A local officer met Sand outside the unique-looking igloo hotel.
‘It doesn’t really melt,’ he said, in response to Sand’s question. ‘It gets dismantled and broken down in sections that then melt over the summer.’
He led Sand through the corridors to the largest suite, where the body had been found. Entering the room under the police tape, Sand saw a screen that sectioned off the one half of the room. From behind it a man with grey hair and thick glasses peered out.
‘Detective Sand?’ the man asked. Sand nodded and offered a handshake. ‘Doctor Andreassen. Come and take a look.’
Sand stepped round the screen. He gagged as his stomach lurched. He had been expecting it. In some ways it consoled him that after years dealing with dead bodies they still could have an effect on him.
What was left of Dahlia Solberg was as he had expected it to be, except for somethign new. It was charred black, frozen in a picture of horror.
‘Killed by a large knife wound in the stomach and sliced open. Intestines pulled out.’ Andreassen said. ‘Interestingly, the body seems to have been coated in petroleum jelly.’
‘Jelly?’ Sand repeated.
‘You know, Vaseline. Flammable, that’s what he used to light the body. The human body is difficult to set on fire. Smeared her in jelly then lit the match.’
Sand looked round the room. No clues to be found here, he thought. ‘Any witnesses?’ he asked.
The local officer was still in the room. ‘She was staying in the staff accommodation with two others, her partner, Christian Karlsen, and another woman, Astrid Dahl. Neither heard or saw anything. They both claim they blacked out. Forensics are checking but it looks like their wine was spiked.’
A wasted journey, thought Sand, although it had confirmed what they already knew. He got back to his hotel for the night. There was no flight back until the next day. In the morning he would take another look around in case he had missed anything. He gave Gabi a call. She was still in the office.
‘Anything on Dag Moen?’ he asked, having filled her in on the gory details of Dahlia Solberg.
‘No record of travel to Alta from Oslo in the last two days. He’s been working as a delivery truck driver for the last 18 months for a small firm specialising in animal and pet consumables. Guess what? Sacked three weeks ago. According to the manager he’d always been an odd character but was punctual, never took a sick day, reliable. Then went off the rails. Stopped turning up for work and has now disappeared with one of their vehicles.’
‘Typical. Ever feel like we’re always one step behind him?’
‘One bit of good news. While he was staying with his mother, he also rented a small apartment in the city centre. According to the building caretaker he used it to meet a woman on sporadic evenings. She came for an hour or two at the most but never stayed overnight.’
‘He was having an affair? A secret lover?’
‘Something like that is our best guest. Jens and Karl are staking the place out in the hope Dag or his mystery woman show up.’
‘That’s something at least. Find anything in the Eckberg files?’ Sand asked. ‘Especially anyone with a name starting with E.’
‘Only one person,’ Gabi replied. ‘Your partner at the time Egil Lund.’
‘He’s been dead for five years,’ Sand said, remembering his old mentor. ‘And retired for fifteen.’
‘What about family?’
‘None that I know of, he was an only child, single, no children of his own.’
‘In Dag Moen’s mind then, who would he replace Egil Lund with? He hasn’t been exactly following a strict rule, just loose relations to some mad alphabet challenge in his head.’
Sand picked up on Gabi’s reasoning. ‘He would go for whoever had taken Egil’s place as my partner. If he wants to get to me, he will come for you.’
‘That’s what I was thinking.’
‘Don’t leave the office tonight. Give Pedersen a call and get protection assigned to you. I know an officer I would trust, Håkon Berg. Get him assigned to you as a bodyguard, and a squad car outside your home.’
‘I can handle myself,’ Gabi replied.
The foolhardy confidence of youth. Sand thought back to the charred remains lying in the ice room. ‘You haven’t seen what Dag Moen is capable of, Gabi.’
This is part nine of my A to Z Challenge 2017. More information on the challenge, and other stories and blogs taking part in it, can be found HERE.
Throughout April I hope to publish a section a day, relating to a letter of the alphabet, which in the end will make up a continuous story, all based round the objects found in this children’s jigsaw:
Other entries in the challenge, and a version of the final complete, joined up story can be found here: A TO Z CHALLENGE 2017.