Tag Archives: murder

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!

April 10 – Twin Lives and a Single Death by Coaching Detective

Isabella’s cop client Harry had a busy morning. His twins had their birthday and there really should be lots of presents, ice cream and singing. Their tenth birthday on the tenth of April. But they were no fools – they wanted real presents thought out exclusively for them. Daniel wanted a skateboard with a special pattern and red wheels. Alexander on the other hand was more of an intellectual wanting all of the Star Wars films I-VI. Being a cop made it easy to perform an investigation on these matters. He found a Skater’s shop in Södermalm, locate in the mall called “Skrapan (The Skyscraper)”. He knew that Daniel would want to choose for himself both the board and the wheels so Harry chose to buy a skater sweater and a gift voucher for “Any board and any set of wheels”. When he had his latest session with Isabella he had passed an SF shop in the Old Town and they had a complete Star Wars set. Harry felt relieved and happy as the boys opened their gifts. Ellinor, Harry’s wife looked happy too even though she had been up since four to prepare everything from coffee, ice cream, un-hiding the gifts and so on. She had left Harry sleep until six. Even though Easter was last week the kids had Easter Holidays this week too, making them both actually do something this week had been somewhat a challenge. Ellinor and Harry had taken turns on looking after the “DeeAys” as Harry called the twins. AS both Harry and Ellinor were working they had to make it possible to do some work from home. Their terrace-house in the northern suburbs of Stockholm had four bedrooms on the second floor and they had made that into a study. Harry had on more than one occasion asked himself why they had decided to get a house in Suburbia when both he and Ellinor worked in the city. There were of course several reasons. Buying a flat in the city would cost about a million crowns per room and the family needed at least three bedrooms, a study and a living room. So a house for two or three million or a flat for five? And there was the thought of having small children in the city or closer to nature. They had also found a very nice private kindergarten close to their house too on the way to the local commuter train station.  But there were downsides too. Both Harry and Ellinor had to spend hours commuting to work and back so the idea of spending time with their children in the countryside was limited to weekends and during weekends they both needed to work to compensate for the huge amount to travelling and still being able to pay for the house. Two rats in a pretty cage hoping that their boys were OK anyway. Right now mama and papa rat were giving them quite a treat. Everything seemed to run smoothly. Harry remembered Isabella and her way of making him realize how much his family really meant to him. He might, if he had chosen the “glamorous” super cop job, not even been here this morning to celebrate. Probably out at some crime scene in Scania or wherever securing footprints or tire tracks already taken by others. The super cops were only to be called on after thirty days. Not really “Cold Cases” but at least lukewarm. Much better to stay in Stockholm to enjoy happy faces. Harry thought that coaching had been a surprising experience for him. He went there with the sport vision of what a coach was and had expected to be told what to do. Instead Isabella had given him the lead, making him realize that he was in charge of his own process. Harry had found that a refreshing contrast to all the people telling him things all the time. He longed back to Isabella’s office and their next session. Nothing sexual of course. This was something completely different. Just trust. Ellinor had also noticed that Harry was happier than before.

Suddenly Harry’s mobile made a familiar weird noise. One of those signals that came with the phone but nobody wanted to have activated. Harry had chosen that one because nobody else had it at work. He could tell the call was for him just by the signal. Who would call him at seven in the morning on an Easter Holiday Saturday?

Stig Lindberg link from Wikipedia by Coaching Detective

It was Stig Lindberg. One of his colleagues at work. Not the famous Swedish designer who had the same name. And was dead. “Hi Harry. Sorry about this, but you really have to come in today.” Harry was amazed. He was the boss, right? ”What do you mean Stig? What can be so urgent that you want to drag me from my family on a Saturday? And when my twins have their birthday? Has someone killed our Prime Minister – again?” Back in 1986 the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme had been shot, leaving Sweden shocked. Sweden was still shocked by this, really. “No Harry, not that exactly. But it is  a murder for sure. A journalist at Aftonbladet. It is the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a long time.” “But, why do I need to come right away? Isn’t the man dead? Will he suddenly take off?” “It’s a woman  and dead for sure, but placed in a position you just have to take a look at and in a place that is a bit special too.” Harry began to realize that he would not be able to stay at home this time. “OK.where are we talking about?” “Outside Centralbadet in a pond. Drowned.” And she couldn’t have drowned all by herself?” Harry really tried to get off the hook. “Nope. You’ll see.” OK Stig. I’ll call you back in ten.” Harry turned to Ellinor and the twins. ”Sorry guys, but I have to pop into town for a little while.” Ellinor’s face changed from harmony to something Harry knew he would not appreciate very much. Disappointment. “So my dear Harry will prioritize the dead over the living again, is that so? Another corpse fiesta, I suppose?” Harry knew that he was in deep trouble and quickly needed a quick idea to compensate for him leaving his family now. “How about us celebrating by going to a restaurant this evening – you choose where and then we can meet there?” Ellinor was not satisfied but decided to play along for the twins. “OK, Daniel and Alex will decide.”

Harry left the house, got to the family car and hastily drove south for Stockholm city. This time on a Saturday the roads were pretty empty. The ordinary queues on that way to work were not to be seen now. “Always something.” Harry found himself talking to himself again. He decided to turn the radio on. He had it adjusted to one of the channels playing old songs, some even older than he was. He heard the familiar sound of “China Girl” and thought that he was also “stumbling into town” and perhaps even stumbling through life knowing very little about himself. The meetings with Isabella had opened him up a bit though. Formerly he would just follow the advice of the Chinese girl in the video. Keeping his mouth shut. Harry smiled. The next song was ”Light in Your Heart” with Hanne Boel, the Danish singer with enough soul in her voice to get to his heart too. And of course a vivid memory. Songs have strong powers for many people and for Harry too.

Harry parked the car in Drottninggatan, just outside the gates to Centralbadet, knowing that it was not a great spot to park in. He saw the blue and white plastic police ribbons placed to prevent people from entering there and destroying possible evidence on the ground. And he spotted Stig talking to one of the police women in uniform at the scene. Harry noticed that Stig needed a new coat more than he did and sent a thought of gratitude towards Ellinor who always tried to make Harry look his best. Stig apparently had no wife. “OK Stig, tell me all.” ”Right. Apparently this woman was drowned or so we think right now sometime during the night. But the weird thing is that she seems to have been positioned just over the water surface in the pond at first with ropes. The ropes were then to slowly break dropping her bound body into the water.” “What?” Harry didn’t understand a word. ”Someone had poured some acid or something on the rope for it to eventually break.” “Are you telling me that some weird person first bound and gagged her, then left her hanging there alive to drop to her death in the water later?” “I guess so. And on her birthday too.” Harry thought about the twins back home. ”Why didn’t she managed to get out of the water then – this pond is extremely small and the water can’t be more than 60 centimeters deep?” “I don’t know yet, Harry. Seems weird to me too. And why was she not killed immediately? Why let her hang there a while first?” “How long do you guess?” “Hard to say. Depends on the acid involved of course.” Stig had been right. A very strange death by water indeed. But in a beautiful spot just outside the building where the bath an spa known as Centralbadet was located. The building was in Art Noveau style. A style that most Swedes would call Jugend. Harry had mixed emotions towards Jugend. On one hand it was very elegant, but on the other hand it seemed a bit overloaded with ornament. A bit too much. This murder was a little too much too. Ropes, acid, a peculiar public space and Harry felt there would be even more oddities about this one later. Harry turned to Stig. “Who was she?” “A Johanna Sofia Isaksson, born in 1951. Worked at Aftonbladet. They have a special part of it that is about gambling. There.” “So she is fifty-nine?” ”Depends on the time of death. Today is her birthday as I told you – remember?” Harry didn’t bother to reply. He was thinking that what a weird coincidence to drown by a placed designed for swimming. Perhaps the killer had some weird sense of humor? Or was there something more to this? The murder had been planned to say the least. This was no spur of the moment thing. “Did she have any family?” “As far as we know yet no. We have not spoken to anyone yet though. A bit early for that yet.”  Harry saw in the reflection of restaurant Rydberg close by that some people had stopped to see what was going on already. Harry begun to consider the complications involved with murdering somebody in  place like this. First you have to make your victim appear here, then binding her, then hanging her up above the water, then pouring the right amount of acid on the rope and then get away. Harry guessed that it would be too complicated. So how? “Stig, have you thought about the crime scene?” What do you mean?” “Do you think that she was captured here, bound here and then drowned here?” “No, maybe and don’t know…we will probably know more by Monday when forensics have done some work on it.” “It’s not an “it” Stig it’s a “her”. Never forget that.” Yes, a probably single woman dead in the middle of Stockholm and lively twins waiting to have a feast in suburbia. Harry knew what to do. Coaching had taught him to make the right priorities. With a few exceptions of course…

March 12 – Metal Birds and Tigers – by Coaching Detective

Isabella woke up early knowing. Knowing that she needed to be creative this morning. She was wise from the day before that warm water was a scarce commodity in her hotel room. As a resourceful coach she had found a workaround. Every UK hotel room she had ever been in had a way to make tea. So she made hot water there and poured it into the wash-hand basin thus creating a real possibility to actually wash her hair. Unfortunately she had not arrived at the almost compulsory need to cut her hair short at the reached age of forty so she still had hair below her shoulders. But she followed the latest international hair trend and usually assembled it in a pony-tail, only changing the elastic band colours to match her clothes. Isabella had a tough time washing all her hair in the basin but did her best “kettle water wash” she could and dashed down to get breakfast. Just a coffee with plenty of milk to break the acid, a piece of dark bread with some marmalade on and she was ready for another day in coaching paradise.

In the Swedish morning paper Svenska Dagbladet that was opened at that very moment in Stockholm you could read that in this Year of the Tiger, eleven tigers had actually starve to death in China. No paradise for tigers there. The reader created an introvert smile. “Hopefully this tiger will do better.” It has always been apparent that the tiger was the perfect image for describing someone in three-striped shoes on the hunt for something. An endangered species too. The smile expanded into a quiet laugh.

In Victoria Plaza Isabella smiled too. David had sent her an SMS saying “dad can’t make breakfast – come home”. There was sadness in the smile of course – not on the fact that Marcus was so absent minded that he always burnt food but because she longed for her son. “There is always a price to pay!” She was not really in agreement with the thought of making her son’s life miserable but she had realized that keeping the relationship with Marcus would have made David even worse off than now. Now he had in a way both his parents without seeing them in conflict. And she thought that Marcus in this way got a better contact with David than before when she was there competing. Isabella had understood that she had also made it more difficult for Marcus to be a loving parent to David being more extrovert in her feelings towards David than he could ever be in her presence. That space had not been available to him then. But now David and Marcus are much closer. And amazingly enough in some quaint way Isabella liked Marcus better now as he now is becoming a great father. “Perhaps he will learn something from this and will come out a better man. Perhaps I have actually made him more attractive to women.” Life surely is strange. Like so many times before a bad thing might lead to something good. At least for Marcus. It is not always attractive for a man to find out that the woman he is attracted to is divorced with a child. On the other hand men should get acquainted with the reality of today – the divorce rate in Sweden is about 55 percent. So half of the women and half of the men are divorced. Chances of actually meeting someone around forty who has no children and who has never been married are very slim. Perhaps if you meet someone like that you might ask yourself  “What is wrong with this person?” The modern family consists of you, your children from before, your present spouse and his/her children from before, the possible children you have created together and all the people involved in all the children mentioned before. Quite a complexity. It must have been less complicated before when one life was enough. It seemed to Isabella that we tend to “wear and tear” your relationships as we have also done with clothes and our whole planet. It had to change one day.
As she arrived at the Plaza she went directly to take a seat for the first speaker of the day. And it was on sustainability. Isabella had already had those thoughts a few minutes ago. We do have to take care of our planet. The keynote was delivered by a guy named Sir John Whitmore. Sir John was right of course in that coaches has to keep the big picture in mind at all times. Amazing that everyone seems to be competing to be most “sustainable” these days. Isabella thought that we need to talk a lot before anything real comes out of it and that we are now still in the “talking phase”. This was not only true in the coaching profession but in the business community as a whole. There is talk on every website on sustainability and corporate social responsibility but not all companies really live up to what they preach. “Sustainability boiled down to marketing.” Isabella clearly saw the irony in that. Sir John on the other hand meant business.

After a break it was time for a Keynote speaker – a woman called Veera Johnson. Her topic was “Success lies in Diversity and not Perfection”. She was one of those “happy witnesses” that confirmed that coaching actually works as one of the tools to develop leaders and organizations.

Diversity in Red at the AC Conference

Veera’s topic gave Isabella a few thoughts to take home, but perhaps not the thoughts that Veera had intended. Isabella connected “diversity” not only with different abilities and talents but also different sexes, cultures and skin tones… Many connotations to be found there…The word “perfection” lead her to imagine all the clients dreaming of the “perfect” jobs, relationships, educations and homes. A shining dream, quite impossible to reach, but clients were still willing to die trying for it.

“Part of the human dilemma – longing for perfection knowing that if you find it, you will no longer be human.”  Isabella had learned that lesson many years ago, trying so hard to be a perfect daughter, a perfect lover, a perfect wife and a perfect mother. Isabella knew that she would always fall short if she tried that. She had found the perfect reminder never to fall into that hole again. She hums the theme to “Mission Impossible” and imagine herself being married to Tom Cruise. “Cute but too short in both body and mind. And who wants a boy who is over forty-five anyway?” Isabella preferred a man, perhaps someone like Harrison Ford who could carry Melanie Griffiths up a steep staircase or so. “As women obviously are just as intelligent as men, the only apparent reasons for using them would be to use their strength to carry the bags and their libido to create kids.”  Isabella smiled at her joke, knowing that she was far too modern to have those kinds of primitive, old hard-core feministic views on men. She knew perfectly well to see every person for who she or he is and not to put anyone in a ready-made little prejudice box.

A Box is Bought in the Old Town

Speaking of boxes. In a little shop in the Old Town of Stockholm someone had just purchased a small wooden box. A box just right for containing a number of small objects. The store keeper had imported lots of junk cheaply to sell off at double price to tourists. He treated this customer no different from any tourist from any of the numerous countries coming here. Many of the things he offered were associated in one way or another to Stockholm, Sweden or the Old Town. The German partiality to elk objects he could never understand, but didn’t really care as long as they paid for them. His latest customer was no German. Other statistically good guesses would be a Finn or a Russian, but no. The customer had not said even a single word so guessing was hard. The store keeper loved the challenge though and kept on guessing. He noticed that the customer had both Euros and Swedish Crowns in a small stack of bills so he assumed he could rule out Denmark and the UK. But anyone could purchase any currency and keep the home currency at the hotel, making it just as possible for any customer to originate from anywhere. This made it of course even more fun to make a guess. Almost like shooting dice, but the dice being slightly modified in favour of a certain result. But this time the shop keeper could not find a proper image to fit his client.

an Image can mean so mucg at the AC

In Victoria Plaza other images were on. Isabella was attending a workshop on using imagery in coaching lead by the quite legendary Stephen Palmer. His idea was to spread the word that using images could change the outcome of coaching sessions and make coaching able to produce self-confidence, energy and stamina in coaching clients. Isabella was all for images, as she herself came from the journalistic profession and had close encounters of the third kind with at least one architect. Architects usually had no idea on how to use words, but images were their home turf. As the workshop went on she again felt the familiar longing for home and David. She would run for Gatwick as soon as she ever could. It was nothing wrong with the workshop at all but it could never compete with her son. Isabella sighed as she realised she had one more workshop to attend before getting released.

On the other hand she was curious about the subject: Emotional Intelligence. The lecture was held by one of the pioneers of emotional intelligence – Dr Reuwen Bar-On. He made a most powerful point: “Listen, observe, understand and only then give consultation, but really listen!” Isabella smiled as she thought “Typical – a man speaking of really listening. Most men could not even spell the word.” And still there that man stood on the stage, obviously knowing something to say about it. And with a background both from the military forces in Israel and also formerly living in South Africa he should know something about a “not listening culture”.  She imagined that being a major in the armed forces of Israel for eleven years would be extremely challenging for a man really interested in listening. Or an extreme learning experience, as you can learn as much from the thesis as the anti thesis. Something close to how a Buddhist would approach something bad happening or when meeting a bad person. What is the lesson to be learnt? Perhaps war produced a man interested in communication? Just like everything in itself has the possibility to turn into its opposite? Or that you sometimes need something really bad to wake up and really do something good? Isabella had read something on Taoism a few years back and did not understand much of it but had picked up that they always said that something at face value looking bad not always was entirely bad and vice versa. And that everything always changes. It was some kind of comfort in that, Isabella thought.  And the man was really into listening.

THe AC Conference in London - March 2010

He showed the Chinese character for “to listen”, which he said consisted of a combination of “heart”, “eye”, “ear” and “undivided attention”. He meant that we should all listen with both our ears, but also read all the visual expressions, use our heart to feel what is really said and focus on nothing else when we are listening. Isabella reflected that it was something of a crash course in coaching. Coaching is so much more of course, but really listening to your client is a good starting point. Isabella found it, however, more and more difficult to focus on Mr Bar-On. He went on to explain more on the science of Emotional Intelligence, but Isabella thought “I can get that from a book later.” She decided there and then to make herself scarce and make a run for the airport, giving her more time to look for another gift. David was to be well materially compensated for her absence. She knew that something from “Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars” would be hugely appreciated. David was turning into a boy now. He was not just a child anymore. A special transition time for him, being in two worlds. Both needing soft animals AND hard swords. Isabella remembered the other day, when David had shown her that his teddy bear knew Kung Fu moves. He had seen Kung Fu Panda of course. Amazing, but in such a film you could actually find things worth using in coaching. I a scene we are taught the saying “Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a Mystery, but Today is a Gift! That is why it is called the Present.

Today is a Gift

So being here now is a key. Kind of the Mindfulness teachings which are so popular today. Mindfulness has of course “borrowed” that notion from LaoTzu and Tao. Same coat, new box. Isabella thought that the wrapping does not matter as long as it fits. Only infants are more interested in the boxes than the contents. When David was a baby he could play with the boxes for hours, completely disregarding all the very thoughtfully chosen toys he was presented from within them. Perhaps we all have an internal infant showing up at times. Perhaps that infant loves the free space inside the box and the abstraction of the outside. With those two the infant can imagine anything, making anything possible. The thoroughly designed toy can only do one already defined thing. A car is a car and a doll is a doll. A bit boring for a creative infant. Perhaps even boring for anyone. Isabella knew of course that David expected a bit more than just an empty box.

Just hours ago our mysterious client left the store with just that. An empty box. The new owner had every intention of filling it with objects. Just a minute after leaving the store one small object was already put in there to mark triumph.

Isabella ran like crazy to board on time. The search for David’s present had taken longer than she had expected, but now she saw the staff about to close the gate in front of her very eyes. She yelled “Stop! Please! Wait!” – And all other possible shouts that might catch the staff’s attention. And yes – they saw her just in time and let her onto the plane. “Sometimes you are in luck”, she thought. After a few long deep breaths she calmed down and mumbled to herself: “Yes, Steel Eagle – Take me home!!

Flying home from London

March 10 – One Flew West, One did the Rest- by Coaching Detective

Isabella had not been on a plane for a long time, but today she was off to London in the afternoon. She had left her son at school in the morning, promising that she would buy him something “cool” in London and went home to pick up her bag. She knew the Airline was pretty picky on the size of the bag and also the weight. She had packed the bag twice, weighed it and then repacked it a third time. “Why can’t they make airplanes that can carry filled suitcases?” she sighed. She guessed that it had something to do with not using a lot of fuel and making money. As a coach she dealt with that problem all the time. Well, not the fuel issue as much as the making money bit. Almost every client wanted a way to make more money in a more interesting and less time consuming way. “Dreaming is essential of course – but there should be some realism too!” She remembered the old SMART model from the beginning of the eighties, a model so old and used so often that “If someone says SMART again I will through up!” But there of course sometimes are relevant things even in old stuff. Coaching sometimes refers to both Socrates and Aristotle so coaches have nothing against the “Old Geeks”. Isabella giggled. She always loved it when someone made a linguistic joke. Marcus had made her laugh and then she had followed him home. Laughter is a strong medicine.  There are actually laughing classes now, arguing that if you laugh you will be happier. Apparently the brain cannot tell the difference between a laugh as a involuntary reaction to something funny and a laugh produced by will. The brain will in both cases tell you “I am happy!” Marcus used to whistle a lot and people told him “You must be happy as you whistle!” Marcus had reflected on that and the next time someone said the same to him he had replied “No, I whistle because I want to be happy!” Isabella was going to London not because she was wise, but as she wanted to become wiser. “Go West, girl!”
As Isabella fell asleep in her small hotel room in Belgravia a murderer was making the last moves to start the process soon, soon, soon….on the table crammed in between all the boxes was a bottle and a glass. The glass was half filled with Cinzano Bitter. Bitter is of course the flavour of the day. “Bitterness floating down through the body pouring into every vein making you warm but not satisfied.” Tomorrow will surely be another day – but frankly nobody will give a damn! The rest will then follow.

March 8 – Making Foolish Plans for Perfection – by Coaching Detective

To Die For - By Coaching Detective


A killer wakes up in a small rented flat in the part of Stockholm called Östermalm. The place is cramped with boxes and bags recently transported here from France. Now, 25 years later, Stockholm seems like a very weird place but this is not important at all. The Plan is all. The killer has waited enough. All sorts of tools, equipment and accessories is purchased i the little town on the Loire river and cannot be traced. Most things are prepared for the attack…
In Södermalm, only a half hour away, Isabella also wakes up. She has also preparation work ahead of her today. The plan is for her to go to London to take part in a coaching conference there. The conference is hosted by the Association of Coaching (AC). She is not a member but that is not a requirement to take part. A different rate though. The conference starts on the 11th so she need to get things sorted quickly now. The flight tickets are already purchased and she has booked a room at a small hotel in Belgravia, just walking distance from the Victoria Plaza hotel where the conference is held. Half the hotel rate was a key factor. Now Isabella is focused on making sure that everything will run smoothly here in Stockholm while she is away, especially regarding David, her son. Marcus has of course promised her that “everything will be fine”, but Isabella really has a hard time letting go. She always wants to be in control, even though she realises that it is seldom possible. Then there is the packing. The airline company had strict rules for bags and weights and Isabella tried to figure out the best composition for a three day trip. She had to leave for London the day before the event in order to get there on time. Isabella thought “Too much trouble for so little time!” but she had a feeling that the event would be great and widen both her coaching experience and her network. So she kept on packing believing that the near future would be great fun and a perfectly happy time.
In Östermalm the killer was unpacking instead. Unpacking crucial stuff to prepare for events to come and smiled in a way showing lines that had not been seen in that face for quite some time…A kind of joy that had nothing to do with happiness- On the surface nothing was to been guessed. Nothing revealed the process that was going on here and nothing should. Practice makes perfect.


March 2 – In the Beginning Was the Work…from Coaching Detective

What a new practice needs, apart from clients of course, is furniture. Nothing fancy, a couple of chairs, tables and somewhere to keep papers and administration in. And to get the furniture delivered you need to be equipped with patience in abundance. Every dealer needed at least three weeks to deliver. Isabella was astonished on the inefficiency and thought “What if entrepreneurs reasoned in this way – we would all go bankrupt within seconds!” So to survive she had to get old stuff from her basement, really saved for another day as most stuff we keep in store without ever using but for dust collection. This was an exception though. She found 4 white IKEA chairs and two tables she could use. Nowhere for paperwork yet…”I feel like an absolute beginner.” She smiled remembering the old Bowie song from the mid-eighties and what had happened when she and her then boyfriend Robert saw the film. They had both been absolute beginners, really. But that was then and she had been just 18. More than a lifetime ago or so it seemed.  Another time and another place anyway. Her mother still had some contact with Robert’s mother and said that he now lives in London and works for an oil company. Isabella could imagine herself living in London but never ever working for an oil company. Not after seeing what oil spills can do to the wildlife. “Stop!” She had to remind herself to focus on getting sorted to start receiving clients. Fortunately the furniture was pretty light and could be squeezed into two taxis so after a couple of rides she only had to decide where to put it. Carrying furniture up several stairs took some work, but work that was worth the effort. This was truly a miracle, to be able to be “a casa” as it were. Before she had to rent a room by the hour in different places in the city and there was always the risk of double booking, getting to pay for the room even if the client missed the appointment. Isabella was fortunate enough to get a fair amount of clients now and she had also a sub-contractor deal with a coaching firm that gets clients through the recently launched governmentally supported job coaching program. This program really put a new focus on coaching as a tool for progress and highlighting it as a possibility for everyone, not only executives, leaders and people with huge wallets. There was also stuff in lifestyle magazines on coaching now. Not all publicity had been good lately though. The tabloid press, represented this time by one of the two daily ones, had tried really hard to create a “scandal” of the job coaching program. Isabella guessed that the paper had mainly two reasons for their efforts – one being that this paper was not so keen on the government at hand and the other the classic trying to sell papers. Taking a closer look at these articles it was clear that the journalists could neither count nor show any facts to show that the job coaching program had failed. On the contrary statistics from the employments offices showed that it had been a success! Isabella wondered if there had not been other reasons for some people to get on a crusade against coaching and coaches. Perhaps extremely private agendas and even medical conditions. These persons would not be helped by a coach either – they would need therapy instead, and for a coach the ethical rules were clear – if a client is beyond coaching she should advice therapy. But even these negative people really helped to put coaching on the map for people. Coaching was discussed not only in the papers but everywhere: in schools, on buses and on TV. “Coaching is truly here to stay.” It was interesting times. And tomorrow she will have her first Old Town client…

The Old Town - Coach HQ in Stockholm from Coaching Detective