The Torso - By Helene Tursten
THE WIND GAVE NO warning of the ghastly discovery. Just the opposite. Even though it was early May, the wind blowing in from the sea was surprisingly mild and heavy with the smell of seaweed. The sunlight skipped and played upon the inner surfaces of the low waves in an attempt to pretend that summer had already come. It was one of those bonus days that can appear during the spring and then disappear just as quickly.
The woman and the black Labrador were alone down by the water. The dog was doing his best to get a laughing gull at the edge of the beach excited but it soared up a few meters1 over the water’s surface, flew a short distance, and lived up to its name.
The dog finally tired of the annoying seagull. At the water’s edge he snatched up a large branch from among the driftwood left by the winter’s storms. The branch was more than a meter long and difficult to balance in his mouth. Wobbling slightly, he set a course toward his mistress. With an appealing look he laid the branch, bleached gray by the sun and saltwater, at her feet. She bent and tried to break it into smaller pieces better suited to throwing but had to give up. Her toss was clumsy and relatively short, but the dog ran off eagerly. He proudly brought the branch back to his mistress, received praise and petting, let go of his pretty toy, and waited expectantly for her to hurl it again. The shiny black body shook with restrained power. When she threw the branch the dog instantly raced off.
This was a very pleasing game that the dog didn’t seem to weary of. However, after a while, his owner’s throwing power began to taper off. She finally walked over to a flat rock and sat down. She said loudly, “No, Allan. That’s enough. I have to rest a bit.”
The dog was absolutely crestfallen with disappointment. His tail, which had been wagging so proudly earlier, now pointed straight down at the sand. He nudged her hands with his nose a few times, but she quickly stuck them into her jacket pockets, turned her face toward the sun, and closed her eyes. She sat still for a long time.
When she opened her eyes again, she couldn’t see him on the deserted beach. Alarmed, she got up and looked around in all directions. She laughed with relief when she spotted his tail sticking out from behind a large boulder, a little way into the water.
During the summer, children would play in an area between three high boulders that formed a small triangular pool one of whose angles pointed due west. The opening facing the ocean was narrow, barely half a meter in width. The kids screamed with joy when the gushing water surged through the boulders and poured down over them. The space was small but often ten kids succeeded in cramming themselves between the rocks.
The tide was unusually low so Allan had dared to venture out to the rock formation and had squeezed between the rocks that made up the base of the triangle. He had frozen there.
“Allan! Come here!” the woman called commandingly at the dog but he pretended not to hear. He suddenly disappeared behind the rocks. Grumbling, she headed down to the water’s edge to summon him. She stopped uncertainly at the edge of the lapping waves. The water was ice cold.
“Allan. Come here! Come! Here!”
It didn’t matter which commands or tone of voice she used. No sign of the dog could be seen. But she knew that he was out there between the rocks.
Angrily, she pulled off her shoes and socks. Swearing under her breath, she rolled up her pant legs and started wading out into the freezing water. Luckily, it was only ankle deep.
The rock formation was located about ten meters from the shore. When she was just a few meters from the opening between the boulders she detected a faint nauseating smell. Because she was angry it didn’t really register until she had, with considerable effort, squeezed between the rocks.
Floating in the triangular pool was a black plastic bag with a hole where the gulls had been pecking at it. Allan stood still with his head inside the hole. The woman quickly waded over to the dog while yelling, “No! Allan! No!”
She gripped the scruff of his neck firmly. He growled and refused to let go of the contents of the sack. Summoning all