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Lapland can be a lonely place for many, but for a serial killer like Max, it's a deserted playing field. Quiet roads, isolated people, and huge forests for bodies to disappear in. Max can't help himself. It's all he thinks about. All day, every day. Everything in his life disguises the real him, his real purpose, his driving desire—his need to kill. In this environment, people never see it coming. Robert didn't see it coming—he was too interested in the cement mixer. Remember that old abandoned house? The one that creeped you and your friends out when you were kids. Still does doesn't it—if you're honest. It's malevolence spills onto the pavement and makes you walk as close to the kerb as you can when you pass by. These houses don't like us. They don't want us near them, and they certainly don't want us inside them. Every now and then someone stops and looks up at the house, but it's only fear that keeps them from moving on. Sometimes the house will draw them in, play with them, and then maybe, just maybe, let them go.
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Kackerlacka & Eaten Duet
Arctic Chiller Series
Published by Arctic Publishing, 2018.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
KACKERLACKA & EATEN DUET
First edition. May 31, 2018.
Copyright © 2018 John Hellgren.
Written by John Hellgren.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Also by John Hellgren
Arctic Chiller Series
Watch for more at John Hellgren's website.
Also By John Hellgren
Kackerlacka - Chapter 1
Kackerlacka - Chapter 2
Kackerlacka - Chapter 3
Kackerlacka - Chapter 4
Kackerlacka - Chapter 5
Kackerlacka - Chapter 6
Kackerlacka - Chapter 7
Kackerlacka - Chapter 8
Kackerlacka - Chapter 9
Kackerlacka - Chapter 10
Kackerlacka - Chapter 11
Kackerlacka - Chapter 12
Kackerlacka - Chapter 13
Eaten - Chapter 1 - Edmond, Peder & Anders
Eaten - Chapter 2 - Urban and Lars
Eaten - Chapter 3 - Jimmi
Eaten - Chapter 4 - Runo and Magan
Also By John Hellgren
About the Author
About the Publisher
Do you think you would sense your impending death? A psychic premonition a few seconds before the murderer’s axe crunched its way through the back of your skull? Or the moment before a killer thrusts his knife up into your rib cage? We can’t ask the victims can we—they’re already dead.
Robert didn’t see it coming—he was too interested in the cement mixer.
“It’s up here Robert, just over the ridge.”
“Kind of you to show me this Max. It’s so interesting to see construction work, especially in the middle of the forest. Office work can be so boring. How long will it be before the cement is ready?”
“Oh, it’s ready now Robert. The mixer’s been running for a while and all that's left is to add a little water to the drum. You’ll hear a motor kick in now and then while it’s churning around. It’s difficult to connect to power when we are this deep in the forest, so we use small petrol generators to drive all the equipment.”
I’d met Robert at lunchtime, by chance, but great timing for me. I’d finished a job just a couple of kilometres outside of town and treated myself to a decent lunch. When I arrived at the cafe, customers stood in-line almost to the main door, all clutching their plate and cutlery waiting to be served. After I’d finally collected my meal, I ended up sharing a small table with a man called Robert. We ate our sizeable fixed menu lunch of pork cutlet, boiled potatoes, and a chunky salad and chatted about our lives.
He told me about his boring job as an investment banker in Stockholm, and that he lived with his mother in a huge apartment in the financial district of the city.
He was forty-two years old and a baby wearing a suit. Daddy had taken him into the firm, despite not being able to find him much to do due to Robert’s limited abilities. He wanted to work with his hands as a farmer, a builder, or a carpenter, but Daddy wouldn’t allow it—and he was right. It was all just fantasy. Robert was the type of man who had trouble buttoning up his own shirt.
He had visited the town we ate at a few times before, looking for office premises, one of the few jobs Daddy trusted him with. I jumped at the opportunity fate had dropped into my lap and invited Robert to take a look at the construction site. He couldn’t resist a voyeuristic peek into my world, a thirty-minute taste of how his life could have been. He wouldn’t even scratch the surface.
“This is very exciting, very exciting indeed. Thank you so much for this.” Robert’s continued excitement at the mundane had already become irritating. “It was a splendid idea to leave my car in town. I would never have come this far along the unmade road in my Audi, just as you mentioned. Are you sure you need to go back into town in a while Max? It’s very kind of you to give me a lift back.”
“Yes I do Robert, and it's my pleasure.” I had no intention of going back into town, well, not if everything worked out as I wanted.
I’d parked my truck at the side of the track leading to the site, and we’d walked over the ridge and into the clearing I had been working on that morning. The digger drivers had been there the day before and the path to the site was pretty even and dry. Robert’s handmade Italian leather shoes were dusty, but far from ruined. Robert didn’t care. He was so excited about being near an actual construction site, he was close to wetting himself as we made our way to the centre of the clearing.
“My father would be so angry if he could see me now,” Robert said, brimming with defiance.
“Even more enjoyable then I guess?” I smiled as he nodded like a five-year-old.
Robert beamed as he looked at the freshly dug pit that would soon become the foundation for a small, high voltage junction box, and his new home for the next few hundred years. He stared into the pit, hands jangling his keys in his designer suit trouser pockets as the concrete mixer churned around and around. I reached down and picked up one of the wooden packing stays from the equipment lying nearby.
Robert had turned his attention to the cement mixer, so he didn’t notice me when I swung the solid length of wood in his direction. It connected exactly where I’d aimed it. The familiar thud of timber on human skull, one of my favourite sounds, mixed well with the high pitched scream.
“Ahhhh! Jesus!!” Robert’s flimsy trousers didn't protect his knees much when he hit the ground. The blow had kicked off an adrenaline rush, but the shock had debilitated him and turned his legs to jelly. As he leant forward and placed his hands flat on the forest floor, he tried to muster some insight into what was happening. I brought the wooden length down again, this time harder, but on the same spot. Blood poured through his hair as he fell flat on the floor, wriggling in the dust, moaning.
I often wonder what normal humans think about when these moments pass by, hearts racing, time running in slow motion. It’s been hard to muster up the enthusiasm to ask my victims, so I haven’t created any form of useful survey yet—sorry. They’d probably answer my questions in a vain attempt to connect with their attacker, to improve their chances of survival. We’ve all seen the movie, haven’t we?
Does Robert regret accepting my offer to see the site? Of course he does, now—stupid question. Does he think if he’d taken the career path he’d wanted to, against Daddy’s wishes, then he wouldn’t be here? Maybe.
I grabbed one of the thin, strong, plastic packing strips and sank to my knees, onto Roberts back, pinning him down with my full weight centred over his lungs. My folded legs leant on his outstretched arms as I threaded the packing strip under his neck and twisted the two ends together, turning them around and around into a corkscrew shape. He coughed, choking for air.
I pulled the strip back and lifted his head and neck up, and at the same time I twisted the strip a little more. The noose became tighter and tighter as his face became redder and redder. Blood rushed to his brain as it screamed to every nerve ending it needed oxygen.
I loosened the plastic noose two turns—to let him breathe—just a gasp to taste some hope. Hope brings a renewed energy to a victim and helps me savour their departure longer.
Robert wriggled a bit as he lay on the dusty clearing, all alone with his killer in the middle of the Lapland forests. Bliss.
I twisted again before he could cough out whatever desperate plea had popped into his head in that second of relief. This time I kept twisting, and twisting, until the life drifted away from his body and into the ether.
When it’s my turn to leave this planet, I wonder if I will meet all the people I have killed? Probably not. I won’t be going where they are that’s for sure.
Robert’s body went limp. His head tipped forward, and his forehead fell into the dust, his neck suspended at a strange, 90-degree-ish angle.
I sat next to him for a while, soaking up the forest and lake views—and my latest kill.
Nothing else comes near this feeling, not even close. My neck and spine tingled, small explosions everywhere. A euphoric wave ebbed and flowed through me, my heart raced with excitement as adrenaline forced my eyes wide open, almost unblinking. Heaven.
After twenty minutes, I’d calmed down and refreshed the cement mixer with some water. I reflected on the last hour and stared into the drum as it rolled around and churned the wet cement.
The drum was big, but it would still take several loads to fill up the pit with concrete and create Roberts final resting place. I had all afternoon. I work alone in these remote areas and spend my days planning my next kill, and how best to take advantage of future opportunities that present themselves—just like the one that day, Robert’s Day as it’s now called.
It’s a simple life, that of a killer.
There are thousands of people reported missing around the world each year. Hundreds are reported missing each month. Abductions, young adults who find their lives unbearable, women who flee abusive relationships, and people trafficking. The majority return home to their families and loved ones—but many don’t.
The ones that don’t return are part of a core group of people who disappear forever. Some of them fall into the hands of killers like me, well practised killers—born for the job. Killers who have developed a network and a social system for sharing ideas on our craft. Ideas for finding victims. Ideas for disposing of bodies. Ideas for all aspects of making people disappear in a modern world. I plan to let you into a few secrets. Trade secrets. My secrets. How I started and found my mentor. How I built my little kingdom of death in the forests of Swedish Lapland, my killing ground.
I often wonder how I’ve managed to get away with my lifestyle for so long. For me, the urge to kill is impossible to fight, impossible to mute or to tame. Am I a monster? Probably. I am certainly not a normal human. Who cares? I enjoy it. I need it, and I pick out the weaklings in the herd, the people that wouldn’t have survived 200 years ago without our modern day pills, potions and therapists. I’m doing the world a favour, ending their suffering—their torment.
What does it mean to be human in this world, anyway? Wars, beheadings, carpet bombings, genocide—starving or gassing one's own population to death. I’m a minnow in a huge pond of killers, an amateur compared to the people who decide the fate of others en masse, who rule the countries that kill their kinsfolk. Do they feel the same bliss I feel when I wring someone's neck? Can it be the same?—simply giving an order to an underling to gas or bomb a village, compared to thrusting a long blade into someone's rib cage?
Perhaps it is. Perhaps it’s better. The pleasure, heightened a hundred fold when the mad dictator stares at the carnage on the TV news, or better still, some military grade 'close-up' video footage. But where’s the connection, the contact? Where’s the personal experience? I have to feel my victims close to me, watch the life ebb or explode out of them while staring into their eyes. The exhilaration I feel as their breath falters, lungs and heart fluttering like little birds, then falling, expiring. It’s magical.
I’m getting excited now. I need a distraction. Maybe you’d like to hear a little about me? Max Berg’s my name—killing’s my game, amongst other things. I chose to live in the north of Sweden, or Lapland as most of you will know it as, and I’ve spent my 29 years in a small, excitement free town of about 5,000 people. Many who live here have dogs. Some have cats and even horses. Lot’s of reindeer, moose, deer, foxes and a few predators, such as the bear and wolverine. Most easy fare for a young compulsive murderer like me, but contrary to popular belief, not all of us like to hurt animals.
This is a myth punted around by psychologists in an attempt to demonise us even more than they already do. Amazing how most of you ‘normal’ people don’t care much about seeing others murdered or maimed on TV, but if it’s an animal! The shock! The horror! The hypocrisy! Pass me another beef and pork burger please, while I watch this wretched animal on Facebook being skinned alive, or torn to bits by a Chinese psycho in the name of fresh food. It’s you who are all mad—every last one of you. It’s just most of you hide it well enough to stay out of the asylums.
No, I am a misanthrope and an intruder. A cuckoo if you will. I hate people. All of you—with few exceptions. I have to live among you to kill you, but I don’t like being around most of you. My Swedish family? Well, I owe my mother and father a debt for raising me, paying for everything while I grew up, and loving me, so.... I’m not a complete bastard, and I do have some compassion in me—sort of.
My brother and sister? Take ‘em or leave ‘em. My older brother is a know it all as older brothers are. “You stole my Mum!” He would scream when we were kids. I would tell him not to be so gay. I didn’t know what it meant then, but it usually shut him up. My sister is the youngest. Sweet as a bun my mother would say. She’s a bit of a boffin and has grown up to be a science teacher, of sorts. Which is a pity as I find teachers extraordinarily irritating.
One of my favourite kills though, teachers. Most of them are so patronising and seem to want to talk to everyone as if they’re five years old. And the droning—on and on and on. I guess standing and talking at a classroom of captive seven-year-olds who have no choice but to listen, will lead you to believe everyone wants to hear your boring, everlasting, droning.
But I would never harm my sis or bro—my mother and father love them too much, and there are plenty of other pickings.
We all had a charmed childhood. Mum and dad raised us in a small holding just south of the Arctic Circle, a big farmhouse and guesthouse, fun outhouses, and a lake not far away from the garden.
My Dad’s around the house a lot more since he retired a year or two ago. He’d spent most of his career at Vattenfall, Sweden’s national power company behemoth. He found me a job there as all fathers do for their sons in northern Sweden—nine years now for my sins. I travel around the top half of the country working on the main power lines, installing and repairing pylons, large cable posts and shed sized junction boxes. See where I am going with this? Lots of foundation work in the middle of nowhere, a la Robert—concrete—Mafia style disappearances. No? Amateurs.
Dad turned down a few promotions over the years, mainly due to the extra time he would have been away from home, and anyway, he didn’t need the extra money as my grandfather died young and left him the house. My grandmother still lives nearby, as she didn’t want to live in the guesthouse after Grandad died. Too many memories and too much maintenance she said. Dad found her a cabin in a nearby village which has been perfect for her, although she often visits the lake near our house in the summer. She has lots of fond memories from the lake, and likes to sit on her camping chair by the water on nice sunny days, to just reminisce.
It’s one of my favourite places too, especially as my first kill was at the lake. Tragic accident—so everyone thought, but it wasn’t. I don’t know why, but something in me changed that day—my destiny awoke, and the feelings I’d had for months finally overpowered me. I’d had lots of homicidal thoughts before, but this was the day they took hold of me, shook me awake, and threw me into my world. On this day, I became what I really am.
A few of my ‘friends’ and I played out on the lake, swimming and generally messing about. Then mouthy Lars showed up and kept dive bombing everyone. He jumped into the lake from the jetty, running first, then launching himself in, splashing, screaming and shooting his mouth off as usual.
I knew dad had dumped a few rebars (concrete reinforcing rods to you and me), under the jetty a couple of years before, as it’s a royal pain getting get rid of rubbish up here. An hours drive just to dump some metal rods?—don’t think so.
I dived under the jetty and managed to free one of the rods. Then I swam the few metres back, underwater, to where Lars usually jumped into the lake and rammed the rod into the lake bed. I pushed a few decent sized rocks around the rod before needing some air.
Lars thought it would be fun to throw stones at the others, but soon tired of his own inaccuracy and decided to take a swim instead. He took a few steps back and launched himself from the jetty, straight at the sweet spot. I had, at best, hoped to injure him, severely if possible, but to my joy, my absolute joy, the rod caught him on the inside of his leg and ran up into his inner thigh. He screamed, but not a regular kid’s scream—a kind of high pitched, gurgling retch. Then silence as blood filled the water around him in seconds.
It turned out the rough cut rebar hit the main artery in his leg, so by the time the others ran back to the house to tell Mum and Dad, he was dead. Poor Lars. I stayed to ‘look after him’, holding his hand and watching him fade away. My first. Always cherish the first. His parents were devastated, but most of us didn’t like him and didn’t care he’d died. Even my sweet little sister. “Lars, Lars, gone away, don’t come back another day” was her favourite rhyme when Mum and Dad weren’t around, but Grandma heard her one day and told her it wasn’t nice. Fancy....
Grandma is nice, but sharp as a whip. I am sure she knows ‘the real me’ better than I give her credit. A comment here and there when we are alone. “I love you for what you are Max.” and “You are a very special grandson Max. A little different from everyone else, but my lovely boy.” Could be I am just hoping she suspects—that someone knows. Family you see, much safer. Perhaps grandad was the same as me. Just think about that— if being a natural born killer is genetic. Maybe it skips a generation, like baldness.
Grandma tipped me onto my house. Remote, long driveway, big main outhouse and some smaller ones too, all with lots of land. Property is cheap here in Swedish Lapland—insanely cheap when compared to the US, UK, or Western Europe.
Property prices are similar to Bulgaria, or some other God-forsaken impoverished country, run by a corrupt government, or dictator and his family who have controlled the country with an iron fist for 50 years—but this is Sweden, and we all have electricity, water, and the Internet. The infrastructure is excellent, and we have a well funded and under-used health service. We also have a fair voting system. Hey, I might be a killer, but I am a great believer in democracy and a well organised society.
“It’s perfect for you Max. It’s remote, and I know you like your peace and quiet. It has a big barn with lots of hiding places for your valuables, a very long driveway, and you can see for miles from the house.”
Grandma was right of course, she knew the place well and had played there as a child. The family who lived there before were forest workers. Their parents were forest workers too. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of small holdings dotted around northern Sweden. A house here, two houses there. Three or four and it was a village in the 30s through to the 50s.
People often look the same in these places though—no new genes you see. My father is my mother’s uncle type of thing. A bit worrying, but it’s righted itself somewhat in our modern world.
Workers are more transient in this mechanised age and travel all around the country. Even so, most of the locals can’t be bothered to drive past the next village to find a new partner. A year of sex, then a year of arguing, a kid, and then on to the next relationship. It’s all very Lapland and cosy, in a crooked nose and big eared kind of way.
My house sits on a large hill and has an excellent vantage point. I can see for miles out of my bedroom window. Miles. I sometimes stand at the attic window, imagining a big line of police cars and forensic trucks travelling towards the house, lights flashing, warning the non-existent traffic they are on their way—racing to catch me, following up on some slip up I have made somewhere. Perhaps someone suspects something is awry, or my face showed up on CCTV somewhere. It’s all very exciting don’t you think? No? You haven’t lived.
I burn wood to heat my house, as many still do in Sweden. I have stacks of chopped pieces of birch always stored around the property, and I need a wood chipper for the smaller branches, dry leaves, and the odd human head, tibia bone, and rib cage. Mine is an easy clean wood chipper that sits near my lake. Lake? Yeah—I have a lake. Ten-a-penny up here. Thousands of them in Lapland. I have 15 acres of land, part forest, part grass, and part lake. And guess what I have in my lake? Pike. Lovely, large, savage, flesh and bone eating pike—dozens of them. If you ever visit, don’t go for a swim.
One of my mother’s worst experiences, as the wife of a hobby fisherman, was my father coming home with a pike. Up here, pike are vermin—few people eat them. They are bottom feeders after all, but my father’s view? ‘Meat is meat son.’ Never turn your nose up at a free meal was his mantra. I guess I was about 12 or 13 years old.
I marvelled at the massive, green and brown speckled beast laid out on the kitchen worktop, as Dad showed me the teeth. He opened the mouth and pointed to the mass of razor sharp incisors lining both jaws. “This fish will eat anything,” he said, not realising how prophetic his words would soon be. He flipped the 10kg fish over, struggling to keep it straight, laying it on its back.
If you are going to eat a freshly caught fish, most start with the belly—’cleaning’, or ‘gutting’ as it’s called. Some hope to find roe, some just want to take out the guts and other stuff you won’t want to eat. Dad was the same. ‘Always start with the belly son’, he would tell me. He plunged his handmade Sami fishing knife into the beast's stomach and dragged the blade along the midsection of the pikes belly.
Blood and guts spilled out, together with three rancid, decomposing fjäll lemmings. You probably don’t know what they are, do you? Think wild, light brown, white and black hamster crossed with a rat, with attitude. Cute, unafraid of just about anything, and keen to bite you if you get close enough. The stench was unbelievable. Two of them had their mouths open, their large, white, baby tusks protruding from their upper jaws, tongues hanging out in a grotesque cheap horror movie kind of way—eyes glassy black and soulless.
As the three rotting carcases slopped into her kitchen sink, Mum screamed ‘Get that mess out of my kitchen! It’s gross, it stinks! Disgusting! Why can’t you listen to me Tom Berg!?! I hate fish!’
Dad cleaned up the mess and we had stewed moose that night, which I seem to remember was rather tasty.
I bought my house seven years ago. Not unusual for a young man of 22 here in Lapland. I feel sorry for you poor saps in Europe, paying two-thirds of your salary for a mortgage, or rent for an apartment or tiny house in a cramped town that most people don’t want to live in. That’s if you’ve even left the ancestral home, as most of you can’t nowadays. The average age of children in Europe still living at home with their parents? Thirty. Thirty? How the hell can they function?
What about parties? Time on your own? Space for your stuff? Porn? Killing the odd person and disposing of them? OK, maybe not the last one, but if you are going to engage in my hobby, you will need a decent sized property with some land.
I nabbed my house for a song you will be glad to hear, as there has been a regular flow of social climbing Swedes leaving the area. They want to live in the towns and cities, which led to rural property prices tumbling. There were so many inherited, unwanted and unloved places to choose from, I had the pick of the bunch, but it’s started to shift now.
The ‘foreigners’ are moving in. Rural Lapland’s filling up with stressed out townie Germans, Dutch, Finns, Brits and a few Italians, all looking for a more relaxed way of life, a new start in the last wilderness of Europe. All easy meat and fresh off the boat for me and my kind. Rose-tinted glasses every last one of them—for the first two years, anyway.
They trust everyone and yet struggle to communicate. I speak almost fluent English, but I only use it occasionally when interacting with the newcomers. Misunderstandings are useful, luring people into situations they wouldn’t dream of becoming involved in back home. It’s much harder to judge someone when you don’t speak the same language. The accents, the verbal nuances, the vocabulary—they all help you decide whether this person will help you, or just rip you off and run you over as they leave.
Rick moved to a village not too far from mine a few months ago. Pleasant enough guy I guess you could say. He came from Amsterdam and couldn’t take the stress of Dutch city life at thirty, but didn’t have the cash to buy a house in rural Holland. Thank you cosmos for the Internet. Rick had found his new home, a cute little 1950s Swedish red house, online via a European property website.
The modern world makes my life so much easier. My countrymen take a few pictures, write a little English text, and hey presto, they’ve sold their house to a wide eyed foreigner looking for a new start. A lovely hard to trace stream of victims for me.
I can’t just roll up and knock on their doors though. Even the most naive immigrant will suspect something if I just turn up out of the blue smiling, so I offer electrical services through shops no less than an hour or two from where I live.
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