The Men From Stockholm

A Martin Beck Fanfic

Chapter One

It was raining. The raindrops pattered relentlessly on the window. Outside, the city of Stockholm was a featureless grey blur. Inside, the three bored police detectives were beginning to get on each others' nerves.

Gunvald Larsson, who sat, immovable, behind the desk like a granite wall, scowled at Kollberg. Kollberg, whose chair was pushed slightly back from the desk, sighed deeply and gazed at the ceiling, as if transfixed by the ugly brown stain that showed where the damp was getting in.

"Well, if you've got a better idea, I'd like to hear it," he said, shifting his gaze back to Gunvald Larsson's glowering eyes. He considered Gunvald Larsson a bonehead and had little time for him. The feeling was mutual.

"It's out of the question!" his hefty colleague snapped. "A complete and utter waste of time, when we've got more important things to worry about. Next you'll be wanting me to send out the dog van. And for what? An insignificant little twerp who's no use to us, or indeed to anyone else."

He slammed his fist onto the desk and stopped to take a deep breath. The third man in the room took the opportunity to speak.

"I'm not sure, Gunvald," said Einar Rönn. "We might as well look like we're doing something useful. And it's possible that Svensson knows more than he's letting on."

Gunvald Larsson looked at him balefully.

"If you believe that, you must be as stupid as he is," he snorted. Rönn shrugged. For a few minutes the room went silent. Kollberg picked up a pen and doodled idly on the notebook in front of him. He wondered how much longer he had to sit here arguing with this lackwit, when what he really wanted to do was to go home and sweep his wife Gun into bed. Gunvald Larsson glared at Kollberg and thought longingly of the comfortable new armchair he had just bought and that was waiting for him in his living room. Rönn scratched the tip of his red nose and wondered what his wife was making for dinner.

Their contemplations were interrupted when the door opened and Detective Inspector Martin Beck stuck his head into the room.

"I'm sorry, am I interrupting something?" he asked. Before anyone could answer, his head was followed into the room by the rest of him. He stood leaning against the filing cabinet and looked at his three colleagues without much interest.

"Where's Melander?" he asked.

"Where do you think?" said Gunvald Larsson sourly.

"I saw him heading in the direction of the lavatory about half an hour ago," said Rönn. "He was carrying the Jespersson file."

"Hmm," said Martin Beck, pouring himself a glass of water from the carafe on the filing cabinet. Melander's ability to be in the lavatory whenever anybody was looking for him was as legendary as his near-photographic memory. Martin Beck drained the water from his glass and looked quizzically at his colleagues.

"What are you three looking so worked up about?"

Gunvald Larsson opened his mouth, but before he could speak Kollberg cut in.

"Svensson," he said.

"Oh," said Martin Beck.

"Having him shadowed is a complete waste of time!" Gunvald Larsson interjected. "The man knows nothing and has never led us to anyone of any consequence. He's just another pathetic drunk as far as I'm concerned. Why the hell is Hammar so interested in him anyway?"

Martin Beck shrugged.

"You'd have to ask him that. He's intent on bringing down that drugs racket in Rinkeby, that's all I know."

Gunvald Larsson looked like he was about to explode.

"And we're supposed to do that by tailing a miserable cur like Svensson? That's asinine!"

"You don't need to shout at me, I'm only telling you what little I know."

"And it's so unlike you to shoot the messenger, isn't it Gunvald?" added Kollberg, more than a little maliciously.

Gunvald Larson glared at Kollberg. He would have told him to shut the hell up had the telephone on his desk not rung at precisely that moment.

"Yes?" he snapped into the mouthpiece. Snatching the pen that was now lying idle in front of Kollberg, he began to make some notes. The others watched and listened with various levels of amusement.

"Disappeared? When?" said Gunvald Larsson.

"Oh, I see. Before dinner yesterday. Uh-huh." His blond eyebrows lowered in a frown until his eyes almost disappeared beneath them.

"She took what? Your brother's car? Oh, I see, your car, but your brother's new hat was in it?" He buried his head in his free hand. It was clearly taking him a great deal of effort to remain civil.

"And she's run away before? No, no I don't mean anything by that, I just want to know –

"Yes, all right. Give me your name and address and we'll look into it." He gritted his teeth and scribbled down some details.

"Yes, Mrs Lindström, somebody will come round as soon as possible. Goodbye." He slammed the telephone received back onto its cradle. The tension in his jaw was plainly visible.

"A missing girl, I presume," said Martin Beck.

"It's always a missing girl." Gunvald Larsson ripped the page he had been writing on out of his notebook and shut the book with a thud. "It seems that the teenage girls in this city are completely incapable of staying put."

"Well, Gunvald, I think you're more than capable of dealing with Mrs Lindström yourself," said Kollberg, jumping to his feet. "Gun will be expecting me."

He hastened to the door and caught Martin Beck's eye.

"Are you coming, Martin? You owe me a game of chess. Gun won't mind if you have a bite to eat with us."

Martin Beck thought for a moment, before deciding that he couldn't be bothered going home just yet. He nodded.

"Sounds fine, Lennart."

"I thought you'd prefer it to the alternative," said Kollberg dryly.

Gunvald Larsson and Rönn stared after them. Rönn got to his feet.

"Well, Gunvald, are you going to look in on Mrs Lindström?"

"Looks like I don't have a lot of choice, doesn't it?"

"Oh well, I'll see you on Monday, then." Mentally Rönn was already at home with his feet up, basking in the company of his wife and young son.

Gunvald Larsson put on his raincoat and went out to his car. Soon he was on his way to an address in Södermalm. He had little patience for this kind of thing, but even less trust in the patrol officers not to make a pig's ear of questioning the woman whose daughter had apparently disappeared without trace. His comfortable new armchair would have to wait for him a little longer.