Cold Hearts by Gunnar Staalesen

Cold Hearts - book cover

Tough detective Varg Veum will get to the bottom of it all.

Read a Short Extract




She heaved a sigh of despair. ‘You know girls like us don’t exactly receive family visits at our workplace, and if we did it would spell trouble.’
    ‘You mean…’
    ‘No. In fact, brothers, fathers and uncles do show up out there to buy services, and then they bump into a little sister or a daughter or a niece. And that’s not the half of it. When one of them comes to return their little darling to the nest there’s a real rumpus.’
    ‘But Maggi’s family…’
    ‘We talked about the hells we have come from now and again. What she came from was nothing to boast about, either. The father drank and the mother whinged. One brother’s in the clink, and she said only the big sister has sort of coped.’
    ‘Which part of town did she come from?’
    She hesitated. ‘From somewhere in Minde, I think. I’m not sure.’
    ‘Is she on drugs?’
    ‘What do you think? Why the hell do you think we are on the game? Because it’s such great fun being fucked up the arse?’
    I held my hands up in defence. ‘Alright! But I do have to ask don’t I. You’ve given me a job to do, haven’t you?’
    ‘Oh, yes? So you’re taking it, are you? Positive?’
    ‘I’ll do my best anyway.’ I made a few more notes. ‘So that’s the address, drugs, family… How do you go about it? To be blunt…I suppose you’ve got a pimp, have you?’
    She eyed me with the same distance as when we started the conversation. ‘We have someone who takes care of us, yes.’
    ‘That was what you had in mind when Tanya threatened to report what had happened, someone different from the police.’
    ‘They protect us when it’s necessary, yes. There can be other groups who try to muscle in on our patches. Or crazy folk. They’re queuing up out there, I can tell you that. Everything from drivers of trucks as big as mountains to embarrassed office workers in their tiny Startlets, so cramped it’s tough to do a blowjob inside. And you never know who you’ll meet, you never know who hey are when they remove their masks.’
    ‘These people who protect you, have they got names?’
    Her eyes widened a fraction. ‘I can’t tell you that.’
    ‘No. You’ll have to accept that.’
    ‘Are they Norwegian?’

I ruminated. ‘These people Maggi turned down but Tanya agreed to go with…Do you know any more about them? Did she say anything? Tanya, that is.’
    ‘Nothing in particular.’
    ‘The name suggests…Is she Russian?’
    ‘Can you put me in touch with her?’
    Suddenly she grinned. ‘I’m sure she’ll turn you a trick if that’s what you’re after…’
    ‘No, that’s not what I’m…How will I recognise her?’
    ‘She’s very red-haired, let me put it like that.’
    She responded with arched eyebrows.
    ‘Of course I’ll pay her for the time it takes. While I’m on the subject…’ I listened to the hum of the expensive hard disk under the desk. ‘How will you pay?’
    A fresh attempt at a smile, but stiffer this time. ‘In kind?’
    Her cynicism hit me harder than I had anticipated. I could have been her father. She had been in the same class as my son. Nonetheless she was willing to open the goodie bag, however well-used, even for me.
    ‘Thanks, but no thanks. I refer cash payments. Or I can fill in a banker’s draft for you.’ It would give my bank a minor shock if they noted some movement in the account, which had been drained down to rock bottom over the last few months, but I took the risk.
    She nodded. ‘Just fill it in and you’ll get the money.’
    ‘I’m afraid I’ll have to ask for a small advance.’
    ‘That’s what we do too. Afterwards you can never be sure.’
    ‘Sounds like our professions aren’t so far removed from each other.’
    She opened her handbag and produced a few thousand-krone notes. I took them and gave her a receipt. Afterwards she gave me the key to Margrethe Monsen’s flat in Strandgarten. ‘You’ll see ‘M. Monsen’ on the door.’
    ‘Thank you. I’ll start there. How can I find you?’
    She looked past me, towards Bryggen. ‘Round and about.’ She took out a mobile phone. ‘You can have my number.’
    I tapped it into mine.
    ‘And here’s mine.’ I gave her a business card.
    She read it and stuffed it in her bag. After a short pause she asked, somewhat hesitantly: ‘How’s Thomas?’
    ‘He lives in Oslo. Goes to university there. They’re planning to get married this summer. He and his girlfriend.’
    Her mouth contorted, half smile, half grimace. ‘Did you know we dated for a while?’
    ‘No, I…’ I rolled my chair back half a metre and gave a laconic smile. ‘I could have been your father-in-law, in other words?’
    ‘If a lot of things had been different, yes.’
    ‘Why did it end?’
    ‘Well…’ She shrugged. ‘I suppose these things happen.’
    For a moment we sat in silence. We finished our coffee. Then she sighed and got up. ‘So we’ve got a deal?’
    ‘We have.’
    I accompanied her to the door. Hege Jensen from Nye Sandviksvei. A migratory bird had flown off course, much too early in her life, and way, way off course.
    I met her gaze one more time. Then she walked towards the lift while I returned to my office, skimmed the few notes I had made, put my computer into hibernation, grabbed the notes and went out into the gloomy January daylight without any great hopes of success.

Copyright © Gunnar Staalesen 2008