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Let the old dreams die, p.1
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       Let the Old Dreams Die, p.1

           John Ajvide Lindqvist
 
Let the Old Dreams Die


  Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy

  First published in English in 2012 by The Text Publishing Company, Australia First published in Great Britain in 2012 by

  Quercus

  55 Baker Street

  7th Floor, South Block

  London

  W1U 8EW

  Copyright © 2006 John Ajvide Lindqvist

  ‘Let the Old Dreams Die’ copyright © 2011 John Ajvide Lindqvist

  English translation copyright © 2012 Marlaine Delargy

  First published in Swedish as Pappersväggar by Ordfront Stockholm, 2006 ‘Let the old dreams die’ first published in Låt de gamla drömmarna dö by Ordfront, 2011

  Published by arrangement with Ordfronts Föelag, Stockholm and Leonhardt & Høier aps, Copenhagen First published in English by The Text Publishing Company, Australia, 2012

  The moral right of John Ajvide Lindqvist to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  ISBN 978 0 85738 549 9 (HB)

  ISBN 978 0 85738 550 5 (TPB)

  ISBN 978 1 78087 387 9 (EBOOK)

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either 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.

  You can find this and many other great books at:

  www.quercusbooks.co.uk

  Also by

  John Ajvide Lindqvist

  Let the Right One In

  Handling the Undead

  Harbour

  Little Star

  To my mother, Anne-Marie Lindqvist.

  To the memory of my grandmother, Maj Walhqvist.

  Love and strength.

  CONTENTS

  Border

  Village on the hill

  Equinox

  Can’t see it! It doesn’t exist!

  Substitute

  Eternal / Love

  Let the old dreams die

  To hold you while the music plays

  Majken

  Paper walls

  The final processing

  Foreword to the Swedish edition of

  Let the Old Dreams Die

  Afterword

  Border

  As soon as the man appeared, Tina knew he had something to hide. With every step he took towards the customs post, she grew more certain. When he chose the green channel, Nothing to declare, and walked right past her, she said, ‘Excuse me, could I ask you to stop for a moment?’ Glancing over at Robert to make sure he was on board. Robert gave a brief nod. People who were about to be caught could resort to desperate measures, particularly if they were smuggling something that would attract a prison sentence. Like this man. Tina was sure of it.

  ‘Could you put your suitcase here, please?’

  The man heaved a small case up onto the counter, unlocked it and opened the lid. He was used to this. Not surprisingly, given his appearance: angular face, low forehead. Small, deep-set eyes beneath bushy eyebrows. A beard and medium-length hair. He could have played a Russian hit man in an action movie.

  Tina pressed the hidden alarm button as she leaned across the counter. Her instincts told her with absolute certainty that this man was carrying something illegal. He might be armed. From the corner of her eye she saw Leif and Andreas position themselves in the doorway leading to the inner room, watching and waiting.

  The case contained very little. A few clothes. A road map and a couple of Henning Mankell crime novels, a pair of binoculars and a magnifying glass. There was also a digital camera; Tina picked it up to examine it more closely, but her gut feeling was that the camera wasn’t the issue.

  Right at the bottom of the suitcase lay a large metal box with a lid. In the middle of the lid there was a round meter with a needle. A cable ran from the side of the box.

  ‘What’s this?’ she asked.

  ‘Guess,’ the man replied, raising his eyebrows as if he found the situation enormously amusing. Tina met his gaze. She saw a kind of exalted calm in his eyes, and that could be down to one of two things. Either he was crazy or he was certain she wouldn’t find whatever he was hiding.

  She didn’t even need to consider a third option—the idea that he didn’t have anything to hide. She knew.

  The only reason she was working in Kapellskär was that it was so close to home. She could have worked anywhere. Customs posts all over the country sought her help when they knew that a large shipment of illegal drugs was on the way. Sometimes she would go, staying in Malmö or Helsingborg for a couple of days until she spotted the courier and taking the opportunity while she was there to point out a few miscreants smuggling cigarettes or people. She was almost never wrong. The only thing that could mislead her was if a person was carrying something that wasn’t illegal, but that they wanted to hide anyway.

  Usually that meant sex toys of various kinds. Dolls, vibrators, films. In Gothenburg she had stopped a man coming off the ferry from England whose suitcase had turned out to contain a huge amount of newly bought science fiction: Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke. The man had stood there looking around nervously with the suitcase wide open on the counter, and when she caught sight of his clerical collar she closed the case and wished him a nice day.

  Three years ago she had been in the United States, monitoring the border crossing in Tijuana. She had pointed out five people carrying heroin—two in their stomachs, inside condoms—before the delivery they were waiting for actually arrived.

  Three trucks with hollow wheel drums. Twelve hundred kilos. The biggest haul in ten years. She had been rewarded with a consultation fee of ten thousand dollars; they had also offered her a post with five times the salary of her job in Sweden, but she had turned it down.

  Before she left she suggested to the head of the operation that he might like to investigate two members of his team. She was virtually certain they were being paid to facilitate the transportation of heroin. It turned out that she was absolutely right.

  She could have become a multimillionaire by travelling around the world carrying out temporary assignments, but after her trip to the US she had turned down every offer. The two team members she had unmasked had secreted not only a high level of anxiety, but also threat. For safety’s sake she had stayed with the chief customs officer and travelled to work with him. Knowing too much is dangerous, particularly when big money is involved.

  And so she had settled in Kapellskär, ten minutes from her house in Gillberga on the island of Rådmansö. The number of seizures had increased dramatically when she first took up her post, and had subsequently fallen and continued to fall. The smugglers knew that she was working here and Kapellskär was now regarded as a locked-down port. Over the past few years she had dealt mainly with spirits and the odd disorganised chancer with steroids stuffed in the lining of his suitcase.

  Her shift patterns changed from week to week so that the smugglers wouldn’t know which times to avoid and which times they could exploit.

  Without touching the box, she pointed at it and said, ‘This is not a game. What is that?’

  ‘It’s for hatching out larvae.’

  ‘I’m sorry?’

  The man was smiling almost imperceptibly beneath his beard as he picked up the box. She could now see that
the cable ended in an ordinary plug. He opened the lid. The interior was divided into four compartments, separated by thin walls.

  ‘For breeding insects,’ he said, holding up the lid and pointing at the meter. ‘Thermostat. Electricity. Heat. Hey presto! Insects.’

  Tina nodded. ‘And why do you have such a thing?’

  The man put the box back in his case and shrugged. ‘Is it illegal?’

  ‘No. I’m just curious.’

  The man leaned across the counter and asked her in a low voice, ‘Do you like insects?’

  Something very unusual happened. A cold shiver ran down Tina’s spine and presumably she began to secrete the same anxiety she was so good at detecting in others. Fortunately there was no one here who was capable of sensing it.

  She shook her head and said, ‘I’d like you to step in here for a moment.’ She gestured towards the inner room. ‘You can leave the case here for the time being.’

  They examined his clothes, they examined his shoes. They went through every single thing he had in his case, and the case itself. They found nothing. They were only permitted to carry out a body search if there were reasonable grounds for suspicion.

  Tina asked the others to leave the room. When they were alone, she said, ‘I know you’re hiding something. What is it?’

  ‘How can you be so sure?’

  After everything he had been subjected to, Tina thought he deserved an honest answer. ‘I can smell it.’

  The man laughed out loud. ‘Of course.’

  ‘You might think it’s ridiculous,’ said Tina. ‘But—’

  The man interrupted her. ‘Not at all. It sounds eminently reasonable.’

  ‘And?’

  He spread his hands wide and gestured towards his body.

  ‘You’ve examined me as thoroughly as possible. You’re not allowed to go any further. Am I right?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘There you go. In that case I’d like your permission to leave.’

  If it had been up to Tina she would have liked to take him into custody, keep him under observation. But she had no legal grounds for doing so. And besides…There was after all one option left. The unlikely third option. The possibility that she was wrong.

  She accompanied him to the door and said what she had to say: ‘My apologies for the inconvenience.’

  The man stopped and turned to face her.

  ‘Perhaps we’ll meet again,’ he said, then did something so unexpected that she didn’t have time to react. He leaned forward and kissed her lightly on the cheek. His beard was rough, the hairs pricking her skin like soft needles just before his lips touched her.

  She gave a start and pushed him away. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing!’

  The man raised his hands defensively as if to show that he wasn’t going to do anything else, said, ‘Entschuldigung. Goodbye for now,’ and left the room. He picked up his suitcase and made his way out of the entrance hall.

  Tina stayed where she was, gazing after him.

  She finished early that day and went home.

  The dogs welcomed her with their usual angry barking. She yelled at them as they stood there behind the fence, their hackles raised and their teeth bared. She loathed them. She had always hated dogs, and of course the only man who had ever shown any interest in her just had to be a dog breeder.

  When she first met Roland, his dog ownership had been restricted to a single breeding male—a pit bull by the name of Diablo that had won a number of illegal fights. Roland allowed him to mate with promising pure-bred bitches for five thousand kronor.

  With the help of Tina’s smallholding and her financial support, he had been able to increase his stock to two breeding males, four bitches and five young dogs that were next in line to be sold. One of the bitches was a real champion, and Roland often took her to shows and competitions where he made new business contacts and screwed around.

  It happened as a matter of course, it had become part of their everyday life. Tina no longer asked him about it. She could smell when he had been with another woman, and never reproached him. He was company, and she had no right to hope for anything more.

  If life is a prison, then there is a moment in a person’s life when she realises exactly where her walls are located, where the boundaries to her freedom lie. Whether there are walls, or possible escape routes. The end of year party when she left school had been one of those moments for Tina.

  After everyone in the class had got fairly drunk in the hired venue, they drove down to the park in Norrtälje to sit on the grass and finish off the last of the wine.

  Tina had always felt uncomfortable at parties because they usually ended up with people pairing off. But not tonight. On this occasion it was the class that counted, this was their last evening together, and she was part of the group.

  When the wine had been drunk and the in-jokes had been trotted out for the very last time, they lay sprawled on the grass, not wanting to go home, not wanting to say goodbye. Tina was so drunk that what she thought of in those days as her sixth sense was no longer working. She was just one of the group, lying there and refusing to grow up.

  It was very pleasant, and it frightened her. The fact that alcohol was a kind of solution. If she just drank enough, she lost the thing that made her different from everyone else. Perhaps there was some sort of medication that could block it out, stop her from knowing things she didn’t want to know.

  She was lying there thinking along these lines when Jerry shuffled over to her. Earlier in the evening he had written in her hat: ‘I’ll never forget you. Love Jerry.’

  They had worked together on the school newspaper, written several things that had circulated all around the school, been quoted by their fellow students. They had the same dark sense of humour, took the same pleasure in writing poisonous articles about the teachers who deserved it.

  ‘Hi.’ He lay down next to her, resting his head on his hand.

  ‘Hi yourself.’ She was almost seeing double. The pimples on Jerry’s face faded away, became blurred, and he looked almost attractive in the semi-darkness.

  ‘Bloody hell,’ he said. ‘We’ve had so much fun.’

  ‘Mmm.’

  Jerry nodded slowly for a long time. His eyes were shiny, unfocused behind his glasses. He sighed and adjusted his position so that he was sitting cross-legged.

  ‘There’s something…something I’ve been wanting to say to you.’

  Tina rested her hands on her stomach and gazed up at the stars, piercing the foliage with their needles of light.

  ‘Oh?’

  ‘It’s…well…’ Jerry ran a hand over his face and tried to stop slurring. ‘The thing is, I like you. I mean, you know that.’

  Tina waited. She had thought she needed a pee, but now she realised it was a kind of tingling feeling. A warm nerve trembling in a previously unexpected place.

  Jerry shook his head. ‘I don’t know how to…Right. I’m just going to say it, because I want you know how I feel, now we…now we might not see each other again.’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Well, it’s like this. I think you’re a bloody fantastic girl. And I wish…this is what I wanted to say…I wish I could meet someone who’s exactly like you, but who doesn’t look like you.’

  The nerve stopped trembling. Grew, went cold. She didn’t want to hear the answer, but she asked the question anyway:

  ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘Well…’ Jerry banged his hand down on the grass. ‘For fuck’s sake, you know what I mean. You’re…you’re such a bloody fantastic girl and you’re great to be with. I…oh, what the hell: I love you. I do. There. I’ve said it. But it’s just…’ He banged his hand on the grass again, more helplessly this time.

  Tina finished the sentence for him. ‘But it’s just that I’m too ugly to go out with.’

  He reached for her hand. ‘Tina. You mustn’t…’

  She got up. Her legs were steadier than she’d expected. She looked
down at Jerry, still sitting on the grass holding his hand out to her, and said, ‘I don’t. Why don’t you take a look at yourself in the fucking mirror.’

  She strode away. Only when she was sure she was out of sight and Jerry wasn’t following her did she allow herself to collapse into a bush. The branches scratched her face, her bare arms, finally embraced her. She drew her body in on itself, pressed her hands to her face.

  What hurt most was the fact that he had been trying to be kind. That he had said the nicest thing he could say about her.

  She lay there in her prickly cocoon and wept until she had no tears left. No doors. No way out. Her body wasn’t even a prison, more like a cage inside which it was impossible to sit, stand or lie down.

  The passing years hadn’t improved matters. She had learned to tolerate life inside the cage, to accept her limitations. But she refused to look in the mirror. The revulsion she saw in the eyes of other people when she met them for the first time was mirror enough.

  When all hope was lost for the people she caught smuggling, they sometimes started screaming at her. Screaming about the way she looked. Something about Mongols, about the fact that she ought to be put out of her misery. She never got used to it. That was why she let others do the tough stuff once she had pointed out a miscreant. To avoid the horror when the acting stopped and the mask slipped.

  An elderly woman was sitting on the steps of the little cottage, reading a book. A bike was propped up against the fence. The woman lowered the book as Tina went by and carried on staring for just a little too long after they had nodded to one another.

  The summer had begun. The woman’s eyes burned into her back as she walked into the house and found Roland sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop. He looked up when she came in. ‘Hi. The first guest has arrived.’

  ‘Yes. I saw her.’

  He turned his attention back to the computer. Tina looked at the guest book that lay open on the table and discovered that the woman’s name was Lillemor, and her home address was in Stockholm. The majority of their guests came from Stockholm or Helsinki. Plus the odd German en route to Finland.

 
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