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his back, but he wouldn’t let himself quit. I had carried his

pack as well as mine for the last part of the trip, and the

resultant debt of gratitude had already provided me with

some information I’d needed. Tommy H. had gotten

married a year ago, so I could no longer repay his services

au naturel. His marital status wouldn’t have stopped me,

but for the time being Tommy H. had shown himself to be

the faithful type.

“Hello, Tommy H.!” I tried for a syrupy voice, though I

doubted I could bullshit my old buddy. After a minute of

small talk I got straight to the point: “I have three names I

need data on fast: Veli-Pekka Virtanen, Paula Johanna Salo,

and Petri Ilmari Aalto.”

I’d barely gotten into the fat suit, Santa coat, and beard

when Tommy H. called back. Petri was totally clean,

nothing on him in the police files. Virtanen had done two

short stints for drug dealing, and before that there’d been a

pile of fines for the same thing. Paula Johanna Salo’s

charges stopped at one. She’d driven into a truck in the

middle of the night on busy Kustaa Vaasa Street. The blood

tests had found alcohol, benzodiazepines, and strong pain

medicine. Salo had left behind a three-year-old daughter.

“Who’s the father?”

“The papers give only the mother’s name. The child is

currently in her grandmother’s care.”