Karlsen maneuvered the car into the housing development and over the speed bumps. As in so many places, the new arrivals had taken up residence in clusters, some distance from the rest of the local community. Apart from giving directions, the two policemen didn't talk much. They approached the house, trying to steel themselves, thinking that perhaps the child might even be back home by now. Perhaps she was sitting on her mother's lap, surprised and embarrassed at all the fuss. It was 1:00 p.m., so the girl had been missing for five hours. Two would have been within a reasonable margin, five was definitely too long. Their unease was growing steadily, like a dead spot in the chest where the blood refused to flow. Both of them had children of their own: Karlsen's daughter was eight, Sejer had a grandson of four. The silence was filled with images, which might turn out to be correctthis was what struck Sejer as they drew up in front of the house.
Number 5 was a low white house with dark-blue trim. A typical prefab house with no personality, but embellished like a playroom with decorative shutters and scalloped edges on the gables. The yard was well kept. A large veranda with a prettily turned railing ran around the entire building. The house sat almost at the top of the ridge, with a view over the whole village, a small village, quite lovely, surrounded by farms and fields. A patrol car that had come on ahead of them was parked next to the mailbox.
Sejer went first, wiping his shoes carefully on the mat, and ducking his head as he entered the living room. It took them only a second to see what was happening. She was still missing, and the panic was palpable. On the sofa sat the mother, a stocky woman in a gingham dress. Next to her, with a hand on the mother's arm, sat a woman officer. Sejer could almost smell the terror in the room. The mother was using what little strength she had to hold back her tears, or perhaps even a piercing shriek of horror. The slightest effort made her breathe hard, as was evident when she stood up to shake hands with Sejer.
"Mrs. Album," he said. "Someone is out searching, is that correct?"
"Some of the neighbors. They have a dog with them."
She sank back onto the sofa.
"We have to help each other."
He sat down in the armchair facing her and leaned forward, keeping his eyes fixed on hers.
"We'll send out a dog patrol. Now, you have to tell me all about Ragnhild. Who she is, what she looks like, what she's wearing."
No reply, just persistent nodding. Her mouth looked stiff and frozen.
"Have you called every possible place where she could be?"
"There aren't many," she murmured. "I've called them all."
"Do you have relatives anywhere else in the village?"
From Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum, pages 1-6. Copyright Karin Fossum 2002. English translation copyright © Felicity David, 2002. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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