Authors: David Lagercrantz
“I watched you through the window when you were weeding. You looked worried.”
“Yes, perhaps I am.”
“Did something happen?”
“But something did, right?”
“I was thinking about the beggar.”
“What about him?”
“That I hadn’t told you what he was shouting about Forsell.”
“You said it was the usual stuff.”
“But it may have been more than that.”
“Why are you telling me this now?”
“Because it started to come back to me more clearly when that doctor called.”
“Something along the lines of: ‘I took Forsell. I left Mamsabiv, terrible, terrible.’ Something like that.”
“What do you think it means?”
“I don’t know. But when I checked Mamsabiv, Mansabin, all sorts of words like that, I got Mats Sabin, that was the closest I found.”
“The military historian?”
“Do you know him?”
“Years ago I was one of those people who read everything about the Second World War.”
“Do you also know that Sabin died four years ago, during a mountain hike in Abisko National Park? He froze to death by a lake. People think he had a stroke and couldn’t get to a shelter out of the cold.”
“I didn’t know that,” he said.
“Not that I think it’s got anything to do with Forsell…”
“But…” he said to encourage her.
“But I couldn’t resist doing a search against the two of them together and I saw that Forsell and Sabin had a falling-out in the media. About Russia.”
“After he retired, Sabin changed his opinion and went from being a hawk to having a more Russia-friendly outlook, and in several pieces—in
, among others—he wrote that everyone in Sweden suffered from a terror of Russia, a paranoia, and that we should be taking a more sympathetic view. Forsell countered by writing that Sabin’s words simply replicated Russian propaganda and implied that he was a paid lackey. After that all hell broke loose. There was talk of libel suits and other legal action, but in the end Forsell backed down and apologized.”
“Where does the beggar come into this?”
“No idea. Although…he did say ‘I left Mansabin,’ or something similar, and that might fit. Sabin was alone and abandoned when he died.”
“It’s a lead,” he said.
“Can’t you come back so we can talk it through, and also touch on the meaning of life and everything else while we’re at it?”
“Next time, Mikael. Next time.”
He wanted to persuade her, he wanted to beg and plead. But he felt pathetic, so he just wished her a nice evening and hung up. He got up and took a beer from the fridge and wondered what to do with himself. The sensible thing would be to stop thinking about both Catrin and the beggar. None of that was going to get him anywhere. He should go back to his article about troll factories and the stock market crash or, better still, actually take a proper holiday.
But he was as he was: obstinate, and perhaps a little dumb too. He could not let go of things, and when he’d done the dishes and tidied up the kitchen corner, and stood for a few moments gazing at the ever-changing sea, he looked up Mats Sabin and found himself reading a lengthy obituary in
Sabin grew up in Luleå and became an officer in the coastal artillery—he was involved in the hunt for foreign submarines in the ’80s—but alongside that he also studied history and took leave for a while from the military in order to get a doctorate from Uppsala University. His thesis was on Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. He became a lecturer at Försvarshögskolan, but, as Blomkvist knew, he also published popular histories about the Second World War. He was a long-time advocate of Swedish membership of NATO. He was certain that what he had been chasing in the Baltic were none other than Russian submarines. Yet in his final years he became a friend of Russia and defended their intervention in Ukraine and the Crimea. He had also applauded Russia as a force for peace in Syria.
It was never clear why he had altered his point of view, though he had been quoted as saying that “opinions are there to be changed as we grow older and wiser.” Mats Sabin was reputed to have been a good cross-country runner and a diver. Soon after his wife died, he walked the classic trail between Abisko and Nikkaluokta, and according to the obituary he was “in good shape.” It was the beginning of May and the forecast had been good, yet the weather turned to freezing towards the evening of the third. The temperature dropped to minus eight degrees, and Sabin seemed to have suffered a stroke and collapsed not far from the Abiskojåkka River. He never reached any of the mountain huts dotted along the track. He was found dead on the morning of the fourth by a group of hikers from Sundbyberg. There was no suggestion of suspicious circumstances, nor any sign of violence. He was sixty-seven years old.
Blomkvist tried to find out where Johannes Forsell—another keen outdoor sportsman—would have been at the time, but the internet yielded nothing here. This was May 2016, almost one and a half years before Forsell became Minister of Defence, and not even the press at his home in Östersund was monitoring his movements. But Blomkvist did manage to establish that Forsell had business interests in the area. It was not inconceivable that he might have been in Abisko at the time.
Yet it was all far too uncertain and speculative. Blomkvist got up and browsed his bookshelf in the bedroom. Most of the books there were detective novels, and he had read them all, so he tried to call Pernilla, his daughter, and Erika, without reaching either of them. Increasingly restless now, he set off to have dinner at Seglarhotellet by the harbour. When he came home late that evening, he felt completely deflated.
Paulina was asleep. Salander was staring at the ceiling. It was the usual state of affairs; either that, or both of them lying awake. Neither was getting enough rest, and they did not feel particularly well. But that evening they had managed to comfort each other quite satisfactorily with champagne and beer and sex, and had quickly fallen asleep, although that provided little solace when Salander woke with a start a while later, with the memories and questions from Lundagatan and her childhood sweeping over her like an icy wind. What was wrong with them all?
Even before Salander began to take an interest in science, she would say there was a genetic flaw in her family. For a long time she meant simply that many of them had extreme traits in one way or another, and were evil. But a year or so ago she resolved to get to the bottom of her hypothesis, and by accessing a sequence of computer servers, she got hold of Zalachenko’s Y chromosome from the Laboratory of Forensic Genetics in Linköping.
She spent long nights learning how to analyze it, and read up on everything she could find on haplogroups. Small mutations have occurred in all lines of descent. The haplogroups show which mutational branch of humanity each individual belongs to and it had not surprised her in the least that her father’s group was extremely unusual. When she researched it she found an over-representation not only of high intelligence, but also of psychopathy, and that made her no happier, nor any wiser.
But it had taught her how to work with DNA techniques. Now that it was past two in the morning and she was only reliving the past, shuddering at the memories and staring up at the smoke detector which blinked like an evil red eye in the ceiling, she wondered if she might not after all take a look at the material Blomkvist had sent her. It would at least shift her mind onto other things.
So she got up carefully from the bed, sat at the desk and opened the files. “Let’s see, now,” she muttered. “Let’s see…What’s this?” It was the result of a preliminary autosomal DNA test, with a number of selected so-called STR markers—short tandem repeats—so she opened her BAM Viewer from the Broad Institute, which would help her analyze them. It was a while before she applied her full attention to the task—she was easily distracted by the satellite images of Camilla’s house—but there was something in the material which began to slowly fascinate her, perhaps the realization that the man had no ancestors or kin in the Nordic region.
He came from somewhere a long way away. Having read through the autopsy report again, above all the carbon-13 analysis and the descriptions of the injuries and amputations, she was struck by a surprising thought and sat there for a long time, immobile and leaning forward with a hand pressed against the bullet wound in her shoulder.
Swiftly she ran a series of searches. Could it really be true? She found it hard to believe, and was preparing to hack into the medical examiner’s server when she had the outlandish idea of trying first by conventional means. She sent off an e-mail and then helped herself to what was left in the minibar, a Coca-Cola and a miniature of brandy, and let the hours drift by until morning came, sometimes dozing off in her chair. At about the time Paulina opened her eyes and sounds could be heard outside in the corridor, she received a signal on her mobile and connected to the satellite images again. At first she only peered at them with tired eyes, but then she was suddenly wide awake.
Her screen showed her sister and three men—one of them unusually tall—leaving the house in Rublyovka and getting into a limousine. Salander followed them all the way to the international airport at Domodedovo, outside Moscow.
Fredrika Nyman tossed and turned through the small hours and finally looked at the alarm clock. She hoped it would be 5:30 at least. It was twenty past four and she swore out loud. She had had no more than five hours’ sleep, but she could tell—the way an insomniac knows—that she would sleep no more now, so she got up and made a pot of green tea. The morning newspapers had not yet arrived. She settled at the kitchen table with her mobile and listened to the birds. She missed the city. She missed having a man around, or anyone at all who was not a teenager.
“I didn’t sleep last night either, and I have a headache and my back hurts,” she would have said, and she said it anyway, but to nobody other than herself. And then she also had to respond: “Poor you, Fredrika.”
The surface of the lake was smooth after the night’s squalls, and she could just glimpse the two resident swans a little way off. They were gliding along, close to each other. Sometimes she envied them, not because she wanted to be a swan, but because there were two of them. They could have bad nights together. Complain to each other in swan language…The lack of sleep was getting to her. She checked her e-mails and found one from somebody who called themselves “Wasp”:
Bloody insolent tone. And not even a sign-off.
Why don’t you go sequence yourself,
she thought. She could not stand that type of charmless, geeky researcher. Her husband had been the same, utterly hopeless now that she thought about it. Then she read the e-mail again and calmed down. It was rude and bossy, but it was exactly what she had been thinking, and she had in fact sent a blood sample to Uppsala Genome Center a few days earlier and asked them for exactly that, for the whole genetic make-up to be sequenced.
She had pressed them hard and urged the bioinformaticians to flag any unusual mutations and variations. She was expecting an answer any time now, so she wrote to them rather than the pushy researcher, having decided to adopt the same sort of tone herself while she was at it:
She hoped they would also be favourably impressed by the hour of writing. It was not yet five in the morning and even the swans on the lake looked to be out of sorts. And not so bloody smug about being a couple, after all.
Kurt Widmark Electronics on Hornsgatan had not yet opened. But Inspector Sonja Modig saw an elderly, stooped gentleman inside and knocked on the door, and he shuffled over wearing a forced smile.
“You’re early. But do come on in anyway,” he said.
Modig introduced herself and explained why she had come, whereupon the man stiffened and looked irritated, and huffed and grumbled for a while. He was pale, had a slightly crooked face and a long comb-over across his bald pate. There was a hint of bitterness around his mouth.
“Things are bad enough as it is in my line of business,” he said. “Competition from online companies and department stores.”
Modig smiled and tried to appear sympathetic. She had spent the early part of the morning walking around at random, making enquiries, and a young man in the hairdressers next door had told her that the beggar Bublanski had been talking about had quite often stood at the window of the electrical shop, glaring at the television screens inside.
“When did you first see him?” she said.
“He came marching in here a few weeks ago and stood in front of one of my sets,” Kurt Widmark said.
“What was on?”
“The news, and a rather tough interview with Johannes Forsell about the stock market crash and total defence.”
“Why do you think the beggar would have been interested in that?”
“How the hell should I know? I was mostly trying to get him out of the shop. I wasn’t being unfriendly. I don’t care what people look like, but I did tell him that he was alarming my customers.”
“In what way?”
“He stood there muttering to himself, and he smelled pretty bad. He seemed to me to have a screw loose.”
“Did you hear what he was saying?”
“Oh yes, he asked me very clearly in English if Forsell was a famous man now. I was somewhat taken aback, but I told him yes, he certainly is. He’s the Minister of Defence—and he’s very rich.”
“Did it seem as though he knew of Forsell before he became famous?”
“I couldn’t say. But I do remember him saying, ‘Problem, now he has problem?’ He put the question as if he wanted the answer to be yes.”
“And what did you say?”
“I told him yes, absolutely, he has big problems. He’s been up to all sorts of hanky-panky and tricks with his shares, and he’s pulled off some palace coups behind the scenes.”
“But surely those are no more than idle rumours?”
“Well, the stories have been doing the rounds.”
“And what happened to the beggar then?” Modig said.
“He started shouting and kicking up a fuss, so I took him by the arm and tried to lead him outside. But he was strong and pointed at his face. ‘Look at me,’ he shouted. ‘See what happened to me! And I took him. And I took him.’ Or something like that. He looked absolutely desperate, so I let him stay there for a while, and after the Forsell interview there was a piece about schools in Sweden, and that prim little upper-class witch came on and pontificated.”
Modig felt a growing irritation.
“Which ‘upper-class witch’ would that be?”
“The Lindås woman. Talk about snooty. But that beggar stared at her as if he’d seen an angel, and he mumbled, ‘Very, very beautiful woman. Is she critical to Forsell also?’ and I tried to say that the one thing had nothing to do with the other. But he didn’t seem to understand. He was beside himself. But soon after that he took himself off.”
“And then he came back?”
“He came back every day at the same time, shortly before closing, for about a week. He would stand outside, staring in through the window, and ask my customers about journalists, people he could call. In the end I got so annoyed that I rang the police, but of course no-one there could be bothered with it.”
“So you got no name, and no other information about the man?”
“He said he was called Sardar.”
“ ‘My name is Sardar’ is what he said when I tried to get him to clear off one evening.”
“Well, that’s something,” Modig said, and she thanked Widmark and left.
In the tunnelbana on her way to Fridhelmsplan and police headquarters, she googled “Sardar.” It was an old Persian word referring to princes and aristocrats, or leaders of a group or tribe in general. It was used in the Middle East and in Central and Southeast Asia. You could also spell it Sirdar, Sardaar or Serdar.
A prince in beggar’s clothing. That would be something. But real life is never the way it is in fairy tales.
It had taken them a while to get away, and not only because they had failed to pick up a single trace of Lisbeth Salander. Ivan Galinov, the old GRU agent, had been busy with other things too, and Camilla was determined to have him along. He was sixty-three, a man of great education with years of experience in intelligence work and infiltration.
He was a polyglot; he spoke eleven languages fluently and could switch between different dialects. In Britain, France or Germany he could even have passed for a native. He was tall and slim and carried himself well, and was without doubt a handsome man, with grey hair and white sideburns, even though there was something bird-like about his features. Face-to-face he was invariably polite and gallant, nevertheless he frightened people; there were rumours about events in his life which added substance to this aspect of his character, and said more about the person he really was.
One of the stories concerned the loss of an eye during the war in Chechnya. He had had it replaced with an enamel prosthesis, said to be the best available on the market. According to the anecdote—which was inspired by an old joke about a loan officer at a bank—nobody could work out which was the real eye and which the false one, until a subordinate of Galinov hit on the simple truth: “The eye with the faint gleam of humanity is the enamel one.”
Another account involved the crematorium on the second basement level of the GRU’s headquarters in Khodinka. Galinov had allegedly taken a colleague there and cremated him alive for having sold classified material to the British. It was said that his movements became slower and his eyes stopped blinking when he was torturing his enemies. Probably just talk, most of this, exaggerations becoming myth, and even though Camilla herself used the power of those stories to get what she wanted, it was not what she most valued in him.
Galinov had been close to her father; like her he had loved and admired him, and just like her he had been let down. That experience had given them a crucial bond. In Galinov she found understanding rather than cruelty, and fatherly concern, and she never had any trouble in seeing which eye was the real one. Galinov had taught her to soldier on, and quite recently, when it became clear to her what a crushing blow it had been for him all those years ago when Zalachenko defected to Sweden, she had asked:
“How did you survive?”
“The same way you did, Kira.”
“And how was that?”
“You survived by becoming like him.”
They were words she had taken to heart. Words which both scared her and gave her strength and often, as now, with the past hot on her heels, she wanted to have Galinov close by. In his presence she was not afraid to be a little girl again. He was the only person in recent years who had seen her cry and now, heading for Arlanda airport and Stockholm in her private jet, she sought his smile.
“Thanks for coming along,” she said.
“We’ll catch her, my love. We’ll get her,” he replied, tenderly patting her hand.
Salander must have slept after seeing Camilla and her entourage driving off towards the airport, because she woke up and discovered a note on the bedside table to say that Paulina had gone down to breakfast. But now it was ten past eleven and the dining room must be closed. Salander stayed up in the room and cursed to herself when she remembered she had eaten the last of the snacks in the minibar. She drank water from the tap and then showered and put on jeans and a black T-shirt, and sat at the desk to check her e-mails. She had received two files of more than ten gigabytes, together with a message from Medical Examiner Dr. Fredrika Nyman:
The anger between the lines passed Salander by, and in any case she was swiftly distracted. She could see that Camilla was now in Sweden, on the E4 from Arlanda heading for Stockholm. She clenched her fists and briefly wondered whether she should go there now too. But she stayed at the desk and pulled up the files the Nyman woman had sent, letting the pages scroll past her eyes like a flickering microfilm. Why was she even doing this, could she really be bothered?
For now she resolved to concentrate and take a look, at least while she decided what to do next. She knew that this was where she always excelled.
Salander was capable of grasping within a very short time the content of even the most voluminous documents, and that is why she preferred, as Nyman had suspected, to work directly with raw data. This way she could avoid being influenced by the opinions and annotations of other people. She used the SAMtools programme to convert the information into a so-called BAM file, a document containing the entire genome, and that in itself was no small feat.
In a way it was like a gigantic cryptogram, with four letters: A, C, G and T, the nitrogenous bases adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. At first glance it looked like one big incomprehensible mass. But in fact it was code for an entire life.
To begin with Lisbeth looked for deviations, any deviations, by trawling indices and studying graphs. Then she turned to her BAM Viewer, her IGV, and compared specific and random segments with the DNA sequences of other people she had found in the 1,000 Genomes Project—genetic information collected from all over the world—and it was then that she discovered an anomaly in the rs4954 frequency in what is known as the
gene, which regulates the body’s haemoglobin production.
There was something so sensationally different there that she immediately ran a search in the PubMed database, and not long after she suddenly exclaimed aloud and shook her head. Was it really possible? She had had an inkling it might be something like that, but she had not expected to see it in black and white quite so soon. Now utterly focused, she forgot all about her sister in Stockholm and even failed to notice that Paulina had come in and greeted her before going into the bathroom.
Now Salander was entirely concentrated on learning more about this variant of the
gene. Not only was it extremely unusual, it also had a spectacular background, traceable all the way back to the Denisova hominins, a subspecies of Homo sapiens which had died out forty thousand years ago.
For a long time the Denisovans were unknown to scientists, but their existence had been recognized ever since Russian archaeologists discovered a bone fragment and the tooth of a woman in the Denisova cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia in 2008. It seemed that in the course of history the Denisovans interbred with Homo sapiens in South Asia and passed on some of their genes to contemporary humans, among others this variant of
Thanks to the variant, the body can assimilate even small volumes of oxygen. It makes the blood thinner and helps it to circulate faster, and this lowers the risk of blood clotting and edema. It is especially advantageous for people living and working at high altitudes, where oxygen levels are lower, and that matched Salander’s initial assumptions, based on the beggar’s injuries and amputations and his carbon-13 analysis.