Firewall - Henning Mankell & Ebba Segerberg


The wind died down towards evening, then stopped completely.

He was standing on the balcony. Some days he could see a sliver of ocean between the buildings across the way. Right now it was too dark. Sometimes he set up his telescope and looked into the lighted windows of the other flats. But he invariably began to feel as if someone were on to him and then he would stop.

The stars were very clear and bright.

It's already autumn, he thought. There may even be a touch of frost tonight, though it's early for Skåne.

A car drove past. He shivered and went back in. The door to the balcony was hard to close and needed some adjustment. He added it to the "to do" list he kept on a pad in the kitchen.

He walked into the living room, pausing in the doorway to look around. Since it was Sunday, the place was immaculately clean. It gave him a feeling of satisfaction.

He sat at his desk and pulled out the thick journal he kept in one of the drawers. As usual he began by reading his entry from the night before.

Saturday, October 4, 1997. Gusty winds, 8–10 metres per second according to the Meteorological Office. Broken cloud formations. Temperature at 6 a.m. 7°C. Temperature at 2 p.m. 8°C.

Below that he had added four sentences: No activity in C-space today. No messages. C doesn't reply when prompted. All is calm.

He took off the top of the ink pot and carefully dipped the nib in the ink. It had been his father's pen, saved from his early days as an assistant clerk at a bank in Tomelilla. He himself would use no other pen for writing his journal.

The wind died away as he was writing. The thermometer outside the kitchen window read 3°C. The sky was clear. He recorded that cleaning the flat had taken three hours and 25 minutes, ten minutes faster than last Sunday.

He had also taken a walk down to the marina, after meditating in St Maria's Church for half an hour. He hesitated, then wrote: Short walk in the evening. He pressed the blotting paper over the lines he had written, wiped the pen and put the top back on the ink pot. Before closing the journal, he glanced at the old ship's clock on the desk. It was 11.20.

In the hall he put on his leather jacket and his old rubber boots. He checked that he had his wallet and his keys.

Once on the street, he stood for a while in the shadows and looked about him. There was no-one there, as he had expected. He walked down to the left, as he usually did, crossing the main road to Malmö, heading towards the department stores and the red-brick building that housed the Tax Authorities. He increased his pace until he found his normal, smooth late-night rhythm. He walked more quickly in the daytime to get his heart rate up, but the late-night walks had a different purpose. This was when he tried to empty his mind, preparing for sleep and the day to come.

Outside one of the department stores he passed a woman with an Alsatian. He almost always encountered her on his late-night walks. A car drove by at high speed, its radio blaring.

They have no inkling of what's in store for them, he thought. All these hooligans who drive around damaging for ever their hearing with their obnoxious music. They don't know. They know as little as that woman out walking her dog.

The thought cheered him up. He thought about the power he wielded, the sense of