The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye: Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series (2 page)

an elusive, exceptionally talented hacker and mathematical genius, tattooed and with a troubled past, driven by a need for justice – and vengeance.
a leading investigative journalist at
magazine. Salander helped him to research one of the biggest stories of his career, about the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. He later helped to clear her of murder and vindicate her in a legal battle over her right to determine her own affairs. Sometimes nicknamed “Kalle Blomkvist”, after a boy detective who appears in several novels by Astrid Lindgren.
also known as Zala, or his alias Karl Axel Bodin. A Russian spy who defected to Sweden and was protected for years by a special group within Säpo. He was the head of a criminal empire but also the father of Lisbeth Salander, who tried to kill him for the violent abuse of her mother. Ultimately he was finished off by Säpo.
Lisbeth Salander’s half-brother, a blonde giant impervious to pain. Salander arranged for his murder.
Lisbeth’s troublesome twin sister, from whom she is estranged. Known to be linked to criminal gangs and thought to live in Moscow.
Lisbeth and Camilla’s mother, who died in a nursing home at the age of forty-three.
Salander’s former guardian, a lawyer. One of the few people who knows Salander well and whom she trusts.
Salander’s former employer, the head of Milton Security. Another of the few she trusts.
Salander’s sadistic child psychiatrist. Chief prosecution witness in Salander’s incompetency trial.
a woman whose Norwegian passport has fallen into Salander’s hands, allowing Salander to assume her identity when convenient.
editor-in-chief of
magazine, a close friend and occasional lover of Blomkvist.
Erika Berger’s husband, an architect.
managing editor of
art director and partner at
Blomkvist’s sister, a defence lawyer who has represented Salander.
scion of a wealthy industrial family, who disappeared as a girl and was found by Blomkvist and Salander at the behest of her great-uncle, Henrik Vanger. She became a shareholder in
a thuggish motorcycle gang closely associated with Niedermann and Zalachenko. Some of its criminal members have in the past been seriously injured by Salander.
a coalition of hackers, among whom Salander, who goes by the handle “Wasp”, is the star. Includes Plague, Trinity and Bob the Dog.
the Swedish security police, which harboured a secret faction known as “the Section” dedicated to protecting Zalachenko.
chief inspector with the Stockholm police, headed the team investigating the Salander case. Known as “Officer Bubble”.
a police inspector who has for some years worked closely with Bublanski, along with
the prosecutor who brought the case against Salander, now chief prosecutor.
an exceptional scientist and mathematician, murdered for the story he was about to publish with
, his supremely gifted, autistic son, is rescued by Salander from Camilla’s criminal associates and, together with his mother,
, taken abroad for his protection.
a young and talented journalist on
magazine, murdered by Camilla.
professor of computer sciences, fiancée to Jan Bublanski.

Holger Palmgren was sitting in his wheelchair in the visitors’ room.

“Why is that dragon tattoo so important to you?” he said. “I’ve always wanted to know.”

“It had to do with my mother.”

“With Agneta?”

“I was little, maybe six. I ran away from home.”

“There was a woman who used to stop by to see you, wasn’t there? It’s coming back to me now. She had some kind of birthmark.”

“It looked like a burn on her throat.”

“As if a dragon had breathed fire on her.”

12 –

Sten Sture the Elder had a statue put up in 1489, to celebrate his victory over the King of Denmark at the Battle of Brunkeberg.

The statue – which stands in Storkyrkan, the cathedral in Stockholm – is of St George on horseback, his sword raised. Beneath him lies a dying dragon.

Next to them stands a woman in Burgundian attire. She is the maiden being saved by the knight in this dramatic scene, and is thought to be modelled on Sten Sture the Elder’s wife, Ingeborg Åkesdotter.

The maiden’s expression is strangely unconcerned.


Lisbeth Salander was on her way back to her cell from the gym and the showers when she was stopped in the corridor by the warden. Alvar Olsen was blathering on about something, gesticulating wildly and waving a set of papers. But Salander could not hear a word he said. It was 7.30 p.m.

That was the most dangerous time at Flodberga Prison. 7.30 p.m. was when the daily freight train thundered past, the walls shook and keys rattled and the place smelled of sweat and perfume. All the worst abuses took place then, masked by the racket from the railway and in the general confusion just before the cell doors were shut. Salander always let her gaze wander back and forth over the unit at this time of day and it was probably no coincidence that she caught sight of Faria Kazi.

Faria was young and beautiful, from Bangladesh, and she was sitting in her cell. From where Salander and Olsen stood, all Salander could see was her face. Someone was slapping Faria. Her head kept jerking from side to side, though the blows were not that hard – there was something almost routine about them. It was clear from Faria’s humiliated expression that the abuse had been going on for a long time, and had broken all will to resist.

No hands were raised to try to stop the slapping, and in Faria’s eyes there was no indication of surprise, only a mute, dull fear. This terror was part of her life. Salander could see that just by studying her face, and it matched what she had observed during her weeks at the prison.

“Will you look at that,” she said, pointing into Faria’s cell.

But by the time Olsen had turned to look it was over. Salander disappeared into her own cell and closed the door. She could hear voices and muffled laughter in the corridor and outside the freight train clanging by, shaking the walls. She stood in front of the shiny washbasin and narrow bed, the bookshelf and desk strewn with pages of her quantum mechanical calculations. Did she feel like doing more work on loop quantum gravity theory? She realized she was holding something and looked down at her hand.

It was the same sheaf of papers that Olsen had been waving around, and that did, after all, make her a little curious. But it was some sort of rubbish with coffee cup rings all over the cover page, an intelligence test. Ridiculous. She hated to be prodded and measured.

She dropped the papers which spread like a fan on the concrete floor. For a brief moment they vanished from her mind as her thoughts went back to Faria Kazi. Salander had not seen who was hitting her. But she knew perfectly well who it was. Although at first prison life had not interested Salander, reluctantly she had been drawn in, decoding the visible and invisible signals one by one. By now she understood who called the shots.

This was called the B Unit, the secure section. It was considered the safest place in the institution and to a visitor that might have been how it seemed. There were more guards, more controls and more rehabilitation programmes here than anywhere else in the prison. But anyone who took a closer look would realize there was something rotten about the place. The guards put on an act, exuding authority, and they even pretended to care. But in fact they were cowards who had lost control, and they had ceded power to their chief antagonists, gang leader Benito Andersson and her mob.

During the day Benito kept a low profile and behaved much like a model prisoner, but after the evening meal, when the inmates could exercise or receive visits, she took over the place. At this time of day her reign of terror was uncontested, just before the doors were locked for the night. As the prisoners roamed between cells, making threats and promises in whispered tones, Benito’s gang kept to one side, their victims to the other.

The fact that Salander was in prison at all was a major scandal. But circumstances had hardly been on her side, nor had she put up a very convincing fight. The interlude seemed absurd to her, but she also thought she might just as well be in jail as anywhere else.

She had been sentenced to two months for unlawful use of property and reckless endangerment in the dramatic events following the murder of Professor Frans Balder. Salander had taken it upon herself to hide an eight-year-old autistic boy and refused to cooperate with the police because she believed – quite rightly – that the police investigation had been betrayed. No-one disputed that she went to heroic lengths to save the child’s life. Even so, Chief Prosecutor Richard Ekström led the case with great conviction and the court ultimately found against her, although one of the lay judges dissented. Salander’s lawyer, Giannini had done an outstanding job. But she got virtually no help from her client so that in the end she did not stand a chance. Salander maintained a sullen silence throughout the trial and she refused to appeal the verdict. She simply wanted to get the business over with.

At first she was sent to Björngärda Gård open prison, where she had a lot of freedom. Then new information surfaced, suggesting there were people who wanted to harm her. This was not entirely unexpected, given the enemies she had made, so she was transferred to the secure wing at Flodberga.

Salander had no problem sharing space with Sweden’s most notorious female criminals. She was constantly surrounded by guards, and no assaults or violence had been reported in the unit for many years. Records also showed that an impressive number of inmates had been rehabilitated. But those statistics all came from the time before the arrival of Benito Andersson.

From the first day Salander arrived at the prison, she faced a variety of provocations. She was a high-profile prisoner known from the media, not to mention the rumours that spread through the underworld. Only a few days earlier, Benito had put a note in her hand which read:
Salander had thrown it away after a minute – it took about fifty-eight seconds before she could be bothered to read it.

She had no interest in power struggles or alliances. She concentrated on observing and learning, and by now she felt she had learned more than enough. She stared blankly at her bookshelf, stocked with the essays on quantum field theory she had ordered before she landed inside. In the cupboard on the left were two changes of prison clothes, all stamped with the initials of the Prison Service, plus some underwear and two pairs of gym shoes. There was nothing on the walls, not a single reminder of life on the outside. She cared no more for the surroundings in her cell than she did at home on Fiskargatan.

Cell doors were being shut along the corridor and normally that meant some freedom for Salander. When the noise died down, she could lose herself in mathematics – in attempts to combine quantum mechanics with the theory of relativity – and forget the world around her. But tonight was different. She was irritated, and not just because of the abuse of Faria Kazi or the rampant corruption in the unit.

She could not stop thinking about the visit six days earlier from Holger Palmgren, her old guardian from the time when the authorities had decided she was incapable of taking care of herself. The visit had been a major production. Palmgren hardly ever left his apartment in Liljeholmen and was entirely dependent on carers and assistants. But he had been adamant. The social service’s subsidized transport service brought him in his wheelchair, wheezing into an oxygen mask. Salander was glad to see him.

She and Palmgren had spoken of old times and he had become sentimental and emotional. There was just one thing that had troubled Salander. Palmgren told her that a woman by the name of Maj-Britt Torell had been to see him. She used to be a secretary at St Stefan’s psychiatric clinic for children, where Salander had been a patient. The woman had read about Salander in the newspapers and brought Palmgren some documents which she believed he might find interesting. According to Palmgren it was more of the same old horror stories about how Salander had been strapped to her bed in the clinic and subjected to the worst kind of psychological abuse. “Nothing you need to see,” he said. Even so, something must have stood out, because when Palmgren asked about her dragon tattoo and Salander mentioned the woman with the birthmark, he said:

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