The Girl Who Played with Fire

Page 37

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Something had happened in the winter of 2003, when she stopped working for him and disappeared on her year-long sabbatical abroad. Blomkvist was somehow mixed up in her sudden departure - but he didn't know what had happened to her either.


She came back and had come to see him. Claimed that she was "financially independent," which presumably meant that she had enough to get by for a while.


She had been regularly to see Palmgren. She had not been in touch with Blomkvist.


She had shot three people, two apparently unknown to her.


It doesn't make any sense.


Armansky took a gulp of his beer and lit a cigarillo. He had a guilty conscience, and that contributed to his bad mood.


When Bublanski had been to see him, Armansky had unhesitatingly given him as much information as he could so that Salander could be caught. He had no doubt that she had to be caught - and the sooner the better. Armansky was a realist. If the police told him that a person was suspected of murder, the chances were that it was true. So Salander was guilty.


But the police weren't taking into account whether she might have felt that her actions were justified - or whether there might be some mitigating circumstance or a reasonable explanation for her having gone berserk. The police were required to catch her and prove that she had fired the shots, not dig into her psyche. They would be satisfied if they could find a motive, but failing that, they were ready to call it an act of insanity. He shook his head. He could not accept that she was an insane mass murderer. Salander never did anything against her will or without thinking through the consequences.


Peculiar - yes. Insane - no.


So there had to be an explanation, no matter how obscure it might appear to anyone who did not know her.


At around 2:00 in the morning he made a decision.


CHAPTER 17


Easter Sunday, March 27 - Tuesday, March 29


Armansky got up early on Sunday after hours of worrying. He padded downstairs without waking Ritva and made coffee and a sandwich. Then he opened his laptop.


He opened the report form that Milton Security used for personal investigations. He typed in as many facts as he could think of about Salander's personality.


At 9:00 Ritva came down and poured herself coffee. She wondered what he was doing. He gave a noncommittal answer and kept writing. He was going to be a lost cause all day.


Blomkvist turned out to be wrong, probably because it was Easter weekend and police headquarters was still relatively empty. It took until Sunday morning before the media discovered that he was the one who had found Svensson and Johansson. The first to call was a reporter from Aftonbladet, an old friend.


"Hello, Blomkvist. It's Nicklasson."


"Hello, Nicklasson."


"So you were the one who found the couple in Enskede."


Blomkvist confirmed that was true.


"My source tells me they worked for Millennium."


"Your source is part right and part wrong. Dag Svensson was doing a freelance report for Millennium. Mia Johansson wasn't working for us."


"Oh boy. This is a hell of a story, you've got to admit."


"I know," Blomkvist said wearily.


"Why haven't you released a statement?"


"Dag was a colleague and a friend. We thought it would be best at least to tell his and Mia's relatives what happened before we put out any story."


Blomkvist knew that he wouldn't be quoted on that point.


"That makes sense. What was Dag working on?"


"A story we commissioned."


"What about?"


"What sort of scoop are you planning at Aftonbladet?"


"So it was a scoop."


"Screw you, Nicklasson."


"Oh, come on, Blomman. You think the murders had anything to do with the story Dag Svensson was working on?"


"You call me Blomman one more time, and I'm hanging up and not talking to you for the rest of the year."


"All right, I'm sorry. Do you think Dag was murdered because of his work as an investigative journalist?"


"I have no idea why Dag was murdered."


"Did the story he was working on have anything to do with Lisbeth Salander?"


"No. Nothing whatsoever."


"Did Dag know that nutcase?"


"I have no idea."


"Dag wrote a bunch of articles on computer crime recently. Was that the type of story he was writing for Millennium?"


You just won't give up, will you? Blomkvist thought. He was about to tell Nicklasson to piss off when he sat bolt upright in bed. He had just had two great ideas. Nicklasson started to say something else.


"Hold on, Nicklasson. Don't move. I'll be right back."


Blomkvist got up and held his hand over the mouthpiece. He was suddenly on a completely different planet.


Ever since the murders, he had been racking his brains about how he could find a way to get in touch with Salander. There was a chance - a rather good chance - that she would read what he said to the newspapers, wherever she was. If he denied that he knew her, she might interpret that to mean that he had abandoned her or betrayed her. If he defended her, then other people would interpret it as meaning that he knew more about the murders than he had said. But if he made a statement in just the right way, it might give Salander an impulse to reach him.


"Sorry, I'm back. What did you say?"


"Was Dag writing about computer crime?"


"If you want a sound bite from me, I'll give you one."


"Go for it."


"Only if you quote me word for word."


"How else would I quote you?"


"I'd rather not answer that question."


"So what do you want to say?"


"I'll email it to you in fifteen minutes."


"What?"


"Check your email," Blomkvist said and hung up. He went over to his desk and booted up his iBook. He opened Word and sat there concentrating for two minutes before he started writing.


Millennium's editor in chief, Erika Berger, is deeply shaken by the murder of freelance journalist and colleague Dag Svensson. She hopes that the murders will soon be solved.


It was Millennium's publisher, Mikael Blomkvist, who discovered Dag Svensson and his girlfriend murdered last Wednesday night.


"Dag Svensson was a fantastically gifted journalist and a person I liked a lot. He had proposed several ideas for articles. Among other things, he was working on a major investigation into illegal computer hacking," Mikael Blomkvist tells Aftonbladet.


Neither Blomkvist nor Berger will speculate about who might be guilty of the murders, or what motive might lie behind them.


Blomkvist picked up the telephone and called Berger.


"Hi, Ricky. You've just been interviewed by Aftonbladet."


"Do tell."


He read her the quote.


"How come?"


"Every word is true. Dag has worked freelance for ten years, and one of his specializations was computer security. I discussed it with him many times, and we were considering running an article by him on it when we finished the trafficking story. And do you know anyone else who is interested in hacking?"


Berger realized what he was trying to do.


"Smart, Micke. Damned smart. OK. Run it."


Nicklasson called back a minute after he got Blomkvist's email.


"That's not much of a sound bite."


"That's all you're getting, and it's more than any other paper will get. You run the whole quote or nothing."


Blomkvist went back to his iBook. He thought for a minute and then wrote:


Dear Lisbeth,


I'm writing this letter and leaving it on my hard drive knowing that sooner or later you'll read it. I remember the way you took over Wennerstrom's hard drive two years ago and suspect that you also made sure to hack my machine. It's clear that you don't want to have anything to do with me now. I don't intend to ask why and you don't have to explain.


The events of the past few days have linked us again, whether you like it or not. The police are saying that you murdered two people I was very fond of. I was the one who discovered Dag and Mia minutes after they were shot. I don't think it was you who shot them. I certainly hope it wasn't. The police claim you're a psychotic killer, but that would mean that I totally misjudged you or that you've changed dramatically over the past year. And if you're not the murderer, then the police are chasing the wrong person.


In this situation I should probably urge you to turn yourself in to the police, but I suspect I'd be wasting my breath. Sooner or later you're going to be found, and when that happens you're going to need a friend. You may not want to have anything to do with me, but I have a sister called Annika Giannini and she's a lawyer. The best. She's willing to represent you if you get in touch with her. You can trust her.


As far as Millennium is concerned, we've begun our own investigation into why Dag and Mia were murdered. What I'm doing right now is putting together a list of the people who had reason to want to silence Dag. I don't know if I'm on the right track, but I'm going to check the list one person at a time.


One problem I have is that I don't understand how Nils Bjurman fits into the picture. He isn't mentioned anywhere in Dag's material, and I can't fathom any connection between him and Dag and Mia.


Help me. Please. What's the connection?


Mikael.


P.S. You should get a new passport photo. That one doesn't do you justice.


He named the document [To Sally]. Then he created a folder that he named and put an icon for it on the desktop of his iBook.


On Tuesday morning Armansky called a meeting in his office at Milton Security. He had brought in three people.


Johan Fraklund, a former criminal inspector with the Solna police, was the chief of Milton's operations unit. He had overall responsibility for planning and analysis. Armansky had recruited him ten years earlier and had come to regard him, now in his early sixties, as one of the company's most valuable assets.


Armansky also called in Sonny Bohman and Niklas Hedstrom. Bohman too was a former policeman. He had received his training in the Norrmalm armed response squad in the eighties and then moved to the violent crimes division, where he had led a dozen dramatic investigations. During the rampage of the "Laser Man" sniper in the early nineties, Bohman had been one of the key players, and in 1997 he had moved to Milton only after a great deal of persuasion and the offer of a significantly higher salary.


Niklas Hedstrom was regarded as a rookie. He had been trained at the police academy, but just before he was due to take his final exams he learned that he had a congenital heart defect. This not only required a major operation but also meant that his police career was already at an end.


Fraklund, who had been a contemporary of Hedstrom's father, had suggested to Armansky that they give him a chance. Since there was a position free in the analysis unit, Armansky approved the recruitment, and he had never had cause to regret it. Hedstrom had worked for Milton for five years. He might lack field experience, but he stood out as a sharp-witted intellectual asset.


"Good morning, everyone. Take a seat and start reading," Armansky said. He handed out three folders with some fifty photocopied pages of press cuttings about the hunt for Salander, along with Armansky's three-page summary of her background. Hedstrom finished reading first and put the folder down. Armansky waited until Bohman and Fraklund were done.


"I presume none of you gentlemen has missed seeing the headlines in the papers over the weekend."


"Lisbeth Salander," Fraklund said in a gloomy voice.


Bohman shook his head.


Hedstrom stared into space with an inscrutable expression and the hint of a sad smile.


Armansky gave the trio a searching look.


"One of our employees," he said. "How well did you get to know her when she worked here?"


"I tried a little light banter with her once," Hedstrom said, again with a hint of a smile. "It didn't go so well. I thought she was going to bite my head off. She was a first-class sourpuss, and I hardly exchanged ten sentences with her."


"I found her seriously odd," Fraklund said.


Bohman shrugged. "She was a real pain to deal with. I knew she was weird, but not that she was this fucking crazy."


"She did things her own way," Armansky said. "She wasn't easy to handle. But I trusted her because she was the best researcher I've ever come across. She delivered results beyond expectation every time."


"I never understood that," Fraklund said. "I couldn't figure out how she could be so incredibly skilled and at the same time so hopeless socially."


"The explanation, of course, lies in her mental state," Armansky said, poking at one of the folders. "She was declared incompetent."


"I didn't have a clue about that," Hedstrom said. "I mean, she didn't wear a sign on her back. And you never said anything."


"No," Armansky said. "I didn't think she needed to be any more stigmatized than she already was. Everybody deserves a chance."


"And the result of that experiment is what we saw happen in Enskede," Bohman said.


"Could be," Armansky said.


He did not want to betray his weakness for Salander in front of these three professionals who were now watching him expectantly. They had adopted quite a neutral tone during the conversation, but Armansky knew that Salander was in fact detested by all three of them, as well as by the rest of the employees at Milton Security. He did not want to come across as soft or confused. It was important to present the matter in a way that created a measure of enthusiasm and professionalism.


"I've decided for the first time ever to utilize some of Milton's resources for a purely internal matter," he said. "It doesn't have to be a big expense in the budget, but I'm thinking of releasing you two, Bohman and Hedstrom, from your present duties. Your assignment, although I may be formulating it a bit vaguely, is to 'establish the truth' about Lisbeth Salander."

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