Authors: Leena Lehtolainen
Tags: #Fiction / Mystery & Detective
Sounds started coming from my stomach. I realized that it was almost seven o’clock, and all I’d had since vomiting into that ditch was a slice of bread and some salami.
“Is there anything around here I could eat?” I asked, feeling rude, though I knew I should try to feel more at home. “I need to get back to the police station, and my brain doesn’t work well without food. I can make it myself if Antti shows me where everything is.”
I wanted to be alone with Antti, even though he didn’t seem in a terribly sociable mood.
In the kitchen, some of the chaos of the previous evening still showed. The dishwasher hung open, and the refrigerator was full of leftovers from the buffet table. Without a twinge of
guilt, I finished off the shrimp salad and the last piece of caviar
cake, and then, with my coffee, had a cream puff that tasted like refrigerator.
Antti’s silence irritated me. Sure, he knew Armi and Kimmo much better than I did, but this wasn’t exactly a personal tragedy for him.
“Have a cognac, Antti. It will help. Have a double if you need to.”
“How will that help? Why should I drown my emotions? Do you have to be so damn professional all the time? Is that how you stifle your feelings, or do you just not have any?”
“Yeah, that’s right, what fucking feelings? You know me—not a day goes by without a murder and a look at a nice dead body! Asshole. Listen, right now I don’t have time for feelings. Getting Kimmo out of that cell and finding out who killed Armi is going to take more than feelings.”
Who knows how much worse that conversation would have ended up had Risto not entered the kitchen?
“Marita said there was coffee in here. I gave Annamari the last Valium in the house, and that put her out,” Risto explained, turning to the coffeemaker and pouring himself a cup.
“Hey, would it be too much to ask for you to give me a ride to the police station?” I asked in a cautious tone. I knew Risto liked driving. I didn’t even touch Antti as I left.
“What should we tell my dad?” Risto asked once we were in the car and on our way.
“Where is he now? Ecuador? Do you have to tell him right away?”
“Annamari is demanding it, and yes, it’s important information. She wants him to come back and act like a father.” Risto’s voice was impassive.
I hadn’t seen Henrik Hänninen in ten years. Once during that winter when the Hänninens lived in my hometown, my parents, who were also teachers, had invited their new colleague and her husband over for dinner. Horrible menstrual cramps had kept me home that night.
Annamari Hänninen had seemed a little scattered, but Henrik might as well not even have been present. He didn’t seem the slightest bit interested in what was happening around him. Over the years, he became distant physically as well, taking one foreign posting after another for his company. Soon after Sanna’s death, he left for Ecuador and wasn’t due to come back from that assignment until the end of the year. His habit of interacting with his grandchildren, Matti and Mikko, only by sending them expensive gifts left Antti’s parents—the boys’ other grandparents—indignant.
“I don’t think it’s worth calling your father back yet. What could he do here? Getting in contact with Eki Henttonen is much more important—try the number for his boat a few more times. And keep Annamari away from the police station.” I realized I was issuing orders again to people I had no authority over, but Risto didn’t seem to mind.
“Listen, Risto, I wasn’t at my most focused last night when Antti and I left the house. Do you remember who was still there? Most of the group had already left.”
Risto didn’t inquire why I was asking; he simply thought for a moment and then answered.
“I wasn’t the most sober either. I’d knocked back a few too many glasses of cognac with Eki. So who was still here? Eki at least, and of course Kimmo and Armi and Mallu, Armi’s sister. Makke was still around, over in the lawn swing, talking with Annamari. Which surprised me a little, since I had thought they weren’t even on speaking terms. You know that Makke—”
“Yeah, I know. I thought it was nice of you to invite him to the party.”
“Well, if we’re being honest, Sanna was the instigator in their drinking, not Makke,” Risto said darkly as he turned into the police station parking lot. “Sanna had been working on dying one way or another for so long that there’s no one else we can blame.”
I didn’t know Risto very well, and this was the first personal conversation he had ever shared with me. The severity of his tone surprised me. For the first time, I saw a break in the façade of efficiency and congeniality he usually maintained. What had the relationship between the Hänninen siblings been like? I would have liked to continue what had become an interesting discussion, but my meeting time was quickly approaching, and being present to defend Kimmo was the best thing I could do now.
“If Antti is still at the house, tell him I might be home late. Really late.” When the guard finally ushered me into the interrogation room, Kimmo looked somehow shrunken. I told him that his family sent love and support, but nothing I said seemed to register with him. Detective Sergeant Ström was getting nowhere either—as the interview began, it was as though Kimmo were in a trance.
“Wouldn’t it be best to call a doctor?” I finally asked as Ström became increasingly agitated. “You can see yourself that he’s in no shape for questioning.”
“He’s just playacting. He finally realized what deep shit he’s in.”
I didn’t doubt that in the slightest. Kimmo wasn’t stupid. And, of course, if he had killed Armi…
Ström told us that none of the neighbors the police had reached remembered noticing anything out of the ordinary the
morning of the murder. The next-door neighbor had not been at home, and the only thing the neighbor two doors down saw was me riding up on my bicycle. I wondered why Ström was giving us so much information. Was it a strategy, trying to convince me that all the evidence pointed to Kimmo being the murderer?
After drinking a cup of coffee, Kimmo perked up enough to be able to go over the events of the morning again. He assured us that the disagreement they’d had over the rubber clothing hadn’t prevented Armi from wanting to marry him in October.
“Why October? If you had decided to get married, why not do it earlier?” Ström asked.
“We bought an apartment in a new building in North Tapiola, and it won’t be ready until early October.”
“Where did you get enough money to buy an apartment? Aren’t you a student?”
“Armi was stashing money away for a house for years; she had one of those government-subsidized down-payment savings accounts. And my dad is paying my part. I
working, by the way: I’m on full salary while I write my thesis.”
To my great joy, I could see that Kimmo was starting to rise to his own defense.
“So who gets the apartment now that the bride-to-be is dead?” Ström continued cruelly.
Kimmo stared at him with glazed eyes, again as if he hadn’t understood the question.
“Come off it, Ström,” I said, interrupting the questioning. “How could Kimmo have thought about something like that yet?”
“Maybe the kid wanted to cut his mother’s apron strings but wasn’t quite ready to have a wife tie new ones on yet,” Ström
taunted. “Or maybe he didn’t want to leave his mother yet after all.”
Kimmo groaned and buried his face in his hands. I took a few deep breaths, suppressing my desire to rearrange Ström’s previously broken nose. What would it help? Ström had decided that Kimmo was guilty, and I would need more than hunches to convince him otherwise. How had Ström made it so far up the ladder so quickly when he had such obvious biases?
Ström gave up sweating Kimmo at about nine thirty, and we arranged to continue at ten o’clock the next morning.
“Unless you want to go to church, Kallio,” Ström tossed after me as I left.
I didn’t want to think about what Kimmo’s night at the police station would be like. How many other men were bunking in his cell? They would all know each other’s crimes almost immediately, and if the police guard made even the slightest hint about Kimmo’s rubber costume, the other men in custody would be like wolves at his throat.
Outside, the night air was just as warm as it had been the previous evening. I didn’t have a clue about the bus schedule, so I decided to walk home. Luckily, I had put on comfortable shoes that morning, though a backpack would have been an improvement over my heavy shoulder bag.
Because I didn’t have a map, I played it safe and stuck to the main road leading south toward Tapiola. After crossing the pedestrian bridge over the freeway, the surrounding neighborhoods were amazingly quiet—I suppose on Saturdays in the summer, most of the nightlife focuses around summer cottages and downtown Helsinki. Anyone left over was probably sitting on the couch watching the never-ending stream of police procedurals on TV.
As I walked, I mulled over my case. If Kimmo didn’t kill Armi, then who did? What was the call Armi wanted to be left alone to make? Did Armi have something she wanted to tell me that could have been a threat to someone?
I hoped that Ström had the sense to check on all the usual suspects who had done time for rape or murder but were back on the street. Who knew? Maybe this was just some random recidivist. Or some neighbor who got sick of Kimmo and Armi’s hanky-panky in the backyard and snapped.
Our law office was quiet at the moment. Eki had hired me at the beginning of the summer specifically so I could have time to acclimate, but I wasn’t yet a full member of the bar. If this case were to go to trial, Eki would have to act as Kimmo’s attorney. What was my title now? “Legal counsel,” I guess. That sounded sufficiently official to justify continuing my investigation. I didn’t know what Eki would say about it, but I wanted to do a little private detective work.
Plenty of people needed interviewing: Armi’s parents, her sister, and her boss, whom I would try to get hold of the next day.
And all the others: Risto, Annamari, Marita. They would all have something to tell me. One of Ström’s wiseass comments came back to me. What if Annamari really didn’t want Kimmo to marry Armi? What if she was afraid of being left all alone in that big house? It seemed far-fetched, but then again, Annamari had always been unbalanced. How was I to know how Sanna’s death might have affected her? Maybe she’d gone off the deep end.
Risto and, up to this point, Kimmo had struck me as surprisingly sane products of an absent father and hysterical mother, as if all the mental anguish in the family had accumulated
exclusively in Sanna. Although, what did I really know about Risto and Kimmo? Was Kimmo a sadist or a masochist? Did that matter? We had to talk about his sexuality—the evidence necessitated it—but how do you ask a friend questions like that?
Upon reaching a large cross street, I turned left and walked until I reached a park where several groups of young people sat scattered around the grassy meadow drinking. From there, I proceeded past a school and church, following the path down to the bay. The lights of the occasional car shone from the West Highway bridges. A bustling hedgehog snuffled toward me on the shoreline path. I remembered that Einstein was in Inkoo and wouldn’t be there to rub against my legs when I arrived home.
Home. Espoo wasn’t
home. Hardly any of my belongings were here, since my beloved flea-market furniture was still in Antti’s apartment in the city. Most of my books were in the city. Summer would be over soon, and where would I live then? Not in Antti’s apartment—we wouldn’t fit.
Antti was staring at music videos on TV when I entered the living room. In his hand was an empty whiskey glass; an empty bottle stood on the table. Antti rarely drank two nights in a row, but now he seemed to have taken my advice seriously. As he turned his head my way, I saw that the alcohol hadn’t completely deadened his feelings. He had been crying.
“That took a long time,” he said with apparent calm.
“I walked here from the police station, since it didn’t look like any buses were coming.”
“You walked? That’s so you.”
I didn’t know whether that was meant to be positive or negative.
“How is Kimmo?” Antti took a sip of whiskey, as if to brace against my reply.
“Pretty messed up, but he’s sticking to his original story even though he knows it looks pretty bad.”
“Henttonen called half an hour ago. They’d made it all the way out to the tip of the Porkkala Peninsula before his hangover caught up with him. They docked on Stora Träskö and are heading back early tomorrow morning,” Antti explained calmly with his eyes locked on the television screen, staring at a female singer gyrating in red leather shorts.
Immediately I dialed the number for Eki’s boat. When my boss answered, the echo made his voice sound as though it were coming from much farther off than Porkkala.
“That Hänninen kid got himself in some goddamned hot water! It’s a good thing you’re there to look out for him. What the hell did he have to go and kill Armi for?”
A cold shiver went down my spine.
“Why do you think Kimmo killed Armi? Did Risto say so?”
“Those Hänninens are a weird bunch—I’m sorry, I know they’re almost your relatives. If I were you, I wouldn’t assume Kimmo is innocent, although of course, the client is always innocent and we never say any differently to the police,” Eki said. “But we’ll meet on this tomorrow. What time does the interrogation start?”
“Ten. Do you think you’ll make it in time?”
Eki then explained something about the wind and how many knots they’d need to make, but I didn’t have the patience to listen. After hanging up the phone, I didn’t know what to think. Was I a naive idiot for believing Kimmo? Damn it, was Ström right after all? Maybe I
letting my relationship with Antti cloud my judgment about his friend.
I realized I didn’t actually know Kimmo. I had seen him at the Hänninens’ a few times over the winter, and we had been
out for beers together once. Armi was supposed to come with us that night, but something got in the way—yes, that was it: her sister was sick. Had that been when Mallu had her miscarriage?