Tuva's been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim is missing.
Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy's life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts?
Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?
Release date: May 1, 2023
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Print pages: 384
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To my literary agent Kate Burke, and the team at Blake Friedmann: thank you.
To my TV agent James Carroll, and the team at Northbank Talent: thank you.
To my editor Jenny Parrott, and the team at Oneworld: thank you.
To my international publishers, editors, translators: thank you.
To Maya Lindh (the voice of Tuva): thank you.
To all the bloggers and booksellers and reviewers and early supporters and tweeters and fellow authors: thank you. Readers benefit so much from your recommendations and enthusiasm. I am one of them. Special thanks to Liz Barnsley, Nina Pottell, Leilah Skelton, Sam Baker, India Knight, Marian Keyes, Sam Missingham, Isabelle Broom, Ali Karim, Mike Stotter, Abby (Crime by the book), Candice Sawchuk, Mart, Kate (Quiet Knitter), Gemma Wiles, Ellen Devonport (and Bibliophile BC), Tracy Fenton (and all of TBC), Helen Boyce, Tripfiction, Mary Picken, Janet Emson, Jen Lucas, The Booktrail, Noelle Holten, Ayo Onatade, John Fish, Anne Cater, Abby Slater, Craig Sisterson, Dan Stubbings, Jacob Collins, Jo Robertson, Sharon Bairden, Miriam Owen, Ronnie Turner, Rae Reads, Don Jimmy, Beverley Has Read, Sara WIMM, and every single reader who takes the time to leave a review somewhere online. Those reviews help readers to find books. Thank you.
To Hayley Webster, Bethany Rutter, Alice Slater: thank you.
To @DeafGirly: thank you again for your help and support. In many ways your opinion matters to me more than anyone else’s. I continue to be very grateful.
To the Zoe Ball Book Club and Amanda Ross: thank you.
To Val McDermid: thanks for choosing me as part of your New Blood panel at Harrogate. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
To Sweden: thanks for welcoming me in. I’m a fan.
To my family, and especially my parents: once again, thank you for letting me play alone for hours as a child. Thank you for taking me to libraries. Thank you for letting me read and draw and daydream and scribble down strange stories. Thanks for not censoring my book choices (too much). Thank you for allowing me to be bored. It was a special gift.
To my friends: thanks for your ongoing support (and patience, and love).
Special thanks to my late granddad for teaching me some valuable lessons. He taught me to treat everyone equally, and with respect. To give the benefit of the doubt. To listen to advice even if you don’t then follow it. To take pleasure from the small things in life. To read widely. To never judge or look down on anyone. To be kind. To spend time with loved ones. To keep the kid inside you alive.
To my friend, Annika: thank you for reading Dark Pines and for sending me photos of highlighted passages and for telling me it helped you enjoy reading again after a ten year pause. That meant the world to me.
To my wife and son: thank you. Love you. Always.
The vintage American car on the hard shoulder bursts into flames.
Orange flames from its turquoise bonnet and from the air vents above the front wheels. The driver’s standing behind, his head in his hands, and I’ve already called the fire department. A belt hangs down from the boot. The driver looks like it’s his mother who’s ablaze, burning to death in front of his eyes. He’s sweating through his rockabilly shirt and he’s yelling at the distant fire truck to hurry up.
When the sirens approach I switch off my hearing aids. Then I photograph it all: the old car with its chrome features reflecting the fire, the driver standing there in his cowboy boots screaming at the firefighters, the thick grey smoke heading off towards an abandoned DIY store beside the motorway. Anders, my new editor, is a stickler for good photos. There’s a group of eight or nine shirtless guys. They’re grilling sausages on disposable gas-station barbecues, and they’re watching the fire, and they’re filming the whole scene on their phones. My dash reads 30 Celsius. Could the turquoise car explode? Could its gas tank ignite and engulf us all in a searing fireball? I switch my aids back on and take in the scene: hazy motorway just outside Malmö, smoke from a burning Buick, nine shirtless guys with nine charred pork dogs.
‘You call yourself firemen?’ yells the driver. ‘Get the water on it!’
The firefighters are calm and they are not impressed with cowboy-boots driver-guy. I have never seen anyone ignore a person as much as they ignore the angry, sweaty Buick owner. They talk amongst themselves. Two men take the fire hose and drag it towards the burning car as two more place cones to stop curious Midsommar drivers from getting too close.
You’d expect the firefighters to stand back and hose down the car from a distance but they walk straight up to it and aim the hose through the open door into the front seat and onto the bonnet. The fire goes out in about thirty seconds flat. The turquoise car isn’t turquoise any more.
‘What am I supposed to do now?’ asks the driver. He still has his car keys in his sweaty hand.
The firefighters ignore him some more.
I step out from my air-conditioned Hilux, the air thick with heat and noxious smoke, and gesture to cowboy-boots guy. He steps closer, a puzzled expression all over his glazed, indignant face.
‘Tuva Moodyson.’ I show him my press ID. There are two photos tucked behind it. One of Mum and Dad. One of me and Tammy out by Gavrik reservoir. ‘I’m a reporter at the Sundhamn Enquirer.’
He looks at me like ‘so?’
‘It was a beautiful car. What caused the fire?’ I ask.
He moves closer.
‘What caused the fire?’ I say again.
He just points to the fire crew.
‘They were too slow getting here and they didn’t get water on the flames fast enough. She could have exploded. I have a mind to sue…’ He turns to the firefighters. ‘Why were you so fucking slow?’
A woman climbs down from the fire truck. She’s about a head taller than me and she has a slightly different uniform from the other firefighters. She walks straight to cowboy-boots driver-guy.
‘Did you have an extinguisher in your vehicle, sir?’
‘Never needed one before,’ he says, his voice an octave higher in front of the fire chief.
‘You needed one today,’ she says.
‘I never wanted to get the interior wet,’ he says. ‘Cream calf leather.’
‘Well,’ says the fire chief. ‘It’s wet now.’ She pauses and looks over to the smoking skeleton of a vintage car. ‘Shame. Nice vehicle. Looks like you restored her well.’
He says thanks but it’s so quiet nobody can hear.
‘We can help you with the recovery and the paperwork,’ she says. ‘Nobody’s hurt so that’s something.’
She takes him away and I open my truck door. The coolness is a balm but the smoke’s trapped inside the cab like someone just got cremated. Reminds me of the fire behind the Grimberg Liquorice factory back in February, back up north, back in my old life. I’ve been down here for four months and they may not have been fun months, quite the opposite, but I’m not drinking. I’m starting fresh. Good new job with a boss I can learn from. Friends can come later. There’s still time. My phone starts vibrating so I sync it to my hearing aid.
‘Tuva, it’s Lena, I’m on the runway. I can’t talk, listen to me.’
‘What’s wrong?’ I ask. ‘You sound strange. Is the plane okay?’
There’s interference and I can hear people shouting at Lena, my old Gavrik boss. I can’t make out the words but I can hear people yelling at her.
‘Lena, can you hear me?’
There’s more smoke in my truck now. The young guys have finished grilling their sausages and they’re standing closer to the motorway looking at the car wreck and the fire truck and me in my Hilux, each of them with a hot dog in hand, each of them shirtless.
‘Missing,’ I hear her say. ‘Get to Gavrik,’ I hear her say.
‘What?’ I ask.
Then there are more voices and it sounds like someone’s trying to take Lena’s phone from her hand. People are threatening her. Forcing her.
‘She’s missing,’ says Lena. Someone screams in the background. Lena says, ‘Tammy’s gone missing.’
I drive out of town and drop Lena off at McDonald’s. She’s going to talk to customers, ask if she can leave flyers, then hit ICA Maxi and do the same.
It’s just after ten and the light’s morphing into the muddy twilight we’ll have till 2am. My headlights are on but I probably don’t even need them. Weird time of year. I spray green windscreen fluid onto my screen, it’s a special formula to remove bug corpses. My headlights pick out midges and mosquitoes and moths the size of baby blackbirds. There are eyes on the sides of the road; twinkling pairs of eyes staring back at me, peeking out from undergrowth so dense it may as well be solid.
I pass the small digger graveyard opposite Utgard forest. The skeletal forms of giant excavators and bulldozers sit motionless as fossils. The memory of Viggo Svensson locking me in his Volvo taxi – me, drunk and exhausted in the back seat, a tea light flickering on his dash, ‘Unchained Melody’ playing softly through his speakers – still troubles me to this day. The vulnerability. I’m not drinking anymore, three months sober this coming Thursday, and to be honest the thought of that stun gun in my handbag makes me feel a whole lot better. Viggo tries anything like that again, even though he didn’t actually touch me or threaten me, I’ll zap him in the groin quicker than you can say deep-fried testicle.
The forest is a dark presence on my right-hand side. Utgard doesn’t end. Feels like it could be anything this time of year: a hundred-foot-high barrier wall, a cliff of purest black coal, a slow-motion tidal wave. It’s leaning over the car. I’m in its shadow; its long and noiseless shadow.
Right turn to Snake River. There’s something about this junk yard. Maybe it’s because I know Tam’s been here before. To visit Karl-Otto. Or maybe it’s the otherworldliness of the place. The isolation. The lack of rules or community norms.
I have a stun gun, a fully-charged phone, a knife I’ve never used, and a brand new 4wd Hilux. I’ll be fine.
I pass the ‘Welcome to Snake’ sign. Thousands of decaying cars face me. I turn left and follow the dirt track round to the 12 noon position. Sally’s place looks dark. No one on the deck. No rifle. I keep driving and see some kind of bonfire, smoke rising over the rusting cars parked neatly side-by-side like a parking lot outside end-of-days Las Vegas.
My truck slows and I pull out the stun gun. It’s also a torch. Handy. I make sure I’m not about to electrocute myself, then I press the button and two metal studs poking out of the front crackle and light up. Holy shit on a stick, this is the real deal. God bless Benny Björnmossen for being a wannabe maverick cowboy and God bless his illegal zapper.
The fire pit comes into view as I round the curve of the dirt track. It’s right next to Karl-Otto’s warehouse home. There are two figures sitting on foldaway camping chairs. Firelight illuminating their faces. I park up.
‘Your GPS busted?’ asks a deep voice.
I walk over showing my teeth in a big smile to inform them that I am friendly. But I have my handbag on my shoulder, I have what I need.
‘I’m Tuva Moodyson,’ I say. ‘Used to work for the Gavrik Posten.’
He stands up and he’s unsteady on his legs. As he walks towards me he activates the security light bolted to his warehouse. I get a look at this guy. Baseball cap, denim overalls, tall and strong. Athletic. His eyes are so droopy they’re almost cartoonish, like a sleepy bloodhound, and his stubble covers most of his face. I mean, his stubble rises up to just under his eyes. But he’s attractive somehow. By Gavrik standards, he’s attractive.
‘Karl-Otto Sandberg,’ he says, reaching out a hand.
‘Hi,’ I say.
‘Mum told me you’d be back,’ he says, glancing over at Sally’s shack. ‘We don’t get too many return visitors. You want a beer?’
He shows me his bottle of Norrlands Guld. I see the beads of cold water rolling down the curved brown glass. I can taste the hops and the bitterness on my tongue. Yeah, I’ll take a beer.
‘No thanks,’ I say. ‘Driving.’
His voice is clear and its pitch is at a good level for me. I can hear this guy without too much effort.
‘I’m here about Tammy, I heard you two know each other.’
He has a headlamp strapped over his baseball cap but it’s not switched on. The security light turns off and we’re plunged back into darkness.
‘I knew Tammy,’ he says.
‘Know,’ he says. ‘We went out.’
The security light comes back on as he moves towards me and suddenly I see the clouds of flying bloodsuckers gathered around the lamp like it’s an oracle and they’ve travelled from far and wide to hear its message.
‘You guys are dating?’ I ask.
‘She told me about you,’ he says. ‘How you left for some big job. Come on, sit down. We’re about to eat.’
He gestures to the firepit and I see young Viktor with his hammerhead eyes already sitting there nursing an underage beer.
‘Hi,’ he says, his eyes so far apart I reckon he can see round corners.
‘Hi again,’ I say.
‘Told you we’d roast her,’ he says.
He points to the fire. There’s a medieval-type spit spanning the burning pine logs and braced on the spit is what looks like a flayed child, all red and charred and ungodly.
‘Roe deer,’ says Karl-Otto handing me a bottle of Ramlösa sparkling water. ‘Viktor hit it in his kiddie truck.’
‘It’s not a kiddie truck,’ says Viktor. ‘EPA tractor. Not for kids.’
I remember writing a story on this for the Posten last year; on the loophole in the Swedish road laws dating back to World War II. Farmers can drive unregistered, unlicensed, uninsured short-wheel drive trucks at a maximum of 40kph on public roads provided they are over fifteen years old and display a red warning triangle on the rear of the truck cab. Worked fine for about fifty years but then kids caught on. You see, you can’t get a driving licence in Sweden until you’re eighteen. But now there’s a plethora, some call it a plague, many of my readers certainly did, of fifteen-year-olds driving these things to school and to parties and to McDonald’s to hang out with their friends. Which is peachy for parents who no longer have to operate as a taxi service but not so good for normal drivers who get stuck behind these painfully slow kid-mobiles.
‘Covered her with boar fat,’ says Viktor, stifling a grin. ‘Like I told you we would.’
The deer is held in a metal rack. Looks homemade. Its ribs are spread and the main pole of the spit is skewered through its asshole and out through its neck on the other side. Some creature, one of these two guys I suppose, has cut off its head and cut off its hooves and manhandled it onto this contraption. There are slabs of sizzling fat basting the skinny little deer from the outside. It smells amazing.
‘It’s not boar fat, stupid,’ says Karl-Otto. ‘Just farm hogs. Fat, domesticated Danish hogs. Otherwise the deer’d get dry.’
‘Do you know where Tammy is, Karl-Otto?’ I say, perching on the stump of some long-felled tree. It’s uneven and uncomfortable and I reckon Karl-Otto probably uses it to chop logs on.
The hog fat blisters and spits.
‘It’s not like we’re married,’ says Karl-Otto. ‘We keep it independent. She comes and goes as she pleases and I do the same.’
‘When did you see Tammy last?’
He takes a swig from his beer bottle and I notice the gun resting behind him, leaning against the breeze-block wall of his warehouse home.
He turns to see what I’m looking at.
‘Elk cows,’ he says. ‘They got little ones and they’ll kill you to protect them. Right now, this is the most lethal time. They’d do anything for their calves, they would.’ He glances over at Sally’s shack. ‘They’d face certain death to save their own offspring. That’s why we have the shotgun out here, ain’t nothing to be scared about. No need to go blabbing your mouth to your police buddies.’
A mosquito buzzes too close to my hearing aid and I swat it away.
‘Tammy’ I say. ‘Did you see her yesterday?’
He shakes his head.
Karl-Otto opens another bottle of beer with his teeth.
‘I’m an eBay trader and that means I’m always working. No nine-to-five for me. Last time I seen her, Thursday, I think it was,’ he says. ‘She came here for a few hours after closing up her van. Left early the next morning.’
‘She seem okay? She say she was afraid of anything?’
‘Nope,’ he says, lifting his bottle and letting the beer glug down his gullet.
‘Can I get another water, please?’
I don’t want water. I want to see inside.
Karl-Otto looks at Viktor and Viktor looks back at Karl-Otto.
Karl-Otto stands and passes me, and as the security light flares up I see there are two or three bats flapping around hysterically in mid-air.
‘Bats,’ I say.
‘Oh, yeah,’ he says.
He opens the huge rolling loading-bay doors of his warehouse. I follow, giving the ugly-ass wolverine fang doorbell a wide berth.
‘Nice car,’ I say, nodding towards the vintage red ’70s car parked inside the football-pitch-size building. ‘You a raggare?’
He grins at this and points to his car. ‘’74 Mustang,’ he says. ‘Two hundred seventy horses under that bonnet.’
It looks like the burning turquoise car on the side of the motorway.
‘You got problems with us raggare?’ he asks.
‘No,’ I say, and it’s true. Raggare is one of my favourite subcultures in Sweden. Groups of ’50s and ’60s inspired rockabillies; people who enjoy Americana and beat-up vintage cars, and beautiful restored vintage cars, and just hanging out chatting and dancing and having a beer. Unlike expensive pretentious country clubs and golf clubs, there is no entry fee for being a raggare. ‘I think it’s great. Like to see the convoys drive through town in the summertime.’
‘You do, eh?’ he says. ‘Come on, let’s get you that water.’
I follow him past the stacked engines and the shelves of neatly-boxed door handles and handbrakes and car stereos. There’s an area in the corner with shower-cubicle-sized cardboard boxes and crates. We go past a bank of computer screens like something from NASA.
‘You a part-time stockbroker or something?’ I ask, pointing to the computer screens. There are six of them all arranged together.
‘I told you before,’ he says, ‘eBay trusted seller.’
He takes off his cap and his head torch and scratches his hair. The guy has a flattened head like Sally Sandberg dropped him from a significant height as a baby. But there’s something about Karl-Otto, even with his droopy bloodhound eyes and his overgrowth of stubble. If he’d lived in Malmö – in another life, a life where he wasn’t dating my missing best friend – and he’d asked me out for a pizza, there’s a good chance I’d have said yes.
He points to the shelves beyond the computer.
‘Packing area,’ he says. ‘My old dad, rest his soul, he was a scrap man of the old days. He had cars coming in every day of the week, employed eleven men full-time. He’d take out engines and he’d crush the cars and he’d sell to a dealer who’d ship them off to some faraway place to be smelted down. He was good at what he did. We still have hundreds of cars here that we let people pick over on open days. But I buy specific models and break down the parts and then I photograph them properly in my studio with the right lighting.’ He points to a curtained-off area further back in the cavernous warehouse. ‘And sell each piece for top dollar.’
‘I get it,’ I say.
‘Twenty-two thousand four hundred positive reviews on eBay, 98.1% rating.’
Behind him I can see rolls and rolls of duct tape and packing tape. I can see cardboard boxes big enough to encase Benny Björnmossen’s stuffed bear. I can see packing knives and cable ties.
He bends down and opens a fridge and hands me a bottle of Ramlösa water.
‘I live up there,’ he says, pointing up to the rear quarter of the warehouse. He’s built a kind of house within a house. Covered by the warehouse roof is a wooden structure, rough, bolted pine and windows that haven’t been installed straight. There’s a spiral staircase up to his living level and beneath it all is the curtained-off photo studio.
‘You might even get to see inside my crib someday,’ he says, rubbing his flat head and looking me up and down. He looks more drunk now.
I cross my arms.
‘Any idea where Tammy could be?’ I say, and he looks annoyed that I keep talking about her. How come he’s not more worried? What is wrong with this guy?
He puts his cap back on and turns on the headlamp.
‘No idea,’ he says.
I shield my eyes from the glare with my forearm and suddenly I feel less safe here. I move my handbag on my shoulder again just to reassure myself and then he switches the headlamp off and I can sense someone behind me. I turn and it’s Viktor holding a long serrated knife.
‘Dinner’s ready,’ he says.
Karl-Otto nods and fills himself a glass from the tap.
‘Ice-cold,’ he says. ‘We got a deep well. The water’s always ice-cold even in June.’
We all walk back outside.
They take ICA burger buns from the side of the fire and Karl-Otto carves at the carcass with that long serrated hunting knife.
‘You want some?’ he asks.
‘No, I’m fine.’
They fill a saucepan with the carved meat and then they place the saucepan between their camping chairs and fill burger buns and eat.
‘There is one person Tammy’s had issues with,’ says Karl-Otto with a mouth full of deer rump.
Karl-Otto points over at the young hammerhead kid.
Viktor looks nervous but then he drops his chin and says, ‘Can’t stand each other. My mum’s not the sort you want to fight with, is she, mate?’
Karl-Otto snorts and some half-chewed deer meat sprays from his mouth. ‘That’s true.’
I hear a noise from Utgard forest, from behind the warehouse.
‘What was that?’
Karl-Otto and Viktor both stand up. Karl-Otto’s too drunk to do it quickly or smoothly.
‘Could be wolf pups,’ says Karl-Otto, picking up the shotgun, turning to face me, hog grease rolling down his chin in shiny lines. ‘It’s pup time of year.’
The noise is faint and I can’t hear clearly enough with the fire crackling and with all this darkness. I can’t hear as well as in the daytime.
‘Then there’s the paramedic,’ says Karl-Otto pulling out more deer flesh from the saucepan and stuffing it inside an ICA burger bun. ‘The guy seeing my dear mother. He can be a bit of a handful and Tam had a run-in with him just last week. She used to fancy him back in the day but one time he goes up to her as she’s serving, and he dumps down a bag-load of food, rice and crackers and noodles, and tells her, no, he wants a refund cos it’s not real Thai food. She tells him yes it is. He tells her he’s been to Thailand three times and the balance of spices ain’t right. You believe that? So Tammy tells him to go back to Thailand for his green curry if hers isn’t good enough but he ain’t getting no refund. Fuming he was. Mainly because his mates were with him when she told him. Typical bodybuilder, buys all his protein powder in the shoe shop. Paramedic’s got a giant ego. And his temper’s bigger than his pumped-up man tits.’
‘I’ll check him out,’ I say.
Karl-Otto nods and chews. ‘You do that. Don’t tell him or my mother I said nothing, though.’
I look around at the fire and the spit seems even worse now. Torn leg muscles and a hacked-off neck hanging limply down by the embers, its skin charred and blackened. There are old bones in the firepit, bones from other creatures. Something catches my eye so I walk around the pit.
‘Don’t get too close in that fleece,’ says Karl-Otto. ‘You’ll go up like a firework.’
There are larger bones over here on the dark side of the fire. Bones that could be from a larger deer. Or a wild boar. Or a human. I’ll ask Thord to check through the ashes, or to at least take a look. I crouch down and see a patch of denim half-buried under ash. Tam was wearing jeans yesterday when she disappeared. Jeans and a grey cotton T-shirt.
‘We burn our garbage,’ says Karl-Otto. ‘Ain’t strictly legal but we do it.’
‘My job, that,’ says Viktor.
‘We don’t have bins out here like town people,’ says Karl-Otto. ‘We burn. Who’s gonna know?’
‘Who’s gonna stop us?’ says Viktor.
I walk around the pit some more. In my peripheral vision, at the murky edges of Utgard forest, I can see patches of cow parsley in this dim Midsommar light, and the tall stalks with their broad flower stems look like desperate hands grasping up from the undergrowth, reaching up for help.
‘I’m heading home now,’ I say. ‘Good to meet you, Karl-Otto.’
‘I’ll make a noise if she turns up here,’ he says. ‘But like I told you, she isn’t my girlfriend and she does what she pleases.’
I go to get into my truck and a bat dive-bombs my head. It almost gets tangled in my stupid thin hair and I let out a scream as I try to knock it away with my hand.
‘Just a hungry bat,’ says Karl-Otto. ‘You probably had a mozz in your hair. That bat saved you from a bite, I’d say.’
I switch on the engine and drive. The new-car smell of my Hilux is a tonic. Inside here, things are relatively clean and ordered. Predictable. Man-made. I run a hand through my hair just to double-check. Then I drive past the box-shaped crusher and then past the shipping containers where Viktor lives. I need to talk to the cousins as soon as I can but I can’t ring their doorbell now, not at this time of night.
When I get back to Gavrik the streets are empty. The dark presence of the liquorice factory looms over the whole town like a curse. I drive up Storrgatan at a steady 10kph, no other cars on the street.
And that’s when I notice it.
In the glare from the streetlights.
The flyers we taped to the poles and rails and boards.
Every last one of them.
Who would do this? What breed of evil would scupper a missing persons search?
I park outside the cross-country ski store and get out. It’s late. Storrgatan’s empty, save for a woman in the distance dragging an old dog around for its last walk of the day.
There are the remnants of a poster taped to a signpost. It’s been ripped off. Who would remove it? The Kommun? If I go to Thord with this tomorrow he could find out, he could access the CCTV cameras. It might be a lead. As ugly as this action is, this could give us a clue as to who has Tammy, or at least who wants to stop us looking for her.
The street is a Midsommar nightmare. In the grey twilight haze nothing looks good. There are cheeseburger wrappers rolling down towards Eriksgatan like children doing continuous cartwheels. There are puddles of vomit outside Ronnie’s bar, three distinct patches, some footprints leading through, some spreading of the regurgitated hot dogs and nachos up and down the street. And the heavyweight liquorice factory stares down on us all.
‘You looking for the little posters, Tuva?’ says a voice behind me.
I turn on my heels and see Viggo standing there wearing Top Gun aviator glasses, holding a Filet-O-Fish.
‘Viggo,’ I say, moving my handbag to my chest, opening it slightly.
‘You came back then,’ he says. ‘I always said you would. And you did.’
‘I’m looking for Tammy.’ I step back incrementally, almost shuffling as if not to trigger him, retreating towards my Hilux. ‘I’m back to find her.’
He nods and moves slowly towards me, maintaining the distance between us, not allowing me to widen it. Viggo’s not making any aggressive moves. He looks like an uncooked grey shrimp of a man in his V-neck sleeveless pullover and his charcoal slacks, but he’s still lifting weights, I can tell by the way he carries himself.
‘Little Mikey asks about you,’ he says.
I open my Hilux door. There’s nobody around but Ronnie’s bar’s still open. If I scream people might come out of their apartments. They might help me.
‘He’s top of his class,’ says Viggo, taking another bite of his Filet-O-Fish. ‘Reading age of fourteen even though he’s only eight.’ He licks his lips. ‘Takes after his old man.’
I close my truck door and lock it. My heart’s racing. Steel between me and him. Locks. Glass. He steps up to my window. His breath clouds the glass.
‘Good to see you, Tuva,’ he says, dragging his fingertip through the condensation and leaving a stripe on my window.
I start the engine and drive away, my summer tyres squealing as I accelerate too hard, and I leave Viggo behind in my mirrors.
There are no flyers anywhere. Lena said they printed 300. Someone has been meticulous in their removal. . .
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