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  • Published: 19 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9781405941617
  • Imprint: Michael Joseph
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $19.99

The Cabin

Extract

1

It was three minutes to ten on the morning of Monday 18 August.

William Wisting was shown into the vast office, different from how he had imagined it would be. He had pictured imposing furnishings of leather and mahogany, but the room was decorated in a simple, practical style. A desk, stacked high with documents, dominated the space. The armrests on the chair behind it were worn and family photographs of varying sizes surrounded the computer monitor.

The woman who had greeted him in the outer office followed him in and set out cups, glasses and a water jug and coffee pot on a table beside a small seating area.

Wisting gazed out of the window as he waited for her to finish. The sun was already high in the sky and Karl Johans gate, Oslo’s main street, was filling up rapidly.

The secretary clutched the empty tray to her chest as she nodded, smiled and left the room.

Less than two hours had passed since he had received the request to come here. He had never met the Director General of Public Prosecution before. Although he had once heard him give a presentation on quality in investigation work at a seminar, he had never spoken to him or been introduced.

Johan Olav Lyngh, a big man with grey hair and a square jaw, stood waiting. His wrinkles and ice-blue eyes gave the impression of obduracy.

‘Let’s sit down,’ he said, gesturing with his hand.

Wisting took a seat on the settee next to the table.

‘Coffee?’

‘Yes, please.’

The Director General poured out two cups. His hand trembled a little, not a sign of apprehension or disquiet, but a consequence of his advanced age. Johan Olav Lyngh was ten years older than Wisting and had held the office of highest-ranking prosecutor for twenty-one years. At a time when all the familiar structures in the police force were in a state of flux, it felt as if Lyngh represented something safe and enduring – someone who did not change course despite advice from consultants keen to run public sector operations in accordance with business sector principles.

‘Thanks for making yourself available,’ he said, ‘at such short notice.’

Wisting nodded as he lifted his coffee cup. He knew nothing about why he was here but understood that the impending conversation would contain extremely sensitive information.

The Director General filled a glass with water and took a gulp, as if he needed to clear his throat.

‘As you probably know, Bernhard Clausen died at the weekend,’ he began.

Wisting felt a knot of anxiety and foreboding in the pit of his stomach. Bernhard Clausen was a retired politician, a former Member of Parliament for the Labour Party who had held ministerial posts in a number of governments. On Friday he had been taken unwell at a restaurant in Stavern. He had been transported to hospital by ambulance but the next day the Party office had announced his death at the age of sixty-eight.

‘It was reported that he’d had a heart attack,’ Wisting commented. ‘Is there reason to believe otherwise?’

The Director General moved his head from side to side.

‘He suffered another heart attack at the hospital,’ he explained. ‘There will be a post-mortem later today, but there’s nothing to suggest anything other than death from natural causes.’

Wisting remained seated with the coffee cup in his hand while he waited for Lyngh to continue.

‘The Party Secretary contacted me last night,’ the Director General went on. ‘He was at the hospital when Clausen died.’

Lyngh was referring to Walter Krom, head of Party organization.

‘After the death of Clausen’s son in an accident, there was no close family left. Krom was listed as next of kin. He took charge of the belongings Clausen had with him when he was taken to hospital, including the key to his summer cabin in Stavern.’

Wisting knew where the cabin was situated. When Clausen was Foreign Minister, security measures for it had been included in police planning commitments. It was located at the edge of the cluster of cabins near Hummerbakken, and strictly speaking was closer to Helgeroa than Stavern.

‘He took a trip down to the cabin yesterday, mainly to check that the windows were closed and the doors locked, but also with the idea that some sensitive Party documents might be lying around in there. Even though he was retired, Clausen was a member of an advisory group involved with the Party leadership.’

Wisting edged further forward in his seat.

‘What did he find?’ he asked.

‘It’s a large, fairly old cabin,’ the Director General added, as if he needed time to come to the point. ‘His father- in- law built it in the fifties, and when Clausen joined the family, he helped to construct an extension. Did you know he originally worked as a structural carpenter and iron fitter before he went into politics full-time?’

Wisting nodded. Bernhard Clausen belonged to the old guard of the Party and was one of the few central figures in the Labour Party with a background as an industrial worker. Trade union activity was what had sparked his interest in politics.

‘The cabin was extended with a view to accommodating a large family, children and grandchildren. Six bedrooms in total.’

The Director General smoothed out a crease on his grey suit trousers.

‘One of the rooms was locked,’ he continued. ‘Krom let himself in. It was one of the smallest rooms, with only bunk beds. Cardboard boxes were stacked up on the beds – I don’t know how many. Walter Krom examined some of them and found that they were filled with money. Banknotes.’

Wisting sat bolt upright. Throughout this conversation his thoughts had strayed in many directions, but he had not expected this.

‘Cardboard boxes full of cash?’ he repeated. ‘What are we talking about here? How much?’

‘Foreign currency,’ the Director General explained. ‘Euros and dollars. Approximately 5 million of each.’

Wisting’s mouth dropped open, but he had to search for words.

‘Ten million kroner?’

The Director General shook his head. ‘If all the boxes contain similar amounts of cash, there might be as much as 5 million euros and 5 million dollars,’ he corrected him.

Wisting struggled to calculate the total sum. It had to be in the region of around 80 million kroner.

‘Where did it come from?’ he asked.

The Director General spread his arms and took on an expression suggesting this was a mystery.

‘That’s why I asked you to meet me,’ he answered. ‘I want you to find out.’

The room fell silent. Wisting let his eyes wander to the window and settle on Oslo Cathedral in the distance.

‘You know the area well,’ the Director General added. ‘The cabin lies within your police district, and what’s more, you’re more than cut out for it. This has to be a confidential investigation. Bernhard Clausen served four years as Norway’s Foreign Minister and has been a major player in our Defence Committee. National interests may well be in jeopardy.’

Wisting considered what this meant. Decisions on Norway’s relationship with foreign powers had been in Clausen’s hands.

‘I’ve asked your Chief of Police to release you from all other duties, without telling him what you are to work on,’ the Director General said as he got to his feet. ‘You will have full access to our resources and the laboratories at the National Criminal Investigation Service, Kripos, in Oslo will give your inquiries top priority.’

He crossed to the desk and picked up a large envelope.

‘Where’s the money now?’ Wisting asked.

‘Still in the cabin,’ the Director General replied, handing him the envelope.

Wisting could feel that the contents included a bunch of keys.

‘I want you to form a small team of well-qualified personnel to deal with this,’ the Director General, still on his feet, told him. ‘Krom has informed Georg Himle, the Prime Minister when Clausen was in government. Apart from that, no one knows about this. That’s how it has to stay.’

Wisting stood up, realizing that the meeting was coming to an end.

‘The cabin is equipped with an alarm. A new code has been generated, both for the cabin and his house. You have it there,’ the Director General explained, pointing at the envelope. ‘I suggest the first thing you do is take care of the money.’

 

2

Outside the colossal building the late-summer heat hit him full force. Wisting took a deep breath, crossed Karl Johans gate and headed straight for the multistorey car park where he had left his car. Before he drove off, he poured the contents of the envelope on to the passenger seat beside him. In addition to the bunch of keys, the envelope contained a black leather wallet, a gold watch, a mobile phone, a few loose coins and a piece of paper with the new code for the alarm – 1705.

The phone was an older model, solid and functional, and there was still some power left in it. The display showed two missed calls but did not say from whom.

He laid it aside and glanced at the wallet, which was scratched and worn and bent slightly out of shape. Opening it, he found four different credit cards as well as a driving licence, insurance certificate, a Labour Party membership card and loyalty cards from various hotel chains. In the notes section there were seven hundred kroner, several receipts and a business card from an Aftenposten journalist. There were also a number of photos of his deceased wife and son.

Lisa Clausen had died when her husband was Minister of Health around fifteen years ago and Wisting remembered the media storm it had provoked. She had worked at LO, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, and had been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer aged forty-six. An expensive experimental treatment was available around the world but was not recognized by the Norwegian health authorities. As Health Minister, Bernhard Clausen was indirectly the highest-ranking person responsible for the fact that his wife did not receive life-extending medication.

She was several years his junior and their son must have been in his mid-twenties at the time. He was killed a year later in a road traffic accident. Two tragedies had struck Bernhard Clausen within a short period of time. He had withdrawn from politics and public life for a while before returning as Foreign Minister a couple of years later.

Wisting replaced the phone, keys and wallet in the envelope and examined the gold watch. The face was emblazoned with the red logo of the Labour Party. He let the second hand rotate all the way round as he gathered his thoughts. Then he returned the watch to the envelope with the other items and started the car.

The first person he needed to get on board was Espen Mortensen, an energetic and versatile crime scene technician who could be relied on not to talk to others. Wisting had bumped into him that morning in the police station corridor and knew he was back from three weeks’ holiday.

As he followed the signs for the E18 motorway from the city centre, he dialled his number.

Mortensen sounded busy when he answered.

‘Have you managed to catch up with everything after your holiday?’ Wisting asked him.

‘Not entirely,’ Mortensen replied. ‘There’s still a lot to do.’

‘It’ll have to wait,’ Wisting said. ‘I need you for a special project.’

‘Oh, what would that be?’

‘I’ll be back in Larvik in an hour and a half,’ Wisting said, casting a glance at the dashboard clock. ‘Bring your crime scene equipment and meet me at the car park beside Stavern Sports Hall, and we can drive together from there.’

‘What’s going on?’ Mortensen asked.

‘I’ll explain later,’ Wisting said. ‘But don’t mention this to anyone.’

‘What about Hammer?’

Nils Hammer was second- in- command in the criminal investigation department and deputized for Wisting in his absence.

‘I’ll have a word with Hammer,’ Wisting told him.

He wrapped up the conversation and found Hammer’s number.

‘I’ve been given an assignment that will mean being away for a while,’ he explained. ‘You’ll be in charge of the department in the meantime.’

‘What kind of assignment?’ Hammer asked.

‘It’s a high-level project.’

Hammer knew better than to ask any further questions.

‘How long will it take?’

‘I’ve no idea,’ Wisting answered. ‘I’m taking Mortensen with me for the preliminary stages, so he won’t be available for the next week or so.’

He knew this would place Hammer in a difficult position. Resources were already scarce.

‘OK,’ Hammer replied. ‘Anything else I should know?’

‘I don’t know too much myself,’ he admitted.

‘OK,’ Hammer repeated. ‘I’m here if you need anything else.’

The car radio reconnected when he ended the phone conversation and Wisting switched it off. All that could be heard now was the engine noise and the regular rhythm of the wheels on the asphalt. Thoughts about the origins of the cash were already forming in his mind.

Bernhard Clausen was a Party veteran with a long political career and countless power struggles behind him. He had always been sympathetic towards the USA and had been a supporter of the war in Iraq. This had led to disagreements in government, and he had suffered a setback when it was decided that Norway would not participate in any aggression. Later, as the chair of the Parliamentary Defence Committee, he had brokered an agreement to purchase American-produced fighter planes for the Norwegian Armed Forces. The contract was worth more than 40 billion kroner.

Wisting’s hands curled around the steering wheel. Money was usually the root of everything that smelled of greed, corruption and abuse of power. This promised to be an investigation on a totally different level from what he was used to, but he had the optimum starting point. He had the money. Money always left traces behind and it would simply be a matter of following them back to the source.


The Cabin Jorn Lier Horst

The second instalment in the Cold Case Quartet from one of Scandinavia's most successful writers

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