The shadows were getting longer. He reckoned that by the time they made it to the train station, night would fall. Ahead of them, the road lay empty. The only thing he could see were the tail lights of a large Volvo truck that had passed them a few minutes ago in a cloud of foul-smelling fumes, slowly, as if looking for something. He wondered if he should ask his family to hurry up, but his wife looked tired after spending all day on her feet. Maybe she had caught Hella’s stomach bug too. He thought about his younger daughter, how pale and thin she had looked this morning as she waved them off. Such a contrast to Christina, with her glowing good health and heavy Valkyrie braids. Christina was walking in front of him, pushing Matti’s stroller. He tried to wrestle it from her – he was the man of the family, after all – but his daughter laughed him off.
“Back off, Colonel Mauzer,” she said, grinning. “You’re the one retiring, remember? It’s the reason we spent the day visiting this godforsaken place, so you can put your feet up and wait for the fish to bite while you and your pal Kyander talk about the good old days. Shame he couldn’t come with you, by the way. It would have been nice for him to see the cabin.”
The colonel smiled at his daughter. “Kyander was called into the office at the last minute. You can’t hold it against him – it happens more often than you think, in our line of work.” Besides, it didn’t matter; his mind was already made up. The log house was a gem: just the right size, with a new roof and a porch, and a sauna on the side. Secluded. Lake views. Ridiculously cheap. He had made an offer right there and then, and it had been accepted. Kyander would be happy. The thought made him smile, put a spring in his step. A mile or so left until they reached the station, and then he’d sit on the train and admire his grandson’s sleepy face and dream about the future.
“Oh, here it is again,” Christina said.
“That truck’s coming back.” She turned to face him, making a show of wrinkling her nose.
He looked. She was right: in the distance he could see the same truck, with its left headlight blinking, charging towards them. It was going fast now. “Move over to the side,” he called out to his family. “The road’s dry, but you can never be too careful. And it’s getting —”
He never finished his sentence. The truck swerved, hitting Matti’s stroller first and then, a split second later, Christina. The colonel didn’t move, wouldn’t have had time to even if he’d wanted to, didn’t cry out. He thought briefly of his wife, walking behind him. And of Hella, sick, home alone. Would she find… The truck was upon him now, and in the evening light he locked eyes with the driver. So that was who —
He didn’t have the time to finish that thought either. The beast tore right through him, ripping his skin, crushing his bones and what his superiors in Helsinki called “the finest spy mind in all of Europe”.
The last thing he heard, as the light dimmed in his eyes, was his wife screaming. And the truck engine revving, speeding away.