At the Fornebu airport on the west side of the Oslo fjord, a woman sits at her departure gate, a backpack in the seat next to her, tears streaming down her cheeks. The casual observer would assume the tears are for a loved one she is leaving behind; maybe a boyfriend or even fiancé. And they would be partially right – about the loved one at least. Except the loved one is not someone she left behind when she entered the airport; it is someone who left her behind years ago.
In her hands is a handwritten letter addressed to someone else. Its undulating cursive lines tell the story of a life destroyed and rebuilt, a country abandoned and another discovered, of regret, and hope, and anger. The woman has read it many times yet keeps coming back to it again and again. What is captured on the two sheets is an enigma, a puzzle, an incomprehensible mystery. What is captured on the two sheets is the story of the writer, of her father, of herself, except none of it is familiar to her. What is captured on the two sheets of paper are accounts of lives they could have lived, or would have lived, or maybe did live, while they were not paying attention.
“Dear sister,” the letter starts.
“When you read this I will be long dead. For that I am sorry. Or rather, I am sorry you will only learn of my life through my death. Be that as it may, I need to tell you what happened to me, all those many years ago and all the years since. I know you’ve searched for me, for the truth, for revenge and restitution. I too have searched, and I have found. Before I go on, let me tell you this: You have a nephew. And he has two children, a son Kenneth and a daughter Julia. It will be one of these miracles who sent this letter to you. It is my hope you may somehow meet them and learn of their lives, to make up for the life you missed in my absence.”
In an apartment on the east side of Oslo, in an area named Greenland even though it is unbearably hot in the summer and whatever green there once was has been replaced by pavement and mid-rise brick and concrete buildings, a man grabs a tubular leather case and hurries out the door, down the stairs, out onto the sidewalk, and enters a city tram. On a weekday he would be wearing the uniform of a police officer, but today being Saturday he is dressed as a civilian, conspicuously so if anyone bothered looking. The man feigns calm, relaxing only on the outside. Were someone to place a stethoscope on his chest or grab his wrist they would find his pulse racing. The tram will take him to the central train station. From there he will take a local train to Lillestrøm, a an industrial hamlet 20 minutes out of town, before borrowing a car from a friend and driving into the mountains. After hours navigating ever narrower roads, he will park the car at a high mountain hotel where he will enter pretending to be a Danish tourist. He will rent skis, clothes, and camping gear from the hotel, paying everything with cash and leaving a false name. Then he will hang the large tubular case over his shoulder and walk away into the snowy mountain landscape, his tracks quickly covered by a strong blizzard.
The next summer, another man, older and wearing shorts and hiking boots in place of an anorak and skis, will take the same trip, ending up at an old abandoned summer shelter for farmers. Under several layers of flat shale rocks he will uncover the case and take it with him, returning to civilization by a different route than the one he arrived on.
In an old house on a hill on the west side of the city, two men in dark suits stand in the living room facing the large panoramic windows overlooking the city and its famous fjord. In a leather chair in front of them sleeps an elderly woman in an expensive dress. At least she appears to be sleeping. Two days later, when her grandson finds her in the same chair, he will discover she will never wake again.
To her right, on a small coffee table, sits a glass half empty of 30 year old cognac. When the coroner examines the body, she will note the woman’s advanced age and call it sudden cardiac arrest. The blood is never screened for toxins, nor is her stomach contents examined. Which is just as well, the men who administered the lethal injection knew what they were doing. They had done it before and as usual left no trace.
“To understand why I left,” the letter continues, “you must first understand what was done to me, done to us, at the chicken farm. You must understand why Luna must be revealed for what he is.”