floors down.
”It’s my fault about Jonas. I’m the one who – with a father like this, how could he turn out normal? If he had another father. Sögard. He’ll be better off without me. Tell – tell Louise I loved her so much. I love Jonas. Tell them. I’m sorry, sir. I can’t do this anymore. Just go. You’ve been very kind, but there’s nothing else for you to do now.”
”No, it’s not your fault at all.”
Raben wasn’t listening.
”I’m doing it for them. They deserve better. I have to do this, before I hurt them even more. You understand, don’t you? You know that poor Bilal almost killed Louise. If I don’t – do something now – something worse will happen. Surely you see that?”
”Jens, it’s not your fault. It’s coming from Louise’s mother’s family. She – Jonas’ grandmother and – Louise’s grandfather and her mother’s aunt were – mentally unstable. Nothing you’ve done has caused this behaviour in Jonas. And he’s so young. The other boy wasn’t seriously injured. There’s still time for him to get help. And then he’ll need his father.”
Raben didn’t reply. He just shook with the more or less silent sobbing.
”But I killed a little girl in Afghanistan.”
”How do you know that?”
”Perk told me. Strange.”
”And you believe him?”
”But I – I remember holding her. I remember – I remember crying afterwards.”
”That’s not so strange. You weren’t expecting a Danish officer to kill a child.”
”I have gaps in my memory. That happened several times. I came to afterwards and had no idea of what I’d done.”
”That’s a very common trauma for soldiers who have participated in acts of war. Post traumatic stress. You know that.”
Raben closed his eyes and shook his head.
”I’ve tried to remember, but I can’t. It’s possible that I did it. I used to get into a sort of state when I couldn’t think like I usually did. Just kept going on autopilot. And I remember how shocked I was afterwards. Would I have felt that way if hadn’t done it?”
”Of course you would. You kept fighting for the truth to come out. Would you really have done that if subconsciously you didn’t want to know?”
For the first time, it looked as if Jarnvig’s words were finally hitting home. He decided to take advantage of that.
”Come back with me. Please.”
But it seemed Raben had made up his mind.
”Don’t come any closer. I’m going to jump. Leave, so you won’t have to watch me do it.”
No. He couldn’t let the boy do it. There had to be something he could do – That cop –
”Sara Lund. The police officer. She can find out what really happened in that village. If you come with me now, I promise I’ll contact her and ask her to try.”
”How could she find out? They’re all gone. I’m the only one left and I can’t remember. I can’t.”
”They have forensics experts. Crime technicians. Medical examiners. They can tell from the bodies who was holding the weapon that killed them. Let me try. Let her try. Jens, don’t do this. If you’re afraid of harming Jonas, don’t let him grow up with the memory of a father who didn’t feel up to being a father to him and took the easy way out when life became difficult to live. I didn’t think you were a coward, Jens.”
Raben hesitated a moment. It was all the Colonel needed. He had his hands on Raben and was able to grab him and pull him away from the edge. Raben fought him every step of the way, but the Colonel was still strong and fit and he kept holding his son-in-law down, until he stopped struggling and began to cry again. After a moment, Jarnvig began to speak soothingly to Raben and even touch him gently. To begin with, Raben tried to twist away from the Colone’s hands, but eventually, he slumped down and accepted the touch. When he’d calmed down, he let his father-in-law bring him down from the roof.
The Colonel had sat with Raben for an hour or more, watching him succumb to the stronger medication, then said goodbye – though he wasn’t quite sure Raben had heard him.
He had a promise to keep and he intended to be as good as his word. When he called the police headquarter’s central switchboard, he was surprised to learn that Sara Lund was no longer working for Homicide. It took him at least an hour to find anyone who was willing to tell him where she was. Gedser. The border police? He would never have imagined that a skilled homicide investigator would choose to leave such a qualified position to work for the border police.
When he tried to call her directly, he was told she only worked part time and was at home. He considered finding out her home number, but decided to go and visit her in person. If he could only see her and explain about Raben’s situation, he was hoping she would understand and would agree to help him.
He found Sara Lund in her small apartment, looking – as if she’d changed since he last saw her. In the past, she had been so sure of herself. Apparently, the case had got to her too, even if she wasn’t nearly as severely affected as Raben. But then he had already been suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome before the whole Strange/Perk affair.
She almost cowered back, when she recognized Colonel Jarnvig. The last thing she wanted was a reminder of that case. Suddenly, she was back there. That night. Turning her gun on Strange. She had trusted him. Cared about him. And then – he had tried to kill her. He had been the killer she had been after all along and she hadn’t seen it. It had made her doubt her whole career. Maybe she had never been any good at her job. Had she sacrificed her personal life for nothing?
After a moment, she realized that she was being impolite. Though it was the last thing she wanted, she stepped aside and gestured for Jarnvig to come inside. If he’d come all this way to see her, he obviously had something important to tell her.
”Please. I need your help.”
No, not again. Whatever it was, he could just ask someone else. This time, she wasn’t going to get sucked in again.
It was as if Jarnvig had read her mind.
”Just let me tell you about it. Don’t say no, until you’ve heard me out.”
For a second, she wanted to do exactly that. Just ask him to leave. Whatever he had to say, she didn’t want to hear it. She couldn’t start over again. Not after – but the old man looked desperate. The tone of pleading in his voice got to her, despite herself.
She nodded. He was here. It was too late to protect herself now anyway. That case, it had come back to haunt her again, and in a way, it had never left her. Those dreams made sure of that.
She pointed to one of her armchairs and Jarnvig sank down on it, looking as if he was exhausted. The knuckles on his hands were white, so it looked as if he was as tense as she felt.
His story wasn’t complicated. She had already seen Raben’s reaction to Strange’s taunts about the killing of the little girl. It didn’t surprise her that it had hit the mark. The evil of that man was – Despite herself, she felt a stirring of pity for the poor war veteran. But that didn’t change anything. She couldn’t help him and she would have to tell his father-in-law that. It was out of the question.
”No. I’m sorry. I can’t help you.”
The old man slumped down, looking as if she’d hit him.
”Please. I’ll admit that I wasn’t too thrilled about Jens marrying my daughter – but now – you should see him. He’s in a bad way. They’re saying – there’s no hope of improvement. But I believe that if he could only find out that he’s innocent of killing that little girl, he’ll begin to pull through. Just look into it. Surely you can check on the angles of the entry wounds and so on?”
She didn’t even want to think about all that police procedure. None of that mattered now. But she also couldn’t bear to just ignore the old man.
”I’m not with Homicide anymore. You know that. I can’t -”
”But you still know people there?”
”For what it’s worth, I really don’t think your son-in-law did it. He wouldn’t have insisted on having the case solved if he’d known – even subconsciously.”
”But he has to know.”
Of course. In his position, she wouldn’t have been content with thinking or probabilities. She would need to know for sure too.
”Please. Try. Talk to your old colleagues. The medical examiner. Whoever might be able to help. It would mean so much to Jens.”
She felt cold. Staring down at her hands, she braced herself, then looked up and faced the old man.
”Alright. I’ll try. But – it may not be possible to know the truth. I don’t know.”
He’d never heard her sound so frail. So doubtful of her own skills. He was sorry he had to come here and stir things up again for her. Clearly she had suffered too, in her own way.
”Thank you. I’m really sorry to ask you this, but – it’s Jens’ only chance. He – tried to kill himself last night. And before that – he’s taken to cutting himself. Like a teenager.”
Sara Lund made a face. At least she wasn’t that far gone. Of course she wasn’t a war veteran, but she had killed people too. Her memories were only too vivid. If Raben had to face those images day and night, no wonder he wanted them to end, whatever he had to do to achieve that. Again, she was struck by pity for the poor man.
The Colonel got up and thanked her again. Shook her hand solemnly. It was clear that he cared about his son-in-law.
She couldn’t face returning to Copenhagen. This would have to be done over the phone. At least for now. It was too much for her to deal with. But she could talk to the ME. Surely, she couldn’t manage that?
The phone kept ringing for so long, she half hoped that the ME would be busy or out. Then he finally did pick up.
”Sara Lund here. I – have a favour to ask.”
She was far from sure if anyone wanted to do her a favour. It had always been obvious to her that she wasn’t well liked by everyone.
”Oh? Go on then. What is it?”
”Remember that case of the murdered civilian family in Afghanistan? You were involved.”
”I sure was. What about it?”
”Jens Peter Raben. Strange – Perk – said he was the one who killed the little girl. I think he was just trying to shift the blame, but Raben – he’s suffering from PTSD and – is taking it hard. His father-in-law wants me to try to find out for sure. It would mean a lot to him.”
”Hm. You know, maybe I can help. I’ll look into it. Can I get back to you tomorrow?”
”Yeah, sure. Thanks. I wasn’t sure if it could be done.”
”Oh, we should be able to manage something like that. It would be a shame otherwise. Give us some credit. Ok, I’ll get back to you tomorrow or the day after at the latest.”
She hadn’t expected it to be that easy. After she had terminated the call, she was left with a feeling that she might be stronger than she thought. Hearing the ME’s voice hadn’t troubled her as much as she’d expected. Maybe she was ready to return to Copenhagen? Just temporarily. She suddenly felt an urge to see Raben again. Even before, while she was investigating the case, she had been struck by pity for him. She could only imagine what sort of man he had been before the war.
The following day, she made sure her phone was fully charged and got on a commuter train bound for the capital. Again, she was surprised not to feel more bothered by seeing the familiar views. Apparently, it wasn’t the city itself that troubled her, it was just her old job. Brix seemed to have stopped calling her and that was a relief, even though she had always had the greatest respect for her boss. He was a good man. She just couldn’t bear to see him or hear his voice. Ruth Hedeby too, had stopped trying to promote her. Maybe she knew when she was beaten. Sara had never liked her so she was more than relieved not to have to take her calls anymore.
It seemed the Colonel had mentioned her name because she had no trouble being allowed in to visit Raben.
The last time she had seen him, he hadn’t exactly been completely fit, but now – the change stunned her. It even jolted her out of her own apathy. He had lost weight and looked frail, but the worst change was the strong medication he had to be on. It was as if he was barely awake. Even so, when she introduced herself, he looked up and faced her. The eyes looked hazy but there was a glint of recognition there.
”He said you would help. Th – thanks.”
The slur made it hard to decipher his words so it took her a while to read the meaning, but it didn’t seem to make a differenct to him. She had feeling it took him at least as long to really hear her reply.
”The ME said it should be possible to find out, but – I don’t really have any doubts. It was Strange who did it. He was just trying to shift the blame. No one thinks you did it.”
”Thanks, but I think – it’s possible. I have gaps in my memory. Nightmares.”
At least that was what she thought he was saying. Before he had reached the end of the sentence, which seemed to tax his powers of speech beyond endurance, she could see that his eyes filled with tears. Again, she cursed Strange. She had never in all the years of her career encountered anyone that evil. If Raben was guilty after all, Sara considered lying to him. The truth would finish him.
She sat with Raben for a while, then excused herself and left. Her visit to the capital had worked out better than she had expected, but she was feeling exhausted by the pressure. It was time she returned to Gedser.
The ME didn’t call her all day so she assumed he had got busy on some other case. She was sorry for Raben and Jarnvig, but secretly relieved. That case was haunting her enough as it was. Finding out more about it was just about the limit of what she could take.
To her surprise, she found herself drawn back the hospital. She had been touched by Raben’s situation. There was no doubt about it, the case had crushed him. At least she was still on her feet and still working. Not on any prescription medication either, though she sometimes had to take something to help her sleep when the dreams had kept her awake for days on end. Her new job might not be nearly as taxing as her old one, but she still needed to perform her duties to her employers’ satisfaction.
During the visit, she learned about what had happened with the child. She could understand that Raben was upset, but the boy was so young, surely there was no reason for concern? Children got into fights all the time. She told Raben as much.
”You know, I once hit a boy when I was in kindergarten. He was bullying a younger boy and – my temper got the better of me. I just wanted to protect that little boy. It didn’t occur to me that it might not be such a good idea to hit anyone. At least he was bigger than me. The bully.”
She couldn’t read much into Raben’s expression, but she thought he had heard her. Hopefully it would make him think.
On her way out, she ran into Jarnvig. He looked surprised to see her.
”It was very kind of you to visit Jens. Have you had any news?”
”No. Nothing. He told me about his son. The fight.”
”Oh. Well, at least Jonas was provoked. Apparently, the other boy had said something about Jonas’ crazy father. ”
”Well, that would explain it. Children do get into fights sometimes. I did too when I was in kindergarten.”
The Colonel actually smiled at that. Maybe he didn’t think much of little girls’ fights. Obviously he hadn’t been there on that day, when the bigger boy’s nose had spattered blood all over his clothes. She had packed a good punch even at the age of six.
Jarnvig nodded and continued in to see his son-in-law. Sara Lund hastily returned to the railway station. She wasn’t going to make a habit of these visits to the city. Once the case was over – but it was. This was just a matter of tying up loose ends, nothing more. She would set poor Raben’s mind at rest, then she would flee back to her safe haven. As long as Brix and Hedeby didn’t find out about her involvement. That might set them off again. But she wouldn’t change her mind. She was barely keeping her nose over the water as it was. No more homicide work for her. Never again.
The following morning she slept late. Clearly it wasn’t just her imagination that the city tired her out. She woke to hear her phone ringing. It was the ME.
”I have news for you.”
”You do? Thanks.”
”Well, to begin with, there was never any question of Strange not having killed the other three, and as far as I could tell there was no question about that little girl either. But since you asked, I went over the data again. It’s an open and shot case. Strange killed all of them. The same man held the gun all four times. So you can tell Jarnvig and Raben that. There are no doubts about it.”
She hadn’t been prepared for the relief that washed over her. Raben’s state had touched her more than she had expected. She was even looking forward to seeing him again, to give him the good news. Maybe it would make a difference to his condition.
So she found herself once again going back to the hospital. There had been no change in Raben’s condition. He was still barely awake, but at least there was a glint of recognition in his eyes.
”I heard from the ME this morning. There was never any doubt about it. Strange – Perk – killed them all.”
This time it took him so long to process what she had said, she found herself repeating herself.
”Jens, it wasn’t true. He lied to you. You didn’t kill the little girl or any of them. He did. The ME confirms it. Your amnesia must be due to the shock, nothing more. Being in a war, watching people die and – killing them – harms us. Surely I don’t need to tell you that?”
Gently, she placed her hand on Raben’s. It saddened her to see how he almost pulled back from her touch, but eventually, he calmed down and it seemed he was trying to smile at her.
”Th – thanks.”
He began to cry again and the sight so unnerved her that she didn’t know what to do. Uncomfortably, she fidgeted in her seat. In the end, she put her hand in her pocket and was able to find a clean tissue. She hesitated, then began to dry his tears. He didn’t make a move to stop her. Again she put her hand on his and this time he didn’t try to snatch it back.
On her way out, she once again ran into Jarnvig.
”I just told Raben the good news. The ME confirms that Strange killed all four of them. No doubt about it.”
Jarnvig looked as relieved as Raben.
”Thank you. You have no idea -”
She waved away his thanks. It was making her embarrassed. All she’d done was to contact the ME. He had done the rest of the work.
”Thank the ME.”
”Alright, I will, but we both owe you. And if you’re back in the city, it would mean a lot to Jens if you could come and visit him sometimes. You see – Louise – my daughter – she’s given up on him. Won’t come to see him anymore. That means he won’t be seeing Jonas either. So it’s just me. Unless you would consider -”
To her own surprise, she heard herself replying that she would try. That wasn’t what she had intended to say at all. It was – yes, something about the medication.
”Is it really necessary for him to be on such strong medication? He was barely awake.”
”Maybe he’ll feel better now, that he knows. It was just to stop him from cutting himself and – trying to kill himself. I’ll talk to the staff.”
”Oh, of course.”
To her surprise, she caught herself going back to the hospital day after day. Something about Raben’s condition had touched her and she couldn’t bear the thought of him sitting there all alone. It wasn’t fair.
One day, he actually seemed more aware. More alert.
”I – would like to thank you properly. The last time I think I was a bit – out of things. I barely remember seeing you, but the Colonel told me what you’d done. You have no idea how much this means to me, even if it doesn’t change much. I may not have actually pulled the trigger, but I did help Perk – Strange – to kill her. Held her.”
”No, you didn’t. Ok, you shouldn’t have been in that situation, none of you should have, but you were in a very tense situation. You may have heard about me – how I have ended up in some situations – some were just bad luck – and some were my own fault – but you didn’t kill that little girl and you would have had no way of knowing what he was about to do.”
Again, she could see his eyes go misty, and she hesitated. Her first impulse was to look away, but in the end, she tried awkwardly to comfort him, distract him by making small talk. It wasn’t her strong suit and eventually, that seemed to dawn on Raben and he made an effort to pull himself together.
”I know I have no right to ask – but – I’d be really glad to see you if you ever have time to come back and visit me. You may not know this but my wife and son never come to see me anymore. Just the Colonel sometimes. It would mean a lot to me.”
She really didn’t want to be reminded of what had happened. The trip from Gedser was long and – but somehow, she found herself agreeing right away.
”Ok. I’ll try.”
She really felt sorry for Raben. He might not be in a wheelchair, but he was just as badly injured as anyone with physical wounds. Even if his didn’t show on the outside. It occurred to her that she too, had the been hurt the same way. Strange had caused them both serious harm with his actions. On her way out, she was smiling and for the first time in a long time, she actually felt it reach her eyes.
Raben too, was smiling. He was actually looking much better. Maybe some day he would even be able to make a life for himself in the outside world.
Though she didn’t know it, she was the object of Raben’s thoughts too. She had saved his sanity. He would always be grateful to her for that. There was something about her that he had instantly trusted even from the first time she’d come to question him. Knowing she would be back to see him made him feel a lot better. It was something to look forward to, just like the Colonel’s visits. He owed him too. At least it was something to go on living for. Maybe he really would get better some day. He would certainly do his best.