The third book in the internationally bestselling Fabian Risk series, a terrifying story of stolen identity and serial murder.
ON A HOT SUMMER'S DAY
The police chase a speeding car through the streets of Helsingborg. When they reach the bridge, the driver keeps going straight into the cold, dark waters of the Öresund strait.
A TRAGIC ACCIDENT
The body recovered from the wreck is that of Peter Brise, one of the city's richest tech entrepreneurs. Fabian Risk and his team are confident this is suicide. Young, rich, successfulBrise just didn't know how to ask for help.
TURNS EVERTHING A LITTLE BIT COLDER...
But then the autopsy reveals something unexpected. Brise was already dead when his car crashed. He'd been brutally murdered two months ago. His body frozen in perfect condition, at eighteen degrees below zero...Something doesn't match up. And when a string of other odd murders and unusual behavior come to light in the area, Fabian Risk takes the case.
About the Author
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ASTRID TUVESSON, CHIEF OF the Helsingborg crime squad, regretted her decision the minute she left her house. Inside, the blinds had kept the bright springtime sun in check, but out here the glare was considerably stronger than she'd expected. If she didn't find the sunglasses in her bag soon, this headache would cause her skull to explode. She could already picture how Ingvar Molander and his men would come over to cordon off the scene and pick up all the pieces of her. Ah, there they were — her sunglasses, scratched and covered in fingerprints.
Oh, for Christ's sake ... She suddenly needed to pee. Sometimes she got so fed up with herself. Typical Astrid, forgetting to go before she stepped out the door and threw her keys in her bag, where they would of course be impossible to find by now. That bag was better at making things disappear than David Copperfield. She decided there was no point in looking for the keys — they were gone, probably forever — so she pulled down her pants and underwear and squatted in the flowerbed.
This was her own yard, so why not do whatever struck her fancy? If people didn't like it they could always call the police. She laughed at the thought and the stream between her legs came in bursts like a fancy water fountain.
She wasn't quite sure why she wasn't just staying home as she'd planned; why she instead felt the urge to get behind the wheel and turn the key in the ignition. After all, she had only taken three sick days since last Monday, which was nothing compared to some people on the team.
In some ways, this was all that idiot Gunnar's fault. If not for him, none of this would have happened. She would have been at the station, spending time with everyone else, not lying around at home and —
Something slammed into her car and she stood on the brakes. What on earth? She adjusted her rear-view mirror and realized that it had to be the mailbox. The one the idiot himself had insisted on shoring up and sinking into such a giant clump of cement under the ground that it would undoubtedly survive World War III. That was all she needed. She didn't even want to think of what the back of the car looked like now.
Astrid pulled forward and backward a few times before she drove onto Singögatan and took off as fast as possible, before any of the neighbours had time to come out and gape at her. That was exactly what she meant. Everything — absolutely everything — that was wrong with her life was the fault of that idiot Gunnar.
She took a left onto the entrance ramp of the northbound E20, pushed in the car's lighter, and took the last cigarette from the pack jammed into the door handle. The glow spread into the outermost layer of tobacco and she inhaled the smoke as deeply as her lungs would allow as she accelerated onto the highway.
Just a few years ago, she was the one who wanted to leave. But he had clung to her, and her fading love had slowly turned into contempt. She had soon transformed into a hateful monster, and once he finally made up his mind to leave her, nothing turned out the way she had imagined. Nothing.
At first she didn't understand what was happening — there was a sudden crunch as the driver's side mirror tore loose and ended up hanging by its spindly wires, banging against the body of the car like an overeager woodpecker. Then she saw the red BMW right in front of her. She laid on the horn but there was no reaction; the car just sped off. No way in hell was he getting off that easy. She hit the gas and soon caught up with him.
There was nothing she disliked more than newly rich little men with expensive cars, and she was convinced that this was a man and that he was little, in all measurable ways. She passed him on the left, swerved back into the right lane with her hazard lights on, and slowed down as she held up her police badge. As if he could see it. But fuck it. He was going to stop, and when he did she would teach him a thing or two.
Instead the BMW moved into the left lane and flew past her like it was the easiest thing in the world. What the hell? This meant war. Dammit, this meant war for real. She stuck her left arm out the window and pulled the side mirror off as she chased after the red BMW, with the gas pedal pressed tight against the dirty floor mat.
A minute later, she was well over the speed limit. Her Toyota Corolla shook, all signs indicating that it no longer wanted to take part in this chase. But Astrid was in full control, driving like a god — if she did say so herself — and by the time they passed the Helsingborg Södra exit she had caught up with him again, flashing her high beams.
But the BMW didn't slow down. It went faster. The driver obviously had no idea who he was dealing with. Astrid stuck her hand into the bag on the passenger seat. Her phone was in there somewhere, she was sure of it. Oh, there, she could feel her keys. Of course they would show up now.
Astrid fished out her phone and cast a quick glance at it, searching for the camera app. Wherever it was. Fucking Samsung piece of shit. She hated it. Not to mention the downy-faced salesman, who had gone on like a stubborn parrot about how much better Android was than iOS. In the end she'd given in just to shut him up. But, okay, apparently it was working now. How she had managed that, she had no idea.
Astrid held up the phone, its camera aimed at the car ahead of her, only to find that she was about to drive off the shoulder. She hit the brakes as hard as she could, causing the car to skid sideways, and within a second there was a cacophony of honking cars and bellowing trucks.
This was the end — that was all she could think. It was over, and maybe that was just as well. After all, she was nothing but a big, menopausal loser and a disgrace to the whole force.
But her hands refused to give up; they worked to correct the skid and downshift at the same time. Same for her right foot, which put the pedal to the metal. Miraculously, she regained control of the car. Astrid gave a shout of joy, and then a few seconds later tried to calm herself with a mantra about everything being under control.
By now the red BMW was about fifty metres ahead of her, and Astrid could see it slowing down to take the exit for Elineberg and Råå. She picked up her phone from the footwell and began filming again. She would soon catch up to him, and then — dammit — she would show him.
Whether it was due to her presence or the line of cars all the way to the roundabout, the driver changed his mind and accelerated back onto the highway, showing no signs of slowing down even though they were headed straight for central Helsingborg.
He didn't slow down at all until they reached Malmöleden, near the old police station, where the red lights at Trädgårdsgatan didn't seem to bother him in the least. Astrid wasn't about to be outdone, so she blared the horn through the intersection just as she heard sirens. The uniforms had woken up. About time.
A glance at her rear-view mirror showed the marked car right on her tail. Astrid waved at them to calm down. No way in hell was she about to let them waltz in and take over just like that. This waste of space was hers.
The circular fountain near town hall, twenty centimetres high, wasn't actually much of a fountain — it looked more like a giant blue Frisbee made of shattered tiles. An opening in the middle leaked water over the tile shards and kept the whole thing constantly wet. Astrid had never liked it, and her opinion was not improved when the left turn onto Hamntorget seemed to come out of nowhere. There was no help to be had from tossing her phone aside or swerving, either.
Its height and rounded edge worked together in perfect symbiosis with the Corolla's angle of attack and speed, flipping the car onto its side, its roof scraped ragged by the fountain. When the car finally came to a stop a few metres on, resting upside down in the middle of the bike path like a helpless beetle, Astrid unfastened her seatbelt and crawled out of the car.
Shit. Her head was pounding, and her eyes ... whether she was seeing double or if things were just blurry, she didn't know. Whatever it was, it wasn't good. The driver was going to get away. Astrid just knew that the bastard would keep on waltzing through life as if nothing had happened. As if this were all a fucking game.
She looked for the red car, which would soon turn right onto Kungsgatan and then, in all likelihood, go back the way it had come. But in fact, it didn't turn at all. Instead it kept going, right past the nightclub in the old ferry station, heading for the edge of the quay.
What was he doing? Astrid dashed across the cobblestones toward the water. Everything was spinning as if it were Midsummer and she had gone all in on a game of dizzy bat. She stumbled several times and realized she must have hit her head in the crash. But that would have to wait.
The BMW sailed right over the edge of the quay and flew several metres through the air before striking the water. Astrid kept running, and she noticed that others were now rushing from different directions and gathering in a cluster at the water's edge. She stopped near the crowd, caught her breath, and cleared her throat.
"Hello, this is the police," she said in the most authoritative tone she could muster. "We will need to cordon this area off, so I need you to move aside at least twenty metres!"
Most of the people turned to look at her.
"Yes, I'm talking to you! Come on, move aside as quickly as possible," she went on, gesturing with both arms.
As the crowd began to move away, she could see the back of the car sinking into the dark water.
"That goes for you too." She pointed at the last few people, who didn't want to tear themselves away, and then she approached the edge of the quay.
There was no sign of the driver. Just a mass of bubbles rising to the surface. She really ought to jump in, but she would never manage. Astrid had never felt comfortable in the water, and in addition she had —
"Astrid Tuvesson?" The voice startled her and Astrid nearly lost her balance as she turned to face the uniformed officer. "May I ask you to blow into this please?" he went on, holding out a Breathalyzer.CHAPTER 2
THEODOR RISK CLIMBED UP on the bench, sat on the backrest, and gazed out at the empty schoolyard as he drew a cigarette from his pack and defied the sign stating that smoking was forbidden on school grounds. He put on the red Beats he'd received from his dad for Christmas and pulled up Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" on his phone. In a minute or so the calm would be broken by shouting students anyway, as the others in his class streamed out of their double hour of gym class.
For his part, Theodor had spent the last hour with his therapist. As usual she had harped on about how important it was for him to join in and make friends. For him to be part of a community, as she liked to say. Theodor wanted to throw up all over her and her disgusting southern Swedish accent. Fuck, he hated that Skånska accent. It was without a doubt the absolute worst of all the dialects. But just as he did every week, he sat there like a lobotomized puppet and accepted her platitudes.
Like how important it was for him to open up and talk about how he was feeling in his heart of hearts. His "heart of hearts" was her number-one favourite phrase. Come on, let's take a journey inside together, she would say in her sticky-sounding Skånska, holding out her hand as if she seriously expected him to take it. Only if he allowed her all the way in would she truly be able to help him. He sucked in the smoke and shook his head at the very thought. As if anyone would ever be able to help him.
Still, for the first few months he had followed her directions to the letter. He had talked about how he was doing, what he was thinking, and how everything felt. About his relationship with his father, who seemed to believe that he made his children a priority when in fact he was never around when they needed him. About the betrayal he'd felt at having been left home alone for several days — a betrayal that still felt like an open wound but which no one ever talked about, as if it had never happened. Theodor told her about the panic he had felt when he was locked up in a space the size of a coffin, and his fear that he would die as soon as the oxygen was used up. That everything would be game over.
Not to mention the schizophrenic disappointment that had washed over him when he realized he would survive. That his suffering would continue. At one point he had even held her hand and, with his eyes closed, brought her along deep down inside him. But she continued to pressure him despite all of this, as if she only had one song to play on repeat.
He had seen no other way out than to start lying, saying that he was making friends, that everyone liked him and he was becoming popular. That his appetite for life was returning, and even that he sometimes thought it was fun to sit at home, studying and hanging out with his family. He lied that the lump in his chest was getting smaller and he could finally breathe easy again.
But now, apparently, she had seen right through him. Her constant nagging about new friends had increased. What she didn't understand was that there was no lack of people who wanted to be his friend. He just didn't want to befriend anyone. He took a drag and gazed at all the idiots that had begun to fill the schoolyard.
Dumbasses, that's what they were. Every single one of them was just an idiot on two legs, topped off with an ugly accent. But he had been a good boy and hadn't touched a single one of them. He hadn't crossed that line even once.
Alexandra was different. She was totally unlike anyone else in his grade; she didn't speak Skånska or stand around giggling with the other girls. When he stopped to think about it, Alexandra was the only one who had never annoyed him. He hadn't told anyone how he felt, but he felt something. And secretly, he suspected that the same went for her, since she always looked away as soon as their eyes met. Just like she would now.
Alexandra was standing over by the graffiti wall with some of the lame-os from class, and sure, he'd never timed it, but he was convinced that she'd never held his gaze for this long before. The feeling was so intense that he had to work hard not to look away first. What did this mean? Was it an invitation to talk to her? She looked happy. But what would he say? And what would he do about her friends?
Then the spell was broken. Not because of a furtive glance but because his phone rang, silencing Lemmy in his headphones. Theodor didn't even have to look at the screen to know who it was. Of course he would call and interrupt this moment.
"Hey," Theodor said, trying for a neutral tone, his annoyance seeping through.
"Hi, Theodor, it's Dad. How's it going?"
"Great. And your therapy, did it go okay?"
"What did you talk about?"
"Dad ... that's between her and me, you know that."
"Yes, but it's not like you can't talk about it. If you want to, I mean."
"I don't want to."
"No, no, okay. Completely unrelated: you know Mom has that opening reception tomorrow night down at Dunker? I just wanted to make sure you would be there by six at the latest."
"Do I have to?"
"Yes, you have to. And I was also thinking we should surprise her with a trip to Copenhagen this weekend."
"Um, hold on, does that mean I have to go too?"
"Yeah, it'll be fun. You know, stay at a hotel, go to Tivoli, eat those red hotdogs."
Theodor didn't even try to hide his sigh. "Look, I can't. I have three tests next week and I have to stay home and study." Only the first part was true. But Theodor would rather stay home alone and do schoolwork than spend a whole weekend with his family.
"Okay, okay, we'll talk more about it tonight. Maybe I can help you. But it's good to hear things went well with the therapist."
Theodor allowed silence to speak for him, and three minutes later, after some dutiful small talk about nothing, he was finally able to end the conversation and let Lemmy back in again.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Eighteen Below"
Copyright © 2018 Stefan Ahnhem.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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