International Writers Magazine: Ice Detectives
thank you for driving carefully through our town sign
disappeared in a cloud of dust kicked up from the dry road as
the inspector put her foot down.
"Its not as if we have to worry about speeding,"
she grinned. As the road climbed, the team from Reykjavík
in the van in front slowed as the mist drifted across the road
and the inspector drummed meaty fingers on the steering wheel.
she muttered, but thought better of telling them so over the radio and
dropped the handset back on its rest.
"So. What did you make of it?" she asked the young man in
the passenger seat. "Interesting? Is this another small-town-police-incompetence
"Dont know," he replied miserably. "Ill have
to see what angle the news editor wants to take."
"Youre just here to get out of the office for a day and youll
write what Jóhann says?" she said through a corner of her
mouth, lighting a Camel and dropping the match out of the window.
"No, its not like that."
"You dont mind if I smoke, do you? Good. Its all right.
I know Jóhann Grímsson. Hes a sly bastard."
They drove in silence as the mist thickened and the inspector flicked
on fog lights.
"Gunnhildur..?" Jón ventured.
"Gunna. Everyone calls me Gunna."
"Sorry. I was just going to ask, what do you think? Do you have
"About the guy? Plenty."
She peered ahead into the occasional banks of rolling fog that swept
off lava fields above and below the road, braking gently as the van
in front slowed still further.
"Look, you take any group of people at random, right? In there
youll have a mix of good, bad and mostly average. Doesnt
matter if theyre locals, Martians, or like these, a mixed bag
of Poles, Ukrainians, Thais, Philippinos and whatnot. Now whats
this twat behind us up to?"
The inspector put out a hand to adjust the mirror and Jón leaned
forward in his seat for a view of the wing mirror that showed a black
SUV with a darkened windscreen close behind.
"Anyone you know?" Jón asked.
The inspector dropped the butt of her Camel out of the window.
"Dont think so. Must be a real dickhead to tail a police
car that close. Here, write down his number just in case I need to get
traffic to chase this idiot up."
Jón scribbled in his notebook as Gunna read out the number from
what she could see in the mirror.
"Golf, Kilo, one, eight zero. Hmm. Private number," she muttered.
"Anyway, as I was saying, you take a random bunch, you wind up
with a pretty much fixed percentage of shitbags you can be sure are
running scams of some kind. Thats a given. Its going to
happen and we dont worry too much as long as it stays discreet
and doesnt involve the locals. And if you write down a word of
this or mention it in your paper, Ill make damn sure youre
charged with indecent exposure next time you go out for a drink."
"Understood. Not a word," Jón replied quickly. Being
a passenger driven by the only female inspector in the regional force
was making him increasingly nervous. Hed stopped wondering why
the forensic team and the detectives had all decided to squeeze into
the van for the hours drive over the highlands to Reykjavík.
"So what about the guy they found? Any idea who he is?"
"Are you asking me officially or off the record?"
"Up to you. Both."
Gunna sighed and ran fingers through her short hair, flecked with iron
where it had begun to grey.
"Officially, youll have to ask the press guy or someone higher
up. We regional coppers only get to comment on traffic accidents or
lost sheep. Between us, caucasian male, 30, maybe. Not a local. Could
be a bum from Reykjavík, or he could be a stray Russian for all
we know. Cause of death unknown, but my guess is exposure. Poor guy
probably had a drink too many, lost his way, went to sleep behind Kristjáns
shieling and woke up dead."
"How long had he been there?"
"Hard to tell, a couple of nights, Id say."
"Quite the investigative journalist now, arent you? I dont
reckon so. Looks like the foxes had go at him. Like I said, hard to
The road banked gently around at its highest point and a break in the
mist where the wind was strongest allowed them a brief view out over
the lowlands to the sea in the distance.
"What the hell is this idiot up to?" Gunna fretted, reaching
for the switch to flash the blue lights on top.
The black SUV behind them had swerved out into the opposite side of
the road and was alongside them. Jón looked up at the blacked
out windows to see only sky reflected in them.
Gunna lifted the radio handset to her lips and was about to speak when
the black truck surged forward with a sudden burst of power towards
the van, slowing slightly to a position with its fender level by the
vans rear wheel. Jón watched in fascination as the unseen
driver deliberately brought his truck in close and gently rammed the
"Dammit. What the hell is that idiot behind you doing?" Gunna
snarled into the radio, dropping the wheel for a moment to flick the
siren on. Jón heard it wail as the van, rammed where pressure
could only spin it round, teetered on the verge as its wheels fought
to find a purchase, before toppling sideways. In slow motion it bounced
onto one side in a flurry of gravel. The radio fizzed briefly and cut
out as the van rolled onto its roof, onto the other side and then ended
far below the road against a lava outcrop.
The bastard," Gunna snarled, as the engine screamed and the
heavy police car bounced deeply in a dip in the road.
"Arent you going to stop and help them?" Jón
asked in panic.
"And let that bastard get away? Hell, no. That was no accident.
The SUV was already well ahead and Gunna forced the police car to a
speed that Jón knew was far from safe. "212 off the road
on Dals Heath. Youre going to need ambulances," Gunna said
clearly into the radio. "Unknown vehicle left the scene. Golf,
kilo, one, eight, zero. Following. Send someone up the heath road to
head the bastard off. Over."
"Will do. 228 on his way," the radio crackled. "Over."
They gained gradually on the SUV until only thirty of the hundred kilometres
to Reykjavík were left. Gunnas brow furrowed as the SUVs
brake lights blazed and it slowed almost to a halt, turning off the
road and down a track leading to a group of sheds out in the lava field.
"Wheres he going?" Jón asked.
"Road crews sheds. They keep earth movers there in the summer.
Now keep your eyes open and keep quiet."
The SUV tilted as it rolled along the uneven track and the police car
grounded disturbingly. Surrounded by jagged black rocks on each side,
they could only follow helplessly past the straggle of sheds and lockups
and down an even narrower track that continued past them.
"Shit," Gunna grunted, braking as the car grounded hard at
the top of a rise.
"Damn. Look at the bastard."
The track sloped steeply downward. At the bottom of it the SUV was nosing
across a stream in full spring flood. The drivers window was wound
down and a fist emerged, with its middle finger extended skywards.
© Quentin Bates November 2006
only time for a raid was a Sunday morning
Quentin is a long established journalist and also is studying for his
MA in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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