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 she saw.
‘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?’ he asked.
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 end.
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 gigantic gun.
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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