Authors: David Lagercrantz
“What do you think’ll happen?”
“Does it mean we can expect to be blackmailed now?”
Felix did not reply and bit his lip, and Kuznetsov stared blankly out at the street.
“I think we can expect something much worse than that,” Felix said.
Don’t say that,
Don’t say that.
“Why?” His voice cracked.
“Because Bogdanov just called—”
gorgeous, odious Kira,
and then he remembered: That was how it had all started, with her beautiful face twisted into a dreadful grimace, and her mouth screaming “Shoot! Kill!” and her eyes fixed on that dark figure further along the wall. Thinking back, all this seemed to be linked to the ensuing cacophony.
“What did Bogdanov say?” he said.
“That he knows who hacked us.”
How the hell could I have said “electrical”?
“So we’ve been hacked?”
“That’s what it looks like.”
“But that was supposed to be impossible. Impossible, you fucking idiot.”
“No, but this person—”
“What about this bloody person?”
“She’s highly skilled.”
“So it’s a she?”
“And she doesn’t seem to be after any money.”
“What is she after, then?”
“Revenge,” Felix said. Kuznetsov’s whole body shook and he punched Felix on the chin.
Then he walked away and drank himself into a stupor on champagne and vodka.
Salander was calm as she let herself into her hotel room. She poured herself a glass of whisky and drained it in one, and took some nuts from a bowl on the coffee table. Then she took her time to pack, and there was nothing rushed or nervous about her movements.
Only once she had zipped up her bag, ready to go, did she notice that her body was unnaturally tense. Her eyes were casting around for something to smash to pieces—a vase, a painting, the crystal chandelier in the ceiling—but in the end she just went into the bathroom and stared into the mirror, studying every feature in her face. She saw nothing.
In her mind she was back on Tverskoy Boulevard, her hand reaching for her weapon, and the same hand then being withdrawn. She remembered what made it feel easy, and what made it so difficult, and realized that, for the first time all summer, she had no idea what to do. She was…well, what was she…? Lost, most likely, and she didn’t even get a boost from picking up her mobile and finding out where Camilla lived.
From a Google satellite map she could see a large stone house surrounded by terraces, gardens, pools and statues. She tried to imagine it all burning, just like her father in his Mercedes on Lundagatan, but it made her feel no better. What had seemed like a perfect plan was one big mess, and she realized that her hesitation, both now and all those years ago, was deadly dangerous and a handicap to her. She reached for more whisky.
When she had paid her hotel bill online, she picked up her bag and left, and only once she was several blocks away did she take the pistol, wipe it clean, and throw it into a drain. She took a taxi, booked a flight to Copenhagen for early the following morning using one of her fake passports, and checked in to the Sheraton next to Sheremetyevo airport.
In the early hours of the morning she saw that Blomkvist had sent her a text. He was worried, he told her, and that reminded her of the film sequence from Fiskargatan. She decided to sneak into his computer via her usual back door. She couldn’t have said why. Maybe she just needed to turn her thoughts to something other than the images that kept repeating in her mind, and she sat down at the desk.
After a while she found some encrypted documents, and assumed they must be important to him. Yet it seemed as though he wanted her to be able to read them. In the files he had created for her, he had left clues and leads which only she could understand, and having skipped around on his server for half an hour or so, she immersed herself in a long article he’d written about the stock market crash and troll factories. He had managed to unearth a fair amount, but not as much as she had, and after ploughing twice through the article she added something towards the end and inserted a link to various documents and e-mails. By this time she was so tired that she failed to notice she had misspelled Kuznetsov’s name, and had also failed to stick to Blomkvist’s usual writing style. But she made sure to log out and lay back on the bed without taking off either her suit or her shoes.
When she fell asleep, she dreamed that her father was standing in a sea of fire, telling her that she had become weak and would not stand a chance against Camilla.
Blomkvist woke at six on Sunday morning.
It must be the heat,
he thought. The air was close, as before a storm, and his sheets and pillows were soaked with sweat. His head was pounding and briefly he wondered if he was falling sick, until the events of the evening before came back to him. He remembered sitting up late and having a few drinks, and he cursed as the morning light now seeped under the curtains. Pulling the covers over his head, he tried to go back to sleep.
But then he made the mistake of checking his mobile to see if Salander had answered his text message. Of course she had not. He began to brood over her again, which was no way to relax, and in the end he sat up in bed.
There was a jumble of books on the bedside table which he had started but never finished, and for a while he contemplated staying in bed and reading, or perhaps working on his article. Instead he went into the kitchen and made himself a cappuccino, then fetched the morning papers and buried himself in the news. Half an hour later he had answered a number of e-mails and had puttered around in his apartment, tidying a little as he went.
At half past nine he got a text message from Sofie Melker, his young colleague who had just moved into the neighbourhood with her husband and two sons. Sofie wanted to discuss an idea for a story, and he didn’t feel like it at all. But he was fond of Sofie so he suggested meeting at Kaffebar on St. Paulsgatan in half an hour. He got a thumbs-up in reply. He did not like emojis; language seemed to him perfectly adequate. But he did not want to seem old-fashioned and decided to send some cheerful little image in response.
With his clumsy fingers he sent a red heart instead of a smiley. That could perhaps be misconstrued. But what the hell…there had been inflation there too, he thought. These days an emoji heart didn’t mean anything, did it? He went to shower and shave, and put on jeans and a summer shirt.
There was a clear blue sky and brilliant sunshine, and he took the stone steps down to Hornsgatan, swung out into Mariatorget and looked around. He was surprised to see so few signs of the previous evening’s festivities. Not even a cigarette butt on the gravel paths. The trash cans had been emptied and over to the left, outside the Rival Hotel, a young girl in an orange vest was picking litter off the grass with some elongated tongs. He passed her and then the statue in the middle of the square.
It was a statue he walked past more often than any other in town. Yet he could not have said what it represented, as with so many things in front of our noses. If anyone had asked him, he would probably have guessed at St. George and the Dragon. But it was Thor slaying the sea serpent Jörmungandr. During all these years he had never even read the inscription, and this time too he looked past the statue at a young father pushing his son on a swing in the playground, and at the benches and the grass on which people were sitting with their faces turned to the sun. It looked like any Sunday morning. And yet he sensed that there was something missing. It must be his memory playing tricks, he thought, and he had already set off again, turning into St. Paulsgatan, when it dawned on him.
What was missing was a figure he had not seen for a while now, but who used to sit on a piece of cardboard by the statue, motionless, like a meditating monk. A man with some fingers no more than stumps, with a weather-beaten, ancient face and a bulky, blue down jacket. For a while he had been a part of the scenery of Blomkvist’s daily life, although, as so often when his work was intense, only by way of a backdrop.
He had been too wrapped up in himself to really see. But the poor devil had been sitting there all the time, something that he was not even conscious of, and only now that he was gone was he more visible, oddly. Now Blomkvist had no difficulty in conjuring up a number of details about him: the dark patches on his cheeks, the cracked lips and a dignity about his demeanour, in contrast to the suffering that was manifest in his body. And even when the medical examiner had been asking him about the man who had died, he had not made the connection.
How could he have so completely blocked him out? Somehow, he knew the answer.
In the past, a presence like his in the street would have been painfully obvious. But nowadays you could hardly walk more than fifty yards without someone trying to touch you for a few kronor. There were women and men begging everywhere on pavements, outside shops, at recycling centres and on the steps leading down into the tunnelbana. A whole new broken Stockholm had emerged, and in no time at all everyone had got used to it. That was the sad truth.
The number of beggars had grown at around the same time that Stockholmers had stopped carrying cash, and just like everybody else he had learned to look away. Often he did not even feel guilty, and he was overcome by melancholy, not necessarily because of the man or even the plight of beggars in general; it was perhaps rather the transience of time, and how life changes and we barely notice it.
A truck was parked outside Kaffebar, in such a tight spot that he wondered how it would ever be able to get out. As usual he knew far too many people in the café. He was in no mood for chatting, so he gave them only the most perfunctory of greetings before ordering a double espresso and a chanterelle toast, and he sat down at a window table facing St. Paulsgatan and let his thoughts carry him away. A moment later he felt a hand on his back. It was Sofie, who smiled at him cautiously. She ordered tea with milk and a bottle of Perrier, and then held out her mobile with the red heart.
“Flirting? Or just staff motivation?”
“Clumsy fingers,” he said.
“In that case, good HR instructions from Erika.”
“Still wrong, but better.”
“How’s the family?” he said.
“The mother thinks that the summer holidays have been way too long. You have to keep those kids entertained the whole time, the little hooligans.”
“How long have you been living here now?”
“Almost five months, and you?”
“Oh, a hundred years.”
“I sort of mean it,” he said. “When you’ve lived here as long as I have, you end up not seeing anything anymore. You walk around in a kind of daze.”
“I do, at least. But when you’re new to the area your eyes are probably wide open.”
“Do you remember a beggar sitting in a big quilted jacket in Mariatorget? He had dark patches on his face and was missing most of the fingers on one hand.”
She gave a sad smile.
“Oh yes, very well.”
“Why do you put it like that?”
“Because he wasn’t easy to forget.”
“Well, I forgot him.”
Sofie looked at him in surprise.
“How do you mean?”
“I must have seen him at least ten times, yet I never really registered it. Only now that he’s dead does he seem alive to me.”
“The medical examiner called me yesterday.”
“Why you, of all people?”
“Because my mobile number was in the man’s pocket and she was probably hoping I could help identify him.”
“But you couldn’t?”
“Not at all.”
“He probably thought he had some story for you.”
Sofie finished her tea and they sat quietly for a little while.
“He accosted Catrin Lindås a week ago,” she said eventually.
“He went berserk when he caught sight of her. I saw it from some way off, on Swedenborgsgatan.”
“What did he want from her?”
“He’d probably seen her on TV.”
Catrin Lindås did appear on television every now and then. She was a leading writer and columnist, a conservative who often took part in debates about law and order, or on school discipline and teaching standards. She was good-looking in an elegant sort of way. She wore beautifully tailored suits and silk pussy-bow blouses, and never had a hair out of place. Blomkvist thought of her as serious and unimaginative. She had been critical of him in
“He grabbed hold of her arm and was shouting.”
“I’ve no idea. But he was waving some sort of stick. It left Catrin in a complete state. I tried to calm her down and helped her remove a grubby mark on her jacket.”
“Oh dear, that must have been awful for her.”
He had not meant to sound sarcastic, but Sofie was onto him in an instant.
“You’ve never liked her, have you?”
“Nothing much wrong with her, I guess,” he said defensively. “She’s just a bit too right-wing and proper for me, that’s all.”
“Little Miss Perfect, right?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“No, but you meant it. Do you have any idea how much shit she gets online? She’s seen as some sort of upper-class bitch who’s been to boarding school at Lundsberg and looks down her nose at ordinary people. But have you any idea what she’s been through?”
“No, Sofie, I don’t.”
He could not understand why she had suddenly got so angry.
“In that case I’ll tell you. She grew up in miserable circumstances, in a cracked-out hippie commune in Göteborg. Her parents were doing LSD and heroin, and home was a total mess, with people sitting around stoned out of their minds. Her suits and her tidiness have been her way of surviving. She’s a fighter. A rebel, in a way.”
“Interesting,” he said.
“Exactly so, and I know you think she’s a reactionary, but she does an enormous amount of good in her fight against the new age and spiritual crap she grew up with. She’s a lot more interesting than people realize.”
“Are you friends?”
“Thanks, Sofie. In that case I’ll try to see her in a different light in the future.”
“I don’t believe you,” she said, laughing apologetically, but the way she mumbled made it clear that this mattered to her.
Then she asked him how he was getting on with his story. He told her that he wasn’t exactly progressing in leaps and bounds. He said that the Russian lead had dried up.
“But you’ve got good sources, haven’t you?”
“What my sources don’t know, I don’t know either.”
“Maybe you should head off to Saint Petersburg, find out more about that troll factory. What was its name again?”
“New Agency House?”
“Wasn’t it some sort of hub?”
“That looks like a dead end too.”
“Am I listening to an unusually pessimistic Blomkvist?”
He could hear it too, but he had no wish to go to Saint Petersburg. The place was already teeming with journalists, and no-one had been able to find out who was behind the factory, or to what extent the intelligence services and the government were involved. He was fed up with it. He was tired of the news in general, tired of all the depressing political developments around the world. He ordered another espresso and asked Sofie about her idea for an article.
She wanted to write about the anti-Semitism in the disinformation campaign. This was nothing new because the trolls had been unable to resist suggesting that the whole stock market crash was a Jewish conspiracy. It was the same ugly rubbish which had been churned out for centuries, written about and analyzed countless times before, but Sofie had a more specific angle. She wanted to portray how this had affected people in their everyday lives—schoolchildren, teachers, intellectuals—ordinary individuals who had hitherto given hardly a thought to the fact that they were Jewish. “Great, go for it,” Blomkvist said. He asked her a few questions and made one or two suggestions, and spoke generally about hate in the community among the populists and extremists. He told her about all the idiots who had left bile on his voicemail. After a while he became fed up with listening to himself and gave Sofie a hug. He apologized—without really knowing why—and said goodbye, and then went home and changed to go for a run.