They were able to guess his age, but had more trouble
determining which part of the world he came from.
They thought he was about ten years old. He was wearing a
grey anorak, unzipped, with a hood, and military-style
camouflage trousers. His school bag was on his back. One of his
boots had come off and there was a hole in his sock. One toe
poked through. The boy was not wearing gloves or a hat. His
black hair was already frozen to the ice. He lay on his stomach
with one cheek turned up towards them, and they saw his
broken eyes staring along the frozen earth. The puddle of blood
underneath him had started to freeze.
Elínborg knelt down beside the body.
‘Oh my God,’ she groaned. ‘What on earth is happening?’
She held out her hand, as though she wanted to touch the
body. The boy looked as if he had lain down to take a rest. She
had difficulty controlling herself, did not want to believe what
‘Don’t move him,’ Erlendur said calmly. He was standing by
the body with Sigurdur Óli.
‘He must have been cold,’ Elínborg muttered, withdrawing
her hand and slowly getting to her feet.
It was the middle of January. The winter had been reasonable
until the New Year, when the temperature dropped sharply. The
ground was now covered in a solid coating of ice and the north
wind howled and sang around the blocks of flats. Rippling
sheets of snow swept along the ground. They collected into little
drifts here and there and fine powder snow swirled away from
them. Straight from the Arctic, the wind bit their faces and
penetrated their clothes, cutting to the bone. Erlendur thrust his
hands deep into the pockets of his winter coat and shuddered.
The sky was heavy with cloud and it was dark, although it had
only just turned four o’clock.
‘Why do they make military trousers like that for children?’
The three of them stood hunched over the boy’s body. The
blue flashing lights of the police cars bounced off the
surrounding houses and blocks of flats. A few passers-by had
gathered by the cars. The first reporters had arrived. Forensics
were photographing the scene, their flashes vying with the blue
lights. They sketched the layout of the area where the boy was
lying and the immediate surroundings. The forensic
investigation was in its initial stages.
‘Those trousers are in fashion,’ Elínborg said.
‘Do you think there’s something wrong with that?’ Sigurdur
Óli asked. ‘Kids wearing trousers like those?’
‘I don’t know,’ Erlendur said. ‘Yes, I find it odd,’ he added
after a pause.
He looked up at the block of flats. People were outside on the
balconies watching, in spite of the cold. Others stayed indoors
and made do with the view through the window. But most were
still at work and their windows were dark. The officers would
have to go to all the apartments and talk to the residents. The
witness who had found the boy said that he lived there. Perhaps
he had been alone and had fallen off the balcony, in which case
this could be recorded as a nonsensical accident. Erlendur
preferred that theory to the idea of the boy having been
murdered. He could not pursue that thought through to the
He scrutinised the surroundings. The garden behind the flats
did not seem well kept. In the middle was a patch of gravel that
served as a little playground. There were two swings, one broken
so that the seat hung down to ground level and spun around in
the wind; a battered slide that had originally been painted red
but was now patchy and rusty, and a simple see-saw with two
little seats made from bits of wood, one end frozen solid to the
ground and the other standing up in the air like the barrel of a
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