Sunday: Week Three


A frail, white-haired woman with a walking stick answered the door of the narrow terrace house not far from the harbour in Helsinger. Tobias and Katrine presented their ID.

“Mrs Hedegaarde?” said Tobias.

“Is this about my grandson?”

“Is your grandson Lennart Praetorius?”

She nodded. “You’d better come in.” 

Tobias and Katrine followed her slowly down a short corridor to the kitchen. They had interrupted a birthday party. Dozens of miniature Danish flags decorated a layer cake from which slices had already been cut. An elderly, bald man contemplated the slice which lay on a blue china plate on the table in front of him. 

“It’s Lennart’s birthday,” said Hanne. “We always have a cake on his birthday. We keep hoping he will be back one day to share it with us.”

The old man got to his feet. 

“These people are from the police, Jesper,” said Mrs Hedegaard. 

Alarm spread across the old man’s face. He put his hand on his wife’s arm. “It’s bad news, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps you should sit down,” said Katrine.

Hanne leaned on her stick with both hands and drew herself up. “We’d rather face things standing up,” she said. 

“Two weeks ago we found the remains of a young man in a bog at Roligmose,” said Tobias. “We think they are the remains of your grandson, Lennart Praetorius.” 

Hanne trembled but remained standing. Her husband put his arm around her shoulders.

“Are you sure it’s Lennart?” said Hanne.

“We were able to match his dental records,” said Tobias. “There was this as well.” He took from his briefcase the Seiko watch and gave it to Hanne. She turned it over and read the inscription. “This is the watch we gave Lennart on his eighteenth birthday.” She held it to her heart. “What happened? When did he die?” 

“We are not sure,” said Tobias. “We think he died more than twelve years ago. He was murdered.” 

The silence was electric. The elderly couple were rigid with shock. 

Hanne spoke first. “How did he die? Who killed him?” 

“He was hit on the head, probably with a rock or a stone,” said Katrine. “We are trying to find who did it.”

“The blow to the head was fatal,” said Tobias. Get this over with. Please don’t ask for more detail. I don’t want to list the injuries to his ribs, his arm, his hand.

Hanne sighed. “I’ll sit down now, Jesper,” she said.

He pulled out a chair for her and indicated two other chairs at the table for Tobias and Katrine. 

“Take the cake away, Jesper,” said Hanne. “I can’t bear the sight of it.” 

Jesper took the cake from the table and carried it out of the room. 

Hanne was still holding the watch. “Can we keep this?”

Tobias nodded. 

“Can we bury Lennart now?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Tobias. “Someone from our victim support unit will be in touch with you tomorrow.”

Jesper came back with a photograph album. He set it down on the table.

“Our daughter was a heroin addict,” said Hanne. “She got clean long enough to have Lennart but not long enough to keep him. His father stayed around only long enough to have his name on the birth certificate. We never saw him after that. He was an addict as well. We had Lennart from when he was three months old until he was ten. Mette came and stayed from time to time but that was almost worse than her never seeing him at all. Then she said she was clean again. The court gave her custody. She took Lennart to live in Christiana. Of course it all broke down. She had to leave Christiania. They came back here. That only lasted a few weeks. Mette went to stay with friends. She was taking heroin again. She took an overdose. Accidentally, we are sure, we hope. I can’t bear to think...”

Jesper squeezed his wife’s hand. 

“Lennart went a bit wild after his mother died. He stopped going to school. He said he wanted to find his father. He lived in a squat. He came back a few times, usually when he needed money. But he was a good boy at heart.”

Hanne began to cry. Tobias produced a clean white handkerchief and gave it to her. She dabbed her eyes.

“Did he find his father?” asked Katrine.

“If he did, he never told us,” said Jesper. He opened the photograph album and turned over the pages. He showed Tobias and Katrine a full-page photograph of a dark-haired smiling young woman with a baby. 

“Mette and Lennart. That was taken at the christening.”

He turned over more pages. 

“This is the most recent photograph we have of Lennart. I took it one day he came to visit and helped me in the garden. He was seventeen.”

Jesper fell silent. 

Tobias and Katrine studied the full-length photograph of an intense-looking, dark-haired teenager, leaning on an upright spade.

“We didn’t see him often after that,” said Hanne. “He came every six months or so. He would turn up without warning and stay for a day or two. We would come down for breakfast in the morning and he would be gone again. Without a word,” said Hanne. 

“Once he didn’t turn up for nearly a year,” said Jesper. “He didn’t even telephone. Then he just appeared on the doorstep one day.” 

“It was his twenty-firstst birthday,” said Hanne. “He was here for his twenty-first birthday. He brought a girl.” 

“They came over on the ferry from Helsingborg. They had a van,” said Jesper. “A blue van. They were living in it. They showed us. It had a bed and a folding table and chairs and a little gas stove for cooking. It was cosy. They were proud of it.”

Katrine produced the photograph of Emily. “Was this the girl?”

Hanne and Jesper studied it. 

Hanne sighed. “It was so long ago. But she was blonde and pretty, like this girl. Her name was Emily.” 

“Emily Rasmussen,” said Tobias. “We know she was with Lennart in Lapland 1997 and 1998.”

“I’d like to speak to her,” said Hanne. 

“So would we,” said Tobias. 

Hanne looked puzzled.

“She left home around the time Lennart was killed,” said Tobias. “We’re trying to contact her. So if you remember anything, anything at all that might help us find her, we’d like to know.” 

“She seemed a nice girl,” said Jesper. “They stayed for one night. We had a lovely time. We had twenty-one candles and twenty-one flags on the birthday cake. We drank champagne. I gave Lennart one hundred kroner for his birthday. They left the next morning.”

“We didn’t take a photograph,” cried Hanne. “Why didn’t we take a photograph? We were so happy to see him.”

Jesper put his arm around her shoulders. “Lennart came to see us a few months after that. With the girl. I asked if him if he needed money. He said no. But I gave him some anyway.”

“Did they still have the van?”

Jesper nodded. “I think so. They only stayed a few hours. We had a brief telephone call from him. I don’t remember when exactly. Maybe a week later. After that, we didn’t see or hear from Lennart again. We waited for about a year. Then we went to the police.” 

“We waited too long,” said Hanne. “We shouldn’t have waited so long. Always hoping to hear from him.” A sob escaped from her.  

“The police told us they had no reports of any one of his description being injured or killed. They said Lennart was an adult. He was twenty-one. They said sometimes people, especially men, left home and didn’t return,” said Jesper. 

 “As soon as we mentioned Christiana, they seemed to lose interest,” said Hanne. “We mentioned the girl but we didn’t know her second name. The police said they had no reports about a girl of that description being injured or missing either. We went back to the police a year later, when we still hadn’t heard from Lennart. They told us the same thing.” 

“I’m sorry,” said Tobias. 

“If only we’d reported it sooner,” cried Hanne.

“Maybe he was already dead by then,” said Jesper. “And we didn’t know. All those years hoping, hoping…..and all the time….” 

“They could have looked for the girl,” said Hanne. “That might have helped.” 

“Without a name, or a photograph, there wasn’t much to go on,” said Tobias. “We’re having difficulty finding her now. Do you have a photograph of Lennart which we can release to the press? Perhaps Emily will see it and come forward. We hope she might be able to tell us something.” Such as whether or not she killed him, he added silently to herself. 

“You can take this,” Hanne detached the photograph of seventeen-year-old Lennart from the album, kissed it, gave it to Katrine. “Promise you will bring it back.” 

“I promise,” said Tobias. He slipped the photograph into his briefcase. 

“We can provide grief counselling as well,” said Katrine. “Is there anyone we can call or fetch? A relative, or a neighbour perhaps?”

Hanne and Jesper looked at each other. They shook their heads. 

“We’ll call our priest,” said Jesper. “We need to organise everything the funeral. We want to say goodbye in the proper way.” 

“We’ve had fourteen years of sorrow,” said Hanne. “Missing him. Hoping that he was alive. What fools we were.” A tear ran down her cheek. “You can do one thing for us. Take away the cake. I can’t bear to see it again.” 

Katrine sat in the car with the cake in a box on her knee. She turned an anxious face to Tobias. “I checked the missing males,” she said. “I didn’t find a Lennart Praetorius. I didn’t include him in the list. I’m sorry,” she said. 

“It made no difference,” said Tobias. “If we’d come here at the beginning, we still wouldn’t have learned much about Emily. We need to find her. I’m convinced she’s the key to everything.” 

“What will we do with the cake?”

“Take it back to the office. Remove the flags and candles and offer everyone a slice with their coffee tomorrow,” said Tobias. He glanced at Katrine. “Has this job not hardened your heart yet?” He put the car into gear and accelerated away from the sorrow-filled house. “It will, Katrine, it will.” 


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