Looking around the apartment from the door he had just burst through, newly appointed police constable Stig Matiassen could already feel the weight of the stacks of paperwork this case would result in. Still winded from running up four flights of hundred year old stairs, he looked over at Ina Skjoldberg, his partner for the day, who returned an eye roll so complete only the whites of her eyes could be seen. “Shit indeed,” she responded.
Ten minutes earlier what had started out as a routine day of casual walking patrol along Karl Johan, the pedestrian street cutting through the center of Oslo in a straight line from the train station to the royal castle, had turned into a mad dash foot chase. As they passed Egertorget, a man (they assumed it was a man based on his build, though it could also have been a broad shouldered woman) burst out the door of the expensive jewellery store on the corner and started running westward toward the castle, three staff from the store hot on his heels yelling “Stop! Thief!” Before Stig had even processed what was happening, Skjoldberg was running full tilt in the same direction, looking back at him and waving for him to catch up.
They were at the very end of the pedestrian section of Karl Johan, and the giant sail covering the street terminated at the front of Stortinget, the parliament building. The thief was headed in that direction and had already thrown up a large black sail designed for high speed. Stig did the same as he caught up with Skjoldberg who liked to wait until the very last moment before engaging her sail. “It slows you down,” she had explained one day some weeks ago. “Putting in some time in making rapid sail engagement a reflex is a worthwhile investment.” As his sail fully engaged he immediately knew what she was talking about, the large fabric canopy suspended over and around his head creating a significant drag as he crossed Lille Grensen and burst into the open. It was high cover, something the thief had no doubt planned on, and though it was only 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning, there were enough people about to make navigating a significant challenge.
Skjoldberg was yelling for people to make a path as she ran down the street. The thief had chosen the path of least resistance by running next to the sidewalk in the tight space between parked vehicles and honking traffic. As he hit Rosenkrantz’ Gate he ran a red light and gracefully jumped over the hood of a vehicle as it screeched to a sudden halt, leaving large gashes in the paint as he bounded away. Skjoldberg and Stig took advantage of the stalled vehicle to gain on the distance between them and the thief as he turned a sharp right at Universitetsgata and sprinted up the street. As they turned the corner, they saw him enter a building and immediately slowed down. These old buildings had single staircases up to the top floors where large apartments were being used as student collectives. He had created a trap for himself.
They stepped through the same door, took the stairs two steps at a time, and reached the top floor where the door was left slightly ajar, music leaking out from the other side. Stig threw the door open expecting to find the thief panicking as he realized his error. Instead he found a room full of students suffering various levels of inebriation, desperately trying to squeeze the last drops from a party long since drained of all its energy.
“Shit!” he said and looked at Skjoldberg. “Shit indeed,” she retorted and stepped into the apartment, striding over a shirtless 20-something man sleeping on the hallway floor, a bottle of Ringnes Pilsener cradled in his arms like a stuffed toy. Stig grabbed his radio and called it in:
“Central. We need backup here. And probably a couple of cars. I count at least 20 potential witnesses and suspects in this room alone, and I expect we’ll find more.”
The operator acknowledged his request as Skjoldberg leaned forward and punched various buttons on the large stereo system. The music, Alanis Morisette’s last year hit “Ironic”, abruptly stopped to groans from some of the bodies still awake.
“Hey party pooper,” a strawberry blond man wearing two shirts and a pair of shorts over his jeans said, staggering toward her. “Take a beer and chill will ya?” Skjoldberg responded by straightening up, facing the room, and loudly proclaiming:
“This is the police! You are all potential witnesses to a crime. I am sealing off this apartment. Nobody in or out. This party is over. Is that clear?”
More groan from the floor. Strawberry blond managed to reach her, holding a half drunk bottle of pilsner with two cigarette stumps bobbing in the liquid up to her face. She made a disgusted face and slapped his hand away causing the bottle to fly a few meters before crashing to the floor spilling the beer on a badly worn rug. “Hey!” strawberry blond said. “Not cool. Not cool at all.” He staggered away toward a hallway to the right. Skjoldberg motioned for Stig to follow her lead and raised her voice again.
“OK. Everyone into this room right now. I need to know who lives in this apartment and who is just … visiting. I need to know who was invited and who just showed up. I need to know if there are any unfamiliar faces here. Clear?”
Some responses and some movement registered, but mostly the people lying on the floor and slumped in couches and chairs remained where they were, unmoving. A group of five people who inexplicably had continued dancing even after the music was turned off stared at her for a moment, then continued their private party.
From a hallway a woman wearing an oversized t-shirt, shorts, and thick wool socks appeared. She put one hand on the doorframe as the other pulled back a curly mess of auburn hair. Her face showed she’d probably falled asleep within the last hour and she was not as drunk as her compatriots but still unsteady.
“Step into the living room and sit down,” Stig said waving her over. She looked at him questioningly and he was drawn into her wide brown eyes. At once he realized she might be the most beautiful person he’d ever seen in her life. She said something but it didn’t register. Then Skjoldberg stepped over and grabbed the woman by the arm, pulling her across the room and planting her roughly in the couch.
“Matiassen. Matiassen! What the hell man?” She waved at him and he snapped out of the trance. “English.” She pointed at the woman who responded, speaking with the same accent he’d heard on American TV shows: “What’s going on?”