As soon as Agneta’s daughters had left, everything became urgent. She grabbed a rucksack from the hall and hurried upstairs. Way back when, the bathroom had felt like the safest place—for three reasons. You could lock yourself in, there was no way to see in, and no one would ask what you were up to inside. And the many visi-
tors to the house always used the toilets downstairs.
Burying things in the garden or heading off into the woods might seem smart in the heat of the moment, but when the equip- ment came to be needed, it might not be possible to retrieve it at once. She’d got that far in her thoughts, even back then.
Now she didn’t have much time. Naturally, there would already be people on the way.
The only question was: how far away were they? And who was coming?
The toilet roll holder wasn’t up to the job no matter how hard she wielded it, so she had to run down to the basement to fetch a hammer. She hadn’t given any thought to how she was going to break up the tiling—nor how noisy it would be—so long ago, when she’d deposited the package in the bathroom wall and tiled over it.
But there was no one to hear her now.
She swung the hammer as fast and hard as she could and cracked the tiling on the first attempt. She continued striking it to remove all the rest of the tile, worked at the seam of the care- fully fitted damp-proof membrane underneath and then shoved in two fingers to pry out the emergency package, wrapped up in waxcloth.
A fat bundle of thousand-krona notes—but they were no longer valid, she realized. She would have to make do with the cash she
had in the house. Fortunately, they’d always kept some in the metal tin in the kitchen.
Three passports in different names, but all with expiry dates long since passed.
The codeword for the radio transmitter.
Car keys—was the car still there? When had she last checked? An instruction booklet on how to survive the collapse of civiliza-
tion, which she reluctantly took.
The pistol had never been hidden here—she had wanted that close to hand, and had settled on the bedside table. She’d come up with a labored story about it being passed down from her father, in case anyone found it. But no one ever had.
She stopped. Was that a car?
She quickly ran to the window on the upstairs landing, carefully lifted the edge of the curtain and glanced down to the street.
But would they really park outside the house? Wouldn’t they park nearby and then sneak up? Although what would people think if they saw mysterious men creeping through their gardens in this well-heeled neighborhood?
No, it would clearly be easiest to drive up to the house and park on the street, looking as though one had legitimate cause to be there. Perhaps they would even use a courier’s van or a pickup truck with the word “plumber” painted on the side. Something no one would remember.
But they weren’t here yet. She had no idea whether she had hours, minutes or seconds.
She needed to get back to work.
“My banana doll!” Molly called out.
“We’ll have to get it next time we see Grandma,” said Malin.
“No!” Molly screamed. Malin sighed.
“I think we need to go back,” she said to Christian.
She knew how fixated Molly was on her oblong, yellow plush character with its wide smile. The banana doll served as both playmate and cuddly toy, and if they didn’t fetch it at once their daughter would never stop screaming.
Christian glanced hastily at his Rolex GMT-Master II. It was the Pepsi edition, and he was more than a little proud of it.
This was going to take all day.
But there wasn’t much they could do about that.
They’d just gone past Brommaplan, where he could have turned around, but he’d realized too late. He had to carry on to the round- about and do a full lap of it instead—then they were on the way back.
The clock was ticking, so Agneta went back into the bathroom, took the packet of quick-drying cement and mixed it with some water using the toothbrush mug. She spread the mixture onto the back of the spare tile that had been at the bottom of her drawer in the bathroom cabinet all these years along with the cement, and then she put the tile over the hole and pulled the basket of towels in front of it. It wouldn’t fool anyone if subjected to thorough exami- nation, but she might win a few days and that could be enough. It was all about buying time.
She put the toothbrush mug and tile pieces in her rucksack, along with the money and the passports. Then she went down to the kitchen and made up a bag of food. A sudden impulse made her run to the garage to add the battery charger to her bag.
Good. And now what? Confuse matters a bit.
The jewelry box. Stellan’s wallet. Something else.
The little Munch painting hanging in the guest toilet. All of it went into her rucksack.
And now to pull out some drawers and mess things up a bit.
Of course. The reason for all of it. It took her a minute to fetch it. She checked the time.
Too much time had already passed. She needed to go.
She couldn’t take her and Stellan’s car—she knew that much. So she went into the garden shed and tugged out the old bicycle that had been there for decades. Pink with white handlebars. It must have belonged to one of the girls, even if she couldn’t remember ever seeing either of them riding a bike.
Over the years, the bicycle had slowly disappeared behind rakes, shovels, trimmers, a wheelbarrow and various planks of wood that might come in useful one day. A broken garden hose was tangled around the frame, handlebars and front wheel. The chain wasn’t oiled and the tires were almost flat, but it could be ridden.
Were any of the neighbors watching? They would be ques- tioned, and she didn’t want any of the operatives currently being set in motion finding out about her two-wheeled escape vehicle. Given how rarely her daughters usually got in touch, she ought to have upward of a week before one of them got worried. For that long, at least, the police would leave her in peace.
The others were more of a problem. The ones who had called.
And the ones who might have been listening. She had no idea how much time she had.
Hours or days?
Or perhaps they would be content with the conversation and simply await the result?
She went back inside for one final check. Then she glanced through the pane of glass in the front door. There was nothing out of the ordinary outside. She buttoned up her parka and put the hood over her head. She would be hot, but she had to disguise herself somehow.
Finally, she went over to her dead husband and kissed him on the top of his head.
“Thanks for all the years. Cross your fingers for me.”
She patted him on the cheek and then vanished outside to the bicycle, before pedaling away.
At the very moment Agneta Broman disappeared round the bend of Grönviksvägen on her old bicycle, Malin Broman-Dahl’s black BMW M550d xDrive Touring came rolling along Nockebyvägen before turning on to Grönviksvägen, with just a few hundred meters to go until it reached the parental home at number 63.
Excerpted from the book GEIGER by Gustaf Skördeman translated by Ian Giles. Copyright © Gustaf Skördeman and Bokförlaget Polaris 2020 in agreement with Politiken Literary Agency. Translation copyright © 2021 by Ian Giles. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.