The Golden Cage Page 1


“Couldn’t she just be injured?” Faye said.

She looked down at the table, unable to meet their gaze.

A brief moment of hesitation. Then a sympathetic voice.

“There’s an awful lot of blood. From such a small body. But I don’t want to speculate until a medical examiner has made an evaluation.”

Faye nodded. Someone gave her a transparent plastic cup of water, she was shaking so much as she raised it to her lips that a few drops ran down her chin and dripped onto her blouse. The blonde policewoman with the kind blue eyes leaned forward and gave her a tissue to dry herself with.

She wiped herself slowly. The water was going to leave nasty blotches on the silk blouse. Not that it mattered any more.

“There’s no doubt, then? None at all?”

The female police officer glanced at her colleague, then shook her head. She chose her words carefully, “Like I said, a doctor needs to reach a verdict based on the evidence at the crime scene. But as things stand, everything points toward the same explanation: that your ex-husband, Jack, has killed your daughter.”

Faye closed her eyes and stifled a sob.

Julienne was asleep at last. Her hair was spread out across the pink pillow. Her breathing was calm. Faye stroked her cheek, gently, so she wouldn’t wake her.

Jack was coming home from his business trip to London that evening. Or was it Hamburg? Faye couldn’t remember. He’d be tired and stressed when he got home, but she’d make sure he managed to relax properly.

She carefully closed the bedroom door, crept into the hall, and checked that the front door was locked. Back in the kitchen she ran her hand along the counter. Ten feet of marble. Carrera, naturally. Unfortunately it was ridiculously impractical, the porous marble absorbed everything like a sponge and already had some ugly stains. But Jack had never even considered choosing something more practical. The kitchen in the apartment on Narvav?gen had cost just shy of a million kronor, and absolutely no expense had been spared.

Faye reached for a bottle of Amarone and put a wineglass on the counter. The glass touching the marble, the glug as the wine poured—these sounds were the essence of her evenings at home when Jack was away. She poured the wine carefully so there wouldn’t be another red-wine spatter on the white marble, and closed her eyes as she raised the glass to her lips.

She dimmed the lighting, then went out into the hall where the black-and-white portraits of her, Julienne, and Jack hung. They had been taken by Kate Gabor, the Crown Princess’s unofficial court photographer, who every year took a fresh set of enchanting photographs of the royal children playing in the autumn leaves in crisp white outfits. She and Jack had chosen to have their pictures taken in summer. They were standing by the shore in a relaxed, playful pose. Julienne between them, her fair hair lifted by the breeze. White clothes, obviously. She was wearing a simple cotton Armani dress, Jack a shirt and rolled-up trousers from Hugo Boss, and Julienne a lace dress from Stella McCartney’s children’s collection. They had had a fight minutes before the pictures were taken. She couldn’t remember what it had been about, only that it had been her fault. But none of that was evident in the pictures.

Faye went up the stairs. She hesitated outside the door to Jack’s study, then pushed it open. The room was situated in a tower, with views in every direction. A unique layout in a unique property, as the real estate agent had put it when he showed them the apartment five years ago. She had been pregnant with Julienne at the time, her head full of bright hopes for the future.

She loved the tower room. The space and all the light from the windows made her feel like she was flying. And now that it was dark outside, the arched walls enveloped her like a warm cocoon.

She had chosen the décor herself, as she had with the rest of the apartment. She had picked the wallpaper, the bookcases, desk, the photographs and artworks on the walls. And Jack loved what she’d done. He never questioned her taste, and was always incredibly proud whenever guests asked for the number of their interior designer.

In those moments, he let her shine.

While all the other rooms were furnished in a contemporary style, light and airy, Jack’s study was more masculine. Heavier. She had put more effort into this room than Julienne’s nursery and the rest of the apartment put together. Jack was going to spend so much time in here, making important decisions that would affect their family’s future. The least she could do was give him a refuge of his own up here, almost in the clouds.

Faye ran her hand across Jack’s desk with satisfaction. It was a Russian desk, she had bought it at an auction at Bukowski’s, and it had once belonged to Ingmar Bergman. Jack wasn’t much of a Bergman aficionado—action films with Jackie Chan or comedies starring Ben Stiller were more to his taste—but like her he preferred it when furniture came with a bit of history.

When they showed guests around the apartment he always patted the top of the desk with the palm of his hand twice and said, as if in passing, that the fine piece of furniture had once stood in the world-famous director’s home. Faye smiled every time he did that, because their eyes usually met as he said it. It was one of the thousand things they shared in their lives. Those covert glances, all the meaningful and meaningless gestures that went to make up a relationship.

She sank onto the chair behind the desk and spun it until she was facing the window. Snow was falling outside, turning to slush as it hit the street far below. When she leaned forward and looked down, she saw a car struggling through the dark February evening. The driver turned into Banérgatan, toward the city center. For a moment she forgot what she was doing there, why she was sitting in Jack’s study. It was far too easy to drift away in the darkness and become hypnotized by the snowflakes pushing slowly through the blackness.

Faye blinked, sat up straight and rotated the chair so she was facing the large screen of the Mac, then nudged the mouse, and the screen came to life. She wondered what Jack had done with the mouse mat she had given him at Christmas, the one with a photograph of her and Julienne. Instead he was using an ugly blue one from Nordea Bank, a Christmas gift to its private banking clients.

She knew the password: Julienne2010. At least he didn’t have anything from Nordea as his background, and was still using the picture he had taken of her and Julienne in Marbella. They were lying at the water’s edge, Faye holding her daughter up toward the sky. They were both laughing, but Faye’s laughter was more sensed than seen as she lay on her back with her hair floating in the water. Julienne’s bright blue eyes were looking straight into the camera, right through the lens. Into Jack’s eyes, just as blue.

Faye leaned closer, her eyes looking along her own tanned body, shiny with salt and water. Though only a few months had passed since she had given birth, she had been in better shape then than she was now. Her stomach was flat. Her arms thin. Her thighs slim and taut. Now, almost three years later, she weighed at least twenty pounds more than she had in Spain. Thirty, maybe. She hadn’t dared weigh herself for a long time.

She tore her eyes from her own image on the screen and opened the browser, clicked to bring up the history, and typed porn. Link after link appeared, sorted by date. She had no difficulty at all tracing Jack’s sexual fantasies in recent months. It was like a reference book covering his libido. Sexual Fantasies for Dummies.

On October 26 he had watched two clips. “Russian teen gets slammed by big cock” and “Skinny teen brutally hammered.” You could say what you liked about the porn industry, but the titles of the films were at least direct and to the point. No attempts to prettify or embellish, to lie about what was coming and what the person in front of the screen wanted to see. A straightforward dialogue, open and honest communication.

Jack had looked at porn for as long as she had known him, and sometimes she looked herself, when she was on her own. She was scornful of friends who declared that their husbands would never dream of looking at porn. Talk about repression!

Jack never used to let his consumption of porn influence their sex life. It had never been a matter of either/or. But now he no longer sought comfort from her, despite seeking satisfaction from “Skinny teen brutally hammered.”