Authors: Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural, #International Mystery & Crime, #Thrillers, #Crime
Also by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson
The Flatey Enigma
House of Evidence
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2009 Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson
English translation copyright © 2014 Björg Árnadóttir and Andrew Cauthery
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Sun On Fire
was first published in 2009 by Mál og Menning as
Translated from Icelandic by Björg Árnadóttir and Andrew Cauthery.
Published in English by AmazonCrossing in 2014.
Published by AmazonCrossing, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and AmazonCrossing are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Paul Barrett
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013923614
Vala, Emilía, and Margrét Arna: Thank you for all your patience.
o you remember me?”
The voice came from the restroom doorway. Inside, the fat guy rinsed his hands at a shiny steel sink.
“Yeah, we talked earlier this evening,” he replied without looking up.
“Yes, but I mean . . . do you recognize me from the past?”
“Maybe you can’t, Anton. It was a long time ago—I was only nine years old.”
Anton picked up a clean towel and carefully dried his hands. Then, lifting the towel to his puffy face, he wiped the sweat from his brow.
“Nine, huh,” he said, pausing to check his reflection in the mirror. “That’s a good age.”
The cell phone on the bedside table played the ever-popular “Air on the G String” by Johann Sebastian Bach, quietly at first, but growing louder and more distinct despite the phone’s poor sound quality.
It took Arngrímur Ingason, counselor at the Icelandic embassy in Berlin, a few moments to figure out what he was hearing as he became fully conscious. The bedroom was pitch black, so he knew it was the middle of the night. His body wasn’t ready for this interruption of his deep sleep, and his nerves bombarded his brain with a firm message: “Go back to sleep,” they kept repeating, to the accompaniment of the phone’s soothing ringtone. Arngrímur shut his eyes briefly before finally reaching for the phone.
He looked at the illuminated screen. It was past three o’clock. The music grew louder still but abruptly stopped as he pressed the “Answer” button.
he said in German.
The voice at the other end also spoke German. “Sorry for disturbing you, Herr Ingason. This is the Nordic Embassies’ night watch. Main reception. Chief Security Guard Achim Wolf speaking.”
The counselor sat up in bed.
“Hello, Herr Wolf. What can I do for you?”
“I’m sorry, Herr Ingason, we have a little problem at the Icelandic embassy.”
“Yes, Herr Ingason, but it’s nothing serious. Ambassador Björnsson had visitors earlier this evening.”
“At the embassy?”
“Yes. It seems there was a meeting at around six o’clock, but it went late. The ambassador ordered in some food and the visitors stayed longer than expected.”
The counselor sighed and swung his legs out from under the sheets.
“Are they still there?” he asked, fumbling around for his glasses.
“No, sir. The ambassador left twenty minutes ago. His wife was with him.”
“OK. I hope there wasn’t too much of a disturbance.”
“Oh, no. No disturbance at all.”
“So what exactly is the problem, Herr Wolf?”
The guard hesitated, looking for the right words. “I’m afraid that one of the visitors who checked in to the embassy has not checked out.”
“You mean he’s still there?”
“Yes, sir. His name is Eiríksson. We have his passport here at reception.”
“Eiríksson? An Icelander?”
“Yes, sir. His first name is Anton.”
“Anton Eiríksson. I’m not familiar with that name.”
“I didn’t really think you would be,” the night guard said. “Please excuse the presumption. He could have fallen asleep inside the embassy without the ambassador noticing. My colleague says that the ambassador and his wife were pretty tired when they left. He called cabs for them and the other guests.”
“I see. So this Eiríksson gentleman is still inside the embassy?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, we didn’t notice that a guest pass was missing until after the ambassador had left. So far we’ve confirmed that he isn’t in the common area. He must be in the Icelandic building.”
“Herr Ingason—we’re not allowed to enter the embassy unless it’s an emergency. So if it’s just that the man fell asleep, sir . . .”
“All right—I understand. I’ll come look for him.” He found his watch on the bedside table. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
With the call completed, the counselor clutched the phone while considering the situation. Then he called for a cab.
“It’ll be right there,” a voice at the other end said.
“Thank you very much,” Arngrímur said before hanging up.
“I’ve got ten minutes,” he thought aloud. Carefully, he stood up, supporting himself on the tall headboard as he took his first step. He was feeling his age: sixty-five this past June. His joints weren’t yet awake enough for energetic movement, and the room was cold. He’d left the window open, so it had cooled off overnight.
Fall was making its presence felt.
He walked stiffly into the bathroom and flipped the switch. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he used the time to brush his teeth. Then he combed back his silver hair and decided he didn’t need to shave for this particular errand. He could do it before the embassy opened for the day—and if he couldn’t make it back home first, he’d shower at the embassy before the other staffers showed up for work. He kept a toiletry bag and clean underwear in his office locker.
Eight minutes later, he’d pulled on neatly pressed pants and a shirt, and he was putting on a tie. By the time he left the house, his posture was upright, his mind alert, and his movements polished. His workday at Berlin’s Icelandic embassy had begun.
The cab was parked outside with headlights on, its engine gently purring; the driver had climbed out for a cigarette. He opened the back door for Arngrímur and said good morning. Then he extinguished his half-smoked stub and placed it in his jacket’s breast pocket before sliding back behind the wheel.
“The Nordic Embassies,” Arngrímur said, “Number One, Rauchstrasse.”
“The Nordic Embassies,” the driver repeated quietly while driving off.
There was hardly any traffic at this time of night, and within five minutes they were driving north along Klingelhöferstrasse, with the east wall of the Nordic Embassies complex illuminated before them on the left. An instantly recognizable and distinctive feature of the complex is its fifteen-meter outer wall clad with green copper plates. Mostly, the plates are vertical and close the wall off, but in places they slope outward at an angle of either forty-five or ninety degrees, allowing light from within the compound to filter through. The wall forms a snaking, horseshoe-shaped enclosure for the five separate embassy buildings.
The driver made a left onto Stülerstrasse and again onto Rauchstrasse, driving almost a full circle round the complex before arriving at the south side, which was constructed very differently: A glass wall with an illuminated canopy provided a view into the open central plaza, while the main entrance was on the right in a building clad with pale wooden horizontal slats—the Felleshus, or Pan Nordic Building.
Arngrímur paid the driver and waited for the receipt before getting out of the cab. He spotted the night guard watching him through a window as he approached the illuminated doorway, which swung open as he came near.
He entered the lobby and was greeted by the guard’s tinny voice coming through a loudspeaker from the reception desk, which was screened off with thick glass. “Thank you for coming, Herr Ingason. Would you like someone to accompany you into the embassy?”
“No, Herr Wolf. I’ll call if I need assistance.”
“Very well, Herr Ingason. We’ll be ready for you.”
Arngrímur took the security pass card hanging from his neck and inserted it into a reader next to the first of double doors into the embassy compound. The door opened and, as he stepped through it, immediately shut behind him. He repeated the process for the inner door, reemerged into the open, and inhaled the fresh night air as he walked across the plaza between the embassy buildings.
They were all the same height. On the right, nearest the entrance, was the Finnish embassy, and across from it the Danish embassy. At the far end on the left was the Icelandic embassy, the smallest building by area, but with walls of pale-brown rhyolite that made it stand out from the glass, steel, wood, and dark stone of the other buildings.
The plaza was at least thirty meters across, and Arngrímur soon felt cold in the chilly night air. Despite that, he stopped to think for a moment when he reached the Icelandic embassy’s entrance. He needed to plan his next step. Maybe he should have accepted an escort. That would also have complicated matters, though, as the night guards had to log their movements in a diary. This was the main reason Wolf had asked him to come over. If
the German security guards entered an empty embassy building on their own after hours, that would require complicated reports involving multiple people. Hopefully, this friend of the ambassador’s just needed a bit of prodding and escorting out to a cab. That wouldn’t be a problem, and the security staff could quietly forget the night’s events without filing a report.
A dark-colored shield bearing the Icelandic coat of arms hung on the rhyolite wall to the left of the entrance. To the right a corrugated concrete wall stretched along the entire ground floor of the building.
Arngrímur slipped his pass card into another reader and tapped a number onto a keypad. With a soft beep, the glass door’s lock opened, and he entered the building.
The corrugated pattern of the outer wall continued through the entranceway and formed the body of the reception area desk, behind which were a chair and a side table with a computer on it. Apart from that, nothing. Nobody was usually here during the day except for the embassy driver, when he wasn’t dispatched outside the embassy. Visitors would ring a bell and introduce themselves on the intercom.
Bright illumination from outside shone in through the windows of the stairwell, so Arngrímur didn’t need to switch on any lights. He glanced at the security system’s control panel and saw that it had not been activated.
The ambassador must have been very tired when he left
, Arngrímur thought. Next, he contemplated the two half-empty wineglasses on the desk. He was about to deal with the glasses, but then he changed his mind. Probably best to first find the guy and get him out. He could straighten up after.