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••• The International Writers Magazine - 23 Years on-line -
From Our Archives
Nordic Noir by Portsmouth's favourite author

Over the hill
Quentin Bates

The ‘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.
"It’s 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.

"Pansies," 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 story?"
"Don’t know," he replied miserably. "I’ll have to see what angle the news editor wants to take."
"You’re just here to get out of the office for a day and you’ll write what Jóhann says?" she said through a corner of her mouth, lighting a Camel and dropping the match out of the window.
"No, it’s not like that."
"You don’t mind if I smoke, do you? Good. It’s all right. I know Jóhann Grímsson. He’s 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 any ideas?"
"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 you’ll have a mix of good, bad and mostly average. Doesn’t matter if they’re locals, Martians, or like these, a mixed bag of Poles, Ukrainians, Thais, Philippinos and whatnot. Now what’s 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.
"Don’t 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. That’s a given. It’s going to happen and we don’t worry too much as long as it stays discreet and doesn’t involve the locals. And if you write down a word of this or mention it in your paper, I’ll make damn sure you’re 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. He’d stopped wondering why the forensic team and the detectives had all decided to squeeze into the van for the hour’s 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, you’ll 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 Kristján’s shieling and woke up dead."
"How long had he been there?"
"Hard to tell, a couple of nights, I’d say."
"Anything suspicious?"
"Quite the investigative journalist now, aren’t you? I don’t reckon so. Looks like the foxes had go at him. Like I said, hard to tell."

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 van’s rear wheel. Jón watched in fascination as the unseen driver deliberately brought his truck in close and gently rammed the van.
"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.
"Aren’t you going to stop and help them?" Jón asked in panic.
"And let that bastard get away? Hell, no. That was no accident. Hold tight."

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. You’re 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. Gunna’s brow furrowed as the SUV’s 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.
"Where’s he going?" Jón asked.
"Road crew’s 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 driver’s window was wound down and a fist emerged, with its middle finger extended skywards.

© Quentin Bates November 2006

Quentin Bates
The only time for a raid was a Sunday morning

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