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Tuesday, February 18

During the brief hours of daylight on Saturday, Blomkvist and Berger took a walk past the small-boat harbour along the road to Östergården. He had been living on Hedeby Island for a month, but he had never

taken a walk inland; the freezing temperatures and regular snowstorms had deterred him. But Saturday was sunny and pleasant. It was as if Berger had brought with her a hint of spring. The road was lined with snow, ploughed three feet high. As soon as they left the summer-cabin area they were walking in dense fir

forest. Blomkvist was surprised by how much higher and more inaccessible Söderberget, the hill across

from the cabins, was than it appeared from the village. He thought about how many times Harriet Vanger

must have played here as a child, but then he pushed all thoughts of her out of his mind. After about a mile the woods ended at a fence where the Östergården farmland began. They could see a white wooden structure and red farm buildings arranged in a square. They turned to head back the same way.

As they passed the driveway to the estate house, Vanger knocked on the upstairs window and gestured

firmly for them to come up. Blomkvist and Berger looked at each other.

“Would you like to meet a corporate legend?” Blomkvist said.

“Does he bite?”

“Not on Saturdays.”

Vanger received them at the door to his office.

“You must be Fröken Berger, I recognise you.” he said. “Mikael didn’t say a word about your coming

to Hedeby.”

One of Berger’s outstanding talents was her ability to instantly get on friendly terms with the most unlikely individuals. Blomkvist had seen her turn on the charm for five-year-old boys, who within ten minutes were fully prepared to abandon their mothers. Men over eighty seemed not to be an exception. After two

minutes Berger and Henrik Vanger were ignoring Blomkvist as they chattered on. It was as if they had known each other since childhood—well, since Erika’s childhood, at any rate.

Berger started off quite boldly by scolding Vanger for luring her publisher away into the sticks. The old

man replied that as far as he could tell—from assorted press reports—she had in fact fired him. And had

she not done so, then now might be high time to get rid of excess ballast in the editorial offices. And in that case, Vanger said, a period of rustic life would do young Blomkvist some good.

For five minutes they discussed Blomkvist’s shortcomings in the most irritating terms. Blomkvist leaned back and pretended to be insulted, but he frowned when Berger made some cryptic remarks that

might allude to his failings as a journalist but might also have applied to sexual prowess. Vanger tilted his head back and roared with laughter.

Blomkvist was astonished. He had never seen Vanger so natural and relaxed. He could suddenly see that Vanger, fifty years younger—or even thirty years—must have been quite a charming, attractive ladies’

man. He had never remarried. There must have been women who crossed his path, yet for nearly half a



century he had remained a bachelor.

Blomkvist took a sip of coffee and pricked up his ears again when he realised that the conversation had

suddenly turned serious and had to do with Millennium.

“Mikael has told me that you’re having problems at the magazine.” Berger glanced at Blomkvist. “No,

he hasn’t discussed your internal operations, but a person would have to be deaf and blind not to see that your magazine, just like the Vanger Corporation, is in difficulties.”

“I’m confident that we can repair the situation,” Berger said.

“I doubt it,” Vanger said.

“Why is that?”

“Let’s see—how many employees do you have? Six? A monthly magazine with a print run of 21,000,

manufacturing costs, salaries, distribution, offices . . . You need revenues of about 10 million. I think we know what percentage of that amount has to come from advertising revenue.”

“So?”

“So friend Wennerström is a vengeful and narrow-minded bastard who isn’t going to forget his recent

contretemps in a hurry. How many advertisers have you lost in the past six months?”

Berger regarded Vanger with a wary expression. Blomkvist caught himself holding his breath. On those

occasions when he and the old man had touched on the future of Millennium. it had always concerned annoying remarks or the magazine’s situation in relation to Blomkvist’s ability to finish his work in Hedestad. But Vanger was now addressing Erika alone, one boss to another. Signals passed between them

that Blomkvist could not interpret, which might have had to do with the fact that he was basically a poor

working-class boy from Norrland and she was an upper-class girl with a distinguished, international family tree.

“Could I have a little more coffee?” Berger asked. Vanger poured her a cup at once. “OK, you’ve done

your homework. We’re bleeding.”

“How long?”

“We’ve got six months to turn ourselves around. Eight months, max. We don’t have enough capital to

keep ourselves afloat longer than that.”

The old man’s expression was inscrutable as he stared out of the window. The church was still standing

there.

“Did you know that I was once in the newspaper business?” he said, once more addressing them both.

Blomkvist and Berger both shook their heads. Vanger laughed again, ruefully.

“We owned six daily newspapers in Norrland. That was back in the fifties and sixties. It was my father’s idea—he thought it might be politically advantageous to have a section of the media behind us.

We’re actually still one of the owners of the Hedestad Courier. Birger is the chairman of the board for the group of owners. Harald’s son,” he added, for Blomkvist’s benefit.

“And also a local politician,” Blomkvist said.

“Martin is on the board too. He keeps Birger in line.”

“Why did you let go of the newspapers you owned?” Blomkvist asked.

“Corporate restructuring in the sixties. Publishing newspapers was in some ways more a hobby than an

interest. When we needed to tighten the budget, it was one of the first assets that we sold. But I know what it takes to run a publication . . . May I ask you a personal question?”

This was directed at Erika.

“I haven’t asked Mikael about this, and if you don’t want to answer, you don’t have to. I’d like to know

how you ended up in this quagmire. Did you have a story or didn’t you?”

Now it was Blomkvist’s turn to look inscrutable. Berger hesitated only a second before she said: “We

had a story. But it was a very different story.”

Vanger nodded, as if he understood precisely what Berger was saying. Blomkvist did not.

“I don’t want to discuss the matter.” Blomkvist

“I don’t want to discuss the matter.” Blomkvist cut the discussion short. “I did the research and wrote

the article. I had all the sources I needed. But then it all went to hell.”

“You had sources for every last thing you wrote?”

“I did.”

Vanger’s voice was suddenly sharp. “I won’t pretend to understand how the hell you could walk into

such a minefield. I can’t recall a similar story except perhaps the Lundahl affair in Expressen in the sixties, if you youngsters have ever heard of it. Was your source also a mythomaniac?” He shook his head

and turned to Berger and said quietly, “I’ve been a newspaper publisher in the past, and I can be one again. What would you say to taking on another partner?”

The question came like a bolt out of the blue, but Berger did not seem the least bit surprised.

“Tell me more,” she said.

Vanger said: “How long are you staying in Hedestad?”

“I’m going home tomorrow.”

“Would you consider—you and Mikael, of course—humouring an old man by joining me for dinner

tonight? Would 7:00 suit?”

“That would suit us fine. We’d love it. But you’re not answering the question I asked. Why would you

want to be a partner in Millennium?”

“I’m not avoiding the question. I just thought we could discuss it over dinner. I have to talk with my lawyer before I can put together a concrete offer. But in all simplicity I can say that I have money to invest. If the magazine survives and starts making a profit again, then I’ll come out ahead. If not—well,

I’ve had significantly bigger losses in my day.”

Blomkvist was about to open his mouth when Berger put her hand on his knee.

“Mikael and I have fought hard so that we could be completely independent.”

“Nonsense. No-one is completely independent. But I’m not out to take over the magazine, and I don’t

give a damn about the contents. That bastard Stenbeck got all sorts of points for publishing Modern Times, so why can’t I back Millennium? Which happens to be an excellent magazine, by the way.”

“Does this have anything to do with Wennerström?” Blomkvist said.

Vanger smiled. “Mikael, I’m eighty years plus. There are things I regret not doing and people I regret

not fighting more. But, apropos this topic—” He turned to Berger again. “This type of investment would

have at least one condition.”

“Let’s hear it,” Berger said.

“Mikael Blomkvist must resume his position as publisher.”

“No,” Blomkvist snapped.

“But yes,” Vanger said, equally curt. “Wennerström will have a stroke if we send out a press release

saying that the Vanger Corporation is backing Millennium, and at the same time you’re returning as publisher. That’s absolutely the clearest signal we could send—everyone will understand that it’s not a takeover and that the editorial policies won’t change. And that alone will give the advertisers who are thinking of pulling out reason to reconsider. Wennerström isn’t omnipotent. He has enemies too, and there

are companies new to you that will consider taking space.”

“What the hell was that all about?” Blomkvist said as soon as Berger pulled the front door shut.

“I think it’s what you call advance probes for a business deal,” she said. “You didn’t tell me that Henrik Vanger is such a sweetie.”

Blomkvist planted himself in front of her. “Ricky, you knew exactly what this conversation was going to

be about.”

“Hey, toy boy. It’s only 3:00, and I want to be properly entertained before dinner.”

Blomkvist was enraged. But he had never managed to be enraged at Erika Berger for very long.

She wore a black dress, a waist-length jacket, and pumps, which she just happened to have brought along

in her little suitcase. She insisted that Blomkvist wear a jacket and tie. He put on his black trousers, a grey shirt, dark tie, and grey sports coat. When they knocked punctually on the door of Vanger’s home, it turned out that Dirch Frode and Martin Vanger were also among the guests. Everyone was wearing a jacket and

tie except for Vanger.

“The advantage of being over eighty is that no-one can criticise what you wear,” he declared. He wore

a bow tie and a brown cardigan.

Berger was in high spirits throughout the dinner.

It was not until they moved to the drawing room with the fireplace and cognac was poured that the discussion took on a serious tone. They talked for almost two hours before they had the outline for a deal on the table.

Frode would set up a company to be wholly owned by Henrik Vanger; the board would consist of Henrik and Martin Vanger and Frode. Over a four-year period, this company would invest a sum of money

that would cover the gap between income and expenses for Millennium. The money would come from Vanger’s personal assets. In return, Vanger would have a conspicuous position on the magazine’s board.

The agreement would be valid for four years, but it could be terminated by Millennium after two years.

But this type of premature termination would be costly, since Vanger could only be bought out by repayment of the sum he had invested.

In the event of Vanger’s death, Martin Vanger would replace him on the Millennium board for the remainder of the period during which the agreement was valid. If Martin wished to continue his involvement beyond this period, he could make that decision himself when the time came. He seemed amused by the prospect of getting even with Wennerström, and Blomkvist wondered again what the origin

was of the animosity between those two.

Martin refilled their glasses. Vanger made a point of leaning towards Blomkvist, and in a low voice told him that this new arrangement had no effect whatsoever on the agreement that existed between them.

Blomkvist could resume his duties as publisher full-time at the end of the year.

It was also decided that the reorganisation, in order to have the greatest impact in the media, should be

presented on the same day that Blomkvist began his prison sentence in mid-March. Combining a strongly

negative event with a reorganisation was, in PR terms, such a clumsy error that it could not but astonish

Blomkvist’s detractors and garner optimum attention for Henrik Vanger’s new role. But everyone also saw the logic in it—it was a way of indicating that the yellow plague flag fluttering over Millennium’s editorial offices was about to be hauled down; the magazine had backers who were willing to be ruthless.

The Vanger Corporation might be in a crisis, but it was still a prominent industrial firm which could go on the offence if the need arose.

The whole conversation was a discussion between Berger, on one side, and Henrik and Martin Vanger

on the other. No-one asked Blomkvist what he thought.

Late that night Blomkvist lay with his head resting on Erika’s breasts, looking into her eyes.

“How long have you and Henrik Vanger been discussing this arrangement?”

“About a week,” she said, smiling.

“Is Christer in agreement?”

“Of course.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why in the world should I discuss it with you? You resigned as publisher, you left the editorial staff

and the board, and you went to live in the woods.”

“So I deserve to be treated like an idiot.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “Decidedly you do.”

“You really have been mad at me.”

“Mikael, I’ve never felt so furious, so abandoned, and so betrayed as when you left. I’ve never been

this upset with you before.” She took a firm grip on his hair and then shoved him farther down in the bed.

By the time Berger left Hedeby on Sunday, Blomkvist was still so annoyed with Vanger that he did not want to risk running into either him or any other member of his clan. Instead, on Monday he took the bus

into Hedestad and spent the afternoon walking in the town, visiting the library, and drinking coffee in a

bakery. In the evening he went to the cinema to see The Lord of the Rings, which he had never before had time to see. He thought that orcs, unlike human beings, were simple and uncomplicated creatures.

He ended his outing at McDonald’s in Hedestad and caught the last bus to Hedeby. He made coffee, took out a binder, and sat at the kitchen table. He read until 4:00 in the morning.

There were a number of questions regarding the investigation that seemed increasingly odd the further Blomkvist went through the documents. They were not revolutionary discoveries that he made all on his

own; they were problems that had preoccupied Inspector Morell for long periods, especially in his free

time.

During the last year of her life, Harriet had changed. In some ways this change could be explained as

the change that everyone goes through in one form or another during their teenage years. Harriet was growing up. Classmates, teachers, and several members of the family, however, all testified that she had

turned in on herself and become uncommunicative.

The girl who, two years earlier, was a lively teenager had begun to distance herself from everyone around her. In school she still spent time with her friends, but now she behaved in an “impersonal”

manner, as one of her friends described it. This word was unusual enough for Morell to have made a note

of it and then ask more questions. The explanation he got was that Harriet had stopped talking about herself, stopped gossiping, and stopped confiding in her friends.

Harriet Vanger had been a Christian, in a child’s sense of the word—attending Sunday school, saying

evening prayers, and becoming confirmed. In her last year she seemed to have become yet more religious.

She read the Bible and went regularly to church. But she had not turned to Hedeby Island’s pastor, Otto

Falk, who was a friend of the Vanger family. Instead, during the spring she had sought out a Pentecostal

congregation in Hedestad. Yet her involvement in the Pentecostal church did not last long. After only two

months she left the congregation and instead began reading books about the Catholic faith.

The religious infatuation of a teenager? Perhaps, but no-one else in the Vanger family had ever been noticeably religious, and it was difficult to discern what impulses may have guided her. One explanation

for her interest in God could, of course, have been that her father had drowned the previous year. Morell

came to the conclusion that something had happened in Harriet’s life that was troubling her or affecting

her. Morell, like Vanger, had devoted a great deal of time to talking to Harriet’s friends, trying to find someone in whom she might have confided.

Some measure of hope was pinned on Anita Vanger, two years older than Harriet and the daughter of

Harald. She had spent the summer of 1966 on Hedeby Island and they were thought to be close friends.

But Anita had no solid information to offer. They had hung out together that summer, swimming, taking walks, talking about movies, pop bands, and books. Harriet had sometimes gone with Anita when she took

driving lessons. Once they had got happily drunk on a bottle of wine they stole from the house. For several weeks the two of them had also stayed at Gottfried’s cabin on the very tip of the island.

The questions about Harriet’s private thoughts and feelings remained unanswered. But Blomkvist did make a note of a discrepancy in the report: the information about her uncommunicative frame of mind came chiefly from her classmates, and to a certain extent from the family. Anita Vanger had not thought of her as being introverted at all. He made a note to discuss this matter with Vanger at some point.

A more concrete question, to which Morell had devoted much more attention, was a surprising page in

Harriet’s date book, a beautiful bound book she had been given as a Christmas present the year before she

disappeared. The first half of the date book was a day-by-day calendar in which Harriet had listed meetings, the dates of exams at school, her homework, and so on. The date book also had a large section

for a diary, but Harriet used the diary only sporadically. She began ambitiously enough in January with

many brief entries about people she had met over the Christmas holidays and several about films she had

seen. After that she wrote nothing personal until the end of the school year when she apparently—

depending on how the entries were interpreted—became interested from a distance in some never-named

boy.

The pages that listed telephone numbers were the ones that held the real mystery. Neatly, in alphabetical order, were the names and numbers of family members, classmates, certain teachers, several

members of the Pentecostal congregation, and other easily identifiable individuals in her circle of acquaintances. On the very last page of the address book, which was blank and not really part of the alphabetical section, there were five names and telephone numbers. Three female names and two sets of

initials:

Magda—32016

Sara—32109

R.J.—30112

R.L.—32027

Mari—32018

The telephone numbers that began with 32 were Hedestad numbers in the sixties. The one beginning with

30 was a Norrbyn number, not far from Hedestad. The problem was that when Morell contacted every one

of Harriet’s friends and acquaintances, no-one had any idea whose numbers they were.

The first number belonging to “Magda” initially seemed promising. It led to a haberdashery at Parkgatan 12. The telephone was in the name of one Margot Lundmark, whose mother’s name was actually Magda; she sometimes helped out in the store. But Magda was sixty-nine years old and had no

idea who Harriet Vanger was. Nor was there any evidence that Harriet had ever visited the shop or bought anything there. She wasn’t interested in sewing.

The second number for “Sara” belonged to a family by the name of Toresson, who lived in Väststan, on

the other side of the tracks. The family included Anders and Monica and their children, Jonas and Peter,

who at the time were pre-school age. There was no Sara in the family, nor did they know of Harriet Vanger, other than that she had been reported in the media as missing. The only vague connection between

Harriet and the Toresson family was that Anders, who was a roofer, had several weeks earlier put a tiled

roof on the school which Harriet attended. So theoretically there was a chance that they had met, although it might be considered extremely unlikely.

The remaining three numbers led to similar dead ends. The number 32027 for “R.L.” had actually belonged to one Rosmarie Larsson. Unfortunately, she had died several years earlier.

Inspector Morell concentrated a great deal of his attention during the winter of 1966–67 on trying to explain why Harriet had written down these names and numbers.

One possibility was that the telephone numbers were written in some personal code—so Morell tried

to guess how a teenage girl would think. Since the thirty-two series obviously pointed to Hedestad, he set about rearranging the remaining three digits. Neither 32601 or 32160 led to a Magda. As Morell continued his numerology, he realised that if he played around with enough of the numbers, sooner or later he would find some link to Harriet. For example, if he added one to each of the three remaining digits in

32016, he got 32127—which was the number to Frode’s office in Hedestad. But one link like that meant

nothing. Besides, he never discovered a code that made sense of all five of the numbers.

Morell broadened his inquiry. Could the digits mean, for example, car number plates, which in the sixties contained the two-letter county registration code and five digits? Another dead end.

The inspector then concentrated on the names. He obtained a list of everyone in Hedestad named Mari,

Magda, or Sara or who had the initials R.L. or R.J. He had a list of 307 people. Among these, 29 actually

had some connection to Harriet. For instance, a boy from her class was named Roland Jacobsson—R.J.

They scarcely knew each other and had had no contact since Harriet started preparatory school. And there

was no link to the telephone number.

The mystery of the numbers in the date book remained unsolved.

Her fourth encounter with Advokat Bjurman was not one of their scheduled meetings. She was forced to

make contact with him.

In the second week of February Salander’s laptop fell victim to an accident that was so uncalled for

that she felt an urgent desire to kill someone. She had ridden her bike to a meeting at Milton Security and parked it behind a pillar in the garage. As she set her rucksack on the ground to put on the bike lock, a

dark red Saab began reversing out. She had her back turned but heard the cracking sound from her rucksack. The driver didn’t notice a thing and, unwitting, drove off up the exit ramp.

The rucksack contained her white Apple iBook 600 with a 25-gig hard drive and 420 megs of RAM,

manufactured in January 2002 and equipped with a 14-inch screen. At the time she bought it, it was Apple’s state-of-the-art laptop. Salander’s computers were upgraded with the very latest and sometimes

most expensive configurations—computer equipment was the only extravagant entry on her list of expenses.

When she opened the rucksack, she could see that the lid of her computer was cracked. She plugged in

the power adapter and tried to boot up the computer; not even a death rattle. She took it over to Timmy’s

MacJesus Shop on Brännkyrkagatan, hoping that at least something on the hard drive could be saved.

After fiddling with it for a short time, Timmy shook his head.

“Sorry. No hope,” he said. “You’ll have to arrange a nice funeral.”

The loss of her computer was depressing but not disastrous. Salander had had an excellent relationship

with it during the year she had owned it. She had backed up all her documents, and she had an older desktop Mac G3 at home, as well as a five-year-old Toshiba PC laptop that she could use. But she needed

a fast, modern machine.

Unsurprisingly she set her sights on the best available alternative: the new Apple PowerBook G4/1.0

GHz in an aluminium case with a Power-PC 7451 processor with an AltiVec Velocity Engine, 960 MB

RAM and a 60 GB hard drive. It had BlueTooth and built-in CD and DVD burners.

Best of all, it had the first 17-inch screen in the laptop world with NVIDIA graphics and a resolution of

1440 × 900 pixels, which shook the PC advocates and outranked everything else on the market.

In terms of hardware, it was the Rolls-Royce of portable computers, but what really triggered Salander’s need to have it was the simple feature that the keyboard was equipped with backlighting, so

that she could see the letters even if it was pitch dark. So simple. Why had no-one thought of that before?

It was love at first sight.

It cost 38,000 kronor, plus tax.

That was the problem.

Come what may, she put in her order at MacJesus. She bought all her computer accessories there, so

they gave her a reasonable discount. She tallied up her expenses. The insurance on her ruined computer

would cover a good part of the price, but with the warranty and the higher price of her new acquisition,

she was still 18,000 kronor short. She had 10,000 kronor hidden in a coffee tin at home but that was all.

She sent evil thoughts to Herr Bjurman, but then she bit the bullet and called her guardian to explain that she needed money for an unexpected expense. Bjurman’s secretary said that he had no time to see her that

day. Salander replied that it would take the man twenty seconds to write out a cheque for 10,000 kronor.

She was told to be at his office at 7:30 that evening.

Blomkvist might have no experience of evaluating criminal investigations, but he reckoned that Inspector

Morell had been exceptionally conscientious. When Blomkvist had finished with the police investigation,

Morell still kept turning up as a player in Vanger’s own notes. They had become friends, and Blomkvist

wondered whether Morell had been as obsessed as the captain of industry became.

It was unlikely, in his view, that Morell had missed anything. The solution to the mystery was not going

to be found in the police records. Every imaginable question had been asked, and all leads followed up,

even some that seemed absurdly farfetched. He had not read every word of the report, but the further into

the investigation he got, the more obscure the subsequent leads and tips became. He was not going to find

anything that his professional predecessor and his experienced team had missed, and he was undecided

what approach he should adopt to the problem. Eventually it came to him that the only reasonably practical route for him to take was to try to find out the psychological motives of the individuals involved.

The first question had to do with Harriet herself. Who was she?

From his kitchen window Blomkvist had noticed a light go on upstairs in Cecilia Vanger’s house at a

little after 5:00 in the afternoon. He knocked on her door at 7:30, just as the news broadcast was starting on TV. She opened the door dressed in her bathrobe, her hair wet under a yellow towel. Blomkvist apologised at once for disturbing her and made to retreat, but she waved him into the living room. She turned on the coffeemaker and vanished upstairs for a few minutes. When she came back down, she had

put on jeans and a check flannel shirt.

“I was starting to think you were never going to call.”

“I should have rung first, but I saw your light was on and came over on impulse.”

“I’ve seen the lights on all night at your place. And you’re often out walking after midnight. You’re a

night owl?”

Blomkvist shrugged. “It’s turned out that way.” He looked at several textbooks stacked on the edge of

the kitchen table. “Do you still teach?”

“No, as headmistress I don’t have time. But I used to teach history, religion, and social studies. And I

have a few years left.”

“Left?”

She smiled. “I’m fifty-six. I’ll be retiring soon.”

“You don’t look a day over fifty, more like in your forties.”

“Very flattering. How old are you?”

“Well, over forty,” Blomkvist said with a smile.

“And you were just twenty the other day. How fast it all goes. Life, that is.”

Cecilia Vanger served the coffee and asked if he was hungry. He said that he had already eaten, which

was partly true. He did not bother with cooking and ate only sandwiches. But he was not hungry.

“Then why did you come over? Is it time to ask me those questions?”

“To be honest . . . I didn’t come over to ask questions. I think I just wanted to say hello.”

She smiled. “You’re sentenced to prison, you move to Hedeby, clamber through all the material of Henrik’s favourite hobby, you don’t sleep at night and take long nighttime walks when it’s freezing cold . .

. Have I left anything out?”

“My life is going to the dogs.”

“Who was that woman visiting you over the weekend?”

“Erika . . . She’s the editor in chief of Millennium.”

“Your girlfriend?”

“Not exactly. She’s married. I’m more a friend and occasional lover.”

Cecilia Vanger hooted with laughter.

“What’s so funny?”

“The way you said that. Occasional lover. I like the expression.”

Blomkvist took a liking to Cecilia Vanger.

“I could use an occasional lover myself,” she said.

She kicked off her slippers and propped one foot on his knee. Blomkvist automatically put his hand on

her foot and stroked the ankle. He hesitated for a second—he could sense he was getting into unexpected

waters. But tentatively he started massaging the sole of her foot with his thumb.

“I’m married too,” she said.

“I know. No-one gets divorced in the Vanger clan.”

“I haven’t seen my husband in getting on for twenty years.”

“What happened?”

“That’s none of your business. I haven’t had sex in . . . hmmm, it must be three years now.”

“That surprises me.”

“Why? It’s a matter of supply and demand. I have no interest in a boyfriend or a married man or someone living with me. I do best on my own. Who should I have sex with? One of the teachers at school?

I don’t think so. One of the students? A delicious story for the gossiping old ladies. And they keep a close watch on people called Vanger. And here on Hedeby Island there are only relatives and people already

married.”

She leaned forward and kissed him on the neck.

“Do I shock you?”

“No. But I don’t know whether this is a good idea. I work for your uncle.”

“And I’m the last one who’s going to tell. But to be honest, Henrik probably wouldn’t have anything against it.”

She sat astride him and kissed him on the mouth. Her hair was still wet and fragrant with shampoo. He

fumbled with the buttons on her flannel shirt and pulled it down around her shoulders. She had no bra. She pressed against him when he kissed her breasts.

Bjurman came round the desk to show her the statement of her bank account—which she knew down to the

last öre, although it was no longer at her disposal. He stood behind her. Suddenly he was massaging the

back of her neck, and he let one hand slide from her left shoulder across her breasts. He put his hand over her right breast and left it there. When she did not seem to object, he squeezed her breast. Salander did not move. She could feel his breath on her neck as she studied the letter opener on his desk; she could reach it with her free hand.

But she did nothing. If there was one lesson Holger Palmgren had taught her over the years, it was that

impulsive actions led to trouble, and trouble could have unpleasant consequences. She never did anything

without first weighing the consequences.

The initial sexual assault—which in legal terms would be defined as sexual molestation and the exploitation of an individual in a position of dependence, and could in theory get Bjurman up to two years in prison—lasted only a few seconds. But it was enough to irrevocably cross a boundary. For Salander it

was a display of strength by an enemy force—an indication that aside from their carefully defined legal

relationship, she was at the mercy of his discretion and defenceless. When their eyes met a few seconds

later, his lips were slightly parted and she could read the lust on his face. Salander’s own face betrayed no emotions at all.

Bjurman moved back to his side of the desk and sat on his comfortable leather chair.

“I can’t hand out money to you whenever you like,” he said. “Why do you need such an expensive computer? There are plenty of cheaper models that you can use for playing computer games.”

“I want to have control of my own money like before.”

Bjurman gave her a pitying look.

“We’ll have to see how things go. First you need to learn to be more sociable and get along with people.”

Bjurman’s smile might have been more subdued if he could have read her thoughts behind the

expressionless eyes.

“I think you and I are going to be good friends,” he said. “We have to be able to trust each other.”

When she did not reply he said: “You’re a grown woman now, Lisbeth.”

She nodded.

“Come here,” he said and held out his hand.

Salander fixed her gaze on the letter opener for several seconds before she stood up and went over to

him. Consequences. He took her hand and pressed it to his crotch. She could feel his genitals through the dark gabardine trousers.

“If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.”

He put his other hand around her neck and pulled her down to her knees with her face in front of his

crotch.

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” he said as he lowered his zip. He smelled as if he had just washed himself with soap and water.

Salander turned her face away and tried to get up, but he held her in a tight grip. In terms of physical

strength, she was no match for him; she weighed 90 pounds to his 210. He held her head with both hands

and turned her face so their eyes met.

“If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you,” he repeated. “If you make trouble, I can put you away in an

institution for the rest of your life. Would you like that?”

She said nothing.

“Would you like that?” he said again.

She shook her head.

He waited until she lowered her eyes, in what he regarded as submission. Then he pulled her closer.

Salander opened her lips and took him in her mouth. He kept his grip on her neck and pulled her fiercely

towards him. She felt like gagging the whole ten minutes he took to bump and grind; when finally he came,

he was holding her so tight she could hardly breathe.

He showed her the bathroom in his office. Salander was shaking all over as she wiped her face and tried to rub off the spots on her sweater. She chewed some of his toothpaste to get rid of the taste. When she went back to his office, he was sitting impassively behind his desk, studying some papers.

“Sit down, Lisbeth,” he told her without looking up. She sat down. Finally he looked at her and smiled.

“You’re grown-up now, aren’t you, Lisbeth?”

She nodded.

“Then you also need to be able to play grown-up games,” he said. He used a tone of voice as if he were

speaking to a child. She did not reply. A small frown appeared on his brow.

“I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to tell anyone about our games. Think about it—who would believe you? There are documents stating that you’re non compos mentis. It would be your word

against mine. Whose word do you think would carry more weight?”

He sighed when still she did not speak. He was annoyed at the way she just sat there in silence, looking

at him—but he controlled himself.

“We’re going to be good friends, you and I,” he said. “I think you were smart to come and see me today.

You can always come to me.”

“I need 10,000 kronor for my computer,” she said, precisely, as if she were continuing the conversation

they were having before the interruption.

Bjurman raised his eyebrows. Hard-nosed bitch. She really is fucking retarded. He handed her the cheque he had written when she was in the bathroom. This is better than a whore. She gets paid with her own money. He gave her an arrogant smile. Salander took the cheque and left.

CHAPTER 12


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 95


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