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Authors: Hans Olav Lahlum

Satellite People

BOOK: Satellite People
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Dedicated to Agatha –

the queen of classic crime

Some of the characters in this book may have been inspired by people who are now dead or alive, but the events that take place during the Second World War and in 1969 are not
based on historical events. Magdalon Schelderup and all the guests at his last supper are fictional characters who bear no resemblance to any dead or living persons.


DAY ONE: An Unexpected Storm Warning

DAY TWO: Ten Living and One Dead

DAY THREE: The Box That Contained Something Strange

DAY FOUR: On the Trail of a Lonesome Horseman

DAY FIVE: On Overgrown Paths

DAY SIX: Long Day’s Journey Into Night

DAY SEVEN: Satellites in Fast Motion

DAY EIGHT: When the Iron Curtain Falls


Author’s Afterword


An Unexpected Storm Warning


‘Good afternoon. My name is Magdalon Schelderup and is no doubt familiar to you. I would like to arrange a meeting with you this coming Monday. The reason being that one
of my nearest and dearest is planning to murder me later on in the week!’

The time was a quarter past one. The day was Saturday, 10 May 1969. The place was my office in the main police station in Oslo. And the words seemed to hang in the air for a long time after I
had heard them.

I waited for this particularly tasteless joke to be followed by either a loud laugh or the phone being thrown down. But the connection was not broken. And when the voice continued, it was
without doubt Magdalon Schelderup’s distinctively rusty yet dynamic voice, just as I had heard it many times before on the radio and television. I immediately pictured the legendary
businessman and multimillionaire as he was most often photographed for the papers: dressed in a long black winter coat, his furrowed face secretive and barely visible under a brown leather hat.

‘And just in case you should for a moment believe otherwise, I am Magdalon Schelderup and I am of sound mind and sober. You have been recommended to me by several acquaintances, and I was
singularly impressed by your work in connection with the much-discussed murder case last year, so I thought I would give you the honour of solving this case too. The question is quite simply
whether you can spare the time to meet me on Monday in connection with my planned murder, or not?’

I felt increasingly bewildered as I sat at my own desk on what I had presumed would be a very ordinary Saturday shift. It was starting to dawn on me that it was in fact Magdalon Schelderup who
had called me and that he was serious.

I replied that I would of course give the case highest priority and suggested that we should meet that very same day, rather than wait until Monday morning. Not surprisingly, Magdalon Schelderup
had obviously considered this possibility too.

‘The truth is that only an hour ago I thought of driving into town to meet you personally. But then I discovered that three of the tyres on my car had unfortunately been slashed overnight.
I could of course have taken my wife’s car or used one of the company cars, and I can certainly afford to pay for a taxi, but this episode has made me strongly doubt whether the person I had
thought of mentioning to you today is in fact the guilty party.’

In response to this, I asked if there were several people in Magdalon Schelderup’s closest circle who he suspected might want to kill him. There was a short burst of dry laughter at the
other end of the telephone.

‘Absolutely. In fact, my closest circle is made up entirely of people who might be suspected of wanting to kill me. It is incredibly difficult to be both successful and popular over time.
And given this dilemma, I have always chosen success. But what is new here is that I have good reason to believe that one of my nearest and dearest not only wants to kill me, but also has concrete
plans to realize this sometime next week.’

The situation struck me as more and more absurd, but also more and more interesting. I heard my own voice say that we should then at least meet as early as possible on Monday morning. Magdalon
Schelderup agreed to this straight away and suggested that I come to his home at Gulleråsen at around nine o’clock. He wanted to dig a little more and would assess the situation over
the weekend, but was certain that he would be able to confirm his suspicions well enough to tell me on Monday.

Still dazed, I wished Magdalon Schelderup a good weekend and asked him to take every precaution against possible danger. He assured me that there was no risk of an attempt on his life before
Tuesday afternoon, at the earliest. However, he would stay indoors at home until I came to see him on Monday morning and would do everything necessary to ensure his own safety.

Magdalon Schelderup’s voice on the telephone was just as it was on the radio: a grand old man’s voice, calm, convincing and determined. I put down the phone without any further
protest and scribbled our meeting on Monday morning at the top of my to-do list for the coming week.


The remaining three-quarters of an hour of my Saturday shift passed without further drama. It was impossible, however, to stop my thoughts from turning to this unexpected
telephone conversation. To the extent, in fact, that I called my boss to inform him about the phone call before I left the office. To my relief, he gave his approval of the way in which I had dealt
with the situation.

Back home in my flat in Hegdehaugen, I found the latest article about Magdalon Schelderup in the pile of newspapers. It had been published only three days before. Yet another front page of the
evening edition was filled with his photograph, this time under the headline ‘King of Gulleråsen’. It concluded by saying that if the richest man in
Gulleråsen was not already one of the ten richest men in Norway, then he very soon would be. The value of his property and assets was estimated at over 100 million kroner. Only months before
his seventieth birthday, the property magnate and stock market king was at the peak of his career. With increasing regularity, financial experts speculated that he was one of the twenty most
powerful men in Norway, though it was now many years since he had retired from his career as a conservative politician.

Over the years, newspapers and magazines had used unbelievable quantities of ink to write about Magdalon Schelderup. To begin with, they wrote about his contributions as a Resistance fighter and
politician during and immediately after the war. There was then a rash of speculative and far less enthusiastic articles about the contact his family businesses might have had with the occupying
forces during the war, and why a few years later he stepped back from an apparently promising political career. Later articles about his growing wealth and business acumen were frequently
alternated with other more critical articles. These discussed his business methods, as well as the breakdown of his first two marriages and the financial settlements that they incurred. The
interest in his turbulent private life appeared to have diminished following some further articles in the early 1950s when he married his third wife – this time a woman twenty-five years his
junior. In recent years, however, there had been more and more articles that questioned the manner in which he kept shop. Former competitors and employees more or less queued up to condemn his
methods and he had regularly been taken to court. With little success. Magdalon Schelderup cared not a hoot what the newspapers and magazines said, and with the aid of some very good sharpshooting
lawyers, he was never sentenced in any court.

And it was this dauntless and apparently unassailable magnate who had telephoned me today to say that someone close to him planned to kill him next week.

Thus 10 May 1969 became one of the very few Saturdays when I yearned with all my heart for it to be Monday morning and the start of a new working week. I did not know then that the case would
develop very quickly and dramatically in the meantime.


Ten Living and One Dead


The following morning, 11 May 1969, started like every other Sunday in my life. I caught up with my lack of sleep from the previous week and did not eat breakfast until it was
nearly lunch. The first few hours of the afternoon were spent reading the neglected papers from the week gone by. I even managed to read the first four chapters of the book of the week, which was
Jens Bjørneboe’s
Moment of Freedom

When the telephone rang at twenty-five past five, I had just stepped out of the shower. I made absolutely no attempt to answer it quickly. The caller was remarkably persistent, however, and the
phone continued to ring until I picked it up. I immediately understood that it was serious.

The telephone call was of course for ‘Detective Inspector Kolbjørn Kristiansen’. It was, as I had guessed, from the main police station in Møller Street. And, to my
horror, it concerned Magdalon Schelderup. Only minutes before, they had received a telephone message that he had died over the course of an early supper at his home – in the presence of ten

On the basis of what had been reported by the constables at the scene, it was presumed to be murder, but which of the witnesses present had committed the crime was ‘to put it mildly,
unclear’. The officer on duty at the police station had been informed that Schelderup himself had contacted me the day before. As none of the other detectives were available, the duty officer
felt it appropriate to ask whether I might be able to carry out an initial investigation and question the witnesses at the scene of the crime.

I did not need to be asked twice, and within a few minutes was speeding towards Gulleråsen.


When I got there at ten to six, there was no trace of drama outside the three-storey Gulleråsen mansion where Magdalon Schelderup had both his home and head office.
Schelderup had lived in style, and he had lived in safety. The house sat atop a small hill in the middle of a fenced garden, and it was a good 200 yards to the nearest neighbour. Anyone who wished
to enter without being seen would have to make their way across a rather large open space. They would also have to find a way through or over the high, spiked wooden fence that surrounded the
entire property, with a single opening for the heavy gate that led into the driveway.

I mused that it was the sort of house one finds in an Agatha Christie novel. It was only later on in the day that I discovered it was known as ‘Schelderup Hall’ by the

There were eight cars parked in the space outside the gate, in addition to a police car. One of them was Magdalon Schelderup’s own big, black, shiny BMW. I was quickly able to confirm that
he had told the truth: three of the tyres had been slashed with either a knife or some other sharp instrument.

The other cars were all smaller, but still new and of good quality. The only exception was a small, well-used blue Peugeot that looked as if it had been on the road since the early 1950s. I
jotted down a working theory that all of the deceased’s guests were overwhelmingly upper-class, albeit with some obvious variations in their financial situations.

It was not a warm welcome. As I made my way to the front door, a cacophony of wild and vicious barking suddenly erupted behind me, and I spun round instinctively to protect myself against the
attacking dogs. But fortunately that was not necessary: the three great Alsatians that were straining towards me were clearly securely chained. Nevertheless, the sight of the dogs only served to
strengthen my feeling of unease and my conviction that Magdalon Schelderup must have felt safe in his own home. The threat had been in his innermost circle – as he had expected, but it had
come two days earlier than anticipated.

At the front door, I greeted the two constables who had been first at the scene and were now standing guard. They were both apparently relieved to see me, and confirmed that despite the death,
the mood in the house was surprisingly calm.

I soon understood what they meant when, one corridor and two flights of stairs later, I stepped onto the red carpet in Magdalon Schelderup’s vast dining room. At first it felt as though I
had walked into a waxworks. The furniture and interior was in the style of the early 1900s. The fact that there were no pictures or decoration of any type on the walls only added to the cold,
unreal feeling. There was a single exception, which was therefore all the more striking. A well-executed full-length portrait of Magdalon Schelderup filled one of the short walls.

BOOK: Satellite People
12.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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