Read Punishment Online

Authors: Anne; Holt

Punishment

PUNISHMENT

ANNE HOLT
spent two years working for the Oslo Police Department before founding her own law firm and serving as Norway's Minister for Justice during 1996–1997. Her first book was published in 1993 and she has subsequently developed two series: the Hanne Wilhelmsen series and the Johanne Vik series. Both are published by Corvus.

ALSO BY ANNE HOLT

THE JOHANNE VIK SERIES:
PUNISHMENT
THE FINAL MURDER
FEAR NOT

THE HANNE WILHELMSEN SERIES:
THE BLIND GODDESS
BLESSED ARE THOSE THAT THIRST
DEATH OF THE DEMON
THE LION'S MOUTH
DEAD JOKER
WITHOUT ECHO
THE TRUTH BEYOND
1222

PUNISHMENT

Anne Holt

Translated by Kari Dickson

First published in the English language in Great Britain in 2009 by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group.

This edition published in 2011 by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd.

Originally published in Norwegian as Det som er mitt in 2001 by Cappelen.

Published by agreement with the Salomonsson Agency.

Copyright © 2001, Anne Holt.
Translation copyright © 2007, Kari Dickson.

The moral right of Anne Holt to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents act of 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Ebook ISBN: 978-0-85789-464-9
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84887-613-2

Printed in Great Britain.

Corvus
An imprint of Atlantic Books Ltd
Ormond House
26-27 Boswell Street
London WC1N 3JZ

www.corvus-books.co.uk

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter 15

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXII

Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIV

Chapter XXV

Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVII

Chapter XXVIII

Chapter XXIX

Chapter XXX

Chapter XXXI

Chapter XXXII

Chapter XXXIII

Chapter XXXIV

Chapter XXXV

Chapter XXXVI

Chapter XXXVII

Chapter XXXVIII

Chapter XXXIX

Chapter XL

Chapter XLI

Chapter XLII

Chapter XLIII

Chapter XLIV

Chapter XLV

Chapter XLVI

Chapter XLVII

Chapter XLVIII

Chapter XLIX

Chapter L

Chapter LI

Chapter LII

Chapter LIII

Chapter LIV

Chapter LV

Chapter LVI

Chapter LVII

Chapter LVIII

Chapter LIX

Chapter LX

Chapter LXI

Chapter LXII

Chapter LXIII

Chapter LXIV

Chapter LXV

Chapter LXVI

Chapter LXVII

Chapter LXVIII

Chapter LXIX

Author's postscript

PUNISHMENT

T
he ceiling was blue. The man in the shop claimed that the dark colour would make the room seem smaller. He was wrong. Instead the ceiling was lifted, it nearly disappeared. That's what I wanted myself, when I was little: a dark night sky with stars and a small crescent moon over the window. But Granny chose for me then. Granny and Mum, a boy's room in yellow and white.

Happiness is something I can barely remember, like a light touch in a group of strangers, gone before you've had a chance to turn round. When the room was finished and it was only two days until he was going to come, I was satisfied. Happiness is a childish thing and I am, after all, thirty-four. But naturally I was happy. I was looking forward to it.

The room was ready. There was a little boy sitting on the moon. With blond hair, a fishing rod made from bamboo with string and a float and hook at the end: a star. A drop of gold had dribbled down towards the window, as if the Heavens were melting.

My son was finally going to come.

I

S
he was walking home from school. It was nearly National Day. It would be the first 17 May without Mummy. Her national costume was too short. Mummy had already let the hem down twice.

Last night, Emilie had been woken by a bad dream. Daddy was fast asleep; she could hear him snoring gently through the wall as she held her national costume up against her body. The red border had crept up to her knees. She was growing too fast. Daddy often said, ‘You're growing as fast as a weed, love.' Emilie stroked the woollen material with her hand and tried to shrink at the knees and neck. Gran was in the habit of saying, ‘It's not surprising the child is shooting up, Grete was always a beanpole.'

Emilie's shoulders and thighs ached from being hunched the whole time. It was Mummy's fault she was so tall. The red hem wouldn't reach further than her knees.

Maybe she could ask for a new dress.

Her schoolbag was heavy. She'd picked a bunch of coltsfoot. It was so big that Daddy would have to find a vase. The stalks were long too, not like when she was little and only picked the flowers, which then had to bob about in an eggcup.

She didn't like walking alone. But Marte and Silje had been collected by Marte's mum. They didn't say where they were going. They just waved at her through the rear window of the car.

The flowers needed water. Some had already started to wilt over her fingers. Emilie tried not to clutch the bunch too hard.
A flower fell to the ground and she bent down to pick it up.

‘Are you called Emilie?'

The man smiled. Emilie looked at him. There was no one else to be seen here on the small path between two busy roads, a track that cut ten minutes off the walk home. She mumbled incoherently and backed away.

‘Emilie Selbu? That's your name, isn't it?'

Never talk to strangers. Never go with anyone you don't know. Be polite to grown-ups.

‘Yes,' she whispered, and tried to slip past.

Her shoe, her new trainer with the pink strips, sank into the mud and dead leaves. Emilie nearly lost her balance. The man caught her by the arm. Then he put something over her face.

An hour and a half later, Emilie Selbu was reported missing to the police.

II

‘I
've never managed to let go of this case. Perhaps it's my bad conscience. But then again, I was a newly qualified lawyer at a time when young mothers were expected to stay at home. There wasn't much I could do or say.'

Her smile gave the impression that she wanted to be left alone. They'd been talking for nearly two hours. The woman in the bed gasped for breath and was obviously bothered by the strong sunlight. Her fingers clutched at the duvet cover.

‘I'm only seventy,' she wheezed. ‘But I feel like an old woman. Please forgive me.'

Johanne Vik stood up and closed the curtains. She hesitated, not turning round.

‘Better?' she asked after a while.

The old woman closed her eyes.

‘I wrote everything down,' she said. ‘Three years ago. When I retired and thought I would have . . .'

She fluttered a thin hand.

‘. . . plenty of time.'

Johanne Vik stared at the folder lying on the bedside table beside a pile of books. The old woman nodded weakly.

‘Take it. There's not much I can do now. I don't even know if the man is still alive. If he is, he'd be . . . sixty-five. Or something like that.'

She closed her eyes again. Her head slipped slowly to one side. Her mouth opened a fraction and as Johanne bent down to pick up the red folder, she caught the smell of sick breath.
She put the papers in her bag quietly and tiptoed towards the door.

‘One last thing.'

She jumped and turned back towards the old woman.

‘People ask how I can be so sure. Some think it's just an idée fixe of an old woman who's of no use to anyone any more. I've done nothing about it for so many years . . . When you've read through it all, I would be grateful to know . . .'

She coughed weakly. Her eyes slid shut. There was silence.

‘Know what?'

Johanne whispered, not sure if the old lady had fallen asleep. ‘I know he was innocent. It would be good to know whether you agree.'

‘But that's not what I'm . . .'

The old woman slapped the edge of the bed lightly with her hand.

‘I know what you do. You are not interested in whether he was guilty or innocent. But I am. In this particular case, I am. And I hope you will be too. When you have read everything. Promise me that? That you'll come back?'

Johanne smiled lightly. It was actually nothing more than a non-committal grimace.

III

E
milie had gone missing before. Never for long, though once – it must have been just after Grete died – he hadn't found her for three hours. He looked everywhere. First he'd made some irritated phone calls, to friends, to Grete's sister who only lived ten minutes away and was Emilie's favourite aunt, to her grandparents who hadn't seen the child for days. He punched in new numbers as concern turned to fear; his fingers hit the wrong keys. Then he rushed around the neighbourhood, in ever increasing circles, his fear growing into panic and he started to cry.

She was sitting in a tree writing a letter to Mummy, a letter with pictures that she was going to send to Heaven as a paper plane. He plucked her carefully from the branch and sent the plane flying in an arc over a steep slope. It glided from side to side and then disappeared over the top of two birch trees that thereafter were known as the Road to Paradise. He did not let her out of his sight for two weeks. Not until the end of the holidays when school forced him to let her go.

It was different this time.

He had never phoned the police before; her shorter and longer disappearing acts were no more than was to be expected. This was different. Panic hit him suddenly, like a wave. He didn't know why, but when Emilie failed to come home when she should, he ran towards the school, not even noticing that he lost a slipper halfway. Her schoolbag and a big bunch of
coltsfoot were lying on the path between the two main roads, a short cut that she never dared take on her own.

Grete had bought the bag for Emilie a month before she died. Emilie would never just leave it like that. Her father picked it up reluctantly. He could be wrong, it could be someone else's schoolbag, a more careless child, perhaps. The schoolbag was almost identical, but he couldn't be sure until he opened it, holding his breath, and saw the initials. ES. Big square letters in Emilie's writing. It was Emilie's schoolbag and she would never have just left it like that.

Other books

Science...For Her! by Megan Amram
The Runaway's Gold by Emilie Burack
Europa by Tim Parks
The Scourge by Henley, A.G.
Save by Ella Col