Macbeth, page 1
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THIS IS AN UNCORRECTED EBOOK FILE.
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ALSO BY JO NESBØ
The Devil’s Star
Blood on Snow
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Jo Nesbø
English translation copyright © 2018 by Don Bartlett
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Hogarth, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
HOGARTH is a trademark of the Random House Group Limited, and the H colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
Simultaneously published in Great Britain by Hogarth UK, a division of Random House Group Limited, a Penguin Random House company, London.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-41906-1
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
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First United States Edition
THE SHINY RAINDROP FELL FROM the sky, through the darkness, towards the shivering lights of the port below. Cold gusting north-westerlies drove the raindrop over the dried-up riverbed that divided the town lengthwise and the disused railway line that divided it diagonally. The four quadrants of the town were numbered clockwise; beyond that they had no name. No name the inhabitants remembered anyway. And if you met those same inhabitants a long way from home and asked them where they came from they were likely to maintain they couldn’t remember the name of the town either.
The raindrop went from shiny to grey as it penetrated the soot and poison that lay like a constant lid of mist over the town despite the fact that in recent years the factories had closed one after the other. Despite the fact that the unemployed could no longer afford to light their stoves. In spite of the capricious but stormy wind and the incessant rain that some claimed hadn’t started to fall until the Second World War had been ended by two atom bombs a quarter of a century ago. In other words, around the time Kenneth was installed as police commissioner. From his office on the top floor of police HQ Chief Commissioner Kenneth had then misruled the town with an iron fist for twenty-five years, irrespective of who the mayor was and what he was or wasn’t doing, or what the powers-that-be were saying or not saying over in Capitol, as the country’s second-largest and once most important industrial centre sank into a quagmire of corruption, bankruptcies, crime and chaos. Six months ago Chief Commissioner Kenneth had fallen from a chair in his summer house. Three weeks later, he was dead. The funeral had been paid for by the town – a council decision made long ago that Kenneth himself had incidentally engineered. After a funeral worthy of a dictator the council and mayor had brought in Duncan, a broad-browed bishop’s son and the head of Organised Crime in Capitol, as the new chief commissioner. And hope had been kindled amongst the city’s inhabitants. It had been a surprising appointment because Duncan didn’t come from the old school of politically pragmatic officers, but from the new generation of well educated police administrators who supported reforms, transparency, modernisation and the fight against corruption – which the majority of the town’s elected get-rich-quick politicians did not.
And the inhabitants’ hope that they now had an upright, honest and visionary chief commissioner who could drag the town up from the quagmire had been nourished by Duncan’s replacement of the old guard at the top with his own hand-picked officers. Young, untarnished idealists who really wanted the town to become a better place to live.
The wind carried the raindrop over District 4 West and the town’s highest point, the radio tower on top of the studio where the lone, morally indignant voice of Walt Kite expressed the hope, leaving no ‘r’ unrolled, that they finally had a saviour. While Kenneth had been alive Kite had been the sole person with the courage to openly criticise the chief commissioner and accuse him of some of the crimes he had committed. This evening Kite reported that the town council would do what it could to rescind the powers that Kenneth had forced through making the police commissioner the real authority in town. Paradoxically this would mean that his successor, Duncan the good democrat, would struggle to drive through the reforms he, rightly, wanted. Kite also added that in the imminent mayoral elections it was ‘Tourtell, the sitting and therefore fattest mayor in the country, versus no one. Absolutely no one. For who can compete against the turtle, Tourtell, with his shell of folky joviality and unsullied morality, which all criticism bounces off?’
In District 4 East the raindrop passed over the Obelisk, a twenty-storey glass hotel and casino that stood up like an illuminated index finger from the brownish-black four-storey wretchedness that constituted the rest of the town. It was a contradiction to many that the less industry and more unemployment there was, the more popular it had become amongst the inhabitants to gamble away money they didn’t have at the town’s two casinos.
‘The town that stopped giving and started taking,’ Kite trilled over the radio waves. ‘First of all we abandoned industry, then the railway so that no one could get away. Then we started selling drugs to our citizens, supplying them from where they used to buy train tickets, so that we could rob them at our convenience. I would never have believed I would say I missed the profit-sucking masters of industry, but at least they worked in respectable trades. Unlike the three other businesses where people can still get rich: casinos, drugs and politics.’
In District 3 the rain-laden wind swept across police HQ, Inverness Casino and streets where the rain had driven most people indoors, although some still hurried around searching or escaping. Across the central station, where trains no longer arrived and departed but which was populated by ghosts and itinerants. The ghosts of those – and their successors – who had once built this town with self-belief, a work ethic, God and their technology. The itinerants at the twenty-four hour dope market for brew; a ticket to heaven and certain hell. In District 2 the wind whistled in the chimneys of the town’s two biggest, though recently closed, factories: Graven and Estex. They had both manufactured a metal alloy, but what it consisted of not even those who had operated the furnaces could say for sure, only that the Koreans had started making the same alloy cheaper. Perhaps it was the town’s climate that made the decay visible or perhaps it was imagination; perhaps it was just the certainty of bankruptcy and ruin that made the silent, dead factories stand there like what Kite called ‘capitalism’s plundered cathedrals in a town of drop-outs and disbelief’.
The rain drifted to the south-east, across streets of smashed street lamps where jackals on the lookout huddled against walls, sheltering from the sky’s endless precipitation while their prey hurried towards light and greater safety. In a recent interview Kite had asked Chief Commissioner Duncan why the risk of being robbed was six times h
At the docks stood graffiti-covered containers and run-down freighters with captains who had met the port’s corrupt representatives in deserted spots and given them brown envelopes to ensure quicker entry permits and mooring slots, sums the shipping companies would log in their miscellaneous-expenses accounts swearing they would never undertake work that would lead them to this town again.
One of these ships was the MS Leningrad, a Soviet vessel losing so much rust from its hull in the rain it looked as if it was bleeding into the harbour.
The raindrop fell into a cone of light from a lamp on the roof of one two-storey timber building with a storeroom, an office and a closed boxing club, continued down between the wall and a rusting hulk and landed on a bull’s horn. It followed the horn down to the motorbike helmet it was joined to, ran off the helmet down the back of a leather jacket embroidered with NORSE RIDERS in Gothic letters. And to the seat of a red Indian Chief motorbike and finally into the hub of its slowly revolving rear wheel where, as it was hurled out again, it ceased to be a drop and became part of the polluted water of the town, of everything.
Behind the red motorbike followed eleven others. They passed under one of the lamps on the wall of an unilluminated two-storey port building.
The light from the lamp fell through the window of a shipping office on the first floor, onto a hand resting on a poster: MS GLAMIS SEEKS GALLEY HAND. The fingers were long and slim like a concert pianist’s and the nails well manicured. Even though the face was in shadow, preventing you from seeing the intense blue eyes, the resolute chin, the thin, miserly lips and nose shaped like an aggressive beak, the scar shone like a white shooting star, running diagonally from the jaw to the forehead.
‘They’re here,’ Inspector Duff said, hoping his men in the Narcotics Unit couldn’t hear the involuntary vibrato in his voice. He had assumed the Norse Riders would send three to four, maximum five, men to get the dope. But he counted twelve motorbikes in the procession slowly emerging from the darkness. The two at the back each had a pillion rider. Fourteen men to his nine. And there was every reason to believe the Norse Riders were armed. Heavily armed. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the sight of superior numbers that had produced the tremor in his vocal cords. It was that Duff had achieved his dearest wish. It was that he was leading the convoy; finally he was within striking distance.
The man hadn’t shown himself for months, but only one person owned that helmet and the red Indian Chief motorbike. Rumour had it the bike was one of fifty the New York Police Department had manufactured in total secrecy in 1955. The steel of the curved scabbard attached to its side shone.
Some claimed he was dead, others that he had fled the country, that he had changed his identity, cut off his blond plaits and was sitting on a terrazza in Argentina enjoying his old age and pencil-thin cigarillos.
But here he was. The leader of the gang and the cop-killer who, along with his sergeant, had started up the Norse Riders some time after the Second World War. They had picked rootless young men, most of them from dilapidated factory-worker houses along the sewage-fouled river, and trained them, disciplined them, brainwashed them until they were an army of fearless soldiers Sweno could use for his own purposes. To gain control of the town, to monopolise the growing dope market. And for a while it had looked as if Sweno would succeed, certainly Kenneth and police HQ hadn’t stopped him; rather the opposite, Sweno had bought in all the help he needed. It was the competition. Hecate’s home-made dope, brew, was much better, cheaper and always readily available on the market. But if the anonymous tip-off Duff had received was right, this consignment was big enough to solve the Norse Riders’ supply problems for some time. Duff had hoped, but not quite believed, what he read in the brief typewritten lines addressed to him was true. It was simply too much of a gift horse. The sort of gift that – if handled correctly – could send the head of the Narco Unit further up the ladder. Chief Commissioner Duncan still hadn’t filled all the important positions at police HQ with his own people. There was, for example, the Gang Unit, where Kenneth’s old rogue Inspector Cawdor had managed to hang on to his seat as they still had no concrete evidence of corruption, but that could only be a question of time. And Duff was one of Duncan’s men. When there were signs that Duncan might be appointed chief commissioner Duff had rung him in Capitol and clearly, if somewhat pompously, stated that if the council didn’t make Duncan the new commissioner, and chose one of Kenneth’s henchmen instead, Duff would resign. It was not beyond the bounds of possibility that Duncan had suspected a personal motive behind this unconditional declaration of loyalty, but so what? Duff had a genuine desire to support Duncan’s plan for an honest police force that primarily served the people, he really did. But he also wanted an office at HQ as close to heaven as possible. Who wouldn’t? And he wanted to cut off the head of the man out there.
He was the means and the end.
Duff looked at his watch. The time tallied with what was in the letter, to the minute. He rested the tips of his fingers on the inside of his wrist. To feel his pulse. He was no longer hoping, he was about to become a believer.
‘Are there many of them, Duff?’ a voice whispered.
‘More than enough for great honour, Seyton. And one of them’s so big, when he falls, it’ll be heard all over the country.’
Duff cleaned the condensation off the window. Ten nervous, sweaty police officers in a small room. Men who didn’t usually get this type of assignment. As head of the Narco Unit it was Duff alone who had taken the decision not to show the letter to other officers; he was using only men from his unit for this raid. The tradition of corruption and leaks was too long for him to risk it. At least that is what he would tell Duncan if asked. But there wouldn’t be much cavilling. Not if they could seize the drugs and catch thirteen Norse Riders red-handed.
Thirteen, yes. Not fourteen. One of them would be left lying on the battlefield. If the chance came along.
Duff clenched his teeth.
‘You said there’d only be four or five,’ said Seyton, who had joined him at the window.
‘No, but you should be, Duff. You’ve got nine men in this room and I’m the only one with experience of a stake-out.’ He said this without raising his voice. He was a lean, sinewy, bald man. Duff wasn’t sure how long he had been in the police, only that he had been in the force when Kenneth was chief commissioner. Duff had tried to get rid of Seyton. Not because he had anything concrete on him; there was just something about him, something Duff couldn’t put his finger on, that made him feel a strong antipathy.
‘Why didn’t you bring in the SWAT team, Duff?’
‘The fewer involved the better.’
‘The fewer you have to share the honours with. Because unless I’m very much mistaken that’s either the ghost of Sweno or the man himself.’ Seyton nodded towards the Indian Chief motorbike, which had stopped by the gangway of MS Leningrad.
‘Did you say Sweno?’ said a nervous voice from the darkness behind them.
‘Yes, and there’s at least a dozen of them,’ Seyton said loudly without taking his eyes off Duff. ‘Minimum.’
‘Oh shit,’ mumbled a second voice.
‘Shouldn’t we ring Macbeth?’ asked a third.
‘Do you hear?’ Seyton said. ‘Even your own men want SWAT to take over.’
‘Shut up!’ Duff hissed. He turned and pointed a finger at the poster on the wall. ‘It says here MS Glamis is sailing to Capitol on Friday at 0600 hours and is looking for galley staff. You said you wanted to take part in this assignment, but you hereby have my blessing to apply for employment there instead. The money and the food are supposed to b
Duff peered into the darkness, at the faceless, unmoving figures. Tried to interpret the silence. Already regretting that he had challenged them. What if some of them actually did put up their hands? Usually he avoided putting himself in situations where he was dependent on others, but now he needed every single one of the men in front of him. His wife said he preferred to operate solo because he didn’t like people. There could have been something in that, but the truth was probably the reverse. People didn’t like him. Not that everyone actively disliked him, although some did; there was something about his personality that put people off. He just didn’t know what. He knew his appearance and confidence attracted a certain kind of woman, and he was polite, knowledgeable and more intelligent than most people he knew.
‘No one? Really? Good, so let’s do what we planned, but with a few minor adjustments. Seyton goes to the right with his three men when we come out and covers the rear half of them. I go to the left with my three men. While you, Sivart, sprint off to the left, out of the light, and run in an arc in the darkness until you’re behind the Norse Riders. Position yourself on the gangway so that no one can escape into the boat. All understood?’
Seyton cleared his throat. ‘Sivart’s the youngest and—’
‘—fastest,’ Duff interrupted. ‘I didn’t ask for objections, I asked if my instructions were understood.’ He scanned the blank faces in front of him. ‘I’ll take that as a yes.’ He turned back to the window.
A short bow-legged man with a white captain’s hat waddled down the gangway in the pouring rain. Stopped by the man on the red motorbike. The rider hadn’t removed his helmet, he had just flipped up the visor, nor had he switched off his engine. He sat with his legs splayed obscenely astride the saddle and listened to the captain. From under the helmet protruded two blond plaits, which hung down over the Norse Rider logo.
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