Authors: David Lagercrantz
But even though she now had such an obvious indication, she could not be certain. The variant was unusual but still found in various parts of the world, so she investigated the man’s Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA and saw that he belonged to haplogroup C4a3b1, and once she had checked that her remaining doubts disappeared.
That group was found only among people who live high up on the slopes of the Himalayas in Nepal and Tibet, who often work as porters or guides on high-altitude expeditions.
The man was a Sherpa.
The Sherpas are an ethnic group in the Himalayan region of Nepal. Many of them work as guides or porters on high-altitude expeditions.
The majority are adherents of Nyingma, an ancient school of Buddhism, and believe that gods and spirits inhabit the mountains. The deities must be respected and revered in accordance with religious rituals.
a shaman, is thought to be able to help a Sherpa who is ill or suffers an accident.
There were dark clouds out at sea and Blomkvist, in his cabin in Sandhamn, was searching aimlessly online. He kept being drawn to information about Johannes Forsell. Occasionally he bumped into him at the grocer’s or down at the harbour, but he had also interviewed him when he became Minister of Defence three years ago, in October 2017. He remembered waiting in a big room with maps on the walls and Forsell putting his head round the door like a cheerful little boy arriving at a party.
“Mikael Blomkvist,” he said. “My God, how wonderful.”
Blomkvist was not used to being greeted in that way by politicians, and perhaps he should have dismissed it as an attempt to butter him up. But there was something genuinely enthusiastic about Forsell, and he recalled how stimulating their conversation had been. Forsell was quick-witted and on top of his subjects, and he gave real answers, as if he were truly interested in the questions and not engaging in party politics. Even so, Blomkvist’s clearest memory was of the Danish pastries. On the table there was a plate laden with them, and Forsell most definitely did not look like a man who ate Danish pastries.
He was tall and fit, a fine figure of a man. He ran three miles and did two hundred push-ups every morning, he said, and displayed no signs of lightheartedness whatsoever. Maybe the pastries were an effort to show a common touch, an elitist trying to appear normal, just like the time he told
that he had always loved the annual Melodifestivalen song competition, without then being able to answer a single question about it.
Blomkvist and he were the same age, they realized, even though Forsell surely looked younger, and would score better in any health check. He was bursting with energy and optimism. “The world looks a dark place, but we’re making progress. There are fewer and fewer wars, let’s not forget that,” he said, giving Blomkvist a book by Steven Pinker which was lying around somewhere, still unread.
Forsell had been born in Östersund to a family with a small business consisting of a guest house and a holiday village in Åre. He stood out at school from an early age, was a promising cross-country skier and went to a special high school in Sollefteå for talented young winter sportsmen. After an assessment when he was called up for his military service, he was admitted to the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreters’ School, where he learned Russian and became an officer at the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service. For obvious reasons, his years in Must were the least known part of his life. He may, however, have been keeping the GRU’s activities in Sweden under observation; that much transpired from information leaked to the
when Forsell was deported from Russia, where he had been attached to the Swedish Embassy, in late autumn 2008.
The following year, in February, his father died. He resigned from his post and took over the family business, and in no time at all turned it into a major enterprise. He built hotels in Åre, Sälen, Vemdalen and Järvsö, and also in Geilo and Lillehammer in Norway. In 2015 he was able to sell the business to a German travel group for almost two hundred million kronor. He did, however, hold on to some minor interests in Åre and Abisko.
That same year he joined the Social Democrats and, without any real political experience, was elected to the town council in Östersund and soon became popular, gaining a reputation for getting things done and for his unconditional attachment to the local football team. He moved swiftly through various posts and before long found himself Minister of Defence. For a time it looked like a PR coup for the government.
He was spoken of as a hero and an adventurer because of two major achievements alongside his career: swimming the English Channel in the summer of 2002 and climbing Mount Everest six years later, in May 2008. But the tide soon turned, and that could probably be dated back to his uncompromising statement that Russia had been supporting the xenophobic Sweden Democrats during the election campaign.
He was subjected to attacks which became increasingly savage. But they were nothing compared to what was to follow. After the stock market crash in June, there was a flood of fake news about him, and it was not hard to sympathize with his Norwegian wife, Rebecka, who, in an interview in
called the lies shameless and added that even their two children now needed bodyguards. The mood was rancorous and frenzied, and the bombardment was constantly being stepped up.
Recent press pictures showed Forsell no longer as a man who had inexhaustible reserves of energy. He looked gaunt, and the previous Friday he had apparently taken an unexpected week’s holiday. There was even talk of a breakdown. From whichever angle he viewed it, Blomkvist could not but feel sorry for Forsell. Which might be just the wrong attitude, now that he had to investigate whether he had any connection with the beggar and perhaps even with Mats Sabin, the military historian.
Was it still sensible to assume that Forsell was all decency and enthusiasm? According to the smear campaign, he was said to have hitched a ride on the rowing boat which accompanied his cross-Channel swim, and there were suggestions that he had never reached the summit of Everest, as he said he had. But Blomkvist found no evidence to support any of these accusations, beyond the fact that the expedition on Everest had been a monumental disaster, a Greek tragedy of sorts, where nothing could be established with any certainty.
Forsell himself was not the focus of the story. He had been far from the epicentre of the turmoil, in which the spectacularly wealthy American woman Klara Engelman had died together with her guide Viktor Grankin at twenty-seven thousand feet. Blomkvist did not research it in any greater depth, and concentrated instead on learning more about Forsell’s career as an officer.
The fact of his having been an intelligence agent should have been classified, but it had leaked out in connection with his deportation from Russia, and even though the most absurd rumours were being bandied about in the ongoing hate campaign, the army’s commander-in-chief, Lars Granath, several times described Forsell’s role in Moscow as having been “nothing but honourable.”
There was precious little else in the way of hard facts, and eventually Blomkvist let go of it and simply noted that Johannes and Rebecka had two sons, Samuel and Jonathan, who were eleven and nine years old. The family lived in Stocksund, outside Stockholm, but also owned a place in the country not far away, on the southeastern shore of Sandön island. Is that where they were right now?
Blomkvist had Forsell’s private number. “Call me if you have any questions,” he had said in his inimitably unstuffy way. But Blomkvist saw no reason to disturb him just now. He ought to forget about all this and have a nap. He was incredibly tired. But he wasn’t bloody well going to rest just because of that. He called Chief Inspector Bublanski and talked about Salander again, and reported what the beggar might have said about Mats Sabin, although he did add:
“I’m sure it’s nothing.”
Paulina Müller came out of the bathroom in a white bathrobe and saw that Salander was still engrossed with her laptop. She rested a careful hand on her shoulder. Salander was no longer staring at the big house outside Moscow, the way she usually did. She was reading an article, and as usual Paulina could not keep up. She had never met a person who read so fast. The sentences flashed by on the screen. But she did catch the words “…Denisovan genome and that of certain South Asian…” and then she immediately became interested. At
she had done some pieces on the origins of Homo sapiens and the species’ kinship with the Neanderthals and the Denisovan hominids.
“I’ve written about that,” she said.
Salander did not answer, and that made Paulina furious. Salander took care of everything, and protected her, it was true, but she often felt alone and excluded. She could not bear Salander’s silence or her endless hours in front of the computer. Especially at night, that drove her mad, and the nights were bad enough as it was. That was when all the awful things Thomas had done raged inside her, and she dreamed of revenge and retribution. Those were the hours when she really needed Lisbeth.
But Salander was dealing with her own private hell. Sometimes her body was so tense that Paulina did not dare to press up close, and how was it possible for someone to sleep so little? Whenever Paulina woke up, Salander was lying next to her with her eyes open, listening for sounds in the corridor, or she was sitting at the desk looking at footage from surveillance cameras and satellite images. Paulina felt that she could no longer bear to be kept out of it all, not when they were living so closely together, and she wanted to scream:
Who’s out to get you? What are you up to?
“What are you doing?” she said.
There was no answer this time either. But Salander did at least turn and give her a look, and it felt a little like an outstretched hand. There was a new, softer light in her eyes.
“What are you doing?” she said again.
“I’m trying to discover the identity of a man,” Salander said.
“A Sherpa, a little over fifty years old, dead now, probably from the Khumbu Valley in northeastern Nepal, and although he could also be from Sikkim or Darjeeling in India, the signs mostly point to Nepal, and the area around Namche Bazaar. His family originates from eastern Tibet. As a child he seems to have had a fat-deficient diet.” Coming from Lisbeth that was like an entire lecture, and Paulina’s face lit up as she sat down on a chair beside her.
“I have his DNA and an autopsy report. With the injuries he has, I’m pretty sure he was a porter or guide on high-altitude climbing expeditions. He must have been very good at it.”
“What makes you say so?”
“He was unusually well endowed with type 1 muscle fibres and was probably able to carry heavy loads without consuming very much energy. But the main reason is the gene in his body which regulated the haemoglobin in his blood. He must have possessed great strength and endurance in low-oxygen environments. I suspect that he had some terrible experiences. He suffered severe frostbite and torn muscles. Several of his toes and fingers had been amputated.”
“Do you have his Y data?”
“I’ve got the whole of his genome.”
“Shouldn’t you check with YFull in that case?”
YFull was a Russian company—Paulina had written about them only a year or so ago—which was run by a team of mathematicians, biologists and programmers who collected Y chromosome DNA from people all over the world. It came either from subjects who had enrolled in academic studies or from people who had taken their own DNA samples to find out more about their origins.
“I was thinking of checking with Familytree and Ancestry, but YFull, you say?”
“I think they’re the best. The company’s run by people like you, a bunch of out-and-out nerds.”
“OK,” Salander said. “But I think it’ll be difficult.”
“Why do you say that?”
“My guess is the man belongs to a group that doesn’t have its DNA analyzed all that often.”
“There might be material from relatives of his in scientific reports? I happen to know there’s been a fair amount of research into why Sherpas are such effective climbers at high altitude,” Paulina said, proud to be actually involved.
“That’s true,” Salander said, no longer quite there.
“And it’s a pretty small population, isn’t it?”
“There are only a little over twenty thousand Sherpas in the entire world.”
“Well, then?” she said, perhaps hoping that they could have a go at it together.
But Salander opened another link on her laptop instead: a map of Stockholm.
“Why’s it so important to you?”
“It’s not important.”
Salander’s eyes darkened and Paulina got to her feet, feeling awkward, and dressed in silence. She left the room and the hotel and walked up towards Prague Castle.
Rebecka Forsell, then Rebecka Loew, had fallen in love with Johannes’s strength and good humour. She had been the doctor on Viktor Grankin’s Everest expedition, and had long had misgivings about her assignment. Nor had she been insensitive to the criticism that was directed at them. The commercialization of Everest was a hot topic in those years.
There was talk of clients who bought themselves a place on the summit, just as others buy a Porsche. Not only were they considered to be sullying the very purity of the mountaineering ideal, they were also accused of increasing the risk to others on the mountain. Rebecka worried that too many in their group simply did not have enough experience, and perhaps Johannes especially, since he had never been above sixteen thousand feet.
But once they reached Base Camp and the others began to suffer from coughs and headaches, and had doubts about the whole undertaking, Johannes was the least of her worries. He literally bounded along on the moraine, and made buddies with everyone, even the local population, perhaps because his attitude towards them was completely natural and always respectful. He joked with them, just as with everyone else, and told his amusing stories.
He was his own man and was regarded as genuine. But Rebecka was not sure if this was entirely true. In her opinion he was an intellectual who had consciously decided to see the world in a positive light, which only made him more attractive. Often all she wanted to do was take off with him and embrace life to the full.
It was true that he went through a deep crisis after Klara and Viktor died. For some reason the tragedy affected him more deeply than it did all the others. He fell into a severe depression, and it was a while before he was his happy and energetic self again. After that he took her to Paris and Barcelona, and in April the following year—just a few months after his father died—they were married in Östersund, and she said goodbye to her home in Bergen in Norway without ever looking back.
She liked Östersund and Åre and all the skiing, and she loved Johannes. She was not in the least surprised that his business flourished and people were drawn to him, or even that he became rich and was so swiftly made a cabinet minister. He was a phenomenon. He seemed to be running non-stop yet at the same time was able to reflect, and maybe that was the reason why she rarely got cross with him. He never quit, and he firmly believed that any problem could be solved merely by rolling up one’s sleeves and trying a little harder. The flip side was that he pushed their boys too much.
“You can do better,” he was forever saying, and even though he never failed to encourage her, he seldom had time to take her concerns seriously.
He would kiss her and say, “You can do it, Becka, you can do it.” He became busier and busier, especially after being made a government minister, and he often worked into the small hours, yet he was up early and doing his three miles and his Navy Seals, as he called them, his bodyweight training. The pace was inhuman. But he liked it that way, she thought, and he did not seem to care that the tide had turned, and that he who had been so admired was now the object of so much abuse.
She was the one who suffered more. Last thing at night and first thing in the morning she would google his name compulsively, and find the most dreadful threads and accusations, and sometimes, in her darkest hours, she thought it was all her fault—she blamed her Jewish roots. Even Johannes, who was a fine Aryan specimen, fell victim to those anti-Semitic hate campaigns, yet for a long time he just shrugged it off and remained optimistic.
“It will make us strong, Becka, and soon everything will change.”
But in the end the lies must have got to him too. Not that he complained or grumbled for one second. He was a person whose enthusiasm ran on autopilot, and last Friday he took a week’s holiday—without a word of warning or explanation—which must have caused his staff a headache or two. That was why they were now on Sandön, in their house by the water, while the boys were with his mother. They had come out accompanied by the inevitable bodyguards, which meant she had to talk to them and look after them. Johannes had gone to ground in his study on the top floor. Yesterday she had heard him shouting into the telephone. This morning he had not even worked out. He had eaten his breakfast in silence and gone into hiding upstairs again. Something was seriously wrong. She could feel it.
Outside, the wind was getting up. She was in the kitchen making a beetroot salad with feta and pine nuts. It was time for lunch, but she could hardly bring herself to let him know.
She did go up in the end, and even though she should have known better she walked into the room without knocking to find him hurriedly putting away some papers. If he had not been acting so suspiciously, she wouldn’t even have noticed them. But now she could see that it was a psychiatric medical file. That was strange. Perhaps a security check on some colleague? She tried to smile her usual smile.
“What’s the matter?” he said.
“I’m not hungry.”
You’re always hungry for Christ’s sake,
she wanted to shout.
“What’s wrong?” she said. “Tell me.”
“Come on, I can see there is.”
She could feel the anger pounding inside.
“I told you, nothing.”
“Are you ill or something?” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“I can see you’re reading medical records, so obviously I’m interested,” she snapped back, and that was a mistake.
She realized it at once. He looked at her with eyes filled with anxiety, and that scared her. She muttered an apology, and as she left the room she noticed that her legs could hardly carry her.
We used to be so happy.
Salander knew that Camilla was now in an apartment on Strandvägen in Stockholm. She knew that Camilla’s hacker, Jurij Bogdanov, and the former GRU agent and gangster Ivan Galinov were there with her, and she realized that she had to act. But how? Instead she carried on looking into the case of Blomkvist’s Sherpa. Perhaps it was a form of escapism. With her BAM Viewer she found sixty-seven distinctive markers in the DNA segment, so she went through them one by one and eventually identified a haplogroup, even a patrilineal one.
It was called DM174, and it too was highly unusual, which could be either a good or a bad thing, and she entered the group into the YFull search engine—the Moscow DNA-sequencing company Paulina had recommended—and waited.
“What a crap site, this is unbelievably slow.”
She was not hoping for anything much, and wondered why she was even bothering. She should forget the whole thing and concentrate on Camilla. But then she got an answer, and she whistled. There had been 212 hits, spread over 156 family names. That was much more than she had been expecting. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and then went through all the material, going into more depth with unusual variants in the segment. One name kept cropping up. It felt absurdly wrong. But it came up over and over again: Robert Carson in Denver, Colorado.
He did indeed look a little Asian. But apart from that, he was American through and through, a marathon runner, downhill skier and geologist at the city’s university, forty-two years old, father of three, a politically active Democrat and fierce opponent of the National Rifle Association, ever since his oldest son had been caught up in a school shooting in Seattle.
Robert Carson was also a keen amateur genealogist. Two years earlier he had had his large Y chromosome analyzed, which revealed that he had the same
mutation as the beggar.
“I have the supergene,” he had written in a piece on the rootsweb.com ancestry website, to which he added a picture of himself posing in high spirits by a stream in the Rocky Mountains, showing off his biceps, wearing overalls and a Colorado Avalanche ice-hockey team cap.
He recounted that his paternal grandfather, Dawa Dorje, had lived in southern Tibet, not far from Mount Everest, but that he had fled the country in 1951 during the Chinese occupation and settled with relatives in the Khumbu Valley, near the Tengboche Buddhist monastery in Nepal. Online there was a picture of his grandfather together with Sir Edmund Hillary at the inauguration of the hospital in the village of Kunde. He had had six children, among them Lobsang, “a madcap and good-looker and, believe it or not, a Rolling Stones nut,” Robert wrote. “I never got to meet him, but Mom has told me he was the strongest climber in the expedition and the most handsome and charismatic by a stretch. (Then again Mom was not exactly objective, and neither was I.)”
Lobsang Dorje had apparently taken part in a British expedition in September 1976, to climb Everest via the West Ridge. The group included an American woman, Christine Carson. She was an ornithologist and, during the approach march, studied the bird life—“a profusion of passerines,” she wrote. At the time, Christine was forty years old, unmarried and childless, and a professor at the University of Michigan. At Base Camp she was struck by severe nausea and headaches, and decided to go back down to Namche Bazaar for medical treatment. On September 9 she learned that six members of the expedition, among them Lobsang Dorje, had died not far from the summit.
When she returned home she discovered she was expecting Lobsang Dorje’s baby. It was a delicate situation. Lobsang had been only nineteen and engaged to a girl in the Khumbu Valley. But Christine gave birth to Robert in April 1977, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even though it was not possible to say for certain—there is always an element of randomness in genetic selection—Robert and the beggar were probably third or fourth cousins. They would have had a common ancestor some time during the nineteenth century, which was not all that close, but Salander guessed that Blomkvist would be able to fill in the gaps, especially since Carson appeared to be actively interested in these questions himself, and seemed a talkative and bright sort of person. Salander found pictures of him meeting his father’s family in the Khumbu Valley the previous year.
She wrote to Blomkvist:
She deleted the last sentence. It was his own bloody business how he did his job. Then she pressed send and went out to look for Paulina.
Bublanski was strolling along Norr Mälarstrand with Inspector Modig. It was one of his newfangled ideas to hold meetings while walking. “It seems to make it easier to think,” he explained. But it was also an attempt to lose some weight and improve his fitness.
These days he was out of breath at the slightest exertion, and it was not at all easy for him to keep up with Modig. They had talked about everything imaginable and had now got on to the case that had prompted Blomkvist’s call. Modig described her visit to the electrical shop on Hornsgatan, and at that he heaved a sigh. Why did everyone have this thing about Forsell? People seemed to want to blame him for all the ills in society. Bublanski hoped to God that it did not have anything to do with Forsell’s Jewish wife.
“I see,” he said.
“Well, yes, it does seem pretty crazy.”
“Any other motives you can think of?”
“What could anyone have envied in that poor man?”
“There’s envy even on the lowest rung of the ladder. I spoke to a woman from Romania, Mirela her name is,” Sonja said. “She told me that the man pulled in more money than all the other beggars in the neighbourhood. There was something about him that made people generous, and I know that caused some resentment among those who had been in the area for a while.”
“Doesn’t sound to me like something you’d kill for.”
“Maybe not. But the man seemed to have a relatively large amount of money at his disposal. He was a regular at the hot dog stand below Bysistorget and at McDonald’s on Hornsgatan, and of course also at the Systembolaget liquor store on Rosenlundsgatan, where he bought vodka and beer. And a few times it seems he was also spotted in the early hours further up towards Wollmar Yxkullsgatan in Södermalm, where he bought moonshine.”
“Did he now?”
Bublanski thought it over.
“I can guess what you’re thinking,” Modig said. “We ought to have a word with the people who sell that stuff.”
“Quite right,” he said, taking a deep breath so he could make it up the hill to Hantverkargatan, and his thoughts turned again to Forsell and his wife, Rebecka, a charming woman whom he had met at the Jewish Community Centre.
She was tall, certainly more than six feet, fine-limbed with light, elegant steps and large, dark eyes which shone with warmth and vitality. He could understand why this couple attracted so much animosity.
Of course people resented those who exude such boundless energy. They make the rest of us feel small and feeble in comparison.