The Bomberby Liza Marklund
It is December, early in the morning. Swedish Journalist Annika Bengtzon is asleep when the call comes in. Within minutes she is at the site of a nightmare. A bomb has destroyed Stockholm's Olympic arena. Annika has a hunch the blast isn't terrorism. But, if she closes in on that truth, she may well end up on the Bomber's list of victims.See more details below
It is December, early in the morning. Swedish Journalist Annika Bengtzon is asleep when the call comes in. Within minutes she is at the site of a nightmare. A bomb has destroyed Stockholm's Olympic arena. Annika has a hunch the blast isn't terrorism. But, if she closes in on that truth, she may well end up on the Bomber's list of victims.
Read an Excerpt
The woman who was about to die stepped warily out of the doorway and quickly glanced about her. The stairwell behind her lay in darkness; she hadn't switched on the light on her way down. In her pale coat, she was a ghostly apparition in the shadows of the entryway. She hesitated before stepping out onto the pavement, as if suspecting she was being watched. She took a couple of quick breaths, and for a few moments the white mist of her exhalation hovered around her head like a halo. Then she straightened the strap of her shoulder bag and took a firm grip of the handle of her briefcase. With hunched shoulders, she walked toward Götgatan, taking quick, quiet steps. It was bitterly cold; a biting wind cut through her clothes. She sidestepped an icy patch and for a second was balancing on the curb. Then she hurried away from the streetlight and into the darkness. The sounds of the night were muffled: the sighing of a ventilation system, the yelling of some drunken youths, a faraway siren.
The woman's stride was confident and determined. She exuded assurance and expensive perfume. When her cellphone suddenly rang, she was completely taken aback. Freezing in mid-step, she quickly looked behind her. She bent down to lean the briefcase against her leg. While she rummaged in her handbag, her whole being positively oozed annoyance. She fished out her phone and put it to her ear. Despite the darkness and the shadows, her reaction could not be misjudged. Her irritation turned to surprise, then to anger, and finally, fear.
When she finished the call, the woman stood still for a few seconds, phone in hand. She bent her head, seemingly lost in thought. A policecar drove slowly past. The woman looked up at it, watchful, following it with her gaze. She made no attempt to stop it.
Then she appeared to make up her mind. She turned around and started walking back the way she had come, past the dark doorway and up to the crossing at the corner of Katarina Bangata. While waiting for a night bus to drive past, she lifted her head and followed the street with her eyes, past Vintertullstorget and across Sickla Canal. Floating high above it lay the main Olympic arena, Victoria Stadium, where the Summer Olympics would open in seven months' time.
After the bus passed by, the woman crossed Ringvägen and started walking along Katarina Bangata. Her face was expressionless; her hurried steps testified to how cold she felt. She took the footbridge across the canal and entered the Olympic compound via the media village. With sharp and somewhat jerky movements, she hurried toward the stadium. She chose the route along the water's edge, although it was a longer and colder walk: A freezing wind blew in from the sea. But she did not wish to be seen. She repeatedly stumbled in the dense darkness.
When she reached the post office and the pharmacy, she turned up toward the training area and ran the last few hundred yards to the arena. By the time she reached the main entrance, she was out of breath as well as angry. She pulled the door open and stepped into the darkness.
"Tell me what you want, and be quick about it," she said with a cold look at the person who appeared from the shadows.
She saw the raised hammer but had no time to be afraid.
The first blow landed on her left eye.
Just behind the upper fence lay a huge anthill. As a child, I used to study it with utter concentration. I would stand so close that the insects were constantly crawling on my legs. Sometimes I followed a single ant from the grass in front of the house, across the gravel road, along the sandbank, and up to the anthill. There I would steel my gaze so as not to lose sight of the insect, but I always did. Other ants would catch my attention. When they became too numerous, my focus would splinter into so many pieces that I lost patience.
Sometimes I would put a lump of sugar on the hill. The ants loved my gift, and I smiled while they poured over it and pulled it down into the depth of the hill. In the autumn, when days grew colder and the ants slowed down, I would stir the hill with a stick to wake them up again. The grown-ups were angry when they saw what I was doing. They said that I was sabotaging the work of the ants and had ruined their home. To this day, I remember the feeling of injustice. I meant no harm. I just wanted a bit of fun. I wanted to rouse the little creatures.
My game with the ants haunted me in my dreams. My fascination turned into an unspeakable fear of their crawling. In my adult life, I have never been able to bear seeing more than three insects at a time, of whatever kind. As soon as I'm unable to take them all in, panic starts building up. My phobia came into being the moment I discovered the parallel between myself and the little insects.
I was young and still actively searching for answers to my condition, building theories in my mind, trying them out against each other in different problems I would formulate. That life could be arbitrary was not part of my worldview. Something had created me. I was not to be the judge of what that something was: chance, fate, evolution, or possibly God.
That life could be without meaning, however, I considered likely, and this filled me with sorrow and rage. If our time on earth had no purpose, then our lives appeared to be an exercise in irony. Someone put us here to study us as we made war, crawled around, suffered, and struggled. At times this Someone would confer a reward on us at random -- much like putting a lump of sugar on an anthill -- and watch our joy and despair with the same indifference.
My certainty grew with the years. In the end, I realized that it makes no difference whether there is a higher meaning to my life or not. Even if there is, I am not supposed to know of it here and now. If there were answers to be found, I would already know what they were, and since I don't, it makes no difference however much I think about it.
This has given me some measure of peace of mind.
Copyright © 1998 by Liza Marklund
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >