Chasing the Storm
by Martin Molsted
Title: Chasing the Storm
Author: Martin Molsted
Genre: Thriller (with a hint of mystery and a tiny dash of romance).
Publisher: EdgeRunner Publishing - Publisher 978-82-93316.
Publication date (eBook - Amazon world-wide): November 27th 2013. Other distributors will be announced in early 2014. Hardcover and Paperbacks also coming 2014.
Brief Excerpt from Chasing the Storm
Chapter 1: Orfeoplatz
April 9, 2009
He’d seen people die before, but never on a pretty afternoon in Hamburg.
Torgrim Rygg was walking to the bar he’d found near the Chilehaus and was halfway across the Orfeoplatz, when the pigeons suddenly clattered up and the woman walking towards him stopped, aghast. She put her hand to her throat and chewed, her eyes on his face, as though she recognized him and was trying to remember his name. She was middle-aged, with sturdy dyed-blonde hair and a stiff bosom cased in satin. She turned in a circle, staggering a little on her heels, and when she faced him again the top of her blouse was crimson. She was looking at him as she fell. Her handbag burst open, spilling lipstick, tampons and a glasses case onto the cobblestones. She kicked for a few seconds, as though she were still trying to walk, and then, with a gurgling whine, spewed a mouthful of blood and lay quiet.
In the immensely slow seconds that followed, he watched the runnels of blood grouting the cobblestones. Her hand had fallen away from her throat, and the blood beat from two holes, one on each side of the voicebox. And in that moment, he remembered the small sound just before the pigeons had scattered: a crisp tok. It was a sound he hadn't heard for twenty years, and one that sent a line of flame down each nerve.
Rygg glanced quickly around the square. He was the only person to have noticed the woman. A businessman strode past with his briefcase and a mother was fixing the strap on a stroller. Two couples were drinking coffee under an awning. Then, in the hoop of shadow that was the entrance to an alley, a darker clot detached from the wall. A mustached face caught the light for a moment, and then the figure vanished. Shouting, Rygg ran toward the alley, but it branched almost immediately into three smaller alleys. The figure was nowhere to be seen. He chose the left-hand branch at random and ran for a little way, his shoes making a huge racket off the walls, then stopped, gulping for air. His belly hurt. He leaned against the wall. Massaging his gut, he labored back to the square.
There was now a huge throng around the fallen woman, thirty people at least, jostling and craning. He couldn't imagine where they’d all come from. Four people were facing away from the crowd, talking on their cell phones and gesturing. The pigeons had settled at the edge of the square, on the steps of a church. Rygg just stood there, watching. He glanced around the square. On the far side, by a bank of flowers, a man sat with his back to a wall, arms crossed. Alone amongst the onlookers, he seemed unmoved by the commotion. Rygg narrowed his eyes, then he walked swiftly over to the man and crouched beside him. The man’s face was gaunt and gray, a stark contrast to the gaudy roses and carnations. He was clutching his upper arm so tightly the knuckles were white. Blood oozed between his fingers.
“You've been shot,” Rygg stated.
The man just stared at him.
“I’ll get help,” Rygg said, but the man, with a grimace, stretched the hand of his wounded arm toward him.
“Please reach into the breast pocket of my shirt and take out my cigarettes,” he said. His accent was a little too rounded to be English, and his voice seemed far too steady for a man who’d just been shot. Rygg did as he asked. They were cheap Gauloises. The lighter was in the packet. He placed a cigarette between the man’s lips and lit it.
“Now I’m going to get someone,” Rygg said.
“Please, sir, if you want to help me you will not do so.”
“Look, you've just been shot in the arm. You’re lucky you’re alive – that woman’s dead, I think.” He pointed back into the square. “But you need to stop the bleeding, get some stitches. I’ll stay with you if you need me.”
“You are a tourist?” the man asked unexpectedly.
“Yes. Well, here on business, but mixing it with some pleasure.”
“You are staying in a hotel?”
“The Crillon-Hapsburg. On—”
“Hasselbrookstrasse. I know it. Please. If you want to help me, take me to your room. For one hour, not more. You will be recompensed.”
“I’m not after money, I just . . . look, you need a doctor. You can’t just—”
The man turned to Rygg. His eyes were dark, the eyelids bruised by too much tobacco or too many late nights. He sucked on the cigarette, then took it out of his mouth and tapped the ash away. “This is an unusual request, I know,” he said. “I am going to ask you to trust me. If you want to help me, if you want to keep me out of danger, take me to your hotel room. For one hour only, I assure you. Then I will leave you alone.”
Rygg looked at him. Then he shrugged. “It’s your life, I suppose, but you’re bleeding all over the place.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out his handkerchief, and knotted it above the wound, pulling it tight.
The man nodded his thanks. With his bloody hand, he grabbed a bunch of red carnations from the plastic bucket beside him and clutched them to the wound. Rygg helped him up and led him around the block – avoiding the open space at the platz – holding his good arm by the crook like a lover.
If the concierge thought it was strange that Rygg returned so soon, with a small, pale man bearing a bunch of carnations, he revealed it only in an excess of courtesy. He handed over the key with a smile and an inclination of the head.
In the room, the man handed the flowers to Rygg, who set them in the vase on the dresser, then followed him into the bathroom. He had shoved up his sleeve and was examining his arm. The bullet had gone through the meat just above the elbow.
“Did it get the bone?” Rygg asked, trying to remember what he’d learned about wound triage so many years ago. The man shook his head. He rinsed off the blood in the sink. His face was expressionless, but once, when he was running a finger around the rim of the hole, he stopped and placed his elbows on the sink and breathed hard for a few seconds.
“Can I—” Rygg started, but the man shook his head and continued cleaning. The skin around the entrance and exit wounds was bluish and swollen. Blood welled in the holes and dripped into the sink. It looked very dark, almost purple, against the white enamel. He turned to Rygg. “Do you have vodka?”
“Aquavit. I could use a drink myself. Ice? 7-Up?”
The man shook his head.
Rygg fetched the bottle of Løiten Linie’s and two glasses. He poured a couple fingers into a whiskey glass. “More,” the man said. Rygg poured the glass two-thirds full and handed it to him. But instead of drinking, he sloshed the aquavit across his arm, angling it so it entered the holes.
“Now,” he said, “many times in hotel rooms they have a little, how do you call it, a bag of sewing supplies. Needles, buttons.”
“Sewing kit. I've got one, actually, I think. Never used it. You’re not going to—?”
“May I use it?”
“Sure.” He rummaged in the exterior pockets of his luggage until he found the little kit, packed by his wife before the divorce. He didn't even know how to sew, but she’d said it might come in handy.
“Thread the largest needle for me,” said the man.
“Any color. White.” He took the needle and dropped it into the aquavit, coiling the thread in after it. He dabbled his fingers in the aquavit, then fished the needle out. Sitting on the toilet, he began to sew the hole on the far side of his forearm closed, bending to the wound and working carefully.
Rygg sat on the edge of the bathtub and watched. “That’s not very sanitary,” he said. “I’d see a doctor if I were you.” The man didn't answer. After a while, he rinsed the needle in the glass and asked Rygg to put on another length of thread.
Still bent over the wound, the man said, “You are not English.”
“Norwegian. I worked in London for five years, though. Yourself?”
“At this time, the less you know about me the better.”
When he was done he was all bloody again, and he washed himself off in the sink once more. The wounds were closed with little pursed lines of stitches. The man loosened the handkerchief tourniquet with his teeth and pushed it down over the wounds. He slid the needle into the towel, then he took out his wallet and handed it to Rygg. It was ancient, fissured black leather. “Open it,” he instructed. The wallet contained about a thousand euros, in fifty-euro bills. “You will leave me fifty euros,” the man said.
“No,” said Rygg. “I’m not taking any money.”
“I am buying your suit jacket. You will leave me fifty euros, please, and take the rest of the money.”
Rygg put the wallet on the edge of the sink and slipped out of his jacket. He helped the man into it. It was much too big, and he rolled up the sleeves, as if he was helping a child get dressed. “Do you know who it was?” he asked.
“Who the man was. The man who shot you.”
“That is of no importance. Listen. Take the money. But please, if people come asking questions, you know nothing. Not my name, not where I am from. I told you nothing. Tell them the truth.”
“I’m not taking your money. If you need anything . . .” Rygg put the wallet in the pocket of the suit jacket and patted the man’s shoulder. He could feel his bones through the cloth.
“You have already helped me more than you can imagine. I give you my thanks. And now you can assist me, sir, by not contacting anybody about this incident, or even telling your friends about it.” And suddenly the man was looking straight at him.
Rygg shrugged. “No problem.”
The man gave a short, decisive nod. “I thank you again.” Sluicing the blood out of the sink, he ran his palm around the basin several times, then held his hands under the running water for a full minute. He was shivering slightly.
“Sit for a minute,” Rygg said. “Do you want a drink?”
The little man shook his head. And suddenly he was out the door and Rygg was left staring at the enormous whorls of the carnations in the vase. He picked up the bottle to pour himself some more aquavit, and suddenly his hand was shaking so that he had to set the bottle down. He thought he heard shouts in Arabic, like echoes from the past, but when he raised his head, there was just a ragged cacophony of car horns from the street outside.
“Slapp av, Torgrim. Relax,” he told himself. He poured the glass a third full and made it to the bed. He switched on the television. Some German variety show. A man in a tuxedo seemed to be trying to get a woman to take off her shirt. He flicked through the channels until he got something in English. More about that ship in the Baltic – the hijackers had apparently abandoned it, but now the ship had disappeared. The Alpensturm. The announcer pointed to a map with a dotted line tracing the ship’s passage, and he saw Hamburg, just below the announcer’s wand, nestled in its web of channels. He flicked through until he found an old Hollywood movie – Bogart and Bacall squabbling about something – and sat sipping his aquavit and shaking his head. It seemed like sometime last year that he had been walking through the Orfeoplatz on his way to a quiet drink. In his memory, the platz before that soft, crisp tok had an entirely different texture from the platz following the shooting, when everything moved so slowly and seemed so bright.
Should he call the police? Tell them about the woman at least, about the shadow in the alley? He shook his head. People die all the time. It wasn't that big a deal. If he sat here sipping his aquavit for a while, everything would be all right. But he found it hard to concentrate on what the actors were saying. He stared out the window, at the ornate facades across the street. After a while, he opened the balcony doors and went and leaned on the railing. He was still shaking his head.
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Chasing the Storm is Martin Molsted's debut novel, although he has been actively engaged in writing shorter fiction, as well as screenplays since 2009. When he is not working as an Archivist in a Fortune 500 engineering company, he writes fiction and non-fiction.
He enjoys playing music, singing, travelling, nice food, great wine, tasty beer, hot rods and awesome custom built motorcycles.
Martin Molsted lives in Asker, a small town between the greater cities Oslo and Drammen, in eastern Norway. He lives together with his French wife and their two daughters. No cats. No dogs.
He is currently working on the storylines for a trio of further Rygg & Marin thrillers, so stay tuned for more compelling and intriguing action.
Find out more about Martin Molsted and his works of fiction at http://www.molstedfiction.com , https://www.facebook.com/authormolsted , https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7350785.Martin_Molsted , or Twitter @molsted.
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"…An intelligent thriller…"
"…Realistic Thriller Delivers…"
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"…A high-octane adventure…"
"…Real page-turning thriller,…"
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