The Draining Lake - By Arnaldur Indridason


She stood motionless for a long time, staring at the bones as if it should not be possible for them to be there. Any more than for her.

At first she thought it was another sheep that had drowned in the lake, until she moved closer and saw the skull half-buried in the lake bed and the shape of a human skeleton. The ribs protruded from the sand and beneath them could be seen the outlines of the pelvis and thigh bones. The skeleton was lying on its left side so she could see the right side of the skull, the empty eye sockets and three teeth in the upper jaw. One had a large silver filling. There was a wide hole in the skull itself, about the size of a matchbox, which she instinctively thought could have been made by a hammer. She bent down and stared at the skull. With some hesitation she explored the hole with her finger. The skull was full of sand.

The thought of a hammer crossed her mind again and she shuddered at the idea of someone being struck over the head with one. But the hole was too large to have been left by a hammer. She decided not to touch the skeleton again. Instead, she took out her mobile and dialled emergency services.

She wondered what to say. Somehow this was so completely unreal. A skeleton so far out in the lake, buried on its sandy bed. Nor was she on her best form. Visions of hammers and matchboxes. She found it difficult to concentrate. Her thoughts were roaming all over the place and she had great trouble rounding them up again.

It was probably because she was hung-over. After planning to spend the day at home she had changed her mind and gone to the lake. She had persuaded herself that she must check the instruments. She was a scientist. She had always wanted to be a scientist and knew that the measurements had to be monitored carefully. But she had a splitting headache and her thoughts were far from logical. The National Energy Authority had held its annual dinner dance the night before and, as was sometimes the way, she had had too much to drink.

She thought about the man lying in her bed at home and knew that it was on his account that she had hauled herself off to the lake. She did not want to be there when he woke up and hoped that he would be gone when she returned. He had come back to her flat after the dance but was not very exciting. No more than the others she had met since her divorce. He hardly talked about anything except his CD collection and carried on long after she had given up feigning any interest. Then she fell asleep in a living-room chair. When she woke up she saw that he had got into her bed, where he was sleeping with his mouth open, wearing tiny underpants and black socks.

'Emergency services,' a voice said over the line.

'Hello – I'd like to report that I've found some bones,' she said. 'There's a skull with a hole in it.'

She grimaced. Bloody hangover! Who says that sort of thing? A skull with a hole in it. She remembered a phrase from a children's rhyme about a penny with a hole in it. Or was it a shilling?

'Your name, please,' said the neutral emergency-services voice.

She straightened out her jumbled thoughts and stated her name.

'Where is it?'

'Lake Kleifarvatn. North side.'

'Did you pull it up in a fishing net?'

'No. It's buried on the bed of the lake.'

'Are you a diver?'

'No, it's standing up out of the bed. Ribs and the skull.'

'It's on the bottom of the lake?'


'So how can you see it?'

'I'm standing here looking at it.'

'Did you bring it to dry land?'

'No, I haven't touched it,' she lied instinctively.

The voice on the telephone paused.

'What kind of crap is this?' the voice said at last, angrily. 'Is this a hoax? You know what you can get for wasting our time?'

'It's not a hoax. I'm standing here looking at it.'

'So you can walk on water, I suppose?'

'The lake's gone,' she said. 'There's no water any more. Just the bed. Where the skeleton is.'

'What do you mean, the lake's gone?'

'It hasn't all gone, but it's dry now where I'm standing. I'm a hydrologist with the Energy Authority. I was recording the water level when I discovered this skeleton. There's a hole in the skull and most