Nobody thought much about the tall young woman when she first walked into the Ystad police station one November afternoon. She appeared nervous, but everybody who went there did. She walked to the front desk and only looked at the attendant with an unsure look in her eyes.
"Can I help you, Miss?" the attendant asked.
"I, uh... I have a p-problem to report," she stuttered, avoiding eye contact.
"What is it?" the man behind the desk gave her a sympathetic look.
"I think I'm being s-stalked," she choked out quietly. "And... harassed? Is that the term?"
She almost looked as if she were embarrassed by the fact. There were signs of weariness in her face and she kept glancing over her shoulder as if she were expecting this stalker to stand right behind her. She finally looked the attendant in the eyes and he could see how scared she was.
"I'll get someone to take care of you, don't worry," he told her gently. "Give me a moment, please."
She nodded and waited for the man to make a quick phonecall to someone called Martinsson. As she was waiting, she unbuttoned her coat, took of her hat and loosened her scarf. After he hang up, he smiled at her assuringly and got up from his seat. "Follow me, please."
They walked upstairs to a fairly small office with a young blonde policeman, presumably Martinsson, who did not look at all excited when he was presented with her.
"Take a seat, please, Miss...?" he gestured towards an empty chair opposite from him.
"Norling," she finished for him and sat down, still looking around cautiously.
"Norling," he repeated and typed it into his computer without looking at her. "And your full name is?"
"Emelie Linnéa Norling," she handed him her ID so she didn't have to spell it out for him. He took it from her and wrote some details down.
"So, I'm told that you think you're being stalked, is that correct?" he asked. The way he put emphasis on the word think made it sound like he had trouble believing her.
"I... I'm pretty sure that's the case," she nodded.
"Would you expand on that?"
"There is this m-man, he's everywhere I go," she began. "He follows me around. When I go to work, to the shops, even when I'm taking out the bin, he's always somewhere close. Watching me."
"Alright," he nodded. "Has he ever approached you? Contacted you?"
"Yes," she confirmed. "Sometimes he passes by me when I'm walking down the street and he... he grabs my b-bottom and... sort of... squeezes it. I feel like it's happening more and more often."
"I'm sorry to hear that," he finally looked at her for longer than two seconds. "Do you know who that man is?"
"No," she shook her head. "I've never seen his face. Not fully."
"But you could give us at least a basic description of him?" he raised his eyebrows. She nodded.
"White man, quite tall, over one eighty," she said slowly, trying to remember the man as well as she could, despite it sending shivers down her spine. "I think he might be in his late fifties, maybe early sixties. He's got quite short grey hair and I think blue or grey eyes."
"Got it," he nodded. "I'm afraid there's not much we can do for you, Miss Norling. All I can do is give you some basic advice to protect yourself, but that's about it."
"At least something," she chuckled nervously. The policeman gave her the smallest hint of a smile.
"Do you live alone?" he asked.
"No, with a friend of mine. And our cat, if that counts for anything," she scratched the back of her neck.
"Good," he said, ignoring the remark about the cat. "Don't go anywhere alone. Get that friend to always go with you. Wherever you're going. Even if you're taking out the bin. Or get her to do it instead, that would be even better."
"Alright," she agreed.
"And get something to protect yourself with. Pepper spray works just fine, maybe even a tazer," he continued. "Change your routine often. Go different ways and at different times so there is no pattern. Be always on alert."
"Write down every encounter with him. Even if you just see him, write it into a notebook or something. And if he tries to contact you, don't delete anything, it's evidence, is that clear?"
"Absolutely," she confirmed. "You think he's going to contact me?"
"It is highly probable, yes," he replied. The mere thought of him getting her contacts made her shudder. She closed her eyes and let out a shaky breath, trying to shake the feeling off.
"Are you alright?" he frowned.
"Yeah," she smirked. "It's just... terrifying, that's it."
He looked at her for a moment, then probably decided he should leave that. "And finally, you should pack a bag of necessary things and find a place you can stay at in case something really happens so you don't waste time. Ideally with a friend or your family. The more people, the better."
"Oh," she choked out. "But I don't... I don't know anyone here, I just moved here like two months ago."
"What about the friend you live with?" he suggested. "Does she have a family?"
"I guess, but-"
"Then I'm sure it can be arranged."
She took a breath to add something, but then she saw the look in the policeman's eyes. He was not fond of the situation at all and she did not want to anger him any further, so she stopped herself. She swallowed her remark and nodded.
"So... so that's all then?" she asked instead. "Or is there anything else you want to know?"
He thought for a moment. "You said you moved here two months ago, is that when it started?"
"No," she shook her head. "I kept seeing him back home too, but I didn't really think anything of it, because it was a really tiny place, but then he appeared here too, like three days after I got here."
"And he didn't touch you back then?" he questioned as he added something into his computer.
"No," she said. "I didn't even think he was following me. Everybody bumped into everybody multiple times a day, so I just shrugged it off."
"Understandable," he nodded. "I think we've covered everything. I'll get someone to walk you home. Give me a few minutes."
He got up and left his spot, only to return about two minutes later, alone. He was now wearing a long trench coat and had a grey scarf hanging around his neck. "Forget what I said, I'll walk you myself."
She was not sure how to react to that information, but she got up and followed him down the stairs and outside, getting slapped in the face with the cold wind. She pulled her scarf up, covering her mouth and nose. She felt Martinsson's hand between her shoulders as he urged her to walk faster. They walked through the small town of Ystad together, their eyes fixed on the road ahead of them. She looked around a few times, but the man was nowhere to be seen.
Emelie unlocked the door to her flat and looked at Martinsson, expecting him to say a goodbye and maybe warn her to be careful or something, but he said nothing. He watched her face with barely any expression and then he finally asked: "Your friend is not home?"
"No, she'll come around six," she shook her head.
"I'll wait here with you then," he said.
"Oh," she chuckled. "Alright. But take your shoes off, please."
He did as he was told and she moved away from the door to let him in. He stepped inside, looking around curiously. It was not a big flat, just enough for two people and a cat. It was fairly cosy, with a few photographs on the walls. None of them had, as Martinsson noticed, Emelie on them. There was another girl on most of them, with olive skin, very dark hair and brown eyes. Her smile was wide, creating dimples in her cheeks.
"Oh, that's Kavita," Emelie said when she noticed he was looking at the pictures. "She's the... friend that lives here with me. But you figured that out yourself. Would you like something to drink? Tea? Coffee? I think we also have some orange juice."
"Tea would be nice, thanks," he nodded and followed her to the kitchen where he sat down at the table. She put the kettle on and opened a small cabinet filled with various teas, coffees and mainly sweets.
"What type?" she asked.
"Sorry?" he turned to her.
"What type of tea do you prefer?" she corrected herself. "Black, green, herbal, fruity?"
"Ah... whatever you're having," he gave her a small smile. Emelie nodded and thought for a moment, then she pulled out a can of loose leaf black tea and an owl shaped infuser, preparing a small pot of wonderfully smelling tea.
"That's not just black tea, is it?" Martinsson wondered upon sniffing the flowery fragrance.
"No, it has lavender in it," Emelie replied and sat down on the other side of the table. They sat in silence for a few minutes before she poured both of them a cup of the tea. Emelie put a teaspoon of sugar into hers and offered Martinsson some too. The only sound that could be heard was the clinking of the spoons against their cups, and after that ended, only the ticking of the clock remained. Emelie stared into her beverage, but Martinsson was looking at her. He could not wrap his head around the fact that this woman could be in danger. She was not the type to attract men like that. Not that she was not attractive, just not in that way. Her long ash blonde hair was all over the place thanks to the wind outside and her cheeks were tinted with pink for the same exact reason, making her freckles stand out. Her eyes were brown and he was sure that if she were smiling, they would look very warm and friendly.
"Where do you work?" he asked after the silence became absolutely unbearable. She looked up from her tea in surprise.
"I... in a café slash bakery place on Regementsgatan," she replied. "It's a twenty minute walk from here."
"There's quite a lot of restaurants around there, right?" he queried.
"Yeah, quite a few," she nodded. "And museums too. We get a crap ton of tourists all the time."
"That must suck," he pointed out.
"Not really," she shrugged. "I'm always in the kitchen in the back, so I don't really meet anyone."
Before Martinsson could take a breath to add something, her phone started ringing. She glanced at it and gave him an apologetic look.
"That's Kavita, give me a moment," she smiled and got up, walking to the hall. He could hear her quiet voice, but did not understand what she was saying. Where she returned, she looked quite nervous. "Uh... she'll be late, she got stuck at work. Are you sure you want to stay here?"
"How late?" he frowned.
"An hour maybe?" she proposed. "I have no idea, it's different every time."
Martinsson sighed loudly, but shook his head. "It's fine. I'll wait."
"Are you sure?" she asked again. "I don't want to waste your time, what if someone actually needs you?"
"They'll call me," he insisted. "I was bored at the station anyway."
"So you'd rather be bored here?" she smirked and he let out a short laugh.
"I suppose," he replied and took a sip of his tea. "That's really good."
"I know, right?" she grinned. "People either love it or absolutely despise it. I'm glad you're the former."
Martinsson smirked again and the room fell silent once more. Emelie glanced at the clock – it was quarter to six, meaning they had at least an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of them. She suppressed a sigh and got up, going to the tea cabinet. She opened it and inspected it for a moment, then pulled out a packet of biscuits and found a clean bowl to pour them in. She turned on the small television in the corner of the kitchen to overpower the silence and sat back down, putting the bowl on the table. She did not pay attention to what was going on on the TV, but at least she did not feel as awkward anymore. She brought her knees up to her chin and fiddled with a ring on her finger. It was decorated with tiny gems arranged like a bow.
"Have you told anybody else about the stalking?" Martinsson asked Emelie after a few minutes. She nodded reluctantly.
"Kavita," she mumbled. "I mentioned that I kept seeing the guy everywhere and the butt grabbing and she told me to go to the police immediately."
"Smart woman," he nodded, taking a biscuit.
"Yeah, she is," she agreed mindlessly. "Really smart."
"Do you get along well?" he wondered.
"Quite," she shrugged. "I mean, we barely know each other, but I think she's great. She's fun to be around and she's really nice, doesn't fight over dishes and stuff. She's outgoing, but not so much that would make me hide in my room to avoid having a conversation with her. She likes having space and so do I."
"Sounds good," he noted.
"What about you?" she looked up at him.
"What about me?" he frowned.
"Do you live alone?" she specified her question. "Or do you have someone waiting for you at home? Am I ruining what should be quality time with your... buddies? Family? Girlfriend? Boyfriend?"
"I wouldn't be home now anyway," he smirked. "But no, I live alone. Had a girlfriend, but... it didn't work out."
"Oh," she mumbled and looked down again. "Sorry."
"Nah, it's okay," he waved his hand dismissively. "We just weren't right for each other."
"Yeah, I had that happen to me before," she put a strand of hair behind her ear. Magnus noticed some sort of writing on her index finger as she was putting her hand down, but it was too small for him to read. "It sucks, doesn't it?"
Instead of replying, Martinsson made a hmph sound, making Emelie feel like she should not dig any deeper. She looked at the clock – an hour to go. And it would not be a pleasant hour with an annoyed policeman sitting opposite from her. She sent a text to Kavita, begging her to come home as soon as possible, because it was driving her insane. She replied with a smiley face and in ten minutes, they heard the sound of her keys and the main door opened.
"Hi there!" Kavita greeted from the hall. "What's going on? You never compl-"
She walked to the kitchen and saw the pair sitting there tensely.
"Oh, hello," she smiled at Martinsson. "Who you might be?"
"Detective Magnus Martinsson," he introduced himself, got up and shook her hand. "You're Kavita?"
"Yes," she nodded, confusion written all over her face.
"Well, in that case, I better be off," he smiled and walked to the hall where he put on his coat. "Take care of yourself, Emelie."
"I, uh, you too?" Emelie replied, the use of her first name catching her completely off-guard. He gave the women a small wave and left.
"You picked up a detective?!" Kavita raised her eyebrows at Emelie. "Good job."
"I didn't pick anyone up," Emelie rolled her eyes. "I reported the stalker and he said he'd walk me home. When he saw you weren't home, he decided to wait here with me."
"He's cute," Kavita pointed out.
"Might be, but he's an arsehole," Emelie sighed and got up to turn the TV off.
"What'd he do?" Kavita frowned.
"That's hard to explain," Emelie shook her head. "He starts a conversation and when I try to participate, he just... he looks like talking to me is the biggest torture that could be brought upon him."
"Jerk," Kavita nodded. "Also, since when are policemen on a first name basis with people?"
"No bloody idea."