The temperature in Bergen was a couple of degrees colder than Oslo, and situated on the west coast of Norway it was exposed to a biting wind blowing in from the Norwegian Sea. Sand stepped out of the airport terminal building and walked over to the man leaning against the car.
‘Bakke?’ Sand asked.
Bakke nodded. He was wrapped in a parka and hat pulled down low over his forehead. He looked at Sand, wearing his thin windcheater. ‘Never been to Bergen before, Sand?’
They got into the car and drove round the one way system to get out of the airport and were soon on the highway, leaving the coast behind them.
‘You think your man Dag Moen is here in Bergen?’ Bakke asked as they crossed the bridge that straddled the fjord.
‘A hunch,’ Sand answered. ‘If I wanted to find out about a case from twenty years ago, who would I ask?’
Bakke laughed. ‘There aren’t many detectives left from that long ago. You’ll have to ask the Squirrel.’
‘The Squirrel?’ Sand repeated.
‘I’ll take you there first.’
Half an hour later they parked at Bergen‘s main police station. Bakke led Sand down to the basement. In the corner of a large, dark storage room was a small cubbyhole office. It was occupied by an elderly man, bald with thick glasses and a hearing aid.
‘Herb Ekorn, this is Anders Sand. Sand, meet The Squirrel, the keeper of our archives and old cases. If you need information, Herb here is the one who will have squirreled it away somewhere in here.’
‘What do you want to know?’ Ekorn asked, peering at Sand.
‘An unsolved homicide from twenty years ago. Victim was found in the harbour, sliced open. Name of Karlstad, working off of a whaler called ‘The Queen of Bergen.’
Ekorn nodded. ‘I remember that one. Never had a suspect. Or rather, there were too many suspects to identify who had done it.’ He stood up and shuffled out the office passed Sand and Bakke. He pulled a cord hanging from the ceiling and fluorescent bulbs flickered into life, stretching back into the distance. ‘Organised by date,’ he said over his shoulder and gestured for them to follow.
He stopped when he reached the shelves marked ‘1997.’ He clambered up a footstool and reached a dusty cardboard box. He pulled it down, dropping it with a heavy thud.
‘This one and the two next to it. All the files on the case.’
‘What do you mean too many suspects?’ Sand asked, as he took the lid off the box and leafed through the documents. There were handwritten reports, witness statements, interrogation transcripts.
‘Rolf Karlstad was a fisherman. He worked on the big factory ships out of Bergen. He was also a street kid, a male prostitute and a drug addict. The list of possible killers and unsavoury characters he came into contact with was a long one. There was no hard evidence on anyone. Just lots of theories.’
‘Does the name Jules Eckberg ring a bell in connection with the case?’
Ekorn shook his head. ‘Can’t say it does, but like I said, it was a long list. He might be in there somewhere.’
‘Is there a crew list for ‘The Queen of Bergen’ at the time of the murder?’
‘Should be in there.’ Ekorn shuffled off back towards his office.
Sand pulled the other two boxes and picked them up. Bakke carried the other one.
‘You have a desk somewhere I can look at these?’
‘Follow me,’ Bakke said. ‘Why Jules Eckberg?’
‘He’s Dag Moen’s father. I arrested him for murder twenty years ago in Oslo.’
For the rest of the afternoon Sand poured over the files on the Karlstad case. Crime scene photographs showed a pale, bloated body being fished out of the water. The gaping hole from abdomen to chin. The coroner’s report confirmed the intestines had been removed. They were never found.
Too much of a coincidence, Sand thought. The body was found two weeks before the body of Bjarne Johansen was found gutted and strung out in Frogner Park in Oslo. It had to be Jules Eckberg.
Sand checked the crew list from ‘The Queen of Bergen’ in 1997. There was no sign of Jules Eckberg on the list. It had to be him. He checked the list again, looking for possible aliases.
He stopped when he saw the name. ‘Son of a bitch,’ he muttered. Bakke looked up. The name was Verne Schloss. Verne as in Jules Verne. Schloss was German for ‘castle’ – the Schloss-Eckberg was in Dresden, now a five-star hotel. Verne Schloss had to be Jules Eckberg.
N.B. **The Norwegian word for ‘squirrel’ is ‘ekorn’.**
This is part nineteen 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.