Friday, May 4, 2012

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Epilogue


EPILOGUE

It is estimated that some six hundred women served during the American Civil War. They had signed up disguised as men. Hollywood has missed a significant chapter of cultural history here – or is this history ideologically too difficult to deal with? Historians have often struggled to deal with women who do not respect gender distinctions, and nowhere is that distinction more sharply drawn than in the question of armed combat. (Even today, it can cause controversy having a woman on a typically Swedish moose hunt.)

But from antiquity to modern times, there are many stories of female warriors, of Amazons. The best known find their way into the history books as warrior queens, rulers as well as leaders. They have been forced to act as any Churchill, Stalin, or Roosevelt: Semiramis from Nineveh, who shaped the Assyrian Empire, and Boudicca, who led one of the bloodiest English revolts against the Roman forces of occupation, to cite just two. Boudicca is honoured with a statue on the Thames at Westminster Bridge, right opposite Big Ben. Be sure to say hello to her if you happen to pass by.

On the other hand, history is quite reticent about women who were common soldiers, who bore arms, belonged to regiments, and played their part in battle on the same terms as men. Hardly a war has been waged without women soldiers in the ranks.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Chapter 29



CHAPTER 29
Saturday, 16.vii – Friday,
7.x
Salander found her Palm Tungsten T3 on the hall table.
Next to it were her car keys and the shoulder bag she had
lost when Lundin attacked her outside the door to her
apartment building on Lundagatan. She also found both
opened and unopened post that had been collected from
her P.O. Box on Hornsgatan. Mikael Blomkvist.
She took a slow tour through the furnished part of her
apartment. She found traces of him everywhere. He had
slept in her bed and worked at her desk. He had used her
printer, and in the wastepaper basket she found drafts of
the manuscript of The Section along with discarded notes.
He had bought a litre of milk, bread, cheese, caviar and a
jumbo pack of Billy’s Pan Pizza and put them in the fridge.
On the kitchen table she found a small white envelope with
her name on it. It was a note from him. The message was
brief. His mobile number. That was all.
She knew that the ball was in her court. He was not going
to get in touch with her. He had finished the story, given
back the keys to her apartment, and he would not call her.
If she wanted something then she could call him. Bloody
pig-headed bastard.
She put on a pot of coffee, made four open sandwiches,
and went to sit in her window seat to look out towards
Djurgården. She lit a cigarette and brooded.
It was all over, and yet now her life felt more claustrophobic
than ever.
Miriam Wu had gone to France. It was my fault that you
almost died. She had shuddered at the thought of having
to see Mimmi, but had decided that that would be her first
stop when she was released. But she had gone to France.
All of a sudden she was in debt to people.
Palmgren. Armansky. She ought to contact them to say
thank you. Paolo Roberto. And Plague and Trinity. Even
those damned police officers, Bublanski and Modig, who
had so obviously been in her corner. She did not like
feeling beholden to anyone. She felt like a chess piece in a
game she could not control.
Kalle Bloody Blomkvist. And maybe even Erika Bloody
Berger with the dimples and the expensive clothes and all
that self-assurance.
But it was over, Giannini had said as they left police
headquarters. Right. The trial was over. It was over for
Giannini. And it was over for Blomkvist. He had published
his book and would end up on T. V. and probably win some
bloody prize too.
But it was not over for Lisbeth Salander. This was only the
first day of the rest of her life.
At 4.00 in the morning she stopped thinking. She discarded
her punk outfit on the floor of her bedroom and went to the
bathroom and took a shower. She cleaned off all the make-up she had worn in court, put on loose, dark linen trousers,
a white top and a thin jacket. She packed an overnight bag
with a change of underwear and a couple of tops and put
on some simple walking shoes.
She picked up her Palm and called a taxi to collect her from
Mosebacke Torg. She drove out to Arlanda Airport and
arrived just before 6.00. She studied the departure board
and booked a ticket to the first place that took her fancy.
She used her own passport in her own name. She was
She used her own passport in her own name. She was
surprised that nobody at the ticket desk or at the check-in
counter seemed to recognize her or react to her name.
She had a seat on the morning flight to Málaga and landed
in the blazing midday heat. She stood inside the terminal
building for a moment, feeling uncertain. At last she went
and looked at a map and thought about what she might do
now that she was in Spain. A minute later she decided. She
did not waste time trying to figure out bus routes or other
means of transportation. She bought a pair of sunglasses
at an airport shop, went out to the taxi stand and climbed
into the back seat of the first taxi.
“Gibraltar. I’m paying with a credit card.”
The trip took three hours via the new motorway along the
coast. The taxi dropped her off at British passport control
and she walked across the border and over to the Rock
Hotel on Europa Road, partway up the slope of the 425-metre monolith. She asked if they had a room and was told
there was a double room available. She booked it for two
weeks and handed over her credit card.
She showered and sat on the balcony wrapped up in a
bath towel, looking out over the Straits of Gibraltar. She
could see freighters and a few yachts. She could just make
out Morocco in the haze on the other side of the straits. It
was peaceful.
was peaceful.
After a while she went in and lay down and slept.
The next morning Salander woke at 5.00. She got up,
showered and had a coffee in the hotel bar on the ground
floor. At 7.00 she left the hotel and set out to buy mangos
and apples. She took a taxi to the Peak and walked over to
the apes. She was so early that few tourists had yet
appeared, and she was practically alone with the animals.
She liked Gibraltar. It was her third visit to the strange rock
that housed an absurdly densely populated English town
on the Mediterranean. Gibraltar was a place that was not
like anywhere else. The town had been isolated for
decades, a colony that obstinately refused to be
incorporated into Spain. The Spaniards protested the
occupation, of course. (But Salander thought that the
Spaniards should keep their mouths shut on that score so
long as they occupied the enclave of Ceuta on Moroccan
territory across the straits.) It was a place that was
comically shielded from the rest of the world, consisting of
a bizarre rock, about three quarters of a square mile of
town and an airport that began and ended in the sea. The
colony was so small that every square inch of it was used,
and any expansion had to be over the sea. Even to get into
the town, visitors had to walk across the landing strip at the
airport.
Gibraltar gave the concept of “compact living” a whole new
meaning.
Salander watched a big male ape climb up on to a wall next
to the path. He glowered at her. He was a Barbary ape.
She knew better than to try to stroke any of the animals.
“Hello, friend,” she said. “I’m back.”
The first time she visited Gibraltar she had not even heard
about these apes. She had gone up to the top just to look
at the view, and she was surprised when she followed some
tourists and found herself in the midst of a group of apes
climbing and scrambling on both sides of the pathway.
It was a peculiar feeling to be walking along a path and
suddenly have two dozen apes around you. She looked at
them with great wariness. They were not dangerous or
aggressive, but they were certainly capable of giving you a
bad bite if they got agitated or felt threatened.
She found one of the guards and showed him her bag of
fruit and asked if she could give it to the apes. He said that
it was O.K.
She took out a mango and put it on the wall a little way
away from the male ape.
“Breakfast,” she said, leaning against the wall and taking a
bite of an apple.
The male ape stared at her, bared his teeth, and
contentedly picked up the mango.
In the middle of the afternoon five days later, Salander fell
off her stool in Harry’s Bar on a side street off Main Street,
two blocks from her hotel. She had been drunk almost
continuously since she left the apes on the rock, and most
of her drinking had been done with Harry O’Connell, who
owned the bar and spoke with a phoney Irish accent,
having never in his life set foot in Ireland. He had been
watching her anxiously.
When she had ordered her first drink several days earlier,
he had asked to see her I.D. Her name was Lisbeth, he
knew, and he called her Liz. She would come in after lunch
and sit on a high stool at the far end of the bar with her
back leant against the wall. Then she would drink an
impressive number of beers or shots of whisky.
When she drank beer she did not care about what brand
or type it was; she accepted whatever he served her. When
she ordered whisky she always chose Tullamore Dew,
except on one occasion when she studied the bottles
behind the bar and asked for Lagavulin. When the glass
was brought to her, she sniffed at it, stared at it for a
moment, and then took a tiny sip. She set down her glass
moment, and then took a tiny sip. She set down her glass
and stared at it for a minute with an expression that
seemed to indicate that she considered its contents to be a
mortal enemy.
Finally she pushed the glass aside and asked Harry to give
her something that could not be used to tar a boat. He
poured her another Tullamore Dew and she went back to
her drinking. Over the past four days she had consumed
almost a whole bottle. He had not kept track of the beers.
Harry was surprised that a young woman with her slender
build could hold so much, but he took the view that if she
wanted alcohol she was going to get it, whether in his bar
or somewhere else.
She drank slowly, did not talk to any of the other
customers, and did not make any trouble. Her only activity
apart from the consumption of alcohol seemed to be to
play with a hand-held computer which she connected to a
mobile now and then. He had several times tried to start a
conversation but was met with a sullen silence. She
seemed to avoid company. Sometimes, when there were
too many people in the bar, she had moved outside to a
table on the pavement, and at other times she had gone
two doors down to an Italian restaurant and had dinner.
Then she would come back to Harry’s and order another
Tullamore Dew. She usually left the bar at around 10.00
and made her way unsteadily off, always to the north.
Today she had drunk more and at a faster rate than on the
other days, and Harry had kept a watchful eye on her.
When she had put away seven glasses of Tullamore Dew
in a little over two hours, he decided not to give her any
more. It was then that he heard the crash as she fell off the
bar stool.
He put down the glass he was drying and went around the
counter to pick her up. She seemed offended.
“I think you’ve had enough, Liz,” he said.
She looked at him, bleary-eyed.
“I believe you’re right,” she said in a surprisingly lucid
voice.
She held on to the bar with one hand as she dug some
notes out of her top pocket and then wobbled off towards
the door. He took her gently by the shoulder.
“Hold on a minute. Why don’t you go to the toilet and throw
up the last of that whisky and then sit at the bar for a
while? I don’t want to let you go in this condition.”
She did not object when he led her to the toilet. She stuck
her fingers down her throat. When she came back out to
the bar he had poured her a large glass of club soda. She
drank the whole glass and burped. He poured her another.
“You’re going to feel like death in the morning,” Harry said.
She nodded.
“It’s none of my business, but if I were you I’d sober up for
a couple of days.”
She nodded. Then she went back to the toilet and threw up
again.
She stayed at Harry’s Bar for another hour until she looked
sober enough to be turned loose. She left the bar on
unsteady legs, walked down to the airport and followed the
shoreline around the marina. She walked until after 8.00,
when the ground at last stopped swaying under her feet.
Then she went back to the hotel. She took the lift to her
room, brushed her teeth and washed her face, changed
her clothes, and went back down to the hotel bar to order a
cup of black coffee and a bottle of mineral water.
She sat there, silent and unnoticed next to a pillar, studying
the people in the bar. She saw a couple in their thirties
engaged in quiet conversation. The woman was wearing a
light-coloured summer dress, and the man was holding her
hand under the table. Two tables away sat a black family,
the man with the beginnings of grey at his temples, the
woman wearing a lovely, colourful dress in yellow, black
and red. They had two young children with them. She
and red. They had two young children with them. She
studied a group of businessmen in white shirts and ties,
their jackets hung over the backs of their chairs. They were
drinking beer. She saw a group of elderly people, without a
doubt American tourists. The men wore baseball caps, polo
shirts and loose-fitting trousers. She watched a man in a
light-coloured linen jacket, grey shirt and dark tie come in
from the street and pick up his room key at the front desk
before he headed over to the bar and ordered a beer. He
sat down three metres away from her. She gave him an
expectant look as he took out his mobile and began to
speak in German.
“Hello, is that you? … Is everything alright? … It’s going
fine, we’re having our next meeting tomorrow afternoon …
No, I think it’ll work out … I’ll be staying here five or six days
at least, and then I go to Madrid … No, I won’t be home
before the end of next week … Me too. I love you … Sure
… I’ll call you later in the week … Kiss kiss.”
He was a little over one metre eighty-five tall, about fifty
years old maybe fifty-five, blond hair that was turning grey
and was a bit on the long side, a weak chin, and too much
weight around the middle. But still reasonably well
preserved. He was reading the Financial Times. When he
finished his beer and headed for the lift, Salander got up
and followed him.
He pushed the button for the sixth floor. Salander stood
next to him and leaned her head against the side of the lift.
“I’m drunk,” she said.
He smiled down at her. “Oh, really?”
“It’s been one of those weeks. Let me guess. You’re a
businessman of some sort, from Hanover or somewhere in
northern Germany. You’re married. You love your wife. And
you have to stay here in Gibraltar for another few days. I
gathered that much from your telephone call in the bar.”
The man looked at her, astonished.
“I’m from Sweden myself. I’m feeling an irresistible urge to
have sex with somebody. I don’t care if you’re married and I
don’t want your phone number.”
He looked startled.
“I’m in room 711, the floor above yours. I’m going to go up
to my room, take a bath and get into bed. If you want to
keep me company, knock on the door within half an hour.
Otherwise I’ll be asleep.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” he said as the lift stopped.
“No. It’s just that I can’t be bothered to go out to some pick-up bar. Either you knock on my door or you don’t.”
up bar. Either you knock on my door or you don’t.”
Twenty-five minutes later there was a knock on the door of
Salander’s room. She had a bath towel around her when
she opened the door.
“Come in,” she said.
He stepped inside and looked around the room
suspiciously.
“I’m alone here,” she said.
“How old are you, actually?”
She reached for her passport on top of a chest of drawers
and handed it to him.
“You look younger.”
“I know,” she said, taking off the bath towel and throwing it
on to a chair. She went over to the bed and pulled off the
bedspread.
She glanced over her shoulder and saw that he was
staring at her tattoos.
“This isn’t a trap. I’m a woman, I’m single, and I’ll be here
for a few days. I haven’t had sex for months.”
“Why did you choose me?”
“Because you were the only man in the bar who looked as
if you were here alone.”
“I’m married—”
“And I don’t want to know who she is or even who you are.
And I don’t want to discuss sociology. I want to fuck. Take
off your clothes or go back down to your room.”
“Just like that?”
“Yes. Why not? You’re a grown man – you know what
you’re supposed to do.”
He thought about it for all of thirty seconds. He looked as if
he was going to leave. She sat on the edge of the bed and
waited. He bit his lip. Then he took off his trousers and shirt
and stood hesitantly in his boxer shorts.
“Take it all off,” Salander said. “I don’t intend to fuck
somebody in his underwear. And you have to use a
condom. I know where I’ve been, but I don’t know where
you’ve been.”
He took off his shorts and went over to her and put his
hand on her shoulder. Salander closed her eyes when he
bent down to kiss her. He tasted good. She let him tip her
back on to the bed. He was heavy on top of her.
Jeremy Stuart MacMillan, solicitor, felt the hairs rise on the
back of his neck as soon as he tried to unlock the door to
his office at Buchanan House on Queensway Quay above
the marina. It was already unlocked. He opened it and
smelled tobacco smoke and heard a chair creak. It was just
before 7.00, and his first thought was that he had surprised
a burglar.
Then he smelled the coffee from the machine in the
kitchenette. After a couple of seconds he stepped
hesitantly over the threshold and walked down the corridor
to look into his spacious and elegantly furnished office.
Salander was sitting in his desk chair with her back to him
and her feet on the windowsill. His P.C. was turned on.
Obviously she had not had any problem cracking his
password. Nor had she had any problem opening his safe.
She had a folder with his most private correspondence and
bookkeeping on her lap.
“Good morning, Miss Salander,” he said at last.
“Ah, there you are,” she said. “There’s freshly brewed
coffee and croissants in the kitchen.”
“Thanks,” he said, sighing in resignation.
He had, after all, bought the office with her money and at
her request, but he had not expected her to turn up without
her request, but he had not expected her to turn up without
warning. What is more, she had found and apparently read
a gay porn magazine that he had kept hidden in a desk
drawer.
So embarrassing.
Or maybe not.
When it came to Salander, he felt that she was the most
judgemental person he had ever met. But she never once
raised an eyebrow at people’s weaknesses. She knew that
he was officially heterosexual, but his dark secret was that
he was attracted to men; since his divorce fifteen years
ago he had been making his most private fantasies a
reality. It’s funny, but I feel safe with her.
Since she was in Gibraltar anyway, Salander had decided
to visit MacMillan, the man who handled her finances. She
had not been in touch with him since just after New Year,
and she wanted to know if he had been busy ruining her
ever since.
But there had not been any great hurry, and it was not for
him that she had gone straight to Gibraltar after her
release. She did it because she felt a burning desire to get
away from everything, and in that respect Gibraltar was an
excellent choice. She had spent almost a week getting
drunk, and then a few days having sex with the German
businessman, who eventually introduced himself as Dieter.
She doubted it was his real name but had not bothered to
check. He spent the days sitting in meetings and the
evenings having dinner with her before they went back to
his or her room.
He was not at all bad in bed, Salander thought, although
he was a bit out of practice and sometimes needlessly
rough.
Dieter seemed genuinely astonished that on sheer impulse
she had picked up an overweight German businessman
who was not even looking for it. He was indeed married,
and he was not in the habit of being unfaithful or seeking
female company on his business trips. But when the
opportunity was presented on a platter in the form of a thin,
tattooed young woman, he could not resist the temptation.
Or so he said.
Salander did not care much what he said. She had not
been looking for anything more than recreational sex, but
she was gratified that he actually made an effort to satisfy
her. It was not until the fourth night, their last together, that
he had a panic attack and started going on about what his
wife would say. Salander thought he should keep his mouth
shut and not tell his wife a thing.
But she did not tell him what she thought.
He was a grown man and could have said no to her
invitation. It was not her problem if he was now attacked by
feelings of guilt, or if he confessed anything to his wife. She
had lain with her back to him and listened for fifteen
minutes, until finally she rolled her eyes in exasperation,
turned over and straddled him.
“Do you think you could take a break from the worryguts
stuff and get me off again?” she said.
Jeremy MacMillan was a very different story. He held zero
erotic attraction for her. He was a crook. Amusingly
enough, he looked a lot like Dieter. He was forty-eight, a bit
overweight, with greying, dark-blond curly hair that he
combed straight back from a high forehead. He wore thin
gold-rimmed glasses.
He had once been a Cambridge-educated business lawyer
and stockbroker in London. He had had a promising future
and was a partner in a law firm that was engaged by big
corporations and wealthy yuppies interested in real estate
and tax planning. He had spent the go-go ’80s hanging out
with nouveau riche celebrities. He had drunk hard and
snorted coke with people that he really did not want to
wake up with the next morning. He had never been
charged with anything, but he did lose his wife and two kids
along with his job when he mismanaged several
along with his job when he mismanaged several
transactions and tottered drunk into a mediation hearing.
Without thinking too much about it, he sobered up and fled
London with his tail between his legs. Why he picked
Gibraltar he did not know, but in 1991 he went into
partnership with a local solicitor and opened a modest
back-street law office which officially dealt with much less
glamorous matters: estate planning, wills and such like.
Unofficially, MacMillan & Marks also helped to set up P.O.
Box companies and acted as gatekeepers for a number of
shady figures in Europe. The firm was barely making ends
meet when Salander selected Jeremy MacMillan to
administer the $2.4 billion she had stolen from the
collapsing empire of the Swedish financier Hans-Erik
Wennerström.
MacMillan was a crook, no doubt about it, but she regarded
him as her crook, and he had surprised himself by being
impeccably honest in his dealings with her. She had first
hired him for a simple task. For a modest fee he had set up
a string of P.O. Box companies for her to use; she put a
million dollars into each of them. She had contacted him by
telephone and had been nothing more than a voice from
afar. He never tried to discover where the money came
from. He had done what she asked and took 5 per cent
commission. A little while later she had transferred a large
sum of money that he was to use to set up a corporation,
Wasp Enterprises, which then acquired a substantial
Wasp Enterprises, which then acquired a substantial
apartment in Stockholm. His dealings with Salander were
becoming quite lucrative, even if it was still only quite
modest pickings.
Two months later she had paid a visit to Gibraltar. She had
called him and suggested dinner in her room at the Rock
Hotel, which was, if not the biggest hotel in Gibraltar, then
certainly the most famous. He was not sure what he had
expected, but he could not believe that his client was this
doll-like girl who looked as if she were in her early teens.
He thought he was the butt of some outlandish practical
joke.
He soon changed his mind. The strange young woman
talked with him impersonally, without ever smiling or
showing any warmth. Or coolness, for that matter. He had
sat paralysed as, over the course of a few minutes, she
obliterated the professional facade of sophisticated
respectability that he was always so careful to maintain.
“What is it that you want?” he had asked.
“I’ve stolen a sum of money,” she replied with great
seriousness. “I need a crook who can administer it.”
He had stared at her, wondering whether she was
deranged, but politely he played along. She might be a
possible mark for a con game that could bring in a small
possible mark for a con game that could bring in a small
income. Then he had sat as if struck by lightning when she
explained who she had stolen the money from, how she did
it, and what the amount was. The Wennerström affair was
the hottest topic of conversation in the world of
international finance.
“I see.”
The possibilities flew through his head.
“You’re a skilled business lawyer and stockbroker. If you
were an idiot you would never have got the jobs you did in
the ’80s. However, you behaved like an idiot and managed
to get yourself fired.”
He winced.
“In the future I will be your only client.”
She had looked at him with the most ingenuous expression
he had ever seen.
“I have two conditions. The first is that you never ever
commit a crime or get mixed up in anything that could
create problems for us and focus the authorities’ attention
on my companies and accounts. The second is that you
never lie to me. Never ever. Not a single time. And not for
any reason. If you lie to me, our business relationship will
terminate instantly, and if you make me cross enough I will
terminate instantly, and if you make me cross enough I will
ruin you.”
She poured him a glass of wine.
“There’s no reason to lie to me. I already know everything
worth knowing about your life. I know how much you make
in a good month and a bad month. I know how much you
spend. I know that you never really have enough money. I
know that you owe £120,000 in both long-term and short-term debts, and that you always have to take risks and
skim some money to make the loan payments. You wear
expensive clothes and try to keep up appearances, but in
reality you’ve gone to the dogs and haven’t bought a new
sports jacket in several months. But you did take an old
jacket in to have the lining mended two weeks ago. You
used to collect rare books but have been gradually selling
them off. Last month you sold an early edition of Oliver
Twist for £760.”
She stopped talking and fixed him with her gaze. He
swallowed hard.
“Last week you actually made a killing. A quite clever fraud
perpetrated against that widow you represent. You ripped
her off £6,000, which she’ll probably never miss.”
“How the hell do you know that?”
“I know that you were married, that you have two children in
England who don’t want to see you, and that you’ve taken
the big leap since your divorce and now have primarily
homosexual relationships. You’re probably ashamed of that
and avoid the gay clubs, and you avoid being seen in town
with any of your male friends. You regularly cross the
border into Spain to meet men.”
MacMillan was shaken to the core. And he was suddenly
terrified. He had no idea how she had come by all this
information, but she knew enough to destroy him.
“And I’m only going to say this one time. I don’t give a shit
who you have sex with. It’s none of my business. I want to
know who you are, but I will never use what I know. I won’t
threaten you or blackmail you.”
MacMillan was no fool. He was perfectly aware, of course,
that her knowledge of all that information about him
constituted a threat. She was in control. For a moment he
had considered picking her up and throwing her over the
edge of the terrace, but he restrained himself. He had
never in his life been so scared.
“What do you want?” he managed to say.
“I want to have a partnership with you. You will bring to a
close all the other business you’re working on and will work
exclusively for me. You will make more money from my
company than you could ever dream of making any other
way.”
She explained what she required him to do, and how she
wanted the arrangements to be made.
“I want to be invisible,” she said. “And I want you to take
care of my affairs. Everything has to be legitimate.
Whatever money I make on my own will not have any
connection to our business together.”
“I understand.”
“You have one week to phase out your other clients and
put a stop to all your little schemes.”
He also realized that he had been given an offer that would
never come round again. He thought about it for sixty
seconds and then accepted. He had only one question.
“How do you know that I won’t swindle you?”
“Don’t even think about it. You’d regret it for the rest of
your miserable life.”
He had no reason to cook the books. Salander had made
him an offer that had the potential of such a silver lining
that it would have been idiotic to risk it for bits of change on
the side. As long as he was relatively discreet and did not
the side. As long as he was relatively discreet and did not
get involved in any financial chicanery, his future would be
assured.
Accordingly he had no thought of swindling Ms Salander.
So he went straight, or as straight as a burned-out lawyer
could go who was administering an astronomical sum of
stolen money.
Salander was simply not interested in the management of
her finances. MacMillan’s job was to invest her money and
see to it that there were funds to cover the credit cards she
used. She told him how she wanted her finances to be
handled. His job was to make sure it was done.
A large part of the money had been invested in gilt-edged
funds that would provide her with economic independence
for the rest of her life, even if she chose to live it recklessly
and dissolutely. It was from these funds that her credit card
bills were paid.
The rest of the money he could play with and invest as he
saw fit, provided that he did not invest in anything that
might cause problems with the police in any way. She
forbade him to engage in stupid petty crimes and cheap
con games which – if he was unlucky – might prompt
investigations which in turn could put her under scrutiny.
All that remained was to agree on how much he would
make on the transactions.
“I’ll pay you £500,000 as a retainer. With that you can pay
off all your debts and have a good deal left over. After that
you’ll earn money for yourself. You will start a company with
the two of us as partners. You get 20 per cent of all the
profits generated. I want you to be rich enough that you
won’t be tempted to try it on, but not so rich that you won’t
make an effort.”
He had started his new job on February 1 the year before.
By the end of March he had paid off all his debts and
stabilized his personal finances. Salander had insisted that
he make cleaning up his own affairs a priority so that he
would be solvent. In May he dissolved the partnership with
his alcoholic colleague George Marks. He felt a twinge of
conscience towards his former partner, but getting Marks
mixed up in Salander’s business was out of the question.
He discussed the matter with Salander when she returned
to Gibraltar on another unheralded visit in early July and
discovered that MacMillan was working out of his apartment
instead of from the office he had previously occupied.
“My partner’s an alcoholic and wouldn’t be able to handle
this. And he would be an enormous risk factor. At the same
time, fifteen years ago he saved my life when he took me
into his business.”
She pondered this a while as she studied MacMillan’s face.
“I see. You’re a crook who’s loyal. That could be a
commendable quality. I suggest you set up a small account
that he can play around with. See to it that he makes a
couple of thousand a month so he gets by.”
“Is that O.K. with you?”
She nodded and looked around his bachelor pad. He lived
in a studio apartment with a kitchen nook on one of the
alleys near the hospital. The only pleasant thing about the
place was the view. On the other hand, it was a view that
was hard to avoid in Gibraltar.
“You need an office and a nicer place to live,” she said.
“I haven’t had time,” he said.
Then she went out and found an office for him, choosing a
130-square-metre place with a little balcony facing the sea
in Buchanan House on Queensway Quay, which was
definitely upmarket in Gibraltar. She hired an interior
decorator to renovate and furnish it.
MacMillan recalled that while he had been busy shuffling
papers, Salander had personally supervised the
installation of an alarm system, computer equipment, and
installation of an alarm system, computer equipment, and
the safe that she had already rummaged through by the
time he entered the office that morning.
“Am I in trouble?” he said.
She put down the folder with the correspondence she had
been perusing.
“No, Jeremy. You’re not in trouble.”
“That’s good,” he said as he poured himself some coffee.
“You have a way of popping up when I least expect it.”
“I’ve been busy lately. I just wanted to get an update on
what’s been happening.”
“I believe you were suspected of killing three people, you
got shot in the head, and you were charged with a whole
assortment of crimes. I was pretty worried for a while. I
thought you were still in prison. Did you break out?”
“No. I was acquitted of all the charges and released. How
much have you heard?”
He hesitated a moment. “Well, when I heard that you were
in trouble, I hired a translation agency to comb the Swedish
press and give me regular updates. I’m au fait with the
details.”
“If you’re basing your knowledge on what you read in the
papers, then you’re not au fait at all. But I dare say you
discovered a number of secrets about me.”
He nodded.
“What’s going to happen now?” he said.
She gave him a surprised look. “Nothing. We keep on
exactly as before. Our relationship has nothing to do with
my problems in Sweden. Tell me what’s been happening
since I’ve been away. Have you been doing alright?”
“I’m not drinking, if that’s what you mean.”
“No. Your private life doesn’t concern me so long as it
doesn’t encroach on our business. I mean, am I richer or
poorer than I was a year ago?”
He pulled out the visitor’s chair and sat down. Somehow it
did not matter to him that she was sitting in his chair.
“You turned over $2.4 billion to me. We put $200 million
into personal funds for you. You gave me the rest to play
with.”
“And?”
“Your personal funds haven’t grown by much more than the
amount of interest. I could increase the profit if—”
“I’m not interested in increasing the profit.”
“O.K. You’ve spent a negligible amount. The principal
expenses have been the apartment I bought for you and
the fund you started for that lawyer Palmgren. Otherwise
you’ve just had normal expenses. The interest rate has
been favourable. You’re running about even.”
“Good.”
“The rest I invested. Last year we didn’t make very much. I
was a little rusty and spent the time learning the market
again. We’ve had expenses. We didn’t really start
generating income until this year. Since the start of the
year we’ve taken about 7 million. Dollars, that is.”
“Of which 20 per cent goes to you.”
“Of which 20 per cent goes to me.”
“Are you satisfied with that?”
“I’ve made more than a million dollars in six months. Yes,
I’m satisfied.”
“You know … you shouldn’t get too greedy. You can cut
back on your hours when you’re satisfied. Just make sure
you spend a few hours on my affairs every so often.”
you spend a few hours on my affairs every so often.”
“Ten million dollars,” he said.
“Excuse me?”
“When I get ten million together I’ll pack it in. It was good
that you turned up in my life. We have a lot to discuss.”
“Fire away.”
He threw up his hands.
“This is so much money that it scares the shit out of me. I
don’t know how to handle it. I don’t know the purpose of the
company besides making more money. What’s all the
money going to be used for?”
“I don’t know.”
“Me neither. But money can become an end in itself. It’s
crazy. That’s why I’ve decided to call it quits when I’ve
earned ten million for myself. I don’t want the responsibility
any longer.”
“Fair enough.”
“But before I call it a day I want you to decide how this
fortune is to be administered in the future. There has to be
a purpose and guidelines and some kind of organization
a purpose and guidelines and some kind of organization
that can take over.”
“Mmm.”
“It’s impossible to conduct business this way. I’ve divided up
the sum into long-term fixed investments – real estate,
securities and so forth. There’s a complete list on the
computer.”
“I’ve read it.”
“The other half I’ve put into speculation, but it’s so much
money to keep track of that I can’t keep up. So I set up an
investment company on Jersey. At present you have six
employees in London. Two talented young brokers and
some clerical staff.”
“Yellow Ballroom Ltd? I was wondering what that could be.”
“Our company. Here in Gibraltar I’ve hired a secretary and
a promising young lawyer. They’ll be here in half an hour,
by the way.”
“I know. Molly Flint, forty-one, and Brian Delaney, twenty-six.”
“Do you want to meet them?”
“No. Is Brian your lover?”
“What? No.” He looked shocked. “I don’t mix—”
“Good.”
“By the way, I’m not interested in young guys …
inexperienced ones, I mean.”
“No … you’re more attracted to men with a tough attitude
than to some snot-nosed kid. But it’s still none of my
business. But Jeremy …”
“Yes?”
“Be careful.”
Salander had not planned to stay in Gibraltar for more than
two weeks, just long enough, she thought, to get her
bearings. But she suddenly discovered that she had no
idea what she was going to do or where she should go.
She stayed for three months. She checked her email once
a day and replied promptly to messages from Giannini on
the few occasions her lawyer got in touch. She did not tell
her where she was. She did not answer any other email.
She still went to Harry’s Bar, but now she came in only for a
beer or two in the evenings. She spent large parts of her
days at the Rock Hotel, either on her balcony or in bed.
She got together with a thirty-year-old Royal Navy officer,
She got together with a thirty-year-old Royal Navy officer,
but it was a one-night stand and all in all an uninteresting
experience.
She was bored.
Early in October she had dinner with MacMillan. They had
met up only a few times during her stay. It was dark and
they drank a fruity white wine and discussed what they
should use her billions for. And then he surprised her by
asking what was upsetting her.
She studied his face for a long time and pondered the
matter. Then she had, just as surprisingly, told him about
her relationship with Miriam Wu, and how Mimmi had been
beaten and almost killed. And she, Lisbeth, was to blame.
Apart from one greeting sent by way of Giannini, Salander
had not heard a word from Mimmi. And now she was in
France.
MacMillan listened in silence.
“Are you in love with her?” he said at last.
Salander shook her head.
“No. I don’t think I’m the type who falls in love. She was a
friend. And we had good sex.”
“Nobody can avoid falling in love,” he said. “They might
want to deny it, but friendship is probably the most common
form of love.”
She looked at him in astonishment.
“Will you get cross if I say something personal?”
“No.”
“Go to Paris, for God’s sake,” he said.
She landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at 2.30 in the
afternoon, took the airport bus to the Arc de Triomphe and
spent two hours wandering around the nearby
neighbourhoods trying to find a hotel room. She walked
south towards the Seine and finally found a room at a small
hotel, the Victor Hugo on rue Copernic.
She took a shower and called Miriam Wu. They met that
evening at a bar near Notre Dame. Mimmi was dressed in a
white shirt and jacket. She looked fabulous. Salander
instantly felt shy. They kissed each other on the cheek.
“I’m sorry I haven’t called, and that I didn’t come to the
trial,” Mimmi said.
“That’s O.K. The trial was behind closed doors anyway.”
“I was in hospital for three weeks, and then it was chaos
when I got home to Lundagatan. I couldn’t sleep. I had
nightmares about that bastard Niedermann. I called my
mother and told her I wanted to come here, to Paris.”
Salander said she understood.
“Forgive me,” Mimmi said.
“Don’t be such an idiot. I’m the one who’s come here to ask
you to forgive me.”
“For what?”
“I wasn’t thinking. It never occurred to me that I was putting
you in such danger by turning over my old apartment to
you. It was my fault that you were almost murdered. You’d
have every right to hate me.”
Mimmi looked shocked. “Lisbeth, I never even gave it a
thought. It was Ronald Niedermann who tried to murder me,
not you.”
They sat in silence for a while.
“Alright,” Salander said finally.
“Right,” Mimmi said.
“I didn’t follow you here because I’m in love with you,”
Salander said.
Mimmi nodded.
“We had great sex, but I’m not in love with you.”
“Lisbeth, I think …”
“What I wanted to say was that I hope you … damn.”
“What?”
“I don’t have many friends …”
Mimmi nodded. “I’m going to be in Paris for a while. My
studies at home were a mess so I signed up at the
university here instead. I’ll probably stay at least one
academic year. After that I don’t know. But I’m going to
come back to Stockholm. I’m still paying the service
charges on Lundagatan and I mean to keep the apartment.
If that’s O.K. with you.”
“It’s your apartment. Do what you want with it.”
“Lisbeth, you’re a very special person,” Mimmi said. “I’d still
like to be your friend.”
They talked for two hours. Salander did not have any
reason to hide her past from Miriam Wu. The Zalachenko
reason to hide her past from Miriam Wu. The Zalachenko
business was familiar to everyone who had access to a
Swedish newspaper, and Mimmi had followed the story with
great interest. She gave Salander a detailed account of
what had happened in Nykvarn the night Paolo Roberto
saved her life.
Then they went back to Mimmi’s student lodgings near the
university.
EPILOGUE
INVENTORY OF ESTATE
Friday, 2.xii – Sunday,
18.xii

Giannini met Salander in the bar of the Södra theatre at
9.00. Salander was drinking beer and was already coming
to the end of her second glass.
to the end of her second glass.
“Sorry I’m late,” Giannini said, glancing at her watch. “I had
to deal with another client.”
“That’s O.K.,” said Lisbeth.
“What are you celebrating?”
“Nothing. I just feel like getting drunk.”
Giannini looked at her sceptically and took a seat.
“Do you often feel that way?”
“I drank myself stupid after I was released, but I have no
tendency to alcoholism. It just occurred to me that for the
first time in my life I have a legal right to get drunk here in
Sweden.”
Giannini ordered a Campari.
“O.K. Do you want to drink alone,” she said, “or would you
like some company?”
“Preferably alone. But if you don’t talk too much you can sit
with me. I take it you don’t feel like coming home with me
and having sex.”
“I beg your pardon?” Giannini said.
“No, I didn’t think so. You’re one of those insanely
heterosexual people.”
Giannini suddenly looked amused.
“That’s the first time in my life that one of my clients has
proposed sex.”
“Are you interested?”
“No, not in the least, sorry. But thanks for the offer.”
“So what was it you wanted, counsellor?”
“Two things. Either I quit as your lawyer here and now or
you start answering your telephone when I call. We’ve
already had this discussion, when you were released.”
Salander looked at Giannini.
“I’ve been trying to get hold of you for a week. I’ve called,
I’ve sent letters, I’ve emailed.”
“I’ve been away.”
“In fact you’ve been impossible to get hold of for most of
the autumn. This just isn’t working. I said I would represent
you in all negotiations with the government. There are
formalities that have to be taken care of. Papers to be
signed. Questions to be answered. I have to be able to
reach you, and I have no wish to be made to feel like an
idiot because I don’t know where the hell you are.”
“I was away again for two weeks. I came home yesterday
and called you as soon as I knew you were looking for me.”
“That’s not good enough. You have to keep me informed of
where you are and get in touch at least once a week until
all the issues about compensation and such are resolved.”
“I don’t give a shit about compensation. I just want the
government to leave me alone.”
“But the government isn’t going to leave you alone, no
matter how much you may want it to. Your acquittal has set
in motion a long chain of consequences. It’s not just about
you. Teleborian is going to be charged for what he did to
you. You’re going to have to testify. Ekström is the subject
of an investigation for dereliction of duty, and he may even
be charged too if it turns out that he deliberately
disregarded his duty at the behest of the Section.”
Salander raised her eyebrows. For a moment she looked
interested.
“I don’t think it’s going to come to an indictment. He was led
up the garden path by the Section and in fact he had
nothing to do with them. But as recently as last week a
prosecutor initiated a preliminary investigation against the
prosecutor initiated a preliminary investigation against the
guardianship agency. It involves several reports being sent
to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, as well as a report to
the Ministry of Justice.”
“I didn’t report anyone.”
“No. But it’s obvious that there has been gross dereliction
of duty. You’re not the only person affected.”
Salander shrugged. “This has nothing to do with me. But I
promise to be in closer contact with you. These last two
weeks have been an exception. I’ve been working.”
Giannini did not look as though she believed her. “What
are you working on?”
“Consulting.”
“I see,” she said. “The other thing is that the inventory of
the estate is now ready.”
“Inventory of what estate?”
“Your father’s. The state’s legal representative contacted
me since nobody seemed to know how to get in touch with
you. You and your sister are the sole heirs.”
Salander looked at Giannini blankly. Then she caught the
waitress’s eye and pointed at her glass.
“I don’t want any inheritance from my father. Do whatever
the hell you want with it.”
“Wrong. You can do what you want with the inheritance. My
job is to see to it that you have the opportunity to do so.”
“I don’t want a single öre from that pig.”
“Then give the money to Greenpeace or something.”
“I don’t give a shit about whales.”
Giannini’s voice suddenly softened. “Lisbeth, if you’re
going to be a legally responsible citizen, then you’re going
to have to start behaving like one. I don’t give a damn what
you do with your money. Just sign here that you received it,
and then you can get drunk in peace.”
Salander glanced at her and then looked down at the
table. Annika assumed this was some kind of conciliatory
gesture that perhaps corresponded to an apology in
Salander’s limited register of expressions.
“What kind of figures are we talking about?”
“They’re not insignificant. Your father had about 300,000
kronor in shares. The property in Gosseberga would sell
for around 1.5 million – there’s a little woodland included.
for around 1.5 million – there’s a little woodland included.
And there are three other properties.”
“What sort of properties?”
“It seems that he invested a significant amount of money.
There’s nothing of enormous value, but he owns a small
building in Udderalla with six apartments, and they bring in
some income. But the property is not in good shape. He
didn’t bother with upkeep and the apartments have even
been up before the rental board. You won’t get rich, but
you’d get a good price if you sold it. He also owns a
summer cabin in Småland that’s worth around 250,000
kronor. Plus he owns a dilapidated industrial site outside
Norrtälje.”
“Why in the world did he buy all this shit?”
“I have no idea. But the estate could bring in over four
million kronor after taxes etc., but…”
“But what?”
“The inheritance has to be divided equally between you
and your sister. The problem is that nobody knows where
your sister is.”
Salander looked at Giannini in silence.
“Well?”
“Well what?”
“Where is your sister?”
“I have no idea. I haven’t seen her for ten years.”
“Her file is classified, but I found out that she is listed as out
of the country.”
“I see,” Salander said, showing little interest.
Giannini sighed in exasperation.
“I would suggest that we liquidate all the assets and deposit
half the proceeds in the bank until your sister can be
found. I can initiate the negotiations if you give me the go-ahead.”
Salander shrugged. “I don’t want anything to do with his
money.”
“I understand that. But the balance sheet still has to be
sorted out. It’s part of your responsibility as a citizen.”
“Sell the crap, then. Put half in the bank and send the rest
to whoever you like.”
Giannini stared at her. She had understood that Salander
Giannini stared at her. She had understood that Salander
had money stashed away, but she had not realized that her
client was so well off that she could ignore an inheritance
that might amount to a million kronor or more. What is
more, she had no idea where Salander had got her money,
or how much was involved. On the other hand she was
keen to finalize the bureaucratic procedure.
“Lisbeth, please … could you read through the estate
inventory and give me the green light so that we can get
this matter resolved?”
Salander grumbled for a moment, but finally she
acquiesced and stuffed the folder into her shoulder bag.
She promised to read through it and send instructions as
to what she wanted Giannini to do. Then she went back to
her beer. Giannini kept her company for an hour, drinking
mostly mineral water.
It was not until several days later, when Giannini
telephoned to remind her about the estate inventory, that
Salander took out the crumpled papers. She sat at the
kitchen table, smoothed out the documents, and read
through them.
The inventory covered several pages. There was a
detailed list of all kinds of junk – the china in the kitchen
cupboards in Gosseberga, clothing, cameras and other
personal effects. Zalachenko had not left behind much of
real value, and not one of the objects had the slightest
sentimental value for Salander. She decided that her
attitude had not changed since she met with Giannini at the
theatre bar. Sell the crap and give the money away. Or
something. She was positive that she did not want a single
öre of her father’s wealth, but she also was pretty sure that
Zalachenko’s real assets were hidden where no tax
inspector would look for them.
Then she opened the title deeds for the property in
Norrtälje.
It was an industrial site of three buildings totalling twenty
thousand square metres in the vicinity of Skederid,
between Norrtälje and Rimbo.
The estate assessor had apparently paid a cursory visit,
and noted that it was an old brickworks that had been more
or less empty and abandoned since it was shut down in the
’60s, apart from a period in the ’70s when it had been used
to store timber. He noted that the buildings were in
“extremely poor condition” and could not in all likelihood be
renovated for any other activity. The term “poor condition”
was also used to describe the “north building,” which had in
fact been destroyed by fire and collapsed. Some repairs,
he wrote, had been made to the “main building”.
What gave Salander a jolt was the site’s history.
Zalachenko had acquired the property for a song on 12
Zalachenko had acquired the property for a song on 12
March, 1984, but the signatory on the purchase documents
was Agneta Sofia Salander.
So Salander’s mother had in fact been the owner of the
property. Yet in 1987 her ownership had ceased.
Zalachenko had bought her out for 2,000 kronor. After that
the property had stood unused for fifteen years. The
inventory showed that on 17 September, 2003, K.A.B.
Import A.B. had hired the builders NorrBygg Inc. to do
renovations which included repairs to the floor and roof, as
well as improvements to the water and electrical systems.
Repair work had gone on for two months, until the end of
November, and then discontinued. NorrBygg had sent an
invoice which had been paid.
Of all the assets in her father’s estate, this was the only
surprising entry. Salander was puzzled. Ownership of the
industrial site made sense if her father had wanted to give
the impression that K.A.B. Import was carrying on legitimate
activities or owned certain assets. It also made sense that
he had used her mother as a front in the purchase and
had then for a pittance bought back the property.
But why in heaven’s name would he spend almost 440,000
kronor to renovate a ramshackle building, which according
to the assessor was still not being used for anything in
2005?
She could not understand it, but was not going to waste
time wondering. She closed the folder and called Giannini.
“I’ve read the inventory. What I said still holds. Sell the shit
and do whatever you like with the money. I want nothing
from him.”
“Very well. I’ll see to it that half the revenue is deposited in
an account for your sister, and I’ll suggest some suitable
recipients for the rest.”
“Right,” Salander said and hung up without further
discussion.
She sat in her window seat, lit a cigarette, and looked out
towards Saltsjön.
Salander spent the next week helping Armansky with an
urgent matter. She had to help track down and identify a
person suspected of being hired to kidnap a child in a
custody battle resulting from a Swedish woman divorcing
her Lebanese husband. Salander’s job amounted to
checking the email of the person who was presumed to
have hired the kidnapper. Milton Security’s role was
discontinued when the parties reached a legal solution.
On December 18, the Sunday before Christmas, Salander
woke at 6.00 and remembered that she had to buy a
Christmas present for Palmgren. For a moment she
wondered whether there was anyone else she should buy
presents for – Giannini perhaps. She got up and took a
shower in no particular hurry, and ate a breakfast of toast
with cheese and marmalade and a coffee.
She had nothing special planned for the day and spent a
while clearing papers and magazines from her desk. Then
her gaze fell on the folder with the estate inventory. She
opened it and reread the page about the title registration
for the site in Norrtälje. She sighed. O.K. I have to find out
what the hell he had going on there.
She put on warm clothes and boots. It was 8.30 when she
drove her burgundy Honda out of the garage beneath
Fiskargatan 9. It was icy cold but beautiful, sunshine and a
pastel-blue sky. She took the road via Slussen and
Klarabergsleden and wound her way on to the E18 going
north, heading for Norrtälje. She was in no hurry. At 10.00
she turned into an O.K. petrol station and shop a few miles
outside Skederid to ask the way to the old brickworks. No
sooner had she parked than she realized that she did not
even need to ask.
She was on a hillside with a good view across the valley on
the other side of the road. To the left towards Norrtälje she
could see a paint warehouse, some sort of builder’s yard,
and another yard with bulldozers. To the right, at the edge
of the industrial area, about four hundred metres from the
of the industrial area, about four hundred metres from the
road was a dismal brick building with a crumbling chimney-stack. The factory stood like a last outpost of the industrial
area, somewhat isolated beyond a road and a narrow
stream. She surveyed the building thoughtfully and asked
herself what on earth had possessed her to drive all the
way up to Norrtälje.
She turned and glanced at the O.K. station, where a long-distance truck and trailer with the emblem of the
International Road Transport Union had just pulled in. She
remembered that she was on the main road from the ferry
terminal at Kapellskär, through which a good deal of the
freight traffic between Sweden and the Baltic countries
passed.
She started the car and drove out on to the road towards
the old brickworks. She parked in the middle of the yard
and got out. It was below freezing outside, and she put on
a black knitted cap and leather gloves.
The main building was on two floors. On the ground floor
all the windows had been boarded up with plywood, and
she could see that on the floor above many of them had
been broken. The factory was a much bigger building than
she had imagined, and it was incredibly dilapidated. She
could see no evidence of repairs. There was no trace of a
living soul, but she saw that someone had discarded a
used condom in the yard, and that graffiti artists had
used condom in the yard, and that graffiti artists had
attacked part of the facade.
Why had Zalachenko owned this building?
She walked around the factory and found the ramshackle
north building to the rear. She saw that the doors to the
main building were locked. In frustration she studied a door
at one end of the building. All the other doors had padlocks
attached with iron bolts and galvanized security strips, but
the lock on the gable end seemed weaker and was in fact
attached only with rough spikes. Damn it, it’s my building.
She looked about and found a narrow iron pipe in a pile of
rubbish. She used it to lever open the fastening of the
padlock.
She entered a stairwell with a doorway on to the ground
floor area. The boarded-up windows meant that it was pitch
black inside, except for a few shafts of light seeping in at
the edges of the boards. She stood still for several minutes
until her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She saw a sea of
junk, wooden pallets, old machine parts and timber in a
workshop that was forty-five metres long and about twenty
metres wide, supported by massive pillars. The old brick
ovens seemed to have been disassembled, and in their
place were big pools of water and patches of mould on the
floor. There was a stale, foul smell from all the debris. She
wrinkled her nose in disgust.
She turned back and went up the stairs. The top floor was
dry and consisted of two similar rooms, each about twenty
by twenty metres square, and at least eight metres high.
There were tall, inaccessible windows close to the ceiling
which provided no view but let in plenty of light. The upper
floor, just like the workshop downstairs, was full of junk.
There were dozens of one-metre-high packing cases
stacked on top of one another. She gripped one of them
but could not move it. The text on the crate read: Machine
parts 0-A77, with an apparently corresponding text in
Russian underneath. She noticed an open goods lift
halfway down one wall of the first room.
A machine warehouse of some sort, but that would hardly
generate income so long as the machinery stood there
rusting.
She went into the inner room and discovered that this was
where the repair work must have been carried out. The
room was again full of rubbish, boxes and old office
furniture arranged in some sort of labyrinthine order. A
section of the floor was exposed where new floor planks
had been laid. Salander guessed that the renovation work
had been stopped abruptly. Tools, a crosscut saw and a
circular saw, a nail gun, a crowbar, an iron rod and tool
boxes were still there. She frowned. Even if the work had
been discontinued, the joiners should have collected up
their tools. But this question too was answered when she
held a screwdriver up to the light and saw that the writing
on the handle was Russian. Zalachenko had imported the
tools and probably the workers as well.
She switched on the circular saw and a green light went on.
There was power. She turned it off.
At the far end of the room were three doors to smaller
rooms, perhaps the old offices. She tried the handle of the
door on the north side of the building. Locked. She went
back to the tools and got a crowbar. It took her a while to
break open the door.
It was pitch black inside the room and smelled musty. She
ran her hand along the wall and found a switch that lit a
bare bulb in the ceiling. Salander looked around in
astonishment.
The furniture in the room consisted of three beds with
soiled mattresses and another three mattresses on the
floor. Filthy bedlinen was strewn around. To the right was a
two-ring electric hob and some pots next to a rusty water
tap. In a corner stood a tin bucket and a roll of toilet paper.
Somebody had lived here. Several people.
Then she saw that there was no handle on the inside of the
door. She felt an ice-cold shiver run down her back.
There was a large linen cupboard at the far end of the
room. She opened it and found two suitcases. Inside the
one on top were some clothes. She rummaged through
them and held up a dress with a Russian label. She found
a handbag and emptied the contents on the floor. From
among the cosmetics and other bits and pieces she
retrieved a passport belonging to a young, dark-haired
woman. It was a Russian passport, and she spelled out the
name as Valentina.
Salander walked slowly from the room. She had a feeling of
déjà vu. She had done the same kind of crime scene
examination in a basement in Hedeby two and a half years
earlier. Women’s clothes. A prison. She stood there for a
long time, thinking. It bothered her that the passport and
clothes had been left behind. It did not feel right.
Then she went back to the assortment of tools and
rummaged about until she found a powerful torch. She
checked that there was life in the batteries and went
downstairs into the larger workshop. The water from the
puddles on the floor seeped into her boots.
The nauseating stench of rotting matter grew stronger the
further into the workshop she went, and seemed to be
worst when she was in the middle of the room. She stopped
next to the foundations of one of the old brick furnaces,
which was filled with water almost to the brim. She shone
her torch on to the coal-black surface of the water but
her torch on to the coal-black surface of the water but
could not make anything out. The surface was partly
covered by algae that had formed a green slime. Nearby
she found a long steel rod which she stuck into the pool
and stirred around. The water was only about fifty
centimetres deep. Almost immediately the rod bumped into
something. She manipulated it this way and that for several
seconds before a body rose to the surface, face first, a
grinning mask of death and decomposition. Breathing
through her mouth, Salander looked at the face in the
beam of the torch and saw that it was a woman, possibly
the woman from the passport photograph. She knew
nothing about the speed of decay in cold, stagnant water,
but the body seemed to have been in the pool for a long
time.
There was something moving on the surface of the water.
Larvae of some sort.
She let the body sink back beneath the surface and poked
around more with the rod. At the edge of the pool she
came across something that might have been another
body. She left it there and pulled out the rod, letting it fall to
the floor as she stood thinking next to the pool.
Salander went back up the stairs. She used the crowbar to
break open the middle door. The room was empty.
She went to the last door and slotted the crowbar in place,
but before she began to force it, the door swung open a
crack. It was not locked. She nudged it open with the
crowbar and looked around.
The room was about thirty metres square. It had windows
at a normal height with a view of the yard in front of the
brickworks. She could see the O.K. petrol station on the
hill. There was a bed, a table, and a sink with dishes. Then
she saw a bag lying open on the floor. There were
banknotes in it. In surprise she took two steps forward
before she noticed that it was warm and saw an electric
heater in the middle of the room. Then she saw that the
red light was on on the coffee machine.
Someone was living here. She was not alone in the
building.
She spun around and ran through the inner room, out of
the doors and towards the exit in the outer workshop. She
stopped five steps short of the stairwell when she saw that
the exit had been closed and padlocked. She was locked
in. Slowly she turned and looked around, but there was no-one.
“Hello, little sister,” came a cheerful voice from somewhere
to her right.
She turned to see Niedermann’s vast form materialize from
behind some packing crates.
In his hand was a large knife.
“I was hoping I’d have a chance to see you again,”
Niedermann said. “Everything happened so fast the last
time.”
Salander looked about her.
“Don’t bother,” Niedermann said. “It’s just you and me, and
there’s no way out except through the locked door behind
you.”
Salander turned her eyes to her half-brother.
“How’s the hand?” she said.
Niedermann was smiling at her. He raised his right hand
and showed her. His little finger was missing.
“It got infected. I had to chop it off.”
Niedermann could not feel pain. Salander had sliced his
hand open with a spade at Gosseberga only seconds
before Zalachenko had shot her in the head.
“I should have aimed for your skull,” Salander said in a
neutral tone. “What the hell are you doing here? I thought
neutral tone. “What the hell are you doing here? I thought
you’d left the country months ago.”
He smiled at her again.
If Niedermann had tried to answer Salander’s question as
to what he was doing in the dilapidated brickworks, he
probably would not have been able to explain. He could not
explain it to himself.
He had left Gosseberga with a feeling of liberation. He was
counting on the fact that Zalachenko was dead and that he
would take over the business. He knew he was an excellent
organizer.
He had changed cars in Alingsås, put the terror-stricken
dental nurse Anita Kaspersson in the boot, and driven
towards Borås. He had no plan. He improvised as he went.
He had not reflected on Kaspersson’s fate. It made no
difference to him whether she lived or died, and he
assumed that he would be forced to do away with a
bothersome witness. Somewhere on the outskirts of Borås
it came to him that he could use her in a different way. He
turned south and found a desolate forest outside Seglora.
He tied her up in a barn and left her there. He reckoned
that she would be able to work her way loose within a few
hours and then lead the police south in their hunt for him.
And if she did not manage to free herself, and starved or
froze to death in the barn, it did not matter, it was no
froze to death in the barn, it did not matter, it was no
concern of his.
Then he drove back to Borås and from there east towards
Stockholm. He had driven straight to Svavelsjö, but he
avoided the clubhouse itself. It was a drag that Lundin was
in prison. He went instead to the home of the club’s
sergeant-at-arms, Hans-Åke Waltari. He said he was
looking for a place to hide, which Waltari sorted out by
sending him to Göransson, the club’s treasurer. But he had
stayed there only a few hours.
Niedermann had, theoretically, no money worries. He had
left behind almost 200,000 kronor in Gosseberga, but he
had access to considerably larger sums that had been
deposited abroad. His problem was that he was short of
actual cash. Göransson was responsible for Svavelsjö
M.C.’s finances, and it had not been difficult for
Niedermann to persuade him to take him to the cabinet in
the barn where the cash was kept. Niedermann was in luck.
He had been able to help himself to 800,000 kronor.
He seemed to remember that there had been a woman in
the house too, but he had forgotten what he had done with
her.
Göransson had also provided a car that the police were
not yet looking for. Niedermann went north. He had a
vague plan to make it on to one of the ferries at Kapellskär
vague plan to make it on to one of the ferries at Kapellskär
that would take him to Tallinn.
When he got to Kapellskär he sat in the car park for half an
hour, studying the area. It was crawling with policemen.
He drove on aimlessly. He needed a place where he could
lie low for a while. When he passed Norrtälje he
remembered the old brickworks. He had not even thought
about the place in more than a year, since the time when
repairs had been under way. The brothers Harry and Atho
Ranta were using the brickworks as a depot for goods
moving to and from the Baltic ports, but they had both
been out of the country for several weeks, ever since that
journalist Svensson had started snooping around the
whore trade. The brickworks would be empty.
He had driven Göransson’s Saab into a shed behind the
factory and gone inside. He had had to break open a door
on the ground floor, and one of the first things he did was
to create an emergency exit through a loose plywood
board at one end of the ground floor. He later replaced the
broken padlock. Then he had made himself at home in a
cosy room on the upper floor.
A whole afternoon had passed before he heard the sounds
coming through the walls. At first he thought these were his
familiar phantoms. He sat alert and listened for almost an
hour before he got up and went out to the workshop to
hour before he got up and went out to the workshop to
listen more closely. At first he heard nothing, but he stood
there patiently until he heard more scraping noises.
He found the key next to the sink.
Niedermann had seldom been as amazed as when he
opened the door and found the two Russian whores. They
were skin and bones. They seemed to have had no food
for several weeks and had been living on tea and water
since the last packet of rice had run out.
One of the girls was so exhausted that she could not get
up from the bed. The other was in better shape. She spoke
only Russian, but he knew enough of the language to
understand that she was thanking God and him for saving
them. She fell on her knees and threw her arms around his
legs. He pushed her away, then left the room and locked
the door behind him.
He had not known what to do with the whores. He heated
up some soup from the cans he found in the kitchen and
gave it to them while he thought. The weaker woman on
the bed seemed to be getting some of her strength back.
He spent the evening questioning them. It was a while
before he understood that the two women were not whores
at all, but students who had paid the Ranta brothers to get
them into Sweden. They had been promised visas and
work permits. They had come from Kapellskär in February
work permits. They had come from Kapellskär in February
and were taken straight to the warehouse, and there they
were locked up.
Niedermann’s face had darkened with anger. Those
bastard Ranta brothers were collecting an income that they
had not told Zalachenko about. Then they had completely
forgotten about the women, or maybe had knowingly left
them to their fate when they fled Sweden in such a hurry.
The question was: what was he supposed to do with them?
He had no reason to harm them, and yet he could not
really let them go, considering that they would probably
lead the police to the brickworks. It was that simple. He
could not send them back to Russia, because that would
mean he would have to drive them down to Kapellskär.
That seemed too difficult. The dark-haired woman, whose
name was Valentina, had offered him sex if he helped
them. He was not the least bit interested in having sex with
the girls, but the offer had turned her into a whore too. All
women were whores. It was that simple.
After three days he had tired of their incessant pleading,
nagging and knocking on the wall. He could see no other
way out. So he unlocked the door one last time and swiftly
solved the problem. He asked Valentina to forgive him
before he reached out and in one movement broke her
neck between the second and third cervical vertebrae.
Then he went over to the blonde girl on the bed whose
Then he went over to the blonde girl on the bed whose
name he did not know. She lay there passively, did not put
up any resistance. He carried the bodies downstairs and
put them in one of the flooded pits. At last he could feel
some sort of peace.
Niedermann had not intended to stay long at the
brickworks. He thought he would have to lie low only until
the initial police manhunt had died down. He shaved his
head and let his beard grow to half an inch, and that
altered his appearance. He found a pair of overalls
belonging to one of the workers from NorrBygg which were
almost big enough to fit him. He put on a Becker’s Paint
baseball cap and stuffed a folding ruler into a leg pocket.
At dusk he drove to the O.K. shop on the hill and bought
supplies. He had all the cash he needed from Svavelsjö
M.C.’s piggy bank. He looked like any workman stopping on
his way home, and nobody seemed to pay him any
attention. He shopped once or twice a week at the same
time of day. At the O.K. shop they were always perfectly
friendly to him.
From the very first day he had spent a considerable
amount of time fending off the creatures that inhabited the
building. They lived in the walls and came out at night. He
could hear them wandering around the workshop.
He barricaded himself in his room. After several days he
had had enough. He armed himself with a large knife which
had had enough. He armed himself with a large knife which
he had found in a kitchen drawer and went out to confront
the monsters. It had to end.
All of a sudden he discovered that they were retreating.
For the first time in his life he had been able to dominate
his phantoms. They shrank back when he approached. He
could see their deformed bodies and their tails slinking off
behind the packing crates and cabinets. He howled at
them. They fled.
Relieved, he went back to his warm room and sat up all
night, waiting for them to return. They mounted a renewed
attack at dawn and he faced them down once more. They
fled.
He was teetering between panic and euphoria.
All of his life he had been haunted by these creatures in
the dark, and for the very first time he felt that he was in
control of the situation. He did nothing. He slept. He ate. He
thought. It was peaceful.
The days turned to weeks and spring turned to summer.
From his transistor radio and the evening papers he could
tell that the hunt for the killer Ronald Niedermann was
winding down. He read with interest the reports of the
murder of Zalachenko. What a laugh. A psycho had put an
end to Zalachenko. In July his interest was again aroused
end to Zalachenko. In July his interest was again aroused
when he followed the reports of Salander’s trial. He was
appalled when she was acquitted and released. It did not
feel right. She was free while he was forced to hide.
He bought the Millennium special issue at the O.K. shop
and read all about Salander and Zalachenko and
Niedermann. A journalist named Blomkvist had described
Niedermann as a pathological murderer and a psychopath.
He frowned.
Autumn came suddenly and still he had not made a move.
When it got colder he bought an electric heater at the O.K.
shop. He did not know what kept him from leaving the
brickworks.
Occasionally some young people had driven into the yard
and parked there, but no-one had disturbed him or tried to
break into the building. In September a car drove up and a
man in a blue windcheater had tried the doors and
snooped around the property. Niedermann had watched
him from the window on the upper floor. The man kept
writing in his notebook. He had stayed for twenty minutes
before he looked around one last time and got into his car
and drove away. Niedermann breathed a sigh of relief. He
had no idea who the man was or what business had
brought him there, but he appeared to be doing a survey
of the property. It did not occur to Niedermann that
Zalachenko’s death had prompted an inventory of his
Zalachenko’s death had prompted an inventory of his
estate.
He thought a lot about Salander. He had never expected to
see her again, but she fascinated and frightened him. He
was not afraid of any living person. But his sister – his half-sister – had made a particular impression on him. No-one
else had ever defeated him the way she had done. She
had come back to life, even though he had buried her. She
had come back and hunted him down. He dreamed about
her every night. He would wake up in a cold sweat, and he
recognized that she had replaced his usual phantoms.
In October he made a decision. He was not going to leave
Sweden before he had found his sister and destroyed her.
He did not have a plan, but at least his life now had a
purpose. He did not know where she was or how he would
trace her. He just sat in his room on the upper floor of the
brickworks, staring out of the window, day after day, week
after week.
Until one day a burgundy Honda parked outside the
building and, to his complete astonishment, he saw
Salander get out of the car. God is merciful, he thought.
Salander would join the two women whose names he no
longer remembered in the pool downstairs. His wait was
over, and he could at last get on with his life.
Salander assessed the situation and saw that it was
anything but under control. Her brain was working at high
speed. Click, click, click. She still held the crowbar in her
hand but she knew that it was a feeble weapon against a
man who could not feel pain. She was locked inside an
area of about a thousand square metres with a murderous
robot from hell.
When Niedermann suddenly moved towards her she threw
the crowbar at him. He dodged it easily. Salander moved
fast. She stepped on to a pallet, swung herself up on to a
packing crate and kept climbing, like a monkey, up two
more crates. She stopped and looked down at
Niedermann, now four metres below her. He was looking up
at her and waiting.
“Come down,” he said patiently. “You can’t escape. The
end is inevitable.”
She wondered if he had a gun of some sort. Now that
would be a problem.
He bent down and picked up a chair and threw it at her.
She ducked.
Niedermann was getting annoyed. He put his foot on the
pallet and started climbing up after her. She waited until he
was almost at the top before she took a running start of two
quick steps and jumped across an aisle to land on top of
quick steps and jumped across an aisle to land on top of
another crate. She swung down to the floor and grabbed
the crowbar.
Niedermann was not actually clumsy, but he knew that he
could not risk jumping from the stack of crates and perhaps
breaking a bone in his foot. He had to climb down carefully
and set his feet on the floor. He always had to move slowly
and methodically, and he had spent a lifetime mastering his
body. He had almost reached the floor when he heard
footsteps behind him and turned just in time to block a blow
from the crowbar with his shoulder. He lost his grip on the
knife.
Salander dropped the crowbar just as she had delivered
the blow. She did not have time to pick up the knife, but
kicked it away from him along the pallets, dodging a
backhand blow from his huge fist and retreating back up on
to the packing crates on the other side of the aisle. Out of
the corner of her eye she saw Niedermann reach for her.
Quick as lightning she pulled up her feet. The crates stood
in two rows, stacked up three high next to the centre aisle
and two high along the outside. She swung down on to the
two crates and braced herself, using all the strength in her
legs and pushing her back against the crate next to her. It
must have weighed two hundred kilos. She felt it begin to
move and then tumble down towards the centre aisle.
Niedermann saw the crate coming and threw himself to one
side. A corner of the crate struck him on the chest, but he
seemed not to have been injured. He picked himself up.
She was resisting. He started climbing up after her. His
head was just appearing over the third crate when she
kicked at him. Her boot struck him with full force in the
forehead. He grunted and heaved himself up on top of the
packing crates. Salander fled, leaping back to the crates
on the other side of the aisle. She dropped over the edge
and vanished immediately from his sight. He could hear her
footsteps and caught a glimpse of her as she passed
through the doorway to the inner workshop.
Salander took an appraising look around. Click. She knew
that she did not have a chance. She could survive for as
long as she could avoid Niedermann’s enormous fists and
keep her distance. But when she made a mistake – which
would happen sooner or later – she was dead. She had to
evade him. He would only have to grab hold of her once,
and the fight would be over.
She needed a weapon.
A pistol. A sub-machine gun. A rocket-propelled grenade. A
personnel mine.
Any bloody thing at all.
But there was nothing like that to hand.
She looked everywhere.
No weapons.
Only tools. Click. Her eyes fell on the circular saw, but he
was hardly going to lie down on the saw bench. Click.
Click. She saw an iron rod that could be used as a spear,
but it was probably too heavy for her to handle effectively.
Click. She glanced through the door and saw that
Niedermann was down from the crates and no more than
fifteen metres away. He was coming towards her again. She
started to move away from the door. She had maybe five
seconds left before Niedermann was upon her. She
glanced one last time at the tools.
A weapon … or a hiding place.
Niedermann was in no hurry. He knew that there was no
way out and that sooner or later he would catch his sister.
But she was dangerous, no doubt about it. She was, after
all, Zalachenko’s daughter. And he did not want to be
injured. It was better to let her run around and wear herself
out.
He stopped in the doorway to the inner room and looked
around at the jumble of tools, furniture and half-finished
floorboards. She was nowhere to be seen.
“I know you’re in here. And I’m going to find you.”
Niedermann stood still and listened. All he could hear was
his own breathing. She was hiding. He smiled. She was
challenging him. Her visit had suddenly turned into a game
between brother and sister.
Then he heard a clumsy rustling noise from somewhere in
the centre of the room. He turned his head but at first could
not tell where the sound was coming from. Then he smiled
again. In the middle of the floor set slightly apart from the
other debris stood a five-metre-long wooden workbench
with a row of drawers and sliding cabinet doors beneath it.
He approached the workbench from the side and glanced
behind it to make sure that she was not trying to fool him.
Nothing there.
She was hiding inside the cabinet. So stupid.
He slid open the first door on the far left.
He instantly heard movement inside the cabinet, from the
middle section. He took two quick steps and opened the
middle door with a triumphant expression on his face.
Empty.
Then he heard a series of sharp cracks that sounded like
pistol shots. The sound was so close that at first he could
not tell where it was coming from. He turned to look. Then
he felt a strange pressure against his left foot. He felt no
pain, but he looked down at the floor just in time to see
Salander’s hand moving the nail gun over to his right foot.
She was underneath the cabinet.
He stood as if paralysed for the seconds it took her to put
the mouth of the nail gun against his boot and fire another
five seven-inch nails straight through his foot.
He tried to move.
It took him precious seconds to realize that his feet were
nailed solidly to the newly laid plank floor. Salander’s hand
moved the nail gun back to his left foot. It sounded like an
automatic weapon getting shots off in bursts. She managed
to shoot in another four nails as reinforcement before he
was able to react.
He reached down to grab her hand, but immediately lost
his balance and regained it only by bracing himself against
the workbench as he heard the nail gun being fired again
and again, ka-blam, ka-blam, ka-blam. She was back to his
right foot. He saw that she was firing the nails diagonally
through his heel and into the floor.
Niedermann howled in sudden rage. He lunged again for
Salander’s hand.
From her position under the cabinet Salander saw his
trouser leg slide up, a sign that he was trying to bend
down. She let go of the nail gun. Niedermann saw her hand
disappear quick as a lizard beneath the cabinet just before
he reached her.
He reached for the nail gun, but the instant he touched it
with the tips of his fingers she drew it under the cabinet.
The gap between the floor and the cabinet was about
twenty centimetres. With all the strength he could muster
he toppled the cabinet on to its back. Salander looked up
at him with big eyes and an offended expression. She
aimed the nail gun and fired it from a distance of fifty
centimetres. The nail hit him in the middle of his shin.
The next instant she dropped the nail gun, rolled fast as
lightning away from him and got to her feet beyond his
reach. She backed up several feet and stopped.
Niedermann tried to move and again lost his balance,
swaying backwards and forwards with his arms flailing. He
steadied himself and bent down in rage.
This time he managed to grab hold of the nail gun. He
pointed it at Salander and pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened. He looked in dismay at the nail gun and
then at Salander again. She looked back at him blankly
and held up the plug. In fury he threw the nail gun at her.
She dodged to the side.
Then she plugged in the cord again and hauled in the nail
gun.
He met Salander’s expressionless eyes and was amazed.
She had defeated him. She’s supernatural. Instinctively he
tried to pull one foot from the floor. She’s a monster. He
could lift his foot only a few millimetres before his boot hit
the heads of the nails. They had been driven into his feet
at different angles, and to free himself he would have to rip
his feet to shreds. Even with his almost superhuman
strength he was unable to pull himself loose. For several
seconds he swayed back and forth as if he were swimming.
He saw a pool of blood slowly forming between his shoes.
Salander sat down on a stool and watched for signs that he
might be able to tear his feet loose. Since he could not feel
pain, it was a matter of whether he was strong enough to
pull the heads of the nails straight through his feet. She sat
stock still and observed his struggle for ten minutes. The
whole time her eyes were frozen blank After a while she
stood up and walked behind him and held the nail gun to
his spine, just below the nape of his neck.
Salander was thinking hard. This man had transported,
drugged, abused and sold women both retail and
wholesale. He had murdered at least eight people,
including a policeman in Gosseberga and a member of
Svavelsjö M.C. and his wife. She had no idea how many
other lives her half-brother might have on his account, if
not his conscience, but thanks to him she had been hunted
all over Sweden like a mad dog, suspected of three of the
murders he had committed.
Her finger rested heavily on the trigger.
He had murdered the journalist Dag Svensson and his
partner Mia Johansson.
With Zalachenko he had also murdered her and buried her
in Gosseberga. And now he had resurfaced to murder her
again.
You could get pretty angry with less provocation.
She saw no reason to let him live any longer. He hated her
with a passion that she could not even fathom. What would
happen if she turned him over to the police? A trial? A life
sentence? When would he be granted parole? How soon
would he escape? And now that her father was finally gone
– how many years would she have to look over her
shoulder, waiting for the day when her brother would
suddenly turn up again? She felt the heft of the nail gun.
She could end this thing once and for all.
Risk assessment.
She bit her lip.
Salander was afraid of no-one and nothing. She realized
that she lacked the necessary imagination – and that was
evidence enough that there was something wrong with her
brain.
Niedermann hated her and she responded with an equally
implacable hatred towards him. He joined the ranks of men
like Magge Lundin and Martin Vanger and Zalachenko and
dozens of other creeps who in her estimation had
absolutely no claim to be among the living. If she could put
them all on a desert island and set off an atomic bomb,
then she would be satisfied.
But murder? Was it worth it? What would happen to her if
she killed him? What were the odds that she would avoid
discovery? What would she be ready to sacrifice for the
satisfaction of firing the nail gun one last time?
She could claim self-defence… no, not with his feet nailed
to the floorboards.
She suddenly thought of Harriet Fucking Vanger, who had
also been tormented by her father and her brother. She
also been tormented by her father and her brother. She
recalled the exchange she had had with Mikael Bastard
Blomkvist in which she cursed Harriet Vanger in the
harshest possible terms. It was Harriet Vanger’s fault that
her brother Martin had been allowed to go on murdering
women year after year.
“What would you do?” Blomkvist had said.
“I’d kill the fucker,” she had said with a conviction that came
from the depths of her cold soul.
And now she was standing in exactly the same position in
which Harriet Vanger had found herself. How many more
women would Niedermann kill if she let him go? She had
the legal right of a citizen and was socially responsible for
her actions. How many years of her life did she want to
sacrifice? How many years had Harriet Vanger been willing
to sacrifice?
Suddenly the nail gun felt too heavy for her to hold against
his spine, even with both hands.
She lowered the weapon and felt as though she had come
back to reality. She was aware of Niedermann muttering
something incoherent. He was speaking German. He was
talking about a devil that had come to get him.
She knew that he was not talking to her. He seemed to see
somebody at the other end of the room. She turned her
somebody at the other end of the room. She turned her
head and followed his gaze. There was nothing there. She
felt the hairs rise on the back of her neck.
She turned on her heel, grabbed the iron rod, and went to
the outer room to find her shoulder bag. As she bent to
retrieve it she caught sight of the knife. She still had her
gloves on, and she picked up the weapon.
She hesitated a moment and then placed it in full view in
the centre aisle between the stacks of packing crates. With
the iron rod she spent three minutes prising loose the
padlock so that she could get outside.
She sat in her car and thought for a long time. Finally she
flipped open her mobile. It took her two minutes to locate
the number for Svavelsjö M.C.’s clubhouse.
“Yeah?”
“Nieminen,” she said.
“Wait.”
She waited for three minutes before Sonny Nieminen came
to the telephone.
“Who’s this?”
“None of your bloody business,” Salander said in such a
low voice that he could hardly make out the words. He
could not even tell whether it was a man or a woman.
“Alright, so what do you want?”
“You want a tip about Niedermann?”
“Do I?”
“Don’t give me shit. Want to know where he is or not?”
“I’m listening.”
Salander gave him directions to the brickworks outside
Norrtälje. She said that he would be there long enough for
Nieminen to find him if he hurried.
She closed her mobile, started the car and drove up to the
O.K. petrol station across the road. She parked so that she
had a clear view of the brickworks.
She had to wait for more than two hours. It was just before
1.30 in the afternoon when she saw a van drive slowly past
on the road below her. It stopped at the turning off the main
road, stood there for five minutes, and then drove down to
the brickworks. On this December day, twilight was setting
in.
She opened the glove box and took out a pair of Minolta 16
× 50 binoculars and watched as the van parked. She
identified Nieminen and Waltari with three men she did not
recognize. New blood. They had to rebuild their operation.
When Nieminen and his pals had found the open door at
the end of the building, she opened her mobile again. She
composed a message and sent it to the police station in
Norrtälje.
POLICE MURDERER R. NIEDERMANN IN OLD
BRICKWORKS BY THE O.K. STATION
OUTSIDE SKEDERID. ABOUT TO BE
MURDERED BY S. NIEMINEN AND MEMBERS
OF SVAVELSJÖ M.C. WOMEN DEAD IN PIT
ON GROUND FLOOR.
She could not see any movement from the factory.
She bided her time.
As she waited she removed the S.I.M. card from her
telephone and cut it up with some nail scissors. She rolled
down the window and tossed out the pieces. Then she took
a new S.I.M. card from her wallet and inserted it in her
mobile. She was using a Comviq cash card, which was
virtually impossible to track. She called Comviq and
credited 500 kronor to the new card.
Eleven minutes after her message was sent, two police
vans with their sirens off but with blue lights flashing drove
at speed up to the factory from the direction of Norrtälje.
They parked in the yard next to Nieminen’s van. A minute
later two squad cars arrived. The officers conferred and
then moved together towards the brickworks. Salander
raised her binoculars. She saw one of the policemen radio
through the registration number of Nieminen’s van. The
officers stood around waiting. Salander watched as
another team approached at high speed two minutes later.
Finally it was all over.
The story that had begun on the day she was born had
ended at the brickworks.
She was free.
When the policemen officers took out assault rifles from
their vehicles, put on Kevlar vests and started to fan out
around the factory site, Salander went inside the shop and
bought a coffee and a sandwich wrapped in cellophane.
She ate standing at a counter in the café.
It was dark by the time she got back to her car. Just as she
opened the door she heard two distant reports from what
she assumed were handguns on the other side of the road.
She saw several black figures, presumably policemen,
pressed against the wall near the entrance at one end of
the building. She heard sirens as another squad car
approached from the direction of Uppsala. A few cars had
stopped at the side of the road below her to watch the
drama.
She started the Honda, turned on to the E18, and drove
home.
It was 7.00 that evening when Salander, to her great
annoyance, heard the doorbell ring. She was in the bath
and the water was still steaming. There was really only one
person who could be at her front door.
At first she thought she would ignore it, but at the third ring
she sighed, got out of the bath, and wrapped a towel
around her. With her lower lip pouting, she trailed water
down the hall floor. She opened the door a crack.
“Hello,” Blomkvist said.
She did not answer.
“Did you hear the evening news?”
She shook her head.
“I thought you might like to know that Ronald Niedermann is
dead. He was murdered today in Norrtälje by a gang from
Svavelsjö M.C.”
Svavelsjö M.C.”
“Really?” Salander said.
“I talked to the duty officer in Norrtälje. It seems to have
been some sort of internal dispute. Apparently Niedermann
had been tortured and slit open with a knife. They found a
bag at the factory with several hundred thousand kronor.”
“Jesus.”
“The Svavelsjö mob was arrested, but they put up quite a
fight. There was a shoot-out and the police had to send for
a back-up team from Stockholm. The bikers surrendered at
around 6.00.”
“Is that so?”
“Your old friend Sonny Nieminen bit the dust. He went
completely nuts and tried to shoot his way out.”
“That’s nice.”
Blomkvist stood there in silence. They looked at each other
through the crack in the door.
“Am I interrupting something?” he said.
She shrugged. “I was in the bath.”
“I can see that. Do you want some company?”
She gave him an acid look.
“I didn’t mean in the bath. I’ve brought some bagels,” he
said, holding up a bag. “And some espresso coffee. Since
you own a Jura Impressa X7, you should at least learn how
to use it.”
She raised her eyebrows. She did not know whether to be
disappointed or relieved.
“Just company?”
“Just company,” he confirmed. “I’m a good friend who’s
visiting a good friend. If I’m welcome, that is.”
She hesitated. For two years she had kept as far away
from Mikael Blomkvist as she could. And yet he kept
sticking to her life like gum on the sole of her shoe, either
on the Net or in real life. On the Net it was O.K. There he
was no more than electrons and words. In real life,
standing on her doorstep, he was still fucking attractive.
And he knew her secrets just as she knew all of his.
She looked at him for a moment and realized that she now
had no feelings for him. At least not those kinds of feelings.
He had in fact been a good friend to her over the past
year.
She trusted him. Maybe. It was troubling that one of the few
people she trusted was a man she spent so much time
avoiding.
Then she made up her mind. It was absurd to pretend that
he did not exist. It no longer hurt her to see him.
She opened the door wide and let him into her life again.
NOTES
Olof Palme was the leader of the Social Democratic Party
and Prime Minister of Sweden at the time of his
assassination on 28 February 1986. He was an outspoken
politician, popular on the left and detested by the right. Two
years after his death a petty criminal and drug addict was
convicted of his murder, but later acquitted on appeal.
Although a number of alternative theories as to who carried
out the murder have since been proposed, to this day the
crime remains unsolved.
Prompted by Olof Palme’s assassination, Prime Minister
Ingvar Carlsson called an investigation into the
procedures of the Swedish security police (Säpo) in the
autumn of 1987. Carl Lidbom, then Swedish ambassador to
France, was given the task of leading the investigation.
France, was given the task of leading the investigation.
One of his old acquaintances, the publisher Ebbe
Carlsson, firmly believed that the Kurdish organization
PKK was involved in the murder and was given resources
to start a private investigation. The Ebbe Carlsson affair
exploded as a major political scandal in 1988, when it was
revealed that the publisher had been secretly supported by
the then Minister of Justice, Anna-Greta Leijon. She was
subsequently forced to resign.
Informationsbyrån (IB) was a secret intelligence agency
without official status within the Swedish armed forces. Its
main purpose was to gather information about communists
and other individuals who were perceived to be a threat to
the nation. It was thought that these findings were passed
on to key politicians at cabinet level, most likely the
defence minister at the time, Sven Andersson, and Prime
Minister Olof Palme. The exposure of the agency’s
operations by journalists Jan Guillou and Peter Bratt in the
magazine Folket i Bild/Kulturfront in 1973 became known
as the IB affair.
Carl Bildt was Prime Minister of Sweden between 1991
and 1994 and leader of the liberal conservative Moderate
Party from 1986 to 1999.
Anna Lindh was a Swedish Social Democratic politician
who served as foreign minister from 1998 until her
assassination in 2003. She was considered by many as
assassination in 2003. She was considered by many as
one of the leading candidates to succeed Göran Persson
as leader of the Social Democrats and Prime Minister of
Sweden. In the final weeks of her life she was intensely
involved in the pro-euro campaign preceding the Swedish
referendum on the euro.
Colonel Stig Wennerström of the Swedish air force was
convicted of treason in 1964. During the ’50s he was
suspected of leaking air defence plans to the Soviets and
in 1963 was informed upon by his maid, who had been
recruited by Säpo. Initially sentenced to life imprisonment,
his sentence was commuted to twenty years in 1973, of
which he served only ten. He died in 2006. Not to be
confused with Hans-Erik Wennerström, the crooked
financier who appears in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
and The Girl Who Played with Fire.
The Sjöbo debate – In the late ’80s and early ’90s there
was an immigration crisis in Sweden. The number of
asylum seekers increased, and the resulting
unemployment and backlash from local government
prompted the city of Sjöbo to hold a referendum 1998,
where the population voted against accepting immigrants.
The subsequent political debate led to a combined
immigration and integration system in the Aliens Act of
1989.