The Absent One A Department Q Novel - By Jussi Adler-Olsen


Another shot echoed over the treetops.

The beaters’ calls had grown clearer. A throbbing pulse was thundering against my eardrums, the damp air forcing its way into my lungs so fast and hard that it hurt.

Run, run, don’t fall. I’ll never get up again if I do. Fuck, fuck. Why can’t I get my hands free? Oh, run, run…shhh. Can’t let them hear me. Did they hear me? Is this it? Is this really how my life is going to end?

Branches slapped against my face, drawing streaks of blood, the blood mixing with sweat.

The men’s shouts were all around now. It was at this moment that I was seized by the fear of death.

More shots. A bolt whistled through the chill air so close that sweat poured off me, settling like a compress beneath my clothes.

In a minute or two they’ll catch me. Why won’t my hands behind my back obey? How can the tape be that strong?

Frightened birds suddenly flew from the treetops, wings beating the air. The dancing shadows beyond the dense line of spruces grew clearer. Maybe they were only about a hundred yards away. Everything was more distinct now. The voices. The hunters’ bloodlust.

How would they do it? A single shot, a single arrow, and it would be over? Was that it?

No, no, why would they settle for that? Those bastards were not that merciful. That wasn’t their way. They had their rifles and their blood-splattered knives. They had shown how efficient their crossbows were.

Where can I hide? Is there any place? Can I make it back? Can I?

I searched the forest floor, looking back and forth. But it was difficult since my eyes were nearly covered over with tape, and my legs continued their stumbling flight.

Now I’ll see for myself how it feels to be in their snares. They won’t make any exceptions for me. This is how they get their kicks. It’s the only way to get this over with.

My heart was hammering so hard now that it hurt.


When she ventured down the pedestrian street called Strøget, she was poised as if on the edge of a knife. With her face half covered by a dirty green shawl, she slipped past well-lit shop windows, alert eyes scanning the street. It was vital to know how to recognize people without being recognized. To be able to live in peace with her demons and leave the rest to those who hurried past her. Leave the rest to the fucking bastards who wanted to harm her, to those whose blank stares shunned her.

Kimmie glanced up at the streetlights, which threw an icy brightness across Vesterbrogade. She flared her nostrils. The nights would soon grow cold. She had to prepare her winter lair.

She was standing in a crowd by the crossing, among a group of frozen people emerging from Tivoli Gardens, looking toward the central train station, when she noticed the woman beside her in the tweed jacket. The woman squinted at her, wrinkled her nose, and then eased away. It was only a few inches, but more than enough.

Take it easy now, Kimmie, the warning signal flashed in her head as the rage tried to take hold.

Her eyes glided down the woman’s body until they reached her legs. The woman’s stockings gleamed, her ankles taut in high-heeled shoes. Kimmie felt a treacherous smile curling at the corners of her mouth. With a hard kick she could crack those heels. The woman would topple over, and she would learn how even a Christian Lacroix dress gets soiled on a wet pavement. That would teach her to mind her own business.

Kimmie looked directly at the woman’s face. Heavy eyeliner, powdered nose, a meticulous haircut, fashioned one strand at a time. Her expression was rigid and dismissive. Yes, Kimmie knew her type better than most people did. She had once been like her. Arrogant upper-class snobs who were thunderously hollow inside. Back then her so-called women friends had been like that; her stepmother, too.

She loathed them.

So do something, the voices in her head whispered. Don’t let her get away with it. Show her who you are. Do it!

Kimmie stared at a group of dark-skinned boys on the other side of the street. Had it not been for their roving eyes, she would have shoved the woman just as the 47 bus whizzed past. She saw it clearly in her mind’s eye: what a wonderful bloodstain the bus would leave behind. What a shockwave the snooty woman’s crushed body would send through the