If Salander had been an ordinary citizen, she would most likely have called the police and reported the
rape as soon as she left Advokat Bjurman’s office. The bruises on her neck, as well as the DNA signature
of his semen staining her body and clothing, would have nailed him. Even if the lawyer had claimed that
she wanted to do it or she seduced me or any other excuse that rapists routinely used, he would have been guilty of so many breaches of the guardianship regulations that he would instantly have been stripped of
his control over her. A report would have presumably resulted in Salander being given a proper lawyer,
someone well-versed in assaults on women, which in turn might have led to a discussion of the very heart
of the problem—meaning the reason she had been declared legally incompetent.
Since 1989, the term “legally incompetent” has no longer been applied to adults.
There are two levels of social welfare protection—trusteeship and guardianship.
A trustee steps in to offer voluntary help for individuals who, for various reasons, have problems managing their daily lives, paying their bills, or taking proper care of their hygiene. The person who is
appointed as a trustee is often a relative or close friend. If there is no-one close to the person in question, the welfare authorities can appoint a trustee. Trusteeship is a mild form of guardianship, in which the client—the person declared incompetent—still has control over his or her assets and decisions are made in consultation with the trustee.
Guardianship is a stricter form of control, in which the client is relieved of the authority to handle his or her own money or to make decisions regarding various matters. The exact wording states that the guardian shall take over all of the client’s legal powers. In Sweden approximately 4,000 people are under guardianship. The most common reason for a guardianship is mental illness or mental illness in conjunction with heavy abuse of alcohol or drugs. A smaller group includes those suffering from dementia. Many of the individuals under guardianship are relatively young—thirty-five or less. One of them was Lisbeth Salander.
Taking away a person’s control of her own life—meaning her bank account—is one of the greatest infringements a democracy can impose, especially when it applies to young people. It is an infringement
even if the intent may be perceived as benign and socially valid. Questions of guardianship are therefore
potentially sensitive political issues, and are protected by rigorous regulations and controlled by the Guardianship Agency. This agency comes under the county administrative board and is controlled, in turn,
by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
For the most part the Guardianship Agency carries out its activities under difficult conditions. But considering the sensitive issues handled by the authorities, remarkably few complaints or scandals are ever reported in the media.
Occasionally there are reports that charges have been brought against some trustee or guardian who has
misappropriated funds or sold his client’s co-op apartment and stuffed the proceeds into his own pockets.
That those cases are relatively rare may be the result of two things: the authorities are carrying out their jobs in a satisfactory manner, or the clients have no opportunity to complain and in a credible way make
themselves heard by the media or by the authorities.
The Guardianship Agency is bound to conduct an annual review to see whether any cause exists for revoking a guardianship. Since Salander persisted in her refusal to submit to psychiatric examination—
she would not even exchange a polite “good morning” with her teachers—the authorities had never found
any reason to alter their decision. Consequently, a situation of status quo had resulted, and so year after year she was retained under guardianship.
The wording of the law states, however, that the conditions of a guardianship “shall be adapted to each
individual case.” Palmgren had interpreted this to mean that Salander could take charge of her own money
and her own life. He had meticulously fulfilled the requirements of the authorities and submitted a monthly report as well as an annual review. In all other respects he had treated Salander like any other normal being, and he had not interfered with her choice of lifestyle or friends. He did not think it was either his business or that of society to decide whether the young lady should have a ring in her nose or a tattoo on her neck. This rather stubborn attitude vis-à-vis the district court was one of the reasons why they had got along so well.
As long as Palmgren was her guardian, Salander had not paid much attention to her legal status.
Salander was not like any normal person. She had a rudimentary knowledge of the law—it was a subject
she had never had occasion to explore—and her faith in the police was generally exiguous. For her the
police were a hostile force who over the years had put her under arrest or humiliated her. The last dealing she had had with the police was in May of the previous year when she was walking past Götgatan on her
way to Milton Security. She suddenly found herself facing a visor-clad riot police officer. Without the slightest provocation on her part, he had struck her on the shoulders with his baton. Her spontaneous reaction was to launch a fierce counterattack, using a Coca-Cola bottle that she had in her hand. The officer turned on his heel and ran off before she could injure him. Only later did she find out that
“Reclaim the Streets” was holding a demonstration farther down the road.
Visiting the offices of those visor-clad brutes to file a report against Nils Bjurman for sexual assault
did not even cross her mind. And besides—what was she supposed to report? Bjurman had touched her
breasts. Any officer would take one look at her and conclude that with her miniature boobs, that was highly unlikely. And if it had actually happened, she should be proud that someone had even bothered.
And the part about sucking his dick—it was, as he had warned her, her word against his, and generally in
her experience the words of other people weighed more heavily than hers. The police were not an option.
She left Bjurman’s office and went home, took a shower, ate two sandwiches with cheese and pickles,
and then sat on the worn-out sofa in the living room to think.
An ordinary person might have felt that her lack of reaction had shifted the blame to her—it might have
been another sign that she was so abnormal that even rape could evoke no adequate emotional response.
Her circle of acquaintances was not large, nor did it contain any members of the sheltered middle class
from the suburbs. By the time she was eighteen, Salander did not know a single girl who at some point
had not been forced to perform some sort of sexual act against her will. Most of these assaults involved
slightly older boyfriends who, using a certain amount of force, made sure that they had their way. As far
as Salander knew, these incidents had led to crying and angry outbursts, but never to a police report.
In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was
dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status.
There was no point whimpering about it.
On the other hand, there was no question of Advokat Bjurman going unpunished. Salander never forgot
an injustice, and by nature she was anything but forgiving.
But her legal status was difficult. For as long as she could remember, she was regarded as cunning and
unjustifiably violent. The first reports in her casebook came from the files of the school nurse from elementary school. Salander had been sent home because she hit a classmate and shoved him against a coat peg and drew blood. She still remembered her victim with annoyance—an overweight boy by the name of David Gustavsson who used to tease her and throw things at her; he would grow up to be an arch
bully. In those days she did not know what the word “harassment” meant, but when she came to school the
next day, the boy had threatened revenge. So she had decked him with a right jab fortified with a golf ball
—which led to more bloodshed and a new entry in her casebook.
The rules for social interaction in school had always baffled her. She minded her own business and did
not interfere with what anyone around her did. Yet there was always someone who absolutely would not
leave her in peace.
In middle school she had several times been sent home after getting into violent fights with classmates.
Much stronger boys in her class soon learned that it could be quite unpleasant to fight with that skinny girl.
Unlike the other girls in the class, she never backed down, and she would not for a second hesitate to use her fists or any weapon at hand to protect herself. She went around with the attitude that she would rather be beaten to death than take any shit.
And she always got revenge.
Salander once found herself in a fight with a much bigger and stronger boy. She was no match for him
physically. At first he amused himself shoving her to the ground several times, then he slapped her when
she tried to fight back. But nothing did any good; no matter how much stronger he was, the stupid girl kept attacking him, and after a while even his classmates began to realise that things had gone too far. She was so obviously defenceless it was painful to watch. Finally the boy punched her in the face; it split open her lip and made her see stars. They left her on the ground behind the gym. She stayed at home for two days.
On the morning of the third day she waited for her tormentor with a baseball bat, and she whacked him
over the ear with it. For that prank she was sent to see the head teacher, who decided to report her to the police for assault, which resulted in a special welfare investigation.
Her classmates thought she was crazy and treated her accordingly. She also aroused very little sympathy among the teachers. She had never been particularly talkative, and she became known as the pupil who never raised her hand and often did not answer when a teacher asked her a direct question. No-one was sure whether this was because she did not know the answer or if there was some other reason,
which was reflected in her grades. No doubt that she had problems, but no-one wanted to take responsibility for the difficult girl, even though she was frequently discussed at various teachers’
meetings. That was why she ended up in the situation where the teachers ignored her and allowed her to
sit in sullen silence.
She left middle school and moved to another, without having a single friend to say goodbye to. An unloved girl with odd behaviour.
Then, as she was on the threshold of her teenage years, All The Evil happened, which she did not want
to think about. The last outburst set the pattern and prompted a review of the casebook entries from elementary school. After that she was considered to be legally . . . well, crazy. A freak. Salander had never needed any documents to know that she was different. But it was not something that bothered her for
as long as her guardian was Holger Palmgren; if the need arose, she could wrap him around her little finger.
With the appearance of Nils Bjurman, the declaration of incompetence threatened to become a
troublesome burden in her life. No matter who she turned to, pitfalls would open up; and what would happen if she lost the battle? Would she be institutionalised? Locked up? There was really no option.
Later that night, when Cecilia Vanger and Blomkvist were lying peacefully with their legs intertwined and
Cecilia’s breasts resting against his side, she looked up at him.
“Thank you. It’s been a long time. And you’re not bad.”
He smiled. That sort of flattery was always childishly satisfying.
“It was unexpected, but I had fun.”
“I’d be happy to do it again,” Cecilia said. “If you feel like it.”
He looked at her.
“You don’t mean that you’d like to have a lover, do you?”
“An occasional lover,” Cecilia said. “But I’d like you to go home before you fall asleep. I don’t want
to wake up tomorrow morning and find you here before I manage to do my exercises and fix my face. And
it would be good if you didn’t tell the whole village what we’ve been up to.”
“Wouldn’t think of it,” Blomkvist said.
“Most of all I don’t want Isabella to know. She’s such a bitch.”
“And your closest neighbour . . . I’ve met her.”
“Yes, but luckily she can’t see my front door from her house. Mikael, please be discreet.”
“I’ll be discreet.”
“Thank you. Do you drink?”
“I’ve got a craving for something fruity with gin in it. Want some?”
She wrapped a sheet around herself and went downstairs. Blomkvist was standing naked, looking at her
bookshelves when she returned with a carafe of iced water and two glasses of gin and lime. They drank a
“Why did you come over here?” she asked.
“No special reason. I just . . .”
“You were sitting at home, reading through Henrik’s investigation. And then you came over here. A person doesn’t need to be super intelligent to know what you’re brooding about.”
“Have you read the investigation?”
“Parts of it. I’ve lived my entire adult life with it. You can’t spend time with Henrik without being affected by the mystery of Harriet.”
“It’s actually a fascinating case. What I believe is known in the trade as a locked-room mystery, on an
island. And nothing in the investigation seems to follow normal logic. Every question remains unanswered, every clue leads to a dead end.”
“It’s the kind of thing people can get obsessed about.”
“You were on the island that day.”
“Yes. I was here, and I witnessed the whole commotion. I was living in Stockholm at the time, studying.
I wish I had stayed at home that weekend.”
“What was she really like? People seem to have completely different views of her.”
“Is this off the record or . . . ?”
“It’s off the record.”
“I haven’t the least idea what was going on inside Harriet’s head. You’re thinking of her last year, of
course. One day she was a religious crackpot. The next day she put on make-up like a whore and went to
school wearing the tightest sweater she possessed. Obviously she was seriously unhappy. But, as I said, I
wasn’t here and just picked up the gossip.”
“What triggered the problems?”
“Gottfried and Isabella, obviously. Their marriage was totally haywire. They either partied or they fought. Nothing physical—Gottfried wasn’t the type to hit anyone, and he was almost afraid of Isabella.
She had a horrendous temper. Sometime in the early sixties he moved more or less permanently to his cabin, where Isabella never set foot. There were periods when he would turn up in the village, looking
like a vagrant. And then he’d sober up and dress neatly again and try to tend to his job.”
“Wasn’t there anyone who wanted to help Harriet?”
“Henrik, of course. In the end she moved into his house. But don’t forget that he was preoccupied playing the role of the big industrialist. He was usually off travelling somewhere and didn’t have a lot of time to spend with Harriet and Martin. I missed a lot of this because I was in Uppsala and then in Stockholm—and let me tell you, I didn’t have an easy childhood myself with Harald as my father. In hindsight I’ve realised that the problem was that Harriet never confided in anyone. She tried hard to keep up appearances and pretend that they were one big happy family.”
“Yes. But she changed when her father drowned. She could no longer pretend that everything was OK.
Up until then she was . . . I don’t know how to explain it: extremely gifted and precocious, but on the whole a rather ordinary teenager. During the last year she was still brilliant, getting top marks in every exam and so on, but it seemed as if she didn’t have any soul.”
“How did her father drown?”
“In the most prosaic way possible. He fell out of a rowing boat right below his cabin. He had his trousers open and an extremely high alcohol content in his blood, so you can just imagine how it happened. Martin was the one who found him.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“It’s funny. Martin has turned out to be a really fine person. If you had asked me thirty-five years ago, I would have said that he was the one in the family who needed psychiatric care.”
“Harriet wasn’t the only one who suffered ill effects from the situation. For many years Martin was so
quiet and introverted that he was effectively antisocial. Both children had a rough time of it. I mean, we all did. I had my own problems with my father—I assume you realise that he’s stark raving mad. My sister, Anita, had the same problem, as did Alexander, my cousin. It was tough being young in the Vanger
“What happened to your sister?”
“She lives in London. She went there in the seventies to work in a Swedish travel agency, and she stayed. She married someone, never even introduced him to the family, and anon they separated. Today she’s a senior manager of British Airways. She and I get along fine, but we are not much in contact and
only see each other every other year or so. She never comes to Hedestad.”
“An insane father. Isn’t that explanation enough?”
“But you stayed.”
“I did. Along with Birger, my brother.”
“Are you making fun of me? Birger is older than Anita and me. We’ve never been very close. In his own eyes he’s a fantastically important politician with a future in Parliament and maybe ministerial rank, if the conservatives should win. In point of fact he’s a moderately talented local councillor in a remote
corner of Sweden, which will probably be both the high point and the whole extent of his career.”
“One thing that tickles me about the Vanger family is that you all have such low opinions of each other.”
“That’s not really true. I’m very fond of Martin and Henrik. And I always got on well with my sister,
for all that we seldom see each other. I detest Isabella and can’t abide Alexander. And I never speak to
my father. So that’s about fifty-fifty in the family. Birger is . . . well, more of a pompous fathead than a bad person. But I see what you mean. Look at it this way: if you’re a member of the Vanger family, you learn
early on to speak your mind. We do say what we think.”
“Oh yes, I’ve noticed that you all get straight to the point.” Blomkvist stretched out his hand to touch her breast. “I wasn’t here fifteen minutes before you attacked me.”
“To be honest, I’ve been wondering how you would be in bed ever since I first saw you. And it felt
right to try it out.”
For the first time in her life Salander felt a strong need to ask someone for advice. The problem was that asking for advice meant that she would have to confide in someone, which in turn would mean revealing
her secrets. Who should she tell? She was simply not very good at establishing contact with other people.
After going through her address book in her mind, she had, strictly speaking, ten people who might be
considered her circle of acquaintances.
She could talk to Plague, who was more or less a steady presence in her life. But he was definitely not
a friend, and he was the last person on earth who would be able to help solve her problem. Not an option.
Salander’s sex life wasn’t quite as modest as she had led Advokat Bjurman to believe. On the other hand, sex had always (or at least most often) occurred on her conditions and at her initiative. She had had over fifty partners since the age of fifteen. That translated into approximately five partners per year, which was OK for a single girl who had come to regard sex as an enjoyable pastime. But she had had most of
these casual partners during a two-year period. Those were the tumultuous years in her late teens when
she should have come of age.
There was a time when Salander had stood at a crossroads and did not really have control over her own life—when her future could have taken the form of another series of casebook entries about drugs,
alcohol, and custody in various institutions. After she turned twenty and started working at Milton Security, she had calmed down appreciably and—she thought—had got a grip on her life.
She no longer felt the need to please anyone who bought her three beers in a pub, and she did not experience the slightest degree of self-fulfilment by going home with some drunk whose name she could
not remember. During the past year she had had only one regular sex partner—hardly promiscuous, as her
casebook entries during her late teens had designated her.
For her, sex had most often been with one of a loose group of friends; she was not really a member, but
she was accepted because she knew Cilla Norén. She met Cilla in her late teens when, at Palmgren’s insistence, she was trying to get the school certificate she had failed to complete at Komvux. Cilla had plum-red hair streaked with black, black leather trousers, a ring in her nose, and as many rivets on her belt as Salander. They had glared suspiciously at each other during the first class.
For some reason Salander did not understand, they had started hanging out together. Salander was not
the easiest person to be friends with, and especially not during those years, but Cilla ignored her silences and took her along to the bar. Through Cilla, she had become a member of “Evil Fingers,” which had started as a suburban band consisting of four teenage girls in Enskede who were into hard rock. Ten years
later, they were a group of friends who met at Kvarnen on Tuesday nights to talk trash about boys and discuss feminism, the pentagram, music, and politics while they drank large quantities of beer. They also
lived up to their name.
Salander found herself on the fringe of the group and rarely contributed to the talk, but she was accepted for who she was. She could come and go as she pleased and was allowed to sit in silence over
her beer all evening. She was also invited to birthday parties and Christmas glögg celebrations, though she usually didn’t go.
During the five years she hung out with “Evil Fingers,” the girls began to change. Their hair colour became less extreme, and the clothing came more often from the H&M boutiques rather than from funky
Myrorna. They studied or worked, and one of the girls became a mother. Salander felt as if she were the
only one who had not changed a bit, which could also be interpreted as that she was simply marking time
and going nowhere.
But they still had fun. If there was one place where she felt any sort of group solidarity, it was in the
company of the “Evil Fingers” and, by extension, with the guys who were friends with the girls.
“Evil Fingers” would listen. They would also stand up for her. But they had no clue that Salander had a
district court order declaring her non compos mentis. She didn’t want them to be eyeing her the wrong way, too. Not an option.
Apart from that, she did not have a single ex-classmate in her address book. She had no network or support group or political contacts of any kind. So who could she turn to and tell about her problems?
There might be one person. She deliberated for a long time about whether she should confide in Dragan
Armansky. He had told her that if she needed help with anything, she should not hesitate to come to him.
And she was sure that he meant it.
Armansky had groped her one time too, but it had been a friendly groping, no ill intentions, and not a
demonstration of power. But to ask him for help went against the grain. He was her boss, and it would put
her in his debt. Salander toyed with the idea of how her life would take shape if Armansky were her guardian instead of Bjurman. She smiled. The idea was not unpleasant, but Armansky might take the assignment so seriously that he would smother her with attention. That was . . . well, possibly an option.
Even though she was well aware of what a women’s crisis centre was for, it never occurred to her to
turn to one herself. Crisis centres existed, in her eyes, for victims, and she had never regarded herself as a victim. Consequently, her only remaining option was to do what she had always done—take matters in her
own hands and solve her problems on her own. That was definitely an option.
And it did not bode well for Herr Advokat Nils Bjurman.
Thursday, February 20–
Friday, March 7
During the last week of February Salander acted as her own client, with Bjurman, N., born 1950, as a high-priority special project. She worked almost sixteen hours every day doing a more thorough personal
investigation than she had ever done before. She made use of all the archives and public documents she
could lay her hands on. She investigated his circle of relatives and friends. She looked at his finances and mapped out every detail of his upbringing and career.
The results were discouraging.
He was a lawyer, member of the Bar Association, and author of a respectably long-winded but exceptionally tedious dissertation on finance law. His reputation was spotless. Advokat Bjurman had never been censured. On only one occasion was he reported to the Bar Association—he was accused nearly ten years ago of being the middleman in an under-the-table property deal, but he had been able to
prove his innocence. His finances were in good order; Bjurman was well-to-do, with at least 10 million
kronor in assets. He paid more taxes than he owed, was a member of Greenpeace and Amnesty
International, and he donated money to the Heart and Lung Association. He had rarely appeared in the mass media, although on several occasions he had signed his name to public appeals for political prisoners in the third world. He lived in a five-room apartment on Upplandsgatan near Odenplan, and he
was the secretary of his co-op apartment association. He was divorced and had no children.
Salander focused on his ex-wife, whose name was Elena. She was born in Poland but had lived all her
life in Sweden. She worked at a rehabilitation centre and was apparently happily remarried to one of Bjurman’s former colleagues. Nothing useful there. The Bjurman marriage had lasted fourteen years, and
the divorce went through without disputes.
Advokat Bjurman regularly acted as a supervisor for youths who got into trouble with the law. He had
been trustee for four youths before he became Salander’s guardian. All of these cases involved minors,
and the assignments came to an end with a court decision when they came of age. One of these clients still consulted Bjurman in his role as advokat, so there did not seem to be any animosity there either. If Bjurman had been systematically exploiting his wards, there was no sign of it, and no matter how deeply
Salander probed, she could find no trace of wrongdoing. All four had established lives for themselves with a boyfriend or girlfriend; they all had jobs, places to live, and Co-op debit cards.
She called each of the four clients, introducing herself as a social welfare secretary working on a study
about how children hitherto under the care of a trustee fared later in life compared to other children. Yes, naturally, everyone will be anonymous. She had put together a questionnaire with ten questions, which she asked on the telephone. Several of the questions were designed to get the respondents to give their views on how well the trusteeship had functioned—if they had any opinions about their own trustee, Advokat Bjurman wasn’t it? No-one had anything bad to say about him.
When Salander completed her ferreting, she gathered up the documents in a bag from Ica and put it out
with the twenty bags of old newspapers out the hall. Bjurman was apparently beyond reproach. There was
nothing in his past that she could use. She knew beyond a doubt that he was a creep and a pig, but she could find nothing to prove it.
It was time to consider another option. After all the analyses were done, one possibility remained that
started to look more and more attractive—or at least seemed to be a truly realistic alternative. The easiest thing would be for Bjurman simply to disappear from her life. A quick heart attack. End of problem. The
catch was that not even disgusting fifty-three-year-old men had heart attacks at her beck and call.
But that sort of thing could be arranged.
Blomkvist carried on his affair with Headmistress Cecilia Vanger with the greatest discretion. She had three rules: she didn’t want anyone to know they were meeting; she wanted him to come over only when
she called and was in the mood; and she didn’t want him to stay all night.
Her passion surprised and astonished him. When he ran into her at Susanne’s, she was friendly but cool
and distant. When they met in her bedroom, she was wildly passionate.
Blomkvist did not want to pry into her personal life, but he had been hired to pry into the personal lives of everyone in the Vanger family. He felt torn and at the same time curious. One day he asked Vanger whom she had been married to and what had happened. He asked the question while they were discussing
the background of Alexander and Birger.
“Cecilia? I don’t think she had anything to do with Harriet.”
“Tell me about her background.”
“She moved back here after graduating and started working as a teacher. She met a man by the name of
Jerry Karlsson, who unfortunately worked for the Vanger Corporation. They married. I thought the marriage was a happy one—anyway in the beginning. But after a couple of years I began to see that things
were not as they should be. He mistreated her. It was the usual story—he beat her and she loyally defended him. Finally he hit her one time too many. She was seriously hurt and ended up in the hospital. I offered my help. She moved out here to Hedeby Island and has refused to see her husband since. I made
sure he was fired.”
“But they are still married?”
“It’s a question of how you define it. I don’t know why she hasn’t filed for divorce. But she has never
wanted to remarry, so I suppose it hasn’t made any difference.”
“This Karlsson, did he have anything to do with . . .”
“. . . with Harriet? No, he wasn’t in Hedestad in 1966, and he wasn’t yet working for the firm.”
“Mikael, I’m fond of Cecilia. She can be tricky to deal with, but she’s one of the good people in my
Salander devoted a week to planning Nils Bjurman’s demise. She considered—and rejected—various
methods until she had narrowed it down to a few realistic scenarios from which to choose. No acting on impulse.
Only one condition had to be fulfilled. Bjurman had to die in such a way that she herself could never be
linked to the crime. The fact that she would be included in any eventual police investigation she took for granted; sooner or later her name would show up when Bjurman’s responsibilities were examined. But she was only one person in a whole universe of present and former clients, she had met him only four times, and there would not be any indication that his death even had a connection with any of his clients.
There were former girlfriends, relatives, casual acquaintances, colleagues, and others. There was also what was usually defined as “random violence,” when the perpetrator and victim did not know each other.
If her name came up, she would be a helpless, incompetent girl with documents showing her to be mentally deficient. So it would be an advantage if Bjurman’s death occurred in such a complicated manner that it would be highly unlikely that a mentally handicapped girl could be the perpetrator.
She rejected the option of using a gun. Acquiring a gun would be no great problem, but the police were
awfully good at tracking down firearms.
She considered a knife, which could be purchased at any hardware store, but decided against that too.
Even if she turned up without warning and drove the knife into his back, there was no guarantee that he
would die instantly and without making a sound, or that he would die at all. Worse, it might provoke a struggle, which could attract attention, and blood could stain her clothes, be evidence against her.
She thought about using a bomb of some sort, but it would be much too complicated. Building the bomb
itself would not be a problem—the Internet was full of manuals on how to make the deadliest devices. It
would be difficult, on the other hand, to find a place to put the bomb so that innocent passersby would not be hurt. Besides, there was again no guarantee that he would actually die.
The telephone rang.
“Hi, Lisbeth. Dragan. I’ve got a job for you.”
“I don’t have time.”
“This is important.”
She put down the receiver.
Finally she settled on poison. The choice surprised her, but on closer consideration it was perfect.
Salander spent several days combing the Internet. There were plenty to choose from. One of them was
among the most deadly poisons known to science—hydrocyanic acid, commonly known as prussic acid.
Prussic acid was used as a component in certain chemical industries, including the manufacture of dyes.
A few milligrams were enough to kill a person; one litre in a reservoir could wipe out a medium-sized
Obviously such a lethal substance was kept under strict control. But it could be produced in almost unlimited quantities in an ordinary kitchen. All that was needed was a modest amount of laboratory equipment, and that could be found in a chemistry set for children for a few hundred kronor, along with
several ingredients that could be extracted from ordinary household products. The manual for the process
was on the Internet.
Another option was nicotine. From a carton of cigarettes she could extract enough milligrams of the substance and heat it to make a viscous syrup. An even better substance, although slightly more complex
to produce, was nicotine sulphate, which had the property that it could be absorbed through the skin. All
she would have to do was put on rubber gloves, fill a water pistol, and spray Bjurman in the face. Within
twenty seconds he should be unconscious, and within a few minutes he would be dead as a door-nail.
Salander had had no idea that so many household products could be transformed into deadly weapons.
After studying the subject for several days, she was persuaded that there were no technical impediments
to making short work of her guardian.
There were two problems: Bjurman’s death would not of itself give her back control of her own life,
and there was no guarantee that Bjurman’s successor would be an improvement. Analysis of the consequences.
What she needed was a way to control her guardian and thus her own situation. She sat on the worn sofa in her living room for one whole evening running through the situation in her mind. By the end of the night, she had scrapped the idea of murder by poison and put together a new plan.
It was not an appealing option, and it required her to allow Bjurman to attack her again. But if she carried it off, she would have won.
At least, so she thought.
By the end of February Blomkvist fell into a daily routine that transformed his stay in Hedeby. He got up
at 9:00 every morning, ate breakfast, and worked until noon. During this time he would cram new material
into his head. Then he would take an hour-long walk, no matter what the weather was like. In the afternoon he would go on working, either at home or at Susanne’s Bridge Café, processing what he had
read in the morning or writing sections of what would be Vanger’s auto-biography. Between 3:00 and 6:00 he was always free. He would shop for groceries, do his laundry, go into Hedestad. Around 7:00 he
would go over to see Vanger to ask him questions that had arisen during the day. By 10:00 he was home,
and he would read until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. He was working systematically through Vanger’s documents.
The work of shaping the autobiography was moving smoothly. He had written 120 pages of the family
chronicle in rough draft. He had reached the 1920s. Beyond this point he would have to move more slowly and start weighing his words.
Through the library in Hedestad he had ordered books dealing with Nazism during that time, including
Helene Lööw’s doctoral dissertation, The Swastika and the Wasa Sheaf, which dealt with the symbols adopted by the German and Swedish Nazis. He had drafted another forty pages about Vanger and his brothers, focusing on Vanger as the person holding the story together. He had a list of subjects he needed to research on the way the company operated during that time. And he had discovered that the Vanger family was also heavily involved in Ivar Kreuger’s empire—another side story he had to explore. He estimated that he had about 300 pages left to write. According to the schedule he had devised, he wanted
to have a final draft for Henrik Vanger to look at by the first of September, so that he could spend the autumn revising the text.
For all his reading and listening, Blomkvist had made not an inch of progress in the Harriet Vanger case. No matter how much he brooded over the details in the files, he could find not a single piece of information that contradicted the investigative report.
One Saturday evening in late February he had a conversation with Vanger in which he reported on his
lack of progress. The old man listened patiently as Blomkvist listed all the dead ends he had run into.
“No crime is perfect,” Vanger said. “I’m sure we must have missed something.”
“We still can’t say whether a crime was committed.”
“Keep at it,” Vanger said. “Finish the job.”
“Maybe so. But don’t give up.”
“The telephone numbers,” he said at last.
“They have to mean something.”
“They were written down for some purpose.”
“But we can’t interpret them.”
“Or else we’re interpreting them wrong.”
“They’re not telephone numbers. They mean something.”
Mikael sighed again and went home to continue reading.
Advokat Bjurman was relieved when Salander called again and explained that she needed more money.
She had postponed their most recent scheduled meeting with the excuse that she had to work, and a vague
sense of uneasiness gnawed at him. Was she going to turn into an unmanageable problem child? But since
she had missed the meeting, she had no allowance, and sooner or later she would be bound to come and
see him. He could not help but be concerned that she might have discussed what had happened with some
She was going to have to be kept in check. She had to understand who was in charge. So he told her that
this time the meeting would be at his home near Odenplan, not at the office. Upon hearing this news, Salander was silent for a long time on the other end of the telephone before she finally agreed.
She had planned to meet him at his office, exactly like last time. Now she was forced to see him in unfamiliar territory. The meeting was set for Friday evening. She had been given the building code, and
she rang his doorbell at 8:30, half an hour later than agreed. That was how much time she had needed in
the darkness of the building’s stairwell to run through her plan one last time, consider alternatives, steel herself, and mobilise the courage she would need.
At 8:00 Blomkvist switched off his computer and put on his outdoor clothing. He left the lights on in his
office. Outside the sky was bright with stars and the night was freezing. He walked briskly up the hill, past Vanger’s house, taking the road to Östergården. Beyond Vanger’s house he turned off to the left, following an uglier path along the shore. The lighted buoys flickered out on the water, and the lights from Hedestad gleamed prettily in the dark. He needed fresh air, but above all he wanted to avoid the spying
eyes of Isabella Vanger. Not far from Martin Vanger’s house he rejoined the road and arrived at Cecilia
Vanger’s door just after 8:30. They went straight to her bedroom.
They met once or twice a week. Cecilia had not only become his lover out here in his place of exile,
she had also become the person he had begun to confide in. It was significantly more rewarding discussing Harriet Vanger with her than with her uncle.
The plan began to go wrong almost from the start.
Bjurman was wearing a bathrobe when he opened the door to his apartment. He was cross at her arriving late and motioned her brusquely inside. She was wearing black jeans, a black T-shirt, and the obligatory leather jacket. She wore black boots and a small rucksack with a strap across her chest.
“Haven’t you even learned to tell the time?” Bjurman said. Salander did not reply. She looked around.
The apartment looked much as she had expected after studying the building plans in the archives of the City Zoning Office. The light-coloured furniture was birch and beechwood.
“Come on,” Bjurman said in a friendlier tone. He put his arm around her shoulders and led her down a
hall into the apartment’s interior. No small talk. He opened the door to the bedroom. There was no doubt as to what services Salander was expected to perform.
She took a quick look around. Bachelor furnishings. A double bed with a high bedstead of stainless steel. A low chest of drawers that also functioned as a bedside table. Bedside lamps with muted lighting.
A wardrobe with a mirror along one side. A cane chair and a small desk in the corner next to the door. He
took her by the hand and led her to the bed.
“Tell me what you need money for this time. More computer accessories?”
“Food,” she said.
“Of course. How stupid of me. You missed our last meeting.” He placed his hand under her chin and
lifted her face so their eyes met. “How are you?”
“Have you thought about what I said last time?”
“Lisbeth, don’t act any more stupid than you are. I want us to be good friends and to help each other
She said nothing. Advokat Bjurman resisted an impulse to give her a slap—to put some life into her.
“Did you like our grown-up game from last time?”
He raised his eyebrows.
“Lisbeth, don’t be foolish.”
“I need money to buy food.”
“But that’s what we talked about last time. If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. But if you’re just
going to cause trouble . . .” His grip on her chin tightened and she twisted away.
“I want my money. What do you want me to do?”
“You know what I want.” He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her towards the bed.
“Wait,” Salander said hastily. She gave him a resigned look and then nodded curtly. She took off her
rucksack and leather jacket with the rivets and looked around. She put her jacket on the chair, set her rucksack on the round table, and took several hesitant steps to the bed. Then she stopped, as if she had
cold feet. Bjurman came closer.
“Wait,” she said once more, in a tone as if to say that she was trying to talk sense into him. “I don’t want to have to suck your dick every time I need money.”
The expression on Bjurman’s face suddenly changed. He slapped her hard. Salander opened her eyes
wide, but before she could react, he grabbed her by the shoulder and threw her on to the bed. The violence caught her by surprise. When she tried to turn over, he pressed her down on the bed and straddled her.
Like the time before, she was no match for him in terms of physical strength. Her only chance of fighting back was if she could hurt him by scratching his eyes or using some sort of weapon. But her planned scenario had already gone to hell. Shit, she thought when he ripped off her T-shirt. She realised with terrifying clarity that she was out of her depth.
She heard him open the dresser drawer next to the bed and caught the clanking sound of metal. At first
she did not understand what was happening; then she saw the handcuffs close around her wrist. He pulled
up her arm, placed the handcuffs around one of the bedposts, and locked her other hand. It did not take him long to pull off her boots and jeans. Then he took off her knickers and held them in his hand.
“You have to learn to trust me, Lisbeth,” he said. “I’m going to teach you how this grown-up game is
played. If you don’t treat me well, you have to be punished. When you’re nice to me, we’ll be friends.”
He sat astride her again.
“So you don’t like anal sex,” he said.
Salander opened her mouth to scream. He grabbed her hair and stuffed the knickers in her mouth. She
felt him putting something around her ankles, spread her legs apart and tie them so that she was lying there completely vulnerable. She heard him moving around the room but she could not see through the T-shirt
around her face. It took him several minutes. She could hardly breathe. Then she felt an excruciating pain as he forced something up her anus.
Cecilia Vanger still had a rule that Blomkvist was not to stay all night. Some time after 2:00 in the morning he began to dress while she lay naked on the bed, smiling at him.
“I like you, Mikael. I like your company.”
“I like you too.”
She pulled him back to the bed and took off the shirt he had just put on. He stayed for one more hour.
When later he passed by Vanger’s house, he was sure he saw one of the curtains shift upstairs.
Salander was allowed to put on her clothes. It was 4:00 on Saturday morning. She picked up her leather
jacket and rucksack and hobbled to the front door, where he was waiting for her, showered and neatly dressed. He gave her a cheque for 2,500 kronor.
“I’ll drive you home,” he said, and opened the door.
She crossed the threshold, out of the apartment, and turned to face him. Her body looked fragile and her
face was swollen from crying, and he almost recoiled when he met her eyes. Never in his life had he seen
such naked, smouldering hatred. Salander looked just as deranged as her casebook indicated.
“No,” she said, so quietly that he barely heard the word. “I can get home on my own.”
He put a hand on her shoulder.
“Are you sure?”
She nodded. His grip on her shoulder tightened.
“Remember what we agreed. You’ll come back here next Saturday.”
She nodded again. Cowed. He let her go.
Saturday, March 8–
Monday, March 17
Salander spent the week in bed with pain in her abdomen, bleeding from her rectum, and less visible wounds that would take longer to heal. What she had gone through was very different from the first rape in his office; it was no longer a matter of coercion and degradation. This was systematic brutality.
She realised much too late that she had utterly misjudged Bjurman.
She had assumed he was on a power trip and liked to dominate, not that he was an all-out sadist. He
had kept her in handcuffs half the night. Several times she believed he meant to kill her, and at one point he had pressed a pillow over her face until she thought she was going to pass out.
She did not cry.
Apart from the tears of pure physical pain she shed not a single tear. When she left the apartment she
made her way with difficulty to the taxi stand at Odenplan. With difficulty she climbed the stairs to her
own apartment. She showered and wiped the blood from her genitals. Then she drank a pint of water with
two Rohypnol and stumbled to her bed and pulled the duvet over her head.
She woke up at midday on Sunday, empty of thoughts and with constant pain in her head, muscles and
abdomen. She got up, drank two glasses of kefir, and ate an apple. Then she took two more sleeping pills
and went back to bed.
She did not feel like getting up until Tuesday. She went out and bought a big box of Billy’s Pan Pizza,
stuck two of them in the microwave, and filled a thermos with coffee. She spent that night on the Internet, reading articles and theses on the psychopathology of sadism.
She found one article published by a women’s group in the United States in which the author claimed
that the sadist chose his “relationships” with almost intuitive precision; the sadist’s best victim was the one who voluntarily went to him because she did not think she had any choice. The sadist specialised in
people who were in a position of dependence.
Advokat Bjurman had chosen her as a victim.
That told her something about the way she was viewed by other people.
On Friday, a week after the second rape, she walked from her apartment to a tattoo parlour in the Hornstull district. She had made an appointment, and there were no other customers in the shop. The owner nodded, recognising her.
She chose a simple little tattoo depicting a narrow band and asked to have it put on her ankle. She pointed.
“The skin is very thin there. It’s going to hurt a lot,” said the tattoo artist.
“That’s OK,” Salander said, taking off her jeans and putting her leg up.
“OK, a band. You already have loads of tattoos. Are you sure you want another one?”
“It’s a reminder.”
Blomkvist left the café when Susanne closed at 2:00 on Saturday afternoon. He had spent the morning typing up his notes in his iBook. He walked to Konsum and bought some food and cigarettes before he went home. He had discovered fried sausage with potatoes and beets—a dish he had never been fond of
but for some reason it seemed perfectly suited to a cabin in the country.
At around 7:00 in the evening he stood by the kitchen window, thinking. Cecilia Vanger had not called.
He had run into her that afternoon when she was buying bread at the café, but she had been lost in her own thoughts. It did not seem likely that she would call this evening. He glanced at the little TV that he almost never used. Instead he sat at the kitchen bench and opened a mystery by Sue Grafton.
Salander returned at the agreed-upon time to Bjurman’s apartment near Odenplan. He let her in with a polite, welcoming smile.
“And how are you doing today, dear Lisbeth?”
She did not reply. He put an arm around her shoulder.
“I suppose it was a bit rough last time,” he said. “You looked a little subdued.”
She gave him a crooked smile and he felt a sudden pang of uncertainty. This girl is not all there. I have to remember that. He wondered if she would come around.
“Shall we go into the bedroom?” Salander said.
On the other hand, she may be with it. . . . Today I’ll take it easy on her. Build up her trust. He had already put out the handcuffs on the chest of drawers. It was not until they reached the bed that Bjurman
realised that something was amiss.
She was the one leading him to the bed, not the other way around. He stopped and gave her a puzzled
look when she pulled something out of her jacket pocket which he thought was a mobile telephone. Then
he saw her eyes.
“Say goodnight,” she said.
She shoved the taser into his left armpit and fired off 75,000 volts. When his legs began to give way
she put her shoulder against him and used all her strength to push him down on to the bed.
Cecilia Vanger felt a little tipsy. She had decided not to telephone Blomkvist. Their relationship had developed into a ridiculous bedroom farce, in which Blomkvist had to tiptoe around trying to get to her
house unnoticed. She in turn played a lovesick teenage girl who could not control herself. Her behaviour
the past few weeks had been reckless.
The problem is that I like him too much, she thought. He’s going to end up hurting me. She sat for a long
time wishing that Mikael Blomkvist had never come to Hedeby.
She had opened a bottle of wine and drunk two glasses in her loneliness. She turned on the TV to watch
Rapport and tried to follow the world situation but very soon tired of the reasoned commentary on why President Bush had to bomb Iraq to smithereens. Instead she sat on the living-room sofa and picked up Gellert Tamas’ book The Laser Man. She read only a few pages before she had to put the book down.
That made her instantly think of her father. What kind of fantasies did he have?
The last time they really saw each other was in 1984, when she went with him and Birger, hare-hunting
north of Hedestad. Birger was trying out a new hunting dog—a Swedish foxhound which he had just acquired. Harald Vanger was seventy-three at the time, and she had done her very best to accept his lunacy, which had made her childhood a nightmare and affected her entire adult life.
Cecilia had never before been as fragile as she was then. Her marriage had ended three months earlier.
Domestic violence . . . the term was so banal. For her it had taken the form of unceasing abuse. Blows to
the head, violent shoving, moody threats, and being knocked to the kitchen floor. Her husband’s outbursts
were inexplicable and the attacks were not often so severe that she was actually injured. She had become
used to it.
Until the day when she struck back and he completely lost control. It ended with him flinging some scissors at her which lodged in her shoulder blade.
He had been remorseful and panicky and drove her to the hospital, making up a story about a bizarre
accident which all the staff in the emergency room saw through at once. She had felt ashamed. They gave
her twelve stitches and kept her in the hospital for two days. Then her uncle picked her up and drove her
to his house. She never spoke to her husband again.
On that sunny autumn day Harald Vanger had been in a good mood, almost friendly. But without warning, a long way into the woods, he began to berate her with humiliating invective and revolting remarks about her morals and sexual predilections. He snarled that no wonder such a whore could never
keep a man.
Her brother apparently did not notice that every word from their father struck her like a whiplash.
Instead, Birger suddenly laughed and put his arm around his father and in his own way made light of the
situation by making some comment to the effect that you know full well what women are like. He gave Cecilia a cheerful wink and suggested that Harald Vanger take up a position on a little ridge.
For a second, a frozen instant, Cecilia Vanger looked at her father and brother and realised that she was
holding a loaded shotgun in her hand. She closed her eyes. Her only option at that moment seemed to be to
raise the gun and fire both barrels. She wanted to kill them both. Instead she laid down the weapon at her feet, turned on her heel, and went back to where they had parked the car. She left them high and dry, driving home alone. Since that day she refused to let her father into her house and had never been in his.
You ruined my life, Cecilia Vanger thought. You ruined my life when I was just a child.
At 8:30 she called Blomkvist.
Bjurman was in pain. His muscles were no use to him. His body seemed to be paralysed. He could not
remember if he had lost consciousness, but he was disoriented. When he slowly regained control over his
body he discovered that he was lying naked on his bed, his wrists in handcuffs and his legs spread painfully apart. He had stinging burn marks where electrodes had touched his body.
Salander had pulled the cane chair over and was patiently waiting, her boots resting on the bed as she
smoked a cigarette. When Bjurman began to speak to her he found that his mouth was sealed. He turned
his head. She had pulled out all his drawers and dumped them and the contents on the floor.
“I found your toys,” Salander said. She held up a riding whip and poked around in the heap of dildos,
harness bits, and rubber masks on the floor. “What’s this one for?” She held up a huge anal plug. “No, don’t try to speak—I won’t hear what you say. Was this what you used on me last week? All you have to
do is nod.” She leaned towards him expectantly.
Bjurman felt cold terror piercing his chest and lost his composure. He tugged at his handcuffs. She had taken control. Impossible. He could do nothing to resist when Salander bent over and placed the anal plug between his buttocks. “So you’re a sadist,” she said matter-of-factly. “You enjoy shoving things inside people, is that it?” She looked him in the eyes. Her face was expressionless. “Without a lubricant, right?”
Bjurman howled into the adhesive tape when Salander roughly spread his cheeks and rammed the plug
into its proper place.
“Stop whimpering,” Salander said, imitating his voice. “If you complain, I’ll have to punish you.”
She stood up and went to the other side of the bed. He followed her helplessly with his eyes . . . What the hell was this? Salander had rolled in his thirty-two-inch TV from the living room. She had placed his DVD player on the floor. She looked at him, still holding the whip in her hand.
“Do I have your undivided attention? Don’t try to talk—just nod. Did you hear what I said?” He nodded.
“Good.” She bent down and picked up her rucksack. “Do you recognise this?” He nodded. “It’s the rucksack I had when I visited you last week. A practical item. I borrowed it from Milton Security.” She
unzipped the bottom pocket. “This is a digital video camera. Do you ever watch Insider on TV3? This is the gear that those nasty reporters use when they have to record something with a hidden camera.” She zipped the pocket back up.
“Where’s the lens, you’re wondering. That’s the great thing about it. Wide angle fibre optics. The lens
looks like a button and sits hidden in the buckle on a shoulder strap. Maybe you remember that I put the
rucksack here on the table before you started to grope me. I made sure that the lens was directed straight at the bed.”
She held up a DVD and slipped it into the player. Then she turned the cane chair so that she could sit
and watch the screen. She lit another cigarette and pressed the remote. Advokat Bjurman saw himself open the door for Salander.
Haven’t you even learned to tell the time?
She played the whole disc for him. The video ended after ninety minutes, in the middle of a scene where a naked Advokat Bjurman sat leaning against the bedstead drinking a glass of wine as he looked at
Salander, curled up with her hands fettered behind her.
She turned off the TV and sat in the chair for a good ten minutes without looking at him. Bjurman did
not dare move a muscle. Then she got up and went into the bathroom. When she came back she sat again in
the chair. Her voice was like sandpaper.
“I made a mistake last week,” she said. “I thought you were going to make me give you a blow job again, which is disgusting enough in your case, but not so disgusting that I couldn’t do it. I thought I could easily acquire good documentation to prove you’re a filthy old prick. I misjudged you. I didn’t understand how fucking sick you were.
“I’m going to speak plainly,” she said. “This video shows you raping a mentally handicapped twenty-
four-year-old girl for whom you were appointed guardian. And you have no idea how mentally
handicapped I can be if push comes to shove. Anyone who sees this video will discover that you’re not
merely a pervert but an insane sadist. This is the second and I hope the last time I’ll ever have to watch this video. It’s quite instructive, don’t you think? My guess is that you’re the one who’s going to be institutionalised, not me. Are you following me so far?”
She waited. He did not react, but she could see him quivering. She grabbed the whip and flicked it right
over his genitals.
“Are you following me?” she said more loudly. He nodded.
“Good. So we’re singing from the same song sheet.”
She pulled the chair up close so she could look into his eyes.
“What do you think we should do about this problem?” He could not give her an answer. “Have you
any good ideas?” When he did not react she reached out and grabbed his scrotum and pulled until his face
contorted in pain. “Have you got any good ideas?” she repeated. He shook his head.
“Good. I’m going to be pretty fucking mad at you if you ever have any ideas in the future.”
She leaned back and stubbed her cigarette out on the carpet. “This is what’s going to happen. Next week, as soon as you manage to shit out that oversized rubber plug in your arse, you’re going to inform my bank that I— and I alone—have access to my account. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Bjurman nodded.
“Good boy. You will never ever contact me again. In the future we will meet only if I decide it’s necessary. You’re under a restraining order to stay away from me.” He nodded repeatedly. She doesn’t intend to kill me.
“If you ever try to contact me again, copies of this DVD will wind up in every newsroom in Stockholm.