‘We need to find his boot,’ Sigurdur Óli said.
They all looked at the sock with the hole in it.
‘This is can’t be happening,’ Elínborg sighed.
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 the area.
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.
‘He looks Asian to me,’ Elínborg said.
‘Could be Thai, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese,’ Sigurdur Óli reeled off.
‘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.’
Erlendur glanced down at his coat. He was cold.
‘Where’s the person who found him?’
Excerpted from Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason. Copyright © 2009 by Arnaldur Indridason. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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