Mammon in Malmö, by Torquil MacLeod, part three: There was a whole different world bubbling under society’s thin veneer...
‘That’s all, Anita.’
Anita Sundström got out of the optician’s chair. Hugo Carlgren wrote a note in her patient file.
‘Your eyes are slightly worse than they were two years ago, so we’ll tweak your prescription. I’m afraid this happens the older you get.’
‘That’s good to know, Hugo!’
It didn’t make her feel any better about herself, but she knew Carlgren was right; he’d been looking after her eyes for many years.
‘Do you want new frames?’
She did, though she shuddered to think what they might cost. Her old frames were looking worn - a bit like her, she thought.
‘If you’re not in a hurry, I’ll get Hannah to sort you out.’
Anita wasn’t in a hurry. As she left the consulting room, she passed a younger man whom she didn’t recognize. He looked athletic, with muscular shoulders pressing against his white shirt. He strutted along the corridor and had a cocky air about him that was at odds with the traditional feel of this well-established practice. He must be the new partner the receptionist had been cooing about while Anita was waiting for her eye test.
* * *
Sven Haglund slumped down in his seat and sighed. He felt for his coffee cup and took a sip. Yuck! It was stone cold. He twisted his neck to the left then to the right to ease the stiffness. He’d been here for over an hour. He absently fiddled with the camera on the passenger seat. It was primed and ready. He should have cleaned the car window before setting off, though it wouldn’t make that much difference to the photos. That’s if the bugger ever came out.
His quarry was having more fun than he deserved in there. But it wouldn’t last much longer when his wife got wind of it. Of course, he hadn’t actually got a shot of them doing it; he
wasn’t going to get himself caught trying to take photographs through a hotel window. However, he did know the room number; he’d checked with the receptionist. The man always
booked the same room, in his own name. Talk about hubris! Or stupidity. But the dates, times and places had stacked up over the last few weeks.
He wasn’t unsympathetic; she was a good-looking woman. If she offered, he wouldn’t kick her out of bed. But he wasn’t married. Dishonourably divorced. That had left him bitter. Now he was helping to break up other marriages. He knew it was grubby, but it paid the bills. You’d think in these enlightened times, no one would care if their other half played around. Maybe it’s because there’s more money at stake these days.
He was, in actual fact, growing bored with such trivial cases. He had more important things on his mind than marital philandering. The unsolved missing person’s case, which had
come to his attention nearly two years ago now, had led to him staring in the mirror and reflecting on who he was. And the more he’d looked into the case, the more he’d come to realise that there was a whole different world bubbling under society’s thin veneer. A world that hadn’t gone away – still festering, still spreading its bile, still warping minds.
It had been an awakening for him. It no longer mattered that he would never get paid for all the work he’d done. It had become personal, all-consuming. It tormented his waking hours and seeped into his dreams, turning them into nightmares.
* * *
‘Now, how does that feel?’
Anita tried to stay as still as possible. She found the thought of buying new glasses almost as stressful as buying a new car, though the dispensing optician was taking her through the process smoothly and professionally. Hannah Roth had long fingers that were ideal for positioning the glasses, and she had a soft, gentle voice that persuaded Anita to try frames that were far more expensive than she’d budgeted for.
She wrinkled her nose. ‘A little heavier than I’d like.’
Hannah leant forward and carefully slipped off the frames. Still with them in her hands, she said, ‘I thought these might be more resilient. You have an active job and I know they can get damaged.’
‘Oh, I’m not in the police anymore.’
‘Really?’ Hannah said, with obvious amazement. She was plain and dark-haired; her strong facial features softened by her kindly disposition. She was a woman of indeterminate age; Anita plumped for mid-forties, though she could have been older.
Anita knew Hannah Roth well, as she’d been coming to Malmö Eye Care every couple of years since she’d settled in the city, but she still didn’t know much about her. The only
thing she was fairly certain of was that she was unattached - no wedding ring - though she could have a boyfriend or girlfriend, of course. She had a calm demeanour and was an attentive listener, knowing exactly what to say to relax her clients while she went about fitting them with the perfect glasses. She would have made a great therapist. She took pride in the fact that most of her customers left the premises happy and satisfied, even if somewhat poorer.
‘I left a year ago...’
Tomorrow: Dangerous people to expose