Authors: Leena Lehtolainen
Tags: #Fiction / Mystery & Detective
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 1994 by Leena Lehtolainen
English translation copyright © 2012 Owen Witesman
Published by agreement with Tammi Publishers and Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency, Helsinki, Finland.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by AmazonCrossing
PO Box 400818
Las Vegas, NV 89140
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012922284
Maria Kallio..........Legal counselor, ex-cop
Pekka Koivu..........Maria’s old partner at Helsinki VCU
Pertti Ström..........Espoo police detective
Ville “Dennis the Menace” Puupponen..........Espoo police officer
Annamari Hänninen..........Kimmo’s mother
Henrik Hänninen..........Kimmo’s father
Kimmo Hänninen..........Armi’s fiancé
Marita Sarkela Hänninen..........Antti’s sister, Risto’s wife
Matti and Mikko..........Risto and Marita’s twin sons
Risto Hänninen..........Kimmo’s half brother
Sanna Hänninen..........Kimmo’s dead sister
Antti Sarkela..........Maria’s boyfriend
Marjatta Sarkela..........Antti’s mother
Tauno Sarkela..........Antti’s father
Armi Mäenpää..........Kimmo’s fiancée, nurse
Marja “Mallu” Laaksonen..........Armi’s sister
Paavo Mäenpää..........Armi’s father
Taisto Laaksonen..........Teemu’s father
Teemu Laaksonen..........Mallu’s husband
Eeva and Jarmo..........Maria’s sister and husband
Elina “Angel” Kataja..........S&M club organizer
Erkki “Eki” Henttonen..........Maria’s boss, lawyer
Helena and Petri..........Maria’s sister and boyfriend
“Joke”..........S&M club organizer
Markku “Makke” Ruosteenoja..........Sanna’s boyfriend
Otso Hakala..........Sanna’s convict ex-boyfriend
Sari and Minna..........Armi’s girlfriends
Sebastian..........S&M club attendee
Steffan “Stögö” Brandt..........Makke’s friend
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
The cherry trees were the first thing I saw when I woke up. The spring had been warm, and now the trees were blossoming with fluffy, fragrant bunches of flowers. Antti always wanted to sleep with the curtains open so we could see the curled branches against the night sky. It made it hard for me to sleep, but I’d gradually gotten used to it.
Antti was still sleeping, and Einstein was stretching contentedly in a puddle of sunshine at the foot of the bed. It was already eight o’clock, and I needed to get ready for work.
Shuffling from the bedroom to the kitchen, I started the coffeemaker. I’m useless before my morning coffee. After rinsing my face with ice-cold water, I walked across the yard to pick up the paper. The grass tickled my bare feet, and, as I breathed in the scent of cherry blossoms, I could already sense the coming heat of the day. The only thing disturbing my idyllic moment was the noise from the constant construction on the West Highway.
Taking longer than I should have, I leisurely ate my breakfast and read the paper before letting Einstein out for his morning rounds along the shoreline. Pulling on cotton capri pants and a clean shirt, I threw on some mascara and a dab of lip gloss, then headed out to my bike. Antti was still in bed, one foot poking
out from under the sheet like a child’s. He’d been up late struggling with his dissertation again and hadn’t crawled into bed until nearly dawn.
We had been living together for a little over a month, and so far, we’d managed to avoid any serious blowups, despite my occasional anxiety. New place, new job, new routines, no real sense of direction after graduating…plenty of stress for one woman.
I’d known Antti for a long time—he was friends with my roommate’s boyfriend years ago, and I remember there being electricity between us even then. We’d lost touch until last summer, when that boyfriend was murdered and I’d been assigned to the investigation. After I solved the case, Antti and I found we were still interested in each other. A romance didn’t fit in with either of our plans: I was grinding away like a madwoman at my master’s thesis, and Antti was working on his dissertation and teaching math courses. But then our lunches at the university started lasting longer, and after a while, we’d skip the food to make love on the couch in Antti’s office.
I eventually finished my thesis and started looking for work, which was much harder than I had imagined. For a moment, I even considered calling my old boss at the police department, though begging for another temporary posting would have meant swallowing my pride.
Then everything shifted: Antti received a large fellowship that made it possible for him to work on his dissertation full time for the next year. I found a job in a small law office with a laid-back atmosphere in the North Tapiola area of Espoo, and the same week, my great-aunt’s heirs told me they’d decided to sell the apartment I’d been living in for four years.
At first, neither of us suggested moving in together. Antti’s one-bedroom apartment would have been entirely too small
since he was working at home. I started searching for a new place of my own, but then Antti found out that his building would be undergoing an extensive exterior renovation.
“I’m never going to be able to concentrate with all that racket,” he told me over the phone. “My parents are planning to spend the whole summer at their cabin in Inkoo, so I’ll probably move into their place in Tapiola while they’re away. When are you supposed to be out of your place?”
“Beginning of June, at the latest. Why?”
“I was just thinking…what if you came with me to Tapiola for the summer? We could just see how it goes, if we get along.”
I pulled the phone away from my ear for a moment and stared at it.
“You don’t decide this kind of thing over the phone,” I finally said, trying to stall him. Moving in together felt too final. Too frightening.
After hours of talking at his place that night, I had eventually agreed. Antti’s parents were going to move to Inkoo on May Day and stay until the end of September, maybe longer. Antti’s father had retired in the spring, and it seemed likely they might even move to Inkoo permanently. I hadn’t thought through anything past the summer, but I knew that with my new salary from Henttonen & Associates, I could afford to find an apartment if things didn’t work out with Antti.
I nearly always rode to work on the north side of Tapiola, keeping to the shoreline and grassy meadows along the way as much as I could. As I was passing the shopping center downtown, I spotted a familiar blond head. Makke Ruosteenoja was next to a dumpster, breaking down a huge pile of cardboard boxes from his sporting goods store.
“Hey, Makke. Did you get tired of building your fort?” I brought my bike to a stop next to him.
“Just organizing the stockroom for our summer clearance sale. You don’t need a new swimsuit, do you? You could get a good one cheap.”
“Ugh, trying on swimsuits first thing in the morning—no thanks. So will we see you tonight at the Hänninens’?”
“Yeah, they invited me, although I don’t understand why,” Makke said, letting the top of the dumpster slam shut. “See you there.”
As I continued my ride to work, just a quarter of a mile away, I thought about my first meeting with Makke.
A couple of days after starting my new job, I’d gone to buy some bicycle saddlebags I’d seen in the window of Makke’s shop. I’d been the only customer in the store, so Makke spent a long time going over all the various models.
The next night, we happened to be at the local gym at the same time. While I was working my triceps on one of the machines, Makke sat down on the military press bench next to me. We continued our conversation, talking about bikes, whenever we were at adjacent stations. We seemed to be in sync: as I walked out of the women’s dressing room after unwinding in the sauna, Makke was just coming out of the men’s side.