“What kind of man is Harjunpää?” Kontio asked out of the blue.
“Just…part of the furniture, really.”
“Does he drink?”
“I’ve seen him have one or two in the sauna, but he’s never passed out or anything like that. I did hear that once he was apparently so drunk that Mäki managed to slip a pair of Ulla’s knickers into his pockets, and as he reached for his wallet on the train, they fell out and he was…..”
“I mean – if someone claimed he’d been on night shift and had one or two to drink, would anyone believe it?”
His home was his castle – not one other police officer had even set foot inside it. Perhaps it would have been more correct to call it his warehouse: he had sold off some of his furniture and replaced it with shelves reaching up to the ceiling. He even had three fridges, and each of them was full. He kept a meticulous log of everything he acquired, though even without this he would have been ale to list that he had seventy-nine bottles of whisky, sixty-five bottles of Cognac and exactly forty bottles of gin; then there were the cured sausages and rounds of cheese, stacks of preserves and cans of beer, washing powders and toothpastes. It might have been easier to list the things that were not in his flat – babies’ nappies were missing from the collection.
All this was the result of years of hard work and saving. He felt this same joy almost every day upon coming home. More than anything, it made him feel that life hadn’t been wasted after all, and now he was untouchable. And the feeling became stronger every time he took out his bankbooks and looked up his balance, and no one who knew him would have believed that he was the happy owner of a fortune just shy of six-hundred-thousand marks.
Kontio walked up to the Lada, put the bags in the rear foot space so that Hämäläinen couldn’t see them properly, though Hämäläinen had learned years ago not to snoop, then he sat down in the passenger seat and sighed heavily as though he’d just brought difficult negotiations to an end.
“It’s a good job you don’t smoke either”, said Kontio once they were back on the road. “There’s nothing worse than getting into a car full of smoke. But let’s go via Paloheinä on our way back to the department. I’ve got to stop in at the house for a moment.”
“So what did Harjunpää do when the knickers fell out of his pocket?”
“He was so embarrassed he got off at the next stop.”
“I see”, said Kontio, not in passing, but weightily, as though something had just fallen into place.
From To steal her love, by Matti Joensuu.
Translated from the Finnish by David Hackston.
First published in 1993; first published in English in 2008.