IT WAS SUMMER AGAIN WHEN HE STEPPED OUT THE FRONT DOOR before eight o’clock, the shadows from the houses still bearing traces of the past night’s darkness. A street cleaner dragged itself along the asphalt on the other side of Vasaplatsen and sucked the last of the morning haze into its rotating bristles. A van delivered fresh bread to the Wasa K?llare restaurant. Winter took in the smells. He was hungry. He’d drunk a cup of coffee and that was it. Angela had continued sleeping.
He walked across Kungstorget. The market stalls were being set up for the day. Crates of vegetables and fruit were carried out from trucks to their spots on the stands. He went into a shop on the other side of Kungsportsplatsen and ordered a caf? au lait and two French rolls with butter and cheese. He sat down by the window and watched the tabloid paper’s city office across the square opening for the day. A young lady had put up headline posters. He couldn’t read them from where he was sitting, but he could guess what they said. Up to now the media reports had brought in hundreds of tips, perhaps thousands. Winter had worked with them as much as he could bear and tried to take seriously anything that seemed worth being taken seriously. There was a desire to help but also a fear of what had happened. Of what might happen again, what might happen to me.
He got up and walked north to Brunnsparken and stood at the number 2 stop. Jennie had drawn a streetcar with a 2 at one end. It was likely she had ridden on it, most likely together with her mother, Helene.
They’d questioned the streetcar drivers, but no one recognized the faces of the people they drove through the city. Perhaps it was a form of security. It was an insecure job. They had also shown photographs around North Biskopsg?rden but nobody knew anything; no one recognized anyone.
A series of photos of the girl had been taken in a studio at V?gm?starplatsen a year ago. The photographer remembered doing it but nothing more. The few other photos of Jennie they’d found in Helene’s apartment were taken with one or more cameras that they hadn’t found.
Someone had taken the photos of Helene and of Helene with her daughter.
There were seven or eight that had been taken relatively recently, in addition to the studio photos. Two had dates printed on them and that could prove helpful.
There were no photographs of Helene as a child.
Winter looked around. A dozen or so people were waiting for the streetcar. The number 2 arrived, and on an impulse he boarded, together with four men who might have been Ethiopians and a drunk who was Swedish.
He got off at Friskv?derstorget, and the sun filled the ears protruding from the sides of the buildings. The satellite dishes seemed to swivel back and forth, homing in on sounds from a native land. He heard music, coming from somewhere, which sounded like John Coltrane with a hookah and a fez. Turkish jazz, he thought. It really swings.
Ernst Lundgren was out with the children in the playground outside the building that housed the pensioners’ day-care center. The tall old man bent down in a way that would either strengthen his back or soon snap it in two.
“Anything new?” he asked when Winter said hello.
Winter told him the latest.
“Well, we still don’t have anything here,” Lundgren said. “She didn’t belong to our little flock.”
“And none of the other parents recognize her?”
“The mothers? No, not a one.”
“She seems to have been one of the loneliest people in the world,” Winter said.
“There’s nothing strange about that. Nothing surprises me.”
“I didn’t take you for a cynic.”
“I’m not cynical. I’m just not surprised.”
“About the loneliness?”
“She wasn’t the only one,” Lundgren said. “There’s a whole bunch of them. You could safely say that they’re in the majority.”
The apartment smelled of wood and wind.
“I’ve cleaned the house,” Angela said, holding a glass of wine in her hand. “A proper housewife.”
“Apart from the glass of wine,” Winter said.
“No. I’d prefer a gin and tonic, seeing as you’ve started the drinking.”
“You’re the one who’s started. You never used to drink, but now you’ve started.”
“It’s never too late.”
She followed him out of the kitchen.
“I’ve been here all day,” she said.
“That’s more than I’ve ever managed.”
“It’s quite a nice place. If you like, I can show you around.”
“Dinner’s supposed to be on the table!” Winter shouted, and pointed at the round table by the window.
“Let’s eat out,” she said.
“Spoken like a true housewife. But if we’re going out, I want to jump in the shower first.” He started unbuttoning his shirt.
She’d been busy over by the sink and now brought him his gin.
“How’s it going, Erik?” She helped him off with his shirt and held it between her hands.
“Well, how’s it going? It’s moving forward, I guess, but I’m worried as hell about the little girl. You know as well as I do what the chances of finding her are.”
“I’ve been thinking a bit about what you said about her. Have you checked with all the ERs?”
“What exactly are you asking, here, Doc? If we’ve checked the hospitals? Well, of course we have.”
“Helene? I mean, the mother.”
“Helene? What are you talking about?”
“If she doesn’t have family-if no one has been in touch-she still must have grown up somewhere.”
“As soon as we got her name, which was just recently, we contacted all the institutions and agencies under the sun. That includes foster homes, orphanages, and stuff like that too.”
“Okay. I was sitting here today thinking about Helene as a child. When she was little, like her own girl. Jennie, is it? Okay. Maybe she isn’t at some hospital, Jennie that is, or you don’t know yet. But maybe the mother was admitted to the hospital when she was a child. Or was brought in to the ER for some reason. Helene, I mean. I know you’ve been thinking about that name. Anders?n.”
“Yeah,” Winter said. “Keep going.”
“Well, say a little girl named Helene something was brought in for some reason years ago. If she was, then there must be a record of it.”