A six-year-old girl is found in the countryside, hanging lifeless from a tree and dressed in strange doll's clothes. Around her neck is a sign that says "I'm traveling alone."
A special homicide unit re-opens with veteran police investigator Holger Munch at the helm. Holger's first step is to persuade the brilliant but haunted investigator Mia Kruger, who has been living on an isolated island, overcome by memories of her past. When Mia views a photograph of the crime scene and spots the number "1" carved into the dead girl's fingernail, she knows this is only the beginning. Could this killer have something to do with a missing child, abducted six years ago and never found, or with the reclusive religious community hidden in the nearby woods?
Mia returns to duty to track down a revenge-driven and ruthlessly intelligent killer. But when Munch's own six-year-old granddaughter goes missing, Mia realizes that the killer's sinister game is personal, and I'm Traveling Alone races to an explosiveand shockingconclusion.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2016 Samuel Bjork
Mia Krüger sat on the rock watching the sun set over Hitra for the last time.
April 17. One day to go. Tomorrow she would rejoin Sigrid.
She felt tired. Not tired in the sense that she needed sleep but tired of everything. Of life. Of humanity. Of everything that had happened. She had found a k ind of peace before Holger showed her the photographs in the folder, but once he left, it had crept over her again. This vile feeling.
She took a swig from the bottle she’d brought with her and pulled the knitted cap further over her ears. It had grown colder now; spring had not come early after all. It had only tricked everyone into thinking it was com- ing. Mia was pleased that she had the bottle to warm her up. This wasn’t how she’d imagined her last day. She had actually planned to cram as much as she could into her final twenty-four hours of life. The birds, the trees, the sea, the light. Have a d ay off from self-medicating so that she could feel things, be aware of herself, one last time. It had not worked out that way. After Holger left her, her desire for sensory deprivation had only increased. She had drunk more. Taken more pills. Woken up without real- izing that she’d been asleep. Fallen asleep without realizing she’d been awake. She had promised herself not to care too much about the contents of the file. Stupid, obviously. When had she ever been able to distance her- self from anything in these cases? Her job. Well, it might be a job for other people, but not for Mia Krüger. Each case affected her far too deeply. They all reached right inside her soul, as if it were her own story, as if she were the victim. Kidnapped, raped, beaten with iron bars, burned with ciga- rettes, killed with a drug overdose, only six years old, hanged from a tree with a jump rope.
Why wasn’t Pauline Olsen’s name on the schoolbooks?
When everything else had been planned down to the last detail. Fuck it.
She’d tried blanking out the image of the little girl hanging from the tree, but she could not get it out of her head. Everything seemed so staged. So theatrical. Almost like a game. A k ind of message. But for whom? For whoever found the child? The police? Mia had trawled through her memo- ries to discover if the name Toni had cropped up in any case she’d been in- volved with but had found nothing. This was exactly the kind of thing she used to be so brilliant at, but she no longer seemed to be able to function. And yet there was something here, something she could not quite put her finger on, and it irritated her. Mia watched the sun sink into the sea and tried to concentrate. A message? For the police? An old case? A cold case? There were only a few unsolved cases in her career history, thank God. Even so, one or two still troubled her. A rich elderly lady had been found dead in her apartment, but they had been unable to prove that it was murder even though Mia personally was fairly sure that one of the daughters was re- sponsible for the old lady’s death. She could not remember the name Toni in connection with that investigation. They had helped Ringerike Police in a missing-persons inquiry some years back. A b aby had disappeared from the maternity ward, and a Swedish man had claimed responsibility and killed himself, but the baby had never been found. The case was shelved, even though Mia had fought to keep it active. No Toni in that investigation either, not as far as she could remember. Pauline. Six years. Hang on, wasn’t it six years since that baby had disappeared? Mia drained the bottle and let her eyes rest on the horizon while she tried to guide her gaze inward. Back- ward. Six years back. There was something here. She could almost taste it. But it refused to rise to the surface.
Mia rummaged around her pants pockets for more pills but found none. She had forgotten to bring more. Her medication was laid out on the dining table now. Everything she had left. Plenty of it. Ready for use. She had imag- ined waiting until dawn, until the light came. Better to travel in the light, had been her thinking. If I t ravel in darkness, perhaps I’ll end up in dark- ness, but right now she did not care. All she had to do was wait until the clock passed midnight. When April 17 became 18.
Come to me, Mia, come.
It was not the ending she had imagined. She got up and hurled the empty bottle angrily into the sea. She regretted it immediately—she shouldn’t litter; this rule had stayed with her since her childhood. The lovely garden. Her parents. Her grandmother. Instead she should have written a message and put it in the bottle. Done something beautiful in her last few hours on earth.
Helped someone in need. Solved a case. She wanted to go back to the house, but she could not get her legs to move. She stayed where she was, hugging herself, freezing, on the rocks.
Toni J. W. Smith. Toni J. W. Smith. Toni J. W. Smith. Toni J. W. Smith. Pau- line. No, not Pauline. Toni J. W. Smith.
Mia Krüger suddenly woke up. As did her head, her legs, her arms, her blood, her breathing, her senses.
Toni J. W. Smith.
Of course. Of course. Of course. Oh, dear Lord, why had she not seen this earlier? It was so obvious. As clear as day. Mia ran toward the house, tripped in the darkness but got back on her feet, stormed into the living room without closing the door behind her. She continued into the kitchen. She knelt down by the cupboard below the utility sink and started going through the trash can. This was where she had tossed it, wasn’t it? The cell phone he had left or her.
In case you change your mind.
She found the phone in the garbage and rummaged around for the scrap of paper that had accompanied it. A yellow Post-it note with a PIN code and Holger’s number. She went back to the living room, could hardly wait now, turned on the phone. Entered the code on the small screen with trembling fingers. Of course. Of course. No wonder it didn’t add up. Everything had to add up. And it did. Toni J. W. Smith. Of course. She was an idiot.
Mia rang Holger’s number and waited impatiently for him to pick up. The call went to voice mail, but she tried the number again. And again. And again, until she finally heard Holger’s sleepy voice on the other end.
“Mia?” Holger yawned.
“I got it,” Mia said breathlessly.
“What have you got? What time is it?” “Who cares what time it is? I’ve got it.” “What?”
“Toni J. W. Smith.” “Seriously? What is it?”
“I think that J.W. is short for Joachim Wicklund. The Swedish suspect
from the Hønefoss case. Do you remember him?” “Of course I do,” Munch mumbled.
“As for Toni Smith,” Roma continued, “I think it’s an anagram: It’s not him. Joachim Wicklund didn’t do it. It’s the same perpetrator, Holger. As in the Hønefoss case.”
Munch was silent for a long time. Mia could practically hear the cogs turn in his brain. It was almost too far out to be true, but even so. It had to be an anagram.
“Don’t you think?” Mia said.
“But that’s insane,” Munch said at length. “Worst thing is, I think you might be right. So are you coming?”
“Yes,” Mia replied. “But this case only. Then I quit. I have other things
“Of course. It’s up to you,” Munch said. “Are we back in Mariboesgate?”
“I’ll catch the plane tomorrow.” “Great. See you there.”
“Drive carefully, will you?” “I’m always careful, Holger.” “You’re never careful, Mia.” “Screw you, Holger.”
“I love you, too, Mia. Good to have you back. See you tomorrow.”
Mia ended the call and stood for a moment smiling cautiously to her- self. Now feeling calm, she walked into the living room and looked at all the pills she had lined up on the dining table.
Come to me, Mia, come.
In her mind she apologized to her twin sister. Sigrid would have to wait a little longer. Mia Krüger had a job to do first.