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."
Kavita walked Emelie to work the next morning, making her promise she would bring her one of the muffins they served there in exchange for having to walk almost twice as much as she normally would. She said she was joking, but Emelie promised her one nonetheless. As they parted and Emelie walked inside the bakery, she could not help but smile a little bit. She loved working there. She greeted Miss Löfgren, the lovely old lady who owned the place, and headed to the kitchen, getting ready to start new day. She put on her black apron and checked if any hair stuck out from her neat bun.
"Can't people read?" she heard Miss Löfgren's annoyed voice from the front. She got curious and went there, looking for a problem. She spotted it almost immediatelly – a young man outside the door, looking inside the shop. She quickly recognised him as the policeman from yesterday, Martinsson. He noticed her and waved.
"I'll go deal with him," she told her boss and walked to the door, unlocking it and stepping outside. "'Morning," she smiled nervously at him. "Is there anything I can help you with?"
He did not reply, instead he reached into his pocket and handed her a small card. "I forgot to give you your ID back yesterday."
"Oh," she choked out. "Uh, thank you. That could have been a complete disaster."
He scrunched his nose in a not really fashion. He put both of his hands in his pockets and stayed silent.
"Is... is that all or is there anything else?" Emelie raised her eyebrows. He shook his head and turned to walk away.
"Alright then!" she called after him. "Bye! Have a good day!"
He did not even look at her.
"Arse," she cursed under her breath and walked back inside the bakery.
"Who was that?" Miss Löfgren asked. "Your suitor?"
"Pffft," Emelie scoffed. "No. A policeman."
"What did a policeman want from you?" Miss Löfgren folded her arms on her chest. "Are you in trouble, young lady?"
"No!" Emelie shook her head. "No, I was at the police station reporting something yesterday and I forgot my ID there. He came to return it to me."
"How nice of him," Miss Löfgren smiled lightly.
"Yeah, he's veeery nice," Emelie scoffed. "About as nice getting burned by the oven."
"Ah, I see," Miss Löfgren nodded. "What were you reporting?"
"It's... uh... I don't wanna talk about it," Emelie mumbled.
"What's wrong, dear?" Miss Löfgren frowned, concerned.
"N-nothing's wrong, really," Emelie forced a smile and suppressed the cold feeling when she remembered what was going on. "It's fine. Everything's fine. Don't you worry about me."
Miss Löfgren watched her with an unconvinced expression on her face for a few moments, then shook her head dismissively. "As you wish. But if there is anything I can help you with, you know where you can find me," she said finally. "Now, let's get back to work."
Three weeks passed and nothing big happened. Emelie kept seeing her stalker and she always wrote it down carefully, but he never approached her since she was now always accompanied by Kavita. The policeman came to check up on her a few times at the bakery, but he also didn't have any news. Emelie always gave him the list of when and where she saw the man and he took a photo of it, saying he would check security cameras, but each time he came back, he still had nothing. He seemed frustrated by that, but Emelie assured him that it was alright. Of course she couldn't wait until that man would get the hell out of her life, but as long as he did not harm her or even come near her, she could live like that.
One Thursday evening, it was the beginning of December already, Emelie was preparing dinner when she realised they didn't have enough rice. But she couldn't just leave the half made food there and run to the supermarket, so she begged Kavita to do that. She heard the door getting opened mere five minutes later.
"You're quick," Emelie noted from the kitchen, stirring the sauce. She got no reply, but she was too busy trying not to burn the food. She heard footsteps and before she got a chance to turn around and thank her for being so willing, a big hand clasped over her mouth and she felt an arm around her waist. She froze into place as fear paralysed her completely.
"You thought you got rid of me, didn'tcha?" a masculine voice growled into her ear. His breath reeked of cigarettes.
"What do you want from me?" she tried to say, but it got muffled by the hand. He, however, seemed to have understood her nonetheless.
"You're about to find out, sweetheart," he whispered wickedly. Tears welled up in Emelie's eyes as she felt his hand roam about her body.
Martinsson was bored out of his mind. He had nothing to do but tons and tons of paperwork and he could practically feel his brain slowly pouring out of his ears. He rubbed his eyes and stared into the ceiling for a moment, sighing loudly.
"Magnus?" he heard someone call. He turned in the direction of the voice and saw Ann's head in his door.
"Don't tell me there's more files I have to go through," he groaned. "Can't Kurt do it himself?"
"No, listen," she shook her head. "The woman that says she's stalked, that's your case, right? Norling?"
"Yes, why?" he frowned, only now noticing the look on Ann's face. She looked tremendously worried. "What happened?"
"We just got a call," she began. "She was assaulted."
"Shit," he uttered and shot up from his chair. "Where? Where?"
"In her house," Ann replied. Martinsson cursed under his breath and ran out of the building, heading for the parking lot. He got into his car and drove off, silently praying he remembered Emelie's address correctly. The brakes screeched as the car skidded to a halt and he got out again, running to the door and knocking.
"Police!" he yelled. No response. "Shit," he hissed and pulled out his gun. He knocked again, but nothing happened. He looked around for an open window, but didn't find any. He returned to the door and forced it open, stumbling into the house. He had his arms stretched out in front of him, ready to shoot. But then he heard the weeping from the kitchen. He realised the attacker was probably long gone, so he put the pistol back into its place and walked to the room slowly. The smell of burnt tomatoes hit his nose hard.
Emelie was sitting on the floor, her back against the cupboard and she was crying helplessly. Tears were streaming down her cheeks like rivers and she was shaking with sobs. Her pants were still down. She looked like a tiny pile of despair. He walked up to her carefully and gently laid a hand on her shoulder. She flinched and looked at him, terror in her eyes.
"It's okay, it's just me," he whispered. "Magnus, remember? From police?"
She kept staring at him, wide eyed, her lower lip trembling.
"You're safe now, don't worry," he did his best to give her an assuring smile as he sat down in front of her. "You're safe, no one can harm you. I'm here."
It took her a while to calm down at least slightly, all the while looking him in the eyes as more tears fell down.
"Let's get you to the station, alright?" he suggested. "We'll take care of you."
After a few moments, she nodded slowly and reached out with her hand. Magnus grabbed it gently, running his thumb along her skin, hoping it would help her somehow. He got up and pulled her to her feet slowly. She nearly lost balance, but he managed to catch her before she fell. She was still trembling violently. He turned away so she could make herself decent. When he sensed she was ready, he turned back and gave her a small smile. He put his hand between her shoulders, leading her out and to his car. She let out a small hiss of pain with every step. He sat her down on the passenger's side and walked around, sitting at the wheel.
"I'll call the forensics here so they can take the fingerprints and such, okay?" he said and pulled out his phone, dialling a number. "Nyberg, hey, it's me, Magnus. Did Ann told you what happened? Good. I need you to come to the house and take the fingerprints and the usual... No, not breaking and entering, the man must have had a spare key... Yes, I'll wait until you get here. Thank you."
He ended the call and turned back to Emelie. "Just five minutes, is that alright?"
She nodded and rested her head against the cold window, zoning out and trying to force her mind to not wander to the events of the past half hour. Soon enough, she saw another police car pull up next to them and Magnus greeted his colleagues, both of which were definitely older than him. The one with the dark hair walked up to the door and upon seeing the state of it, he turned back to the car.
"Didn't you say there was no breaking?" he asked.
"No, that was, uh, me," Magnus admitted reluctantly. "I couldn't get in and I thought the attacker could still be there."
"Of course," the man nodded. "Well, we better get to work then."
"Thanks, Nyberg," Magnus smiled at him faintly and started the engine.
It only took a minute to get back to the station and Emelie spent it crying quietly. Tears ran down her face slowly, but she made no sound. Magnus then led her to his office and excused himself to get her a glass of water. He sat down on his chair and looked at her sympathetically.
"I'm sorry, but I'll have to ask you some questions about what happened to you," he told her. "It's best if we do it as soon as possible, but if at any point you want to take a break or stop altogether, I will understand and we can continue later. Is that okay with you?"
Emelie nodded and wiped her tears away, sniffing.
"D-do you have a tissue?" she asked quietly. He nodded and looked into his drawer where he found a small packet of them. She took one and blew her nose, then proceeded to fidget with the tissue.
"Would you tell me what happened?" he questioned. "Remember to take it easy, alright?" She took a deep, shaky breath and looked at him.
"I was cooking dinner," Emelie whispered. "And I realised I didn't have enough rice, s-so I asked Kavita to get some in the shop. I heard the door like five minutes later and I thought it was her, so I didn't even look... and then..." she sniffed. "H-he put his hand over my mouth and held me around the waist, s-so I couldn't look at him."
"So he got in through the door?" Magnus raised his eyebrows and Emelie nodded.
"That's why I thought it was K-Kavita," she stuttered. "He s-said 'You thought you got rid of me, d-didn't you?' a-and I asked him w-what he wanted from m-me and he said that I was about to f-find out."
"And then...?" he asked softly.
"H-he knocked me to the ground," she touched a small bump on her temple that Magnus hadn't noticed before. "H-held my hands above m-my head and p-put a towel inside my mouth. And then he..." she sobbed. "He..."
"It's okay, Emelie, you don't need to hurry," he assured her. "Take a breath, drink a bit of the water. You're safe here, alright?"
She took a small sip of water and wiped her cheeks with another tissue. She wept for a few minutes before she could breathe normally again.
"H-he took my jeans off and he... he... he r-raped me," Magnus could barely hear the last two words. He took her hands into his in a similar way he had seen Kurt do with victims and witnesses many times before. He watched as she hung her head low in defeat and closed her eyes shut.
"It's okay now, no need to be scared," he whispered. "There's a whole bunch of people in this building who are here to help you. Everything's alright, Emelie. It's alright. You're safe, I promise."
"He said he would kill me next time," he heard her whimper.
"What?" Magnus frowned.
"When he was d-done," she looked up at him, her eyes red and puffy as well as her still wet cheeks. "He said 'I'll kill you next time.'"
"And then he left?" he asked. Emelie nodded and let out a sob. Magnus got up and walked around his desk, gently laying his hands on her shoulders. She whipped her head around in fear, but realised he was not inflicting any harm upon her and allowed him to wrap his arms around her carefully. His fingers went to her messy hair and she rested her head against his chest, weeping.
"I promise he won't get a chance to do that, Emelie," he whispered, petting her head slowly. "I will do everything I possibly can to find him, alright? He won't hurt you, I'll make sure of that."
Emelie did not respond in any way, she kept sitting there and crying her eyes out. For a few minutes, the sound of her small sobs filled the office and her tears soaked into his shirt. He tried to comfort her as best as he could, but it didn't really work.
"Everything's okay," he heard himself say for at least the thousandth time. Slowly, very slowly, her breathing steadied and slowed down. He let go of her and crouched down so his face was just a bit lower than hers. He wiped her tears away and rested his hands on her cheeks.
"I'll call our doctor in so you can get checked up, alright?" he said. "For any injuries and... other matters."
"He used a condom," she told him, realising what he meant. "B-but of course."
"Give me just a moment, I'll be right back," he told her and ran off to make a phonecall. When he returned, he had a woman just a little bit older than him by his side. She led her to a fairly small room and Magnus waited for her outside.
"Did you pack a bag like I told you?" he asked softly when she came out again and she nodded, sniffing. "Let's go get it then."
"Where am I-" she tried to ask, but her own sob interrupted her.
"You'll sleep in my house for the night before we can find you anything else," he smiled at her. "Come on."
He helped her from her chair and led her outside again and to his car. They drove back to her house where he stopped. He contemplated asking her to wait there, but then he worked out that would probably be the worst idea he could have possibly ever had, so they got out together and walked to the front door. He noticed that more lights were switched on than before he arrived there earlier. Emelie opened the door slowly and stepped inside, clenching her fists. The smell of burnt tomatoes was still evident in the air, maybe even worse than before.
"Where the fuck do you think you are?!" a woman's voice called from the kitchen and a second later, Kavita stormed into the hall. "I come back with your stupid ass rice and there is no sight of you, the door is broken and the police are here! I thought somebody kidnapped you, Jesus Christ, Emelie! I called you at least a thousand times, why didn't you pick up?"
"I... I didn't take my phone with m-me," Emelie whispered like a little girl that was getting scolded by her mother.
"And you left the hob on, you idiot! The house could have burned down!" Kavita continued. "What the fuck happened here?"
Magnus cleared his throat. Kavita looked at him, only noticing him now. Her eyebrows knitted in confusion and she opened her mouth to say something else, but Magnus spoke first.
"We don't have time for that, we are leaving again," he said. "Emelie is only here to pick up her things."
"What do you mean, leaving?" Kavita frowned. "What- Why- Did something happen?"
"I'm sure Emelie will tell you herself when she's ready," he dismissed her. Meanwhile Emelie tiptoed to her bedroom and grabbed the sports bag that had been prepared just beside the door. She also put on a coat, put her hat into her pocket and wrapped a scarf around her neck.
Then she returned to the hall, still not looking anybody in the eyes.
"Emelie, what's wrong?" Kavita touched her arm lightly. "What happened?"
Emelie stayed silent and stared at her own feet, trying to shun away the tears that began welling up in her eyes again.
"Let's go," Magnus mumbled, holding the door open for her. Emelie nodded slightly and looked at Kavita shortly, but averted her gaze almost immediately.
"Wait, detective, sir, whatever," Kavita grabbed his wrist. "What happened? Is it something about the old creep?"
"I'm sure Emelie will tell you soon," he shook her off and walked Emelie back to the car.
Driving up to Magnus' house took only a few minutes. Driving anywhere in Ystad took only a few minutes. He opened the door for Emelie and ushered her inside the house, taking the bag from her. With his hand firmly between her shoulders, he led her to a guest bedroom where he put the bag on the bed.
"You need to rest," Magnus told Emelie. "The bathroom is right there," he pointed to a door. "I'll go make some tea for you, alright? I'll be back in five minutes. If you need anything, just shout."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"No problem at all," he smiled, gently patted her shoulder and then left to the kitchen. In only a moment, Emelie heard the sounds of cups clinking together and the kettle starting to bubble. She took off her coat and scarf, laying it on top of the bag and sitting beside it, staring at her knees. She felt tears roll down her cheeks, but she did nothing about them. Instead she rested her elbows on her thighs and let them fall freely. Flashing images of what happened were burnt into the inside of her skull for her to look at every time she closed her eyes. She looked at her hands and noticed bruises forming on her wrists where the man – that vile beast – held her down. She pulled at the sleeves of her dark blue jumper to hide them and looked to the side, dully noting what the room looked like. There was a wardrobe that appeared to be big enough for her to hide inside. Then there was a small chest of drawers with an old TV on top of it, but she doubted it would work. It wasn't really decorated in any way, the only thing that could be called a decoration was a dead plant in the corner.
"There you go," Magnus said softly when he returned, handing her a cup of freshly made tea. "It's not as good as the one you had, but it's something."
"Thank you," she replied, barely audible, and took the cup from him, careful not to drop it. She put it on her legs, using her jumper as a protection from the heat. She avoided looking at him, keeping her eyes trained on the tea as he sat down next to her. "Y-you really didn't have to take me here, I could've just stayed in my house."
"No, you couldn't," Magnus shook his head. "First of all, it's not safe for you anymore. Second of all, I highly doubt you could withstand being where it happened," he paused for a moment. "Scratch the second part, that sounded mean."
"I don't want to be a burden to you," she insisted weakly.
"You're not a burden, you're a case," he shook his head.
"So you like to take your work home with you?" the right corner of her mouth curled up in the slightest of smirks.
"That's the spirit," he smiled and Emelie laughed dryly.
"I feel so stupid," she mumbled after a moment of silence. "I should have known, I should have realised Kavita wouldn't be back so quickly. I should have turned around, maybe I could have done something. Hit him with a spoon or throw the goddamn pot at him. But I didn't. I just..."
"Don't blame yourself for that," Magnus cut her off. "Don't. It's not your fault."
"But there must be something I'd done wrong to deserve this," she could feel a lump growing in her throat, but she ignored it.
"Emelie, no," he shook his head. "You didn't. Nobody deserves this kind of thing."
"W-why me then?" she finally looked up at him. "Why me?"
"I don't know," Magnus sighed. "Yet. I will find out, I promise."
Emelie let out a shaky breath and hung her head low in defeat. Magnus reached for her hand gently, but as his fingers landed on her wrist, she flinched and hissed in pain. He frowned and when she didn't seem to move any more, he carefully pulled her sleeve up, inspecting the bruise.
"You said he held you down?" he asked and she gave a small nod. "We'll go back to the station tomorrow and take photos of these."
"What for?" she hid the bruise again in embarrassment. "The... doctor already wrote about them in the report she made."
"It's evidence," he explained. "It's only good that she already put it in the report, but it will be better if we take photos too."
"You think they won't believe me?" she sobbed.
"Even when they do, the evidence is needed for legal reasons," he told her.
"And... you believe me?"
He looked at her, utterly confused. "Why would you ask me that?"
She stayed silent, her bottom lip trembling. She looked down, remembered the tea and took a sip, burning her tongue slightly. Her hands were shaking and her efforts to mask it were fruitless.
"Emelie, listen to me," he ordered her. "There is no reason at all for anyone not to believe you. The evidence is for legal reasons, do you understand that?"
"And you are not responsible for what happened, do you hear me?" he added. "It's not your fault, don't blame yourself for something you could do nothing about."
She nodded again.
"Well then," he said. "I'm off to take a shower and to bed. Feel free to make yourself right at home."
"Thank you, detective," she whimpered. Magnus took a breath to tell her not to call him detective, but he stopped himself on time. Instead he patted her shoulder for the last time and got up, leaving her alone. Soon enough, Emelie could hear the sound of water from the bathroom.
She fished her phone out of her pocket and unlocked it, searching for Miss Löfgren's number. She wiped her tears, took a deep breath and dialled it, listening to the dull sound.
"Hello?" Miss Löfgren's voice said after only a moment. "Is that you, Vanya?"
"No, this is Emelie from bakery," she shook her head. "I'm sorry for calling so late, but, uh... I-I don't think I'll be able to come to work tomorrow."
"Why not?" Emelie could almost picture the confused frown on her face.
"It's, uh, p-personal emergency," she stuttered. "I'm really really sorry, I know it's last minute, b-but it's this... thing that happened and there are other things that need to be d-done now and-"
"What happened, Emelie?" Miss Löfgren interrupted her. "Is it something about the policeman?"
"S-sort of," she nodded. "I'm truly sorry, I promise I'll come on Saturday, I really will, but I think that it will be better for everybody if I stay out tomorrow."
"Are you alright?" Miss Löfgren asked. Emelie took a shaky breath, feeling her throat tighten and tears well up in her eyes again.
"Yeah, yeah, everything's fine," she choked back a sob. "Everything's great."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, of course," she insisted. "I really apologise for the trouble, Miss Löfgren. I'll make it up to you some time, I swear, I'm so so sorry."
"Don't apologise," Miss Löfgren told her. "You have to take care of yourself first. Me and Sandra can manage, don't you worry about that. Whatever's going on in your life is far more important than a bakery."
"Thank you, Miss Löfgren," she sobbed. "I-"
"Don't you say you're sorry," Miss Löfgren chuckled. "Good night, Emelie. Do yourself a favour and only think about yourself for a moment, alright? Promise?"
"Yeah," she nodded and sniffed. "I'll try to do that. Good night."
She hung up the phone before her boss could add anything and decided to send a text to Kavita: Sorry for leaving in such a hurry. I promise I'll explain everything.
The reply came through almost immediately: R u OK?
Mostly, she sighed as she typed it.
What do u mean?
She contemplated telling her what happened, but then dismissed the idea, seeing how long it would take to write, so instead she only wrote I'm alive, but I wish I wasn't.
Dont u even think of that I swear if u do it Ill summon Satan and bring u back just to yell at u for doing smth so dumb.
Emelie chuckled dryly. I won't.
Kavita did not respond anymore, so Emelie put her phone down and stared at her bag for a while. Her tears dried out and her breathing steadied at last.
"Everything alright?" she heard Magnus' voice from the door. She looked at him and attempted to smile. He was wearing pyjamas that consisted of a plain grey t-shirt and trousers of the same colour, his hair was damp and messy.
"Yeah," she nodded. "Absolutely."
"Is there anything you might want to tell me now? Something you might forgot when we were at the station?" he asked.
"Uh..." she thought for a moment. "I'm not sure if it's important, but he was kind of... familiar. Like I've seen him before, or like I knew him. But I can't remember where from. I never noticed it when I saw him outside, but... when he was that close to me, there was something that I can't quite place."
"That definitely is important," he said, nodding. "Thank you. Anything else?"
"No, I don't think so," she shook her head. "Sorry."
"No, don't apologise, it's still pretty fresh, maybe you'll remember something else later. It's alright," he told her firmly. "There's one more thing. You might have... trouble sleeping, which is absolutely understandable. There is a bottle of sleeping pills in the kitchen on the shelf with painkillers and other stuff."
"Oh, uh, thank you," she stuttered. "B-but I think I'll be fine. I don't want to be dependent on pills."
"As you wish," he shrugged. "Good night, Emelie."
"'Night," she mumbled and watched as he disappeared from her view. After a few more minutes of sitting in absolute silence, she opened her bag and pulled out a towel and a set of pyjamas along with a small bag of toiletries. After making sure Magnus was not anywhere in sight, she tiptoed out of the bedroom towards where she expected to find the bathroom. She locked herself in and stripped off her clothes quickly, avoiding looking at her body in any way. She knew she would only find more bruises, remembering the man's tight grip on her waist and a punch to her ribs when she tried to break free. Tying her hair into a bun, she stepped inside the bathtub, sat down and turned on the water.
She spent at least an hour just sitting in the hot bath, her thoughts circling around the evening's events. She couldn't get his face out of her mind, or his raspy voice, his breath that reeked of cigarettes, how his hands pushed at her, how his-
She noticed a razor on one of the shelves and looked at it for a while, then reached for it. Her hand started shaking as she grabbed it, inspecting it closely. Her mind was racing. The razor was probably sharp enough, maybe she could just... Maybe it wouldn't even hurt, if she was precise enough, maybe it could even be quick... She could run it along her forearm, it would cut through her skin like nothing...
No. That's what he wants me to do. I'm not letting that beast win.
Trembling violently, she put the razor down on the side of the bathtub, watching it cautiously is if it could attack her somehow. She brought her knees to her chin, hugged her legs tight and rested her forehead on top of them.
"I'm such a wimp," she whispered to herself.
After another twenty or so minutes, during which she washed herself, still not looking at her body, she got out of the bath and put on her pyjamas. Then she crept back to the bedroom and closed the door behind herself as quietly as was humanly possible. She put the bag down from the bed and lied down, covering herself with a thick blanket. She shut her eyes tight and prayed to all gods for sleep to take her.
But the gods didn't listen. Instead, she thrashed around in the bed, not able to find a position that would comfortable in the slightest. She checked the time – it was nearly one in the morning. She groaned and got up again, beginning to pace around the room. She rubbed her temples and sighed. After a while, she remembered that Magnus mentioned he had sleeping pills in the kitchen, but walking around a stranger's house in complete darkness sounded like an awful idea. As time passed, however, and the hands on the alarm clock were now nearing two o'clock, she resigned. She crept out of the bedroom, using her phone as flashlight, searching for the kitchen. It took her ten minutes to find her way around it once she was there, but she couldn't help but feel a little bit victorious when she finally got her hands on a tiny pill bottle with a familiar title on them. Kavita had them too, she would often spend days not being able to sleep, so she liked to keep them around. Emelie opened the bottle carefully and fished out one of the tiny pills, putting it between her teeth and then returning to the bedroom, remembering the tea Magnus made for her earlier that she could use to wash the pill down with.
And after another twenty minutes of awaken agony, she finally drifted off to a restless sleep.
She was woken up by a masculine voice and a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes snapped open and she shot up, nearly falling off the bed. She blinked a few times, trying to force the world to stop being blurry.
"No, no, don't worry," Emelie heard his voice. "It's just me. Don't fret, it's alright."
"Oh, God, sorry," she mumbled. "Sorry, I..."
"Bad dream?" Magnus asked sympathetically and Emelie nodded. "Don't apologise."
She looked down at her hands, not wanting to look him in the eyes out of shame.
"I made breakfast," he smiled. "It's not much, I was supposed to go shopping yesterday, but... well. Come when you're ready."
"You really don't have to... I mean... there's no need to..." she stuttered.
"Don't be stupid," he dismissed her and left. She sat on the bed for a moment before she forced herself to get up, hissing in pain as she moved her legs. She pressed her lips into a thin line to prevent herself from making any more sounds and put on a clean set of clothes before quickly brushing her hair and pulling it into a loose ponytail. She took a deep breath and straightened her back as she opened the door and walked to the kitchen. Magnus was sat by the table, already finishing his sandwich. She sat opposite of him, still refusing to look him in the face and trying to pretend she did not exist at all, she started eating. She wasn't sure if the food was really that flavourless or if it was because of the state she was in, but she forced herself to eat the whole thing. Both of them stayed silent the whole time, but he kept glancing at her ever so often.
After they were both done eating, Magnus collected their plates and cups and put them into the sink.
"I'll wash them," Emelie spoke as she stood up. Magnus took a breath to protest, but before he could, she was already standing by the sink and reaching for the soap. "Please, let me do it. I don't want to feel useless."
He stepped away and went to his bedroom. Emelie washed the dishes in silence, noticing how her hands were shaking. She tried her best to push the ugly thoughts away, but still, in a few moments, her vision became blurry.
"No, no, go away," she whispered as she blinked rapidly, trying to get rid of the tears. "Go away."
She ended up taking much longer then she had anticipated, trying to calm herself down in the process. Her throat was tightening by the second and the tears started rolling down her cheeks. "Calm down, calm down," she told herself over and over again, images appearing in front of her despite closing her eyes shut. She could barely breathe and her heart was pounding in her chest, making it impossible for her to hear anything else. She carefully dried the dishes and managed to find their respectful places before she rested against the counter, crying hopelessly. Her hands clutched on the edge of it, her knuckles turning white from the force. She forgot where she was and allowed the hot tears to stream down the sides of her face and into the sink, ugly sobs rising from her chest. Her breaths were shallow and quick, barely giving her any air and she felt as if she were suffocating, drowning in her own tears even. A rather large weight was sat on her chest, making each inhale seemingly more painful than the last one.
Magnus stood in the door, contemplating whether he should say anything or stay silent. He could potentially comfort her at least slightly, but on the other hand, maybe he should allow her to let the emotions out. He decided for the latter and backed away from the door in case she turned around and waited for her to cry it out. It took a while, but eventually, she regained control over her breathing and her shaking hands. She dried her cheeks with the sleeves of her jumper and took a few deep breaths, straightening her back. That's when he came back in.
"Let's go back to the station, shall we?" he asked and she turned to him, startled.
"Sure," she nodded. "Yeah, let's go," she added quietly and squeezed past him, walking to the bedroom to get dressed properly. Magnus, being a gentleman, helped her into her coat and then led her to the car where she sat just like yesterday, her head rested against the cold window. It was snowing heavily and they could barely see anything.
"This is gonna be a nightmare," he mumbled to himself. He drove slowly, careful not to get into a skid. During the fairly short ride, they drove past three minor accidents and Magnus always sighed, shaking his head, but never said anything.
After they got to the station, he led her to his desk and excused himself, bringing her a cup of tea a few minutes later. Then he sat down at his computer, turned it on and spent a brief moment looking for something, most likely her file. Suddenly, he frowned in confusion.
"That's interesting," he mumbled. "You said the man looked familiar, right?"
"Yes," she confirmed. "Why?"
"Well..." he took a deep breath. "I put your name in so I could find your file and found another person named Norling, who went missing over twenty years ago."
He turned the monitor around so she could look at him and shivers ran down her spine, her breathing quickening. Her face went three shades paler and her eyes widened.
"T-that's him," she managed to say barely audibly. "That's definitely him. B-but I don't know him, I don't think we've ever met."
"He must be your father's relative, possibly a brother or a cousin, judging by the age," Magnus said.
"My dad doesn't have a brother, or at least not one I'd know about," she insisted.
"A cousin then," he shrugged. "But the weird thing is, he allegedly died quite soon after he went missing. He's supposed to be very much dead now."
"He... what?" she frowned. "No, no he didn't, of course he didn't. He couldn't have-"
"No, he obviously couldn't," he agreed. "I'll take a closer look at his case, see what I can find. I should be able to re open the case and if not, open a new one. I believe this has just saved us a couple of weeks, Emelie."
"Great," she forced a smile. "But... what's going to happen to me now?"
"Well..." Magnus turned his monitor back and folded his arms on his chest. "You need to find a place to stay. I suggest going back to your parents' home, that would probably be the best option."
"B-but they live in Killeberg, that's almost a two hour drive from here, how would I go to work?" she asked. "And if I were to take the bus, that would be even longer, I would never get here on time."
"You want to go back to work now?" he raised his eyebrows in surprise. "It would be safer for you to stay somewhere safe until we catch him."
"I couldn't," she shook her head. "I want to keep living my life, I'm not letting him win. And besides," she took a shaky breath. "I wouldn't really be safe at my parents' house, they both work, I'd be there alone most of the time."
"Alright, not that then," he seemed to be thinking out loud. "I really don't think going back to the house would be a good idea now that we are certain he knows where it is. Do you really not know anyone in town?"
"Just Kavita," she sighed. "And my boss, but that's... she's a lovely lady, she's really great, but she lives in this really tiny flat above the bakery and she likes her space, I don't think that would be a good idea either.
Magnus stayed silent, clenching his jaw.
"Give me a few minutes, I'll try to find out if you could possibly seek an asylum somewhere," he said and got up. "Just... drink your tea. It's bad, but it will be less weird than if you just sat here."
Emelie forced a chuckle and took a sip of the tea, having to suppress a sour face. It really was bad. Magnus apparently noticed it and smirked slightly before he actually left. She sat there, at first looking around curiously, but but soon turned her gaze to the teacup in her hands and hoped Magnus would return soon. She forced herself to drink more of the tea to kill some time.
It took him nearly forty minutes to return to the desk.
"Sorry it took so long," he said as he sat back down. "Nobody knew anything, so I had to make a whole bunch of phonecalls and still..." he sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Don't worry," she smiled slightly. "It's not like I have anywhere to be, literally," she made a small pause. "What did you find?"
"Ab-so-lu-te-ly," he accentuated every syllable. "Nothing. At all. I asked every single person in this goddamned building, I called at least fifteen different people, but I got nothing. Then I asked everyone what should we do now. And someone said that it would probably be a good idea for you to stay with one of us, ideally with someone who lives the furthest away from your house."
"And that is?" she asked with her eyebrows raised.
"You'd never guess," he smirked.
"You?" she shifted in her seat.
"Ta-da," he did the jazz hands with an awkward smile. "If you're not against it of course, it would only make sense for you to, I don't know, want to stay with a woman instead."
"No, no, at least I know you a little bit," she shook her head. "But... are you sure you don't mind me being there? I really really don't want to bother you."
"Of course I don't mind," he replied. "Maybe it will be nice living with someone again."
"I... I promise I'm a good flatmate, I'm not messy, you won't even know I'm there, really, I can cook for you i-if you'd like, I'm really grateful you'll let me stay because you didn't have to and..." she trailed off. "I-it's so much easier not to do things than to do them. Thank you so much. You're a lot nicer than I first thought."
He decided to leave that without a response, but her ramble made him smile. "We should take those photos," he suddenly remembered. "Come on, we need to go somewhere with a better light."
He got up and looked out of the door, searching the corridor. "Ann? Is there anyone in the interrogation room?"
"No, I don't think so," someone replied.
"Great," Magnus said and gestured for Emelie to get up. He led her downstairs to a small room with just one desk and two chairs, and what was most important, really bright white light. "Wait a moment, I'll get the camera," he told her and disappeared for a few minutes.
"Sit down and put your arms on the desk," he instructed her when he came back. He moved the other chair next to her and stood on it, pointing the camera downwards on the bruises. Emelie sat stiffly, staring into the wall so she didn't have to look at her arms.
"Did he hurt you anywhere else?" Magnus asked when he was finished. "I mean-"
"He punched me in the ribs," she replied before he could finish the sentence. "When I tried to get away. I... I bit his hand and he got angry and punched me."
"Can I take a look?" he jumped off the chair and looked at her. She clenched her jaw but nodded firmly as she stood up. With shaky hands, she pulled her shirt from her jeans and rolled it up, revealing a rather large bruise that stretched nearly down her entire ribcage on the left side. Magnus stepped closer to her and touched her skin ever so slightly with the tips of his fingers, but it still made her flinch and let out a small hiss of pain.
"Sorry," he mumbled. "I just wanted to check if you didn't have a rib broken, it looks really bad."
"Don't you think I'd know?" she smirked. "It's just the bruise."
"Still," he insisted. "Do you want to put some ice on it?"
"No, as long as nothing's pressing on it I'm fine," she shook her head. "But thank you anyway."
"Could you stand over there so I could take a picture of it?" he asked her softly. She nodded and walked to the wall, turning so her side was facing him. She held her shirt up and stood perfectly straight, not even moving. Tears burned in her eyes again, but she pushed them back, hopelessly trying to ignore the flashing images in her mind.
"Done," Magnus said after he took a few photographs. She yanked her shirt back down and tucked it in her jeans again, sniffling. Then she wrapped her arms around herself and waited for him to say something. But he stayed silent.
"Now what?" she asked and looked at him.
"We should get your parents to come here," Magnus replied after a second of hesitation. A sour expression flew across Emelie's face.
"I was hoping I wouldn't have to talk to them until Christmas," she explained when he gave her a confused look. "It's not really the... you know. Ideal parent-daughter dynamic. I was glad to leave. But I guess you're right. We need to... you need to... I mean... to ask my dad about that mingebag. I mean... that man," she blushed. She didn't see the little smirk that Magnus hid behind the camera, pretending to inspect the photos he just took.
"Should I call them now?" she asked when he said nothing. He turned to her, trying to process what she wanted from him.
"Yes, that would be the best option," he nodded after a moment.
"I left my phone in my coat," she told him awkwardly after she realised it was not in her jeans. He opened the door for her and led her back to his office where she fished the phone out of her pocket and dialled her father's number.
"H-hey dad," she said shakily when he picked up. "How's it going? Great, great. Uh, listen, I... I need you to come to Ystad. As soon as possible, yes. I know you're at work, I know, but, uh, something happened and I need you to come here. Mum too, yes. No, it's not... well it is serious but... No, I'm not sick, dad. Can you- dad. Dad. I'll tell you everything when you come here, okay? I don't wanna talk about it on the phone. Can you come this afternoon? I know it's a two hour drive, I- yes, I know, I know, I'm sorry, but it really is urgent. Just," she took a deep breath. "Come to the police station, alright?" she made a short pause, her eyes closed. "No, dad, I wasn't arrested! Can you- stop yelling at me, will you? Dad," Magnus noticed she was tearing up. "I don't want to argue with you, just come here, please."
"We could drive there," Magnus offered, seeing how much trouble it seemed to be causing.
"Or I could come there if you really don't want to dri- yes, fine, I'll come there. No, I- I told you I wasn't arrested. Something happened to me and I need to tell you and ask you something and- I'm sorry, I didn't want to- alright, alright, I'll be there. Does seven work for you? Fine. I... I'm looking forward to seeing you," she choked out and hang up as quickly as was humanly possible. "Sorry," she then mumbled. "We really don't have the best relationship."
"Why are you apologising?" he frowned.
"Because now you'll have to drive all the way there and it really takes a long time," she explained. "Just because he is so damn stubborn."
"I'm used to driving just to ask someone a bunch of questions, don't worry about it," he dismissed her. She chuckled, looking at the ground. "Would you... like a hug?"
"I wouldn't mind it," she mumbled, her cheeks red. Magnus smiled, walked over to her and giving her time to push him away in case she changed her mind, he wrapped his arms around her. As he did so, she winced and hissed in pain.
"The bruise," she said through gritted teeth when he jumped back.
"Oh, sorry," he tried to move his arm so he was not touching the spot. "Better?"
"Yeah," she nodded and returned the hug awkwardly, the bruise hurting again. But she forced herself to relax and rested her head on his shoulder, letting out a long sigh. "Thank you."
"No worries," he replied. "We'll have to release the information to warn the public. I'll write the report now and then we can read more about the case."
"Shouldn't I not be allowed to look into that sort of things?" she wondered.
"That case is closed and he's supposed to be dead, besides, you would find out anyway," he shrugged. "I don't see a problem."
"Yay," she smirked.
They held onto each other for another few moments before they let go, Emelie avoiding his gaze nervously.
"Let's write that report then," Magnus said, sitting down at his desk. Emelie stood in her spot, unsure what to do. Magnus noticed that and gave her a slightly confused look. "You can sit down," he told her. She did so and for a while, the only thing that could be heard was the keyboard clicking with a few pauses as Magnus thought out his words. Emelie did not know how long she should expect him to be writing, so she was surprised when after not even ten minutes, he spoke again: "Alright, so that's done. I sent it to the local newspapers."
"That was quick," Emelie pointed out.
"It was just a few sentences really," he shrugged. "Right, let's look at that old case..."
He clicked the mouse a few times, searching for that file he stumbled upon earlier. "There we go. Jens Norling, reported missing June 8th, 1995. Last seen in Sundsvall. Body was found five months later in a river near Øvre Årdal, Norway. Most likely an accident."
"Norway?" Emelie frowned.
"Yes," Magnus nodded, his eyes fixed on the screen. "Eight hundred and ten kilometres away from where he was last seen. His car was found near Färgelanda, about one third of the way. Then he is assumed to have walked or hitchhiked all the way to Øvre Årdal. A few locals later reported seeing him in the village. He was dead for about two weeks when he was found floating in the water. He was mostly likely walking on the edge of the cliff there and fainted due to exhaustion, which resulted in him falling down in the water. But he was dead before he hit it since his skull was broken, probably from the fall on the rocky side of the cliff, so he didn't drown. The body was identified by his brother Mats Norling."
"T-that's my dad," she stuttered. "Oh my God, that's so fucked up," she covered her mouth with a shaky hand. "I... I think I'm gonna throw up," she added, feeling her stomach churn and her throat tighten. Magnus got up rapidly and led her out of his office to a bathroom down the corridor. Luckily, the closest stall was empty.
When she came out again ten minutes later, she was much paler, trembling and sweating with her eyes watery. Her head was spinning around and her breaths were shallow.
"I-I'm sorry," she stuttered, clumsily wiping her tears away.
"Please don't apologise for everything," Magnus shook his head. "Your feelings are understandable."
"That man is my uncle," she said and it felt as if she had been repeating in her head since the second she realised the truth. "I just... I don't understand."
"I don't understand either," he agreed. "We have a lot to ask your father."
"We sure as hell do," she whispered. "When did you say he disappeared?"
"1995," he replied after a moment of thinking.
"I was four years old then," she said slowly. "I don't remember him existing, let alone disappearing. I never saw him, not even on those big family gatherings. Dad never talked about him either."
"Maybe they didn't have a good relationship," Magnus suggested.
"Probably," Emelie nodded.
"Shall we write the questions down?" he asked.
"I suppose," she mumbled. "I have one from the top of my head. What the actual fuck, father?"
Magnus chuckled slightly. "We can include that one too."
They returned to Magnus' office and spent some time thinking of all the questions they should ask Emelie's father, writing them down. The list was not long, but Magnus assured her that they would probably think of more once they were actually talking to him.
Around noon, Emelie's phone buzzed. It was a text from Kavita.
U o me that explanation
She sighed and Magnus gave her a confused look.
"Kavita wants me to explain what happened," she told him. "But I don't want to do it over the phone."
"We can stop by before we go to Killeberg," Magnus offered.
"She won't be home that early," she shook her head. "I'll tell her I'll come around tomorrow."
"Sure," he nodded.
Emelie typed her reply: I don't have time today but I'll come around tomorrow evening.
She chuckled upon reading the text. "She acts like we're best friends while we barely know each other."
"I suppose you can make a bond with someone in... how long have you known her? Two months?" he asked.
"Yeah," she nodded. "God, I'm not looking forward to this," she sighed, motioning towards the list of questions.
"That's completely understandable," Magnus agreed. "Technically, you don't have to go with me, I can do the interview on my own, but I assume that he will be a bit more compliant if you're there too."
"I know, I know, and I kind of want my chance to yell at him for not telling me about him as well," she smirked.
"That's also understandable," he chuckled. "So I understand you want to go?"
"I want to, but I don't," she explained. "If you get me. I will. I will hate every second of it, but I want to be there."
"Of course," he replied absent-mindedly, looking at the clock. "It's past noon, fancy a lunch?"
"Uh, I... I don't think that would stay in after what happened earlier," she shook her head.
"You have to eat something, come on," he got up from his chair and gestured for her to do the same. "At least a sandwich in the canteen."
"No, really, I don't want to-"
"I'm getting you a sandwich and you can't stop me," he insisted and walked out of the office. She stood frozen in her spot for a moment before sheepishly following him down the corridor and to the canteen downstairs.
"Please, I mean it, I don't want anything," she kept telling him, but he ignored her and got both of them a tuna sandwich, then sat down at one of the tables.
After lunch, they spent some more time looking into Jens' case from 1995. Magnus wrote down a few notes, adding them to the list of questions they already had. Emelie couldn't sit still for a long time, so she ended up walking around the office in circles, which irritated Magnus slightly despite trying his best to understand her. But he kept his composure.
Around quarter to five, they got up and set off for Killeberg. Both of them tried to mentally prepare for the two hour journey, which was sure to be awkwardly silent. Magnus turned on the radio to make it at least a little less insufferable.
They drove through endless empty fields covered in a blanket of snow, occasionally passing by a small village. Sure enough, after about half an hour on the road, Emelie began shifting in her seat. Magnus' silence lasted for about ten minutes.
"You okay there?" he asked, their eyes meeting in the rearview mirror.
"Yeah, yeah," she replied, but it was evident in her voice that something was bothering her.
"Are you absolutely sure?" he raised one of his eyebrows.
"Yeah. Well," she sighed. "It's not like you could do anything about this."
"What's wrong?" he frowned.
"Chronic pain," she said, averting her gaze. "Back pain. Gets worse when sitting for a long time. Why didn't I take my heating pad? Dammit."
"Oh," he nodded, unsure what to say to her. "If it gets worse when you're sitting down, would maybe stopping to stretch help?"
"Most likely," she replied. "But I don't want to slow us down. I can take it, don't worry. School made me used to it."
"We're stopping at the next petrol station," he decided. Emelie took a breath to protest, but Magnus' glare stopped her. She couldn't hide the relief that spread across her whole face.
They stopped at a car park in Fågeltofta, a tiny village halfway before Kristianstad, and she spent about ten minutes just walking around and stretching her back. Meanwhile Magnus tried to see whether there was a café nearby so he could get a decent coffee, but all that was there was a second-hand bookshop.
The atmosphere in the car loosened slightly after their short stop.
"How long have you had that?" Magnus wondered.
"What? The pain?" Emelie looked at him and he nodded. "Almost my entire life. We... we were in a car accident when I was little and something damaged my nerves."
"Sounds like a pretty awful accident," he pointed out.
"M-hm," she hummed, signalling that she did not want to talk about it any further. They were silent all the way to Kristianstad where they stopped by a café and Magnus finally got his coffee. Emelie had to hide a chuckle when she saw the content smile that spread across his face as he took his first sip.
"What's so funny?" he glared at her playfully. He was glad that she loosened up at least slightly.
"If you're so in love with this coffee," she motioned towards his cup, "I need to bring you the one we make in our café, you'll want to marry it," she smirked.
"It's just my first coffee since the morning," he explained.
"Didn't they have coffee at the canteen?" she wondered.
"Well, yes, but that's disgusting," he shrugged.
"I'm definitely bringing you our coffee someday," she laughed. "I don't really like coffee myself, but even I can tell that ours is great."
"Is it because you're the one making it?" he cocked his eyebrows.
"Not always, but yeah," she admitted. "I mostly bake the pastries and bread and help Sandra make the sandwiches. I only make the coffee when there's a lot of people and miss Löfgren can't keep up."
"You like the job?" he wondered.
"Yeah, it's nice," she nodded. "My family owns a tiny bakery actually, so I was kind of expected to take over it one day, but I rather found a job in a different one. I guess I can come back to it someday, but not now."
"You were pretty keen on leaving, huh?"
"Well... I told you we didn't have the best relationship, and taking over the bakery would mean that I would most likely stay at home forever and I just couldn't have that," she explained.
"Is it that bad?"
She sighed deeply. "You'll see."
Their third stop in Broby was just as short as the first one since Emelie was worried they wouldn't make it to Killeberg on time. She just took a short walk around the car park and then they continued. She sent a text to her dad to let him know they might come a bit after seven, but were trying their best. She got an annoyed response and decided to warn Magnus beforehand.
"There's one thing you should know before we get there," she began. "I don't want to get too deep into details, but you know how I told you about the accident?" She waited for him to nod, then continued: "Well, basically my stupid little back pain is the smallest thing that happened there. The... I'm telling you this because my mum... she... she had a head injury and got some pretty bad brain damage. She doesn't really talk or do anything, she's more of a... ghost, you could say, I guess. And she reacts quite slowly to everything. So don't... be surprised if she doesn't cooperate or something. She has a really short attention span too."
"Alright," he nodded slowly. "Thank you for telling me. I think most of the questions we have are for your father anyway, so it should be alright."
"I hope so," she agreed, looking out of the window mindlessly. The fields turned into trees, which was a nice change.
They finally arrived in Killeberg and Emelie navigated Magnus to her family's house, which had, as he noticed, a bakery downstairs. She rang the bell at the side door and waited for her father to open it.
"You're late," he said instead of greeting her in any usual way.
"I know, I'm sorry, but we had to stop a few times because-" she didn't get the chance to finish her sentence.
"You do know how hard it is to prepare your mother for something unexpected, don't you?" he carried on.
"I'm really sorry, but it's only..." she looked at her phone. "Fifteen minutes, it can't be that bad, right?"
He glared at her for a moment before moving his attention to Magnus.
"Yes, right, uh, this is detective Martinsson from Ystad police," she introduced him quickly. Magnus offered his hand, but Emelie's father just shook his head.
"Come on in, what can I do with you," he sighed and moved away from the door. Emelie looked at Magnus shortly before walking in first and slid her shoes off, putting them away to the shoe rack. She also took off her coat and her scarf and hang them them on the coat hook, then waited for Magnus to do the same. They followed her father up the creaky wooden staircase and into the living room.
"Hi, mum," Emelie smiled nervously when she spotted her sitting in her favourite chair. It took a few seconds for the woman to turn her head in the direction of the sound, but then her lips curled up in a faint smile.
"Hi, Emi," she replied and it seemed as if it took her a lot of effort. Which, naturally, was the case. All that Emelie could feel in that moment was relief that her mother still recognised her after not seeing her for two months.
"How are you?" she asked and sat down on the couch. "Is everything good?"
"Yes," she nodded after a moment. "And you?"
Emelie looked at Magnus briefly, unsure what to reply, but when she turned back, her mother was already looking somewhere else. Emelie smirked to herself and looked around. Her father was standing in the kitchen door.
"You want tea?" he offered. Emelie nodded, but Magnus shook his head.
"No, thank you," he replied politely. Mister Norling grumbled something and went to the kitchen. Magnus noticed Emelie's mother was looking at him now.
"Oh, sorry, I'm detective Martinsson," he walked over to her, offering her a hand to shake without really thinking about it. But unlike her husband, she actually reached out and grabbed his hand. Her hand was cold and it felt like shaking hands with a fish.
"Emi's boy?" she asked curiously.
"No, mum!" Emelie shook her head vigorously, her cheeks heating up. "Let's wait for dad and I'll tell you, okay?"
"Okay," she agreed and let go of Magnus' hand. Then she pointed at the armchair opposite of her.
"Mum, that's dad's spot," Emelie said.
"I want to look at the pretty boy," she insisted and Emelie blushed again, staring into the floor and refusing to look at Magnus with all her being. But Magnus, being good sports, only chuckled and complied with the woman' wishes. After a while, Mister Norling walked out of the kitchen, holding two cups of tea. He stopped dead in his tracks and shot a questioning look at Magnus.
"She insisted," Emelie said before he could even take a breath.
"I want to look at the pretty boy," her mother said again. Mister Norling sighed, shook his head and sat down on the couch next to Emelie.
"So what's going on," it did not sound like a question coming from his mouth, more like an order for someone to start speaking. Emelie took a deep breath, unsure who to look at, deciding for her father in the end.
"S-so, uh," she stuttered. "I've been stalked f-for the past couple of months."
"Excuse me?" her father's eyebrows shot up.
"S-someone has been following me around," she replied, playing with the ring on her finger. "For a while now. A-and yesterday," she took a shaky breath and looked down at her hands. "H-he got inside the house and he..." she could feel tears filling her eyes. "H-he assaulted me," her voice broke.
"Would you say that again?" he frowned.
"I was raped, dad," she whispered, looking up at him, her cheeks wet. Her father seemed absolutely stunned, staring at her with wide eyes.
"What?" he asked quietly. "By who? Who did it to you, Emelie?"
She tried to form a reply, but the lump in her throat got too big as memories of the night flooded her mind once more.
"That's why we're here," Magnus spoke instead of her. "Emelie believes that the attacker was your brother Jens."
"What are you talking about?" Mister Norling frowned. "I don't have a brother."
"I'm afraid you do," Magnus reached into his bag and pulled out the file that he had printed out. It had a small photograph of Jens in the top left corner. The headline said missing person. "It says here that he is your brother and that you are actually the one who identified his body when it was found in Norway."
Mister Norling glared at him for a while, but Magnus did not avert his gaze. After a moment, he sighed. "Yes, I had a brother named Jens and this is him. But he's dead!"
"Apparently not," Magnus shook his head. "The body was mistakenly identified. I would like to believe that it was a genuine mistake and not a deliberate lie."
"I do not like what you are implying here, detective," Mister Norling hissed. "Why would I lie?"
"You tell me," Magnus shrugged. "We have a few questions for you about your brother."
"Do I have to answer them?" Mister Norling queried.
"You should, if you want him to be stopped, because he has suggested this was not the last time," Magnus told him. The man remained silent, so he continued: "I take that as a yes. My first question is, why was Emelie not even aware of her uncle existing?"
"Why should that matter?" he asked instead of giving a straight answer.
"Every little detail might be important," Magnus explained. "And I think this might be one that will bring lots of light into the situation."
"It's none of your business," he insisted.
"Dad," Emelie sobbed. "Please."
"How do you even know it's him, hm?" he snapped. "How can you know it's not just someone who looks like him?"
"Of course that's a possi-" Magnus began.
"No, it was him," Emelie interrupted. "That face is burned into my head for the rest of my life, I know it when I see it! He was this fucking close to me when he... when... You might have confused him with a random dead body, but you didn't have him hold you down and punch you and do that and tell you he was going to kill you, dad!"
The room fell silent and the only sound was the dull ticking of the clock on the wall.
"Please, just answer the question," she whispered and sniffling, she wiped her tears away.
"Don't cry, Emi," her mother suddenly spoke and reached out with her hand. Emelie forced a smile and took her hand despite being certain she didn't really understand what was going on.
"Mister Norling," Magnus spoke up. "Why did you pretend that Jens never existed?"
"Because he was a sick fuck," he finally replied without looking at anyone. "Linn originally dated him," he gestured towards his wife. "But he treated her like absolute shit. He beat her and... did things to her too. I helped her get away from him, we moved to Sundsvall to hide from him. Fell in love, got married. Had Paul, then Emelie. We got the news that he went missing when she was about four years old. We got really worried, we thought he was on to us, so we moved here. Then I was called in to try to identify the body and I was just so relieved that we might have finally gotten rid of him that I made myself see his face in that corpse."
"So you do admit that you knew that the body was not Jens?" Magnus asked. Mister Norling nodded and Magnus wrote it down.
"Will that get me in trouble?" he wondered, his voice laced with worries.
"We'll see," Magnus replied. "We'll probably have to re-open his case and find out who that dead body actually was. It is possible that Jens killed that man."
"Do you have any more questions?" he asked in hopes to change the subject.
Magnus looked through his notes briefly, then asked: "Why do you think he would go after Emelie?"
"Revenge, maybe?" he shrugged. "Probably. Yes, that's the only option that makes sense."
"Makes sense?" Emelie repeated after him. "How can you say that it makes sense? Raping your niece to get revenge for your ex? That's bullshit."
"Don't talk to me like that," her father scolded her. "Paul did not give his life for you to act like this."
"I need to use the bathroom," she let go of her mother's hand, got up and rushed to where she remembered it to be. She closed the door carefully and stood above the toilet for a while, unsure whether she was going to throw up again or not. Luckily, she did not, so she sat down on the edge of the bathtub and started sobbing quietly, tears streaming down her cheeks.
It was too much, way too much for one person to withstand. Her whole soul was crumbling down, shattering like a glass vase and turning into dust. She felt like this was the end for her. There was nothing else but this torture in her life now. Her future was nonexistent, the only thing there were memories of last night. The monster's face so close to hers, his raspy voice, the smell of cigarettes that made her want to throw up, his rough movements and his tight grip. She was drowning in her own tears and choking on her sobs. A weight of a mountain was crushing her chest.
Suddenly, the door opened. Her head shot up and through her tears she saw her mother slowly approaching her. She sat down next to her carefully.
"Don't cry, Emi," she told her. "I don't want you to cry."
"I don't know what else to do, mum," Emelie sobbed. "It's like crying is all I have left."
Her mother put her hands on her cheeks and rested her forehead against hers in a comforting manner, trying to smile.
"Everything's broken, mum," Emelie continued. "And I can't fix it."
"But you're not broken," her mother replied, sounding strangely wise.
"I'm starting to think that I am," Emelie shook her head.
"Someone will fix you," her mother insisted. Emelie smirked for a second, but didn't try to argue with her. She closed her eyes and allowed the bitter tears to keep falling down, sometimes letting out a small sob.
They sat in the fairly uncomfortable position for quite some time until there was a soft knock on the doorframe and both of them turned in the direction of the sound. In the door stood Magnus, smiling somewhat reassuringly.
"I'm all done, we can go if you'd like," he said. Emelie quickly wiped her tears away with her sleeves and got up.
"Yeah, let's go," she nodded. "It was good to see you, mum," she turned back to her and hugged her tight. "I love you."
"I love you, Emi," she replied, returning the hug. "Bye, pretty boy," she waved at Magnus after they let go of the embrace.
"Goodbye, missis Norling," he laughed. Emelie quickly walked to the door, not wanting to spend any extra time there.
"Emelie," her father called after her. She turned around to see him standing by the couch with his hands awkwardly shoved into his pockets. "I'm sorry I never told you about him. Maybe it wouldn't have happened."
She forced a sour smile. "Well, it happened, so it's a bit passé now, don't you think?"
"It is," he agreed. "But I'm really, really sorry, Em."
"Thanks," she mumbled. "Bye, dad."
"Bye, Emelie," he replied, his voice somewhatremorseful. She walked down the stairs, put on her shoes and coat and put herscarf around her neck loosely. Magnus caught up to her soon and they walked tothe car together, leaving Killeberg behind them.
They sat in silence as the car made its way through the darkness, heading south. It began snowing lightly and the temperature dropped significantly. Emelie was all curled up in her big scarf, her head against the cold window. Quiet music filled the space, but otherwise it was quiet.
"Do you want to stop here again?" Magnus asked when they were nearing Broby. She wasn't moving that much this time, but she could have been just pushing it back. She shook her head. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah," she nodded this time. "Let's just keep driving. I can take it."
"You can recline your seat quite a bit if you want to," he offered. "If that would help."
"Thanks," she mumbled and managed to find the little button to move the seat. "That's definitely better."
"Good," Magnus smiled. He was silent again for a few minutes, then he said: "Can I have a question?"
"I suppose," she replied cautiously.
"I didn't want to ask your father because he would probably bite my head off," he began and she chuckled slightly. "But that Paul he mentioned... I understood he was your brother?"
Emelie sighed. "Yes. Paul was my older brother."
"If you don't mind me asking, what did he mean when he said he gave his life for you?" he wondered, looking at her in the rearview mirror.
"He meant exactly what he said," she rubbed her eyes. "Paul saved me in that car accident and died for it. He was ten. I was six."
"He kind of shielded me from it all," she didn't allow him to finish. "The car was rolling down a hill and he somehow managed to get to me and protect me. He hit his head really badly though and it killed him instantly."
"Oh," was the only thing he managed to say. "I'm sorry."
"Me too," she smirked. "They never caught the mingebag who caused it though, it was in the middle of nowhere in N-" she suddenly stopped, her eyes wide.
"Where?" Magnus frowned.
"In the middle of nowhere in Norway," she finished her sentence. "What if... what if it was him?"
"Who, Jens?" he raised his eyebrows.
"What if he found out we were there and caused us to crash?" she suggested.
"How would he find out?" Magnus questioned. "I think you're overthinking a little, Emelie."
"We went there for a holiday every year, he could have... he could have somehow, I don't know, make friends with the hotel guy and find out when we were coming and then... if he wanted revenge, he could have..." she rambled. Magnus let her, even though he doubted it was possible. From what she was saying, it sounded like someone was drunk driving, swerving from side to side and making their car fall off the road.
"You're right," she said suddenly. "I'm thinking too much about it. Sorry."
"No, don't apologise," he shook his head. "Of course you're thinking about it."
"Let's just talk about something else," she suggested.
"As you wish," he agreed.
They were silent for a moment before Emelie took a breath and asked: "Do you have siblings?"
"Yes, actually," he smiled. "I have two sisters. One younger and one older."
"You get along well?" she wondered.
"Quite," he admitted. "Though I haven't seen the older one in a while. She works in India as a journalist."
"That sounds great," she told him.
"She's happy there," he replied. "And Emma, the younger one is a theatre actress."
"I used to go to the drama club at my school," she remembered. "I wasn't any good, but I loved it. I played Ophelia once, that was great."
"Ophelia? That's a pretty big role for someone who wasn't any good," Magnus pointed out.
"There wasn't many of us," she explained. "I remember the guy who played Hamlet being super awkward and shy when he had to kiss me and it took ages to get it right and then it turned out he was in the closet and was worried people would find out."
"That sounds like a lot of fun," Magnus smirked.
"It absolutely was," she confirmed. "Poor guy."
The car fell silent again as Emelie wandered around her memories with a distant look in her face. Magnus kept glancing at her every once in a while, but did not speak. They passed Kristianstad without stopping there either, heading straight to Ystad. Instead of going back to his house though, Magnus parked the car in front of a pizzeria.
"I'm quite hungry and I'm sure you're too, let's get a pizza," he interrupted her. "That's an order," he added when she took a breath to protest.
"A-alright," she stuttered and followed him inside the restaurant. They sat in a booth in the corner and were soon greeted by a tired looking waiter. They each ordered a lemonade and silently read through the menus.
"I really don't need anything, I'm not hungry," Emelie spoke up quietly without looking at him.
"The last thing you ate was the sandwich for lunch and now it's nearly ten p. m., you have to eat," he replied. "I understand that you're not feeling well, of course, but you can't starve yourself."
"If you really think so," she mumbled. He gave her a reassuring smile and when the waiter came back, he ordered himself a Hawaiian pizza while she, knowing her stomach was pretty unpredictable, got a children's size Margherita, about which she was unsure that she was going to finish.
"I-I want to go back to work tomorrow," she spoke up when the food came.
"You work on Saturdays?" he raised his eyebrow.
"Well yes," she nodded. "The bakery is only closed on Sundays."
"Great, I'm working tomorrow too," he said. "We need to work out a plan so he won't find out where you're staying that easily."
"How are we going to do that?" she wondered, taking a bite out of her pizza.
"I was thinking that I could drive you to the station in the morning," he began. "And then someone else would drive you to work. Both cars would, of course, change routines randomly."
They discussed more possibilities of getting Emelie to work safely every day, but they agreed that the first option Magnus had suggested was the best. He also promised to try to make sure to not get Sunday shifts.
After they had finished eating, they each paid for their food and headed back to Magnus' house. It was nearing midnight and they were both exhausted. They took turns in the bathroom and got ready for bed in silence. They bid each other a good night and went to their respective rooms.
But despite being absolutely knackered, no matter how much Emelie tried, sleep seemed to be avoiding her. She lied in the bed, staring into the ceiling, suffocating in the annoyingly heavy air. She tip-toed to the window and opened it slightly, allowing the cool winter air to creep inside the room, and breathed in deeply. Once she felt goosebumps forming in her skin, she closed it again and returned to the bed. Usually, when she couldn't sleep, she would turn to her beloved record player that not only allowed her to listen to her favourite songs, but the gentle murmur of the needle as it scraped against the records had an incredibly calming effect on her soul. Unfortunately, the player stayed at Kavita's house and the only thing that she could now play music on was her phone, which was nowhere near as graceful. But it was at least something, so on the lowest volume setting, she made beautiful tones fill the space. She let out a long, deep breath and laid back down, curled into a little ball and closed her eyes. She knew every song by heart, making it a somewhat solid point in space that she could grab and hold onto while her world came crushing down around her. She breathed slowly, counting to four on each inhale, then holding her breath as she counted to seven and lastly exhaling until she counted all the way to eight.
And yet, sleep did not come.
She lied down, staring at the clock at the bedside table in frustration. It ticked away slowly, the morning approaching.
"Emelie?" Magnus' voice suddenly whispered from the door. "Are you awake?"
"Affirmative," she sighed. "Why?"
"I just heard the music and wanted to make sure," he replied.
"Oh, sorry, did I wake you?" she asked.
"No, no, I was going to the kitchen and heard it," he shook his head and walked in. "Can't sleep?"
"Yeah," she replied and sat up. "It normally helps," she nodded towards the phone. "But not tonight, apparently."
"Do you want the sleeping pill?" he offered.
"No, no, I'll be fine," she shook her head. "Really. You go back to sleep and I'll sort myself out."
"Are you sure?" even in the dark she could see him raise his eyebrows. "Not even talk about it?"
"What could I possibly talk about?" she smirked and ran her hand through her hair, pulling out a few strands. She let them fall and rubbed her eyes. "I don't have anything to say. Everything that needed to be said about... this... was already said. Honestly, I'm already tired of it. It's just been a day and I'm so sick of it. It's a nightmare, the worst fucking nightmare I could ever imagine, but it doesn't just go away and God, I hate it so much. I hate it I hate it I hate it I hate it I hate it I hate it I hate it..." she curled into a tight little ball, bringing her knees to her chin and wrapping her arms around them. Her heart was suddenly beating much harder, her throat was tightening and she could barely breathe. Her whole body tensed up almost painfully. She kept repeating the three words as a mantra. They stopped making any sense pretty quickly, but that did not stop her from saying it over and over again.
She felt the bed dip with a sudden weight and a light touch to her shoulder.
"Of course you hate it, it is an actual nightmare," she heard him say. "And it's not fair, it shouldn't happen."
"I hate it so much," she looked up at him, trembling. "Why did it have to happen?"
He thought for a second, then decided to just say it as it was. "Because he is a maniac."
"Makes sense," she chuckled painfully and sniffed. "C-can I... Can I have a hug?" she asked quietly. The corners of Magnus' mouth curled upwards ever so slightly as he nodded.
"Sure," he replied. He waited for her to make the first move so he could adjust himself. Cautiously, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, resting her head on his chest. He returned her embrace, moving slowly to give her a chance to back away at any point. She took a deep breath and then let it out with a sigh.
"Thank you, detective," she whispered.
"You do know that you don't have to call me detective, right?" he chuckled lightly.
"Sorry about that," she mumbled, blushing.
"Don't worry about it, just call me Magnus next time," he smiled. "Don't worry about anything now and just sleep, okay?"
"I'll try," she smirked. "Thank you so much."
"Not to worry," he said, letting go of the hug and leaving. He stopped when he was just by the door to ask: "By the way, when do you need to be at the bakery?"
"Uh, around six?" she replied. "We don't open until seven, but everything needs to get prepared."
"And... how much time do you need to prepare yourself?" he asked.
"Twenty minutes, half an hour at most," she shrugged. "I don't need a lot, really. I usually have breakfast there, so that's one less thing to slow me down each morning."
"So if we get out of here around five forty, that will be just enough? It doesn't even take ten minutes to get to the station and from there it's maybe five minutes to the bakery," he suggested.
"Sounds like a plan," she agreed.
"Great," he nodded. "I suggest we both just wake up as we need, do our thing and then meet up in the hall at five forty?"
"Absolutely," she smiled. "Thank you."
"Good night then," he waved at her and left, closing the door behind him.
"Good night," she replied and laid back down.
It was of no use.
At five o'clock, as she was staring at the ceiling in frustration, her alarm went off. She groaned, rolled over and turned it off with a sigh. She got absolutely no sleep at all. She rubbed her eyes and got out of the bed, creeping towards the bathroom to brush her teeth and make her tired face look at least a little human. She noticed her hair was coming out a lot, but decided to ignore it and just put it up into a braid. As she was putting make up under her eyes, Magnus walked in, looking as if he had just woken up with his hair sticking in every direction and his weary face.
"Oh, good morning," he croaked when he noticed her.
"Morning," she replied. "Sorry, I'll be out in just a second, hang on."
"'s alright," he yawned. "I just need to wash my face a little."
Emelie moved to the side and Magnus squeezed next to her, bending over the sink to splash some water to his face. He patted his cheeks dry with a towel and turned to Emelie with a smile. His hair was still dishevelled, maybe even more now that he ran his hand through it.
"You sure you don't want breakfast?" he offered. "I mean, it would just be the same terrible sandwich like yesterday, but still."
"No, thank you," she shook her head. "I'll have something at the bakery. And it wasn't that terrible."
"Not even a coffee?" he asked. "Or a tea?"
"No, really," she smiled. "I'm alright. I'm used to it. Thank you though."
"As you wish," he shrugged and left the bathroom. In a few minutes, Emelie finished the work on her face and returned to the bedroom to get dressed. At five forty sharp, she walked out to the hall, nearly at the same time as Magnus.
At the station, Magnus found another policeman that was apparently just ending his shift, who was willing to drive her to the bakery. His name was Gustav, he was definitely older than the two of them, but he was nice enough. He dropped Emelie off and then drove home.
Emelie took a deep breath as she walked in, feeling the corners of her mouth curl upwards ever so slightly upon the familiar smell of coffee and bread.
"There you are!" Sandra, the other baker greeted her. "Where have you been? Miss Löfgren was all mysterious about it."
"I, uh... I was... uh..." Emelie stuttered.
"Hungover?" Sandra smirked.
"I wish," Emelie mumbled. "No, uh... let's not talk about it. Pretty please."
"Please, Sandra, I really don't want to talk about it," Emelie interrupted her. "Let's just go... to the kitchen and do the usual stuff, alright?"
"Alright," Sandra finally nodded.
Soon enough, as they were putting the bread into the oven, Miss Löfgren came to greet them.
"Emelie, dear, how are you?" she asked her.
"I'm good, really," she replied.
"You don't look like it," Sandra pointed out. "You look terrible."
"I haven't really slept last night, I just need a coffee and I'll be as good as ever," Emelie forced a chuckle. "Don't worry about me. I appreciate it, but please don't. I'll be- I'm fine."
"We shall respect that," Miss Löfgren nodded. "Let's just focus on work for today, yes?"
"Thank you, Miss Löfgren," Emelie smiled in relief.
There was an evident tension in the room that didn't really go away until the bakery opened about an hour later and the first customers started rolling in. Emelie's mind was occupied by sandwiches and pastries, so she did not really have time to think about any other things.
Around three in the afternoon, Sandra's head appeared in the kitchen door. "Hey, uh, someone wants to see you. I think it might be your flatmate? What was her name, Karol? Karrie?"
"Kavita," Emelie told her and wiped her hands on her apron. "Did she say what she wanted?"
"Just that she wanted to see you," Sandra shrugged. "I'll take over it for now, don't worry about it."
"Thanks," Emelie smiled shortly and walked to the front. Kavita was standing by the side of the counter, seeming pretty impatient.
"Hey there," she greeted her. "What are you doing here?"
"Like you don't know," Kavita smirked. "I just... couldn't wait until evening."
"How nice of you," Emelie chuckled. "I'm still working though, you'll have to wait anyway."
"But just until four, that's not that bad," she chuckled. "I'll just... have a muffin and a coffee and wait for you right there, how about that?"
"You'll have to eat pretty slowly for it to take you nearly an hour," Emelie smiled. "But fine. Mag- Martinsson will co-"
"First name basis now?" Kavita raised her eyebrow.
"I... he started it, but that's not the point, all I meant to say is that he knows we were supposed to meet today, so hopefully he'll, I don't know, get us back to your place," Emelie suggested.
"Absolutely," Kavita agreed. "You look horrible by the way."
"Why thank you," Emelie smiled faintly and returned with the kitchen to help Sandra shape the loaves.
As the clock struck four, they were finishing up and getting ready to leave. Emelie washed her hands and walked to the front where she found not just Kavita, but Magnus as well. They seemed to be chatting effortlessly and Emelie couldn't help but smirk. Kavita and her irresistible charm.
"Hi," Emelie greeted them. "So you... you two... met? Uh..."
"As you can see," Magnus smiled. "I don't think it's a good idea to go back to the house though, let's head back to the police station instead."
"Of course," she nodded. "Well, uh... I'm ready to go."
"Then let's," Kavita grinned, heading outside.
Magnus left the two of them in his office and went to get them a cup of tea.
"So what happened?" Kavita asked. Emelie sighed and rubbed her eyes tiredly.
"You... know that dude that's been following me around, right?" she asked. Kavita nodded. "Well, he... he got into the house."
"What- how?" Kavita frowned. "Did he break in?"
"No, he got in through the door," Emelie shook her head and took a deep breath, toying with the ring on her finger as always. "I... I thought it was you, so I didn't even turn around. And he... he, um..." she stuttered, her breath hitching and her throat tightening. "He... god dammit!" she felt the sudden urge to punch something, to throw something against a wall, to just break something. But she held back and instead pinched her wrist where the bruise was, biting her tongue to prevent letting out any signs of being in pain.
Kavita walked over to her and pulled her into her embrace. She understood her without needing to hear it explicitly. Emelie didn't cry, not this time, but she held onto her desperately, trying to catch her breath. Her eyes were completely dry.
"I swear I'm gonna kick his ass," Kavita whispered. "What an absolutely disgusting piece of shit."
"I couldn't agree more," Emelie replied.
"What's gonna happen now?" Kavita asked when she let go of her. "Are you gonna come back?"
"Not yet," Emelie shook her head and sniffed. "It's not safe."
"What about me?" Kavita frowned. "Am I safe?"
"Hopefully," said Magnus, who just walked into the office with two teacups. "Although I strongly advise you to change your locks."
"Already had to do that since someone," she glared at him. "Broke the door."
"I'm terribly sorry about that," he apologised sheepishly. "It is possible he used a lockpick, but I would still do that. And lock the doors even when you're at home. It's better to be safe than sorry."
"Of course," she nodded."Anything else I should know? Like, I don't know, why the hell would someone do that?"
After they – mostly Magnus – told Kavita everything they thought she should know, they parted ways. Magnus offered he could drive her home, but she refused and walked instead. Emelie thought it was pretty brave or maybe sort of stupid considered that he probably knew who she was, but she insisted, saying that he has got nothing on her.
"We should get some groceries," Magnus pointed out to Emelie when they got in the car. "The fridge is pretty much empty now."
Emelie stayed silent, only thinking about how awkward it was probably going to get. She only nodded and hummed to show her agreement.
"So," Magnus began when they were already inside the supermarket, pushing a trolley in front himself. "I usually end up getting microwaveable meals or takeout, but I imagine you'd get sick of that pretty quickly."
"I-I mean..." Emelie stuttered. "I don't want to be any-"
"I already told you you're not any burden to me," he interrupted her. "Besides, you told me yourself that you wanted to cook," he grinned.
"If you're willing to eat the things I cook, then sure," she chuckled.
"What's your favourite thing to cook?" he asked, smiling.
"I make really good scalloped potatoes I guess?" she shrugged.
"I didn't ask what you made well, I asked what you liked to cook," he raised one of his eyebrows.
"Shouldn't that be the same thing?" she wondered.
"In theory yes," he agreed. "But how you said it made it sound otherwise."
"Well... I really do like making them, but they are a side dish and the things that go with them are things that I am not good at," she admitted. "So maybe... do you like pasta?"
"Who doesn't?" he smirked.
"Well then, I know many different kinds that I can make," she suggested. "They're all great. Do you... not hate spinach?"
"Why should I?" he scrunched his nose, secretly really glad that the conversation was flowing so effortlessly.
"There are people who do and I'm scared of them," she sighed dramatically.
"No need to be scared of me then," he laughed light-heartedly.
Emelie returned his smile. "And... you're not lactose intolerant, right? Or celiac? I don't want to poison you."
"No need to worry, the only thing I'm allergic to is pollen," he shook his head.
"No flowers then!" she joked. "Let's have the spinach one for dinner and the leftovers for lunch tomorrow then?"
"Let's," he nodded. "Ad what do you have for breakfast on Sundays?"
"I usually sleep so long that I don't need one and just have lunch," she chuckled. "I know that it's not exactly healthy, but... The week at the bakery is long and I need every extra minute of sleep."
"I'm the same," he admitted.
They ended up getting a variety of things that could be considered breakfast food just as much as snacks, along with what was needed for the pasta. There was a very tense situation at the checkout where they argued slightly about who was going to pay for it all, but Emelie ended up winning, saying that she had to somehow pay him back for letting her stay at his house. Magnus insisted that he was only doing his job, and so they finally agreed that they would take turns in paying for the food. The cashier had an amused smile on her face as she watched them, addressed Emelie as madame and probably assumed them to be a newlywed couple or something of that sort since she only heard a small portion of the conversation. It made Emelie blush and Magnus chuckle quietly, but none of them said anything.
"Can I help you with anything?" he offered as they put everything into its respectable places in the kitchen.
"Um..." she thought for a moment, pursing her lips and resting her hand on her hip. "Could you maybe grate the cheese for me?"
"I'll be right on it," he grinned and began searching for the grater. "As soon as I find the damn thing," he added quietly as he opened all the cabinets furiously, making her laugh. "I'm sure it must be around here somewhere."
"I'd try the drawers," she smirked. Magnus glared at her playfully, but opened the biggest drawer and there it was – the cheese grater in all its glory. "I have a sixth sense when it comes to the kitchen," Emelie explained with a shrug when Magnus looked at her with confusion plastered on his face.
"I'll get to grating then," he mumbled and opened the first block of cheese. Emelie smiled, found a pan and put it on the stove to preheat it, then began cubing the meats. They worked together almost effortlessly, passing each other things that they needed and avoiding each other in attempt not to collide while managing to stay lost in their own thoughts. Soon enough, the meal was ready and they ate in silence. Well, after Magnus complimented the food at least five times.
"Magnus?" Emelie spoke up suddenly when they were almost finished. "Is everything okay?"
"What?" he asked, not really paying attention. His fork scraped on the plate and made an ear piercing screech that made them both cringe.
"Did something happen?" she repeated. "You look... distraught."
It was true. Something in his face was completely giving away his... what was it, sadness? Worries? He let out a long sigh and dragged his hand down his face. "One of my old colleagues is... ill. He has Alzheimer's and he's not taking it well. He's getting really depressed and I'm worried about him."
"Have you seen him lately?" she wondered.
"Yeah, I stopped by today," he nodded. "He was always mostly quiet and kept his thoughts to himself, but now it seems even worse, he's keeping it bottled up. I talked to his daughter too and she says the same thing. He's having big emotional outbursts too, I think the illness is frustrating him."
"That makes sense actually," Emelie replied. "Especially if he used to count on his mind a lot. Of course he's angry now that it's slowly being taken away from him and he can't do anything but watch."
"You sound like you've thought about that in the past," he pointed out.
"I have," she confirmed. "Well, that's not the right word. After mum woke up from coma after the accident, she had complete amnesia. We tried to get at least some of her memories back, we showed her photos and we talked to her and... stuff. But it was a huge achievement for us to make her understand who we were, she had absolutely no memory of us. She could see that we existed in her previous life, she understood that we were close even with her brain damage, but couldn't get past that. She was angry at herself for it. Your friend, colleague or what you said he was, has it even worse I think, because he didn't just lose it all at once, it's fading away. Wouldn't that make you angry?"
"I'd be livid," he admitted. "Kurt, the friend of mine, he's trying to make himself remember things, he keeps these little notes for himself everywhere, he even has one about me," the corners of his mouth twitched slightly. "It says the curly one is Magnus and he can be a pain in the arse, be nice to him."
Emelie chuckled. "How sweet."
"He's not wrong," he shrugged. "I try not to be, I promise, but I get irritated easily. I apologise in advance."
"Are all his notes this blunt?" she wondered.
"Most of them are," he replied after thinking for a second. "But then he has some with like... little pieces of wisdom. I don't know where he got them from, if they're from his own head or if he found them somewhere, but they're pretty... depressing. Hang on."
He got up and left the room, leaving her alone with the nearly finished plate of pasta. He came back a moment later, carrying a handful of paperbacks. He put them on the table and one by one, he took a bookmark out of each of them and handed them to Emelie. They were small pieces of paper, most likely cut up from old documents. On the side without the printed text, there was always something hand written in black ink. We're living as if we were in mourning for a lost paradise, said the first one.
"That's... powerful," was the only thing Emelie managed to say. She grabbed another one. Life is a flimsy branch over an abyss. "God, how often is he on his own?"
"Most of the time," Magnus sighed. "He doesn't want people to be around him too much. His daughter takes care of him most of the time, but he still just... shuts himself away."
"Poor man," Emelie shook her head. A starry night sky is a mirror in which we see our own faces. "This one is nice," she showed Magnus the note in her hand. Suddenly, an idea popped into her mind. "Do you have a pencil and some papers?" she asked Magnus.
"What for?" he frowned.
"You'll see," she smirked minutely. He didn't reply this time, only rummaged through some shelves and found a few blank papers along with a handful of pencils, telling her he wasn't sure how good they were. She shrugged that off, tested them and without saying another word, began sketching a concept.
"What are you-"
He closed his mouth, still frowning in confusion, and watched her as her pancil danced across the paper, creating something unknown to him. He sat back down and finished his dinner, glancing at Emelie every once in a while in an attempt to figure out what she was doing.
After roughly twenty minutes, she looked up at him and showed him the finished product. "Ta da!"
It was a silhouette of a boy standing on a hill, looking up at the sky filled with stars. They spelled the words A starry night sky is a mirror in which we see our own faces and another constellation seemed to be the boy's face.
"That's... beautiful," Magnus said.
"Do you think it could maybe cheer your friend up a little?" Emelie asked. "It's pretty rough, it could definitely look better, but maybe he'd like it?"
"He would absolutely love it," he smiled. "We can visit him some time next week if you'd like."
"Sounds good to me," she nodded. "By the way, could I borrow the book please? It sounds pretty great and I might not be able to sleep easily, so I better have something on hand."
Emelie was 100 % correct when she predicted her unability to sleep that night. Or the night after. Or the next one. Even though she was getting increasingly tired, once she laid down, her eyes were wide open and her body refused to rest. She was moving slowly, got startled easily and got irritated by even the smallest things, even though she tried not to show it. She got hurt at work many times, either a knife slipped from her hand or she burned herself on the oven. She gave up trying to cook and opted for takeout.
After the fifth sleepless night, Magnus decided to talk to her about it on the way to work. Her eyes were framed with dark circles, her skin was pale and she barely understood what he was saying.
"Emelie," he said a little louder.
"Hm?" she forced herself to turn her head towards him.
"Are you listening to me?" he frowned.
"Yeah, yeah, sure, totally," she nodded, rubbing her eyes.
"And do you know what I was saying?" he asked.
"I don't know..." she mumbled, yawning. "Something... something important."
"You haven't slept again, have you?" he sighed. "How long have you not been sleeping?"
She huffed, struggling to keep her eyes open and apparently trying to think. "Mhmm... what day is it?"
"It's Wednesday," he told her.
"And when... when did, uh... when did you... uh... talk to my mum and dad?" her speech was slurred despite how hard she was concentrating on it.
"That was on Friday," he replied. "Don't you tell me you haven't slept since Friday."
"That... might be the case," she admitted. "I'll be fine. Coffee. Coffee's great."
"No, you need to actually sleep, you can't just survive on coffee," he insisted as he pulled into the station's garage and stopped the car. "Call your work and take the day off. And tomorrow too."
"Can't," she groaned.
"Why not? I'm sure you're allowed to take sick days," he raised his eyebrows. "Not sleeping for so long can have really bad effects on you, trust me. Don't think I didn't notice the injuries you got since Monday. You're way more prone to accidents like this. And you're working in a place where you can get hurt really badly. Just call Miss Löfgren, she's a lovely lady and I'm sure she'll understand. Come on, Emelie. You know that I mean well."
She looked at him for a moment, trying to process his words. Then she sighed. "Fine," she rolled her eyes and somehow managed to fish her phone out of her bag. After unlocking it on the third attempt, she found the number to the bakery and stared at it for a while. She looked back at Magnus, as if waiting for a confirmation that this was really what she was supposed to do.
"Go on," he encouraged her and watched as she pressed the dial button clumsily. She rested her head on the window as she waited for someone to pick up.
"Söderberg & Sara Stenugnsbageri, Sandra speaking," Emelie's colleague answered. "What can I do for you?"
"Hi, uh, Sandra," she greeted her. "It's me, Emelie. Can I speak to, uh, Miss Löfgren, please?"
"Sure, hold on," Sandra replied. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, totally, just... can you give her the, uh, phone?" Emelie asked. Then she heard the sound of the phone being handed over.
"Hello, Emelie?" Miss Löfgren greeted her. "What's wrong?"
"Hello, uh... I'm terribly sorry to trouble you, but, uh... I might need to take, uh, a sick day," she explained slowly.
"I was actually expecting you to do that," she could imagine her boss smirking lightly. "Because if you didn't and you looked as terrible as yesterday and on Monday, I would have sent you home myself."
"I- what?" she frowned.
"You're obviously unwell, my dear," Miss Löfgren chuckled. "And need to rest."
"Do not argue, it's a Wednesday after all, it's not going be busy," she interrupted her. "Stay at home and rest well. I will see you on Friday."
Too late. She hang up.
"So?" Magnus asked.
"She told me to stay home," she sighed. "She'd sent me there anyway. Tomorrow too."
"Told you," he smirked.
"Now what?" she wondered. "Back home?"
"I'm afraid that won't be possible, but I have a couch in my office that you can use," he suggested. "I'll stay home with you tomorrow."
"There's no need to-" she began saying, but Magnus' stern look stopped her.
"Even though I'm sure he doesn't know where you are just yet, let's not risk it," he explained. "I just hope it will be quiet today and no one will make me interrogate burglars in there or something."
"I think that once I fall asleep, it won't be that easy to disturb me," she said, fiddling with the seatbelt in an attempt to unbuckle it. It took a few tries, but she managed in the end, and left the car. Her legs were weak and she had to support herself against the door. Magnus noticed her struggle and walked over to her, putting his arm around her shoulders firmly to support her. She looked at him cautiously, but he only gave her an assuring smile and led her out of the garage to his office. He ignored the questioning looks of people around him and carefully closed the door to his office.
"Try to get comfortable, I'll get you a blanket," he told her as he sat her down on the sofa. She made a hmph sound and laid down, curling into a ball. Magnus allowed himself to smile slightly, then left to find a blanket. The curious gazes of everyone were still on him, even more as he asked them "Hey, do we have one of those shock blanket things?"
But finally, he got one and rushed back to the office to give it to Emelie. He found her already fast asleep with her knees nearly all the way up to her chin, her arm under her head. He carefully put the blanket over her, trying very hard not to disturb her. She didn't move in the slightest, so he let out a breath that he didn't realise he was holding, and walked to his desk where he found a pile of paperwork. He rolled his eyes and began slowly making his way through it.
Most of his day was spent going through the seemingly neverending pile of papers, mostly just putting whatever was in them into the computer, quietly mumbling something about wasting paper and his time while they could just put everything into the system straight away themselves. He barely got through it all, since people kept barging into the office and he kept shushing them with an increasing amount of anger. He couldn't decide what annoyed him more – whether it was the noise they made while opening the door or how loud they all spoke. He ended up making a sign to put on the door, which said in big, angry letters: DO NOT ENTER LIKE A BLOODY ELEPHANT, KNOCK LIGHTLY AND WALK EVEN LIGHTER, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
"What the hell is this supposed to mean?" Ann-Britt walked in, holding the sign in her hands. Magnus banged his head on the desk and groaned.
"Can you not?" he hissed when he looked up again. "Do you think I put it up there to joke around?"
"Then why?" she frowned. Magnus sighed and pointed towards the couch, towards Emelie who was now turned around with her back facing them. "Is that the Norling girl?" Ann asked as she walked over to her. "What's she doing here?"
"Sleeping, isn't that obvious?" he rolled his eyes.
"Did something happen again?" she asked.
"No, no, she just hasn't been sleeping and I didn't want to leave her alone in the house," he shook his head. "So we improvised."
"Poor girl," Ann mumbled.
"Do you realise she's literally just about a year younger than you?" Magnus narrowed his eyes at her. "Did you need anything or were you just going to yell at me about the sign?"
"Just the sign," she grinned. "The others have been talking about it so I wanted to see what the big fuss was about."
"Tell them to mind their own business," he groaned, quickly glancing at Emelie to make sure he didn't wake her up.
"Will do," she chuckled. "By the way, are you going to lunch?"
"I'm not sure I should leave her alone here," he shook his head.
"Fine then," she shrugged. "Can I bring you anything though? I heard they have those good sandwiches today, with the melty cheese and stuff. Want one?"
"That would be really nice of you," he smiled faintly. "Hang on, let me just-"
"No, don't worry, that one's on me," she told him. "For taking care of the girl."
"I'm just doing my job," he shrugged.
"Pretty sure the others wouldn't have done that," she smirked.
"She came to me for help and he hurt her, he's taunting me," he explained, his jaw clenched. "I'm not having that. If he wants to get to her ever again, he'll have to go through me first."
"You're making it too personal," she shook her head in disapproval.
"If that's the only way I can put an end to it," he argued. "Can you put the sign back on the door on your way out?"
"Absolutely," she agreed. "I'll be back with your sandwich."
"Thanks," he smiled. Ann backed away from the office and was the first person to actually close the door carefully.
The rest of the afternoon was quiet for the most part, finally. Ann must have told the others about the situation since they only came in when they really needed something and they were always very quiet. Some of them even whispered "cheers, mate" as they were leaving the room, giving him their thumbs up for some reason. He scoffed each time, but he had to admit it made him a little proud of himself. Finally they were smiling at him for something else than doing their paperwork for them or some IT related thing. In fact, that something else was a thing that was the reason why he joined police in the first place – helping someone through a tough time.
As the evening approached along with the end of his shift, he began wondering how he was going to get her back home. He didn't want to wake her up – she only woke up for a few seconds once during the day when Nyberg, a man with a particularly strong voice, came in. Fortunately for him, it was before the sign was put up. Otherwise, she slept peacefully throughout the entire day, and Magnus knew just how much she needed it, so waking her up to go into the car was definitely not an option.
I should have thought this through, he thought, realising that he probably had only one choice, and that was to carry her there. But how would he open the car?
He walked to the corridor, looking around. He spotted a non-busy looking officer heading towards the staircase and ran to him, tapping his shoulder. "Peters? Could you please do me a tiny little favour?"
"Depends on what it would consist of," he shrugged.
"I need to get Emelie to the car, but I don't want to wake her up, so I'll need to carry her and someone will have to open my car for me," he explained breathlessly.
"Who's Emelie?" Peters frowned. "The girl sleeping in your office?"
"Yes, her," Magnus nodded, trying not to complain about him calling Emelie a girl. "You'd just open my car, that's the end of it, really."
"Yeah, of course," Peters nodded and Magnus gave him a relieved smile. Both men walked back to Magnus' office where Magnus gave Peters the car keys and very carefully picked Emelie up, hoping for her to stay asleep since he could imagine it would get fairly awkward if she woke up. Without any further hesitation, he led Peters to the garage where everything went smoothly and he silently thanked all gods for the station having a garage so he didn't have to do the whole thing outside. That would have probably been a much different story.
When the car pulled up to the house, Magnus sat there for a few minutes, trying to figure out how he would get her inside. It took some pretty complicated scheduling, but everything ended well and no one got hurt despite the very narrow doorways. He tucked her in carefully, amazed that she was still asleep. She must have been absolutely exhausted, which was no surprise when he looked at everything from her perspective. Being stalked for months and everything that went with it, the assault, having to suddenly move to a stranger's house and on top of all that, the difficult relationship with her family; it was surprising that she didn't break into pieces yet. She was much stronger than one would think at first sight.
She didn't wake up for the entire night, finally sleeping peacefully. When she did wake, she sat up in the bed and as she looked around, she realised that this was not the place she had fallen asleep in. She frowned, slowly remembering the details. She came to the realisation that someone must have carried her there and froze. After a moment, she tip toed out of the bed, heading for the kitchen to get a glass of water – her throat was completely dry. As she was drinking it slowly, the coldness of the liquid making her teeth ache, she heard soft steps make their way into the room. She turned around with a flinch, sighing in relief when she spotted Magnus.
"How... how did I get here?" she asked, her voice croaky. "What time is it?"
"I carried you," he shrugged. "And it's nine in the morning."
"Just nine?" she frowned. "It feels like I slept for longer than just... three hours?"
"You did sleep more, it's nine in the morning on Thursday," he chuckled. "You slept for over twenty seven hours."
"I did what?" her eyes widened in surprise. "How is that even possible?"
"You didn't sleep for five days, I'm surprised you didn't fall into a coma to be honest," he smirked. "Although you did wake up once when Nyberg came into the office."
"Did I?" she asked. "I barely remember the morning, let alone anything else, I was really dead."
"Pffft, and you were arguing with me that you were fine," he scoffed. "Are you going back to sleep now?"
"No, I don't want to ruin my sleep schedule more than it already is," she shook her head. "But I might go to bed earlier in the evening. Do you think Miss Löfgren might let me-"
"No, no, no, you're not going anywhere today, you might not want to sleep during the day, but you still need to rest," he interrupted her. "So you can sit here or in the living room if you wish, I'll make you some tea and I can lend you another book or we can watch a film if you'd like, but in no way are you going to the bakery today."
"Well, I had to try, didn't I?" she smiled. "Or could we maybe... go for a walk or something? I really miss going outside."
He stared at her for a moment.
"Yeah, terrible idea, alright," she mumbled. "Sorry. I just feel like I'm suffocating when I'm always inside lately. I'll just... can I borrow a book then?"
"Maybe we could go visit Kurt later," he offered. "You can give him the picture you drew. He lives outside of town, we could maybe go walk his dog or something. I think Jens still doesn't know where you are, and even if he did, following a car somewhere like that without being suspicious is not easy, so it should be safe there."
"Sounds good to me," she nodded. "So, uh... did you say something about a film?"
"That I did," he grinned. "But you should eat something first. Last thing you ate was the Thai food for Tuesday dinner. Would you like a sandwich?"
"Oh, uh, sure," she stuttered. "I'll, uh... go to the bathroom now."
She smiled sheepishly and left, only to return a moment later to a sandwich waiting for her on the table. "Thank you," she told Magnus, who was munching on one too.
"What film would you like to watch?" he asked her. "I have a bunch of DVDs over there, you can pick whichever you like."
"Great," she picked up the plate with the sandwich and carried it to the living room, where she began going through the DVDs.
"I haven't seen Star Wars in a while, how about that?" she suggested after a while.
"Oh, absolutely," he grinned. "I don't have the prequels though."
"Mesa no liken demsa anyway," she said in a squeaky voice. "Daysa dumb-dumb."
Magnus laughed, scrunching his nose. "That was great."
"Days got long and trying to entertain my mum was hard," she shrugged. "So I learned to do this. And shesa loved it!"
"I bet," he walked over to her and gestured for her to sit down as he took the DVD from her hands. She curled into the corner of the couch and finished her sandwich while Magnus started up the film. Then he sat down on the other side and they watched the ever so wonderful saga of space adventures. Magnus caught Emelie mouthing some of the iconic lines along with the characters, but pretended not to notice. She seemed to have loosened up significantly, though she still looked quite tired.
"What would you like for lunch?" Magnus asked as the end credits began rolling. "I suggest we go somewhere, maybe for a pizza, and then we could go pay a visit to Kurt?"
"Yeah, sure," Emelie agreed. "I'm excited to meet him. I made more of those pictures when I couldn't sleep. They're not great, I was barely awake when I made them, but still..."
"I'm sure he'll love them," he told her. "Shall we go now or do you want to watch the next episode?"
"I'm voting for lunch actually," she said. "If you don't mind. I'm not that hungry, so if you don't want to, we can just watch the next one and then go. It's up to you really."
"I'd go too," he replied. "Let's both get ready and then meet in the hall like every morning?"
"Good plan," she said, grabbed both of their empty plates and carried them to the kitchen sink, then headed to the bedroom that she still didn't want to call hers to change into clean clothes. She made a mental note to stop by Kavita's place some time to pick up some more, because she was about to run out of them.
During lunch, Magnus called his friend to see if it was okay to visit him. Apparently, he was thrilled to see them, even more after Magnus mentioned the pictures Emelie made for him. It made her blush, suddenly feeling like a ten year old that had to present her work to the class. Magnus assured her it was going to be great, but still, she got nervous. The prevailing feeling was, however, excitement to get outside. It was getting colder and colder each day, but even the chilliest gust of wind in her cheeks made her feel alive.
As they drove outside Ystad to Kurt's house, Magnus decided to tell Emelie little bits about him. Mostly how good of a policeman he was, but also about his family and him in general. She got the feeling that Magnus looked up to him quite a lot, but didn't say anything.
They arrived at a secluded house just by the sea that was surrounded by endless fields. She fell in love with it immediately. The falling snow made every sound ten times softer, and so she could hear every little murmur of the waves as if she were a part of it herself. She took a deep breath and smiled upon smelling the salty water mixing with the cold winter air. She let the breath out with a puff and watched as the steam disappeared into nothing. Cold wind slapped her in the face, making her shudder slightly, but she ignored it and followed Magnus to the door. He knocked and after a moment, the door opened to reveal a fifty-ish year old looking man with dishevelled light hair and a light stubble. He looked at them for a few seconds, then smiled.
"Magnus, hi!" he greeted him. "What are you doing here?"
"I called you about an hour ago, you said we could pay you a visit," Magnus replied.
"Oh, yes, yes, you're right, sorry," he apologised. Then he turned to Emelie: "You're... you're Sonja, aren't you? I thought you two broke up months ago."
"N-no, I'm not- my name's Emelie," she stuttered. "Emelie Norling?"
"Hm... sorry, no, I don't think we've met before," Kurt shook his head apologetically.
"We haven't," Emelie confirmed. "B-but Magnus told you about me, I... I made pictures for your bookmarks."
"My bookmarks?" he frowned.
"The ones you left in the books I lent you," Magnus jumped in. "Emelie illustrated them. You said you were excited for them."
"Did I?" Kurt asked. "Oh!" his eyes suddenly lit up. "Oh, yes, hang on... Emelie? The girl... um... you... you live with him? Because, uh... you... you..."
"Dad! Why are you letting the cold in?" another voice suddenly interrupted him. A woman around Emelie's age appeared behind Kurt, a frown on her face. "Oh, Magnus, hello! Why don't you just come in, you must be freezing!"
Kurt mumbled a quiet apology and moved out of the way so they could enter.
"And you're Emelie, aren't you?" she smiled after Magnus squeezed past her. "Magnus told us about you last time."
"Did he?" Emelie whispered to herself, glaring slightly at Magnus.
"Only the best things, don't worry," she grinned. "I'm Linda, Kurt's my dad," she said as she offered Emelie her hand.
"Great to meet you," Emelie smiled. "I'm Emelie, but, uh, you already know that. Sorry."
"Don't worry," Linda chuckled and ushered her inside, closing the door right after.
"I'm Kurt," he also introduced himself awkwardly. "You also know that. And you're Emelie. I need to write it down..."
"You don't, uh, it's not like I'm of any importance," Emelie scratched the back of her neck and looked away.
"Of course you are, everyone is!" he smiled at her cheerfully. "Let me get a sticky note."
He rushed off somewhere, leaving the three standing by the door. Emelie finally took off her coat, scarf and shoes.
"It's his thing," Linda said. "He makes a note about everyone and everything because he forgets more and more."
"I've been told," Emelie nodded. "I like that method. Wish I could use it with my mum."
"She have Alzheimer's too?" Linda looked at her sympathetically.
"N-no, uh... brain damage from a car accident," Emelie shook her head.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Linda sighed. "Must be awful."
"Yes, well, uh... it is what it is, I... let's not... um..." Emelie stuttered, trying to change the subject and failing. The room fell silent and Emelie mentally cursed herself for even mentioning the one thing that she could never ever talk about calmly.
"Are you people still standing in there? Get in here, make yourself comfortable!" Kurt called after them from the other side of the house. Linda chuckled and led them to the living room, gesturing for them to sit on the couch, then headed to the kitchen. The space was cosy and open, although a little messy. Emelie noticed a few of the sticky notes that were mentioned before – some where stuck on the coffee table, there were a few on the walls, a handful covered the kitchen cabinets, but most of them were on the fridge, which made sense in Emelie's mind.
"No, I'll make them tea, you go be... friendly or something," they heard Kurt say. Magnus tried to stifle a laugh, but failed miserably. He ended up masking it by a cough, but it was still obvious. Linda glared at him playfully, but joined them, sitting in one of the armchairs.
"How's Klara?" Magnus asked.
"She's great, she'll be starting school next year," Linda smiled. "It's all she talks about. Me and Hans are making bets on how long it will take her to get sick of it. It happened to all of us, didn't it?"
"Absolutely," Magnus agreed. "I was terrible at school. I got bored too easily."
"You know, that's exactly what I'd guess about you," Linda grinned. "What about you, Emelie?"
"Oh, I, eh... I was homeschooled," she mumbled.
"Really? How was that?" Linda wondered.
"I mean... not the worst thing in the world, but I think I'd rather have gone to a normal school," Emelie said hesitantly. "I have absolutely no social skills."
"I noticed," Magnus smirked, making her blush and stare at her hands. "I was joking! I was joking, I swear."
"Magnus said you worked in a bakery, doesn't that make you be social?" Linda asked.
"Well, no, not really, I... I'm usually in the back preparing the food, just when it's really busy I help in the front," Emelie shook her head.
"Hang on, didn't you say you went to a drama club at school?" Magnus frowned.
"I wasn't homeschooled the whole time, I went to first grade, but then my dad decided he'd rather have me at home after we moved, and the drama club was a desperate attempt to get me make some friends when I was like... thirteen maybe?" she explained. "It didn't work in case you were wondering."
"That's awful," Linda looked at her with remorse.
"I mean, not really," Emelie shrugged. "I've never really needed anyone if that makes sense? I had my books and my music and painting supplies and my... dough and bread and pastries and I was fine. It just happened now that I suddenly need to talk to people in order to live."
"Say whatever you want, that is awful," Linda insisted. "Want us to be friends?"
"Oh, uh, I- sure," Emelie nodded nervously. By then, Kurt brought a tray with four teacups on it and put it on the table. He sat into the other empty armchair and suddenly, from the other side of the house, a big black dog ran towards him. Kurt smiled as the dog sat by his feet.
"That's Jussi," Kurt told Emelie. "We can all walk him together later if you'd like."
"Sounds wonderful," she smiled.
"So do you... do you have the pictures?" he asked curiously.
"Yes, yes, they're..." she trailed off as she searched through her bag. "Here."
She handed him the small pile of papers to look at. "They're not the best, but I just wanted to get the ideas out on paper, I can redo them if you'd like."
He was silent, his eyes scanning each picture. He ran his fingers along the lines, a tiny smile on his face. "What are you saying, they are gorgeous!"
"They're really not, especially not the last one, that's just a scribble really-"
"No, no, no, I love them!" Kurt insisted. "Can I keep them?"
"O-of course," Emelie stuttered. "But please, let me redo them. They are more... drafts than they are finished things."
"I have a better idea," he said and got up, walking over to one of the bookshelves, Jussi following him. He grabbed one of the boos and gave it to Emelie. "I've had this journal... thing for ages, I meant to use it as a diary, but I never got around to actually start writing into it. I-if I maybe gave you a few more of those notes, could you maybe... draw them here?"
"I definitely could," she agreed. Kurt's face lit up with a big bright smile and from that point, conversation was flowing swiftly and effortlessly.
When it was time for Magnus and Emelie to leave, Kurt bid them the warmest goodbye and Linda even gave Emelie a hug, promising to visit her in the bakery some time. "Thank you so so so much for those pictures," she whispered. "I haven't seen him smile this much in months."
When they came back to the house on Saturday, Emelie, as tired and therefore distracted as ever, stubbed her toe on an unfamiliar object in the hallway. Cursing quietly under her breath, she finally noticed the new obstacle – for some reason, there was an upright piano standing in her way.
"Is it normal for pianos to just appear randomly in people's houses?" she asked Magnus once she was done cussing.
"No, actually," Magnus chuckled. "A friend of mine is moving houses and he couldn't get rid of it on time, so I agreed he could put it here for safekeeping, until it finds a buyer."
"Here in the hall?" she smirked. "Pretty impractical if you ask me."
"We didn't have time to put it anywhere else, he just popped by and left," he explained. "I'll move it to the living room so you don't hurt yourself every time you walk by."
"Hilarious," she rolled her eyes and watched as he began pushing the piano towards the living room. "Need help?"
"I could use some," he huffed. "You pull, I push?"
She nodded and walked around the ridiculous thing. It took them a fair amount of time, but they managed to get it into a corner of the living room where it was not bothering anybody. Both quite breathless, they sat down on the floor by the side of it.
"Terrible idea," Magnus pointed out.
"Agree," Emelie nodded, turning to him. "Do you play?"
"Used to," he replied. "What about you?"
"I wish," she chuckled. "My friend – back when I had one – taught me one song a few years ago, but that's it."
"Do you think you could still play it?" he wondered.
"I doubt it," she shook her head.
"So there is a possibility?" he raised his eyebrows.
"I mean... no," she chuckled. "Why?"
"I thought maybe we could... play for a while?" he suggested. "The evenings get boring and you know it, let's do something fun."
"You count listening to a moron trying to guess the correct notes on a piano as fun?" she scoffed.
"You got pretty smartass-y since you started sleeping normally," he noted.
"I'm just communicating the same way you do," she shrugged.
"I liked you more when you were tired and blushing whenever I made I joke," he rolled his eyes playfully, making heat rise to her cheeks. "Yes, just like that, thanks."
"You're rude," she punched his shoulder lightly. "Will you stop if I try to play the stupid thing?"
"I'd say yes, but even I know that's not very probable," he smirked. "I can try though."
Emelie sighed theatrically and pulled herself back to her feet, grabbing the nearest chair. Magnus moved out of her way and sat on the couch, watching her as she shakily positioned her hands over the keys. She took a deep breath and with a hopeful face, she pressed the first keys.
"No, that's not right, um, hang on," she mumbled as she quickly withdrew her hand as if she had burned herself. She moved slightly to the left, towards the lower notes, and tried again. It sounded better already, although the melody was unclear. "I told you I sucked," she breathed and turned to him.
"No, no, you're almost doing it, look," he got up and walked over to her, getting a chair for himself. "You play the left hand and I'll do the right."
"You know the song?" she raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"I think I do," he nodded. "Go on."
Since she now only had to concentrate on one hand, it sounded a lot more like a song. Still, after only a few moments, her finger slipped and pressed the wrong key, making her wince at the misplaced sound.
"Do you really want to torture yourself like this?" she chuckled. "It's not going to get any better."
"Sure it is, you haven't played in a while, of course it's not going to be perfect," he smiled. "Want to try again?"
"Alright," she nodded, taking a deep breath. She began again, but this time the mistake came right away. "No, no, dammit."
"Your hand should be a little more like this," he told her and without thinking, he gently laid his hand on top of hers and led it to the right place. "Woah, what are you, a snowball?" he asked when he felt how cold her skin was. She felt like all the remaining heat that was in her body suddenly fled to her face, making her glow red. "Are you cold?" he asked her worriedly.
"N-no," she stuttered. "It just takes me a while to warm up when I come from outside. I heard complaints before."
"I'm not complaining, I'm just worried," he told her and took both of her hands into his in an attempt to warm them. His fingers reached all the way to her wrists, where the light remains of the bruises still were. He avoided them carefully, unsure whether they still hurt or not, and instead moved his hands as to completely envelope hers. He could feel them trembling slightly, but assumed it was from the cold and began drawing little circles with his thumbs over them.
"How about I make us some tea?" he offered. "And then I can play something for you if you really don't want to continue."
"Sounds good," she nodded breathlessly. He flashed her a smile and suddenly, the warmth of his hands was gone as he left. She stayed on the chair by the piano, frozen in space and time, trying to process what just happened.
"I'm going to need you to sit over there if you want me to play," she heard his voice from the doorway all of the sudden. She winced, but tried to mask it by standing up rapidly and walking over to the armchair where she curled into a ball, her knees close to her chin. He chuckled and gave her one of the steaming cups that he was holding, then put the other one on top of the piano and sat down. "Let me just find some sheets."
He pulled out his phone and searched for a moment, then put it where you would normally put your papers, and began playing the song that Emelie attempted to play. He was much better. She felt herself sinking deeper into the soft cushion of the armchair, her mind floating away as the music replaced her soul. She barely noticed the tiny little pauses when he had to move the page. She warmed her hands with the tea and her heart with the beauty of the moment.
When the song ended, as Magnus noticed Emelie's zoned out face, he smiled to himself and began the song again, which went completely past her senses. It was like the ceiling above her head was suddenly replaced by a starry night sky in the middle of a forest and she was floating towards it, the music being the wind that sent her forward.
She was suddenly snapped from her daydream by Magnus asking: "You really love this kind of music, don't you?"
"Is it that obvious?" she smirked.
"I mean, you listen to it every night, so yes, it kind of is," he replied.
"I usually listen to them on my record player, but I don't have it here," she sighed. "It's so much better like that. The needle kind of... murmurs and it makes the music even better."
"We could go get the player if you'd like, Kavita should be home, right?" he suggested.
"Hopefully," she nodded. "Yeah, let's. I would have needed to go there soon anyway. Let me just call her first."
"Of course," he agreed and when she left the room to make the call, he began lightly playing a melody that was buried deep in his memory.
"She's not answering," Emelie said when she came back, worries etched on her face. "It's weird, she always has her phone on hand."
"Could she maybe have gone somewhere?" Magnus proposed. "Visit her parents maybe?"
"I don't think so," she shook her head. "She could have gone to work though, she did it a few times before."
"Call her work then," he told her.
"I'm not sure I have the number," she mumbled, searching through her contacts. "Oh, I do."
This time, she stayed in the living room and the dial up sound filled the quiet space.
"You have reached Kavita Joshi's office. Unfortunately, I'm either busy with work or I'm not here at all. Leave a message, if you wish," the answering machine said.
"H-hey, Kavita, it's me, Emelie, I, uh, I'm calling to see whether we- uh, me and Magnus could come around the house? I just wanted to pick-"
Suddenly, she was interrupted by someone actually answering the phone: "Hello, sorry, who's this again?"
"Um... I'm Emelie, I live with Kavita... normally..." she replied hesitantly. "S-she's not answering her mobile, so I wanted to check if she maybe was at work?"
"No, actually, she hasn't showed up since Wednesday," the woman said.
"O-oh, right, thanks," Emelie stuttered. "I... I'll go check up on her."
"Please do," the woman replied. "Have a good day."
"You too," Emelie smiled faintly and hung up. "She hasn't been there since Wednesday," she turned to Magnus. "I don't want to... I... what if something happened to her? What if he happened?"
"Let's not jump into conclusions, okay?" Magnus quickly got up from the piano and walked over to her. "Maybe she's just... sick. The weather's been awful lately."
"So sick that she can't answer the phone or call in to work?" she asked. "Even if that was the case, someone should check up on her. Can we-"
"Yes, of course, I wasn't saying we shouldn't," he said, gently putting his hands to her shoulders. "I just don't want you to overthink it. There's loads of possibilities. Maybe she's ill, maybe she went to her parents, maybe... maybe she found someone and they ran off together."
"That doesn't sound very-"
"No, shush," he clasped his hand over her mouth. "We're gonna go there and see, but until then, let's not worry that much, okay?"
She nodded defeatedly and he let go of her. "Come on, get dressed and let's go to the car."
They got there in a record breaking time. Despite Magnus' words, Emelie was on edge the entire time, tapping her foot nervously. Once they pulled over at the house, she practically ran out of the car and to the door where she pressed the doorbell frantically.
"Come on," she whispered and knocked furiously. Magnus locked the car and joined her. She knocked and rang again, but there was still no answer. She was beginning to shake visibly as she pressed the doorbell three more times.
"Don't you have the key?" Magnus asked.
"Y-yeah, right," she nodded and found the keys deep in her coat pocket. She could barely hit the lock correctly, but when she finally did, she opened the door quickly and stumbled in. "Kavita?" she called. "Kavita, are you here?"
The house was completely silent, Emelie could almost hear her heartbeat echoing through the empty space.
"She could be sleeping," Magnus suggested quietly, but even he felt that it was probably much worse. Emelie tip toed over to Kavita's bedroom door and knocked, then opened it slowly.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, that's not... no," she whispered, resting against the doorframe as tears burned in her eyes. She covered her mouth and closed her eyes tightly. She felt her knees weaken and she slid down the wall.
"Oh god," Magnus mumbled as he entered the room.
Kavita was, indeed, lying in her bed, but not asleep. Her eyes were wide open, and there was a hole in her forehead. The pillow under her head was soaked in blood.
Both of them were silent for a moment, the only thing that could be heard was Emelie's ragged breathing that soon turned to whimpers.
"Emelie, Emelie, listen to me," Magnus crouched next to her. "Go sit in the kitchen, okay? Everything is going to be okay, I promise. I'll call the forensics in, everything will be fine."
He helped her up and led her to the kitchen, sitting her down at the table and leaving again. Her entire body was shaking as another horrible image burned itself into her brain. Suddenly, her phone vibrated in her pocket and she took it out, hoping to find a distraction. Instead, she found a text message from a hidden number.
you didn't think I would give up that easily, did you?
"Magnus?" she called weakly. "I-I think you should see this."
He practically ran back to the kitchen, looking at the text. "He knows we're here."
Emelie nodded. And he also knows we're here together. He probably realised I live at your house now too, she thought.
and if the boy continues to stand in my way, I will kill him too, said another text that came through seconds after Magnus' words. They looked at each other; Emelie with terror in her eyes while Magnus' held all the anger in the world. He found a pen and a piece of paper so he didn't have to talk.
"As soon as the forensics get here, I'm getting you out of here," the note said. Emelie nodded stiffly, tears running down her cheeks. Magnus hugged her tightly, allowing her to cry on his shoulder. She returned the embrace, holding onto him for dear life as she sobbed. He tried to whisper soothing words just for her to hear, but it was in vain. He couldn't blame her though.
A few minutes later, there was a sharp knock on the front door and Emelie tensed up.
"That's just the forensics, don't worry," he told her. Then he gestured for her to follow him to the door. It was, indeed, Nyberg with his team.
"I'm told there's been a murder?" he asked. Magnus nodded and led him to the bedroom. "You're the one who found her like this?"
"Emelie did," Magnus shook his head. "She needed to pick up some things, but Kavita- this woman," he gestured towards the body on the bed, "Wasn't answering the phone, so we decided to just come here to make sure she was okay. And she wasn't."
"And when was she last seen alive?" Nyberg asked as he began inspecting the corpse.
"Tuesday," Emelie peeped, standing in the doorway with her arms folded tightly. "Someone from her work told me."
"Someone?" Nyberg raised his eyebrow at her.
"I... when she wasn't answering her mobile, I tried to call her office to see if she maybe was there, and some other woman picked up. I don't know who it was," she explained quietly. "But she told me that she hasn't showed up since Wednesday."
"I'll check who it was," Magnus jumped in. "I'll get Emelie back to the station now. Let me know if you find anything."
"I thought you already knew who it was?" Nyberg frowned.
"Yes, but a solid evidence would be perfect," Magnus agreed. "Also, the place is bugged."
"Noted," Nyberg nodded. "Now get out of my way."
Magnus led Emelie out of the house and into the car, where she sat quietly, all colour drained from her face; she nearly looked dead too. Even more when her phone buzzed for the third time.
I will keep my promise and you know it.
She whimpered like an injured animal and hid her face in her hands, resting her elbows on her thighs. She was shaking with sobs, suffocating on them.
"Breathe, Emelie," Magnus told her gently. "Take deep breaths. It's alright, you're safe with me, I promise. As long as you're with me, nothing will happen to you, okay?"
She didn't respond. Her whole body was completely tensed up and she could barely breathe. Her eyes were open wide and her bottom lip was quivering. It seemed that she wasn't even listening to him.
"Emelie, please," he whispered, laying his hand on her shoulder, making her wince and look at him in utter horror. "It's just me, Emelie, it's just me, everything is going to be okay, I promise you. Everything will be alright. Just breathe for now, slow and deep breaths. Do it for me, Emelie, please. I will make sure nothing happens to you."
"He says he'll kill you too," she cried.
"Yes, well, there's two of us and he's just one sad asshole, isn't he?" he tried to smile. "It looks really bad, it's true, but as long as I'm breathing, he's is not hurting you, okay?"
"But what if he really kills you?" she asked. "I-I don't want you to get hurt just so I can live."
"Then I'd just be another policeman that died on the job," he shrugged.
"No, no, I don't want that to happen," she shook her head. "Maybe I should just... give in."
"That is absolutely not happening," he said sternly. "You deserve a life."
"Yeah, but what kind of life is this?" she snapped. "Hiding like I was the one who's doing something bad, not even able to take a breath without being scared he might be breathing the same air as me. Look at me! He's nowhere around here and I'm crying like a child."
"Of course you're scared of him, Christ, he's been stalking you for months!" Magnus replied, getting a little impatient with her. "He assaulted you! And he just killed another human being! Of course you're scared! Who wouldn't be? Don't think for even one second that I'm going to let you let him win. Don't," he glared at her. "Argue with me. I knew what I signed up for when I agreed to protect you, I know I'm in for the long run. I will hunt him down and he'll regret ever going close to you, understood? I have to. It's my job," he took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment. "This is not exactly the way I should have said it, I'm sorry. I just need you to understand that your life is worth much more than his desire to end it. Please, trust me in this. It might take time, but I promise it will be over one day, and until that day, I will make sure nothing happens to you."
"And to you?" she asked weakly.
"And to myself," he agreed with a sigh. "I'll try not to get hurt. But you're a priority."
"Never happened to me before," she forced a chuckle.
"Well, there's a first time for everything I suppose," he shrugged. "Do you need a hug?"
"Please," she whispered, letting him wrap his long arms around her tightly. She rested her head on his shoulder and took a few deep breaths in an attempt to finally calm down.
"Come on now," Magnusmumbled, lightly stroking her hair. "Let's get out of here."
originally wanted to call this chapter The Piano Knows Something I Don't Know but then i realised i have only been numbering them up to this point and that i'm too lazy to give each one a name
is anyone else such a trash for soft AF stuff like this or am I just bothering you now
About two more weeks have passed – Christmas was just three days away – and Magnus was nowhere close to catching Jens despite interviewing all of Kavita's colleagues and finding out where the bugs were made. They took as many precautions as they could; the house, though empty, was now constantly watched in case he came back; and instead of only driving Emelie to work, a policeman was assigned to stay by her side each day. Magnus originally wanted to do it himself, but the rest insisted that he was needed at the station, to which he scoffed, mumbling something about only having him there to do their paperwork. He was growing more and more frustrated as time passed, even though he tried not to let it show, especially not in front of Emelie. She was already anxious enough. Neither of them were willing to let the other see their worries, instead they kept desperately trying to find another topic to talk about. It did not work every time, and at those moments, it was music that made up for the words. Emelie got the record player from the late Kavita's house, along with all her records, and she embraced its beauty nearly every night. Sometimes, especially on those long, dull evenings when Emelie liked to take out her painting supplies, Magnus would play the piano. They could both indulge into their own worlds while appreciating the other's presence as well.
"This is going to be a pretty strange Christmas, isn't it?" Emelie suddenly looked up from her painting one Sunday evening. Magnus stopped playing, cutting the melody off in the middle as if it were a sentence that was no longer necessary, and turned to her.
"It is," he nodded. "But really, what isn't strange anymore?"
"Touché," she chuckled. "I assume we... won't be able to maybe... get out of the house?"
Magnus sighed. "I really don't think that would be a good idea. I understand that you're sick of it, and I am too, but until Jens is still out there, it's not safe. I honestly think that going to the supermarket is a big enough risk. It will have to do. I'm sorry, Emelie."
She couldn't decide whether she liked when he addressed her by her name or not. To her, it felt strange to do that, so she avoided it at any cost, which meant that she started nearly all of her sentences with "Um..." to get his attention. She was sure it must have been really annoying, but she would rather have that than have to use his name. He, on the other hand, liked her name, and liked to use it. It made him forget the real reason why se was there, and make everything feel more casual. She stopped being just a victim of a crime that he had to solve and became just a flatmate, a friend even.
"No, please, don't apologise, you're right," she shook her head. "I'm just... so bored."
"So am I, to be honest," Magnus smirked. "But we shouldn't risk it."
"I know, I know," she sighed. "Wanna cook dinner?" she offered.
"Absolutely," he nodded and got up. "What's it gonna be tonight?"
"I thought we could have the scalloped potatoes," she replied, drying off her brush. "I talked about them when we first went shopping."
"Sounds great," he smiled. "You won't make me peel them, right?"
"No," she chuckled and squeezed past him to the kitchen. "Those don't need to be peeled. Just washed well and then sliced very thinly."
"That doesn't sound that horrible," he agreed.
"So you do that and I'll make the sauce?" she suggested. He gave her thumbs up and they began working. They have become quite the team when it came to cooking; it has nearly become a dance. When both of their tasks were done and it was time for the potatoes to be put in the oven, without even thinking about it, they managed to avoid each other's hands.
"What does that say?" Magnus gestured to the writing on her right hand suddenly. He noticed it before, but never really got the chance to take a close look at it.
"Oh, ah... heh," she chuckled awkwardly, looking at it too. "It says banana."
"Why in the name of sanity do you have a tattoo of the word banana?" he frowned, utmost confused.
"That is a very good question you have there," she smirked, still looking at her index finger where the tiny word was written.
"And the answer is?" he raised his eyebrow curiously.
"It cheers me up," she shrugged and finally looked at him.
"What? How?" his face had the expression similar to one you would have if you found out your girlfriend was actually a sentient parsnip masking itself as a human being.
"Well, it's a funny word, isn't it?" she began with a grin on her lips. "Imagine it with a different vowel. Like u."
"...Bununu?" he said slowly, earning a small giggle from Emelie.
"Yes," she nodded, biting her lip. "Now with an o."
"Bonono," he replied.
"Try with an e," Emelie nudged him, a big smile on her face.
"Benene. Alright, I see your point," he shook his head in disbelief, pretending to be completely unamused, but having to fight back his own smile.
None of them said anything for a few minutes, Emelie smiling to herself.
"I lost a bet," she said when the pan was full and ready to be put in the oven.
"Pardon?" he looked at her in confusion, not expecting her to speak.
"The tattoo," she explained. "Couple years back, I worked as an au pair in a small town just a few minutes away from Reykjavík and this guy from the family I worked for bet me he could stand in one of those really hot thermal lake things longer than I could. And me being stupid made a bet with him. He won, naturally, so he got to choose a tattoo for me. But he was good sports and got the same one too. So not only does it make me laugh because of how ridiculous it is, but it also makes me think of him and all the fun we had back them."
"You were a... thing?" he asked.
"What? No, not at all," she laughed. "He's gay. But we were some sort of platonic soulmates, I think."
"What's that?" he wondered.
"Can't you figure that out yourself, detective?" she smirked. "Like soulmates, absolutely perfect for each other, fitting like puzzle pieces, but just platonic."
"Must have been nice," he noted, absent mindedly looking at the tattoo. But then, something else caught his eye. "Shouldn't those bruises be long gone now?"
"Um," she looked down at her wrists with a hint of shame in her eyes. "Y-yeah, they should."
"Why aren't they then?" he frowned. "May I?"
Hesitantly, she gave him her hands, allowing him to take a close look at them. He ran the tips of his fingers lightly across the blossom shaped stains.
"How's that possible?" he mumbled.
"C-could be something to do with me pinching them," she stuttered, realising she might as well just admit it straight away.
"You what?" his mouth hung slightly open in surprise. "Why would you do that?"
"I-I... S-sometimes when it's too quiet, I... it starts to get back to me and I need to calm down and this works," she whispered in embarrassment. "It kind of... snaps me out of it."
"Emelie," he sighed and pulled her into a hug. "You realise that's self harm, right?"
"Will you not talk about it anymore if I promise to stop doing it?" she offered, wrapping her arms around him and laying her head on his shoulder. "Please?"
"If you're willing to keep that promise," he nodded. "I just want you to be well."
"Thank you," she breathed. She ignored the tears that were prickling in her eyes, hoping they would just go away. She could feel his hand in her hair and smiled to herself. Suddenly, he began swaying in a slow dance kind of motion.
"What are you doing?" she wondered.
"Dancing," he smiled.
"Don't you dare finish that sentence," he glared at her. "I'm sure there are songs in your head, just pretend they're real."
She chuckled, but didn't argue and went along with him. It took a moment for them to synchronize, but once they did, it felt incredibly peaceful. Their embrace loosened and their hands moved to more fitting positions; her left hand went to his shoulder, his right stayed on her back, and their free hands held each other lightly. Emelie looked at Magnus with an amused smile and he grinned. Nearly at the same time, the songs in their heads quickened and so did their steps. They were now moving around the entire kitchen, which was not a lot of space; they were just barely avoiding the edges of the counter, but it only made it feel more human. For the past weeks, no matter how much they tried, there was constant tension present in the room. But now, it disappeared, completely vanishing from the world, setting their scared and worried souls free, at least for that moment. Each time he got a chance, Magnus spun her around and after every spin, her smile grew a little bigger. He even tried to dip her, but miscalculated and she nearly hit her head on the table.
"Oh, crap, I'm so sorry," he apologised rapidly and pulled her back up. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine," she assured him, continuing to dance.
"Are you absolutely sure?" he asked after another minute or so, as he spun her around again. She only shook her head in disbelief, laughing. Then she laid her head back on his shoulder and suddenly, the music became much softer again. They lowered their joined hands slightly and Magnus moved so his own head was resting against her temple now. They both closed their eyes, leaning onto each other fully.
For that tiny fraction of the time continuum,everything was well. There was no psychopath to put either of them in danger,for that moment, they were just two friends living together, dancing in theirkitchen to an unheard melody, just enjoying each other's company.
Of course the peace wouldn't last forever.
The silence was interrupted by Emelie's phone ringing on the table. She sighed and reluctantly let go of the comfortable embrace to answer it. She froze upon seeing the word Dad on the screen.
"Everything alright?" Magnus asked. She showed him the phone shakily.
"He never calls me," she whispered. Worst case scenarios started playing in her mind automatically and her throat tightened.
"It's alright, don't worry," he told her, lightly grabbing her free hand. "Just answer it."
She took a deep breath and picked up the call. "H-hi dad, what's going on?"
"Hello, Emelie," he greeted her. "How are you?"
"Um... I..." she hesitated. Magnus squeezed her hand in reassurance. "Not that bad, actually. Everything alright with you and mum?"
"Yes, yes, well, you know how it is," her father forced a small laugh.
"Dad, what's going on? You never call," she said firmly. "Is everything okay? Or is it something with him? Did he contact you?"
"No, Em, we're really fine," he assured her. "I was calling to ask you if you were coming for Christmas."
"Oh," she choked out, the terrible tension from her chest loosened as she let go of Magnus' hand to run her fingers through her hair nervously. She began walking around the table slowly. "N-no, dad, it's still... happening. He's still out there somewhere."
"He didn't hurt you again, did he?" she could picture the frown on her father's face.
"No, god, no," she shook her head, deciding to leave out the fact that he murdered a person. "But we still don't think it would be a good idea to go over there."
"Of course," he agreed. "It makes sense. I just wanted to ask. So I'm taking it we won't see you until he's gone?"
"Probably not," she sighed.
They were both quiet for a while, then her father spoke up softly: "Are you really okay?"
"Well..." she began shakily, resting against the counter. "It is what it is."
"And the guy? The detective?" he wondered. "Is he good to you?"
"Yeah, of course he is," she smiled slightly and looked up at Magnus, who looked slightly confused, making her chuckle.
"That's at least something," he replied. "So you'll... let us know when you'll be coming to visit?"
"Absolutely," she nodded. "Can I call you on Christmas Day too?"
"Of course, why are you even asking me that?" he chuckled. "Good night, Em."
"Night, dad," she mumbled.
"Your mother says hi as well," he added. "And I assume that by pretty boy, she means the detective?"
Emelie laughed and looked at Magnus again, who looked even more confused now. "She definitely does."
"Well, then say hi to him as well," her father told her. "Good night."
"Good night," she repeated and hung up.
"Why were you looking at me like that?" Magnus folded his arms on his chest and raised his eyebrow.
"Can't tell you," she shrugged and turned away dramatically.
"Oh come on," he rolled his eyes and grabbed her by the elbow to turn her back to him. She bumped into him clumsily and it was now his turn to laugh. She narrowed her eyes at him playfully and tried to wriggle out of his grasp. Seeing how close she was to getting away, he held her around her waist to make her stay in place. Her breath hitched.
"Tell me," he said firmly, but there was a smile on his face. "I don't like the idea of you making fun of me with your father."
"You make fun of me all the time," she pointed out.
"But not with my parents," he insisted. "I know I'm charming and hilarious, but this looked different."
"Fuck you, Martinsson," she groaned.
"Maybe later," he replied without thinking, making her freeze. Once he realised what he just said, he quickly let go of her and cleared his throat. "Sorry."
"'S okay," she mumbled awkwardly, putting her hair behind her ear. "And we weren't making fun of you."
"What were those looks for then?" he wondered.
"Dad asked if you were nice to me," she began. "And my mum told him to say hi to you. She used the term pretty boy. That's why I laughed."
They were both silent for a moment, then Magnus asked: "How long are the potatoes going to take?"
Christmas rolled around with them barely noticing it. The bakery was closed during the holidays, which meant more long, long days spent at home with Magnus. The boredom was absolutely dreadful. Magnus suggested teaching Emelie how to play the piano, to which she agreed happily. She still shuddered when his hand touched hers without warning, but learned to not pay attention to it. He was a great teacher, very patient and understanding. She had a tendency to beat herself up for every little thing, so he made sure to explain everything carefully and to repeat himself when needed, just to make her see that it was not her fault.
On New Year's Eve, despite not going anywhere, they both dressed up and Emelie put on a little more makeup, purely to pretend they were doing something exciting, even though they sat around the flat the whole day. Given the circumstances, however, it couldn't have been better. They watched Star Wars together after lunch, then they read together – while sitting on the couch with their backs resting against each other, sometimes even reading the best passages out loud; in the early evening they made some finger food together while talking about their love for Jyn Erso and K-2SO in Rogue One and drinking glögg that they made earlier, somehow ending up talking about their resolutions.
"I don't really do those," Emelie said. "I mean, when people just started doing them, I'm sure they worked as great motivators or whatever, but now people just compete with each other stupidly."
"Agree," Magnus nodded as he arranged the food on the plate. "I do them, but just for myself."
"Such as?" Emelie wondered, sipping from her glass.
"Telling you would literally defeat the purpose of it," he smirked.
"Right, sorry," she chuckled.
"Why are you apologising to me?" he asked. "Well, there's one I can tell you."
"Why?" she raised an eyebrow. "Is it about me?"
"Sort of," he shrugged. "If I don't catch him before February ends, I'm giving the case to someone else and doing something more productive."
"W-what?" she stuttered. "You mean... you mean I'll have to go somewhere else?"
"No, no, not at all," he shook his head. "It would barely affect you in the end. The case itself would just be passed onto someone more competent."
"But you are competent!" she objected. "He's just... real good at hiding. He's been hiding for years, he's got practice."
"Yeah, but as long as he's out there, you're not safe and neither are other people," he explained. "Like your mum for example. And I've been failing to get him for how long, two months? During which he assaulted you and murdered another woman. So I'm giving myself two more and then someone else will try. I'm not giving up, but I need help."
"You're just bored with it, aren't you?" she smirked. "I believe in you though, you'll catch him. I'm sure of it."
"You're making me feel bad now," he chuckled. "I shouldn't have told you."
"No, don't feel bad! I complimented you, you moron," she nudged him in the ribs with her elbow.
"I just now feel like I'd disappoint you if I failed," he said.
"Here's my resolution then: I will not be disappointed if you decide to give my case to someone else," she vowed. "And you know I don't do resolutions, so I mean business."
Shaking his head, Magnus laughed and took a small sip of his drink.
"This is gonna sound weird, but I'm gonna say it anyway," Emelie began and Magnus raised one eyebrow. "Your laugh is... fascinating."
"You mean loud and obnoxious?" he wondered sarcastically.
"No, I actually mean that," she shook her head. "You laugh like the only thing that matters in the world is what you're laughing about. It's so genuine, so... human."
She raised her glass to her lips to hide the blush that was spreading across her cheeks, staring into the red liquid intently to avoid eye contact with him. Yep, that was weird, she thought. She could feel her mind begin to buzz lightly from the alcohol, along with her fingers, and decided it was best to put the glass down for now before it got too bad. She finally dared to look up at Magnus again, and found him looking at her with a strange look in his eyes.
"Sorry," she mumbled. "Should have kept my thoughts to myself."
"No, it's alright," he assured her. "People usually complain about it, so that was a nice change. Thank you. Your laugh is nice to listen to as well."
"We should both shut up," she chuckled. "But thank you. Never heard that before."
"Pleasure," he replied. "What shall we do now?"
"We could watch one more episode," she suggested. "And then maybe play the piano?"
Hours passed, it was now nearing midnight and they sat together at the piano, playing the very first song that Magnus had taught her, Ljósið, almost perfectly. She still made small mistakes from time to time, but knew not to freak out about it and just go on. The TV was on in the background, with the countdown to midnight on. There were only two minutes left now and Emelie's heart was pounding in her chest for no apparent reason.
They finished the song just on time – there were still a few seconds left to midnight, and so they each grabbed their drink, mouthing the countdown along with the people on TV mindlessly, smiles growing on their faces. As the clock struck twelve and fireworks started going off outside, they clinked the glasses together, wishing each other a happy new year. Emelie took a deep breath and leaned in, planting a light kiss on Magnus' cheek, maybe a little too close to his own mouth.
Her touch lingered on his skin for the rest of the night, even after they both went to their respective bedrooms.
Time kept passing by swiftly without much changing. The only thing that might have changed was their closeness and familiarity with each other. They practically had no other choice than to like each other, given how much time they were forced to spend together, so it was a big relief for both of them when they saw how well it worked. It still happened from time to time that Emelie couldn't sleep, and when Magnus found her wide awake in her bedroom, he went to her side so they could chat for a bit about nothing in particular. She would often lie curled into a ball with only her head sticking from under the blanket, sometimes barely even that when the ugly thoughts got particularly bad. He always sat beside her and they would either talk it out, or they would just speak about utter nonsense until she smiled a little. He liked to play with her hair too, seeing the calming effect it had on her. Sometimes she would fall asleep while he was talking about something, which brought a smile to his face once he had realised it. He couldn't help but hate himself for not being able to set her free yet. She deserved so much better and yet he was failing to give that to her.
About three weeks into January, Magnus got awfully sick. He had been spending a rather large portion of his time running around the windy and snowy Ystad now since he got another case to deal with, so it was just a matter of time before it happened. When it did, the poor man could barely exist. His nose was blocked all the time, his throat was sore and his head was pounding, feeling as if it were about to explode, his muscles terribly stiff.
"I hate to say it, but you look horrible," Emelie pointed out to him one Wednesday evening.
"No shit," Magnus groaned.
"Can I get you anything?" she proposed. "Maybe make you some ginger tea? It always works for me."
"I don't have ginger," he shook his head.
"I could-" her face lit up with hope.
"No," he cut her off. "I'll go with you, just give me a minute."
"But you're not feeling well," she replied.
"I'd rather feel like shit for a little while than let you out there on your own," he got up with a groan and got himself a glass of water in an attempt to make himself function a little better. "Come on," he ushered her to the hall.
"Are you sure? You really don't look well," she insisted.
"I'll be fine," he waved her off and put on his jacket. She looked at him for a moment, then sighed in defeat and got dressed as well.
They drove to the supermarket despite how close it was, then wandered around the aisles aimlessly, nearly forgetting why they went there in the first place.
"What did we want?" Magnus asked after a few minutes. He must have been really tired.
"Ginger," Emelie smiled. "And a few more things for the tea. And maybe some chocolate to lift your spirits."
"I don't need to lift my spirits," he rolled his eyes.
"You absolutely do, come on," she grinned, dragging him down the sweets alley. "Pick any that you want. You'll look like a girl on her period."
"Someone's got an attitude," he smirked, but walked over to the shelves and picked out two different chocolate bars. "You like this one?"
"Yeah, sure," she nodded. "Let's get the fruits now."
"Since when is ginger a fruit?" he wondered as he put the chocolates into the basket.
"Shut up," she laughed, walking over to the produce section. "You pick out some oranges and lemons, I'll get the ginger?"
"Sounds like a plan," he agreed and went to get the citruses.
That was the mistake.
Even though he kept his eyes on her, he was too far away to stop what happened in the ten seconds after they parted ways.
As she was standing above the root vegetables, trying to pick the best looking ginger, an arm wrapped around her waist tightly from behind. She froze in place, feeling cold metal press against her right temple and her breath hitched.
"Darling, I missed you," the raspy voice growled in her ear, the annoyingly familiar smell of cigarettes hitting her nose hard. "I was almost worried we would never see each other again."
She tried to call for Magnus, but all that came out was a tiny whimper.
"Let her go," said Magnus' voice suddenly. "Now."
He turned her around to face Magnus, who was pointing a gun at him. All that Emelie could think about was how she didn't even notice he took it with him.
"You must be Magnus," he replied. "So nice to finally meet you."
"Let go of her, Jens," Magnus ordered. "I know you're angry, I know what happened, but don't take it out on Emelie."
She was shaking, mercury running through her veins instead of blood, paralysing her completely. Had he not been holding her, her legs would surely give in and she would collapse. Her vision was getting blurry and she could barely breathe, her own heartbeat being the only sound she could hear. Time around them stopped.
"It's okay, Emelie, it's going to be okay," Magnus told her firmly. "You'll be alright."
"Oh, this is going to be fun," she could imagine the grin on Jens' face. "Do I shoot you first and make him watch, or do I shoot him first and make you watch?"
Emelie's eyes widened even more as she stared at Magnus, her bottom lip quivering.
"Let's not shoot anyone, hey?" Magnus proposed. "How about that? And then we get you some help."
"Help?" he scoffed. "For what?"
"Jens, please," Magnus tried again. "Let Emelie go. She isn't to blame for any of your problems."
"She is a symbol of them," Jens retorted.
"But killing her won't get you anything back," Magnus replied. "Leave her alone, okay? No one will hurt you either. Just let. Emelie. Go."
In his mind, he was praying that someone else in the shop called the police and help would arrive soon, because he was sure that there was no way he could handle it on his own.
"Someone's getting all worked up," Jens teased. "How about this then?"
The hand that was holding Emelie around her waist shot up to her breast and squeezed it. She gasped shakily, tears rolling down her cheeks, closing her eyes tightly. "Please," she whimpered weakly, but it got lost in sobs.
"You will not harm her any more, do you understand?" Magnus said through gritted teeth, his hands beginning to shake. "You will leave her alone."
"Will I?" Jens raised his eyebrows. "How can you know?"
Magnus cocked his gun in an attempt to make a point, but he knew he couldn't shoot, not in this position. The chance of getting Emelie instead of him was too high. Damn your stupid height! he thought. Jens seemed to know it as well, judging by the arrogant look on his face. None of them could do anything without risking the other one reacting. So they stood there, Jens' gun pointed to Emelie's head, Magnus' aiming at him. Emelie was shaking, painfully aware of his hand firm on her breast even more than the gun. Her mind was buzzing, feeling as if her skull was shrinking and her brain was getting squeezed.
The entire building was silent.
"How about this," Magnus began. "I put my gun down. You do it too. You let go of her."
"And then what?" Jens smirked. "You're gonna arrest me? No, mister detective. I'll be walking away from here as a free man. Finally free from the past."
"How could you be free after this?" Magnus asked. "Have you no shame?"
"Everything will be equal," Jens explained. "I will finally get back at my brother."
"He never did anything to you," Magnus rebutted.
"He took everything I ever loved from me," Jens hissed.
"That's not how you treat someone you love," Magnus shook his head.
"It's different for everyone," Jens insisted.
"Might be," Magnus admitted. "But you're confusing love with abuse."
Jens took a breath to add something, but in that moment, two more policemen burst into the shop through the main entrance and two more from somewhere in the back. Jens chuckled, spinning around, dragging Emelie along.
"Look at that, you brought friends," he smirked. As he was turning, he was suddenly standing sideways, Emelie no longer shielding him.
So Magnus pulled the trigger.
As the bullet hit Jens' head from the side, he was naturally sent falling in that direction, but since that was where the boxes with vegetables were, he fell forwards, on top of Emelie, who let out a terrified shriek and as they both fell to the floor, she finally wriggled out of his now numb grasp, crawling as far away from him as possible. Magnus put his gun away and rushed over to her side to catch her in case she fainted. Her whole body was shaking violently as she wrapped her arms around him tightly, sobbing on his shoulder. He sat down beside her and held her close, petting her hair gently in hopes to calm her down.
"It's okay, it's okay," he whispered. "It's alright. It's over now. He's gone. It's over. You're okay, Emelie, I promise, you're okay. You're okay. It's okay. It's over."
He kept repeating himself, feeling like a stuckrecord player, but he was too relieved to care. She was safe now.
They sat together on the cold floor of the supermarket for nearly twenty minutes as the policemen around them worked. Emelie was crying nearly the whole time, although she was slowly calming down. She was still shaking and clutching onto his shoulders, but her breathing was gradually slowing. Magnus kept petting her hair and whispering soothing words into her ear, mostly repeating how safe she was now and how absolutely and completely dead he was. That she didn't have to be afraid anymore.
As she slowly loosened her grip on him, almost calm now, he put his hands on her cheeks, resting his forehead against hers.
"Let's get out of here," he suggested quietly. "Alright? Let's go home."
She nodded shakily and he helped her up, holding her so she didn't fall. She was glad – her knees would otherwise give in. He led her out of the supermarket and back into the car. The other policemen tried to make him go back to the station to do all the necessary stuff, but he only scowled at them, making it very evident that he was not going there until the morning. Paperwork can wait. Emelie cannot.
He nearly had to carry her to the house. Then he sat her down on the kitchen counter and went to put water for tea to boil. She sat with her head hanging low, trying to process what happened. Jens was gone. He was finally gone. She could just... walk around freely now and he could do nothing about it. He couldn't appear from around the corner to hurt her anymore.
"He's... gone," she mumbled to herself. "Gone. He's gone. Oh god, he's finally gone!"
She looked over at Magnus, feeling a tiny smile creeping up her lips. "Magnus, he's gone!"
He returned the smile and walked over to her, opening his arms to offer her a hug, which she gladly accepted, wrapping her arms around his shoulders tightly. It wasn't the same one as in the supermarket – that one was a desperate attempt not to collapse, this was that of two friends rejoicing for something good had happened at last. Even the tears rolling down Emelie's cheeks were different. It could have been because instead of having her eyes opened wide, she closed them tightly, quietly mumbling the words he's gone. Magnus was smiling too, one hand in her hair, the other lightly stroking her back.
Knowing all too well that none of them would sleep easily that night, they stayed in the kitchen together for hours, quietly enjoying the feeling of being free. They didn't have to talk, all they did was sit together on the counter, munching on biscuits they found in the back of the pantry. Emelie had her head lying on Magnus' shoulder, humming a quiet melody to herself.
A question was burning on Magnus' tongue.
"What are you going to do now?" he finally asked around three in the morning.
Emelie sighed. "I don't know," she said. "I can't just go back to Kavita's house."
"So I have assumed," he agreed.
"You know how I told you about Arnór?" she asked after a moment of silence.
"Who?" he frowned.
"My friend from Iceland," she explained. "The one with the banana tattoo."
"Ah, this one," he nodded. "What about him?"
"I was talking to him around Christmas, you know, wishing him happy holidays and stuff," she began, toying with the ring on her finger. "And we were kind of catching up with each other. So I told him about what was going on and... he told me I could go back there. He said that one of the workers from their bakery just left and that his dad really liked my work when I was there and that maybe he could arrange it for me. It sounds great, I mean, I already know them, they know me, it would be almost perfect, don't you think?"
Magnus tried to imagine the house being empty again. There would be no toiletries sprawled all over the washing machine every morning, no long blonde hair would clog the bath drain, no risk of the bathroom being occupied when he needed to use it, no drumming of fingernails on the counter when she was waiting for the water to boil, no need to walk extra quietly in the night from the fear of waking her up.
He used to like his solitude, he enjoyed the silence of the empty house, but that only felt like a memory from a past life now. In fact, he admired her morning rituals that seemed to be exactly the same every single day and yet she always looked slightly different. He could buy one of those drain strainer things. They could find a rhythm so they wouldn't bump into each other in the bathroom. The sound of her fingernails actually reminded him of rain. The fact that he managed to remember that she was sleeping in the other room and forced himself to walk as quietly as possible made him feel a little proud of himself.
But if she left, there would be no quiet murmur of her record player as it played her favourite songs, there would be no pencils dancing across the pages of her notebook, no quiet humming, no faint smell of flowers, no book pages rustling, no pretty doodles for him to look at and make him smile when she accidentally left her shopping list on the table.
There would be no one to make him think about what he wanted for dinner, no one to offer to make him ginger tea when he wasn't feeling well, no one to ask him about his favourite song. He did not like that idea. Only now did he realise that not only was he taking care of her in the past weeks; in a way, she was also taking care of him.
He was not fond of the thought of her leaving at all.
"And what if... I didn't mind you staying here with me? What if I didn't want you to go?" he finally said, making her lift her head off his shoulder and frown in confusion. "I know that we met in the worst circumstance imaginable, but I've really gotten used to you and I don't... want... to lose you. Please stay. Or maybe I could go to Iceland with you, I'm sure they need policemen there too, or I could find another job..." he was rambling at this point.
"What are you saying?" she asked shakily. He took a breath in an attempt to explain himself, but his mind was completely blank. The last thing he remembered thinking was screw this.
He laid his hand on her cheek, watching for any signs of her wanting him to back off. The only thing that was there was confusion, and so the distance between them kept growing smaller and smaller, until it disappeared altogether and their lips met. They both closed their eyes instinctively, somehow allowing it to happen. Emelie kissed him back, leaning in closer, her heart beating faster and faster and her cheeks heating up. His lips were dry and coarse from the cold and yet so gentle and soft, caressing hers as lightly as if he were worried she would crumble into pieces had he used any more pressure than that. He wanted to hold her in his arms and mend her wounded soul, to pick up the shards of her heart and glue them back together, to patch up the bruises that the past months have caused. She held onto him with the despair of a drowning man finding a straw to grab onto, scared and abandoned with her head spinning around with the speed of sound.
But then, a moment too soon, he pulled away ever so slightly, breaking the kiss, but staying close enough for her to be able to count the shades of blue in his eyes. He took a shaky breath and suddenly worries were written all over his face, as if he only realised what he did now.
"I... I-I apologise," he stuttered. "That was uncalled for, I'm so sorry."
"No, don't, it's-" she began, but did not get the chance to finish.
"I'll just... leave you alone now, that was really stupid of me," he shook his head as he stood up. "Good night, E-emelie."
"Magnus-" she tried to call after him, but he disappeared into his bedroom.
Emelie sat on the counter with her eyes open wide, utterly confused. There was no way she could have anticipated this, and she had no idea what to do now.
After a few minutes, she resigned on trying to figure out the situation, jumped off the counter and headed to her bedroom despite being fully aware that she wouldn't sleep. She stared into the ceiling, her mind playing back everything that happened that evening.
When the morning came, both of them tried their best to pretend like everything was normal. But with little success – the drive to the bakery felt as awkward as the first time. When Magnus dropped Emelie off, they only uttered quiet goodbyes and parted ways.
Of course the entire town heard about what happened in the supermarket last night. It was all over the local newspaper, radio and even the television. And of course Miss Löfgren put all the things into perspective and realised that the young victim of a psychopath who was long thought to be dead was Emelie. The moment she entered the bakery, her boss flew over to her, ranting about how she should have told her sooner, that she would have let her stay at home until the creep was dealt with. Emelie, startled by her sudden outburst, only stood in her spot, holding the doorknob and letting the cold morning air inside.
Naturally, Sandra noticed the noise and came to the front, immediately joining Miss Löfgren in her yelling. Emelie knew that they meant well, but still, her throat tightened and she had to bite her lip in order to not start crying. They noticed, immediately starting apologise frantically. Sandra hugged her tightly, whispering an apology for making fun of her the first day she came back.
Once Emelie got over the shock of being surrounded by the two women, the day went considerably smoother. Around three in the afternoon, Linda stopped by. Just like when Kavita came to visit, Sandra called her to the front and took her place in the kitchen.
Linda rushed over to her, pulling her into a hug.
"I heard what happened yesterday," she said. "I'm so glad it's over for you."
"So am I," Emelie mumbled as she returned the hug. "Do you want to sit down?"
"Sure, why not?" Linda agreed, letting Emelie lead her to one of the tables. "Are you okay?"
"Never better," she smiled bitterly, remembering the tiny circle shaped bruises on her chest and the big one on her hip where Jens had held her. Linda reached for her hands and squeezed them a little.
They were both silent for a moment, then Linda asked: "I know it's probably still fresh, but what are you going to do now?"
"I wish I knew," Emelie chuckled.
"Maybe you and Magnus could... you know..." Linda winked.
"Yeah, that's the thing," Emelie sighed, rubbing her eyes.
"Excuse me?" Linda raised her eyebrows. "You-"
"No, God, no!" Emelie shook her head frantically, her cheeks turning red.
"Then what are you talking about?" Linda frowned.
"H-he... he kissed me. Yesterday. Well, I guess it was today already because it was like three in the morning, but-"
"He did what now?" Linda exclaimed. Emelie quickly shushed her, not wanting to turn the attention of the entire bakery to them. As she noticed a few heads turning in their direction, she hid her face in her hands and put her elbows on the table.
"And what did you do?" Linda wondered after a moment. "No, that's not the right question. What did you feel?" she corrected herself.
"I know I'm repeating myself, but I wish I knew!" Emelie replied, banging her head on the table. "I don't know! I didn't have the capacity to think about anything but the shit that's been happening since we met. I didn't... I couldn't... I never even imagined that he would..." she stuttered, fidgeting with her hands. "I mean, why would he? I'm just... I was just... was it pity maybe?"
"Hey, calm down," Linda told her, once again grabbing her hands. "What happened then? Did you, like, push him away?"
"I didn't," Emelie peeped.
"So you let him?" Linda asked and Emelie nodded. "Did you kiss back?"
"I did," Emelie admitted. "B-but he must have changed his mind."
"How come?" Linda tilted her head to the side.
"He... he broke it," Emelie explained. "And then he apologised and went to his room."
"That doesn't sound like he changed his mind," Linda pointed out. "Maybe he felt like he was being too pushy. Especially after what had just happened."
"What do I do?" Emelie looked at her hopelessly.
"Well," Linda began. "To me it sounds like you weren't too mad about it."
"Let me finish," Linda interrupted her with a smirk. "But you're not sure if you're... ready for that, you could say. Yeah? So here's what you'll do. It's gonna blow your mind. Ready?"
"Can you not do this?" Emelie pleaded.
"I'm afraid not," Linda chuckled. "So. You're gonna talk to him."
"And that's it?" Emelie frowned.
"Mind blown, right?" Linda smirked.
"Please, leave out the sass for now," Emelie groaned. "But I've never... had to talk about this sort of thing. How do I even bring it up?"
"How about hey, let's talk about yesterday?" Linda suggested. "It's not that hard."
"You think?" Emelie sighed. "I should get back to work now. Can I bring you anything? Coffee? Muffin?"
"Coffee would be great," Linda nodded. "Thanks."
Since it was Wednesday, the business was quite slow the whole afternoon, so Linda stayed there and whenever she had time, Emelie popped back to her to get some reassurance on Magnus. Linda always scoffed, repeating over and over again that it would be fine. Emelie couldn't help but worry.
When five o'clock approached and it was time to close the bakery, he walked in, his hands shoved deep in his pockets, looking uncertain. Linda's presence went completely past his senses. She took full advantage of that, sitting back in her chair with her arms folded on her chest, watching him as he stood in the middle of the café, quietly waiting for Emelie to notice him, which she did in just a few seconds.
"Hey," she greeted him, quickly glancing at Linda, who rolled her eyes.
"Hi," he replied, a shy smile on his face. "I was thinking that we could maybe... go for a walk?"
Emelie's face lit up with genuine excitement. After all, she was begging him for a walk for nearly two months like an impatient dog. "That sounds great," she said. "Let me just get my coat real quick."
"Of course," he nodded, obviously relieved.
"Hi, Magnus," Linda spoke up, startling him. "Congratulations on being a hero."
"Oh, hey, Linda," he replied. "Thanks, I, uh..."
Linda only laughed shortly, got up and left, waving at Emelie in the process. Emelie quickly finished cleaning the kitchen, said goodbye to both Miss Löfgren and Sandra, and joined Magnus' side.
"Where would you like to go?" he asked her as he held the door open for her.
"You know, I genuinely have no idea," she chuckled. "I didn't really have time to look around the town when I moved here and then... you know. Shit... happened. Yeah."
"We could go to the centre, the square is quite nice, and then down to the beach, around the chapel and back home if you'd like," he suggested.
"I'm in," she grinned. "Lead the way."
It was snowing quite heavily, but the wind was not that strong this time, which was definitely a lovely change. Everything was quiet and dark, very few people were out even though it was quite early. They walked through the streets in silence, none of them daring to speak up. Finally, Emelie built up the courage when they were nearing the beach.
"I'm not going," she said. She had figured out that it might be easier to just say that she wants to stay there rather than try to go back to the previous night directly.
"Sorry?" Magnus asked her, not really expecting her to speak so suddenly.
She took a deep breath, the cold air hurting in her throat. "I'm not going to Grindavík."
"Where are you going then?" he wondered.
"Nowhere. I'm staying, Magnus," she told him, praying with all her being that he hadn't changed his mind about it.
He stopped abruptly, finally looking her in the eyes. "Really?"
"Yeah... if you still want me to," she said, all her courage gone. She even had her fingers crossed in her pockets.
"I do. I... really want you," he nodded frantically. "To stay, I mean," he added. "I want you to stay."
Emelie chuckled, the weight on her chest crumbling away. "Great," she mumbled to herself, making Magnus laugh a little.
"Yeah..." he breathed, the little cloud of steam looking like a speech bubble. They looked at each other for a moment and then resumed walking, their hearts beating harder and faster for seemingly no reason, tiny smiles on their faces.
As they walked to the beach, Emelie shyly hooked her arm with his, then put her hand back into her pocket. Magnus looked at her, his smile widening so much it made tiny wrinkles form around his eyes. Emelie felt his gaze on her, looked up, and seeing his expression, she chuckled and laid her head on his shoulder.
Aaaaaand we're done! A review would be appreciated! 🥰