The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
The Lindorn of Storsjon
Tuesday 17th September 1998, 9.20 pm.
"Is that what I think it is?"
Robert straightens, and discreetly brushes the tiny fragments of rock shrapnel from the shoulders of his overcoat. Carefully, he picks his away across towards the rubble pile that marks the location of the shattered slab. Gingerly, he lifts a fragment the size of his palm, then takes out his pocket torch. In the sudden slant of gold, the graven face of the 'Gripping Beast' grins back at him from the rock.
"Yes, it's the Runestone, alright."
Loki strolls to join his colleague, and stirs the rubble with his toe.
"Hmph. Well, I guess it's not sacred to anything, now, is it?" He grimaces, wiping the sea spray from his face with the back of his sleeve. Loki narrows his eyes to scan the cliff above, then abruptly clamps his hand over Robert's torch to block out its light.
Following the direction of Loki's pointing figure, Robert makes out a tall, gangly figure silhouetted against the dimly luminous scroll of cloud. After a moment or two, the pair relax.
"It's Micheal. Come on, let's climb up and find out what he saw of that little set-to."
"Well, I didn't even notice that there was anyone else on the cliff until Mal suddenly threw me to the ground. One moment he was strolling off towards the cliff, without explaining, just with this thoughtful look in his eye. Then suddenly I was lying winded on the turf, with a mouth full of frozen earth." Micheal smiles a little ruefully.
"Then I saw what Mal had seen, the two men on the cliff fighting. One man was dragging something. By the sounds of things, it must have been the runestone. He was doubled up, and so he didn't see the other man coming.
"The man in black clothing crept up close to him, holding something metal close to his chest. I didn't realise that it was a harpoon gun, not then. I couldn't see his face too well, but the muscles in it seemed to be jumping, as if he couldn't hold them still. His mouth moved - I think he said something, just a few syllables. Anyway, the man dragging the stone looked up, and jumped to his feet. Then they closed with one another. I think the harpoon gun went off, and the harpoon flew off into the sea somewhere.
"Anyway, suddenly the first man is running away along the path. The next thing I know, the man in black is chasing off after him. The next thing I know, Mal has tugged my sleeve, jumped to his feet and pelted off after the pair of them. I got up as fast as I could and tried to keep pace, but he had too much of a start on me, and I didn't trust my footing."
"Well, let's wait here so he knows where to find us if he comes back," suggests Loki. He scowls at the dense mist. "There's no point in running around looking for him in this mess. We could lose each other in five seconds without breaking a sweat. Is it just me, by the way, or is the mist getting thicker?"
Straining on the string gripped in Micheal's fist, Bjarnison's angel twists and swivels, as if neurotically glancing about in anticipation of attack.
Mal halts on the rock path, disoriented. He is lost in a seething, freezing tide of fog, which seems to imprison and distort all sounds, so that they seem to come from all directions at once. Still he hears the staccato of running, but the footfalls seem to hammer down all about him one moment, like hail, while the next instant they dwindle to a dull drum like the beat of giant moth wings.
After breaking cover to set off after the fleeing combatants, Mal had covered some two dozen yards before realising that Micheal was not at his side, and at that point it had seemed too late to cease pursuit. Now he starts to regret his haste. To his dismay, he discovers that he has departed from the path defined by the luminous markers.
The ground is invisible. The dark outlines of the rocky rises hang like the dreams of krakens, and seem to ease through the night air as the banks of mist glide past them. The stars are hidden. But Mal Harris is used to being alone in the dark.
"That was, er, the same noise you pointed out to us before, wasn't it, Loki?"
"Yeah, it was, Micheal. But just then it was rather..."
"Yeah. A hell of a lot closer. A hell of a lot too close, if you ask me. It sounded like it might have come from the beach, for Christ's sake."
A remark hangs in the air, waiting to be made. We could go and have a look from the cliff top. Yet something withers the words as the three men attempt to frame the sentence. They avert their eyes, gripped in a sudden, powerful horror of otherness. The cry that has sounded from almost below their feet is pure and cold, like the green light at the heart of an ice mountain. It is patient and passionless and terrible, like the millennium-long fury of the glacier that grinds mountains to rubble with its teeth of ice. To hear the sound is like watching the very rocks gape mouths like fledglings, and call out. To hear the sound is like seeing the eye of the storm open, and expose a human pupil. To hear the sound is to glimpse amid the unliving, unthinking, soulless, passionless elements, the adamantine glitter of a colossal will.
In contrast, the woolly warmth of human thoughts and words seem trivial as treegrowth in a glacial path. It is impossible to break the silence, or seems so until Micheal quietly clears his throat. The small, rough, animal sound terminates the spell.
"We'd better get it over with," he says, softly, and walks quickly towards the edge of the precipice.
A quarter of an hour later, walking swiftly back towards the hotel, Micheal, Robert and Loki are a little startled when Mal emerges suddenly from the mist, and joins them. For a few minutes none can find words, as if the mist they were breathing had choked off their vocal chords.
"Did I miss anything?" Mal asks at last.
"No. Well, not really. You remember the noise I heard while potholing? We heard it again. Closer. We went to the cliff top to see if we could find out what was making the noise. But we couldn't see anything. Not really." There is a silence during which three members of the group studiously avoid meeting each other's eyes. "OK," Loki snaps a little irritably, as if in response to an unspoken question, "there may have been something moving down there. But I wouldn't like to swear to it. You know how it is with mist."
"I'm not sure I do know how it is with mist," Mal says carefully. Catching Robert's quizzical glance, he continues. "The mist thickened suddenly back there, did you notice that? I'd been running after those two men for about ten paces when I heard one of them shout something, a word, probably something in Swedish. Hagalaz. I think that was the word. Anyway, I kept running, and after five paces I couldn't see either of the people I was chasing, the fog was that thick. After another twenty paces, I couldn't even see my feet any more.
"The three of us played cat and mouse with each other for a bit in that fog. I could have sworn that I heard the harpoon gun go off again at one point. At another time, a rock was dislodged higher up the slope, and nearly tumbled onto my head. Maybe someone tried to drop it on me, maybe they didn't. Anyway, a little after that, I made out a patch of mist that was lighter than the rest, so I tailed it - it was the guy in pale clothes. As far as I could make out, he was walking quickly back to where the hotel should have been."
"Where it should have been?"
"Yes. On the rise where I was standing, I should have been able to see the lights of the hotel. They weren't there. And there were no lights from the village, either."
The mystery of the missing lights, at least, is fairly quickly solved. The SITU operatives walk into the village to find it utterly benighted, all lights in the harbour extinguished but for the flicker of candles in some windows, and the dance of the pocket torches which pedestrians are attempting to use to guide their steps.
Louis meets the group at the front door of the hotel, and confirms their suspicions.
"Yes, I'm afraid the power's off all over the island. It looks like Sandviken's in the same predicament. At least we can't make out their lights across the water. I'm afraid we're having a spot of bother with our phones as well, just at the moment, so we can't actually contact them to ask. Or anyone else either, I'm afraid. Don't worry, things like this happen from time to time, and preparations are always in place. We won't have these problems if the board do decide to install a generator for the hotel..."
Lakersson chatters away as he escorts the group towards the dining room. The interpreter is making an admirable attempt at imitating his own customary ebullience, but even the extravagance of his gestures and his resolutely cheerful demeanour serve only to highlight the lines of weariness and worry that seem to have set up permanent residence on his face.
Passing through the lobby, the agents experience a fleeting sense of unreality.
The vivid, eye-biting blue velvet that covers almost every inch of Gunnlaugson's palace has subsided into a slumbrous, evening ultramarine. Similarly, the obtrusive and ubiquitous gilt trimmings have settled into a dusky, rich bronze that glimmers occasionally with a golden life where it is caught by the candlelight. Walls and furniture alike seem to shift and waver as the candle flames respond to tiny draughts and shifts in the air, and swing their shadows about them. What with the softened blue of the surroundings, and the weird, shifting light, the lobby now resembles some underwater cavern.
Between two candelabras Thorveig is sitting, sombrely illuminated. Even now she is perfectly serene, as if she could ward away all the primitive brutality of man or the elements with only her perfect profile, or dispel its might with one wave of her gold-lidded pen. She is a design in ivory, gold and strawberry pink, like a picture of a good fairy on an old-fashioned box of confectionery.
Beside the group walks Louis Lakersson, clad in cream and sepia, like a Victorian photograph summoned into animation. He is flawlessly, if somewhat comically, courteous and attentive, and his motions are nervous and jerky, like flickers in an old film.
At the door, Louis pauses.
"By the way, where is Mr Masterson? Is he not joining us?"
"Isn't he back here yet?" Robert raises his eyebrows in surprise. "I wonder where he can have got to."
Micheal conveys volumes by blushing vigorously, and quickly changing the subject.
"Ah, come in, come in." A huge fire has been built in the hearth at one end of the room. Gunnlaugson sits a few bare yards from it, his face lobster red with the effect of its flames. "As you see, at the Hotell Lindorn we are prepared for all eventualities. We defy the weather!"
The fire is welcome, although to an extent it conveys the questionable benefit of slightly roasting one side of the body, while leaving the other unwarmed. The hot mulled wine, however, is highly welcome.
Glancing around, the operatives notice that not only the guests but also most of the hotel staff are clustered in the dining hall. Robert Montague Flint notices Dr Massey huddled near the fire, and takes the opportunity to approach him and pass on the fax sent by Sophie Painter. The doctor rouses himself at the mention of his pet obsession, and seems greatly excited by the other researcher's theories.
The fire is being used to heat great cauldrons of soup, and a few adventurous attempts to roast impaled chickens over its flames are even being made. The semi-darkness makes the dimensions of the hall seem somewhat more extensive than usual. Gunnlaugson is clearly aware that he cuts a rather impressive figure, his massive bulk enthroned where the firelight can play to greatest effect upon the gold adornments of his great chair. He appears determined to imbue the occasion with as much conviviality as possible.
"If he tries to make us toast marshmallows and sing boy scout songs," mutters Loki under his breath, "I'm going to leg it and swim for the mainland."
"I think the water's boiling." Belle-Marie takes the little saucepan from the top of the portable gas stove, and pours the hot water into two coffee cups. "Thank God I bought some more gas cylinders for this thing." She carries the two cups of coffee back to the bed where Daniel is sitting in a nest of blankets. "This house has next to no insulation, and when the power goes down, the temperature drops like a shot duck. I'm glad you're here. People are more effective than hot water bottles." She manoeuvres her way into the nest, and hands Daniel his drink.
Daniel holds the hot mug, noticing the chips in the cheap paint of the handle. Steam rises is a leisurely gesture like a dancer's hand extending. He blows at the steam and for an instant it whirligigs, before settling back into a lazy wavering, like a finger of weed stirred by currents at the bottom of the sea. At one point it seems to form the shape of a question mark, and he gives a short, involuntary laugh. Belle-Marie looks a question.
"Oh, I was just thinking. Wondering. I have no idea how I got here. I mean here, this situation."
"There's still time to run."
"No, there isn't. My offer still stands, you know, if you want to come back to Britain."
"Just listen for a moment. I've got a spare room in my house. You could live there. If you don't like the idea of being supported by me, well, fine, you can pay me rent or something when you've found your feet. Whatever. We'll play this however you want it."
Belle Marie is silent. The steam from her cup trembles like a troubled ghost.
"I know what you're thinking," Daniel continues, after a moment's pause. "You're worrying that you're carrying some kind of jinx around with you. You're not, you know."
"Don't tell me I'm imagining everything, that's like saying I'm crazy..."
"You're not crazy either. I suppose you'd like to take the blame for that too. Those dreams of yours, they don't make you crazy, they just show that you sense what Froson is better than most people around you. There is a curse on Froson, but it's not you, it's the place." Daniel lets out a long sigh. "What about those schoolchildren that vanished from a beach in 1939? How did you manage to jinx them? I'm assuming that you don't actually own a time machine. What about those boats that wrecked in 1795?
"You've really done your homework, haven't you?" Belle-Marie suddenly giggles. "I'm sorry, it's not funny, but I was just visualising your entry for the island in the tour guide. 'Visit Froson, be attacked in your hotel room, have conversations with mad women at sub-zero temperatures, see the local sights through fog thicker than glue...' it's not funny, I know." Daniel laughs a little despite himself, then gives a wry smile.
"It's funny you should bring up the guide," he says, quietly. "I was meaning to talk to you about that. You see, I didn't just come here to research the guide." He pauses, aware of the way in which he is hovering on the edge of breaking his agreement with SITU regarding confidentiality. "You might say I'm here to investigate the mysteries of Froson." Belle-Marie is clearly waiting for an elaboration, and raises her eyebrows a little when nothing is forthcoming.
"Are you a psychic investigator, or something?" He shakes his head. The Irish girl stares at him for a long moment. "So, Daniel Masterson has a little more past than he was admitting. D'you know, I'm almost relieved? When a person or situation seems totally straight forward and above board, I always know I'm missing something." She gives a wry smile, and places her cup next to Daniel's on the bedside table. "Talk to me, Daniel. Tell me about this room of yours I'm going to be living in."
As they talk, the steam from their cups rises and mingles, like transparent hands clasping.
The guests are given the choice of returning to their own rooms and braving the cold, or allowing makeshift beds to be set up for them in the dining hall, so as to exploit the heat of the fire. A sizeable number of them have embraced the latter option. The SITU agents, however, for reasons of privacy, leave for their own rooms a little after three.
Once again, Robert shares a room with Mal, while Loki shares with Micheal. It is possible to sleep, but only by wearing several layers of clothing, and using an extra blanket.
A little after seven, Daniel returns to the hotel.
As a result of several nights of negligible or interrupted sleep, most of the operatives sleep well past the time for breakfast. Micheal alone is awake by eight. The rest surface somewhat after eleven, and a rather subdued conference is held.
Mal spends much of his time gently handling Bjarnison's angel kite, studying it with a mask-like countenance, and offering only monosyllabic replies to any questions addressed to him. Robert is, as ever, immaculate and perfectly courteous, but is demonstrating definite symptoms of fatigue. Loki is a little abrasive, particularly when questioned about the noise heard on the cliff top the night before. He seems a little shaken, and profoundly annoyed by this fact.
"Well, at least Daniel seems to be well again, and back in the saddle," remarks Flint, giving Daniel a small wink.
"I'm sorry I've been such a dead weight." Daniel gives a shrug. "I can't help feeling that I've let the rest of you down. I've let myself get distracted. I guess I've been pretending to everyone, including myself, that any relationship I formed with Belle-Marie would take second place to the job in hand, but I can't pretend that anymore. She's the most important thing I've got, and she's coming back to England with me." There is a somewhat embarrassed silence, but no one seems particularly surprised.
"I probably owe you more of an explanation. There's a weird sort of symmetry to all of this, you see. A year ago, I was engaged to be married. Everything was going fine, until my fiancee's friend talked her into attending some meetings of a certain cult." He mentions the name of the cult, and Mal looks up, and nods slightly as if recognising it. "Two weeks before the wedding, she called it off. I tried to get in contact with her, but the cult members closed ranks and got nasty.
"At last she phoned me. She sounded like she was talking to a stranger. I guess I went to pieces for a bit. When I finally put my pieces back together, I joined SITU, partly to find out more about cults like that one, maybe so I get some sort of revenge upon them, somehow. And working for SITU has brought me in contact with Belle Marie. It could all go wrong again, I can feel that she's surrounded by things that could take her away from me. But I'm not going to let it happen this time."
"You don't need to tell us all of this," Robert interjects, gently. With a certain amount of amusement, he notes the combination of penitence and habitual defiance in the young man's manner. The apology is clearly not made lightly. Not for the first time, Daniel reminds Robert of one of his own more gifted and emotionally volatile students.
"I know, but I feel that if I'd been concentrating on the matter in hand, I might have been more help. As it is, I've no idea what's going on. I think that Sverre Krippner was behind the attempt on my life. And I think Thorveig knows something about it, but I don't know how to get information out of her without actually torturing her. Not that the idea doesn't have a certain appeal." He grins. "And I can't make head or tail of the weather, either. Robert, did the weather start to deteriorate before or after the disappearance of the runestone?"
"Before, I think."
"Yes," agrees Micheal. "It got dramatically worse just after the stone was stolen, but the weather was getting steadily worse before that."
"And it's still getting steadily worse." Robert casts a glance at the frost patterns on his window pane. "Like Daniel said yesterday, it looks like we're running out of time. So what do we do? Any thoughts?"
"I still think it comes down to finding Dubois," says Loki.
"We do keep coming back to him," agrees Daniel, "and now at least we have some idea where he's been hiding about. I guess we need to send a posse up to the north-eastern cliff again, and have a look for him." There is an uncomfortable silence, in which Robert, Micheal and Loki frown at the carpet
"Loki," Micheal mildly turns his eyes towards his colleague, "what did you think you saw from the cliff top? I know what I thought maybe I saw."
"Movement, maybe. Something moving in the water by the beach."
"I thought maybe it looked a bit like, a bit like, you know, a face, or..."
"You don't get faces that big. And there was mist and waves everywhere, how can we be sure of anything." Loki glares at Micheal, and his jaw sets, like the vice of a nutcracker. "Right, that's it. I'm going back there. I'm not going to sit around being afraid to think about what I may or may not have seen."
"I'll come with you," says Mal, without looking up.
"Then I suggest the rest of us stay around the hotel," opines Robert, "so that we can keep an eye on the occupants. After lunch, perhaps we should..."
There is a knock at the door.
Robert opens the door to find Leda Massey standing in the corridor. She too has apparently been suffering from sleep deprivation.
"Dr Massey wants me to bring you to him so that you can tell him if he's going mad," she declares without preamble. She gives an abrupt, little shrug. "His wording, not mine."
"Flint, you simply must introduce me to your wonderful Dr Painter when I'm next in England. I was finding myself quite stumped before you gave me her fax. You know the way it is, if you stare at something long enough, then you stop being able to see it. I was worrying away at this little section over and over, reinterpreting this rune, or that rune, and trying to find a way of regarding the phrase 'moon war' so that it actually made sense. We didn't get a wink of sleep, did we, Leda?" Leda gives Robert a glance that, in its expression of long-suffering, might not have ill-suited Prometheus on the rock.
"Of course, the words don't split that way at all, but I only realised when you showed me the fax. Dr Painter picked out that word, there. I'm not sure that I quite agree with her interpretation, but then again I have the advantage of reading the context of the word, now that I've deciphered a little further. She thought it meant wolf of slaughter, but in my opinion the meaning is 'she-wolf.' Rather exciting, eh?
"But it's the context of this word that I wanted your opinion on, just to make sure that I'm not going crazy. See, here are the runes as best I can make them out." A minute or so passes, as Dr Massey scribbles on a blank piece of paper. "You see, I've put my definition of each word underneath."
Robert takes the paper and reads slowly, stroking his chin.
"You know, I can't actually find anything wrong with the way you've worked this out, it's all logical, but..."
"But it's rather curious, isn't it?"
Robert reads the phrase again.
...the flame that burned in the water-hall of the she-wolf of the waters...
Leaving the hotel, Loki and Mal stroll through the village. Halfway along the docks, their attention is attracted by the sound of breaking glass. Exchanging glances, they take a side street, and walk quickly towards the source of the sound.
The headquarters of the Children of the Lindorn is under attack. Some half dozen young people, including Ulrika Berget are hammering on the door and the windows. One of the front windows has been smashed, but a youth who appears to have attempted entry by this route has surrendered the attempt, and now stands gingerly examining a cut in his arm, presumably caused by broken glass.
Birgitta's face appears at one of the upper windows. She seems frightened but excited. Giving a whistle to gain the attention of the besiegers, she empties the contents of a jug out of the window. Ulrika and her companions jump back as water spatters the wall and door.
Cormac comes to the door, hands raised in a soothing manner, and is promptly driven back as the VAM youths surge in through the door. Through the open door, the SITU agents see Ulrika Berget beating Cormac around the head with a stuffed toy lindorn.
Huddling with the rest of the hotel occupants in the great dining hall, Daniel notices that Sverre Krippner is absent. His enquiries are met with shrugs. It emerges that Krippner has not been seen since the previous night.
Daniel remembers the two unidentified figures sighted among the rocks the previous night. The thought that Krippner might have gone to ground in some hidden location in Froson's rough terrain is not a comforting one.
"Well, there's nothing there now. Just water and mist." Standing near the edge of the precipice, Loki scrutinises the scene.
Mal nods. "I'd like to look for more signs of whatever happened to Bjarnison. Let's split up and search as well as we can without going out of sight of one another." Loki agrees.
After about an hour of searching, Loki finds himself once again next to Bjarnison's house. As he approaches the door, he notices a swift, shadowy movement. He starts a little, then relaxes as the cat in the doorway turns yellow gems of eyes upon him. It is a young cat, delicately built and well groomed.
Loki is experienced enough with cats not to approach it immediately and attempt to stroke it. Respecting its reticence and need for personal space, he moves gently closer, allowing it to greet him or not as it chooses. The gems glitter as the animal assesses, and, as is usually the case decides in Loki's favour. He is privileged with the right to salute it with one stroke of the head, before the cat walks on, casting glances behind occasionally to make sure that it still has his interest.
After following this attractive animal for some dozen paces, it suddenly occurs to Loki that he is walking out of sight of Mal. He is about to turn back when the cat's body language changes. It suddenly becomes alert, and then trots forward, its tail raised straight in the air. Loki proceeds after it, now with a new stealth.
The cat pauses near to an opening in the rock. After a moment or two, a hand stretches out, and gently strokes the cat's head with the very tips of the fingers. The cat enters the hollow.
Loki moves carefully towards the opening. As he grows near, he becomes aware that the animal has vanished into a small, natural alcove in the rock. Within it, a man is lying on his back. He is dressed in a black suit which appears much abused by dirt and the weather. He is very pale, almost blueish in complexion, and he is poorly shaven. A metal contraption lies by his left hand. His right hand is currently engaged in stroking the head of the cat that has settled on his chest.
Seeing Loki, he starts.
"Hello, Mr Dubois. I've been looking for you."
"Thanks awfully for giving up your day to help me with this, Flint."
Once again, Robert has become infected with Massey's enthusiasm, and only now does he realise how many hours he has spent puzzling over the runes.
"So, what have we got? It's a little like a summons, the sort a lord would send round to local thanes or so forth if he needed them to accompany him to a battle. It's as if a summons has been sent to a particular warrior, telling him that he is required to enter a war against this 'she-wolf of the waters.' But there's this other part which seems to be an elegy for a warrior. And it looks like they're talking about the same warrior, too. What do you make of it?"
It seems for a moment that Dubois will leap to his feet, but he hesitates, glancing at the cat on his chest. With perfect clarity, Loki guesses at what is passing through the other man's mind. Dubois is alone. The cat has probably offered his only companionship during his hard days and nights in hiding on Froson. In this moment of weakness, the Frenchman hesitates to toss his only friend aside.
"Relax," says Loki. He finds he is treating Dubois much as he did the cat, taking care to keep his voice soft, and to make no threatening or sudden motions that might scare the other into flight. He notices that the other man's eyes move quickly to a place a few paces to the left of Loki's feet. Dubois relaxes a little, and smiles a little sadly at his feline companion.
"Did you bring him to me, lady? It is always the pretty ladies that betray one." He tickles the cat under the chin. His English is very good, the accent barely more than a timbre.
"Don't worry, I'm not from the authorities. My friends and I have been looking for you, because we think you're the only person who really knows what's going on here." Dubois starts again and reaches for the harpoon gun. Mal has appeared at Loki's shoulder. "It's OK, he's with me." The cat, alarmed by the instability of her resting place, alights disdainfully and flees.
"Fickle little lady. Ah, well." Again, Loki notes Dubois glancing quickly at a point near Mal's feet. Whatever he sees there seems to satisfy him, and he releases the harpoon gun again. "Yes. Yes, I know what is happening, I think. I knew it even in Paris, and knew that I had to find a way to return."
"Is it anything to do with the lindorn?"
"The lindorn? Trust me, my friend, the lindorns are the very least of your problems."
"There we have it." Massey examines his handiwork with satisfaction. "Here, I'll read it to you in an approximation to the original language, so you can hear the rhythms of it." Massey starts to speak. Like many of the old Germanic and Scandinavian languages, the words he utters have a crude strength, a muscular, enduring vitality, like the rough shapes of the runes themselves, and a harshness like that of weathered rock. The phrases have a relentless rhythm, like the swing of a sword in battle, or the assault and retreat of a wave. Even Leda stops making coffee to listen.
"Somebody's coming." The Frenchman has sprung into a sitting position. "I can hear footsteps."
"I can't hear anything." Both Loki and Mal strain their ears, but no footfalls reach their senses.
"Can't you hear? They're coming closer." Dubois gives the pair a brief glance of suspicion. He snatches up his harpoon gun, but does not seem inclined to point it at his two new acquaintances, somewhat to their relief.
"I really can't hear anyone coming."
"I must go. There's someone coming." Dubois pauses, scrutinising the two agents. "Meet me here again tomorrow evening, at the same time," he says. Then he turns, and disappears into the mist with surprising speed. The two SITU operatives exchange glances. To judge from the direction of Dubois' nervous glances, he had heard footsteps issuing from the direction of the lake.
Evening returns, and Daniel has still seen no sign of Sverre Krippner. It is as it is getting dark, that the memories of his mysterious assailant start to prey on his mind. His chief concern, however, is not for himself, but for Belle-Marie. Suddenly, pictures of his rival stalking him with the intention of making another attempt on his life, yield to nightmare visions of Belle-Marie under threat.
Feeling the need to quash this anxiety, Daniel at last abandons the hotel, pocket torch in hand. He walks quickly along the waterside towards the house of the Irish girl. As he nears the bungalow, a white shape in the water catches his eye.
Like a lily, a white hand is pushing its way up through the black water. Below it sways the dark bulk of a human figure.
Daniel is filled in an instant with terrible certainties. He experiences a sequence of terrible visions, Belle-Marie ambushed, Belle-Marie drowning, Belle-Marie a lifeless corpse in the water. He seizes a boat hook, and drags the body closer to the quay-side.
As he does so, the body rises to the surface of the water, and these visions are dispelled. Daniel sits back on the quay, slightly nauseous.
Before him, in the water, floats the head, arms and severed torso of Sverre Krippner.