‘We’ve got him in one of the stairwells,’ Sigurdur Óli said. ‘He waited for us. Called from his mobile. Every kid carries a mobile phone these days. He said he’d taken a shortcut through the garden on his way home from school and stumbled across the body.’
‘I’ll talk to him,’ Erlendur said. ‘You check whether they can find the boy’s tracks through the garden. If he was bleeding he might have left a trail. Maybe he didn’t fall.’
‘Shouldn’t forensics handle that?’ Sigurdur Óli mumbled to deaf ears.
‘He doesn’t appear to have been attacked here in the garden,’ Elínborg said.
‘And for God’s sake, try to find his boot,’ Erlendur said as he walked off.
‘The boy who found him . . .’ Sigurdur Óli began.
‘Yes,’ Erlendur said, turning round.
‘He’s also col . . .’ Sigurdur Óli hesitated.
‘An immigrant kid,’ Sigurdur Óli said.
The boy sat on a step in one of the stairwells of the block of flats, a policewoman sat with him. He had his sports kit wrapped up in a yellow plastic bag and eyed Erlendur with suspicion. They had not wanted to make him sit in a police car. That could have led people to conclude that he was implicated in the boy’s death, so someone had suggested that he wait in the stairwell instead. The corridor was dirty. An unhygienic odour pervaded the air, mingling with cigarette smoke and cooking smells from the flats. The floor was covered in worn linoleum and the graffiti on the wall seemed illegible to Erlendur. The boy’s parents were still at work. They had been notified. He was dark-skinned with straight jet-black hair that was still damp after his shower, and big white teeth. He was dressed in an anorak and jeans, and holding a woollen hat in his hands.
‘It’s awfully cold,’ Erlendur said, rubbing his hands.
The boy was silent.
Erlendur sat down beside him. The boy said that his name was Stefán and he was thirteen. He lived in the next block of flats up from this one and had done so for as long as he could remember. His mother was from the Philippines, he said.
‘You must have been shocked when you found him,’ Erlendur said after a lengthy silence.
‘And you recognised him? You knew him?’
Stefán had told the police the boy’s name and address. It was in this block but on another staircase and the police were trying to locate his parents. All Stefán knew about the boy was that his mother made chocolate and he had one brother. He said he had not known him particularly well, nor his brother. They had only quite recently moved to the area.
‘He was called Elli,’ the boy said. ‘His name was Elías.’
‘Was he dead when you found him?’
‘Yes, I think so. I shook him but nothing happened.’
‘And you phoned us?’ Erlendur said, feeling he ought to try to cheer the lad up. ‘That was a good thing to do. Absolutely the right thing. What did you mean when you said his mother makes chocolate?’
‘She works in a chocolate factory.’
‘Do you know what could have happened to Elli?’
‘Do you know any of his friends?’
‘What did you do after you shook him?’
‘Nothing,’ the boy said. ‘I just called the cops.’
‘You know the cops’ number?’
‘Yes. I come home from school on my own and Mum likes to keep an eye on me. She . . .’
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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