April 12 – Is there a Letter Man? By Coaching Detective

Centralabadet - the place of a murder

Harry was back on the job. Sunday had been OK and a quiet family day. His mind had been elsewhere though, circling like a helicopter closing in on a landing site or four vultures over a fresh carcass. Harry amazed himself being so predictable in his metaphors, so boring, so male. No chance of Harry imagining butterflies around a daffodil or a swallow diving to its nest. Alas, he was a cop, a man and born in the industrial town of Eskilstuna. Steel and machines. He had, of course, an EKA knife in his pocket at all times as a reminder of his father who worked for EKA most of his life. A bit of a paradox for him to carry a knife around as it was not even allowed to carry one in public since 1990. Amazingly enough every builder and carpenter wares his outfit, including a knife, everywhere. “Strange exception”, Harry thought. He could imagine criminals dressing up as carpenters just to carry knives around.

 

Harry metaphorically shook his head to lose that thought. He had more interesting matters at hand. The “Tenth of April Murder”,  the “Pond Murder” or perhaps the “Johanna Murder”. The press usually found some half-witted title to every crime and was always trying to do the investigations and the trials themselves instead of leaving that to the professionals. In fact, Harry thought, the press more often than not was both interfering and counter-productive in relation to solving crimes. He wished the press would leave crimes alone. The press always hid behind “the public need to know” argument when creating leaks from the police just to sell papers.

“The press trade cops for copies!” Harry would rather see every crime investigation done before even letting the press know it exists. Often the revealing of names involved in the investigation to the press disturbs the process to the extent of perhaps jeopardizing the whole investigation making it impossible to convict anyone.

 

And this murder was his murder. He didn’t want anything or anybody to interfere with him solving it. And definitely not any private investigator. This was his chance to prove himself. A matter of pride. He had discussed how to handle the press with Stig and they had agreed to call it an “accidental death” for now. No point in making journalists interested. “Let sleeping dogs lie” Stig said. Harry knew that Stig did not like neither the bark nor the bite of journalists. Stig had been a “cop victim of the press” before. The tabloid press of course did what they could to sell and didn’t care who or what was sacrificed in the process. Stig’s marriages was, and perhaps even his possible police career. Harry easily had an ally against press interference in Stig.

 

This morning’s running through what they had, had to do next and possible leads was at hand in Harry’s office. For now there were only Harry, Stig and the young assisting officer Sahra present. Sahra had been hand-picked to Harry directly from the Police School being the possibly smartest cadet that year. She was a second generation immigrant, born in Sundbyberg. Her parents had left Isfahan in 1978, before the revolution in Iran. Her father had been recommended to the dentist training in Stockholm by a friend who studied there already. In 1980 the parents married and Sahra saw daylight in October 1981. She was still an only child. Harry had learned from Sahra that immigrants from Iran were a complex matter. You could never know why a Persian person had decided to leave Iran or what relation he or she had to any present or former government in Iran, any present of former religion och any present or former political movement. In short – you are lost. Unless you take time to get to know the person really well, ask the right questions and be prepared to drink enormous amounts of tea.

 

But generally most Swedish police officers preferred coffee and did unfortunately not really like to ask too many questions. Harry was somewhat an exception to the rule. The right coffee and huge amounts of questions. That was Harry. This morning he was bursting with questions on the mysterious woman in the pond. Stig and Sahra tried to provide him with some new information. Sahra begun:”We went to the woman’s apartment, which was quite close to the spot where she was found – in Wallingatan.” “And…?” Harry was as impatient as ever. “ A pretty clean apartment, really.” “Meaning…?” “Nothing really telling that any crime had been commited there, but…..” “Yes?” “Well, have you tried to buy a new apartment? “ “Of course, once or twice as a Sunday part time entertainment.” Harry saw the boring scene of such a show. “It was like the place was staged in a way – too clean and every detail put there for a purpose.” “Couldn’t it be that this woman had a pedantic streak?” “You have to go and see for yourself!”

Along Drottninggatan

Harry decided to do just that. He got keys from Sahra and was out of the office before Stig’s second cup of coffee was about to be on its way down. Harry took a short walk up to Fleminggatan and took the number 1 bus there, got off by Hötorget and walked from there. He strolled up Drottninggatan and passed the crime scene on his way to Wallingatan. Harry noted the quotes put into the street from books by the famous and infamous author/painter and alchemist August Strindberg. The quotes were not so flattering towards women. Harry would never ever think about his mother-in-law as stinking like a killed snake or the there had been no Hell before women were invented.
Strindberg quote - There was no Hell...

Strindberg certainly had women issues. Perhaps the murderer had that too. He stopped at Centralbadet for a while to get another feel for the place. He could the smell of food in the air, reminding him that he had forgotten to have any lunch. It was not the first time. There were several restaurants here. A Pizza place which served pretty good pizza, a few others and there was Rydbergs. Rydbergs was a bit more expensive the the other restaurants around Centralbadet and somewhere you did not go for lunch every day. But this day Harry decided to grab a late lunch there as it was possible to sit outside for one of the first days this year looking straight at the crime scene. Harry ordered what you should order at Rydbergs – a “Beef Rydberg”. Diced meat and diced potatoes and a raw egg yolk. In spite the name there was no connection between the dish and the restaurant. The dish had apparently been created at a hotel Rydberg built in the nineteenth century and demolished in 1914 to make room for a bank. Harry started to enjoy his lunch pouring the egg yolk over the diced food. Amazingly there had been water in the Centralbadet pond Johanna was found in as early as in April. But the fountain was not running yet. Usually the town waited until May before letting water into fountains and such. But there it was. He had seen archive photos obviously taken in midsummer or even after that, with all the trees having foliage and flowers all around. Now it looked a bit barren and cold. Not a place you would like to die. But admittedly a nice place to have lunch in.

Rydbergs Restaurant by Centralbadet

Harry’s phone rang. It was Sahra with more information. “Harry, she died in the water, but it is more to it than that. Apparently she had been given something to make her sleep first. Then injected a paralyzing drug into her. The lab says it’s curare or something similar. Then she was strung up over the pond helpless and acid was poured on the rope.” “Acid – why?” “To make the rope break and drop her into the water after a while.” “After a while?” Harry felt stupid repeating everything Sahra said but he was confused.

 

“So you are telling me that the rope was set up to break, but not right away? How long did she have to wait to die then?” “The lab doesn’t know. Perhaps half an hour or so.” Harry tried to imagine how it would have felt hanging there waiting for to be drowned, but failed. He thought the murderer had taken a huge risk too. Someone could have walked by and rescued Johanna before the fatal drop. Or was that part of it all somehow? Helplessness, chance, risk and something very elaborate. This was no impulse driven crime.

A Place for a Murder - Pond outside Centralbadet

After finishing his “luxury lunch” Harry left the scene and moved on towards Wallingatan and Johanna’s home at number 40. Harry noted that no “Isaksson” was on the plaque just inside the front door of the building. Johanna lived in a second-hand flat. Sahra had told him to look for “Gustavsson” instead. He took the stairs. His wife had told him to get some exercise this was about it right now. The blue and white striped band gave the apartment away. He got in, took off his shoes and coat in the small hall and went to work. This was a typical apartment from about 1930. In Sweden houses were just about to embrace Modernism, but in a Swedish variety called “Functionalism”. This building was at the crossroads. There were still strong echoes from the style known as “Swedish Grace” in Sweden. Harry didn’t know if a similar style existed anywhere outside Sweden. On the other hand he was no architect.

 

Sahra had been right. There were not many objects on display in the apartment. Harry also got a feeling that something was not entirely authentic here. On the kitchen table was almost nothing, but the something that was on display there was quite something. First, there was a vinyl record – an EP by David Bowie where Bowie is doing Berthold Brecht. Second, there were two hand-carved black and white dice both with the number six on top.  Last, there were quite a number of lottery tickets.

 

Harry knew that the other guys had done their bit, taking photos, getting prints and stuff so he was not worried. He noticed two glasses on the stone bench, newly washed. Not much chance of getting any prints from them he thought. He put the dice in his pocket and decided also to take the record with him to the office. Harry noticed a laptop in the bedroom/home office and a printer. There was a printed paper, looking as it had come out of the printer just now, but of course it hadn’t. As a matter of fact, when Harry took a look at it, it had been printed from a laser printer. The printer here was an ink-jet. Weird. And, come to think of it, another thing was a bit odd. Johanna had no record player either. Well, she had one for CDs, but nothing to play that EP on.

The printed paper read:

 

“It happened quite slowly that she gently slipped from gods thoughts
First with her face, then her hands, right at the last with her hair”

 

Harry immediately connected the note with death. Was this just a coincidence or was the note meant to be read? He took the note too. He wondered from where it was taken or if Johanna had written it herself? Or the murderer. He quickly left the apartment and headed back to the office only to be interrupted by a “beep” from his smartphone. Harry almost “Beeped” himself realizing that he would not only be late for his coaching session with Isabella, but also realizing that he had no idea what he was supposed to be preparing for the meeting. Up “beep” creek without a paddle.

Coaching Stairs

As Harry slowly mounted the stairs up to Isabella’s office a clear sense of shame came upon him as a 10 pound weight. Little did he knew that Isabella had huge experience from clients not doing their homework. At least four out of five client missed on at least one occasion. Many clients shamelessly never did their homework.

Harry, on the other hand, was a responsible guy normally and did not like to fail. He promised himself that this would be the first and last time he didn’t do what he was supposed to.

 

Isabella was read for him, coffee and a little cake followed by her usual smile. “Everything OK, Harry?” It seemed like Isabella had already seen right through him, or did he imagine things? “Well, a bit stressed at work, twin birthdays so I have unfortunately not done my homework for today. Sorry about that.” Isabella smiled again, knowing that a brilliant coach meets her client where he was at this point. No point in trying to force the client into a mold he would not fit anyway. “So Harry, where are you today?” “Hmm, here I guess, but also deep into a mystery.” Isabella, who was a keen mystery lover, took the bait – hook, line and sinker.

 

Harry decided to take a chance with Isabella. “Isabella, can you keep what I am going to tell you between us?” Isabella, knowing her coaching ethics, had no problem with that. “Of course Harry! It will not leave this room, but first I have to challenge you!” “OK…” Harry wondered what was coming, knowing that he had not done what he was supposed to do – making those notes they had agreed on. “Harry – are there a couple of minutes just before you go home each day and do you have a Smartphone?” Harry was stunned.”Yes, I suppose so, but what do you mean?” I want you to start an “electric diary”!” “A what?” Isabella had just with the help of her friend Rebecca entered into the Web 2.0 so she wanted to flash her newly found knowledge of the Internet. “I want you to get a Twitter account, a Facebook account or a Blog and each day I want you to write something there.” Harry started to fidget in his chair, really uncomfortable with the idea of writing. Writing had not been his strongpoint at school. He quickly went for a possible escape. “Well, Isabella – I don’t think my employer would appreciate me blogging.” “OK Harry, but you CAN get a Twitter account. I know at least two cops who tweets as we speak so there is no Cop Policy against that if you only tweet outside Police matters.” Harry knew that he would be a “Tweeter” or whatever they are called soon. Isabella was apparently not willing to let him off the hook. “Alright, I will.” “Good, Harry.” Isabella knew that some clients wanted; no NEEDED to be pushed a bit before they actually started to push themselves. “So now Harry – what did you want to expose to me?”

 

Harry smiled and took out the dice from his pocket and placed them on the coffee table between them. Then he opened his laptop case and took out the printed note and laid it next to the dice. “These items were found in the apartment of a woman who was found drowned somewhere else.”

 

“It looks like a suicide note.” Isabella had read quite a few detective stories at the family country cottage when she was younger. The talk of “the suicide note” was often there. “Perhaps, but the lady was murdered.” Harry had also read a few Agatha Christie books too and the murders often took place in upper class environment. Isabella took the hint. “OK, Harry. What can you tell me about the content of the note? What does it tell you?” Isabella almost bit her tongue for asking more than one question at a time, one of the deadly sins a coach could commit. But she was so caught up in this mystery moment she almost forgot being Harry’s coach.

 

Harry took a deep breath. “Looks a bit poetic. Could be a quote. Or perhaps the murderer is a writer or a letter man. I don’t mean Letterman. Or it is just something he has found in the flat and decided to play with.” “How do you know that it has something to do with the death of that woman?” “I just know it. It was placed oddly to be seen in the apartment and it says something about dying I think. What do you think?” Suddenly the roles were inverted. Isabella read the note and nodded. “Definitely about death. Have you Googled it?” Harry was taken by the simplicity offered by the suggestion. “Actually no.” Isabella turned to her laptop she usually kept by her side at meetings just in case she needed to look up some recruiter or something else for her clients or rather showing her clients how to do that for themselves. She entered the sentences from the note into Google and pressed the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. And there it was. It was a David Bowie quote from a song called “The Drowned Girl”. Harry was almost stunned. Death by water. “What does this tell you Harry?” Isabella chocked him back to reality again.

 

“Good question.” Harry paused and touched his chin as he often did when trying to think hard. “The water must be important here. He has gone very far to emphasize water.” Are you sure it is a male killer?” “Pretty sure. It would take someone strong at least to rig the woman over the pond to her death. Or someone with some technical know-how.” Isabella smiled but noted that Harry was very much a man, with all the concepts of what he thought was manly firmly built into his fabric. He assumed that a woman could not have technical skills or be strong for that matter. He should know better, but Isabella decided to let it go for now. “And how about the dice?” “They were placed on a table. Both sixes showing.” “Meaning?” Harry had wondered a bit about that too. In fact Johanna worked at Aftonbladet with the gambling pages. The dice could have a connection to that. In addition, the acid and rope construction actually made room for the chance of somebody rescuing her if she had been lucky. “The victim is connected to gambling so the murderer could be a frustrated gambler or some kind of nut obsessed with gambling ideas.” “Who do you think did it Harry – a nut or a normal person?”

 

The eternal discussion of murder and normality showed up again. Could a “normal” person really commit murder? Isn’t murder in itself an abnormity demanding that you are a nut to be able to commit one? The law had an opinion of course. Anyone can commit murder, but some murders are surely committed by crazy people.

Regular murderers were sent to prison and the mental cases should be sent to a mental institution. Of course reality seldom was as a crystal clear cut as that. Some completely normal criminals, if a normal criminal is possible, try to explain their deeds by insanity hoping to avoid prison. Harry decided to be a diplomat. “Hard to tell. I guess that we can rule out manslaughter anyway. This was extremely well planned.”

 

Isabella felt honored to be let in backstage of a police investigation. She guessed that this was extremely unusual. Harry – do you think that how that dice were placed has significance?” Another beginner’s error by a coach – asking questions that could be answered with a yes or a no. Those should be avoided as they sometimes lead to stopping the conversation and development. Sometime they could be used of course – especially if a clear standpoint is needed from your client. This was not such a moment.

“I get two possibilities right now: One is that sixes are considered lucky and that after rolling double sixes you are allowed to roll again. The other thing is that in Swedish the word for “six” and the word for “sex” is the same one. And yes, I found another thought now! If six is up – one is down!” Harry suddenly realized that all criminal investigators should have a coach opening up the imagination doors for them. Harry and Isabella both knew of course how dice were numbered.  If you add the opposite sides they should add up to seven making the total 21.

 

Isabella glanced at her watch seeing their time running out fast. One last question maximum left before Isabella’s next client would arrive. “Harry?” “Yes?” ”I have to tell you that I am glad that we made this an unusual coaching session and that you let me get a glimpse of your daily life. I would very much like to continue to see more of what makes Harry tick and explore it further if that is OK with you. How do you want to proceed from here?” Harry knew that this was completely non-police procedure but he felt that it somehow worked having Isabella to confide in. He decided to continue with her as a “secret criminal speaking partner”. He would of course never mention this to anyone. Not even his wife. Harry would have a “detective coach” and Isabella would have a “detective coachee”.  “I guess that this is interesting for me so I hope that we can continue speaking of this in our next session.” “OK, Harry. You know the rules and that I have made you promise something to do right?” Harry remembered that he should get a Twitter account and nodded. “Good. Then we will meet same time next week then.” Harry and Isabella went through the normal ritual of the small hug and a small wave before Harry went back to work.

Outside Isabella’s place a blackbird was singing, threatening his rivals with violence and flirting for possible sex with the ladies using the same song. Perhaps this murder also has several sides to it. Just like blackbird songs or dice. Harry decided to think some more about that.

 

Isabella also had some thinking to do. “Was this really coaching?” “Could she really coach on police work?” “Was this kind of session really in line with their coaching agreement?” And those questions were only for starters. The agreement was to deal with Harry’s personal and professional development. Isabella decided to use a wide interpretation of that to include helping Harry to do his job better which must include solving this crime too. And to solve a crime you need knowledge on human behavior, life experience, imagination and curiosity. Isabella had plenty of that. In addition, she usually described coaching as “detective work into human experience”. Isabella had already in fact used the word “detective in her Twitter account @coachdetective so in a sense, and a bit prophetically, she was already there. She was not only a coach coaching a detective – she was from now on also a Coaching Detective!

One thought on “April 12 – Is there a Letter Man? By Coaching Detective”

  1. GREAT REVIEW! I pretty much agree with all you said in your article, especially at the middle of your article. Thank you, this info is very useful as always. Keep up the good work! You’ve got +1 more reader of your web blog:) Isabella S.

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