She cried in her sleep, and couldn’t remember any reason when Kimmo Joentaa woke her and asked if everything was all right.
“I have to sleep now,” she said.
“You must have been dreaming something.”
“Kimmo, I can’t remember what. Let me sleep, okay?”
“If you promise me not to cry.”
“Sometimes you really get on my nerves.”
“What’s he like, then–August?”
She did not reply, but sat up a little way.
He felt a pang in his stomach, in his chest.
A burning behind his eyes.
“Kimmo, go to sleep now.”
“Just go to sleep.”
“Good night, Kimmo,” she said, turning over on her side.
Some time passed. A sentence crystallized in his mind. He weighed it up on his tongue for a while before bringing it out.
“I need something from you,” he said at last.
There was no answer, and he didn’t know whether she had heard him.
“I need your name,” he said.
But perhaps his words were only sounds or colours in the dream that she was dreaming, the dream that she would have forgotten as soon as she woke up.
14 September 2010
That’s what people say, don’t they? Yes. I think so.
Write it all down just as you saw it at the time. So that you can remember it. Later.
The hospital is sparsely furnished. The walls are green, white and blue. I walk through large halls with a sense of being alone.
Glances fall on me but do not linger. They glide away again. There are people wearing coats the colours of the walls. They are in a hurry, concentrating. Focused on something that is nothing to do with me. They don’t see me. They walk fast and disappear behind doors, and muted voices come through the walls, sometimes a groan, a scream, or a fit of weeping.
I feel like a shadow. Even when I am sitting with her. In an empty room that I found without actually looking for it. The wall around us is green. A nail in it with a wooden crucifix hanging from the nail. A plastic plant on a side table. The bed and the covers are white. Medical equipment. Tubes, electronic apparatus. The technology looks curiously old. Much used, wearing out. The recurrent, soft humming note dies away in the silence, the way the notes of the piano died away back then after she had struck the keys.
The recurrent, soft humming note saying that she is alive.
It all happens so fast, that’s why you have to write it down. To keep a record. So that you can remember it some time.
All so fast, so fast, I must come back to it later.
What is keeping her alive flows into her hand, into her arm, and is easily removed, as if it were only a plaster on a cut.
I leave the room, go along the right-angled corridors.
The others come towards me. Their shadows fall on the walls. Some of them are sitting on benches, and look up when a voice announces an emergency.
When I step out into the daylight, the autumn feels like summer, the sun is shining as it was then, and for a few seconds I feel that only seconds have passed since.
When Joentaa woke in the morning, Larissa was up already. He had the stale flavour of the sparkling wine on his tongue. The dizziness and headache weren’t too bad, but he knew that they had arrived in the hours while he was asleep, and would stay with him for a while.
He got up and went through the living room into the kitchen. The house was quiet and empty. No splashing, rushing water in the shower. He felt an impulse to call her name, but then the word left his mouth like a croak. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Larissa,” he said in a neutral voice, one that she couldn’t have heard even if she had been there.
But she wasn’t there. He went down to the cellar and opened the wooden door to the sauna, which lay in the cool of morning. The narrow window was open. They’d forgotten to close it. He stood in the small, square room and looked at the aftermath of the previous day. The stones were cold, the water to pour on them was a calm, smooth surface in the old gray bucket, and he thought he saw imprints on the bottom step of the wooden bench, imprints left by their bodies and perhaps their bodily fluids, souvenirs of the heated hour they had spent here. Before they went off to Nurmela’s house and his unusual birthday party.
What’s he like, then–August?
And what would that heated, passionate hour in the sauna cost him?
He went up again. Sat down at the kitchen table and thought: It was Saturday, and she didn’t really work on Saturdays. Maybe she’d gone for a walk. Or a swim. The telephone rang. He stopped and waited until the answerphone came on. He knew it wasn’t Larissa. Larissa never phoned. It was Sundström asking him to call back.
He went into the living room and over to the window in the front wall. His eyes searched the water of the lake. It was a calm, smooth surface, like the water down in the sauna in the dented tin bucket that Sanna had bought, when she was still alive and everything was all right.
He sat on the sofa, never taking his eyes off the lake, and thought that Sanna was dead and Larissa had disappeared. And that there was nothing else to think about.
She’d come back. In the evening. Or tomorrow. In a few days’ or weeks’ time.
He’d go and water Sanna’s grave.
He went into the kitchen, poured water into a glass, and raised it to his mouth. Pasi Laaksonen from the house next door came past. With his fishing rod. He waved, and Joentaa raised an arm to return the wave. As usual. As he had on the day when Sanna died, and so many other days afterwards.
When Pasi Laaksonen went fishing late in the morning at weekends, Joentaa was usually standing at the kitchen window. He watched Pasi disappear down in the hollow leading to the lake, and wondered whether it was really just chance, a recurrent coincidence, or something entirely different.
Pasi with his fishing rod, walking by, waving. A few hours after Sanna’s death. Perhaps he stood at the kitchen window so that he could experience the scene again and again. Because watching Pasi walk down to the water always brought back the moment when Sanna had died–and the moment when she had still been alive.
The longer he thought about it, the more conclusive that idea appeared to him, and he wondered why it occurred to him only now, years later.
He was still thinking about it when the phone rang again. He moved away from the window and went to answer it, walking with swift, springy steps, although he knew it wouldn’t be Larissa.
It was Petri Grönholm. He spoke clearly, if a little slowly. Joentaa thought of the moment, not so long ago, when Petri Grönholm had thrown up on Nurmela’s carpet, and the moment long before that when Sanna had stopped breathing, and then he thought of the fact that Larissa had gone without saying goodbye. Larissa or whatever her name was, and he had difficult concentrating on what Grönholm was saying at the other end of the line.
“Did you get all that?”
“Not entirely. At the hospital, you said…”
“Yes, Paavo Sundström is on his way, and Kari Niemi is already there with the forensics team. The woman was very sick anyway.”
Anyway, thought Joentaa.
“Which is kind of odd…when she’d probably have died of her own accord.”
“Ah,” said Joentaa.
“Never mind that. Anyway, Paavo said we were to park in the car park outside the main building, and then there’s signposting to Intensive Care.”
Joentaa nodded. He knew the Intensive Care ward at Turku hospital.
“So…can you pick me up? In case of any residual alcohol in my bloodstream. I was pretty well pickled last night, so I don’t want to…” said Grönholm.
“Yes…of course I can.”
“See you soon, then,” said Grönholm, ringing off.
Joentaa stood there for a while with the phone in his hand.
As he was putting on his coat, he finally remembered Nurmela’s first name. Petri, just like Grönholm. He wasn’t entirely sure, but yes, he did think he saw the name in his mind’s eye. Petri Nurmela, chief of police.
Cover name August.
Wasting electricity, he thought, and he switched on all the lights in the house before leaving.
29 June 1985
Lauri says I ought to write it all down. He says I’ll want to remember it some time. Because another thing you have to think about is that everything happens so quickly, and after a while it’s all past and forgotten, and then you’d like to remember it. Lauri says. I think Lauri is a bit of a nutcase, with his books and his clever sayings and the way he acts in general, but he’s smart as well, you have to give him that, and besides, he’s a real friend, I know he is, so I’m going to write it all down.
I want to, as well. Which is funny, because there’s nothing I hate more than writing essays and dictations and all that stupid stuff. But I think Lauri’s idea is a good one, even if just now I was nearly killing myself laughing at him, when he was trying to tell me that Matti Nykänen is bound to fall flat on his face some time, because there has to be more to life more than flying through the air on two boards.
That’s only logical, he says.
I asked him why he wanted to start on about Matti Nykänen when it’s thirty degrees and we’re dangling our feet in the water, and the sun is blazing down like it hasn’t for a long time.
“You’re right,” said Lauri. He often says that, although really he’s usually the one who is right.
Sometimes I wonder why Lauri hangs out with me at all, because he’s best at all school subjects and I’m worst at most of them, and by way of saying thanks I picked him first of all for my football team yesterday. I saw the jaws of all the others drop, and Lauri thought he’d heard wrong and didn’t like to come over to me. I had to call his name out loud again, and then he came over slowly and gave me kind of an inquiring look. Then he played really well in defense, threw himself at the ball good and hard.
I guess Lauri also sometimes wonders why I hang out with him, and because we both ask ourselves the same question that makes the two of us a pretty good couple. And this is a lovely summer so far. Lauri said it’s a summer that never ought to end, it’s so good.
We let our feet dangle in the water, I’m quite brown from the sun, Lauri’s wearing a T-shirt and has sun cream on his arms, because he’s terrified of sunburn.
And he says I’ll want to remember it some time, that’s why I ought to write it all down. Not that I’ve told him anything at all yet. I only said I will, about the piano lesson. That’s all. He gives me a funny look and says that I ought to write everything down, all that I remember, because I’ll always want to remember that, about the piano lesson and of course about her too.
And also, he says, I must watch out, because there’s no point falling in love with the wrong women.
Lauri of all people says that, Lauri Lemberg who’s never kissed a girl because his smooching was useless when fat Satu Koivinen wanted to get up close and personal with him at the Midsummer party.
It’s a funny idea when you imagine it. Someone’s smooching turning out useless. We’ll see if I do want to remember it some time, but anyway I’ve written it down now. Dear Diary. That’s the way you put it, right? Dear Diary. Hi, dear Diary. I’ll have to ask Lauri tomorrow if you really do put it that way.
Turku hospital. A large, white building with countless windows. Kimmo Joentaa had tried counting them once, on a sunny day before Sanna’s death.
He had really meant to go home to look through his post and sleep for a few hours. But then he sat in the car instead, staring at the big, solid building, trying to pinpoint the window behind which Sanna was lying. And sleeping. Or dying.
Then he had begun to count, gave up at a hundred and seventy-four, got out of the car and went back along all the corridors to Sanna’s room. That was quick, she had said, wearily and in a husky voice, and he had sat down beside her bed and tried to smile.
The car park still looked the same. Sun too warm for autumn, as it had been then. Grönholm, beside him, got out of the car. Joentaa followed and overtook him. He suddenly felt that he had to get all this over with quickly. He walked purposefully; he knew the way. Right-angled walls, arrows to wherever you were going. There was a uniformed woman officer outside the broad swing doors with the words “Intensive Care” above them. Joentaa took his ID out of his coat pocket and returned her nod before going on. Behind him he heard Petri Grönholm’s dragging footsteps.
Inside, white-clad forensics officers and a curious silence. Nurses both male and female were leaning against the walls, behind a glazed partition. Sundström was standing at the end of the corridor, deep in conversation with a man whom Joentaa knew.
Rintanen. The medical director of the hospital, who had looked after Sanna during the last days of her life. The doctor who made it possible for him to be with her day and night, although the hospital regulations didn’t really allow for that. One of the nurses had told him at the time that it wasn’t usual, and he would only make himself ill if he didn’t sleep and eat. Joentaa had nodded, and said nothing, and wondered why someone who didn’t understand anything about death was working in a hospital.
He went over to Sundström and to Rintanen, who stood very upright yet also looked relaxed, with his head slightly bent. He used to stand like that before. Joentaa passed the room where Sanna had been lying; he remembered the number, the snow-white color, the door was closed. His legs began to tremble, and he went a little further before uttering a greeting that came out of his mouth as a croak.
“Kimmo, my old mate,” said Sundström, imperturbably humorous. “And Mr. Grönholm. Good work.”
Joentaa nodded to Sundström and offered Rintanen his hand. “Hello. We’ve…we’ve met already.”
Rintanen looked at him for a few seconds, and then memory kicked in. “Oh yes…that’s to say…yes, your wife, a few years ago.”
“I’m glad to see you,” said Joentaa, on impulse.
“How are you?” asked Rintanen.
Joentaa nodded. Sundström cleared his throat.
“I’m all right,” said Joentaa.
Kari Niemi, head of Forensics, passed them, his eyes fixed on something wrapped in transparent film. Niemi, who had given him a hug in the days after Sanna’s death. He wondered if he was just imagining it, whether it was a product of his imagination, inspired by these surroundings, or if he really did still feel Niemi’s hug.
Sundström, Rintanen and Grönholm were discussing the question of how to keep the normal business of the hospital going while a murder investigation was conducted at the same time.
Joentaa moved away from them and went over to the room where most of the scene-of-crime officers were working. One of them gave him gloves and an overall. A large room with only one bed in it. Because people on their way towards death had the privilege of privacy.
He went into the room, trying to control the unsteadiness of his legs. The woman was lying on her back on the bed. Salomon Hietalahti, the forensic pathologist, was sitting at the window on a visitor’s chair, making notes.
“The murder of a dead woman,” said Sundström behind him.
Joentaa turned round.
“She was in a coma, from time to time a waking coma. Persistent vegetative state, or apallic syndrome as our medical friend Rintanen out there calls it. In his opinion she had no prospect of recovery.”
No prospect of recovery, he thought.
“But here’s the best of it: We don’t know who she is. We don’t even know her name.”
“How on earth…?” said Grönholm.
Don’t even know her name, thought Joentaa.
“Because the poor soul was found lying at the side of the road with traumatic brain injury. And without any personal details on her.”
“I think I remember that case. It was in the papers for quite a while, wasn’t it?”
On the occasional table next to the telephone. Was he imagining it? He must go home, he must check.
“No idea,” said Sundström.
“Yes, it was. The unknown woman, unconscious and without any memory. Didn’t you read about her?”
He must check up on it. He must go home. Grönholm and Sundström were talking about the woman lying a few feet away on a bed like the one where Sanna had lain. In a room that looked like the room where she had died.
“Though if she was unconscious, how would she have any memory anyway?” said Grönholm, and Joentaa wondered whether it was the residual alcohol still in his bloodstream that made him sound so stupid. He thought of Sanna. And of what was on the occasional table next to the telephone. His glance had fallen on it…but he wasn’t sure. He must leave, he must go home.
“The giraffe,” he said.
“What?” asked Sundström.
“I must leave,” said Joentaa.
“Back very soon. I forgot something.”
“Kimmo? Hey, hang on a minute!”
Sundström’s voice in the distance. He walked along the corridors fast, the way he had walked along them on the night when Sanna’s pulse stopped beating.
“Kimmo, for God’s sake!” cried Sundström, and he was out in the open air, running to the car, driving away.
He thought that he didn’t even know her name.
And that he mustn’t lose her.
The light was on. It was difficult to spot that, because the sun was shining almost as brightly as the electric lights inside the house, but Joentaa saw that it was on.
The light was still on. Larissa wasn’t there.
Of course not. For a moment he wondered if she ever had been there.
As he opened the door and went into the hall, he thought of the occasional table with the telephone on it. Then he was standing
in front of it, looking at the key.
The second key to the house. Larissa had left it behind. For the first time. Whenever she went away for an unspecified time, she’d always taken her key with her, so that some time, when she did come back days or weeks later, she could unlock the door, put the light out, and sit in the living room in the dark.
The key hung from an ungainly wooden giraffe that had amused her enormously when they came upon it recently, as they strolled around a flea-market down by the harbour in Naantali. She had gone back there that same day. To buy the giraffe pendant. And now to leave an ungainly giraffe behind for him, along with the key and her false name.
His mobile hummed, its usual ringtone. He didn’t reply. The landline telephone rang. Sundström, speaking in urgent tones, was leaving a message. Joentaa heard the voice but didn’t take in what it was saying. He must find Larissa. Not just look for her, find her. Now, at once. He must be with her now, put his arms round her, hold her close and ask the questions that he’d forgotten to ask. And the other questions that she had left hanging in the air as she smiled, or said nothing, or vaguely shook her head.
He must ask questions, get answers.
He took his mobile out of his jacket pocket and called her number. The number where he could never reach her. The familiar anonymous voice spoke. The person he had called was not available. A new text. Nothing in his mailbox. His hands were beginning to shake. He went into the kitchen, poured a glass of water and sipped it.
Then he hurried downstairs to the room that had been Sanna’s studio in another life. Before she fell ill, and stopped working for the firm of architects that had sent one of the most expensive wreaths on the day of her funeral. With a card signed by all the staff members.
He sat down at the desk and started his laptop. Selected and opened his email. Two new messages. He had won a lottery without playing it. The second message was from his colleague Tuomas Heinonen. He felt a pang. He must visit Tuomas in the hospital where he had checked himself in a few weeks ago, when his gambling addiction came back. Heinonen had been off work for months. He hadn’t gone for treatment until he had gambled away the proceeds from the three-room apartment that he had inherited and sold, without telling his wife Paulina anything about it. Joentaa decided that he would call Paulina, and then he would go to the hospital with her and her two little twin daughters and visit Tuomas, and then everything would be cleared up and all right again. He’d do that soon.
No message from Larissa.
He typed in her address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you’re well. I am rather worried. The key is still here. Did you forget it? I’ll leave it in the grass under the apple tree, and then you can get in any time, even if I’m out.
He looked at the message, and wondered why he hadn’t asked those important questions. Why he hadn’t insisted on the answers?
He sent the message, and waited a few minutes for any feeling that someone was beginning to read it at the other end.
Then he went upstairs, found a piece of paper and a pen, and wondered what he was going to write. His eyes lingered on the photograph of Sanna standing on the shelf beside Larissa’s stack of books. He had once talked to Larissa about Sanna. And about that photo. They had been lying on the sofa, and as a city exploded on the TV screen Larissa had got up to go over to the photograph.
A photo of Sanna on cross-country skis, leaning back and laughing her clear laughter, taken when she was still healthy, in the winter before her death.
Larissa had looked intently at the photograph, as if she were seeing it for the first time, and then she had said, “Sanna was terrific.”
On the screen, the hero of the film had fallen into the sea from a great height without dying, and Joentaa had talked about Sanna. Probably for quite a long time, because when his voice died away the film was over, and Larissa had been sitting there very upright, clumsily stroking his leg, and their eyes met.
“I didn’t want you to…” he had begun to say, and she had laughed, but she was still crying, and she had said, “Oh, Kimmo, I cry every day.”
He drove back to the hospital. As the car went down the street he tried to count the years, months and days that had passed since Sanna’s death.
He got muddled up, and thought that it would be better to count the hours, or the minutes. The seconds. The moments that had passed by since that one moment that wouldn’t pass by.
He had left the giraffe under the apple tree.
He sat in the car when he reached the car park, stopped counting minutes and began counting the windows again. That was certainly simpler. The police car had been left in a No Parking area. The forensic team’s minibus was parked in the sun.
He got out of his car and retraced his earlier footsteps. Faded arrows in assorted colours pointed different ways. Blue arrows for Intensive Care, green for the nearby Surgical Ward. Yellow for Maternity. White for the cafeteria.
He followed the right angles and the blue arrows.
The room where Sanna had lain.
Kari Niemi, smiling as if everything were all right, showed him an item wrapped in transparent film and said something that Joentaa couldn’t make out, because waves swallowed up the words before they reached him.
Sundström, red in the face, came towards him, and Joentaa thought of the giraffe under the tree.
“For God’s sake, Kimmo!”
“I’m back,” said Joentaa.
“What got into you?”
Joentaa passed him and stopped in the doorway. The woman was still lying on the bed at one side of the room, like an empty shell, surrounded by apparatus that now looked unimportant.
“The unknown factor,” murmured Sundström beside him.
“Yes,” said Joentaa.
“We’re using the cafeteria for interrogations,” said Sundström, turning away.
“Come on, damn it!” cried Sundström.
They followed the white arrows. The cafeteria too looked the same as ever. Large, bright pictures on the walls. Joentaa remembered them only when he saw them again. A view through the big window of the garden, the fountain, the benches grouped around it. Rice cookies with egg butter under transparent plastic on the counter. He thought of Sanna carefully spreading egg butter on a roll a few days before her death, and saying that she felt better.
Members of the hospital staff were sitting at the tables in their medical coats, waiting to make statements. The discreet background noise of whispering.
Petri Grönholm was sitting at one of the tables bent over a laptop, and nodding to a young man who kept shaking his head apologetically.
“It looks as if no one noticed anything,” said Sundström, and Joentaa listened in vain for the familiar sarcasm in his voice. “We have a dead woman no one knows, and a murderer no one saw.”
Joentaa nodded, and Sundström made his way to an empty table at the side of the big room. They sat down, and Sundström took some notes out of his shabby briefcase and put them down on the table like a newsreader about to begin his bulletin.
“Well then…to get into the ward you really have to enter a number code, but it seems that the door wasn’t locked. No one knows why not.”
“I know,” said Joentaa.
“What?” asked Sundström.
“I mean I know about the number code,” said Joentaa. He even knew what it was, unless the code had been changed since then, because Rintanen had given it to him at the time so that he could come into the ward and leave it again when he liked. He had learnt it by heart, and he still remembered it.
“I was talking to Rintanen the medical director …”
“Yes,” said Joentaa.
He had wanted to thank Rintanen, for everything. He’d catch up with that later.
“By the way, Kimmo, I heard that this is where your wife died…”
“Yes, it’s a long time ago,” said Joentaa, wondering why he was talking such nonsense.
“Oh,” said Sundström.
“Quite a while ago,” said Joentaa.
Sundström scrutinized him for a few seconds. “Rintanen says our woman sometimes had to be given artificial respiration. The murderer obviously cut off her oxygen supply. Simply switched the artificial respiration off.”
“She was found beside the road in mid-August with severe traumatic brain injury, which was then diagnosed as…wait a moment…apallic syndrome.”
“In other words unconscious, in a coma. Then in a waking coma, a vegetative state. I didn’t grasp what all that means in detail, but anyway, she wasn’t really conscious at any point, she didn’t know what was going on, and since being brought in here in mid-August she’s been kept alive only with the help of medical technology.”
Kept alive, thought Joentaa.
“The cause isn’t entirely clear,” said Sundström. “The woman was very badly injured. Maybe a hit-and-run driver knocked her down, or more likely someone not in a car hit her, struck her down and left her at the roadside. Rintanen also thinks it’s possible that she suffered a stroke or a heart attack.”
“Inquiries by our colleagues about hit-and-run accidents haven’t come up with any results. The woman was just found lying there.”
“Just found lying there,” said Joentaa.
“Yes. Fully clothed, and that’s the point. No papers, no money, no one who knew her has reported her missing, although her photo was in the papers for several days.”
Several days, thought Joentaa.
A woman without a name.
“Maybe her name’s Larissa,” he said without thinking.
Joentaa saw Sundström’s baffled face, and couldn’t help laughing. A brief, slightly hoarse laugh. “Forget it,” he said.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Ah,” said Sundström.
Two women without names. A giraffe. August.
Sundström was looking at the printed sheets of paper.
“What are you reading?” asked Joentaa.
“Various stuff,” murmured Sundström, without raising his head. “I don’t understand why no one knows the woman. Obviously the only people who called in when the photo was in the papers were nutcases.”
Maybe I should write everything down, thought Joentaa.
“Then we’ll publish the photo again, how about that?”
Everything he didn’t know.
14 September 2010
But when there’s no more to write down, then what?
There are some people you lose forever.
There are some people who are easy to find.
Kalevi Forsman, for instance. Software solutions adviser. Or something like that. The company’s Internet site is attractive and user-friendly. Forsman is niftily dressed, black suit, white shirt. Black and white. Features curiously soft, as if more work had been done on them after they were fully formed.
Not a trace in his eyes of what I remember there–the sudden greed, the way he froze rigid at the end.