She saw the carving knife in his hand immediately. It seemed less dangerous than it did incongruous. There they were, in that beautiful season when the natural world was at its most expansive; the moment Norwegians wait for and dream about all through the dark winter so that its arrival is both blessed and wistful for being so short. And there he was, silently running toward her with a knife designed to slice meat.
If she'd delayed he'd have been on top of her. So she shot him. And then she shot him again.
"Screw it," she mutters in her native language and starts reading the file.
His name was Burim and he was from Kosovo, apparently. His family fled to Norway as refugees from the war in the 1990s. His father had died of health complications after being freed from a Serbian internment camp. The report attributes the death to malnutrition and damage to internal organs likely caused by beatings at the camp. Young Burim, fatherless, had fallen into the wrong crowd in Oslo as he failed to assimilate into Norwegian culture. His immigrant experience and his behavioral patterns in Norway—concluded a forensic psychologist—suggested immaturity rather than malice or ambition. That was who she had killed.
However, the report continued to explain that the legal findings about her own guilt or innocence in the matter were based on a study of the facts of the case, and the circumstances of the encounter between the assailant (him) and the officer on the scene (her). She reads about the events that were in part described through Petter's own testimony as he had eyewitnessed the shooting from his side of the patrol car.
The report contains a narrative account of the shooting. To Sigrid it reads like historical fiction. It is a story about a woman with her own name but this fictional character is clearly not Sigrid herself because the author of this story wasn't at the cabin when all this happened. There was no video and other than Petter no witnesses. How could anyone possibly know what she'd really been doing let alone thinking?
Sigrid flips to the next page and reads on.
On what basis does this bureaucratic reenactment draw its claims and attributions of cause and effect? Who is this writer who drew conclusions about what happened at the moment Sigrid pulled the trigger on her weapon? And who is this forty-year-old Norwegian police officer named "Sigrid Ødegård" who shot the man and instead of rushing over to care for his wounds, ran instead to the eighty-two-year-old American man who had tumbled out of the cabin, his neck slashed with a knife?
The report does not mention the gentle and soft hand of the old man reaching up to touch her face, leaving his own fingerprints in blood on her cheek. It does not mention how she did not see those fingerprints until later that night when she returned to her own apartment in Grønland, alone, and looked in the mirror. Why was that not in the report if this writer knew her so well?
By page twelve it is clear that both Sigrid and her literary doppelgänger have both been exonerated.
Sigrid raises her eyes to see whether any of the junior staff are watching her with the file.
As none of them are looking at her it is clear that, moments earlier, all of them were.
She returns to the report, increasingly attentive to its fictions and assumptions; false premises and confident rhetoric.
And the more she reads past its bureaucratic surface and its misplaced certainty, the more Sigrid can sense a higher firmament of truth. Somewhere, beyond her sight but not her understanding, she can hear a different story; an untold story about a confused Kosovan refugee with no violent record, fleeing from a bad choice rather than making his way toward another. His lethal mistake was not his decision to hurt her but rather running in her direction and not speaking Norwegian well enough to understand the words she had called out twice: "Halt or I will shoot."
In this story, everything is the same but the meaning of everything is different.
She pictures the events again. The green grass. The red cabin. The blue sky. The running man and his auburn hair. His wide brown eyes.