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The Keeper of Lost Causes


She scratched her fingertips on the smooth walls until they bled, and pounded her fi sts on the thick panes until she could no longer feel her hands. At least ten times she had fumbled her way to the steel door and stuck her fingernails in the crack to try to pry it open, but the door could not be budged, and the edge was sharp.

Finally, when her nails starting pulling away from the flesh of her fingers, she tumbled back on to the ice-cold floor, breathing hard. For a moment she stared into the thundering darkness, her eyes open wide and her heart hammering. Then she screamed. Screamed until her ears were ringing and her voice gave out.

She leaned her head back and again felt the fresh air streaming down from the ceiling. Maybe she could jump up there if she got a running start and then grabbed hold of something. Maybe then something would happen.

Yes, then maybe those bastards outside would have to come in.

And if she stuck out her fingers and aimed for their eyes, maybe she could blind them. If she was fast enough and didn’t hesitate, maybe she could. And then perhaps she could escape.

For a moment she sucked on her bleeding fingers, then pressed them against the floor and sat up.

Blindly she stared up at the ceiling. Maybe it was too far to jump. Perhaps there was nothing for her to grab. But she should give it a try. What else could she do?

She took off her jacket and carefully placed it in a corner so she wouldn’t trip over it. Then in one bound she leaped off the floor, stretching her arms in the air as high as she could, but she touched nothing. She did it a couple more times before she retreated to the far wall, where she paused for a moment to collect herself. Then she took a running start, and with all her might she jumped into the darkness with her arms flailing for hope. When she crashed back down, her foot slipped on the smooth floor, and her body landed on its side. She gasped loudly when her shoulder struck the concrete, and she screamed when her head smashed against the wall, slamming her brain full of flashes of light.

For a long time she lay very still, wanting only to cry. But she didn’t. It would be misunderstood if her prison guards heard her. They would think she was on the verge of giving up, but she wasn’t. Just the opposite.

She was going to look after herself. For them she was the woman in the cage, but she was the one who decided how far apart the bars would be. She would think thoughts that opened out on to the world and kept madness at bay. They would never break her. That’s what she decided as she lay there on the floor, her shoulder throbbing fiercely and the swelling around her eye making it close tight.

Someday she would get out of here.

Excerpted from THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES © Copyright 2011 by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Reprinted with permission by Dutton Adult. All rights reserved.

The Keeper of Lost Causes
by by Jussi Adler-Olsen