Book - The Killing Bay

Today we have the honour of being the first place on this week's blog tour for Chris Ould's latest Faroes novel The Killing Bay. Read an exclusive extract from the book itself thanks to Titan Books...

A little before nine and still a couple of hours from the end of the late shift, Officer Annika Mortensen passed the multi-coloured lights in the Norðoyatunnilin – the grotto, as she always thought of it. Red, green and blue floodlights shone up the rock walls and across the roof of the road tunnel to mark the deepest point under the sea, halfway between Eysturoy and Borðoy.

Annika was heading for Klaksvík to meet up with Heri Kalsø for a coffee and hotdog at the Magn petrol station: hardly the most glamorous of locations, but convenient enough. A bit like their relationship, she thought, and then immediately chastised herself. It was an unkind assessment, especially because she knew it wasn’t one Heri would share.

There was little traffic in the tunnel and Annika kept her speed at a steady eighty up the incline, half listening to an REM song on the radio. Then the tunnel ended and she emerged into the night. Up ahead she saw three or four cars on the shoulder of the opposite lane, just past the first curve of the road. A couple of people were looking into a car that was pressed up against the embankment just beyond the junction with Mækjuvegur.

Annika assessed the situation, then slowed. She let an oncoming car go past, then switched on the blue roof bar lights and crossed the carriageway, pulling up in front of the first car; a VW Polo with its nearside front tyre down in the mud. Beside it a man in a Föroyar Bjór bomber jacket had opened the driver’s door and was leaning inside; an older man was peering over his shoulder.

“Hey,” Annika said as she approached. “What’s happened?”

“Don’t know,” the older man said. “I was following him about fifty metres behind and he just drove off the road.”

“How fast was he going?”

“Not very. About forty maybe. I had to slow down.”

The man in the Föroyar Bjór jacket stood away from the door now to let Annika see. She moved forward and bent down to the driver, but the smell of alcohol and unwashed body told her as much as his lolling head. He was well into his sixties, greying hair down over his collar and a face grizzled with a grey beard where it wasn’t streaked with dirt.

“Hey, hey, can you hear me?” she asked, putting a hand on the shoulder of the man’s greasy tweed jacket. “Are you okay?”

No response. His clothes were muddy and wet, especially the knees of his trousers, Annika noticed, and there was a bottle of vodka on the passenger seat, uncapped and empty.

Annika considered, then pinched the man’s earlobe, hard, between her thumb and index fingernail.

It did the trick. The old man roused with a snort and a swatting motion from his hands, as if trying to fend off a fly.

“Wha— Where’s this? I don... Where?”

“Talk to me, please.” Annika’s tone was insistent. “Are you hurt?”

For a moment the man tried to focus. “She... she wa’ dead... I need to... Not me to...”

He trailed off into incomprehensible mumbling and his head lolled again. Annika frowned. As drunk as a halibut, as her gran used to say. Not an ambulance job though. She straightened up from the car.

“He’s pissed again, right?” the man in the Föroyar Bjór jacket said.

“Again? Do you know him?”

“Sure, that’s old Boas,” the man said. “Boas Justesen. He lives near my sister in Fuglafjørður. He took to the bottle when he lost his job in the 1980s – hasn’t put it down since.”

The name seemed vaguely familiar to Annika, which wasn’t saying a lot: it was harder not to know people around here. Something about his wife dying? Maybe. It didn’t matter.

“Will you give me a hand to move him?” she asked the man. “Just as far as my car.”

By the time Annika had secured Boas Justesen’s car, turning off the lights and locking the doors, the man himself was slumped across the back seat of her patrol car snoring. There was also a powerful smell of urine. Annika opened her window and switched on the fan.

There was no point driving Justesen to Tórshavn to be charged: he was too drunk. Instead Annika called the station and arranged to take him directly to the holding cells in Klaksvík; something she would have had to do anyway now that Tórshavn’s own cells had been closed. Even arrestees from the capital ended up being driven the seventy-five kilometres to Klaksvík for holding. It made no sense and wasted everyone’s time, but there it was. At least this time she was only five minutes away.

Image and extract courtesy of Titan Books.

The Killing Bay is published tomorrow.

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