Detectives were searching for footprints in the garden but
darkness was falling and they couldn’t see much on the frozen
ground. The garden was covered with a coat of slippery ice,
occasional clusters of grass poking through it. The district
medical officer had confirmed the death and was standing
where he thought he would be a sheltered from the gale, trying
to light a cigarette. He was uncertain about the time of death.
Somewhere in the past hour, he thought. He had explained that
the forensic pathologist would calculate the exact time of death
by correlating the degrees of frost with the body temperature.
On first impression the doctor could not identify a cause of
death. Possibly a fall, he said, looking up at the gloomy block.
The body had not been disturbed. The pathologist was on his
way. If possible he preferred to visit the crime scene and
examine the surroundings with the police. Erlendur was
concerned at the ever-growing crowd gathering at the corner of
the block, who could see the body lit up by the flashing cameras.
Cars cruised slowly past, their passengers absorbing the scene. A
small floodlight was being erected to enable a closer
examination of the site. Erlendur told a policeman to cordon off
From the garden, none of the doors appeared to be open out
onto a balcony from which the boy might have fallen. The
windows were all shut. This was a large block of flats by
Icelandic standards, six storeys high with four stairwells. It was
in a poor state of repair. The iron railings round the balconies
were rusty. The paint was faded and in some places it had flaked
off the concrete. Two sitting-room windows with a single large
crack in each were visible from where Erlendur stood. No one
had bothered to replace them.
‘Do you suppose it’s racially motivated?’ Sigurdur Óli said,
looking down at the boy’s body.
‘I don’t think we should jump to conclusions,’ Erlendur said.
‘Could he have been climbing up the wall?’ Elínborg asked as
she, too, looked up at the apartment block.
‘Kids do the unlikeliest things,’ Sigurdur Óli remarked.
‘We need to establish whether he might have been climbing
up between the balconies,’ Erlendur said.
‘Where do you think he’s from?’ Sigurdur Óli wondered.
‘Shouldn’t we say he’s an Icelander until we find out
otherwise?’ Erlendur said.
They stood in silence in the cold, watching the drifting snow
pile up around the boy. Erlendur looked at the curious
bystanders at the corner where the police cars were parked.
Then he took off his coat and draped it over the body.
‘Is it safe doing that?’ Elínborg asked with a glance in the
direction of the forensics team. According to procedure they
were not even supposed to stand over the body until forensics
had granted permission.
‘I don’t know,’ Erlendur said.
‘Not very professional,’ Sigurdur Óli said.
‘Has no one reported the boy missing?’ Erlendur asked,
ignoring his remark. ‘No enquiries about a lost boy of this age?’
‘I checked that on the way here,’ Elínborg said. ‘The police
haven’t been notified of any.’
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...