The Number of the Killer
A Gardar Varinsson Saga
by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
Now they had one day to go before Ragnar and his men returned to Pavika. Gardar had time to make preparations in anticipation of the enormity that would occur if the murderer kept to his timetable.
He put up the slave woman and his daughter in a shelter and went over to the shipbuilders. There he met Einar the Autumnborn, who gave Gardar a big smile.
“Already back,” he said. He was sitting on a pile of oak logs, drinking mead. “I guess you’ll solve the riddle, for I’ve come to know that you’re the famous Gardar the Riddle-Solver. The way you look, you still seem to be wet behind the ears.”
Gardar, accustomed to the never-ending nagging about his age, smiled a patronizing smile. “Perhaps. Perhaps I have been thinking of these death riddles. Do you have any idea who the perpetrator could be?”
“If Ragnar were not at sea most of the time, I would think that he is the distorted madman,” said Einar the Autumnborn.
“You don’t know? Have you not noticed that Ragnar never flirts with women?”
“Neither do I. What does that prove?”
“When everyone else in the mead-house is trying to grope the women, he sits there, telling stories about when he raped women who had been made widows on the shores of the Dniepr.”
Gardar thought. There was something in what Einar said. Could Ragnar have been as Einar the Caresser had been before Dag put that arrow in his eye? Effeminate? Perhaps even a sejder? The thought did not make sense.
“So what?” he replied. “I myself am not very fond of canoodling in public. I can also tell sagas about my experiences, but I’m not a sex murderer because of that.”
“There’s a big difference,” Einar the Autumnborn said archly. “For what you don’t seem to know is that Ragnar doesn’t have a pecker anymore.”
“It was cut off during an unsuccessful attack in Zemgalle.”
Gardar stroked his reddish beard. “I would call that bad luck,” he said.
“As I said, if he had not been at sea all the time, I would bet that he is the perpetrator.”
Gardar carefully watched the vicious Einar, who obviously fully enjoyed his own excellence.
“How about you?” Gardar exclaimed. “The rampages you boasted of a couple of nights ago about women you’ve raped don’t show any signs of mushiness when it comes to treating people callously. And you were here all the time, unlike Ragnar.”
Einar the Autumnborn guffawed coarsely. “But mine is still intact!”
“Maybe you begrudge others theirs?”
Einar stopped laughing. He got to his feet and fumbled for his sword. “You little shit-eater, what are you trying to force on me?”
Gardar looked straight into the eyes of his antagonist, and whatever it was that Einar saw in them, he cooled off, sat down and downed a gulp of mead.
“You’re too young,” Einar said, avoiding Gardar’s eyes. “You don’t know very much about the world and women or men who take to the sea and fight. It will come with years, if you dare to go down the Dniepr or Volga.”
“I’m young, that’s for sure,” Gardar admitted. “It would be foolish of me to deny the fact.”
What Einar had said had nevertheless been an eye-opener to Gardar. If Ragnar had gotten his penis cut away in a fight, could he not have begun hating those who had theirs intact, as well as the women, whom he could no longer handle?
What had Ragnar said? I’m more mutilated than can be seen with the naked eye. They enthuse over the top when they’re here, and it is fine if they are sober when we return. Not only women should be slapped down. Many men should be called to account.
Did that not reflect the thoughts of a killer? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
The one who had committed the outrages would, on the other hand probably be a local individual, someone who knew Pavika as well as he knew his own rucksack and who, when he saw fit, could sneak up and commit the craven deed.
Ragnar’s mutilation was all very well, but Gardar felt that the solution of the mystery was in the day numbers he had dreamed and the relationship between them. As a runic magician, he was well aware of the value of numbers. Could it be that the solution was to be found in numerology?
Gardar’s runic numerology went further than just the sixteen runic staffs that constituted the futhark. When it came to numbers, he used the twenty-four runic staffs of the old futhark, but replacing them one step created the utharkf. By ranking the f-staff as the last letter instead of the first, the u-staff became the first staff, and then the runes got their real values suitable for galders, curses and other kinds of sorcery.
Thus the third staff of the futhark became the second staff of the utharkf and the th-staff, which is the sign of the trolls, got the value 2. On the basis of this fact, Gardar noticed that the value of the r-rune was 4 and was the number of Thor; 8 stood for the h-rune, the rune of hail; 12 was the magical power of soil of the p-rune; and 16 corresponded to the t-rune, the value that characterized the victory of the undefeated god Tyr.
But it did not matter how much Gardar tried to combine the different values, he did not get any sensible result; nothing fit. There was no discernible meaning in the combination of the values.
It was not like the threatening curse on the big runic stone at Birkatorp, where a runic master in ancient days had carved fear of the value 9 and similar numerological curses, which skilfully had been attached to the very meaning of the wording of the inscription. Gardar knew the repulsive mightiness of the stone by heart, for during his apprenticeship he had been there many times, studying the curse.
Gardar pondered and tried to put together the different runic values. It all led to nothing in spite of his adding and subtracting, over and over again, recalculating and dividing. It would have been different if the i-staff of the deadly is-rune had been there, with a gap of 10 days.
Gardar could only come to one conclusion: this monster was not a sorcerer. In other words, he was an ordinary human being who committed his crimes without the support of special knowledge. When Gardar at last realized this, then he knew that his calculations not had been entirely in vain.
Why did the number 4 turn up between the misdeeds? It seemed impossible that Thor was involved. Odin? He was unreliable, and one never knew about him, but Thor was never like that. If he could find out what the four days meant for the killings, then he also knew the secret.
“How do you know that Ragnar lost his pride?” he asked Einar.
Einar grinned. “What do you think?”
“You have either heard rumors or you were there when it happened in Zemgalle.”
Einar nodded. “I was there when the attack took place. We had to run back to our ships on the shore when the enemy forces outnumbered us. Ragnar was caught and was mutilated. He succeeded in reaching the last ship before it left. He was bleeding like anything. His balls were left, but his pecker was gone.”
“Therefore many people know this,” Gardar said.
“Of course they do.”
“So many that one of them is likely to use him as scapegoat?”
“Now I don’t get you,” said Einar the Autumnborn.
“I mean that this serial killer, who over and over again repeats his misdeeds in just about the same way, could intentionally commit his crimes in a way that casts suspicion on Ragnar.”
“Who could cast suspicion on him?”
Gardar looked in surprise at Einar. “You could!” Gardar exclaimed. “You’re the one who just cast suspicion on him. You are obviously spreading the rumor that he is the perpetrator.”
Einar flinched and looked at Gardar in unmasked surprise. “Me? Oh... yes. You’re right.” Einar shook his head, as if he were discrediting what just had dawned on him.
And Gardar breathed a sigh of relief. He liked Ragnar and disliked the idea that he might be the perpetrator. Most people probably knew of Ragnar’s condition. Any murderer could use that knowledge for spreading rumors as Sigurd had done in Birka, when he scratched crosses on the chests of his victims in the hope of throwing the blame on Christians.
Gardar did not intend to stay for a long time in Pavika. Within one day and one night, Ragnar and his men would be back. When they returned to Trelleborg, he, Gullveig and the slave woman would go with them.
* * *
Copyright © 2014 by Bertil Falk