Estimated reading time: 26 minute(s)

Original Works: Martin Beck Stories – Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö

Pairing: Martin Beck & Lennart Kollberg

Summary: Some missing scenes between the Abomindable Man and the Locked Room when Martin Beck got shot on the roof and Lennart Kollberg brought him back.

I knew it would somehow end up like this. Kollberg muttered to himself. If the man dangling at the other end of rope was conscious, I would have said, Martin, I told you so and so. Or someone else did. Gunvald Larsson could be a jerk sometimes, but he had a point. If two helicopters full of armed policemen could not take down that desperado, then going up the roof alone was a suicide mission alright. 

Yet he had not objected when Martin volunteered that he should go up on the roof and faced Åke Eriksson alone, so Kollberg might as well shut up and focus on his current task now. He could not left that man hanging in front of the open window forever. 

Kollberg took a deep breath, steady his footing, then grabbed Martin Beck under the shoulders, and dragged him through the window. His friend laid completely still and did not make a sound. Martin Beck looked as much as lifeless when Kollberg found him on the roof. Kollberg had checked that the bullet wound almost stopped bleeding, but it was still hard to look at that bloodstained shirt.

Buckle up, you moron. Kollberg lifted Martin Beck on his back. He could still catch that metallic scent of blood in cold, spring air. He slowly moved down the stairs, having to hold the railings to keep himself still for a few times. The dread started to dawn on him like a cooling sweat. Martin is alive. He thought to himself. I prepared for the worst, so it is better already. Now, what you need to do, is to bring him back to the ground. 

Kollberg heard the gunshot when they were moving Martin Beck to the back of an ambulance. Someone beside him was shouting  to the radio, presumably trying to contact Gunvald Larsson. Static. Static. The ambulance left. More static.

Kollberg could not help but wondering if Gunvald Larsson was really looking forward to getting himself shot. He wondered if Martin Beck was looking forward to getting himself shot as well. Of course, out of different reasons. Then Gunvald Larsson and the other two turned up, no bleeding, all in one piece, carrying an unconscious, bleeding Åke Eriksson. 

“Took you long enough.”Superintendent Malm said, attempting to lighten the mood. He looked relived. More mess to clean up later, but for now, the disaster stopped here.  Uniforms took over them. 

“Did you get your pal?” Gunvald Larsson asked. 

Kollberg did not answer him first. He suddenly felt very cold and light-headed. He left his coat somewhere. And he forgot to ask which hospital they took Martin to. He probably needed that information later when he called upon Martin’s family. 

“Did he die or what?” Gunvald Larsson continued, “By the way, you got blood on you.”

“No. “ Kollberg answered irritably, “He will live.” He was just not sure whether the words are for Gunvald Larsson or for himself. 

Fortunately, Karolinska Hospital called in later that night to inform him that Martin was stable, but in no state of having any visitors yet. Kollberg thanked them and hanged up. He was hesitant to call Martin’s family about this. 

Before Kollberg made up his mind, his wife called. “Thank god you took it. I saw the news, I was worried about you.” She said, “Is everything alright?”

“It is fine. I am fine.” Kollberg said. His voice sounded even surprisingly calm to himself. “Martin was in hospital though.”

“You sound exhausted.” She replied. “Come back. I’ll conjure up something in the kitchen.” 

“I need to inform Martin’s family about this first.” He said without a second thought. “I’ll get back as early as possible.” 

Kollberg found Ingrid’s number in Martin Beck’s notebook. He dialled. 

“Dad? Is everything alright?” She sounded worried. 

Kollberg always hated this part of police work, but at least this time it was not all bad news. 

“But how is it possible?” Ingrid was still in shock, “We just had dinner together one day before.”

“I am sure he will be fine.” Kollberg assured her, “I will let you know when we can go to see him.” He could not remember what else he said then. 

Kollberg remembered finally hanging up. He made that call from Martin Beck’s desk. It looked neat and clean. He thought about Martin Beck seemed to be happier once he was divorced. He thought about the way Martin Beck looked out from the window before he went up on the roof. He thought about how Martin Beck’s lifeless body weighted on his back. And the metallic scent of blood in cold, spring air. 

Don’t think about it. You are really getting dotty. And you should change your bloody shirt before you go home. 

No one was in the office now. He pressed his forehead against the desk, sighed, stayed there for a moment, then he got up and left.

The aftermath was worse than he expected. When Kollberg himself finally got around to see Martin Beck, it was three days later. Not before they asked Melander to recount Åke Eriksson’s story for the report. (Yes, Rönn was there the first time, but they hardly can ask him to write the report, right?) After all, half of the squad was dragged into this case, so why only let the young boys have all the fun? 

Or in this case, all the bitterness. Three dead cops, eight wounded. What Eriksson did was hardly justifiable. Yet. Kollberg wondered. If it was his wife helplessly died in a holding cell and his kids were taken away simply because of a bad letter of his scum boss, and all his former colleagues turned their backs on him over the years, what would he do then? 

Probably not better off than Eriksson. He shuddered at the possibility. Another good reason to question himself why he was still in the force. Then a rustle from the other side of room disrupted his train of thought. It was Martin Beck, shifting in his half dreams. 

The nurse told Kollberg that Beck was conscious enough to talk but he was still under influence of painkillers, so he was not fully awake when Kollberg stepped in. The bullet got in from Martin Beck’s chest and lodged beside his spine. Of course he needed painkillers. Kollberg shook his head. I had some experience myself in that department. 

He did not want to wake Martin Beck, but he did not want to just leave either. It was overly sentimental to say it aloud, but he did miss Martin Beck in office already. Yes, his old friend is cold, detached, downright depressed sometimes, but he also cared about doing something good out of police work. Which, Kollberg himself did as well, but nowadays it was hard to find anyone else in the force did. 

Then he understood. Before Martin decided to get up the roof, Kollberg questioned him if such decision was based on technical considerations or moral ones. He had not got the whole picture yet back then. Martin Beck did not answer the question but one look was enough for Kollberg to let him go. Kollberg had guessed both, but he was not sure. Until much later,  Melander told all of them that Eriksson also filed complaints on Martin Beck because he had not opened Eriksson wife’s death as a murder case. Right, he thought he was a part of the system who had pushed Eriksson to this point. Kollberg could almost hear what Beck thought back then. He thought maybe he could talk Eriksson down before that man shot more police officers. He might even think he could still help Eriksson. 

Moron. Kollberg looked at the man on the hospital bed. Martin Beck looked pale and troubled even in his drug-induced dream. It was not an atonement like in a Hollywood film. Not even half close.

It did not do you any good. It did not do anybody any good. He wanted to shout it aloud, right to that idiots’ face but then changed his mind. Of course Martin had knew it already when Eriksson shot him. At least, Kollberg thought grimly, Eriksson did not shot Martin Beck’s face, not like what he did to Axelsson on the helicopter. 

Moron. It made Kollberg want to kick the man on the bed and to sigh at the same time. 

Kollberg had loathed the whole idea of one-man job but even given the second chance, he probably would let Martin Beck do it anyway. They were too much alike for their own good. 

Then he saw the man on the hospital bed blinked. Then Martin Beck’s calm, grey-blue eyes were looking at him. Somehow Martin Beck looked genuinely surprised. 

“I’ve got shot.” He said, slowly.

“Damn right you were.” Kollberg grunted, “How are you feeling?”

Martin Beck did not answer right away. He blinked a few more times, and tried to raised his hands, but too hurt to make it. “How come I am still alive?”The surprise still lingered on his face. He looked distant and … almost disappointed.

“Because I brought you down from the damned roof.” Kollberg said, suddenly crossed. “What happened?”

Martin Beck did not answer his question. He stared at Kollberg for a long time, as if he was looking for something to anchor back to reality. Then his surprise and disappointment were gone.

“Rönn gave me the signal. Then the fire alarm stopped.” Martin Beck said. “That’s when I almost got up on the ladder.  He was there and he shot me.” He said it as if he had to pull the words out from deep water. 

“Damn morons.” Kollberg uttered. “Damn short-circuits.” So he could have made it, but these hardly mattered anymore. The case was closed. They should move on. 

“How everything was going in the squad?” Martin Beck asked. 

“They asked me to acting as the head now.” Kollberg said, “Paperworks, meetings, the usual, consider I spared you a hell lot of suffering. I should have quitted.” Yet when he said it aloud, he realized why he was still here. 

Martin nodded and closed his eyes. For a while, both of them said nothing.

“Thank you.” Martin’s voice sounded tired. He looked like he was going to fall asleep again, but he managed to finish the sentence. “For bringing me back to the ground.”

Kollberg nodded. “Anytime.”