Authors: David Lagercrantz
“Do you know what? I have a friend on the homicide squad, a chief inspector who’s worked with Faste and thinks he’s a total idiot,” he said.
“A man of sound judgment, clearly.”
“I could have a word with him, see if he might be able to take a look at the case. That way we can maybe speed up the process.”
“That would be good.”
“Thanks for the call,” he said. “I’ll get back to you.”
He hung up, happy to have a reason to call Bublanski. He and the chief inspector had known each other for a long time, even if their relationship had not always been entirely cordial. But in later years they had become friends and it was always comforting to talk to him. The mere fact that Bublanski always thought so carefully about everything helped Blomkvist to see things in perspective and to disconnect from the constant flow of news about the world which was his life, but which sometimes made him feel as if he were drowning in sensationalism and madness.
The last time he and Bublanski had met was at Holger Palmgren’s funeral and they had talked about Salander and her eulogy in the church, and what she had said about dragons. They had agreed to see each other again soon. But nothing had come of it, as so often happens, and now Blomkvist reached for his mobile to call him. Yet he hesitated, and instead knocked on the bathroom door.
“Are you all right in there?”
Catrin did not feel like answering, but she knew she had to say something, so she mumbled “just a moment” and got up from the toilet seat. She tried to make her eyes look a little less red by splashing water on her face, but it made little difference. Then she came out and sat on the bed, and did not feel entirely comfortable when Mikael came close to her and caressed her hair.
“How did you get on with the article?”
“It’s a disaster.”
“I know the feeling. But there’s something else, isn’t there?” he said.
“That beggar…” she began.
“What about him?”
“He made me hysterical.”
“I’ve gathered that.”
“But you don’t know why.”
“Not really, I guess,” he said. She hesitated for a while, but then she began to speak, her eyes fixed on her hands.
“When I was nine my parents told me I wasn’t going to go to school for a year. My mother persuaded the school that she and Pappa would teach me themselves, and I suppose they must have been given a stack of materials and learning assignments. Not that I ever saw them. Then we flew to India, to Goa, and it was probably quite cool to begin with. We slept on the beach or in hammocks, and I ran around with other kids and learned how to make jewellery and carve things out of wood. We played football and volleyball, and in the evenings we danced and lit fires. Pappa played the guitar and Mamma sang. For a while we ran a café in Arambol. I waited on tables and made a lentil soup with coconut milk which we called Catrin’s soup. But slowly it all fell apart. People came to the café naked, many of them with needle marks on their arms. Others were stoned, and some of them groped me or tried to frighten me by doing crazy things.”
“That sounds horrible.”
“One night I woke up and saw Mamma’s eyes glowing in the dark. She was shooting up. Pappa was standing a little way off, swaying and moaning in a barely conscious voice, and not long after that we began to have problems for real. Pappa’s demons, we talked about them all the time. ‘What’s the matter with Pappa?’ I’d ask. ‘It’s just his demons,’ Mamma always said. Pappa’s demons. Soon afterwards we moved, as if we were hoping to escape the demons too, and I remember we walked for hours and days and weeks, pulling a cart with rotting old wooden wheels, piled high with shawls and clothes and knickknacks which Mamma tried to sell. Then we must have got rid of everything because from one day to the next we had hardly any baggage at all. We went by train and hitchhiked instead. We went to Benares, and finally ended up in Kathmandu where we lived on Freak Street, the old hippie street, and that was when I realized we had a completely different line of business. Mamma and Pappa weren’t just doing heroin, they were selling it too. People came to our home and begged us ‘please, please,’ and sometimes we got chased by men in the street. Many were missing fingers, sometimes even an arm or a leg. They were dressed in rags, and had yellowy skin and blotches on their faces. I still see them in my dreams.”
“And the beggar reminded you of them.”
“All of that came back to me.”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“That’s just the way it is. I’ve lived with it for a long time.”
“I don’t know if this makes it any easier for you, but that man was no drug addict. It seems he didn’t take pills at all.”
“He still looked like them,” she said. “He was just as desperate.”
“The medical examiner thinks he was killed,” Blomkvist went on in a new tone, as if he had already forgotten her story, and maybe this upset her. Or else she was just tired of herself. She told him she needed to get out for a while, and even though he made a half-hearted attempt to stop her, his mind was evidently on other things.
Turning in the doorway she saw that he was dialling a number on his mobile. It occurred to her that she did not have to tell him everything; she could just as well follow it up herself, after all.
Chief Inspector Jan Bublanski was permanently beset by doubt, and right now he was not even sure whether or not he deserved lunch. Maybe just a sandwich from the machine in the corridor and keep on working, although on second thought a sandwich was no good either. He ought to have a salad or nothing at all. He and his fiancée Farah Sharif had been on holiday in Tel Aviv, and he’d certainly put on a bit of weight. He seemed to have lost a little more hair from the crown of his head too. But that was normal, not something to get worked up about. He got his teeth into some work instead, and became absorbed in a report of a cross-examination—badly written—and a forensic analysis from Huddinge—another slipshod piece of work. That could have been why his mind began to wander, because when Mikael Blomkvist called he answered quite truthfully:
“It’s a funny thing, Mikael, not ten minutes ago I was thinking about you.”
Although he may in fact have been thinking about Lisbeth Salander, or perhaps that was just a feeling he had.
“How are you?”
“Good, all things considered,” Blomkvist said.
“I’m glad you qualified that. I’m starting to find uncomplicated cheerfulness hard to cope with. Have you had any holiday?”
“I’m doing my best right now.”
“If you’re calling me, you’re not trying very hard. It’s about your girl, I guess?”
“She’s never been my girl,” Blomkvist said.
“I know, I know. No-one’s less like someone’s girl than she is. She’s a bit like the fallen angel in paradise, isn’t she? She serves nobody, belongs to nobody.”
“It beats me that you’re a policeman, Jan.”
“My rabbi says I ought to retire. But, seriously, have you heard from her?”
“She tells me she’s keeping out of the way and not doing anything stupid. And for the moment I actually believe her.”
“I’m pleased to hear it. I don’t like the fact that Svavelsjö are nosing around after her,” Bublanski said.
“No-one likes it.”
“I suppose you know we’ve offered her protection.”
“And did you also hear that she refused, and hasn’t been contactable since?”
“Although nothing,” Blomkvist went on. “Except I do take comfort from the fact that nobody knows as much about keeping under the radar as she does.”
“You mean from electronic surveillance and stuff like that,” Bublanski said.
“It’s not as though she can be traced via any base station or IP address.”
“That’s something, at least. We’ll just have to wait and see, then.”
“We will. Can I ask you about something completely different?”
“Your man Faste’s been saddled with an investigation which he doesn’t seem in the least interested in.”
“Often it’s better that way. Sometimes when he can be bothered to make an effort…”
“Hmm, maybe so. It’s to do with a beggar who was found dead in the street. Fredrika Nyman, a medical examiner, thinks he may have been murdered.”
Blomkvist told him the story, and afterwards Bublanski left his office, got himself two plastic-wrapped cheese sandwiches and one chocolate wafer from the machine, and called his colleague, Inspector Sonja Modig.
Catrin put on a gardening glove that she found lying in the grass, and tugged away at the nettles that had grown under Blomkvist’s currant bushes. When she looked up, she saw a man with a ponytail and a broad, slightly menacing back hurrying away along the shoreline. But she put him out of her mind and went back to the confused thoughts that had occupied her in the cabin.
It was probably true that the beggar in Mariatorget was not really like the junkies on Freak Street. But she was convinced that he came from the same part of the world and had been treated by the same careless breed of doctor. She remembered his mutilated fingers and his distinctive way of walking, as if he were missing a centre of gravity beneath his feet. She recalled his powerful grip and the words:
“I know something very bad about Johannes Forsell.”
She was expecting more of the sort of abuse that she saw on the internet every day, along with the hate mail addressed to her, and she was afraid that he would become violent. But just as she was about to panic he let go of her arm, and continued in a more sorrowful tone:
“I took Forsell. And I left Mamsabiv…terrible, so terrible.”
Or perhaps he did not say “Mamsabiv,” but it was something similar, a long word with the stress on the first syllable. The word had rung in her ears as she ran away from him and bumped into Sofie Melker on Swedenborgsgatan. She had somehow forgotten it, and now, out at the cabin, the conversation with the medical examiner had brought it all back, and she wondered what it might mean. It needed looking into after all.
She took off the gardening glove and keyed in several versions of the word, but her search yielded nothing that made sense in any language. Google only asked if she meant Mats Sabin, and maybe she did, Matssabin pronounced in one breath. It couldn’t be ruled out, especially when she discovered that Mats Sabin had been an officer in Kustartilleriet, the coastal artillery, and later a military historian at Försvarshögskolan, the Swedish Defence University. He could very easily have had dealings with Forsell, a former intelligence officer and an authority on Russia.
Catrin put both names into her browser, on the off-chance, and got an immediate hit which revealed that not only had they met, they had been enemies, or at least had public disagreements. She considered going inside and telling Mikael. But no, it felt too far-fetched, so she stayed in the garden and got back to work on the weeds, occasionally looking up to contemplate the waterfront, her mind full of conflicting thoughts.
Salander was still at the Kings Court Hotel in Prague, sitting at the desk near the window and staring once again at images on her screen of Camilla’s large house in Rublyovka. But she was no longer doing so compulsively, or as part of her routine to imprint things on her memory. The house seemed increasingly like a fortress, a command centre. People came and went all the time, even big shots like Kuznetsov, and everybody was frisked. Every day there were more and more guards, and IT security was certainly being checked over and over again.
Thanks to the base station which Katya Flip had put in position and taken away after a few days, Lisbeth was able to follow Camilla step by step, relying on the tracking signals from her sister’s mobile. But she hadn’t yet been able to hack the IT system and so was reduced to guessing what was happening inside the house. She knew only that the level of activity had increased.
The house was pulsating with the sort of nervous energy which precedes a major operation, and yesterday Camilla had been driven to the Aquarium, as it was known, the headquarters of the GRU, the military intelligence service in Khodinka, outside Moscow. That was not a good sign. It looked as if she was calling in all the help she could muster.
It seemed that she had no idea where Lisbeth was, however, and to some extent this was reassuring. So long as her sister remained in the house in Rublyovka, Lisbeth and Paulina ought not to be in any danger. But there was no certainty of anything.
Salander closed down the satellite image and instead checked in to see what Paulina’s husband Thomas was up to. Nothing, or so it would seem. He was just staring into the webcam, looking his usual aggrieved self.
Salander had not been especially communicative of late. But at least in the evenings she had been spending hours listening to Paulina. She knew more than enough about her life, and by now she had even heard about the incident with the iron. Thomas, who was just then blowing his nose in front of the webcam, had always taken his shirts to the laundry when they were living in Germany. In Copenhagen he had Paulina iron them—“to give her something to do during the day.” But then one day she just forgot about the ironing, and the washing-up too, and walked around in her knickers and one of his unironed shirts, drinking red wine and then whisky.
Paulina had been beaten up the evening before. She had a split lip, and she hoped to get drunk enough to dare either to end the relationship or to bring matters to a head. Things went from bad to worse. She broke a vase by accident. Then some glasses and plates—not quite so accidentally—and somehow she also managed to spill red wine on the shirt, and whisky on the bedclothes and the carpet. In the end she fell asleep, drunk and defiant, and with a feeling that at last she would have the courage to tell him to go to hell.
She woke up to find Thomas sitting on her arms, hitting her repeatedly in the face. Then he dragged her to the ironing board and ironed his shirt himself. Paulina remembered nothing after that, except for the smell of burned skin and an indescribable pain, and her own steps racing towards the front door. Every so often Salander would think about this, and even though she sometimes stared straight into Thomas’s eyes, as now, his face often merged with that of her father.
When she was tired, everything flowed into one—Camilla, Thomas Müller, her childhood, Zala, everything—and tightened like a restraint belt across her chest and forehead, and she would gasp for air. Music could be heard from outside, a guitar being tuned. She craned her neck to look out of the window. The street was full of people, streaming into and out of the Palladium shopping centre. On a huge white stage over to the right, preparations were being made for a concert. Perhaps it was Saturday again, or a public holiday—it was all the same to her. And where was Paulina? She must be out on one of her never-ending walks around town. In an attempt to dispel her thoughts, Salander checked her inbox.
Hacker Republic had not come back to her as she had hoped, and there was no answer to the questions she had asked during the day. But she had received some encrypted documents from Blomkvist, and that did bring a little smile to her face.
So you’ve finally got around to reading your own article,
she thought. But no, the files had nothing to do with Kuznetsov and his lies. Instead they were…well, what were they, actually?
Endless rows with masses of numbers and letters, XY, 11, 12, 13, 19. It was clearly a DNA sequence—but whose? She scanned through the documents and an attached autopsy report, and saw that they related to a man who was between fifty-four and fifty-six years old, according to a carbon-14 test. He came from somewhere in southern Central Asia. Several of his fingers and toes had been amputated and he had been in a very bad way, also an alcoholic. The autopsy concluded that he had died of poisoning by eszopiclone and dextropropoxyphene.
He was found beside a tree in Tantolunden on August 15. I’m sending a DNA analysis—autosomal—and some other stuff, the results of a carbon-13 test and a hair analysis together with a photograph of a piece of paper with the man’s handwriting. (Yes, that’s my number.)
“The hell I will,” she muttered. “I’m going to go out and find Paulina, and get pissed again. I’m definitely not poring over someone’s DNA results, and I’m not talking to any pathologists.”
But she didn’t leave the hotel room this time either, because just then she heard Paulina’s footsteps in the corridor. She took two small bottles of champagne from the minibar and threw her arms wide, in a brave attempt not to look fucked up.
It was a crazy plan. But Blomkvist had been feeling lonely and dejected ever since Catrin Lindås said she had to go home to feed her cat and water her plants—he was particularly unhappy to lose out to the plants—and having waved her off at the harbour he had gone home and called Nyman again.
He had claimed to know a prominent woman geneticist who might be able to make some progress on the DNA analyses. Nyman was keen to know who this was and exactly what field she worked in. He said only that she was a very determined person, a professor in London who specialized in tracing genealogy. Salander was indeed brilliant at DNA analyses. She had gone to great lengths to try to find out why her family all had such extreme genetic features. It was not just her highly intelligent and odious father, Zalachenko. There was her half brother too, Ronald Niedermann, with his exceptional strength and his lack of sensitivity to pain. There was Lisbeth herself, with her photographic memory. There were a number of people among her blood relations with exceptional characteristics, and although Blomkvist had no idea what she had discovered, he did know that Salander had taught herself the scientific methodology in no time at all. After a lengthy exchange with Fredrika Nyman, he eventually got the material she had been sent.
Then he forwarded it all to Salander. He was not optimistic. Perhaps it was no more than an excuse to get in touch. Whatever. He looked out to sea. The wind was getting up and the last bathers were packing away their things. He became absorbed in his thoughts.
What had got into Catrin? In just a few days they had become so close that he had thought…well, he wasn’t sure what he thought. That they really belonged together? That was plain silly, they were like night and day…he should leave it for now, and ring Erika instead. He ought to make up for the fact that he had put his article on hold. He picked up his mobile and rang…Catrin. That was just how it went, and at first the conversation continued more or less as it had ended, stiff and hesitant. Then she said:
“No plant should ever have to die because of me.”
She gave a sad laugh.
“What are you going to do now?” he said.
“Not sure. Well, maybe I’ll force myself to sit down and try and write something.”
“Doesn’t sound like much fun.”
“No,” she said.
“But you needed to get away, was that it?”
“I think so.”