Only One Life A Novel Online - Sara Blaedel

March 2010

An honor killing is the murder of a family member due to the belief that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family or community.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that perhaps as many as five thousand women and girls a year are killed by members of their own families. Many women’s groups in the Middle East and Southwest Asia suspect the number of victims is about four times greater.

The perceived dishonor can be the result of dressing in a manner unacceptable to the family or community, wanting to terminate or prevent an arranged marriage, engaging in heterosexual acts outside marriage, or engaging in homosexual acts, amongst other things.

The most famous honor killing case in Denmark was that of Ghazala Khan, a nineteen-year-old woman who was shot and killed outside a train station in Slagelse, west of Copenhagen, in 2005 because her family disapproved of her choice of a husband. Nine people, including her father, brother, three uncles, an aunt, and two family friends were convicted of murder or accessory to murder in this case.

1

SHE COULD JUST MAKE OUT THE BLUE FLASHES BETWEEN THE densely grown tree trunks, but she couldn’t see how many police vehicles were at the scene. The forest road was bumpy with enormous piles of firewood on either side, blocking out the bright morning light.

Søren Velin sped up, shooting small rocks against the undercarriage of the car, which skidded a little whenever the road turned. They waved him through the police blockade, and he parked next to one of the squad cars.

Louise Rick got out. The road ended at a bluff where a small path led down the last stretch to the water, which extended smooth and calm across the sound to the tree-lined shore of Oro Island in the distance. From here Louise didn’t recognize any of the men in the huddle at the top of the bluff, so she grabbed her jacket out of the backseat and waited for Søren to lead the way.

“A fisherman found her,” a dark-haired, powerfully built man who came to greet them explained. He walked past Søren and offered his hand to Louise.

“Storm,” he said. “I’m glad you were willing to help us out.”

Louise shook his hand and smiled. Storm was the captain of the Unit One Mobile Task Force with the Danish National Police, and he knew as well as she did that willingness had nothing to do with why she was out here, on the shore of the sound just north of Holbæk an hour west of Copenhagen. Higher-ups had made the decision before she was even asked, and they had just been lucky that she was, in fact, also willing to help.

“We still don’t know how long she’s been in the water,” Storm continued as the three of them headed back toward the bluff. “The fisherman notified the Holbæk Police this morning at 8:35, saying he had spotted a motionless figure in the water. The girl had a heavy slab of concrete tied to her torso, which was keeping her submerged under about four and a half feet of water where the body was stuck in some chicken wire. The fisherman gave up trying to get her loose with his oar and called the police, who showed up along with an ambulance. The Falck Rescue squad just finished recovering the body.”

Louise noticed the search-and-rescue van with its trailer for the rubber raft that they had used to recover the girl. One diver had gone into the water to cut her free, then passed her off to the other diver, who hoisted her up into the raft. Now they were loading the rescue raft back onto the trailer. Louise walked all the way over to the edge of the bluff and saw the white sheet covering the dead girl’s body and the crime-scene technicians in their coveralls busy combing the shore for evidence.

“The local police have cordoned off the site, and as you can see the CSI techs are already at work,” Storm continued. “But we’re still waiting for a couple more cars.”

He interrupted his brief summary when they reached the others, and he introduced each of them in turn.

“That’s Bengtsen; he’s been with Holbæk’s crime division since before anyone can remember,” he said with obvious respect. “He knows everything worth knowing about Holbæk and the people who live here.”

Bengtsen nodded at her, but he kept his hands in the pockets of his tweed trousers.

Storm stepped over to a man with an olive complexion.

“Dean Vukić,” he said,