Chapter 1

Monday, March 2nd Reykjavík, Iceland

It was a small bedroom, spartanly furnished. Despite the night chill, there was no wind and the apartment's windows were open. A light was on in the hallway and the bedroom door was open. Lying in bed, sleeping naked with their arms wrapped around each other, the couple could be mistaken for middle-aged Nordic gods.
     In a country where people grow tall, Thor Eríkson was taller than most, so tall that his feet hung over the end of the bed. He appeared to be trim and fit rather than muscle-bound and his face looked more rugged than handsome. His hair was short and blond, but graying at the temples.
     Frieda Helgadottír looked like she belonged with this man, always. She was the muscle-bound one, wide-shouldered and also tall, although at least a head shorter than Thor. Except for her full, well-rounded breasts, she had the body of a very fit teenage tomboy. Her hair was long and also blonde, but there was nothing rugged about her face. There was not one feature that detracted from her appearance, except maybe for the age lines just beginning to appear at the corners of her eyes. She was pretty without being beautiful and she smiled as she slept.
     The bedside phone rang at 2:30 AM, waking both Thor and Frieda. Thor turned on the light, got out of bed, and stretched as he watched the phone, willing it to stop ringing. It didn't, so he took a pad and pencil from the nightstand.
     "Don't answer it," Frieda implored as he put his hand on the phone. "You're on vacation."
     He was used to doing what Frieda wanted, but this time he couldn't. "There's been a murder."
     "A murder? How do you know?"
     "I just do." The phone stopped ringing. No matter, Thor thought. The chief will call again.
     "Thor, please come back to bed," Frieda pleaded.
     "Sorry, I can't. I'm going to get ready. When the phone rings, answer it and get the information."
     Frieda accepted Thor's decision without further comment. No matter what she said, Thor would always do his job because that was the way he was. Although she rarely thought about it, it was one of the many things she loved about Thor and she was intensely proud of him.
     He went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. She heard him turn on the shower and knew he wouldn't be long. Thor showered in the same way he did everything, quickly and efficiently. She got up, closed the windows so that he wouldn't be chilled when he came out, then sat down on the bed with the pad and pen in her hand, waiting and thinking.
     Thor's job had many drawbacks, but Frieda enjoyed being married to Iceland's only homicide detective. She especially liked the fact that he was famous and well-respected, so famous that she herself was recognized wherever she went. True, there had been only four murders in the twelve years since Thor had been promoted to detective, but he had solved them all.
     Murders weren't the part of Thor's job that Frieda minded. They occurred so infrequently in Iceland that in one period of eight years not a single murder had been committed in the entire country.
     It was the training that bothered her. Thor was frequently abroad, leaving her alone while he attended this seminar or that national police academy. He trained constantly for his job, and when he wasn't traveling, he was studying textbooks on the subject of murder.
     Or he was playing handball, Iceland's national sport and another thing she loved about Thor. He excelled at everything he tried, excelled so well that in 1980 and again in 1982 he had been recognized as the national champion. That didn't hurt his fame, either, and also added to her stature.
     The phone rang again.
     I hope this one is in Reykjavík, she thought as she picked up the receiver. If not, Thor would be leaving her to work his case in another of Iceland's far-flung coastal communities. "Hello?"
     "Hello, Frieda. It's Janus. Is Thor there?"
     "Yes, but he's in the shower," she told the chief. "Has there been a murder?"
     "Unfortunately, there's been two. The British foreign secretary and his wife have been killed at the Saga Hotel."
     Two murders? That's never happened before, Frieda thought. Worse, important people like the British foreign secretary and his wife? "How?"
     "They were killed by bombs."
     Bombs? In Iceland? Something else that's never happened before. Many other questions popped into her mind, but she kept them to herself. "I'll tell Thor. Don't worry, Janus. He'll be there soon."
     "No, have him wait there. It's very complicated and very delicate, so Erík is on his way over to talk to Thor."
     "Erík? The minister of fisheries is coming here now?"
     "Sorry, Frieda. I hope it's not too inconvenient, but he insisted."
     It certainly was inconvenient, but Frieda didn't say a word. When she didn't answer, Janus added, "Relax, Frieda. It's not as if Vigdís was coming over."
     That didn't help Frieda's state of mind at all. Although Vigdís Finnbogadottír had been president since 1980 and enjoyed some status as the world's first elected female head of state, her post was largely ceremonial. Frieda knew that the real power in Iceland lay with the minister of fisheries and it was Erík who was coming. "When will he get here?" she asked.
     "He just left. I'd say about fifteen minutes, if he takes his time."
     "Fifteen minutes? Good God! Good-bye, Janus." Frieda hung up the phone and ran into the bathroom, panic-stricken as she screamed the news to Thor.

*     *     *

By the time the doorbell rang, Frieda was dressed and ready, with her hair combed, her makeup on, and coffee perking. Thor went to the door and Frieda was surprised to hear him greet the minister of fisheries as casually as if he were a neighbor dropping by to borrow a cup of sugar. When Thor brought him into the living room she got another surprise.
     Although she had seen Erík on TV many times, he was not what she expected. He had always appeared to be very much the man in charge, radiating confidence with facts and figures at his fingertips, ready for any question. This Erík was different; he appeared haggard and worried.
     Nonetheless, he still had manners. "So good to finally meet you, Frieda. I know Thor's on vacation and I'm terribly sorry to bother you at this hour, but we're in something of a national emergency," he said as he shook her hand. Then Erík handed her the bag he was carrying. "Sorry, but that's all I could come up with at this hour. Croissants from the Saga's bakery."
     "Very nice of you, Erík. Coffee?"
     "That would be wonderful."
     Frieda went into the kitchen and Erík settled into the couch. Thor sat in the armchair opposite him.
     "I guess you're wondering why I'm here," Erík said.
     "I am. I'm also wondering if this visit means that I'm working for you," Thor replied.
     "No, you're not. I'm not going to get involved in your investigation. However, you'll need to know some things that only I can tell you right now, things that aren't for public dissemination at the moment."
     "Why come here instead of waiting for me at the hotel? You hiding from the press?"
     "Let's say I'm avoiding the press. The foreign secretary's visit was a secret I didn't let them in on."
     "Why? Diplomatic confidentiality?"
     "Yes. They'll want to know what the foreign secretary was doing here and what we talked about. And, of course, they'll want to know the reason for the secrecy."
     "Something to do with Rockall?" Thor guessed.
     "Then you'll have to talk to them, sooner or later. Even before this bombing, Rockall was already big news."
     "I realize that, and I'll tell them everything, eventually. Unfortunately, because of the agreement I reached with the foreign secretary, I can't do it now."
     "Because news of the agreement has to come from London," Eric said.
     "Then I guess the British were the losers in your negotiations?"
     "Basically, yes. To save face, it was to have been announced in London tomorrow afternoon by Smythe-Douglass. I don't know when they'll do it now, but it still falls to me to keep our end of the bargain."
     "Will the Brits still go along with this deal?"
     "Their ambassador here, Roger Chatwick, took part in the discussions and he's assured me that it will still be implemented."
     "Can you tell me the reason for all the secrecy?" Thor asked.
     "It was Smythe-Douglass's idea. According to him, the Irish government is going to claim Rockall as Irish territory and he felt that would complicate our dispute."
     "Why would the Irish do that? They don't have much of a fishing fleet."
     "Just to piss the Brits off, I guess. Smythe-Douglass did some research and was afraid the Irish might have a valid claim. Rockall is closer to Ireland than it is to either Iceland or Great Britain, and the medieval Irish monks were a seafaring lot. Since they were the first ones to arrive in Iceland, he felt it was possible they had also discovered Rockall."
     "But they have no documentation of such a visit, do they?" Thor asked.
     "Not as far as he knew, but he was afraid the World Court might side with them."
     "I see. So he sneaks in here to take care of things with us before taking on the Irish."
     "I'm sure that's what he had in mind, but that's not the way it worked out. If Rockall must be owned by any nation, it should be us. I was able to convince him of that and we arrived at an accommodation over ownership."
     "Do you think the IRA planted the bomb?"
     "Nobody's claimed credit for it, yet, but Irish national interests are involved. I'm assuming it's their work, but I don't see how it's possible."
     "Because of the secrecy of the visit?" Thor asked.
     "Yes, that and the fact that it was so hastily arranged. The IRA simply wouldn't have had the time to formulate a plan and then get a bomb into the Saga."
     "Exactly who knew the foreign secretary was in town?"
     "Chatwick's trying to find out who knew on their end, but here the list is very small. Should I give you the scenario?"
     "Chatwick went to see Vigdís yesterday morning to arrange the meeting. Since it was Sunday, she didn't even tell her secretary about it. She knew what he wanted to talk about, so she called me and said that she'd bring them over to my place after dinner with her. I told no one about it, and that's just the way it worked out."
     "Not exactly, or they'd still be alive. Were they noticed by anyone at the airport?"
     "Chatwick says no, says they didn't attract any attention at all. They were traveling on diplomatic passports, so immigration and customs were no problem for them. They were out of the airport in five minutes."
     "And what then? Straight to Vigdís's house?"
     "No, that's where it got complicated. Chatwick had reserved the presidential suite for them and they went to the hotel first to change before dinner. Got there about four, stayed less than an hour, and were at Vigdís's house by five. After dinner they came to my house."
     "Vigdís, too?"
     "No, just the Brits. Got there at seven and left at ten forty-five. They got back to the hotel at eleven and Chatwick stayed there until midnight. The bombs went off at seven minutes after one."
     "Yeah, two of them. Thorough bastards, whoever did this. Put one in the master bedroom and another in the servant's room."
     "And they went off at exactly the same time?"
     "Yep. Got the foreign secretary in the servant's room and his wife in the master bedroom."
     "The British foreign secretary was sleeping in the servant's room?" Thor asked.
     "Yeah, but let's keep that off the record as long as we can. I asked their ambassador about it and all he said was that they didn't appear to be getting on exceptionally well last night."
     "What was your take on them?" Thor asked.
     "They seemed fine to me. A very cordial couple. Penelope Smythe-Douglass was apparently a woman of some breeding and it seemed that we all enjoyed her company."
     Frieda came in carrying the coffee and the heated croissants on a tray. Conversation stopped while Frieda added the cream and sugar for Erík and Thor. "Am I interrupting?" she asked.
     "Of course not," Thor said. "Have a seat."
     Frieda looked pleased as she settled next to Erík on the sofa. She kept her eyes on Thor as she sipped her coffee, waiting for the conversation to resume. He knew Frieda's curiosity and was sure she had been listening from the kitchen, but she managed to appear very nonchalant.
     "Did Chatwick drive them from place to place?" Thor asked.
     "Yes, in his own car."
     "Make any other stops?"
     "He says no."
     "Did we provide any security?"
     "Yes. I called Janus at nine and asked him to provide a man at the Saga, basically just to keep the press away in case they found out about the visit."
     "Who did he send?"
     "You know a constable named Haarold Sigmarsson?"
     "Yes, a very good choice. One of our sharpest and toughest. Did Janus send Brandy to check out the room?"
     "Our bomb dog. She's trained to sniff out most types of explosives."
     "No, he didn't. I asked him about the bomb dog and he said there hadn't been enough time. Her handler went to Akureyi yesterday for the weekend and she's with him."
     "That's too bad," Thor commented. "We have the first bombing in our history and our only bomb-sniffing dog is two hundred and thirty kilometers away."
     "Bad luck," Erík agreed.
     "What time did Haarold get to the hotel?"
     "Ten o'clock. He met them all in the hotel lobby when they arrived, then stood guard outside the room. Handled himself very well when the bombs went off."
     "Was he injured?" Frieda asked, concerned. She knew both Haarold and his wife and was one of the few people who liked the taciturn and easily-irritated constable.
     "No. It wasn't much of a blast because the folks at the front desk didn't even hear it. He got soaked, but he wasn't injured."
     "The sprinkler system?" Thor asked.
     "Yes. Haarold heard the blast, but he didn't have the code key to get into the suite. So he put a few shots into the lock and then kicked the door in. The lights were blown out in the master bedroom and the sprinkler system was dousing the place, but he used his flashlight and saw the wife's body on the bed. She was dead, so he looked around. Found the foreign secretary in the servant's room."
     "Burn damage to the bodies?"
     "I don't know. Haarold wouldn't let anybody into the suite except Janus. Not the medical examiner, not the British ambassador, not even me. The fire alarm had gone off, but Haarold wouldn't even let in the firemen. Said he didn't want us destroying the crime scene."
     "I guess Janus backed him up."
     "Yes, and that was that. Without the medical examiner, those bodies aren't even officially dead yet."
     "Who turned the sprinklers off?" Thor asked.
     "Nobody. They're pretty sophisticated and they went off by themselves while Haarold was still inside."
     Thor silently sipped his coffee for a few minutes as he contemplated the disaster he had just been assigned. Haarold was the one bright spot in the affair and his presence outside the room meant a few things. One was that the bombs had been placed before Haarold's assignment to the post because the astute and singularly unfriendly constable would never fall for any kind of ruse and would let no unauthorized person into the presidential suite. Because of Haarold, he knew he would be dealing with as pure a crime scene as possible under the circumstances, unmuddled by the firemen.
     Still, Thor recognized that there was quite a task in front of him. He had known that Iceland would eventually fall victim to the terrorist madness gripping the rest of the world and he had tried to train himself through reading, seminars, and courses. Besides being the homicide investigator, he was also recognized as the nation's best crime scene technician and its only bomb expert. But he had never handled a bombing and he would be under intense scrutiny. "Is the press at the Saga now?"
     "A few reporters were arriving as I left, but they didn't see me."
     "Who else is there?"
     "Janus and the British ambassador."
     "Who's going to giving the press a statement?"
     "I'm going to be making myself unavailable until the British make their announcement, so it'll be you or Janus."
     So the police are elected to be the liars, Thor thought. We're to emphasize the investigation and dummy-up when reporters ask us the reasons for the British visit. Not a good position for us. "I don't like it," Thor said.
     "But you'll do it?"
     "I can't speak for Janus, but I'll do it if I have to. Reluctantly do it."
     It was what Erík wanted to hear. "Good," he said and stood up. The visit was over, but Frieda's curiosity wasn't satisfied. "How did you manage to convince the British that Rockall is ours?"
     Thor was surprised to see that Erík appeared pleased by the inquiry.
     "Simple. Geography and history," Erík said proudly. "Unlike England and Ireland, both Iceland and Rockall were formed by volcanic activity. From a geographic standpoint, Rockall can't possibly be considered part of the British Isles and shouldn't belong to either Ireland or the United Kingdom. Then there's a story in one of the sagas. Rockall was discovered by an Icelander named Sigmar in 1001. His ship was wrecked on a small, rocky island in the North Atlantic. From the description in the saga, it had to be Rockall. He and some of his men survived the shipwreck and were rescued a few days later. He eventually died in Iceland, so he's officially one of ours."
     Sort of a tenuous claim to Rockall, but better than the claims of either the United Kingdom or Ireland to the island, Thor thought. "Where is this saga kept?"
     "That's the best part. It's in the Norwegian National Museum in Oslo, a neutral country not party to the dispute. After I showed Smythe-Douglass an English translation of the saga, I made him an offer and he went for it."
     "Joint fishing rights?" Frieda guessed.
     "Something like that. Rockall is our territory, but the fishing rights are to be jointly shared by Iceland and Great Britain for ten years. We set the limits on the catch and the British are entitled to fish half the limit. We also agreed that our joint sovereignty over the island is to be enforced by the Royal Navy for the next ten years."
     "Meaning they'll exclude fishing fleets from everywhere else?" Thor asked.
     "Exactly. What do you think?"
     "Good deal. Looks like the British Navy becomes our coast guard again."

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